History of the United States | Wikipedia audio article

History of the United States | Wikipedia audio article

The history of the United States began with
the settlement of Indigenous people before 15,000 BC. Numerous cultures formed. The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492
started the European colonization of the Americas. Most colonies formed after 1600. By the 1770s, thirteen British colonies contained
2.5 million people along the Atlantic coast east of the Appalachian Mountains. After defeating France, the British government
imposed a series of new taxes after 1765, rejecting the colonists’ argument that new
taxes needed their approval (see Stamp Act 1765). Tax resistance, especially the Boston Tea
Party (1773), led to punitive laws by Parliament designed to end self-government in Massachusetts. Armed conflict began in 1775. In 1776, the Second Continental Congress declared
the independence of the colonies as the United States of America. Led by General George Washington, it won the
Revolutionary War with large support from France. The peace treaty of 1783 gave the new nation
the land east of the Mississippi River (except Canada and Florida). The Articles of Confederation established
a central government, but it was ineffectual at providing stability, as it could not collect
taxes and had no executive officer. A convention in 1787 wrote a new Constitution
that was adopted in 1789. In 1791, a Bill of Rights was added to guarantee
inalienable rights. With Washington as the first president and
Alexander Hamilton his chief adviser, a strong central government was created. Purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France
in 1803 doubled the size of the United States. A second and final war with Britain was fought
in 1812, which solidified national pride. Encouraged by the notion of manifest destiny,
U.S. territory expanded all the way to the Pacific coast. While the United States was large in terms
of area, its population in 1790 was only 4 million. However, it grew rapidly, reaching 7.2 million
in 1810, 32 million in 1860, 76 million in 1900, 132 million in 1940, and 321 million
in 2015. Economic growth in terms of overall GDP was
even greater. However compared to European powers, the nation’s
military strength was relatively limited in peacetime before 1940. The expansion was driven by a quest for inexpensive
land for yeoman farmers and slave owners. The expansion of slavery was increasingly
controversial and fueled political and constitutional battles, which were resolved by compromises. Slavery was abolished in all states north
of the Mason–Dixon line by 1804, but the South continued to profit off of the institution,
mostly from production of cotton. Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected in
1860 on a platform of halting the expansion of slavery. Seven Southern slave states rebelled and created
the foundation of the Confederacy. Its attack of Fort Sumter against the Union
forces started the Civil War (1861–1865). Confederate defeat led to the impoverishment
of the South and the abolition of slavery. In the Reconstruction Era (1863–1877), legal
and voting rights were extended to freed slaves. The national government emerged much stronger,
and because of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, it gained the explicit duty to protect
individual rights. However, when white Democrats regained their
power in the South in 1877, often by paramilitary suppression of voting, they passed Jim Crow
laws to maintain white supremacy, and new disfranchising constitutions that prevented
most African Americans and many poor whites from voting. This continued until gains of the Civil Rights
Movement in the 1960s and passage of federal legislation to enforce constitutional rights
were made. The United States became the world’s leading
industrial power at the turn of the 20th century due to an outburst of entrepreneurship in
the Northeast and Midwest and the arrival of millions of immigrant workers and farmers
from Europe. The national railroad network was completed
and large-scale mining and factories industrialized the Northeast and Midwest. Mass dissatisfaction with corruption, inefficiency
and traditional politics stimulated the Progressive movement, from the 1890s to 1920s, which led
to many reforms including the 16th to 19th constitutional amendments, which brought the
federal income tax, direct election of Senators, prohibition, and women’s suffrage. Initially neutral during World War I, the
United States declared war on Germany in 1917 and funded the Allied victory the following
year. Women obtained the right to vote in 1920,
with Native Americans obtaining citizenship and the right to vote in 1924. After a prosperous decade in the 1920s, the
Wall Street Crash of 1929 marked the onset of the decade-long worldwide Great Depression. Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt
ended the Republican dominance of the White House and implemented his New Deal programs,
which included relief for the unemployed, support for farmers, Social Security and a
minimum wage. The New Deal defined modern American liberalism. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
in 1941, the United States entered World War II and financed the Allied war effort and
helped defeat Nazi Germany in the European theater. Its involvement culminated in using newly
invented nuclear weapons on two Japanese cities to defeat Imperial Japan in the Pacific theater. The United States and the Soviet Union emerged
as rival superpowers in the aftermath of World War II. During the Cold War, the two countries confronted
each other indirectly in the arms race, the Space Race, proxy wars, and propaganda campaigns. The purpose of this was to stop the spread
of communism. In the 1960s, in large part due to the strength
of the Civil Rights Movement, another wave of social reforms was enacted by enforcing
the constitutional rights of voting and freedom of movement to African-Americans and other
racial minorities. The Cold War ended when the Soviet Union was
officially dissolved in 1991, leaving the United States as the world’s only superpower. After the Cold War, the United States began
focusing on modern conflicts in the Middle East and nuclear programs in North Korea. The beginning of the 21st century saw the
September 11 attacks by Al-Qaeda in 2001, which was followed by the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan. In 2008, the United States had its worst economic
crisis since the Great Depression, which was followed by slower-than-usual rates of economic
growth during the 2010s.==Pre-Columbian Era==It is not definitively known how or when the
Native Americans first settled the Americas and the present-day United States. The prevailing theory proposes that people
migrated from Eurasia across Beringia, a land bridge that connected Siberia to present-day
Alaska during the Ice Age, and then spread southward throughout the Americas. This migration may have begun as early as
30,000 years ago and continued through to about 10,000+ years ago, when the land bridge
became submerged by the rising sea level caused by the ending of the last glacial period. These early inhabitants, called Paleoamericans,
soon diversified into many hundreds of culturally distinct nations and tribes. The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period
subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant
European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement
in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the early modern period. While technically referring to the era before
Christopher Columbus’ voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the
history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced
by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus’ initial
landing.===Native development prior to European contact
===Native American cultures are not normally
included in characterizations of advanced stone age cultures as “Neolithic,” which is
a category that more often includes only the cultures in Eurasia, Africa, and other regions. The archaeological periods used are the classifications
of archaeological periods and cultures established in Gordon Willey and Philip Phillips’ 1958
book Method and Theory in American Archaeology. They divided the archaeological record in
the Americas into five phases; see Archaeology of the Americas. The Clovis culture, a megafauna hunting culture,
is primarily identified by use of fluted spear points. Artifacts from this culture were first excavated
in 1932 near Clovis, New Mexico. The Clovis culture ranged over much of North
America and also appeared in South America. The culture is identified by the distinctive
Clovis point, a flaked flint spear-point with a notched flute, by which it was inserted
into a shaft. Dating of Clovis materials has been by association
with animal bones and by the use of carbon dating methods. Recent reexaminations of Clovis materials
using improved carbon-dating methods produced results of 11,050 and 10,800 radiocarbon years
B.P. (roughly 9100 to 8850 BCE). Numerous Paleoindian cultures occupied North
America, with some arrayed around the Great Plains and Great Lakes of the modern United
States of America and Canada, as well as adjacent areas to the West and Southwest. According to the oral histories of many of
the indigenous peoples of the Americas, they have been living on this continent since their
genesis, described by a wide range of traditional creation stories. Other tribes have stories that recount migrations
across long tracts of land and a great river, believed to be the Mississippi River. Genetic and linguistic data connect the indigenous
people of this continent with ancient northeast Asians. Archeological and linguistic data has enabled
scholars to discover some of the migrations within the Americas. The Folsom Tradition was characterized by
use of Folsom points as projectile tips, and activities known from kill sites, where slaughter
and butchering of bison took place. Folsom tools were left behind between 9000
BCE and 8000 BCE.Na-Dené-speaking peoples entered North America starting around 8000
BCE, reaching the Pacific Northwest by 5000 BCE, and from there migrating along the Pacific
Coast and into the interior. Linguists, anthropologists and archeologists
believe their ancestors comprised a separate migration into North America, later than the
first Paleo-Indians. They migrated into Alaska and northern Canada,
south along the Pacific Coast, into the interior of Canada, and south to the Great Plains and
the American Southwest. They were the earliest ancestors of the Athabascan-
speaking peoples, including the present-day and historical Navajo and Apache. They constructed large multi-family dwellings
in their villages, which were used seasonally. People did not live there year-round, but
for the summer to hunt and fish, and to gather food supplies for the winter. The Oshara Tradition people lived from 5500
BCE to 600 CE. They were part of the Southwestern Archaic
Tradition centered in north-central New Mexico, the San Juan Basin, the Rio Grande Valley,
southern Colorado, and southeastern Utah. Since the 1990s, archeologists have explored
and dated eleven Middle Archaic sites in present-day Louisiana and Florida at which early cultures
built complexes with multiple earthwork mounds; they were societies of hunter-gatherers rather
than the settled agriculturalists believed necessary according to the theory of Neolithic
Revolution to sustain such large villages over long periods. The prime example is Watson Brake in northern
Louisiana, whose 11-mound complex is dated to 3500 BCE, making it the oldest, dated site
in the Americas for such complex construction. It is nearly 2,000 years older than the Poverty
Point site. Construction of the mounds went on for 500
years until was abandoned about 2800 BCE, probably due to changing environmental conditions.Poverty
Point culture is a Late Archaic archaeological culture that inhabited the area of the lower
Mississippi Valley and surrounding Gulf Coast. The culture thrived from 2200 BCE to 700 BCE,
during the Late Archaic period. Evidence of this culture has been found at
more than 100 sites, from the major complex at Poverty Point (a UNESCO World Heritage
Site) across a 100-mile (160 km) range to the Jaketown Site near Belzoni, Mississippi. Poverty Point is a 1 square mile (2.6 km2)
complex of six major earthwork concentric rings, with additional platform mounds at
the site. Artifacts show the people traded with other
Native Americans located from Georgia to the Great Lakes region. This is one among numerous mound sites of
complex indigenous cultures throughout the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. They were one of several succeeding cultures
often referred to as mound builders. The Woodland period of North American pre-Columbian
cultures refers to the time period from roughly 1000 BCE to 1,000 CE in the eastern part of
North America. The term “Woodland” was coined in the 1930s
and refers to prehistoric sites dated between the Archaic period and the Mississippian cultures. The Hopewell tradition is the term for the
common aspects of the Native American culture that flourished along rivers in the northeastern
and midwestern United States from 200 BCE to 500 CE.The Hopewell tradition was not a
single culture or society, but a widely dispersed set of related populations, who were connected
by a common network of trade routes, known as the Hopewell Exchange System. At its greatest extent, the Hopewell exchange
system ran from the Southeastern United States into the southeastern Canadian shores of Lake
Ontario. Within this area, societies participated in
a high degree of exchange; most activity was conducted along the waterways that served
as their major transportation routes. The Hopewell exchange system traded materials
from all over the United States. The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest
Coast were of many nations and tribal affiliations, each with distinctive cultural and political
identities, but they shared certain beliefs, traditions and practices, such as the centrality
of salmon as a resource and spiritual symbol. Their gift-giving feast, potlatch, is a highly
complex event where people gather in order to commemorate special events such as the
raising of a Totem pole or the appointment or election of a new chief. The most famous artistic feature of the culture
is the Totem pole, with carvings of animals and other characters to commemorate cultural
beliefs, legends, and notable events.====Major cultures====Adena culture: The Adena culture was a Native
American culture that existed from 1000 BC to 200 BC, in a time known as the Early Woodland
period. The Adena culture refers to what were probably
a number of related Native American societies sharing a burial complex and ceremonial system. Coles Creek culture: The Coles Creek culture
is an indigenous development of the Lower Mississippi Valley that took place between
the terminal Woodland period and the later Plaquemine culture period. The period is marked by the increased use
of flat-topped platform mounds arranged around central plazas, more complex political institutions,
and a subsistence strategy still grounded in the Eastern Agricultural Complex and hunting
rather than on the maize plant as would happen in the succeeding Plaquemine Mississippian
period. The culture was originally defined by the
unique decoration on grog-tempered ceramic ware by James A. Ford after his investigations
at the Mazique Archeological Site. He had studied both the Mazique and Coles
Creek Sites, and almost went with the Mazique culture, but decided on the less historically
involved sites name. It is ancestral to the Plaquemine culture. Hohokam culture: The Hohokam was a culture
centered along American Southwest. The early Hohokam founded a series of small
