Life in the 1800’s is something that you would really want to explore, and I, Alexis de Tocqueville, am going to explain it all to you. Now, in the 1800’s the United States is a very young country. Some of the adults living here could still remember living as british subjects.
Next, there are Politics. In 1816 a new president was elected, he was identified as James Monroe. Monroe was always greeted so warmly at the places visited, then a newspaper proclaimed an “Era of Good Feeling’s”. But so many Americans here all seemed that a new period of national unity had dawned. The nationalist spirit was reflected in proposals that the federal government take a more active role in building the national economy. One of the leading supporters of this was Henry Clay of Kentucky. This man I now knew of was a persuasive speaker, full of intelligence and charm. But, he wanted to be president. When he competed, he was never elected.
Americans brought European art traditions with them to the colonies, but by the 1800’s they were expressing their national identity by developing styles all of their own. Not every type of artist was professionals. Ordinary people produced many types of Folk Art. Men carved weather vanes and hunting decoys. Many untrained artists were making signs around the town I was staying in, murals, and symbol images of things like the national American flag. Folk Art is very simple, direct, and very vivid. Professional artists were making a living doing self portrait. When making a self portrait they would attempt to capture the personalities and deep emotions of their subjects. Other artists portrayed more particular aspects of nature. John James Audubon painted finely detailed portraits of magnificent birds. He made accurate realistic studies of all the species he had then observed in fields and woods. But no one ever did print his four volume book, so, he then compromised and he found a printer in England. He then titled his book “The Birds of America”. There are so many more artists here in the 1800’s. Just another is Philadelphia’s George Catlin who turned his eye on the natives of the American West. He was one who saw that American Indian’s traditional ways were somehow disappearing. For many years George crisscrossed the west seeking the American Indians and capturing all the little moments in their lives. He would draw their villages, hunts, and rituals and then finishing it with bright colors. By choosing their own subject the wondrous features of their new country, Americans gave their art a distinct identity. They would present dangerous landscapes in deceptively positive tones. Yet still, the colors and optimism of their work accurately reflected the national outlook.
America’s national identity is also expressed through many amazing types of music. Music in the United States was performed and heard usually mostly in churches. Sometimes songs were performed outside of church, but they would usually end up being old rhythms and new lyrics. In the North, orchestras were playing classical music from Europe. And they were also providing the music for the cotillions I showed up to. That was where groups of four couples danced together with very elegantly coordinate moves. The dancers during these moves swirled through ballrooms, performing lively minutes, gavottes, and waltzes.
In the South slaves combined the hymns of white churchgoers with African Musical styles to create spirituals.They were either entertaining themselves or slave owners. Folk songs were accompanied by violin, drum, and the banjo, which is an African American invention.
In West and South, square dancers became popular. These versions of dance was less formal of the popular cotillion. As this instrument called the fiddle was played, a caller would tell the dancers which step to perform next. White composers from the South, inspired by the music or African Americans, created a type of music known as minstrel songs. These songs honored black music by mimicking it. One white composer, Thomas Dartmouth Rice, caused a national sensation in 1828 with his song “Jump Jim Crow”.
Like the painters of the Hudson River School, writers began to use uniquely American subjects and settings. One of the first to achieve literary fame was Washington Irving. For his colorful tale of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” he drew on German Folklore. His enchanted stories were an immediate hit.
Davy Crockett was a real-life frontiersman who spun tall tales about his magnificent life as a hunter, scout, soldier, and explorer. His election to Congress to tennessee terrified me, Alexis de Tocqueville. People now saw Davy as the new fictional frontier hero come to life. Crockett’s autobiography, which was full of his plain backwards speech and very rough humor, helped give popular literature a new, distinctly American accent.
New England’s Henry Wads-worth Longfellow, was one of the first serious American poets. He wrote the first ever amazing poem in America which was “The Song of Hiawatha” based on stories of American Indians. Other poems like his famous “Paul Revere’s Ride” touched on patriotic themes. In the “Building of the Ship” Longfellow celebrated the growing importance of the United States to the world.
In conclusion, that is what happened through Politics, Art, Music, and Literature in the time I visited America in the 1800’s. The United States grew into a bigger country with more citizens, happiness, and wars. People painted beautiful things, like self-portraits, and art everyone, not even people who do not paint achieve, and much more. Women lifted their floor skirts to show off their amazing foot work in very daring ways. And we came through the time where amazing people created amazing poems.