Everyone knew that the great eclipse of 1831 was coming -- and most Americans feared it. The United States was no longer a young, uncomplicated republic but, rather, conflicted and dynamic, inching toward cataclysm. Louis P. Masur organizes his remarkable book around the themes that underlay this tumultuous year: slavery; the unresolved tension between states' rights and national priorities; the competing passions of religion and politics; and the alarming effects of new machinery on Americans' relationship to the land. Masur shows how disparate events relating to all these themes affected the very nature of the American character. His is an important and challenging interpretation of antebellum America.