Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Summer 2018 Part 5

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America Part 2

1776-1789 (Part 2)

On July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress was still meeting in Philadelphia. They voted unanimously to declare the independence of “the thirteen United States of America.” This was part of the Lee Resolution. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. With the signing of that document, it officially started the birth of the United States of America as we know it. The drafting of the Declaration came about by a group of people called the Committee of Five. It was made up of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and others. It was drafted by Thomas Jefferson and revised by the others and the Congress as a whole. It mentioned that, “all men are created equal" with "certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", and that "to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed", as well as listing the main colonial grievances against the crown. Many people love the eloquence of the words. Other people would criticize the Declaration as hypocritical (like British abolitionists) since it talked about equality, but many of its supporters owned slaves. July 4th would be celebrated as the birthday of the United States. The British returned in force in August 1776. The Redcoats landed in New York City. They started to defeat the fledgling Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island. During this time of September 1776 was the great fire of New York City where fire destroyed about one third of New York City (especially at the southern end of Manhattan). Major General James Robertson confiscated surviving uninhabited homes of known Patriots and assigned them to British officers. Churches, other than the state churches (Church of England) were converted into prisons, infirmaries, or barracks. Some of the common soldiers were billeted with civilian families. There was a great influx of Loyalist refugees into the city resulting in further overcrowding, and many of these returning and additional Loyalists from Patriot-controlled areas encamped in squalid tent cities on the charred ruins.The Battle of Long Island was one of the largest engagements of the Revolutionary war. The Redcoats almost captured General Washington and his army. The British made NYC their main political and military base of operations in North America. They held it until November 25, 1783 (which is also known as Evacuation Day).

The Patriot evacuation and British military occupation made the city of NYC the destination for Loyalist refugees and a focal point of Washington’s intelligence network. The British soon seized New Jersey and American fortunes looked dim during that time. Thomas Paine mentioned that, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” Yet, Washington struck back in a surprise attack. He and his troops crossed the icy Delaware River into New Jersey. They defeated the British and Hessian armies at Trenton and Princeton (in New Jersey on January 3, 1777) at the Battle of Trenton (on December 26, 1776). After a brief battle, nearly the entire Hessian force was captured, with negligible losses to the Americans. The Battle of Trenton significantly boosted the Continental Army's flagging morale, and inspired re-enlistments. So, the Patriots regained New Jersey. These victories gave a big boast to the Patriots at a time when morale was low and that image of Washington crossing the Delaware has been the iconic images of the war. The Battle of the Assunpink Creek, also known as the Second Battle of Trenton, was a battle between American and British troops that took place in and around Trenton, New Jersey, on January 2, 1777, during the American Revolutionary War, and resulted in an American victory.

People in London by early 1777 organized the grand British strategic plan of the Saratoga Campaign. The plan wanted 2 British armies to converge at Albany, New York from the north and south. This would divide the colonies in two and separating New England from the rest. Failed communications and poor planning resulted in the army descending from Canada. It was commanded by General Burgoyne and the British army was bogged down in the dense forest north of Albany. The British Army was supposed to advance up the Hudson River to meet Burgoyne went instead to Philadelphia in a vain attempt to end the war by capturing the American capital city (which was Philadelphia at that time). Burgoyne’s British army was defeated at Saratoga by local militia (it was led by a cadre of American regulars). The battle showed the British that the Americans had the strength and determination to fight on. Previously, the Redcoats thought that the Americans were a group of ragtag mob that could be easily dispersed. One British officer mentioned that, “…The courage and obstinacy with which the Americans fought were the astonishment of everyone, and we now became fully convinced that they are not that contemptible enemy we had hitherto imagined them, incapable of standing a regular engagement, and that they would only fight behind strong and powerful works…” The American victory at Saratoga caused the French into open military alliance with America via the Treaty of Alliance (1778). Spain and the Netherlands also allied with the United States. Spain and the Netherlands had powerful navies who desired to undermine the British strength. Britain was in a European major war. The French navy neutralized their previous dominance in the war involving the seas. Britain didn’t have major allies and faced the prospect of invasion from across the English Channel. The Second Continental Congress agreed to allow Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777.  By June 1778, the British ended its occupation of Philadelphia. It started on September 26, 1777.

