In this beautifully written history of America's formative period, an eminent historian upends the traditional story of a young nation marching to its continent-spanning destiny. The newly constituted United States actually emerged as an internally fragile union of states that clashed over a tenuous balance of regional power. European empires and the new republic of Mexico sought to contain that union by allying with Native peoples who defended their homelands. Bitter political divisions pitted those favouring strong government with elite rule against those, like Andrew Jackson, espousing a democratic populism for white men. With a flood of settlers pouring into the west, the United States invaded Canada, Florida, Texas and much of Mexico. It forcibly removed most of the Native peoples living east of the Mississippi. And after the Mexican war, with conquered territory reaching west to the Pacific, the sectional divisions over slavery produced a crisis.