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American Imperialism UnManifest: Emerson's "Inquest" and Cultural Regeneration

American Imperialism UnManifest: Emerson's "Inquest" and Cultural Regeneration American Literature (immediately or eventually), expansionism and democracy could be perceived not as contradictory but as complementary. It is precisely through the domestication of conflict, in fact, that expansionism becomes the great antithesis of both colonialism and slavery. Thus the United States is an ‘‘empire of free men,’’ as Zachary Taylor memorably exclaims in the opening words of his ‘‘First Annual Message’’ as president in 1849.4 In Calhoun and Webster’s Senate debate, ethical and legal questions about land seizure are circumvented by the premise upon which the debate relies, for pro- and anti-expansionists alike: Oregon is not out there but in here, already part of the United States. The ‘‘single question’’ remaining, then, concerns constitutional jurisdiction: how will Oregon now be administered? 5 The battleground is thus not the material land but a document—the Constitution—and the players are not rival claimants to the land but two Americans defending the document’s integrity. Likewise, in the official discourse on expansion, the conquest of North America is typically dramatized as the process of U.S. self-definition. The conflict between self and other is thus refigured as an internal struggle.6 With the subject changed from territorial conquest to domestic issues of constitutionality, slavery, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Literature Duke University Press

American Imperialism UnManifest: Emerson's "Inquest" and Cultural Regeneration

American Literature , Volume 73 (1) – Mar 1, 2001

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2001 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0002-9831
eISSN
1527-2117
DOI
10.1215/00029831-73-1-47
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

American Literature (immediately or eventually), expansionism and democracy could be perceived not as contradictory but as complementary. It is precisely through the domestication of conflict, in fact, that expansionism becomes the great antithesis of both colonialism and slavery. Thus the United States is an ‘‘empire of free men,’’ as Zachary Taylor memorably exclaims in the opening words of his ‘‘First Annual Message’’ as president in 1849.4 In Calhoun and Webster’s Senate debate, ethical and legal questions about land seizure are circumvented by the premise upon which the debate relies, for pro- and anti-expansionists alike: Oregon is not out there but in here, already part of the United States. The ‘‘single question’’ remaining, then, concerns constitutional jurisdiction: how will Oregon now be administered? 5 The battleground is thus not the material land but a document—the Constitution—and the players are not rival claimants to the land but two Americans defending the document’s integrity. Likewise, in the official discourse on expansion, the conquest of North America is typically dramatized as the process of U.S. self-definition. The conflict between self and other is thus refigured as an internal struggle.6 With the subject changed from territorial conquest to domestic issues of constitutionality, slavery,

Journal

American LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2001

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