villages along the middle Gila River. They raised corn, squash and beans. The communities were located near good arable
land, with dry farming common in the earlier years of this period. They were known for their pottery, using the
paddle-and-anvil technique. The Classical period of the culture saw the
rise in architecture and ceramics. Buildings were grouped into walled compounds,
as well as earthen platform mounds. Platform mounds were built along river as
well as irrigation canal systems, suggesting these sites were administrative centers allocating
water and coordinating canal labor. Polychrome pottery appeared, and inhumation
burial replaced cremation. Trade included that of shells and other exotics. Social and climatic factors led to a decline
and abandonment of the area after 1400 A.D.Ancestral Puebloan culture: The Ancestral Puebloan culture
covered present-day Four Corners region of the United States, comprising southern Utah,
northern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado. It is believed that the Ancestral Puebloans
developed, at least in part, from the Oshara Tradition, who developed from the Picosa culture. They lived in a range of structures that included
small family pit houses, larger clan type structures, grand pueblos, and cliff sited
dwellings. The Ancestral Puebloans possessed a complex
network that stretched across the Colorado Plateau linking hundreds of communities and
population centers. The culture is perhaps best known for the
stone and earth dwellings built along cliff walls, particularly during the Pueblo II and
Pueblo III eras. Three UNESCO World Heritage Sites located
in the United States are credited to the Pueblos: Mesa Verde National Park, Chaco Culture National
Historical Park and Taos Pueblo. The best-preserved examples of the stone dwellings
are in National Parks, examples being, Navajo National Monument, Chaco Culture National
Historical Park, Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument,
Aztec Ruins National Monument, Bandelier National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, and
Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Mississippian culture: The Mississippian culture
which extended throughout the Ohio and Mississippi valleys and built sites throughout the Southeast,
created the largest earthworks in North America north of Mexico, most notably at Cahokia,
on a tributary of the Mississippi River in present-day Illinois. The ten-story Monks Mound at Cahokia has a
larger circumference than the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan or the Great Pyramid of
Egypt. The 6 square miles (16 km2) city complex was
based on the culture’s cosmology; it included more than 100 mounds, positioned to support
their sophisticated knowledge of astronomy, and built with knowledge of varying soil types. The society began building at this site about
950 CE, and reached its peak population in 1,250 CE of 20,000–30,000 people, which
was not equalled by any city in the present-day United States until after 1800. Cahokia was a major regional chiefdom, with
trade and tributary chiefdoms located in a range of areas from bordering the Great Lakes
to the Gulf of Mexico. Kincaid c. 1050–1400 AD, is one of the largest
settlements of the Mississippian culture, it was located at the southern tip of present-day
U.S. state of Illinois. Kincaid Mounds has been notable for both its
significant role in native North American prehistory and for the central role the site
has played in the development of modern archaeological techniques. The site had at least 11 substructure platform
mounds (ranking fifth for mound-culture pyramids). Artifacts from the settlement link its major
habitation and the construction of the mounds to the Mississippian period, but it was also
occupied earlier during the Woodland period. The Mississippian culture developed the Southeastern
Ceremonial Complex, the name which archeologists have given to the regional stylistic similarity
of artifacts, iconography, ceremonies and mythology. The rise of the complex culture was based
on the people’s adoption of maize agriculture, development of greater population densities,
and chiefdom-level complex social organization from 1200 CE to 1650 CE. The Mississippian pottery are some of the
finest and most widely spread ceramics north of Mexico. Cahokian pottery was especially fine, with
smooth surfaces, very thin walls and distinctive tempering, slips and coloring. Iroquois Culture: The Iroquois League of Nations
or “People of the Long House”, based in present-day upstate and western New York, had a confederacy
model from the mid-15th century. It has been suggested that their culture contributed
to political thinking during the development of the later United States government. Their system of affiliation was a kind of
federation, different from the strong, centralized European monarchies.Leadership was restricted
to a group of 50 sachem chiefs, each representing one clan within a tribe. The Oneida and Mohawk people had nine seats
each; the Onondagas held fourteen; the Cayuga had ten seats; and the Seneca had eight. Representation was not based on population
numbers, as the Seneca tribe greatly outnumbered the others. When a sachem chief died, his successor was
chosen by the senior woman of his tribe in consultation with other female members of
the clan; property and hereditary leadership were passed matrilineally. Decisions were not made through voting but
through consensus decision making, with each sachem chief holding theoretical veto power. The Onondaga were the “firekeepers”, responsible
for raising topics to be discussed. They occupied one side of a three-sided fire
(the Mohawk and Seneca sat on one side of the fire, the Oneida and Cayuga sat on the
third side.) Elizabeth Tooker, an anthropologist, has said
that it was unlikely the U.S. founding fathers were inspired by the confederacy, as it bears
little resemblance to the system of governance adopted in the United States. For example, it is based on inherited rather
than elected leadership, selected by female members of the tribes, consensus decision-making
regardless of population size of the tribes, and a single group capable of bringing matters
before the legislative body. Long-distance trading did not prevent warfare
and displacement among the indigenous peoples, and their oral histories tell of numerous
migrations to the historic territories where Europeans encountered them. The Iroquois invaded and attacked tribes in
the Ohio River area of present-day Kentucky and claimed the hunting grounds. Historians have placed these events as occurring
as early as the 13th century, or in the 17th-century Beaver Wars. Through warfare, the Iroquois drove several
tribes to migrate west to what became known as their historically traditional lands west
of the Mississippi River. Tribes originating in the Ohio Valley who
moved west included the Osage, Kaw, Ponca and Omaha people. By the mid-17th century, they had resettled
in their historical lands in present-day Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Osage warred with Caddo-speaking Native
Americans, displacing them in turn by the mid-18th century and dominating their new
historical territories.===Native development in Hawaii===Native development in Hawaii begins with the
settlement of Polynesians between the 1st and 10th centuries. Around 1200 AD Tahitian explorers found and
began settling the area as well. This became the rise of the Hawaiian civilization
and would be separated from the rest of the world for another 500 years until the arrival
of the British. Europeans under the British explorer Captain
James Cook arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. Within five years of contact, European military
technology would help Kamehameha I conquer most of the people, and eventually unify the
islands for the first time; establishing the Kingdom of Hawaii.==Colonial period==After a period of exploration sponsored by
major European nations, the first successful English settlement was established in 1607. Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs
to the Americas and, in turn, took back to Europe maize, turkeys, potatoes, tobacco,
beans, and squash. Many explorers and early settlers died after
being exposed to new diseases in the Americas. The effects of new Eurasian diseases carried
by the colonists, especially smallpox and measles, were much worse for the Native Americans,
as they had no immunity to them. They suffered epidemics and died in very large
numbers, usually before large-scale European settlement began. Their societies were disrupted and hollowed
out by the scale of deaths.===Spanish, Dutch, and French colonization
===Spanish explorers were the first Europeans
with Christopher Columbus’ second expedition, to reach Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493;
others reached Florida in 1513. Spanish expeditions quickly reached the Appalachian
Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon and the Great Plains. In 1540, Hernando de Soto undertook an extensive
exploration of the Southeast. In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado explored
from Arizona to central Kansas. Small Spanish settlements eventually grew
to become important cities, such as San Antonio, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tucson, Arizona;
Los Angeles, California; and San Francisco, California.New Netherland was a 17th-century
Dutch colony centered on present-day New York City and the Hudson River Valley; the Dutch
traded furs with the Native Americans to the north. The colony served as a barrier to expansion
from New England. Despite being Calvinists and building the
Reformed Church in America, the Dutch were tolerant of other religions and cultures.The
colony, which was taken over by Britain in 1664, left an enduring legacy on American
cultural and political life. This includes secular broad-mindedness and
mercantile pragmatism in the city as well as rural traditionalism in the countryside
(typified by the story of Rip Van Winkle). Notable Americans of Dutch descent include
Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Frelinghuysens.New
France was the area colonized by France from 1534 to 1763. There were few permanent settlers outside
Quebec and Acadia, but the French had far-reaching trading relationships with Native Americans
throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest. French villages along the Mississippi and
Illinois rivers were based in farming communities that served as a granary for Gulf Coast settlements. The French established plantations in Louisiana
along with settling New Orleans, Mobile and Biloxi. The Wabanaki Confederacy were military allies
of New France through the four French and Indian Wars while the British colonies were
allied with the Iroquois Confederacy. During the French and Indian War – the North
American theater of the Seven Years’ War – New England fought successfully against French
Acadia. The British removed Acadians from Acadia (Nova
Scotia) and replaced them with New England Planters. Eventually, some Acadians resettled in Louisiana,
where they developed a distinctive rural Cajun culture that still exists. They became American citizens in 1803 with
the Louisiana Purchase. Other French villages along the Mississippi
and Illinois rivers were absorbed when the Americans started arriving after 1770, or
settlers moved west to escape them. French influence and language in New Orleans,
Louisiana and the Gulf Coast was more enduring; New Orleans was notable for its large population
of free people of color before the Civil War.===British colonization===The strip of land along the eastern seacoast
was settled primarily by English colonists in the 17th century along with much smaller
numbers of Dutch and Swedes. Colonial America was defined by a severe labor
shortage that employed forms of unfree labor such as slavery and indentured servitude and
by a British policy of benign neglect (salutary neglect). Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial
America arrived as indentured servants. Salutary neglect permitted the development
of an American spirit distinct from that of its European founders. The first successful English colony, Jamestown,
was established in 1607 on the James River in Virginia. Jamestown languished for decades until a new
wave of settlers arrived in the late 17th century and established commercial agriculture
based on tobacco. Between the late 1610s and the Revolution,
the British shipped an estimated 50,000 to 120,000 convicts to their American colonies. A severe instance of conflict was the 1622
Powhatan uprising in Virginia in which Native Americans killed hundreds of English settlers. The largest conflicts between Native Americans
and English settlers in the 17th century were King Philip’s War in New England and the Yamasee
War in South Carolina. New England was initially settled primarily
by Puritans. The Pilgrims established a settlement in 1620
at Plymouth Colony, which was followed by the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay
Colony in 1630. The Middle Colonies, consisting of the present-day
states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, were characterized by a large
degree of diversity. The first attempted English settlement south
of Virginia was the Province of Carolina, with Georgia Colony – the last of the Thirteen
Colonies – established in 1733. The colonies were characterized by people
primarily of the Judeo-Christian faiths, with many Congregationalists in New England, German
and Dutch Reformed in the Middle Colonies, Catholics in Maryland, and Scots-Irish Presbyterians
on the frontier. Sephardic Jews were among early settlers in
cities of New England and the South. Many immigrants arrived as religious refugees:
French Huguenots settled in New York, Virginia and the Carolinas. Many royal officials and merchants were Anglicans.Religiosity
expanded greatly after the First Great Awakening, a religious revival in the 1740s led by preachers
such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. American Evangelicals affected by the Awakening
added a new emphasis on divine outpourings of the Holy Spirit and conversions that implanted
within new believers an intense love for God. Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and
carried the newly created evangelicalism into the early republic, setting the stage for
the Second Great Awakening beginning in the late 1790s. In the early stages, evangelicals in the South
such as Methodists and Baptists preached for religious freedom and abolition of slavery;
they converted many slaves and recognized some as preachers. Each of the 13 American colonies had a slightly
different governmental structure. Typically, a colony was ruled by a governor
appointed from London who controlled the executive administration and relied upon a locally elected
legislature to vote taxes and make laws. By the 18th century, the American colonies
were growing very rapidly as a result of low death rates along with ample supplies of land
and food. The colonies were richer than most parts of
Britain, and attracted a steady flow of immigrants, especially teenagers who arrived as indentured
servants.The tobacco and rice plantations imported African slaves for labor from the
British colonies in the West Indies, and by the 1770s African slaves comprised a fifth
of the American population. The question of independence from Britain
did not arise as long as the colonies needed British military support against the French
and Spanish powers. Those threats were gone by 1765. London regarded the American colonies as existing
for the benefit of the mother country. This policy is known as mercantilism.==18th century==An upper-class, with wealth based on large
plantations operated by slave labor, and holding significant political power and even control
over the churches, emerged in South Carolina and Virginia. A unique class system operated in upstate
