Story 4 | History homework help (2024)

Story 4 | History homework help (1)UnfinishedNationAConciseHistoryoftheAmerican9thThe-AlanBrinkleyJohnGiggieAndrewHuebner2.pdf






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“Connect keeps my students engaged and motivated. Requiring Connect assignments has improved student

exam grades.” – Sophia Garcia, Tarrant County College

“I really enjoy how it has gotten me engaged in the course and it is a great

study tool without having to carry around a heavy textbook.”

– Madeline Uretsky, Simmons College

“I can honestly say that the first time I used SmartBook after reading a

chapter I understood what I had just read better than I ever had

in the past.” – Nathan Herrmann, Oklahoma State University

of college students report that access to

learning analytics can positively impact their

learning experience.


75%of students using adaptive technology report that it

is “very helpful” or “extremely helpful” in aiding their ability to retain new concepts.

Professors spend:


90%Less time on

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More timeon activelearning

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ii •


Alan Brinkley is the Allan Nevins Professor of History at Columbia University. He served as university provost at Columbia from 2003 to 2009. He is the author of Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression, which won the 1983 National Book Award; American History: Connecting with the Past; The End of Reform: New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War; Liberalism and Its Discontents; Franklin D. Roosevelt; and The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century. He is board chair of the National Humanities Center, board chair of the Century Foundation, and a trustee of Oxford University Press. He is also a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1998–1999 he was the Harmsworth Professor of History at Oxford University, and in 2011–2012 the Pitt Professor at the University of Cambridge. He won the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Award at Harvard and the Great Teacher Award at Columbia. He was educated at Princeton and Harvard.

John Giggie is associate professor of history and African American studies at the University of Alabama where he also serves as director of the Summersell Center for the Study of the South. He is the author of After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875–1917, editor of America Firsthand, and editor of Faith in the Market: Religion and the Rise of Commercial Culture. He is currently preparing a book on civil rights protests in west Alabama. He has been widely honored for his teaching, most recently with a Distinguished Fellow in Teaching Award and Excellence in Community Engagement Award from the University of Alabama. He received his PhD from Princeton University.

Andrew Huebner is associate professor of history at the University of Alabama. He is the author of Love and Death in the Great War (2018) and The Warrior Image: Soldiers in American Culture from the Second World War to the Vietnam Era (2008). He has written and spoken widely on the subject of war and society in the twentieth-century United States. In 2017, he was named an Organization of American Historians (OAH) Distinguished Lecturer. He received his PhD from Brown University.


A Concise History of the American PeopleNinth Edition

Alan BrinkleyColumbia University

John GiggieUniversity of Alabama

Andrew HuebnerUniversity of Alabama


Published by McGraw-Hill Education, 2 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10121. Copyright © 2019 by McGraw-Hill Education. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. Previous editions © 2016, 2014, and 2010. No part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written consent of McGraw-Hill Education, including, but not limited to, in any network or other electronic storage or transmission, or broadcast for distance learning.

Some ancillaries, including electronic and print components, may not be available to customers outside the United States.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 LCR 21 20 19 18

ISBN 978-1-259-91253-5 (bound edition)MHID 1-259-91253-1 (bound edition)

ISBN 978-1-260-16473-2 (loose-leaf edition)MHID 1-260-16473-X (loose-leaf edition)

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication DataNames: Brinkley, Alan, author. | Giggie, John Michael, 1965- contributor. |  Huebner, Andrew, contributor.Title: The unfinished nation : a concise history of the American people /  Alan Brinkley, Columbia University ; with contributions from John Giggie,  University of Alabama, Andrew Huebner, University of Alabama.Description: Ninth edition. | New York, NY : McGraw-Hill Education, [2019]Identifiers: LCCN 2018025712 | ISBN 9781259912535 (alk. paper)Subjects: LCSH: United States—History.Classification: LCC E178.1 .B827 2019 | DDC 973—dc23 LC record available at

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22 THE NEW ERA 541










• v




©The Gallery Collection/Corbis

AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS 2The Peoples of the Precontact Americas 2The Growth of Civilizations: The South 4The Civilizations of the North 4

EUROPE LOOKS WESTWARD 6Commerce and Sea Travel 6Christopher Columbus 7The Spanish Empire 9Northern Outposts 11Biological and Cultural Exchanges 11Africa and America 17

THE ARRIVAL OF THE ENGLISH 18Incentives for Colonization 19The First English Settlements 20The French and the Dutch in America 22

Consider the Source: Bartolomé de Las Casas, “Of the Island of Hispaniola” (1542) 10Debating the Past: Why Do Historians So Often Differ? 14America in the World: The International Context of the Early History of the Americas 16CONCLUSION 23KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 24RECALL AND REFLECT 24


Colonists and Natives 26Reorganization and Expansion 27Slavery and Indenture in the Virginia

Colony 29Bacon’s Rebellion 30Maryland and the Calverts 32


Plymouth Plantation 33The Massachusetts Bay Experiment 35The Expansion of New England 35King Philip’s War  37

THE RESTORATION COLONIES 40The English Civil War 40The Carolinas 40 New Netherland, New York, and

New Jersey 41The Quaker Colonies 43


The Caribbean Islands 44Masters and Slaves in the Caribbean 45The Southwest Borderlands 46The Southeast Borderlands 47

The Founding of Georgia 47Middle Grounds 49


The Dominion of New England 52The “Glorious Revolution” 52

Consider the Source: Cotton Mather on the Recent History of New England (1692) 38Debating the Past: Native Americans and the Middle Ground 50CONCLUSION 53KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 54RECALL AND REFLECT 54

©Universal History Archive/ UIG via Getty Images

vi •


LOOSENING TIES 83A Decentralized Empire 83The Colonies Divided 83


New France and the Iroquois Nation 84Anglo–French Conflicts 85The Great War for Empire 85

THE NEW IMPERIALISM 90Burdens of Empire 90The British and the Tribes 90Battles over Trade and Taxes 91

STIRRINGS OF REVOLT 93The Stamp Act Crisis 93Internal Rebellions 96The Townshend Program 96The Boston Massacre 97The Philosophy of Revolt 98Sites of Resistance 101The Tea Excitement 101

COOPERATION AND WAR 102New Sources of Authority 102Lexington and Concord 103

America in the World: The First Global War 86Consider the Source: Benjamin Franklin, Testimony Against the Stamp Act (1766) 94Patterns of Popular Culture: Taverns in Revolutionary Massachusetts 100CONCLUSION 104KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 105RECALL AND REFLECT 105

Source: Library of Congress, Printsand Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-5315]



Indentured Servitude 56Birth and Death 57Medicine in the Colonies 57Women and Families in the Colonies 60The Beginnings of Slavery in

English America 62Changing Sources of

European Immigration 63

THE COLONIAL ECONOMIES 65Slavery and Economic Life 65Industry and Its Limits 65The Rise of Colonial Commerce 67The Rise of Consumerism 68

PATTERNS OF SOCIETY 69Southern Communities 69Northern Communities 70Cities 74


The Pattern of Religions 74The Great Awakening 76The Enlightenment 76

Literacy and Technology 77Education 77The Spread of Science 79Concepts of Law and Politics 79

Consider the Source: Gottlieb Mittelberger, the Passage of Indentured Servants (1750) 58Debating the Past: The Witchcraft Trials 72CONCLUSION 81KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 81RECALL AND REFLECT 81



Defining American War Aims 107The Declaration of Independence 110Mobilizing for War 111

THE WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE 112New England 112The Mid-Atlantic 113Securing Aid from Abroad 115The South 116Winning the Peace 117

WAR AND SOCIETY 120Loyalists and Religious Groups 120The War and Slavery 121Native Americans and the Revolution 122Women’s Rights and Roles 123The War Economy 125


The Principles of Republicanism 125The First State Constitutions 126Revising State Governments 126


The Confederation 127Diplomatic Failures 128The Confederation and the

Northwest 128Indians and the Western Lands 130Debts, Taxes, and Daniel Shays 130

Debating the Past: The American Revolution 108America in the World: The Age of Revolutions 118Consider the Source: The Correspondence of Abigail Adams on Women’s Rights (1776) 124CONCLUSION 132KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 132RECALL AND REFLECT 133

©MPI/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Advocates of Reform 135A Divided Convention 136Compromise 137The Constitution of 1787 137

ADOPTION AND ADAPTATION 141Federalists and Antifederalists 141Completing the Structure 142


Hamilton and the Federalists 143Enacting the Federalist Program 144The Republican Opposition 145


Securing the West 146Maintaining Neutrality 147


The Election of 1796 150

The Quasi War with France 150Repression and Protest 151The “Revolution” of 1800 152

Debating the Past: The Meaning of the Constitution 138Consider the Source: Washington’s Farewell Address, American Daily Advertiser, September 19, 1796 148CONCLUSION 153KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 153RECALL AND REFLECT 154

Source: National Archives and Records Administration



The Government and Economic Growth 186Transportation 187

EXPANDING WESTWARD 188The Great Migration 188White Settlers in the Old Northwest 188The Plantation System in the Old

Southwest 189Trade and Trapping in the Far West 189Eastern Images of the West 190


The End of the First Party System 191John Quincy Adams and Florida 191The Panic of 1819 192


The Missouri Compromise 193Marshall and the Court 195

The Court and the Tribes 197The Latin American Revolution and the

Monroe Doctrine 198

THE REVIVAL OF OPPOSITION 199The “Corrupt Bargain” 199The Second President Adams 200Jackson Triumphant 200

Consider the Source: Thomas Jefferson Reacts To The Missouri Compromise (1820) 194CONCLUSION 201KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 201RECALL AND REFLECT 201

Source: Yale University Art Gallery



Educational and Literary Nationalism 156Medicine and Science 157Cultural Aspirations of the New Nation 158Religion and Revivalism 158

STIRRINGS OF INDUSTRIALISM 160Technology in America 160Transportation Innovations 163Country and City 166

JEFFERSON THE PRESIDENT 166The Federal City and the

“People’s President” 166Dollars and Ships 168Conflict with the Courts 168


Jefferson and Napoleon 169The Louisiana Purchase 171Exploring the West 171The Burr Conspiracy 175

EXPANSION AND WAR 175Conflict on the Seas 176Impressment 176“Peaceable Coercion” 177The “Indian Problem” and the British 178

Tec*mseh and the Prophet 179Florida and War Fever 179

THE WAR OF 1812 180Battles with the Tribes 180Battles with the British 181The Revolt of New England 182The Peace Settlement 183

America in the World: The Global Industrial Revolution 162Patterns of Popular Culture: Horse Racing 164Consider the Source: Thomas Jefferson To Meriwether Lewis (1803) 172CONCLUSION 183KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 184RECALL AND REFLECT 184



Expanding Democracy 203Tocqueville and Democracy in America 205The Legitimization of Party 205President of the Common People 207

“OUR FEDERAL UNION” 208Calhoun and Nullification 208The Rise of Van Buren 208The Webster–Hayne Debate 209The Nullification Crisis 209


White Attitudes toward the Tribes 209The “Five Civilized Tribes” 209Trail of Tears 213The Meaning of Removal 214

JACKSON AND THE BANK WAR 215Biddle’s Institution 215The “Monster” Destroyed 216


Democrats and Whigs 217

POLITICS AFTER JACKSON 219Van Buren and the Panic of 1837 219The Log Cabin Campaign 220The Frustration of the Whigs 224Whig Diplomacy 224

Debating the Past: Jacksonian Democracy 206Consider the Source: Letter from Chief John Ross To The Senate and House of Representatives (1836) 212Patterns of Popular Culture: The Penny Press 222CONCLUSION 225KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 225RECALL AND REFLECT 226

Source: Yale University Art Gallery

©Universal Images Group/Getty Images


Population Trends 228Immigration and Urban Growth,

1840–1860 229The Rise of Nativism 230


The Canal Age 231The Early Railroads 232The Triumph of the Rails 233The Telegraph 234New Technology and

Journalism 236


The Expansion of Business, 1820–1840 236The Emergence of the Factory 237

Advances in Technology 237Rise of the Industrial Ruling Class 238

MEN AND WOMEN AT WORK 238Recruiting a Native Workforce 238The Immigrant Workforce 239The Factory System and the Artisan

Tradition 241Fighting for Control 242

PATTERNS OF SOCIETY 242The Rich and the Poor 242Social and Geographical Mobility 243Middle-Class Life 244The Changing Family 245The “Cult of Domesticity” 246Leisure Activities 246

THE AGRICULTURAL NORTH 248Northeastern Agriculture 248The Old Northwest 249Rural Life 250

Consider the Source: Handbook to Lowell (1848) 240CONCLUSION 251KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 251RECALL AND REFLECT 252



The Rise of King Cotton 254Southern Trade and Industry 256

SOUTHERN WHITE SOCIETY 257The Planter Class 259The “Southern Lady” 259The Lower Classes 260


Varieties of Slavery 264Life under Slavery 265Slavery in the Cities 266Free African Americans 267The Slave Trade 267

THE CULTURE OF SLAVERY 268Slave Religion 269Language and Music 269The Slave Family 270Slave Resistance 270

Consider the Source: Senator James Henry Hammond Declares, “Cotton Is King” (1858) 258Debating the Past: Analyzing Slavery 262CONCLUSION 272KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 272RECALL AND REFLECT 272

©MPI/Archive Photos/Getty Images



Nationalism and Romanticism in American Painting 274

An American Literature 275Literature in the Antebellum South 275The Transcendentalists 276The Defense of Nature 277Visions of Utopia 278Redefining Gender Roles 278The Mormons 279

REMAKING SOCIETY 280Revivalism, Morality, and Order 281Health, Science, and Phrenology 282Medical Science 282Education 283Rehabilitation 283The Rise of Feminism 284Struggles of Black Women 285


Early Opposition to Slavery 290Garrison and Abolitionism 290Black Abolitionists 290Anti-Abolitionism 292Abolitionism Divided 292

Consider the Source: Declaration Of Sentiments And Resolutions, Seneca Falls, New York (1848) 286America in the World: The Abolition of Slavery 288Patterns of Popular Culture: Sentimental Novels 294CONCLUSION 296KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 296RECALL AND REFLECT 296


Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-1138]


Manifest Destiny 298Americans in Texas 298Oregon 300The Westward Migration 300

EXPANSION AND WAR 302The Democrats and Expansion 302The Southwest and California 302The Mexican War 304

THE SECTIONAL DEBATE 306Slavery and the Territories 306The California Gold Rush 307Rising Sectional Tensions 309The Compromise of 1850 310

THE CRISES OF THE 1850s 311The Uneasy Truce 311“Young America” 311Slavery, Railroads, and the West 312The Kansas–Nebraska Controversy 312“Bleeding Kansas” 313The Free-Soil Ideology 314The Pro-Slavery Argument 315

Buchanan and Depression 315The Dred Scott Decision 316Deadlock over Kansas 317The Emergence of Lincoln 317John Brown’s Raid 318The Election of Lincoln 318

Consider the Source: Wilmot Proviso (1846) 308CONCLUSION 319KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 320RECALL AND REFLECT 320

THE SECESSION CRISIS 322The Withdrawal of the South 322The Failure of Compromise 322The Opposing Sides 323Billy Yank and Johnny Reb 323


Economic Nationalism 326Raising the Union Armies 327Wartime Politics 328The Politics of Emancipation 329African Americans and the Union

Cause 330Women, Nursing, and the

War 331


The Confederate Government 331Money and Manpower 332Economic and Social Effects of

the War 333

STRATEGY AND DIPLOMACY 333The Commanders 335The Role of Sea Power 336

Europe and the Disunited States 337

CAMPAIGNS AND BATTLES 338The Technology of War 338The Opening Clashes, 1861 339The Western Theater 340The Virginia Front, 1862 340The Progress of the War 3421863: Year of Decision 344The Last Stage, 1864–1865 346

Debating the Past: The Causes of the Civil War 324Patterns of Popular Culture: Baseball and the Civil War 334Consider the Source: The Gettysburg Address (1863) 346


Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ61-903]



Source: NPS photo by JR Douglas


The Western Tribes 382Hispanic New Mexico 383Hispanic California and Texas 383The Chinese Migration 384Anti-Chinese Sentiments 386Migration from the East 386

THE ROMANCE OF THE WEST 387The Western Landscape and the Cowboy 387The Idea of the Frontier 387


Labor in the West 390The Arrival of the Miners 391The Cattle Kingdom 392


White Tribal Policies 394The Indian Wars 394The Dawes Act 397


Farming on the Plains 399Commercial Agriculture 402The Farmers’ Grievances 402The Agrarian Malaise 403

Debating the Past: The Frontier and the West 388Consider the Source: Walter Baron Von Richthofen, Cattle Raising On The Plains In North America (1885) 400



The Aftermath of War and Emancipation 353Competing Notions of Freedom 353Plans for Reconstruction 355The Death of Lincoln 358Johnson and “Restoration” 359

RADICAL RECONSTRUCTION 359The Black Codes 359The Fourteenth Amendment 361The Congressional Plan 361The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson 363


The Reconstruction Governments 363Education 365Landownership and Tenancy 365Incomes and Credit 365The African American Family

in Freedom 366

THE GRANT ADMINISTRATION 367The Soldier President 367The Grant Scandals 368The Greenback Question 368Republican Diplomacy 369


The Southern States “Redeemed” 369Waning Northern Commitment 370The Compromise of 1877 370The Legacy of Reconstruction 372

THE NEW SOUTH 372The “Redeemers” 372Industrialization and the New South 373Tenants and Sharecroppers 374African Americans and the New South 374The Birth of Jim Crow 375

Debating the Past: Reconstruction 356Consider the Source: Southern Blacks Ask for Help (1865) 360Patterns of Popular Culture: The Minstrel Show 376CONCLUSION 379KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 380RECALL AND REFLECT 380

Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-5759]


Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-435]



Industrial Technologies 406The Technology of Iron and Steel

Production 407The Automobile and the Airplane 408Research and Development 409Making Production More Efficient 409Railroad Expansion and the Corporation 410

CAPITALISM AND ITS CRITICS 413Survival of the Fittest 413The Gospel of Wealth 414Alternative Visions 415The Problems of Monopoly 415

THE ORDEAL OF THE WORKER 420The Immigrant Workforce 420Wages and Working Conditions 420Emerging Unionization 421The Knights of Labor 422The American Federation of Labor 422The Homestead Strike 423

The Pullman Strike 424Sources of Labor Weakness 424

Consider the Source: Andrew Carnegie Explains “The Gospel Of Wealth” (1889) 416Patterns of Popular Culture: The Novels of Horatio Alger 418CONCLUSION 425KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 425RECALL AND REFLECT 426


The Migrations 428The Ethnic City 429Assimilation and Exclusion 432

THE URBAN LANDSCAPE 433The Creation of Public Space 433The Search for Housing 434Urban Technologies: Transportation and

Construction 435

STRAINS OF URBAN LIFE 436Health and Safety in the Built

Environment 436Urban Poverty, Crime, and Violence 437The Machine and the Boss 439


Patterns of Income and Consumption 439Chain Stores, Mail-Order Houses, and

Department Stores 441Women as Consumers 442


Redefining Leisure 443Spectator Sports 443Music, Theater, and Movies 444Patterns of Public and Private Leisure 445The Technologies of Mass

Communication 446The Telephone 446


Literature and Art in Urban America 447The Impact of Darwinism 448Toward Universal Schooling 449Universities and the Growth of Science and

Technology 449Medical Science 450Education for Women 451

America in the World: Global Migrations 430Consider the Source: John Wanamaker, The Four Cardinal Points Of The Department Store (1874) 440CONCLUSION 451KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 452RECALL AND REFLECT 452



The Muckrakers and the Social Gospel 489

The Settlement House Movement 490The Allure of Expertise 491The Professions 491Women and the Professions 492

WOMEN AND REFORM 492The “New Woman” 492The Clubwomen 492Woman Suffrage 493

THE ASSAULT ON THE PARTIES 495Early Attacks 495Municipal Reform 495Statehouse Progressivism 496Parties and Interest Groups 496


Labor, the Machine, and Reform 497

Western Progressives 499African Americans and Reform 500


The Party System 454The National Government 455Presidents and Patronage 456Cleveland, Harrison, and the Tariff 457New Public Issues 458

THE AGRARIAN REVOLT 459The Grangers 459The Farmers’ Alliances 459The Populist Constituency 461Populist Ideas 461

THE CRISIS OF THE 1890s 462The Panic of 1893 462The Silver Question 463“A Cross of Gold” 464The Conservative Victory 465McKinley and Recovery 466

