Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Expansion, Political Reform, and Turmoil

Following the War of 1812, there existed a superficial “Era of Good Feelings” in which partisan issues declined. The Election of 1816 brought in James Monroe, who made his major mark in foreign affairs. Much of the country’s energy was channeled into westward movement. Postwar prosperity ended abruptly in the Panic of 1819. Henry Clay and others touted an “American System” that was supposed to unite the country, but probably shortchanged the South.

A Transportation Revolution was under way, featuring a canal craze, the first railroads and steamboats. America also was experiencing the beginnings of its First Industrial Revolution.

The Election of 1824 was another disputed contest; the House of Representatives supported John Quincy Adams, which enraged Andrew Jackson's followers. The Election of 1828, sometimes referred to as the “Revolution of 1828," was Jackson's revenge, ushering in the age of the common man. Major issues included problems with the spoils system, the tariff, the nullification crisis, and the Second Bank of the United States.

Martin van Buren entered office after the Election of 1836; major occurrences included tensions with Britain, the Panic of 1837 and an ongoing dispute with John C. Calhoun.

The Election of 1840 ushered in the short term of William Henry Harrison and his successor John Tyler. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1843) was the leading accomplishment. The Manifest Destiny passions helped sweep James K. Polk into office, where he faced issues regarding Texas, the Oregon boundary, and the Mexican War (1846-48).

War hero Zachary Taylor emerged as the victor in the Election of 1848. His shortened term in office nevertheless yielded positive diplomatic results in the negotiation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (1850) with Britain. Taylor did not support the Compromise of 1850, but his successor, Millard Fillmore, signed its provisions into law.

A spirit of reform was evident in America during the first half of the 19th century, touching such areas as religion in the second Great Awakening, women’s issues, educational reform, the temperance movement, utopianism, and abolitionism.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Young Republic

Following independence, the American states began the process of drafting new state constitutions, many of which reflected increased democratic elements (women and slaves excepted).
The nation’s governing document was the Articles of Confederation whose weaknesses led to a “critical period” in the 1780s. Conservative elements in the country were especially disturbed by Shays' Rebellion in western Massachusetts.
The end of the War for Independence led to rapid settlement in the West.
Desire for a strong central government led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The completed document was submitted to the states for ratification. The Federalist Papers, largely the work of Alexander Hamilton, remains the most cogent analysis of the U.S. Constitution.
George Washington’s election in 1789 ushered in the Federalist Era, which witnessed the process of translating the Constitution’s ideas into actual practice. A Bill of Rights was drafted by Congress and submitted to the states. Other early activity included the Tariff of 1789 and consideration of Hamilton’s economic program.
Much to Washington’s disapproval, partisan politics emerged, pitting the Federalists against the Jeffersonian Republicans. A challenge to the new government was posed by the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794.
Foreign affairs under Washington found the nation proclaiming neutrality, but seeing it threatened by French minister Edmond Genêt. Outstanding issues with Spain and Britain were addressed in Pinckney’s Treaty and the controversial Jay’s Treaty.
Washington provided advice for his fellow citizens in his Farewell Address in 1796.

The Election of 1796 brought John Adams to power; his administration was marred by problems in the relationship with France and the divisive Alien and Sedition Acts.

The Election of 1800 exposed a weakness in the constitutional provision for electing a president. Thomas Jefferson’s triumph is sometimes regarded as the Revolution of 1800. The Jefferson administration dealt with far-reaching issues involving the Supreme Court, a war with the Barbary pirates, further westward expansion, the Louisiana Purchase, and diplomatic issues with Britain and France.

The Election of 1808 ushered in the administration of James Madison, who grappled with neutral rights issues, culminating in the War of 1812.

Young authors began to emerge with a style that said "Americana": Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Louisa May Alcott embraced Transcendentalism, Edgar Allan Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and others made their marksin the "Golden Age of American Literature."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Revolutionary America

The government of George III introduced a plan of imperial reorganization in 1763. These reforms were not welcomed in many parts of America, where the cry of “no taxation without representation” was heard.

Beginning in the mid-1760s, Britain attempted to fine-tune its colonial control through the Stamp Act (1765), the Quartering Act (1765), and Townshend Duties (1767)—all of which tended to inflame public opinion rather than dampen it. Boston became the focus of colonial opposition in the Boston Massacre (1770), the Boston Tea Party (1773) and the Parliamentary response in the Coercive Acts (1774).

Further colonial resistance was put up by the Sons of Liberty and the Committees of Correspondence. Formal opposition came from the First Continental Congress and the Second Continental Congress.

America and Britain entered the conflict with differing strategies and strengths. Hostilities erupted at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. (See timeline of the War of Independence.) George Washington was appointed commander of the Continental Army in June 1775. Public opinion was coaxed to acceptance of independence by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense in early 1776. The formal break with the mother country came in the Declaration of Independence (July 1776), largely the work of Thomas Jefferson.