New York, where Dutch tenant farmers rented land from very wealthy Dutch proprietors,
such as the Rensselaer family. The other colonies were more equalitarian,
with Pennsylvania being representative. By the mid-18th century Pennsylvania was basically
a middle-class colony with limited deference to its small upper-class. A writer in the Pennsylvania Journal in 1756
summed it up: The People of this Province are generally
of the middling Sort, and at present pretty much upon a Level. They are chiefly industrious Farmers, Artificers
or Men in Trade; they enjoy in are fond of Freedom, and the meanest among them thinks
he has a right to Civility from the greatest.===Political integration and autonomy===The French and Indian War (1754–63) was
a watershed event in the political development of the colonies. It was also part of the larger Seven Years’
War. The influence of the main rivals of the British
Crown in the colonies and Canada, the French and North American Indians, was significantly
reduced with the territory of the Thirteen Colonies expanding into New France both in
Canada and the Louisiana Territory. Moreover, the war effort resulted in greater
political integration of the colonies, as reflected in the Albany Congress and symbolized
by Benjamin Franklin’s call for the colonies to “Join or Die”. Franklin was a man of many inventions – one
of which was the concept of a United States of America, which emerged after 1765 and was
realized in July 1776.Following Britain’s acquisition of French territory in North America,
King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 with the goal of organizing the new
North American empire and protecting the native Indians from colonial expansion into western
lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains. In ensuing years, strains developed in the
relations between the colonists and the Crown. The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act
of 1765, imposing a tax on the colonies without going through the colonial legislatures. The issue was drawn: did Parliament have this
right to tax Americans who were not represented in it? Crying “No taxation without representation”,
the colonists refused to pay the taxes as tensions escalated in the late 1760s and early
1770s. The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a direct
action by activists in the town of Boston to protest against the new tax on tea. Parliament quickly responded the next year
with the Coercive Acts, stripping Massachusetts of its historic right of self-government and
putting it under army rule, which sparked outrage and resistance in all thirteen colonies. Patriot leaders from all 13 colonies convened
the First Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance to the Coercive Acts. The Congress called for a boycott of British
trade, published a list of rights and grievances, and petitioned the king for redress of those
grievances. The appeal to the Crown had no effect, and
so the Second Continental Congress was convened in 1775 to organize the defense of the colonies
against the British Army. Ordinary folk became insurgents against the
British even though they were unfamiliar with the ideological rationales being offered. They held very strongly a sense of “rights”
that they felt the British were deliberately violating – rights that stressed local autonomy,
fair dealing, and government by consent. They were highly sensitive to the issue of
tyranny, which they saw manifested in the arrival in Boston of the British Army to punish
the Bostonians. This heightened their sense of violated rights,
leading to rage and demands for revenge. They had faith that God was on their side.The
American Revolutionary War began at Concord and Lexington in April 1775 when the British
tried to seize ammunition supplies and arrest the Patriot leaders. In terms of political values, the Americans
were largely united on a concept called Republicanism, that rejected aristocracy and emphasized civic
duty and a fear of corruption. For the Founding Fathers, according to one
team of historians, “republicanism represented more than a particular form of government. It was a way of life, a core ideology, an
uncompromising commitment to liberty, and a total rejection of aristocracy.”==
American Revolution==The Thirteen Colonies began a rebellion against
British rule in 1775 and proclaimed their independence in 1776 as the United States
of America. In the American Revolutionary War (1775–83)
the Americans captured the British invasion army at Saratoga in 1777, secured the Northeast
and encouraged the French to make a military alliance with the United States. France brought in Spain and the Netherlands,
thus balancing the military and naval forces on each side as Britain had no allies.General
George Washington (1732–99) proved an excellent organizer and administrator who worked successfully
with Congress and the state governors, selecting and mentoring his senior officers, supporting
and training his troops, and maintaining an idealistic Republican Army. His biggest challenge was logistics, since
neither Congress nor the states had the funding to provide adequately for the equipment, munitions,
clothing, paychecks, or even the food supply of the soldiers. As a battlefield tactician, Washington was
often outmaneuvered by his British counterparts. As a strategist, however, he had a better
idea of how to win the war than they did. The British sent four invasion armies. Washington’s strategy forced the first army
out of Boston in 1776, and was responsible for the surrender of the second and third
armies at Saratoga (1777) and Yorktown (1781). He limited the British control to New York
City and a few places while keeping Patriot control of the great majority of the population. The Loyalists, whom the British counted upon
too heavily, comprised about 20% of the population but never were well organized. As the war ended, Washington watched proudly
as the final British army quietly sailed out of New York City in November 1783, taking
the Loyalist leadership with them. Washington astonished the world when, instead
of seizing power for himself, he retired quietly to his farm in Virginia. Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset
observes, “The United States was the first major colony successfully to revolt against
colonial rule. In this sense, it was the first ‘new nation’.”On
July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, declared the independence
of the colonies by adopting the resolution from Richard Henry Lee, that stated: On July 4, 1776 they adopted the Declaration
of Independence and this date is celebrated as the nation’s birthday. Historian George Billias says: On September 9, 1776, Congress officially
changed the nation’s name to the United States of America. Until this point, the nation was known as
the “United Colonies of America” The new nation was founded on Enlightenment ideals of liberalism
in what Thomas Jefferson called the unalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness”, and dedicated strongly to republican principles. Republicanism emphasized the people are sovereign
(not hereditary kings), demanded civic duty, feared corruption, and rejected any aristocracy.==Early years of the republic=====
Confederation and Constitution===In the 1780s the national government was able
to settle the issue of the western territories, which were ceded by the states to Congress
and became territories. With the migration of settlers to the Northwest,
soon they became states. Nationalists worried that the new nation was
too fragile to withstand an international war, or even internal revolts such as the
Shays’ Rebellion of 1786 in Massachusetts.Nationalists – most of them war veterans – organized
in every state and convinced Congress to call the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The delegates from every state wrote a new
Constitution that created a much more powerful and efficient central government, one with
a strong president, and powers of taxation. The new government reflected the prevailing
republican ideals of guarantees of individual liberty and of constraining the power of government
through a system of separation of powers.The Congress was given authority to ban the international
slave trade after 20 years (which it did in 1807). A compromise gave the South Congressional
apportionment out of proportion to its free population by allowing it to include three-fifths
of the number of slaves in each state’s total population. This provision increased the political power
of southern representatives in Congress, especially as slavery was extended into the Deep South
through removal of Native Americans and transportation of slaves by an extensive domestic trade. To assuage the Anti-Federalists who feared
a too-powerful national government, the nation adopted the United States Bill of Rights in
1791. Comprising the first ten amendments of the
Constitution, it guaranteed individual liberties such as freedom of speech and religious practice,
jury trials, and stated that citizens and states had reserved rights (which were not
specified).===President George Washington===George Washington – a renowned hero of the
American Revolutionary War, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and president of
the Constitutional Convention – became the first President of the United States under
the new Constitution in 1789. The national capital moved from New York to
Philadelphia in 1790 and finally settled in Washington DC in 1800. The major accomplishments of the Washington
Administration were creating a strong national government that was recognized without question
by all Americans. His government, following the vigorous leadership
of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, assumed the debts of the states (the debt
holders received federal bonds), created the Bank of the United States to stabilize the
financial system, and set up a uniform system of tariffs (taxes on imports) and other taxes
to pay off the debt and provide a financial infrastructure. To support his programs Hamilton created a
new political party – the first in the world based on voters – the Federalist Party. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison formed
an opposition Republican Party (usually called the Democratic-Republican Party by political
scientists). Hamilton and Washington presented the country
in 1794 with the Jay Treaty that reestablished good relations with Britain. The Jeffersonians vehemently protested, and
the voters aligned behind one party or the other, thus setting up the First Party System. Federalists promoted business, financial and
commercial interests and wanted more trade with Britain. Republicans accused the Federalists of plans
to establish a monarchy, turn the rich into a ruling class, and making the United States
a pawn of the British. The treaty passed, but politics became intensely
heated.The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, when western settlers protested against a federal
tax on liquor, was the first serious test of the federal government. Washington called out the state militia and
personally led an army, as the insurgents melted away and the power of the national
government was firmly established.Washington refused to serve more than two terms – setting
a precedent – and in his famous farewell address, he extolled the benefits of federal
government and importance of ethics and morality while warning against foreign alliances and
the formation of political parties.John Adams, a Federalist, defeated Jefferson in the 1796
election. War loomed with France and the Federalists
used the opportunity to try to silence the Republicans with the Alien and Sedition Acts,
build up a large army with Hamilton at the head, and prepare for a French invasion. However, the Federalists became divided after
Adams sent a successful peace mission to France that ended the Quasi-War of 1798.===Slavery===During the first two decades after the Revolutionary
War, there were dramatic changes in the status of slavery among the states and an increase
in the number of freed blacks. Inspired by revolutionary ideals of the equality
of men and influenced by their lesser economic reliance on slavery, northern states abolished
slavery. States of the Upper South made manumission
easier, resulting in an increase in the proportion of free blacks in the Upper South (as a percentage
of the total non-white population) from less than one percent in 1792 to more than 10 percent
by 1810. By that date, a total of 13.5 percent of all
blacks in the United States were free. After that date, with the demand for slaves
on the rise because of the Deep South’s expanding cotton cultivation, the number of manumissions
declined sharply; and an internal U.S. slave trade became an important source of wealth
for many planters and traders. In 1809, president James Madison severed the
US’s involvement with the Atlantic slave trade.==19th century=====
Jeffersonian Republican Era===Jefferson’s major achievement as president
was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which provided U.S. settlers with vast potential
for expansion west of the Mississippi River.Jefferson, a scientist himself, supported expeditions
to explore and map the new domain, most notably the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Jefferson believed deeply in republicanism
and argued it should be based on the independent yeoman farmer and planter; he distrusted cities,
factories and banks. He also distrusted the federal government
and judges, and tried to weaken the judiciary. However he met his match in John Marshall,
a Federalist from Virginia. Although the Constitution specified a Supreme
Court, its functions were vague until Marshall, the Chief Justice (1801–35), defined them,
especially the power to overturn acts of Congress or states that violated the Constitution,
first enunciated in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison.===War of 1812===Thomas Jefferson defeated Adams for the presidency
in the 1800 election. Americans were increasingly angry at the British
violation of American ships’ neutral rights in order to hurt France, the impressment (seizure)
of 10,000 American sailors needed by the Royal Navy to fight Napoleon, and British support
for hostile Indians attacking American settlers in the Midwest. They may also have desired to annex all or
part of British North America. Despite strong opposition from the Northeast,
especially from Federalists who did not want to disrupt trade with Britain, Congress declared
war on June 18, 1812. The war was frustrating for both sides. Both sides tried to invade the other and were
repulsed. The American high command remained incompetent
until the last year. The American militia proved ineffective because
the soldiers were reluctant to leave home and efforts to invade Canada repeatedly failed. The British blockade ruined American commerce,
bankrupted the Treasury, and further angered New Englanders, who smuggled supplies to Britain. The Americans under General William Henry
Harrison finally gained naval control of Lake Erie and defeated the Indians under Tecumseh
in Canada, while Andrew Jackson ended the Indian threat in the Southeast. The Indian threat to expansion into the Midwest
was permanently ended. The British invaded and occupied much of Maine. The British raided and burned Washington,
but were repelled at Baltimore in 1814 – where the “Star Spangled Banner” was written to
celebrate the American success. In upstate New York a major British invasion
of New York State was turned back. Finally in early 1815 Andrew Jackson decisively
defeated a major British invasion at the Battle of New Orleans, making him the most famous
war hero.With Napoleon (apparently) gone, the causes of the war had evaporated and both
sides agreed to a peace that left the prewar boundaries intact. Americans claimed victory on February 18,
