During the half century, the United States went through some of the greatest changes in its history. In the middle of the 19 th century it was still mainly a country of farmers. Trade and manufacturing were growing more important with each decade but it was not until the 1870s that a majority of American were making a living in non-farming occupations. Meanwhile, the population soared from 23 million in 1850 to 76 million in 1990. In the middle of the century Negro slavery was still a fact of American life. The nation was being split in two y it. The South defended slavery more and more vigorously: the North criticized it more and more earnestly. The bitter war waged between the North and South from 1861 to 1865 permanently altered the character of American life. For many people — the great Walt Whitman for one-it was the central fact of their lives. For the South it meant the lingering flavor of defeat: for the Negroes it meant freedom enjoyed by the whites. 
Americans, whether native-born or immigrants, earned more than ever before. They had more opportunities, more freedom. Often, as a result, they felt a patriotism, a trust in their, they felt a patriotism, a trust in their country, that made them sure that the United States was the greatest nation on earth. Only a few of their fellow countrymen felt otherwise. However, these few included some of the most notable thinkers of the time, and, most significant for us, some of the best writers.
Throughout history men have expressed their dissatisfaction with their present condition though the written and spoken word. The thinkers in a society, writers among them, are the persons most likely to examine prevailing values and to discern flaws in the social structure before these flaws have been recognized by society as a whole. This examination of values was as prevalent in the 19 th century as it in the 20 th. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, for example, both denied that making money was as important as many Americans believed. On the other hand, both authors strongly affirmed the rights of the individual-and the dignity of the individual was then and is now a vital part of the American creed. Or take the case of Walt Whitman. His attitude toward sex was far more tolerant that of the rest of his countrymen — but in his affirmation of democracy throughout his poems, he expressed values shared by most Americans. Mark Twain seemed either to conform to typical American values or to amuse his audience by adroitly making fun of them. Yet underneath he felt a brooding pessimism not only about American values but about life itself. As we have seen, writers of the first half of the 19 th century, such as Poe and Hawthorne, were part of an international romantic trend in literature and art. Among the many characteristics of the romantic trend was a stress on the individual instead of the group, on the wild instead of the tame, on the irregular instead of the regular. In addition, the Romanticism of Poe and Hawthorne was dark and brooding. But all American Romanticism was not. 
All these doctrines may sound more or less abstract to us today. Yet there was intellectual dynamite in them. For 30 years in the middle of the 19th century, Emerson preached to America through his lectures and essays. He preached Transcendentalism and more that Transcendentalism. He told us that we should be self-reliant and at the same time unselfish. He asserted that there was a greatness in us all that needed only to be set free. And he gave his message in prose poetry of remarkable, individual beauty. Henry Thoreau stood ready to urge an even more powerful doctrine, but few listened to him during his short life. It was only later that the world paid attention. Then Thoreau became the fiercest enemy American commercial life has ever had. To keep from having to work at jobs in which he had no interest, he went to life for two years in the woods, in a cabin he built for himself. There he lived with almost complete independence. 
Walt Whitman was determined to be the poet of democracy. Though America has never cared as much for poetry as for prose, Whitman thought that he could reach the American people by throwing aside the traditional ornaments and prettiness of verse and creating his own form. He worked at his great poem, or book of poems, Leaves of Great, throughout his life. He developed a kind of free verse, without rhyme or a fixed rhythm but distinguished by Biblical cadences and impressive repetition. Through his new medium he tried constantly to reach those people no other poet had reached. His poetry was for the lowest as well as the highest on the American economic ladder. He put everybody in his poetry and tried to reach everybody.
Yet, ironically enough, Whitman failed to reach the common man, who would doubtless have approved of being represented in poetry but who was put off by Whitman’s new poetic form. If the common man liked any poetry, it was poetry of a traditional form. He was given poetry in this from by the man who established himself as the most popular, though by no means the best, American poet of the 19th century. The poet was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, once a college classmate of Hawthorne.
In an era when America was trying so hard to be new that it overlooked the riches of the Old World, Longfellow pioneered in studying — and then teaching — European literature. In 1836 he became Harvard College’s professor of modern languages and stayed at Harvard for nearly 20 years. During that time he produced several volumes of poetry, of which The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems, according to some critics, was his best. In his lyrics he drew on the techniques of European poetry, as well as on his own native creativity, and acquired a mastery of rhyme and rhythm. The ideas he expressed were generally simple ones and his technique displayed them to advantage He expressed them musically and powerfully, with the result that more people read him than any other American poet. 
