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American History - An Overview of the Most Important People and Events. The Hist

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AMERICAN HISTORY

US History: An Overview of the Most Important People & Events. The History of United States: From Indians to Contemporary History of America

Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1 – The Discovery of America

Chapter 2 – The Revolution

Chapter 3 – Westward Expansion

Chapter 4 – The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age

Chapter 5 – The Great War and the Great Depression

Chapter 6 – The Second World War

Chapter 7 – The Cold War and Pax Americana

Chapter 8 – America Today

Conclusion

Introduction

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The United States of America is one, if not the most powerful country in the world. From its tolerance of other religions to its ability to make a significant impact when it enters a war, America has proven time and time again that it is a force to be reckoned with on the world map. However, it was not always like this. Throughout its long and illustrious history, the United States has gone through a rollercoaster of events. There have even been times when it looked as if America would not have much of a future. Quite a number of wrong choices and misunderstandings have almost torn the country apart, but there were also quite a lot of things that happened that made the country stronger than ever.

In this book you will learn about some of the most significant events in U.S. History. Starting from when Europeans first discovered that there were prosperous Native Americans living on the unfamiliar land and ending with some of the most current events that are occurring on American soil. Hopefully, by the end of the book, you’ll learn enough about the colorful history of the United States that it will rekindle a newfound sense of interest within you. Who knows? You may even want to start teaching it.

Chapter 1 – The Discovery of America

Columbus and the accidental discovery of America

Many people tend to think of the beginning of America as starting with Christopher Columbus, and while this certainly rings true for a number of reasons, the fact of the matter is that there were people living in North America long before he arrived. Most Native Americans and Paleolithic peoples were hunter-gatherers, and there have been artifacts found that date to almost 14,000 BCE, indicating that there were thriving cultures here for several millennia. Some of the earliest societies would have included the Adena People and the Mississippian People who built raised cities and were likely among the first North Americans to adopt an agrarian style of living, growing and harvesting maize. Other popular crops included berries, potatoes, tomatoes, squash, and beans.

Pre-excavation view of the Adena Mound in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Later on, the Iroquois people also inhabited the land that would one day become the United States and were quite advanced and powerful. They produced a democratic society that many theorists believe actually helped to inspire the eventual writing of the United States Constitution. The Iroquois confederacy, known as the Iroquois Nation, the Five Nations, and later , the Six Nations, and comprised the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, and Tuscaroga peoples. Evidence of their civilization has more or less vanished in a physical sense, but the legends and mythology they left behind is still a subtle influence in the makeup of the United States.

The Six Nations had what equated to a centralized government comprised of representative chiefs from each of the six nations. Decisions were based strongly on the agreement of the people, including women, and their system of government included a version of checks and balances that help define the U.S. government. In 1988, Congress passed an official resolution to formally acknowledge the influence of the Iroquois Nation on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Map of the Iroquois Five Nations, circa 1650. The Iroquois built a democratic empire.

In the Age of Exploration, the first European to reach the Americas was in fact Christopher Columbus. There were a number of prior missions that failed to reach America, but Columbus was determined. He was an Italian-born explorer who had been traveling the vast oceans under the name of the Portuguese Crown. During his time, Portugal was one of the strongest countries in the world, thanks in part to their numerous trade ships and trade agreements with many countries in Africa and some parts of India.

Portrait of Christopher Columbus, Wellcome Rare Books Collection

During Columbus’s time, many people still believed that the earth was flat and that if you sailed too far, you’d risk falling off the edge and into oblivion. Columbus did not really subscribe to the theory of a flat earth, thanks mostly to the invention of the printing press and the distribution of scholarly articles between countries. However, he wasn’t a sole proponent of the idea of a round earth either. Rather, he was under the impression that the earth was shaped somewhat like a pear, with an oblong dimension to it.

At the time, the only way for merchant ships to reach Asia was by following the African coast and crossing the Indian Ocean, which was a long and terrifying journey. Columbus believed that it would be faster and much safer to sail westward and cross the Pacific and into the continent of Asia. Not only would this assumedly cut down on the dangerous and costly sailing time, but it would create a corridor to the Asian markets that would, Columbus hoped, benefit Portugal. Unfortunately, the king of Portugal did not intend to let Columbus take a fleet of his ships over the edge of the world.

Through the eyes of an eyewitness

YOUR HIGHNESSES, as Catholic Christians And Princes who love the holy Christian faith; and the propagation of it, and who are enemies to the sect of Mahoma and to all idolatries and heresies, resolved to send me, Cristóbal Colon, to the said parts of India to see the said princes, and the cities and lands, and their disposition, with a view that they might be converted to our holy faith; and ordered that I should not go by land to the eastward; as had been customary, but that I should go by way of the west, whither up to this day, we do not know for certain that any one; has gone.

-Journal of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus

This setback did not deter Columbus in the least. When the Portuguese crown did not let him circumnavigate the earth, he cut his ties with the crown and went to other countries to offer his services. Columbus went to England and France, and he pitched his idea of establishing a shorter trade route so they could gain access to the riches of Asia. However, both the English and French monarchs also believed that the earth was flat and that his plan was pure folly. However, in 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain somehow became interested in Columbus’s proposition and agreed to finance his “crazy” expedition.

On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus took his three ships, the Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa Maria, out of the Spanish port town of Palos and sailed westward. Understandably, Columbus’s crew did not share his beliefs that earth was not flat, and they are all terrified at the prospect of sailing over the edge of the world. To appease his crewmembers, Columbus kept two logbooks; one contained the real distance that they have travelled, and a second one that shows a considerably lesser amount. He kept the first book a secret from the crew. However, the crew started to become suspicious about their travels.

The routes of the four voyages of Christopher Columbus from 1492 to 1504.

To stop his crew from committing mutiny in the high seas, Columbus made a promise that if by two days they still haven’t found land, they will turn around and head back home to Spain. As luck would have it, they found land the next day.

On October 12, 1492, Columbus landed in what he believed to be India, but what was actually a South American island, which he named Hispaniola (this island is now a part of the Dominican Republic). Hispaniola was home to the Taino people, a large indigenous group who lived not only in Hispaniola, but also Jamaica, Trinidad, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Some historians estimate that at the time of Columbus’ arrival, some Taino city centers had as many as 3,000 people each.

Columbus and his crew arrived bearing ships and Christianity, but that wasn’t all. The Europeans also brought infectious diseases such as smallpox. It’s estimated that as much as 90% of the indigenous population died of exposure to these diseases.

Did Columbus even land in North America?

Columbus never even set foot on the North American mainland. Rather, he ended up landing on a number of the Caribbean Islands and made several voyages that ended up reaching South America. However, he did establish a safer route for ships to get to the Americas, and this paved the way for other explorers to make their way into North America and what would eventually become the United States. Although Columbus was preceded by a number of much earlier nautical ventures by Vikings like Leif Erikson, who would have reached the North American continent, Columbus’ influence—especially on the indigenous populations—was markedly more significant, and laid the foundation for centuries of exploitation and colonial expansion, something is still felt even today by North America’s surviving modern indigenous peoples.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

 

The Admiral went on shore in the armed boat, and Martin Alonso Pinzon, and Vicente Yanez, his brother, who was captain of the Niña. The Admiral took the royal standard, and the captains went with two banners of the green cross, which the Admiral took in all the ships as a sign with an F and a Y and a crown over each letter, one on one side of the cross and the other on the other. Having landed they saw trees very green, and much water, and fruits of diverse kinds. The Admiral called to the two captains, and to the others who leaped on shore, and to Rodrigo Escovedo, secretary of the whole fleet, and to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, and said that they should bear faithful testimony that he, in presence of all, had taken, as he now took, possession of the said island for the King and for the Queen his Lords, making the declarations that are required, as is now largely set forth in the testimonies made in writing.

They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion. I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses, that they may learn to speak.

-Journal of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus

 

At the time, Portuguese and Spanish society was heavily influenced by the effects and ubiquity of Christian theology, and this extended to the notion that it was important and imperative to spread religious beliefs to as many corners of the globe as possible. However, whatever the intentions of devout missionaries, this attempt at re-acculturation ended up having a much more negative impact. Many missionaries were killed, but many more natives were massacred by conquistadors attempting to supplant the endemic spiritual beliefs of South American peoples.

The irony of Columbus’ blunder in the South America was compounded by the fact that, even until his death in 1506, he was a stout believer that he had actually found a way to the East Indies and refused to believe that he had landed on a separate hereto unknown body of land. This can be traced back to the etymological and linguistic origins for why, up until very recently, North American’s indigenous people were called “Indians” – Columbus believed wholeheartedly that he had actually reached India.

Other European Expeditions

In the 10th century, it’s a widely-held belief that Leif Eriksson led a Norse expedition and established what became a temporary settlement in parts of North America. While the Vikings had settlements in Greenland for several centuries, the Vikings, it’s believed, used travel to North America primarily to obtain resources like timber. Until the time of Columbus, no other European explorer reached the continent.

Interestingly, there was another Italian explorer who sailed from Europe looking for a faster route to Asia. John Cabot, born Giovanni Caboto, was an explorer who had a theory that leaving from further north would result in a shorter journey to Asia. He sailed on behalf of the English crown, and specifically King Henry VII. Cabot sailed aboard the Matthew and landed in present-day Canada in 1497, believing it to be China. He claimed the land for England in the name of the king, and this became an early step towards English dominance in the 16th and 17th centuries. There is not as much detail about his first journey, and there is debate as to where he precisely landed; some say Newfoundland, while others say it may have been as far south as Maine. Either way, Cabot was the first European to reach North America since Leif Eriksson, as Columbus never set foot on the mainland and remained in the Caribbean. Cabot’s fate is unknown; his final expedition was conflicting documentation; some believe his ships were lost at sea, but there may be some evidence that the crew survived the voyage, but nothing is known about Cabot after 1500.

Can You Believe This Actually Happened?

Christopher Columbus returned to Spain in 1500:

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Married

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Imprisoned

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Dead

#
p<>{color:#000;}. As governor

Answer: Imprisoned. Due to his brutal rule over Hispaniola, colonists protested to Spain, claiming mismanagement and tyrannical reign. A royal commissioner was dispatched to arrest Columbus and take him back to Spain. Columbus was stripped of his title of Governor, but King Ferdinand gave Columbus his freedom and approved a fourth voyage to the New World.

On what day did the Santa Maria wreck along the coast of modern-day Haiti?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Valentine’s Day

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Christmas Eve

#
p<>{color:#000;}. All Saints’ Day

#
p<>{color:#000;}. St. Patrick’s Day

Answer: Christmas Eve. The Santa Maria, the largest of Columbus’ fleet of ships, wrecked by running aground over a sandbank. The ship was damaged beyond repair, and the crew used the timber from the ship to build a temporary fort, which Columbus called La Navidad, the Spanish word for Christmas.

Misconceptions

Christopher Columbus was not the first European to cross the Atlantic Ocean

That distinction probably goes to the Norse Viking Leif Eriksson. Eriksson is believed to have landed on the eastern coast of North America in present-day Newfoundland approximately 500 years before Columbus set sail for the Caribbean.

Columbus was not setting out to prove the Earth was round

Greek mathematician Pythagoras had the idea that the Earth was round, and Aristotle verified this theory in the third century BC with astrological observations. Later, with the presence of the printing press, it was easier to share ideas and education; many more people were educated and could read, Columbus included.

If the Choice Were Yours

Columbus settled in the Caribbean and became the governor of Hispaniola. While he served as governor, reports began to surface regarding his treatment of colonists and natives.

If the choice were yours, how would you have governed a new land?

With and iron fist and strict rule or with equality and democratic process?

Columbus reportedly ran the island of Hispaniola with a degree of harshness and tyranny. Reports to Spain suggest that Columbus even went so far as to harshly punish those who spoke ill of him, and send others into slavery as punishment.

History Has Its Eyes on Us Today

The United States marks Christopher Columbus’ birthday, October 12, as a national holiday, Columbus Day. Even today, this holiday is viewed as controversial and one-sided. Those who oppose the holiday say that Columbus Day ignores the existence of Native Americans and celebrates a Euro-centric worldview. Opponents also say that it is not ethically right to celebrate the life of a man known for tyranny and who was a known slave trader. What do you think?

The Early Settlers

After the news of a new route across the Atlantic had reached Europe, there was a flurry of interest. The Spanish and Portuguese set off to conquer large areas of South and Central America over the centuries, building huge overseas empires that flooded them their economies with goods and materials. Spain is even said to have imported so much gold that the value of it decreased significantly across Europe; this sudden and huge spike in the supply of gold may have caused economic problems for the monarchy and subsequently destroyed the Spanish empire. The Europeans encountered countless Native American tribes and even some empires. As we know today, these Native American empires eventually succumbed to Spanish and Portuguese military powers largely thought amplified greatly by a lack of immunity to Old World diseases. The Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas are the well-known empires we have all learned about in history class.

This book, however, does not focus on those areas of the world. What was happening in North America? As the Spanish were early to the game, they founded a colony in Florida in 1560 and even before that they were exploring areas now included in the United States. Twenty years before their Florida colony, the Spanish observed and explored the California coast. But these events are tangential to U.S. history. What was happening in Florida and California were of significantly less relevance than what happened just a few decades later.

Spain wanted to invade the English mainland, and they had the naval firepower to launch an attack. However, the attack failed when the English destroyed the Spanish Armada in 1588. The English themselves wanted a piece of the new world, and in 1607, they had already set up a colony at Jamestown. The main drivers for this interest in the New World were economic, though religion and national rivalry in Europe also played major roles in the expansion of European empires over the next four centuries.

The English were surprisingly late to establish colonies in the new world, as France, Spain, and Portugal happily explored and staked out claims in the newfound world quickly following Columbus’ discovery. Many of the early English colonies were failures, but fate turned a smile towards them eventually, as the United States is a direct descendant not of Portuguese, French, or Spanish but of the English.

The first known English settlement into the New World was led by an explorer named Sir Water Raleigh in August of 1584 on behalf of England and Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen gave Raleigh the charter to colonize, which required he establish a settlement immediately or risk losing the charter. They had to leave about ten months later due to a lack of supplies, but they returned in 1587 with women and children to try again. The 115 colonists first landed off the coast of what is today known as Dare County, North Carolina, led by John White who accompanied Raleigh on preliminary travels to Roanoke Island. The colonists arrived on July 22, 1587, and found nothing but skeletal remains on the English garrison that was left behind to keep claims to Roanoke Island secure. They group found themselves in a dire situation, and asked White to return to England to explain the situation and receive additional supplies. White left his family behind, including his newborn granddaughter, Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the Americas.

Desperate for supplies, John White went back to England in order to get what he needed so that he could return to his family. The Spanish had been attacking English ships, so he was forced to stay behind for three years. When White finally came back to America, there was no sign of his family or any of the other settlers anywhere. They seemed to have completely disappeared. The only clue as to their whereabouts were the words CRO and CROATOAN etched into two trees. There was a Native American group called Croatoans, so naturally they assumed that the settlers made their way to them in order to survive. To this day, no one truly knows what happened to the Roanoke people who were left behind, giving this group of colonists the nickname, “The Lost Colony”. Following the mysterious disappearance of the Roanoke colony in 1590, the English finally set up Jamestown, and the colony became a success.

Portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1588,

JAMESTOWN

The Jamestown colony was set up in what would become the U.S. state of Virginia in 1607. The state is named after the company that settled the area, the Virginia Company. Most ventures were set up as companies, as this was, first and foremost, an economic expedition to capitalize on the New World’s opportunities. And the Virginia Company was no different. Their goal? To mine gold and silver from the New World for the glory of England. They also wanted to find a trade route across the newly discovered North American Continent in hopes of trading with the highly lucrative Orient – Christopher Columbus’s original plan.

Map showing the location of the Jamestown Colony.

The commander of the voyage left in summer 1607 to report the new settlement’s findings and location to the monarchy in England. Those left behind struggled to survive in the New World where they faced not only disease and famine but also attacks from the local Native American tribes who were loosely organized by the Chief Powhatan. The conflict between the new settlers and the Natives eventually subsided to just a few skirmishes here and there. The settlers established trade, which helped them subsist through the early years. The most common types of trades included beads and metal tools (including weapons) for foodstuffs.

After multiple setbacks and a brutal winter which killed a large number of settlers, the colony was set to be abandoned, just like the other English colonies before it. However, two ships arrived from England right before abandonment, which bore at least 150 new people to settle, supplies to help the colony survive, and, perhaps most importantly, a newly appointed governor of the colony. A ragtag group of settlers cannot survive without some sort of leadership.

The settlers learned much from the local Algonquin tribe. The English started to build forts along the James River, and in 1611 they had harvested their own corn successfully. The relative peace between the settlers and Algonquins did not last, and even though the settlers had learned and prospered thanks to the Natives, they had started to raid their villages and kill their members. The marriage between a settler and a Native (John Smith and Pocahontas), the peace returned.

An 1878 depiction of tobacco cultivation at the Jamestown Colony, circa 1615.

As this was an economic venture, it began to really thrive after the introduction of a strain of tobacco that could grow in the region. The beginnings of the democratic process (for male landowners, at least) was set up in the region, and eventually, Africans were brought to the Americas; the origins of slavery in America had sprouted.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

The thirteenth day, we came to our seating place [Jamestown] in Paspihas Country, some eight miles from the point of Land, which I made mention before: where our ships do lie so near the shore that they are moored to the Trees in six fathom water.

[The fourteenth day, we landed all our men, which were set to work about the fortification, and others some to watch and ward as it was convenient. The first night of our landing, about midnight, there came some Savages sailing close to our quarter. Presently there was an alarm given; upon that the Savages ran away, and we [were] not troubled any more by them that night. Not long after there came two Savages that seemed to be Commanders, bravely dressed, with Crowns of colored hair upon their heads, he came as Messengers from the Werowance of Paspihae, telling us that their Werowance was coming and would be merry with us with a fat Deer.
__]-Master George Percy

Misconceptions

The Myth of Pocahontas

The Powhatan give official and unofficial names, much like we have birth names and nicknames. Pocahontas is actually a nickname that can be interpreted to mean “playful one” or possibly “spoiled child. Her given name was Matoaka and was also known as Amonute.

John Smith would have encountered Pocahontas when she was only a young girl, but she proved invaluable to the Jamestown Colony, befriending Smith and bringing provisions. During a war between the Jamestown Colony and indigenous tribes, Pocahontas was captured and was taught Christianity during her imprisonment. She took the Christian name of Rebecca and later married tobacco farmer John Rolfe, which lead to a short period of peace between the English and the Powhatan.

Pocahontas has been portrayed as a princess, but that was not exactly accurate. While she was the daughter of a powerful Powhatan leader, their ruling system was not equivalent to that of the kings and queens of Europe.

PLYMOUTH COLONY

A different type of colony was established further north along the coast in what would become Massachusetts. In late 1620, three ships arrived on the New England coast to form a new settlement. The ships were two months late, and December is not a good month to start a new colony. The winter was brutal, and half of the original settlers died in the first winter. The remainder was able to form peace with the local tribes and established themselves as another success in English colonial history within the next five years.

Map of the Plymouth Colony and surrounding area, 1620-1691.

Nearly half of the settlers were Pilgrims. They were seeking not only economic opportunities but also religious freedom. They were Puritans who had extreme interpretations of the Protestant Reformation and did not believe the Anglican Church was fulfilling the requirements. They tried staying in Europe in the Netherlands, a notoriously tolerant country, but did not want to lose their English language and heritage. Hence, they set out to the New World, which offered a place to practice their radical beliefs.

One of the most famous incidents of Protestant migration was the eminent Mayflower. This ship landed in 1620 and contained primarily Protestants who were trying to escape religious persecution back in England. It has gone down in history as one of the premiere examples of both immigration into the United States, and conversely an example of how hard it was to survive in the New World, whose harsh climate and terrifying winters were an unexpected disaster for many. Many of the original pilgrims faced not only the danger of weather, but also attack from animals, hypothermia and illnesses, and accidents.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

Being thus arived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the periles and miseries therof, againe to set their feete on the firme and stable earth, their proper elemente. And no marvell if they were thus joyefull, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on the coast of his owne Italy; as he affirmed,3 that he had rather remaine twentie years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious and dreadfull was the same unto him.

And for the season it vas winter, and they that know the winters of that cuntrie know them to be sharp and violent, and subjecte to cruell and feirce stormes, deangerous to travill to known places, much more to serch an unknown coast. Besids, what could they see but a hidious and desolate wildernes, full of wild beasts and willd men?…What could now sustaine them but the spirite of God and his grace?

-William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation

 

The colonists developed relations with a single Native American who had previously been captured and taken to England. He managed to escape back to North America, and he was able to liaise between the new colonists and the local tribe already present. The colonists and Natives shared a harvest feast together in 1621, which became the American holiday of Thanksgiving. The colonists survived largely due to help from the Natives, and the success likely reinforced their notions of being God-sent.

Other colonies sprung up along the coast, which had similar guiding principles, but these principles eventually became economical in nature. Religious considerations were not fully abandoned, but commerce became the most important driving force. Of course, this meant a hunger for more land and power, which resulted in conflict with the Natives. Intermittent violence occurred and culminated in a full war in 1675 (King Philip’s War of 1675). The power and influence of Plymouth started to fade as other, more successful colonies forged ahead, and the colony was absorbed by Massachusetts by the end of the 17th century.

CALIFORNIA COLONIES

While the European influx into the New World was rampant, the Spanish and Portuguese were no slouches either. Capitalizing on the foothold they had made in earlier sailing voyages and cemented by Columbus’ first visit, a number of ships cruised up and down the California coast, but very few, if any, colonies were established between the 16th and 18th centuries. However, a number of soldiers and priests did explore this area greatly, and helped to build presidios or religious monasteries and missions that were inhabited primarily by Franciscan monks. One of the first was established by Father Junipero Serra called the Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769, and represented a concerted effort by the Spanish to continue their proselytization of the West into the Christian faith.

A painting of the Mission San Diego de Alcala, 1848.

NEW FRANCE

The French were not prepared to lose out on the early land claims that would one day shape North America into its present incarnation, and were also heavily involved in a number of expeditions that established ‘New France’, an area consisting of present day Acadia, Newfoundland, Mississippi, and various islands in the Canadian peninsula (including Cape Breton Island and Prince Edward Island). In the early to late 1600’s there was a huge and booming industry of fur trappers extending all the way down the coast and was extremely profitable to the motherland of France back home. It wasn’t until the War for Independence in 1783 that much of the land beneath the Great Lakes area became part of the United States, and by then there were already a number of French colonies with thriving populations, including Illinois Country that sported nearly 2,500 people.

Map of New France, circa 1750.

Additionally, French Louisiana was also a lucrative stretch of land, reaching from the Midwest and the Rockies all the way to upper and lower Louisiana. In 1700 several colonies sprung up at Mobile and Biloxi, and it would be only a matter of years before a huge party of French migrants – nearly 7,000 in total – would found the iconic city of New Orleans in 1718. Situated on the banks of the Mississippi, it would act as a major transportation and commerce hub, and though the development and expansion of New Orleans was slow to start, its value as an economic powerhouse was undisputed.

Map of New Orleans, 1798.

Several decades later the grip that France had in the Americas would start to decline when, in 1763, it would begin to cede several territories in and around Mississippi and New Orleans back to France. In a way, this marked the beginning of the end for France’s control of its colonial powers, and would eventually culminate with the 1803 watershed event of the Louisiana Purchase.

Dutch Colonization

In 1602, the Dutch chartered the Dutch East India Company to claim territory in the New World. The Dutch East India Company employed Englishman Henry Hudson, who explored and claimed lands in present day New York City and areas north along the now eponymous Hudson River. The province of New Netherland was established, as well as dozens of forts along the river, providing a network of trade. The Dutch held claim to this land until 1664, when the English sent a naval unit that threatened to take New Netherlands. The Director-General of the colony, Peter Stuyvesant, surrendered the territory and the English renamed the territory New York. This led to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, where the Dutch officially gave up claim to the land in the Treaty of Breda. The area exchanged hands on more time between 1673 and 1674, but ultimately New York remained in English hands until Americans declared their independence from the crown.

European colonization territories in the Americas.

The Formation of the 13 Colonies

As mentioned, most of these colonies were developed for economic reasons. The population of England was growing, and the gigantic landmass of North America provided an outlet for those people. The prevailing economic model at the time, mercantilism, drove the European powers into competition in an effort to gather more power and prestigious than the neighbors.

Mercantilism attempted to magnify state power by increasing economic power (something that really has never disappeared). The National government would regulate trade in an attempt to achieve a positive balance of trade, especially for finished goods. The New World could supply a huge amount of natural resources (as Spain and Portugal had done with gold and silver) and hence mercantilism drove colonialism. Furthermore, the government regulation sometimes included a prohibition on trading with other colonies. This style of economic activity frequently led to war, and many wars throughout European and early American history have an economic conflict as a basis.

A competitor to Virginia, Maryland, was granted in 1632. The grant from the English Crown was for 12 million acres of land, and the colony relied heavily on a single cash crop for its prosperity. The colony, however, was intended to be Catholic and a refuge for persecuted Catholics in Anglican England; the colony became known for its religious freedom, a departure from some of the colonies further north (such as Massachusetts and Connecticut). It was less religiously permissive than Rhode Island, though.

Map of the thirteen colonies, 1776.

The main export of Virginia and Maryland was tobacco, which was shipped back to Europe. The plant had been first introduced by Native Americans, and the Europeans quickly took to smoking the substance. One of the two major crops that supported the southern colonies on the East Coast, it became an essential export for the American colonies. Cotton would become the other major cash crop for the southern colonies, as the developing Industrial Revolution in England demanded raw materials for its factories. These factories turned out finished goods (textiles), augmenting the power of the English Crown.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

[_ The general features of slavery are the same every where; but the utmost rigour of the system, is only to be met with, on the cotton plantations of Carolina and Georgia, or in the rice fields which skirt the deep swamps and morasses of the southern rivers. In the tobacco fields of Maryland and Virginia, great cruelties are practiced- - not so frequently by the owners, as by the overseers of the slaves; but yet, the tasks are not so excessive as in the cotton region, nor is the press of labour so incessant throughout the year. It is true, that from the period when the tobacco plants are set in the field, there is no resting time until it is housed; but it is planted out about the first of May, and must be cut and taken out of the field before the frost comes. After it is hung and dried, the labor of stripping and preparing it for the hogshead in leaf, or of manufacturing it into twist, is comparatively a work of leisure and ease. Besides, on almost every plantation the hands are able to complete the work of preparing the tobacco by January, and sometimes earlier; so that the winter months, form some sort of respite from the toils of the year. The people are obliged, it is true, to occupy themselves in cutting wood for the house, making rails and repairing fences, and in clearing new land, to raise the tobacco plants for the next year; but as there is usually time enough, and to spare, for the completion of all this work, before the season arrives for setting the plants in the field; the men are seldom flogged much, unless they are very lazy or negligent, and the women are allowed to remain in the house, in the very cold, snowy, or rainy weather.... _]

-Charles Ball, former slave

New York (City) was established as English while many settlers from other regions (including Germans, Scandinavians, Frenchmen, and Belgians) stayed in the area. Pennsylvania was established as a relatively religiously tolerant colony that also prospered, as many of its residents were able to support themselves once they arrived in the colony.

Original 1660 map of the city of New Amsterdam, created by surveyor Jacques Cortelyou. This map is also known as the Castello Plan.

The Carolina Colony was not so diverse as New York. In the northern areas it contained subsistence farmers and in the south, it was largely planters who made money from cash crops such as corn and rice, plus livestock. The southern plantation output was made possible by slave labor, and many of the planters were themselves in the business. The Carolina Colony was also huge, with its charter giving it reign over everything south of Virginia to Spain-controlled Florida with a breadth stretching all the way to the Pacific Ocean. However, in 1732, in order to protect the increasing importance of Carolina, Georgia was established as a buffer colony between the English colonies and Spanish Florida.

Illustration of tobacco farming, from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1855.

From the meager settlements of the early 1600s with a few hundred colonists, in 1700 the population of the Thirteen Colonies was estimated at about 250,000. Over the next three-quarters of a century, the population exploded, driven by natural births and immigration of people from all over Europe into the colonies. The colonies offered economic and religious opportunities for many escaping the Old World. In the next 75 years, the population multiplied itself by nearly 100, boasting a population of 2.5 million at the time of the American Revolution. As a comparison, the population in the controlling England in 1700 was about 5.2 million and by the time of the American Revolution, it had risen to around 7 million. The population grew much more rapidly in the colonies, but the British Isles are tiny in comparison to the vast area the Thirteen Colonies covered. It is also easier for a small population to achieve faster growth rates, as raw numbers do not have to be so great.