STIRRINGS OF IMPERIALISM 467The New Manifest Destiny 467Hawaii and Samoa 470

WAR WITH SPAIN 471Controversy over Cuba 471“A Splendid Little War” 474Seizing the Philippines 475The Battle for Cuba 475Puerto Rico and the United States 476The Debate over the Philippines 478

THE REPUBLIC AS EMPIRE 479Governing the Colonies 481The Philippine War 481The Open Door 483A Modern Military System 484

America in the World: Imperialism 468Patterns of Popular Culture: Yellow Journalism 472Consider the Source: Platform of the American Anti-Imperialist League (1899) 480CONCLUSION 484KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 485RECALL AND REFLECT 485

Source: Library of Congress, Printsand Photographs Division [LC- DIG-ppmsca-28490]


Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LCUSZ62-70382]




Roosevelt and “Civilization” 517Protecting the “Open Door” in Asia 518The Iron-Fisted Neighbor 519The Panama Canal 519Taft and “Dollar Diplomacy” 520Diplomacy and Morality 521

THE ROAD TO WAR 522The Collapse of the European Peace 522Wilson’s Neutrality 522Preparedness versus Pacifism 523Intervention 523

“OVER THERE” 525Mobilizing the Military 525The Yanks Are Coming 527The New Technology of Warfare 528Organizing the Economy for War 530The Search for Social Unity 531


The Fourteen Points 533The Paris Peace Conference 534The Ratification Battle 534

A SOCIETY IN TURMOIL 535The Unstable Economy 535The Demands of African Americans 536The Red Scare 538Refuting the Red Scare 538The Retreat from Idealism 539

Consider the Source: Race, Gender, And World War I Posters 526Patterns of Popular Culture: George M. Cohan, “Over There” (1917) 532CONCLUSION 539KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 540RECALL AND REFLECT 540

Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-9884]



The Temperance Crusade 501Immigration Restriction 502The Dream of Socialism 502Decentralization and Regulation 503


The Accidental President 503The “Square Deal” 504Roosevelt and the Environment 505Panic and Retirement 508

THE TROUBLED SUCCESSION 508Taft and the Progressives 508The Return of Roosevelt 509

Spreading Insurgency 510Roosevelt versus Taft 510


Woodrow Wilson 511The Scholar as President 511Retreat and Advance 514

America in the World: Social Democracy 488Debating the Past: Progressivism 498Consider the Source: John Muir On The Value Of Wild Places (1901) 506CONCLUSION 514KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 515RECALL AND REFLECT 515


THE NEW ECONOMY 542Technology, Organization,

and Economic Growth 542Workers in an Age of Capital 543Women and Minorities in the

Workforce 545Agricultural Technology and the Plight

of the Farmer 547

THE NEW CULTURE 548Consumerism and Communications 548

Women in the New Era 548The Disenchanted 553

A CONFLICT OF CULTURES 554Prohibition 554Nativism and the Klan 554Religious Fundamentalism 555The Democrats’ Ordeal 556

REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT 556The Harding Administration 557The Coolidge Administration 558Government and Business 558

Consider the Source: American Print Advertisem*nts 552America in the World: The Cinema 550CONCLUSION 560KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 560RECALL AND REFLECT 560©Bettmann/Corbis

22 THE NEW ERA 541


The Great Crash 562Causes of the Depression 562Progress of the Depression 565


Unemployment and Relief 566African Americans and the Depression 567Hispanics and Asians in Depression

America 568Women and Families in the Great

Depression 571


Depression Values 572Radio 572The Movies 573Literature and Journalism 575The Popular Front and the Left 577


The Hoover Program 579Popular Protest 580Hoover and the World Crisis 582The Election of 1932 583The “Interregnum” 584

America in the World: The Global Depression 564Consider the Source: Mr. Tarver Remembers The Great Depression (1940) 570Patterns of Popular Culture: The Golden Age of Comic Books 574CONCLUSION 585KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 585RECALL AND REFLECT 585

Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USF34-009872-E]


xviii • CONTENTS

LAUNCHING THE NEW DEAL 587Restoring Confidence 587Agricultural Adjustment 588Industrial Recovery 589Regional Planning 590The Growth of Federal Relief 592


The Conservative Criticism of the New Deal 593

The Populist Criticism of the New Deal 595The “Second New Deal” 597Labor Militancy 597Organizing Battles 598Social Security 599

New Directions in Relief 600The 1936 “Referendum” 601

THE NEW DEAL IN DISARRAY 601The Court Fight 601Retrenchment and Recession 602


Depression Diplomacy 603The Rise of Isolationism 604The Failure of Munich 605


African Americans and the New Deal 606The New Deal and the “Indian Problem” 607Women and the New Deal 607The New Deal and the West 609The New Deal, the Economy,

and Politics 609

Debating the Past: The New Deal 594Consider the Source: Eleanor Roosevelt on Civil Rights (1942) 608CONCLUSION 610KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 611RECALL AND REFLECT 611


©Fotosearch/Archive Photos/GettyImages


Neutrality Tested 613The Campaign of 1940 615Neutrality Abandoned 615The Road to Pearl Harbor 616

WAR ON TWO FRONTS 617Containing the Japanese 617Holding Off the Germans 618America and the Holocaust 619The Soldier’s Experience 621


Prosperity and the Rights of Labor 622Stabilizing the Boom and Mobilizing

Production 622Wartime Science and Technology 623


Minority Groups and the War Effort 624The Internment of Japanese Americans 625Chinese Americans and the War 627


Home-Front Life and Culture 628Love, Family, and Sexuality in Wartime 628The Growth of Wartime Conservatism 630

THE DEFEAT OF THE AXIS 631The European Offensive 631The Pacific Offensive 634The Manhattan Project and Atomic

Warfare 636

Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-1047]



Consider the Source: The Face of The Enemy 626Debating the Past: The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb 638


ORIGINS OF THE COLD WAR 643Sources of Soviet–

American Tension 643Wartime Diplomacy 645Yalta 646

THE COLLAPSE OF THE PEACE 647The Failure of Potsdam 647The China Problem and Japan 648The Containment Doctrine 648The Conservative Opposition to

Containment 650The Marshall Plan 650Mobilization at Home 651The Road to NATO 651Reevaluating Cold War Policy 653

AMERICA AFTER THE WAR 653The Problems of Reconversion 653The Fair Deal Rejected 654The Election of 1948 655The Fair Deal Revived 656The Nuclear Age 657

THE KOREAN WAR 660The Divided Peninsula 660From Invasion to Stalemate 660Limited Mobilization 662


HUAC and Alger Hiss 663The Federal Loyalty Program and the

Rosenberg Case 663McCarthyism 664The Republican Revival 665

Debating the Past: The Cold War 644Consider the Source: “Bert The Turtle (Duck And Cover)” (1952) 658CONCLUSION 666KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 666RECALL AND REFLECT 667

Source: U.S. Office for Emergency Management. Office of Civilian Defense. 5/20/1941-6/30/1945/NARA (38174)



Economic Growth 669The Rise of the Modern West 671Capital and Labor 671


Medical Breakthroughs 672Pesticides 673Postwar Electronic Research 674Postwar Computer Technology 674Bombs, Rockets, and Missiles 675The Space Program 675

PEOPLE OF PLENTY 677The Consumer Culture 677The Suburban Nation 677 Source: NASA


The Suburban Family 678The Birth of Television 678Travel, Outdoor Recreation, and

Environmentalism 679Organized Society and Its Detractors 682The Beats and the Restless Culture

of Youth 682Rock ‘n’ Roll 683

THE OTHER AMERICA 684On the Margins of the Affluent

Society 684Rural Poverty 685The Inner Cities 685


The Brown Decision and “Massive Resistance” 686

The Expanding Movement 687Causes of the Civil Rights

Movement 688

EISENHOWER REPUBLICANISM 689“What Was Good for . . . General

Motors” 689 The Survival of the Welfare State 690The Decline of McCarthyism 690


Dulles and “Massive Retaliation” 691France, America, and Vietnam 691Cold War Crises 692The U-2 Crisis 695

Patterns of Popular Culture: Lucy and Desi 680Consider the Source: Eisenhower Warns of The Military–Industrial Complex (1961) 694CONCLUSION 696KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 697RECALL AND REFLECT 697

©John Orris/New York Times Co./ Getty Images


John Kennedy 699Lyndon Johnson 701The Assault on Poverty 702Cities, Schools, and Immigration 703Legacies of the Great Society 704


Expanding Protests 704A National Commitment 705The Battle for Voting Rights 709The Changing Movement 710Urban Violence 711Black Power 714


Diversifying Foreign Policy 715Confrontations with the Soviet Union 716Johnson and the World 716

THE AGONY OF VIETNAM 717America and Diem 717From Aid to Intervention 718The Quagmire 719The War at Home 721

THE TRAUMAS OF 1968 723The Tet Offensive 725The Political Challenge 725

Assassinations and Politics 726The Conservative Response 727

Debating the Past: The Civil Rights Movement 706Consider the Source: Fannie Lou Hamer on the Struggle for Voting Rights (1964) 712Patterns of Popular Culture: The Folk-Music Revival 722America in the World: 1968 724CONCLUSION 728KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 729RECALL AND REFLECT 729


©Michael Rougier/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images


The New Left 731The Counterculture 733


Seeds of Native American Militancy 735

The Indian Civil Rights Movement 735Latino Activism 737Gay Liberation 738


Modern Feminism 739Expanding Achievements 740The Abortion Issue 741


The New Science of Ecology 741Environmental Advocacy 742Earth Day and Beyond 743


Vietnamization 743Escalation 744The End of the War 745Defeat in Indochina 745


The China Initiative and Soviet–American Détente 747

Dealing with the “Third World” 750


Domestic Initiatives 751From the Warren Court to the Nixon

Court 752The 1972 Landslide 753The Troubled Economy 753The Nixon Response 754

THE WATERGATE CRISIS 755The Scandals 755The Fall of Richard Nixon 757

Consider the Source: Demands of the New York High School Student Union (1970) 732America in the World: The End of Colonialism 748Debating the Past: Watergate 756CONCLUSION 759KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/ EVENTS 760RECALL AND REFLECT 760


The Ford Custodianship 762The Trials of Jimmy Carter 764Human Rights and National Interests 765The Year of the Hostages 765


The Sunbelt and Its Politics 766Religious Revivalism 766The Emergence of the

New Right 769The Tax Revolt 769The Campaign of 1980 770

©Dirck Halstead/The LIFE ImagesCollection/Getty Images


Source: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza


Launching the Clinton Presidency 785Republican Wins and Losses 786Clinton Triumphant and Embattled 787Impeachment, Acquittal, and

Resurgence 788The Election of 2000 789The Presidency of George W. Bush 790The Election of 2008 791Obama and His Opponents 793Obama and the Challenge of

Governing 797The Election of 2016 and President

Trump 797


The Digital Revolution 799The Internet 800Breakthroughs in Genetics 801

A CHANGING SOCIETY 802A Shifting Population 802African Americans in the

Post–Civil Rights Era 803The Abortion Debate 804AIDS and Modern America 805Gay Americans and Same-Sex

Marriage 806The Contemporary Environmental

Movement 807

AMERICA IN THE WORLD 812Opposing the “New World Order” 812The Rise of Terrorism 813The War on Terror 815The Iraq War 815New Challenges in the Middle East  817Diplomacy and Threats in East Asia  818A New Cold War? 819

Patterns of Popular Culture: Rap 794Consider the Source: Same-Sex Marriage, 2015 808America in the World: The Global Environmental Movement 810CONCLUSION 820KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 820RECALL AND REFLECT 820

THE “REAGAN REVOLUTION” 771The Reagan Coalition 771Reagan in the White House 774“Supply-Side” Economics 775The Fiscal Crisis 776Reagan and the World 776


The Fall of the Soviet Union 778The Fading of the Reagan Revolution 779

The Presidency of George H. W. Bush 780The Gulf War 780The Election of 1992 781

Consider the Source: Ronald Reagan On The Role Of Government (1981) 772CONCLUSION 782KEY TERMS/PEOPLE/PLACES/EVENTS 783RECALL AND REFLECT 783


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The title The Unfinished Nation is meant to suggest several things. It is a reminder of America’s exceptional diversity—of the degree to which, despite all the many efforts to build a single, uniform definition of the meaning of American nationhood, that meaning remains contested. It is a reference to the centrality of change in American history—to the ways in which the nation has continually transformed itself and continues to do so in our own time. And it is also a description of the writing of American history itself—of the ways in which historians are engaged in a continuing, ever unfin-ished process of asking new questions. Like any history, The Unfinished Nation is a product of its time and reflects the views of the past that historians of recent generations have developed. The writing of our nation’s history—like our nation itself—changes constantly. It is not, of course, the past that changes. Rather, historians adjust their perspectives and priorities, ask different kinds of questions, and uncover and incorporate new historical evidence. There are now, as there have always been, critics of changes in historical understanding who argue that history is a collection of facts and should not be subject to “interpre-tation” or “revision.” But historians insist that history is not simply a collection of facts. Names and dates and a record of events are only the beginning of historical understanding. Writers and readers of history interpret the evidence before them, and inevitably bring to the task their own questions, concerns, and experiences. This edition brings two new authors and therefore a revised and broadened set of ambitions to The Unfinished Nation. John Giggie is a historian of race and religion, Andrew Huebner is a historian of war and society, and both more generally study and teach American social and cultural history. Their interests join and complement Alan Brinkley’s expansive base of knowledge in the history of American politics, society, and culture. Alan’s scholarship inspired John and Andrew as graduate students and they are honored to join him as authors of The Unfinished Nation. They endeavor to bring their own scholarly interests and sensitivities to an already vibrant, clear, concise, and balanced survey of American history. The result, we hope, is a text that explores the great range of ideas, institutions, individuals, and events that make up the fabric of society in the United States. It is a daunting task to attempt to convey the history of the United States in a single book, and the ninth edition of The Unfinished Nation has, as have all previous editions, been carefully written and edited to keep the book as concise and readable as possible. It features most notably an enlarged focus on the history of Native Americans, the meaning of the American Revolution, the transforma-tive effects of modern warfare on everyday life, the far-reaching effects of the civil rights movement, and dramatic political and technological change in the twenty-first century. Across these subjects, we recognize that to understand the full complexity of the American past it is necessary to understand both the forces that divide Americans and the forces that draw them together. Thus we’ve sought to explore the development of foundational ideals like democracy and equality as well as the ways that our nation’s fulfillment of those ideals remains, like so much else, unfinished.

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Is American History finished? Not yet! The Unfinished Nation shows that as more details are uncovered, dates may not change—but perceptions and reality definitely can. America and her history are in a constant state of change. Just like America, this edition evolves with two new authors to further Alan Brinkley’s established tradition. John Giggie and Andrew Huebner bring expertise and new voices, shedding light on perspectives that will shape an examination of the past. Their aim is to help you, the reader, ask new questions. By doing so, you will find your own answer to the question: is American History finished?


Primary sources help students think critically about history and expose them to contrasting perspectives of key events. The Ninth Edition of The Unfinished Nation provides three dif-ferent ways to use primary source documents in your course. Power of Process for Primary Sources is a critical thinking tool for reading and writing about primary sources. As part of Connect History, McGraw-Hill Education’s learning platform Power of Process contains a database of over 400 searchable pri-mary sources in addition to the capa-bility for instructors to upload their own sources. Instructors can then select a series of strategies for stu-dents to use to analyze and comment on a source. The Power of Process framework helps students develop essential academic skills such as understanding, analyzing, and syn-thesizing readings and visuals such as maps, leading students toward higher order thinking and writing. Features that offer contrasting perspectives or showcase historical artifacts. Within the print or eBook, the Ninth Edition of The Unfinished Nation offers the following features:

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Patterns of Popular Culture essays bring fads, crazes, hangouts, hobbies, and entertainment into the story of American history, encouraging students to expand their definition of what constitutes his-tory and gain a new understanding of what popular culture reveals about a society.


Debating the Past essays introduce students to the contested quality of much of the American past, and they provide a sense of the evolving nature of historical scholarship. From examining specific differences in historical understandings of the Constitution, to exploring the causes of the Civil War and the significance of Watergate, these essays familiarize students with the inter-pretive character of historical understanding.


In every chapter, Consider the Source features guide students through careful analysis of historical documents and prompt them to closely examine the ideas expressed, as well as the historical circ*mstances. Among the classic sources included are Benjamin Franklin’s testi-mony against the Stamp Act, the Gettysburg Address, a radio address from FDR, and Ronald Reagan on the role of government. Concise introductions provide context, and concluding questions prompt stu-dents to understand, analyze, and evaluate each source.

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The Decision to Drop the Atomic BombThere has been continuing disagreement since 1945 among historians—and many others—about how to explain and evaluate President Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan.

Truman himself, both at the time and in his 1955 memoirs, insisted that the decision was a simple and straightforward one. Japan was not ready to surrender in the summer of 1945. The alternative to using atomic weapons, he claimed, was an American

invasion of mainland Japan that might have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. Secretary of War Henry Stimson made the same argument, known as the “ orthodox” one, in a 1947 piece in Harper ’s Magazine. That view received considerable support from historians. Herbert Feis argued in The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II (1966) that Truman made his decision on purely military grounds—to ensure a speedy American victory.

NAGASAKI SURVIVORS A Japanese woman and child look grimly at a photographer as they hold pieces of bread in the aftermath of the dropping of the second American atomic bomb—this one on Nagasaki.

(©Bettmann/Getty Images)

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• 639

Others strongly disagreed. As early as 1948, British physicist P. M. S. Blackett wrote in Fear, War, and the Bomb that the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was “not so much the last military act of the second World War as the first major operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia.” The most important “revisionist” critic of Truman’s decision is the historian Gar Alperovitz, the author of two influential books on the subject: Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam (1965) and The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb (1995). Alperovitz dismissed the argument that the bomb was used to shorten the war and save lives. Japan was likely to have surrendered soon even if the bomb had not been used, he claimed. Instead, he argued, the United States used the bomb less to influence Japan than for what he called “atomic diplomacy”—to intimidate the Soviet Union and “make Russia more manageable in Europe.” In A World Destroyed: The Atomic Bomb and the Grand Alliance (1975), Martin Sherwin agreed that the bombs carried diplomatic value but also granted the orthodox position that Truman dropped them to end the war quickly.

Other critics of the Truman administration suggested that race played a role in the decision to drop atomic weapons on Japan. These include John Dower’s War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (1986), Ronald Takaki’s Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (1995), and Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan (2005). These writers contend that American visions of the Japanese as almost subhuman animated not only Hiroshima and Nagasaki but also the broader character of the war in the Pacific. But there is much disagreement within the revisionist camp. Takaki and Hasegawa agreed with Alperovitz, for instance, that anti-Soviet impulses motivated the deployment of the bomb, but they parted company over other matters including race. Alperovitz wrote that it is “all but impossible to find specific evidence that racism was an important factor in the decision to attack Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Orthodox scholars, in turn, reasserted their opposition to Alperovitz’s idea of “atomic diplomacy” in the 1990s and 2000s with a similar charge: that revisionist scholars misread the evidence or wrote before the release of important new documents. Declas-sified reports suggested the United States knew in 1945 that Japan was readying itself for an American invasion. Two scholars, Robert H. Ferrell, in Harry S. Truman: A Life (1994) and Harry S. Truman and the Cold War Revisionists (2006), as well asAlonzo L. Hamby, in Man of the People (1995), defended Truman’s decision to drop the bomb on military grounds. They cited Japan’s unwillingness to surrender and Truman’s belief that an invasion would be costly, thus denying the place of atomic diplomacy in the attacks.“One consideration weighed most heavily on Truman,” Hamby concluded. “The longer the war lasted, the more Americans killed.”InThe Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (2011), Wilson Miscamble likewise called it a “myth” that Japan was ready to give up before Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The debate over Truman’s decision to drop the bomb has generated bitter and even personal exchanges, because at their heart, those exchanges pivot around a wrenching and divisive question: Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki brutal, unnecessary tragedies that killed thousands of innocent people, or terrible but justifiable acts that shortened a war and saved many thousands more? •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, one on Hiroshima and the other on Nagasaki. Was dropping the bomb on Hiroshima necessary? Was it justifiable? Do the reasons for dropping the bomb on Hiroshima apply equally to the bombing of Nagasaki?

2. How might the war in the Pacific have been different if the United States had decided not to drop the bombs?

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10 •


Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Dominican friar from Spain, was an early European settler of the West Indies. He devoted much of his life to de-scribing the culture of native peoples and chron-icling the many abuses they suffered at the hands of their colonizers. This excerpt is from a letter he addressed to Spain’s Prince Philip.

