This volume explores how Americans experience and understand the central issues, problems, and decisions that shaped American history during the nation's formative period. Rather than reprinting familiar public documents, this work includes many never-before printed personal letters and other texts that offer vivid first-hand accounts of and reflections on the major issues and events in early American history. Author David Brion Davis, Professor of History at Yale University, has won numerous history prizes and is recognized as one of the major historians of his generation. By illustrating how critical issues of power, identity, and democracy in the American past were bound up with questions of race, Davis' volume leads readers to rethink the very nature of our nation's history and development.