An introduction to three centuries of American thought sums up what the author takes to be the dominant moods, movements and reactions from New England uritanism to Whitehead. Whitehead, of course, is English, but he's tacked on like a coda anyway, his influential mixing of science with a sort of mystic-humanism making a fitting upbeat ending to all that went before. Throughout the accent is on reason and the pursuit of happiness, on progressive, optimistic democracy, in short. The darker, more devious developments, of Hawthorne and Melville, of Henry Adams and Henry James, are not advanced. Although the book is thoroughly iddlebrow, it is interesting and informative (e.g. President Adams Sr. saying ""There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide""), and blessedly unpompous to boot. Emerson's essay on self-reliance is dubbed ""existential"", and while everything is dubbed that today, it does seem extreme here, especially when the quoted portions sound like Carlos Williams in prose. Jefferson, the Pragmatist people, and the early sociologists Summer and Ward are clearly the book's best moments. considerable portion centers on the clashes between Colonial Calvinism and the commonsense clockwork of Franklin or free thinkers like Paine. Certainly an awful ot is covered; still sometimes one feels one is afloat in flooded country: the rofundities are below, the superficialities above.