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.

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