Monday, June 18, 2018

The Early American Era

Early American society started with new changes. 1789 was a year of new beginnings in the American nation. George Washington was the first President of the United States under the new Constitution in 1789. He was once the American Revolutionary War general and commander in chief of the Continental Army. The United States Bill of Rights was established by 1791. The national capital moved from New York City to Philadelphia in 1790 and finally into Washington, D.C. in 1800. The Washington administration expanded the national government. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton assumed the debts of the states (the debt holders received federal bonds) and created the Bank of the United States. He wanted to stabilize the financial system. He created a system of tariffs or taxes on imports and other taxes to pay off the debt and grow the financial infrastructure. He was a leader of his political party of the Federalist Party. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison formed the opposition Republican Party (or the Democratic-Republican Party). Hamilton and Washington formed the Jay Treaty in 1794 which reestablished good relations with Britain. Jefferson and his followers protested this and the voters aligned behind one party or the other to form the First Party System. Jefferson was more sympathetic with the French Revolution too. 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 Anti-Federalists were heavily popular among farmers and many slave owners. The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was about western settlers protesting against a federal tax on liquor. This was one of the early tests of the federal government. Later, Washington called out the state militia and personally led an army to end the rebellion (as the insurgents left) and the national government’s power was established. George Washington didn’t want to have more than 2 terms. He gave his famous farewell address. He promoted the benefits of the federal government, he claimed to promote ethics and morality (when he hypocritically owned slaves) and warned against foreign alliances. He opposed the formation of political parties as divisive. John Adams was a Federalist. He defeated Thomas Jefferson in the 1796 election to be the 2nd President of America. War loomed with France (with the French Revolution and the Haitian Revolution) 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. Adams was completely wrong to sign the anti-democratic Alien and Sedition Acts. 

From 1789 to 1849, slavery was very prominent in American society. During the first two decades after the Revolutionary War, there was an increase of freed African Americans. Many northern states abolished slavery being inspired by the ideals of equality (and some states were economically less reliant on slavery). Some states of the Upper South made manumission easier. There was, as a result, an increase in the proportion of free black people 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 black people 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. By the turn of the century, Thomas Jefferson was finally elected President in 1800. Many of his policies influenced America to this very day. He was contradictory. He claimed to want a small government with independent yeoman farmers and planters living comfortably in a republican society. Yet, he allowed a massive expansion of government to exist with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. This allowed U.S. settlers to travel west beyond the Mississippi River. Jefferson distrusted cities, factories, and banks. He distrusted the federal government and judges. So, he was like a Tea Party member before the Tea Party ever existed. He wanted to weaken the judiciary. Yet, he didn’t prevail. 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. He or Thomas Jefferson allowed Lewis and Clark to lend their expedition to explore lands west of the Mississippi River. The War of 1812 existed because of many reasons. One was that many Americans were angry at the British violation of Americans ships’ neutral rights in order to hurt France. The British used the seizure of 10,000 American sailors via the Royal Navy in order to fight Napoleon. That act was controversial. The British supported Native Americans in attacking American settlers in the Midwest. Some of the British may wanted to annex part or all 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 brutal among both sides. Both sides invaded each other and were repulsed. The Americans forces struggled to defeat the British until late in the war. The American militia was weakened since many of their soldiers didn’t want to leave their homes and invade Canada. The British used a blockade in the Atlantic Ocean.

This ruined American commerce and bankrupted the Treasury. New Englanders smuggled supplies to Britain in anger.  The Americans under General William Henry Harrison finally gained naval control of Lake Erie and defeated the Native Americans under Tecumseh in Canada, while Andrew Jackson defeated many Native American forces in the Southeast. The Native American aspect to the War on 1812, involving settler 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. That anthem was created by the slave owner Francis Scott Key. The anthem originally supported slavery. 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 in the eyes of many. Napoleon was gone. Both sides came into the peace table. Prewar boundaries remain. 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 Native Americans were defeated as they never gained the independent nationhood Britain had promised and no longer posed a serious threat as settlers poured into the Midwest. 