Thousands of enslaved African Americans in the South escape to British lines, as they were promised freedom to fight with the British. There was the Dunmore Proclamation. It was a historical document signed on November 7, 1775, by John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, royal governor of the British Colony of Virginia. The proclamation declared martial law in Virginia and promised freedom for slaves of American revolutionaries who left their owners and joined the royal forces. Many Loyalists and black people joined the Redcoat cause. In South Carolina, 25,000 enslaved African Americans, one-quarter of those held, escape to the British or otherwise leave their plantations. After the war, many African Americans are evacuated with the British for England; more than 3,000 Black Loyalists are transported with other Loyalists to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where they are granted land. Still, others went to Jamaica and the West Indies. An estimated 8-10,000 were evacuated from the colonies in these years as free people, about 50 percent of those slaves who defected to the British and about 80 percent of those who survived. Many free black human beings in the North would fight with the colonists for the rebellion.

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*I recently saw some of the episodes of the Book of Negroes series. Honestly, it is one of the most touching, emotional slavery films that I have seen in my life. It's that good. It is in the category of Roots in my opinion. The lead actress is Aunjanue Ellis and she did her thing. She expressed a lot of strength, emotion, and realism in all of the episodes of that grandiose miniseries. The Book of Negroes is about black people who were captured from Africa as slaves, they were forcibly sent into America, and some of them fought on the British side during the Revolutionary War (as being promised their freedom by the Redcoats). Later, some of them traveled into Nova Scotia plus Africa in order to achieve their freedom. Aunjanue Ellis plays Aminata Diallo who fights for the abolitionist cause after the Revolutionary War. She lives in England by the end of the ministries with her daughter May. The miniseries has an ensemble cast of Lyriq Bent, Cuba Gooding Jr., Louis Gossett, Jr., Ben Chaplin, and other actors and actresses. The film resonates with all of us since it showed the power of the human spirit, the glory of Black Love, and the importance to fight against any injustice. On July 8, 1777, The Vermont Republic (a sovereign nation at the time) abolished slavery, the first future state to do so. No slaves were held in Vermont. By 1781, in challenges by Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker, two independent county courts in Massachusetts found slavery illegal under state constitution and declared each to be free persons. In 1783, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed that Massachusetts state constitution had abolished slavery. It ruled that "the granting of rights and privileges [was] wholly incompatible and repugnant to" slavery, in an appeal case arising from the escape of former slave Quock Walker. When the British left New York and Charleston in 1783, they took the last of 5,500 Loyalists to the Caribbean, along with some 15,000 slaves.

We know that slavery hasn't ended in 1865. It continues to day which is why modern abolitionist movements are in existence currently to end slavery once and for all. Also, it is important to recognize the strength of black people and resiliency. Today, tons of black people are lawyers, doctors, teachers, athletes, IT specialists, politicians, theologians, dentists, fitness experts (like people who I know in Facebook. They know who they are), and other great people. I will have a great love for my black people. The Book of Negroes miniseries is based on the novel of the same name by Lawrence Hill. Once black people are free and filled with justice, the rest of the human family is subsequently free. That is real talk.

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By this time (of the late 1770's), the British controlled most of the northern coastal cities and the Patriot forces controlled the hinterlands (like the Midwest and other rural locations). Therefore, the British decided to attempt to seize the southern states. There were limited British forces in the South. So, the British commanders wanted to mobilize Loyalists in the South in order for the campaign to be successful. By late December of 1778, the British forces captured Savannah, Georgia. In 1780, they launched a fresh invasion and took Charleston too. There was a big victory at the Battle of Camden, which meant that the British invaders controlled most of Georgia and South Carolina. The British created a network of forts inland. They hoped the Loyalists would rally to the flag. Not enough Loyalists turned out, however, and the British had to move out. They fought their way north into North Carolina and Virginia, with a severely weakened army. Behind them, much of the territory they left dissolved into a chaotic guerrilla war, as the bands of Loyalists, one by one, were overwhelmed by the Patriots. The British army under Lord Cornwallis marched into Yorktown, Virginia. They expected to be rescued by a British fleet. When that fleet was defeated by a French fleet, the British forces were trapped. They were surrounded by a stronger force of Americans and French under Washington’s command. On October of 1781, Cornwallis surrendered.

