Activists in favor of abolishing slavery
Daniel Webster (1792-1852) was a well-known American orator, lawyer and
politician. As a U.S. Senator, he was an eloquent defender of a strong national
government. He opposed the war with Mexico and was instrumental in passing the
Compromise of 1850 on slavery, for which many Northerners denounced him. He
also served as Secretary of State for Presidents William Henry Harrison,
John Tyler and Millard Fillmore.
The Mexican-American War (1846-1848) was fought over boundary disputes between
the two countries; the Americans believed that it was their "Manifest Destiny"
to expand their territory. During the war, U.S. forces invaded Mexico and
occupied its capital, eventually gaining the land that would later constitute
California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona and New Mexico, and parts of Colorado
A philosophy that became influential in the late 18th century and 19th century.
Transcendentalism rejects the idea that knowledge can be fully derived from
experience and observation of the physical world; rather, an individual should examine the way
she comes to know things—in other words, the thought process itself—and focus on her connection to the divine, which exists beyond the senses but which can be known through intuition and feeling.
American transcendentalism reached its peak in New England in the 1840s, under
the leadership of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson argued that, while the physical
world is important, providing us with necessary goods and frequent beauty,
people should live their lives based on truths grasped through reason, not just
physical perception. People will find truth within themselves; therefore, self-reliance and individuality are critical. Emerson served as a mentor to Thoreau,
who became another leading American transcendentalist.