Growth and Transformation : After two great wars, the United States comes of age

Growth and Transformation

After two great wars, the United States comes of age

Building the transcontinental railroad, 1868

Building the transcontinental railroad, 1868. (California State Railroad Museum Library)

“Upon the sacredness of property, civilization itself depends.”
— Industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, 1889

Between two great wars – the Civil War and the First World War – the United States of America came of age. In a period of less than 50 years it was transformed from a rural republic to an urban nation. The frontier vanished. Great factories and steel mills, transcontinental railroad lines, flourishing cities, and vast agricultural holdings marked the land. With this economic growth and affluence came corresponding problems. Nationwide, a few businesses came to dominate whole industries, either independently or in combination with others. Working conditions were often poor. Cities grew so quickly they could not properly house or govern their growing populations.

TECHNOLOGY AND CHANGE

“The Civil War,” says one writer, “cut a wide gash through the history of the country; it dramatized in a stroke the changes that had begun to take place during the preceding 20 or 30 years. …” War needs had enormously stimulated manufacturing, speeding an economic process based on the exploitation of iron, steam, and electric power, as well as the forward march of science and invention. In the years before 1860, 36,000 patents were granted; in the next 30 years, 440,000 patents were issued, and in the first quarter of the 20th century, the number reached nearly a million.

As early as 1844, Samuel F. B. Morse had perfected electrical telegraphy; soon afterward distant parts of the continent were linked by a network of poles and wires. In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell exhibited a telephone instrument; within half a century, 16 million telephones would quicken the social and economic life of the nation. The growth of business was speeded by the invention of the typewriter in 1867, the adding machine in 1888, and the cash register in 1897. The linotype composing machine, invented in 1886, and rotary press and paper-folding machinery made it possible to print 240,000 eight-page newspapers in an hour. Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamp eventually lit millions of homes. The talking machine, or phonograph, was perfected by Edison, who, in conjunction with George Eastman, also helped develop the motion picture. These and many other applications of science and ingenuity resulted in a new level of productivity in almost every field.

Concurrently, the nation’s basic industry – iron and steel – forged ahead, protected by a high tariff.  The iron industry moved westward as geologists discovered new ore deposits, notably the great Mesabi range at the head of Lake Superior, which became one of the largest producers in the world.  Easy and cheap to mine, remarkably free of chemical impurities, Mesabi ore could be processed into steel of superior quality at about one‑tenth the previously prevailing cost.

CARNEGIE AND THE ERA OF STEEL

Andrew Carnegie was largely responsible for the great advances in steel production. Carnegie, who came to America from Scotland as a child of 12, progressed from bobbin boy in a cotton factory to a job in a telegraph office, then to one on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Before he was 30 years old he had made shrewd and farsighted investments, which by 1865 were concentrated in iron. Within a few years, he had organized or had stock in companies making iron bridges, rails, and locomotives. Ten years later, he built the nation’s largest steel mill on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania.  He acquired control not only of new mills, but also of coke   and coal properties, iron ore from Lake Superior, a fleet of steamers on the Great Lakes, a port town on Lake Erie, and a connecting railroad. His business, allied with a dozen others, commanded favorable terms from railroads and shipping lines. Nothing comparable in industrial growth had ever been seen in America before.

Though Carnegie long dominated the industry, he never achieved a complete monopoly over the natural resources, transportation, and industrial plants involved in the making of steel. In the 1890s, new companies challenged his preeminence.  He would be persuaded to merge his holdings into a new corporation that would embrace most of the important iron and steel properties in the nation.

CORPORATIONS AND CITIES

The United States Steel Corporation, which resulted from this merger in 1901, illustrated a process under way for 30 years: the combination of independent industrial enterprises into federated or centralized companies. Started during the Civil War, the trend gathered momentum after the 1870s, as businessmen began to fear that overproduction would lead to declining prices and falling profits. They realized that if they could control both production and markets, they could bring competing firms into a single organization. The “corporation” and the “trust” were developed to achieve these ends.

Corporations, making available a deep reservoir of capital and giving business enterprises permanent life and continuity of control, attracted investors both by their anticipated profits and by their limited liability in case of business failure. The trusts were in effect combinations of corporations whereby the stockholders of each placed stocks in the hands of trustees.  (The “trust” as a method of corporate consolidation soon gave way to the holding company, but the term stuck.)  Trusts made possible large-scale combinations, centralized control and administration, and the pooling of patents. Their larger capital resources provided power to expand, to compete with foreign business organizations, and to drive hard bargains with labor, which was beginning to organize effectively. They could also exact favorable terms from railroads and exercise influence in politics.

The Standard Oil Company, founded by John D. Rockefeller, was one of the earliest and strongest corporations, and was followed rapidly by other combinations – in cottonseed oil, lead, sugar, tobacco, and rubber. Soon aggressive individual businessmen began to mark out industrial domains for themselves. Four great meat packers, chief among them Philip Armour and Gustavus Swift, established a beef trust. Cyrus McCormick achieved preeminence in the reaper business. A 1904 survey showed that more than 5,000 previously independent concerns had been consolidated into some 300 industrial trusts.

The trend toward amalgamation extended to other fields, particularly transportation and communications. Western Union, dominant in telegraphy, was followed by the Bell Telephone System and eventually by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. In the 1860s, Cornelius Vanderbilt had consolidated 13 separate railroads into a single 800-kilometer line connecting New York City and Buffalo. During the next decade he acquired lines to Chicago, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan, establishing the New York Central Railroad.  Soon the major railroads of the nation were organized into trunk lines and systems directed by a handful of men.

In this new industrial order, the city was the nerve center, bringing to a focus all the nation’s dynamic economic forces: vast accumulations of capital, business, and financial institutions, spreading railroad yards, smoky factories, armies of manual and clerical workers. Villages, attracting people from the countryside and from lands across the sea, grew into towns and towns into cities almost overnight. In 1830 only one of every 15 Americans lived in communities of 8,000 or more; in 1860 the ratio was nearly one in every six; and in 1890 three in every 10. No single city had as many as a million inhabitants in 1860; but 30 years later New York had a million and a half; Chicago, Illinois, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, each had over a million. In these three decades, Philadelphia and Baltimore, Maryland, doubled in population; Kansas City, Missouri, and Detroit, Michigan, grew fourfold; Cleveland, Ohio, sixfold; Chicago, tenfold. Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Omaha, Nebraska, and many communities like them – hamlets when the Civil War began – increased 50 times or more in population.

RAILROADS, REGULATIONS, AND THE TARIFF

Railroads were especially important to the expanding nation, and their practices were often criticized.  Rail lines extended cheaper freight rates to large shippers by rebating a portion of the charge, thus disadvantaging small shippers.  Freight rates also frequently were not proportionate to distance traveled; competition usually held down charges between cities with several rail connections.  Rates tended to be high between points served by only one line. Thus it cost less to ship goods 1,280 kilometers from Chicago to New York than to places a few hundred kilometers from Chicago. Moreover, to avoid competition rival companies sometimes divided (“pooled”) the freight business according to a prearranged scheme that placed the total earnings in a common fund for distribution.

Popular resentment at these practices stimulated state efforts at regulation, but the problem was national in character.  Shippers demanded congressional action.  In 1887 President Grover Cleveland signed the Interstate Commerce Act, which forbade excessive charges, pools, rebates, and rate discrimination.  It created an Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to oversee the act, but gave it little enforcement power.  In the first decades of its existence, virtually all the ICC’s efforts at regulation and rate reductions failed to pass judicial review.

President Cleveland also opposed the protective tariff on foreign goods, which had come to be accepted as permanent national policy under the Republican presidents who dominated the politics of the era. Cleveland, a conservative Democrat, regarded tariff protection as an unwarranted subsidy to big business, giving the trusts pricing power to the disadvantage of ordinary Americans. Reflecting the interests of their Southern base, the Democrats had reverted to their pre-Civil War opposition to protection and advocacy of a “tariff for revenue only.”

Cleveland, narrowly elected in 1884, was unsuccessful in achieving tariff reform during his first term.  He made the issue the keynote of his campaign for reelection, but Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, a defender of protectionism, won in a close race. In 1890, the Harrison administration, fulfilling its campaign promises, achieved passage of the McKinley tariff, which increased the already high rates.  Blamed for high retail prices, the McKinley duties triggered widespread dissatisfaction, led to Republican losses in the 1890 elections, and paved the way for Cleveland’s return to the presidency in the 1892 election.

During this period, public antipathy toward the trusts increased. The nation’s gigantic corporations were subjected to bitter attack through the 1880s by reformers such as Henry George and Edward Bellamy.  The Sherman Antitrust Act, passed in 1890, forbade all combinations in restraint of interstate trade and provided several methods of enforcement with severe penalties. Couched in vague generalities, the law accomplished little immediately after its passage. But a decade later, President Theodore Roosevelt would use it vigorously.

REVOLUTION IN AGRICULTURE

Despite the great gains in industry, agriculture remained the nation’s basic occupation. The revolution in agriculture – paralleling that in manufacturing after the Civil War – involved a shift from hand labor to machine farming, and from subsistence to commercial agriculture. Between 1860 and 1910, the number of farms in the United States tripled, increasing from two million to six million, while the area farmed more than doubled from 160 million to 352 million hectares.

Between 1860 and 1890, the production of such basic commodities as wheat, corn, and cotton outstripped all previous figures in the United States. In the same period, the nation’s population more than doubled, with the largest growth in the cities. But the American farmer grew enough grain and cotton, raised enough beef and pork, and clipped enough wool not only to supply American workers and their families but also to create ever-increasing surpluses.

Several factors accounted for this extraordinary achievement. One was the expansion into the West. Another was a technological revolution.  The farmer of 1800, using a hand sickle, could hope to cut a fifth of a hectare of wheat a day. With the cradle, 30 years later, he might cut four-fifths.  In 1840 Cyrus McCormick performed a miracle by cutting from two to two-and-a-half hectares a day with the reaper, a machine he had been developing for nearly 10 years.  He headed west to the young prairie town of Chicago, where he set up a factory – and by 1860 sold a quarter of a million reapers.

Other farm machines were developed in rapid succession: the automatic wire binder, the threshing machine, and the reaper-thresher or combine. Mechanical planters, cutters, huskers, and shellers appeared, as did cream separators, manure spreaders, potato planters, hay driers, poultry incubators, and a hundred other inventions.

Scarcely less important than machinery in the agricultural revolution was science. In 1862 the Morrill Land Grant College Act allotted public land to each state for the establishment of agricultural and industrial colleges.  These were to serve both as educational institutions and as centers for research in scientific farming. Congress subsequently appropriated funds for the creation of agricultural experiment stations throughout the country and granted funds directly to the Department of Agriculture for research purposes. By the beginning of the new century, scientists throughout the United States were at work on a wide variety of agricultural projects.

One of these scientists, Mark Carleton, traveled for the Department of Agriculture to Russia. There he found and exported to his homeland the rust- and drought-resistant winter wheat that now accounts for more than half the U.S. wheat crop. Another scientist, Marion Dorset, conquered the dreaded hog cholera, while still another, George Mohler, helped prevent hoof-and-mouth disease. From North Africa, one researcher brought back Kaffir corn; from Turkestan, another imported the yellow‑flowering alfalfa. Luther Burbank in California produced scores of new fruits and vegetables; in Wisconsin, Stephen Babcock devised a test for determining the butterfat content of milk; at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, the African-American scientist George Washington Carver found hundreds of new uses for the peanut, sweet potato, and soybean.

In varying degrees, the explosion in agricultural science and technology affected farmers all over the world, raising yields, squeezing out small producers, and driving migration to industrial cities.  Railroads and steamships, moreover, began to pull regional markets into one large world market with prices instantly communicated by trans-Atlantic cable as well as ground wires.  Good news for urban consumers, falling agricultural prices threatened the livelihood of many American farmers and touched off a wave of agrarian discontent.

THE DIVIDED SOUTH

After Reconstruction, Southern leaders pushed hard to attract industry.  States offered large inducements and cheap labor to investors to develop the steel, lumber, tobacco, and textile industries. Yet in 1900 the region’s percentage of the nation’s industrial base remained about what it had been in 1860. Moreover, the price of this drive for industrialization was high: Disease and child labor proliferated in Southern mill towns. Thirty years after the Civil War, the South was still poor, overwhelmingly agrarian, and economically dependent. Moreover, its race relations reflected not just the legacy of slavery, but what was emerging as the central theme of its history – a determination to enforce white supremacy at any cost.

Intransigent white Southerners found ways to assert state control to maintain white dominance. Several Supreme Court decisions also bolstered their efforts by upholding traditional Southern views of the appropriate balance between national and state power.

In 1873 the Supreme Court found that the 14th Amendment (citizenship rights not to be abridged) conferred no new privileges or immunities to protect African Americans from state power. In 1883, furthermore, it ruled that the 14th Amendment did not prevent individuals, as opposed to states, from practicing discrimination. And in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Court found that “separate but equal” public accommodations for African Americans, such as trains and restaurants, did not violate their rights.  Soon the principle of segregation by race extended into every area of Southern life, from railroads to restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and schools.  Moreover, any area of life that was not segregated by law was segregated by custom and practice. Further curtailment of the right to vote followed.  Periodic lynchings by mobs underscored the region’s determination to subjugate its African-American population.

Faced with pervasive discrimination, many African Americans followed Booker T. Washington, who counseled them to focus on modest economic goals and to accept temporary social discrimination. Others, led by the African-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, wanted to challenge segregation through political action. But with both major parties uninterested in the issue and scientific theory of the time generally accepting black inferiority, demands for racial justice attracted little support.

THE LAST FRONTIER

In 1865 the frontier line generally followed the western limits of the states bordering the Mississippi River, but bulged outward beyond the eastern sections of Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska. Then, running north and south for nearly 1,600 kilometers, loomed huge mountain ranges, many rich in silver, gold, and other metals.  To their west, plains and deserts stretched to the wooded coastal ranges and the Pacific Ocean.  Apart from the settled districts in California and scattered outposts, the vast inland region was populated by Native Americans: among them the Great Plains tribes – Sioux and Blackfoot, Pawnee and Cheyenne – and the Indian cultures of the Southwest, including Apache, Navajo, and Hopi.

A mere quarter-century later, virtually all this country had been carved into states and territories. Miners had ranged over the whole of the mountain country, tunneling into the earth, establishing little communities in Nevada, Montana, and Colorado. Cattle ranchers, taking advantage of the enormous grasslands, had laid claim to the huge expanse stretching from Texas to the upper Missouri River. Sheep herders had found their way to the valleys and mountain slopes. Farmers sank their plows into the plains and closed the gap between the East and West. By 1890 the frontier line had disappeared.

Settlement was spurred by the Homestead Act of 1862, which granted free farms of 64 hectares to citizens who would occupy and improve the land. Unfortunately for the would-be farmers, much of the Great Plains was suited more for cattle ranching than farming, and by 1880 nearly 22,400,000 hectares of “free” land was in the hands of cattlemen or the railroads.

In 1862 Congress also voted a charter to the Union Pacific Railroad, which pushed westward from Council Bluffs, Iowa, using mostly the labor of ex-soldiers and Irish immigrants. At the same time, the Central Pacific Railroad began to build eastward from Sacramento, California, relying heavily on Chinese immigrant labor. The whole country was stirred as the two lines steadily approached each other, finally meeting on May 10, 1869, at Promontory Point in Utah. The months of laborious travel hitherto separating the two oceans was now cut to about six days. The continental rail network grew steadily; by 1884 four great lines linked the central Mississippi Valley area with the Pacific.

The first great rush of population to the Far West was drawn to the mountainous regions, where gold was found in California in 1848, in Colorado and Nevada 10 years later, in Montana and Wyoming in the 1860s, and in the Black Hills of the Dakota country in the 1870s. Miners opened up the country, established communities, and laid the foundations for more permanent settlements. Eventually, however, though a few communities continued to be devoted almost exclusively to mining, the real wealth of Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and California proved to be in the grass and soil.  Cattle-raising, long an important industry in Texas, flourished after the Civil War, when enterprising men began to drive their Texas longhorn cattle north across the open public land. Feeding as they went, the cattle arrived at railway shipping points in Kansas, larger and fatter than when they started.  The annual cattle drive became a regular event; for hundreds of kilometers, trails were dotted with herds moving northward.

Next, immense cattle ranches appeared in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakota territory.  Western cities flourished as centers for the slaughter and dressing of meat.  The cattle boom peaked in the mid-1880s.  By then, not far behind the rancher creaked the covered wagons of the farmers bringing their families, their draft horses, cows, and pigs. Under the Homestead Act they staked their claims and fenced them with a new invention, barbed wire. Ranchers were ousted from lands they had roamed without legal title.

Ranching and the cattle drives gave American mythology its last icon of frontier culture – the cowboy.  The reality of cowboy life was one of grueling hardship.  As depicted by writers like Zane Grey and such movie actors as John Wayne, the cowboy was a powerful mythological figure, a bold, virtuous man of action.  Not until the late 20th century did a reaction set in. Historians and filmmakers alike began to depict “the Wild West” as a sordid place, peopled by characters more apt to reflect the worst, rather than the best, in human nature.

THE PLIGHT OF THE NATIVE AMERICANS

As in the East, expansion into the plains and mountains by miners, ranchers, and settlers led to increasing conflicts with the Native Americans of the West. Many tribes of Native Americans – from the Utes of the Great Basin to the Nez Perces of Idaho – fought the whites at one time or another. But the Sioux of   the Northern Plains and the Apache of the Southwest provided the most significant opposition to frontier advance. Led by such resourceful leaders as Red Cloud and Crazy Horse, the Sioux were particularly skilled at high-speed mounted warfare. The Apaches were equally adept and highly elusive, fighting in their environs of desert and canyons.

Conflicts with the Plains Indians worsened after an incident where the Dakota (part of the Sioux nation), declaring war against the U.S. government because of long-standing grievances, killed five white settlers.  Rebellions and attacks continued through the Civil War. In 1876 the last serious Sioux war erupted, when the Dakota gold rush penetrated the Black Hills. The Army was supposed to keep miners off Sioux hunting grounds, but did little to protect the Sioux lands. When ordered to take action against bands of Sioux hunting on the range according to their treaty rights, however, it moved quickly and vigorously.

In 1876, after several indecisive encounters, Colonel George Custer, leading a small detachment of cavalry encountered a vastly superior force of Sioux and their allies on the Little Bighorn River.  Custer and his men were completely annihilated. Nonetheless the Native-American insurgency was soon suppressed.  Later, in 1890, a ghost dance ritual on the Northern Sioux reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, led to an uprising and a last, tragic encounter that ended in the death of nearly 300 Sioux men, women, and children.

Long before this, however, the way of life of the Plains Indians had been destroyed by an expanding white population, the coming of the railroads, and the slaughter of the buffalo, almost exterminated in the decade after 1870 by the settlers’ indiscriminate hunting.

The Apache wars in the Southwest dragged on until Geronimo, the last important chief, was captured in 1886.

Government policy ever since the Monroe administration had been to move the Native Americans beyond the reach of the white frontier. But inevitably the reservations had become smaller and more crowded.  Some Americans began to protest the government’s treatment of Native Americans. Helen Hunt Jackson, for example, an Easterner living in the West, wrote A Century of Dishonor (1881), which dramatized their plight and struck a chord in the nation’s conscience. Most reformers believed the Native American should be assimilated into the dominant culture. The federal government even set up a school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in an attempt to impose white values and beliefs on Native-American youths. (It was at this school that Jim Thorpe, often considered the best athlete the United States has produced, gained fame in the early 20th century.)

In 1887 the Dawes (General Allotment) Act reversed U.S. Native-American policy, permitting the president to divide up tribal land and parcel out 65 hectares of land to each head of a family. Such allotments were to be held in trust by the government for 25 years, after which time the owner won full title and citizenship. Lands not thus distributed, however, were offered for sale to settlers. This policy, however well-intentioned, proved disastrous, since it allowed more plundering of Native-American lands. Moreover, its assault on the communal organization of tribes caused further disruption of traditional culture. In 1934 U.S. policy was reversed yet again by the Indian Reorganization Act, which attempted to protect tribal and communal life on the reservations.

AMBIVALENT EMPIRE

The last decades of the 19th century were a period of imperial expansion for the United States. The American story took a different course from that of its European rivals, however, because of the U.S. history of struggle against European empires and its unique democratic development.

The sources of American expansionism in the late 19th century were varied.  Internationally, the period was one of imperialist frenzy, as European powers raced to carve up Africa and competed, along with Japan, for influence and trade in Asia.  Many Americans, including influential figures such as Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Elihu Root, felt that to safeguard its own interests, the United States had to stake out spheres of economic influence as well. That view was seconded by a powerful naval lobby, which called for an expanded fleet and network of overseas ports as essential to the economic and political security of the nation. More generally, the doctrine of “manifest destiny,” first used to justify America’s continental expansion, was now revived to assert that the United States had a right and duty to extend its influence and civilization in the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean, as well as across the Pacific.

At the same time, voices of anti-imperialism from diverse coalitions of Northern Democrats and reform-minded Republicans remained loud and constant.  As a result, the acquisition of a U.S. empire was piecemeal and ambivalent.  Colonial-minded administrations were often more concerned with trade and economic issues than political control.

The United States’ first venture beyond its continental borders was the purchase of Alaska – sparsely populated by Inuit and other native peoples – from Russia in 1867. Most Americans were either indifferent to or indignant at this action by Secretary of State William Seward, whose critics called Alaska “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.”  But 30 years later, when gold was discovered on Alaska’s Klondike River, thousands of Americans headed north, and many of them settled in Alaska permanently. When Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, it replaced Texas as geographically the largest state in the Union.

The Spanish-American War, fought in 1898, marked a turning point in U.S. history.  It left the United States exercising control or influence over islands in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific.

By the 1890s, Cuba and Puerto Rico were the only remnants of Spain’s once vast empire in the New World, and the Philippine Islands comprised the core of Spanish power in the Pacific. The outbreak of war had three principal sources:  popular hostility to autocratic Spanish rule in Cuba; U.S. sympathy with the Cuban fight for independence; and a new spirit of national assertiveness, stimulated in part by a nationalistic and sensationalist press.

By 1895 Cuba’s growing restiveness had become a guerrilla war of independence.  Most Americans were sympathetic with the Cubans, but President Cleveland was determined to preserve neutrality. Three years later, however, during the administration of William McKinley, the U.S. warship Maine , sent to Havana on a “courtesy visit” designed to remind the Spanish of American concern over the rough handling of the insurrection, blew up in the harbor.  More than 250 men were killed.  The Maine was probably destroyed by an accidental internal explosion, but most Americans believed the Spanish were responsible.  Indignation, intensified by sensationalized press coverage, swept across the country.  McKinley tried to preserve the peace, but within a few months, believing delay futile, he recommended armed intervention.

The war with Spain was swift and decisive. During the four months it lasted, not a single American reverse of any importance occurred.  A week after the declaration of war, Commodore George Dewey, commander of the six-warship Asiatic Squadron then at Hong Kong, steamed to the Philippines. Catching the entire Spanish fleet at anchor in Manila Bay, he destroyed it without losing an American life.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, troops landed near Santiago, where, after winning a rapid series of engagements, they fired on the port.  Four armored Spanish cruisers steamed out of Santiago Bay to engage the American navy and were reduced to ruined hulks.

From Boston to San Francisco, whistles blew and flags waved when word came that Santiago had fallen. Newspapers dispatched correspondents to Cuba and the Philippines, who trumpeted the renown of the nation’s new heroes. Chief among them were Commodore Dewey and Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, who had resigned as assistant secretary of the navy to lead his volunteer regiment, the “Rough Riders,” to service in Cuba. Spain soon sued for an end to the war.  The peace treaty signed on December 10, 1898, transferred Cuba to the United States for temporary occupation preliminary to the island’s independence. In addition, Spain ceded Puerto Rico and Guam in lieu of war indemnity, and the Philippines for a U.S. payment of $20 million.

Officially, U.S. policy encouraged the new territories to move toward democratic self-government, a political system with which none of them had any previous experience. In fact, the United States found itself in a colonial role.  It maintained formal administrative control in Puerto Rico and Guam, gave Cuba only nominal independence, and harshly suppressed an armed independence movement in the Philippines.  (The Philippines gained the right to elect both houses of its legislature in 1916.  In 1936 a largely autonomous Philippine Commonwealth was established. In 1946, after World War II, the islands finally attained full independence.)

U.S. involvement in the Pacific area was not limited to the Philippines.  The year of the Spanish-American War also saw the beginning of a new relationship with the Hawaiian Islands. Earlier contact with Hawaii had been mainly through missionaries and traders. After 1865, however, American investors began to develop the islands’ resources – chiefly sugar cane and pineapples.

When the government of Queen Liliuokalani announced its intention to end foreign influence in 1893, American businessmen joined with influential Hawaiians to depose her.  Backed by the American ambassador to Hawaii and U.S. troops stationed there, the new government then asked to be annexed to the United States.  President Cleveland, just beginning his second term, rejected annexation, leaving Hawaii nominally independent until the Spanish-American War, when, with the backing of President McKinley, Congress ratified an annexation treaty.  In 1959 Hawaii would become the 50th state.

To some extent, in Hawaii especially, economic interests had a role in American expansion, but to influential policy makers such as Roosevelt, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and Secretary of State John Hay, and to influential strategists such as Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, the main impetus was geostrategic.  For these people, the major dividend of acquiring Hawaii was Pearl Harbor, which would become the major U.S. naval base in the central Pacific.  The Philippines and Guam complemented other Pacific bases – Wake Island, Midway, and American Samoa.  Puerto Rico was an important foothold in a Caribbean area that was becoming increasingly important as the United States contemplated a Central American canal.

U.S. colonial policy tended toward democratic self-government.  As it had done with the Philippines, in 1917 the U.S. Congress granted Puerto Ricans the right to elect all of their legislators. The same law also made the island officially a U.S. territory and gave its people American citizenship. In 1950 Congress granted Puerto Rico complete freedom to decide its future.  In 1952, the citizens voted to reject either statehood or total independence, and chose instead a commonwealth status that has endured despite the efforts of a vocal separatist movement.  Large numbers of Puerto Ricans have settled on the mainland, to which they have free access and where they enjoy all the political and civil rights of any other citizen of the United States.

THE CANAL AND THE AMERICAS

The war with Spain revived U.S. interest in building a canal across the isthmus of Panama, uniting the two great oceans. The usefulness of such a canal for sea trade had long been recognized by the major commercial nations of the world; the French had begun digging one in the late 19th century but had been unable to overcome the engineering difficulties.  Having become a power in both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, the United States saw a canal as both economically beneficial and a way of providing speedier transfer of warships from one ocean to the other.

At the turn of the century, what is now Panama was the rebellious northern province of Colombia. When the Colombian legislature in 1903 refused to ratify a treaty giving the United States the right to build and manage a canal, a group of impatient Panamanians, with the support of U.S. Marines, rose in rebellion and declared Panamanian independence. The breakaway country was immediately recognized by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Under the terms of a treaty signed that November, Panama granted the United States a perpetual lease to a 16-kilometer-wide strip of land (the Panama Canal Zone) between the Atlantic and the Pacific, in return for $10 million and a yearly fee of $250,000. Colombia later received $25 million as partial compensation. Seventy-five years later, Panama and the United States negotiated a new treaty.  It provided for Panamanian sovereignty in the Canal Zone and transfer of the canal to Panama on December 31, 1999.

The completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, directed by Colonel George W. Goethals, was a major triumph of engineering. The simultaneous conquest of malaria and yellow fever made it possible and was one of the 20th century’s great feats in preventive medicine.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the United States fell into a pattern of fitful intervention. Between 1900 and 1920, the United States carried out sustained interventions in six Western Hemispheric nations – most notably Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua.  Washington offered a variety of justifications for these interventions: to establish political stability and democratic government, to provide a favorable environment for U.S. investment (often called dollar diplomacy), to secure the sea lanes leading to the Panama Canal, and even to prevent European countries from forcibly collecting debts.  The United States had pressured the French into removing troops from Mexico in 1867.  Half a century later, however, as part of an ill-starred campaign to influence the Mexican revolution and stop raids into American territory, President Woodrow Wilson sent 11,000 troops into the northern part of the country in a futile effort to capture the elusive rebel and outlaw Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

Exercising its role as the most powerful – and most liberal – of Western Hemisphere nations, the United States also worked to establish an institutional basis for cooperation among the nations of the Americas. In 1889 Secretary of State James G. Blaine proposed that the 21 independent nations of the Western Hemisphere join in an organization dedicated to the peaceful settlement of disputes and to closer economic bonds. The result was the Pan-American Union, founded in 1890 and known today as the Organization of American States (OAS).