God has created all these numberless people to be quite the simplest, without malice or duplicity, most obedient, most faithful to their natural Lords, and to the Christians, whom they serve; the most humble, most patient, most peaceful and calm, without strife nor tumults; not wrangling, nor queru-lous, as free from uproar, hate and desire of revenge as any in the world. . . . Among these gentle sheep, gifted by their Maker with the above qualities, the Spaniards entered as soon as they knew them, like wolves, tigers and lions which had been starving for many days, and since forty years they have done nothing else; nor do they afflict, torment, and destroy them with strange and new, and divers kinds of cruelty, never before seen, nor heard of, nor read of. . . .

The Christians, with their horses and swords and lances, began to slaughter and practice strange cruelty among them. They penetrated into the country and spared nei-ther children nor the aged, nor pregnant women, nor those in child labour, all of whom they ran through the body and lacerated, as though they were assaulting so many lambs herded in their sheepfold. They made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow: or they opened up his bow-els. They tore the babes from their mothers’ breast by the feet, and dashed their heads

against the rocks. Others they seized by the shoulders and threw into the rivers, laughing and joking, and when they fell into the water they exclaimed: “boil body of so and so!” They spitted the bodies of other babes, to-gether with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords.

They made a gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground, and by thirteens, in honor and reverence of our Redeemer and the twelve Apostles, they put wood underneath and, with fire, they burned the Indians alive.

They wrapped the bodies of others entirely in dry straw, binding them in it and setting fire to it; and so they burned them. They cut off the hands of all they wished to take alive, made them carry them fastened on to them, and said: “Go and carry letters”: that is; take the news to those who have fled to the mountains.

They generally killed the lords and no-bles in the following way. They made wooden gridirons of stakes, bound them upon them, and made a slow fire beneath; thus the vic-tims gave up the spirit by degrees, emitting cries of despair in their torture.


1. How did Bartolomé de Las Casas char-acterize the indigenous people of Hispaniola? How do you think they would have responded to this description?

2. What metaphor did Las Casas use to describe the native peoples and where does this metaphor come from?

3. What role did Las Casas expect the Spaniards to play on Hispaniola? Whatdid they do instead?

Source: Macnu*tt, Francis Augustus, Bar tholomew de Las Casas: His Life, His Apostolate, and His Writings. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909, 14.


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America in the World essays focus on specific parallels between American history and those of other nations and demonstrate the importance of the many global influences on the American story. Topics such as the global Industrial Revo-lution, the abolition of slavery, and the global depression of the 1920s provide concrete exam-ples of the connections between the history of the United States and the history of other nations.

288 •

The United States formally abolished slav-ery through the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War. But the effort to abolish slavery did not begin or end in North America. Emancipation in the United States was part of a worldwide antislavery movement that began in the late eigh-teenth century and continued through the end of the nineteenth.

The end of slavery, like the end of monar-chies and established aristocracies, was one of the ideals of the Enlightenment, which inspired new concepts of individual freedom and political equality. As Enlightenment ideas spread throughout the Western world

in the seventeenth and eighteenth centu-ries, people on both sides of the Atlantic began to examine slavery anew. Some Enlightenment thinkers, including some of the founders of the American republic, believed that freedom was appropriate for white people but not for people of color. But others came to believe that all human beings had an equal claim to liberty, and their views became the basis for an escalat-ing series of antislavery movements.

Opponents of slavery first targeted the slave trade—the vast commerce in human beings that had grown up in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and had come to involve large parts of Europe, Africa, the

The Abolition of Slavery


ANTISLAVERY MESSAGE The image of an enslaved man praying to God was popular in both British and American antislavery circles. It began as the seal of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, a British abolitionist group formed in 1787, accompanied by the quote, “Am I not a man and a brother?” This example from 1837 was used to illustrate John Greenleaf Whittier ’s antislavery poem “Our Countrymen in Chains.”

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-5321])

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• 289

Caribbean, and North and South America. In the aftermath of the revolutions in America, France, and Haiti, the attack on the slave trade quickly gained momentum. Its central figure was the English reformer William Wilberforce, who spent years attacking Britain’s connection with the slave trade on moral and religious grounds. After the Haitian Revolution, Wilberforce and other antislavery activists denounced slavery on the grounds that its continuation would create more slave revolts. In 1807, he per-suaded Parliament to pass a law ending the slave trade within the entire British Empire. The British example foreshadowed many other nations to make the slave trade illegal as well: the United States in 1808, France in 1814, Holland in 1817, Spain in 1845. Trading in slaves persisted within countries and colonies where slavery remained legal (including the United States), and some ille-gal slave trading continued throughout the Atlantic World. But the international sale of slaves steadily declined after 1807. The last known shipment of slaves across the Atlantic—from Africa to Cuba—occurred in 1867.

Ending the slave trade was a great deal easier than ending slavery itself, in which many people had major investments and on which much agriculture, commerce, and in-dustry depended. But pressure to abolish slavery grew steadily throughout the nine-teenth century, with Wilberforce once more helping to lead the international outcry against the institution. In Haiti, the slave revolts that began in 1791 eventually abol-ished not only slavery but also French rule. In some parts of South America, slavery came to an end with the overthrow of Spanish rule in the 1820s. Simón Bolívar, the great leader of Latin American independence, considered abolishing slavery an important part of his mission, freeing those who joined his armies and insisting on constitutional prohibitions of slavery in several of the constitutions he helped frame. In 1833, the British parliament passed a law abolishing slavery throughout

the British Empire and compensated slaveo-wners for freeing their slaves. France abol-ished slavery in its empire, after years of agitation from abolitionists, in 1848. In the Caribbean, Spain followed Britain in slowly eliminating slavery from its colonies. Puerto Rico abolished slavery in 1873; and Cuba became the last colony in the Caribbean to end slavery, in 1886, in the face of increasing slave resistance and the declining profitabil-ity of slave-based plantations. Brazil was the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery, ending the system in 1888. The Brazilian military began to turn against slavery after the valiant participation of slaves in Brazil’s war with Paraguay in the late 1860s; eventu-ally, educated Brazilians began to oppose the system too, arguing that it obstructed eco-nomic and social progress.

In the United States, the power of world opinion—and the example of Wilberforce’s movement in England—became an impor-tant influence on the abolitionist move-ment as it gained strength in the 1820s and 1830s. American abolitionism, in turn, helped reinforce the movements abroad. Frederick Douglass, the former American slave turned abolitionist, became a major figure in the international antislavery movement and was a much-admired and much-sought-after speaker in England and Europe in the 1840s and 1850s. No other nation paid such a terrible price for abol-ishing slavery as did the United States during its Civil War, but American emanci-pation was nevertheless part of a world-wide movement toward emancipation. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. Why did opponents of slavery focus first on ending the slave trade, rather than abolishing slavery itself? Why was ending the slave trade easier than ending slavery?

2. How do William Wilberforce’s arguments against slavery compare with those of the abolitionists in the United States?

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Long before the great urban stadiums, the lights, the cameras, and the multimillion-dollar salaries, baseball was the most popu-lar game in America. During the Civil War, it was a treasured pastime for soldiers and for thousands of men (and some women) behind the lines, in both the North and the South.

The legend that baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday—who probably never even saw the game—was created by Albert G. Spalding, a patriotic sporting-goods manufacturer eager to prove that the game had purely American origins. In fact, base-ball was derived from a variety of earlier games, especially the English pastimes of cricket and rounders. American baseball took its own distinctive form beginning in the 1840s, when Alexander Cartwright, a shipping clerk, formed the New York Knickerbockers, laid out a diamond-shaped field with four bases, and declared that batters with three strikes were out and that teams with three outs were retired.

Cartwright moved West in search of gold in 1849, settling finally in Hawaii, where he introduced the game to Americans in the Pacific. But the game did not languish in his absence. Henry Chadwick, an English-born journalist, spent much of the 1850s popu-larizing the game and regularizing its rules. By 1860, baseball was being played by col-lege students and Irish workers, by urban elites and provincial farmers, by people of all classes and ethnic groups from New England to Louisiana. Students at Vassar College formed “ladies” teams in the 1860s, and in Philadelphia, free black men formed the Pythians, the first of what was to be-come a great network of African American

baseball teams. From the beginning, they were barred from playing against most white teams.

When young men marched off to war in 1861, some took their bats and balls with them. Almost from the start of the fighting, soldiers in both armies took advantage of idle moments to lay out baseball diamonds and organize games. Games on battlefields were sometimes interrupted by gunfire and cannon fire. “It is astonishing how indiffer-ent a person can become to danger,” a sol-dier wrote home to Ohio in 1862. “The report of musketry is heard but a very little distance from us, . . . yet over there on the other side of the road is most of our com-pany, playing Bat Ball.” After a skirmish in Texas, another Union soldier lamented that, in addition to casualties, his company had lost “the only baseball in Alexandria, Texas.” Far from discouraging baseball, military commanders—and the United States Sanitary Commission, the Union army’s med-ical arm—actively encouraged the game during the war. It would, they believed, help keep up the soldiers’ morale.

Away from the battlefield, baseball con-tinued to flourish. In New York City, games between local teams drew crowds of ten thousand to twenty thousand. The Na-tional Association of Base Ball Players, founded in 1859, had recruited ninety-one clubs in ten Northern states by 1865; a North Western Association of Baseball Players, organized in Chicago in 1865, indi-cated that the game was becoming well es-tablished in the West as well. In Brooklyn, William Cammeyer drained a skating pond on his property, built a board fence around it, and created the first enclosed baseball

Baseball and the Civil War


334 •

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field in America—the Union Grounds. He charged ten cents for admission. The pro-fessionalization of the game had begun.

Despite all the commercialization and spectacle that came to be associated with baseball in the years after the Civil War, the game remained for many Americans what it was to millions of young men fighting in the most savage war in the nation’s history—an American passion that at times, even if briefly, erased the barriers dividing groups from one another. “Officers and men for-get, for a time, the differences in rank,” a Massachusetts private wrote in 1863, “and

indulge in the invigorating sport with a schoolboy’s ardor.” •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. How could a competitive game of base-ball erase “the barriers dividing groups from one another ”?

2. Baseball during the Civil War crossed the lines of cultural differences be-tween the North and the South. Does baseball today—professional or amateur— continue to cross lines of cultural differences?

• 335

The CommandersThe most important Union military leader was Abraham Lincoln. He ultimately succeeded as commander in chief because he recognized the North’s material advantages, and he real-ized that the proper objective of his armies was to destroy the Confederate armies’ ability to fight. Despite his missteps and inexperience, the North was fortunate to have Lincoln, but the president struggled to find a general as well suited for his task as Lincoln was for his.

From 1861 to 1864, Lincoln tried repeatedly to find a chief of staff capable of orches-trating the Union war effort. He turned first to General Winfield Scott, the ailing seventy-four-year-old hero of the Mexican War who had already contributed strategic advice to the president, but Scott was no longer physically capable of leading an army. Lincoln then appointed the young George B. McClellan, the commander of the Union forces in the East, the Army of the Potomac. Unfortunately, the proud and overly cautious McClellan seemed too slow to act for Lincoln’s tastes. Lincoln returned McClellan to his previous command in March 1862. For most of the rest of the year, Lincoln had no chief of staff at all. When he eventually appointed General Henry W. Halleck to the post, he found him ineffectual as well. Not until March 1864 did Lincoln finally find a general he trusted to command the war effort: Ulysses S. Grant, who shared Lincoln’s belief in unremitting combat and in making enemy armies and resources the target of military efforts.

Lincoln’s handling of the war effort faced constant scrutiny from the Committee on the Conduct of the War, a joint investigative committee of the two houses of Congress. Estab-lished in December 1861 and chaired by Senator Benjamin E. Wade of Ohio, the committee complained constantly of the inadequate ruthlessness of Northern generals, which Radicals on the committee attributed (largely inaccurately) to a secret sympathy among the officers for slavery. The committee’s efforts often seriously interfered with the conduct of the war.

Southern military leadership centered on President Davis, a trained soldier who nonethe-less failed to create an effective central command system. Early in 1862, Davis named General Robert E. Lee as his principal military adviser. But in fact, Davis had no intention of sharing control of strategy with anyone. After a few months, Lee left Richmond to com-mand forces in the field, and for the next two years, Davis planned strategy alone. In February 1864, he named General Braxton Bragg as a military adviser, but Bragg never provided much more than technical advice.

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Select primary source documents that meet the unique needs of your course. No two history courses are the same. Using McGraw-Hill

Education’s Create allows you to quickly and easily create custom course materials with cross-disciplinary content and other third-party sources.

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Using Connect History and more than 100 maps, students can learn the course material more deeply and study more effec tively than ever before. Interactive maps give students a hands-on understanding of geography. The Unfinished Nation offers over 30 interactive maps that support geographical as well as historical thinking. These maps appear in both the eBook and Connect History exercises. For some interactive maps, students click on the boxes in the map legend to see changing boundaries, visualize migration routes, or analyze war battles and election results. With others, students manipulate a slider to help them better understand change over time. New interactive maps feature advanced navigation features, including zoom, as well as audio and textual animation.


Available within Connect History, SmartBook has been updated with improved learning objectives to ensure that students gain foundational knowledge while also learning to make connections to help them formulate a broader understanding of historical events. SmartBook 2.0 personalizes learning to individual student needs, continually adapting to pinpoint knowledge gaps and focus learning on topics that need the most attention. Study time is more productive and, as a result, students are better prepared for class and coursework. For instructors, SmartBook 2.0 tracks student progress and provides insights that can help guide teaching strategies.


Help students experience history in a whole new way with our Podcast Assignments. We’ve gathered some of the most interesting and popular history podcasts currently available and built assignable questions around them. These assignments allow instructors to bring greater context and nuance to their courses while engaging students through the storytelling power of podcasts.

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We have extensively revised the narrative and features in this ninth edition to bring in new scholarship, particularly as it relates to the experiences and perspectives of Native Americans, African Americans, and women throughout American history. On the advice of other profes-sors using the book, we have removed the former Chapter 25 on global events from 1921 to 1941 and instead integrated the coverage within chapters on the 1920s, 1930s, and World War II. Another major change in this edition is pedagogical—boldfacing within each chapter all words in the end-of-chapter Key Terms/People/Places/Events list, and creating glossary entries for these boldfaced words. (In the Connect eBook, these definitions will pop up when

xxviii •

Chapter 1, The Collision of Cultures• Revised timeline with broader representation of

cultures involved in the early contact story.• Updated discussions of Olmecs, Mayas, Mexicas,

ancient Pueblo peoples, and the people of Cahokia.

• Revised discussion of women’s roles and power in North and South America.

• Revised map of European exploration and con-quest to include Native American tribes popu-lating North America.

• Fuller discussion of Oñate’s colonizing meth-ods and reactions from native peoples.

• Fuller discussion of Popé’s rebellion.• Revised discussion of the spread of infection

among native peoples.• Updated Debating the Past box on contempo-

rary debates among historians.• Revised America in the World box, now titled

“The International Context of the Early History of the Americas.”

• Revised and reorganized discussion of early English exploration and colonization for clarity and flow, including a focus on the Caribbean.

Chapter 2, Transplantations and Borderlands• Expanded chapter introduction to include the

topic of slavery across the colonies.• Thoroughly revised discussion within “The

Early Chesapeake,” with an improved narrative sequence, updated scholarship, and greater attention to the agency and contributions of the Powhatans, including a more nuanced discus-sion of Pocahontas and her life both in North America and in England.

• Fuller treatment of the development of slave codes in the Virginia colony.

• Added recognition of the participation of black men in Bacon’s Rebellion and the significance of the rebellion to the further development of slavery in the colony.

• Greater specificity about the variety of Indian communities in New England.

• Improved discussion of Roger Williams’s argu-ments about tolerance and respect for Narragan-sett peoples.

• Greater clarity on Anne Hutchinson and the Antinomian heresy.

• Revised discussion of King Philip’s War, with a more nuanced discussion of Indian participation

and greater attention to the significance of the conflict and its aftermath.

• Revised discussion of the English Civil War and aftermath, with greater attention to its signifi-cance for the Caribbean and mainland colonies.

• New information on the role of slaves in the ori-gin and growth of the rice economy of Carolina.

• New discussion of slavery in New York and New York’s first free black community.

• Fuller discussion of English colonies in the Caribbean, including slave codes, the social practices developed by slaves, and the economic importance of those colonies.

• Greater specificity on native peoples in “The Southwest Borderlands.”

• Updated discussion in “Middle Grounds” about the balance of power between Europeans and Indians.

• Updated Debating the Past box on Native Amer-icans and the Middle Ground.

Chapter 3, Society and Culture in Provincial America

• Expanded chapter introduction, with greater attention to the role of African slaves in colonial life and the interplay of colonists and Indians.

• Fuller discussion clarifies Africans did not jour-ney to the colonies as voluntary immigrants.

• Greater attention to the transition from indentured servant to slave labor in the Chesapeake colonies.

• Expanded coverage of the legal rights of colo-nial women.

• Better detail on the middle passage, including a description by Olaudah Equiano.

• Updated discussion regarding the evolution of slave codes.

• Revised organization within “The Colonial Econ-omies” to recognize the varieties of slave labor throughout the colonies, North and South.

• Revised map of immigrant groups in colonial America, adding the presence of indigenous peoples.

• Revised map of slavery in colonial America, adding northern colonies.

• Revised description of the realities of planta-tion life.

• Revised organization of “Patterns of Society” into “Southern Communities” and “Northern Communities.”

• Fuller discussion of witchcraft accusations in Salem and beyond.

students click on bolded words; in print, students can find them in the end-of-book glossary.) We have also revised every chapter in response to heat map data that pointed to passages where students were struggling. On a chapter-by-chapter basis, major changes include:

• xxix

• Added discussion of the religious heritage of slaves, including the example of Muslim slave Ayuba Suleiman Diallo.

• Revised discussion of the Great Awakening, including its appeal to women and enslaved people.

• Added the role of Cotton Mather’s slave Onesi-mus in fighting smallpox in the colonies.

• Revised chapter conclusion to reflect the many changes within the chapter.

Chapter 4, The Empire in Transition• Expanded chapter introduction on the chang-

ing relationship between the American colo-nists and their British rulers in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War, and on Native Ameri-cans as participants in the war and postwar dynamics.

• Fuller treatment of Native Americans as par-ticipants in the French and Indian War, includ-ing the following new or expanded topics: role of the Indian leader Tanaghrisson; how Indians viewed alliances with the British and French; the effects of combat and the British victory on Indians; Indian acts of resistance to British power in the Ohio Valley, including Pontiac’s rebellion.

• New information on how the Peace of Paris dealt with the enslaved peoples of the Caribbean.

• Clearer discussion of the reasons for colonial resistance to the Sugar Act and the Tea Act.

• Fully rewritten section “The Philosophy of Revolt” for greater clarity and a more nuanced discussion of different revolutionary impulses and the limits of democracy within colonial assemblies.

Chapter 5, The American Revolution• Revised discussion in “Defining American War

Aims” on the effect of Lord Dunmore’s Procla-mation and on the purpose of Paine’s Common Sense.

• Thoroughly updated and clarified the Debating the Past box on how historians have character-ized the American Revolution.

• Thoroughly revised section “The War for Inde-pendence,” with a new organization by region and new material on the combatants, including Native Americans, soldiers of color, and Loyalists.

• In the American in the World box “The Age of Revolutions,” expanded discussion of the slave revolt in Saint-Domingue.

• Thoroughly revised “War and Society,” with greater detail on how enslaved people, women,

and Native Americans participated in and were affected by the Revolution and its outcome.

• Extensively revised discussion in “The Prin-ciples of Republicanism” and the limits of democracy.

• Revised discussion of tensions at play in Shays’s rebellion.

Chapter 6, The Constitution and the New Republic

• Revised chapter introduction to better establish the context for the Continental Congress and the issues it faced.

• Fuller explanation of the reasons for and func-tioning of the electoral college.

• New discussion of the limited form of democ-racy in the early republic, the evolution of citi-zenship and suffrage rights, and early attempts by free blacks to gain rights.

• Added discussion of the debate over the “neces-sary and proper” clause.

• Clarified explanation of the quasi war with France.

Chapter 7, The Jeffersonian Era• Expanded discussion of Native Americans in

the lands covered by the Louisiana Purchase.

Chapter 8, Expansion and Division in the Early Republic (previously “ Varieties of American Nationalism”)

• Expanded chapter introduction to set up chap-ter themes.

• Improved coverage of New Spain, Mexican independence, and the relationship between American settlers and the Mexican state.

• Added information on the significance of the Mason-Dixon line.