The colonies were largely still part of English culture and society, and the sparks that caused the American Revolution largely centered around the disagreement between who should control politics. As is known by every student of American history, a major point of consternation was taxation of colonial wealth by the Crown. England, following the ideas of mercantilism, surely wanted to increase governmental power by increasing wealth. The Crown also needed money to fight wars with other European powers. The colonists were not interested in paying for English ventures without being able to debate it first.

AN OLD WORLD WAR FOUGHT ACROSS THE WHOLE WORLD

The New World was carved up by the colonial powers into separate spheres of influence. The Spanish, French, and British were the main European powers throughout the Age of Colonialism who maintained settlements on the North American continent. Old World issues flared up, especially between France and Britain, which both had global territorial claims. In what is considered the first world war, Britain and France led competing coalitions (made up of the major European powers except for the Ottoman Empire), and the fighting, due to the vast empires of the competing nations, spanned five continents. Termed the Seven Years War for its main fighting period lasting seven years (1756-1763) is known in the United States as the French and Indian War.

The North American theater’s portion of the war may be identified by using the term French and Indian War, which saw the British colonial forces fighting against France and their Native allies. The French and British made conflicting claims on the land, even though the actual border was mostly undefined. The French offered to protect the Natives from further British incursions, and hence starting building forts. One such fort, named Fort Duquesne, was built at the meeting point of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, which intersected to form the Ohio River. The area lies in the modern city of Pittsburgh, within the bounds of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania was a British colony, and the building of a foreign military installation was met with resistance.

Plan of Fort Duquesne, 1759

Virginia sent a militia to drive the French out. George Washington was the leader of the group, and they attacked a small French regimen, killing 10, including the commander. The French retaliated and forced Washington to surrender. The British and French (once the news reached Europe) tried to negotiate peace, but the negotiations failed. Both sides sent regular troops to North America to protect their claims. Meanwhile, the British were capturing French ships. The French intended to attack Hanover (in modern Germany) since the prince elector was also the British King. Prussia agreed to protect the city, and France, in a reversal of historical animosity, allied with Austria. As with all history, everything is connected and the rivalry between Prussia and Austria, which eventually led to a unified Germany excluding Austria in 1871, had already formed more than a century prior.

Map of troop movement during the French and Indian War.

The British defeated the French in every campaign against New France. The group of Natives who had sided with the French resigned from the war in 1760 and negotiated a treaty to keep their trade routes between Canada and New York. The British eventually fully defeated the French forces and controlled the entire Eastern half of North America.

Can You Believe This Actually Happened?

Which crop was originally intended for the Virginia Colony?

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p<>{color:#000;}. Cotton

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p<>{color:#000;}. Fruits

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p<>{color:#000;}. Walnuts

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p<>{color:#000;}. Silk

Answer: silk. Jamestown was originally founded for the purposes of silk cultivation. However, mulberry trees, the main source of silkworm food, were destroyed by a blight. This made silk manufacturing an impossibility, so the colony turned to tobacco as the main crop.

What was the name of the first English ship to land at Jamestown in 1607?

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p<>{color:#000;}. Susan Constant

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p<>{color:#000;}. Discovery

The Susan Constant was the first ship to make landfall at Cape Henry in 1607. The other two ships that accompanied the Susan Constant were the Godspeed and the Discovery. The passengers were mostly ill-equipped for the brackish waters and many suffered from saltwater poisoning and died of disease and starvation.

If the Choice Were Yours

How would you have traded for goods with other countries?

Would you trade your own resources, or would you conquer other areas for resources?

In the New World, trade was actually founded in slavery. In what was known as the transatlantic slave trade, or the Triangle Trade, slaves were brought to the American colonies as free labor for plantations. The raw good produced by those plantations, such as cotton and tobacco, were transported to England where they were converted to manufactured goods. Manufactured goods were used to trade for slaves in Africa and the Caribbean, thus reinforcing the cycle.

Chapter 2 –The Revolution

 

The American Revolution & George Washington, the First President

After the Seven Years’ War, which saw the British successfully driving away the French from the English colonies in North America, the Crown found itself under a massive amount of debt, almost double what the national debt had been before the war. This prompted the British government to impose hefty taxes on their colonies so they could recoup their losses and somehow chip away at their national debt.

The taxes were fairly simple. The first was the Sugar Act of 1764, which basically was a way to encourage the production of British goods and deter the use of smuggling. The Sugar Act, officially known as the American Revenue Act, imposed taxes on foreign goods such as sugar, coffee, and some textiles, the intention being to reduce independent trade with West Indies and encourage the exchange of British goods. The Americans were not very fond of this measure, and protests took place. That same year, the British enacted the Currency Act, which gave British control over the colonial currency system. Next, was the Stamp Act of 1765, which required all newspapers, legal documents, and pamphlets (and even playing cards) to put on a special stamped or watermarked parchment in which a tax was put in place. Later that year, the Quartering Act was enacted, which required colonial assemblies to purchase supplies from British garrisons.

The Stamp Act of 1765.

The early Americans did not like these new taxes in the least; they cited that there should be “no taxation without representation in Parliament.” The colonists saw this as a change in British policies to use taxes not to regulate trade but specifically to raise money. In response to the uproar from the colonies, the British repealed the Stamp Act. However, they did put out a so-called Declaratory Act of 1766, which stated that the British could tax the Americans if they wanted to. To show their muscle even more, in 1767 the British government enacted the Townshend Revenue Act which was meant to put a tax on things like paper, lead, tea, glass, and paint. The Americans were still adamant about the fact that they could not be given a tax without some type of representation in Parliament. However, the British government still pushed through with their plans, which understandably led to civil unrest. In October of 1768, the Crown sent troops to America to try to get a hold of all the protests that were occurring in the colonies.

The country was already in a bit of a fix, and the 1770s saw a lot of action. In March of 1770, a crowd was gathered outside of a sentry, protesting the taxes that were being forced upon them. A small squad of soldiers came to assist them. While the crowd was throwing snowballs and mocking the tax collectors, one of them hit a soldier. There are different versions of what occurred next. Some say that the soldier lost his footing, fell down, and fired his musket into a volley, which killed five civilians. Others say that the soldiers collectively shot out a “volley of shots”, which killed three people immediately and two others a little later on. Regardless of the specifics, one thing is certain: the soldiers fired a weapon and five people were killed: black sailor Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray, James Caldwell, Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr. This event has come to be called the Boston Massacre. Although only five people were killed, the revolutionaries decided to call it a massacre for both dramatic effect and a way to really get people pumped up to rebel against the British. Boston called a town meeting demanding that the British leave the town and that the British captain be tried for murder. It was actually John Adams who was partially responsible for Captain Preston’s acquittal. Although the Townshend Revenue Act was repealed in April of that same year, the British were still determined to get money from the Americans to fund the war that had just been won for them.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

On Friday, the 2d instant, a quarrel rose between some soldiers of the 29^th^, and the rope-makers journeyman and apprentices, which was carried to that length, as to become dangerous to the lives of each party, many of them being much wounded. This contentious disposition continued until the Monday evening following, [March 5^th^] when a party of seven or eight soldiers was detached from the main guard, under the command of Captain Preston, and by his orders fired upon the inhabitants promiscuously in King Street, without the least warning of their intention, and killed three on the spot; another has since died of his wounds, and others are dangerously, some it is feared mortally, wounded. Captain Preston and his party are now in jail. An inquiry is now making into this unhappy affair….

-Sam Adams, John Hancock, and others, Committee of the Town of Boston

A depiction of the Boston Massacre. Engraving by Paul Revere based on a design by Henry Pelham. Note: this is not considered an accurate depiction.

The next tax that the British tried to enact was the Tea Act of 1773. Even though it would net a little money in taxes, the act’s main purpose was to help bail out the East India Tea Company, which was a major part of the British economy. Essentially, the British allowed the company to sell directly to itself. The Americans saw the act as a way to indirectly impose a tax on them, and they once again had a problem with the way that the Crown was conducting business. Some ports, such as Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia, they simply refused to accept shipments of tea. Things really got out of hand when some really ticked off Bostonians disguised as Indians snuck onto cargo ships the night of December 16, 1773 and started throwing crates of tea—342 chests to be exact—into the Boston Harbor and effectively kicked off the Revolutionary War (an event that has had symbolic consequences to this day in the form of the conservatively political Tea Party in the United States).

Depiction of the Boston Tea Party, 1789.

Right before the war really got started, Parliament was completely fed up with the colonists. Between protesting, harassing soldiers, and destroying property, it was time that Parliament took some action. In direct response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed what they called Coercive Acts. The acts put very harsh restrictions on Boston, and Massachusetts, in general. The American colonists called the list of acts the Intolerable Acts because they were so harsh that they could not be tolerated at face value.

The first of the Intolerable Acts closed the Boston harbor. Two acts followed, the Administration of Justice Act and the Massachusetts Government Act. The Massachusetts Government Act effectively took away the state’s right to self-governing, while the Administration of Justice Act created a situation wherein royal officials could easily escape justice from crimes. The Quartering Act was also part of the Coercive Acts and applied to all states; they were required to provide suitable quarters for any British soldiers.

As a result, the colonists met for the First Continental Congress in September of 1774. The meeting was called so that they could discuss what they were going to do as a result of these acts that the Crown was taking against them. One delegate from Pennsylvania proposed an imperial union with the English, which would require that all acts of Parliament be approved by an American assembly. It’s possible that if this measure had been approved by the First Continental Congress and the British approved as well, that Revolution could have been avoided or staved off. The measure missed approval by one vote.

To the left on the oil painting is a depiction of a colonist making a tax payment. The central panel shows an oration by Patrick Henry, and the right panel depicts a British solider blocking the path of a woman and child, symbolizing the feelings of American colonists.

The fledgling revolutionary army needed someone to lead them, someone who has enough guts to go against the British, and charismatic enough to inspire others to join their plight. The man they chose to become the general of the Continental army was none other than George Washington.

The Continental Congress, a convention of the delegates from twelve of the thirteen (Georgia delegates were not in attendance) British colonies in North America, chose George Washington for the position of Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Gerogia declined to participate because it was currently facing conflicts with some the local Native peoples and were still hoping for British assistance. There were two camps of attendees at the Continental Congress. The Conservatives were hoping for repealment of harmful acts and a peaceful resolution and reconciliation. The other half of the Congress included radicals such as Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and John Adams, who wanted to free themselves from the yoke of British oppression and create a decisive statement that outlined the rights of the colonies. The First Continental Congress created its Declaration and Resolves, where they signed the Continental Association, which boycotted the import of British goods.

Although Washington was born a British citizen and he was a former redcoat, Washington’s extreme dismay over the way the English were treating the colonists made him accept the post of Commander-in-Chief.

Before being offered the command position of the Continental Army, George Washington was a decorated British military veteran. In fact, he actually commanded troops of soldiers during the French and Indian War in 1754. Ironically, Washington got help from the same people he engaged in battles before. He had already established himself as a worthy leader and strategic commander in a number of previous campaigns and it was because of his charismatic and seemingly stolid principles that he attracted respect from all sides, even though at heart he was not precisely a soldier. He had attempted a number of times to reenlist with the British Army but was turned down. Undeterred by this rejection, he instead devoted himself full heartedly to understanding and comprehending British military tactics, skills that would be invaluable to him later on when he would eventually turn the tides in the Revolution. In the years between the wars though he resorted to a simple and aristocratic life, marrying and having two children, and engaging in the leisurely activities of a gentlemen of the era which included, among other things, fox hunting and managing his estate.

Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Sullivan.

Events would eventually draw him back into the political spheres of the Americas however, and in 1776 he began to voice concerns over the British sovereignty. This had included previous complains such as the effects of the Act Stamp of 1756 which imposed heavy taxes and whose constituents and delegations were made of primarily British citizens and no one from the colonies. Tensions were very palpable during these years, with many colonials apprehending that British involvement had become a sort of invasive presence in their lives. They still acted as though they owned the colonies, and both social and economic policies often put the colonists at a disadvantage. All of this was the perfect atmosphere for insurgence to flourish.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

At the northwestern corner was another small battery with three twelve-pounders. There were also three blockhouses in different parts of the enclosure, but no cannon mounted upon them, or were they of any use whatever to us while I was there. On the western side, between the batteries, was a high embankment, within which was a tier of palisadoes. In front of the stone wall, for about half its length, was another embankment, with palisadoes on the inside of it, and a narrow ditch between them and the stone wall. On the western side of the fortification was a row barracks, extending from the northern part of the works to about half the length of the fort. On the northern end was another block of barracks which reached nearly across the fort from east to west. In front of these was a large square two story house, for the accommodation of the officers of the garrison. Neither this house nor the barracks were of much use at this time, for it was as much as a man’s life was worth to enter them, the enemy often directing their shot at them in particular. In front of that barracks and other necessary places were parades and walks; the rest of the ground was soft mud. I have seen the enemy’s shells fall upon it an sink so low that their report could not be heard when they burst, and I could only feel a tremulous motion of the earth at the time. At other time, when they burst near the surface of the proud, they would throw the mud fifty feet in the air.

-The Diary of Private Joseph Plumb Martin

In April of 1775, the British governor of Massachusetts named Thomas Gage made a group of British troops go to Concord, Massachusetts. Concord was the known post of a Patriot arsenal. The troops had simple orders. First, they were supposed to capture both Sam Adams and John Hancock in Lexington. Next, they were supposed to were going to seize their weapons and gun powder in Concord. When word got out that the British were about to go to Concord, the colonists acted. Two lanterns were hung in Boston’s North Church. The signal patriots were waiting for was the lantern; one was to be hung if the British were to arrive by land, and two hung if the British came by sea. Paul Revere and other riders sounded the alarm warning the Americans that the British were coming. The British soldiers ran into the Americans in Lexington, and the fighting officially began. It is considered the “shot heard around the world”. The battles of Lexington and Concord actually marked the beginning of the war that would reshape the Americas forever and give birth to the new United States. The battle at Lexington and Concord would also serve as inspiration to colonists that revolution by ordinary citizens was possible.

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march

By land or sea from the town to-night,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch

Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—

One if by land, and two if by sea;

And I on the opposite shore will be,

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every Middlesex village and farm,

For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

-From “Paul Revere’s Ride”, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Second Continental Congress would meet beginning in 1775 in Philadelphia after the battles of Lexington and Concord and oversaw the war effort. In general, the Second Continental Congress was a reconvened First Continental Congress, with many of the same original 56 delegates returning. Among some of the new delegates, including those from Georgia, who were absent from the first Congress, included Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania and John Hancock of Massachusetts.

Map showing the routes by British forces and Patriot riders during the battles of Lexington and Concord.

On June 14th, 1775 the Second Continental Congress officially created the Continental Army and elected Washington as the Supreme Commander, in no small part because of his experience, but also because he had demonstrated and unprecedented loyalty and patriotism. Washington acted as supreme commander without pay. At this point, Congress also began to print money and appointed a standing committee to communicate with foreign governments, should the need arise. At this point, America had an official governing body. Despite not having proper military training, and often under-supplied, Washington, through sheer force of will, managed to lead the Continental Army through a number of key victories.

Shortly after Washington was given control of the Continental Army, a major battle occurred. On June 16th of 1775, a group of American soldiers started making their way to Bunker Hill so that they could take control Charleston peninsula. The Americans got the orders a little confused, and went to Breed’s Hill instead, which happened to be very close to Bunker Hill. Although the British won this battle, it established a few things. For one, the Americans managed to kill or wound over 1,000 of the 2,300 soldiers that had been in the area. This proved that the Americans, although inexperienced, were willing to put up a great fight and did not mind taking down as many British as they could while going down. It said a lot that a group of colonials had the ability and were willing to take on one of the most powerful armies in the world at that time. It also caused the king to issue a formal proclamation of rebellion, which stated that the British should treat the issue with the colonists as a foreign war.

One month after this loss, the Second Continental Congress attempted to make peace with the British by sending over a proposal called the Olive-Branch Petition, which asked the Crown to revoke the Intolerable Acts. In exchange, the colonists would cease-fire and end the war. Interestingly, the following day, Congress issued a declaration that outlined and justified the 13 colonies’ decision to go to war. The king ultimately refused their petition, and officially declared the colonies to be in “open rebellion”.

December 23, 1776

THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right (not only to TAX) but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER” and if being bound in that manner, is not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis

While there were true soldiers in his congregation, Washington did his best to recruit from the countryside as well, and it was actually the Prussian Commander, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (Baron von Steuben) from one of his previous campaigns that assumed the role of training them. Von Steuben was considered one of the fathers of the Continental Army and was responsible for bringing a formal style of training to the mostly untrained group. Interestingly, when von Steuben first arrived in New Hampshire in 1777 he and his crew were almost shot and arrested. Von Steuben mistakenly outfitted his aides in red uniforms, and the Americans thought they were British soldiers.

After the battles of Lexington and Concord was a period between 1775 and 1776 known as the Siege of Boston. During this phase of the war, the Americans blocked off land access to Boston, which occupied a peninsula. This limited the British to only what resources they could obtain by sea, which crippled British forces. It was during this time period that the Battle of Bunker Hill and the Battle of Chelsea Creek were fought. Ultimately, after 11 months, the British were forced to retreat and it was considered a colonial victory.

Revolutionary War Battles

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There were a number of losses, but despite it all Washington never once retreated or surrendered, and his sense of pride in his generals and soldiers was legendary. One of these defeats happened to be at New York and resulted in huge losses for the Continental Army. A major turning point in the war occurred at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777. The battle occurred after a very harsh winter where troops were miserable in Valley Forge. Over 5,000 British, German, and Loyalist troops surrendered to American forces, which reignited revolutionaries’ spirits. Also, the battle convinced the French that they should align themselves with the Americans.

Painting showing the surrender of General Burgoyne.

In 1781, another major event occurred that helped seal the deal for Americans. With the help of their French allies the colonists were able to successfully blockade British ships from delivering supplies to their troops in Chesapeake Bay, which led to the surrender of 8,000 British troops. The siege of Yorktown caused the British people’s to start demanding a truce be made. Six years after Washington officially took the reins as commander-in-chief, the ragtag group of colonial rebels made the British forces surrender and allow the colonies to declare their independence.

The final and eventual peace came in 1783 when Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, a document that would grant the United States its independence from British rule and establish it as its own country. Originally, America was conducting negotiations through France and Spain. The first treaty, known as the American Treaty, would confine American territory to east of the Appalachian Mountains and would have given Britain control over land north of the Ohio River, with land south of the Ohio River becoming and Indian buffer state. The Americans quickly realized that they could get a better deal by negotiating directly with the British, and serious talks began. The Treaty of Paris also granted the United States territories east of the Mississippi River, north of Florida, and south of Canada, creating an almost identical northern border to what exists today. The For Washington, the war was over. Thinking that he would return to his quiet life, history had other plans for him. In 1789 he was called out of his retirement by the Electoral College and officially elected as the first president of the United States.

One interesting feature was that they initially offered to pay him a salary that was equal to around $350,000 nowadays. Washington, although suffering financial troubles from his failing farm and homestead, actually rejected the offer at first, however he soon accepted it again – not so much because he needed the money but because he did not want to set a precedent for limiting the presidency only to those who were already wealthy enough, and requested that people only call him Mr. President (the most humble of the possible titles that had been conjured up by the Electoral College).

Washington’s presidency was unique for many reasons, including the fact that he never resided in Washington, D.C. Washington kept houses in New York and Pennsylvania, which were used to receive members of Congress, foreign dignitaries, and others requesting an official visit. He did oversee the development of a federal district along the Potomac River, which began after Congress passed the Residence Act in 1791. The Residence Act specified that a permanent set of government be established in what is now Washington D.C.

Washington also established several precedents still in place today. He established a cabinet of advisors, though Washington’s cabinet only included four members (today’s cabinet is sixteen members. Those first cabinet advisors were Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State, Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of Treasury, Henry Knox as Secretary of War, and Edmund Randolph as Attorney General. Washington also chose to surround himself with people who had differing viewpoints on government philosophy, and he liked to have diversity in his advisors.

Before he retired as president however, Washington crafted one of the more endearing and famous documents, his Farewell Address. It listed out, among other things, his hopes for the United States (he was an avid advocate of republicanism, and actually feared the creation of a multi-party system of government, which he thought might weaken the union) and the importance law and the Constitution. One of the most lingering and influential aspects was probably his take on foreign policy, in which he took an insulator stance, thinking that it was not the place of Americans to interfere or get involved with the issues of other countries, and that they should only focus on American interest and activities.

Friends and Citizens:

The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

-George Washington, Farewell Address

Fun fact:

Although quite a number of history books mention this “fact,” George Washington’s teeth are not really made of wood. For one thing, wood teeth would not have been very durable. The truth is, Washington’s dentures were made of hippopotamus ivory, sometimes the teeth of pigs and monkeys were used, and they were set in lead. Washington’s dentures were also said to be so uncomfortable that he had to resort to applying an opium-based liniment on his cheeks so he could bear the pain.

The Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence

In the summer of 1776, delegates from each of the original thirteen colonies, also known as the Second Continental Congress, gathered in Philadelphia. The goal of the group was to decide whether it was the right time for the colonies to secede from England. The past year was an incredibly hard one for the young United States, as they have been constantly battling the much better equipped and trained British redcoats, but somehow the tides turned in their favor, and they forced the colonizers to retreat.

Richard Henry Lee, the delegate from Virginia and former President of the Continental Congress, first proposed a resolution of independence. The Lee resolution is the earliest known draft of what would be the Declaration of Independence. The resolution stated that the United Colonies are no longer under the rule of the British and that any and all allegiances with the British Crown were immediately dissolved.

The Committee of Five

During the drafting period of the Declaration, not all of the delegates had the authority to vote on what goes into the document, as their states haven’t given them the power to do so. While they were still figuring things out, the Continental Congress appointed a committee consisting of the five most brilliant minds in the nation: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston.

At first, the delegates wanted Richard Henry Lee to draft the Declaration of Independence. However, certain events happened that prevented Lee from penning what would have been the single most important document in American history. Fortunately, a young delegate from Virginia by the name of Thomas Jefferson was up to the task. Initially, Jefferson wanted John Adams to write the declaration, but when the latter refused, Jefferson forced himself to do the task.

Because this was taking place in the wake of a newly found independence, it was a period of liminal political movements. Basically, there were still many citizens who, though professing their love for their independence, still held shaky and tenuous allegiances and loyalties to the king. The Declaration of Independence in its form included a number of paragraphs and entries that attempted to further separate the United States from its British founder, and this happened to be a `right to revolution`. While a number of colonists hoped that they would eventually be able to reconcile with Europe and the British monarchy, it was clear to the patriots and the Committee of Five that this was an opportunity to once and for all truly grasp their liberation.

Painting depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The Committee of Five worked tirelessly for almost a month until, on June 28, 1776, they published the final draft of the Declaration of Independence and presented it to Congress. What is interesting to note, and testament to the integrity of the founding fathers, was that the document actually contained no new information or ideas; it consisted primarily in its final draft of ideas and thoughts and principles that had all been widely exercised and held dear during the American Revolution – one of the primary being a sense of oppression from Britain, and especially King George who was seen as having undermined the God-given rights of the colonists.

The Declaration of Independence

Some of the later effects of the Declaration of Independence would surface in the form of a controversial take on slavery. One of the most famous passages, that “all men are born equal” has often been taken to insist that Jefferson was condemning the British act of slavery, and in fact a number of paragraphs that further admonished Britain for it were eventually deleted from the final document – while this has historically been proven accurate, the real irony is that Jefferson himself was a prominent slave owner with hundreds of indentured slaves under his control. Whatever the intent, the Declaration of Independence would eventually serve as a banner for future abolitionists, one of the most famous and iconic being, of course, Abraham Lincoln.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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.

-Excerpt from The Declaration of Independence

Fun facts:

The Continental Congress officially adopted the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July in 1776, but the Founding Fathers did not get a chance to sign it until a good part of a month has passed by. Additionally, one of the signers John Hancock, whose very elegant signature appeared on the document, became embedded in the cultural milieu of the United States and today the word ‘Hancock’ is synonymous with someone’s signature.

Here’s another lesser known fact: one signer of the Declaration, Richard Stockton, recanted his signature on the document and withdrew his support from the Revolution. However, he did it not because he wanted to. On November 30, 1776, just months after the signing of the Declaration, British troops captured Stockton and threw him in prison. His captors “convinced” Stockton to rescind from the Revolution by limiting his food rations and torturing him until he swore his allegiance to King George III.

Misconceptions

Betsy Ross designed the first American flag

While Betsy Ross was a flag seamstress, the idea that she was asked to design a new flag by George Washington was presented in 1870, almost a century after the fact. Her grandson presented the tale, which has not yet been proven by research. It is possible that credit could go to several other seamstresses—Margaret Manning, Cornelia Bridges, or Rebecca Young, whose daughter sewed the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key, composer of the Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem.

The British are Coming!”

Popular culture, in part due to the popularity of Wadsworth’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, boasts several legends regarding the Patriot. It is said that he rode through the towns on horseback, crying a warning of, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” This would not have happened. For one, most colonials at the time considered themselves to be British. Secondly, British troops were scattered throughout the area; it wouldn’t have been prudent to draw the attention of the Regulars.

The United States Constitution

Although the original United States Constitution came into effect way back in 1789 we include it here as one of the last chapters because it has been a continually changing and organic document, and a pivotal instrument in terms of the way it’s shaped the United States up to the present day. The Constitution experienced its first draft way back during the beginning of the Americas when the country was still new and the provisional government still in the process of attempting to put together a system of laws and government that would last for centuries.

The Constitution of the United States.

The country’s first attempt at having some type of stability can be found in the Articles of Confederation. The purpose of the document was to properly outline what kind of power the delegates would have. The Articles of Confederation was formally ratified by all thirteen states in 1781, giving the newly declared United States its first outline of a constitutional government. As we have mentioned earlier in our book, the Iroquois Confederacy had a version of a centralized government with an outline of how the government should be run, and Benjamin Franklin had contact with the Iroquois Nation. It stands to reason, then, that the Six Nations had some influence on the founding documents of the country, including the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation was a good idea, but it ultimately did not allow for enough power within the central government. The Articles called for a unicameral Congress, no president, and a lot of rights given to the individual states. Unfortunately, the Articles of Confederation did not last long. In response to a whiskey tax, Daniel Shay and a group of farmers led a rebellion against an arsenal in Massachusetts. The encounter was fairly violent and embarrassing because of how difficult it was to get a hold of the situation. Shay’s rebellion proved that the Articles was not able to withstand on its own, and that a major change had to occur. It wasn’t until 1788 that the Constitution in its more or less complete form was finally submitted to Congress – who were responsible for the very long and wearisome process of ratification.

The Articles of Confederation, formally known as the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was ultimately superseded by the United States Constitution, which was ratified in 1788 and effectively created a new government in 1789.

One of the major constituent articles of the Constitution was based on the Magna Carta and strove to give rights to everyone in America as citizens. There was also, according to both Locke and Hobbes (popular philosophers and social critics of the age), several provisions put in, and these became the backbone of the Constitution and, indeed, the overall American sense of nationalism. These happened to fall into three categories of a social contract that the government was supposed to protect and included the basic rights to life, liberty, and freedom. Then, in 1791 another set of 10 laws were added and these included the Bill of Rights, further guarantees for all the members of the U.S. that helped to stabilize a sort of moral compass in the populace.

Article One in the Constitution described what the Congress would be in the United States and all the other legislative branches, and set down a list of responsibilities and rules for them to follow.

Article Two involved paragraphs that were designed to give the President the power of the military strength of his nation and militia, and has been a staple of policy ever since, and something that is often brought up in American politics and elections that “the President has his finger on the launch codes”, referring to the capacity for a President to control the nuclear arsenal. It primarily deals with the office of the President, and contains provisions related to what happens if he is impeached.

Article Three has to do with the court system and lists out ad nauseam all the different laws associated with jurisdiction. It is interesting to note that this article also contains the definition of treason and how to handle it, and that treasonous thoughts alone are not an indictable offense but must include ‘overt’ actions.

Article Four is all about how states get along with other states and how legislated state laws and federal laws interact with one another. This was important because one clause prevented the Federal Government from favoring one state over another, and made it so that all states had to be regarded equally in the eyes of the government. It also included clauses about extradition from one state to another. Although this is not much of an issue these days, even though states do have their own laws, back in the day crossing from one state to another was a costly and bureaucratic nightmare.