The later administrations of Herbert Hoover (1929-33) and Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45) repudiated the right of U.S. intervention in Latin America. In particular, Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy of the 1930s, while not ending all tensions between the United States and Latin America, helped dissipate much of the ill-will engendered by earlier U.S. intervention and unilateral actions.

UNITED STATES AND ASIA

Newly established in the Philippines and firmly entrenched in Hawaii at the turn of the century, the United States had high hopes for a vigorous trade with China.  However, Japan and various European nations had acquired established spheres of influence there in the form of naval bases, leased territories, monopolistic trade rights, and exclusive concessions for investing in railway construction and mining.

Idealism in American foreign policy existed alongside the desire to compete with Europe’s imperial powers in the Far East.  The U.S. government thus insisted as a matter of principle upon equality of commercial privileges for all nations.  In September 1899, Secretary of State John Hay advocated an “Open Door” for all nations in China – that is, equality of trading opportunities (including equal tariffs, harbor duties, and railway rates) in the areas Europeans controlled. Despite its idealistic component, the Open Door, in essence, was a diplomatic maneuver that sought the advantages of colonialism while avoiding the stigma of its frank practice.  It had limited success.

With the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the Chinese struck out against foreigners. In June, insurgents seized Beijing and attacked the foreign legations there. Hay promptly announced to the European powers and Japan that the United States would oppose any disturbance of Chinese territorial or administrative rights and restated the Open Door policy. Once the rebellion was quelled, Hay protected China from crushing indemnities.  Primarily for the sake of American good will, Great Britain, Germany, and lesser colonial powers formally affirmed the Open Door policy and Chinese independence.  In practice, they consolidated their privileged positions in the country.

A few years later, President Theodore Roosevelt mediated the deadlocked Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, in many respects a struggle for power and influence in the northern Chinese province of Manchuria.  Roosevelt hoped the settlement would provide open-door opportunities for American business, but the former enemies and other imperial powers succeeded in shutting the Americans out.  Here as elsewhere, the United States was unwilling to deploy military force in the service of economic imperialism.  The president could at least content himself with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize (1906).  Despite gains for Japan, moreover, U.S. relations with the proud and newly assertive island nation would be intermittently difficult through the early decades of the 20th century.

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he Civil War and Reconstruction : Lincoln’s leadership and end of slavery

he Civil War and Reconstruction

Lincoln’s leadership and end of slavery

President Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln (center), following the battle of Antietam. (Library of Congress)

(The following article is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Outline of American History.)

“That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom.”
— President Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

SECESSION AND CIVIL WAR

Lincoln’s victory in the presidential election of November 1860 made South Carolina’s secession from the Union December 20 a foregone conclusion. The state had long been waiting for an event that would unite the South against the antislavery forces. By February 1, 1861, five more Southern states had seceded. On February 8, the six states signed a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America. The remaining Southern states as yet remained in the Union, although Texas had begun to move on its secession.

Less than a month later, March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president of the United States. In his inaugural address, he declared the Confederacy “legally void.” His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union, but the South turned a deaf ear.  On April 12, Confederate guns opened fire on the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor. A war had begun in which more Americans would die than in any other conflict before or since.

In the seven states that had seceded, the people responded positively to the Confederate action and the leadership of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  Both sides now tensely awaited the action of the slave states that thus far had remained loyal. Virginia seceded on April 17; Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina followed quickly.

No state left the Union with greater reluctance than Virginia. Her statesmen had a leading part in the winning of the Revolution and the framing of the Constitution, and she had provided the nation with five presidents.  With Virginia went Colonel Robert E. Lee, who declined the command of the Union Army out of loyalty to his native state.

Between the enlarged Confederacy and the free-soil North lay the border slave states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, which, despite some sympathy with the South, would remain loyal to the Union.

Each side entered the war with high hopes for an early victory. In material resources the North enjoyed a decided advantage. Twenty-three states with a population of 22 million were arrayed against 11 states inhabited by nine million, including slaves. The industrial superiority of the North exceeded even its preponderance in population, providing it with abundant facilities for manufacturing arms and ammunition, clothing, and other supplies. It had a greatly superior railway network.

The South nonetheless had certain advantages. The most important was geography; the South was fighting a defensive war on its own territory.  It could establish its independence simply by beating off the Northern armies.  The South also had a stronger military tradition, and possessed the more experienced military leaders.

WESTERN ADVANCE, EASTERN STALEMATE

The first large battle of the war, at Bull Run, Virginia (also known as First Manassas) near Washington, stripped away any illusions that victory would be quick or easy. It also established a pattern, at least in the Eastern United States, of bloody Southern victories that never translated into a decisive military advantage for the Confederacy.

In contrast to its military failures in the East, the Union was able to secure battlefield victories in the West and slow strategic success at sea.  Most of the Navy, at the war’s beginning, was in Union hands, but it was scattered and weak. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles took prompt measures to strengthen it. Lincoln then proclaimed a blockade of the Southern coasts.  Although the effect of the blockade was negligible at first, by 1863 it almost completely prevented shipments of cotton to Europe and blocked the importation of sorely needed munitions, clothing, and medical supplies to the South.

A brilliant Union naval commander, David Farragut, conducted two remarkable operations. In April 1862, he took a fleet into the mouth of the Mississippi River and forced the surrender of the largest city in the South, New Orleans, Louisiana.  In August 1864, with the cry, “Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead,” he led a force past the fortified entrance of Mobile Bay, Alabama, captured a Confederate ironclad vessel, and sealed off the port.

In the Mississippi Valley, the Union forces won an almost uninterrupted series of victories. They began by breaking a long Confederate line in Tennessee, thus making it possible to occupy almost all the western part of the state.  When the important Mississippi River port of Memphis was taken, Union troops advanced some 320 kilometers into the heart of the Confederacy. With the tenacious General Ulysses S. Grant in command, they withstood a sudden Confederate counterattack at Shiloh, on the bluffs overlooking the Tennessee River.  Those killed and wounded at Shiloh numbered more than 10,000 on each side, a casualty rate that Americans had never before experienced. But it was only the beginning of the carnage.

In Virginia, by contrast, Union troops continued to meet one defeat after another in a succession of bloody attempts to capture Richmond, the Confederate capital.  The Confederates enjoyed strong defense positions afforded by numerous streams cutting the road between Washington and Richmond.  Their two best generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson, both far surpassed in ability their early Union counterparts.  In 1862 Union commander George McClellan made a slow, excessively cautious attempt to seize Richmond.   But in the Seven Days’ Battles between June 25 and July 1, the Union troops were driven steadily backward, both sides suffering terrible losses.

After another Confederate victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run (or Second Manassas), Lee crossed the Potomac River and invaded Maryland. McClellan again responded tentatively, despite learning that Lee had split his army and was heavily outnumbered. The Union and Confederate Armies met at Antietam Creek, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, in the bloodiest single day of the war: More than 4,000 died on both sides and 18,000 were wounded.  Despite his numerical advantage, however, McClellan failed to break Lee’s lines or press the attack, and Lee was able to retreat across the Potomac with his army intact. As a result, Lincoln fired McClellan.

Although Antietam was inconclusive in military terms, its consequences were nonetheless momentous. Great Britain and France, both on the verge of recognizing the Confederacy, delayed their decision, and the South never received the diplomatic recognition and the economic aid from Europe that it desperately sought.

Antietam also gave Lincoln the opening he needed to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in states rebelling against the Union were free. In practical terms, the proclamation had little immediate impact; it freed slaves only in the Confederate states, while leaving slavery intact in the border states.  Politically, however, it meant that in addition to preserving the Union, the abolition of slavery was now a declared objective of the Union war effort.

The final Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863, also authorized the recruitment of African Americans into the Union Army, a move abolitionist leaders such as Frederick Douglass had been urging since the beginning of armed conflict.  Union forces already had been sheltering escaped slaves as “contraband of war,” but following the Emancipation Proclamation, the Union Army recruited and trained regiments of African-American soldiers that fought with distinction in battles from Virginia to the Mississippi. About 178,000 African Americans served in the U.S. Colored Troops, and 29,500 served in the Union Navy.

Despite the political gains represented by the Emancipation Proclamation, however, the North’s military prospects in the East remained bleak as Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia continued to maul the Union Army of the Potomac, first at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December 1862 and then at Chancellorsville in May 1863. But Chancellorsville, although one of Lee’s most brilliant military victories, was also one of his most costly. His most valued lieutenant, General “Stonewall” Jackson, was mistakenly shot and killed by his own men.

GETTYSBURG TO APPOMATTOX

Yet none of the Confederate victories was decisive. The Union simply mustered new armies and tried again. Believing that the North’s crushing defeat at Chancellorsville gave him his chance, Lee struck northward into Pennsylvania at the beginning of July 1863, almost reaching the state capital at Harrisburg. A strong Union force intercepted him at Gettysburg, where, in a titanic three‑day battle – the largest of the Civil War – the Confederates made a valiant effort to break the Union lines. They failed, and on July 4 Lee’s army, after crippling losses, retreated behind the Potomac.

More than 3,000 Union soldiers and almost 4,000 Confederates died at Gettysburg; wounded and missing totaled more than 20,000 on each side. On November 19, 1863, Lincoln dedicated a new national cemetery there with perhaps the most famous address in U.S. history. He concluded his brief remarks with these words:

… we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain –
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that
government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish
from the earth.

On the Mississippi, Union control had been blocked at Vicksburg, where the Confederates had strongly fortified themselves on bluffs too high for naval attack.  In early 1863 Grant began to move below and around Vicksburg, subjecting it to a six‑week siege. On July 4, he captured the town, together with the strongest Confederate Army in the West. The river was now entirely in Union hands. The Confederacy was broken in two, and it became almost impossible to bring supplies from Texas and Arkansas.

The Northern victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in July 1863 marked the turning point of the war, although the bloodshed continued unabated for more than a year-and-a-half.

Lincoln brought Grant east and made him commander-in-chief of all Union forces. In May 1864 Grant advanced deep into Virginia and met Lee’s Confederate Army in the three-day Battle of the Wilderness. Losses on both sides were heavy, but unlike other Union commanders, Grant refused to retreat.  Instead, he attempted to outflank Lee, stretching the Confederate lines and pounding away with artillery and infantry attacks. “I propose to fight it out along this line if it takes all summer,” the Union commander said at Spotsylvania, during five days of bloody trench warfare that characterized fighting on the eastern front for almost a year.

In the West, Union forces gained control of Tennessee in the fall of 1863 with victories at Chattanooga and nearby Lookout Mountain, opening the way for General William T. Sherman to invade Georgia. Sherman outmaneuvered several smaller Confederate armies, occupied the state capital of Atlanta, then marched to the Atlantic coast, systematically destroying railroads, factories, warehouses, and other facilities in his path. His men, cut off from their normal supply lines, ravaged the countryside for food. From the coast, Sherman marched northward; by February 1865, he had taken Charleston, South Carolina, where the first shots of the Civil War had been fired. Sherman, more than any other Union general, understood that destroying the will and morale of the South was as important as defeating its armies.

Grant, meanwhile, lay siege to Petersburg, Virginia, for nine months, before Lee, in March 1865, knew that he had to abandon both Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond in an attempt to retreat south. But it was too late.  On April 9, 1865, surrounded by huge Union armies, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. Although scattered fighting continued elsewhere for several months, the Civil War was over.

The terms of surrender at Appomattox were magnanimous, and on his return from his meeting with Lee, Grant quieted the noisy demonstrations of his soldiers by reminding them: “The rebels are our countrymen again.” The war for Southern independence had become the “lost cause,” whose hero, Robert E. Lee, had won wide admiration through the brilliance of his leadership and his greatness in defeat.

WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE

For the North, the war produced a still greater hero in Abraham Lincoln – a man eager, above all else, to weld the Union together again, not by force and repression but by warmth and generosity. In 1864 he had been elected for a second term as president, defeating his Democratic opponent, George McClellan, the general he had dismissed after Antietam.   Lincoln’s second inaugural address closed with these words:

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right,
as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are
in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the
battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and
cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Three weeks later, two days after Lee’s surrender, Lincoln delivered his last public address, in which he unfolded a generous reconstruction policy.  On April 14, 1865, the president held what was to be his last Cabinet meeting. That evening – with his wife and a young couple who were his guests – he attended a performance at Ford’s Theater. There, as he sat in the presidential box, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, a Virginia actor embittered by the South’s defeat.  Booth was killed in a shootout some days later in a barn in the Virginia countryside. His accomplices were captured and later executed.

Lincoln died in a downstairs bedroom of a house across the street from Ford’s Theater on the morning of April 15. Poet James Russell Lowell wrote:

Never before that startled April morning did such multitudes of men shed
tears for the death of one they had never seen, as if with him a friendly
presence had been taken from their lives, leaving them colder and darker.
Never was funeral panegyric so eloquent as the silent look of sympathy which
strangers exchanged when they met that day. Their common manhood had
lost a  kinsman.

The first great task confronting the victorious North – now under the leadership of Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson, a Southerner who remained loyal to the Union – was to determine the status of the states that had seceded. Lincoln had already set the stage. In his view, the people of the Southern states had never legally seceded; they had been misled by some disloyal citizens into a defiance of federal authority. And since the war was the act of individuals, the federal government would have to deal with these individuals and not with the states. Thus, in 1863 Lincoln proclaimed that if in any state 10 percent of the voters of record in 1860 would form a government loyal to the U.S. Constitution and would acknowledge obedience to the laws of the Congress and the proclamations of the president, he would recognize the government so created as the state’s legal government.

Congress rejected this plan.  Many Republicans feared it would simply entrench former rebels in power; they challenged Lincoln’s right to deal with the rebel states without consultation. Some members of Congress advocated severe punishment for all the seceded states; others simply felt the war would have been in vain if the old Southern establishment was restored to power. Yet even before the war was wholly over, new governments had been set up in Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

To deal with one of its major concerns – the condition of former slaves – Congress established the Freedmen’s Bureau in March 1865 to act as guardian over African Americans and guide them toward self-support. And in December of that year, Congress ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery.

Throughout the summer of 1865 Johnson proceeded to carry out Lincoln’s reconstruction program, with minor modifications. By presidential proclamation he appointed a governor for each of the former Confederate states and freely restored political rights to many Southerners through use of presidential pardons.

In due time conventions were held in each of the former Confederate states to repeal the ordinances of secession, repudiate the war debt, and draft new state constitutions. Eventually a native Unionist became governor in each state with authority to convoke a convention of loyal voters. Johnson called upon each convention to invalidate the secession, abolish slavery, repudiate all debts that went to aid the Confederacy, and ratify the 13th Amendment. By the end of 1865, this process was completed, with a few exceptions.

RADICAL RECONSTRUCTION

Both Lincoln and Johnson had foreseen that the Congress would have the right to deny Southern legislators seats in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives, under the clause of the Constitution that says, “Each house shall be the judge of the … qualifications of its own members.” This came to pass when, under the leadership of Thaddeus Stevens, those congressmen called “Radical Republicans,” who were wary of a quick and easy “reconstruction,” refused to seat newly elected Southern senators and representatives.  Within the next few months, Congress proceeded to work out a plan for the reconstruction of the South quite different from the one Lincoln had started and Johnson had continued.

Wide public support gradually developed for those members of Congress who believed that African Americans should be given full citizenship. By July 1866, Congress had passed a civil rights bill and set up a new Freedmen’s Bureau – both designed to prevent racial discrimination by Southern legislatures. Following this, the Congress passed a 14th Amendment to the Constitution, stating that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  This repudiated the Dred Scott ruling, which had denied slaves their right of citizenship.

All the Southern state legislatures, with the exception of Tennessee, refused to ratify the amendment, some voting against it unanimously. In addition, Southern state legislatures passed “codes” to regulate the African-American freedmen. The codes differed from state to state, but some provisions were common. African Americans were required to enter into annual labor contracts, with penalties imposed in case of violation; dependent children were subject to compulsory apprenticeship and corporal punishments by masters; vagrants could be sold into private service if they could not pay severe fines.

Many Northerners interpreted the Southern response as an attempt to reestablish slavery and repudiate the hard-won Union victory in the Civil War.  It did not help that Johnson, although a Unionist, was a Southern Democrat with an addiction to intemperate rhetoric and an aversion to political compromise.  Republicans swept the congressional elections of 1866.  Firmly in power, the Radicals imposed their own vision of Reconstruction.

In the Reconstruction Act of March 1867, Congress, ignoring the governments that had been established in the Southern states, divided the South into five military districts, each administered by a Union general.  Escape from permanent military government was open to those states that established civil governments, ratified the 14th Amendment, and adopted African-American suffrage.  Supporters of the Confederacy who had not taken oaths of loyalty to the United States generally could not vote.  The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868. The 15th Amendment, passed by Congress the following year and ratified in 1870 by state legislatures, provided that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The Radical Republicans in Congress were infuriated by President Johnson’s vetoes (even though they were overridden) of legislation protecting newly freed African Americans and punishing former Confederate leaders by depriving them of the right to hold office. Congressional antipathy to Johnson was so great that, for the first time in American history, impeachment proceedings were instituted to remove the president from office.

Johnson’s main offense was his opposition to punitive congressional policies and the violent language he used in criticizing them. The most serious legal charge his enemies could level against him was that, despite the Tenure of Office Act (which required Senate approval for the removal of any officeholder the Senate had previously confirmed), he had removed from his Cabinet the secretary of war, a staunch supporter of the Congress. When the impeachment trial was held in the Senate, it was proved that Johnson was technically within his rights in removing the Cabinet member. Even more important, it was pointed out that a dangerous precedent would be set if the Congress were to remove a president because he disagreed with the majority of its members. The final vote was one short of the two-thirds required for conviction.

Johnson continued in office until his term expired in 1869, but Congress had established an ascendancy that would endure for the rest of the century.  The Republican victor in the presidential election of 1868, former Union general Ulysses S. Grant, would enforce the reconstruction policies the Radicals had initiated.

By June 1868, Congress had readmitted the majority of the former Confederate states back into the Union. In many of these reconstructed states, the majority of the governors, representatives, and senators were Northern men – so-called carpetbaggers – who had gone South after the war to make their political fortunes, often in alliance with newly freed African Americans. In the legislatures of Louisiana and South Carolina, African Americans actually gained a majority of the seats.

Many Southern whites, their political and social dominance threatened, turned to illegal means to prevent African Americans from gaining equality. Violence against African Americans by such extra-legal organizations as the Ku Klux Klan became more and more frequent. Increasing disorder led to the passage of Enforcement Acts in 1870 and 1871, severely punishing those who attempted to deprive the African-American freedmen of their civil rights.

THE END OF RECONSTRUCTION

As time passed, it became more and more obvious that the problems of the South were not being solved by harsh laws and continuing rancor against former Confederates. Moreover, some Southern Radical state governments with prominent African-American officials appeared corrupt and inefficient.  The nation was quickly tiring of the attempt to impose racial democracy and liberal values on the South with Union bayonets.  In May 1872, Congress passed a general Amnesty Act, restoring full political rights to all but about 500 former rebels.

Gradually Southern states began electing members of the Democratic Party into office, ousting carpetbagger governments and intimidating African Americans from voting or attempting to hold public office. By 1876 the Republicans remained in power in only three Southern states. As part of the bargaining that resolved the disputed presidential elections that year in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Republicans promised to withdraw federal troops that had propped up the remaining Republican governments.  In 1877 Hayes kept his promise, tacitly abandoning federal responsibility for enforcing blacks’ civil rights.

The South was still a region devastated by war, burdened by debt caused by misgovernment, and demoralized by a decade of racial warfare. Unfortunately, the pendulum of national racial policy swung from one extreme to the other.  A federal government that had supported harsh penalties against Southern white leaders now tolerated new and humiliating kinds of discrimination against African Americans. The last quarter of the 19th century saw a profusion of “Jim Crow” laws in Southern states that segregated public schools, forbade or limited African-American access to many public facilities such as parks, restaurants, and hotels, and denied most blacks the right to vote by imposing poll taxes and arbitrary literacy tests. “Jim Crow” is a term derived from a song in an 1828 minstrel show where a white man first performed in “blackface.”

Historians have tended to judge Reconstruction harshly, as a murky period of political conflict, corruption, and regression that failed to achieve its original high-minded goals and collapsed into a sinkhole of virulent racism. Slaves were granted freedom, but the North completely failed to address their economic needs. The Freedmen’s Bureau was unable to provide former slaves with political and economic opportunity. Union military occupiers often could not even protect them from violence and intimidation. Indeed, federal army officers and agents of the Freedmen’s Bureau were often racists themselves. Without economic resources of their own, many Southern African Americans were forced to become tenant farmers on land owned by their former masters, caught in a cycle of poverty that would continue well into the 20th century.

Reconstruction-era governments did make genuine gains in rebuilding Southern states devastated by the war, and in expanding public services, notably in establishing tax-supported, free public schools for African Americans and whites.  However, recalcitrant Southerners seized upon instances of corruption (hardly unique to the South in this era) and exploited them to bring down radical regimes. The failure of Reconstruction meant that the struggle of African   Americans for equality and freedom was deferred until the 20th century – when it would become a national, not just a Southern issue.

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Sectional Conflict : Slavery, sectionalism sow seeds of war

Sectional Conflict

Slavery, sectionalism sow seeds of war

Slave family picking cotton near Savannah, Georgia, in the early 1860s

Slave family picking cotton near Savannah, Georgia, in the early 1860s. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)

(The following article is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Outline of American History.)

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half‑slave and half‑free.”
– Senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln, 1858

TWO AMERICAS

No visitor to the United States left a more enduring record of his travels and observations than the French writer and political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville, whose Democracy in America, first published in 1835, remains one of the most trenchant and insightful analyses of American social and political practices. Tocqueville was far too shrewd an observer to be uncritical about the United States, but his verdict was fundamentally positive. “The government of a democracy brings the notion of political rights to the level of the humblest citizens,” he wrote, “just as the dissemination of wealth brings the notion of property within the reach of all men.”  Nonetheless, Tocqueville was only one in the first of a long line of thinkers to worry whether such rough equality could survive in the face of a growing factory system that threatened to create divisions between industrial workers and a new business elite.

Other travelers marveled at the growth and vitality of the country, where they could see “everywhere the most unequivocal proofs of prosperity and rapid progress in agriculture, commerce, and great public works.” But such optimistic views of the American experiment were by no means universal. One skeptic was the English novelist Charles Dickens, who first visited the United States in 1841-42. “This is not the Republic I came to see,” he wrote in a letter. “This is not the Republic of my imagination. … The more I think of its youth and strength, the poorer and more trifling in a thousand respects, it appears in my eyes. In everything of which it has made a boast – excepting its education of the people, and its care for poor children – it sinks immeasurably below the level I had placed it upon.”

Dickens was not alone. America in the 19th century, as throughout its history, generated expectations and passions that often conflicted with a reality at once more mundane and more complex.  The young nation’s size and diversity defied easy generalization and invited contradiction: America was both a freedom-loving and slave-holding society, a nation of expansive and primitive frontiers, a society with cities built on growing commerce and industrialization.

LANDS OF PROMISE

By 1850 the national territory stretched over forest, plain, and mountain.   Within its far‑flung limits dwelt 23 million people in a Union comprising 31 states. In the East, industry boomed. In the Midwest and the South, agriculture flourished. After 1849 the gold mines of California poured their precious ore into the channels of trade.

New England and the Middle Atlantic states were the main centers of manufacturing, commerce, and finance. Principal products of these areas were textiles, lumber, clothing, machinery, leather, and woolen goods.  The maritime trade had reached the height of its prosperity; vessels flying the American flag plied the oceans, distributing wares of all nations.

The South, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River and beyond, featured an economy centered on agriculture. Tobacco was important in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. In South Carolina, rice was an abundant crop.  The climate and soil of Louisiana encouraged the cultivation of sugar. But cotton eventually became the dominant commodity and the one with which the South was identified. By 1850 the American South grew more than 80 percent of the world’s cotton. Slaves cultivated all these crops.

The Midwest, with its boundless prairies and swiftly growing population, flourished. Europe and the older settled parts of America demanded its wheat and meat products. The introduction of labor-saving implements – notably the McCormick reaper (a machine to cut and harvest grain) – made possible an unparalleled increase in grain production.  The nation’s wheat crops swelled from some 35 million hectoliters in 1850 to nearly 61 million in 1860, more than half grown in the Midwest.

An important stimulus to the country’s prosperity was the great improvement in transportation facilities; from 1850 to 1857 the Appalachian Mountain barrier was pierced by five railway trunk lines linking the Midwest and the Northeast.  These links established the economic interests that would undergird the political alliance of the Union from 1861 to 1865.  The South lagged behind.  It was not until the late 1850s that a continuous line ran through the mountains connecting the lower Mississippi River area with the southern Atlantic seaboard.

SLAVERY AND SECTIONALISM

One overriding issue exacerbated the regional and economic differences between North and South: slavery. Resenting the large profits amassed by Northern businessmen from marketing the cotton crop, many Southerners attributed the backwardness of their own section to Northern aggrandizement. Many Northerners, on the other hand, declared that slavery – the “peculiar institution” that the South regarded as essential to its economy – was largely responsible for the region’s relative financial and industrial backwardness.

As far back as the Missouri Compromise in 1819, sectional lines had been steadily hardening on the slavery question. In the North, sentiment for outright abolition grew increasingly powerful.  Southerners in general felt little guilt about slavery and defended it vehemently.  In some seaboard areas, slavery by 1850 was well over 200 years old; it was an integral part of the basic economy of the region.

Although the 1860 census showed that there were nearly four million slaves out of a total population of 12.3 million in the 15 slave states, only a minority of Southern whites owned slaves. There were some 385,000 slave owners out of about 1.5 million white families.  Fifty percent of these slave owners owned no more than five slaves.  Twelve percent owned 20 or more slaves, the number defined as turning a farmer into a planter.  Three-quarters of Southern white families, including the “poor whites,” those on the lowest rung of Southern society, owned no slaves.

It is easy to understand the interest of the planters in slave holding.  But the yeomen and poor whites supported the institution of slavery as well. They feared that, if freed, blacks would compete with them economically and challenge their higher social status.  Southern whites defended slavery not simply on the basis of economic necessity but out of a visceral dedication to white supremacy.

As they fought the weight of Northern opinion, political leaders of the South, the professional classes, and most of the clergy now no longer apologized for slavery but championed it. Southern publicists insisted, for example, that the relationship between capital and labor was more humane under the slavery system than under the wage system of the North.

Before 1830 the old patriarchal system of plantation government, with its personal supervision of the slaves by their owners or masters, was still characteristic.  Gradually, however, with the introduction of large-scale cotton production in the lower South, the master gradually ceased to exercise close personal supervision over his slaves, and employed professional overseers charged with exacting from slaves a maximum amount of work.  In such circumstances, slavery could become a system of brutality and coercion in which beatings and the breakup of families through the sale of individuals were commonplace.  In other settings, however, it could be much milder.

In the end, however, the most trenchant criticism of slavery was not the behavior of individual masters and overseers.  Systematically treating African-American laborers as if they were domestic animals, slavery, the abolitionists pointed out, violated every human being’s inalienable right to be free.

THE ABOLITIONISTS

In national politics, Southerners chiefly sought protection and enlargement of the interests represented by the cotton/slavery system. They sought territorial expansion because the wastefulness of cultivating a single crop, cotton, rapidly exhausted the soil, increasing the need for new fertile lands.   Moreover, new territory would establish a basis for additional slave states to offset the admission of new free states. Antislavery Northerners saw in the Southern view a conspiracy for proslavery aggrandizement.  In the 1830s their opposition became fierce.

An earlier antislavery movement, an offshoot of the American Revolution, had won its last victory in 1808 when Congress abolished the slave trade with Africa. Thereafter, opposition came largely from the Quakers, who kept up a mild but ineffectual protest.  Meanwhile, the cotton gin and westward expansion into the Mississippi delta region created an increasing demand for slaves.

The abolitionist movement that emerged in the early 1830s was combative, uncompromising, and insistent upon an immediate end to slavery. This approach found a leader in William Lloyd Garrison, a young man from Massachusetts, who combined the heroism of a martyr with the crusading zeal of a demagogue. On January 1, 1831, Garrison produced the first issue of his newspaper, The  Liberator, which bore the announcement: “I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. … On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. … I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

Garrison’s sensational methods awakened Northerners to the evil in an institution many had long come to regard as unchangeable. He sought to hold up to public gaze the most repulsive aspects of slavery and to castigate slave holders as torturers and traffickers in human life. He recognized no rights of the masters, acknowledged no compromise, tolerated no delay. Other abolitionists, unwilling to subscribe to his law-defying tactics, held that reform should be accomplished by legal and peaceful means. Garrison was joined by another powerful voice, that of Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave who galvanized Northern audiences.  Theodore Dwight Weld and many other abolitionists crusaded against slavery in the states of the old Northwest Territory with evangelical zeal.