• Added explanation for the demise of the Feder-alist Party and the emergence of the new two-party system.

Chapter 9, Jacksonian America• Expanded chapter introduction to frame

the goals and attitudes of Jackson and his followers.

• Fuller explanation of the change in the method of choosing electors for the electoral college.

• Added background on Jackson’s rise from mod-est beginnings to plantation owner and a fuller discussion of his ideas about democracy.

• Revised discussion of the Webster-Hayne debate to underscore the issues at stake.

• Improved coverage of the removal of the Indians.

xxx •

• New Consider the Source box primary source doc-ument by Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Nation.

• Revised discussion of the Bank War and the reasons for Jackson’s opposition to the Bank of the United States.

• New editorial cartoons illustrating pro and con views of Jackson’s economic policies.

Chapter 10, America’s Economic Revolution

• Enhanced discussion of the reasons for Irish and German immigration to the United States.

• New coverage of the environmental costs of industrialization.

• Fuller treatment of the Female Labor Reform Association.

• Added explanation of the benefits of new farm tools.

Chapter 11, Cotton, Slavery, and the Old South

• New discussion of northern participation in the international slave trade and indirect support of slavery after the international slave trade was abolished.

• Revised discussion of the priorities and limits of southern transportation systems.

• Revised introduction to “Southern White Soci-ety,” with a fuller, more nuanced discussion of the sources of southern differences.

• Revised examination of the mythology and sources of power in “The Planter Class.”

• Reorganized discussion in “Slave Culture” to include the topic of slave resistance.

Chapter 12, Antebellum Culture and Reform

• New discussion of Margaret Fuller’s contribu-tion to transcendentalism and feminist thought.

• Revised explanation of the ideas and appeals of Mormonism.

• Added descriptions of Native Americans.• Improved connections between sections within

the chapter overall.

Chapter 13, The Impending Crisis• Expanded chapter introduction to preview the

issues and stakeholders in the conflict over slav-ery in the territories.

• New illustrations from the period that show how gold prospects in California were promoted and how the sectional crisis was portrayed.

• Clearer explanation of the free soil and free labor arguments.

Chapter 14, The Civil War• Clarified discussion of the Union draft.• Expanded discussion of the economic and social

effects of the war for women and enslaved people.• More nuanced description of the First Battle of

Bull Run.

Chapter 15, Reconstruction and the New South

• Revised discussion of Special Field Order No. 15.

• Revised explanation of Lincoln’s plans for Reconstruction.

• Fuller description of the rise to power of the Radical Republicans.

• More nuanced view of Grant’s presidency and his efforts to protect democracy for black Americans.

• Revised explanation of the rise of Jim Crow.

Chapter 16, The Conquest of the Far West• Sequence of chapter topics modified for

improved connection and flow.• More clarification regarding nineteenth-century

terms.• Revised description of the military advantages

of U.S. forces versus Indians.

Chapter 17, Industrial Supremacy• Revised section “Making Production More Effi-

cient” (previously titled “The Science of Pro-duction”) for greater clarity.

• Revised section “Railroad Expansion and the Corporation,” with an improved discussion of the importance of government subsidies.

Chapter 18, The Age of the City• Expanded chapter introduction previewing the

problems and attractions of cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

• Revised discussion of the importance of cul-tural ties to ethnic communities.

• Added to references in America in the World, “Global Migrations” feature.

• More cohesive discussion in “Health and Safety in the Built Environment” (previously headed “Fire and Disease” and “Environmental Degradation”).

Chapter 19, From Crisis to Empire• Improved explanation of the “free silver” debate.• Thoroughly revised narrative in “The Battle for

Cuba.”• Greater attention to the effects of the Philippine

War on Filipinos.

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Chapter 20, The Progressives• Fuller explanation for the decline of party influ-

ence, including disfranchisem*nt.• Expanded discussion of McKinley’s assassina-

tion and the creation of the Secret Service.• Revised map of national parks, adding ten sites

that have been designated since 1992.

Chapter 21, America and the Great War• Expanded chapter introduction to offer a fuller

preview of chapter topics.• Revised description of Pershing’s expedition in

Mexico.• Fuller treatment of African American veterans

and the interwar civil rights movement.

Chapter 22, The New Era• New Consider the Source box titled "American

Print Advertisem*nts."• Thoroughly revised section on the Republican

administrations of Harding and Coolidge, now including coverage of the major foreign policy initiatives of the 1920s.

Chapter 23, The Great Depression• Expanded chapter introduction previewing the

effects of the Great Depression and Hoover’s response.

• Added discussion of the international context in “The Popular Front and the Left.”

• Revised explanation of the limitations of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

• “Hoover and the World Crisis” on the rise of fascism added to the discussion of Hoover’s presidency.

Chapter 24, The New Deal Era• Expanded chapter introduction previewing the

phases of the New Deal and how it was received.• New Consider the Source box on Eleanor

Roosevelt and civil rights.• “Isolationism and Internationalism” on

Roosevelt’s foreign policy and U.S. attitudes toward fascist aggression added to the chapter.

Chapter 25, America in a World at War• New chapter introduction on the evolution of

American foreign policy in the interwar period as a context for World War II.

• New first section “From Neutrality to Interven-tion” on the events leading up to the American declaration of war.

• Revised narrative of the Allied invasion of Italy.• New discussion “The Soldier’s Experience” under

“War on Two Fronts,” including the experiences of

African American, Native American, and Chinese American soldiers.

• New section “Minority Groups and the War Effort” focusing on the home front.

• Revised discussion of the internment of Japanese Americans.

• Thoroughly revised and updated Debating the Past box on the decision to drop the atomic bomb.

Chapter 26, The Cold War• Expanded chapter introduction on the context

for and main ideas of the Cold War.• Updated Debating the Past box on how histori-

ans have viewed the Cold War.• Fuller discussion of the implications of the civil

war in China.• Greater context on Soviet expansion and the

containment doctrine.• New Consider the Source box using the “Bert

the Turtle (Duck and Cover).”

Chapter 27, The Affluent Society• Expanded chapter introduction on the forces shap-

ing domestic affairs in the 1950s and early 1960s.• Fuller explanation of the connection between

economic growth and government spending in the postwar period.

• Revised discussion of the reasons for the rise of the modern West.

• Patterns of Popular Culture box “Lucy and Desi” replaces “On the Road.”

• Thoroughly revised and expanded section, “The Rise of the Civil Rights Movement,” including new material on the Woman’s Political Committee and the history of bus boycotts prior to Montgomery.

Chapter 28, The Turbulent Sixties• Expanded chapter introduction on the social

and political issues defining the decade.• Clearer contrast of JFK’s and Nixon’s visions

of the role of government and of Kennedy’s strengths as a candidate.

• Fuller explanation of the New Frontier.• Revised discussion of how Johnson was able to

win support for domestic reform, including the role of Martin Luther King Jr.

• Thoroughly revised section “The Battle for Racial Equality,” including vivid accounts of the attack on Freedom Riders in May 1961, the standoff over integration at the University of Ala-bama, the March on Washington, and the battle for voting rights during Freedom Summer.

• Expanded discussion of the black power move-ment, the Black Panthers, and Malcolm X. Added discussion regarding Malcolm X’s murder.

xxxii •

• Added explanation of the Cold War context for foreign aid initiatives during the Kennedy administration.

• New coverage of the experience of the Vietnam War for the people of South Vietnam.

Chapter 29, The Crisis of Authority• Expanded chapter introduction previewing the

social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s.

• Fuller account of the Free Speech Movement and its philosophy.

• Revised section now titled “Women and Social Change,” with improved coverage of modern feminism and the abortion issue.

• More accessible explanations of Furman v. Georgia and Roe v. Wade.

• Revised narrative of the 1972 presidential contest.• Updated Debating the Past box on Watergate.

• New material on Barbara Jordan’s role in call-ing for Nixon’s impeachment.

Chapter 30, From “the Age of Limits” to the Age of Reagan

• Revised description of Ford’s pardon of Nixon.• Added material on Carter’s civil rights record.• Revised discussions of the Sunbelt and reli-

gious revivalism in “The Rise of the Conserva-tive Movement.”

Chapter 31, The Age of Globalization• Thoroughly updated chapter on the contempo-

rary period, including the Obama and Trump presidencies and new social, cultural, techno-logical, environmental, and diplomatic trends.

• New coverage of Black Lives Matter and the AIDS epidemic.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTSWe would like to express our deep appreciation to the following individuals who contributed to the development of The Unfinished Nation, Ninth Edition:

Academic ReviewersKenna Archer, Angelo State UniversityPeter Belser, Ivy Tech Community College of IndianaKevin W. Caldwell, Blue Ridge Community CollegeAnnette Chamberlin, Virginia Western Community CollegeCara Crowley, Amarillo CollegeBarbara Dunsheath, East Los Angeles College, MontereyMarilyn Howard, Columbus State Community CollegeKatherine Jewell, Fitchburg State UniversityDonald F. Johnson, North Dakota State UniversityMichael Kinney, Calhoun Community CollegeJordan O’Connell, Howard College, Big SpringCarey Roberts, Liberty UniversityTodd Romero, University of HoustonDavid Snead, Liberty UniversityDennis Spillman, North Central Texas College, GainesvilleShawna Williams, Houston Community College, Southeast

• 1


THE DISCOVERY OF THE AMERICAS did not begin with Christopher Columbus. It began many thousands of years earlier, when human beings first crossed into the new continents and began to people them. By the end of the fifteenth century a.d., when the first important contact with Europeans occurred, the Americas were already home to millions of men and women.

These ancient civilizations experienced many changes and many catastrophes during their long history. But it is likely that none of these experiences was as tragically transforming as the arrival of Europeans. In the first violent years of Spanish and Portuguese exploration, the impact of the new arrivals was profound. Europeans brought with them diseases (most nota-bly smallpox) to which native peoples, unlike the invaders, had no experience or immunity. The result was a great demographic catastrophe that killed millions of people, weakened existing societies, and greatly aided the Spanish and Portuguese in their rapid and devastat-ing takeover of the existing American empires.

But the European immigrants were never able to eliminate the influence of the indigenous peoples (whom they came to call “Indians”). In their many interactions, whether beneficial or ruinous, these very different civilizations shaped one another, learned from one another, and changed one another forever.


1. How did the societies of native people in the South differ from those in the North in the precontact period (before the arrival of the Europeans)?

2. What effects did the arrival of Europeans have on the native peoples of the Americas?3. How did patterns of settlement differ within the Americas?

2 •


We know relatively little about the first peo-ples in the Americas, but archaeologists con-tinue to discover ancient artifacts that enlarge our knowledge about the earliest Americans.

The Peoples of the Precontact AmericasFor many decades, scholars believed that all early migrations into the Americas came from humans crossing an ancient land bridge over the Bering Strait into what is now Alaska, approximately 11,000 years ago. The migra-tions were probably a result of the develop-ment of new stone tools—spears and other hunting implements—used to pursue the large animals that crossed between Asia and North America. All of these land-based migrants are thought to have come from a Mongolian stock related to that of modern-day Siberia. Scholars refer to these migrants as the “Clovis” people, so named for a town in New Mexico where archaeologists first discovered evidence of their tools and weapons in the 1930s.

More recent archaeological evidence sug-gests that not all the early migrants to the Americas came across the Bering Strait. Some migrants from Asia appear to have settled as far south as modern-day Chile and Peru even before people began moving into North America by land. These first South Americans may have come not by land but by sea, using boats.

This new evidence suggests that the early population of the Americas was more diverse and more scattered than scholars used to believe. Recent DNA evidence has identified a possible early population group that does not seem to have Asian character-istics. This suggests that thousands of years before Columbus, there may have been some migration from Europe.

11,000 years ago

Migrations into the Americas begin


Mali Empire at its peak


Kingdom of Kongo takes form


Vast Inca Empire reaches greatest extent


Smallpox ravages Indians


St. Augustine, Florida, founded


Jamestown founded


Spanish found Santa Fe


Mayan writing system originates


Peak of Cahokian population in North



Tenochtitlán built by Mexica


Columbus’s first transatlantic voyage


African slaves arrive in Spanish America


Magellan expedition circumnavigates



Second attempt to establish Roanoke



French establish Quebec


Popé leads rebellion against Spanish



The Archaic period is a scholarly term for the early history of humans in America, begin-ning around 8000 b.c. In the first part of this period, most humans supported themselves through hunting and gathering, using the same stone tools that earlier Americans had brought with them from Asia.

Later in the Archaic period, population groups began to expand their activities and to develop new tools, such as nets and hooks for fishing, traps for smaller animals, and baskets for gathering berries, nuts, seeds, and other plants. Still later, some groups began to farm. Farming, of course, requires people to stay in one place. In agricultural areas, the first sedentary settlements slowly began to form, creating the basis for larger civilizations.

NORTH AMERICAN MIGRATIONS This map tracks some of the very early migrations into, and within, North America in the centuries preceding contact with Europe. It shows the now-vanished land bridge between Siberia and Alaska over which thousands, perhaps millions, of migrating people passed into the Americas. It also shows the locations of some of the earliest settlements in North America. • What role did the extended glacial field in what is now Canada play in residential patterns in the ancient American world?

Canyon deChelly Chaco Canyon


Mesa Verde




Mississippi R.



Missouri R.

Bering land bridge

Extent of ice cap duringmost recent glaciation

Adena cultures

Hopewell cultures

Primary Mississippiancultures

Possible migration routesof early Indians

Adena/Hopewell site

Mississippian site

Mayan site

Olmec site

Southwestern site

B e ri n g

St r

a it


The Growth of Civilizations: The SouthThe most elaborate early civilizations emerged in South and Central America and in Mexico. In Peru, the Incas created the largest empire in the Americas, stretching almost 2,000 miles along western South America. The Incas developed a complex administrative state, an irrigation system, and a large network of paved roads that welded together the populations of many tribes under a single government.

Organized societies emerged around 10,000 b.c. in Mesoamerica, a region comprising Mexico and much of Central America. The Olmec people, whose roots trace back to between 1600 and 1500 b.c., were the first complex society in the region. A more sophis-ticated culture grew up in parts of Central America and in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, in an area known as Maya. Mayan civilization, which stretched back to 1800 b.c. and was at its most powerful about a.d.300, developed a written language, a numerical system similar to the Arabic numeral system, an accurate calendar, an advanced agricultural sys-tem, and important trade routes into other areas of the continents.

Gradually, the societies of the Maya region were superseded by other Mesoamerican tribes, who have become known collectively (and somewhat inaccurately) as the Aztecs. They called themselves Mexica. In about a.d.1325, the Mexicas built the city of Tenochtitlán on a large island in a lake in central Mexico, the site of present-day Mexico City. With a population as high as 100,000 by 1500, Tenochtitlán featured large and impressive public buildings, schools that all male children attended, an organized military, a medical system, and a slave workforce drawn from conquered tribes. It was a city built over water and featuring a sophisticated water navigation system, much like Venice, Italy, but larger. The Mexicas gradually established their dominance over almost all of central Mexico.

The Mesoamerican civilizations were for many centuries the center of civilized life in North and Central America—the hub of culture and trade.

The Civilizations of the NorthThe peoples north of Mexico developed less elaborate but still substantial civilizations. Inhabitants of the northern regions of the continent subsisted on combinations of hunting, gathering, and fishing. They included the Inuit of the Arctic Circle, who fished and hunted seals; big-game hunters of the northern forests, who led nomadic lives based on the pursuit of moose and caribou; tribes of the Pacific Northwest, whose principal occupation was salmon fishing and who created substantial permanent settlements along the coast; and a group of tribes spread through relatively arid regions of the Far West, who developed suc-cessful communities based on fishing, hunting small game, and gathering edible plants.

Other societies in North America were agricultural. Among the most developed were those in the Southwest. Between a.d.900 and 1150, the ancient Pueblo people developed a thriving center of culture and commerce in Chaco Canyon, in modern-day northwestern New Mexico. At its apex, Chaco Canyon boasted a population of 15,000, 12 towns, and 200 villages—one of the largest of which was Pueblo Bonita. Composed of sandstone, timber, and adobe, it soared five stories high and had 600 rooms. There would not be another structure of this size in North America until the 1880s. At roughly the same period, the Hopis lived in small masonry villages, farmed corn, and developed an elaborate irrigation system, ceremonial culture, and trade network stretching across what is now Arizona. And the Zunis, based in the desert areas of present-day Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, built large stone and adobe villages centered on a plaza, created elaborate pottery, and farmed corn and other grains.


The eastern third of what is now the United States—much of it covered with forests and inhabited by the Woodland Indians—had the greatest food resources of any area of the continent. Most of the many tribes of the region engaged in farming, hunting, gathering, and fishing simultaneously. In the South there were permanent settlements and large trading networks based on the corn, legumes, and squash grown in the rich lands of the Mississippi River valley. Cahokia, a trading center located near present-day St. Louis, had a population of 40,000 at its peak in a.d.1200. Residents traded not only their crops but also hand tools and pottery they made. Occupying six square miles, Cahokia was the larg-est and most populous urban center north of Tenochtitlán and would remain so until Philadelphia in 1780.

HOW THE EARLY NORTH AMERICANS LIVED This map shows the various ways in which the native tribes of North America supported themselves before the arrival of European civilization. The Native Americans survived largely on the resources available in their immediate surroundings. Note, for example, the reliance on the products of the sea of the tribes along the northern coastlines of the continent, and the way in which tribes in relatively inhospitable climates in the North—where agriculture was difficult—relied on hunting large game. Most Native Americans were farmers. • What different kinds of farming would have emerged in the very different climates of the agricultural regions shown on this map?


































































































Hunting and gathering


Main Subsistence Mode






The agricultural societies of the Northeast were more mobile. Farming techniques there were designed to exploit the land quickly rather than to develop permanent settlements. Many of the tribes living east of the Mississippi River were linked together loosely by common linguistic roots. The largest of these language groups consisted of the Algonquian tribes, who lived along the Atlantic seaboard from Canada to Virginia; the Iroquois Confederacy, which was centered in what is now upstate New York; and

the Muskogean tribes, which consisted of the tribes in the southernmost regions of the eastern seaboard.

Most tribes were matrilineal societies, meaning that family association and clan member-ship flowed through the mother’s heritage. In contrast, in Europe ancestral descent followed paternal lines. All tribes assigned women the majority of work to care for children, prepare meals, and gather certain foods. But the allocation of other tasks varied from one society to another. In the case of the Hopi, women and men shared cultural authority. Women assumed leadership roles in the household, economy, and social system; men tended to predominate in religion and politics. Yet women reserved the power to negate or renegoti-ate trade or land deals forged by men if they deemed them unjust or imbalanced.


Europeans were almost entirely unaware of the existence of the Americas before the fifteenth century. A few early wanderers—Leif Eriksson, an eleventh-century Norse seaman, and others—had glimpsed parts of the eastern Atlantic on their voyages. But even if their discoveries had become common knowledge (and they did not), there would have been little incentive for others to follow. Europe in the Middle Ages (roughly a.d. 500–1500) was too weak, divided, and decentralized to inspire many great ventures. By the end of the fifteenth century, however, conditions in Europe had changed and the incentive for overseas exploration had grown.

Commerce and Sea TravelTwo important social changes encouraged Europeans to look toward new lands. The first was the significant growth in Europe’s population in the fifteenth century. The Black Death, a catastrophic epidemic of the bubonic plague that began in Constantinople in 1347, had killed more than a third of the people on the Continent (according to some estimates). But a century and a half later, the population had rebounded. With that growth came a reawak-ening of commerce. A new merchant class was emerging to meet the rising demand for goods from abroad. As trade increased, and as advances in navigation made long- distance sea travel more feasible, interest in expanding trade grew even more quickly. The second change was the emergence of new governments that were more united and powerful than the feeble political entities of the feudal past. In the western areas of Europe in particular, strong new monarchs were eager to enhance the commercial development of their nations.

(©Don Mammoser/Shutterstock)



Above all, Europeans who craved commercial glory had dreamed of trade with the East. It was not a new dream. In the early fourteenth century, Marco Polo and other adventurers had returned from Asia bearing exotic spices, cloths, and dyes and even more exotic tales. Yet for two centuries, that trade had been limited by the difficulties of the long overland journey to the Asian courts. But in the fourteenth century, talk of finding a faster, safer sea route to East Asia began.

The Portuguese were the preeminent maritime power in the fifteenth century, largely because of Prince Henry the Navigator, who devoted much of his life to the promotion of exploration. In 1486, after Henry’s death, the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias rounded the southern tip of Africa (the Cape of Good Hope). In 1497–1498, Vasco da Gama proceeded all the way around the cape to India. But the Spanish, not the Portuguese, were the first to encounter the New World, the term Europeans applied to the ancient lands previously unknown to them.

