In 1831 YEAR OF ECLIPSE, Lewis Masur suggests that 1831 was perhaps the pivotal year between the post-revolutionary era when America was busy enacting the promises of its great contracts, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and enjoying its new freedoms inscribed therein, and the pre-Civil War era, when all the underlying social and economic tensions submerged in those documents boiled to the surface.
Masur amply shows that America in 1831, the promises of the revolution were being enacted in ways the Founding Fathers could not have foreseen and would not have endorsed. Contrary to their program, where a benevolent oligarchy of elite planter and merchant families would administer America to the obedient masses, a new more democratic America was taking shape. Max Weber, according to Lipset in "American Exceptionalism" believed changinng liberal societies be likened to a game of dice where the dice were "loaded" by tradition. And as time went on the dice became more and more "loaded" as the accretions of time and custom were sedimented into the society, eventually creating framing stories and commonsense views that closed the foundations of society to debate. 1831 was a watershed year, a year in which some sluices were opened and others closed, a time when the roiling waters of liberty and democracy were undermining the foundations of elites, when the promises of revolutionary America were being extended to, revoked from, or taken up focibly by its people. It is a fascinating time, and "1831 Year of Eclipse" lays out the key events of this era with admirable clarity.