One activity of the movement involved helping slaves escape to safe refuges in the North or over the border into Canada.  The “Underground Railroad,” an elaborate network of secret routes, was firmly established in the 1830s in all parts of the North. In Ohio alone, from 1830 to 1860, as many as 40,000 fugitive slaves were helped to freedom. The number of local antislavery societies increased at such a rate that by 1838 there were about 1,350 with a membership of perhaps 250,000.

Most Northerners nonetheless either held themselves aloof from the abolitionist movement or actively opposed it. In 1837, for example, a mob attacked and killed the antislavery editor Elijah P. Lovejoy in Alton, Illinois.  Still, Southern repression of free speech allowed the abolitionists to link the slavery issue with the cause of civil liberties for whites. In 1835 an angry mob destroyed abolitionist literature in the Charleston, South Carolina, post office. When the postmaster-general stated he would not enforce delivery of abolitionist material, bitter debates ensued in Congress.  Abolitionists flooded Congress with petitions calling for action against slavery.  In 1836 the House voted to table such petitions automatically, thus effectively killing them. Former President John Quincy Adams, elected to the House of Representatives in 1830, fought this so‑called gag rule as a violation of the First Amendment, finally winning its repeal in 1844.

TEXAS AND WAR WITH MEXICO

Throughout the 1820s, Americans settled in the vast territory of Texas, often with land grants from the Mexican government. However, their numbers soon alarmed the authorities, who prohibited further immigration in 1830. In 1834 General Antonio López de Santa Anna established a dictatorship in Mexico, and the following year Texans revolted. Santa Anna defeated the American rebels at the celebrated siege of the Alamo in early 1836, but Texans under Sam Houston destroyed the Mexican Army and captured Santa Anna a month later at the Battle of San Jacinto, ensuring Texan independence.

For almost a decade, Texas remained an independent republic, largely because its annexation as a huge new slave state would disrupt the increasingly precarious balance of political power in the United States.  In 1845, President James K. Polk, narrowly elected on a platform of westward expansion, brought the Republic of Texas into the Union.  Polk’s move was the first gambit in a larger design.  Texas claimed that its border with Mexico was the Rio Grande; Mexico argued that the border stood far to the north along the Nueces River. Meanwhile, settlers were flooding into the territories of New Mexico and California.  Many Americans claimed that the United States had a “manifest destiny” to expand westward to the Pacific Ocean.

U.S. attempts to purchase from Mexico the New Mexico and California territories failed.  In 1846, after a clash of Mexican and U.S. troops along the Rio Grande, the United States declared war.  American troops occupied the lightly populated territory of New Mexico, then supported a revolt of settlers in California. A U.S. force under Zachary Taylor invaded Mexico, winning victories at Monterrey and Buena Vista, but failing to bring the Mexicans to the negotiating table. In March 1847, a U.S. Army commanded by Winfield Scott landed near Veracruz on Mexico’s east coast, and fought its way to Mexico City.  The United States dictated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in which Mexico ceded what would become the American Southwest region and California for $15 million.

The war was a training ground for American officers who would later fight on both sides in the Civil War.  It was also politically divisive.  Polk, in a simultaneous facedown with Great Britain, had achieved British recognition of American sovereignty in the Pacific Northwest to the 49th parallel.  Still, antislavery forces, mainly among the Whigs, attacked Polk’s expansion as a proslavery plot.

With the conclusion of the Mexican War, the United States gained a vast new territory of 1.36 million square kilometers encompassing the present-day states of New Mexico, Nevada, California, Utah, most of Arizona, and portions of Colorado and Wyoming.  The nation also faced a revival of the most explosive question in American politics of the time: Would the new territories be slave or free?

THE COMPROMISE OF 1850

Until 1845, it had seemed likely that slavery would be confined to the areas where it already existed. It had been given limits by the Missouri Compromise in 1820 and had no opportunity to overstep them. The new territories made renewed expansion of slavery a real likelihood.

Many Northerners believed that if not allowed to spread, slavery would ultimately decline and die. To justify their opposition to adding new slave states, they pointed to the statements of Washington and Jefferson, and to the Ordinance of 1787, which forbade the extension of slavery into the Northwest.  Texas, which already permitted slavery, naturally entered the Union as a slave state. But the California, New Mexico, and Utah territories did not have slavery.  From the beginning, there were strongly conflicting opinions on whether they should.

Southerners urged that all the lands acquired from Mexico should be thrown open to slave holders. Antislavery Northerners demanded that all the new regions be closed to slavery. One group of moderates suggested that the Missouri Compromise line be extended to the Pacific with free states north of it and slave states to the south. Another group proposed that the question be left to “popular sovereignty.”  The government should permit settlers to enter the new territory with or without slaves as they pleased.  When the time came to organize the region into states, the people themselves could decide.

Despite the vitality of the abolitionist movement, most Northerners were unwilling to challenge the existence of slavery in the South.  Many, however, were against its expansion.  In 1848 nearly 300,000 men voted for the candidates of a new Free Soil Party, which declared that the best policy was “to limit, localize, and discourage slavery.”  In the immediate aftermath of the war with Mexico, however, popular sovereignty had considerable appeal.

In January 1848 the discovery of gold in California precipitated a headlong rush of settlers, more than 80,000 in the single year of 1849.  Congress had to determine the status of this new region quickly in order to establish an organized government.  The venerable Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, who twice before in times of crisis had come forward with compromise arrangements, advanced a complicated and carefully balanced plan. His old Massachusetts rival, Daniel Webster, supported it.  Illinois Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the leading advocate of popular sovereignty, did much of the work in guiding it through Congress.

The Compromise of 1850 contained the following provisions: (1) California was admitted to the Union as a free state; (2) the remainder of the Mexican cession was divided into the two territories of New Mexico and Utah and organized without mention of slavery; (3) the claim of Texas to a portion of New Mexico was satisfied by a payment of $10 million; (4) new legislation (the Fugitive Slave Act) was passed to apprehend runaway slaves and return them to their masters; and (5) the buying and selling of slaves (but not slavery) was abolished in the District of Columbia.

The country breathed a sigh of relief.  For the next three years, the compromise seemed to settle nearly all differences.  The new Fugitive Slave Law, however, was an immediate source of tension.  It deeply offended many Northerners, who refused to have any part in catching slaves. Some actively and violently obstructed its enforcement.  The Underground Railroad became more efficient and daring than ever.

A DIVIDED NATION

During the 1850s, the issue of slavery severed the political bonds that had held the United States together.   It ate away at the country’s two great political parties, the Whigs and the Democrats, destroying the first and irrevocably dividing the second.  It produced weak presidents whose irresolution mirrored that of their parties.  It eventually discredited even the Supreme Court.

The moral fervor of abolitionist feeling grew steadily.  In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel provoked by the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law.  More than 300,000 copies were sold the first year.  Presses ran day and night to keep up with the demand.  Although sentimental and full of stereotypes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin portrayed with undeniable force the cruelty of slavery and posited a fundamental conflict between free and slave societies. It inspired widespread enthusiasm for the antislavery cause, appealing as it did to basic human emotions – indignation at injustice and pity for the helpless individuals exposed to ruthless exploitation.

In 1854 the issue of slavery in the territories was renewed and the quarrel became more bitter. The region that now comprises Kansas and Nebraska was being rapidly settled, increasing pressure for the establishment of territorial, and eventually, state governments.

Under terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the entire region was closed to slavery.  Dominant slave-holding elements in Missouri objected to letting Kansas become a free territory, for their state would then have three free-soil neighbors (Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas) and might be forced to become a free state as well.  Their congressional delegation, backed by Southerners, blocked all efforts to organize the region.

At this point, Stephen A. Douglas enraged all free-soil supporters. Douglas argued that the Compromise of 1850, having left Utah and New Mexico free to resolve the slavery issue for themselves, superseded the Missouri Compromise. His plan called for two territories, Kansas and Nebraska.  It permitted settlers to carry slaves into them and eventually to determine whether they should enter the Union as free or slave states.

Douglas’s opponents accused him of currying favor with the South in order to gain the presidency in 1856. The free-soil movement, which had seemed to be in decline, reemerged with greater momentum than ever.  Yet in May 1854, Douglas’s plan, in the form of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed Congress to be signed by President Franklin Pierce.  Southern enthusiasts celebrated with cannon fire. But when Douglas subsequently visited Chicago to speak in his own defense, the ships in the harbor lowered their flags to half-mast, the church bells tolled for an hour, and a crowd of 10,000 hooted so loudly that he could not make himself heard.

The immediate results of Douglas’s ill-starred measure were momentous. The Whig Party, which had straddled the question of slavery expansion, sank to its death, and in its stead a powerful new organization arose, the Republican Party, whose primary demand was that slavery be excluded from all the territories. In 1856, it nominated John Fremont, whose expeditions into the Far West had won him renown. Fremont lost the election, but the new party swept a great part of the North. Such free-soil leaders as Salmon P. Chase and William Seward exerted greater influence than ever. Along with them appeared a tall, lanky Illinois attorney, Abraham Lincoln.

Meanwhile, the flow of both Southern slave holders and antislavery families into Kansas resulted in armed conflict.  Soon the territory was being called “bleeding Kansas.”  The Supreme Court made things worse with its infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision.

Scott was a Missouri slave who, some 20 years earlier, had been taken by his master to live in Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory; in both places, slavery was banned.  Returning to Missouri and becoming discontented with his life there, Scott sued for liberation on the ground of his residence on free soil.  A majority of the Supreme Court – dominated by Southerners – decided that Scott lacked standing in court because he was not a citizen; that the laws of a free state (Illinois) had no effect on his status because he was the resident of a slave state (Missouri); and that slave holders had the right to take their “property” anywhere in the federal territories. Thus, Congress could not restrict the expansion of slavery.  This last assertion invalidated former compromises on slavery and made new ones impossible to craft.

The Dred Scott decision stirred fierce resentment throughout the North. Never before had the Court been so bitterly condemned. For Southern Democrats, the decision was a great victory, since it gave judicial sanction to their justification of slavery throughout the territories.

LINCOLN, DOUGLAS, AND BROWN

Abraham Lincoln had long regarded slavery as an evil. As early as 1854 in a widely publicized speech, he declared that all national legislation should be framed on the principle that slavery was to be restricted and eventually abolished.  He contended also that the principle of popular sovereignty was false, for slavery in the western territories was the concern not only of the local inhabitants but of the United States as a whole.

In 1858 Lincoln opposed Stephen A. Douglas for election to the U.S. Senate from Illinois. In the first paragraph of his opening campaign speech, on June 17, Lincoln struck the keynote of American history for the seven years to follow:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government
cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the
Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do
expect it will cease to be divided.

Lincoln and Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates in the ensuing months of 1858. Senator Douglas, known as the “Little Giant,” had an enviable reputation as an orator, but he met his match in Lincoln, who eloquently challenged Douglas’s concept of popular sovereignty.  In the end, Douglas won the election by a small margin, but Lincoln had achieved stature as a national figure.

By then events were spinning out of control.  On the night of October 16, 1859, John Brown, an antislavery fanatic who had captured and killed five proslavery settlers in Kansas three years before, led a band of followers in an attack on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry (in what is now West Virginia).   Brown’s goal was to use the weapons seized to lead a slave uprising. After two days of fighting, Brown and his surviving men were taken prisoner by a force of U.S. Marines commanded by Colonel Robert E. Lee.

Brown’s attempt confirmed the worst fears of many Southerners. Antislavery activists, on the other hand, generally hailed Brown as a martyr to a great cause.  Virginia put Brown on trial for conspiracy, treason, and murder.  On December 2, 1859, he was hanged.  Although most Northerners had initially condemned him, increasing numbers were coming to accept his view that he had been an instrument in the hand of God.

THE 1860 ELECTION

In 1860 the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln as its candidate for president. The Republican platform declared that slavery could spread no farther, promised a tariff for the protection of industry, and pledged the enactment of a law granting free homesteads to settlers who would help in the opening of the West.   Southern Democrats, unwilling in the wake of the Dred Scott case to accept Douglas’s popular sovereignty, split from the party and nominated Vice President John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky for president. Stephen A. Douglas was the nominee of northern Democrats. Diehard Whigs from the border states, formed into the Constitutional Union Party, nominated John C. Bell of Tennessee.

Lincoln and Douglas competed in the North, Breckenridge and Bell in the South. Lincoln won only 39 percent of the popular vote, but had a clear majority of 180 electoral votes, carrying all 18 free states. Bell won Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia; Breckenridge took the other slave states except for Missouri, which was won by Douglas. Despite his poor showing, Douglas trailed only Lincoln in the popular vote.

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Westward Expansion and Regional Differences : Nation, slavery grow in new frontier

Westward Expansion and Regional Differences

Nation, slavery grow in new frontier

Horse-drawn combine harvesting wheat in the Midwest

Horse-drawn combine harvesting wheat in the Midwest, 19th century. (© Bettmann/CORBIS)

(The following article is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Outline of American History.)

“Go West, young man, and grow up with the country.”
— Newspaper editor Horace Greeley, 1851

BUILDING UNITY

The War of 1812 was, in a sense, a second war of independence that confirmed once and for all the American break with England.  With its conclusion, many of the serious difficulties that the young republic had faced since the Revolution disappeared. National union under the Constitution brought a balance between liberty and order. With a low national debt and a continent awaiting exploration, the prospect of peace, prosperity, and social progress opened before the nation.

Commerce cemented national unity. The privations of war convinced many of the importance of protecting the manufacturers of America until they could stand alone against foreign competition. Economic independence, many argued, was as essential as political independence. To foster self-sufficiency, congressional leaders Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina urged a policy of protectionism – imposition of restrictions on imported goods to foster the development of American industry.

The time was propitious for raising the customs tariff. The shepherds of Vermont and Ohio wanted protection against an influx of English wool. In Kentucky, a new industry of weaving local hemp into cotton bagging was threatened by the Scottish bagging industry. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, already a flourishing center of iron smelting, was eager to challenge British and Swedish iron suppliers. The tariff enacted in 1816 imposed duties high enough to give manufacturers real protection.

In addition, Westerners advocated a national system of roads and canals to link them with Eastern cities and ports, and to open frontier lands for settlement. However, they were unsuccessful in pressing their demands for a federal role in internal improvement because of opposition from New England and the South. Roads and canals remained the province of the states until the passage of the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916.

The position of the federal government at this time was greatly strengthened by several Supreme Court decisions. A committed Federalist, John Marshall of Virginia, became chief justice in 1801 and held office until his death in 1835. The court – weak before his administration – was transformed into a powerful tribunal, occupying a position co-equal to the Congress and the president. In a succession of historic decisions, Marshall established the power of the Supreme Court and strengthened the national government.

Marshall was the first in a long line of Supreme Court justices whose decisions have molded the meaning and application of the Constitution. When he finished his long service, the court had decided nearly 50 cases clearly involving constitutional issues. In one of Marshall’s most famous opinions – Marbury v. Madison (1803) – he decisively established the right of the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of any law of Congress or of a state legislature. In McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), he boldly upheld the Hamiltonian theory that the Constitution by implication gives the government powers beyond those expressly stated.

EXTENSION OF SLAVERY

Slavery, which up to now had received little public attention, began to assume much greater importance as a national issue. In the early years of the republic, when the Northern states were providing for immediate or gradual emancipation of the slaves, many leaders had supposed that slavery would die out. In 1786 George Washington wrote that he devoutly wished some plan might be adopted “by which slavery may be abolished by slow, sure, and imperceptible degrees.” Virginians Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe and other leading Southern statesmen made similar statements.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had banned slavery in the Northwest Territory. As late as 1808, when the international slave trade was abolished, there were many Southerners who thought that slavery would soon end.  The expectation proved false, for during the next generation, the South became solidly united behind the institution of slavery as new economic factors made slavery far more profitable than it had been before 1790.

Chief among these was the rise of a great cotton-growing industry in the South, stimulated by the introduction of new types of cotton and by Eli Whitney’s invention in 1793 of the cotton gin, which separated the seeds from cotton. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution, which made textile manufacturing a large-scale operation, vastly increased the demand for raw cotton. And the opening of new lands in the West after 1812 greatly extended the area available for cotton cultivation. Cotton culture moved rapidly from the Tidewater states on the East Coast through much of the lower South to the delta region of the Mississippi and eventually to Texas.

Sugar cane, another labor‑intensive crop, also contributed to slavery’s extension in the South. The rich, hot lands of southeastern Louisiana proved ideal for growing sugar cane profitably. By 1830 the state was supplying the nation with about half its sugar supply. Finally, tobacco growers moved westward, taking slavery with them.

As the free society of the North and the slave society of the South spread westward, it seemed politically expedient to maintain a rough equality among the new states carved out of western territories. In 1818, when Illinois was admitted to the Union, 10 states permitted slavery and 11 states prohibited it; but balance was restored after Alabama was admitted as a slave state.   Population was growing faster in the North, which permitted Northern states to have a clear majority in the House of Representatives. However, equality between the North and the South was maintained in the Senate.

In 1819 Missouri, which had 10,000 slaves, applied to enter the Union. Northerners rallied to oppose Missouri’s entry except as a free state, and a storm of protest swept the country. For a time Congress was deadlocked, but Henry Clay arranged the so-called Missouri Compromise: Missouri was admitted as a slave state at the same time Maine came in as a free state. In addition, Congress banned slavery from the territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase north of Missouri’s southern boundary. At the time, this provision appeared to be a victory for the Southern states because it was thought unlikely that this “Great American Desert” would ever be settled. The controversy was temporarily resolved, but Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that “this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.”

LATIN AMERICA AND THE MONROE DOCTRINE

During the opening decades of the 19th century, Central and South America turned to revolution. The idea of liberty had stirred the people of Latin America from the time the English colonies gained their freedom. Napoleon’s conquest of Spain and Portugal in 1808 provided the signal for Latin Americans to rise in revolt. By 1822, ably led by Simón Bolívar, Francisco Miranda, José de San Martín and Miguel de Hidalgo, most of Hispanic America – from Argentina and Chile in the south to Mexico in the north – had won independence.

The people of the United States took a deep interest in what seemed a repetition of their own experience in breaking away from European rule. The Latin American independence movements confirmed their own belief in self-government. In 1822 President James Monroe, under powerful public pressure, received authority to recognize the new countries of Latin America and soon exchanged ministers with them.  He thereby confirmed their status as genuinely independent countries, entirely separated from their former European connections.

At just this point, Russia, Prussia, and Austria formed an association called the Holy Alliance to protect themselves against revolution. By intervening in countries where popular movements threatened monarchies, the alliance – joined by post-Napoleonic France – hoped to prevent the spread of revolution. This policy was the antithesis of the American principle of self-determination.

As long as the Holy Alliance confined its activities to the Old World, it aroused no anxiety in the United States. But when the alliance announced its intention of restoring to Spain its former colonies, Americans became very concerned. Britain, to which Latin American trade had become of great importance, resolved to block any such action. London urged joint Anglo‑American guarantees to Latin America, but Secretary of State John Quincy Adams convinced Monroe to act unilaterally: “It would be more candid, as well as more dignified, to avow our principles explicitly to Russia and France, than to come in as a cock‑boat in the wake of the British man-of-war.”

In December 1823, with the knowledge that the British navy would defend Latin America from the Holy Alliance and France, President Monroe took the occasion of his annual message to Congress to pronounce what would become known as the Monroe Doctrine – the refusal to tolerate any further extension of European domination in the Americas:

The American continents … are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers

We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their [political] system to any portion of this hemisphere, as dangerous to our peace and safety.

With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not    interfered, and shall not interfere. But with the governments who have declared their independence, and maintained it, and whose independence we have … acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling, in any other manner, their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States.

The Monroe Doctrine expressed a spirit of solidarity with the newly independent republics of Latin America. These nations in turn recognized their political affinity with the United States by basing their new constitutions, in many instances, on the North American model.

FACTIONALISM AND POLITICAL PARTIES

Domestically, the presidency of Monroe (1817-1825) was termed the “era of good feelings.”  The phrase acknowledged the political triumph of the Republican Party over the Federalist Party, which had collapsed as a national force.  All the same, this was a period of vigorous factional and regional conflict.

The end of the Federalists led to a brief period of factional politics and brought disarray to the practice of choosing presidential nominees by congressional party caucuses.  For a time, state legislatures nominated candidates. In 1824 Tennessee and Pennsylvania chose Andrew Jackson, with South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun as his running mate. Kentucky selected Speaker of the House Henry Clay; Massachusetts, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, son of the second president, John Adams.  A congressional caucus, widely derided as undemocratic, picked Secretary of the Treasury William Crawford.

Personality and sectional allegiance played important roles in determining the outcome of the election. Adams won the electoral votes from New England and most of New York; Clay won Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri; Jackson won the Southeast, Illinois, Indiana, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey; and Crawford won Virginia, Georgia, and Delaware. No candidate gained a majority in the Electoral College, so, according to the provisions of the Constitution, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, where Clay was the most influential figure. He supported Adams, who gained the presidency.

During Adams’s administration, new party alignments appeared. Adams’s followers, some of whom were former Federalists, took the name of “National Republicans” as emblematic of their support of a federal government that would take a strong role in developing an expanding nation. Though he governed honestly and efficiently, Adams was not a popular president.  He failed in his effort to institute a national system of roads and canals.  His coldly intellectual temperament did not win friends. Jackson, by contrast, had enormous popular appeal and a strong political organization. His followers coalesced to establish the Democratic Party, claimed direct lineage from the Democratic-Republican Party of Jefferson, and in general advocated the principles of small, decentralized government. Mounting a strong anti-Adams campaign, they accused the president of a “corrupt bargain” for naming Clay secretary of state.  In the election of 1828, Jackson defeated Adams by an overwhelming electoral majority.

Jackson – Tennessee politician, fighter in wars against Native Americans on the Southern frontier, and hero of the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812 – drew his support from the “common people.”  He came to the presidency on a rising tide of enthusiasm for popular democracy.  The election of 1828 was a significant benchmark in the trend toward broader voter participation. By then most states had either enacted universal white male suffrage or minimized property requirements.  In 1824 members of the Electoral College in six states were still selected by the state legislatures. By 1828 presidential electors were chosen by popular vote in every state but Delaware and South Carolina. These developments were the products of a widespread sense that the people should rule and that government by traditional elites had come to an end.

NULLIFICATION CRISIS

Toward the end of his first term in office, Jackson was forced to confront the state of South Carolina, the most important of the emerging Deep South cotton states, on the issue of the protective tariff. Business and farming interests in the state had hoped that the president would use his power to modify the 1828 act that they called the Tariff of Abominations.  In their view, all its benefits of protection went to Northern manufacturers, leaving agricultural South Carolina poorer.  In 1828, the state’s leading politician – and Jackson’s vice president until his resignation in 1832 – John C. Calhoun had declared in his South Carolina Exposition and Protest that states had the right to nullify oppressive national legislation.

In 1832, Congress passed and Jackson signed a bill that revised the 1828 tariff downward, but it was not enough to satisfy most South Carolinians.  The state adopted an Ordinance of Nullification, which declared both the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 null and void within state borders. Its legislature also passed laws to enforce the ordinance, including authorization for raising a military force and appropriations for arms.  Nullification was a long-established theme of protest against perceived excesses by the federal government.  Jefferson and Madison had proposed it in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts.  The Hartford Convention of 1814 had invoked it to protest the War of 1812.  Never before, however, had a state actually attempted nullification.  The young nation faced its most dangerous crisis yet.

In response to South Carolina’s threat, Jackson sent seven small naval vessels and a man-of-war to Charleston in November 1832. On December 10, he issued a resounding proclamation against the nullifiers. South Carolina, the president declared, stood on “the brink of insurrection and treason,” and he appealed to the people of the state to reassert their allegiance to the Union.  He also let it be known that, if necessary, he personally would lead the U.S. Army to enforce the law.

When the question of tariff duties again came before Congress, Jackson’s political rival, Senator Henry Clay, a great advocate of protection but also a devoted Unionist, sponsored a compromise measure. Clay’s tariff bill, quickly passed in 1833, specified that all duties in excess of 20 percent of the value of the goods imported were to be reduced year by year, so that by 1842 the duties on all articles would reach the level of the moderate tariff of 1816.  At the same time, Congress passed a Force Act, authorizing the president to use military power to enforce the laws.

South Carolina had expected the support of other Southern states, but instead found itself isolated.  (Its most likely ally, the state government of Georgia, wanted, and got, U.S. military force to remove Native-American tribes from the state.)  Eventually, South Carolina rescinded its action. Both sides, nevertheless, claimed victory.  Jackson had strongly defended the Union.  But South Carolina, by its show of resistance, had obtained many of its demands and had demonstrated that a single state could force its will on Congress.

THE BANK FIGHT

Although the nullification crisis possessed the seeds of civil war, it was not as critical a political issue as a bitter struggle over the continued existence of the nation’s central bank, the second Bank of the United States.  The first bank, established in 1791 under Alexander Hamilton’s guidance, had been chartered for a 20-year period. Though the government held some of its stock, the bank, like the Bank of England and other central banks of the time, was a private corporation with profits passing to its stockholders. Its public functions were to act as a depository for government receipts, to make short-term loans to the government, and above all to establish a sound currency by refusing to accept at face value notes (paper money) issued by state-chartered banks in excess of their ability to redeem.

To the Northeastern financial and commercial establishment, the central bank was a needed enforcer of prudent monetary policy, but from the beginning it was resented by Southerners and Westerners who believed their prosperity and regional development depended upon ample money and credit. The Republican Party of Jefferson and Madison doubted its constitutionality. When its charter expired in 1811, it was not renewed.

For the next few years, the banking business was in the hands of state-chartered banks, which issued currency in excessive amounts, creating great confusion and fueling inflation. It became increasingly clear that state banks could not provide the country with a reliable currency. In 1816 a second Bank of the United States, similar to the first, was again chartered for 20 years.  From its inception, the second bank was unpopular in the newer states and territories, especially with state and local bankers who resented its virtual monopoly over the country’s credit and currency, but also with less prosperous people everywhere, who believed that it represented the interests of the wealthy few.

On the whole, the bank was well managed and rendered a valuable service; but Jackson long had shared the Republican distrust of the financial establishment.  Elected as a tribune of the people, he sensed that the bank’s aristocratic manager, Nicholas Biddle, was an easy target.  When the bank’s supporters in Congress pushed through an early renewal of its charter, Jackson responded with a stinging veto that denounced monopoly and special privilege. The effort to override the veto failed.

In the presidential campaign that followed, the bank question revealed a fundamental division.  Established merchant, manufacturing, and financial interests favored sound money.   Regional bankers and entrepreneurs on the make wanted an increased money supply and lower interest rates.  Other debtor classes, especially farmers, shared those sentiments.  Jackson and his supporters called the central bank a “monster” and coasted to an easy election victory over Henry Clay.

The president interpreted his triumph as a popular mandate to crush the central bank irrevocably. In September 1833 he ordered an end to deposits of government money in the bank, and gradual withdrawals of the money already in its custody.  The government deposited its funds in selected state banks, characterized as “pet banks” by the opposition.

For the next generation the United States would get by on a relatively unregulated state banking system, which helped fuel westward expansion through cheap credit but kept the nation vulnerable to periodic panics. During the Civil War, the United States initiated a system of national charters for local and regional banks, but the nation returned to a central bank only with the establishment of the Federal Reserve system in 1913.

WHIGS, DEMOCRATS, AND KNOW-NOTHINGS

Jackson’s political opponents, united by little more than a common opposition to him, eventually coalesced into a common party called the Whigs, a British term signifying opposition to Jackson’s “monarchial rule.” Although they organized soon after the election campaign of 1832, it was more than a decade before they reconciled their differences and were able to draw up a platform. Largely through the magnetism of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, the Whigs’ most brilliant statesmen, the party solidified its membership. But in the 1836 election, the Whigs were still too divided to unite behind a single man.  New York’s Martin Van Buren, Jackson’s vice president, won the contest.

An economic depression and the larger-than-life personality of his predecessor obscured Van Buren’s merits. His public acts aroused no enthusiasm, for he lacked the compelling qualities of leadership and the dramatic flair that had attended Jackson’s every move. The election of 1840 found the country afflicted with hard times and low wages – and the Democrats on the defensive.

The Whig candidate for president was William Henry Harrison of Ohio, vastly popular as a hero of conflicts with Native Americans and the War of 1812.  He was promoted, like Jackson, as a representative of the democratic West. His vice presidential candidate was John Tyler – a Virginian whose views on states’ rights and a low tariff were popular in the South. Harrison won a sweeping victory.