Christopher ColumbusChristopher Columbus was born and reared in Genoa, Italy. He spent his early seafaring years in the service of the Portuguese, stoking his ambitions of undertaking a great voyage of discovery. By the time he was a young man, he believed he could reach East Asia by sailing west, across the Atlantic, rather than east, around Africa. Columbus thought the world was far smaller than it actually is. He also was convinced that the Asian continent extended farther eastward than it actually does. Most important, he did not realize that anything lay to the west between Europe and the lands of Asia.

Columbus failed to enlist the leaders of Portugal to back his plan, so he turned instead to Spain. The marriage of Spain’s two most powerful regional rulers, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, had produced the strongest and most ambitious monarchy in Europe. Columbus appealed to Queen Isabella for support for his proposed westward voyage, and in 1492, she agreed. Commanding ninety men and three ships—the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María—Columbus left Spain in August 1492 and sailed west into the Atlantic. Ten weeks later, he sighted land and assumed he had reached an island off Asia. In fact, he had landed in the Bahamas. When he pushed on and encountered Cuba, he assumed he had reached Japan. He returned to Spain, bringing with him several captured native people as evidence of his achievement. (He called the indigenous people “Indians” because he believed they were from the East Indies in the Pacific.)

But Columbus did not, of course, bring back news of the great khan’s court in China or any samples of the fabled wealth of the Indies. And so a year later he tried again, only this time with a much larger expedition. As before, he headed into the Caribbean, discov-ering several other islands and leaving a small and short-lived colony on Hispaniola. On a third voyage, in 1498, he finally reached the mainland and cruised along the northern coast of South America. He then realized, for the first time, that he had encountered not a part of Asia but a separate continent.

Columbus ended his life in obscurity. Ultimately, he was even unable to give his name to the land he had revealed to the Europeans. That distinction went instead to a Florentine merchant, Amerigo Vespucci, who wrote a series of vivid descriptions of the lands he visited on a later expedition to the New World and helped popularize the idea that the Americas were new continents.

Partly as a result of Columbus’s initiative, Spain began to devote greater resources and energy to maritime exploration. In 1513, the Spaniard Vasco de Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and became the first known European to gaze westward upon the great ocean








e R







Mississippi R.

Missouri R.






Arkansas R.



o R.

Rio Gran





Gulf ofMexico

C a r i b b e a nS e a


DRAKE 1577–80






OA 15



H 1595



ANO 152






IER 15

34–35 CABO

T 1497


DE SOTO 1539–42

CORTES 1518–







1498 1502




























Chichen Itza



Santiagode Cuba

Mexico City(Tenochtitlán)


La Paz


Columbus (Spanish)

Other Spanish

Other European

Explorers’ Routes



Native American empires

0 250

1000 km0 500

500 mi





MAGELLAN 1519–22

EUROPEAN EXPLORATION AND CONQUEST, 1492–1583 This map shows the many voyages of exploration to and conquest of North America launched by Europeans in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Note how Columbus and the Spanish explorers who followed him tended to move quickly into the lands of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America, while the English and French explored the northern territories of North America. In all cases they encountered Indians, whose roots trace back centuries before the arrival of the Europeans. • What factors might have led these various nations to explore and colonize different areas of the New World?

that separated America from China. Seeking access to that ocean, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese in Spanish employ, found the strait that now bears his name at the south-ern end of South America, struggled through the stormy narrows and into the ocean (so calm by contrast that he christened it the Pacific), and then proceeded to the Philippines.


There Magellan died in a conflict with local Indians, but his expedition went on to complete the first known circumnavigation of the globe (1519–1522). By 1550, Spaniards had explored the coasts of North America as far north as Oregon in the west and Labrador in the east.

The Spanish EmpireIn time, Spanish explorers in the New World stopped thinking of America simply as an obstacle to their search for a route to Asia and began instead to consider it a possible source of wealth in itself. The Spanish claimed for themselves the whole of the New World, except for a large part of the east coast of South America (today’s Brazil) that was reserved by a papal decree for the Portuguese.

In 1518, Hernando Cortés, who had been an unsuccessful Spanish government official in Cuba for fourteen years, led a small military expedition of about 600 men against the Aztecs in Mexico and their powerful emperor, Montezuma, after hearing stories of their great treasures. Moving his warriors through Mexico, he befriended a native tribe that he labeled the Tlaxcalans, who were rivals of the Aztecs and would become crucial military allies. Approaching Tenochtitlán, Cortés benefited from perfect timing. His arrival seemed to fulfill a popular Aztec prophecy that claimed the god Quetsalcoatl was to return to Earth. The Aztecs mistook Cortés and his fighters—mysterious light skinned men—as divine company and greeted them as honored figures. Cortés, with the support of the Tlaxcalans, quickly took control of the city. Key to his success was the use of body armor that repelled or blunted arrows, steel swords, lances with iron or steel points, and a type of early musket called harquebus—all weapons unknown to the Aztecs. An Aztec counterrebellion, however, soon restored them to power. But not for long.

A smallpox epidemic, begun when a Spanish soldier died from the disease while in Tenochtitlán, spread among the Aztecs and gutted the population. When Cortés re-attacked, again with the backing of the Tlaxcalans, he now fought a depleted people. Even more significantly, he employed a series of new and aggressive military tactics—blocking delivery of food and water to the city, choking off canals, destroying aqueducts—that brought the city to its knees after 75 days. Cortés laid claim to Tenochtitlán, ruthlessly destroying temples and homes and establishing himself as one of the most brutal of the Spanish conquistadores (conquerors). Twenty years later, Francisco Pizarro overpowered the Incas in Peru and opened the way for other Spanish advances into South America.

The first Spanish settlers in America were interested largely in exploiting the American stores of gold and silver, and they were fabulously successful. For 300 years, beginning in the sixteenth century, the mines of Spanish America yielded more than ten times as much gold and silver as all the rest of the world’s mines combined. Before long, however, most Spanish settlers in America traveled to the New World for other reasons. Many went in hopes of profiting from agriculture. They helped establish elements of European civilization permanently in America. Other Spaniards—priests, friars, and missionaries—went to America to spread Catholicism; through their efforts, the influence of the Catholic Church ultimately extended throughout South and Central America and Mexico. They sometimes evangelized, however, with an iron fist, forcing whole families to forsake their sacred beliefs and practices, be baptized, and adopt the teachings of the Catholic Church or face physical punishment and even death. Yet one of the first friars to work in the colonies, Bartolomé de Las Casas, fought for the fair treatment of native peoples by the Spanish as part of his ministry. (See “Consider the Source: Bartolomé de Las Casas, ‘Of the Island of Hispaniola.’”)

10 •


Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Dominican friar from Spain, was an early European settler of the West Indies. He devoted much of his life to de-scribing the culture of native peoples and chron-icling the many abuses they suffered at the hands of their colonizers. This excerpt is from a letter he addressed to Spain’s Prince Philip.

God has created all these numberless people to be quite the simplest, without malice or duplicity, most obedient, most faithful to their natural Lords, and to the Christians, whom they serve; the most humble, most patient, most peaceful and calm, without strife nor tumults; not wrangling, nor queru-lous, as free from uproar, hate and desire of revenge as any in the world. . . . Among these gentle sheep, gifted by their Maker with the above qualities, the Spaniards entered as soon as they knew them, like wolves, tigers and lions which had been starving for many days, and since forty years they have done nothing else; nor do they afflict, torment, and destroy them with strange and new, and divers kinds of cruelty, never before seen, nor heard of, nor read of. . . .

The Christians, with their horses and swords and lances, began to slaughter and practice strange cruelty among them. They penetrated into the country and spared nei-ther children nor the aged, nor pregnant women, nor those in child labour, all of whom they ran through the body and lacerated, as though they were assaulting so many lambs herded in their sheepfold. They made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow: or they opened up his bow-els. They tore the babes from their mothers’ breast by the feet, and dashed their heads

against the rocks. Others they seized by the shoulders and threw into the rivers, laughing and joking, and when they fell into the water they exclaimed: “boil body of so and so!” They spitted the bodies of other babes, to-gether with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords.

They made a gallows just high enough for the feet to nearly touch the ground, and by thirteens, in honor and reverence of our Redeemer and the twelve Apostles, they put wood underneath and, with fire, they burned the Indians alive.

They wrapped the bodies of others entirely in dry straw, binding them in it and setting fire to it; and so they burned them. They cut off the hands of all they wished to take alive, made them carry them fastened on to them, and said: “Go and carry letters”: that is; take the news to those who have fled to the mountains.

They generally killed the lords and no-bles in the following way. They made wooden gridirons of stakes, bound them upon them, and made a slow fire beneath; thus the vic-tims gave up the spirit by degrees, emitting cries of despair in their torture.


1. How did Bartolomé de Las Casas char-acterize the indigenous people of Hispaniola? How do you think they would have responded to this description?

2. What metaphor did Las Casas use to describe the native peoples and where does this metaphor come from?

3. What role did Las Casas expect the Spaniards to play on Hispaniola? Whatdid they do instead?

Source: Macnu*tt, Francis Augustus, Bar tholomew de Las Casas: His Life, His Apostolate, and His Writings. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909, 14.



By the end of the sixteenth century, the Spanish Empire included the Caribbean islands, Mexico, and southern North America. It also spread into South America and included what is now Chile, Argentina, and Peru. In 1580, when the Spanish and Portuguese mon-archies temporarily united, Brazil came under Spanish jurisdiction as well.

Northern OutpostsIn 1565, the Spanish established the fort of St. Augustine in Florida, their first permanent settlement in what is now the United States. But it was little more than a small military outpost. A more substantial colonizing venture began in the Southwest in 1598, when Don Juan de Oñate traveled north from Mexico with a party between 600 and 700, claimed for Spain some of the lands of the Pueblo Indians in what is now New Mexico, and began to establish a colony. It was a bloody affair. In October 1898, the Acoma Pueblos refused to turn over food to Oñate’s soldiers and, in a small battle killed as many as 13 of them, including Oñate’s nephew. In January of the next year, Oñate ordered retribution. His men lay siege to the Acoma village, killing at least 800. They enslaved all survivors older than 12 years for a period of 20 years and cut off the right foot of all men of fighting age.

Oñate granted encomiendas (the right to exact tribute and labor from native peoples on large tracts of land) to favored Spaniards. In 1609, Spanish colonists founded Santa Fe. By 1680, there were over 2,000 Spanish colonists living among about 30,000 Pueblos. The economic heart of the colony was cattle and sheep, raised on the ranchos that stretched out around the small towns Spanish settlers established.

Part of the Spanish expansion in the North included converting native peoples to Catholicism. As in the South, it met with uneven results. Many native peoples simply rejected the attempt, mixed the precepts and practices of their own faith with Catholicism, or only selectively adopted Catholic rituals and teachings. At other times native peoples and Spanish officials differed over what constituted conversion. Matters came to a head in 1680, when Spanish priests and the colonial government tried to suppress native rituals. In response, Popé, an Indian religious leader, led an uprising that killed hundreds of European settlers, captured Santa Fe, and drove the Spanish from the region. Ironically, the rebellion was so widespread and included so many different Indian groups that the native revolutionaries used Spanish as their common language in order to communicate with one other. Twelve years later, however, the Spanish returned and crushed a last revolt in 1696.

Many Spanish colonists now realized that they could not hope to prosper in New Mexico while in constant conflict with a native population that greatly outnumbered them. Although the Spanish intensified their efforts to assimilate the Indians, they also now permitted the Pueblos to own land. They stopped commandeering Indian labor, and they tolerated the survival of tribal religious rituals. There was significant intermarriage between Europeans and Indians. By 1750, the Spanish population had grown to about 4,000. The Pueblo population had declined (through disease, war, and migration) to about 13,000—less than half what it had been in 1680. New Mexico had by then become a reasonably stable but still weak and isolated outpost of the Spanish Empire.

Biological and Cultural ExchangesEuropean and native cultures never entirely merged in the Spanish Empire. Nevertheless, the arrival of whites launched a process of interaction between diverse peoples that left

12 • CHAPTER 1

no one unchanged. That Europeans were exploring the Americas at all was a result of early contacts with the native peoples, from whom they had learned of the rich depos-its of gold and silver. From then on, the history of the Americas became one of increas-ing levels of exchanges—some beneficial, others catastrophic—among different peoples and cultures.

Amazon R






Rio Grande



o R.

Caribbean Sea

Gulf ofMexico






Rio dela Plata

San Francisco (1776)

Monterey (1770)

San Luis Obispo (1772)Los Angeles (1781)

San Juan Capistrano (1776)San Diego de Alcala (1769)


Taos (1609)

Santa Fe (1607)

St. Augustine (1565)

TampicoLa Habana (1515)

Santiago (1514)


Bahamas(to Britain 1646)


Jamaica(to Britain



Mexico City(Tenochtitlán)


Culiacán (1531)






La Paz(1548)

Rio de Janeiro(1567)

São Paulo(1554)


Buenos Aires(1580)

Puerto Rico(1502)


Santiago (1541)


Cuidad de losReyes (Lima)



Santa Fe de Bogotá(1538)




F R E N C HG U I A N A( 1 6 2 6 )


Yucat 'anPeninsula

S U R I N A M( D u t c h )( 1 6 2 5 )


(to 1819)


LOUISIANA(Spanish 1763-1800) UNITED

STATES(from 1783)




after 1697)








Aztec Empire at the time of Spanish Conquest

Inca Empire at the time of Spanish Conquest


Forts (Sometimes with missions)


Colonial boundaries and provincial namesare for the late 18th century

OUTPOSTS ON THE NORTHERNFRONTIER OF NEW SPAIN(Not simultaneous; through the 18th century)

0 1000 mi

0 1000 2000 km

SPANISH AMERICA From the time of Columbus’s initial voyage in 1492 until the mid-nineteenth century, Spain was the dominant colonial power in the New World. From the southern regions of South America to the northern regions of the Pacific Northwest, Spain controlled one of the world’s vastest empires. Note how much of the Spanish Empire was simply grafted upon the earlier empires of native peoples—the Incas in what is today Chile and Peru and the Aztecs across much of the rest of South America, Mexico, and the Southwest of what is now the United States. • What characteristics of Spanish colonization would account for their preference for already settled regions?


The first and perhaps most profound result of this exchange was the importation of European diseases to the New World. It would be difficult to exaggerate the consequences of the exposure of Native Americans to such illnesses as influenza, measles, typhus, and above all smallpox. Although historians have debated the question of how many people lived in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans, it is estimated that millions died. (See “Debating the Past: Why Do Historians So Often Differ?”) Part of the issue was how native cultures traditionally cared for the very ill. They tended to surround the sick with constant companions and visitors as a way to encourage healing—a practice that inadvertently helped spread the highly contagious diseases they were encountering for the first time. Unlike in Europe, where experience with the bubonic plague had taught the benefits of socially isolating the infected, there was no corresponding notion of quar-antine among native tribes of the Americas. In some areas, then, native populations were virtually wiped out within a few decades of their first contact with whites. On Hispaniola, where Columbus had landed in the 1490s, the native population quickly declined from approximately one million to about five hundred. In the Maya area of Mexico, as much as 95 percent of the population perished within a few years of the native peoples’ first contact with the Spanish. Still, not everyone died, not every community was ravaged, and some rebuilt over time. And many of the tribes north of Mexico were spared the worst of the epidemics. But for other areas of the New World, this was a disaster at least as grave as, and in some places far worse than, the Black Death that had killed over one-third of the population of Europe two centuries before. Some Europeans, watching this biological catastrophe, saw it as evidence of God’s will that they should dominate the New World—and its native population.

(©Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images)

SMALLPOX AMONG THE AZTECS This illustration by a Spanish missionary in the fifteenth century depicts victims of smallpox in various stages of the disease, which was introduced to the Americas by Europeans.

14 •


Why Do Historians So Often Differ?Early in the twentieth century, when the professional study of history was still rela-tively new, many historians believed that questions about the past could be answered with the same certainty and precision as questions in more-scientific fields. By sift-ing through available records, using precise methods of research and analysis, and pro-ducing careful, closely argued accounts of the past, they believed they could create definitive histories that would survive with-out controversy. Scholars who adhered to this view believed that real knowledge can be derived only from direct, scientific ob-servation of clear “fact.” They were known as “positivists.”

A vigorous debate continues to this day over whether historical research can ever be truly objective. Almost no historian any longer accepts the positivist claim that his-tory could ever be an exact science. Dis-agreement about the past is, in fact, at the heart of the effort to understand history. Critics of contemporary historical scholar-ship often denounce the way historians are constantly revising earlier interpretations. Some denounce the act of interpretation itself. History, they claim, is “what hap-pened,” and historians should “stick to the facts.”

Historians, however, continue to differ with one another both because the facts are seldom as straightforward as their critics claim and because facts by themselves mean almost nothing without an effort to assign meaning to them. Some historical facts, of course, are not in dispute. Every-one agrees, for example, that the Japanese

bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and that Abraham Lincoln was elected pres-ident in 1860. But many other facts are much harder to determine—among them, for example, the question of how large the American population was before the arrival of Columbus, or how many slaves resisted slavery. This sounds like a reasonably straightforward question, but it is almost impossible to answer with any certainty—because the records of slave resistance are spotty and the definition of “resistance” is a matter of considerable dispute.

Even when a set of facts is clear and straightforward, historians disagree—sometimes quite radically—over what they mean. Those disagreements can be the re-sult of political and ideological disagree-ments. Some of the most vigorous debates in recent decades have been between schol-ars who believe that economic interests and class divisions are the key to understanding the past, and those who believe that ideas and culture are at least as important as material interests. Debates can also occur over differences in methodology—between those who believe that quantitative studies can answer important historical questions and those who believe that other methods come closer to the truth.

Most of all, historical interpretation changes in response to the time in which it is written. Historians may strive to be ob-jective in their work, but no one can be entirely free from the assumptions and po-litical concerns of the present. In the 1950s, the omnipresent shadow of the Cold War shaped histories of Communist countries

• 15

Not all aspects of the exchange were disastrous to the Indians. The Europeans intro-duced important new crops (among them sugar and bananas), domestic livestock (cattle, pigs, and sheep), and, perhaps most significantly, the horse, which gradually became central to the lives of many native peoples and transformed their societies. Less beneficially, the transfer of European grass seed and the grazing and feeding habits of European animals devastated local flora.

The exchange was at least as important (and more advantageous) to the Europeans. In both North and South America, the arriving white peoples learned from the natives new agricultural techniques appropriate to the demands of the new land. They discovered new crops—above all maize (corn), which Columbus took back to Europe from his first trip to America. Such foods as squash, pumpkins, beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes also found their way into European diets.

In South America, Central America, and Mexico, Europeans and native groups lived in intimate, if unequal, contact with one another. Many native people gradually came to speak Spanish or Portuguese, but they created a range of dialects fusing the European languages with elements of their own. European men outnumbered European women by at least ten to one. Intermarriage—often forcible—became frequent between Spanish immigrants and native women. Before long, the population of the colonies came to be dominated (numer-ically, at least) by people of mixed race, or mestizos.

Virtually all the enterprises of the Spanish and Portuguese colonists depended on Indian workforces. In some places, Indians were sold into slavery. More often, colonists used a

and a view of them as engaged in a war to end democracy. The civil rights movements prompted scholars to reconsider what they knew about the lives and achievements of black Americans, women, Hispanics, and gays and lesbians. The rise of postcolonial societies pushed historians to reexamine assumptions built into the telling of the rise and fall of empires—that they were the products of an elite cadre of men—and rethink the role of workers and the less powerful in influencing the course of events. The “cultural turn” at the end of the twentieth century placed a newfound stress on examining how various forces of culture—gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, language—deeply affected the ways in which people experienced and understood the world. Its effects are still rippling through the academy, asking historians to ever widen their lens of analysis when seeking to explain people’s motivations and actions.

Historians regularly debate over which types of interpretation come closest to

capturing the truth of the past with no clear-cut consensus likely to come into focus any time soon. Such debate, though, is a sign ofthe health of the profession. Schol-ars need to constantly revisit how they talk about the past and be challenged to defend their decisions in order to make sure they are capturing the full range of human experience when writing their histories. Indeed, under-standing the past is a forever continuing—and forever contested—process.


1. What are some of the reasons historians so often disagree?

2. Is there ever a right or wrong in histori-cal interpretation? What value might historical inquiry have other than reaching a right or wrong conclusion?

3. If historians so often disagree, how should a student of history approach historical content? How might disagreement expand our understand-ing of history?