The news of the defeat ended the fighting in America. The naval war continued for a time. Support for the conflict was never strong in Britain. Many British people in the UK sympathized with the Patriots, but British support for the war reached a new low by 1781. King George III wanted to fight on personally, but he lost control of the Parliament and had to agree to peace negotiations. Long negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Paris (1783). This provided highly favorable boundaries for the United States. It included nearly all land east of the Mississippi River and south of Canada except British West Florida (which was awarded to Spain). The western territories were about the size of nearly Western Europe. It had a few thousands of American pioneers and tens of thousands of Native Americans (who were mostly allied to the British, but were abandoned by London). Nations are known to honor the memory of its founding. People talk about patriotism and identity, but the new American nation was created by contradictions and the injustices of slavery including the genocide of the indigenous peoples continued. The Redcoats shouldn’t be sympathized with because of their advocacy of monarchy, imperialism worldwide, and other forms of oppression. Also, America’s imperfections shouldn’t be glamorized either. The American Revolution was made up of a diversity of Patriot personalities (like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Nathan Hale, Benjamin Franklin, etc.) who differed on the role of government, religion, and other issues. Yet, they were unified in their goal of establishing independence among the United States of America. By 1783, the American Revolutionary War would be over.

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From 1783 to 1789 was the crucial period of early American history. It was a time of massive changes and the debates about the roles of the federal and state governments. It represented the transformation of the existence of states from a confederation into a true federal government system. Back during the 1780’s, the United States of America was a loose confederation of 13 states. It was filled with foreign and domestic problems. The states executed small trade wars with each other. The nation had difficulty in suppressing insurrections like the Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts. The Treasury was empty because of the war and there was no way to pay the war debts. There was no national executive authority. The world experienced an end to the war and the economy started to flourish. Some historians described this period as a bleak challenging time for the new nation. Economic growth existed and political maturation developed according to Merrill Jensen and others. The Treaty of Paris caused the United States to be completely independent and peaceful from British attacks. Yet, there was an unsettled governmental structure. The Second Continental Congress created the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777 to regularize its own status. The Articles of Confederation made a permanent confederation and it granted the Congress (or the only federal institution) little power to finance itself or to ensure that its resolutions were enforced. There was no President and no judiciary back then. Historians generally agree that the Articles were too weak to hold the fast growing nation together, they gave Congress credit for resolving the conflict between the states over ownership of the western territories (yet, this policies violated the sovereignty and human rights of Native Americans who lived in those territories). The states voluntarily turned over their lands to national control. The Land Ordinance of 1785 and Northwest Ordinance created territorial government. It set up protocols for admission of new states, the division of land into units, and set aside land in each township for public use. The system was a sharp break from the old school imperial colonization in Europe and it was the basis for the rest of the American continental expansion through the 19th century. The British blockade ended in 1783.

So, America started to have economic prosperity. Yet, trade opportunities were restricted. The reason was the existence of mercantilist policies of the European powers. Before the war, Americans shipped food and other products to the British colonies in the Caribbean. By the 1780’s, those ports were closed. Only British ships could trade there. France and Spain had similar policies for their empires. Spain imposed restrictions on imports of New England fish and Chesapeake tobacco. New Orleans was closed by the Spanish and that hampered settlement of the West. Yet, this didn’t stop frontiersmen from pouring west in in large numbers. Simultaneously, American manufacturers faced sharp competition from British products. These products were suddenly available again. There was the inability of Congress to redeem currency or public debts incurred during the Revolutionary War (or to facilitate trade and financial links among states. This aggravated a gloomy situation). The 1786-1787 Shay’s Rebellion was about an uprising of farmers in western Massachusetts against the state court system. This threatened the stability of state government and Congress was powerless to help.