Article Five is a very important element because it is what outlines the process for attempting to amend the Constitution. This is of note because as we’ve seen the Constitution is a very fluid dynamic that has changed over the years to reflect the common values and principles of the age, and this is a vital factor not only in the process of democracy, but in helping to modernize our approach to living. Laws that do not make sense or harm the values or US, such as Prohibition, are capable of being repealed, and it is this flexibility that has helped to shape the US into what it is today. As a side note, it should also be observed that Article Four is what allows Congress to pass new amendments, and that in 1808 when it first had the power to do so attempted to legislate ratification for a ban on slavery – a decision that helped to establish the American ideal of liberty.

Article six and the last one in the Constitution outlines the process and rules relating to the outline of creating their new kind of government. One has to remember that back then before the United States were truly united, there were a number of states, especially in the south, that resisted integration into the grand design of the United States of America, and Article Six was crafted in such a way as to bring these states into the fold.

James Madison proposed nine articles with which to amend the Constitution; seven of those would become part of the Bill of Rights. In 1789, Congress had approved twelve articles of amendment to the Constitution. Of those twelve, Article Two would not become ratified until 1992 as the 27th Amendment, which prohibits changes in congressional salaries from changing until after the next election. Article One was never ratified, but would have set a permanent apportionment rate that would determine the district population size for the House of Representatives. The Bill of Rights were added to the Constitution in 1791 and outlined what the founding fathers believed were the rights of all free citizens. These ten amendments are collectively known as the Bill of Rights. Many of these amendments may sound familiar to you, as many source from the reasons that colonists first came to the New World or the grievances that the Americans had with their British rulers.

The First Amendment states that citizens have the right to free speech and to practice religion freely. The amendment also states that there should be no prohibiting the press or the right to assemble and protest. The Second Amendment is somewhat controversial in modern America, as it states that Americans have the right to bear arms, which some interpret liberally and others rather conservatively. There are opponents who argue that there should be some restriction to gun ownership, given modern gun standards, and others argue that any restriction on gun ownership is unconstitutional.

The Third Amendment prohibits to ability to quarter soldiers without the consent of the owner, which is a departure from British laws that required Americans to provide quarters for the British military, should the need arise. Interestingly, this is the only amendment of the Bill of Rights that has never been challenged or brought up for discussion in the Supreme Court.

The Fourth Amendment protects persons against unreasonable search and seizure and also requires that warrants may only be issued upon probable cause. The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination and double jeopardy, and also guarantees the right to due process. Defendants in criminal cases are protected by the Sixth Amendment and are guaranteed a right to a fair and speedy trial, a trial by an impartial jury, and you have the right to legal representation. Related to that, the Seventh Amendment outlines the right to a jury trial in federal civil cases.

The Eight Amendment protects citizens against excessive bails or fines as well as protection against cruel and unusual punishments. The Ninth Amendment is interesting and has contributed to many Supreme Court decisions. The amendment states that not all rights and liberties are explicitly outlined in the Constitution, and just because it’s not an explicitly stated right does not mean that those inherent rights should be insecure. The Ninth Amendment was used as the foundation of several major Supreme Court cases, including Roe v. Wade. The Tenth Amendment outlines and reinforces the separation of powers, stating that any powers not given to the federal government by the Constitution and not prohibited on the states shall be reserved for the individual states.

The Bill of Rights, full text

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

 

Amendment II

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

 

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

 

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

 

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

 

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

 

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

 

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

 

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

 

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The Constitution has had 27 amendments made to it since its inception, and other than the Bill of Rights these include safeguard of liberty and justice designed to ensure that the Federal Government would assist states in trouble, other bills guaranteeing rights and privileges, and a number of safeguards to civil rights. The most recent amendment (27) came about in 1992 to prevent members of government from giving themselves pay raises during a term of service.

While the Constitution stands as a blazing example of contemporary democratic thought, there have been a number of criticism leveled at it, the first being that in its original form it did not specify who and who did not have the right to vote. This would become an issue later down the road during the Civil Rights Movements and Women’s Suffrage Movements when black minorities and women groups would rise up and demand the ability to vote and participate in the political affairs of the United States.

Both periods were very difficult, especially for minorities, and because men had dominated the powerful roles up until then. Their eventual success in not only getting the right to vote but laying the foundation for increased representation across the board has continued to this day and acts a reminder of the American spirit to endure, and that we still have a long way to go before we can say we are a truly a country of equals. This era will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter.

Fun Fact:

While only 27 amendments have been passed and officially ratified and recognized, there are a number of amendments that are still pending, some going as far back as 1922 including a Child Labor law that would limit and restrict jobs for those under 18 years of age.

A number of other amendments were put forward but rejected, the most prominent being the Equal Rights Amendment of 1972. Had it been passed, it would have prohibited discrimination and deprivation of rights by the state or Federal institutions based on sex. Unfortunately the proposal failed by three votes, and was never brought forward again. Another interesting one that failed was a proposal to give the District of Columbia the ability to vote and have full representation in the Senate, effectively making it another state.

Misconceptions

The “lost” founding father

George Mason of Virginia was actually the main champion for creating the Bill of Rights. Mason helped draft the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which included phrase that, “All men are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent rights…namely the enjoyment of life and liberty.” Thomas Jefferson used these words as clear inspiration for the Declaration of Independence.

When the Constitutional Convention was meeting, Mason insisted that a bill of rights be included, which was originally rejected by the State Delegates. Mason refused to sign the original Constitution without this element.

Not all states ratified the Bill of Rights

Three states, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Georgia, did not fully ratify the Bill of Rights until its 150th anniversary in 1939. The states, for a variety of reasons, ratified some, but not all, amendments to the Constitution.

Can You Believe This Actually Happened?

How many amendments were proposed for the original constitution?

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p<>{color:#000;}. 19

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p<>{color:#000;}. 10

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p<>{color:#000;}. 50

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p<>{color:#000;}. 12

Answer: 19. James Madison originally presented 19 amendments to the constitution. The House of Representatives approved 17, and the process moved to the Senate. The Senate reduced the number of amendments to 12, and eventually, 10 were approved and created the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights.

What amendment has never been broached at the Supreme Court?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. First

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Tenth

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Third

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p<>{color:#000;}. Fifth

Answer: Third. The third amendment prohibiting soldiers from staying in your home without your consent made sense in the 1700s when the amendment was conceived, but has never been cited by the Supreme Court for a decision.

How many states originally ratified the Constitution?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. 7

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p<>{color:#000;}. 13

#
p<>{color:#000;}. 11

#
p<>{color:#000;}. 9

Answer: 9. Only nine states needed to ratify the Constitution to pass, and nine states approved by 1788. All states eventually ratified the constitution, but not immediately.

Did Thomas Jefferson sign the Constitution?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Yes

#
p<>{color:#000;}. No

No, founding father Thomas Jefferson’s signature was notably absent from the Constitution. He was representing the U.S. abroad in France at the time.

If the Choice Were Yours

Do you think it’s important to include a list of inalienable rights?

Not everyone did. There were quite a few delegates that did not believe it was important to include a list of rights with the Constitution. The original Constitution created by the Constitutional Convention in 1787 did not include the Bill of Rights. It took convincing from some of the heavy hitters, such as Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison

History Has its Eyes on us Today

The Bill of Rights has stood as the backbone of legal decisions since its inception. Some amendments are cited often and are even controversial, while others simply establish the rules of government and the powers given to the branches of legislature. There are even some amendments that are controversial, even in the modern era.

The second amendment to the constitution, in addition to establishing the powers of the President, also declares that citizens have a right to bear arms. This right has been hotly debated, with proponents arguing that to “bear arms” means that citizens have a right to own any gun, while opponents say that this right should be restricted to guns of a certain type, disallowing guns like automatic and semi-automatic weapons. There is also a debate as to how people can acquire guns, and many states have developed their own laws on gun restriction and ownership.

Chapter 3 – Westward Expansion

A Half-century of Expansion: 1803-1853

Following the American Revolution, the colonies became their own power. The territorial expanse of the newly formed nation was greater than any of the old powers proper in Europe except Russia. However, the United States had a lot of growing to do before it became the continent-spanning nation that it is today. Between the American Revolution and the American Civil War, the United States expanded its area from the East Coast colonies all the way across the continent to California, coming into conflict with the claims still laid by the old European powers.

LOUISIANA PURCHASE

Not long after the Revolutionary War, the United States was presented the opportunity to purchase a huge swath of land that stretched from Montana to Louisiana from the French. The purchase effectively doubled the land area of the United States and gave the new country a wealth of natural resources.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson wanted control of New Orleans, a French city, because it was at the mouth of the Mississippi River. This would give American farmers from inland a better route to transport goods either to Europe or to the East Coast, where the majority of the population lived. Jefferson’s first offer to purchase the city was rejected, but when he made another offer, this one five-fold the original, it was accepted. France even offered to sell the rest of the territory for just a 50% premium. France sold New Orleans for $10 million and the other 828,000 square miles of the territory for another $5 million.

Map outlining the Louisiana Purchase.

Napoleon needed the money for his wars and to, of course, fight Britain. The French had also recently regained control of the area from Spain, which they had ceded as a result of the Seven Years’ War. This reestablished control was worrying to the nascent United States because France was now resurgent under Napoleon and American farmers in the Ohio River Valley relied on access to the Mississippi River and New Orleans. However, Napoleon was willing to give up the territory, which cost France a significant amount to maintain for the equivalent of $15 billion. This marked the end of any sort of French colonial power in the United States, and is widely regarded as one of the most extreme geopolitical blunders in modern history.

Shortly after making the purchase of the territory, President Jefferson asked Meriwether Lewis to go explore the land. Lewis, along with his longtime friend William Clark started their expedition in May of 1804. Their group, the Corps of Discovery, managed to deal with illness, hunger, famine and fatigue throughout their journey of exploring this newly acquired area of the United States.

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Shortly after Jefferson orchestrated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, he commissioned an expedition with the intention to explore, map, and document the area, primarily in hope of finding an easy path to the western part of the newly expanded country. Jefferson employed Captain Meriwether Lewis and his friend Second Lieutenant William Clark. The duo was also joined by a small group of volunteers from the U.S. Army. This became known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition. No Americans had ever explored these areas to the west, so the two-year trek from 1804-1806 was long and perilous.

Britain had already declared that they wanted to take control of fur trading routes along the Columbia River, so the goal was to lay claim to the western lands on behalf of America before the British of the French could make any territorial claims, but there were also scientific and economic goals. Thomas Jefferson, a self-proclaimed scientist, was passionate about the pursuit of knowledge and wanted the expedition to document not only the route west, but also local plants, animals, an geographic features. The secondary goal was to also establish economic trade with Native American tribes.

The Corps of Discovery was trained in wilderness medicine, navigation, and basic sciences before leaving on their journey, and the team was to map a direct water-based course to get to the Pacific. The 33-member crew departed from Missouri in 1804 and began their journey west. Only one member of the Corps of Discovery died during their journey, Sergeant Charles Floyd, who died of appendicitis. If it weren’t for the positive relationships the Corps built with Native American tribes along the way, this number surely would have been much higher, as they were surrounded constantly by the threats of exposure and starvation. By the time the crew reached present-day North Dakota, they had almost had several conflicts with native groups, including the Sioux. The Corps was in the Mandan territory when they met a French-Canadian fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau and his Shoshone wife Sacagawea.

Sacagawea proved invaluable for the traveling party. Charbonneau and Sacagawea spoke three languages, and acted as translators for various Native American groups they encountered. Sacagawea spent much of her time gathering edible plants and medicinals. There was a time when her boat almost capsized, and she recovered valuable papers and supplies that would have inevitably been lost. In his journal Lewis wrote that the boat contained “almost every article indispensably necessary to further the views, or insure the success of the enterprise.” She kept a calm disposition during the storm that rocked the boat, unlike her husband who had a tendency to panic, and after the incident, Lewis wrote, “The Indian woman, to whom I ascribe equal fortitude and resolution, with any person onboard at the time of the accident, caught and preserved most of the light articles which were washed overboard.” In addition to her calm demeanor and translation skills, she had value in simply being a woman. Sacagawea and Charbonneau had a son, Jean-Baptiste, so to see a woman and child traveling with a group of white men meant that the group was likely not bearing war-like intentions. Some groups of Indians had never encountered white people before and were prepared to defend their land from outside threats. Having Sacagawea as part of the Corps of Discovery potentially saved them from serious conflict.

On November 5, 1805, the Corps of Discovery first spotted the Pacific Ocean; they reached it two weeks later. They team was short on supplies and opportunities for hunting in the area were sparse. The area near the Columbia River where they originally set up camp was prone to storms and would leave the crew faced with a perilous winter. The team voted as a group whether to remain at their current location or move to a better location. All members of the party, including Sacagawea and Clark’s slave York, had an equal vote in whether to stay or go. Ultimately, the team moved to a location close to modern day Astoria, Oregon and established Fort Clatsop as not only winter shelter, but as an official statement that America had claim to land as far as the Pacific Ocean.

Interestingly, the expedition of Lewis and Clark was largely forgotten by the mid to late 1800s, and interest in the team was revived with the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, celebrating Lewis and Clark as American pioneers. Today, Lewis and Clark are known as some of the most famous and recognizable explorers in American history.

Pictured on the left is Captain Meriwether Lewis and on the right, William Clark

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

September 3, 1803

Verry foggy this morning. Thermometer 63° Ferrenheit, immersed the Thermometer in the river, and the murcury arose immediately to 75° or summer heat so that there is 12° difference is sufficient to shew the vapor which arrises from the water; the fogg this prodused is impenetrably thick at this moment; we were in consequence obliged to ly by untill 9 this morning    Mr. Gui Briant arrived with two boats loaded with firrs, he informs me that if I can reach, and get over the George-town barr 24 miles I can get on; this is some consolation. We set out at 9 this morning and passed a riffle just below us called Atkins’s got over with tolerable ease passed the mouth of big bever creek and came to ancor off Mackintosh being 2½ miles—   discharge one of my hands.—    passed the riffle below Mackintosh.—    about three miles from this we stuck on another riffle the worst I think we have yet passed were obliged to unload and drag over with horses.—    staid all night having made only six miles.—

-Meriwether Lewis, from the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The War of 1812

Britain was actively engaged in the Napoleonic Wars with France at the onset of the 19th century, and both sides attempted to manipulate trade agreements with the United States in an effort to prevent the other side from receiving supplies. The British Royal Navy also began to practice impressment on the U.S., which took American seaman off of U.S. merchant vessels and forced them into service aboard British ships. At this point, there were many Americans pushing for war with Britain, due to Britain’s maritime violations as well as the fact that Britain had been encouraging Native American hostility against American expansion.

Painting depicting the battle between the USS Constitution and the HMS Guerriere by Michel Felice Corne.

There were essentially three theaters of war: the Atlantic Theater, the Southern Theater, and the Great Lakes and Western Territories. The massive Royal Navy placed a blockade on points along the Atlantic coast, and performed raids that offered enslaved blacks a chance for freedom aboard British ships. The Atlantic Theater was also hallmarked by the siege on the capital, and British forces burned the Executive Mansion, now called the White House, while President Madison retreated further into Virginia. Battles also waged in the Northwest Territory and along the Canadian border, a British territory. The U.S. made three failed attempts to enter Canada, but the Canadian militia was well trained and came out on top defending their territory. There was yet a third region in the South and along the Gulf Coast where battles were fought. The Battle of New Orleans was significant in that is was the final major battle of the war. In a time during which news was incredibly slow to travel, troops on both sides did not yet realize that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed, and the war between the Americans and the British was technically over. However, as neither side in the Gulf region was aware of this, the Battle of New Orleans had begun two weeks after the treaty was signed. There were devastating casualties on both sides, but America came out of the battle the “victor”, led by Major General and future president Andrew Jackson.

It was during this war (the Battle of the Chesapeake Bay, specifically) that Francis Scott key wrote the poem, “The Defence of Fort M’Henry”, which provided the lyrical basis for what became the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”

O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

 

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:

Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave

[_O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
_]

 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,

A home and a country should leave us no more!

Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

[_O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
_]

 

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand

Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: ’In God is our trust.’

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Ultimately, the War of 1812 did not create a lot of change for either side beyond human casualties and material destruction. No land borders had changed and it is viewed by historians as maintaining the status quo.

Manifest Destiny

Columnist John O’Sullivan is cited with coining the term “manifest destiny” in an essay published in 1845 and declares the right and mandate to expand American territory on behalf of independence and freedom. The essay O’Sullivan wrote, entitled “Annexation”, was in favor of Texas annexation. He wrote that opponents to the Texas annexation were attempting to stop “the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence”. Essentially what this is saying is that the U.S. has a God-given right to claim the North American continent, and many citizens and presidents, including James K. Polk, carried this sentiment.

“[_ The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High -- the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere -- its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation an Union of many Republics, comprising hundreds of happy millions, calling, owning no man master, but governed by God's natural and moral law of equality, the law of brotherhood -- of ‘peace and good will amongst men.’” _]

-John O’Sullivan

The concept of Manifest Destiny inherently carried with it the notion that the U.S. should overtake Native American tribes and tribal lands. This philosophy, while not explicitly stated, generally referred to white Protestant males as the leaders and benefactors to this westward expansion.

Texas Independence and the Republic of Texas

Texas has a particularly interesting history, as it was originally inhabited by many Native American groups, then claimed by five different countries between the years of 1519-1845. Spain first laid claim to areas of Texas and established presidios meant to spread Christianity through the land, as Spain felt they had a religious mandate to do so. Although Spain had claimed these lands, they weren’t closely protected, and when the French arrived in the area in the mid 1600s, they claimed the Mississippi River Valley for France, which included parts of Texas, effectively splitting Spanish territory in Florida from the rest of its land further west. Spain understandably was upset and decided to take action against France, but by the time they found the French settlement, it had been destroyed by a local Indian tribe.

Spain reclaimed the area and through a series of negotiations with France, reclaimed East Texas from France (it was previously considered part of the Louisiana Territory). Spain retained control of this area known as New Spain, until Mexico’s War of Independence that ended in 1821. Mexico encouraged immigration to their new county, which included Texas, as a means to defend against the Comanche nation. Many Americans settled in the area, and many were slave owners. The Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante ordered that slavery be outlawed and all slaves be freed by 1830. To try and get around this type of law, slave owners declared their slaves indentured servants for life, thus continuing the system, just under a different name. It was estimated that by 1836 there were 5,000 slaves living in Texas.

Bustamante also declared a ban on U.S. immigration, an irony compared to modern day U.S. immigration policies. There were other changes to the Mexican government that were pushing Texans towards rebellion and independence, primarily the fact that Mexico’s government was becoming more and more centralized, giving Texas less independence to govern itself. During the time, the United States offered twice to purchase Texas from Mexico for the price of $1 million; both times the sale was rejected. Bustamante made many legal changed that were aimed at Texas, including threatening military action to enforce the ban on slavery, raises on taxes and tariffs, and the ban on immigration. In 1834, the next president of Mexico, Santa Anna, rescinded the Mexican Constitution of 1824, thus creating the right environment for a civil war.

Painting of William B. Travis by Henry McArdle.

Originally, Stephen F. Austin, considered the father of Texas, stated that they simply wanted to exist as an independent state of Mexico, but after several months he quickly changed his tune and declared that Texas should be an independent republic and called for war against Mexico. In October of 1835, the Battle of Gonzales officially kicked off the Texas Revolution while Santa Anna abolished all state legislatures. Battles waged on, and on March 2, 1836, Texas signed its own Declaration of Independence and created the Republic of Texas. Just because the documents were signed did not mean the fighting was over. Shortly after signing the Declaration of Independence, the most famous battle in Texas history took place: the Battle of the Alamo. The Alamo was formerly a Spanish mission outpost that was converted to a slapdash fort. It was capable of defending against native tribes, but would never be able to handle heavy artillery. The Alamo is located close to present day San Antonio, and there was an argument that the location was strategically important, so Colonel James Bowie requested additional forces, and received few reinforcements in return. Among some of the volunteers to arrive were William Barret Travis and David Crockett.

A struggling Mexican army was slowly approaching the Bexar (San Antonio) area, and a 13-day siege on the Alamo began February 23. Santa Anna gave the fort one final chance to surrender, but instead, Commander Travis opted to fire on the Mexican forces, thus starting the battle. The forces at the Alamo were small, with approximately 200 defenders, and there were several skirmishes over the following days, while the Texian (citizens of Texas) forces hoped for reinforcements. According to legend, Travis assembled his men, explained that the situation was dire and drew a line in the sand; those willing to fight would stand with him, and those that chose to leave would stand on the other side. This makes for a dramatic story, but unfortunately, there is no clear evidence to support this; however, it’s believed that Travis did give anyone unwilling to fight a chance to escape. In the early morning hours of March 6, 2,000 Mexican forces began their surreptitious approach to the fort and quickly killed sentinels before they had a chance to alert the others (most were still asleep).

The Texian forces fought valiantly, but they were outnumbers ten to one—there was no way they would win the battle. All of the defenders were killed, with Santa Anna taking a particularly cruel approach, bayonetting bodies to ensure their deaths and burning the bodies. This battle inspired passion among Texians and encourages recruitment to the army. In April, the Texians took their revenge at the Battle of San Jacinto, taking Santa Anna hostage until a peace treaty was signed, thus ending the revolution.

Despite the fact that the war was over, Mexico refused to recognize Texas’ independence, and conflicts occurred through the 1840s. The United States recognized Texas as an independent republic. The Texas constitution legalized slavery but banned the foreign slave trade; Immigrants who owned slaves could bring them to Texas and no free blacks were admitted to the country without authorization from Congress. The Republic of Texas operated as a sovereign country until its annexation by the United States in 1846, at which point the U.S. inherited Texas’ border disputes with Mexico, instigating the Mexican-American War.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

To the People of Texas & All Americans in the World

 

Fellow citizens & compatriots

I am besieged, by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours & have not lost a man The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls I shall never surrender or retreat. Then, I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country VICTORY OR DEATH.

 

William Barret Travis,

Lt. Col. comdt.

 

P.S. The Lord is on our side. When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn. We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head of Beeves. Travis

Drawing of the Alamo, 1854

TEXAS ANNEXATION AND MEXICAN AND SPANISH CESSIONS

The United States was at this point far larger than any of its European counterparts, again except Russia. The nation was not done growing, yet, though. Spain still held territory in Florida, but their strength in the Americas was weakening, and the Spanish were not interested in investing further in the colony.

This led to the cession of Florida from Spain, again in a diplomatic way instead of war. Surely military conflict was not absent, as tribes and escaped slaves had been raiding Georgia (originally created as a buffer to the lucrative Carolinas), and American troops had made incursions into the Spanish territory. Spain was unable to control the area and hence it was more susceptible to relinquishing control of the land. A few American politicians demanded Spain give up Texas, too, but that would have to wait 26 years.

The cession of Florida was not a purchase, like Louisiana, but the United States agreed to pay legal claims from American citizens gain Spain up to $5 million and gave Spanish goods preferential tariff treatment at Floridian ports. Under the treaty, named the Adams-Onís Treaty, Spain was granted secured control over Texas west to California. The area had originally been a point of dispute between Spain and the United States, as the United States claimed the Louisiana Purchase had granted control to the Rocky Mountains.

Under Manifest Destiny and the march towards the 42nd Parallel (of latitude), the United States lost some territory to Britain in the area north of modern Montana. This now lies within Canada, which, at the time of the cession, was still part of Britain.

Shortly before the American Civil War, Texas was annexed by the United States. The state was a large slave-holding independent Republic, which had declared itself separate from Mexico in 1836. The political climate of the United States at the time was tumultuous, with the divide between the industrial North and agricultural South already having been developed. The addition of Texas would significantly add to the southern side’s power, and Northern politicians opposed it. Nonetheless, Texas became part of American territory in 1845, much to the celebration of most Texans, who favored entry into the Union. The Texans were largely Americans who had moved into Mexican territory on the invitation of the Mexican government, who wanted to populate the area.

The annexation of Texas was the major contributing factor of the Mexican-American War, which lasted from 1846-1848. This war holds the interesting distinction in that it’s the first war the U.S. fought on foreign soil. The war was costly for Mexico, who was largely unprepared for continued fighting. Operating under the philosophy of manifest destiny, the United States felt it should expand it territory, while the still new Mexican government fought to protect its lands. Ultimately, Mexico lost about one-third of its territory; the U.S. gained most of present day California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Not long after the Texas Annexation, Britain ceded the Oregon territories to the United States (1846) in another Manifest Destiny treaty. Two years later, Mexico gave up its claim to the American Southwest after a very long and bloody war, which mostly rounded out the current shape of the Lower 48. The area along the Rio Grande, still part of Mexican territory, was purchased by the United States in 1853 in order to complete a transcontinental railway. The last two additions, Hawaii and Alaska, would have to wait until after the American Civil War.

One of the primary reasons for this massive expansion, and its invariable success, had a lot to do with the American sense of a new freedom and independence. Suddenly the entire country was theirs, and with so much of the territory owned or operated by foreign powers, the obvious conclusion was it would be easier to simply purchase it themselves. It was often a costly process to run colonies, and unless they were centrally located and able to supply a very high-in-demand product (such as tea in India), the risk-loss ratios were rarely worth it – especially now in the pre-Industrial era when new technologies were being developed – and for many foreign colonial powers it might have come as an actual relief to not have to worry about these distant outposts.

Also contributing to this massive expansion was the fact that America had proved its worth in the American Revolution against, then, one of the most powerful global powers in the world: Britain. Many of the outlying colonial powers, like France, were as we’ve seen already engaged in other battles and wars elsewhere, and the idea of going to war with the patriotic willpower of the Americans was not attractive. Lastly, for the colonists themselves, a sense of Manifest Destiny had given them a newfound sense of purpose; numerous towns spread west, and in the more remote areas where it was difficult to maintain supply lines, it had suddenly become necessary to invest in their new country (in terms of transportation, etc.).

CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH

While many settlers were uninterested in trying to settle out West, all that changed once gold nuggets were discovered at the beginning of 1848 in the Sacramento Valley. It all started when a carpenter named James Wilson Marshall found a few gold flakes in the American River near what is Coloma, California. As soon as the news started spreading about people finding gold out west, thousands of people flocked by both land and sea to the San Francisco area. People were auctioning off their homes and spending their life savings just to have the opportunity to travel out West and make a fortune. Because of the large number of people that made their way to the California coast during 1849, the nickname ‘49ers came to play. By the end of 1849, the population of California had increased from 1,000 Americans to around 100,000 American inhabitants.

Advertisement for ship transport to California, specifically geared toward gold prospectors.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

San Francisco, California

Oct. 18, 1849

My dear and faraway wife Janey,

   … I will briefly describe the look of things around me. I am sitting in the tent a box covered with a cloth is our eating table on which I write. At the back end is piled our beds on either side is hardware of all descriptions from Steam Cylendor to a paper of Tacks. Outside are casks of Codfish Meal etc. … Our fireplace is close by with a small stove. … Just beyond is the beach, a little to the right they are building a Steam boat, and all round is the sound of hammer on boat house or iron. Clothing of all descriptions strews the ground all over. Left by those that have camped here and gone to the mines. Shirts never worn but once or twice are thrown away rather than pay for washing. 50 cts is the charge for washing a piece or $6 per dozen and no less — so collars boosoms (sic) etc. are thrown away indiscriminately. I have seen pants whole and sound and but little soiled thrown away.

-Excerpt from a letter from Hiram Dwight Pierce to Sara Jane Pierce

The California gold rush reached its peak in 1852, pulling about $81 million worth of gold from the ground. From there, the totals slowly declined. The discovery of gold in the California region was without question a major factor in the area joining the Union as a state.

Slavery in the 1800s

The mechanics of slavery began to change in the early 1800s. Many states were beginning to ban foreign slave trading, and in 1800, Congress passed a law forbidding U.S. citizens from exporting slaves. In the early 1800s, while some states, such as South Carolina, were ramping up their efforts to import more slaves, other states such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey were taking legal measures to gradually emancipate slaves. Conflicting laws were popping up between federal regulations and state regulations, building towards what will become the bloodiest conflict in American history: the Civil War.

In 1819, Missouri requested admittance into the Union as a slave state, which would upset the balance at the time of slave states and free states. Accepting Missouri as a slave state would make the implication that the U.S. approved the expansion of slavery, so as a way to defuse a simmering conflict, the Missouri Compromise was born. Missouri would join the Union as a slave state, while Maine joined simultaneously as a free state, thus maintaining the careful balance. The act also stated that in the future, any Louisiana Purchase lands north of the 36th parallel would be free states, which was ultimately repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

During the first half of the 1800s, the “Underground Railroad” started to successfully move runaway slaves through secret routes and safe houses to escape to free states in the North and Canada; some routes took former slaves to Mexico or overseas. The concept of a secret system to help escaped slaves reach freedom had existed since George Washington’s time, but the term Underground Railroad was officially coined in 1831. Many of the “conductors” of the Railroad were free blacks such as former slave Harriet Tubman, church leaders, Northern abolitionists, and philanthropists; Harriet Tubman was cited as making as many as 19 return trips to the South to help slaves escape. Another well-known “conductor” was Levi Coffin, a Quaker abolitionist and humanitarian; it’s estimated he aided approximately 3,000 people to freedom.