16 •

Most Americans understand that our na-tion of late has become intimately bound up with the rest of the world—that we live in what many call the “age of globalization.” But few extend that idea backward in time and consider how the story of America be-fore Columbus and the effort by European powers to settle it was also part of a global current of ideas and events. Indeed, until recently historians typically studied these early chapters from the nation’s past mostly in isolation from larger world events and non-European societies. By contrast today, scholars of early American history now ex-amine what happened in the New World from a broadly international perspective.

That perspective is often called the “Atlantic World” and it explores history as the intermingling of peoples from Africa, Europe, and the Americas and the profound effects of those interactions. The phrase has a long in-tellectual genealogy, stretching back to the foundational work of C. L. R. James, W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, and Eric Williams. They demonstrated that the origins of the New World were deeply enmeshed in the practice and institution of slavery, on the one hand, and that African (and later African American) culture lay at the root of the evolu-tion of culture in the Americas, on the other.

The idea of an Atlantic World rests in part on the obvious connections between western Europe and the Spanish, British, French, and Dutch colonies in North and South America. All the early European civi-lizations of the Americas were part of a great imperial project launched by the ma-jor powers of Europe. The European immi-grations to the Americas beginning in the sixteenth century, the advance of slavery

and the introduction of it in the New World, the defeat and devastation of native popu-lations, the creation of European agricul-tural and urban settlements, and the imposition of imperial regulations on trade, commerce, landowning, and political life—all of these forces reveal the influence of Old World imperialism on the history of the New World.

But the expansion of empires is only one part of the creation of the Atlantic World. At least equally important—and closely re-lated—is the expansion of commerce from Europe and Africa to the Americas. Although some northern and southern Europeans traveled to the New World in search of reli-gious freedom, or to escape oppression, or to search for adventure, the great majority were in search of economic opportunity. Not surprisingly, therefore, their settlements in the Americas were almost from the start in-timately connected to Europe through the growth of commerce between them and to Africa through the capture and import of slaves. This international commercial dy-namic between America and Europe was re-sponsible not just for the growth of trade, but also for the increases in migration over time—as the demand for labor in the New World drew more and more settlers from the Old World. Commerce was also a principal reason for the rise of slavery in the Americas, and for the growth of the slave trade between European America and Africa.

Religion was also a powerful force influ-encing migration to the New World and shaping human interactions there. Depend-ing on the decade, some Europeans— Puritans, Anabaptists—relocated in part to

The International Context of the Early History of the Americas


• 17

escape persecution for their principles. At other times, Catholics and members of the Church of England built settlements to win converts and extend their religious empires. Significantly, European transplants had to come to terms with the religion of the Indi-ans they encountered, which led to a variety of responses: indifference, evangelism, re-pression, or the growth of hybrid sacred practices and convictions. Adding to the mix were African slaves, who brought their own indigenous religions. They found them-selves the subjects of intense and some-times brutal proselytizing attempts by Europeans, which met with only uneven suc-cess. Some slaves adopted the faith of their owners. But African American religion as a whole generally emerged as a series of spiri-tual beliefs and rituals that mixed African, European, and sometimes Indian beliefs. It also influenced the religion of Europeans and (to a lesser extent) Indians, particularly in the evolution of their public revivals and preaching traditions in the New World.

The early history of the Americas was also closely bound up with the intellectual life of northern and southern Europe and Latin America. The Enlightenment—the cluster of ideas that emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries emphasizing the power of human reason—moved quickly to the Americas, producing intellectual ferment throughout the New World. Thinkers from Britain and Spain, for example, stressed the sanctity of indi-vidual rights, the proper nature and role of

representative government, and the fair-ness of law that eventually undergirded the history of the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and Latin American revolutions of the eighteenth century. Scientific and technological knowledge—another product of the Enlightenment—traveled constantly across the Atlantic and back. Americans borrowed industrial tech-nology from Britain. Europe acquired much of its early knowledge of electricity from experiments done in America. But the Enlightenment was only one part of the continuing intellectual connections within the Atlantic World, connections that spread artistic, scholarly, and political ideas widely through the lands bordering the ocean.

Instead of thinking of the early history of what became the United States simply as the story of the growth of thirteen small colonies along the Atlantic seaboard of North America, the idea of the Atlantic World encourages us to think of early American history as a vast pattern of ex-changes and interactions—trade, migra-tion, religious and intellectual exchange, and many other relationships—among all the societies bordering the Atlantic: northern and southern Europe, western Africa, the Caribbean, and North and South America.


1. What is the Atlantic World? 2. What has led historians to begin study-

ing the idea of an Atlantic World?

coercive (or “indentured”) wage system, under which Indians worked in the mines and on the plantations under duress for fixed periods. That was not, in the end, enough to meet the labor needs of the colonists. As early as 1502, European settlers began importing slaves from Africa.

Africa and AmericaOver one-half of all the immigrants to the New World between 1500 and 1800 were Africans, sent against their will. Most came from West and Central Africa.

Europeans and white Americans came to portray African society as primitive and uncivilized. But most Africans were, in fact, highly civilized peoples with well-developed

18 • CHAPTER 1

economies and political systems. The residents of the Gold Coast had substantial com-mercial contact with the Mediterranean world—trading ivory, gold, and slaves for finished goods—and, largely as a result, became early converts to Islam. After the collapse of the ancient kingdom of Ghana around a.d. 1100, they created the even larger empire of Mali, whose trading center at Timbuktu became fabled as a learned meeting place of the peoples of many lands. In West Central Africa, the Kingdom of Kongo flourished. It was a regional center for trade, where residents sold goods they manufactured, such as pottery and copper and iron goods. By early 1500, the majority of the ruling class had converted to Catholi-cism and the Kingdom was sending a formal emissary to the Vatican. And by the end of the sixteenth century its population was nearly 500,000.

As in many Indian societies in America, African families tended to be matrilineal. Women played a major role, often the dominant role, in trade. In many areas, they were also the principal farmers while the men hunted, fished, raised livestock, fought battles; in these areas women choose their own leaders to make decisions and policies for the com-munity as a whole. Everywhere women managed child care and food preparation.

Small elites of priests and nobles stood at the top of many African societies. Most people belonged to a large middle group of farmers, traders, crafts workers, and others. At the bottom of society were slaves—men and women, not all of them African, who were put into bondage after being captured in wars, because of criminal behavior, or as a result of unpaid debts. Slaves in Africa were generally in bondage for a fixed term, and in the mean-time they retained certain legal protections (including the right to marry). Children did not inherit their parents’ condition of bondage.

The African slave trade long preceded European settlement in the New World. As early as the eighth century, West Africans began selling small numbers of slaves to traders from the Mediterranean and later to the Portuguese. In the sixteenth century, however, the market for slaves increased dramatically as a result of the growing European demand for sugarcane. The small areas of sugar cultivation in the Mediterranean could not meet the demand, and production soon spread to new areas: to the island of Madeira off the African coast, which became a Portuguese colony, and not long thereafter (still in the sixteenth century) to the Caribbean islands and Brazil. Sugar was a labor-intensive crop, and the demand for African workers in these new areas of cultivation was high. At first the slave traders were overwhelm-ingly Portuguese. By the seventeenth century, though, the Dutch had won control of most of the market. And in the eighteenth century, the English dominated it. By 1700, slavery had spread well beyond its original locations in the Caribbean and South America and into the English colonies to the north. The relationship among European, African, and native peoples—however unequal—reminds us of the global context to the history of America. (See “America in the World: The International Context of the Early History of the Americas.”)


England’s first documented contact with the New World came only five years after Spain’s. In 1497, John Cabot (like Columbus, a native of Genoa) sailed to the northeastern coast of North America on an expedition sponsored by King Henry VII, in an unsuccessful search for a northwest passage through the New World to the Orient. But nearly a century passed before the English made any serious efforts to establish colonies in America.

Significantly, England’s first experience with colonization came not in the New World but in neighboring Ireland. The English had long laid claim to the island, but only in the


late sixteenth century did serious efforts at colonization begin. The long, brutal process by which the English attempted to subdue the Irish created an important assumption about colonization: the belief that settlements in foreign lands must retain a rigid separation from the native populations. Unlike the Spanish in America, the English in Ireland tried to build a separate society of their own, peopled with emigrants from England itself. They would take that concept with them to the New World.

Incentives for ColonizationInterest in colonization grew in part as a response to social and economic problems in sixteenth-century England. The English people faced frequent and costly European wars as well as almost constant religious strife within their own land. Many suffered, too, from harsh economic changes in their countryside. Because the worldwide demand for wool was grow-ing rapidly, landowners were converting their land from fields for crops to pastures for sheep. The result was a reduction in the amount of land available for growing food. England’s food supply declined at the same time that the English population was growing—from 3 million in 1485 to 4 million in 1603. To some of the English, the New World began to seem attractive because it offered something that was growing scarce in England: land.

At the same time, new merchant capitalists were prospering by selling the products of England’s growing wool-cloth industry abroad. At first, most exporters did business almost entirely as individuals. In time, however, merchants formed companies, whose charters from the king gave them monopolies for trading in particular regions. Investors in these compa-nies often made fantastic profits, and they were eager to expand their trade.

Central to this trading drive was the emergence of a new concept of economic life known as mercantilism. Mercantilism rested on the belief that one person or nation could grow rich only at the expense of another, and that a nation’s economic health depended, there-fore, on selling as much as possible to foreign lands and buying as little as possible from them. The principles of mercantilism spread throughout Europe in the sixteenth and sev-enteenth centuries. One result was the increased attractiveness of acquiring colonies, which became the source of raw materials and a market for the colonizing power’s goods.

In England, the mercantilistic program thrived at first on the basis of the flourishing wool trade with the European continent, and particularly with the great cloth market in Antwerp. In the 1550s, however, that glutted market began to collapse, and English mer-chants had to look elsewhere for overseas trade. Some English believed colonies would solve their problems.

There were also religious motives for colonization—a result of the Protestant Reformation. Protestantism began in Germany in 1517, when Martin Luther challenged some of the basic practices and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther quickly won a wide following among ordinary men and women in northern Europe. When the pope excommunicated him in 1520, Luther began leading his followers out of the Catholic Church entirely.

The Swiss theologian John Calvin went even further in rejecting the Catholic belief that human behavior could affect an individual’s prospects for salvation. Calvin introduced the doctrine of predestination. God “elected” some people to be saved and condemned others to damnation; each person’s destiny was determined before birth, and no one could change that predetermined fate. But those who accepted Calvin’s teachings came to believe that the way they led their lives might reveal to them their chances of salvation. A wicked or useless existence would be a sign of damnation; saintliness, diligence, and possibly signs of grace. The new creed spread rapidly throughout northern Europe.

20 • CHAPTER 1

In 1529, King Henry VIII of England, angered by the refusal of the pope to grant him a divorce from his Spanish wife, broke England’s ties with the Catholic Church and estab-lished himself as the head of the Christian faith in his country. This was known as the English Reformation. After Henry’s death, his Catholic daughter, Queen Mary, restored England’s allegiance to Rome and persecuted Protestants. But when Mary died in 1558, her half sister, Elizabeth I, became England’s sovereign and once again severed the nation’s connection with the Catholic Church, this time for good.

To many English people, however, the new Church of England was not reformed enough. They clamored for changes that would “purify” the church and quickly became knows as Puritans. Most only wanted to simplify worship and reform the leadership of the church. Their frustration mounted steadily as political and ecclesiastical authorities refused to respond to their demands.

Puritan discontent grew rapidly, however, after the death of Elizabeth, the last of the Tudors, and the accession of James I, the first of the Stuarts, in 1603. Convinced that kings ruled by divine right, James quickly antagonized the Puritans by resorting to illegal and arbitrary taxation, favoring English Catholics in the granting of charters and other favors, and supporting “high-church” forms of ceremony, meaning a strong stress on traditional and very formal liturgical practices. By the early seventeenth century, some Puritans were beginning to look for places of refuge outside the kingdom.

The First English SettlementsThe first permanent English settlement in the New World was established at Jamestown, in Virginia, in 1607. But for nearly thirty years before that, English merchants and adventur-ers had been engaged in a series of failed efforts to create colonies in America.

Through much of the sixteenth century, the English had harbored mixed feelings about the New World. They were intrigued by its possibilities, but they were also fearful of Spain, which remained the dominant force in America. In 1588, however, King Philip II of Spain sent one of the largest military fleets in the history of warfare—the Spanish Armada—across the English Channel to attack England itself. The smaller English fleet, taking advantage of its greater maneuverability, defeated the armada and, in a single stroke, ended Spain’s domination of the Atlantic. This great shift in naval power caused English interest in colo-nizing the New World to grow quickly.

The pioneers of English colonization were Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his half brother Sir Walter Raleigh—both veterans of earlier colonial efforts in Ireland. In 1578, Gilbert obtained from Queen Elizabeth a six-year patent granting him the exclusive right “to inhabit and possess any remote and heathen lands not already in the possession of any Christian prince.” Five years later, after several setbacks, he led an expedition to Newfoundland, looking for a good place to build a profitable colony. But a storm sank his ship, and he was lost at sea. The next year, Sir Walter Raleigh secured his own six-year grant from the queen and sent a small group of men on an expedition to explore the North American coast. When they returned, Raleigh named the region they had explored Virginia, in honor of Elizabeth, who was known as the “Virgin Queen.”

In 1585, Raleigh recruited his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, to lead a group of men to the island of Roanoke, off the coast of what is now North Carolina, to establish a colony. Grenville deposited the settlers on the island, destroyed an Indian village as retaliation for a minor theft, and returned to England. The following spring, with long-overdue supplies and reinforcements from England, Sir Francis Drake unexpectedly arrived in Roanoke. The dispirited colonists boarded his ships and left.


Raleigh tried again in 1587, sending an expedition to Roanoke carrying ninety-one men, seventeen women, and nine children. The settlers attempted to take up where the first group of colonists had left off. John White, the commander of the expedition, returned to England after several weeks, in search of supplies and additional settlers. Because of a war with Spain, he was unable to return to Roanoke for three years. When he did, in 1590, he found the island deserted, with no clue to the fate of the settlers other than the cryptic inscription “Croatoan” carved on a post.

The Roanoke disaster marked the end of Sir Walter Raleigh’s involvement in English colonization of the New World. No later colonizers would receive grants of land in America as vast or undefined as those Raleigh and Gilbert had acquired. Yet the colonizing impulse remained very much alive. In the early years of the seventeenth century, a group of London merchants decided to renew the attempt at colonization in Virginia. A rival group of merchants, from the area around Plymouth, was also interested in American ventures and was sponsoring voyages of exploration farther north. In 1606, James I issued a new charter, which divided North America between the two groups. The London group got the exclusive right to colonize the south, and the Plymouth merchants received the same right in the north. Through the efforts of these and other companies, the first enduring English colonies would soon be established in North America.

(©The Gallery Collection/Corbis)

ROANOKE A drawing by one of the colonists in the ill-fated Roanoke expedition of 1585 became the basis for this engraving by Theodor de Bry, published in England in 1590. A small European ship approaches the island of Roanoke, in the center. The wreckage of several larger vessels farther out to sea suggests the danger of the journey while the presence of Indian settlements on the mainland and on Roanoke itself reflects the contact between two different cultures to come.

22 • CHAPTER 1

The French and the Dutch in AmericaEnglish settlers in North America encountered not only native groups but also other Europeans who were, like them, driven by mercantilist ideas. There were scattered North American outposts of the Spanish Empire and, more important, there were French and Dutch settlers who were also vying for a stake in the New World.

In the early sixteenth century, eager to discover new trade routes across the Atlantic and locate a new corridor to the Pacific, the French King, Francis I, turned to Giovanni da Verrazzano, an Italian explorer. After rough seas forced him to abort his maiden voyage in 1523, Verrazano set sail the next year and successfully landed at Cape Fear. He charted his way north along the Atlantic Coast, including stops in New York Bay, Long Island, Narraganset Bay, Cape Cod, and finally Newfoundland. Crafting detailed maps and pro-viding accounts of his interactions with Indians, Verrazano laid the pathway for future generations of European explorers.

Nearly 40 years later, in 1562, Frenchman Jean Ribault established a small settlement he called Charlesfort in present-day Parris Island, South Carolina. Poor leadership, inade-quate supplies, and a lack of cooperation with local Indians ushered its demise after only a year. But in 1564, Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere, an officer in Ribault’s original force, built Fort Caroline, near what is now Jacksonville, Florida. It too nearly collapsed within a year for similar reasons, but a fortuitous stop-over by an English ship allowed residents to trade for much needed supplies. Fort Caroline, however, quickly became entangled in larger territorial conflicts between French and the Spanish, who sacked the fort in 1565, killed most of its residents, and built their own fortification, Fort San Mateo. It lasted until 1569, when a vengeful French force burned it to the ground.

Samuel de Champlain founded the first permanent French settlement in North America at Quebec in 1608, less than a year after the English started their first at Jamestown. Cen-tral to its success was Champlain’s winning effort to form strong political partnerships with the Montagnais, Algonquins, and Hurons, even going to war with them against the Iroquois. These bonds facilitated the expansion of the French fur trade in the region. Champlain also promoted close interaction between coureurs de bois—male French fur traders and trappers—and Indians as a way of knitting together the different cultures. The coureurs de bois settled deep in the region, learned Indian languages and customs, and sometimes intermarried. They enlarged the network of fur trading, which helped open the way for French agricultural estates (or seigneuries) along the St. Lawrence River and for the devel-opment of trade and military centers at Quebec and Montreal.

Jesuit missionaries spread French influence as well. These members of the male-only Catholic Society of Jesus arrived in 1634 and five years later founded the Sainte-Marie-aux-Huron, which as the name suggests was meant to encourage cooperation and conversion among the Hurons. The Jesuits soon expanded the mission, adding a farm, hospital, mill, and church to introduce the Indians to their faith, way of life, and skills like blacksmithing. They learned the local tongue and customs to build new degrees of trust and collaboration and they eventually launched new missions in the region. While their work certainly enhanced relationships with the Indians, the Jesuits faced limits in what they could accom-plish. The Hurons, like Indians from other parts of the New World, often challenged attempts to make them into Catholics and farm and live like Frenchmen. They sometimes flat-out resisted or instead sought to mix their traditional religion with Catholicism and create a new faith hybrid, often to the anger of the Jesuits.


The Dutch, too, established a presence in North America. Holland in the early sev-enteenth century was one of the leading trading nations of the world, and its commerce moved to America in the seventeenth century. In 1609, Henry Hudson, an English explorer in the employ of the Dutch, sailed up the river that was to be named for him in what was then New Netherland. His explorations led to a Dutch claim on the territory. The Dutch built a town on Manhattan Island named New Amsterdam. From it, Dutch trappers moved into the interior toward the Appalachian Mountains and built a profitable trade in furs.

The Dutch, like other the European powers, had a broad global empire of commerce and colonization. In addition to North America, the Dutch settled portions of the Caribbean and South America. They built settlements in Sint Maarten in 1618. St. Croix in 1625, Bonaire and Curacao in 1634, and Sint Eustatius in 1636. For 24 years, from 1630 to 1654, Holland also controlled a giant swath of northeastern Brazil, representing half of all European settlements there at the time. They introduced sugar and the business of sugar trading to Barbados, an English colony, whose networks interestingly were dominated by Jewish merchants who had migrated from Spain to the Netherlands following the Reconquista and the Alhambra Decree of 1492.


The lands that Europeans eventually named the Americas were the home of many millions of people before the arrival of Columbus. Having migrated from Asia thou-sands of years earlier, the pre-Columbian Americans spread throughout the Western Hemisphere and eventually created great civilizations. Among the most notable of them were the Incas in Peru and the Mayas and Aztecs in Mexico. In the regions north of what was later named the Rio Grande, the human population was smaller and the civilizations were less advanced than they were farther south. Even so, North American native peoples created a cluster of civilizations that thrived and expanded. They included the Mississippian peoples, notably the Chickasaws, Cherokees, Choctaws, Muscogees, Creeks, Houmas, Seminoles, and Tunica-Biloxis; as well as the Pueblos of the modern American Southwest and the Algonquians who dwelled mostly in contemporary New England and eastern Canada.

In the century after European contact, these native populations suffered catastro-phes that all but destroyed many of the civilizations they had built: brutal invasions by Spanish and Portuguese conquistadores and a series of plagues inadvertently imported by Europeans. By the middle of the sixteenth century, the Spanish and Portuguese—no longer faced with large-scale and effective resistance from the native populations—had established colonial control over all of South America and much of North America.

