American National Identity Essays

American National Identity Essays-22
Robert Fulton's steamboat, first launched in 1807, and the development of Eastern railways represented the first intrusions of what Leo Marx would call "the machine in the garden." With these early stirrings of the industrial age to come, Americans began to examine their relationship to the land around them.The birth of the Hudson River school of American painting, signalled by George Innes's The Lackawanna Valley, married wilderness with civilization in harmonious depictions of pastoral rural towns gleaming with the prosperity brought to them by the broad-based economy of both agriculture and technology.Would the wilderness disappear completely for the sake of civilization, or would the two exist in perpetual tension with one another?

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Because it was an unknown entity with bizarre animals, unusual topography, and strange indigenous inhabitants, the wilderness represented a place where community and consensus would be put in peril by the total absence of European law, religion, and civilization.

Romanticism set up opposition to the Neoclassic insistence on order and hierarchy by championing individual freedom through man's relationship to nature.

The Romantics believed that nature was the inherent possessor of abstract qualities such as truth, beauty, indepence and democracy.

In this outlook, however, the land supplied the raw materials for building a society, and nature was to be used, not feared.

Despite the different outlooks, the goal was the same: to destroy the savage wilderness and make it bloom with European civilization.


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