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Book Review

The American Nation: Primary Sources

The American Nation: Primary Sources resumes the narrative begun in its companion volume, The American Republic which covered the first eight decades of U.S. history, ending at the onset of the Civil War. The American Nation continues the story through America’s entrance into World War II.

This book makes available many of the most crucial documents necessary for understanding the variety of policies and viewpoints driving American public life during an important, substantive part of American history. The primary sources in this volume are relevant to the Civil War, Reconstruction, the rise of a national capitalist system and culture, the waves of reform-minded thought and policy that moved the nation toward formation of the national administrative and welfare states, and America’s emergence as a major power on the world stage. This period was a watershed in the history of the nation—the time of establishing and consolidating national power and laying the foundations of a national government committed to promoting the material well-being of Americans. It was an era that witnessed the development of the nation-state and the establishment of the New Deal regime, which set the stage for the radical social movements of the 1960s and beyond.

For decades debates have raged concerning the nature and impact of post–Civil War Reconstruction, as well as the major popular legal and ideological movements shaping the United States during the period up to World War II. This critical era encompassed the rise of mass-market corporatism and America’s entry into world politics. Recent social history has uncovered a great deal of information regarding the daily lives of Americans during this era. Of equal importance is an in-depth study of the public documents critical for an understanding of the effects of public acts and pronouncements on Americans. This volume will allow students and readers to readily engage, without interpretation, the original historical documents that have shaped the history of American public life.

Some of the primary documents include: Message to Congress on Gradual Abolishment of Slavery by Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina Ordinance of Secession, Virginia Ordinance to Repeal the Ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, Farewell Speech to Congress by Jefferson Davis, Inaugural Address by Jefferson Davis, First Inaugural Address by Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation of Blockade against Southern Ports by Abraham Lincoln, Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, Last Order by Robert E. Lee, Second Inaugural Address by Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Constitution—Thirteenth Amendment, Black Code of Mississippi, First Reconstruction Act of 1867, The Homestead Act, The Pacific Railway Act (1862), Plessy v. Ferguson, Navajo Treaty (1868), Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Regarding Religious Establishment, Speech on Constitutionality of an Income Tax, by William Howard Taft (1909), Prohibition Debate (1917),

 U.S. Constitution, Eighteenth Amendment, Fourteen Points Speech by Woodrow Wilson, Neutrality and War by Charles A. Lindbergh, The Atlantic Charter, and The Four Freedoms by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.