In the parts of North America that would eventually become the United States, the European presence was for a time much less powerful. The Spanish established an impor-tant northern outpost in what is now New Mexico, a society in which Europeans and Indians lived closely together intimately, though on unequal terms. On the whole, however, the North American Indians remained largely undisturbed by Europeans until English, French, and Dutch migrations began in the early seventeenth century.

24 • CHAPTER 1


Atlantic World 16Bartolomé de Las Casas 9Cahokia 5charter 19Christopher Columbus 7Clovis people 2colonization 19

colony 7conquistador 9Elizabeth I 20encomienda 11globalization 16imperialism 16mercantilism 19

Mesoamerica 4mestizo 15Popé 11Protestant Reformation 19Puritans 20Roanoke 20


1. Why did European countries seek to establish settlements in the New World? 2. How did Indian women occupy different social roles and exercise different social

responsibilities than European women? 3. What was the response of Indians to the efforts by Europeans to settle near them? 4. What role did disease play in the settlement of the New World?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

• 25


THE FIRST PERMANENT ENGLISH SETTLEMENTS were small, fragile com-munities, generally unprepared for the hardships they were to face. Seeking to improve their futures and secure a greater degree of control over their lives, immigrants from the British Isles found a world populated by Native American tribes; by colonists, explorers, and traders from Spain, France, and the Netherlands; and by immigrants from other parts of Europe and, soon, slaves from Africa. American society was from the beginning a fusion of many cultures in which disparate people and cultures coexisted, often quite violently.

All of English North America was, in effect, a borderland during the early years of colo-nization. Through much of the seventeenth century, English colonies both relied on and did battle with the Indian tribes and struggled with challenges from other Europeans in their midst. Eventually, however, some areas of English settlement—most notably the growing communities along the eastern seaboard—managed to dominate their own regions, mar-ginalizing or expelling Indians and other challengers. In these eastern colonies, the English created significant towns and cities; constructed political, religious, and educational institu-tions; and built productive agricultural systems. They also instituted slavery here as they did in every colony.


1. What were the different English motivations for settling in North America? 2. How did Indians affect the early history of English settlements?3. How did English colonies differ from another? That is, how did settlements in,

say, Virginia differ from the Massachusetts Bay colony?

26 •


Once James I had issued his 1606 charters, the London Company moved quickly and decisively to launch a colonizing expedi-tion headed for Virginia—a party of 144 men aboard three ships, the Godspeed, the Discovery, and the Susan Constant, which set sail for America on December 19, 1606.

Colonists and NativesOnly 104 men survived the journey. They reached the American coast in late April 1607, sailed into the Chesapeake and up a river they named the James, in honor of their king. They established their colony, Jamestown, on a peninsula on the river on May 24. They chose this inland setting because they believed it would provide a measure of comfort and security.

For nearly a decade, Jamestown was a tiny colony constantly verging on collapse. During this time local Indians were more powerful than the English. Coastal Virginia had numerous tribes, many of whom joined forces to form the Powhatan Confederacy, named after its chief, Wahunsonaco*ck, other-wise known as Powhatan. Composed of at least 30 Algonquian-speaking tribes, the Confederacy occupied a broad territory now formed by southern Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, and the Virginia coast. Major tribes included the Arrohateck, the Appamattuck, the Pamunkey, the Chickahominy, and the Mattapony. Chief Powhatan initially viewed the English as simply another group among many in his Confederacy, one that posed no immediate threat and could be removed at any time.

The early history of Jamestown certainly gave him little reason to change his mind. Settlers faced ordeals that were to a large degree of their own making. They were vul-nerable to local diseases, particularly malaria, which was especially virulent along



Jamestown founded


Anne Hutchinson expelled from Massachusetts Bay


Pequot War


Dutch settle Manhattan


Bacon’s Rebellion


Powhatan Indians attack Virginia


Roger Williams founds Rhode Island


King Philip’s War


Glorious Revolution


First recorded African slaves in Virginia

Virginia House of Burgesses meets


Pilgrims found Plymouth Colony


Puritans establish Massachusetts Bay

colony 1634

Maryland founded


Carolina chartered


English capture New Netherland


Pennsylvania chartered


Dominion of New England


Georgia chartered


the marshy rivers they had chosen to settle. They spent more time searching for gold and other exports than growing enough food to be self-sufficient. And they could create no real community without women, who had not been recruited for the expedition. Within a few months after the first colonists arrived in Virginia, only 38 or the 144 men who had sailed to America were alive, the rest killed by diseases and famine.

Jamestown’s early survival required the British immigrants to admit their mistakes and learn from Powhatans. This was not easy for the settlers, because they believed that English civilization, with its oceangoing vessels, muskets, and other advanced weaponry, was greatly superior. Yet Indian agricultural techniques were far better adapted to the soil and climate of Virginia than those of English origin. Powhatans were settled farmers whose villages were surrounded by neatly ordered fields. They grew a variety of crops—beans, pumpkins, vegetables, and above all maize (corn). Some of their farmlands stretched over hundreds of acres and supported substantial populations. The colony’s leader, the twenty-seven-year-old Captain John Smith, convinced the colonists to swallow their pride and learn from the locals what and when to plant and harvest, how to make dugout canoes and navigate local waterways, and where to hunt and fish. They also traded extensively with these Indians for food. Only steady help from Powhatans and Smith’s efforts to impose work and order on the community kept Jamestown from completely dying out.

Reorganization and ExpansionAs Jamestown struggled to survive, the London Company (now renamed the Virginia Company) was already dreaming of bigger things. In 1609, it obtained a new charter from the king, which increased its power and enlarged its territory. It offered stock in the com-pany to planters who were willing to migrate at their own expense. And it provided free passage to Virginia for poorer people who would agree to serve the company for seven years. In the spring of 1609, two years after the first arrival of the English, a fleet of nine vessels was dispatched to Jamestown with approximately 600 people, including some women and children.

Nevertheless, disaster quickly followed. One of the Virginia-bound ships was lost at sea in a hurricane. Another ran aground in the Bermuda islands and was unable to sail for months. Many of the new settlers succumbed to fevers before winter came. And the winter of 1609–1610 was especially severe, a period that came to be known as “starving time.” By then, the natives realized that the colonists were a possible threat to their civilization and they blocked the English from moving inland. Barricaded in the small palisade, unable to hunt or cultivate food, the settlers lived on what they could find: “dogs, cats, rats, snakes, toadstools, horsehides,” and even “the corpses of dead men,” as one survivor recalled. When the migrants who had run aground in Bermuda finally arrived in Jamestown the following May, they found only about 60 emaciated people still alive. The new arrivals took the survivors onto their ship and sailed for England. But as the refugees proceeded down the James, they met an English ship coming up the river—part of a fleet bringing supplies and the colony’s first governor, Lord De La Warr. The departing settlers agreed to return to Jamestown. Relief expeditions soon began to arrive, and the effort to turn a profit in Jamestown resumed.

New settlements began lining the river above and below Jamestown. The immigrants learned about a new crop from the local Indians—tobacco, which was already popular among the Spanish colonies to the south. It was also being imported to Europe and becoming much sought-after by the citizenry, so much so that King James I began to worry about its potential

28 • CHAPTER 2

health hazards. John Rolfe, who had arrived in Jamestown in 1610, began experimenting with tobacco in 1612 but needed help to grow it on a large scale. Drawing on local Indian expertise and planting seeds grown in the West Indies, he developed tobacco as Virginia’s first profitable crop. His success encouraged other planters to raise tobacco up and down the James River and eventually to move deeper inland, intruding more and more into the native farmlands.

As Jamestown expanded and developed a profitable economy, residents attempted to drive away local Powhatans. During two years of bloody raids, settlers captured Chief Powhatan’s young daughter, Pocahontas, in spring 1613. Ironically, only several years earlier she had played a key role in mediating differences between her people and the Europeans. But now, Powhatan refused to ransom her. During her years of captivity living among the English, Pocahontas learned their language, customs, and religion, converting to Christianity and taking (or was given) the name “Rebecca” upon her baptism. In April 1614 she also married John Rolfe and a year later had a son, Thomas, with him. She likely was a key source of education about growing tobacco for Rolfe. While historians generally agree about the course of her life after becoming a prisoner, they are unclear about why Pocahontas pursued this path. Was her conversion genuine or undertaken simply to fulfill the legal requirement for an Indian to marry an Englishman? And was Rolfe’s marital intention largely political despite his professed affection for her, as suggested in a letter he penned to Sir Dale describing his motivations as being “for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our country, for the glory of God, for my own salvation, and for the converting

(Source: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-highsm-13340])

POCAHONTAS In this reproduction of an eighteenth-century painting based itself on a 1616 engraving by Simon van de Passe, Pocahontas is presented to English society as one of its own. She is represented in exclusive European dress—high-neck collar, tailored clothing, and holding Ostrich feathers, symbols of nobility. Her name is inscribed twice, first as Matoaka, a family name given to her as a baby, and then Rebecca, the name she adopted upon converting to Christianity.


to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, an unbelieving creature, namely Pokahuntas [sic]. To whom my hearty and best thoughts are, and have a long time been so entangled, and enthralled in so intricate a labyrinth.” Regardless, the marriage ushered in a period of uneasy détente between the English and the Powhatan that lasted several years.

This relatively peaceful period accelerated the development of tobacco economy, which in turn created a heavy demand for labor and land. To entice new workers to the colony, the Virginia Company established what it called the headright system. Headrights were fifty-acre grants of land. Those who already lived in the colony received two headrights apiece. Each new settler received a single headright for himself or herself. This system encouraged family groups to migrate together, since the more family members who traveled to America, the more land the family would receive. In addition, anyone who paid for the passage of immigrants to Virginia would receive an extra headright for each arrival. As a result, some colonists were quickly able to assemble large plantations, establishing domain over land used by Indians for generations to hunt, fish, and farm.

The Virginia Company also transported ironworkers and other skilled crafts workers to Virginia to diversify the economy. In 1619, it sent 100 English women to become the wives of male colonists. It also promised white male colonists the full rights of “Englishmen,” an end to strict and arbitrary rule, and even a share in self-government. On July 30, 1619, delegates from the various communities met as the House of Burgesses, the first elected legislature within what was to become the United States.

During these years, Pocahontas and Rolfe had moved to England. Arriving in June 1616, she soon became a subject of popular fascination—the Indian woman who had converted to Christianity and married an English subject. Her unusual status sparked popular debate about the possibility of assimilating Indians and other non-English into English culture. The couple embarked on a return voyage to Virginia in March 1617. But Pocahontas fell gravely ill shortly after embarking, forcing the ship to land near Gravesend on the Thames River, where she died. After burying her, Rolfe continued his travels to Virginia.

A year after Pocahontas’s death her father, Chief Powhatan, died. His passing created a vacuum of leadership among the Powhatans, which was eventually filled by his brother, Opechancanough, who sought to stop English encroachment and force them to depart the region. On a March morning in 1622, tribesmen called on the white settlements as if to offer goods for sale; then they suddenly attacked. Not until between 350 and 400 whites of both sexes and all ages lay dead did the Indian warriors finally retreat. Although they killed about one-quarter of the total population of Jamestown, the Powhatans were not seeking to eliminate all settlers; they did not practice what would become known as “total warfare.” Instead, they intended to deliver a powerful and graphic message that all newcom-ers should leave immediately. It did not work, however, and instead set off a series of conflicts that, after more than twenty years, resulted in the defeat of the Powhatans.

Slavery and Indenture in the Virginia ColonyIn late August of 1619, John Rolfe recorded that “20 and odd Negroes” arrived at Jamestown aboard a Dutch ship. It was actually the British war vessel, the White Lion, which had recently raided a Portuguese slave ship for its human cargo. Nevertheless, Rolfe provided the first recorded instance of Africans arriving in North America, though the Spanish had brought some earlier in the South. Historians are uncertain if English colonists in Jamestown initially viewed the Africans as a type of servant, to be held for a term of years and then freed, or as slaves. Likely it was the former, as the majority of laborers at this time were

30 • CHAPTER 2

“bonded” to a master or employer for a fixed period of time. Within about ten years, how-ever, English colonists noted that it was “customary practice to hold some Negroes in a form of life service.” But they also indicated that some Africans were still able to work for a period of time after which they were freed. This variability in black life would not last long. Virginians began to depend on African laborers to farm tobacco and demanded more of them. The judicial system now begins to codify what blacks could and could not do. In 1639, a law forbade them from owning arms; in 1640, Virginia courts condemned a black runaway servant, John Punch, to “serve his said master . . . for the time of his natural Life”; and most importantly, in 1662, the Virginia General Assembly declared that a “Negro women’s children to serve according to the condition of the mother.” The 1662 code made it clear that children born to slaves were to be slaves themselves, for life. Even if the father was a free person, black or white, the children’s status mirrored that of the mother.

The number of blacks living in Virginia was fairly small during the colony’s earliest decades, estimated to be about 23 in 1625 and 300 in 1648. Providing most of the labor to grow the colony at that time were indentured servants—who were primarily white English immigrants who inked a contract or an “indenture” that bound them to work for a set period of time for a person or institution in exchange for travel costs to Virginia and all living expenses once there. As tobacco farms increased in size and number and the need for laborers to work them rose accordingly, though, owners slowly turned toward the idea of owning and using black slaves as opposed to indentured servants. They now bought increasing numbers of slaves, and the population in Virginia rose steeply to 3,000 in 1680 and 10,000 by 1704.

During these decades, the Virginia Company in London became defunct. In 1624, James I revoked the company’s charter, and the colony came under the control of the crown, where it would remain until 1776. The colony, if not the company, had survived—but at a terrible cost. In Virginia’s first seventeen years, more than 8,500 white settlers had arrived in the colony, and nearly 80 percent of them had died. Countless Indians had died as well, and slavery became part of the colony.

Bacon’s RebellionFor more than thirty years, one man—Sir William Berkeley, the royal governor of Virginia—dominated the politics of the colony. He took office in 1642 at the age of thirty-six and with but one brief interruption remained in control of the government until 1677. In his first years as governor, he helped open up the interior of Virginia by sending explorers across the Blue Ridge Mountains and crushing a 1644 Indian uprising. The defeated Indians agreed to a treaty ceding to England most of the territory east of the mountains and establishing a boundary, west of which white settlement would be prohibited. But the rapid growth of the Virginia population made this agreement difficult to sustain. Between 1640 and 1660, Virginia’s population rose from 8,000 to over 40,000. By 1652, English settlers had established three counties in the territory set aside by the treaty for the Indians.

In the meantime, Berkeley was expanding his own powers. By 1670, the vote for delegates to the House of Burgesses, once open to all white men, was restricted to landowners. Elections were rare, and the same burgesses, representing the established planters of the eastern (or tidewater) region of the colony, remained in office year after year. The more recent settlers on the frontier were underrepresented.

Resentment of the power of the governor and the tidewater aristocrats grew steadily in the newly settled lands of the West (often known as the “backcountry”). In 1676, this resentment helped create a major conflict, which has been named Bacon’s Rebellion after its leader Nathaniel Bacon, a distant relative of Governor Berkeley. Bacon had a good farm in the West


and a seat on the governor’s council. But like other members of the new backcountry gentry, he resented the governor’s attempts to hold the territorial line. Bacon’s hostility toward Berkeley was a result of the governor’s refusal to allow white settlers to move farther west. Berkeley forbid further settlement for fear of antagonizing Indians. Adding to the resentment was that Berkeley controlled the lucrative fur trade, which Bacon desperately wanted to profit from.

The turbulence in Virginia reflected not just the tension between Berkeley and Bacon, both of them frontier aristocrats. It was also a result of the consequences of the indentured servant system. By the 1670s, many young men—predominantly white but some black—had finished their term as indentures and had found themselves without a home or any money. Many of them began moving around the colony, sometimes working, sometimes begging, sometimes stealing. This large, landless itinerant group were quickly drawn into what became Bacon’s Rebellion.

In 1675, a major conflict erupted in the West between English settlers and natives. As the fighting escalated, Bacon and other concerned landholders demanded that the governor send the militia. When Berkeley refused, Bacon responded by offering to organize a volun-teer army of backcountry men who would do their own fighting. Berkeley rejected that offer too. Bacon simply ignored him and launched a series of vicious but unsuccessful pursuits of the Indian challengers.

When Berkeley heard of the unauthorized military effort, he proclaimed Bacon and his men to be rebels. Confused and angry, Bacon now took aim at the governor and all elites, whom he openly criticized for lacking empathy and support for the lower classes. He attracted a range of volunteers and built an alliance of black and white workers as well as African slaves, who asked for an end to their bondage. Bacon led his troops, numbering about 500, east to Jamestown twice. The first time he won a temporary pardon from the governor; the second time, after the governor repudiated the agreement, Bacon burned much of the city and drove the governor into exile. But then Bacon died suddenly of dysentery, and Berkeley regained control. Among the last to surrender were some 400 indentured servants and 80 slaves. In 1677, the Indians reluctantly signed a new treaty that opened new lands to white settlement.

Bacon’s Rebellion was part of a continuing struggle to define the Indian and white spheres of influence in Virginia. It also revealed the bitterness of the competition among rival white leaders, and it demonstrated the potential for instability in the colony’s large population of free landless men, both black and white, and slaves. Most notably, the uprising forced landed elites in both eastern and western Virginia to recognize a common interest in quelling social unrest from below and shoring up their cultural dominance. As a result, they began to reduce their dependence on indentured laborers and rely more heavily on black slaves. Black slaves, unlike white indentured servants, did not need to be released after a fixed term and hence did not threaten to become an unstable, landless class. Elite whites, perhaps predictably, now sought more slaves and more of them shipped straight from Africa, anticipating that their presumed lack of knowledge about English culture would make them less likely to partner in any rebellion with white workers and servants. To minimize any chance of cooperation between blacks and whites, they also enlisted poor whites to organize slave patrols. Most effectively, they created new laws. In 1705 the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Slave Codes, which formally defined slaves to be property or “real estate” and endowed masters with near limitless power over slaves. The new slave codes declared that “All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion . . . shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resist his master . . . correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction . . . the master shall be free of all punishment . . . as if such accident never happened.” They further specified that slaves needed a written pass to leave their master’s home or plantation, that robbery would be met with sixty lashes and time in the

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stocks, where his or her ears would be loped off, and that associating with whites without official sanction would earn them a whipping, branding, or maiming of some sort. These codes laid the foundation for the practice of slavery for generations to come.

Maryland and the CalvertsThe Maryland colony ultimately came to look much like Virginia, but its origins were quite different. George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, envisioned establishing a colony in America both as a great speculative venture in real estate and as a refuge for English Catholics like himself. Calvert died while he was still negotiating with the king in London for a charter to establish such a colony in the Chesapeake region. But in 1632, his son Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, finally received the charter.

THE GROWTH OF THE CHESAPEAKE, 1607–1750 This map shows the political forms of European settlement in the region of Chesapeake Bay in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Note the several different kinds of colonial enterprises: the royal colony of Virginia, controlled directly by the English crown after the failure of the early commercial enterprises there; and the proprietary regions of Maryland, northern Virginia, and North Carolina, which were under the control of powerful English aristocrats. • Why were most settlements, regardless of who founded them, found near bodies of water? What does it suggest about the type of economic activities each engaged in?

Virginia colony

Fairfax proprietary

To Lord Baltimore, 1632

Granville proprietary

Date settlement founded(1682)

0 50 mi

0 50 100 km








Boundary claimed by Lord Baltimore, 1632

Boundary settlement, 1750

Potomac R.





e B


Albemarle Sound


Rappahannock R.


(c. 1648)

St. Mary’s (1634)


Fort Royal(1788)



Fort Charles

Fort Henry

Williamsburg(Middle Plantation)



Elizabeth City(1793)



Newport News



Wilmington(Fort Christina)(1638)


Lord Baltimore remained in England, but he named his brother, Leonard Calvert, governor of the colony. In March 1634, two ships—the Ark and the Dove—bearing Calvert along with 200 or 300 other colonists entered the Potomac River, turned into one of its eastern tributaries, and established the village of St. Mary’s on a high, dry bluff. Neighbor-ing Indians, in particular the Susquehannocks, befriended the settlers and provided them with temporary shelter and with stocks of corn.

The Calverts needed to attract thousands of settlers to Maryland if their expensive colonial venture was to pay. As a result, they had to encourage the immigration of Protestants as well as their fellow English Catholics. The Calverts soon realized that Catholics would always be a minority in the colony, and so they adopted a policy of religious toleration: the 1649 “Act Con-cerning Religion.” Dubbed the Maryland Toleration Act, it decreed religious toleration among all resident Christians. Still, politics in Maryland remained plagued for years with chronic ten-sions, and at times violence, between the Catholic minority and the growing Protestant majority.