1815 as news came almost simultaneously of Jackson’s victory of New Orleans and the peace
treaty that left the prewar boundaries in place. Americans swelled with pride at success in
the “second war of independence”; the naysayers of the antiwar Federalist Party were put to
shame and the party never recovered. The Indians were the big losers; they never
gained the independent nationhood Britain had promised and no longer posed a serious
threat as settlers poured into the Midwest.===Era of Good Feelings===As strong opponents of the war, the Federalists
held the Hartford Convention in 1814 that hinted at disunion. National euphoria after the victory at New
Orleans ruined the prestige of the Federalists and they no longer played a significant role
as a political party. President Madison and most Republicans realized
they were foolish to let the Bank of the United States close down, for its absence greatly
hindered the financing of the war. So, with the assistance of foreign bankers,
they chartered the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. The Republicans also imposed tariffs designed
to protect the infant industries that had been created when Britain was blockading the
U.S. With the collapse of the Federalists as a
party, the adoption of many Federalist principles by the Republicans, and the systematic policy
of President James Monroe in his two terms (1817–25) to downplay partisanship, the
nation entered an Era of Good Feelings, with far less partisanship than before (or after),
and closed out the First Party System.The Monroe Doctrine, expressed in 1823, proclaimed
the United States’ opinion that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere in
the Americas. This was a defining moment in the foreign
policy of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine was adopted in response
to American and British fears over Russian and French expansion into the Western Hemisphere.In
1832, President Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States, ran for a second term
under the slogan “Jackson and no bank” and did not renew the charter of the Second Bank
of the United States of America, ending the Bank in 1836. Jackson was convinced that central banking
was used by the elite to take advantage of the average American, and instead implemented
state banks, popularly known as “pet banks.”===Indian removal===In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal
Act, which authorized the president to negotiate treaties that exchanged Native American tribal
lands in the eastern states for lands west of the Mississippi River. Its goal was primarily to remove Native Americans,
including the Five Civilized Tribes, from the American Southeast; they occupied land
that settlers wanted. Jacksonian Democrats demanded the forcible
removal of native populations who refused to acknowledge state laws to reservations
in the West; Whigs and religious leaders opposed the move as inhumane. Thousands of deaths resulted from the relocations,
as seen in the Cherokee Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears resulted in approximately
2,000–8,000 of the 16,543 relocated Cherokee perished along the way. Many of the Seminole Indians in Florida refused
to move west; they fought the Army for years in the Seminole Wars.===Second Party System===After the First Party System of Federalists
and Republicans withered away in the 1820s, the stage was set for the emergence of a new
party system based on well organized local parties that appealed for the votes of (almost)
all adult white men. The former Jeffersonian (Democratic-Republican)
party split into factions. They split over the choice of a successor
to President James Monroe, and the party faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian
principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the Democratic Party. As Norton explains the transformation in 1828: Jacksonians believed the people’s will had
finally prevailed. Through a lavishly financed coalition of state
parties, political leaders, and newspaper editors, a popular movement had elected the
president. The Democrats became the nation’s first well-organized
national party…and tight party organization became the hallmark of nineteenth-century
American politics. Opposing factions led by Henry Clay helped
form the Whig Party. The Democratic Party had a small but decisive
advantage over the Whigs until the 1850s, when the Whigs fell apart over the issue of
slavery. Behind the platforms issued by state and national
parties stood a widely shared political outlook that characterized the Democrats: The Democrats represented a wide range of
views but shared a fundamental commitment to the Jeffersonian concept of an agrarian
society. They viewed the central government as the
enemy of individual liberty. The 1824 “corrupt bargain” had strengthened
their suspicion of Washington politics. … Jacksonians feared the concentration of
economic and political power. They believed that government intervention
in the economy benefited special-interest groups and created corporate monopolies that
favored the rich. They sought to restore the independence of
the individual (the “common man,” i.e. the artisan and the ordinary farmer) by ending
federal support of banks and corporations and restricting the use of paper currency,
which they distrusted. Their definition of the proper role of government
tended to be negative, and Jackson’s political power was largely expressed in negative acts. He exercised the veto more than all previous
presidents combined. Jackson and his supporters also opposed reform
as a movement. Reformers eager to turn their programs into
legislation called for a more active government. But Democrats tended to oppose programs like
educational reform mid the establishment of a public education system. They believed, for instance, that public schools
restricted individual liberty by interfering with parental responsibility and undermined
freedom of religion by replacing church schools. Nor did Jackson share reformers’ humanitarian
concerns. He had no sympathy for American Indians, initiating
the removal of the Cherokees along the Trail of Tears.===Second Great Awakening===The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant
revival movement that affected the entire nation during the early 19th century and led
to rapid church growth. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum
by 1800, and, after 1820 membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations,
whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the 1840s.It enrolled
millions of new members in existing evangelical denominations and led to the formation of
new denominations. Many converts believed that the Awakening
heralded a new millennial age. The Second Great Awakening stimulated the
establishment of many reform movements – including abolitionism and temperance designed to remove
the evils of society before the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ.===Abolitionism===After 1840 the abolitionist movement redefined
itself as a crusade against the sin of slave ownership. It mobilized support (especially among religious
women in the Northeast affected by the Second Great Awakening). William Lloyd Garrison, a radical abolitionist,
published the most influential of the many anti-slavery newspapers, The Liberator, while
Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave, began writing for that newspaper around 1840 and started
his own abolitionist newspaper North Star in 1847. The great majority of anti-slavery activists,
such as Abraham Lincoln, rejected Garrison’s theology and held that slavery was an unfortunate
social evil, not a sin.===Westward expansion and Manifest Destiny
===The American colonies and the new nation grew
rapidly in population and area, as pioneers pushed the frontier of settlement west. The process finally ended around 1890–1912
as the last major farmlands and ranch lands were settled. Native American tribes in some places resisted
militarily, but they were overwhelmed by settlers and the army and after 1830 were relocated
to reservations in the west. The highly influential “Frontier Thesis” of
Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner argues that the frontier shaped the national
character, with its boldness, violence, innovation, individualism, and democracy. Recent historians have emphasized the multicultural
nature of the frontier. Enormous popular attention in the media focuses
on the “Wild West” of the second half of the 19th century. As defined by Hine and Faragher, “frontier
history tells the story of the creation and defense of communities, the use of the land,
the development of markets, and the formation of states”. They explain, “It is a tale of conquest, but
also one of survival, persistence, and the merging of peoples and cultures that gave
birth and continuing life to America.” The first settlers in the west were the Spanish
in New Mexico; they became U.S. citizens in 1848. The Hispanics in California (“Californios”)
were overwhelmed by over 100,000 gold rush miners. California grew explosively. San Francisco by 1880 had become the economic
hub of the entire Pacific Coast with a diverse population of a quarter million. From the early 1830s to 1869, the Oregon Trail
and its many offshoots were used by over 300,000 settlers. ’49ers (in the California Gold Rush), ranchers,
farmers, and entrepreneurs and their families headed to California, Oregon, and other points
in the far west. Wagon-trains took five or six months on foot;
after 1869, the trip took 6 days by rail.Manifest Destiny was the belief that American settlers
were destined to expand across the continent. This concept was born out of “A sense of mission
to redeem the Old World by high example … generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building
a new heaven.” Manifest Destiny was rejected by modernizers,
especially the Whigs like Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln who wanted to build cities and factories
– not more farms. Democrats strongly favored expansion, and
won the key election of 1844. After a bitter debate in Congress the Republic
of Texas was annexed in 1845, leading to war with Mexico, who considered Texas to be a
part of Mexico due to the large numbers of Mexican settlers. The Mexican–American War (1846–48) broke
out with the Whigs opposed to the war, and the Democrats supporting the war. The U.S. army, using regulars and large numbers
of volunteers, defeated the Mexican armies, invaded at several points, captured Mexico
City and won decisively. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the
war in 1848. Many Democrats wanted to annex all of Mexico,
but that idea was rejected by southerners who argued that by incorporating millions
of Mexican people, mainly of mixed race, would undermine the United States as an exclusively
white republic. Instead the U.S. took Texas and the lightly
settled northern parts (California and New Mexico). The Hispanic residents were given full citizenship
and the Mexican Indians became American Indians. Simultaneously, gold was discovered in California
in 1849, attracting over 100,000 men to northern California in a matter of months in the California
Gold Rush. A peaceful compromise with Britain gave the
U.S. ownership of the Oregon Country, which was renamed the Oregon Territory.===Divisions between North and South===The central issue after 1848 was the expansion
of slavery, pitting the anti-slavery elements in the North, against the pro-slavery elements
that dominated the South. A small number of active Northerners were
abolitionists who declared that ownership of slaves was a sin (in terms of Protestant
theology) and demanded its immediate abolition. Much larger numbers in the North were against
the expansion of slavery, seeking to put it on the path to extinction so that America
would be committed to free land (as in low-cost farms owned and cultivated by a family), free
labor, and free speech (as opposed to censorship of abolitionist material in the South). Southern whites insisted that slavery was
of economic, social, and cultural benefit to all whites (and even to the slaves themselves),
and denounced all anti-slavery spokesmen as “abolitionists.” Justifications of slavery included economics,
history, religion, legality, social good, and even humanitarianism, to further their
arguments. Defenders of slavery argued that the sudden
end to the slave economy would have had a profound and killing economic impact in the
South where reliance on slave labor was the foundation of their economy. They also argued that if all the slaves were
freed, there would be widespread unemployment and chaos.Religious activists split on slavery,
with the Methodists and Baptists dividing into northern and southern denominations. In the North, the Methodists, Congregationalists,
and Quakers included many abolitionists, especially among women activists. (The Catholic, Episcopal and Lutheran denominations
largely ignored the slavery issue.)The issue of slavery in the new territories was seemingly
settled by the Compromise of 1850, brokered by Whig Henry Clay and Democrat Stephen Douglas;
the Compromise included the admission of California as a free state in exchange for no federal
restrictions on slavery placed on Utah or New Mexico. The point of contention was the Fugitive Slave
Act, which increased federal enforcement and required even free states to cooperate in
turning over fugitive slaves to their owners. Abolitionists pounced on the Act to attack
slavery, as in the best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher
Stowe.The Compromise of 1820 was repealed in 1854 with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, promoted
by Senator Douglas in the name of “popular sovereignty” and democracy. It permitted voters to decide on the legality
slavery in each territory, and allowed Douglas to adopt neutrality on the issue of slavery. Anti-slavery forces rose in anger and alarm,
forming the new Republican Party. Pro- and anti- contingents rushed to Kansas
to vote slavery up or down, resulting in a miniature civil war called Bleeding Kansas. By the late 1850s, the young Republican Party
dominated nearly all northern states and thus the electoral college. It insisted that slavery would never be allowed
to expand (and thus would slowly die out).The Southern slavery-based societies had become
wealthy based on their cotton and other agricultural commodity production, and some particularly
profited from the internal slave trade. Northern cities such as Boston and New York,
and regional industries, were tied economically to slavery by banking, shipping, and manufacturing,
including textile mills. By 1860, there were four million slaves in
the South, nearly eight times as many as there were nationwide in 1790. The plantations were highly profitable, due
to the heavy European demand for raw cotton. Most of the profits were invested in new lands
and in purchasing more slaves (largely drawn from the declining tobacco regions). For 50 of the nation’s first 72 years, a slaveholder
served as President of the United States and, during that period, only slaveholding presidents
were re-elected to second terms. In addition, southern states benefited by
their increased apportionment in Congress due to the partial counting of slaves in their
populations. Slave rebellions, by Gabriel Prosser (1800),
Denmark Vesey (1822), Nat Turner (1831), and most famously by John Brown (1859), caused
fear in the white South, which imposed stricter oversight of slaves and reduced the rights
of free blacks. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 required the
states to cooperate with slave owners when attempting to recover escaped slaves, which
outraged Northerners. Formerly, an escaped slave that reached a
non-slave state was presumed to have attained sanctuary and freedom under the Missouri Compromise. The Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in Dred