Not that his optimism was automatic. He had his somber or sad poems, too But by and large he was the poet of the affirmative, and that helped to make him the one Americans loved best. Today his verse may sound trite, and its optimistic tone may grate on us. Yet Longfellow, though not a major poet, was a notable minor one.
If Longfellow was the prototype of the public brad throughout the middle of the century, Emily Dickinson was the opposite. Abnormally shy and retiring, she lived her life in complete shadow. The poetry she wrote –irregular in its rhyme and rhythm, whimsical in its imagery, wry in its view of the world — was the reveres of Longfellow’s. While she wrote, no one paid attention to her nor did she seen to wish anyone to. After her death her lyrics began to be circulated. They aroused more and more enthusiasm. Today she is hailed as one of the outstanding American poets, eagerly studied by scholars and critics who dismiss the popular Longfellow.
Out next great writer was the man who called himself Mark Twain. Born Samuel Clemens, he grew up next to the Mississippi River, became a pilot on it, went to Nevada and then to California, and made his way into literature via journalism. A thoroughly American writer, he traveled over a good deal of the Western world and then reported his travels in a jocular, often scoffing way. He was not impressed by either Europe or antiquity and showed it in his books. His independence and individualism delighted the American public. On the other hand, as he grew older, he found he was not impressed by many things in America, either. The nation he saw after the Civil War seemed a greedy one. He Criticized it but was careful to do so in a humorous way. Because Mark Twain developed into a superb comic in both his writing and in his many public appearances as a lecturer, the country refused to take his criticism seriously.
Although both the Europe of the past and the America of the present repelled him, one great source of material remained for him to write about: his own boyhood. Turning to it in his prime, he drew from it the inspiration for his two greatest works, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In Tom and Huck he created characters so appealing that they have become part of American mythology. Both books are sagas of boyhood but the second one in particular has a depth that the reader may not see at first glance. It is a book for the discerning adult.
As the 19th century neared its end, a few other writers saw life basically in the same hard terms as Mark Twain. One of them was another newspaper man, Stephen Crane, who died just as the 20th century was beginning. He wrote novels about characters America wanted to disregard and he described them — and the bleak world in which they lived — so graphically that after his death his works became classics. He composed his first novel, for example, about a prostitute. He wrote another, entitled The Red Badge of Courage, about what it meant to be in battle. Set in the Civil War, it was marked by a convincing sense of reality in spite of the fact that Crane himself had never experienced combat. He also wrote somber short stories and bitter free verse. He provides an introduction for us to the 20th century, when much writing, though certainly not all, is as bleak as his. The somber views of Mark Twain and Stephen Crane were largely ignored by Americans of that time. The country was full of optimism.
Lastly, we come to Henry James, who not only bridged the 19th and 20th centuries but connected America and Europe. In his slow-moving, magnificent fiction he shows what happens when characters from different cultures meet. He himself was international. Born in America of distinguished American family, he died in England, a British subject. He knew the true meaning of changing environments. 
Its hero is a wealthy American named Christopher Newman who goes to Paris and meets a beautiful widow from an aristocratic French family, with one exception, detests him. They thwart the proposed marriage: the widow enters a convent and Newman is defeated. The other novel, one of his middle period, is The Ambassadors. It is more nearly comic than tragic, and it is more nearly comic than tragic, and it is more urbane that The American. In this case the European values are shown through sympathetic characters, while some of the American values are shown through the eyes of Massachusetts Puritans. The ambassadors of the book’s title are a mixed lot. But the leading one, Lambert Stretcher, is one of the most sympathetic characters in Henry James’s fiction. 
To the conclusion, the 20th century has just begun, with some of the most exciting literature that America has ever known. Its foundations have been firmly laid by the 19th –century authors we have been reading, but there is no doubt that they would be astounded, and we hope impressed, by the writing produced by their successors.
- H. W. Brands, The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin (2000).
- Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography edited by J. A. Leo Lemay and P. M. Zell, (Norton Critical Editions, 1986):
- Ketchum, Ralph, ed. The Political Thought of Benjamin Franklin. (1965, reprinted 2003).
- 1785: Benjamin Franklin’s Sundry Maritime Observations’, The Academy of Natural Sciences, April 1939m.
- Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790). Science world, from Eric Weiss ten’s World of Scientific Biography. 2010 year.
- Jones, Thomas P. (1836). Journal of the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania.
- “The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume III: London, 1757–1775-On the Price of Com, and Management of the Poor” J. A. Leo Lemay, “Franklin Benjamin”. American National Biography. February 2000.