The Era of Good Feelings alexis de toqueville (Ivy lauck)

Americans of the early 1800s are very proud and patriotic towards their country, and are just beginning to find an identity in their art, literature, and an overarching sense of individualism. The Americans are shifting away from sectional identities, such as the North, South, and frontier, and instead taking up a collective American one. In addition, several prominent American symbols have developed. To many Americans, this time period is known as the Era of Good Feelings.

The Era of Good Feelings was given its name due to the new president of the time, James Monroe. "After being elected in 1816, James Monroe went on a goodwill tour. Huge crowds greeted him so warmly that a newspaper proclaimed an 'Era of Good Feelings.'" This era went hand-in-hand with a new blooming of national unity; reflecting this build in nationalism, the government began to take a more energetic role in maintaining and building the nation's economy. For example, take Senator Clay, of Kentucky. He proposed the American System, which proposed the government place a tax on imports, federal funding for transportation projects, and a second national bank, as the first had lapsed in 1811. However, as is the case with Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, tension arose between nationalism and regional lifestyles: while Webster supported the American System, he also advocated for states' rights, particularly to keep slavery in the south. Meanwhile, the Judicial System was supporting nationalism with the Supreme Court's chief justice, John Marshall, who strengthened the role of both the Supreme Court and the Federal Government, and encouraged the growth of capitalism, a system in which individuals own businesses and produce goods for profit.

A portrait of James Monroe, president during the Era of Good Feelings

In The Era of Good Feelings, American art was beginning to develop its own unique characteristics. For professional artists, much of their income came from portraits; American portraits of this time strive to catch the personality of their subjects. Meanwhile, folk art is beginning to blossom. Simple, bright and colorful designs featuring American symbols like Uncle Sam, were produced by regular citizens. One popular form of folk art were quilts, which were made by sewing spare pieces of cloth together. They were popular with women and slaves of the time. One particularly notable American style was the landscape paintings, of wide stretches of scenic American lands, celebrating the beauty Americans see in their country. Other notable artists include John James Audubon, who published The Birds of America, filled with his detailed paintings of America’s bird species, and George Catlin, who focused his works on the Native Americans in the American frontier, attempting to preserve their culture through his drawings. The vividness and optimistic lightings over American art reflected the nation’s sense of individualism quite accurately.

A painting by Thomas Cole, who was the inspiration to many artists in the Hudson River School of painting.

Early American music began to bleed outwards from churches in the 1800s. Previously, music performed outside of church were usually old tunes, but with new lyrics over the music. In fact, the national anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner," is an adapted version of an English tune. However, with the growing prosperity brought by the Era of Good Feelings, people were more free to experiment with music. In the North, orchestras played classical music brought over from Europe for cotillions, dances in which groups of four couples would perform coordinated moves. Dances like minuets, mazurkas, waltzes, and gavottes were popular. Meanwhile, in the South slaves sang spirituals, combinations of hymns from white churchgoers with African musical styles, and folk songs, accompanied by violins, drums, and banjos. White composers in the South mimicked slave spirituals with minstrel songs. These songs both honored African American music by copying their styles, but at the same time mocked African Americans by blackening their faces, wearing shabby-looking clothing, and singing in exaggerated African American dialects while performing. In the South and West, square dances-- less formal versions of the Northern cotillion-- were common. Callers told dancers what steps to perform as music played. Throughout America, as demand for songs grew, composers gave a rush of patriotic anthems, mirroring the same sense of individualism and patriotic spirit of the citizens of the United States during the Era of Good Feelings.

Banjos were an instrument invented by slaves, whose spirituals influenced music in the south.

American literature in the Era of Good Feelings began to bloom. Writers like Washington Irving took inspiration from other parts of the world, mixing them with American Settings. One example is the story of Rip Van Winkle, a story of a man who sleeps 20 years and wakes up, having slept through the American Revolution.

A statue of Rip Van Winkle, from the story of the same name, written in the Era of Good Feelings.

Some people believe that the Era of Good Feelings wasn't a good time in American history, because not everyone benefited from it. One example was the women, who had less carrier options and access to education than men, and couldn't vote. Also, the slaves, who were essentially property, unable to own possessions, have a family, or legally work their way to freedom in many states.

Credits:

Created with images by Tony Fischer Photography - "James Monroe, 5th US President, 1817-1825" • Cargolins - "The Voyage of Life Childhood" • ErikaWittlieb - "kermit frog muppet" • edenpictures - "Rip Van Winkle"

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