By David Morse
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Additional info for American Romanticism: Volume 1: From Cooper to Hawthorne
Ralph gives credence to this attribution by his subsequent exploits behind the American lines: But Ralph, whose unencumbered person and iron frame, which seemed to mock the ravages of time, gave a vast superiority over the impeded progress of the other, moved swiftly ahead, waving his hand on high, as if to indicate his intention to join in the flight, while he led the way into the fields adjacent to the churchyard they had quitted. (p. 404) Perhaps on an iconographical level this figures as 'Liberty Leading the People', but regarded as anything other than allegorical the personage of Ralph can only leave the reader bemused.
All of these many churches, projects, crusades and causes struggled vigorously to gain support and converts not 26 American Romanticism simply because they were sincerely believed but because their proponents believed that in an expanding, volatile and relatively unformed society the very future of the nation was at stake. America was out there waiting for the word. A mighty continent was up for grabs. There were those who deplored so much enthusiasm and fervour. In 1840 the Revd Leonard Withington wrote, 'We love excitement; the appetite is increasing upon us; we are a peculiar nation.
Harriet Martineau was shocked at the spirit of factionalism she found and the level of intra-section abuse in what was ostensibly a united country: I question whether the enmity between British and the Americans, at the most exasperating crisis of the war, could ever have been more intense than some that I have seen flashing in the eyes, and heard from the lips, of Americans against fellow-citizens in distant sections of their country. I have scarcely known whether to laugh or to mourn when I have been told that the New England people are all pedlars or canting priests; that the people of the south are all heathens; and those of the west barbarians.
American Romanticism: Volume 1: From Cooper to Hawthorne by David Morse