Scott v. Sandford ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional; angry Republicans
said this decision threatened to make slavery a national institution. After Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election,
seven Southern states seceded from the union and set up a new nation, the Confederate States
of America (Confederacy), on February 8, 1861. It attacked Fort Sumter, a U.S. Army fort
in South Carolina, thus igniting the war. When Lincoln called for troops to suppress
the Confederacy in April 1861, four more states seceded and joined the Confederacy. A few of the (northernmost) “slave states”
did not secede and became known as the border states; these were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky,
and Missouri. During the war, the northwestern portion of
Virginia seceded from the Confederacy. and became the new Union state of West Virginia. West Virginia is usually associated with the
border states.===Civil War===The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when
elements of 100,000 Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter
in South Carolina. In response to the attack, on April 15, Lincoln
called on the states to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect
the capital, and “preserve the Union”, which in his view still existed intact despite the
actions of the seceding states. The two armies had their first major clash
at the First Battle of Bull Run (Battle of Manassas), ending in a Union defeat, but,
more importantly, proved to both the Union and Confederacy that the war would be much
longer and bloodier than originally anticipated. The war soon divided into two theaters: Eastern
and Western. In the western theater, the Union was relatively
successful, with major battles, such as Perryville and Shiloh along with Union gunboat dominance
of navigable rivers producing strategic Union victories and destroying major Confederate
operations.Warfare in the Eastern theater began poorly for the Union as the Confederates
won at Manassas Junction (Bull Run), just outside Washington. Major General George B. McClellan was put
in charge of the Union armies. After reorganizing the new Army of the Potomac,
McClellan failed to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia in his Peninsula
Campaign and retreated after attacks from newly appointed Confederate General Robert
E. Lee. Meanwhile, both sides concentrated in 1861–62
on raising and training new armies. The main action was Union success in controlling
the border states, with Confederates largely driven out of Maryland, West Virginia (a new
state), Kentucky and Missouri. The autumn 1862 Confederate campaign into
Maryland was designed to hurt Union morale and win European support. It ended with Confederate retreat at the Battle
of Antietam, and Lincoln’s warning he would issue an Emancipation Proclamation in January
1863 if the states did not return. Making slavery a central war goal Energized
Republicans in the North, as well as their enemies, the anti-war Copperhead Democrats. It ended the risk of British and French intervention. Lee’s smaller army won at the Battle of Fredericksburg
late in 1862, causing yet another change in commanders. Lee won again at the Battle of Chancellorsville
in May 1863, while losing his top aide, Stonewall Jackson. But Lee pushed too hard and ignored the Union
threat in the west. Lee invaded Pennsylvania in search of supplies
and to cause war-weariness in the North. In perhaps the turning point of the war, Lee’s
army was badly beaten at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1–3, 1863, and barely made it back
to Virginia. On the homefront, industrial expansion in
the North expanded dramatically, using its extensive railroad service, and moving industrial
workers into munitions factories. Foreign trade increased, with the United States
providing both food and cotton to Britain, And Britain sending in manufactured products
and thousands of volunteers for the Union Army (plus a few to the Confederates). The British operated blockade runners bringing
in food, luxury items and munitions to the Confederacy, bringing out tobacco and cotton. The Union blockade increasingly shut down
Confederate ports, and by late 1864 the blockade runners Were usually captured before they
could make more than handful of runs. In the West, on July 4, 1863, Union forces
under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant gained control of the Mississippi River at
the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. Lincoln made General Grant commander of all
Union armies. Grant put General William Tecumseh Sherman
in charge of the Western armies. In 1864, Sherman marched south from Chattanooga
to capture Atlanta, a decisive victory that ended war jitters among Republicans in the
North who feared they might fail to reelect Lincoln in 1864. Lincoln won a landslide. The last two years of the war were bloody
for both sides, With Sherman marching almost unopposed through central and eastern Georgia,
then moving up through South Carolina and North Carolina, burning cities, destroying
plantations, ruining railroads and bridges, but avoiding civilian casualties. Sherman demonstrated that the South lacked
the long-term ability to resist a northern invasion. Much of the heartland of the Confederacy was
physically destroyed, and could no longer provide desperately needed food, horses, mules,
wagons, boots or munitions to its combat armies. In spring 1864 Grant, realizing that Lee was
unable to replenishes casualties, while Lincoln would provide replacements for Union losses,
launched a war of attrition against Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This war of attrition was divided into three
main campaigns. The first of these, the Overland Campaign
forced Lee to retreat into the city of Petersburg where Grant launched his second major offensive,
the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign in which he besieged Petersburg. After a near ten-month siege, Petersburg surrendered. However, the defense of Fort Gregg allowed
Lee to move his army out of Petersburg. Grant pursued and launched the final, Appomattox
Campaign which resulted in Lee surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia numbering 28,000
on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House. Other Confederate armies followed suit and
the war ended with no postwar insurgency. The American Civil War was the world’s earliest
industrial war. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and
mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The mobilization of civilian factories, mines,
shipyards, banks, transportation and food supplies all foreshadowed the impact of industrialization
in World War I. It remains the deadliest war in American history,
resulting in the deaths of about 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. About ten percent of all Northern males 20–45
years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18–40 died. Its legacy includes ending slavery in the
United States, restoring the Union, and strengthening the role of the federal government. According to historian Allan Nevins the Civil
War had a major long-term impact on the United States in terms of developing its leadership
potential and moving the entire nation beyond the adolescent stage: The fighting and its attendant demands upon
industry, finance, medicine, and law also helped train a host of leaders who during
the next 35 years, to 1900, made their influence powerfully felt on most of the social, economic,
and cultural fronts. It broke down barriers of parochialism; it
ended distrust of large-scale effort; it hardened and matured the whole people emotionally. The adolescent land of the 1850s…rose under
the blows of battle to adult estate. The nation of the post-Appomattox generation,
though sadly hurt (especially in the South) by war losses, and deeply scarred psychologically
(especially in the North) by war hatreds and greeds, had at last the power, resolution,
and self-trust of manhood.===Emancipation===The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive
order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. In a single stroke it changed the legal status,
as recognized by the U.S. government, of 3 million slaves in designated areas of the
Confederacy from “slave” to “free.” It had the practical effect that as soon as
a slave escaped the control of the Confederate government, by running away or through advances
of federal troops, the slave became legally and actually free. The owners were never compensated. Plantation owners, realizing that emancipation
would destroy their economic system, sometimes moved their slaves as far as possible out
of reach of the Union army. By June 1865, the Union Army controlled all
of the Confederacy and liberated all of the designated slaves. Large numbers moved into camps run by the
Freedmen’s Bureau, where they were given food, shelter, medical care, and arrangements for
their employment were made. The severe dislocations of war and Reconstruction
had a large negative impact on the black population, with a large amount of sickness and death.===Reconstruction Era===Reconstruction lasted from Lincoln’s Emancipation
Proclamation of January 1, 1863 to the Compromise of 1877.The major issues faced by Lincoln
were the status of the ex-slaves (called “Freedmen”), the loyalty and civil rights of ex-rebels,
the status of the 11 ex-Confederate states, the powers of the federal government needed
to prevent a future civil war, and the question of whether Congress or the President would
make the major decisions. The severe threats of starvation and displacement
of the unemployed Freedmen were met by the first major federal relief agency, the Freedmen’s
Bureau, operated by the Army.Three “Reconstruction Amendments” were passed to expand civil rights
for black Americans: the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment
guaranteed equal rights for all and citizenship for blacks; the Fifteenth Amendment prevented
race from being used to disfranchise men. Ex-Confederates remained in control of most
Southern states for over two years, but changed when the Radical Republicans gained control
of Congress in the 1866 elections. President Andrew Johnson, who sought easy
terms for reunions with ex-rebels, was virtually powerless in the face of the Radical Republican
Congress; he was impeached, but the Senate’s attempt to remove him from office failed by
one vote. Congress enfranchised black men and temporarily
stripped many ex-Confederate leaders of the right to hold office. New Republican governments came to power based
on a coalition of Freedmen made up of Carpetbaggers (new arrivals from the North), and Scalawags
(native white Southerners). They were backed by the U.S. Army. Opponents said they were corrupt and violated
the rights of whites. State by state they lost power to a conservative-Democratic
coalition, which gained control of the entire South by 1877. In response to Radical Reconstruction, the
Ku Klux Klan (KKK) emerged in 1867 as a white-supremacist organization opposed to black civil rights
and Republican rule. President Ulysses Grant’s vigorous enforcement
of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1870 shut down the Klan, and it disbanded. Paramilitary groups, such as the White League
and Red Shirts emerged about 1874 that worked openly to use intimidation and violence to
suppress black voting to regain white political power in states across the South during the
1870s. Rable described them as the military arm of
the Democratic Party.Reconstruction ended after the disputed 1876 election. The Compromise of 1877 gave Republican candidate
Rutherford B. Hayes the White House in exchange for removing all remaining federal troops
in the South. The federal government withdrew its troops
from the South, and Southern Democrats took control of every Southern state. From 1890 to 1908, southern states effectively
disfranchised most black voters and many poor whites by making voter registration more difficult
through poll taxes, literacy tests, and other arbitrary devices. They passed segregation laws and imposed second-class
status on blacks in a system known as Jim Crow that lasted until the Civil Rights Movement.===The West and the Gilded Age===The latter half of the nineteenth century
was marked by the rapid development and settlement of the far West, first by wagon trains and
riverboats and then aided by the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Large numbers of European immigrants (especially
from Germany and Scandinavia) took up low-cost or free farms in the Prairie States. Mining for silver and copper opened up the
Mountain West. The United States Army fought frequent small-scale
wars with Native Americans as settlers encroached on their traditional lands. Gradually the U.S. purchased the Native American
tribal lands and extinguished their claims, forcing most tribes onto subsidized reservations. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census
(1894), from 1789 to 1894: The Indian wars under the government of the
United States have been more than 40 in number. They have cost the lives of about 19,000 white
men, women and children, including those killed in individual combats, and the lives of about
30,000 Indians. The actual number of killed and wounded Indians
must be very much higher than the given… Fifty percent additional would be a safe estimate… The “Gilded Age” was a term that Mark Twain
used to describe the period of the late 19th century with a dramatic expansion of American
wealth and prosperity, underscored by the mass corruption in the government. Reforms of the Age included the Civil Service
Act, which mandated a competitive examination for applicants for government jobs. Other important legislation included the Interstate
Commerce Act, which ended railroads’ discrimination against small shippers, and the Sherman Antitrust
Act, which outlawed monopolies in business. Twain believed that this age was corrupted
by such elements as land speculators, scandalous politics, and unethical business practices. Since the days of Charles A. Beard and Matthew
Josephson, some historians have argued that the United States was effectively plutocratic
for at least part of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. As financiers and industrialists such as J.P.
Morgan and John D. Rockefeller began to amass vast fortunes, many U.S. observers were concerned
that the nation was losing its pioneering egalitarian spirit.By 1890 American industrial
production and per capita income exceeded those of all other world nations. In response to heavy debts and decreasing
farm prices, wheat and cotton farmers joined the Populist Party. An unprecedented wave of immigration from
Europe served to both provide the labor for American industry and create diverse communities
in previously undeveloped areas. From 1880 to 1914, peak years of immigration,
more than 22 million people migrated to the United States. Most were unskilled workers who quickly found
jobs in mines, mills, factories. Many immigrants were craftsmen (especially
from Britain and Germany) bringing human skills, and others were farmers (especially from Germany
and Scandinavia) who purchased inexpensive land on the Prairies from railroads who sent
agents to Europe. Poverty, growing inequality and dangerous
working conditions, along with socialist and anarchist ideas diffusing from European immigrants,
led to the rise of the labor movement, which often included violent strikes.Skilled workers
banded together to control their crafts and raise wages by forming labor unions in industrial
areas of the Northeast. Before the 1930s few factory workers joined
the unions in the labor movement. Samuel Gompers led the American Federation
of Labor (1886–1924), coordinating multiple unions. Industrial growth was rapid, led by John D.