Within a month of his inauguration, however, the 68-year-old Harrison died, and Tyler became president. Tyler’s beliefs differed sharply from those of Clay and Webster, still the most influential men in Congress.  The result was an open break between the new president and the party that had elected him. The Tyler presidency would accomplish little other than to establish definitively that, if a president died, the vice president would assume the office with full powers for the balance of his term.

Americans found themselves divided in other, more complex ways.  The large number of Catholic immigrants in the first half of the 19th century, primarily Irish and German, triggered a backlash among native-born Protestant Americans.  Immigrants brought strange new customs and religious practices to American shores. They competed with the native-born for jobs in cities along the Eastern seaboard.  The coming of universal white male suffrage in the 1820s and 1830s increased their political clout.  Displaced patrician politicians blamed the immigrants for their fall from power. The Catholic Church’s failure to support the temperance movement gave rise to charges that Rome was trying to subvert the United States through alcohol.

The most important of the nativist organizations that sprang up in this period was a secret society, the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, founded in 1849. When its members refused to identify themselves, they were swiftly labeled the “Know-Nothings.”  In a few years, they became a national organization with considerable political power.

The Know-Nothings advocated an extension in the period required for naturalized citizenship from five to 21 years.  They sought to exclude the foreign-born and Catholics from public office. In 1855 they won control of legislatures in New York and Massachusetts; by then, about 90 U.S. congressmen were linked to the party. That was its high point.  Soon after, the gathering crisis between North and South over the extension of slavery fatally divided the party, consuming it along with the old debates between Whigs and Democrats that had dominated American politics in the second quarter of the 19th century.

STIRRINGS OF REFORM

The democratic upheaval in politics exemplified by Jackson’s election was merely one phase of the long American quest for greater rights and opportunities for all citizens. Another was the beginning of labor organization, primarily among skilled and semiskilled workers. In 1835 labor forces in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, succeeded in reducing the old “dark-to-dark” workday to a 10-hour day.  By 1860, the new work day had become law in several of the states and was a generally accepted standard.

The spread of suffrage had already led to a new concept of education.  Clear-sighted statesmen everywhere understood that universal suffrage required a tutored, literate electorate. Workingmen’s organizations demanded free, tax-supported schools open to all children. Gradually, in one state after another, legislation was enacted to provide for such free instruction. The leadership of Horace Mann in Massachusetts was especially effective.  The public school system became common throughout the North. In other parts of the country, however, the battle for public education continued for years.

Another influential social movement that emerged during this period was the opposition to the sale and use of alcohol, or the temperance movement. It stemmed from a variety of concerns and motives: religious beliefs, the effect of alcohol on the work force, the violence and suffering women and children experienced at the hands of heavy drinkers. In 1826 Boston ministers organized the Society for the Promotion of Temperance. Seven years later, in Philadelphia, the society convened a national convention, which formed the American Temperance Union. The union called for the prohibition of all alcoholic beverages, and pressed state legislatures to ban their production and sale. Thirteen states had done so by 1855, although the laws were subsequently challenged in court. They survived only in northern New England, but between 1830 and 1860 the temperance movement reduced Americans’ per capita consumption of alcohol.

Other reformers addressed the problems of prisons and care for the insane. Efforts were made to turn prisons, which stressed punishment, into penitentiaries where the guilty would undergo rehabilitation. In Massachusetts, Dorothea Dix led a struggle to improve conditions for insane persons, who were kept confined in wretched almshouses and prisons.  After winning improvements in Massachusetts, she took her campaign to the South, where nine states established hospitals for the insane between 1845 and 1852.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Such social reforms brought many women to a realization of their own unequal position in society. From colonial times, unmarried women had enjoyed many of the same legal rights as men, although custom required that they marry early. With matrimony, women virtually lost their separate identities in the eyes of the law. Women were not permitted to vote.  Their education in the 17th and 18th centuries was limited largely to reading, writing, music, dancing, and needlework.

The awakening of women began with the visit to America of Frances Wright, a   Scottish lecturer and journalist, who publicly promoted women’s rights throughout the United States during the 1820s. At a time when women were often forbidden to speak in public places, Wright not only spoke out, but shocked audiences by her views advocating the rights of women to seek information on birth control and divorce. By the 1840s an American women’s rights movement emerged.  Its foremost leader was Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

In 1848 Cady Stanton and her colleague Lucretia Mott organized a women’s rights convention – the first in the history of the world – at Seneca Falls, New York. Delegates drew up a “Declaration of Sentiments,” demanding equality with men before the law, the right to vote, and equal opportunities in education and employment. The resolutions passed unanimously with the exception of the one for women’s suffrage, which won a majority only after an impassioned speech in favor by Frederick Douglass, the black abolitionist.

At Seneca Falls, Cady Stanton gained national prominence as an eloquent writer and speaker for women’s rights.  She had realized early on that without the right to vote, women would never be equal with men. Taking the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison as her model, she saw that the key to success lay in changing public opinion, and not in party action.  Seneca Falls became the catalyst for future change. Soon other women’s rights conventions were held, and other women would come to the forefront of the movement for their political and social equality.

In 1848 also, Ernestine Rose, a Polish immigrant, was instrumental in getting a law passed in the state of New York that allowed married women to keep their property in their own name. Among the first laws in the nation of this kind, the Married Women’s Property Act encouraged other state legislatures to enact similar laws.

In 1869 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and another leading women’s rights activist, Susan B. Anthony, founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), to promote a constitutional amendment for women’s right to the vote. These two would become the women’s movement’s most outspoken advocates. Describing their partnership, Cady Stanton would say, “I forged the thunderbolts and she fired them.”

WESTWARD

The frontier did much to shape American life. Conditions along the entire Atlantic seaboard stimulated migration to the newer regions. From New England, where the soil was incapable of producing high yields of grain, came a steady stream of men and women who left their coastal farms and villages to take advantage of the rich interior land of the continent. In the backcountry settlements of the Carolinas and Virginia, people handicapped by the lack of roads and canals giving access to coastal markets and resentful of the political dominance of the Tidewater planters also moved westward. By 1800 the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys were becoming a great frontier region. “Hi-o, away we go, floating down the river on the O-hi-o,” became the song of thousands of migrants.

The westward flow of population in the early 19th century led to the division of old territories and the drawing of new boundaries. As new states were admitted, the political map stabilized east of the Mississippi River. From 1816 to 1821, six states were created – Indiana, Illinois, and Maine (which were free states), and Mississippi, Alabama, and Missouri (slave states). The first frontier had been tied closely to Europe, the second to the coastal settlements, but the Mississippi Valley was independent and its people looked west rather than east.

Frontier settlers were a varied group. One English traveler described them as “a daring, hardy race of men, who live in miserable cabins. … They are unpolished but hospitable, kind to strangers, honest, and trustworthy. They raise a little Indian corn, pumpkins, hogs, and sometimes have a cow or two. … But the rifle is their principal means of support.” Dexterous with the ax, snare, and fishing line, these men blazed the trails, built the first log cabins, and confronted Native-American tribes, whose land they occupied.

As more and more settlers penetrated the wilderness, many became farmers as well as hunters. A comfortable log house with glass windows, a chimney, and partitioned rooms replaced the cabin; the well replaced the spring. Industrious settlers would rapidly clear their land of timber, burning the wood for potash and letting the stumps decay. They grew their own grain, vegetables, and fruit; ranged the woods for deer, wild turkeys, and honey; fished the nearby streams; looked after cattle and hogs. Land speculators bought large tracts of the cheap land and, if land values rose, sold their holdings and moved still farther west, making way for others.

Doctors, lawyers, storekeepers, editors, preachers, mechanics, and politicians soon followed the farmers. The farmers were the sturdy base, however. Where they settled, they intended to stay and hoped their children would remain after them. They built large barns and brick or frame houses. They brought improved livestock, plowed the land skillfully, and sowed productive seed. Some erected flour mills, sawmills, and distilleries. They laid out good highways, and built churches and schools. Incredible transformations were accomplished in a few years. In 1830, for example, Chicago, Illinois, was merely an unpromising trading village with a fort; but long before some of its original settlers had died, it had become one of the largest and richest cities in the nation.

Farms were easy to acquire. Government land after 1820 could be bought for $1.25 for about half a hectare, and after the 1862 Homestead Act, could be claimed by merely occupying and improving it. In addition, tools for working the land were easily available. It was a time when, in a phrase coined by Indiana newspaperman John Soule and popularized by New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, young men could “go west and grow with the country.”

Except for a migration into Mexican-owned Texas, the westward march of the   agricultural frontier did not pass Missouri into the vast Western territory acquired in the Louisiana Purchase until after 1840. In 1819, in return for assuming the claims of American citizens to the amount of $5 million, the United States obtained from Spain both Florida and Spain’s rights to the Oregon country in the Far West. In the meantime, the Far West had become a field of great activity in the fur trade, which was to have significance far beyond the value of the skins. As in the first days of French exploration in the Mississippi Valley, the trader was a pathfinder for the settlers beyond the Mississippi. The French and Scots-Irish trappers, exploring the great rivers and their tributaries and discovering the passes through the Rocky and Sierra Mountains, made possible the overland migration of the 1840s and the later occupation of the interior of the nation.

Overall, the growth of the nation was enormous: Population grew from 7.25 million to more than 23 million from 1812 to 1852, and the land available for settlement increased by almost the size of Western Europe – from 4.4 million to 7.8 million square kilometers. Still unresolved, however, were the basic conflicts rooted in sectional differences that, by the decade of the 1860s, would explode into civil war. Inevitably, too, this westward expansion brought settlers into conflict with the original inhabitants of the land: the Native Americans.

In the first part of the 19th century, the most prominent figure associated with these conflicts was Andrew Jackson, the first “Westerner” to occupy the White House. In the midst of the War of 1812, Jackson, then in charge of the Tennessee militia, was sent into southern Alabama, where he ruthlessly put down an uprising of Creek Indians. The Creeks soon ceded two-thirds of their land to the United States. Jackson later routed bands of Seminoles from their sanctuaries in Spanish-owned Florida.

In the 1820s, President Monroe’s secretary of war, John C. Calhoun, pursued a policy of removing the remaining tribes from the old Southwest and resettling them beyond the Mississippi. Jackson continued this policy as president. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, providing funds to transport the eastern tribes beyond the Mississippi. In 1834 a special Native-American territory was set up in what is now Oklahoma. In all, the tribes signed 94 treaties during Jackson’s two terms, ceding millions of hectares to the federal government and removing dozens of tribes from their ancestral homelands.

The most terrible chapter in this unhappy history concerned the Cherokees, whose lands in western North Carolina and Georgia had been guaranteed by treaty since 1791. Among the most progressive of the eastern tribes, the Cherokees nevertheless were sure to be displaced when gold was discovered on their land in 1829.  Forced to make a long and cruel trek to Oklahoma in 1838, the tribe lost many of its numbers from disease and privation on what became known as the “Trail of Tears.”

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The Formation of a National Government : Leaders crafted constitutional, legal basis for young nation

The Formation of a National Government

Leaders crafted constitutional, legal basis for young nation

George Washington

George Washington (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch)

(The following article is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Outline of American History.)

“Every man, and every body of men on Earth, possesses the right of self‑government.”
‑ Drafter of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson, 1790

STATE CONSTITUTIONS

The success of the Revolution gave Americans the opportunity to give legal form to their ideals as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, and to remedy some of their grievances through state constitutions. As early as May 10, 1776, Congress had passed a resolution advising the colonies to form new governments “such as shall best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents.” Some of them had already done so, and within a year after the Declaration of Independence, all but three had drawn up constitutions.

The new constitutions showed the impact of democratic ideas. None made any drastic break with the past, since all were built on the solid foundation of colonial experience and English practice.  But each was also animated by the spirit of republicanism, an ideal that had long been praised by Enlightenment philosophers.

Naturally, the first objective of the framers of the state constitutions was to secure those “unalienable rights” whose violation had caused the former colonies to repudiate their connection with Britain. Thus, each constitution began with a declaration or bill of rights. Virginia’s, which served as a model for all the others, included a declaration of principles:  popular sovereignty, rotation in office, freedom of elections, and an enumeration of fundamental liberties: moderate bail and humane punishment, speedy trial by jury, freedom of the press and of conscience, and the right of the majority to reform or alter the government.

Other states enlarged the list of liberties to freedom of speech, of assembly, and of petition.  Their constitutions frequently included such provisions as the right to bear arms, to a writ of habeas corpus, to inviolability of domicile, and to equal protection under the law.  Moreover, all prescribed a three-branch structure of government – executive, legislative, and judiciary – each checked and balanced by the others. Pennsylvania’s constitution was the most radical. In that state, Philadelphia artisans, Scots-Irish frontiersmen, and German-speaking farmers had taken control. The provincial congress adopted a constitution that permitted every male taxpayer and his sons to vote, required rotation in office (no one could serve as a representative more than four years out of every seven), and set up a single-chamber legislature.

The state constitutions had some glaring limitations, particularly by more recent standards. Constitutions established to guarantee people their natural rights did not secure for everyone the most fundamental natural right – equality. The colonies south of Pennsylvania excluded their slave populations from their inalienable rights as human beings. Women had no political rights. No state went so far as to permit universal male suffrage, and even in those states that permitted all taxpayers to vote (Delaware, North Carolina, and Georgia, in addition to Pennsylvania), office-holders were required to own a certain amount of property.

THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION

The struggle with England had done much to change colonial attitudes. Local assemblies had rejected the Albany Plan of Union in 1754, refusing to surrender even the smallest part of their autonomy to any other body, even one they themselves had elected. But in the course of the Revolution, mutual aid had proved effective, and the fear of relinquishing individual authority had lessened to a large degree.

John Dickinson produced the “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” in 1776. The Continental Congress adopted them in November 1777, and they went into effect in 1781, having been ratified by all the states.  Reflecting the fragility of a nascent sense of nationhood, the Articles provided only for a very loose union. The national government lacked the authority to set up tariffs, to regulate commerce, and to levy taxes. It possessed scant control of international relations:  A number of states had begun their own negotiations with foreign countries.  Nine states had their own armies, several their own navies.  In the absence of a sound common currency, the new nation conducted its commerce with a curious hodgepodge of coins and a bewildering variety of state and national paper bills, all fast depreciating in value.

Economic difficulties after the war prompted calls for change. The end of the war had a severe effect on merchants who supplied the armies of both sides and who had lost the advantages deriving from participation in the British mercantile system. The states gave preference to American goods in their tariff policies, but these were inconsistent, leading to the demand for a stronger central government to implement a uniform policy.

Farmers probably suffered the most from economic difficulties following the Revolution. The supply of farm produce exceeded demand; unrest centered chiefly among farmer-debtors who wanted strong remedies to avoid foreclosure on their property and imprisonment for debt. Courts were clogged with suits for payment filed by their creditors.  All through the summer of 1786, popular conventions and informal gatherings in several states demanded reform in the state administrations.

That autumn, mobs of farmers in Massachusetts under the leadership of a former army captain, Daniel Shays, began forcibly to prevent the county courts from sitting and passing further judgments for debt, pending the next state election. In January 1787 a ragtag army of 1,200 farmers moved toward the federal arsenal at Springfield.  The rebels, armed chiefly with staves and pitchforks, were repulsed by a small state militia force; General Benjamin Lincoln then arrived with reinforcements from Boston and routed the remaining Shaysites, whose leader escaped to Vermont. The government captured 14 rebels and sentenced them to death, but ultimately pardoned some and let the others off with short prison terms. After the defeat of the rebellion, a newly elected legislature, whose majority sympathized with the rebels, met some of their demands for debt relief.

THE PROBLEM OF EXPANSION

With the end of the Revolution, the United States again had to face the old unsolved Western question, the problem of expansion, with its complications of land, fur trade, Indians, settlement, and local government. Lured by the richest land yet found in the country, pioneers poured over the Appalachian Mountains and beyond. By 1775 the far-flung outposts scattered along the waterways had tens of thousands of settlers. Separated by mountain ranges and hundreds of kilometers from the centers of political authority in the East, the inhabitants established their own governments.  Settlers from all the Tidewater states pressed on into the fertile river valleys, hardwood forests, and rolling prairies of the interior.  By 1790 the population of the trans-Appalachian region numbered well over 120,000.

Before the war, several colonies had laid extensive and often overlapping claims to land beyond the Appalachians. To those without such claims this rich territorial prize seemed unfairly apportioned. Maryland, speaking for the latter group, introduced a resolution that the western lands be considered common property to be parceled by the Congress into free and independent governments. This idea was not received enthusiastically. Nonetheless, in 1780 New York led the way by ceding its claims. In 1784 Virginia, which held the grandest claims, relinquished all land north of the Ohio River. Other states ceded their claims, and it became apparent that Congress would come into possession of all the lands north of the Ohio River and west of the Allegheny Mountains. This common possession of millions of hectares was the most tangible evidence yet of nationality and unity, and gave a certain substance to the idea of national sovereignty. At the same time, these vast territories were a problem that required solution.

The Confederation Congress established a system of limited self-government for this new national Northwest Territory.  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided for its organization, initially as a single district, ruled by a governor and judges appointed by the Congress. When this territory had 5,000 free male inhabitants of voting age, it was to be entitled to a legislature of two chambers, itself electing the lower house.  In addition, it could at that time send a nonvoting delegate to Congress.  Three to five states would be formed as the territory was settled.  Whenever any one of them had 60,000 free inhabitants, it was to be admitted to the Union “on an equal footing with the original states in all respects.” The ordinance guaranteed civil rights and liberties, encouraged education, and prohibited slavery or other forms of involuntary servitude.

The new policy repudiated the time-honored concept that colonies existed for the benefit of the mother country, were politically subordinate, and peopled by social inferiors.  Instead, it established the principle that colonies (“territories”) were an extension of the nation and entitled, not as a privilege but as a right, to all the benefits of equality.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

By the time the Northwest Ordinance was enacted, American leaders were in the midst of drafting a new and stronger constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.  Their presiding officer, George Washington, had written accurately that the states were united only by a “rope of sand.” Disputes between Maryland and Virginia over navigation on the Potomac River led to a conference of representatives of five states at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1786. One of the delegates, Alexander Hamilton of New York, convinced his colleagues that commerce was bound up with large political and economic questions.  What was required was a fundamental rethinking of the Confederation.

The Annapolis conference issued a call for all the states to appoint representatives to a convention to be held the following spring in Philadelphia. The Continental Congress was at first indignant over this bold step, but it acquiesced after Washington gave the project his backing and was elected a delegate.  During the next fall and winter, elections were held in all states but Rhode Island.

A remarkable gathering of notables assembled at the Federal Convention in May 1787. The state legislatures sent leaders with experience in colonial and state governments, in Congress, on the bench, and in the army. Washington, regarded as the country’s first citizen because of his integrity and his military leadership during the Revolution, was chosen as presiding officer.

Prominent among the more active members were two Pennsylvanians: Gouverneur Morris, who clearly saw the need for national government, and James Wilson, who labored indefatigably for the national idea. Also elected by Pennsylvania was Benjamin Franklin, nearing the end of an extraordinary career of public service and scientific achievement. From Virginia came James Madison, a practical young statesman, a thorough student of politics and history, and, according to a colleague, “from a spirit of industry and application … the best-informed man on any point in debate.”  He would be recognized as the “Father of the Constitution.”

Massachusetts sent Rufus King and Elbridge Gerry, young men of ability and experience. Roger Sherman, shoemaker turned judge, was one of the representatives from Connecticut. From New York came Alexander Hamilton, who had proposed the meeting.  Absent from the Convention were Thomas Jefferson, who was serving as minister representing the United States in France, and John Adams, serving in the same capacity in Great Britain.  Youth predominated among the 55 delegates–the average age was 42.

Congress had authorized the Convention merely to draft amendments to the Articles of Confederation but, as Madison later wrote, the delegates, “with a manly confidence in their country,” simply threw the Articles aside and went ahead with the building of a wholly new form of government.

They recognized that the paramount need was to reconcile two different powers – the power of local control, which was already being exercised by the 13 semi-independent states, and the power of a central government. They adopted the principle that the functions and powers of the national government – being new, general, and inclusive – had to be carefully defined and stated, while all other functions and powers were to be understood as belonging to the states.  But realizing that the central government had to have real power, the delegates also generally accepted the fact that the government should be authorized, among other things, to coin money, to regulate commerce, to declare war, and to make peace.

DEBATE AND COMPROMISE

The 18th-century statesmen who met in Philadelphia were adherents of Montesquieu’s concept of the balance of power in politics. This principle was supported by colonial experience and strengthened by the writings of John Locke, with which most of the delegates were familiar. These influences led to the conviction that three equal and coordinate branches of government should be established. Legislative, executive, and judicial powers were to be so harmoniously balanced that no one could ever gain control. The delegates agreed that the legislative branch, like the colonial legislatures and the British Parliament, should consist of two houses.

On these points there was unanimity within the assembly. But sharp differences also arose.  Representatives of the small states – New Jersey, for instance – objected to changes that would reduce their influence in the national government by basing representation upon population rather than upon statehood, as was the case under the Articles of Confederation.

On the other hand, representatives of large states, like Virginia, argued for proportionate representation. This debate threatened to go on endlessly until Roger Sherman came forward with arguments for representation in proportion to the population of the states in one house of Congress, the House of Representatives, and equal representation in the other, the Senate.

The alignment of large against small states then dissolved. But almost every succeeding question raised new divisions, to be resolved only by new compromises. Northerners wanted slaves counted when determining each state’s tax share, but not in determining the number of seats a state would have in the House of Representatives. According to a compromise reached with little dissent, tax levies and House membership would be apportioned according to the number of free inhabitants plus three-fifths of the slaves.

Certain members, such as Sherman and Elbridge Gerry, still smarting from Shays’s Rebellion, feared that the mass of people lacked sufficient wisdom to govern themselves and thus wished no branch of the federal government to be elected directly by the people. Others thought the national government should be given as broad a popular base as possible. Some delegates wished to exclude the growing West from the opportunity of statehood; others championed the equality principle established in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.

There was no serious difference on such national economic questions as paper money, laws concerning contract obligations, or the role of women, who were excluded from politics. But there was a need for balancing sectional economic interests; for settling arguments as to the powers, term, and selection of the chief executive; and for solving problems involving the tenure of judges and the kind of courts to be established.

Laboring through a hot Philadelphia summer, the convention finally achieved a draft incorporating in a brief document the organization of the most complex government yet devised – one that would be supreme within a clearly defined and limited sphere.  It would have full power to levy taxes, borrow money, establish uniform duties and excise taxes, coin money, regulate interstate commerce, fix weights and measures, grant patents and copyrights, set up post offices, and build post roads. It also was authorized to raise and maintain an army and navy, manage Native-American affairs, conduct foreign policy, and wage war.  It could pass laws for naturalizing foreigners and controlling public lands; it could admit new states on a basis of absolute equality with the old. The power to pass all necessary and proper laws for executing these clearly defined powers rendered the federal government able to meet the needs of later generations and of a greatly expanded body politic.

The principle of separation of powers had already been given a fair trial in most state constitutions and had proved sound. Accordingly, the convention set up a governmental system with separate legislative, executive, and judiciary branches – each checked by the others. Thus congressional enactments were not to become law until approved by the president. And the president was to submit the most important of his appointments and all his treaties to the Senate for confirmation. The president, in turn, could be impeached and removed by Congress. The judiciary was to hear all cases arising under federal laws and the Constitution; in effect, the courts were empowered to interpret both the fundamental and the statute law.  But members of the judiciary, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, could also be impeached by Congress.

To protect the Constitution from hasty alteration, Article V stipulated that amendments to the Constitution be proposed either by two‑thirds of both houses of Congress or by two-thirds of the states, meeting in convention. The proposals were to be ratified by one of two methods: either by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states, or by convention in three-fourths of the states, with the Congress proposing the method to be used.

Finally, the convention faced the most important problem of all: How should the powers given to the new government be enforced? Under the Articles of Confederation, the national government had possessed – on paper – significant powers, which, in practice, had come to naught, for the states paid no attention to them. What was to save the new government from the same fate?

At the outset, most delegates furnished a single answer – the use of force.  But it was quickly seen that the application of force upon the states would destroy the Union. The decision was that the government should not act upon the states but upon the people within the states, and should legislate for and upon all the individual residents of the country. As the keystone of the Constitution, the convention adopted two brief but highly significant statements:

Congress shall have power … to make all Laws which shall be necessary and

proper for carrying into Execution the … Powers vested by this Constitution

in the Government of the United States. …

(Article I, Section 7)

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in

Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the

Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the

Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or

Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

(Article VI)

Thus the laws of the United States became enforceable in its own national courts, through its own judges and marshals, as well as in the state courts through the state judges and state law officers.

Debate continues to this day about the motives of those who wrote the Constitution. In 1913 historian Charles Beard, in An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, argued that the Founding Fathers represented emerging commercial-capitalist interests that needed a strong national government.  He also believed many may have been motivated by personal holdings of large amounts of depreciated government securities. However, James Madison, principal drafter of the Constitution, held no bonds and was a Virginia planter.  Conversely, some opponents of the Constitution owned large amounts of bonds and securities. Economic interests influenced the course of the debate, but so did state, sectional, and ideological interests. Equally important was the idealism of the framers. Products of the Enlightenment, the Founding Fathers designed a government that they believed would promote individual liberty and public virtue. The ideals embodied in the U.S. Constitution remain an essential element of the American national identity.

RATIFICATION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS

On September 17, 1787, after 16 weeks of deliberation, the finished Constitution was signed by 39 of the 42 delegates present. Franklin, pointing to the half‑sun painted in brilliant gold on the back of Washington’s chair, said:

I have often in the course of the session … looked at that [chair] behind

the president, without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting;

but now, at length, I have the happiness to know that it is a rising, and

not a setting, sun.

The convention was over; the members “adjourned to the City Tavern, dined together, and took a cordial leave of each other.” Yet a crucial part of the struggle for a more perfect union remained to be faced. The consent of popularly elected state conventions was still required before the document could become effective.

The convention had decided that the Constitution would take effect upon ratification by conventions in nine of the 13 states. By June 1788 the required nine states had ratified the Constitution, but the large states of Virginia and New York had not. Most people felt that without their support the Constitution would never be honored. To many, the document seemed full of dangers: Would not the strong central government that it established tyrannize them, oppress them with heavy taxes, and drag them into wars?

Differing views on these questions brought into existence two parties, the Federalists, who favored a strong central government, and the Antifederalists, who preferred a loose association of separate states.  Impassioned arguments on both sides were voiced by the press, the legislatures, and the state conventions.

In Virginia, the Antifederalists attacked the proposed new government by challenging the opening phrase of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States.” Without using the individual state names in the Constitution, the delegates argued, the states would not retain their separate rights or powers.  Virginia Antifederalists were led by Patrick Henry, who became the chief spokesman for back-country farmers who feared the powers of the new central government.  Wavering delegates were persuaded by a proposal that the Virginia convention recommend a bill of rights, and Antifederalists joined with the Federalists to ratify the Constitution on June 25.

In New York, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison pushed for the ratification of the Constitution in a series of essays known as The Federalist Papers. The essays, published in New York newspapers, provided a now-classic argument for a central federal government, with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches that checked and balanced one another. With The Federalist Papers influencing the New York delegates, the Constitution was ratified on July 26.

Antipathy toward a strong central government was only one concern among those opposed to the Constitution; of equal concern to many was the fear that the Constitution did not protect individual rights and freedoms sufficiently.  Virginian George Mason, author of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights of 1776, was one of three delegates to the Constitutional Convention who had refused to sign the final document because it did not enumerate individual rights. Together with Patrick Henry, he campaigned vigorously against ratification of the Constitution by Virginia. Indeed, five states, including Massachusetts, ratified the Constitution on the condition that such amendments be added immediately.

When the first Congress convened in New York City in September 1789, the calls for amendments protecting individual rights were virtually unanimous. Congress quickly adopted 12 such amendments; by December 1791, enough states had ratified 10 amendments to make them part of the Constitution. Collectively, they are known as the Bill of Rights. Among their provisions: freedom of speech, press, religion, and the right to assemble peacefully, protest, and demand changes (First Amendment); protection against unreasonable searches, seizures of property, and arrest (Fourth Amendment); due process of law in all criminal cases (Fifth Amendment); right to a fair and speedy trial (Sixth Amendment); protection against cruel and unusual punishment (Eighth Amendment); and provision that the people retain additional rights not listed in the Constitution (Ninth Amendment).

Since the adoption of the Bill of Rights, only 17 more amendments have been added to the Constitution. Although a number of the subsequent amendments revised the federal government’s structure and operations, most followed the precedent established by the Bill of Rights and expanded individual rights and freedoms.

