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strengths and weaknesses, offer my own opinions about the article and endeavor to show how the article relates to the materials discussed in Class 1301.
Pessen says foreign visitors to America such as Tocqueville, Charles Dickens, Harriet Martineau, Frances Trollope and others viewed Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States (1829-37), as a child of the frontier, democrat, egalitarian, entrepreneurial, speculative profit seeker, conservative, conformist, violent, materialist and chaste republican. They thought these traits and values epitomized American society. While some of these visitors had such nice things to say about Americans as handsome, gentle, pleasant, trusting, and self-less (p. 30), most of them had a rather negative perception of Americans. To them, Americans were dull, cold and cruel (p. 11); violent, selfish, and thin-skinned (p. 12); and clever but shallow (p. 15). Americans were dirty, unrefined, drunkard and speculative (pp. 18-22); egalitarian, moral from outside but prudish (p. 23-24); and anti-tradition, apathetic to intellectual accomplishments, and disinterested in principles (pp. 27-31). Pessen agrees with the visitors that a Jacksonian American, “possibly” a materialist, entertained bigotry supplemented by cruelty and cupidity, vanity and boastfulness; he was blissfully unaware of any complex situation, disinterested in principles (p. 31). However, Pessen does not agree that a Jacksonin American was a child of the frontier, an inner-directed conformist, and a chaste republican looking longingly to the past (p. 30).
Pessen’s article has three remarkable strengths. First, by presenting a whole array of views of contemporary European visitors, Pessen helps us understand American society from their perspective and experiences. Secondly, he also offers his own views so the readers have a different viewpoint to draw informed and objective conclusions. Thirdly, the article written in journalistic style makes an
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