From its shocking curtain-raiser—the conflagration that consumed Lower Manhattan in 1835—to the climactic centennial year of 1876, when Americans staged a corrupt, deadlocked presidential campaign (fought out in Florida), Walter A. McDougall's Throes of Democracy carries the saga of the American people's continuous self-reinvention across five tumultuous decades. From the inauguration of President Andrew Jackson through the eras of Manifest Destiny, Civil War, and Reconstruction, it is an epic in which Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, showman P. T. Barnum, and circus clown Dan Rice figure as prominently as Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Henry Ward Beecher—a zesty, irreverent narrative that brazenly reveals our national penchant for pretense.
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A professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, Walter A. McDougall is the author of many books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Heavens and the Earth and Let the Sea Make a Noise. . . . He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and two teenage children.
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