The Continental Congress did have power to print paper money back then. It printed so much that its value plunged until the expression “not worth a continental” was used for some worthless item. Congress couldn’t levy taxes and could not only make requisitions upon the states. The states didn’t respond generously. Less than a million and a half dollars came into the Treasury between 1781 and 1784. Yet, the states have been asked for 2 million in 1783 alone. In 1785, Alexander Hamilton issued a court statement that the Treasury had received absolutely no taxes from New York for the year. Many states handled their debts in many levels of success. The South for the most part refused to pay off its debts since they feared that it harmed its local banks. Yet, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia fared well due to their production of cash crops like cotton and tobacco. South Carolina would have done the same, but they had many crop failures. Maryland had financial chaos and political infighting. New York and Pennsylvania fared well, although, Pennsylvania had also political quarrels.  New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Connecticut struggled. Massachusetts was in a state of virtual civil war and suffered from high taxes and the decline of its economy. Rhode Island alone among the New England states prospered and mostly because of its notorious harboring of pirates and smugglers. John Adams came into London in 1785 as the first representative of the United States. He found it impossible to get a treaty for unrestricted commerce. Demands were made for favors and there was no assurance that individual states would agree to a treaty.

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Adams wanted the states to confer the power of passing navigation laws to Congress or the states pass retaliatory acts against Great Britain. Congress had already requested and failed to get power over navigation laws. During this time, each state acted individually against Great Britain to little effect. When other New England states closed their ports to British shipping, Connecticut hastened to profit by opening its ports. By 1787, Congress was unable to protect manufacturing and shipping. State legislatures were unable or unwilling to resist attacks upon private contracts and public credit. Land speculators had no rise in values when the government couldn’t defend its borders or protect its frontier population. The idea of a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation grew in favor. Alexander Hamilton realized while serving as Washington’s top aide that a strong central government was necessary to avoid foreign intervention and allay the frustrations due to an ineffectual Congress. Hamilton led a group of like-minded nationalists to win Washington’s endorsement. They convened the Annapolis Convention in 1786 to petition Congress to call a convention to meet in Philadelphia to remedy the long term crisis.

The Congress met in New York City. The Congress called on each state to send delegates to a Constitution Convention meeting in Philadelphia. The stated purpose of the convention was to amend the Articles of Confederation. Many delegates like James Madison and George Washington wanted to use the convention to create a new constitution for the United States of America. The Convention convened on May of 1787 (with 12 of the 13 states sending delegates to the Convention. Rhode Island declined to participate). It started in the Pennsylvania State House of Independence Hall on May 25, 1787.  The delegates selected Washington to preside over them. Madison was the driving force behind the Convention. The now elder Benjamin Franklin was there to give his experience and prestige. Other leaders in the Convention included:  Roger Sherman, Gouverneur Morris, James Wilson, Elbridge Gerry, William Paterson, John Dickinson, Charles Pinckney, Edmund Randolph, Alexander Hamilton, and George Mason. Alexander Hamilton was right that a powerful central government was necessary to promote a stable society, he was right to desire a balanced government, and some accused him of expressing some sympathy with aristocracy and monarchy. Morris was definitely wrong to advocate a President ruling for life. James Madison didn’t agree with democracy, but he favored republicanism (filled with diverse interests) without a constitution modeled by the British system. Me personally, I believe in democracy represented fairly among the people. The Constitutional Convention dealt with the compromises to cause a government that was strong and acceptable to all of the states. The Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan were 2 different plans for the future U.S. Constitutional government. The Virginia Plan was proposed by James Madison. It wanted a government among 3 branches (legislature, executive, and judicial). For the legislature, he wanted the House and the Senate to be represented based upon population, so states with the greatest population would have the greatest representation. It promoted the interests of the most populous states in America. Madison via his plan wanted Congress to veto any plan of the states similar to the Parliament in dealing with colonial laws. The Virginia Plan wanted a strong President being in office for seven years.