PRESIDENT WASHINGTON

One of the last acts of the Congress of the Confederation was to arrange for the first presidential election, setting March 4, 1789, as the date that the new government would come into being. One name was on everyone’s lips for the new chief of state – George Washington.  He was unanimously chosen president and took the oath of office at his inauguration on April 30, 1789. In words spoken by every president since, Washington pledged to execute the duties of the presidency faithfully and, to the best of his ability, to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

When Washington took office, the new Constitution enjoyed neither tradition nor the full backing of organized public opinion.  The new government had to create its own machinery and legislate a system of taxation that would support it. Until a judiciary could be established, laws could not be enforced. The army was small. The navy had ceased to exist.

Congress quickly created the departments of State and Treasury, with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton as their respective secretaries.  Departments of War and Justice were also created.  Since Washington preferred to make decisions only after consulting those men whose judgment he valued, the American presidential Cabinet came into existence, consisting of the heads of all the departments that Congress might create. Simultaneously, Congress provided for a federal judiciary – a Supreme Court, with one chief justice and five associate justices, three circuit courts, and 13 district courts.

Meanwhile, the country was growing steadily and immigration from Europe was increasing. Americans were moving westward: New Englanders and Pennsylvanians into Ohio; Virginians and Carolinians into Kentucky and Tennessee. Good farms were to be had for small sums; labor was in strong demand. The rich valley stretches of upper New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia soon became great wheat-growing areas.

Although many items were still homemade, the Industrial Revolution was dawning in the United States. Massachusetts and Rhode Island were laying the foundation of important textile industries; Connecticut was beginning to turn out tinware and clocks; New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were producing paper, glass, and iron. Shipping had grown to such an extent that on the seas the United States was second only to Britain. Even before 1790, American ships were traveling to China to sell furs and bring back tea, spices, and silk.

At this critical juncture in the country’s growth, Washington’s wise leadership was crucial. He organized a national government, developed policies for settlement of territories previously held by Britain and Spain, stabilized the northwestern frontier, and oversaw the admission of three new states:  Vermont (1791), Kentucky (1792), and Tennessee (1796). Finally, in his Farewell Address, he warned the nation to “steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” This advice influenced American attitudes toward the rest of the world for generations to come.

HAMILTON VS. JEFFERSON

A conflict took shape in the 1790s between America’s first political parties. Indeed, the Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, and the Republicans (also called Democratic-Republicans), led by Thomas Jefferson, were the first political parties in the Western world.  Unlike loose political groupings in the British House of Commons or in the American colonies before the Revolution, both had reasonably consistent and principled platforms, relatively stable popular followings, and continuing organizations.

The Federalists in the main represented the interests of trade and manufacturing, which they saw as forces of progress in the world.  They believed these could be advanced only by a strong central government capable of establishing sound public credit and a stable currency.  Openly distrustful of the latent radicalism of the masses, they could nonetheless credibly appeal to workers and artisans.  Their political stronghold was in the New England states.  Seeing England as in many respects an example the United States should try to emulate, they favored good relations with their former mother country.

Although Alexander Hamilton was never able to muster the popular appeal to stand successfully for elective office, he was far and away the Federalists’ main generator of ideology and public policy.  He brought to public life a love of efficiency, order, and organization. In response to the call of the House of Representatives for a plan for the “adequate support of public credit,” he laid down and supported principles not only of the public economy, but of effective government. Hamilton pointed out that the United States must have credit for industrial development, commercial activity, and the operations of government, and that its obligations must have the complete faith and support of the people.

There were many who wished to repudiate the Confederation’s national debt or pay only part of it. Hamilton insisted upon full payment and also upon a plan by which the federal government took over the unpaid debts of the states incurred during the Revolution.  He also secured congressional legislation for a Bank of the United States.  Modeled after the Bank of England, it acted as the nation’s central financial institution and operated branches in different parts of the country. Hamilton sponsored a national mint, and argued in favor of tariffs, saying that temporary protection of new firms could help foster the development of  competitive national industries. These measures – placing the credit of the federal government on a firm foundation and giving it all the revenues it needed – encouraged commerce and industry, and created a solid phalanx of interests firmly behind the national government.

The Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, spoke primarily for agricultural interests and values.  They distrusted bankers, cared little for commerce and manufacturing, and believed that freedom and democracy flourished best in a rural society composed of self-sufficient farmers.  They felt little need for a strong central government; in fact, they tended to see it as a potential source of oppression.  Thus they favored states’ rights.  They were strongest in the South.

Hamilton’s great aim was more efficient organization, whereas Jefferson once said, “I am not a friend to a very energetic government.”  Hamilton feared anarchy and thought in terms of order; Jefferson feared tyranny and thought in terms of freedom.  Where Hamilton saw England as an example, Jefferson, who had been minister to France in the early stages of the French Revolution, looked to the overthrow of the French monarchy as vindication of the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment.  Against Hamilton’s instinctive conservatism, he projected an eloquent democratic radicalism.

An early clash between them, which occurred shortly after Jefferson took office as secretary of state, led to a new and profoundly important interpretation of the Constitution. When Hamilton introduced his bill to establish a national bank, Jefferson, speaking for those who believed in states’ rights, argued that the Constitution expressly enumerated all the powers belonging to the federal government and reserved all other powers to the states. Nowhere was the federal government empowered to set up a bank.

Hamilton responded that because of the mass of necessary detail, a vast body of powers had to be implied by general clauses, and one of these authorized Congress to “make all laws which shall be necessary and proper” for carrying out other powers specifically granted. The Constitution authorized the national government to levy and collect taxes, pay debts, and borrow money. A national bank would materially help in performing these functions efficiently. Congress, therefore, was entitled, under its implied powers, to create such a bank. Washington and the Congress accepted Hamilton’s view – and set an important precedent for an expansive interpretation of the federal government’s authority.

CITIZEN GENET AND FOREIGN POLICY

Although one of the first tasks of the new government was to strengthen the domestic economy and make the nation financially secure, the United States could not ignore foreign affairs. The cornerstones of Washington’s foreign policy were to preserve peace, to give the country time to recover from its wounds, and to permit the slow work of national integration to continue. Events in Europe threatened these goals. Many Americans watched the French Revolution with keen interest and sympathy.  In April 1793, news came that France had declared war on Great Britain and Spain, and that a new French envoy, Edmond Charles Genet – Citizen Genet – was coming to the United States.

When the revolution in France led to the execution of King Louis XVI in January 1793, Britain, Spain, and Holland became involved in war with France. According to the Franco-American Treaty of Alliance of 1778, the United States and France were perpetual allies, and the United States was obliged to help France defend the West Indies. However, the United States, militarily and economically a very weak country, was in no position to become involved in another war with major European powers.

On April 22, 1793, Washington effectively abrogated the terms of the 1778 treaty that had made American independence possible by proclaiming the United States to be “friendly and impartial toward the belligerent powers.” When Genet arrived, he was cheered by many citizens, but treated with cool formality by the government. Angered, he violated a promise not to outfit a captured British ship as a privateer (privately owned warships commissioned to prey on ships of enemy nations). Genet then threatened to take his cause directly to the American people, over the head of the government. Shortly afterward, the United States requested his recall by the French government.

The Genet incident strained American relations with France at a time when those with Great Britain were far from satisfactory. British troops still occupied forts in the West, property carried off by British soldiers during the Revolution had not been restored or paid for, and the British Navy was seizing American ships bound for French ports.  The two countries seemed to be drifting toward war.  Washington sent John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court, to London as a special envoy. Jay negotiated a treaty that secured withdrawal of British soldiers from western forts but allowed the British to continue the fur trade with the Indians in the Northwest.  London agreed to pay damages for American ships and cargoes seized in 1793 and 1794, but made no commitments on possible future seizures.  Moreover, the treaty failed to address the festering issue of British “impressment” of American sailors into the Royal Navy, placed severe limitations on American trade with the West Indies, and accepted the British view that food and naval stores, as well as war materiel, were contraband subject to seizure if bound for enemy ports on neutral ships.

American diplomat Charles Pinckney was more successful in dealing with Spain.  In 1795, he negotiated an important treaty settling the Florida border on American terms and giving Americans access to the port of New Orleans.  All the same, the Jay Treaty with the British reflected a continuing American weakness vis-a-vis a world superpower.  Deeply unpopular, it was vocally supported only by Federalists who valued cultural and economic ties with Britain.  Washington backed it as the best bargain available, and, after a heated debate, the Senate approved it.

Citizen Genet’s antics and Jay’s Treaty demonstrated both the difficulties faced by a small weak nation caught between two great powers and the wide gap in outlook between Federalists and Republicans.  To the Federalists, Republican backers of the increasingly violent and radical French Revolution were dangerous radicals (“Jacobins”); to the Republicans, advocates of amity with England were monarchists who would subvert the natural rights of Americans.  The Federalists connected virtue and national development with commerce; the Republicans saw America’s destiny as that of a vast agrarian republic.  The politics of their conflicting positions became increasingly vehement.

ADAMS AND JEFFERSON

Washington retired in 1797, firmly declining to serve for more than eight years as the nation’s head. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia (Republican) and John Adams (Federalist) vied to succeed him.  Adams won a narrow election victory.  From the beginning, however, he was at the head of a party and an administration divided between his backers and those of his rival, Hamilton.

Adams faced serious international difficulties.  France, angered by Jay’s treaty with Britain, adopted its definition of contraband and began to seize American ships headed for Britain.  By 1797 France had snatched 300 American ships and broken off diplomatic relations with the United States. When Adams sent three commissioners to Paris to negotiate, agents of Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (whom Adams labeled X, Y, and Z in his report to Congress) informed the Americans that negotiations could only begin if the United States loaned France $12 million and bribed officials of the French government. American hostility to France rose to an excited pitch. The so-called XYZ Affair led to the enlistment of troops and the strengthening of the fledgling U.S. Navy.

In 1799, after a series of sea battles with the French, war seemed inevitable.  In this crisis, Adams rejected the guidance of Hamilton, who wanted war, and reopened negotiations with France. Napoleon, who had just come to power, received them cordially.  The danger of conflict subsided with the negotiation of the Convention of 1800, which formally released the United States from its 1778 defense alliance with France. However, reflecting American weakness, France refused to pay $20 million in compensation for American ships taken by the French Navy.

Hostility to France had led Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition Acts, which had severe repercussions for American civil liberties. The Naturalization Act, which changed the requirement for citizenship from five to 14 years, was targeted at Irish and French immigrants suspected of supporting the Republicans. The Alien Act, operative for two years only, gave the president the power to expel or imprison aliens in time of war. The Sedition Act proscribed writing, speaking, or publishing anything of “a false, scandalous, and malicious” nature against the president or Congress. The few convictions won under it created martyrs to the cause of civil liberties and aroused support for the Republicans.

The acts met with resistance. Jefferson and Madison sponsored the passage of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions by the legislatures of these two states in November and December 1798. Extreme declaration of states’ rights, the resolutions asserted that states could “interpose” their views on federal actions and “nullify” them. The doctrine of nullification would be used later for the Southern states’ resistance to protective tariffs, and, more ominously, slavery.

By 1800 the American people were ready for a change. Under Washington and Adams, the Federalists had established a strong government, but sometimes failing to honor the principle that the American government must be responsive to the will of the people, they had followed policies that alienated large groups. For example, in 1798 they had enacted a tax on houses, land, and slaves, affecting every property owner in the country.

Jefferson had steadily gathered behind him a great mass of small farmers, shopkeepers, and other workers.  He won a close victory in a contested election.  Jefferson enjoyed extraordinary favor because of his appeal to American idealism. In his inaugural address, the first such speech in the new capital of Washington, D.C., he promised “a wise and frugal government” that would preserve order among the inhabitants but leave people “otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry, and improvement.”

Jefferson’s mere presence in the White House encouraged democratic procedures.  He preached and practiced democratic simplicity, eschewing much of the pomp and ceremony of the presidency.  In line with Republican ideology, he sharply cut military expenditures.  Believing America to be a haven for the oppressed, he secured a liberal naturalization law. By the end of his second term, his far-sighted secretary of the treasury, Albert Gallatin, had reduced the national debt to less than $560 million.  Widely popular, Jefferson won reelection as president easily.

LOUISIANA AND BRITAIN

One of Jefferson’s acts doubled the area of the country. At the end of the Seven Years’ War, France had ceded its territory west of the Mississippi River to Spain.  Access to the port of New Orleans near its mouth was vital for the shipment of American products from the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys. Shortly after Jefferson became president, Napoleon forced a weak Spanish government to cede this great tract, the Louisiana Territory, back to France. The move filled Americans with apprehension and indignation.  French plans for a huge colonial empire just west of the United States seriously threatened the future development of the United States.  Jefferson asserted that if France took possession of Louisiana, “from that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation.”

Napoleon, however, lost interest after the French were expelled from Haiti by a slave revolt.  Knowing that another war with Great Britain was impending, he resolved to fill his treasury and put Louisiana beyond the reach of Britain by selling it to the United States. His offer presented Jefferson with a dilemma: The Constitution conferred no explicit power to purchase territory. At first the president wanted to propose an amendment, but delay might lead Napoleon to change his mind.  Advised that the power to purchase territory was inherent in the power to make treaties, Jefferson relented, saying that “the good sense of our country will correct the evil of loose construction when it shall produce ill effects.”

The United States obtained the “Louisiana Purchase” for $15 million in 1803.  It contained more than 2,600,000 square kilometers as well as the port of New Orleans. The nation had gained a sweep of rich plains, mountains, forests, and river systems that within 80 years would become its heartland – and a breadbasket for the world.

As Jefferson began his second term in 1805, he declared American neutrality in the struggle between Great Britain and France. Although both sides sought to restrict neutral shipping to the other, British control of the seas made its interdiction and seizure much more serious than any actions by Napoleonic France. British naval commanders routinely searched American ships, seized vessels and cargoes, and took off sailors believed to be British subjects. They also frequently impressed American seamen into their service.

When Jefferson issued a proclamation ordering British warships to leave U.S. territorial waters, the British reacted by impressing more sailors.  Jefferson then decided to rely on economic pressure; in December 1807 Congress passed the Embargo Act, forbidding all foreign commerce. Ironically, the law required strong police authority that vastly increased the powers of the national government. Economically, it was disastrous.  In a single year American exports fell to one-fifth of their former volume. Shipping interests were almost ruined by the measure; discontent rose in New England and New York. Agricultural interests suffered heavily also.  Prices dropped drastically when the Southern and Western farmers could not export their surplus grain, cotton, meat, and tobacco.

The embargo failed to starve Great Britain into a change of policy.  As the grumbling at home increased, Jefferson turned to a milder measure, which partially conciliated domestic shipping interests. In early 1809 he signed the Non-Intercourse Act permitting commerce with all countries except Britain or France and their dependencies.

James Madison succeeded Jefferson as president in 1809.  Relations with Great Britain grew worse, and the two countries moved rapidly toward war. The president laid before Congress a detailed report, showing several thousand instances in which the British had impressed American citizens. In addition, northwestern settlers had suffered from attacks by Indians whom they believed had been incited by British agents in Canada. In turn, many Americans favored conquest of Canada and the elimination of British influence in North America, as well as vengeance for impressment and commercial repression.  By 1812, war fervor was dominant.  On June 18, the United States declared war on Britain.

THE WAR OF 1812

The nation went to war bitterly divided.  While the South and West favored the conflict, New York and New England opposed it because it interfered with their commerce. The U.S. military was weak.  The army had fewer than 7,000 regular soldiers, distributed in widely scattered posts along the coast, near the Canadian border, and in the remote interior. The state militias were poorly trained and undisciplined.

Hostilities began with an invasion of Canada, which, if properly timed and executed, would have brought united action against Montreal. Instead, the entire campaign miscarried and ended with the British occupation of Detroit. The U.S. Navy, however, scored successes.  In addition, American privateers, swarming the Atlantic, captured 500 British vessels during the fall and winter months of 1812 and 1813.

The campaign of 1813 centered on Lake Erie. General William Henry Harrison – who would later become president – led an army of militia, volunteers, and regulars from Kentucky with the object of reconquering Detroit. On September 12, while he was still in upper Ohio, news reached him that Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry had annihilated the British fleet on Lake Erie. Harrison occupied Detroit and pushed into Canada, defeating the fleeing British and their Indian allies on the Thames River. The entire region now came under American control.

A year later Commodore Thomas Macdonough won a point-blank gun duel with a British flotilla on Lake Champlain in upper New York. Deprived of naval support, a British invasion force of 10,000 men retreated to Canada. Nevertheless, the British fleet harassed the Eastern seaboard with orders to “destroy and lay waste.” On the night of August 24, 1814, an expeditionary force routed American militia, marched to Washington, D.C., and left the city in flames. President James Madison fled to Virginia.

British and American negotiators conducted talks in Europe.  The British envoys decided to concede, however, when they learned of Macdonough’s victory on Lake Champlain. Faced with the depletion of the British treasury due in large part to the heavy costs of the Napoleonic Wars, the negotiators for Great Britain accepted the Treaty of Ghent in December 1814. It provided for the cessation of hostilities, the restoration of conquests, and a commission to settle boundary disputes. Unaware that a peace treaty had been signed, the two sides continued fighting into 1815 near New Orleans, Louisiana. Led by General Andrew Jackson, the United States scored the greatest land victory of the war, ending for once and for all any British hopes of reestablishing continental influence south of the Canadian border.

While the British and Americans were negotiating a settlement, Federalist delegates selected by the legislatures of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire gathered in Hartford, Connecticut to express opposition to “Mr. Madison’s war.” New England had managed to trade with the enemy throughout the conflict, and some areas actually prospered from this commerce. Nevertheless, the Federalists claimed that the war was ruining the economy.  With a possibility of secession from the Union in the background, the convention proposed a series of constitutional amendments that would protect New England interests.  Instead, the end of the war, punctuated by the smashing victory at New Orleans, stamped the Federalists with a stigma of disloyalty from which they never recovered.

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The Road to Independence : Rebellion that made a new nation

The Road to Independence

Rebellion that made a new nation

The protest against British taxes known as the

The protest against British taxes known as the “Boston Tea Party,” 1773. (Library of Congress)

(The following article is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Outline of American History.)

“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people.”
– Former President John Adams, 1818

Throughout the 18th century, the maturing British North American colonies inevitably forged a distinct identity.  They grew vastly in economic strength and cultural attainment; virtually all had long years of self-government behind them. In the 1760s their combined population exceeded 1,500,000 – a six-fold increase since 1700. Nonetheless, England and America did not begin an overt parting of the ways until 1763, more than a century and a half after the founding of the first permanent settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.

A NEW COLONIAL SYSTEM

In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, London saw a need for a new imperial design that would involve more centralized control, spread the costs of empire more equitably, and speak to the interests of both French Canadians and North American Indians.  The colonies, on the other hand, long accustomed to a large measure of independence, expected more, not less, freedom.  And, with the French menace eliminated, they felt far less need for a strong British presence.  A scarcely comprehending Crown and Parliament on the other side of the Atlantic found itself contending with colonists trained in self‑government and impatient with interference.

The organization of Canada and of the Ohio Valley necessitated policies that would not alienate the French and Indian inhabitants. Here London was in fundamental conflict with the interests of the colonies. Fast increasing in population, and needing more land for settlement, they claimed the right to extend their boundaries as far west as the Mississippi River.

The British government, fearing a series of Indian wars, believed that the lands should be opened on a more gradual basis. Restricting movement was also a way of ensuring royal control over existing settlements before allowing the formation of new ones. The Royal Proclamation of 1763 reserved all the western territory between the Allegheny Mountains, Florida, the Mississippi River, and Quebec for use by Native Americans. Thus the Crown attempted to sweep away every western land claim of the 13 colonies and to stop westward expansion. Although never effectively enforced, this measure, in the eyes of the colonists, constituted a high-handed disregard of their fundamental right to occupy and settle western lands.

More serious in its repercussions was the new British revenue policy.  London needed more money to support its growing empire and faced growing taxpayer discontent at home. It seemed reasonable enough that the colonies should pay for their own defense.  That would involve new taxes, levied by Parliament – at the expense of colonial self-government.

The first step was the replacement of the Molasses Act of 1733, which placed a prohibitive duty, or tax, on the import of rum and molasses from non-English areas, with the Sugar Act of 1764. This act outlawed the importation of foreign rum; it also put a modest duty on molasses from all sources and levied taxes on wines, silks, coffee, and a number of other luxury items. The hope was that lowering the duty on molasses would reduce the temptation to smuggle the commodity from the Dutch and French West Indies for the rum distilleries of New England.  The British government enforced the Sugar Act energetically.  Customs officials were ordered to show more effectiveness. British warships in American waters were instructed to seize smugglers, and “writs of assistance,” or warrants, authorized the king’s officers to search suspected premises.

Both the duty imposed by the Sugar Act and the measures to enforce it caused consternation among New England merchants. They contended that payment of even the small duty imposed would be ruinous to their businesses. Merchants, legislatures, and town meetings protested the law.  Colonial lawyers protested “taxation without representation,” a slogan that was to persuade many Americans they were being oppressed by the mother country.

Later in 1764, Parliament enacted a Currency Act “to prevent paper bills of credit hereafter issued in any of His Majesty’s colonies from being made legal tender.” Since the colonies were a deficit trade area and were constantly short of hard currency, this measure added a serious burden to the colonial economy. Equally objectionable from the colonial viewpoint was the Quartering Act, passed in 1765, which required colonies to provide royal troops with provisions and barracks.

THE STAMP ACT

A general tax measure sparked the greatest organized resistance. Known as the “Stamp Act,” it required all newspapers, broadsides, pamphlets, licenses, leases, and other legal documents to bear revenue stamps.  The proceeds, collected by American customs agents, would be used for “defending, protecting, and securing” the colonies.

Bearing equally on people who did any kind of business, the Stamp Act aroused the hostility of the most powerful and articulate groups in the American population: journalists, lawyers, clergymen, merchants and businessmen, North and South, East and West.  Leading merchants organized for resistance and formed nonimportation associations.

Trade with the mother country fell off sharply in the summer of 1765, as prominent men organized themselves into the “Sons of Liberty” – secret organizations formed to protest the Stamp Act, often through violent means.  From Massachusetts to South Carolina, mobs, forcing luckless customs agents to resign their offices, destroyed the hated stamps.  Militant resistance effectively nullified the Act.

Spurred by delegate Patrick Henry, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a set of resolutions in May denouncing taxation without representation as a threat to colonial liberties.  It asserted that Virginians, enjoying the rights of Englishmen, could be taxed only by their own representatives.  The Massachusetts Assembly invited all the colonies to appoint delegates to a “Stamp Act Congress” in New York, held in October 1765, to consider appeals for relief to the Crown and Parliament. Twenty-seven representatives from nine colonies seized the opportunity to mobilize colonial opinion.  After much debate, the congress adopted a set of resolutions asserting that “no taxes ever have been or can be constitutionally imposed on them, but by their respective legislatures,” and that the Stamp Act had a “manifest tendency to subvert the rights and liberties of the colonists.”

TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION

The issue thus drawn centered on the question of representation. The colonists believed they could not be represented in Parliament unless they actually elected members to the House of Commons.  But this idea conflicted with the English principle of “virtual representation,” according to which each member of Parliament represented the interests of the whole country and the empire – even if his electoral base consisted of only a tiny minority of property owners from a given district.  This theory assumed that all British subjects shared the same interests as the property owners who elected members of Parliament.

The American leaders argued that their only legal relations were with the Crown. It was the king who had agreed to establish colonies beyond the sea and the king who provided them with governments. They asserted that he was equally a king of England and a king of the colonies, but they insisted that the English Parliament had no more right to pass laws for the colonies than any colonial legislature had the right to pass laws for England.  In fact, however, their struggle was equally with King George III and Parliament.  Factions aligned with the Crown generally controlled Parliament and reflected the king’s determination to be a strong monarch.

The British Parliament rejected the colonial contentions.  British merchants, however, feeling the effects of the American boycott, threw their weight behind a repeal movement.  In 1766 Parliament yielded, repealing the Stamp Act and modifying the Sugar Act. However, to mollify the supporters of central control over the colonies, Parliament followed these actions with passage of the Declaratory Act, which asserted the authority of Parliament to make laws binding the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”  The colonists had won only a temporary respite from an impending crisis.

THE TOWNSHEND ACTS

The year 1767 brought another series of measures that stirred anew all the elements of discord. Charles Townshend, British chancellor of the exchequer, attempted a new fiscal program in the face of continued discontent over high taxes at home. Intent upon reducing British taxes by making more efficient the collection of duties levied on American trade, he tightened customs administration and enacted duties on colonial imports of paper, glass, lead, and tea from Britain.  The “Townshend Acts” were based on the premise that taxes imposed on goods imported by the colonies were legal while internal taxes (like the Stamp Act) were not.

The Townshend Acts were designed to raise revenue that would be used in part to support colonial officials and maintain the British army in America. In response, Philadelphia lawyer John Dickinson, in Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer, argued that Parliament had the right to control imperial commerce but did not have the right to tax the colonies, whether the duties were external or internal.

The agitation following enactment of the Townshend duties was less violent than that stirred by the Stamp Act, but it was nevertheless strong, particularly in the cities of the Eastern seaboard. Merchants once again resorted to non-importation agreements, and people made do with local products. Colonists, for example, dressed in homespun clothing and found substitutes for tea. They used homemade paper and their houses went unpainted. In Boston, enforcement of the new regulations provoked violence. When customs officials sought to collect duties, they were set upon by the populace and roughly handled. For this infraction, two British regiments were dispatched to protect the customs commissioners.

The presence of British troops in Boston was a standing invitation to disorder. On March 5, 1770, antagonism between citizens and British soldiers again flared into violence. What began as a harmless snowballing of British soldiers degenerated into a mob attack.  Someone gave the order to fire. When the smoke had cleared, three Bostonians lay dead in the snow. Dubbed the “Boston Massacre,” the incident was dramatically pictured as proof of British heartlessness and tyranny.

Faced with such opposition, Parliament in 1770 opted for a strategic retreat and repealed all the Townshend duties except that on tea, which was a luxury item in the colonies, imbibed only by a very small minority. To most, the action of Parliament signified that the colonists had won a major concession, and the campaign against England was largely dropped. A colonial embargo on “English tea” continued but was not too scrupulously observed. Prosperity was increasing and most colonial leaders were willing to let the future take care of itself.

SAMUEL ADAMS

During a three-year interval of calm, a relatively small number of radicals strove energetically to keep the controversy alive.  They contended that payment of the tax constituted an acceptance of the principle that Parliament had the right to rule over the colonies. They feared that at any time in the future, the principle of parliamentary rule might be applied with devastating effect on all colonial liberties.

The radicals’ most effective leader was Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, who toiled tirelessly for a single end: independence. From the time he graduated from Harvard College in 1743, Adams was a public servant in some capacity – inspector of chimneys, tax-collector, and moderator of town meetings. A consistent failure in business, he was shrewd and able in politics, with the New England town meeting his theater of action.

Adams wanted to free people from their awe of social and political superiors, make them aware of their own power and importance, and thus arouse them to action. Toward these objectives, he published articles in newspapers and made speeches in town meetings, instigating resolutions that appealed to the colonists’ democratic impulses.

In 1772 he induced the Boston town meeting to select a “Committee of Correspondence” to state the rights and grievances of the colonists. The committee opposed a British decision to pay the salaries of judges from customs revenues; it feared that the judges would no longer be dependent on the legislature for their incomes and thus no longer accountable to it, thereby leading to the emergence of “a despotic form of government.” The committee communicated with other towns on this matter and requested them to draft replies. Committees were set up in virtually all the colonies, and out of them grew a base of effective revolutionary organizations. Still, Adams did not have enough fuel to set a fire.

THE BOSTON “TEA PARTY”

In 1773, however, Britain furnished Adams and his allies with an incendiary issue. The powerful East India Company, finding itself in critical financial straits, appealed to the British government, which granted it a monopoly on all tea exported to the colonies. The government also permitted the East India Company to supply retailers directly, bypassing colonial wholesalers.  By then, most of the tea consumed in America was imported illegally, duty-free. By selling its tea through its own agents at a price well under the customary one, the East India Company made smuggling unprofitable and threatened to eliminate the independent colonial merchants.  Aroused not only by the loss of the tea trade but also by the monopolistic practice involved, colonial traders joined the radicals agitating for independence.

In ports up and down the Atlantic coast, agents of the East India Company were forced to resign.  New shipments of tea were either returned to England or warehoused.  In Boston, however, the agents defied the colonists; with the support of the royal governor, they made preparations to land incoming cargoes regardless of opposition. On the night of December 16, 1773, a band of men disguised as Mohawk Indians and led by Samuel Adams boarded three British ships lying at anchor and dumped their tea cargo into Boston harbor.  Doubting their countrymen’s commitment to principle, they feared that if the tea were landed, colonists would actually purchase the tea and pay the tax.

