"Everyone knew that the great eclipse of 1831 was coming - and most Americans feared it. Newspapers and almanacs claimed it would be an unparalleled celestial event, and on February 12 citizen and slave alike, from New England to the South, anxiously gazed heavenward. In this new book, Louis P. Masur shows why Americans saw the eclipse as a portent of their future. The year 1831 was, for the United States, a crucial time when the nation was no longer a young, uncomplicated republic but, rather, a dynamic and conflicted country inching toward a cataclysm. By the year's end, nearly every aspect of its political, social, and cultural life had undergone profound change." "Masur organizes 1831 around the themes that he suggests underlie many of the tumultuous events of the year: slavery (or its abolition); the still unresolved tension between states' rights and national priorities; the competing passions of religion and politics; and the alarming effects of new machinery on Americans' relationship to the land. By the summer of 1831, Nat Turner's rebellion was sparking ever more violent arguments over the future of slavery; Andrew Jackson's administration threatened to unravel; and dissent over the economic future of the country festered. Religious revivalism sweeping the North inspired agitation in the working classes; steamboats, railroads, and mechanized reapers were introduced in the competitive rush for profits; and Jackson's harsh policies toward the Cherokee erased most Indians' last hopes of autonomy. Important visitors - including Gustave Beaumont and Alexis de Tocqueville - watched the developments closely. Their views on this turbulent year would shape world opinion of the new American nation for generations to come. "--Jacket.