Soon, the Era of Good Feelings transpired. The Federalists were strong opponents of the War of 1814. Therefore, they held the Hartford Convention of 1814. Some hinted at disunion. There was national euphoria after the victory at New Orleans. The Federalists lost their power as a political party. President Madison and most Republicans realized that they couldn’t end the Bank of the United States since they had to finance the war. They used foreign bankers to charter 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. This era existed with far less partisanship than before (or after), and closed out the First Party System. James Monroe formed his Monroe Doctrine by 1823. It was the view that 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." His policies ruined the U.S. economy for years. He was a slave owner, a racist, and a brutal enemy of the Native American people. He was so racist that he allowed Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act of 1830. This law authorized the President to negotiate treaties that exchanged Native American tribal lands in the eastern states for the lands west of the Mississippi River. In order words, it wanted to remove Native Americans (including the Five Civilized Tribes) from the American Southeast into the reservations of the West. Jacksonian Democrats wanted the forcible removal of native populations who refused to acknowledge state laws in the West. Whigs and religious people rightfully opposed the move as inhumane. Thousands of deaths resulted from the relocations, as seen in the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Many of the Seminole Native Americans in Florida refused to move west; they fought the Army for years in the Seminole Wars. Andrew Jackson was a disgraceful man to put it lightly. Soon, the Second Party System would exist after the First Party System of Federalists and Republicans ended in the 1820’s. The new party system was created from the well-organized local parties that appealed for the votes of almost all adult white men. Back then, most of the rights in America were given to adult white men for the most part. The former Jeffersonian (Democratic-Republican) party split into 2 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. The Democratic Party were heavily pro-states’ rights and believed in coalitions by 1828. The opposing faction was led by Henry Clay to help create the Whig Party. The Democratic Party had a small but decisive advantage over the Whigs until the 1850’s. The Whigs fell apart over the issue of slavery. The Democrats were diverse, but they believed in the Jeffersonian concept of an agrarian society, opposition to a central government, and opposed federal support to banks and corporations. Some Democrats opposed educational reform or even a public educational system. Jackson and other Democrats had no sympathy for American Native Americans too (i.e. They organized the Trial of Tears).

The Second Great Awakening spread from ca. 1790 to the 1840’s. It was led by Protestants to promote church growth. During that period, membership grew rapidly among Baptists and Methodist congregations. Preachers led the movement. Millions became Christians and others formed new denominations. The Second Great Awakening influenced the development of many reform movements like abolitionists and temperance activists. Some wanted to eliminate evil before the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The abolitionist movement has existed for centuries. It grew into the next level by the 1800’s in America. The goal of the abolitionist movement wanted to end slavery completely. It had support among secularists, religious people, black people, etc. Some became abolitionists as a product of 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. It was divided too. Some anti-slavery activists were moderates like Abraham Lincoln. Others were progressives like Garrison, Douglass, and others who wanted slavery to immediately end.   From 1800 to 1849, Westward expansion increased too. As the American colonies and the new nation grew in population and area, many lands of the Native Americans were gone. This process ended by 1890-1912 when the last major farmlands and ranch lands were settled. Many Native American tribes resisted militarily. Yet, they were repelled by the U.S. army and settlers. Many were relocated to reservations in the West. The Manifest Destiny myth was a racist view that that settlers had the God-given right to conquer the West literally irrespective of the original people living in those lands for thousands of years. Frederick Jackson Turner was a historian on the West who omitted the multicultural nature of the frontier. Many markets were formed. Cultures merged. The modern West was created by conflicts, migration, and cultural diversity. The first settlers of the West, other than the Native Americans, were the Spanish in New Mexico. They were U.S. citizens by 1848. The Latinx population in California (or Californios) was 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 1830's 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 rejected by modernizers like many Whigs (including 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. Mexico was freed from Spanish imperialism and became an independent country. White settlers came into Texas later (which back then, Texas was part of Mexico). 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 multiracial heritage, would undermine the United States as an exclusively white republic (back then, many white politicians were very overtly racist). Instead the U.S. took Texas and the lightly settled northern parts (California and New Mexico). The Latinx residents were given full citizenship and the Mexican Native Americans became American Native Americans. 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. That area would evolve into Oregon. 1849 was a beginning of the end of the early era of America. Tensions among the North and the South would evolve into the Civil War. 

By Timothy

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