In Breakaway Americas: The Unmanifest Future of Jacksonian America
(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020), Thomas Richards Jr.
, a history teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, argues that the map of North America was not preordained. Richards uses the Republic of Texas, the 1830s Patriot War, the Mormon exodus, and several other examples from the American West argue that during the 1830s and 1840s, people across North America saw the continent as a place where the flaws of the United States could be remedied by the creation of alternative republics. This is a book about the importance of contingency in understanding the past, and about recognizing that even the outcomes that seemed likely in hindsight often were unlikely in the moment. In the prolonged period of crisis that coincided with the presidencies of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, Americans looked West and imagined a vast continent of republics, or as Richards calls them, a “kaleidoscopic” map of different “flavors’ of American republicanism.
Dr. Stephen Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. His book manuscript is a history of race and environment in the American West.