A crisis now confronted Britain. The East India Company had carried out a parliamentary statute.  If the destruction of the tea went unpunished, Parliament would admit to the world that it had no control over the colonies.  Official opinion in Britain almost unanimously condemned the Boston Tea Party as an act of vandalism and advocated legal measures to bring the insurgent colonists into line.

THE COERCIVE ACTS

Parliament responded with new laws that the colonists called the “Coercive” or “Intolerable Acts.” The first, the Boston Port Bill, closed the port of Boston until the tea was paid for.  The action threatened the very life of the city, for to prevent Boston from having access to the sea meant economic disaster. Other enactments restricted local authority and banned most town meetings held without the governor’s consent. A Quartering Act required local authorities to find suitable quarters for British troops, in private homes if necessary. Instead of subduing and isolating Massachusetts, as Parliament intended, these acts rallied its sister colonies to its aid.  The Quebec Act, passed at nearly the same time, extended the boundaries of the province of Quebec south to the Ohio River.  In conformity with previous French practice, it provided for trials without jury, did not establish a representative assembly, and gave the Catholic Church semi-established status.  By disregarding old charter claims to western lands, it threatened to block colonial expansion to the North and Northwest; its recognition of the Roman Catholic Church outraged the Protestant sects that dominated every colony.  Though the Quebec Act had not been passed as a punitive measure, Americans associated it with the Coercive Acts, and all became known as the “Five Intolerable Acts.”

At the suggestion of the Virginia House of Burgesses, colonial representatives met in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774, “to consult upon the present unhappy state of the Colonies.” Delegates to this meeting, known as the First Continental Congress, were chosen by provincial congresses or popular conventions.  Only Georgia failed to send a delegate; the total number of 55 was large enough for diversity of opinion, but small enough for genuine debate and effective action. The division of opinion in the colonies posed a genuine dilemma for the delegates. They would have to give an appearance of firm unanimity to induce the British government to make concessions.  But they also would have to avoid any show of radicalism or spirit of independence that would alarm more moderate Americans.

A cautious keynote speech, followed by a “resolve” that no obedience was due the Coercive Acts, ended with adoption of a set of resolutions affirming the right of the colonists to “life, liberty, and property,” and the right of provincial legislatures to set “all cases of taxation and internal polity.”  The most important action taken by the Congress, however, was the formation of a “Continental Association” to reestablish the trade boycott.  It set up a system of committees to inspect customs entries, publish the names of merchants who violated the agreements, confiscate their imports, and encourage frugality, economy, and industry.

The Continental Association immediately assumed the leadership in the colonies, spurring new local organizations to end what remained of royal authority. Led by the pro-independence leaders, they drew their support not only from the less well-to-do, but from many members of the professional class (especially lawyers), most of the planters of the Southern colonies, and a number of merchants. They intimidated the hesitant into joining the popular movement and punished the hostile; began the collection of military supplies and the mobilization of troops; and fanned public opinion into revolutionary ardor.

Many of those opposed to British encroachment on American rights nonetheless favored discussion and compromise as the proper solution. This group included Crown-appointed officers, Quakers and members of other religious sects opposed to the use of violence, numerous merchants (especially in the middle colonies), and some discontented farmers and frontiersmen in the Southern colonies.

The king might well have effected an alliance with these moderates and, by timely concessions, so strengthened their position that the revolutionaries would have found it difficult to proceed with hostilities. But George III had no intention of making concessions. In September 1774, scorning a petition by Philadelphia Quakers, he wrote, “The die is now cast, the Colonies must either submit or triumph.” This action isolated Loyalists who were appalled and frightened by the course of events following the Coercive Acts.

THE REVOLUTION BEGINS

General Thomas Gage, an amiable English gentleman with an American-born wife, commanded the garrison at Boston, where political activity had almost wholly replaced trade. Gage’s main duty in the colonies had been to enforce the Coercive Acts. When news reached him that the Massachusetts colonists were collecting powder and military stores at the town of Concord, 32 kilometers away, Gage sent a strong detail to confiscate these munitions.

After a night of marching, the British troops reached the village of Lexington on April 19, 1775, and saw a grim band of 77 Minutemen – so named because they were said to be ready to fight in a minute – through the early morning mist. The Minutemen intended only a silent protest, but Marine Major John Pitcairn, the leader of the British troops, yelled, “Disperse, you damned rebels! You dogs, run!” The leader of the Minutemen, Captain John Parker, told his troops not to fire unless fired at first. The Americans were withdrawing when someone fired a shot, which led the British troops to fire at the Minutemen. The British then charged with bayonets, leaving eight dead and 10 wounded.  In the often-quoted phrase of 19th century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, this was “the shot heard round the world.”

The British pushed on to Concord.  The Americans had taken away most of the munitions, but they destroyed whatever was left.  In the meantime, American forces in the countryside had mobilized to harass the British on their long return to Boston. All along the road, behind stone walls, hillocks, and houses, militiamen from “every Middlesex village and farm” made targets of the bright red coats of the British soldiers.  By the time Gage’s weary detachment stumbled into Boston, it had suffered more than 250 killed and wounded. The Americans lost 93 men.

The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 10.  The Congress voted to go to war, inducting the colonial militias into continental service.  It appointed Colonel George Washington of Virginia as their commander-in-chief on June 15.  Within two days, the Americans had incurred high casualties at Bunker Hill just outside Boston. Congress also ordered American expeditions to march northward into Canada by fall.  Capturing Montreal, they failed in a winter assault on Quebec, and eventually retreated to New York.

Despite the outbreak of armed conflict, the idea of complete separation from England was still repugnant to many members of the Continental Congress. In July, it adopted the Olive Branch Petition, begging the king to prevent further hostile actions until some sort of agreement could be worked out.  King George rejected it; instead, on August 23, 1775, he issued a proclamation declaring the colonies to be in a state of rebellion.

Britain had expected the Southern colonies to remain loyal, in part because of their reliance on slavery. Many in the Southern colonies feared that a rebellion against the mother country would also trigger a slave uprising.  In November 1775, Lord Dunmore, the governor of Virginia, tried to capitalize on that fear by offering freedom to all slaves who would fight for the British.  Instead, his proclamation drove to the rebel side many Virginians who would otherwise have remained Loyalist.

The governor of North Carolina, Josiah Martin, also urged North Carolinians to remain loyal to the Crown. When 1,500 men answered Martin’s call, they were defeated by revolutionary armies before British troops could arrive to help.

British warships continued down the coast to Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire on the city in early June 1776. But South Carolinians had time to prepare, and repulsed the British by the end of the month. They would not return South for more than two years.

COMMON SENSE AND INDEPENDENCE

In January 1776, Thomas Paine, a radical political theorist and writer who had come to America from England in 1774, published a 50-page pamphlet, Common Sense.  Within three months, it sold 100,000 copies.  Paine attacked the idea of a hereditary monarchy, declaring that one honest man was worth more to society than “all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” He presented the alternatives – continued submission to a tyrannical king and an outworn government, or liberty and happiness as a self-sufficient, independent republic. Circulated throughout the colonies, Common Sense helped to crystallize a decision for separation.

There still remained the task, however, of gaining each colony’s approval of a formal declaration. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced a resolution in the Second Continental Congress, declaring, “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states. …” Immediately, a committee of five, headed by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, was appointed to draft a document for a vote.

Largely Jefferson’s work, the Declaration of Independence, adopted July 4, 1776, not only announced the birth of a new nation, but also set forth a philosophy of human freedom that would become a dynamic force throughout the entire world. The Declaration drew upon French and English Enlightenment political philosophy, but one influence in particular stands out: John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. Locke took conceptions of the traditional rights of Englishmen and universalized them into the natural rights of all humankind. The Declaration’s familiar opening passage echoes Locke’s social-contract theory of government:

We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that
among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure
these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just
powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People
to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its
foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to
them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jefferson linked Locke’s principles directly to the situation in the colonies. To fight for American independence was to fight for a government based on popular consent in place of a government by a king who had “combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws. …” Only a government based on popular consent could secure natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Thus, to fight for American independence was to fight on behalf of one’s own natural rights.

DEFEATS AND VICTORIES

Although the Americans suffered severe setbacks for months after independence was declared, their tenacity and perseverance eventually paid off.  During August 1776, in the Battle of Long Island in New York, Washington’s position became untenable, and he executed a masterly retreat in small boats from Brooklyn to the Manhattan shore. British General William Howe twice hesitated and allowed the Americans to escape. By November, however, Howe had captured Fort Washington on Manhattan Island. New York City would remain under British control until the end of the war.

That December, Washington’s forces were near collapse, as supplies and promised aid failed to materialize.  Howe again missed his chance to crush the Americans by deciding to wait until spring to resume fighting.  On Christmas Day, December 25, 1776, Washington crossed the Delaware River, north of Trenton, New Jersey.  In the early-morning hours of December 26, his troops surprised the British garrison there, taking more than 900 prisoners. A week later, on January 3, 1777, Washington attacked the British at Princeton, regaining most of the territory formally occupied by the British. The victories at Trenton and Princeton revived flagging American spirits.

In September 1777, however, Howe defeated the American army at Brandywine in Pennsylvania and occupied Philadelphia, forcing the Continental Congress to flee. Washington had to endure the bitterly cold winter of 1777‑1778 at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, lacking adequate food, clothing, and supplies.  Farmers and merchants exchanged their goods for British gold and silver rather than for dubious paper money issued by the Continental Congress and the states.

Valley Forge was the lowest ebb for Washington’s Continental Army, but elsewhere 1777 proved to be the turning point in the war. British General John Burgoyne, moving south from Canada, attempted to invade New York and New England via Lake Champlain and the Hudson River.  He had too much heavy equipment to negotiate the wooded and marshy terrain. On August 6, at Oriskany, New York, a band of Loyalists and Native Americans under Burgoyne’s command ran into a mobile and seasoned American force that managed to halt their advance. A few days later at Bennington, Vermont, more of Burgoyne’s forces, seeking much-needed supplies, were pushed back by American troops.

Moving to the west side of the Hudson River, Burgoyne’s army advanced on Albany.  The Americans were waiting for him. Led by Benedict Arnold – who would later betray the Americans at West Point, New York – the colonials twice repulsed the British.  Having by this time incurred heavy losses, Burgoyne fell back to Saratoga, New York, where a vastly superior American force under General Horatio Gates surrounded the British troops. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered his entire army – six generals, 300 other officers, and 5,500 enlisted personnel.

FRANCO-AMERICAN ALLIANCE

In France, enthusiasm for the American cause was high: The French intellectual world was itself stirring against feudalism and privilege. However, the Crown lent its support to the colonies for geopolitical rather than ideological reasons: The French government had been eager for reprisal against Britain ever since France’s defeat in 1763. To further the American cause, Benjamin Franklin was sent to Paris in 1776. His wit, guile, and intellect soon made their presence felt in the French capital, and played a major role in winning French assistance.

France began providing aid to the colonies in May 1776, when it sent 14 ships with war supplies to America. In fact, most of the gunpowder used by the American armies came from France. After Britain’s defeat at Saratoga, France saw an opportunity to seriously weaken its ancient enemy and restore the balance of power that had been upset by the Seven Years’ War (called the French and Indian War in the American colonies). On February 6, 1778, the colonies and France signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce, in which France recognized the United States and offered trade concessions.  They also signed a Treaty of Alliance, which stipulated that if France entered the war, neither country would lay down its arms until the colonies won their independence, that neither would conclude peace with Britain without the consent of the other, and that each guaranteed the other’s possessions in America. This was the only bilateral defense treaty signed by the United States or its predecessors until 1949.

The Franco-American alliance soon broadened the conflict. In June 1778 British ships fired on French vessels, and the two countries went to war. In 1779 Spain, hoping to reacquire territories taken by Britain in the Seven Years’ War, entered the conflict on the side of France, but not as an ally of the Americans. In 1780 Britain declared war on the Dutch, who had continued to trade with the Americans. The combination of these European powers, with France in the lead, was a far greater threat to Britain than the American colonies standing alone.

THE BRITISH MOVE SOUTH

With the French now involved, the British, still believing that most Southerners were Loyalists, stepped up their efforts in the Southern colonies. A campaign began in late 1778, with the capture of Savannah, Georgia. Shortly thereafter, British troops and naval forces converged on Charleston, South Carolina, the principal Southern port. They managed to bottle up American forces on the Charleston peninsula. On May 12, 1780, General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered the city and its 5,000 troops, in the greatest American defeat of the war.

But the reversal in fortune only emboldened the American rebels.  South Carolinians began roaming the countryside, attacking British supply lines. In July, American General Horatio Gates, who had assembled a replacement force of untrained militiamen, rushed to Camden, South Carolina, to confront British forces led by General Charles Cornwallis. But Gates’s makeshift army panicked and ran when confronted by the British regulars. Cornwallis’s troops met the Americans several more times, but the most significant battle took place at Cowpens, South Carolina, in early 1781, where the Americans soundly defeated the British. After an exhausting but unproductive chase through North Carolina, Cornwallis set his sights on Virginia.

VICTORY AND INDEPENDENCE

In July 1780 France’s King Louis XVI had sent to America an expeditionary force of 6,000 men under the Comte Jean de Rochambeau.  In addition, the French fleet harassed British shipping and blocked reinforcement and resupply of British forces in Virginia.  French and American armies and navies, totaling 18,000 men, parried with Cornwallis all through the summer and into the fall. Finally, on October 19, 1781, after being trapped at Yorktown near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Cornwallis surrendered his army of 8,000 British soldiers.

Although Cornwallis’s defeat did not immediately end the war – which would drag on inconclusively for almost two more years – a new British government decided to pursue peace negotiations in Paris in early 1782, with the American side represented by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay. On April 15, 1783, Congress approved the final treaty.  Signed on September 3, the Treaty of Paris acknowledged the independence, freedom, and sovereignty of the 13 former colonies, now states.  The new United States stretched west to the Mississippi River, north to Canada, and south to Florida, which was returned to Spain. The fledgling colonies that Richard Henry Lee had spoken of more than seven years before had finally become “free and independent states.”

The task of knitting together a nation remained.

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The Colonial Period : Culture and society in the 13 British colonies

The Colonial Period

Culture and society in the 13 British colonies

Pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact=

Pilgrims signing the Mayflower Compact aboard ship, 1620. (Library of Congress)

“What then is the American, this new man?”
American author and agriculturist J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, 1782

NEW PEOPLES

Most settlers who came to America in the 17th century were English, but there were also Dutch, Swedes, and Germans in the middle region, a few French Huguenots in South Carolina and elsewhere, slaves from Africa, primarily in the South, and a scattering of Spaniards, Italians, and Portuguese throughout the colonies.  After 1680 England ceased to be the chief source of immigration, supplanted by Scots and “Scots-Irish” (Protestants from Northern Ireland).  In addition, tens of thousands of refugees fled northwestern Europe to escape war, oppression, and absentee-landlordism.  By 1690 the American population had risen to a quarter of a million. From then on, it doubled every 25 years until, in 1775, it numbered more than 2.5 million.  Although families occasionally moved from one colony to another, distinctions between individual colonies were marked. They were even more so among the three regional groupings of colonies.

NEW ENGLAND

The northeastern New England colonies had generally thin, stony soil, relatively little level land, and long winters, making it difficult to make a living from farming.  Turning to other pursuits, the New Englanders harnessed waterpower and established grain mills and sawmills. Good stands of timber encouraged shipbuilding. Excellent harbors promoted trade, and the sea became a source of great wealth. In Massachusetts, the cod industry alone quickly furnished a basis for prosperity.

With the bulk of the early settlers living in villages and towns around the harbors, many New Englanders carried on some kind of trade or business. Common pastureland and woodlots served the needs of townspeople, who worked small farms nearby. Compactness made possible the village school, the village church, and the village or town hall, where citizens met to discuss matters of common interest.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony continued to expand its commerce. From the middle of the 17th century onward it grew prosperous, so that Boston became one of America’s greatest ports.

Oak timber for ships’ hulls, tall pines for spars and masts, and pitch for the seams of ships came from the Northeastern forests. Building their own vessels and sailing them to ports all over the world, the shipmasters of Massachusetts Bay laid the foundation for a trade that was to grow steadily in importance.  By the end of the colonial period, one-third of all vessels under the British flag were built in New England. Fish, ship’s stores, and woodenware swelled the exports.  New England merchants and shippers soon discovered that rum and slaves were profitable commodities. One of their most enterprising – if unsavory – trading practices of the time was the “triangular trade.”  Traders would   purchase slaves off the coast of Africa for New England rum, then sell the slaves in the West Indies where they would buy molasses to bring home for sale to the local rum producers.

THE MIDDLE COLONIES

Society in the middle colonies was far more varied, cosmopolitan, and tolerant than in New England.  Under William Penn, Pennsylvania functioned smoothly and grew rapidly. By 1685, its population was almost 9,000.  The heart of the colony was Philadelphia, a city of broad, tree-shaded streets, substantial brick and stone houses, and busy docks. By the end of the colonial period, nearly a century later, 30,000 people lived there, representing many languages, creeds, and trades. Their talent for successful business enterprise made the city one of the thriving centers of the British Empire.

Though the Quakers dominated in Philadelphia, elsewhere in Pennsylvania others were well represented. Germans became the colony’s most skillful farmers.  Important, too, were cottage industries such as weaving, shoemaking, cabinetmaking, and other crafts.  Pennsylvania was also the principal gateway into the New World for the Scots-Irish, who moved into the colony in the early 18th century. “Bold and indigent strangers,” as one Pennsylvania official called them, they hated the English and were suspicious of all government. The Scots-Irish tended to settle in the backcountry, where they cleared land and lived by hunting and subsistence farming.

New York best illustrated the polyglot nature of America. By 1646 the population along the Hudson River included Dutch, French, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, English, Scots, Irish, Germans, Poles, Bohemians, Portuguese, and Italians.  The Dutch continued to exercise an important social and economic influence on the New York region long after the fall of New Netherland and their integration into the British colonial system. Their sharp‑stepped gable roofs became a permanent part of the city’s architecture, and their merchants gave Manhattan much of its original bustling, commercial atmosphere.

THE SOUTHERN COLONIES

In contrast to New England and the middle colonies, the Southern colonies were predominantly rural settlements.

By the late 17th century, Virginia’s and Maryland’s economic and social structure rested on the great planters and the yeoman farmers. The planters of the Tidewater region, supported by slave labor, held most of the political power and the best land. They built great houses, adopted an aristocratic way of life, and kept in touch as best they could with the world of culture overseas.

The yeoman farmers, who worked smaller tracts, sat in popular assemblies and found their way into political office. Their outspoken independence was a constant warning to the oligarchy of planters not to encroach too far upon the rights of free men.

The settlers of the Carolinas quickly learned to combine agriculture and commerce, and the marketplace became a major source of prosperity. Dense forests brought revenue: Lumber, tar, and resin from the longleaf pine provided some of the best shipbuilding materials in the world. Not bound to a single crop as was Virginia, North and South Carolina also produced and exported rice and indigo, a blue dye obtained from native plants that was used in coloring fabric. By 1750 more than 100,000 people lived in the two colonies of North and South Carolina.  Charleston, South Carolina, was the region’s leading port and trading center.

In the southernmost colonies, as everywhere else, population growth in the backcountry had special significance. German immigrants and Scots-Irish, unwilling to live in the original Tidewater settlements where English influence was strong, pushed inland. Those who could not secure fertile land along the coast, or who had exhausted the lands they held, found the hills farther west a bountiful refuge. Although their hardships were enormous, restless settlers kept coming; by the 1730s they were pouring into the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Soon the interior was dotted with farms.

Living on the edge of Native-American country, frontier families built cabins, cleared the wilderness, and cultivated maize and wheat. The men wore leather made from the skin of deer or sheep, known as buckskin; the women wore garments of cloth they spun at home. Their food consisted of venison, wild turkey, and fish. They had their own amusements – great barbecues, dances, housewarmings for newly married couples, shooting matches, and contests for making quilted blankets. Quilt-making remains an American tradition today.

SOCIETY, SCHOOLS, AND CULTURE

A significant factor deterring the emergence of a powerful aristocratic or gentry class in the colonies was the ability of anyone in an established colony to find a new home on the frontier. Time after time, dominant Tidewater figures were obliged to liberalize political policies, land-grant requirements, and religious practices by the threat of a mass exodus to the frontier.

Of equal significance for the future were the foundations of American education and culture established during the colonial period. Harvard College was founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Near the end of the century, the College of William and Mary was established in Virginia. A few years later, the Collegiate School of Connecticut, later to become Yale University, was chartered.

Even more noteworthy was the growth of a school system maintained by governmental authority. The Puritan emphasis on reading directly from the Scriptures underscored the importance of literacy. In 1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted the “ye olde deluder Satan” Act, requiring every town having more than 50 families to establish a grammar   school (a Latin school to prepare students for college). Shortly thereafter, all the other New England colonies, except for Rhode Island, followed its example.

The Pilgrims and Puritans had brought their own little libraries and continued to import books from London. And as early as the 1680s, Boston booksellers were doing a thriving business in works of classical literature, history, politics, philosophy, science, theology, and belles-lettres. In 1638 the first printing press in the English colonies and the second in North America was installed at Harvard College.

The first school in Pennsylvania was begun in 1683. It taught reading, writing, and keeping of accounts. Thereafter, in some fashion, every Quaker community provided for the elementary teaching of its children. More advanced training – in classical languages, history, and literature – was offered at the   Friends Public School, which still operates in Philadelphia as the William Penn Charter School. The school was free to the poor, but parents were required to pay tuition if they were able.

In Philadelphia, numerous private schools with no religious affiliation taught languages, mathematics, and natural science; there were also night schools for adults. Women were not entirely overlooked, but their educational opportunities were limited to training in activities that could be conducted in the home. Private teachers instructed the daughters of prosperous Philadelphians in French, music, dancing, painting, singing, grammar, and sometimes bookkeeping.

In the 18th century, the intellectual and cultural development of Pennsylvania reflected, in large measure, the vigorous personalities of two men: James Logan and Benjamin Franklin. Logan was secretary of the colony, and it was in his fine library that young Franklin found the latest scientific works. In 1745 Logan erected a building for his collection and bequeathed both building and books to the city.

Franklin contributed even more to the intellectual activity of Philadelphia.   He formed a debating club that became the embryo of the American Philosophical Society. His endeavors also led to the founding of a public academy that later developed into the University of Pennsylvania. He was a prime mover in the establishment of a subscription library, which he called “the mother of all North American subscription libraries.”

In the Southern colonies, wealthy planters and merchants imported private tutors from Ireland or Scotland to teach their children.  Some sent their children to school in England. Having these other opportunities, the upper classes in the Tidewater were not interested in supporting public education.  In addition, the diffusion of farms and plantations made the formation of community schools difficult. There were only a few free schools in Virginia.

The desire for learning did not stop at the borders of established communities, however. On the frontier, the Scots‑Irish, though living in primitive cabins, were firm devotees of scholarship, and they made great efforts to attract learned ministers to their settlements.

Literary production in the colonies was largely confined to New England. Here attention concentrated on religious subjects. Sermons were the most common products of the press. A famous Puritan minister, the Reverend Cotton Mather, wrote some 400 works. His masterpiece, Magnalia Christi Americana, presented the pageant of New England’s history.  The most popular single work of the day was the Reverend Michael Wigglesworth’s long poem, “The Day of Doom,” which described the Last Judgment in terrifying terms.

In 1704 Cambridge, Massachusetts, launched the colonies’ first successful newspaper. By 1745 there were 22 newspapers being published in British North America.

In New York, an important step in establishing the principle of freedom of the press took place with the case of John Peter Zenger, whose New York Weekly Journal, begun in 1733, represented the opposition to the government. After two years of publication, the colonial governor could no longer tolerate Zenger’s satirical barbs, and had him thrown into prison on a charge of seditious libel. Zenger continued to edit his paper from jail during his nine-month trial, which excited intense interest throughout the colonies. Andrew Hamilton, the prominent lawyer who defended Zenger, argued that the charges printed by Zenger were true and hence not libelous. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty, and Zenger went free.

The increasing prosperity of the towns prompted fears that the devil was luring society into pursuit of worldly gain and may have contributed to the religious reaction of the 1730s, known as the Great Awakening. Its two immediate sources were George Whitefield, a Wesleyan revivalist who arrived from England in 1739, and Jonathan Edwards, who served the Congregational Church in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Whitefield began a religious revival in Philadelphia and then moved on to New England. He enthralled audiences of up to 20,000 people at a time with histrionic displays, gestures, and emotional oratory. Religious turmoil swept throughout New England and the middle colonies as ministers left established churches to preach the revival.

Edwards was the most prominent of those influenced by Whitefield and the Great Awakening.  His most memorable contribution was his 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  Rejecting theatrics, he delivered his message in a quiet, thoughtful manner, arguing that the established churches sought to deprive Christianity of its function of redemption from sin.  His magnum opus, Of Freedom of Will (1754), attempted to reconcile Calvinism with the Enlightenment.

The Great Awakening gave rise to evangelical denominations (those Christian churches that believe in personal conversion and the inerrancy of the Bible) and the spirit of revivalism, which continue to play significant roles in American religious and cultural life. It weakened the status of the established clergy and provoked believers to rely on their own conscience. Perhaps most important, it led to the proliferation of sects and denominations, which in turn encouraged general acceptance of the principle of religious toleration.

EMERGENCE OF COLONIAL GOVERNMENT

In the early phases of colonial development, a striking feature was the lack of controlling influence by the English government. All colonies except Georgia emerged as companies of shareholders, or as feudal proprietorships stemming from charters granted by the Crown. The fact that the king had transferred his immediate sovereignty over the New World settlements to stock companies and proprietors did not, of course, mean that the colonists in America were necessarily free of outside control. Under the terms of the Virginia Company charter, for example, full governmental authority was vested in the company itself. Nevertheless, the crown expected that the company would be resident in England. Inhabitants of Virginia, then, would have no more voice in their government than if the king himself had retained absolute rule.

Still, the colonies considered themselves chiefly as commonwealths or states, much like England itself, having only a loose association with the authorities in London. In one way or another, exclusive rule from the outside withered away.  The colonists – inheritors of the long English tradition of the struggle for political liberty – incorporated concepts of freedom into Virginia’s first charter. It provided that English colonists were to exercise all liberties, franchises, and immunities “as if they had been abiding and born within this our Realm of England.” They were, then, to enjoy the benefits of the Magna Carta – the charter of English political and civil liberties granted by King John in 1215 – and the common law – the English system of law based on legal precedents or tradition, not statutory law.  In 1618 the Virginia Company issued instructions to its appointed governor providing that free inhabitants of the plantations should elect representatives to join with the governor and an appointive council in passing ordinances for the welfare of the colony.

These measures proved to be some of the most far‑reaching in the entire colonial period. From then on, it was generally accepted that the colonists had a right to participate in their own government. In most instances, the king, in making future grants, provided in the charter that the free men of the colony should have a voice in legislation affecting them. Thus, charters awarded to the Calverts in Maryland, William Penn in Pennsylvania, the proprietors in North and South Carolina, and the proprietors in New Jersey specified that legislation should be enacted with “the consent of the freemen.”

In New England, for many years, there was even more complete self-government than in the other colonies. Aboard the Mayflower, the Pilgrims adopted an instrument for government called the “Mayflower Compact,” to “combine ourselves together into a civil body politic for our better ordering and preservation … and by virtue hereof [to] enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices … as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony. …”

Although there was no legal basis for the Pilgrims to establish a system of self-government, the action was not contested, and, under the compact, the Plymouth settlers were able for many years to conduct their own affairs without outside interference.

A similar situation developed in the Massachusetts Bay Company, which had been given the right to govern itself. Thus, full authority rested in the hands of persons residing in the colony. At first, the dozen or so original members of the company who had come to America attempted to rule autocratically. But the other colonists soon demanded a voice in public affairs and indicated that refusal would lead to a mass migration.

The company members yielded, and control of the government passed to elected representatives. Subsequently, other New England colonies – such as Connecticut and Rhode Island – also succeeded in becoming self-governing simply by asserting that they were beyond any governmental authority, and then setting up their own political system modeled after that of the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

In only two cases was the self-government provision omitted. These were New York, which was granted to Charles II’s brother, the Duke of York (later to become King James II), and Georgia, which was granted to a group of “trustees.” In both instances the provisions for governance were short‑lived, for the colonists demanded legislative representation so insistently that the authorities soon yielded.