Photo of Harriet Tubman by H.B. Lindsley, c. 1870.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 required that officials from free states assist slave owners in tracking down and returning escaped slaves, but this act was poorly regulated and thus, largely ignored. Routes along the Underground Railroad were intentionally convoluted, and escapees traveled by wagon, train, boat, or foot. William Still, sometimes known as the “father of the Underground Railroad”, kept careful records of the lives of the escaped slaves who he helped and eventually published his obvervances in his book The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts, published in 1872, which helped many understand the plights of runaway slaves prior to emancipation. Many slaves hoped to reach the “promised land”, or Canada, and historians debate the actual number of people who successfully escaped; estimates range from 30,000-100,000 escaped slaves made it to Canada.

While some states made laws and regulations towards abolishing slavery or granting more rights to freed blacks, other states made increasingly prohibitive laws that denied slaves even the right to learn to read or write; in North Carolina, an 1831 law said that you couldn’t even give a slave a piece of written material. That same year was Nat Turner’s Rebellion, the most successful slave uprising on American soil. Nat Turner was educated in reading, writing, and religion and believed he was divinely chosen to avenge slavery and lead fellow slaves from bondage. Turner’s rebellion was violent, as many as 60 people were killed by the slaves in revolt, and the uprising lasted two days. Many slaves were executed for their participation, and many non-participants were punished though they did not participate. It was at this point that many states began to restrict education for slaves.

The 1800s was a time of political movement in terms of slavery, as states began to make their final stance for or against slavery in the time leading up to the Civil War.

June 22/55

Arrived. Wm Nelson and Susan his wife, and his son Wm Thomas; also Louisa Bell & Ellias Jasper, all arrived from Norfolk, per Capt. B.

 

[_Wm. is about 40, dark chesnut, medium size, very intelligent, member of the Methodist Church, under the charge of the Rev. Mr. Jones. His owner’s name was Turner & Whitehead. wh  with whom he had served for 20 yr's in the capasity of "Packer". He had been treated with mildness in some respects, though had been very tighly worked, allowed only $1.50 per week to board & clothe himself and family upon. Consequently he was obliged to make up the balance as he could. Had been sold once one sister had been sold also. He was prompted to escape because he wanted his liberty—was not satisfied with not having the  bl  priviledge of providing for his family, His value $1000–. Paid $240– for himself, wife & child & Mrs Bell. _]

[_ Susan is about 30, dark, rather above medium size, well made good looking, intelligent &c, and a member of the same church to which her husband belonged. Was owned by Thos. Bottimore with whom she had lived for 7 yr's. Her treatment  had been a part of the time had been mild, the marriage of her master however made a change, afterward she had been treated badly. Her master to gratify his wife constantly threatening to sell her. 4 of her Sisters had been sold away to parts unknown years ago. Left Father & mother, 3 Brothers & one sister. Still in Verginia , living about 100 miles from Norfolk. $1000 was the demand of the owner for Susan & her child 22mos. old._]

-From William Still’s book [_ The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &C, Narrating the Hardships, Hair-Breadth Escape and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author _]

Misconceptions

There were no survivors at the Alamo

Not true. There were no adult Anglo-Texan male survivors at the Alamo, but several Tejano women and children survived, as well as Susanna Dickinson and her daughter—well-known eyewitnesses of the Battle of the Alamo. In total, an estimated 17 people not involved in direct combat survived the battle.

California was not the first gold rush

The discovery of gold in California was not the first major gold rush. The United States saw its first gold rush in North Carolina after gold was discovered on the Reed family farm in 1799. In 1829, in the mountains of Georgia, gold was found, starting the second gold rush. Discovery of gold in the area sparked the interest of the U.S. government, leading to the displacement of Cherokee peoples.

Can You Believe This Happened?

How did Lewis and Clark meet?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. A friend introduced them

#
p<>{color:#000;}. They met at church

#
p<>{color:#000;}. They met through the army

#
p<>{color:#000;}. They met at a tavern

Lewis and Clark met after Lewis was transferred to a different rifle company. The interesting part is that Lewis had to transfer after he was court-martialed for supposedly challenging another officer to a duel. Although he was found guilty, his superior officers thought it best to transfer him, leading to the two future explorers meeting.

What nickname was associated with the 1849 gold miners?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Panners

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Sourdough

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Goldies

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Rushers

The California gold rush brought with it new cultures, foods, and people. The French bakers brought sourdough bread to the west coast and gold miners were sometimes given the name “sourdough”. You can still see evidence of this term today; the San Francisco 49ers (American) football team mascot is named Sourdough Sam.

History Has its Eyes on Us Today

The California gold rush saw an influx of travelers both domestically and internationally. During the gold rush, many Chinese immigrated to the United States and were often hired for massive labor projects such as the Transcontinental Railroad. Due to public perception of the Chinese at the time, most immigrants became restricted to jobs in restaurants and laundry work. In 1882, President Chester A. Arthur, disallowing Chinese immigration, signed the Chinese Exclusion Act into law. This was after a series of acts that gradually restricted immigration, and the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law prohibiting a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the U.S. The law was not repealed until 1943. In today’s climate of extremism, there are some who believe in restricting immigration once more.

Indian Removal Act

In 1830, then President Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This law permitted the evacuation and relocation (often forceful) of the Native American people from their native lands into a single large settlement in Oklahoma. There were two reasons why Jackson signed this infamous bill. One was so the government could sell the lands formerly owned by the Native Americans to the settlers, mainly because there were reports of gold in the area.

The other reason was the recommendation of the former President James Monroe. In his last speech to Congress, Monroe emphasized the need to relocate the Native American people because he feels they are stopping the migration of settlers westward, and it seemed like Jackson believed the same thing.

Upon its passing, the Indian Removal Act effectively kicked out almost 125,000 Native Americans, mostly from the Cherokee nation, from their ancestral homes in Georgia, and sent the people, both young and old, trekking thousands of miles on foot towards their new settlements in Oklahoma. An estimated 4,000 Native Americans died, either through exhaustion, hunger, or exposure, while on the way to Oklahoma. This huge number of casualties is what led to this forced exodus to get the moniker “The Trail of Tears.”

Indian removal routes.

What effect did the Trail of Tears have on the Native American people?

Besides the forced relocation, the Native Americans were also forced to adapt to the dynamics of a new economic system that is completely alien to their original beliefs. For instance, the Native Americans must come to terms that land can be bought and sold, it is no longer something that one must hold onto and protect for future generations of his family. The different conceptual ideas and whole cosmogony of the natives differed from the Manifest Destiny philosophy of the newly independent United States.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

The removal of Cherokee Indians from their life long homes in the year of 1838 found me a young man in the prime of life and a Private soldier in the American Army. Being acquainted with many of the Indians and able to fluently speak their language, I was sent as interpreter into the Smoky Mountain Country in May, 1838, and witnessed the execution of the most brutal order in the History of American Warfare. I saw the helpless Cherokees arrested and dragged from their homes, and driven at the bayonet point into the stockades. And in the chill of a drizzling rain on an October morning I saw them loaded like cattle or sheep into six hundred and forty-five wagons and started toward the west.

One can never forget the sadness and solemnity of that morning. Chief John Ross led in prayer and when the bugle sounded and the wagons started rolling many of the children rose to their feet and waved their little hands good-by to their mountain homes, knowing they were leaving them forever. Many of these helpless people did not have blankets and many of them had been driven from home barefooted.

-Birthday Story of Private John G. Burnett, Captain Abraham McClellan’s Company, 2nd Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Mounted Infantry, Cherokee Indian Removal, 1838–39

For many Native Americans, the land was not something to own but rather something to be respected, and they thought of their relationship to it as symbiotic. By displacing a people, they were actually destroying the culture, something so valuable that once it was lost or destroyed there was very little way to get it back.

Were there tribes that opposed the Indian Removal Act?

Of course, numerous Native Americans were averse to the new law that forced them to leave their homes, one of which was the Cherokee tribe. The Cherokees tried to fight the Indian Removal Act. They filed a case against the entire state of Georgia, and it eventually found its way to the Supreme Court where Justice John Marshall declared that the government had no right to claim the Cherokee’s ancestral lands as its own. Unfortunately, President Jackson overruled this declaration and allowed it to push through.

A number of other nations also rose up, including the Seminole people who had lived in the Florida area. A militia of 500 men was organized to deal with the ‘Indian problem’, but the Seminoles were a hardy and fierce people, and their guerilla tactics ended up working initially. They would capture supply lines and burn plantations, which actually helped to boost their numbers, as freed slaves would then join their cause. The decade of fighting would be a bloody and gruesome affair for both sides, with the United States government and army dedicating nearly $20,000,000 to the fight – this number was almost unheard of, and in today’s market would be equivalent to nearly $491,000,000. And while the Seminole Indian bands did suffer great casualties, they do represent a certain victory in the native history of the United States since the government and army eventually gave up fighting them. To this day, they still proudly consider themselves the only native peoples in North America to have never relinquished their sovereignty or signed a peace treaty.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

[[_ December] 3. Went forward, crossed the Ocklawaha at the lower end of a lake on a temporary bridge constructed by General Eustis - Soon after captured an Indian from whom information was obtained of the situation of a Negro village at the head of the lake. Detached Lt. Col. Caulfield with two companies of his battalion, accompanied by Capt. Crossman and Lieut. Chambers, also by an interpreter and the Indian prisoner- Genl. J. moved forward with the remainder of the command about five miles encamped on a beautiful lake – Lieut. Col. Caulfield returned about 9 p.m. with forty one negro prisoners, having surprised the village, captured the greater part of its inhabitants, and burnt the houses and property which they could not bring in. _]

-Diary of Thomas Sidney Jesup, commander in the Second Seminole War

 

One of the major problems with these treaties was first that often the leaders of the tribes did not speak for all of their members, and second many of the chiefs were manipulated or coerced into signing the treaties that may or may not have represented their best interests. There are also countless instances in American history involving certain conditionals – for example, a number of nations in what is now Oregon were given a choice between signing a treaty that said they gave up their ancestral lands and had to move, or going to war with the local military station there. Additionally, many treaties were found to be ‘signed’ by the chiefs, who only later realized that the magistrates in control had forged their signatures entirely. The original treaties that took place on the east coast would set a precedent for nearly two hundred years involving the slow and gradual attrition of native land.

The Trail of Tears is the worst case of human rights violations to happen to the Native American population. Not only were they forced to leave the lands they used to call their home, but they were also given little to no compensation in exchange of their relocation.

Misconceptions

 

The Indian Removal Act did not have overwhelming support.

 

While the Act was supported heavily by the southern states (who would benefit the most from the new land acquisition), but passed the House with a vote of 101 to 97. Many Christian missionaries also opposed the Act.

 

 

 

 

If the Choice Were Yours

 

In the interest of acquiring resources for the country, how would you communicate with local residents? Would you try to make trade agreements, or take physical action?

 

In reality, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830. Plans for forcible removal began in the early 1800s, and the discovery of gold in the Cherokee lands of north Georgia sped up the legislation process. The Indian Removal Act impacted the lives of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee-Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, Wyandot, Kickapoo, Lenape, Shawnee, and Potowatomi nations and tribes. Some of the tribes adopted customs and traditions of Anglo-Americans, but were still forced from their lands.

 

History has its Eyes on us Today

 

The forceful removal of Native Americans from their home territories as a result of the Indian Removal Act was just one of many elements of a long-standing tumultuous relationship between the United States government and indigenous tribes. Even today, though native nations operate independently, the government is in conflict over land usage and land rights.

Chapter 4 – The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Gilded Age

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Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the American Civil War

According to the Declaration of Independence, “… all men are created with an equal right to liberty”. However, President Abraham Lincoln had his doubts if whether the people really understood what that part of the declaration meant, because as of that time, the United States was the largest country in the world where it was still legal to own slaves, although in the North it had been banned since 1803. The political landscape at the time was a tumultuous one because there was a great division between how to approach slavery, with the South very much in favor of it.

Poster advertising a Lincoln-Douglas debate.

In his famous Peoria Speech delivered on October 16th, 1854, Lincoln, who had previously disagreed with his nemesis Stephen A. Douglas on letting each state legislate its own laws about slavery, as opposed to having Congress dictate the matter, finally spoke out and made his stance clear. This would come back later in his famous Douglas-Lincoln debates in 1858 in which Lincoln attempted to decry the act of slavery as being something that undermined the principals not only of republicanism but of the founding fathers real message about ‘all men being created equally’.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas.

Causes of the War

Although slavery was the major factor that drove the formation of the Civil War, other events occurred that helped move it along. For starters, there was a tariff or tax that had been suggested in the 1820s by President Andrew Jackson, which would cause a wedge between the north and the South. The Tariff of 1828, also known as the Tariff of Abominations, was meant to protect the northern market from cheap foreign goods. The Tariff of Abomination not only drove away the foreign market, but it also increased the cost of living for Southern states. Another tariff replaced this in 1832, but with the same high rates and effects on the Southern economy. The tariff benefited the North significantly, but harmed the South. There is no question that this wedged a gap in the United States. South Carolina, who had leaders that were major advocates for states rates, nullified these tariffs. The idea of nullification or the refusal of a state to obey a federal law if it determined that the law was not in the best interest of the state proved to be another big deal in the revolution.

Returning to the subject of slavery, many events contributed to the actual war taking place. The end of the Mexican American War brought about some important questions. Because there were mixed feelings about slavery, there was a question as to whether or not these new territories would be considered slave states or free states. The Compromise of 1850 solved the problem by making California free and allowing the other states to use popular sovereignty to determine its status. The Fugitive Slave Act, which was a component of the Compromise of 1850, essentially held northerners responsible for bring back and slaves that had escaped to go north. Although the act had good intentions, it further wedged a divide between the two sides. Southerners felt like they were getting the short end of the stick and northerners felt like they were being forced to comply with something that they did not believe in.

1856 political cartoon. The Free Soil political party was an anti-slavery party opposed to the expansion of slavery into the western territories.

Other events like the release of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Bleeding Kansas, and the Dred Scott decision also caused abolitionists to increase their efforts towards getting rid of slavery. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, told the story of slavery through the eyes of a slave. The evil depiction of slavery that the book ensued caused uproar on both sides. Northerners were horrified by the cruelty that slaves were experiencing while Southerners saw it as an unfair and exaggerated portrayal of what really occurred.

Title page of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Bleeding Kansas goes back to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that stated that the territory could decide for itself whether or not it wanted to be a slave state or a free state. Both the Northern abolitionist and Southerners were appalled. A race began with each side sending people to the territory to try to tip the scale in their favor. As murders and massacres started occurring, the term “Bleeding Kansas” came to describe the rush for power in the territory. Even in the supposedly diplomatic spectrum, violence erupted between a senator named Andrew Butler and congressman named Preston Brooks. Sumner was an abolitionist and spouted off a three -hour rant that was firmly against the Kansas-Nebraska Act. A couple of days later, Brooks, upset about the rude comments made towards his uncle during the rant who was also a senator, nearly caned Sumner to death. This caused a lot of negative feelings between both sides even more so than were already present.

The Dred Scott decision was yet another event that shook the nation and further drew both sides apart. In 1847, Dred Scott sued for his freedom. Essentially, Scott had been free at one time then he and his wife went to his master who had moved back to a slave state. After his master died, Scott tried to buy both his and his wife’s freedom since he had been free already. Upon refusal of his attempts to buy his freedom from his master’s widow, he then went through the courts to try to establish freedoms. Eventually, the case made its way all to the United States Supreme Court in 1857. The justices ended up ruling that because he had African ancestry, he could never be a citizen. Therefore, he did not have the ability to sue. On top of that, the decision also said that the Missouri Compromise, which was almost thirty years old, was unconstitutional and Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in a territory.

The final major event that occurred before the Civil War became in full effect was the raid on Harper’s Ferry, which is in the Virginia area. In 1859, an abolitionist named John Brown wanted to incite a slave uprising. He and his men were trying to gather supplies so that they could establish a group of freed slaves in the mountainsides of both Maryland and Virginia. Unfortunately, the word travelled about the raid and they were captured a couple of day later. Brown and his men were executed. Although John Brown’s actions were viewed by the South as an act of treason, the North saw Brown as a martyr for the cause and described him as such. Essentially, the South felt like the North was seeking to destroy their way of life, and they were not going to go quietly.

1859 broadside announcement declaring abolitionist John Brown a treason.

Election of 1860

Although a somewhat awkward looking president (he was extremely tall to the average person), Lincoln quickly proved himself not only a capable intellectual but also a skilled orator, and is considered even today to be among the best speakers that the United States has ever produced. His campaign for presidency was fraught with problems, but at last on November 6, 1860, he was elected the 16th President of the United States. That following December, a number of the secession states in the South who had opposed his nomination declared themselves a separate confederacy, which was technically illegal. South Carolina led the way, and was followed within two months by Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, and Georgia. Not long afterwards, the states were joined by Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Attempts were made to reconcile, but it was clear that the country was “sitting on a volcano”.

Public announcement by the Charleston Mercury declaring the Union dissolved.

The American Civil War, which was the bloodiest war to ever happen in the United States, started because the free and slave-owning states could not reach an agreement. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican whose platform was to abolish slavery throughout the entire country, had won the presidency but the country was divided. Understandably, President Lincoln and the states from the Northern territories refused to recognize the Confederacy and questioned its legitimacy. They feared that this secession would strike a negative blow to the image of democracy and that it would result in the “United” States splitting into several smaller countries that would constantly be at each other’s throats.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

Camp Mcneal  Meredian Hill

October the 12, 1862

 

    I take my pen in hand to inform you that I am well at present and hope that those few line may find you enjoying the same blessing. I started at soldiering beter than two months ago. I inlisted in a company called Co. F 149 Reg. P.B.V.  We are now in a camp called camp McNeal on Meridian hill near the sity of Washington. We are not near all the time in camp. We are the most of the time out to guard hospittle at town and other places part of the regiment has moved there tents to town, I expect that hour company will move before this weak is out, but I do not no for sure; it has bin warm and dry ever since we have bin down here until last fri night about 1 o’clock, it comenced raining and poured it down untill about four. I had to go on guard at four so I got shet of standing in the rain for that night since that night it has fellt like husking corn it is raining this after noon.

 

    I am in my tent my seat is a knapsack, my deck is a portfolio this is as good a seat as I ever git. Without it is a chore. It is said that he that is born of Woman  and inlisteth in the 149 Reg Co. F, his days are few and short of rations. He cometh forth tato and retireth at rollcall much soldiering hath made him sharp, yea, even so that the sete of his britches is in danger of being cut through. They are all honest, they take nothing that they cannot reach they capture the most butifull prize packages of paper and walk off rejoicing.

 

    The boys are all brothers and work to each others honor. They as grate set of fellows for fun and have all the furnishings able for what one dont know another do and so they have some thing a going all the time. So the time goes I can’t tell whare if it gets wet and mayby it won’t be quite so nice as it has bin since we have bin down here. No more at present. I send my Respects to all inquiring friends. Tell all that inquires after me that I want them to write to and I will answer those leters as soon as I can write and tell me who is there and who has went to war. I want you to write and answer this as soon as you get it and oblige yours,

-Isaac Oliver To I B Ikeler

With war on the horizon, it is important to note the key strengths and weaknesses of each side. At first glance, it seemed as if the North had all the muscle. They had over twice as many people living in the North as opposed to the South. The Union also had the advantage of having the Navy along with a large amount of supplies. Over 90% of the country’s boots, shoes, railroad locomotives, firearms, cloth, and pig iron were manufactured up North. Don’t let these perks fool you. The Confederate states had a lot going for them, too. For one, they had the best military personnel. Seven of the eight colleges that were military-based were located right in the South. There is no question that they had the better-trained officers. Also, the fighting occurred on Southern lands. Therefore, the Confederate army was fighting on the defensive, making it easier to fight the war. They already knew the lands, so they had a distinct advantage. The South could also produce any food that they needed since they were so skilled at farming. They proved themselves to be very resourceful in the manufacturing of firearms by melting down bells from churches among other things.

The actual Civil War started when the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay and forced them to lower the American flag. Four months after seceding from the Union, there was a scuffle in the harbor. The troops at Fort Sumter needed reinforcements and supplies, but were unable to get it because of the South Carolina militia that was surrounding it. South Carolina felt like Fort Sumter belonged to them since it was near them and in their territory. The Union believed that Fort Sumter was the property of the United States government. Here is where we find the conflict.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter”, engraving by an unknown artist, 1863.

President Lincoln had his hands tied, and did not want to be seen as the aggressor in this situation. Therefore, he told the governor of South Carolina that he was going send provisions to the fort. He wouldn’t send any weapons or troops unless South Carolina decided to attack. Now, the burden rested with the Confederates. In April of 1861, the Confederates opened fire on the fort and forced the Union general to surrender. Lincoln did not take too kindly at this act of aggression, so he called out the militia to suppress the insurgents. After this encounter, four more slave states seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. That stage was set for war. Americans did not expect for the way to last long, but boy were they in for a surprise.

In 1861, the first major land-based battle took place. Because the men that were enlisted in the Union were only on a 90-day term, there was a lot of pressure for the troops to start making moves against the Confederate army. Even though the men weren’t properly trained, the idea was that they could win the war quickly and be done with it. Unfortunately for them, this was not the case. On July 21, the First Battle of Bull Run started. At first, it looked like the Union was going to win. As the day progressed and the heat kicked in, the Union troops got tired and were not ready for the new wave of Confederate soldiers that were coming to them. The end result was victory for the Confederates with over 4,800 soldiers from each side that were either wounded dead, or missing. The next day, Lincoln hired a new general and increased the enlistment of the troops’ terms to three years.

Map of the Battle of Bull Run

Things got really messy starting on 1862. Huge battles like the ones that happened in Shiloh, Tennessee, Gaines’ Mill, and Fredericksburg Virginia resulted in heavy casualties on both sides. In April of 1862, the Confederates attacked General Ulysses S. Grant and his troops while they were cooking breakfast. The attack had been so unexpected that the troops were literally just going at each other with very little direction. By the time night hit, the Union troops had been driven out of their camps and towards the river. Literally, the tables turned overnight. General D.C. Buell came and added about 25,000 Union troops to the fight. Although the Union won this battle, it was not without a lot of blood shed. Considered to be the second major battle in the Civil War, the Battle of Shiloh saw 13,000 Union soldiers killed to the Confederates 10,700. This battle also proved to Americans that this war would not be over quickly.

The First Battle of Bull Run.

The next major battle was the Second Battle of Bull Run, which made the war return to the eastern part of the United States. There were more casualties in this battle than in the First Battle of Bull Run and it was also on a larger scale. The end result was about 24,000 Americans killed and victory for the Confederates. It also allowed General Lee to advance further north and also paved the way for other battles to occur.

The Battle of Antietam was a major turning point in the Civil War. In August of 1862, General Lee marched up North to invade Maryland. The idea was to take some of the pressure away from the Shenandoah Valley which was considered the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy”, encourage Europeans to aid the Confederates by winning a battle in the Northern region, and also encourage the slave state of Maryland to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. Because of the huge defeat at Bull Run, General Lee assumed that the Union would need time to regroup and get themselves together. Therefore, he made the crucial mistake of splitting up his own army. He wrote out his plans on what was called Order No. 191. In a rare case of events, a copy of Order No. 191 fell into the hands of some Union Once the Union found out that the Confederate army was split, the Grant took advantage. The battle ended up being the bloodiest day in U.S. History with over 22,000 Americans dead in a single day. Although there is some debate as to who actually won the war, most agree that the Union had the greatest advantage. On top of stopping the Confederates from invading the North, the war also gave Lincoln the opportunity to make an important announcement that will be discussed in the next section.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

4th NC Volunteers

September 30th, 1862

Camp Near Bunker Hill

Dear Father, Mother and Sisters,

It has been some time since I wrote to you all. I have heard from you two or three times. I have been in Maryland since I wrote to you and have been in two very hard battles in Maryland and came out unhurt. I see a great deal and could tell you more than I write if I could see you.

Our regiment did not have many wounded nor killed but a good many taken prisoners. Frank Shepherd and John Fennster we suppose are taken. We have not heard from them since the fight. They were not in the fight; were left at the camp. The Yankees took them. On their escape they took a good many of our negroes. That was a great victory at Harper’s Ferry. I would like to have been in that. Our men did not fire a gun. They burn the Yankees to death and they give up everything and raised a white flag and attack their army. The men say that they saw it and was the best thing they ever saw. The seventh regiment N.C. was there and saw it all. E. Morrison Scroggs was telling me about how they done. He saw it all. I would like to have been there.

Our regiment used everything we had. I have no blanket nor any clothes but what I have got. I have got the suit on that you sent me. They came in a good time. I like them very well. If I had a good pair of shoes I would be the best clothed man in the regiment.

Pa, I want you to have me a pair of boots made. Those shoes you had made for me ripped all to pieces. Our regiment used everything we had. I have no blanket nor any clothes but what I have got. I have got the suit on that you sent me. They came in a good time. I like them very well. If I had a good pair of shoes I would be the best clothed man in the regiment.

[Cousin Dr. Hill is wounded in the knee very bad. I have nothing more for my paper is scarce. Write soon to your only son.
__]-W. Adams

The Battle of Antietam.

By 1864, the Union Army’s original goal of a limited battle to restore the United States changed to an all-out war to destroy the Old South and its tradition of slavery.

During the onset of the Civil War, both sides seemed to have an equal chance of winning, but after three long years, the Confederacy started losing steam. When General Ulysses S. Grant became the commanding general of the entire Union army, things began to shift in their favor. Lincoln had set up a number of blockades which had effectively cut off the supply lines and support to the South. General Grant’s relentless attacks on the South’s great General Robert E. Lee proved too much for the latter to handle.

By springtime of 1865, the Confederate armies started to surrender one-by-one. On May 10, 1865, the Union army cornered and captured the fleeing president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. With Davis’s capture, all the remaining resistance fighters dropped their weapons and surrendered. Finally, after years of war, and hundreds of thousands of American soldiers killed, the United States could finally start the painful process of rebuilding the nation.

LINCOLN’S EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

When Robert E. Lee’s forces eventually managed to cross the Potomac River in 1862 something shifted in the struggle. The eventual victory by the Union over Lee’s forces at this battle was one of the bloodiest in the entire war, but it was a resounding boost in Lincoln’s favor. This was the perfect excuse and opportunity for Lincoln to put into play the ace up his sleeve. On July 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln, dressed in his trademark dark frock coat, convened the members of his cabinet and confided to them that he had “dwelt much and long” on the subject of owning slaves in the United States of America. Then, Lincoln, speaking in measured tones, read the first draft of what would become known as The Emancipation Proclamation, the piece of legislation that effectively made it illegal to own slaves in the United States. He had actually drafted and written the document quite a while before, but for a number of strategic reasons he had never broached it or put it forward, fearing that to do so while in the middle of a war – and especially in the wake of a possible loss – might constitute a sign of desperation to his supporters.

Excerpt from the Emancipation Proclamation:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.”

Emancipation Proclamation

On September 22, 1862, Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation that was essentially a warning to the states, which would not end their rebellion. He said that after a hundred days has passed and they would not cease their secession, Lincoln would order the emancipation of all the slaves in their respective states. The Emancipation Proclamation obviously outraged the white Southerners who owned slaves, it angered some Northern democrats, undermined the efforts of European forces to supply aid to the Confederacy, and it lifted the spirits of millions of African-Americans, both slaves and free men. Around 1862 mid-term elections were also, however, underway, and while the Republicans themselves were a bit disgruntled by the way things were going, Democrats saw it as an opportunity to weaken Lincoln. Already the Republicans had managed to infuriate a number of states with high taxes, inflation, and with a martial law that acted to conscript citizens into the Union Army.

Nevertheless, with a continual winning streak over the Confederacy, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became a military goal, and would result in almost 3 million slaves being freed. Lincoln even had the dream of developing colonies especially for freed slaves, although this was never realized. Still, it is important to note that a number of freed slaves eventually joined the ranks of the Union Army. At one point one of Lincoln’s generals took it upon himself to create 20 regiments of black soldiers, and they would end up playing a pivotal role in bringing the war to its eventual conclusion.

