America's England examines the patterns of affiliation through which U.S. writers, public intellectuals, politicians, and aesthetes encoded the political turmoil of antebellum America in terms of imagined connections with England. Demonstrating that English genealogies, geographies, and economics encoded the sectional crisis for antebellum Americans on both sides of the Mason-Dixon, it locates many of the crisis points of antebellum America in a broader transatlantic constellation that provided distinctive circumstances for literary production. Through engagement with contemporaneous renditions of English race, history, landscape aesthetics, transatlantic telecommunications, and economic discourse, northern and southern partisans-abolitionists, Unionists, and slaveholders alike-re-imagined the terms behind their antagonisms, forming a transatlantic surround for the otherwise irreducibly cisatlantic political struggles that would dissolve the Union in 1861.
Among other ramifications, the re-conceptualization of sectional issues in transatlantic terms undermined the notion that white citizens of the United States formed a unified biological or cultural community, effectively polarizing the imagined ethnic and cultural bases of the American polity. But beyond that, a continued reference to English historical, cultural, and political formations allowed public intellectuals and authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederick Douglass, Henry Timrod, Lydia Maria Child, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Gilmore Simms, John Pendleton Kennedy, Charles Sumner, and Henry Herbert to situate an era of developing national acrimony along longer historical and transnational curves, forming accounts of national crisis that situated questions of a domestic political bearing at oceanic removes from northern and southern combatants.