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1831: Year of Eclipse Reprint Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809041190
ISBN-10: 0809041197
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Masur (history, CUNY) has done a superb job of creating a richly textured account of a portentous year in American history: 1831 marked the year that the Southern oligarchy quit discussing the possible abolition of slavery and William Lloyd Garrison began his strident demand for abolition of the peculiar institution. The Nullification Crisis and the Indian Removal Act further exacerbated sectional differences. North-South fissures of the body politic also found expression in the battles between the National Republicans and the Democrats. Yet Union sentiment remained strong, and all Americans seemed to share a common drive toward material prosperity. Sadly, sectionalism eventually eclipsed national commonalties and thus fostered the fraternal bloodbath that erupted 30 years later. It is the dichotomy between consensus and conflict that Masur captures through the skillful use of memoirs, letters, diaries, newspapers, and first-person accounts. This is a work of traditional history: a good story grounded in primary sources. Recommended for public and academic libraries.DJim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The search for history's turning points seems universal. In this brief, cogent volume, City University of New York historian Masur argues that 1831 was a turning point for the young American nation. The roots of future conflict were clear in Garrison's founding of The Liberator, growing regional conflict over slavery and states' rights, and, in the summer of 1831, Nat Turner's Virginia rebellion. A religious revival in the North contributed to the reform movements of future decades. Critical decisions were made about how the U.S. would deal with the continent's indigenous peoples and with the nation's economy. New technologies, including railroads and Cyrus McCormick's reaper, were beginning to change American life. With James Monroe's death on July 4, Madison was the only living participant in the nation's founding; Andrew Jackson's administration brought a different class and vision to government. In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville began his tour of the U.S., while Frances Trollope ended hers, and John James Audubon initiated work on his magisterial Birds of America. A gracefully written study of a sometimes ignored period of U.S. history. Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Reprint edition (February 9, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809041197
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809041190
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
You will probably be hard pressed to find anything memorable about the year 1831, which is a year unassociated with any particular battle or epochal event. Nonetheless, _1831: Year of Eclipse_ (Hill and Wang) by Louis P. Masur puts that American year under a historian's microscope and shows how the people making history then were bringing on the American future, for better or worse.
It was a year of eclipse, literally. On 12 February, there was a total eclipse of the sun that crept up the eastern seaboard. Some writers celebrated that people would be seeing the simple mechanics of the solar system following the laws of planetary motion, and that no modern would take the eclipse to mean a token of divine displeasure. It wasn't quite true; another author wrote that there was "a kind of vague fear, of impending danger - a prophetic presentiment of some approaching catastrophe." Some citizens sought out their families, that they might all die together. Actually, the eclipse was an anticlimax, not as dark or dramatic as the newspapers had predicted, and they and almanac editors were condemned for the fizzle.
But the eclipse was dramatic enough for one prophet, who "saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened - the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and the blood flowed in streams." These are the words of Nat Turner, a slave and a literate preacher, who in August executed his plan of slave rebellion in Virginia. The reports of the horrors of the rebellion galvanized Virginians, and shook their foundations of economic happiness. Masur reports on the insistence of southern states that they be able to practice "nullification" of federal laws they thought unjust, an insistence that had President Jackson threatening to use force against them.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1831 YEAR OF ECLIPSE, Lewis Masur suggests that 1831 was perhaps the pivotal year between the post-revolutionary era when America was busy enacting the promises of its great contracts, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and enjoying its new freedoms inscribed therein, and the pre-Civil War era, when all the underlying social and economic tensions submerged in those documents boiled to the surface.
Skillfully he shows how these tensions were manifested in Nat Turner's rebellion, the founding of THE LIBERATOR by William Lloyd Garrison, the radical religious fervor of Charles Finney, the evangelist, and the industrial utopianism of Robert Dale Owen. He shows the rise of the anti-elite democrats as exemplified through Andrew Jackson's fight with the Federalists over the Bank of the United States, and the power of social censure as practiced by Washington's social elite when they forced Jackson's "firing" of certain cabinet members who condoned another member's too hasty remarriage after his first wife's death. The Anti Masonic convention in Baltimore in 1831-1832 is emblematic of the seizure of power from the Federalists. He shows us how the genocide of the Cherokee's Trail of Tears was prompted by designs of speculators for their land, and how Marshall and the Supreme Court acceded to those expansionist desires through a peculiar reading of the status of the Cherokee status as a "nation" was revised to "citizens" so they could be removed at will. The Nullification "movement" over tariffs also came to head, and though the South did not withdraw from the Union, the States Rights doctrine which became the ideology of the slavocracy was put definitively into play.
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Format: Paperback
Louis Masur titillates the reader with the title of his book. It is a clever way to draw the prospective reader into reading the book. The potential reader is led to believe the astronomical phenomena of the eclipse of 1831 in some way influences this pivotal year in American History. While a clever method of presentation, the reality is that with the exception of a couple of vague references; the two events are never really tied together by Masur. The author begins with an explanation of how the eclipse impacts life in 1831, but never really ties it into the rest of the book in a logical, meaningful fashion.
Masur's inability to directly tie the eclipse into the events of 1831 and the surrounding years, however, should not distract the reader from this well researched and informative description of the changes taking place in the United States. The four chapters after the description of the eclipse delve into the major issues affecting the United States at this time, and the changes being wrought by these changes. Masur artfully transitions from one chapter to another building one upon the other in a logical sequence. Masur moves through these subjects providing the reader with as clear a picture one could get of the dynamics of these forces in and around 1831 which would not only shape the coming decades, but some of which resonate to this day.
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Format: Paperback
Masur has done an extraordinary job of packing a great deal of history into this relatively short work of highly readable prose. Using 1831 as a pivot point, he examines politics, social relations, territorial expansion, technology, the debates over slavery and taxation, and more, showing how each topic interrelates and how each controversy or development is a natural outgrowth of what came before.

I highly recommend this book as assigned reading for an undergraduate or graduate class in American Studies, as well as for the general reader who simply wants to gain a better understanding of our history as a nation and a culture. Much of what we learn through this book resonates today.
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