GETTYSBURG ADDRESS

Following another victory in Gettysburg, Lincoln appeared before hundreds of citizens and delivered another enthralling speech that would go down in history as one of the most poignant and self-affirming of American beliefs. It asserted things that he had already talked about and strove to embody, but more than anything it also offered some hope, as he now envisioned the Civil War as not only being about ending slavery, but also heralding the ‘new birth of freedom in the nation’.

Transcript of the Gettysburg Address:

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that 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.”

First page of the Gettysburg Address

THE END OF THE WAR AND THE 13^TH^ AMENDMENT

In a war of attrition, the end finally came about reluctantly. Still focused on expelling and defeating the Confederacy, Lincoln was almost single-minded in his resolution. And yet, at the same time, his approach to how to deal with newly captured Confederacy territory was both wise and compassionate, and was quoted in answer to how they should treat the defeated shoulders as saying “Let ‘em up easy”. This went hand in hand with his desire for true unification of the United States, and he understood that all the states would have to work together; at the same time he sent commanders to these captured states to ensure that both moderate and radicals alike would not cause any more trouble.

At last, the war had ended. In achieving this victory, Lincoln’s greatest achievement was in introducing the banning of slavery into effective law for the entire United States. Although the first attempt to pass a law banning all slavery did not go through, the second time Congress finally agreed, and December 6, 1856 it was ratified and became the 13th Amendment to the American Constitution.

LINCOLN’S ASSASSINATION AND HIS LEGACY

Perhaps the only thing more famous than what Lincoln was able to accomplish in his time as president was how he eventually died. While attending the theater on April 14th, 1865, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, five days after the complete surrender of Robert E. Lee and his Confederate Armies. Booth took the opportunity when the president was alone in his booth and shot him point blank, killing him instantly. Later Booth was tracked down and shot when he refused to surrender. Nevertheless, Lincoln’s career and his pivotal role in helping to shape the economic, political, and social atmosphere of the United States lived on, and was both an icon and martyr to future abolitionists and human rights activists.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

I was sent for by Mrs. Lincoln immediately after the assassination. I arrived there in a very few moments…[I] found that the President had been removed from the theatre to the house of a gentleman living directly opposite the theatre, had been carried into the back room of the residence, and was there placed upon a bed. I found a number of gentlemen, citizens, around him…I proceeded then to examine him, and instantly found that the President had received a gun shot wound in the back part of the left side of his head, into which I carried immediately my finger. I at once informed those around that the case was a hopeless one; that the President would die; that there was no positive limit to the duration of his life, that his vital tenacity was very strong, and he would resist as long as any man could, but that death certainly would soon close the scene…I remained with him doing whatever was in my power, assisted by my friends, to aid him, but of course, nothing could be done, and he died the next morning at about halfpast seven o’clock…”

-Excerpt from the testimony of Dr. Robert King Stone, President Lincoln’s family physician

Fun fact:

Although most history books do not mention them, there were Native Americans that fought on both sides of the Civil War. In fact, quite a number of them held high positions in the army. For instance, Stand Watie was a Cherokee Indian who was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate Army, and he was actually the last Confederate general to surrender.

Another interesting fact is that one of the primary Cherokee leaders, a man named Tsali, gained a reputation among the Americans and his own people for not only encouraging the Cherokee to side with other nations in their struggle, but also for being a prophet. During the Indian Removal Act, a number of soldiers came to the homesteads owned by his family, and several of them were attacked and killed. As a result, Tsali was condemned for his part in the insurrection by other Cherokee bands and eventually hunted down and executed.

Can You Believe This Actually Happened?

Which of these facts about Abraham Lincoln is NOT true?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. He developed a patent to aid steamboats run aground.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. He was a wrestler.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. He was a vegetarian.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. He hated the nickname “Abe”.

Abraham Lincoln was known to love animals and even avoid hunting and fishing, but he was not a vegetarian. He actually was a wrestler and is the only President to own a patent. Researchers say that he did not care for the nickname “Abe” and preferred to be called by his last name.

When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, he had a leather wallet. What did they find in his wallet?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. A small photograph of his son

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Confederate money

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p<>{color:#000;}. Speech notes

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p<>{color:#000;}. A penny

He actually had a Confederate five-dollar bill in his wallet when he died. More than likely it was from a recent trip to Richmond or Petersburg, in Virginia.

Misconceptions

The South had little chance of surviving the war long-term.

There are some historian who will argue that if the South had done “x”, then they could have won the war. The truth is, the South could not compete with the North’s naval power, manufacturing, and firearms production. The North’s population was more than double that of the South’s.

Not all slaves were freed with the Emancipation Proclamation.

The proclamation declared free slaves from states and territories, “in rebellion against the United States.” There were several areas of the Union that held slaves, such as Delaware and Kentucky, and slave-owning areas recently captured before the Emancipation Proclamation, such as Tennessee and New Orleans, were excluded. The proclamation was not enforced in some areas until months later. It was not until the 13th constitutional amendment abolishing slavery was passed on December 6, 1865 that all slaves were officially freed.

If the Choice Were Yours

 

Would you have demanded immediate emancipation of all slaves during the Civil War?

In truth, the language of the proclamation was designed to aid slaves as much as possible without incurring the political ire of slave-owning Union states. The North, while generally anti-slavery, was still rife with political tension and feelings of inequality. The Emancipation Proclamation was a political tool that freed most, but not all, slaves in America.

 

Reconstruction and the Gilded Age

NORTH AND SOUTH STILL DIVIDED

The Civil War was not kind to the southern States. The infamous Sherman’s March devastated a large swath of the south, and the emancipation of the slave populations did not bode well for the economy of the regions, as they were heavily dependent on slave labor to produce such huge yields of cash crops. No longer having an indentured population of workers, many plantations fell into disuse and disrepair and were unable to keep their quotas. Many former slaves did not have a much better life free, as they were released to live on a small tract of land owned by former owners and required to pay a sort of tax on their crop yields to said owners. Rather than a brand new life of independence and freedom, these ex-slaves found themselves chained to a different sort of shackle, that of economic dependence on their old masters and an inflexibility in terms of economic mobility (in other words, they were often drained of any excess cash, and only made just enough money to get by, meaning they would never be able to advance in the world).

Sharecroppers

Immediately following the Civil War, the effort to rebuild the South was underway (it is not advantageous to a country for half of it to lay in ruins). The South pushed through many political reforms known as “black codes,” which even required former slaves to sign yearly labor contracts or face arrest. In Mississippi, a contract had to be signed for the following year, and if the contracted left before the end of the year, earlier wages would be forfeit. In South Carolina, the only contracts open to former slaves were for farm labor or servants, unless they paid a tax of $10 to $100. Of course, this was the 1860s, and these were former slaves who had absolutely no assets to their names. Moreover, for employers, there were various versions of “anti-enticement,” which sought to punish those who offered higher wages for employees on contracts of others.

Political cartoon of a carpetbagger.

The victorious North were furious over the laws which kept many African Americans oppressed and only nominally out of slavery. The anger led to Radical Reconstruction, which saw Northern ideals forced on the South. From 1867 Congress took over reconstruction from the executive branch and started to implement more free-labor ideals. The more liberal policies led to a backlash in the South, one result being the formation of the infamous Ku Klux Klan. For whites, especially those that had had prominent holdings in slave labor, it was like their new government was suddenly disenfranchising them, a cruel twist of irony considering this was the same thing they had been exercising on their slaves for the past century. As abolitionist sentiment began to overtake the United States, especially in the north, this only helped widen the gap between whites and blacks in the south, often leading to violent confrontations and very strong racism.

Jim Crow Laws

Laws enforcing legal segregation began popping up in many Southern states during Reconstruction and into the 1960s. These laws were known as Jim Crow laws. Some states had these types of laws built into the state constitution, such as Florida, and were targeted public schools, public transportation, restaurants, and more. Due to Jim Crow laws, blacks and whites could often not use the same bathroom facilities and drinking fountains.

Excerpts from Jim Crow laws in different states:

Georgia

 

Amateur Baseball: It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race.

North Carolina

 

Libraries: The state librarian is directed to fit up and maintain a separate place for the use of the colored people who may come to the library for the purpose of reading books or periodicals.

Oklahoma

 

Telephone Booths: The Corporation Commission is hereby vested with power and authority to require telephone companies…to maintain separate booths for white and colored patrons when there is a demand for such separate booths. That the Corporation Commission shall determine the necessity for said separate booths only upon complaint of the people in the town and vicinity to be served after due hearing as now provided by law in other complaints filed with the Corporation Commission.

Wyoming

Intermarriage: All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mulattos, Mongolians, or Malaya hereafter contracted in the State of Wyoming are and shall be illegal and void.

INDUSTRIALIZATION AND NEW WAGE SLAVES

The United States was not to be left behind from its European brethren. The huge land area and resources offered by the country bode well for its industrial base. The large differential between wages in Europe and America enticed millions of Europeans to immigrate to the United States in the late 19th century. These immigrants filled the jobs the new American industrial engine offered. During this period of progress, huge advances in industrialization and mechanization were underway, especially in terms of agriculture. Unlike the crowded countries of the Europe, North America and the United States offered an unprecedented opportunity for expansion, and spurred on by their relationship with the rest of the world it really was a ‘cash crop’ economy. It was also abundantly easy for random ordinary folk to try their hand at farming, and before long the Mid-west was a thriving agricultural center focusing on any number of crops. It wouldn’t be long before many farmers realized that it was more profitable to focus on a single crop, and this was evidence of a new type of a specialization. With the advent of technological marvels that could help farms and increase the efficiency of farms, it also made it possible produce a lot more surplus and helped ease the lives of workers.

Railroads allowed the cross continental industry to arise, with the western lands producing minerals and other raw materials for the factories in the old North. It is hard to overstate the effects that steam and coal power had on shaping the new frontiers. Those distant homesteads and towns, especially out toward the West, could now be accessed much easier. In order to help this, the government invested heavily in producing more and more railroads. Often times it would take the form of land grants that were given to companies. In exchange this let them build through federal lend and increased the overall wealth of the population.

The South continued to suffer the aftereffects of the Civil War, and while wages rose for immigrants filling jobs in factories, the former slaves in the South were left disadvantaged. These millions of immigrants and many millions of Americans flooded into cities, where the work was located. The notorious tenements of major cities arose, and the American industrial base started to overtake those in Europe. With the railroads and vast natural resources, America moved into heavy industry, and the steel production of America raced ahead to become more significant than the outputs of Britain, France, and Germany combined. The old colonial powers Britain and France invested heavily in the railroads, which further expanded American industrial dominance.

However, it was not just steel and coal that moved on those trains. Crops from the central United States and livestock were ferried across vast distances to be processed in the newly built cities. Additionally, it was also a great transportation hub for moving soldiers and militia, as well as building equipment to border towns. During the hey-day of the railroad boom it was also even used in conjunction with the American Postal Service as a way to get mail across the country. As more money was needed to build and invest, finance became ever more important in the new American economy. The fledgling nation that had just a mere 100 years earlier been a small competitor to the Great Powers in Europe was now charging ahead to take center stage on numerous global affairs, both economic and technological. The new immigrants to the United States, as well as those already living there, pumped out a continuous, voluminous flow of new inventions to shape the new era of modernization.

The term Gilded Age comes from the notion that not all was well in the new era. Indeed, prosperity skyrocketed, but wealth inequality led to numerous conflicts. The Labor Movement fought for better working conditions and an end to abusive labor practices. The Robber Barons, businessmen who amassed great wealth on the backs of workers, permeated the era. While they helped catapult America to the forefront of all things economic, the human cost was heavy. The name itself derives from the thief (robber) and a type of nobility (baron), which should not be present in a political system based on democracy. These men built huge empires and wealth for themselves while giving very little to their workers. Some became philanthropists who donated a significant portion back to the communities in the form of institutions that still stand today.

The new industrial might of the United States would serve it well during the 20th century when it produced huge armaments and further built out the industry that helped the United States become a superpower.

WOMEN’S SUFFRAGE

Although most people think of Civil Rights as being only an issue of race, gender differences were also prevalent as well. In as early as 1848, women were trying to achieve the right to vote. At the Senaca Falls convention in New York which was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, women got together to see what they could do to get the same rights as males, particularly in the ability to regular policy by way of voting. One interesting document that was produced as a result of this convention was a Declaration of Sentiments. The Declaration of Sentiments was very similar to that of the Declaration of Independence with the addition of women being added to a lot of the wording.

Shortly after the end of the convention, many activists including Susan B. Anthony, Stanton, and Mott, began to create organizations that would raise the awareness of women earning the right to vote. They also organized lobbies that would push for the government to give voting rights to women. When the Civil War came into full swing, the women’s suffrage movement took a rest. After the war, it was time to get back to business. Stanton and Anthony founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) in 1869. The purpose of th organization was to get a federal amendment passed that would allow women the right to vote.

Later on during the same year, another major women’s group called the American Woman Suffrage Organization (AWSA) formed under the leadership of Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell. Unlike the NWSA, the members of the AWSA were big supporters of the 15th amendment. They arranged their efforts around changing state constitutions as opposed to the United States Constitution. Although the two groups had slightly different ideals as to how they should go about getting the right to vote, they still had the same end goal. In 1886, the NWSA had gotten enough influence to get the idea of women’s suffrage put before the House and the Senate. Unfortunately, it got shot down.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

Friends and fellow citizens: I stand before you tonight under indictment for the alleged crime of having voted at the last presidential election, without having a lawful right to vote. It shall be my work this evening to prove to you that in thus voting, I not only committed no crime, but, instead, simply exercised my citizen’s rights, guaranteed to me and all United States citizens by the National Constitution, beyond the power of any state to deny.

The preamble of the Federal Constitution says:

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people – women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government – the ballot.

For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.

To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.

Webster, Worcester, and Bouvier all define a citizen to be a person in the United States, entitled to vote and hold office.

The only question left to be settled now is: Are women persons? And I hardly believe any of our opponents will have the hardihood to say they are not. Being persons, then, women are citizens; and no state has a right to make any law, or to enforce any old law, that shall abridge their privileges or immunities. Hence, every discrimination against women in the constitutions and laws of the several states is today null and void, precisely as is every one against Negroes.

-Susan B. Anthony – 1873

Determined to see changes, the NWSA and the AWSA joined forced in 1890 to become the National American Women Suffrage Association. Now joined together, the NAWSA have decided to gain voting rights on a state by state basis. At the turn of the 20th century, the mothers of the movement were getting too old to be in control, and so were succeeded by Carrie Chapman Catt. Other organizations like the Equality League of Self Supporting Women were also making strides towards woman’s suffrage. They used parades, pickets, and marches to generate attention their cause and raise awareness about the issue.

When Woodrow Wilson became president and was about to get inaugurated, a suffrage party in the nation’s capital got out of hand and hundreds of women got hurt. Later that same year (1913), the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (National Woman’s Party) was founded by a woman named Alice Paul. Paul had the organization do a number of demonstrations in front of the White House. Many members were arrested and even got put in jail as a result of these protests that were occurring.

By 1918, because of influence from Catt, Wilson changed his stance from opposing to favoring the women’s suffrage movement. Because of their extensive involvement in aiding soldiers during World War I, he felt like women deserved the right to vote. Although it lost in the Senate by a couple of votes, it did come back up the next year. It passed through both the House and the Senate, but took a little while to be ratified by the states. While some states like Illinois, Michigan, and Kansas ratified the amendment fairly quickly, many of the southern states were completely against the amendment. Tennessee ended up being the deciding state, and with one vote, got the 19th amendment added to the United States Constitution. Although the road was bit rocky, women finally got the right to vote in the United States.

Misconceptions

 

There were more African-Americans in political office during the Reconstruction era than at any other time in American history.

 

During a time of heightened political activism and coalition work between blacks and white Republicans, 16 blacks were elected to U.S. Congress, over 600 were elected to state legislatures, and many more were elected to local offices. Hiram Revels was the first African-American elected to the Senate, and he ironically took the seat vacated by Jefferson Davis.

 

Women had the right to vote before the 19th amendment was passed.

 

Women living west of the Rockies had the right to vote before 1914. The Wyoming Territory was the first to grant women the right to vote in 1869, and carried that with them into statehood in 1889. The Utah Territory and Washington Territory followed.

 

 

 

History Has its Eyes on us Today

 

America is still feeling the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction today. Jim Crow laws arose as an answer to radical racial changes in the political and social spheres, creating a division between blacks and whites. Legal segregation of schools ended with the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and ended nationally in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act. Although legal segregation ended, de facto segregation (segregation “in fact”) without sanction of law exists to some extent today.

Chapter 5 – The Great War and the Great Depression

Immigration in the United States

Between 1870 and 1900, the United States saw a dramatic change in the makeup of its people. During that time period, an estimated 12 million people immigrated to the U.S. in the hopes of new and better opportunities. Many were escaping famine, land shortages, war, crop failures, religious persecution, or rising taxes, and saw America as the land of opportunity. In the earlier part of the 1800s, many immigrants came from England, Ireland, and Germany, but by the end of the century, people were emigrating from places like China, Japan, Russia, and Italy. If you were coming through the West Coast, immigrants were processed at Angel Island, and those on the East Coast were processed at the Castle Garden depot in Manhattan, and later, Ellis Island. While many immigrants settled in cities along the coasts, there were some inland states that tried to attract immigrants for farming opportunities.

At the same time as America was receiving all of these immigrants, the factory system was seeing a huge uptick in technology and production, meaning that these factories need labor. Immigrants became a quick source for cheap and unskilled labor, and this dramatic shift in the workforce helped catapult American manufacturing to new heights and helped push America to become among the strongest world economies. This boom in industrialization is known as the Second Industrial Revolution and saw an increase in manufacturing ability. Steel manufacturing boomed due to a new process, and corporate giants gained ground, such as Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan. During the time period America and the world saw advancements like no other. Edison created the first light bulb, while Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse provided electricity for the World’s Fair in 1893. There were major advancements in textiles, and the world fell in love with the bicycle and later Henry Ford’s automobile. Ford was also responsible for popularizing the assembly line and bring mass manufacturing to the forefront, which is the foundation for modern manufacturing.

Photo of Ellis Island, 1905

Not all Americans were happy about this influx of foreigners and took measures to try and stop or slow immigration to the United States. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the country, and an unsuccessful campaign in the 1850s attempted to stop Catholics from entering the country. Another notable immigration act was the Immigration Act of 1924, which put a strict limit on the number of immigrants allowed per year (2% of the current U.S. population). The act was racially motivated and explicitly banned immigration of Arabs and Asians and placed some restrictions on women entering the country. This act came a particularly tough time, as it limited the number of Jews who were trying to escape Nazi Germany in the 1920s and 30s.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

I was born Gudrun Hildebrandt and married Moller, Mr. Moller, who was from Denmark. He immigrated here many years later and we met in New York. However when I started school in Chicago, where I grew up, needless to say, first of all, I couldn’t speak a word of English, and I was the only child in the school that couldn’t speak English. And (she laughs) it wasn’t too happy the first couple of years but my mama said “Take heart because some day you’re going to be able to speak two languages and all the ones that were teasing you will speak only one”. And it was true. She was always right. So, my teacher suggested, since none of the children could pronounce Gudrun, which is an old Germanic-Scandinavian name, and a very beautiful name (I hear), she gave me a list of girls’ names to choose from. So that all the kids could converse, you know, know what to call me. So I picked the name starting with a g, as with my name, and it was Gertrude. I’m not very happy with it, but it has stuck with me all of these years.

-Gertrude (Gudrun) Hildebrandt Moller, on changing her name at Ellis Island.

Constant Wars and Security

In 1898 the United States fought a war with Spain, who was completely unprepared for the conflict in its distant colonies. Cuba had wanted to split from Spain and the United States declared its right to do so. Spain engaged in extreme measures to subdue Cuba, and this was sensationalized in American newspapers, creating nationwide sympathy for the Cubans. In 1895, a revolt began in Cuba against Spain. The United States had a vested economic interest in Cuba, as it was the primary buyer and consumer of its major agricultural crop, sugar.

The U.S. then sent the battleship USS Maine to Cuba to protect American citizens and property against anti-Spanish rioting in Havana and to pressure Spain into a diplomatic resolution. The USS Maine mysteriously sank, killing 250 sailors. President McKinley did not explicitly state that Spain had anything to do with the Maine, but requested military funds from Congress nonetheless. Conflicting reports state that the explosion could have come from the outside or internally, but historians are still not entirely sure what happened. The United States issued a series of resolutions that outlined Cuba’s right to independence and that Spain should withdraw its troops from the colony. Shortly thereafter, the war erupted, and the United States quickly defeated Spain. Spain was ill prepared for war and simply couldn’t manage an army and navy so far from their home base. The war was fought both in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, as Spain had assets in the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

With Spain’s fleet demolished and feeling heavy losses, Spain demanded peace; the war officially ended with the 1898 Treaty of Paris. The treaty specified that the United States would gain all of Spain’s non-African territories and Cuba would become a temporary protectorate of the U.S., meaning that the United States would hold a military presence in the area. Cuba formed its own government and officially declared its independence just four years later.

Cuba gained independence from Spain and was left outside American territory. The United States was not only concerned with Cuba, though. Guam and Puerto Rico were lost to the United States, which are still under some form of American control. The much more populous Philippines were purchased by the United States for $20 million, and suddenly America had far-flung assets around the globe. The United States had become a global player, and less than 120 years after its own independence, the nation had risen to prominence to rival Europe. The relative insulation from European wars and the vast expanse of resources and land afforded the United States, along with its freedoms and wages that enticed large numbers of skilled labor, such a position. While the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 warned European powers to stay out of Western Hemisphere politics, the United States could now force Europe to stay out of such affairs. Furthermore, the United States could dictate terms across the globe.

The Spanish-American War, though short, made huge changes for America. Not only did U.S. territory expand into the Pacific, but the war was seen as a unifying force that brought people together; some saw it as a form of “healing” after the Civil War, as blacks and whites, Northerners and Southerners fought together.

Not long after the Spanish-American War, President McKinley was reelected in 1900. Leading up to McKinley’s first election, however, was the economic Panic of 1893, a period of economic depression that caused serious drops in employment and caused many banks to collapse. One victim of unemployment was Leon Czolgosz, who turned to anarchism; this ultimately led to the belief that it was his duty to assassinate President McKinley, who he believed represented oppression. McKinley was shot twice in the abdomen in 1901 while in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition World’s Fair in Buffalo. His vice-president, Theodore Roosevelt, who rose to prominence with his famed “Rough Riders” in the Spanish-American War, took the mantle of the new president; McKinley was then the third president to be assassinated, after Lincoln and President Garfield.

Photo of Theodore Roosevelt, circa 1901.

Roosevelt’s presidency was a mark of the Progressive Era and one of his major achievements was establishing the national parks system with the intention of preserving the nation’s natural resources and wilderness. He also wanted to display and show off America’s newfound power in the world, so he orchestrated a naval world tour known as the Great White Fleet, where a battle fleet took a journey around the entire globe. Roosevelt was also instrumental in building the Panama Canal, and in yet another effort to display America’s world prominence he helped mediate a treaty between the Russians and the Japanese, ending the Russo-Japanese War. This mediation effort earned Roosevelt a Nobel Peace Prize.

WORLD WAR I

The United States, surrounded by two vast oceans, kept itself mostly out of European politics. When World War I broke out between the various powers in Europe, the United States remained staunchly neutral. The American public had little interest in fighting a war that was not their own, and life in America was, in general, good. The centuries-old rivalries between European powers were not meant to be solved by American troops. At this time the United States was still reeling from its own American Civil War and there was little reason politically or economically to enter the theater of another conflict.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

All along our trench, rifles and machine guns spoke, our shrapnel was bursting over their heads. They went down in heaps, but new ones took the place of the fallen. Nothing could stop that mad rush. The Germans reached our barbed wire, which had previously been demolished by their shells, then it was bomb against bomb, and the devil for all.

Suddenly, my head seemed to burst from a loud ‘crack’ in my ear. Then my head began to swim, throat got dry, and a heavy pressure on the lungs warned me that my helmet was leaking. Turning my gun over to No. 2, I changed helmets.

The trench started to wind like a snake, and sandbags appeared to be floating in the air. The noise was horrible; I sank onto the fire step, needles seemed to be pricking my flesh, then blackness.

I was awakened by one of my mates removing my smoke helmet. How delicious that cool, fresh air felt in my lungs.

A strong wind had arisen and dispersed the gas.

They told me that I had been ‘out’ for three hours; they thought I was dead…

-Arthur Empey

However, as the war in Europe raged on it became clear that there were a number of things at stake, and America became more and more politically interested. Under Kaiser Wilhelm, the German Empire, itself recently formed, wanted to build itself into a global power just as the United States had and its neighbors had had for a long time. This inevitably meant conflict Germany and Britain and France. The United States wanted to stay neutral, but Britain was a close trading partner and Germany had blockaded the Isles in an attempt to defeat Britain. This was especially pertinent to the burgeoning industries of the United States, and in particular agriculture – many of the farmers and new agricultural steads of land and companies relied heavily on foreign export in order to remain prosperous. Germany had officially cut off this resource, and in order to enforce the blockade started to attack any ship, neutral or hostile, on the high seas. The military power of Britain lay in its navy, and Germany needed to defeat this.

Illustration of the sinking of the Lusitania.

Unfortunately, this included passenger ships carrying Americans. Following two torpedo attacks against ships carrying American passengers including the infamous and ill-fated Lusitania, public opinion in America turned against Germany and there was a social and political movement that supported joining the other nations against Germany. Before this there had been a sharp division in terms of citizens, many of them thinking it would be unwise to partake in a war so far overseas. In the previous War of 1812, America had seen firsthand how costly and expensive it was to wage a conflict that was not in easy proximity to one’s forces. However, following a resumption of German hostilities against non-combative ships, the United States eventually entered World War I on the side of the Allies. The irony however was that America at this time was not a particularly strong military presence – aside from the casualties incurred by the American Civil War, the US had also been threatening Mexico and its army and navy were quite small in comparison to a super power like Britain. Nevertheless, overcoming political barriers, Woodrow Wilson eventually managed to pass a national declaration of war, which passed on April 6th, 1917. What was interesting about their move however was that, even though they fought with other allied nations, the US remained staunchly independent in regards to its own diplomacy.

Recruitment poster for the U.S. Navy.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

“The night before [Wilson] asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany he sent for me. I was late getting the message somehow, and didn’t reach the White House till one o’clock, in the morning. ‘The old man’ was waiting for me sitting in his study with the typewriter on his table, where he used to type his own messages.

I’d never seen him so worn down. He looked as if he hadn’t slept, and he said he hadn’t. He said he was probably going before Congress the next day to ask a declaration of war, and he’d never been so uncertain about anything in his life as about that decision. For nights, he said, he’d been lying awake going over the whole situation – over the provocation given by Germany, over the probable feeling in the United States, over the consequences to the settlement and to the world at large if we entered the melee.

He tapped some sheets before him and said that he had written a message and expected to go before Congress with it as it stood. He said he couldn’t see any alternative, that he had tried every way he knew to avoid war. ‘I think I know what war means,’ he said, and he added that if there were any possibility of avoiding war he wanted to try it. ‘What else can I do?’ he asked. ‘Is there anything else I can do?’

-Frank Cobb, news reporter and confidante to Woodrow Wilson

Shortly after entering the war, President Wilson along with a group of his most trusted advisors and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George put together a list of explanations as to how they see the outcome of the war. Wilson wanted the outcome of the war to be peaceful, so his plan for peace came to be known as the Fourteen Points. The primary purpose was to provide a public strategy for ending the war. Essentially, if he was going to endanger the lives of Americans in order to fight a war in Europe, he wanted for everyone to understand why. The first five points of his speech were directed towards international affairs and the last eight dealt with things specific to the questions of how to divide the territory.

The first point was about open diplomacy. Instead of having secret dealings with different nations, anything would need to be out in the open. The second point was called the freedom of the seas. In other words, all international seas will be allowed to navigate and trade whether at peace or at war. The third point is the removal of economic barriers. In other words, there will be free trading between any and all countries that accept the peace that is to come. The next point involved the reduction of armaments. This point means that allantois would have to reduce the total number of arms that they had on deck. Everyone’s supply of weapons would dramatically decrease with the idea that less weapons and smaller armies would mean less chance that a country would engage in war.

The fifth point referred to the adjustment of colonial claims on different lands and regions. This point would be a bit tricky, but the basic idea is to make the claims over land and region a lot fairer. The next point specifically addressed both Russia and Germany. Since they were the primary forces behind the Russia would have the ability to make the decision as to what type of government that it wanted to have. The point would drive Germany off of Russian soil and allow for Russia to fix the problems that have arisen as a result of being at war. The seventh point was about Belgium, the small country that endured a cruel beating at the hands of the Central Powers. The point called for Germany to completely vacate the region and allow Belgium to become its own independent country. The next few points were very much like the seventh point with France gaining back territory lost, Italian borders becoming more clearly defined, allowing Austria-Hungary and Poland to become their own country, and the Turkish people from the Ottoman Empire having the ability to create their own country. The 14th and final point involved the formation of a League of Nations, which would serve as a diplomatic gathering of nation leaders with the intention of keeping all countries, regardless of their size, protected and free.