Rockefeller in oil and Andrew Carnegie in steel; both became leaders of philanthropy
(Gospel of Wealth), giving away their fortunes to create the modern system of hospitals,
universities, libraries, and foundations. The Panic of 1893 broke out and was a severe
nationwide depression impacting farmers, workers, and businessmen who saw prices, wages, and
profits fall. Many railroads went bankrupt. The resultant political reaction fell on the
Democratic Party, whose leader President Grover Cleveland shouldered much of the blame. Labor unrest involved numerous strikes, most
notably the violent Pullman Strike of 1894, which was shut down by federal troops under
Cleveland’s orders. The Populist Party gained strength among cotton
and wheat farmers, as well as coal miners, but was overtaken by the even more popular
Free Silver movement, which demanded using silver to enlarge the money supply, leading
to inflation that the silverites promised would end the depression.The financial, railroad,
and business communities fought back hard, arguing that only the gold standard would
save the economy. In the most intense election in the nation’s
history, conservative Republican William McKinley defeated silverite William Jennings Bryan,
who ran on the Democratic, Populist, and Silver Republican tickets. Bryan swept the South and West, but McKinley
ran up landslides among the middle class, industrial workers, cities, and among upscale
farmers in the Midwest.Prosperity returned under McKinley, the gold standard was enacted,
and the tariff was raised. By 1900 the U.S. had the strongest economy
on the globe. Apart from two short recessions (in 1907 and
1920) the overall economy remained prosperous and growing until 1929. Republicans, citing McKinley’s policies, took
the credit.==20th century=====
Progressive Era===Dissatisfaction on the part of the growing
middle class with the corruption and inefficiency of politics as usual, and the failure to deal
with increasingly important urban and industrial problems, led to the dynamic Progressive Movement
starting in the 1890s. In every major city and state, and at the
national level as well, and in education, medicine, and industry, the progressives called
for the modernization and reform of decrepit institutions, the elimination of corruption
in politics, and the introduction of efficiency as a criterion for change. Leading politicians from both parties, most
notably Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes, and Robert La Follette on the Republican
side, and William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson on the Democratic side, took up the
cause of progressive reform. Women became especially involved in demands
for woman suffrage, prohibition, and better schools; their most prominent leader was Jane
Addams of Chicago, who created settlement houses. “Muckraking” journalists such as Upton Sinclair,
Lincoln Steffens and Jacob Riis exposed corruption in business and government along with rampant
inner city poverty. Progressives implemented anti-trust laws and
regulated such industries of meat-packing, drugs, and railroads. Four new constitutional amendments – the
Sixteenth through Nineteenth – resulted from progressive activism, bringing the federal
income tax, direct election of Senators, prohibition, and woman suffrage. The period also saw a major transformation
of the banking system with the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913 and the
arrival of cooperative banking in the US with the founding of the first credit union in
1908. The Progressive Movement lasted through the
1920s; the most active period was 1900–18.===Imperialism===The United States emerged as a world economic
and military power after 1890. The main episode was the Spanish–American
War, which began when Spain refused American demands to reform its oppressive policies
in Cuba. The “splendid little war”, as one official
called it, involved a series of quick American victories on land and at sea. At the Treaty of Paris peace conference the
United States acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.Cuba became an independent
country, under close American tutelage. Although the war itself was widely popular,
the peace terms proved controversial. William Jennings Bryan led his Democratic
Party in opposition to control of the Philippines, which he denounced as imperialism unbecoming
to American democracy. President William McKinley defended the acquisition
and was riding high as the nation had returned to prosperity and felt triumphant in the war. McKinley easily defeated Bryan in a rematch
in the 1900 presidential election.After defeating an insurrection by Filipino nationalists,
the United States engaged in a large-scale program to modernize the economy of the Philippines
and dramatically upgrade the public health facilities. By 1908, however, Americans lost interest
in an empire and turned their international attention to the Caribbean, especially the
building of the Panama Canal. In 1912 when Arizona became the final mainland
state, the American Frontier came to an end. The canal opened in 1914 and increased trade
with Japan and the rest of the Far East. A key innovation was the Open Door Policy,
whereby the imperial powers were given equal access to Chinese business, with not one of
them allowed to take control of China.===World War I===As World War I raged in Europe from 1914,
President Woodrow Wilson took full control of foreign policy, declaring neutrality but
warning Germany that resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare against American ships supplying
goods to Allied nations would mean war. Germany decided to take the risk and try to
win by cutting off supplies to Britain through the sinking of ships such as the RMS Lusitania;
the U.S. declared war in April 1917 mainly from the threat of the Zimmermann telegram. American money, food, and munitions arrived
quickly, but troops had to be drafted and trained; by summer 1918 American soldiers
under General John J. Pershing arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, while Germany was
unable to replace its losses.The result was Allied victory in November 1918. President Wilson demanded Germany depose the
Kaiser and accept his terms in the famed Fourteen Points speech. Wilson dominated the 1919 Paris Peace Conference
but Germany was treated harshly by the Allies in the Treaty of Versailles (1919) as Wilson
put all his hopes in the new League of Nations. Wilson refused to compromise with Senate Republicans
over the issue of Congressional power to declare war, and the Senate rejected the Treaty and
the League.===Women’s suffrage===The women’s suffrage movement began with the
June 1848 National Convention of the Liberty Party. Presidential candidate Gerrit Smith argued
for and established women’s suffrage as a party plank. One month later, his cousin Elizabeth Cady
Stanton joined with Lucretia Mott and other women to organize the Seneca Falls Convention,
featuring the Declaration of Sentiments demanding equal rights for women, and the right to vote. Many of these activists became politically
aware during the abolitionist movement. The women’s rights campaign during “first-wave
feminism” was led by Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony, among many others. Stone and Paulina Wright Davis organized the
prominent and influential National Women’s Rights Convention in 1850. The movement reorganized after the Civil War,
gaining experienced campaigners, many of whom had worked for prohibition in the Women’s
Christian Temperance Union. By the end of the 19th century a few western
states had granted women full voting rights, though women had made significant legal victories,
gaining rights in areas such as property and child custody. Around 1912 the feminist movement began to
reawaken, putting an emphasis on its demands for equality and arguing that the corruption
of American politics demanded purification by women because men could not do that job. Protests became increasingly common as suffragette
Alice Paul led parades through the capital and major cities. Paul split from the large National American
Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which favored a more moderate approach and supported
the Democratic Party and Woodrow Wilson, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, and formed the more
militant National Woman’s Party. Suffragists were arrested during their “Silent
Sentinels” pickets at the White House, the first time such a tactic was used, and were
taken as political prisoners. The old anti-suffragist argument that only
men could fight a war, and therefore only men deserve the right to vote, was refuted
by the enthusiastic participation of tens of thousands of American women on the home
front in World War I. Across the world, grateful nations gave women
the right to vote. Furthermore, most of the Western states had
already given the women the right to vote in state and national elections, and the representatives
from those states, including the first woman Jeannette Rankin of Montana, demonstrated
that woman suffrage was a success. The main resistance came from the south, where
white leaders were worried about the threat of black women voting. Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment in
1919, and women could vote in 1920.NAWSA became the League of Women Voters, and the National
Woman’s Party began lobbying for full equality and the Equal Rights Amendment, which would
pass Congress during the second wave of the women’s movement in 1972. Politicians responded to the new electorate
by emphasizing issues of special interest to women, especially prohibition, child health,
and world peace. The main surge of women voting came in 1928,
when the big-city machines realized they needed the support of women to elect Al Smith, a
Catholic from New York City. Meanwhile, Protestants mobilized women to
support Prohibition and vote for Republican Herbert Hoover.===Roaring Twenties===In the 1920s the U.S. grew steadily in stature
as an economic and military world power. The United States Senate did not ratify the
Treaty of Versailles imposed by its Allies on the defeated Central Powers; instead, the
United States chose to pursue unilateralism. The aftershock of Russia’s October Revolution
resulted in real fears of Communism in the United States, leading to a Red Scare and
the deportation of aliens considered subversive. While public health facilities grew rapidly
in the Progressive Era, and hospitals and medical schools were modernized, the nation
in 1918 lost 675,000 lives to the Spanish flu pandemic.In 1920, the manufacture, sale,
import and export of alcohol were prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment, Prohibition. The result was that in cities illegal alcohol
became a big business, largely controlled by racketeers. The second Ku Klux Klan grew rapidly in 1922–25,
then collapsed. Immigration laws were passed to strictly limit
the number of new entries. The 1920s were called the Roaring Twenties
due to the great economic prosperity during this period. Jazz became popular among the younger generation,
and thus the decade was also called the Jazz Age. The Great Depression (1929–39) and the New
Deal (1933–36) were decisive moments in American political, economic, and social history
that reshaped the nation.===Great Depression and New Deal===During the 1920s, the nation enjoyed widespread
prosperity, albeit with a weakness in agriculture. A financial bubble was fueled by an inflated
stock market, which later led to the Stock Market Crash on October 29, 1929. This, along with many other economic factors,
triggered a worldwide depression known as the Great Depression. During this time, the United States experienced
deflation as prices fell, unemployment soared from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933, farm prices
fell by half, and manufacturing output plunged by one-third. In 1932, Democratic presidential nominee Franklin
D. Roosevelt promised “a New Deal for the American people”, coining the enduring label
for his domestic policies. The result was a series of permanent reform
programs including Relief for the unemployed, assistance for the elderly, jobs for young
men, social security, unemployment insurance, public housing, bankruptcy insurance, farm
subsidies, and regulation of financial securities. State governments added new programs as well,
and introduced the sales tax to pay for them. Ideologically the revolution established modern
liberalism in the United States and kept the Democrats in power in Washington almost continuously
for Three decades thanks to the New Deal Coalition of ethnic Whites, Blacks, blue-collar workers,
labor unions, and white Southerners. It provided relief to the long-term unemployed
through numerous programs, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and for young
men, the Civilian Conservation Corps. Large scale spending projects designed to
provide private sector construction jobs and rebuild the infrastructure were under the
purview of the Public Works Administration. The Second New Deal was a turn to the left
in 1935–36, building up labor unions through the Wagner Act. Unions became a powerful element of the merging
New Deal Coalition, which won reelection for Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, and 1944 by mobilizing
union members, blue collar workers, relief recipients, big city machines, ethnic, and
religious groups (especially Catholics and Jews) and the white South, along with blacks
in the North (where they could vote). Roosevelt seriously weakened his second term
by a failed effort to pack the Supreme Court, which had been a center of conservative resistance
to his programs. Most of the relief programs were dropped after
1938 in the 1940s when the conservatives regained power in Congress through the Conservative
Coalition. Of special importance is the Social Security
program, begun in 1935. The economy basically recovered by 1936, but
had a sharp, short recession in 1937-38; long-term unemployment, however, remained a problem
until it was solved by wartime spending.===World War II===In the Depression years, the United States
remained focused on domestic concerns while democracy declined across the world and many
countries fell under the control of dictators. Imperial Japan asserted dominance in East
Asia and in the Pacific. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy militarized
and threatened conquests, while Britain and France attempted appeasement to avert another
war in Europe. U.S. legislation in the Neutrality Acts sought
to avoid foreign conflicts; however, policy clashed with increasing anti-Nazi feelings
following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 that started World War II. Roosevelt positioned the U.S. as the “Arsenal
of Democracy”, pledging full-scale financial and munitions support for the Allies – but
no military personnel. This was carried out through the Lend-Lease
agreements. Japan tried to neutralize America’s power
in the Pacific by attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which catalyzed American
support to enter the war.The main contributions of the U.S. to the Allied war effort comprised
money, industrial output, food, petroleum, technological innovation, and (especially
1944–45), military personnel. Much of the focus in Washington was maximizing
the economic output of the nation. The overall result was a dramatic increase
in GDP, the export of vast quantities of supplies to the Allies and to American forces overseas,
the end of unemployment, and a rise in civilian consumption even as 40% of the GDP went to
the war effort. This was achieved by tens of millions of workers
moving from low-productivity occupations to high efficiency jobs, improvements in productivity
through better technology and management, and the move into the active labor force of
students, retired people, housewives, and the unemployed, and an increase in hours worked. It was exhausting; leisure activities declined
sharply. People tolerated the extra work because of
patriotism, the pay, and the confidence that it was only “for the duration”, and life would
return to normal as soon as the war was won. Most durable goods became unavailable, and
meat, clothing, and gasoline were tightly rationed. In industrial areas housing was in short supply
as people doubled up and lived in cramped quarters. Prices and wages were controlled, and Americans
saved a high portion of their incomes, which led to renewed growth after the war instead
of a return to depression. The Allies – the United States, Britain,
and the Soviet Union, China, as well as Poland, Canada and other countries – fought the
Axis powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The Allies saw Germany as the main threat
and gave highest priority to Europe. The U.S. dominated the war against Japan and
stopped Japanese expansion in the Pacific in 1942. After losing Pearl Harbor and in the Philippines
to the Japanese, and drawing the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 1942), the American Navy
inflicted a decisive blow at Midway (June 1942). American ground forces assisted in the North
African Campaign that eventually concluded with the collapse of Mussolini’s fascist government
in 1943, as Italy switched to the Allied side. A more significant European front was opened
on D-Day, June 6, 1944, in which American and Allied forces invaded Nazi-occupied France
from Britain. On the home front, mobilization of the U.S.
