The Search For National Identity
Nationalism is the attitude members of a nation have when they care about their national identity. Nationalism can also be the love of a country and the willingness to make sacrifices for it. Just as a person’s identity is affected by other people and the events in their life, a nation is affected the same way. There have been many people and events that have affected the national identity of America.
There were two Awakenings that spread different aspects of American thought. The first Awakening brought a change in the style of preaching. The new style that took hold was passionate and fiery, characterized by preachers giving detailed descriptions of the fate of those headed to eternal punishment in hell. Jonathan Edwards was one of the leaders of the first Awakening. Edward’s involvement in the Awakening started when he delivered a series of fiery sermons against Arminianism. Those sermons told of eternal damnation of the people if they kept to their rebellious ways. ( Berkin pg.76), (RRAL pg 19) Charles Chauncy was the biggest opponent of the first Awakening. Chauncy’s writings denounced Edwards and the awakening. (RRAL pg. 26) The Awakening was a counter to the Age of Enlightenment, in that it reaffirmed the thinking that the heart is greater than the mind, and that intellect cannot be relied upon. (Berkin pg. 75)
Emotional revival meetings characterized the second Great Awakening in American. Those revival meetings would last for five days at a time. Revival attendees would listen to preachers in the evening and study during the daytime. The meetings would draw up to twenty-five thousand people. (Berkin pg. 76) People didn’t only come to here the preaching, they also came for social purposes. People got a chance to talk and trade with other people. This Awakening called for a return to God and Godly living. Church attendance increased during the Awakening. Attempts to limit alcohol and abolish slavery also came as a result of the second Awakening, as did the rise of the American Bible Society. The Society sent out missionaries to spread the Word of God, and increase the distribution of Bibles. (RRAL pg. 60) In combination, these Awakenings increased the recognition of God’s presence and the direction of individual lives, as well as the life of the Nation.
Westward expansion has also dramatically influenced the shape of America today. Manifest Destiny was the popular term used in the 1840’s to describe westward expansion. (Berkin pg. 255) The term destiny displays the thinking that there was a divine plan for the spread of American thought (predominated by belief in the Gospel) across the continent. Thus, many missionaries were sent westward.
There were a few factors that influenced the push west. Many artists influenced Manifest Destiny. The Hudson River School was a group of artists founded by the popular artist, Thomas Cole. (Berkin pg. 238) The school painted beautiful works of art that depicted the...