World War I tanks.

By this time the Allies were weary after having fought for so long, so the arrival of American troops was a godsend, sometimes arriving in fleets of as many 10,000 troops a day. Because WWI had been fought as a sort of ‘attrition’ conflict through the use of trench warfare, many of the Allied troop movements had slowed or incurred such devastating losses that for all parties involved an end to hostilities was the primary goal. Coming to the war three years and millions of dead Europeans late, the United States, with its huge, untouched-by-war industrial base and population, burst onto the European scene and helped end the war within a little over a year. The final attack came in the Hundred Days Offensive and would mark the end of the German offensive until WWI a decade and a half later.

LEAGUE OF NATIONS AND AN ERA OF PROSPERITY

The introduction of mechanized warfare and the seemingly purposeless deaths of millions drove the desire to end the war. World War I was termed the Great War and the War to End All Wars, because it was hoped this display of brutal, efficient, mechanized death would once and forever stop the march of bloody conflict.

One attempt to end the war between nations was to create a place for them to practice diplomacy before resorting to war. While the United States, for the most part, was uninjured in the war and wanted to implement a lasting and just peace, Britain and France wanted revenge for the deaths of millions of their citizens and the destruction of their lands by German ambition. The US President, Woodrow Wilson, wanted the United States to lead the League of Nations, but, due to legal demands deemed unconstitutional by Congress, the League was created without the United States. As a result, Woodrow simply signed independent peace treaties with the other countries involved.

The exclusion of the United States from the League was by no means a problem for the United States. During the 1920s, as Europe was still recovering from the war, American culture and economy flourished. The wealth of the United States doubled within a decade, and a great many Americans were granted access to a consumer culture. The country was now more than half an urban population and people across the entire continent formed an American culture thanks to nationwide advertising and the communication links provided by new technology. Many were averse to the mass culture that was enveloping the nation, but the idea of consumerism had taken hold.

There was conflict—one of the most famous being Prohibition. Responding to a wave of temperance movements, various states had already enacted their own forms of restriction on alcohol. A lot of the impetus came from a Protestant atmosphere that saw alcohol as being the root of evil and excess, and in the 1920’s a prohibition was signed into law, becoming the 18th Amendment to the American Constitution, banning and forbidding the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic liquids and several states had strict laws regarding even possession of alcoholic substances. The ban led to a loss of tax revenue and various criminal activities, as people were heartily attached to alcohol. At the same time, it seemed like a good idea to many: the previous 19th century domestic scene had been marked by alcoholism, family violence, and ‘saloon style’ corruption in politics. This created a divide in post-WWI America between the drys and the wets, or those who advocated Prohibition and those who didn’t.

Dumping barrels of ale down the drain.

The main problem was that Prohibition targeted the lower class much more than the middle or wealthy in society. A rich person could safely and easily keep or hide alcohol inside his house, but the penalties on possession for the poor was high and their access to it was diminished, causing public outrage. This led to the practice of ‘bootlegging’ which was the illegal creation, distribution, and selling of alcohol. Many people made their own alcohol, and a whole black market economy developed, even going so far as to smuggle alcohol across the Canadian In some more blue-collar neighborhoods, it also led to the creation of ‘speak easy’ establishments, often run by ex-bar owners who would sell their products secretly to those who wanted a drink. One of the most famous players in the whole Prohibition racket was the eponymous Al Capone who, along with a number of others, basically ran Chicago and was actively involved in the bootlegging industry.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

In favor of prohibition:

January 22, 1931

To His Excellency Herbert Hoover

President of the United States, Washington, D.C.

 

Dear Mr. President:

I am one of the hundreds of thousands of thousands of Texas citizens who voted for you for president in 1928 as against Al Smith, the idol of the liquor forces of America. Your election by an overwhelming majority gave me great joy, and I have not had any occasion to regret casting my vote first time for a Republican candidate for president.

My joy at your courageous stand on the side of justice, honor, and purity to maintain national constitutional prohibition of the liquor traffic, and to put forth every effort possible to eradicate the evils of this curse from our country, even surpasses that of 1928 when you were elected president [emphasis added]. I thank God that we have a man at the head of our nation who is not afraid to stand on the side of right regardless of whatever the consequences may be.

Very sincerely yours,

J.M. Bledsoe

Against prohibition:

January 21, 1931

Hon. Herbert Hoover, President U.S.A.,

White House, Washington, D.C.

 

Dear Mr. President:

The report of the Wickersham Commission on Prohibition is a great disappointment to the substantial element in the Republican Party here. Of course the dry element, which is constantly decreasing in numbers, is satisfied because no modification is proposed, although the more fanatical drys do not think the report is sufficiently radical.

It is regrettable that more money will be expended in times like these to attempt the enforcement of our foolish prohibition laws, when so much good could be accomplished with the money in other ways. It is equally sad to contemplate that the rule of bootleggers and the crime wave will continue, and no doubt increase in spite of anything done in the way of more strict prohibition enforcement [emphasis added].

But worse than all of these things is the conviction of a majority of our people that no prosperity is possible in this country until we modify the present prohibition laws. In this view I am certain the people are correct, and that no prosperity is possible under present conditions. There is no reason why we should not be as prosperous as the Republic of France, if we had as sane laws and practices affecting the liquor question as France.

 

[_ Advocating the maintenance of prohibition without some sensible modification, the Republican Party is doomed to defeat in the next presidential election, regardless of who may be its candidate, for conditions will become so deplorable before 1932 that 75% of the people will demand a change. ] _Attempts at more strict enforcement will only further enrage all except the ultra dry fanatics . As an ardent Republican, I trust something can be done to change the present liquor laws and bring back confidence and prosperity.

With sincere feelings of the highest personal esteem, I am,

Yours very truly,

F.C. Finkle

Prohibition-era speakeasy.

Eventually, even the main proponents of Prohibition realized it wasn’t working. First of all, it was causing a lot of strife between classes. Secondly, there was really very little way to efficiently police the ban on alcohol. And lastly, and most importantly, it was a very reliable cash crop as well. Before Prohibition’s inception, almost 14% of the GDP had been earned off of the production and selling of alcohol. As a result, Prohibition was eventually repealed, turning over the 18 th amendment and bringing in the new 21st Amendment.

The Roaring Twenties

The 1920s was a period of great economic and social change. While many people may think about the 20s and conjure the image of a “flapper girl”, the fact is, the 20s saw major advancements in consumerism and a great deal of change in popular culture. For the first time in American history, more people were living in cities than in the country and the twenties saw the nation’s total wealth nearly double. The nation started to become united under the same products, and national advertising and chain stores became the new norm.

One of the biggest hallmarks of the 1920s was the boom in popular culture. Movie theaters were a major form of entertainment, and the 20s brought forth jazz to mainstream culture. This period of time was also the time of the Harlem Renaissance, a period of great advancements in art, music, and literature for blacks. Harlem, a neighborhood in northern Manhattan, was the hot spot of activity, and many blacks had moved to the area as part of the Great Migration, wherein blacks were moving from the south into black neighborhoods in the Midwest and Northeast. The black middle-class was growing and Harlem attracted artists, musicians, poets, and scholars such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Claude McKay.

Cover to 1920s sheet music for “I’m Just Wild about Harry”, prominently featuring African-Americans, circa 1921

Women also became equal members of society. In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution passed, granting women the right to vote. Women were working in factories and even starting to hold white-collar jobs such as secretarial work. Women were more independent than they had ever been before, and advancements in birth control allowed women to have fewer children, while modern conveniences such as vacuum cleaners eased some of the burden of housework.

The Great Depression

The United States of America is now one of the strongest economies in the world today, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when the economy of the US took such a huge hit that suicide statistics rose to an unprecedented number; that time was known as The Great Depression, the darkest ten years in the US economy.

How it started

Even though the Great Depression happened decades ago, economists are still debating about its actual causes. The most common belief is that it all started right after the 1929 crash of the stock market, ominously remembered as Black Tuesday. During the roaring 20’s, right after World War I, rural Americans started moving into the cities because of the sudden boom in the industrial sector. However, while the cities did become more prosperous, it also led to overproduction on the agricultural side. It was a time of excess; back then, the people thought that the stock market would only continue to rise, this despite numerous speculations from financial experts. Other theorists point out that low income and employment coupled with a banking crisis in which nearly a third of banks effectively disappeared.

The problem was, in such a volatile economy, if one bank happened to go broke, it created a chain reaction, sort of like dominoes running into one another. Once this process picked up momentum, it would become impossible to stop, which is exactly what happened. Some economists including Milton Friedman suggested that the Federal Reserve was to blame for not bailing out banks by lending them money in order to stay afloat. One of the primary reasons that the Federal Reserve couldn’t do this, however, was that in order to print new money they would be violating the ‘gold standard’ which said they needed to have a certain amount of backing – almost 40% - on notes that they produced and sent out.

Then things started to go south; the steel manufacturers’ production slowed down, the construction sector was sluggish, the automobile industry wasn’t selling as many units as they used to, and the people are racking up huge debts. Despite all of these bad omens, companies continued to sell their stocks, and the people continued buying them in the hopes of striking it rich.

On September 20, 1929, the London Stock Exchange crashed following the arrest and conviction of top British investors for fraud and forgery. This caused a panic in American investors because the huge volume of stocks sold at London caused the prices in the ticker tapes in America to be hours late. This widespread panic caused financial experts to advise the people to get out of the market; on October 29 of that same year, almost 16 million shares of stocks were traded, but some of them had no buyers at any price. The stock market lost more than $30 billion in just two days; it was the biggest stock market crash ever experienced in the USA.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

“…When the market finally closed, 9,212,800 shares had been sold. The Times index of 25 industrials fell from 367.42 to 318.29. The whole list showed alarming losses, and margin calls were on their way to those speculators who had not already sold out… This was real panic. It was what the banks had prevented on Thursday, had slowed on Monday. Now they were helpless. Reportedly they were trying to force their associated corporations to toss their buying power into the whirlpool, but they were getting no results. Albert Conway, New York State Superintendent of Insurance, took the dubious step of urging the companies under his jurisdiction to buy common stocks. If they did so, their buying was insufficient to halt the rout.”

-Jonathan Leonard, reporter

After the crash

Several years after the Black Tuesday, people started feeling the effects. Consumer spending drastically declined, which caused industrial production to go down as well, and this resulted in the laying off of hundreds of thousands of workers. By 1933, the Great Depression was at its peak; almost 15 million Americans were unemployed, and almost half of the country’s banking institutions have permanently closed shop. It was a very dark time in America. Hundreds of people would show up at bread lines and soup kitchens in the once wealthy cities. Ironically, farmers in the rural areas could not even afford to harvest their crops, which meant they had to let all that good food rot in their fields while millions of people were starving.

Depression-era Chicago soup kitchen sponsored by gangster Al Capone.

This also had a huge effect on the social makeup of the United States, in particular the role of women. Many of the major industries were primarily occupied by men, and since these were the first to go, it often fell to the women to pick up the slack. This took a number of forms: although there were some women in white-collar jobs who experienced less lay-offs, most tried to do their best to try and find a way to make enough money just to get by. In rural areas and even in bigger cities women would often do their best to grow their own vegetables and small gardens in order to supplement the cost of food. A whole culture of thriftiness, in sharp contrast to the luxurious spending spree culture of the 1920’s, began to evolve. Learning how to get by with minimal resources, fixing clothes, re-using items, and re-purposing things that would normally be thrown away became the staple. Many married woman also joined the labor force in positions that were normally held by men – a trend that would continue, and become vital and indispensable, with the coming of the next world war. Most countries soon began to recover around 1933 and fortunately things started to change for the better when Franklin D. Roosevelt took his oath as the President of the United States.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

It was a time of terrible suffering. The contradictions were so obvious that it didn’t take a very bright person to realize something was terribly wrong.

Have you ever seen a child with rickets? Shaking as with palsy. No proteins, no milk. And the companies pouring milk into gutters. People with nothing to wear, and the were plowing up cotton. People with nothing to eat, and they killed the pigs. If that wasn’t the craziest system in the world, could you imagine anything more idiotic? This was just insane.

And people blamed themselves, not the system. They felt they had been at fault: . . . “if we hadn’t bought that old radio” . . .“if we hadn’t bought that old secondhand car.” Among the things that horrified me were the preachers— the fundamentalists. They would tell the people they suffered because of their sins. And the people believed it. God was punishing them. Their children were starving because of their sins.

People who were independent, who thought they were masters and mistresses of their lives, were all of a sudden dependent on others. Relatives or relief. People of pride went into shock and sanitoriums. My mother was one….”

-Virginia Durr

A ray of hope

Immediately after taking his oath of office, Franklin Delano Roosevelt started working on healing the US economy. First, he announced a four-day “bank holiday” that forced all the banks to temporarily close so that Congress will have enough time to pass legislation that will help them recover. During this time, the United States had no idea that it was in for a big dose of government intervention.

FDR was by far one of the greatest presidents that this nation has ever had. He was elected president four times, and served three of his terms. To top it off, he was able to get us through the Depression and World War II while being confined to a wheel chair. He is most famous, however, for his economic solution to the Great Depression, which became known as the New Deal. FDR’s New Deal essentially was made up of three major components; direct relief, economic recovery, and financial reform. Relief was very much needed for the American people at this time because a lot of them were living in poverty or in need of some type of assistance.

FERA camp in Pennsylvania.

About 1/3 of the United States population had been hit hard by the Depression, and needed some immediate relief. FDR decided to expand upon the FERA work relief program that had been enacted by ex-president Hoover, and he also added a couple of other programs. Among these were the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), which sent over 250,000 young men to work at camps that involve reforestation and conservation. This program removed a lot of extra workers from the cities and provided a healthy arrangement for young men to make money for their families. Another important program was the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which gave work to over 8 million workers in construction, arts, theaters, and other literary projects. The Social Security Act and unemployment insurance were also added to the pallet. The Social Security Act was created as way to try and combat the vast amount of poverty that had spread to senior citizens across the nation. Both of these acts have managed to withstand the test of time and remain important even today. Other programs such as the RA and the FSA were created to provide relief to individuals in the more rural areas of America as well.

Works Progress Administration poster – “Work Promotes Confidence”

The next component was that of economic recovery. Recovery had a goal of getting the economy back to how it was prior to the Great Depression. It would involve the process of pump priming which is deficit spending and making efforts to up the prices of farm goods that were entirely too low. He also sought to increase foreign trade. Basically, economic reform meant trying to stimulate the buying and selling of goods again. One of the most important was that of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TVA was created in order to build dams in the Tennessee River valley area. Dams are an inexpensive method of achieving hydroelectric power and provided very stable irrigation for the area. The TVA was the first public competition among private power industries.

The third and final component of the New Deal was that of reform. Reform seemed to be needed to ensure that a crisis like this will never happen again. The market seemed to be unstable, and the government felt like it needed to intervene in order to better stabilize the economy. FDR created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to provide security and protection for bank depositors and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to serve as a guard dog for the stock market and thus prevent similar abuses that led to the 1929 stock market crash that caused the Great Depression.

These programs took the form primarily of new industrial projects and it was the first step in bringing the Federal Government into a more active economic role in the country. Many of the projects he spearheaded included new infrastructure, in particular the development of roads and bridges, but also specific construction projects. In fact, one fun fact is that the Timberline Lodge which is located on the south face of Mt. Hood was one of his ideas – he looked on the Great Depression as a terrible failure on behalf of the government to help its citizens, but also realized it was an opportunity to get the United States back on track with building projects that would increase its economic growth and give people, most importantly, a sense of hope. The Timberline Lodge, in this case, was one such example. With the support of local workers, it would become a shining beacon of FDR’s New Deal politics.

The Timberline Lodge.

But there were a number of drastic actions taken as well. Probably the biggest and most controversial move that FDR made was taking the US economy off the gold standard, and making it illegal for ordinary citizens to own gold. Executive Order 6102 forbids the hoarding of gold, in any of its forms, in the continental United States. The reasoning for this EO was it would help remove the constraint preventing the Federal Reserve from increasing the supply of money in circulation.

Fun Fact:

Executive Order 6102 is the reason why the 1933 gold double eagle coin is such a rarity today. Almost all of the known specimens of this rare coin were smelted back down into bars during the Great Depression so finding one now in good condition is almost like winning the jackpot in the lottery. In fact, one 1933 gold double eagle in excellent condition was sold at a 2002 Sotheby’s auction for a whopping $7.6 million.

The unexpected benefit of World War II

When the United States eventually got dragged into World War II, the government started spending huge amounts of money in militarization. This sudden financial windfall rejuvenated the American steel industries and weapons manufacturers; after years of unemployment, US citizens finally had jobs. This claim is quite controversial as many historians disagree with the claim that WWII ended the Great Depression. Instead, they believe that the war just masked it until it eventually fizzled out in 1946.

Nevertheless, it was clear that the economy did experience a revitalization at the outset of the war, in part because a number of the old antiquated industries that had been shut down during the Depression such as steel mills and other construction markets fired back up again in order to supply soldiers with the needed equipment and armaments. As we’ve seen, this was also a time when the gender normative division of labor was being breached, and more and more women were entering the workforce. With the US and its connection to the war, this meant that many men ended up having to leave those jobs which were then filled by women, and at this time the unemployment rate was well below 10%, something that would have seemed unprecedented nearly a decade before.

Misconceptions

 

The Great Depression was the country’s first depression

 

While the Great Depression was certainly the longest economic depression the country has seen, it was not the first. In fact, prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s, there was a major worldwide economic depression beginning in 1873 and ending in approximately 1879 that was known as the Great Depression. This period of time is now referred to as the Long Depression.

 

The Lusitania was not solely a passenger ship.

 

Some historians will attribute the start of US engagement in WWI with the sinking of the Lusitania, a passenger ship, but that’s not entirely true. While the Lusitania did carry passengers, it was also carrying munitions, thus turning the passenger ship into an instrument of war. The Germans even placed prominent advertisements warning Americans that the war zones included British waters. Later, when Wilson presented his reasons to go to war to Congress, he cited Germany’s broken promise on unrestricted warfare, but this was actually referring to the German violation of the Sussex Pledge, which required that Germany cease-fire on ships carrying civilians.

 

Can You Believe this Actually Happened?

 

Prohibitionists held strong to their beliefs and also thought that those that did not comply with prohibition should be punished in some fashion. Which of the following was NOT a suggested punishment?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Lawbreakers should be tattooed

#
p<>{color:#000;}. They should be forbidden to marry

#
p<>{color:#000;}. They should be re-educated

#
p<>{color:#000;}. They should be exiled

Answer: C. Some proponents of prohibition believed that noncompliant persons should be exiled, branded, tattooed, or even sterilized, and lawbreakers should be forbidden to attend church or marry. Although public education and pamphlets about the “evils” of alcohol were prevalent at the time, re-education was not considered a potential form of punishment.

 

What was Al Capone ultimately charged with?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Racketeering

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Organized crime

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Assault

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Tax evasion

Al Capone was never indicted for his efforts in organized crime. Although he ran bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling operations in Chicago, he was convicted of tax evasion and served only six years in prison.

 

If the Choice Were Yours

 

During the Great Depression, would you have provided food and monetary welfare, or provided jobs?

 

President FDR did both. He did enact some welfare programs, but quickly turned to developing work programs to curb unemployment. These public works programs brought the unemployment rate down from 25% to fewer than 10% by WWII.

 

History Has its Eyes on Us Today

 

The long-term impacts of the New Deal programs, and the WPA in particular, are still felt today. For example, the WPA was responsible for expanding commercial aviation with the construction of about 600 airports. Library budgets were cut nationwide, and WPA library projects revived communities and repaired close to 30 millions books, as well as established extension programs that brought library services to remote areas by unconventional means, such as boat and horse, resembling the modern bookmobile.

Chapter 6 – The Second World War

Unfortunately for the world, the Great War was not the War to End All Wars. Another, this time, bloodier conflict erupted a mere twenty years later. The defeated Germany felt oppressed by the terms opposed by Woodrow Wilson and, with a resurgent leader, went on the offense again.

WORLD WAR II

Once again America was interested in a neutral position. A new addition to this war was the East Asian power of Japan. The Japanese, after having opened up to the West (mostly through American persuasion) in the early part of the century, wanted an empire of their own. Their imperial ventures in East Asian and the Pacific eventually led to inevitable conflict with America. Japan also happened to be allied with Germany, which put it on the opposite side of traditional American allies France and Britain. The Japanese were involved in WWI, but the empire took on more importance in this conflict.

Britain had pleaded with America to join the war, but America was not interested in committing more troops to another mechanized, highly efficient meat grinder. The official stance was Neutrality and avoiding “foreign entanglements.” America signed a deal with Britain called the Destroyers for Bases Agreement, which saw America supporting Britain in the war indirectly. The United States shipped fifty destroyers were transferred to the British Navy from America and America was given rights to build and maintain bases in several territories claimed by the British Empire. A further agreement, named Lend-Lease, was a program by the United States to send food, oil, and materials, including weaponry, to Britain, France, China, and others, in exchange for leasing lands to build bases. This was not a direct involvement of the United States in the war, but it significantly helped the Allied powers against their enemies as they could rely on the natural resource reserves of the US and even sometimes armaments from the massive American industrial base.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

table<>. <>. |<>.
p<>{color:#000;}. Dear Mother and Dad:

As you may have already learned from the official telegram, I have been slightly wounded. A piece of shrapnel hit my right thigh, between the knee and the hip, but did not break the leg. Another piece hit my back, on the left side, but didn’t go in very far. Both have been removed. I am now sewed up, no bones were broken, and I feel OK. They were really very slight wounds, and nothing at all to worry about. … I should be up and walking around shortly, and enjoying these white sheets and nice beds. I’m in a general hospital … It is luxurious, to say the least. Don’t worry.

 

Love,

Paul |

-Letter from Paul Fussell to his parents

The avoidance of entanglement in foreign wars, however, could not last forever. The same sentiment of non-involvement that had been espoused by citizens prior to the first World War was similar, but this time there was a sense of pride in the fact that they had managed to win that war and pull themselves out of the Depression. Also, the United States was now a global empire with global interests, and this necessitated their eventual role in what would follow. The imperial Japanese expansion in the Pacific came to a head with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. The attack, sometimes known as Operation Z, was a surprise military attack on the naval base in Hawaii. Taken completely off guard, there was little that American soldiers could do and nearly 2,400 were killed in what FDR would later say in his famous speech was “a day which will live in infamy”. Some theorists have put forth ideas that the government knew about the attack but did not stop it in order to galvanize the public into joining the war on behalf of the Allies. This certainly corroborates with the fact that at the time many American citizens did not want to get involved and there was a feeling both in the societal and political realms that this time the US should stay out. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, any sort of public reservation about joining the war seemed to vanish.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

When this new wave of fighters attacked, we were ordered to run and take shelter. Most of us ran to our nearest steel hangar . . . this bomb attack made us aware that the hangar was not a safe place to be . . . several of us ran north to an abandoned Officer’s Club and hid under it until it too was machine-gunned. I managed to crawl out and took off my white uniform, because I was told that men in whites were targets. I then climbed under a large thorny bush . . . for some reason I felt much safer at this point than I had during the entire attack.”

-Gordon Jones, who was stationed at Kanehoe at Pearl Harbor

The USS Arizona, burning after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese officially declared war with the United States, and the United States declared war on the Japanese the very next day; New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands also declared war on Japan. Almost simultaneously, Japan made coordinated attacks on other American territories in the Pacific, namely Guam, the Philippines, and Wake Island. The war truly escalated quickly. Countries were declaring war on each other seemingly daily in December of 1941. Four days after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and America reciprocated. America was now at war on two fronts.

In the Pacific Theater, Americans suffered a series of losses, but finally made some headway with a major victory in the Battle of Midway. The U.S. made some advancements in their code breaking ability and were able to intercept key details that allowed the U.S. to cut off potential attacks. The three-day battle resulted in major losses for that Japanese in terms of resources, and historians say that there was no way they could rebound. The Battle of Midway was shortly followed by the Guadalcanal Campaign. Guadalcanal was a series of battles in the Pacific and marked the first offensive campaign by Allied forces. The Allied forced again came out victorious, and the two losses sustained by Japan was decidedly a major turning point in the Pacific War.

The United States had a role in the North African Theater, as well. The U.S., along with other Allied forces, conquered the North Africa region after a series of battles that ended with the Battle of Tunisia, led by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who will later become President.

Before the United States joined the war, a battle in the skies took place, which was a major turning point in the European Theater. German and British air forces fought for months while the Germans simultaneously engaged in night attacks known as the Blitz. Ultimately, the Germans lost and were unable to force Britain’s surrender. This dramatically changed the opinions of Americans who thought Britain would not survive. Then the Americans joined the fray after the events at Pearl Harbor and the major world powers had taken their places.

Another huge turning point in the European Theater took place between June and August of 1944. The Battle of Normandy was a massive attack on German forces in Western Europe and resulted in Allied forces liberating most of the region from German control. The first day of this battle was known as D-Day, and the battle commenced June 6, 1944. American, British, and Canadian forces launched this amphibious assault, and it’s the largest attack of its kind in military history. Historians mark this battle as the beginning of the end for the Germans, but the war wasn’t over. Americans and the Allied forces were not always so fortunate. One notable loss was the failure of a massive airborne attack known as Operation Market Garden. Allied forces were aiming to cross the Rhine River, which would have been a major win for them; however, primarily due to weather conditions, paratroopers were scattered to the winds and were unsuccessful in this campaign. Germans would retain control of that region until the end of the war in Europe.

The last offensive attack on Allied troops was the Battle of the Bulge, so called because the German forces created a “bulge” in surrounding forces. The attack was a complete surprise, and the Untied Stated suffered heavy losses and were greatly outnumbered at the onset. Ultimately, it was an Allied victory, but at a great cost; the Battle of the Bulge was responsible for the most American casualties of any one battle. The Allied forces were hit hard enough that the end of the war was pushed back due to fatigue and supply losses. The Germans were unable to recover from their losses in both troops and resources.

The war saw a plethora of new technologies instituted, with the Germans having an early advantage in aircraft and encryption. The latter was a major motivator for the development of the computer, which would come to shape the world. A super weapon was born, as well.

Many German scientists, fleeing Nazi persecution, fled Germany to the United States. Many of these scientists then worked on a top secret project known as The Manhattan Project. The fruit of the project was the atomic bomb. While never used against Germany, the bomb was used against Japan. Today it is still controversial whether the President should have authorized the use of the weapons, but history does not change. Two successful nuclear attacks against Japan forced the surrender of the Imperial Japanese military in 1945, and the United States emerged as the sole superpower. While Germany, the USSR, and Japan had all committed research to the atomic bomb, after the war in 1946 only the United States had the technology.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

“…But then the singing and the cries grew weaker. My classmates were dying one by one. That made me very frightened. I struggled to free myself from the broken fragments, and looked around. I thought that gas tanks had exploded. Through a hole in the roof I could see clouds swirling in a cone; some were black, some pink. There were fires in the middle of the clouds. I checked my body. Three upper teeth were chipped off; perhaps a roof tile had hit me. My left arm was pierced by a piece of wood that stuck in my flesh like an arrow. Unable to pull it out, I tied a tourniquet around my upper arm to stanch the flow of blood. I had no other injuries, but I did not run away. We were taught that it was cowardly to desert one’s classmates. So I crawled about the rubble, calling, ‘Is there anyone alive?’

Then I saw an arm shifting under planks of wood. Ota, my friend, was moving. But I could see that his back was broken, and I had to pull him up into the clear. Ota was looking at me with his left eye. His right eyeball was hanging from his face. I think he said something, but I could not make it out. Pieces of nails were stuck on his lips. He took a student handbook from his pocket. I asked, ‘Do you want me to give this to your mother?’ Ota nodded. A moment later he died. By now the school was engulfed in flames. I started to walk away, and then looked back. Ota was staring at me with his one good eye. I can still see that eye in the dark.”

-Yoshitaka Kawamoto

Britain, France, Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union lay in ruins. The United States, on the other hands, was, just like the last European war, mostly unscathed except for its missing citizens who had died in the war. Its infrastructure was intact and the following years witnessed the final steps of the American Republic becoming a global force. The new super weapon, the atomic bomb, was not America’s alone for long. In 1949 the Soviet Union, promoting communism, successfully tested its own nuclear weapon.