In the mid-17th century, the English were too distracted by their Civil War (1642-1649) and Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Commonwealth to pursue an effective colonial policy. After the restoration of Charles II and the Stuart dynasty in 1660, England had more opportunity to attend to colonial administration. Even then, however, it was inefficient and lacked a coherent plan.  The colonies were left largely to their own devices.

The remoteness afforded by a vast ocean also made control of the colonies difficult. Added to this was the character of life itself in early America.  From countries limited in space and dotted with populous towns, the settlers had come to a land of seemingly unending reach. On such a continent, natural conditions promoted a tough individualism, as people became used to making their own decisions. Government penetrated the backcountry only slowly, and conditions of anarchy often prevailed on the frontier.

Yet the assumption of self-government in the colonies did not go entirely unchallenged. In the 1670s, the Lords of Trade and Plantations, a royal committee established to enforce the mercantile system in the colonies, moved to annul the Massachusetts Bay charter because the colony was resisting the government’s economic policy. James II in 1685 approved a proposal to create a Dominion of New England and place colonies south through New Jersey under its jurisdiction, thereby tightening the Crown’s control over the whole region. A royal governor, Sir Edmund Andros, levied taxes by executive order, implemented a number of other harsh measures, and jailed those who resisted.

When news of the Glorious Revolution (1688-1689), which deposed James II in England, reached Boston, the population rebelled and imprisoned Andros. Under a new charter, Massachusetts and Plymouth were united for the first time in 1691 as the royal colony of Massachusetts Bay. The other New England colonies quickly reinstalled their previous governments.

The English Bill of Rights and the Toleration Act of 1689 affirmed freedom of worship for Christians in the colonies as well as in England and enforced limits on the Crown. Equally important, John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government (1690), the Glorious Revolution’s major theoretical justification, set forth a theory of government based not on divine right but on contract.  It contended that the people, endowed with natural rights of life, liberty, and property, had the right to rebel when governments violated their rights.

By the early 18th century, almost all the colonies had been brought under the direct jurisdiction of the British Crown, but under the rules established by the Glorious Revolution.   Colonial governors sought to exercise powers that the king had lost in England, but the colonial assemblies, aware of events there, attempted to assert their “rights” and “liberties.”  Their leverage rested on two significant powers similar to those held by the English Parliament: the right to vote on taxes and expenditures, and the right to initiate legislation rather than merely react to proposals of the governor.

The legislatures used these rights to check the power of royal governors and to pass other measures to expand their power and influence. The recurring clashes between governor and assembly made colonial politics tumultuous and worked increasingly to awaken the colonists to the divergence between American and English interests. In many cases, the royal authorities did not understand the importance of what the colonial assemblies were doing and simply neglected them.  Nonetheless, the precedents and principles established in the conflicts between assemblies and governors eventually became part of the unwritten “constitution” of the colonies.  In this way, the colonial legislatures asserted the right of self-government.

THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR

France and Britain engaged in a succession of wars in Europe and the Caribbean throughout the 18th century. Though Britain secured certain advantages – primarily in the sugar-rich islands of the Caribbean – the struggles were generally indecisive, and France remained in a powerful position in North America.  By 1754, France still had a strong relationship with a number of Native-American tribes in Canada and along the Great Lakes.  It controlled the Mississippi River and, by establishing a line of forts and trading posts, had marked out a great crescent-shaped empire stretching from Quebec to New Orleans.  The British remained confined to the narrow belt east of the Appalachian Mountains.  Thus the French threatened not only the British Empire but also the American colonists themselves, for in holding the Mississippi Valley, France could limit their westward expansion.

An armed clash took place in 1754 at Fort Duquesne, the site where Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is now located, between a band of French regulars and Virginia militiamen under the command of 22-year-old George Washington, a Virginia planter and surveyor.  The British government attempted to deal with the conflict by calling a meeting of representatives from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the New England colonies. From June 19 to July 10, 1754, the Albany Congress, as it came to be known, met with the Iroquois in Albany, New York, in order to improve relations with them and secure their loyalty to the British.

But the delegates also declared a union of the American colonies “absolutely necessary for their preservation” and adopted a proposal drafted by Benjamin Franklin.  The Albany Plan of Union provided for a president appointed by the king and a grand council of delegates chosen by the assemblies, with each colony to be represented in proportion to its financial contributions to the general treasury. This body would have charge of defense, Native-American relations, and trade and settlement of the west.  Most importantly, it would have independent authority to levy taxes. But none of the colonies accepted the plan, since they were not prepared to surrender either the power of taxation or control over the development of the western lands to a central authority.

England’s superior strategic position and her competent leadership ultimately brought victory in the conflict with France, known as the French and Indian War in America and the Seven Years’ War in Europe.  Only a modest portion of it was fought in the Western Hemisphere.

In the Peace of Paris (1763), France relinquished all of Canada, the Great Lakes, and the territory east of the Mississippi to the British. The dream of a French empire in North America was over.

Having triumphed over France, Britain was now compelled to face a problem that it had hitherto neglected, the governance of its empire.  London thought it essential to organize its now vast possessions to facilitate defense, reconcile the divergent interests of different areas and peoples, and distribute more evenly the cost of imperial administration.

In North America alone, British territories had more than doubled. A population that had been predominantly Protestant and English now included French‑speaking Catholics from Quebec, and large numbers of partly Christianized Native Americans. Defense and administration of the new territories, as well as of the old, would require huge sums of money and increased personnel. The old colonial system was obviously inadequate to these tasks.  Measures to establish a new one, however, would rouse the latent suspicions of colonials who increasingly would see Britain as no longer a protector of their rights, but rather a danger to them.

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Outline of American History

Early America

Arrival of Native Americans and Europeans

Mesa Verde settlement in Colorado, 13th century

Mesa Verde settlement in Colorado, 13th century. (© Russ Finley/Finley-Holiday Films)

(The following article is taken from the U.S. Department of State publication, Outline of American History.)

“Heaven and Earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.”
Jamestown founder John Smith, 1607

THE FIRST AMERICANS

At the height of the Ice Age, between 34,000 and 30,000 B.C., much of the world’s water was locked up in vast continental ice sheets. As a result, the Bering Sea was hundreds of meters below its current level, and a land bridge, known as Beringia, emerged between Asia and North America. At its peak, Beringia is thought to have been some 1,500 kilometers wide. A moist and treeless tundra, it was covered with grasses and plant life, attracting the large animals that early humans hunted for their survival.

The first people to reach North America almost certainly did so without knowing they had crossed into a new continent. They would have been following game, as their ancestors had for thousands of years, along the Siberian coast and then across the land bridge.

Once in Alaska, it would take these first North Americans thousands of years more to work their way through the openings in great glaciers south to what is now the United States. Evidence of early life in North America continues to be found. Little of it, however, can be reliably dated before 12,000 B.C.; a recent discovery of a hunting lookout in northern Alaska, for example, may date from almost that time. So too may the finely crafted spear points and items found near Clovis, New Mexico.

Similar artifacts have been found at sites throughout North and South America, indicating that life was probably already well established in much of the Western Hemisphere by some time prior to 10,000 B.C.

Around that time the mammoth began to die out and the bison took its place as a principal source of food and hides for these early North Americans. Over time, as more and more species of large game vanished – whether from overhunting or natural causes – plants, berries, and seeds became an increasingly important part of the early American diet. Gradually, foraging and the first attempts at primitive agriculture appeared. Native Americans in what is now central Mexico led the way, cultivating corn, squash, and beans, perhaps as early as 8,000 B.C. Slowly, this knowledge spread northward.

By 3,000 B.C., a primitive type of corn was being grown in the river valleys of New Mexico and Arizona. Then the first signs of irrigation began to appear, and, by 300 B.C., signs of early village life.

By the first centuries A.D., the Hohokam were living in settlements near what is now Phoenix, Arizona, where they built ball courts and pyramid – like mounds reminiscent of those found in Mexico, as well as a canal and irrigation system.

MOUND BUILDERS AND PUEBLOS

The first Native-American group to build mounds in what is now the United States often are called the Adenans. They began constructing earthen burial sites and fortifications around 600 B.C. Some mounds from that era are in the shape of birds or serpents; they probably served religious purposes not yet fully understood.

The Adenans appear to have been absorbed or displaced by various groups collectively known as Hopewellians. One of the most important centers of their culture was found in southern Ohio, where the remains of several thousand of these mounds still can be seen. Believed to be great traders, the Hopewellians used and exchanged tools and materials across a wide region of hundreds of kilometers.

By around 500 A.D., the Hopewellians disappeared, too, gradually giving way to a broad group of tribes generally known as the Mississippians or Temple Mound culture. One city, Cahokia, near Collinsville , Illinois, is thought to have had a population of about 20,000 at its peak in the early 12th century. At the center of the city stood a huge earthen mound, flattened at the top, that was 30 meters high and 37 hectares at the base. Eighty other mounds have been found nearby.

Cities such as Cahokia depended on a combination of hunting, foraging, trading, and agriculture for their food and supplies. Influenced by the thriving societies to the south, they evolved into complex hierarchical societies that took slaves and practiced human sacrifice.

In what is now the southwest United States, the Anasazi, ancestors of the modern Hopi Indians, began building stone and adobe pueblos around the year 900. These unique and amazing apartment – like structures were often built along cliff faces; the most famous, the “cliff palace” of Mesa Verde, Colorado, had more than 200 rooms. Another site, the Pueblo Bonito ruins along New Mexico’s Chaco River, once contained more than 800 rooms.

Perhaps the most affluent of the pre-Columbian Native Americans lived in the Pacific Northwest, where the natural abundance of fish and raw materials made food supplies plentiful and permanent villages possible as early as 1,000 B.C. The opulence of their “potlatch” gatherings remains a standard for extravagance and festivity probably unmatched in early American history.

NATIVE-AMERICAN CULTURES

The America that greeted the first Europeans was, thus, far from an empty wilderness. It is now thought that as many people lived in the Western Hemisphere as in Western Europe at that time – about 40 million.  Estimates of the number of Native Americans living in what is now the United States at the onset of European colonization range from two to 18 million, with most historians tending toward the lower figure. What is certain is the devastating effect that European disease had on the indigenous population practically from the time of initial contact. Smallpox, in particular, ravaged whole communities and is thought to have been a much more direct cause of the precipitous decline in the Indian population in the 1600s than the numerous wars and skirmishes with European settlers.

Indian customs and culture at the time were extraordinarily diverse, as could be expected, given the expanse of the land and the many different environments to which they had adapted. Some generalizations, however, are possible.  Most tribes, particularly in the wooded eastern region and the Midwest, combined aspects of hunting, gathering, and the cultivation of maize and other products for their food supplies. In many cases, the women were responsible for farming and the distribution of food, while the men hunted and participated in war.

By all accounts, Native-American society in North America was closely tied to the land.   Identification with nature and the elements was integral to religious beliefs.  Their life was essentially clan – oriented and communal, with children allowed more freedom and tolerance than was the European custom of the day.

Although some North American tribes developed a type of hieroglyphics to preserve certain texts, Native-American culture was primarily oral, with a high value placed on the recounting of tales and dreams. Clearly, there was a good deal of trade among various groups and strong evidence exists that neighboring tribes maintained extensive and formal relations – both friendly and hostile.

THE FIRST EUROPEANS

The first Europeans to arrive in North America – at least the first for whom there is solid evidence – were Norse, traveling west from Greenland, where Erik the Red had founded a settlement around the year 985. In 1001 his son Leif is thought to have explored the northeast coast of what is now Canada and spent at least one winter there.

While Norse sagas suggest that Viking sailors explored the Atlantic coast of North America down as far as the Bahamas, such claims remain unproven.  In 1963, however, the ruins of some Norse houses dating from that era were discovered at L’Anse-aux-Meadows in northern Newfoundland, thus supporting at least some of the saga claims.

In 1497, just five years after Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean looking for a western route to Asia, a Venetian sailor named John Cabot arrived in Newfoundland on a mission for the British king. Although quickly forgotten, Cabot’s journey was later to provide the basis for British claims to North America. It also opened the way to the rich fishing grounds off George’s Banks, to which European fishermen, particularly the Portuguese, were soon making regular visits.

Columbus never saw the mainland of the future United States, but the first explorations of it were launched from the Spanish possessions that he helped establish. The first of these took place in 1513 when a group of men under Juan Ponce de León landed on the Florida coast near the present city of St. Augustine.

With the conquest of Mexico in 1522, the Spanish further solidified their position in the Western Hemisphere. The ensuing discoveries added to Europe’s knowledge of what was now named America – after the Italian Amerigo Vespucci, who wrote a widely popular account of his voyages to a “New World.” By 1529 reliable maps of the Atlantic coastline from Labrador to Tierra del Fuego had been drawn up, although it would take more than another century before hope of discovering a “Northwest Passage” to Asia would be completely abandoned.

Among the most significant early Spanish explorations was that of Hernando De Soto, a veteran conquistador who had accompanied Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Peru. Leaving Havana in 1539, De Soto’s expedition landed in Florida and ranged through the southeastern United States as far as the Mississippi River in search of riches.

Another Spaniard, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, set out from Mexico in 1540 in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola. Coronado’s travels took him to the Grand Canyon and Kansas, but failed to reveal the gold or treasure his men sought.  However, his party did leave the peoples of the region a remarkable, if unintended, gift: Enough of his horses escaped to transform life on the Great Plains. Within a few generations, the Plains Indians had become masters of horsemanship, greatly expanding the range and scope of their activities.

While the Spanish were pushing up from the south, the northern portion of the present – day United States was slowly being revealed through the journeys of men such as Giovanni da Verrazano. A Florentine who sailed for the French, Verrazano made landfall in North Carolina in 1524, then sailed north along the Atlantic Coast past what is now New York harbor.

A decade later, the Frenchman Jacques Cartier set sail with the hope – like the other Europeans before him – of finding a sea passage to Asia. Cartier’s expeditions along the St. Lawrence River laid the foundation for the French claims to North America, which were to last until 1763.

Following the collapse of their first Quebec colony in the 1540s, French Huguenots attempted to settle the northern coast of Florida two decades later.  The Spanish, viewing the French as a threat to their trade route along the Gulf Stream, destroyed the colony in 1565. Ironically, the leader of the Spanish forces, Pedro Menéndez, would soon establish a town not far away – St. Augustine. It was the first permanent European settlement in what would become the United States.

The great wealth that poured into Spain from the colonies in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Peru provoked great interest on the part of the other European powers.  Emerging maritime nations such as England, drawn in part by Francis Drake’s successful raids on Spanish treasure ships, began to take an interest in the New World.

In 1578 Humphrey Gilbert, the author of a treatise on the search for the Northwest Passage, received a patent from Queen Elizabeth to colonize the “heathen and barbarous landes” in the New World that other European nations had not yet claimed. It would be five years before his efforts could begin.  When he was lost at sea, his half‑brother, Walter Raleigh, took up the mission.

In 1585 Raleigh established the first British colony in North America, on Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina. It was later abandoned, and a second effort two years later also proved a failure. It would be 20 years before the British would try again. This time – at Jamestown in 1607 – the colony would succeed, and North America would enter a new era.

EARLY SETTLEMENTS

The early 1600s saw the beginning of a great tide of emigration from Europe to North America. Spanning more than three centuries, this movement grew from a trickle of a few hundred English colonists to a flood of millions of newcomers. Impelled by powerful and diverse motivations, they built a new civilization on the northern part of the continent.

The first English immigrants to what is now the United States crossed the Atlantic long after thriving Spanish colonies had been established in Mexico, the West Indies, and South America. Like all early travelers to the New World, they came in small, overcrowded ships. During their six-to 12-week voyages, they lived on meager rations. Many died of disease, ships were often battered by storms, and some were lost at sea.

Most European emigrants left their homelands to escape political oppression, to seek the freedom to practice their religion, or to find opportunities denied them at home. Between 1620 and 1635, economic difficulties swept England.  Many people could not find work. Even skilled artisans could earn little more than a bare living. Poor crop yields added to the distress. In addition, the Commercial Revolution had created a burgeoning textile industry, which demanded an ever-increasing supply of wool to keep the looms running. Landlords enclosed farmlands and evicted the peasants in favor of sheep cultivation. Colonial expansion became an outlet for this displaced peasant population.

The colonists’ first glimpse of the new land was a vista of dense woods. The settlers might not have survived had it not been for the help of friendly Indians, who taught them how to grow native plants – pumpkin, squash, beans, and corn. In addition, the vast, virgin forests, extending nearly 2,100 kilometers along the Eastern seaboard, proved a rich source of game and firewood. They also provided abundant raw materials used to build houses, furniture, ships, and profitable items for export.

Although the new continent was remarkably endowed by nature, trade with Europe was vital for articles the settlers could not produce. The coast served the immigrants well. The whole length of shore provided many inlets and harbors. Only two areas – North Carolina and southern New Jersey – lacked harbors for ocean-going vessels.

Majestic rivers – the Kennebec, Hudson, Delaware, Susquehanna, Potomac, and numerous others – linked lands between the coast and the Appalachian Mountains with the sea. Only one river, however, the St. Lawrence – dominated by the French in Canada – offered a water passage to the Great Lakes and the heart of the continent. Dense forests, the resistance of some Indian tribes, and the formidable barrier of the Appalachian Mountains discouraged settlement beyond the coastal plain. Only trappers and traders ventured into the wilderness. For the first hundred years the colonists built their settlements compactly along the coast.

Political considerations influenced many people to move to America. In the 1630s, arbitrary rule by England’s Charles I gave impetus to the migration.  The subsequent revolt and triumph of Charles’ opponents under Oliver Cromwell in the 1640s led many cavaliers – “king’s men” – to cast their lot in Virginia. In the German-speaking regions of Europe, the oppressive policies of various petty princes – particularly with regard to religion – and the devastation caused by a long series of wars helped swell the movement to America in the late 17th and 18th centuries.

The journey entailed careful planning and management, as well as considerable expense and risk. Settlers had to be transported nearly 5,000 kilometers across the sea. They needed utensils, clothing, seed, tools, building materials, livestock, arms, and ammunition.  In contrast to the colonization policies of other countries and other periods, the emigration from England was not directly sponsored by the government but by private groups of individuals whose chief motive was profit.

JAMESTOWN

The first of the British colonies to take hold in North America was Jamestown.  On the basis of a charter which King James I granted to the Virginia (or London) company, a group of about 100 men set out for the Chesapeake Bay in 1607. Seeking to avoid conflict with the Spanish, they chose a site about 60 kilometers up the James River from the bay.

Made up of townsmen and adventurers more interested in finding gold than farming, the group was unequipped by temperament or ability to embark upon a completely new life in the wilderness. Among them, Captain John Smith emerged as the dominant figure. Despite quarrels, starvation, and Native-American attacks, his ability to enforce discipline held the little colony together through its first year.

In 1609 Smith returned to England, and in his absence, the colony descended into anarchy. During the winter of 1609-1610, the majority of the colonists succumbed to disease. Only 60 of the original 300 settlers were still alive by May 1610. That same year, the town of Henrico (now Richmond) was established farther up the James River.

It was not long, however, before a development occurred that revolutionized Virginia’s economy. In 1612 John Rolfe began cross‑breeding imported tobacco seed from the West Indies with native plants and produced a new variety that was pleasing to European taste. The first shipment of this tobacco reached London in 1614. Within a decade it had become Virginia’s chief source of revenue.

Prosperity did not come quickly, however, and the death rate from disease and Indian attacks remained extraordinarily high. Between 1607 and 1624 approximately 14,000 people migrated to the colony, yet only 1,132 were living there in 1624. On recommendation of a royal commission, the king dissolved the Virginia Company, and made it a royal colony that year.

MASSACHUSETTS

During the religious upheavals of the 16th century, a body of men and women called Puritans sought to reform the Established Church of England from within. Essentially, they demanded that the rituals and structures associated with Roman Catholicism be replaced by simpler Calvinist Protestant forms of faith and worship.  Their reformist ideas, by destroying the unity of the state church, threatened to divide the people and to undermine royal authority.

In 1607 a small group of Separatists – a radical sect of Puritans who did not believe the Established Church could ever be reformed – departed for Leyden, Holland, where the Dutch granted them asylum. However, the Calvinist Dutch restricted them mainly to low-paid laboring jobs. Some members of the congregation grew dissatisfied with this discrimination and resolved to emigrate to the New World.

In 1620, a group of Leyden Puritans secured a land patent from the Virginia Company.  Numbering 101, they set out for Virginia on the Mayflower. A storm sent them far north and they landed in New England on Cape Cod.  Believing themselves outside the jurisdiction of any organized government, the men drafted a formal agreement to abide by “just and equal laws” drafted by leaders of their own choosing. This was the Mayflower Compact.

In December the Mayflower reached Plymouth harbor; the Pilgrims began to build their settlement during the winter. Nearly half the colonists died of exposure and disease, but neighboring Wampanoag Indians provided the information that would sustain them: how to grow maize. By the next fall, the Pilgrims had a plentiful crop of corn, and a growing trade based on furs and lumber.

A new wave of immigrants arrived on the shores of Massachusetts Bay in 1630 bearing a grant from King Charles I to establish a colony.  Many of them were Puritans whose religious practices were increasingly prohibited in England.  Their leader, John Winthrop, urged them to create a “city upon a hill” in the New World – a place where they would live in strict accordance with their religious beliefs and set an example for all of Christendom.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was to play a significant role in the development of the entire New England region, in part because Winthrop and his Puritan colleagues were able to bring their charter with them. Thus the authority for the colony’s government resided in Massachusetts, not in England.

Under the charter’s provisions, power rested with the General Court, which was made up of “freemen” required to be members of the Puritan, or Congregational, Church. This guaranteed that the Puritans would be the dominant political as well as religious force in the colony.  The General Court elected the governor, who for most of the next generation would be John Winthrop.

The rigid orthodoxy of the Puritan rule was not to everyone’s liking. One of the first to challenge the General Court openly was a young clergyman named Roger Williams, who objected to the colony’s seizure of Indian lands and advocated separation of church and state.  Another dissenter, Anne Hutchinson, challenged key doctrines of Puritan theology.  Both they and their followers were banished.

Williams purchased land from the Narragansett Indians in what is now Providence, Rhode Island, in 1636.  In 1644, a sympathetic Puritan-controlled English Parliament gave him the charter that established Rhode Island as a distinct colony where complete separation of church and state as well as freedom of religion was practiced.

So‑called heretics like Williams were not the only ones who left Massachusetts. Orthodox Puritans, seeking better lands and opportunities, soon began leaving Massachusetts Bay Colony. News of the fertility of the Connecticut River Valley, for instance, attracted the interest of farmers having a difficult time with poor land. By the early 1630s, many were ready to brave the danger of Indian attack to obtain level ground and deep, rich soil.  These new communities often eliminated church membership as a prerequisite for voting, thereby extending the franchise to ever larger numbers of men.

At the same time, other settlements began cropping up along the New Hampshire and Maine coasts, as more and more immigrants sought the land and liberty the New World seemed to offer.

NEW NETHERLAND AND MARYLAND

Hired by the Dutch East India Company, Henry Hudson in 1609 explored the area around what is now New York City and the river that bears his name, to a point probably north of present-day Albany, New York. Subsequent Dutch voyages laid the basis for their claims and early settlements in the area.

As with the French to the north, the first interest of the Dutch was the fur trade.  To this end, they cultivated close relations with the Five Nations of the Iroquois, who were the key to the heartland from which the furs came. In 1617 Dutch settlers built a fort at the junction of the Hudson and the Mohawk Rivers, where Albany now stands.

Settlement on the island of Manhattan began in the early 1620s. In 1624, the island was purchased from local Native Americans for the reported price of $24. It was promptly renamed New Amsterdam.

In order to attract settlers to the Hudson River region, the Dutch encouraged a type of feudal aristocracy, known as the “patroon” system. The first of these huge estates were established in 1630 along the Hudson River.  Under the patroon system, any stockholder, or patroon, who could bring 50 adults to his estate over a four-year period was given a 25-kilometer river-front plot, exclusive fishing and hunting privileges, and civil and criminal jurisdiction over his lands. In turn, he provided livestock, tools, and buildings. The tenants paid the patroon rent and gave him first option on surplus crops.

Further to the south, a Swedish trading company with ties to the Dutch attempted to set up its first settlement along the Delaware River three years later. Without the resources to consolidate its position, New Sweden was gradually absorbed into New Netherland, and later, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In 1632 the Catholic Calvert family obtained a charter for land north of the Potomac River from King Charles I in what became known as Maryland. As the charter did not expressly prohibit the establishment of non-Protestant churches, the colony became a haven for Catholics.  Maryland’s first town, St. Mary’s, was established in    1634 near where the Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

While establishing a refuge for Catholics, who faced increasing persecution in Anglican England, the Calverts were also interested in creating profitable estates. To this end, and to avoid trouble with the British government, they also encouraged Protestant immigration.

Maryland’s royal charter had a mixture of feudal and modern elements. On the one hand the Calvert family had the power to create manorial estates. On the other, they could only make laws with the consent of freemen (property holders). They found that in order to attract settlers – and make a profit from their holdings – they had to offer people farms, not just tenancy on manorial estates. The number of independent farms grew in consequence.  Their owners demanded a voice in the affairs of the colony. Maryland’s first legislature met in 1635.

COLONIAL-INDIAN RELATIONS

By 1640 the British had solid colonies established along the New England coast and the Chesapeake Bay. In between were the Dutch and the tiny Swedish community. To the west were the original Americans, then called Indians.

Sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile, the Eastern tribes were no longer strangers to the Europeans. Although Native Americans benefited from access to new technology and trade, the disease and thirst for land that the early settlers also brought posed a serious challenge to their long-established way of life.

At first, trade with the European settlers brought advantages: knives, axes, weapons, cooking utensils, fishhooks, and a host of other goods. Those Indians who traded initially had significant advantage over rivals who did not.  In response to European demand, tribes such as the Iroquois began to devote more attention to fur trapping during the 17th century. Furs and pelts provided tribes the means to purchase colonial goods until late into the 18th century.

Early colonial-Native-American relations were an uneasy mix of cooperation and conflict. On the one hand, there were the exemplary relations that prevailed during the first half century of Pennsylvania’s existence. On the other were a long series of setbacks, skirmishes, and wars, which almost invariably resulted in an Indian defeat and further loss of land.

The first of the important Native-American uprisings occurred in Virginia in 1622, when some 347 whites were killed, including a number of missionaries who had just recently come to Jamestown.

White settlement of the Connecticut River region touched off the Pequot War in 1637. In 1675 King Philip, the son of the native chief who had made the original peace with the Pilgrims in 1621, attempted to unite the tribes of southern New England against further European encroachment of their lands. In the struggle, however, Philip lost his life and many Indians were sold into servitude.

The steady influx of settlers into the backwoods regions of the Eastern colonies disrupted Native-American life. As more and more game was killed off, tribes were faced with the difficult choice of going hungry, going to war, or moving and coming into conflict with other tribes to the west.

The Iroquois, who inhabited the area below lakes Ontario and Erie in northern New York and Pennsylvania, were more successful in resisting European advances. In 1570 five tribes joined to form the most complex Native-American nation of its time, the “Ho-De-No-Sau-Nee,” or League of the Iroquois. The league was run by a council made up of 50 representatives from each of the five member tribes.  The council dealt with matters common to all the tribes, but it had no say in how the free and equal tribes ran their day-to-day affairs. No tribe was allowed to make war by itself. The council passed laws to deal with crimes such as murder.

The Iroquois League was a strong power in the 1600s and 1700s. It traded furs with the British and sided with them against the French in the war for the dominance of America between 1754 and 1763. The British might not have won that war otherwise.

The Iroquois League stayed strong until the American Revolution. Then, for the first time, the council could not reach a unanimous decision on whom to support.  Member tribes made their own decisions, some fighting with the British, some with the colonists, some remaining neutral. As a result, everyone fought against the Iroquois. Their losses were great and the league never recovered.

SECOND GENERATION OF BRITISH COLONIES

The religious and civil conflict in England in the mid-17th century limited immigration, as well as the attention the mother country paid the fledgling American colonies.

In part to provide for the defense measures England was neglecting, the Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven colonies formed the New England Confederation in 1643. It was the European colonists’ first attempt at regional unity.

The early history of the British settlers reveals a good deal of contention – religious and political – as groups vied for power and position among themselves and their neighbors. Maryland, in particular, suffered from the bitter religious rivalries that afflicted England during the era of Oliver Cromwell. One of the casualties was the state’s Toleration Act, which was revoked in the 1650s. It was soon reinstated, however, along with the religious freedom it guaranteed.