Early military engagements occurred at Bunker Hill (June 1775), in the Canadian campaign (1775-76) and in the South. Later, action shifted to the New York campaign (1776). Washington temporarily reversed a series of defeats at Trenton and Princeton (late 1776 and early 1777), but British forces succeeded in taking Philadelphia in late 1777.

The turning point of the War came at Saratoga (1777), a victory that enabled American diplomats to negotiate a French Alliance (1778). Hostilities continued in theWestern Theater and the Southern Theater. The main British force surrendered atYorktown in October 1781.

Peace was achieved in the Treaty of Paris (1783) with Benjamin Franklin playing a prominent role.

Colonial Period

The following are the 13 original colonies, plus Maine, listed alphabetically with the generally recognized founding dates in parentheses:

Connecticut (1636): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Thomas Hooker,New England Confederation,Dominion of New England,Connecticut and the American Revolution

Delaware (1638): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Delaware and the American Revolution

Georgia (1732): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Georgia and the American Revolution

Maryland (1634): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Maryland and the American Revolution

Massachusetts (1620): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Great Awakening, Massachusetts and the American Revolution.

Maine (developed as part of Massachusetts and was not an original colony): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Maine and the American Revolution

New Hampshire (1630): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, New Hampshire and the American Revolution

New Jersey (1660): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, New Jersey and the American Revolution

New York (1626): Original Inhabitants, Exploration, the Dutch in New York, theEnglish in New York, Leisler's Rebellion, John Peter Zenger, New York and the American Revolution

North Carolina (1653): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Culpeper’s Rebellion, Tuscarora War, Blackbeard, Regulator Movement, North Carolina and the American Revolution

Pennsylvania (1682): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, New Sweden, William Penn, Society of Friends, Early Pennsylvania, Warfare with Native Americans, Pennsylvania and the American Revolution

Rhode Island (1636): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Roger Williams, Rhode Island and the American Revolution

South Carolina (1670): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Regulator Movement, South Carolina and the American Revolution

Virginia (1607): Original Inhabitants, Exploration and Settlement, Jamestown, the slave trade, the West, Patrick Henry, Virginia and the American Revolution

On two occasions in the 17th century, efforts were made to formulate a rudimentary union among the New England colonies: The New England Confederation and the Dominion of New England .

Britain ruled her worldwide empire, including the American colonies, under the terms of an economic theory known as mercantilism. It was the attempt to enforce this system that provided fuel for the American Revolution.

All of the colonies were to some degree impacted in the 18th century by a Contest for Empire, which pitted the great world powers, France and England, against one another. The most significant North American phase of this conflict was the French and Indian War (1754-63).

Early America

Most authorities believe that the Western hemisphere was populated at the end of the last ice age when a lowered ocean level exposed a land bridge that Asian peoples traversed to North America.

Later, the arriving European settlers discovered the existence of extensive civilizations. In the southern reaches of North America (present-day Mexico and Central America) the Mayan civilization built sophisticated stone structures, developed an advanced numerical system and maintained extensive agricultural complexes. TheAztecs established a far-reaching empire that controlled much of present-day Mexico.

In the northern portions of North America the early native peoples are commonly divided into the following regional groups:

The Eastern Woodland culture was located in the drainage area of the Mississippi River east to the Atlantic Ocean and south from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Various groups of mound builders existed in this region.

The Plains culture existed on the open expanses of present-day Canada and the United States.

The Southwest culture occupied areas in present-day northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. Notable within this grouping were the Pueblo societies in present-day New Mexico and Arizona.

The Far West culture ranged from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

The Northwest culture inhabited the coastal regions of the northwestern UnitedStates and western Canada

The Subarctic culture stretched across Canada north of the Great Lakes and south of the Arctic tree line, and across much of Alaska

The Arctic culture occupied the treeless expanses in the extreme northern portions of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland

Historical evidence for early European ventures to the New World is in dispute, but it appears that Norsemen, including Leif Eriksson , made voyages to the area toward the end of the 10th century.

Europe lacked the technological skills and motivation to immediately follow the Vikings into the New World. Conditions changed, however, during the 1400s. Portugal emerged as the first nation-state to engage in an organized effort to reach the lucrative Far Eastern markets by means of an all-water route.

Next, Spanish exploration of the New World followed the voyages of Christopher Columbus, 1492-1504. Settlements were established in the hope of finding mineral wealth, converting the native populations to Christianity, and for the thrill of a great adventure.

England and France followed Spain into the Americas in the early 17th century, later to be joined by Holland and, briefly, Sweden.

Northern European interest in exploration was fueled by the search for a Northwest Passage. Later, attention was turned to the establishment of permanent colonies. The English failed in an effort at Roanoke Island in the 1580s, but succeeded at Jamestown in 1607. In 1620, a Pilgrim colony was established at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts, followed in 1630 by the Puritan colony of Massachusetts Bay.

The white settlements in New England sparked interaction with local Native Americans, notably the Narragansett and the Pequot. The ultimate failure of the relationships was seen in the Pequot War (1637) and King Philip’s War (1675-76).