economy was managed by Roosevelt’s War Production Board. The wartime production boom led to full employment,
wiping out this vestige of the Great Depression. Indeed, labor shortages encouraged industry
to look for new sources of workers, finding new roles for women and blacks. However, the fervor also inspired anti-Japanese
sentiment, leading to internment of Japanese Americans. This was taken under the directive of President
Roosevelt, who signed Executive Order 9066. The terms of this executive order resulted
in some 120,000 people of Japanese descent living in the US removed from their homes
and placed in internment camps. Two-thirds of those interned were American
citizens and half of them were children. Those who were as little as 1/16 Japanese
and orphaned infants with “one drop of Japanese blood” were placed in internment camps. The US Supreme Court held the Japanese American
internment camps to be constitutional in a 6–3 decision in Korematsu v. United States
Supreme Court case. Research and development took flight as well,
best seen in the Manhattan Project, a secret effort to harness nuclear fission to produce
highly destructive atomic bombs. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the
direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was
the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the actual bombs. The first nuclear device ever detonated was
an implosion-type bomb at the Trinity test, conducted at New Mexico’s Alamogordo Bombing
and Gunnery Range on 16 July 1945.The Allies pushed the Germans out of France but faced
an unexpected counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge in December. The final German effort failed, and, as Allied
armies in East and West were converging on Berlin, the Nazis hurriedly tried to kill
the last remaining Jews. The western front stopped short, leaving Berlin
to the Soviets as the Nazi regime formally capitulated in May 1945, ending the war in
Europe. Over in the Pacific, the U.S. implemented
an island hopping strategy toward Tokyo, establishing airfields for bombing runs against mainland
Japan from the Mariana Islands and achieving hard-fought victories at Iwo Jima and Okinawa
in 1945. Bloodied at Okinawa, the U.S. prepared to
invade Japan’s home islands when B-29s dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, forcing the empire’s surrender in a matter of days and thus ending World
War II. The U.S. occupied Japan (and part of Germany),
sending Douglas MacArthur to restructure the Japanese economy and political system along
American lines. During the war, Roosevelt coined the term
“Four Powers” to refer four major Allies of World War II, the United States, the United
Kingdom, the Soviet Union and China, which later became the foundation of the United
Nations Security Council. Though the nation lost more than 400,000 military
personnel, the mainland prospered untouched by the devastation of war that inflicted a
heavy toll on Europe and Asia. Participation in postwar foreign affairs marked
the end of predominant American isolationism. The awesome threat of nuclear weapons inspired
both optimism and fear. Nuclear weapons were never used after 1945,
as both sides drew back from the brink and a “long peace” characterized the Cold War
years, starting with the Truman Doctrine on May 22, 1947. There were, however, regional wars in Korea
and Vietnam.===The Cold War, counterculture, and civil
rights===Following World War II, the United States
emerged as one of the two dominant superpowers, the USSR being the other. The U.S. Senate on a bipartisan vote approved
U.S. participation in the United Nations (UN), which marked a turn away from the traditional
isolationism of the U.S. and toward increased international involvement. The primary American goal of 1945–48 was
to rescue Europe from the devastation of World War II and to contain the expansion of Communism,
represented by the Soviet Union. U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War was
built around the support of Western Europe and Japan along with the policy of containment,
stopping the spread of communism. The U.S. joined the wars in Korea and Vietnam
and toppled left-wing governments in the third world to try to stop its spread. The Truman Doctrine of 1947 provided military
and economic aid to Greece and Turkey to counteract the threat of Communist expansion in the Balkans. In 1948, the United States replaced piecemeal
financial aid programs with a comprehensive Marshall Plan, which pumped money into the
economy of Western Europe, and removed trade barriers, while modernizing the managerial
practices of businesses and governments. The Plan’s $13 billion budget was in the context
of a U.S. GDP of $258 billion in 1948 and was in addition to the $12 billion in American
aid given to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Marshall Plan. Soviet head of state Joseph Stalin prevented
his satellite states from participating, and from that point on, Eastern Europe, with inefficient
centralized economies, fell further and further behind Western Europe in terms of economic
development and prosperity. In 1949, the United States, rejecting the
long-standing policy of no military alliances in peacetime, formed the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) alliance, which continues into the 21st century. In response the Soviets formed the Warsaw
Pact of communist states, leading to the “iron curtain”. In August 1949 the Soviets tested their first
nuclear weapon, thereby escalating the risk of warfare. The threat of mutually assured destruction
however, prevented both powers from nuclear war, and resulted in proxy wars, especially
in Korea and Vietnam, in which the two sides did not directly confront each other. Within the United States, the Cold War prompted
concerns about Communist influence. The unexpected leapfrogging of American technology
by the Soviets in 1957 with Sputnik, the first Earth satellite, began the Space Race, won
by the Americans as Apollo 11 landed astronauts on the moon in 1969. The angst about the weaknesses of American
education led to large-scale federal support for science education and research.In the
decades after World War II, the United States became a global influence in economic, political,
military, cultural, and technological affairs. Beginning in the 1950s, middle-class culture
became obsessed with consumer goods. White Americans made up nearly 90% of the
population in 1950.In 1960, the charismatic politician John F. Kennedy was elected as
the first and – thus far – only Roman Catholic President of the United States. The Kennedy family brought a new life and
vigor to the atmosphere of the White House. His time in office was marked by such notable
events as the acceleration of the United States’ role in the Space Race, escalation of the
American role in the Vietnam War, the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion,
the jailing of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Birmingham campaign, and the appointment
of his brother Robert F. Kennedy to his Cabinet as Attorney General. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas,
on November 22, 1963, leaving the nation in profound shock.====Climax of liberalism====The climax of liberalism came in the mid-1960s
with the success of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–69) in securing congressional passage
of his Great Society programs. They included civil rights, the end of segregation,
Medicare, extension of welfare, federal aid to education at all levels, subsidies for
the arts and humanities, environmental activism, and a series of programs designed to wipe
out poverty. As recent historians have explained: Gradually, liberal intellectuals crafted a
new vision for achieving economic and social justice. The liberalism of the early 1960s contained
no hint of radicalism, little disposition to revive new deal era crusades against concentrated
economic power, and no intention to redistribute wealth or restructure existing institutions. Internationally it was strongly anti-Communist. It aimed to defend the free world, to encourage
economic growth at home, and to ensure that the resulting plenty was fairly distributed. Their agenda-much influenced by Keynesian
economic theory-envisioned massive public expenditure that would speed economic growth,
thus providing the public resources to fund larger welfare, housing, health, and educational
programs. Johnson was rewarded with an electoral landslide
in 1964 against conservative Barry Goldwater, which broke the decades-long control of Congress
by the Conservative coalition. However, the Republicans bounced back in 1966
and elected Richard Nixon in 1968. Nixon largely continued the New Deal and Great
Society programs he inherited; conservative reaction would come with the election of Ronald
Reagan in 1980. Meanwhile, the American people completed a
great migration from farms into the cities and experienced a period of sustained economic
expansion.====Civil Rights Movement====Starting in the late 1950s, institutionalized
racism across the United States, but especially in the South, was increasingly challenged
by the growing Civil Rights Movement. The activism of African-American leaders Rosa
Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched the
movement. For years African Americans would struggle
with violence against them but would achieve great steps toward equality with Supreme Court
decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended
the Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation between whites and blacks. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had won the Nobel
Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve equality of the races, was assassinated in 1968. Following his death others led the movement,
most notably King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who was also active, like her husband, in
the Opposition to the Vietnam War, and in the Women’s Liberation Movement. There were 164 riots in 128 American cities
in the first nine months of 1967. Frustrations with the seemingly slow progress
of the integration movement led to the emergence of more radical discourses during the early
1960s, which, in turn, gave rise to the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and early
1970s. The decade would ultimately bring about positive
strides toward integration, especially in government service, sports, and entertainment. Native Americans turned to the federal courts
to fight for their land rights. They held protests highlighting the federal
government’s failure to honor treaties. One of the most outspoken Native American
groups was the American Indian Movement (AIM). In the 1960s, Cesar Chavez began organizing
poorly paid Mexican-American farm workers in California. He led a five-year-long strike by grape pickers. Then Chávez formed the nation’s first successful
union of farm workers. His United Farm Workers of America (UFW) faltered
after a few years but after Chavez died in 1993 he became an iconic “folk saint” in the
pantheon of Mexican Americans.====The Women’s Movement====A new consciousness of the inequality of American
women began sweeping the nation, starting with the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan’s
best-seller, The Feminine Mystique, which explained how many housewives felt trapped
and unfulfilled, assaulted American culture for its creation of the notion that women
could only find fulfillment through their roles as wives, mothers, and keepers of the
home, and argued that women were just as able as men to do every type of job. In 1966 Friedan and others established the
National Organization for Women, or NOW, to act for women as the NAACP did for African
Americans. Protests began, and the new Women’s Liberation
Movement grew in size and power, gained much media attention, and, by 1968, had replaced
the Civil Rights Movement as the U.S’s main social revolution. Marches, parades, rallies, boycotts, and pickets
brought out thousands, sometimes millions. There were striking gains for women in medicine,
law, and business, while only a few were elected to office. The Movement was split into factions by political
ideology early on, however (with NOW on the left, the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL)
on the right, the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) in the center, and more radical
groups formed by younger women on the far left). The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the
Constitution, passed by Congress in 1972 was defeated by a conservative coalition mobilized
by Phyllis Schlafly. They argued that it degraded the position
of the housewife and made young women susceptible to the military draft.However, many federal
laws (i.e., those equalizing pay, employment, education, employment opportunities, and credit;
ending pregnancy discrimination; and requiring NASA, the Military Academies, and other organizations
to admit women), state laws (i.e., those ending spousal abuse and marital rape), Supreme Court
rulings (i.e. ruling that the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied
to women), and state ERAs established women’s equal status under the law, and social custom
and consciousness began to change, accepting women’s equality. The controversial issue of abortion, deemed
by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right in Roe v. Wade (1973), is still a point of
debate today.====The Counterculture Revolution and Cold
War Détente====Amid the Cold War, the United States entered
the Vietnam War, whose growing unpopularity fed already existing social movements, including
those among women, minorities, and young people. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society
social programs and numerous rulings by the Warren Court added to the wide range of social
reform during the 1960s and 1970s. Feminism and the environmental movement became
political forces, and progress continued toward civil rights for all Americans. The Counterculture Revolution swept through
the nation and much of the western world in the late sixties and early seventies, further
dividing Americans in a “culture war” but also bringing forth more liberated social
views.Johnson was succeeded in 1969 by Republican Richard Nixon, who attempted to gradually
turn the war over to the South Vietnamese forces. He negotiated the peace treaty in 1973 which
secured the release of POWs and led to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The war had cost the lives of 58,000 American
troops. Nixon manipulated the fierce distrust between
the Soviet Union and China to the advantage of the United States, achieving détente (relaxation;
ease of tension) with both parties. The Watergate scandal, involving Nixon’s cover-up
of his operatives’ break-in into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate
office complex destroyed his political base, sent many aides to prison, and forced Nixon’s
resignation on August 9, 1974. He was succeeded by Vice President Gerald
Ford. The Fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War and
resulted in North and South Vietnam being reunited. Communist victories in neighboring Cambodia
and Laos occurred in the same year.The OPEC oil embargo marked a long-term economic transition
since, for the first time, energy prices skyrocketed, and American factories faced serious competition
from foreign automobiles, clothing, electronics, and consumer goods. By the late 1970s the economy suffered an
energy crisis, slow economic growth, high unemployment, and very high inflation coupled
with high interest rates (the term stagflation was coined). Since economists agreed on the wisdom of deregulation,
many of the New Deal era regulations were ended, such as in transportation, banking,
and telecommunications.Jimmy Carter, running as someone who was not a part of the Washington
political establishment, was elected president in 1976. On the world stage, Carter brokered the Camp
David Accords between Israel and Egypt. In 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S.
embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage, resulting in the Iran hostage crisis. With the hostage crisis and continuing stagflation,
Carter lost the 1980 election to the Republican Ronald Reagan. On January 20, 1981, minutes after Carter’s
term in office ended, the remaining U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released,
ending the 444-day hostage crisis.===Close of the 20th century===Ronald Reagan produced a major realignment
with his 1980 and 1984 landslide elections. Reagan’s economic policies (dubbed “Reaganomics”)
and the implementation of the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 lowered the top marginal tax
rate from 70% to 28% over the course of seven years. Reagan continued to downsize government taxation
and regulation. The U.S. experienced a recession in 1982,
but the negative indicators reversed, with the inflation rate decreasing from 11% to
2%, the unemployment rate decreasing from 10.8% in December 1982 to 7.5% in November
1984, and the economic growth rate increasing from 4.5% to 7.2%.Reagan ordered a buildup
of the U.S. military, incurring additional budget deficits. Reagan introduced a complicated missile defense
system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) (dubbed “Star Wars” by opponents) in
which, theoretically, the U.S. could shoot down missiles with laser systems in space. The Soviets reacted harshly because they thought
it violated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and would upset the balance of power
by giving the U.S. a major military advantage. For years Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
argued vehemently against SDI. However, by the late 1980s he decided the
system would never work and should not be used to block disarmament deals with the U.S.
