Scottish-born Alexander Mackay (1808–52) spent much of his career as a journalist in North America. He was in Britain working for the Morning Chronicle when, in January 1846, he set sail again for the United States, this time to report on the debates over the Oregon question, relating to British and American claims to territory in the Pacific North-West. He spent several months in Washington, D.C. before travelling around the country as far south as the Mississippi, and west to the Great Lakes. This three-volume work, published in 1849, uses his journey to frame a general account of 'the political system, the social life, and the material progress of the Union'. Mackay observed a vibrant and prosperous country, and his work captures the energy of these boom years. Volume 2 focuses on political parties, slavery and railways, and describes Mackay's travels in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana.
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