What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848


The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. In this Pulitzer prize-winning, critically acclaimed addition to the series, historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era when the United States expanded to the Pacific and won control over the richest part of the North American continent.

A panoramic narrative, What Hath God Wrought portrays revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated the extension of the American empire. Railroads, canals, newspapers, and the telegraph dramatically lowered travel times and spurred the spread of information. These innovations prompted the emergence of mass political parties and stimulated America's economic development from an overwhelmingly rural country to a diversified economy in which commerce and industry took their place alongside agriculture. In his story, the author weaves together political and military events with social, economic, and cultural history. Howe examines the rise of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic party, but contends that John Quincy Adams and other Whigs--advocates of public education and economic integration, defenders of the rights of Indians, women, and African-Americans--were the true prophets of America's future. In addition, Howe reveals the power of religion to shape many aspects of American life during this period, including slavery and antislavery, women's rights and other reform movements, politics, education, and literature. Howe's story of American expansion culminates in the bitterly controversial but brilliantly executed war waged against Mexico to gain California and Texas for the United States.

Winner of the New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize

Finalist, 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction

The Oxford History of the United States
The Oxford History of the United States is the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, a New York Times bestseller, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. The Atlantic Monthly has praised it as "the most distinguished series in American historical scholarship," a series that "synthesizes a generation's worth of historical inquiry and knowledge into one literally state-of-the-art book." Conceived under the general editorship of C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter, and now under the editorship of David M. Kennedy, this renowned series blends social, political, economic, cultural, diplomatic, and military history into coherent and vividly written narrative.


In 1844, near the end of the period covered in this volume of The Oxford History of the United States, Ralph Waldo Emerson proclaimed that “America is the country of the Future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.” Emerson spoke a common sentiment in that heady age of what might be called America’s national adolescence. In scarcely more than two generations since its founding, the young nation had stretched its domains to the Rocky Mountain crest and stood poised to assert its sovereignty all the way to the Pacific coast. The American people, lustily doubling their numbers every two decades, dreamed without embarrassment of extravagant utopias both spiritual and secular. Their economy, fueled by startling new technologies like the telegraph and the railroad, was growing robustly. Their churches were rocked by revivalism, even as their political system was giving the world an exhilarating lesson in the possibilities of mass democracy.

Yet Emerson’s America was already a country with a past. Its history held peril as well as promise—not least the noxious heritage of chattel slavery, a moral outrage that mocked the Republic’s claim to be a model of social and political enlightenment and eventually menaced the nation’s very survival.

What Hath God Wrought recounts a critical passage in that history. It opens on a note both ironic and prophetic: Andrew Jackson’s storied victory over a crack British force at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Ironic because the battle was fought some two weeks after British and American delegates had signed a formal peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium. Prophetic because, as Daniel Walker Howe conclusively demonstrates, victory owed far less to the derring-do of the buckskin-clad backwoodsmen celebrated . . .

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