Earlier this week I combed through my shelves and pulled out a half-dozen books to add to the book box. All of them were unread, but they are all books that I can get through our district's library system. One of them is Walters's book on antebellum reformers, which I have been meaning to read for years; I sampled the introduction, and I came across this:
[T]he patterns of thought were the same: old values were being lost and whatever was at fault had to be eliminated or controlled if America was to fulfill its destiny. Behind that reasoning was a suspicious mentality characteristic of many antebellum reformers, as well as non-reformers, that attributed the nations troubles to conspiracies of one sort or another . . . To believe that plotters were responsible for what was happening to the country was wrong; but it was part of a quest, going back at least to the eighteenth century, for secular terms in which to analyze politics and social change. Rather than seeing the hand of God moving events, many antebellum Americans saw the hands of sinister individuals. That may not have been accurate, but it was about as good as any other explanation available before Marx and modern social science.
And just like that, my reading for this weekend was set.