The President would command the armed forces, manage foreign relations, and appoint all executive plus judicial officers subject to the Senate. Patrick Henry didn’t like this plan as the President would have kingly powers. This plan was extreme to put it lightly. The New Jersey Plan was the opposite of the Virginia Plan which represented states with smaller populations. It was introduced by William Peterson of New Jersey. His plan wanted Congress to regulate commerce, to tax, and to keep many of the powers of the Articles of Confederation. It had one unicameral legislature with the same representative regardless of population size. It had an executive committee not a President. The states were sovereign except for a few powers mentioned by the federal government. The problem with the Virginian Plan was that it went too far in expanding executive power and the problem with the New Jersey Plan was that it didn’t go far enough in strengthening federal government power. So, a compromise was achieved. Roger Sherman of Connecticut led the compromise. The Great Compromise made 3 branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial branches). The House would be represented by population while the Senate had 2 representatives for each state regardless of size. Madison abandoned national veto over state laws. This compromise is about federalism or the divided governmental power between federal and state governments. One of the biggest mistakes of this Convention was the Three fifths compromise, which counted slaves as 3/5 of a person. That was disgrace. Cowardly delegates feared southern resistance, so they enacted that nefarious policy. People like Madison, Jefferson, etc. knew that slavery and racism were immoral, but they supported that wicked 3/5 compromise anyway. The slave trade was banned by 1808. The Constitutional Convention ended by September 17, 1787. Edmund Randolph of Virginia, George Mason of Virginia, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts didn’t sign the document since they viewed it as not perfect.

The Constitution, as proposed by the Convention (which lasted from May 25 – September 17, 1787), wanted a federal government which was limited in scope but independent of plus superior to the states. It wanted give Congress the role to tax and equipped with both Executive and Judicial branches as well as a two house legislature. The national legislature or Congress envisioned by the Convention embodied the key compromise of the Convention between the small states which wanted to retain the power they had under the one state/one vote Congress of the Articles of Confederation and the large states which wanted the weight of their larger populations and wealth to have a proportionate share of power. The upper House or the Senator would represent the states equally while the House of Representatives would be elected from districts of approximately equal populations. The Constitution itself called for ratification by state conventions specially elected for the purpose. The Confederation Congress recommended the Constitution to the states. They asked that ratification conventions to be called. Many smaller stated led by Delaware embraced the Constitution with little reservations. The two most populous states of New York and Virginia had controversies. Virginia had been the first successful British colony in North America. It has a large population and its political leadership had prominent roles in the Revolution. New York State was large and populous. It had ports on the coast and it was essential for the success of the United States. Local New York politics was controlled by a parochial elite led by Governor George Clinton and local political leaders.

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These people don’t want to share their power with the national politicians. The New York ratification convention became the focus for a struggle over the wisdom of adopting the Constitution. The process for ratification continued and it was a long process. From December 7-18, 1787, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey ratified the Constitution. Those who advocated the Constitution became the Federalists and quickly gained supported nationwide. The most influential Federalists were Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Many Federalists included business leaders, those who lived in urban communities, and other people. These were the anonymous authors of The Federalist Papers or a series of 85 essays published in New York. They were created under the pen name “Publius.” John Jay also wrote some of the Federalist Papers too. These papers became seminal documents for the new United States and have often cited by jurists. These were written to sway the closely divided New York legislature. The opponents of the plan for a stronger federal government were called the Anti-Federalists. They feared that a government with the power to tax would soon become as despotic and corrupt as Great Britain had been only decades earlier. The Anti-Federalists included many farmers. The most famous Anti-Federalist writers were Patrick Henry and George Mason, who demanded a Bill of Rights to be included in the Constitution. The Federalists had approval from George Washington. Washington chaired the Constitutional Convention.

Thomas Jefferson was the Minister of France at that time. He had reservations about the proposed Constitution. He wanted to remain neutral in the debate and to accept either outcome. Promises of a Bill of Rights form Madison secured ratification in Virginia. Yet, New York had the Clintons (who controlled New York politics) found themselves outmaneuvered as Hamilton secured ratification by a 30-27 vote. The Federalists had a much more powerful infrastructure to allow many states to ratify the Constitution. North Carolina and Rhode Island eventually signed on to make it unanimous among the 13 states. The old Articles of Confederation government of America ended to be replaced by a democratic republican form of government. The Anti-Federalists were right to promote a Bill of Rights addendum to the Constitution and they were wrong to abhor a strong federal government. The Constitution then and now advances popular sovereignty or the people are the only source of the government’s power.