Women in World War II

The role of women at home and in the military changed dramatically with World War II. With so many men serving in the military, there was a huge gap in the workforce, and women quickly took up jobs in factories, taking jobs traditionally held by men. One in four married women was working outside the home, although they still earned significantly less than their male counterparts. Women also served in the military in the Women’s Army Corps. These women served at home and in every theater of the war in non-combatant roles. There were similar units in the Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines. One particularly interesting aspect of women’s history in the war was the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, also known as WASPs. These women flew military aircraft from factories to bases and participated in simulations. Their work was invaluable and some women even lost their lives, but the group was not officially recognized as a military unit until 1977. In 2010, WASPs received the Congressional Gold Medal.

Women Airforce Service Pilots

African-Americans in WWII

Despite racial inequality an a history of oppression, tens of thousands of African Americans served in World War II as volunteers. Black men and women were allowed to serve but were required to sleep in segregated barracks, eat at segregated mess halls, and serve in segregated units. Approximately 145,000 men served in the U.S. Air Force; one particularly famous unit was known as the Tuskegee Airmen, and they were legendary for their heroism and action during the war. Black women enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, but again, were restricted to segregated units; these black women made up ten percent of the WAAC. The war also made many African Americans raise questions and note similarities between the Jews oppression by the Germans was similar to how blacks were treated by whites in the South.

OPERATION PAPERCLIP

One major consequence of World War II was a buildup of technology. The warring powers spent great sums of money to counter each other’s research. Germany did not go to war believing its technology was inferior to the Allies. In fact, the Blitzkrieg style of warfare, which handed the Germans quick victory, were made possible largely due to the technological Nazi supremacy. Similar technological superiority had given the colonists of early America a significant advantage over the Natives. If aliens invade any time soon, their technological superiority will make any human resistance meek.

For this reason, the United States and the Soviet Union, even before the end of the war, prepared to take in Nazi scientists who may have valuable information and research performed for the Third Reich. Operation Paperclip was such an initiative. The most prominent scientist to be recruited through the program was Werner von Braun.

Von Braun had helped Germany develop its V2 rockets, which had rained terror upon Britain during the war. Instead of trying such scientists in courts or barring them from employment in the victorious Allied Nations, the US recruited them into working for the upcoming Cold War. The US knew the USSR was the only other nation on Earth at the time capable of challenging the US, and for that reason, the US embarked on a mission recruiting Nazi scientists before they could be captured or enticed by the Russians. Truman ordered that no scientist with Nazi ties be recruited, but that would have rendered ineligible most of the scientists expected to be recruited. For that reason, many of the scientists with Nazi backgrounds were given false biographies to allow them entry into the United States.

Wernher von Braun.

Von Braun helped bring the United States the rockets that would launch satellites and men into space during the Space Race. It was not just aerospace engineers that received offers, though. Chemists and physicists were among the scientists included in the recruitment. Overall, the United States and the United Kingdom brought in 1,600 scientists from the end of World War II to the end of the Cold War.

INTERNMENT CAMPS

At the time of going to war with Japan, the United States was actually home to many hundreds of thousands of Japanese immigrants. These were everyday citizens who had come to America in order to find a new life, and many were business owners who had built themselves from the ground up. With the US embroiled in a war with Japan though, certain racial fears began to surface. Racism and violence preceded a general sentiment of suspicion surrounding Japanese immigrants, 62% of them who were actually United States citizens. This would eventually lead to the creation of internment camps for all Japanese citizens in the country and for Roosevelt to institute Executive Order 9066 which effectively allowed the military at home to exclude all Japanese citizens on the entire west coast.

Map of Japanese-American internment camps during World War II

Internment camps were created, very similar to the sort of POW camps that soldiers overseas would experience, and were fenced off to prevent Japanese people from leaving. This came as a blow to American-Japanese people who had cut ties with their homeland and who had been living in the United States (sometimes for generations), and was indicative of how scared the general population was of the Japanese threat. The irony was that the majority of people interned were men, women, and children who had never held a weapon in their lives.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

I remain in the security of my home on Terminal Island until the second day of February 1942. Then agents from the Immigration & Naturalization Service and the Federal Buereau of Investigations visit me in my home. I am imprisoned within the walls of the Immigration Station on Terminal Island.

2 February 1942

During the early morning hours of 2 February 1942, Government agents from the FBI and the INS (Immigration/Naturalization Service) quietly converge on Terminal Island and spread out fan-like into our fishing village for a mass arrest of alien Japanese. Fishermen are aroused from their sleep. The womenfolk cry out as unrest and alarm spread quietly throughout our community. At 6:30 AM, Messrs. Tonai and Wada are forcibly carted off for detention within the four walls of the INS building on Terminal Island. Frantically, Mrs. Tonai pounds on the door of my house. She informs me of the FBI round-up, and then is reluctant to return home. Commotion within my house increases as other wives and children converge at my place to seek comfort and solace.

However, I feel that it is only a matter of time before I too am arrested and detained. Therefore, I advise my friends to leave for I would be helpless to render any form of assistance. My mind weighs heavily with personal family matters that require immediate attention. To my wife Takako, I give two hundred dollars for deposit to our bank account. Another $150.00, I split three ways and pass out for emergency funds. Other details race through my mind and I am preoccupied with a miscellany of last-minute details. At 8:30 AM, there is a knock on the door. Government agents have come for me.

-Toyojiro Suzuki

DEVELOPMENT OF NUCLEAR POWER

As war raged on two fronts for the United States – both in Europe and in the Indo-China sphere with Japan – it was clear that this war would become a much longer, more drawn out, and subsequently more costly war for everyone involved. In the final push into Normandy on D-Day the Allies had effectively gained a foothold in Europe again and pushed back Hitler’s armies. It was only a matter of time now before Germany would eventually accept surrender. However, the war in the Pacific was still going strong, and much harder to end – part of the reason was because Japan was effectively isolated. On one side it had the entire breadth of the Pacific Ocean, on the other a number of countries in between it and the next Allied super power. An overland and terrestrial approach was deemed too expensive.

Around this time the Manhattan Project had already been underway in New Mexico. With brilliant minds like Oppenheimer on site, the scientists there had been experimenting with the power of nuclear fission in the form of atomic bombs. The first atomic bomb trial was on July 16, 1945, and the massive explosion that followed was enough to convince both the president and commanders that this was a weapon that could effectively end the war once and for all, avoiding protracted losses of life on both sides of the conflict. On August 6th a uranium gun-type bomb named “Little Boy” was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, leveling it in an explosion that vaporized thousands. Harry Truman, now president of the US, called for the surrender of Japan and three days later another bomb, “Fat Man”, was dropped on Nagasaki with similar consequences. The loss of life is estimated to be as high as 146,000 in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki, and in the months that followed a huge number of people became infected with radiation sickness

Destroyed remains of a temple at Nagasaki following the atomic bomb.

While the war had come to an end, the cost was felt most strongly by the Japanese people. The bombs had not been – like Pearl Harbor – a tactical or military target, but rather a pedestrian one, and the majority of those who died were everyday citizens. Today the ethical implications of using a nuclear bomb are still debated and questions still raised as to whether the US was justified in their actions. Currently, there is a war memorial in Hiroshima designed to foster peace in the hopes that nuclear war will never again be used as an incentive or solution in a world conflict.

COLD WAR, KOREA, and McCARTHYISM

The diametric difference between communism and capitalism, coupled with America not being the only power with nuclear technology, set off the Cold War. The fear of the spreading influence of Communism forced the United States into a position to “contain” the Soviet Union and its influence.

Communism was by no means a new idea. The ideal was founded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles during the latter portion of the 19th century. The general idea behind communism rests on the belief that capitalism gives birth to competition. With communism, economic equality is achieved by eliminating people having private property. The entire idea is to give power to the working class. In order to preserve this way of life and enforce it, violence is often times necessary. This is what makes it so dangerous. Although it sounds good in theory, when practiced there can be some negative consequences. The rich are brought down to be poorer and the poor and brought up to be richer. People are not encouraged to do better for fear that it will get taken away. Freedoms are severely limited because the goal is to put everyone on the same level. It is the ultimate form of government control. When you truly think about it, it is obvious as to why the United Sates saw it as a major threat to democracy. The paranoia reached a fever pitch in the 1950s with McCarthyism, named after the Congressman who instigated the accusations. At the same time, the first proxy war between America and the USSR occurred.

The United States practiced an official policy of containment against the USSR to stem its spread. In 1950 the northern, communist forces attempted to take over the entire Korean Peninsula (which was under joint American and Soviet occupation following the partitioning of the Japanese Empire). This lead to a three-year, devastating war for Korea and is considered the first military conflict of the Cold War. After World War II, Japan’s empire was dismantled, and the Soviets and Americans split control of Korea along the 38th parallel, with the Soviets occupying the northern half and the United States occupying the southern half. By 1950, two dictators ran either side of Korea, one communist, the other anti-communist, and both sides were looking to invade the other’s territory. North Korea invaded the South and eventually the war reached a stalemate. The armistice was signed nearly two years after the ceasefire and created the border at the 38th parallel and the demilitarized zone.

The nation is still divided by the border set up by this conflict, over six decades since the beginning of the war and still decades after the fall of the USSR. The last two years were an attrition war that eventually drove enemy forces to the 38th parallel where a demilitarized zone was set up between North and South. Today it still exists, and is a source of grief for many in the South who still have family in the North.

The fear that communism could eventually take over the entire globe and extinguish the American way of life had some unexpected side effects. The political freedom and freedom of speech championed by Americans since the beginning of the nation (in one form or another) was hampered by the Red Scare, or McCarthyism. During this era, 1950 to 1956, the Congressman Joseph McCarthy accused many of being communist and implemented investigations, but he was not the only one. Thousands of Americans were accused of sympathizing with communism, and while those sent to prison for espionage or other punishable crimes was relatively low, those thousands affected still lost jobs and faced social expulsion.

Anticommunist literature

Simply being accused or investigated could substantiate the removal from a position, and many faced being fired from their jobs for such investigations. The feverish pursuit of suspected communist sympathizers showed signs of the suspension of “innocent until proven guilty.” While that did not hold up in court, it still meant people were unable to find employment afterwards. One of the most notorious and well-known examples of this is the Blacklist in Hollywood, where applicants were denied employment for suspected communist sympathies. The movement was not supported by the entire populace, and even Truman, who was not particularly liberal, criticized the actions as “in a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have.” Of course, to make an opinion a crime only requires an act of legislation, but there was no such law at the time.

One of the effects of this Red Scare and the increasing paranoia supplied by McCarythism was a reboot of the old Federal Bureau of Investigation. It suddenly became focal point, involved in a number of investigations, and grew considerably during these years. Under the auspices of Edgar J. Hoover who became the Director of the FBI, whole task forces were sent out to question those with supposed Communist affiliations – this led to thousands of people being interrogated. However, Hoover was adamant about not revealing his sources or informants, so often times people had no way of controverting the evidence placed against them or even knowing who had accused them. This practice would eventually come to define the late 1950’s and McCarthy’s name would become synonymous down the line with paranoia, questioning loyalty, and poor reasoning, a legacy that he probably had no intention of leaving behind.

With increased hostilities between Russia, the Cold War did not end quickly, but following WWII neither side was prepared for a full-out conflict.. Immediately following the Red Scare, the Soviet Union put its first satellite into space, and the United States responded with its Space Program. The possibility that ideology could beat Western capitalism in technology caused significant anxiety among the population, especially when it seemed whoever controlled space could quickly deliver nuclear weapons while rendering the other side’s weapons obsolete. As with many aspects of American history, and indeed history in general, the Space Race was driven by military dominance and security issues.

Bay of Pigs

The Bay of Pigs invasion was a failure by the Americans in the Cold War. In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew Cuba’s American-backed president, General Fulgencio Batista. Batista was originally president of Cuba in the 1940s and tried to run for president again in 1952. His defeat was imminent, so he staged a military coup before the election; the United States funded and supported this action. Batista’s dictatorship is what prompted Castro’s move. After this government overthrow, the United States was eager to remove Castro from power and restore an American-supported government. Castro developed close ties to the Soviet Union after the government overthrow. In April of 1961, the American government thought they had a solution. The CIA funded and trained a group of exiled Cubans with the intention of invading the country and seizing control. The exiles were quickly defeated and while the CIA hoped to keep its involvement a secret, it was impossible given the size of the operation.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Cuban-Soviet-American relations were teetering on the edge of conflict, and after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy continued to make plans to overthrow the communist regime in an effort known as Operation Mongoose. While Kennedy formulated this plan, the Soviets made a secret plan with Castro to build Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter any future invasion. With Cuba only 90 miles from Florida, this would put nuclear arms within reach of U.S. soil. The thirteen-day conflict was carried out through direct and indirect communication between the Soviets and the Americans and was the closest the two nations came to a nuclear war. Events were also unfolding on television, creating a tense atmosphere for all parties, as nuclear war could be imminent. The Soviets demanded that U.S. missiles in Turkey be removed as part of the agreement to cease missile base construction in Cuba, but the U.S. insisted this not be a part of public negotiations. The next day, Krushchev publicly declared that Soviet missiles in Cuba would be dismantled and removed.

Fun Fact:

The Korean War, although it managed to produce a division between North and South, was one war in which the United States never actually signed a peace treaty after the conclusion of hostilities. Although there is a peace treaty with the democratic South, a peace treaty or ceasefire has never been signed with North Korea – meaning that for all intents and purposes, the US is still at war with them, six decades later.

Misconceptions

 

The atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the U.S. war with Japan.

 

While this was certainly a major part of Japan’s surrender, the bombing actually coincided with a simultaneous invasion of Manchuria by the Soviets. The final push from two fronts was enough to force Japan to surrender, which was preceded by a heavy bombing campaign that killed over a quarter of a million people – more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

 

The US did not “make” the Soviets back down in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

 

There is a common misconception that America essentially made the Soviets back down, but in reality the U.S. traded Jupiter missiles in Turkey for the missiles in Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended via trade, not force or intimidation.

 

Can You Believe this Actually Happened?

 

Which was the first war that the United Nations participated in?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. World War II

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Korean War

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Cold War

#
p<>{color:#000;}. World War I

Answer: The United Nations first participated in the Korean War. The UN was asked to aid South Korea, and 16 countries provided military support, while 41 supplied equipment or other aid.

 

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) did not disband until 1975.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. True

#
p<>{color:#000;}. False

Answer: True. The House Un-American Activities Committee, originally established in 1938, HUAC became a standing House committee in 1945. The ideological goals of the committee changed, as well as the committee name, in 1969. HUAC then became known as the House Internal Security Committee and fought against domestic terrorism. The Committee was abolished in 1975 amid the climate of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War.

 

History Has its Eyes on Us Today

 

The conflict in Korea sourced from Japanese occupation during World War II. When Japan surrendered, Korea was split along the 38th parallel, with the northern half occupied by the Soviet Union and the southern half occupied by the United States. These two areas were occupied until 1948, when the two countries of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), who wants a unified Korea under communist rule.

 

North Korea invaded the south in 1950, starting a three-year war. The terms of the armistice signed in 1953 outlined the need for a demilitarized zone (DMZ). The DMZ is still in place and heavily guarded to this day. North Korea is still under Communist rule and frequently makes threats of nuclear missile attacks.

 

If the Choice Were Yours

 

Would you report friends and neighbors you suspect of having radical political opinions?

The fact is, during what was known as the Second Red Scare, many people were accused of having communist leanings or opinions, leading to some people being blacklisted from future employment, particularly in Hollywood. The Smith Act of 1940 made is a criminal offense to “knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise or teach the…desirability or propriety of overthrowing the Government of the United States or of any State by force or violence, or for anyone to organize any association which teaches, advises or encourages such an overthrow, or for anyone to become a member of or to affiliate with any such association”. This became synonymous with communism, although there is not a direct correlation between a political party and government overthrow.

Chapter 7 – The Cold War and Pax Americana

The Space Race

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I into orbit; it was the very first time in history for such a feat, which served as the spark that started the Space Race. A few months after, the Russians sent another satellite into orbit, the Sputnik II, and this time it carried a living payload, Laika, the dog. This struck another cord in the ego of the United States.

Not to be outdone by their Cold War rival, on 1961, the United States and then President John F. Kennedy announced that they would be increasing funding for space exploration, and made a hefty promise that before the decade ends they will be sending a man on the moon. Sadly, JFK would not live to see the fruits of his labor; on November 22, 1963, an assassin’s bullet would take away the President’s life. Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s VP, would take over the office and continue his dream of sending a man to the moon.

On October 1, 1958, the US government formed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to replace the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), which then led to serious studies on how they could send people into outer space.

In 1959, the Soviet space program seemingly got a leg up over its American counterpart by launching the Luna 2, the first space probe to actually land on the moon. Then, on April 1961, they successfully sent cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into orbit and got him back home safely. On May 5 at that same year, the Americans finally sent their own astronaut, Alan Shepard, into outer space. However, Shepard did not orbit the earth like what Gagarin did.

Space race casualties

The Space Race, as flamboyant and entertaining as it was, was not without incident. A couple of serious setbacks on both sides of the Space Race almost halted their efforts. For instance, on the Soviet side, Sergey Korolyov, the chief engineer of their space program, suddenly died and left a vacuum in their organization. It took years before the Soviet space program could find a suitable replacement and continue their research. To make matters worse, cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, died because the parachute of his Soyuz I space capsule failed to deploy upon re-entry into the atmosphere; reports back then said that he was “crying in rage” as he plummeted to his demise.

On the other hand, a horrifying accident almost turned off the US public to the prospect of continuing with the Space Race. Astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White were conducting a launch pad test on the Apollo 1 when a fire suddenly burst out inside the spacecraft; all three men died that day. NASA, in respect to the deaths of the three astronauts, decided to slow down their space exploration research so they could concentrate more on the safety and well being of the crew.

The culmination of the space race

On July 16, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins, launched from Cape Canaveral onboard the Apollo 11 spacecraft. After four days, their landing craft successfully touched down on the surface of the moon, and Neil Armstrong then became the first man to step on the moon, and he said that it was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” With this, the United States officially won the space race, and actually fulfilled Kennedy’s promise that they would be sending a man to the moon before the end of the 1960’s.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind… Yes, the surface is fine and powdery. I can kick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers, like powdered charcoal, to the sole and sides of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints of my boots and the treads in the fine, sandy particles.”

-Neil Armstrong

The Apollo program also represented a shift in the American psyche. Suddenly it was possible to do anything, and this sense of national pride would resonate for decades to come. It was also one of the most expensive programs ever funded by the US, an estimated $20 billion – today, with inflation taken into account that would have been equal to around $206 billion. The new Saturn style engines were much larger than the sorts used in previous flights, and a huge amount of technological prowess went into the project. This, more than anything, is what the program really meant as a legacy for future space travel: it pushed the envelope in terms of what had up until then even been dreamed of, and the entire nation tuned into the NASA broadcast when they stepped onto the moon.

Apollo lunar module.

This successful mission to the moon would bolster support for NASA, and soon other space attempts would be made including the creation of Skylab, the first and only independently built spacecraft by the US. Much later it would also give birth to the Space Shuttle program, which would send up numerous spacecraft and increase our understanding of the universe beyond the atmosphere. Every subsequent satellite we have sent into the darkness owes its existence to the adventure and sense of wonder that was exercised back in the 1960’s – and today, the most modern incarnations, including the Mars Rover and the International Space Station, are representative not only of the United States’ role in this endeavor, but in a global effort to expand our knowledge and our bounds.

Fun facts:

Space Race veteran Alan Shepard was the fifth man to walk on the moon, but he was the first to play sports on the lunar surface. After landing the Apollo 14 lander in what was the most accurate one in NASA’s history thus far, he then proceeded to hit two golf balls. The second one, Shepard said, travelled for miles.

The one thing that surprised many of the astronauts that walked on the moon was not the captivating beauty of the landscape, but rather they were taken aback by the smells; in other words, the moon stinks (it has been likened to the burned smell of gunpowder).

This is one “not-so-fun” fact. Even though the Soviet Union claimed that Laika, the dog that was on the Sputnik II, survived for almost a week in orbit, some reports said that the poor dog only managed to live for a couple of hours and died because the cabin got too hot.

[]The Civil Rights Movement

An accurate account of American history is not complete without dedicating a chapter to the fight for Civil Rights. After the Civil War, slaves were free, but there was still a question as to how the newly free slaves should be treated. Three years after the abolition of slavery, the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution was passed. The amendment dealt with citizenship and proclaimed that no state would deprive a citizen of their rights or privileges. The amendment also goes in and describes exactly what it means to be a United States citizen. In 1870, another important amendment was added to the Constitution. The 15th amendment gave American citizens the right to vote regardless of their race. Even though it was in the Constitution, it was not well received in all of the states. In fact, the amendment did not even apply to women at this time. The same year that 15th amendment got ratified, the South started to pass laws which will soon be known as the Jim Crow era. Jim Crow laws were simply segregation laws that separated white American facilities from black American facilities. Naturally, this led to some negative encounters.

In 1896, the landmark Plessy versus Ferguson court decision took place. Homer Plessy, an African American passenger on train, refused to sit in the back of a Jim Crow car. The state of Louisiana, specifically Judge Ferguson, declared that Plessy had broken the law by doing so. Plessy argued that his constitutional rights, specifically those outlined as a citizen in the 14th amendment. The case made it to the Supreme Court, and a 7-1 vote stated that the state of Louisiana was within its authority to separate amenities as long as they were of equal proportion. Therefore, the so-called separate but equal doctrine that would grow to be a big deal particularly in the Southern states came to life.

The next fifty years were plagued with racism, discrimination, and for many African Americans, lynching. Although things were considered “separate, but equal”, there was a clear difference between the two. School systems in black communities were poor and had low quality materials compared to their white neighbors. Buses, trains, and even restrooms were completely separated.

Photograph showing segregated bathrooms in the South.

Even with groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) fighting for equal rights, the United States did not see a whole lot of change. W.E.B DuBois, who was an activist in the civil rights movement, played a major role in trying to force the states to comply with the federal law. The middle of the 19th century saw major moves in the fight for basic civil rights. Many key events occurred during this time that would forever shape the future of the nation.

The first thing that occurred was Executive Order 9981. Before going into the details of this particular presidential act, it is first important to know what was occurring in history at this time. In the beginning of 1942, World War II was well underway and the United States had entered into the European scuffle. Many African Americans had reservations about having to go to war and fight for a country in which they were only considered half a citizen. As a result, a movement started that was considered the Double V Campaign. The Double V Campaign referred to African American men who were enlisted in the army seeking to have two victories. The obvious victory referred to the one abroad in which they were fighting with the country’s allies. Another more personal victory would be achieved at home in which black Americans would be treated as equals regardless of their race or skin. Arguably, this movement helped shaped the president’s concerns over equality in the military. Now, we return to Executive Order 9981. This declaration, which was enacted by President Truman in July of 1948, stated that there would be integrated units in the armed forces. In other words, the military could no longer be segregated. This was a big deal seeing as how the separate but equal doctrine was still in full effect at this time.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

The temperature hit 90 degrees. Everybody was sweating. “Freedom! Freedom!” A roar arose from the church. The cops’ almost as one, faced the church. Some unleashed clubs from their belts. The faces of those I could see had turned crimson. Jeremiah X, Muslim minister from Atlanta standing near me, commented: “At any moment those cops expect 300 years of hate to spew forth from that church.”

“Y’all niggers go on back. We ain’t letting no more get on those steps,” a police captain ordered as I approached the church.

I turned away. The time was 1:10 p.m. Four fire engines arrived at the intersections and set themselves up for “business.” Each disgorged its high-pressure hoses, and nozzle mounts were set up in the street. I was to learn the reason for the mounts later, when I watched the powerful water stripping bark off trees and tearing bricks from the walls as the firemen knocked Negroes down.

Before I could get back to the motel the demonstrations began; 60 demonstrators were on their way, marching two abreast, each with a sign bearing an integration slogan. Dick Gregory, the nightclub comedian, was leading the group. At a signal, 40 policemen converged, sticks in hand. Up drove yellow school buses.

“Do you have a permit to parade?” asked the police captain.

“No,” replied Gregory.

“No what?” asked the captain in what seemed to be a reminder to Gregory that he had not used a “sir.”

“No. No. A thousand times No,” Gregory replied.

The captain said, “I hereby place you all under arrest for parading without a permit, disturbing the peace and violating the injunction of the Circuit Court of Jefferson County.” Bedlam broke loose.

-Len Holt

Six years later, another major point in American history occurred which would once again have an impact on the nation’s future. Several schools at this time had racially segregated school systems. Many black parents felt like their school was not equal to that of the white schools, and so sued on the pretense that not allowing their children to go to school was a violation of the 14th amendment. While the case lost in the district court, it finally made its way to the United States Supreme Court. Shockingly, the justices unanimously agreed that the state racial segregation of schools was indeed unconstitutional and that the earlier decision of Plessy vs. Ferguson was now undone. A year later, the ruling went on to say that states should start integrating the schools “with all deliberate speed”.

Vivian Malone, an African-American woman, registering for classes.

Now that integration was required in the school system, it seemed like things were starting to take a turn for the better for African Americans. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In fact, racial tensions became even higher after the decision due to African Americans attempting to exercise their rights and white supremacists that were opposed to any type of integration. They will soon learn that the school system was one of many institutions that would soon see a change in segregation.

In December of 1955, Rosa Parks, on a public transportation system bus, refused to get up out of her seat to allow a white male to sit there. As a result, she was arrested. Now, the Civil Rights Movement was receiving more support and the Montgomery bus boycott began. A major player in the Civil rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joined the boycott, and preached on the importance of nonviolent protests and demonstrations in order to bring about social change. While Dr. King was leading the group, he had been arrested, abused, and even had his home bombed. One of his most famous moments was when he led thousands of African Americans on a march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama so that the individuals would have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. Despite all that he went through, he never steered away from his beliefs and he became an iconic figure in not just the African American community, but in the United States as well. He received countless recognition for his efforts including the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being arrested.

While Martin Luther King Jr. preached nonviolence and peaceful protest in order to bring about social change, another man had a different approach. Malcolm Little who the world knows as Malcolm X believed that African Americans should seek their civil liberties and demand that they receive social justice “by any means necessary”. There was no question that Malcolm X represented a more radical version of the Civil Rights Movement. His ideals were important because they embodied an American belief that no one should let go of their freedom or civil liberties without a fight.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

You may well ask, “Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue. “

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letters from a Birmingham Jail

Black Panthers.

In 1964, the 24th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed which outlawed the poll tax. The poll tax was something that had been put in place that prevented a large number of African Americans the ability to vote. This was a huge win for Civil Rights activists. The same year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. This piece of legislation was important because it forbid the use of segregation in numerous public institutions including hotels, jobs, and schools. Segregation included not only race but also religion, color, sex, etc. The act was expanded in 1965 to include a Voting Rights Act, which was specifically created to bring equality to African Americans. Certain obstacles such as literacy and history tests had been given to African American voters that they would be required to pass if they wanted to have the right to vote. The Voting Rights Act eliminated the use of such tests. The legal segregation of American citizens had finally reached an end.

The Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was not technically a war, but from the period of 1954-1973, the United States aided the Republic of South Vietnam in a conflict against the communist North Vietnam. This is sometimes known as the Second Indochina War, and is a direct result of the First Indochina War between colonial ruler France and communist military forces. Congress never voted on whether or not to engage in war, thus, by terms set by the American government, the United Stated was never engaged in war in an official Congressional capacity.

The war was considered part of the Cold War, as it was based in fighting communism, but it was a bloody violent war that stretched beyond the Vietnamese borders into Cambodia and Laos. The National Liberation Front of North Vietnam was known as the Viet Cong, and there was aggressive fighting on both sides. The conflict was particularly bloody and raw, and both sides engaged in brutal tactics. There was fighting in the dense jungles and in the cities as well. One tactic the U.S. chose to use was to spray a defoliant over the jungles to kill off crops and what the Viet Cong used for cover. The organized campaign was called Operation Ranch Hand and sprayed over 4.5 million acres of land with the herbicide known as Agent Orange. Agent Orange contains dioxin, which a very effective herbicide, but scientists later learned it causes cancer, birth defects, and psychological issues, among other things. This impacted U.S. troops, their families, and the Vietnamese.