Historians argue how great an impact the SDI threat had on the Soviets – whether it was
enough to force Gorbachev to initiate radical reforms, or whether the deterioration of the
Soviet economy alone forced the reforms. There is agreement that the Soviets realized
they were well behind the Americans in military technology, that to try to catch up would
be very expensive, and that the military expenses were already a very heavy burden slowing down
their economy.Reagan’s Invasion of Grenada and bombing of Libya were popular in the U.S,
though his backing of the Contras rebels was mired in the controversy over the Iran–Contra
affair that revealed Reagan’s poor management style. Reagan met four times with Soviet leader Mikhail
Gorbachev, who ascended to power in 1985, and their summit conferences led to the signing
of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Gorbachev tried to save Communism in the Soviet
Union first by ending the expensive arms race with America, then by shedding the East European
empire in 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed on Christmas Day
1991, ending the U.S–Soviet Cold War. The United States emerged as the world’s sole
remaining superpower and continued to intervene in international affairs during the 1990s,
including the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. Following his election in 1992, President
Bill Clinton oversaw one of the longest periods of economic expansion and unprecedented gains
in securities values, a side effect of the digital revolution and new business opportunities
created by the Internet. He also worked with the Republican Congress
to pass the first balanced federal budget in 30 years.In 1998, Clinton was impeached
by the House of Representatives on charges of lying about a sexual relationship with
White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He was acquitted by the Senate. The failure of impeachment and the Democratic
gains in the 1998 election forced House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, to resign from
Congress. The Republican Party expanded its base throughout
the South after 1968 (excepting 1976), largely due to its strength among socially conservative
white Evangelical Protestants and traditionalist Roman Catholics, added to its traditional
strength in the business community and suburbs. As white Democrats in the South lost dominance
of the Democratic Party in the 1990s, the region took on the two-party apparatus which
characterized most of the nation. The Republican Party’s central leader by 1980
was Ronald Reagan, whose conservative policies called for reduced government spending and
regulation, lower taxes, and a strong anti-Soviet foreign policy. His iconic status in the party persists into
the 21st century, as practically all Republican Party leaders acknowledge his stature. Social scientists Theodore Caplow et al. argue,
“The Republican party, nationally, moved from right-center toward the center in 1940s and
1950s, then moved right again in the 1970s and 1980s.” They add: “The Democratic party, nationally,
moved from left-center toward the center in the 1940s and 1950s, then moved further toward
the right-center in the 1970s and 1980s.”The presidential election in 2000 between George
W. Bush and Al Gore was one of the closest in U.S. history and helped lay the seeds for
political polarization to come. The vote in the decisive state of Florida
was extremely close and produced a dramatic dispute over the counting of votes. The U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore ended
the recount with a 5–4 vote. That meant Bush, then in the lead, carried
Florida and the election. Including 2000, the Democrats outpolled the
Republicans in the national vote in every election from 1992 to 2016, except for 2004.==21st century=====9/11 and the War on Terror===On September 11, 2001 (“9/11”), the United
States was struck by a terrorist attack when 19 al-Qaeda hijackers commandeered four airliners
to be used in suicide attacks and intentionally crashed two into both twin towers of the World
Trade Center and the third into the Pentagon, killing 2,937 victims—206 aboard the three
airliners, 2,606 who were in the World Trade Center and on the ground, and 125 who were
in the Pentagon. The fourth plane was re-taken by the passengers
and crew of the aircraft. While they were not able to land the plane
safely, they were able to re-take control of the aircraft and crash it into an empty
field in Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people including the four terrorists on board, thereby
saving whatever target the terrorists were aiming for. Within two hours, both Twin Towers of the
World Trade Center completely collapsed causing massive damage to the surrounding area and
blanketing Lower Manhattan in toxic dust clouds. All in all, a total of 2,977 victims perished
in the attacks. In response, President George W. Bush on September
20 announced a “War on Terror”. On October 7, 2001, the United States and
NATO then invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime, which had provided safe haven
to al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden. The federal government established new domestic
efforts to prevent future attacks. The controversial USA PATRIOT Act increased
the government’s power to monitor communications and removed legal restrictions on information
sharing between federal law enforcement and intelligence services. A cabinet-level agency called the Department
of Homeland Security was created to lead and coordinate federal counter-terrorism activities. Some of these anti-terrorism efforts, particularly
the U.S. government’s handling of detainees at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, led to allegations
against the U.S. government of human rights violations. In 2003, from March 19 to May 1, the United
States launched an invasion of Iraq, which led to the collapse of the Iraq government
and the eventual capture of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, with whom the U.S. had long-standing
tense relations. The reasons for the invasion cited by the
Bush administration included the spreading of democracy, the elimination of weapons of
mass destruction (a key demand of the UN as well, though later investigations found parts
of the intelligence reports to be inaccurate), and the liberation of the Iraqi people. Despite some initial successes early in the
invasion, the continued Iraq War fueled international protests and gradually saw domestic support
decline as many people began to question whether or not the invasion was worth the cost. In 2007, after years of violence by the Iraqi
insurgency, President Bush deployed more troops in a strategy dubbed “the surge”. While the death toll decreased, the political
stability of Iraq remained in doubt. In 2008, the unpopularity of President Bush
and the Iraq war, along with the 2008 financial crisis, led to the election of Barack Obama,
the first African-American President of the United States. After his election, Obama reluctantly continued
the war effort in Iraq until August 31, 2010, when he declared that combat operations had
ended. However, 50,000 American soldiers and military
personnel were kept in Iraq to assist Iraqi forces, help protect withdrawing forces, and
work on counter-terrorism until December 15, 2011, when the war was declared formally over
and the last troops left the country. At the same time, Obama increased American
involvement in Afghanistan, starting a surge strategy using an additional 30,000 troops,
while proposing to begin withdrawing troops sometime in December 2014. With regards to Guantanamo Bay, President
Obama forbade torture but in general retained Bush’s policy regarding the Guantanamo detainees,
while also proposing that the prison eventually be closed.In May 2011, after nearly a decade
in hiding, the founder and leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was killed in Pakistan in
a raid conducted by U.S. naval special forces acting under President Obama’s direct orders. While Al Qaeda was near collapse in Afghanistan,
affiliated organizations continued to operate in Yemen and other remote areas as the CIA
used drones to hunt down and remove its leadership.The Boston Marathon Bombing was a bombing incident,
followed by subsequent related shootings, that occurred when two pressure cooker bombs
exploded during the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. The bombs exploded about 12 seconds and 210
yards (190 m) apart at 2:49 pm EDT, near the marathon’s finish line on Boylston Street. They killed 3 people and injured an estimated
264 others. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – formerly
known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq – rose to prominence in September 2014. In addition to taking control of much of Western
Iraq and Eastern Syria, ISIS also beheaded three journalists, two American and one British. These events lead to a major military offensive
by the United States and its allies in the region. On December 28, 2014, President Obama officially
ended the combat mission in Afghanistan and promised a withdrawal of all remaining U.S.
troops at the end of 2016 with the exception of the embassy guards.===The Great Recession===In September 2008, the United States, and
most of Europe, entered the longest post–World War II recession, often called the “Great
Recession.” Multiple overlapping crises were involved,
especially the housing market crisis, a subprime mortgage crisis, soaring oil prices, an automotive
industry crisis, rising unemployment, and the worst financial crisis since the Great
Depression. The financial crisis threatened the stability
of the entire economy in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers failed and other giant banks
were in grave danger. Starting in October the federal government
lent $245 billion to financial institutions through the Troubled Asset Relief Program
which was passed by bipartisan majorities and signed by Bush. Following his election victory by a wide electoral
margin in November 2008, Bush’s successor – Barack Obama – signed into law the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was a $787 billion economic stimulus aimed
at helping the economy recover from the deepening recession. Obama, like Bush, took steps to rescue the
auto industry and prevent future economic meltdowns. These included a bailout of General Motors
and Chrysler, putting ownership temporarily in the hands of the government, and the “cash
for clunkers” program which temporarily boosted new car sales. The recession officially ended in June 2009,
and the economy slowly began to expand once again. The unemployment rate peaked at 10.1% in October
2009 after surging from 4.7% in November 2007, and returned to 5.0% as of October 2015. However, overall economic growth has remained
weaker in the 2010s compared to expansions in previous decades.===Recent events===From 2009 to 2010, the 111th Congress passed
major legislation such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known
as Obamacare, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act, which were signed into law by President Obama. Following the 2010 midterm elections, which
resulted in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratic-controlled
Senate, Congress presided over a period of elevated gridlock and heated debates over
whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, extend tax cuts for citizens making over $250,000
annually, and many other key issues. These ongoing debates led to President Obama
signing the Budget Control Act of 2011. In the Fall of 2012, Mitt Romney challenged
Barack Obama for the Presidency. Following Obama’s reelection in November 2012,
Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 – which resulted in an increase
in taxes primarily on those earning the most money. Congressional gridlock continued as Congressional
Republicans’ call for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – popularly
known as “Obamacare” – along with other various demands, resulted in the first government
shutdown since the Clinton administration and almost led to the first default on U.S.
debt since the 19th century. As a result of growing public frustration
with both parties in Congress since the beginning of the decade, Congressional approval ratings
fell to record lows, with only 11% of Americans approving as of October 2013.Other major events
that have occurred during the 2010s include the rise of new political movements, such
as the conservative Tea Party movement and the liberal Occupy movement. There was also unusually severe weather during
the early part of the decade. In 2012, over half the country experienced
record drought and Hurricane Sandy caused massive damage to coastal areas of New York
and New Jersey. The debate over the issue of rights for the
LGBT community, most notably that of same-sex marriage, began to shift in favor of same-sex
couples, and has been reflected in dozens of polls released in the early part of the
decade. In 2012, President Obama became the first
president to openly support same-sex marriage, and the 2013 Supreme Court decision in the
case of United States v. Windsor provided for federal recognition of same-sex unions. In June 2015, the Supreme Court legalized
gay marriage nationally in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges. Political debate has continued over issues
such as tax reform, immigration reform, income inequality and U.S. foreign policy in the
Middle East, particularly with regards to global terrorism, the rise of the Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant and an accompanying climate of Islamophobia. On November 8, 2016, Republican Party presidential
nominee Donald Trump defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to become the President-elect
of the United States. Trump’s election became mired in controversy
after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that associates of the Russian government
interfered in the election “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.” This, along with questions about potential
collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, led to the launch of investigations
into the matter by the FBI, and the Senate and the House Intelligence Committees. .==See also

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