It advanced limited government making the government limited in what it can or can’t do. It had the separation of powers, federalism, representative government (citizens can elect representatives to the government to make laws), checks and balances (like the President can veto a law, but Congress can override the President’s veto with 2/3s majority). Congress then set elections to the new Congress as well as the first Presidential election. The Anti-Federalists were wrong in saying that the Constitution should be always narrowly interpreted to limit federal power at every circumstances while the Federalists were right to say that the expansion of federal power when necessary is important to allow implied, broad powers to benefit the people. For example, the Internet didn't exist back then. Yet, during the future, the Internet would exist and federal implied powers can be enacted by Congress to address the Internet in a fair fashion. The Electoral College unanimously chose George Washington as the first President. John Adams was the first Vice President. New York City was designated as the national capital. They (George Washington and John Adams) were inaugurated in April 1789 at Federal Hall. Madison used leadership to make the first Congress to set up all of the necessary government agencies. He made good on the Federalist pledge of a Bill of Rights. The Anti-Federalists promoted the Bill of Rights, as it was a check on the federal government to protect rights. Madison drafted the Bill of Rights. It promoted the freedom of religion, the right to assemble, the freedom of speech, the right to a jury, and other rights that we know about today.

Congress passed the Bill of Rights by 1789. Rhode Island, by a margin of 3%, became the thirteenth state to ratify the Constitution on May 29, 1790. The United States Bill of Rights was ratified on 1791. The Bill of Rights was one of the most important documents relating to government in human history. The independent Vermont Republic was admitted to the Union as Vermont, becoming the fourteenth state in 1791 and Kentucky was the 15th state in the same year. The new American government didn’t have political parties at first. Alexander Hamilton in 1790-1792 created a national network of friends of the government that became the Federalist Party. It controlled the national government until 1801. There was still a strong sentiment in favor of states’ rights and a limited federal government. This became the platform of a new party called the Republican or the Democratic-Republican Party. It was in opposition to the Federalists. Jefferson and Madison were its founders and leaders. Madison switched from being a Federalist to being an ally of Jefferson since Madison opposed the pro-national bank views of Alexander Hamilton.

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Jefferson and Madison were the founders and leaders of the Democratic-Republican Party. They opposed strongly Hamilton’s First Bank of the United States. American foreign policy was dominated by the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars between the United Kingdom and France during the late 1700's. The Republicans supported France and the French Revolution as a force for democracy. The Washington administration favored continued peace and commerce with Britain and it signed the Jay Treaty. This angered the Democratic-Republicans who accused Hamilton and the Federalists of supporting aristocracy and tyranny (when the French Revolution was right to oppose aristocracy, but many people in the French Revolution went too far with the Reign of Terror and acts of murder against even innocent people in France. These events were occurring after the short lived Enlightenment era Bavarian Illuminati). People during that time were diverse. George Washington was a planter and the commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. James Madison was a legislator from Virginia. Benjamin Franklin was a writer, inventor, printer, legislator, and diplomat (he lived in Philadelphia). Gouverneur Morris was a lawyer, merchant, and legislator from Pennsylvania. Alexander Hamilton was a lawyer and champion of a strong central government. Roger Sherman was merchant, mayor of New Haven (in Connecticut), legislator, and judge. John Dickenson of Delaware was a lawyer, historian, and independence advocate. John Adams succeeded Washington as President in 1797 and continued the policies of his administration. So, these individuals had experience in judicial affairs, government, and other aspects of human living. George Washington would die by the year of 1799. The Jeffersonian Republicans took control of the Federal government in 1801 and the Federalists never returned to power. The beginnings of the United States of America started with controversies, conflicts, disputes, debates, and the development of a new nation. As time would show, America's events would be dynamic and Earth changing indeed.

Next will be the continuation of the series with Part 3 detailing the antebellum period and Part 4 dealing with the Civil War.

The struggle continues, but our cause is just and justice is what we seek for the human race.

By Timothy

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