The Gulf of Tonkin incident, also known as the USS Maddox incident, occurred early in August of 1964. Until this point, the United States had largely served a quieter, more economic role aiding France, which later became South Vietnam. The USS Maddox was primarily an espionage ship that relayed information to the South Vietnamese. The Maddox was on its way towards islands in the Gulf of Tonkin that U.S.-supported patrol boats had shelled only a few days before. The Maddox was greeted by three Soviet-made North Vietnamese boats; the Maddox then fired warning shots. The North Vietnamese boats returned fire, and the Maddox emerged without damage. Supposedly on the following day the Maddox was attacked by torpedo boats. It has since been stated by the U.S. military that second attack did not take place. The United States blew the Gulf of Tonkin incident out of proportion in order to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which expanded America’s military role in Vietnam. Once the U.S. declared its intentions, pushed out the air bombardment campaign known as Operation Rolling Thunder. Historians debate how effective this campaign was.

Joint Resolution

To promote the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.

-From the transcript of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, 1964

Possibly the most atrocious act that occurred during the conflict was what’s known as the My Lai massacre in 1968. A group of American soldiers killed between 350-500 unarmed civilians located in small villages in Son My. Men, women, and even children were victims. The soldiers were led to believe that a missing Viet Cong battalion was hiding in the hamlets, but again, there were only unarmed civilians; the outcome was brutal, and when news of the event came out, opposition against the war grew even stronger.

The Vietnamese celebrate a holiday called Tet, which celebrates the lunar new year. The North Vietnamese engaged in a somewhat surprise attack on that holiday, known as the Tet Offensive. This was a coordinated attack on over 100 South Vietnamese cities and towns with the intent to sway South Vietnamese and encourage U.S. withdrawal of support. This was considered a success for the North Vietnamese, despite that fact that many lives were lost, and this became a major turning point in the war leading towards U.S. withdrawal from the area in 1973.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.

We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Viet Cong, North Vietnamese or American.

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how monies from American taxes were used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by the flag, and blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs and search and destroy missions, as well as by Viet Cong terrorism – and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong.

We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.

-Vietnam Veterans Against the War statement to Congress by John Kerry, April 23, 1971

Photograph of student protesters, 1965

The war was highly unpopular, in part due to the military draft imposed on eligible men. Men were forced into service abroad while protests waged at home. Veterans returned home only to be scorned by the American protestors, who were putting increasing pressure on the government to act. Ultimately, the conflict was responsible for taking 3 million lives, including 58,000 Americans. After the United States withdrew troops from the region in 1973, the North and South Vietnamese continued to fight for two more years until the fall of Saigon in 1975. The economic and social pressures of Vietnam, combined with the growing civil rights movement and women’s rights movement, created an intense period of social change in the 1960s.

Nixon and the Watergate Scandal

Richard Milhous Nixon was quite the president. During his first term, Nixon presided over the Apollo 11 space mission, which invariably finished the Space Race between the USA and the Soviet Union, and he also ended American involvement in the Vietnam War and ended the military draft practice. He was so good at the job that he got re-elected in one of the largest landslide victories in the history of the U.S. However, things started to unravel for President Nixon in the 70s.

Before the fall

Richard Milhous Nixon actually had a lot of achievements under his belt even before he became president for the first time. He was on active duty in the Navy Reserve during World War II. His rabid pursuit of the Hiss case (where an American government official was accused of being a Soviet spy) cemented his reputation for being anti-communist and thereby gaining prominence among the American people. With the atmosphere in the United States reflected in McCarthyism and a sense of trying to unify the country against a singular (and often times vaguely obscured) threat, it was the perfect environment for a Republican such as Nixon to gain support.

Despite narrowly losing the presidential race to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and losing the Californian gubernatorial race to Pat Brown in 1962, Nixon still tried to run for the top office in 1968, and he finally won after he defeated Hubert Humphrey.

Discovery and conviction

In 1972, five people were arrested when they broke into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex in the Capital. It turned out that the burglars actually had ties to the CIA and other government agencies, and that they were sent there to plant microphones and steal confidential documents. The Democrats suspected that Nixon had a hand in the break in, but they had no hard evidence that linked him to the crime.

Photograph of the Watergate hotel complex.

After some time had passed, a mysterious informant with the codename “Deep throat” surfaced, and he/she knew that Nixon did have a hand at the Watergate break in, and what’s more he also employed other dirty and illegal tactics against his political opponents. Deep throat, who would later be identified as Mark Felt of the FBI, actually provided solid evidence linking Nixon to the Watergate scandal, which prompted Congress to investigate. In the midst of the investigation of Watergate, numerous other politicians and government officials received indictments for their involvement. Public outcry led to multiple impeachment claims and calls for Nixon’s resignation. In spite of losing support from the Democratic side, and even from his own party, Nixon denied any wrongdoing on his behalf or any knowledge of the break-in.

It all came to a head when the impeachment hearings got hold of a tape – very famously referred to as the ‘Smoking gun Tape’ – which proved Nixon knew of the break-in to bug an opponent’s office and had actively encouraged attempts to thwart the investigation. It was the last nail in the coffin and after more than a year of public indignation, Nixon resigned from his post as the President of the United States.

Did Nixon get convicted for the Watergate Scandal?

No. When Gerald Ford took over the reins of the presidency after Nixon resigned, he granted the former president a presidential pardon, which means that Nixon gained immunity for the crimes that he was supposed to be tried for.

Nixon’s reputation never really recovered after Watergate. His fall from grace was so abrupt; one year he was the darling of the people, and the following one he was the devil incarnate. Until now, when you ask people who they think was the worst president in US history, they would most likely say it was Nixon.

Ever since Watergate, every national scandal that would surface would almost always have “-gate” suffixed to it.

End of the Cold War and Beginning of Pax Americana

The 1980s witnessed various events pertaining to the Cold War. Surely the ideological war between the world’s only two superpowers would influence the world, and the United States was one of those superpowers. One way the United States pressured the Soviet Union was through spending, as the Soviet economy was much weaker than the United States.

MAD AND THE STRATEGIC DEFENSE INITIATIVE

The doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) formed the basis of the US-Soviet relationship for most of the Cold War. The concept claimed that a nuclear nation would not attack another, as it would certainly receive retaliatory strikes against its own lands. The concept may have indeed been a mad one, but it kept nuclear war from ever breaking out. The US President Reagan, however, was not a proponent of the scheme and wanted to implement a defensive doctrine as well. His plan was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).

The defense included land and space based methods to eliminate the Soviet threat. Many critics of the initiative feared it would destabilize the delicate balance afforded by MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction, the thought that if both powers did go to power with nuclear weapons, it wouldn’t matter who shot first because both sides would effectively annihilate each other. If the Soviets were suddenly disabled from attacking the US because of defense, the offensive MAD doctrine would no longer apply. That would make the Soviet Union vulnerable to an American attack without the deterrent of a return strike. Many thought this would force the Soviets to act preemptively and start a nuclear war. Furthermore, the futuristic style of the initiative resulted in being nicknamed the Star Wars defense. This program actually was built by Reagan as an alternative to the MAD paradigm, and was his attempt at trying to overhaul the strategy of nuclear deterrence into one that was more aggressive.

While the Star Wars program (so called after George Lucas’ Star Wars movie because of its use of lasers) did not ever gain much traction under his term of office, it and other programs implemented by Reagan forced the Soviet Union to spend heavily in military research, and this is partially credited with the fall of the USSR. Later, when Bill Clinton would finally enter into office, the program would be overhauled again, this time turned into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (or BMDO) and, like the name suggested, its interests more heavily focused on defense of a possible missile attack. Elements of Reagan’s old SDI program are still relevant in today’s military research, and there is even a plan to institute a laser based defense system around 2020.

END OF THE USSR AND THE BEGINNING OF GLOBAL AMERICAN DOMINANCE

The crumbling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 foreshadowed the crumbling of the Soviet Union in the coming years. The void left behind was less dangerous than it could have been. The extensive stockpile of nuclear weapons in Russia and other former Soviet states remained surprisingly protected and, while the general population suffered from extreme hardship, the weapons were not sold off or misplaced during the ensuing chaos.

Once the USSR was dissolved, there was no longer a challenger to American power. The old powers of Europe had long ago ceased to play such a central role as their offspring, America. Russia was a husk of its former glory as the USSR. China was nowhere near as industrialized as it currently is, and the European Union, even today, cannot muster hard power like the United States – sometimes it cannot even keep its own members, as Brexit demonstrated. This military dominance has given way to an Americanization of the globe.

The United States became the sole power at a time when the globe was becoming increasingly connected. Today the world is highly interconnected through trade, finance, and communication. The Internet, the rise of which is nothing short of a Revolution, instantly connects people from all over the world. Although the Internet was not as widespread in the 1990s as it is today, American culture was still exported en masse to the rest of the world. Entertainment, consumerism, advertising, and American-style democracy has been exported to nations the world over, and without the end of the Cold War, this development would never have taken place.

The relative peace through the world following the end of the Cold War was nicknamed Pax Americana (after the similar peace throughout the Roman world when Rome controlled much of Europe and North Africa). The United States worked to democratize various nations and incorporate such nations into the global economic system. The result is the modern, globalized world. There were still wars, even within the borders of largely peaceful Europe, but they have not been on the scale of previous wars, especially the World Wars.

That said, the geopolitical spectrum in regards to the US took a very drastic turn on September 11, 2001 when a terrorist attack involving two planes ended up bringing down the World Trade Centers in New York. This attack, carried out by members of Al-Qaeda, had the effect of suddenly humbling the US again – in much the same way that Pearl Harbor brought the US out of its insulated world perspective, so too did 9/11 come as a reminder that there was a great amount of strife and political conflict outside their borders, and the terrorist attack on one of the primary capitals and symbols of America’s values could not be understated in the effects it had. Security in general increased amazingly as people felt they were no longer safe, and this prompted a number of incursions and military campaigns, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Through the Eyes of an Eyewitness

On Tuesday morning at 8:46 PM, I was in 2 World Trade Center on the 64th floor, where I used to report to work for Morgan Stanley. I was sitting at my computer reading the BBC on the internet about the problems in Israel, when I heard an explosion.

I remember that I thought that it was a bad explosion because I heard the back up generator kick in within seconds of the initial impact. I jumped up and ran to one of the unoccupied offices that had a window and looked out to see large amounts of debris (papers, metal, all kinds of things!) floating down towards the street.

I ran back into my office and called my boss on his cell phone and told him, “Don’t come in here there was an explosion and we are beginning to evacuate!” and I hung up the phone and ran back out into the hallway. At that moment someone called out to me, “Is there any one down there!” ,“Yes”, I said and he yelled at me to, “get my ass” into the stairwell because we were evacuating. I did as told.

We had reached either the 51st or the 50th floor when we heard a huge explosion, which shook the building like crazy! I grabbed hold of the stairwell to steady myself when a women who had fallen from a flight up hit me in the back and sent me down a flight of stairs with her on my back.

I then tried to stand up but the building was still shaking and the lights were flickering on and off. It was terrifying! Then the building began to sink. That’s the only way I can describe it. The floor began to lower under my feet and all I could think about was that it would crack open and I would fall hundreds of feet to my death!

-Eric Levine, from an interview with BBC News

Misconceptions

 

Malcolm X did not believe in attacking whites.

 

Activist Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little, argued that the black community should not be afraid to fight back, but he did not advocate for attacking the government or acting as the aggressor. He believed that blacks should not be afraid to defend themselves with violence, but specified that that shouldn’t be the first step.

 

Can You Believe This Actually Happened?

 

What was the first animal to go into space?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Chimpanzee

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Cat

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Dog

#
p<>{color:#000;}. Insect

Answer: The Soviet Union, after launching Sputnik 1 in 1957, launched Sputnik 2 into space with an animal onboard. The animal was Laika, a dog, and the Soviets became the first to send a living organism into orbit. The Soviets made an initial claim that she survived for several days in orbit, but she unfortunately died within hours due to overheating.

 

The Equal Rights Amendment was signed into law in 1971.

#
p<>{color:#000;}. True

#
p<>{color:#000;}. False

Answer: false. Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1971, but it did not receive enough votes for ratification by the individual states. The Equal Rights Amendment would explicitly guarantee equal rights to all persons, regardless of gender.

 

History Has its Eyes on Us Today

 

Much of what transpired over the latter half of the 20th century still resonates with the American public today. The space race has mostly dwindled into private enterprises like SpaceX, but the International Space Station conducts long-term studies. The civil rights movement produced one of the most important pieces of legislature in American history, the Civil Rights Act. Although the country has made great progress toward racial equality, there is still racial tension today.

 

If the Choice Were Yours

Would you have engaged in the Vietnam War with or without the support of Congress?

 

The President is not allowed to declare war on another country without the official support of Congress. The Vietnam War is actually a misnomer, as war was not officially declared, so sometimes you will see reference to Vietnam as a conflict. The conflict was costly, both economically and in lives, and was highly unpopular.

Chapter 8 – America Today

Political Parties

Political parties in the United States have undergone numerous changes through the years, but in general the goals of each was to establish a democracy that helped everyone and would see to the interests of all citizens. In general, there were usually two main parties, a form of government that has come to be known as bipartisan. Nevertheless, there have been plenty of historical parties in the past, and we’ll take a look at them and at the current form of government.

Interestingly enough, the nation’s earliest leaders were quite a bit leery about the idea of political parties or factions as they were referred to in the past. Before leaving the political scene, George Washington warned the people of American against factions. James Madison, the “grandfather” of the Constitution did not approve of them, but thought that they would be necessary. Thomas Jefferson was said to have declared in 1787 that if his only way to enter heaven was by being part of a political party, then he would not go at all. Despite the founding fathers’ strong feelings against the formation of political parties, they still were the first ones to shape them.

The first two political parties in the United States were the Federalist and Anti-Federalist parties. The Federalist Party, led by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, wanted a strong central government with limited state power. Federalists also believed that a Bill of Rights was not necessary to be put in the Constitution and opposed the Articles of Confederation. The primary supporters of this ideal were large farmers, merchants, and artisans. They believed that most of the government power should be left in the hands of the elite, well educated, and wealthiest. The party fell after the War of 1812.

The Antifederalist Party opposed a large central government because they believed that too much national power would greatly diminish the power of the states. Naturally, they believed in strong state power, a Bill of Rights to protect the individuals within the states, and that the Articles of Confederation needed to be amended and not eliminated. The Antifederalist party drew most of its support from small farmers in rural areas. They were later renamed the Republican party because they reflect the idea of a strict interpretation of the Constitution along with states’ rights over national influence (Republicanism). The Federalist party later changed their names to be Democratic-Republicans as a way to try to discredit the Republican Party. It goes back to the French Revolution and how rebels tried to justify their actions “in the name of democracy”. The name stuck, so the Republicans formerly changed their name to Democratic-Republicans.

The Toleration Party was started back in 1801 and has actually held power to the present day, though it was heavily weakened by the War of 1812 when the Federalist perspectives it held dear began to decline. They were also once affiliated with the Democratic-Republican Party.

The Anti-Masonic Party came about in regards to what they feared was an excess of Freemasonry, especially in the higher echelons of government (recall that a number of the founding fathers had Masonic ties). They came to power and only lasted a little over a decade, allying themselves at one point with the Whigs, but they did manage to introduce some significant changes in government such as the idea of party platforms, which is still an element of political discourse today. It was also the first ever third party to be created within the US.

The Nullifier Party had as their goal the ability to ‘nullify’ federal law within states. This would have given more power to regional lawmakers, and as the party was founded in South Carolina it would come as no surprise that they wanted to try and separate themselves from government intervention during the 1800’s.

A few third parties would pop up from time to time to try to make a difference in American history. One such party was that of the Progressive Bull Moose Party. The Progressive Party was created by Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt in 1912 because he did not receive the nomination for the Republican party. As the name implies, the Progressives were looking for some pretty big reforms including social welfare assistance to women and children, women’s suffrage, banking reform, worker’s compensation, and health insurance. In the one presidential election that they had a candidate in, they lost.

Political cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt mixing “ingredients” in his speeches. Cartoon by Karl Knecht.

Another short-lived party was the Free Soil Party, which got birthed during the election of 1848. The party developed partially from a major political rivalry in the state of New York. It was built on a coalition of Barnburners, Conscience Whigs, Free-Soil Democrats, and the Liberty Party. They opposed extending slavery to other states, supported internal improvements programs and moderate tariffs, and also free land for all settlers. The phrase “free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men” became a staple for their core beliefs. Although they did get a few people into the House of Representatives, they never won a presidential election.

The Boston Tea Party was a relatively recent political party that was only disbanded in 2012. They were primarily advertised as a libertarian party and thought that the government should be more active in all levels in order to best serve the citizenry. They were also quite active in attempting to convince the US to withdraw troops from both enemy and allied territories, and were one of the only parties to call for an investigation into the events of 9/11.

Current Political Parties

In terms of political parties that are current and active, they are most prominently the bipartisan communities of the Republican and Democratic parties. The Republican side is often called the GOP (for Grand Old Party) and is a very conservative right-wing party that favors a lot of the traditional values in the United States, including the right to bear arms, military expansion and industrial expansion, and the traditional definitions of marriage and life, which has led to conflict in a number of social and legal spheres involving abortion, same-sex marriages, LGBT soldiers and the military’s treatment of them, and issues related to death penalties and physician assisted suicide. They also have generally strong libertarian economic ideals and are social conservatives in comparison to their Democratic opposition. There is also a trend in those who support the Republican Party to be more spread out in terms of geographic location, especially in rural areas. While the Presidents past and present have all espoused a religious stance, it has also been considerably more overt among Conservatives, including George Bush and runner-up Mitt Romney who lost the election to Barack Obama.

Modern symbols of the Democrat and Republican parties.

In contrast, the Democratic Party actually traces back to Jefferson and the Democratic-Republic Party, and was originally a form of classic liberalism. Nowadays they are a bit more moderate, but still focus on trends of equality, both socially and economically, and this includes advocating for welfare, something that Republicans tend to oppose. They also encourage labor unions and social programs, and generally take a more involved role in politics and the economic makeup of a country, again in contrast to Republicans who tend to favor a more individualist capitalist-driven worldview. Historically they were huge supporters of the New Deal because this was one of the first times that the government had both a strong and direct influence in the labor market and that the economy had been geared toward trying to ensure equality. In general, the Democratic Party has also been associated with more socially conscious approaches to government and daily life which has included support for same-sex marriages and abortions, opposition to torture and regulation on gun control, and a strong emphasis on immigration and making it easier to gain citizenship. Politically, they support cutting some funding to the military expenditures and imposing carbon taxes, while the Conservative leadership generally opposes this in favor of keeping industry active. As a result of all of this, many minorities are often attracted to the Democratic perspective because it is more inclusive.

There is also an Independent category in the current American government and this is usually held by someone who does not fit wholly the policies or beliefs of either the Democrats or the Republicans. That said, many of them often do share certain loyalties to one party or another. In the most recent election this was demonstrated by Bernie Sanders who was running on his own platform that was geared toward a more leftist interpretation of Democratic thought.

These also include some lesser-known parties that include the Green Party. In the States this is a very progressive far-left party that has a number of views similar to the Democratic Party, but are far from moderate. They have a very strong ecological and environmentally friendly stance, and advocate for grass-roots democracy. This is in contrast to the major political parties who prefer a very centralized form of governing – for the Greens, decentralized government and economic policies are considered more beneficial, not only in terms of stabilizing and maintain said economies but also in giving freedom to citizen. They are also huge proponents of social and equal rights including a woman’s right to choose, nonviolence, global justice, and women’s rights in general.

The other main independent party currently is the Libertarian Party, which is more like the classical liberals from several hundred years ago. A number of their policies include the fact that they support laissez-faire economics, and want to abolish welfare – in many ways they have conservative views on a number of issues, thinking that capitalism is both good and should be exercised, and that the state does not have an obligation or responsibility to ‘bail out’ banks or individuals. On the other hand they also list abolishing the IRS and gold standard, lowering taxes, and allowing people to opt out of their Social Security, thereby decreasing the influence that the Federal government would have in the lives of the populace. Like the Greens and Democrats they also have strong views on eradicating the death penalty and supporting same-sex marriages. An interesting fact about the Libertarian Party is that they were the first party to cast an electoral vote for a woman.

Presidential Election Controversies

It seems as though election controversies are a modern plight, but there are election controversies dating far back into American history. The 1876 election between Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, and Samuel Tilden, a Democrat, is still one of the most controversial elections in U.S. presidential history. At the first count, Tilden won the necessary electoral votes needed to win, but there were still 20 electoral votes not yet decided in Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oregon. Tilden needed one more electoral vote to officially secure the election, while Hayes needed all 20. There was no precedent to deal with these types of electoral vote issues yet, so a commission was established to assess the results. The commission voted along party lines and gave Hayes all 20 votes, and an informal compromise was reached known as the Compromise of 1877. The Compromise of 1877 required that Republicans withdraw forces from the South, effectively ending the Reconstruction Era and beginning a new era of oppression for blacks in the South.

Much more recent, however, was the controversial election of 2000 between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote, but the election was rife with accusations of voter fraud and impediments to voting, specifically in Florida. The election was so close in Florida (537 votes) that a recount was requested and required. Litigation was inevitable, and eventually the case made it to the Supreme Court, where the Court ruled in Bush’s favor 5-4. This marked the fourth election in U.S. history where the winner of the election received fewer votes than the opponent. A similar issue has arisen with the most recent 2016 election, where the declared winner, Donald Trump, received fewer votes than his opponent Hilary Clinton. Trump was declared an unlikely winner, but the election has been marred by accusation of Russian interference. At the time of writing this book, the issue of Russian interference has not been resolved.

America Today

After the attacks on September 11th, there was a paradigm shift in how America viewed terrorism. Newly elected President George W. Bush led Americans to believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was complicit in al-Qaeda’s attack on U.S. soil. Iraq did not have WMDs, and the information spread about this was false, though it led to war with Iraq, sometimes known as the Second Persian Gulf War. An insurgency against the occupation followed, and the U.S. finally withdrew all troops in 2011. More recently, ISIS has waged wars and follows a fundamentalist doctrine. ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, forced the Iraqi president to step down in 2014 and claims authority over Muslims worldwide, though this is clearly not the case. America and the world now face threats from this group, as it’s believed that they have operations in at least 18 countries.

Around the same time as the war with Iraq was the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The goal was to snuff out Taliban rule and take down al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in 2011, and NATO began taking measures to withdraw from the region. The United States ended major combat operations in 2014, but left some forces in place to combat terrorism in the region. As of 2016, there were still American forces in Afghanistan, after the original proposed withdrawal date.

At home, globalization has led to the loss of many economic opportunities for Americans that were once the backbone of the American economy. The 2008 housing bubble crisis became a huge source of interference in the economy, and though it was labeled only as a recession, it had a similar effect to the Great Depression in that many people lost their jobs. This prompted a movement in the U.S. to disparage big banks that were ‘too big to fail’, and was the catalyst for the Occupy Wall Street movement which, although it lost steam, cemented itself in the cultural milieu as a significant issue. Additionally, industry and manufacturing, which had catapulted the United States to the forefront of global economics in the early part of the 20th century, started to migrate to lower-wage countries in East and South East Asia. The major power likely to challenge America in the future, China, arose from the ashes of Japanese rule and decades of the brutal communist rule to become the world’s manufacturer. Others have chipped away at sectors once dominated by America, such as automobiles and steel. The world is becoming more multipolar instead of bipolar or monopolar (the U.S. as the only superpower).

However, American influence is still widely felt, and global newspapers are more likely to talk about American politics than American newspapers are to report on foreign politics. The United States still maintains a dominant position in technology, and the country knows retaining that position is essential to maintain global dominance. Cultural, American music and film are still widely enjoyed throughout the globe, and the country’s central position has given it the ability to spread its language – the American spread is a continuation of the British Empire’s language’s influence in the world. The world uses English as its medium of communication, and the United States was in the right position at the right time to capitalize on the changes enveloping the planet.

In the 2010s, the multipolar world continues to show signs of strain and the Pax Americana has fractured. The wars in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq have destabilized already contentious areas. The United States suffered its worst attack on its own soil since Pearl Harbor in 2001 and has since been on a quest to rid the world of terrorism. Moreover, state actors have started to conduct cyber intrusions, and the new front will emerge from the same medium that allowed America to spread its influence into every home and hand.

Fun Fact:

Regarding the belief technology is all-important to security and dominance, it was illegal to export encryption from the United States until the 1990s. Having seen the role encryption played in World War II and the Cold War, the United States classified encryption under the munitions codes, because it could be used as a weapon. Only in the 1990s and the spread of the Internet did it become legal to export it. The encryption we all use every day for secure communication over the Internet was, at one point, not permitted as a technological export.

 

Misconceptions

The concept of universal healthcare was not just an idea supported by Democrats.

In today’s political climate, the idea of universal healthcare seems like a Democratic ideal, and not that of the whole country, as not a single Republican voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare. However, in the 1970s, President Richard Nixon was in favor and made a great push to create an affordable insurance plan for all Americans. Congress was in favor, but then the Watergate scandal broke, as did any dreams of making his goal of universal healthcare come true.

Can You Believe this Really Happened?

Which one of these was a short-lived political party?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Love Party

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Vegetarian Party

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Horse and Buggy Party

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Power Party

In 1948, John Maxwell ran for president under the American Vegetarian Party. Apparently, Americans were not interested in a platform based on the philosophy of a non-meat diet. John Maxwell was also English-born and was also declared ineligible to run.

Which is the oldest political party still in existence?

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Tea Party

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Republican Party

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Democratic Party

#
p<>{color:#000;}. The Liberal Party

The Democratic Party is the oldest active political party, originally established in 1792 as the Democratic-Republicans. Not only is it America’s oldest active political parties, but among the oldest active political parties in the world.

History Has its Eyes on Us Today

The issues of the past have followed America to its present. Although the Cold War is long past, the shadow still remains. Russian and American relations are still tense, and many of the issues in the Middle East originally stemmed from outrage at American interference in the 1970s and 80s.

If the Choice Were Yours

Would you rather keep the Electoral College as it is or change the system?

The Electoral College primarily operates on a plurality, meaning that most states have a “winner take all” approach. Just because a candidate wins the popular vote nationwide does not guarantee that the candidate will become president. While some states have rules in place that split electoral votes in proportion to the election, there is no consistent rule on how individual states distribute electoral votes—usually it’s all or nothing. Five elections have seen the “winner” of the election lose the popular vote.

Conclusion

These are just some of the most important events that molded the United States of America to what it is today. As you have probably noticed, not everything that the US ventured into was always a success; there were a couple of times in its colorful history when it actually made a couple of serious mistakes that could have spelled into massive disasters. But one of the primary goals of history is to learn from the past so as to avoid those errors of judgment in the future, as the old credo suggests: “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.” Indeed, there have been many ups and downs in American history, and what we can see when we stand back and look at events objectively is that despite tragedies that have occurred (the subjugation of blacks, genocide of Native Americans, repression of women) there have also been numerous positive aspects as well such as exploration and inventions right up to the pivotal events of walking on the moon.

In a sense, this is the role of history, to provide us a context with which we might approach our present and understand our own place in it. The coming years will present America with many challenges, but the American people have always found a way through. No conflict on the scale of the Civil War is imminent in American history, and no outside threat seems persistent or powerful enough to bring the American juggernaut down. Nevertheless, we must always exercise caution and humility. The variables that determine each and every event in history are sometimes hard to understand, and therefore vigilance is the price we must pay.

Reading about these events, be it positive or negative, only shows just how persistent and optimistic the American people really are. Regardless of their race or background, one thing was always certain; Americans have a lot of will power and are not quick to give up despite the circumstances. I hope you enjoyed reading this short overview of American history, and that it has inspired you to learn more.

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American History - An Overview of the Most Important People and Events. The Hist

Triumph and defeat. Mistakes and misunderstandings. Perseverance and prosperity. This is the story of how a handful of explorers and settlers grew into one of the world’s greatest nations. You’ll meet the leaders that founded and shaped a great nation including Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Richard Nixon and more. But, this short introduction to American History doesn’t stop at who and when. It follows the rollercoaster of events to show you how and why: -Columbus’ discovery of an uncharted continent led to rapid colonization by Spanish and European nations. -Fierce competition between the Spanish, French, English, and Portuguese divided the North American landmass into multiple territories. -A series of great leaders founded a democracy that has withstood centuries of peace and turmoil. -War, tragedy, and famine shaped the United States into a modern superpower. -The United States Constitution continues to guide and shape the nation today. -The major political parties of the past shaped the modern Republican and Democratic parties. This quick glimpse into the most significant people and events in American History reveals the mistakes that tore the country apart and the triumphs that rebuilt it. Start your journey through American History today with US History: An Overview of the Most Important People & Events. The History of United States: From Indians to Contemporary History of America.

  • ISBN: 9781370185856
  • Author: Lean Stone Publishing
  • Published: 2017-04-28 16:20:23
  • Words: 56272
American History - An Overview of the Most Important People and Events. The Hist American History - An Overview of the Most Important People and Events. The Hist