Book Review: What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Having already read The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 by Robert Middlekauff and Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood, I was looking forward to reading the next step in the Oxford History of the United States, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe, which covers the development of the United States between the War of 1812 and just before the Civil War. It essentially is a history of the United States as a developing Country and walks the reader through how partisan politics, the economy, and Manifest Destiny, all aided by revolutions in transportation in the form of the railroads and in communications in the form of the telegraph transformed the United States. Howe shows us how the differences between the Democrats and the Whigs, the transition to a market economy, and expansion west mixed with white male supremacy to help create a sectional divide that would lead us to civil war in the next phase of US History.

I can see how some would get a negative impression of this book and believe it is entirely a polemic against Jacksonian Democrats or how others might get a heavily negative impression of the United States, but it’s important to remember that Howe reminds us:

“We should not forget that economic development brought benefits as well, and not only in material ways. Improved transportation and communications, promoting economic diversification, widened people’s horizons, encouraged greater equality within family relationships, and fostered the kind of commitments to education and the rule of law exemplified by Abraham Lincoln. Accordingly, economic development did not undercut American democracy but broadened and enhanced it—which is reassuring for developing countries today.”

What Hath God Wrought is a long book at 928 pages, but well worth reading. It’s well documented and I like that Howe includes how Historians view and have interpreted what happened in his text. He also tells the story through personalities – and not just the personalities of politicians, but religious, business, and civic personalities who helped drive the era. It’s important to have a good understanding of how our country developed to help move it forward through the future. Knowing where you’ve been, what you’ve gone through, and how you did it informs where you’re going, what you’ll be going through, and how to do it. While the Jacksonian Democrats and Trump Republicans aren’t analogous, there are enough parallels between Jackson and Trump in particular for this to be a part of our History that there is much to learn from.



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