With the restoration of King Charles II in 1660, the British once again turned their attention to North America. Within a brief span, the first European settlements were established in the Carolinas and the Dutch driven out of New Netherland. New proprietary colonies were established in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

The Dutch settlements had been ruled by autocratic governors appointed in Europe. Over the years, the local population had become estranged from them. As a result, when the British colonists began encroaching on Dutch claims in Long Island and Manhattan, the unpopular governor was unable to rally the population to their defense. New Netherland fell in 1664. The terms of the capitulation, however, were mild: The Dutch settlers were able to retain their property and worship as they pleased.

As early as the 1650s, the Albemarle Sound region off the coast of what is now northern North Carolina was inhabited by settlers trickling down from Virginia.  The first proprietary governor arrived in 1664.  The first town in Albemarle, a remote area even today, was not established until the arrival of a group of French Huguenots in 1704.

In 1670 the first settlers, drawn from New England and the Caribbean island of Barbados, arrived in what is now Charleston, South Carolina. An elaborate system of government, to which the British philosopher John Locke contributed, was prepared for the new colony. One of its prominent features was a failed attempt to create a hereditary nobility. One of the colony’s least appealing aspects was the early trade in Indian slaves. With time, however, timber, rice, and indigo gave the colony a worthier economic base.

In 1681 William Penn, a wealthy Quaker and friend of Charles II, received a large tract of land west of the Delaware River, which became known as Pennsylvania.  To help populate it, Penn actively recruited a host of religious dissenters from England and the continent – Quakers, Mennonites, Amish, Moravians, and Baptists.

When Penn arrived the following year, there were already Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers living along the Delaware River. It was there he founded Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.”

In keeping with his faith, Penn was motivated by a sense of equality not often found in other American colonies at the time. Thus, women in Pennsylvania had rights long before they did in other parts of America. Penn and his deputies also paid considerable attention to the colony’s relations with the Delaware Indians, ensuring that they were paid for land on which the Europeans settled.

Georgia was settled in 1732, the last of the 13 colonies to be established.  Lying close to, if not actually inside the boundaries of Spanish Florida, the region was viewed as a buffer against Spanish incursion. But it had another unique quality: The man charged with Georgia’s fortifications, General James Oglethorpe, was a reformer who deliberately set out to create a refuge where the poor and former prisoners would be given new opportunities.

SETTLERS, SLAVES, AND SERVANTS

Men and women with little active interest in a new life in America were often induced to make the move to the New World by the skillful persuasion of promoters. William Penn, for example, publicized the opportunities awaiting newcomers to the Pennsylvania colony. Judges and prison authorities offered convicts a chance to migrate to colonies like Georgia instead of serving prison sentences.

But few colonists could finance the cost of passage for themselves and their families to make a start in the new land. In some cases, ships’ captains received large rewards from the sale of service contracts for poor migrants, called indentured servants, and every method from extravagant promises to actual kidnapping was used to take on as many passengers as their vessels could hold.

In other cases, the expenses of transportation and maintenance were paid by colonizing agencies like the Virginia or Massachusetts Bay Companies.  In return, indentured servants agreed to work for the agencies as contract laborers, usually for four to seven years. Free at the end of this term, they would be given “freedom dues,” sometimes including a small tract of land.

Perhaps half the settlers living in the colonies south of New England came to America under this system. Although most of them fulfilled their obligations faithfully, some ran away from their employers. Nevertheless, many of them were eventually able to secure land and set up homesteads, either in the colonies in which they had originally settled or in neighboring ones. No social stigma was attached to a family that had its beginning in America under this semi-bondage. Every colony had its share of leaders who were former indentured servants.

There was one very important exception to this pattern: African slaves. The first black Africans were brought to Virginia in 1619, just 12 years after the founding of Jamestown. Initially, many were regarded as indentured servants who could earn their freedom. By the 1660s, however, as the demand for plantation labor in the Southern colonies grew, the institution of slavery began to harden around them, and Africans were brought to America in shackles for a lifetime of involuntary servitude.

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United States History from AD1876 to AD1899

1875
WWW-VL: History: US The Gilded Age WWW-VL: History: US The Gilded Age
WWW-VL: US American West WWW-VL: US American West
1875, Brigham Young, deposition on the Mountain Meadows Massacre for the second trial of John D. Lee 1875, Brigham Young, deposition on the Mountain Meadows Massacre for the second trial of John D. Lee
1876 April 1, Harper’s Weekly Opposes a Senate Bill for Statehood for New Mexico 1876 April 1, Harper’s Weekly Opposes a Senate Bill for Statehood for New Mexico
1876 May 25, Napoleon Augustus Jennings, “Texas Rangers” 1876 May 25, Napoleon Augustus Jennings, “Texas Rangers”
1876, Chief Red Horse, Minniconjou Lakota, an eyewitness account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn 1876, Chief Red Horse, Minniconjou Lakota, an eyewitness account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn
1876, Robert Green Ingersoll, “His Speech Nominating Blaine for President” 1876, Robert Green Ingersoll, “His Speech Nominating Blaine for President”
1876 June 25, George Herendon , ” Custer’s Last Stand” 1876 June 25, George Herendon , ” Custer’s Last Stand”
[From the New York Herald]
1876 July, The New York TimesOn the Battle of the Little Big Horn 1876 July, The New York TimesOn the Battle of the Little Big Horn
1876 July 5, Major M.A. Reno, “Report on the Battle of Little Big Horn” 1876 July 5, Major M.A. Reno, “Report on the Battle of Little Big Horn”
1876 August 5, an editorial from the Harper’s Weekly, on the Battle of the Little Big Horn 1876 August 5, an editorial from the Harper’s Weekly, on the Battle of the Little Big Horn
WWW-VL: History : US Populism WWW-VL: History : US Populism
Administration of Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881
1877, Rutherford B. Hayes, Inaugural Address 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes, Inaugural Address
1877-1879, Chief Joseph, selected statements and speeches by the Nez Perce leader 1877-1879, Chief Joseph, selected statements and speeches by the Nez Perce leader
1878 February. 28, Brand-Allison Act 1878 February. 28, Brand-Allison Act
[Authorization of Limited Coinage of Silver]
1878, Silver Purchase Act 1878, Silver Purchase Act
[repeal of Brand-Allison Act
1878, 18 June, The Posse Comitatus Act 1878, 18 June, The Posse Comitatus Act
1878, Bradwell v. Illinois 1878, Bradwell v. Illinois
[Women held constitutionally incapable of practicing many professions]
1879 February 3, 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Passed by Congress: Voting Rights 1879 February 3, 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Passed by Congress: Voting Rights
[image, notes and transcription]
1879, United States, ex rel. Standing Bear, v. George Crook, a Brigadier-General of the Army of the United States. 1879, United States, ex rel. Standing Bear, v. George Crook, a Brigadier-General of the Army of the United States.
[Indian entitled to personal rights] [Indian entitled to personal rights]
1879, Robert Louis Stevenson, “Traveling on an Emigrant Train” 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson, “Traveling on an Emigrant Train”
1879, Robert Green Ingersoll, “At His Brother’s Grave” 1879, Robert Green Ingersoll, “At His Brother’s Grave”
1879, Currier and Ives, “Steamboat Race Between the Natchez and Robert E. Lee 1879, Currier and Ives, “Steamboat Race Between the Natchez and Robert E. Lee
1880, $8.72 had the same value as $100 would have in 1986
1890, The Population of the United States Was 62,979,766
1880, Map: Boston, MA 1880, Map: Boston, MA
1880, Map: New York City NY 1880, Map: New York City NY
1880 January 27, Thomas Edison’s Patent Application for the Light Bulb 1880 January 27, Thomas Edison’s Patent Application for the Light Bulb
[image, notes and transcription]
1880 April 17, Testimony of Benjamin Singleton before Congress regarding African-American migration from the Southern states to Kansas 1880 April 17, Testimony of Benjamin Singleton before Congress regarding African-American migration from the Southern states to Kansas
1880, Dwight Lyman Moody, “What Think Ye of Christ?” 1880, Dwight Lyman Moody, “What Think Ye of Christ?”
1880, Roscoe Conkling, “His Speech Nominating Grant for a Third Term” 1880, Roscoe Conkling, “His Speech Nominating Grant for a Third Term”
1880 November 17, Chinese Exclusion Treaty 1880 November 17, Chinese Exclusion Treaty
1880, James Abram Garfield, “His Speech Nominating Sherman for President” 1880, James Abram Garfield, “His Speech Nominating Sherman for President”
1880, James Abram Garfield, “Sherman for President” 1880, James Abram Garfield, “Sherman for President”
1880, Ulysses Simpson Grant, “Reasons for Being a Republican” 1880, Ulysses Simpson Grant, “Reasons for Being a Republican”
Administration of James A. Garfield, 1881
1881, James Garfield, First Inaugural 1881, James Garfield, First Inaugural
1881 July 14, Pat Garrett, “The Death Of Billy The Kid” 1881 July 14, Pat Garrett, “The Death Of Billy The Kid”
Administration of Chester Arthur, 1881-1885
1881, McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer 1881, McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer
(New York: American Book Company, c1881) (New York: American Book Company, c1881)
[A Late Nineteenth-Century Beginning Level Textbook,
1881 September 18, From The New York Times, Report from General Carr on the Battle of Cibicu Creek 1881 September 18, From The New York Times, Report from General Carr on the Battle of Cibicu Creek
1882, James Gillespie Blaine, "On the Death of Garfield " 1882, James Gillespie Blaine, "On the Death of Garfield "
1882, Andy Adams, "A Cowboy in Dodge City" 1882, Andy Adams, "A Cowboy in Dodge City"
1882 March 6, Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 March 6, Chinese Exclusion Act
[image, notes and transcription]
1882, Chinese Exclusion Act; May 6 1882, Chinese Exclusion Act; May 6
1882, Colonel Prentiss Ingraham< Adventures of Buffalo Bill from Boyhood to Manhood. Deeds of Daring, Scenes of Thrilling, Peril, and Romantic Incidents In the Early Life of W. F. Cody, the Monarch of Bordermen.[.pdf file] 1882, Colonel Prentiss Ingraham< Adventures of Buffalo Bill from Boyhood to Manhood. Deeds of Daring, Scenes of Thrilling, Peril, and Romantic Incidents In the Early Life of W. F. Cody, the Monarch of Bordermen.[.pdf file]
[The birth of the legend of "Buffalo Bill"]
1883 January 16, Pendleton Act 1883 January 16, Pendleton Act
[image, notes and transcription]
1883, Civil Service Act 1883, Civil Service Act
1883 July 1, Emmeline Wells, “Is It Ignorance?”, from The Woman’s Exponent 1883 July 1, Emmeline Wells, “Is It Ignorance?”, from The Woman’s Exponent
1883, Mark Twain.Life on the Mississippi. 1883, Mark Twain.Life on the Mississippi.
[the era when paddle-wheel steamboats dominated the great waterways defense of plural marriages]
1883, Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus” 1883, Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”
1884, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, “The Pursuit and Capture of Chief Joseph” 1884, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, “The Pursuit and Capture of Chief Joseph”
1884 Autumn, Solomon Butcher, “Ranchers and Farmers Collide in Nebraska” 1884 Autumn, Solomon Butcher, “Ranchers and Farmers Collide in Nebraska”
Administration of Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889
1885, Grover Cleveland, First Inaugural 1885, Grover Cleveland, First Inaugural
1886, Percy G. Ebbutt, Emigrant Life in Kansas 1886, Percy G. Ebbutt, Emigrant Life in Kansas
[description of an English Boy’s experiences building a homestead in Kansas]
1886, Henry Woodfin Grady, “The Old South and the New, “ 1886, Henry Woodfin Grady, “The Old South and the New, “
1886, Yick Wo v. Hopkins 1886, Yick Wo v. Hopkins
[A non-descriminatory law may be enforced in a discrimatory fashion]
1887 February 4, Interstate Commerce Act 1887 February 4, Interstate Commerce Act
[image, notes and transcription]
1887 February 6, Dawes Act 1887 February 6, Dawes Act
[image, notes and transcription]
1887, Interstate Commerce Act 1887, Interstate Commerce Act
1887, Dawes Act; February, 8 1887, Dawes Act; February, 8
[The government right to divide reservations among the resident Indians]
1888 February 8, The Dawes Act [ending of tribal homelands] 1888 February 8, The Dawes Act [ending of tribal homelands]
1888, Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail 1888, Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail
1888, Ida Ellen Rath, The Rath Trail (pub. 1961) 1888, Ida Ellen Rath, The Rath Trail (pub. 1961)
[Recollections of one of the most important dealers in buffalo hisdes]
Administration of Benjamin Harrison, 1889-1893
1890, $7.76 had the same value as $100 would have in 1986
1890, The Population of the United States Was 62,979,766
1890 April, Eugene V. Debs, “What Can We Do for Working People?” 1890 April, Eugene V. Debs, “What Can We Do for Working People?”
[.pdf file]
1890, Mrs. Z. A. Parker, the Ghost Dance at Pine Ridge Reservation 1890, Mrs. Z. A. Parker, the Ghost Dance at Pine Ridge Reservation
1896, Anna R. White, Youth’s Education for Home and Society 1896, Anna R. White, Youth’s Education for Home and Society
1890, Frances Elizabeth Willard, “Work Done for Humanity” 1890, Frances Elizabeth Willard, “Work Done for Humanity”
1890, Mary Elizabeth Lease. “Wall Street Owns The Country” 1890, Mary Elizabeth Lease. “Wall Street Owns The Country”
1890, Mary Elizabeth Lease, Speech to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union 1890, Mary Elizabeth Lease, Speech to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union
1890, John M. Reynolds, Twin Hells 1890, John M. Reynolds, Twin Hells
[The Kansas State Penitentiary in 1890]
How the Other Half Lives, [Jacob Riis' stunning photo-essay capturing living conditions among the New York City poor at the height of the Gilded Age] How the Other Half Lives, [Jacob Riis' stunning photo-essay capturing living conditions among the New York City poor at the height of the Gilded Age]
1890 March 12, Proclamation of the “White Caps,” New Mexico Bandits Protesting the Treatment of the Mexican-American Population 1890 March 12, Proclamation of the “White Caps,” New Mexico Bandits Protesting the Treatment of the Mexican-American Population
1891, Wovoka, The Messiah Letter 1891, Wovoka, The Messiah Letter
1890 July 2, Sherman Anti-Trust Act 1890 July 2, Sherman Anti-Trust Act
1890 July 2, Sherman Anti-Trust Act 1890 July 2, Sherman Anti-Trust Act
[image, notes and transcription]
1890 August 18, Felix Martinez Discusses the Grievances That Have Motivated the White Caps 1890 August 18, Felix Martinez Discusses the Grievances That Have Motivated the White Caps
1890 December 16, James McLaughlin, An Account of Sitting Bull’s Death 1890 December 16, James McLaughlin, An Account of Sitting Bull’s Death
1890 December 29, Philip Wells, “Massacre At Wounded Knee” 1890 December 29, Philip Wells, “Massacre At Wounded Knee”
1890, Lakota accounts of the massacre at Wounded Knee 1890, Lakota accounts of the massacre at Wounded Knee
1892, Walt Whitman, “The Spanish Element in Our Nationality” 1892, Walt Whitman, “The Spanish Element in Our Nationality”
1892 October 5, David Elliott , “The Dalton Gang’s Last Raid” 1892 October 5, David Elliott , “The Dalton Gang’s Last Raid”
Administration of Grover Cleveland, 1893-1897
1893, Grover Cleveland, Second Inaugural 1893, Grover Cleveland, Second Inaugural
1893, Richard Parks Bland, “The Parting of the Ways” 1893, Richard Parks Bland, “The Parting of the Ways”
1893, September 16, Seth Humphrey, “The Oklahoma Land Rush” 1893, September 16, Seth Humphrey, “The Oklahoma Land Rush”
1894, Statement of the Principles of The League of United Latin-American Citizens, a Texas-Mexican Civic Organization 1894, Statement of the Principles of The League of United Latin-American Citizens, a Texas-Mexican Civic Organization
1894, Charles F. Crisp, “In Closing the Wilson Tariff Bill Debate” 1894, Charles F. Crisp, “In Closing the Wilson Tariff Bill Debate”
1894, Thomas Brackett Reed, “In Closing the Wilson Tariff Bill Debate” 1894, Thomas Brackett Reed, “In Closing the Wilson Tariff Bill Debate”
1895, John Sherman, “On ‘The Crime of 1873′ “ 1895, John Sherman, “On ‘The Crime of 1873′ “
Conwell, Russell Herman: Acres of Diamonds Conwell, Russell Herman: Acres of Diamonds
1896, Plessy v. Ferguson 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson
[Supreme Court Decision establishing the principle of "Separate But Equal"]
1896, Plessy v. Ferguson 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson
[image, notes and transcription]
1896, The “People’s Party” Platform [the Populists] 1896, The “People’s Party” Platform [the Populists]
1896, Charles M. Sheldon, In His Steps 1896, Charles M. Sheldon, In His Steps
[an influential novel promoting Christian reform of small-town ills]
Administration of William McKinley, 1897-1901
Geneva Conventions Geneva Conventions
1897, William McKinley, First Inaugural 1897, William McKinley, First Inaugural
1897, John Peter Altgeld, “On Municipal and Governmental Ownership” 1897, John Peter Altgeld, “On Municipal and Governmental Ownership”
1897, Constitution of the State of Delaware 1897, Constitution of the State of Delaware
1897, April, W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, Strivings of the Negro People 1897, April, W. E. Burghardt Du Bois, Strivings of the Negro People
[from The Atlantic,
1897, November, "The Social Democracy," by Cyrus Field Willard. [.pdf file] 1897, November, “The Social Democracy,” by Cyrus Field Willard. [.pdf file]
1898, Annexation of the Hawaiian Islands 1898, Annexation of the Hawaiian Islands
1898, The De Lome Letter 1898, The De Lome Letter
[image, notes and transcription]
1898, Recognition of the Independence of Cuba 1898, Recognition of the Independence of Cuba
1898 April 21, Act Declaring War Between The United States Of America And The Kingdom Of Spain 1898 April 21, Act Declaring War Between The United States Of America And The Kingdom Of Spain
1898, Map of the Spanish-American War 1898, Map of the Spanish-American War
1898, Maps of the Spanish American War 1898, Maps of the Spanish American War
1898, “Black Jack in Cuba: General John J. Pershing’s Experience in the Spanish American War”, by Kevin Hymel 1898, “Black Jack in Cuba: General John J. Pershing’s Experience in the Spanish American War”, by Kevin Hymel
1898 June 11, Statement of Principles of the Social Democratic Party: Adopted at [.pdf file] 1898 June 11, Statement of Principles of the Social Democratic Party: Adopted at [.pdf file]
1898 June 14, William Jennings Bryan. First Speech Against Imperialism 1898 June 14, William Jennings Bryan. First Speech Against Imperialism
1898 July 7, Joint Resolution to Provide for Annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States 1898 July 7, Joint Resolution to Provide for Annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States
[image, notes and transcription]
1898 July 7, Annexation Of The Hawaiian Islands 1898 July 7, Annexation Of The Hawaiian Islands
1898 July 16, Eugene V. Debs, “The Future” [.pdf file] 1898 July 16, Eugene V. Debs, “The Future” [.pdf file]
1898 December 10, Treaty of Peace With Spain 1898 December 10, Treaty of Peace With Spain
1898, Treaty Of Paris With Spain 1898, Treaty Of Paris With Spain
1898 June 2, Rear-Admiral Sampson’s Orders for the Blockade of Santiago [.pdf file] 1898 June 2, Rear-Admiral Sampson’s Orders for the Blockade of Santiago [.pdf file]
1898 June 8, Rear-Admiral Sampson’s Orders for the Use of Searchlights at Night [.pdf file] 1898 June 8, Rear-Admiral Sampson’s Orders for the Use of Searchlights at Night [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Commodore Schley, aboard the USS Brooklyn ”Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, Commodore Schley, aboard the USS Brooklyn ”Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Captain Clark aboard the USS Oregon, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, Captain Clark aboard the USS Oregon, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Captain Chadwick aboard the USS New York “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] LI> 1898 July 6, Captain Robert Evans aboard the USS Iowa, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Captain J. W. Philip aboard the USS Texas, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, Captain J. W. Philip aboard the USS Texas, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Captain H. C. Taylor aboard the USS Indiana,”Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, Captain H. C. Taylor aboard the USS Indiana,”Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Lieutenant-Commander Chadwick aboard the USS Gloucester, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, Lieutenant-Commander Chadwick aboard the USS Gloucester, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Seaman Alfred Schaeffer, aboard the USS Texas, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, Seaman Alfred Schaeffer, aboard the USS Texas, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, Seaman George Keegan, aboard the USS Iowa, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, Seaman George Keegan, aboard the USS Iowa, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 6, George Edward Graham, aboard the USS Brooklyn, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 6, George Edward Graham, aboard the USS Brooklyn, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1898 July 15, from the Brooklyn Eagle, Rear-Admiral W.T. Sampson, aboard the USS New York, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file] 1898 July 15, from the Brooklyn Eagle, Rear-Admiral W.T. Sampson, aboard the USS New York, “Report on the Battle of Santiago” [.pdf file]
1899, Andrew Carnegie, Wealth 1899, Andrew Carnegie, Wealth
1899, Benjamin Harrison, Inaugural Address 1899, Benjamin Harrison, Inaugural Address
1899 June, Robert Lawson, “Train Robbery” [An escapade of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid] 1899 June, Robert Lawson, “Train Robbery” [An escapade of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid]
1899, Hubbard, Elbert, A message to Garcia 1899, Hubbard, Elbert, A message to Garcia
1899 July 29, Hague Conventions 1899 July 29, Hague Conventions
1899 September, First Open Door Note 1899 September, First Open Door Note
1899, Edward L. Wheeler, Deadwood Dick’s Doom; or, Calamity Jane’s Last Adventure, a Tale of Death Notch[.pdf file] 1899, Edward L. Wheeler, Deadwood Dick’s Doom; or, Calamity Jane’s Last Adventure, a Tale of Death Notch[.pdf file]
[Popular literature of the day for young people. Help to create the myth of "The Old West"]
1899, Theodore Roosevelt, The Rough Riders 1899, Theodore Roosevelt, The Rough Riders
[Roosevelt's Famous Volunteer Cavalry Force]
The Wabash Cannonball, Text The Wabash Cannonball, Text
And Music And Music
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United States History from AD1865 to AD1874

1865
WWW-VL: History: US Reconstruction WWW-VL: History: US Reconstruction
1865 March 4, Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address 1865 March 4, Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address
1865 April, Thomas Thatcher Graves, “Lincoln Enters Richmond” 1865 April, Thomas Thatcher Graves, “Lincoln Enters Richmond”
1865 April 7, General R.E. Lee,”Surrender at Appomattox” 1865 April 7, General R.E. Lee,”Surrender at Appomattox”
1865, Terms of Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox 1865, Terms of Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox
1865 April 10, Lee’s Farewell to His Army 1865 April 10, Lee’s Farewell to His Army
1865 April 17, Gideon Welles, “The Death of President Lincoln” 1865 April 17, Gideon Welles, “The Death of President Lincoln”
1865 Nay-June, Sarah Raymond, “Crossing the Plains” 1865 Nay-June, Sarah Raymond, “Crossing the Plains”
Administration of Andrew Johnson, 1865-1869
1865 – 1898, “Winning the West: The Army in the Indian Wars, 1865-1890″ 1865 – 1898, “Winning the West: The Army in the Indian Wars, 1865-1890″
1865 July 7, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, “The Death of John Wilkes Booth” 1865 July 7, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, “The Death of John Wilkes Booth”
Albert Underwood’s Civil War Diary Albert Underwood’s Civil War Diary
1865, Paul Jennings’ Reminiscences of James Madison 1865, Paul Jennings’ Reminiscences of James Madison
1865, An Act To Establish A Bureau For The Relief Of Freedmen And Refugees 1865, An Act To Establish A Bureau For The Relief Of Freedmen And Refugees
2866, Proclamation Declaring the Insurrection at an End 2866, Proclamation Declaring the Insurrection at an End
1865 April 9, The Civil Rights Act 1865 April 9, The Civil Rights Act
1865 October 14, Treaty with the Cheyenne and Arapaho [Little Arkansas River Treaty] 1865 October 14, Treaty with the Cheyenne and Arapaho [Little Arkansas River Treaty]
1866 June 13, 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Passed by Congress : Civil Rights 1866 June 13, 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Passed by Congress : Civil Rights
[image, notes and transcription] [image, notes and transcription]
1866 June 20, Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction 1866 June 20, Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction
1866, Proclamation Declaring the Insurrection at an End 1866, Proclamation Declaring the Insurrection at an End
1866, Jean Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888), Describes Conditions in New Mexico 1866, Jean Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888), Describes Conditions in New Mexico
1866, Edward Everett,”The Issue in the Revolution” 1866, Edward Everett,”The Issue in the Revolution”
The Little Sod Shanty On My Claim The Little Sod Shanty On My Claim
[Song about homesteading on the plains]
1867, A First-Grade Textbook, McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer: Newly Illustrated. (Cincinnati: Wilson, Hinkle and Co., c1867) 1867, A First-Grade Textbook, McGuffey’s Newly Revised Eclectic Primer: Newly Illustrated. (Cincinnati: Wilson, Hinkle and Co., c1867)
1867 January 21, Second-Lieutenant George A. Armes, 2nd US Cavalry, “Indian Pursuit” 1867 January 21, Second-Lieutenant George A. Armes, 2nd US Cavalry, “Indian Pursuit”
1867 January, Frederick Douglass, Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage, 1867 January, Frederick Douglass, Appeal to Congress for Impartial Suffrage,
1867 March 30, Russian Treaty 1867 March 30, Russian Treaty
["Seward's Folly", the purchase of Alaska]
1868 April 29, Fort Laramie Treaty, 1868 April 29, Fort Laramie Treaty,
[Treaty with "Sioux Nation"]
1868 November 30, From New York Times, Letter from General Custer to General Sheridan reporting on the battle of the Washita 1868 November 30, From New York Times, Letter from General Custer to General Sheridan reporting on the battle of the Washita
1868-1874 The Buffalo Harvest 1868-1874 The Buffalo Harvest
Administration of Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-1877
1869, Ulysses S. Grant, First Inaugural Address 1869, Ulysses S. Grant, First Inaugural Address
1869, May 10, Alexander Toponce, ” Completing the Transcontinental Railroad 1869, May 10, Alexander Toponce, ” Completing the Transcontinental Railroad
John 1869-1872, John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries Explored in 1869, 1870, 1871, and 1872 John 1869-1872, John Wesley Powell, Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries Explored in 1869, 1870, 1871, and 1872
1870, $11.14 had the same value as $100 would have in 1986
1870, The Population of the United States Was 38,558,371
1871 June 14, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, “Report of a Visit to the Ogalala Lakota” 1871 June 14, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, “Report of a Visit to the Ogalala Lakota”
1871 November 15, Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs 1871 November 15, Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs
1871, Mark Twain (1835-1910), Roughing It 1871, Mark Twain (1835-1910), Roughing It
1872, A College Textbook in American History, A Manual of American Literature: A Text-Book for Schools and Colleges 1872, A College Textbook in American History, A Manual of American Literature: A Text-Book for Schools and Colleges
[Philadelphia : Eldredge and Brother, c1872]
1872 March 1, Act Establishing Yellowstone National Park 1872 March 1, Act Establishing Yellowstone National Park
[image, notes and transcription]
1872, Horace Greeley, “During His Campaign for President” 1872, Horace Greeley, “During His Campaign for President”
18872, Carl Schurz, “A Plea for General Amnesty” 18872, Carl Schurz, “A Plea for General Amnesty”
1872 December 28, Captain John G. Bourke, “Battle With The Apache” 1872 December 28, Captain John G. Bourke, “Battle With The Apache”
1873 March 04, Ulysses S. Grant, Second Inaugural Address 1873 March 04, Ulysses S. Grant, Second Inaugural Address
1873, H.H. Raymond, Buffalo Hunter Dairy: Old West Pioneer 1873, H.H. Raymond, Buffalo Hunter Dairy: Old West Pioneer
1873, Susan Brownell Anthony, “On Woman’s Right to the Suffrage “ 1873, Susan Brownell Anthony, “On Woman’s Right to the Suffrage “
1875, George William Curtis, “His Oration at Concord” 1875, George William Curtis, “His Oration at Concord”
1874, L.Q.C. Lamar, “On Sumner and the South” 1874, L.Q.C. Lamar, “On Sumner and the South”
1874 October 9, General Postal Union; 1874 October 9, General Postal Union;
1874, George Armstrong Custer, General, U. S. Army, My Life on the Plains 1874, George Armstrong Custer, General, U. S. Army, My Life on the Plains
1874, Joseph G. McCoy, The Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest 1874, Joseph G. McCoy, The Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest
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