At the insistence of the first settlers, the Calverts agreed in 1635 to the calling of a repre-sentative assembly—the House of Delegates. But the proprietor retained absolute authority to distribute land as he wished; and since Lord Baltimore granted large estates to his relatives and to other English aristocrats, a distinct upper class soon established itself. By 1640, a severe labor shortage forced a modification of the land-grant procedure; and Maryland, like Virginia, adopted a headright system—a grant of 100 acres to each male settler, another 100 for his wife and each servant, and 50 for each of his children. But the great landlords of the colony’s earliest years remained powerful. Like Virginia, Maryland became a center of tobacco cultiva-tion; planters worked their land with the aid, first, of indentured servants imported from Englan and then, beginning late in the seventeenth century, of slaves imported from Africa.


The northern regions of English North America were slower to attract settlers than those in the South. That was in part because the Plymouth Company was never able to mount a successful colonizing expedition after receiving its charter in 1606. It did, however, spon-sor other explorations. Captain John Smith, after departing from Jamestown, made an exploratory journey for the Plymouth merchants, wrote an enthusiastic pamphlet about the lands he had seen, and called them New England.

Plymouth PlantationA discontented congregation of Puritan Separatists in England—those disenchanted with the Church of England and seeking to “separate” from it—established the first enduring European settlement in New England. In 1608, a congregation of Separatists from the English hamlet of Scrooby began emigrating quietly (and illegally), a few at a time, to Leyden, Holland, where they believed they could enjoy freedom of worship. But as foreigners in Holland, they had to work at unskilled and poorly paid jobs. They also watched with alarm as their children began to adapt to Dutch society and drift away from their church. Finally, some of the Separatists decided to move again, this time far across the Atlantic; there, they hoped to create a stable, protected community where they could spread “the gospel of the Kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world.”

In 1620, leaders of the Scrooby group obtained permission from the Virginia Company to settle in Virginia. The “Pilgrims,” as they saw themselves, sailed from Plymouth,

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England, in September 1620 on the Mayflower; thirty-five “saints” (the Puritan Separatists) and sixty-seven “strangers” (people who were not part of the congregation) were aboard. In November, after a long and difficult voyage, they sighted land—the shore of what is now Cape Cod. That had not been their destination, but it was too late in the year to sail farther south. So the Pilgrims chose a site for their settlement in the area just north of the cape, a place John Smith had labeled “Plymouth” on a map he had drawn during his earlier exploration of New England. Because Plymouth lay outside the London Company’s territory, the settlers were not bound by the company’s rules. While still aboard ship, the saints in the group drew up an agreement, the Mayflower Compact, to establish a govern-ment for themselves. Then, on December 21, 1620, they stepped ashore at Plymouth Rock.

The Pilgrims’ first winter was a difficult one. Half the colonists perished from malnutri-tion, disease, and exposure. But the colony survived, in large part because of crucial assis-tance from the Wampanoags. Significantly, that help was immediately forthcoming from the Wampanoags nor did it betoken their complete trust in the settlers. Earlier English ships had anchored in the area for supplies, captured Indians, and sold them into slavery. An epidemic had broken out before 1615 that killed thousands of Wampanoags and left them vulnerable to attack by their rivals, the Pequot and the Narragansett. Eventually the Wampanoags reached out to the immigrants in part to form an alliance that might help them in any future conflict with their enemies. They now traded with the colonists with furs and showed them how to cultivate corn and how to hunt wild animals for meat. After the first autumn harvest, the settlers invited some Wampanoags to join them in a festival, the original Thanksgiving. But the relationship between the settlers and the local Indians soon was under great strain. Thirteen years after the Pilgrims arrived, a devastating smallpox epidemic wiped out much of the Indian population around Plymouth.

The Pilgrims could not create rich farms on the sandy and marshy soil around Plymouth, but they developed a profitable trade in fish and furs. New colonists arrived steadily from England, and in a decade the population reached 300. The people of Plymouth Plantation chose as their governor William Bradford, who ruled successfully for many years. The Pilgrims were always poor. As late as the 1640s, they had only one plow among them. But they were, on the whole, content to be left alone to live their lives in what they considered godly ways.

(©Alexander Sviridov/Shutterstock)



The Massachusetts Bay ExperimentIn 1628, another group of Puritan merchants began organizing a new colonial venture in America. They obtained a grant of land in New England for most of the area now compris-ing Massachusetts and New Hampshire. They acquired a charter from the king—now Charles I, who had inherited the throne at the death of his father, James I, in 1625—that allowed them to create the Massachusetts Bay Company and to establish a colony in the New World. Some members of the Massachusetts Bay Company wanted to create a refuge in New England for Puritans. They bought out the interests of company members who preferred to stay in England, and the new owners elected a governor, John Winthrop. They then sailed for New England in 1630. With 17 ships and 1,000 people, it was the largest single migration of its kind in the seventeenth century. Winthrop carried with him the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company, which meant that the colonists would be responsible to no company officials in England.

The Massachusetts migration quickly produced several settlements. The port of Boston became the capital, but in the course of the next decade colonists established several other towns in eastern Massachusetts: Charlestown, Newtown (later renamed Cambridge), Roxbury, Dorchester, Watertown, Ipswich, Concord, Sudbury, and others.

The Massachusetts Puritans strove to lead useful, conscientious lives of thrift and hard work and they honored material success as evidence of God’s favor. Winthrop and the other founders of Massachusetts believed they were building a holy commonwealth, a model—a “city upon a hill”—for the corrupt world to see and emulate. Colonial Massachusetts was a theocracy, a society in which the church was almost indistinguishable from the state. Ironi-cally, these Puritans who had sought religious freedom in England now created a society that brooked no tolerance of religious or political dissent. Their strict rules and laws soon produced a new wave of critics who would eventually leave and found new colonies.

Like other new settlements, the Massachusetts Bay colony had early difficulties. During the first winter (1629–1630), nearly 200 people died and many others decided to leave. But the colony soon grew and prospered. The nearby Pilgrims and Wampanoags helped with food and advice. Incoming settlers brought needed tools and other goods. The preva-lence of families in the colony helped establish a feeling of commitment to the community and a sense of order among the settlers, and it also ensured that the population would reproduce itself.

The Expansion of New EnglandIt did not take long for British settlement to begin moving outward from Massachusetts Bay. Some people migrated in search of soil more productive than the stony land around Boston. Others left because of the oppressiveness of the church-dominated government of Massachusetts.

The Connecticut River valley, about 100 miles west of Boston, began attracting English families as early as the 1630s because of its fertile lands and its isolation from Massachusetts Bay. In 1635, Thomas Hooker, a minister of Newtown (Cambridge), defied the Massachusetts government, led his congregation west, and established the town of Hartford. Four years later, the people of Hartford and of two other newly founded towns nearby adopted a constitution known as the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, which created an independent colony with a government similar to that of Massachusetts Bay but which gave a larger proportion of the men the right to vote and hold office. Women were barred from voting, as they were virtually everywhere in the colonies.

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Another Connecticut colony grew up around New Haven on the Connecticut coast. Unlike Hartford, the Fundamental Articles of New Haven (1639) established a Bible-based government even stricter than that of Massachusetts Bay. New Haven remained indepen-dent until 1662, when a royal charter officially gave the Hartford colony jurisdiction over the New Haven settlements.

European settlement in what is now Rhode Island was a result of the vigorous religious and political dissent of Roger Williams, a controversial young minister who lived for a time in Salem, Massachusetts. Williams was a confirmed Separatist who argued that the Massachusetts church should abandon all allegiance to the Church of England and permit its citizens to worship as they saw fit. More radically, he proclaimed that the land the colonists were occupying belonged to the local Indians. Not surprisingly the colonial government voted to deport him, but he escaped before they could force him to leave. During the winter of 1635–1636, Williams took refuge with the Narragansetts; the follow-ing spring he bought a tract of land from them and, with a few followers, created the town of Providence. He also learned their language and called for the Bible to be translated into Narragansett. In 1644, after obtaining a charter from Parliament, he established a government similar to that of Massachusetts but without any ties to a specific church. That year he famously made the case of a strict separation between church and state, writing “An enforced uniformity of religion throughout a nation or civil state, confounds the civil and religious, denies the principles of Christianity and civility, and that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” For a time, Rhode Island was the only colony in which all believers, including Jews, Quakers, and Baptists, could worship without interference.

Another challenge to the established religious order in Massachusetts Bay came from Anne Hutchinson, a learned and charismatic woman from a substantial Boston family who pushed the limits of religious orthodoxy and the domestic roles of women. She sparked the Antinomian heresy, a phrase literally meaning she went against the laws of the ruling society. Specifically, she challenged the clerical doctrine of the covenant of grace, which held that when individuals sincerely confessed belief in Christ, then God promised them salvation. The “elect” then demonstrated their special status by performing good works. Hutchinson differed sharply with this orthodoxy, claiming that one’s works and words had no bearing at all on the state of one’s salvation. The only matter of significance was whether God selected a person for eternal life or not; what that person did or did not do in the course of daily life mattered none in proving God’s favor. Hutchinson’s teachings threatened the spiritual authority of established clergy, who spoke on the presumption that they were already saved. As her influence grew and as she began to deliver open attacks on members of the clergy, the Massachusetts hierarchy mobilized to stop her. They would not tolerate any threats to their spiritual authority, especially emanating from a woman occupying a social role—public spokesperson, theological critic—typically reserved for men at this time.

In 1637, Hutchinson was convicted of heresy and sedition and was banished. With her family and some of her followers, she moved to a point on Narragansett Bay not far from Providence. Later she moved south into New York, where in 1643 she and her family died during an Indian uprising.

New Hampshire and Maine were established in 1629 by two English proprietors. But few settlers moved into these northern regions until the religious disruptions in Massachusetts Bay. In 1639, John Wheelwright, a disciple of Anne Hutchinson, led some of his fellow dissenters to Exeter, New Hampshire. Others soon followed. New Hampshire became a separate colony in 1679. Maine remained a part of Massachusetts until 1820.


King Philip’s War In 1637, hostilities broke out between English settlers in the Connecticut Valley and the Pequot Indians of the region. The Pequot War resulted in the near elimination of local Indian tribes. But the bloodiest and most prolonged encounter between whites and Indians in the seventeenth century was the fourteen-month conflict that whites called King Philip’s War and which ultimately killed more than 3,000 Indians and 1,000 colonists.

THE GROWTH OF NEW ENGLAND, 1620–1750 The European settlement of New England, as this map reveals, traces its origins primarily to two small settlements on the Atlantic Coast. The first was the Pilgrim settlement at Plymouth, which began in 1620 and spread out through Cape Cod, southern Massachusetts, and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The second, much larger settlement began in Boston in 1630 and spread rapidly through western Massachusetts, north into New Hampshire and Maine, and south into Connecticut. • Why would the settlers of Massachusetts Bay have expanded so much more rapidly and expansively than those of Plymouth?




ac R




ec R



scoggin R.





on R



New HavenDanbury




















Long Island


Settled by Conn. andNew Haven colonies;

to New York, 1664

To Mason,1629

To duke of York,1664

To Massachusetts Bay,1629 To Massachusetts

Bay, 1691

To Rhode Island,1636

To Hartford colony,1662

To Mason and Gorges, 1622

38 •


Reviewing the history of English settlers during the seventeenth century, Puritan cleric Cotton Mather, in this excerpt from his history of New England, saw the Devil as the root of mishap and evil. He demonstrated a real mistrust of Indians and saw them as servants of the Devil.

I believe there never was a poor plantation more pursued by the wrath of the Devil than our poor New England; and that which makes our condition very much the more deplorable is that the wrath of the great God himself at the same time also presses hard upon us. It was a rousing alarm to the Devil when a great company of English Protestants and Puritans came to erect evangelical churches in a corner of the world where he had reigned without any control for many ages; and it is a vexing eye-sore to the Devil that our Lord Christ should be known and owned and preached in this howling wilderness. Wherefore he has left no stone unturned, that so he might undermine this plantation and force us out of our country.

First, the Indian Powwows used all their sorceries to molest the first planters here; but God said unto them, “Touch them not!” Then, seducing spirits came to root in this vineyard, but God so rated them off that they have not prevailed much farther than the edges of our land. After this, we have had a continual blast upon some of our prin-cipal grain, annually diminishing a vast part of our ordinary food. Herewithal, wasting sicknesses, especially burning and mortal agues, have shot the arrows of death in at our windows. Next, we have had many ad-versaries of our own language, who have been perpetually assaying to deprive us of those English liberties in the encourage-ment whereof these territories have been

settled. As if this had not been enough, the Tawnies among whom we came have wa-tered our soil with the blood of many hun-dreds of our inhabitants. Desolating fires also have many times laid the chief treasure of the whole province in ashes. As for losses by sea, they have been multiplied upon us; and particularly in the present French War, the whole English nation have observed that no part of the nation has proportion-ately had so many vessels taken as our poor New England. Besides all which, now at last the devils are (if I may so speak) in person come down upon us, with such a wrath as is justly much and will quickly be more the as-tonishment of the world. Alas, I may sigh over this wilderness, as Moses did over his, in Psalm 90.7, 9: “We are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath we are trou-bled: All our days are passed away in thy wrath.” And I may add this unto it: the wrath of the Devil too has been troubling and spending of us all our days. . . .

Let us now make a good and a right use of the prodigious descent which the Devil in great wrath is at this day making upon our land. Upon the death of a great man once, an orator called the town together, crying out, “Concurrite cives, dilapsa c*nt vestra moenia!” That is, “Come together neighbors, your town walls are fallen down!” But such is the descent of the Devil at this day upon our selves that I may truly tell you, the walls of the whole world are broken down! The usual walls of defense about mankind have such a gap made in them that the very devils are broke in upon us to seduce the souls, torment the bodies, sully the credits, and consume the estates of our neighbors, with impressions both as real and as furious as if the invisible world were becoming incarnate on purpose for the vexing of us. . . .


• 39

In June 1675, the Wampanoags, led by their chief Metacom whom the English called “King Philip,” joined with Nipmucks, Pocumtucks, and Narragansetts in an attempt to drive out the English settlers and resist any further encroachments upon their land. Stoking Indian resentment as well were efforts by the colonists to force them to rec-ognize English sovereignty. Not all Indians followed Metacom’s lead, however, and some actually backed the English, including Nausets, Mohegans, and Pequots. Still, Metacom and his warriors terrorized a string of Massachusetts towns for over a year. In early 1676, however, the tide began to turn when white settlers forged a new alliance with a group of Mohawk allies, who soon ambushed Metacom and beheaded him. Without Metacom, the fragile coalition of the different tribes collapsed and the white settlers were quickly able to crush the uprising. In the aftermath, some survivors fled to Canada. Colonists seized many of those who surrendered and sold them into slavery in the West Indies. The tribes who had originally led the uprising were left greatly weakened as military powers and would never again be able to mount such a major assault against the English settlers.

The conflicts between natives and settlers were crucially affected by earlier exchanges of technology between the English and the tribes. In particular, Indians made effective use of a relatively new European weapon that they had acquired from the English: the flintlock rifle. It replaced the earlier staple of colonial musketry, the matchlock rifle, which proved too heavy, cumbersome, and inaccurate to be effective. The matchlock had to be steadied on a fixed object and ignited with a match before firing. The flintlock could be held up without support and fired without a match.

Despite rules forbidding colonists to instruct natives on how to use and repair the weapons, the natives learned to handle the rifles, and even to repair them very effectively on their own. In King Philip’s War, the very high casualties on both sides were partly a result of the use of these more advanced rifles.

The violence of the war and settlers’ insatiable appetite for land and uneven respect for Indian culture affected their understanding of recent history. Indeed, leaders increas-ingly portrayed Indians as “heathens” and barbarians. Religious officials in particular came to consider local tribes as a threat to their hopes of creating a godly community in the New World. (See “Consider the Source: Cotton Mather on the Recent History of New England.”)

In as much as the devil is come down in great wrath, we had need labor, with all the care and speed we can, to divert the great wrath of Heaven from coming at the same time upon us. The God of Heaven has with long and loud admonitions been calling us to a reformation of our provoking evils as the only way to avoid that wrath of his which does not only threaten but consume us. It is because we have been deaf to those calls that we are now by a provoked God laid open to the wrath of the Devil himself.


1. According to Cotton Mather, what particular hardships did the colonists suffer?

2. What did Mather mean when he wrote that “now at last the devils [have descended] in person”?

3. What deeper explanation did Cotton Mather offer for New England’s crisis? What response did he suggest?

Source: Mather, Cotton, The Wonders of the Invisible Word. Boston, 1692, 41–43, 48; cited in Richard Godbeer, The Salem Witch Hunt: A Brief Histor y with Documents. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 48–49.

40 • CHAPTER 2

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-32055])


For nearly thirty years after Lord Baltimore received the charter for Maryland in 1632, no new English colonies were established in America. England was dealing with troubles of its own at home.

The English Civil WarAfter Charles I dissolved Parliament in 1629 and began ruling as an absolute monarch, he alienated a growing number of his subjects. Finally, desperately in need of money, Charles called Parliament back into session in 1640 and asked it to levy new taxes. But he antagonized the members by dismissing them twice in two years; and in 1642, members of Parliament organized a military force, sparking the English Civil War.

The conflict between the Cavaliers (the supporters of the king) and the Roundheads (the forces of Parliament, who were largely Puritans) lasted seven years. In 1649, the Roundheads defeated the king’s forces and shocked all of Europe by beheading the monarch. The stern Roundhead leader Oliver Cromwell assumed the position of “protector.” During his reign, Crowell looked westward to expand his influence. He authorized the ambitious Western Design—a vast expedition designed to wrest Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hispaniola from the Spanish. He earnestly believed that God had called him to engage the Spanish and seize the land for England, but he met with uneven success.

A PEQUOT VILLAGE DESTROYED An English artist drew this view of a fortified Pequot village in Connecticut surrounded by English soldiers and their allies from other tribes during the Pequot War in 1637. The invaders massacred more than 600 residents of the settlement.


Indeed, his plans failed everywhere except Jamaica. It eventually would become the engine of sugar and slavery in the English colonies in the eighteenth century.

But when Cromwell died in 1658, his son and heir proved unable to maintain his author-ity. Two years later, Charles II, the son of the executed king, returned from exile and seized the throne, in what became known as the Restoration. Among the results of the Restoration was the resumption of colonization in America. Charles II rewarded faithful courtiers with grants of land in the New World, and in the twenty-five years of his reign he issued charters for four additional colonies: Carolina, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Charles II supported religious toleration—which would allow Catholicism again in Eng-land, to the dismay of many Protestants. Parliament refused to agree, however. The prudent Charles was wise enough not to fight for the right of Catholics to worship openly lest it cost him his throne. But he himself made a private agreement with Louis XIV of France that he would become a Catholic—which he did only on his deathbed. His son, James II, faced a hostile Parliament that suspected him of Catholic allegiances.

The CarolinasIn charters issued in 1663 and 1665, Charles II awarded joint title to eight proprietors. They received a vast territory stretching south from Virginia to the Florida peninsula and west to the Pacific Ocean. Like Lord Baltimore, they received almost kingly powers over their grant, which they prudently called Carolina (a name derived from the Latin word for “Charles”). They reserved tremendous estates for themselves and distributed the rest through a headright system similar to those in Virginia and Maryland. Although committed Anglicans themselves, the proprietors guaranteed religious freedom to all Christian faiths. They also created a representative assembly. They hoped to attract settlers from the existing American colonies and to avoid the expense of financing expeditions from England.

But their initial efforts to profit from settlement in Carolina failed dismally. Anthony Ashley Cooper, however, persisted. He convinced the other proprietors to finance expedi-tions to Carolina from England, the first of which set sail with 300 people in the spring of 1670. The 100 people who survived the difficult voyage established a settlement at Port Royal on the Carolina coast. Ten years later, they founded a city at the junction of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, which in 1690 became the colonial capital. They called it Charles Town (it was later renamed Charleston).

With the aid of the English philosopher John Locke, Cooper (now the earl of Shaftes-bury) drew up the Fundamental Constitution for Carolina in 1669. It divided the colony into counties of equal size and divided each county into equal parcels. It also established a social hierarchy with the proprietors themselves (who were to be known as “seigneurs”) at the top, a local aristocracy (consisting of lesser nobles known as “landgraves” or “caciques”) below them, and then ordinary settlers (“leet-men”). At the bottom of this stratified society would be poor whites, who would have few political rights, and African slaves. Proprietors, nobles, and other landholders would have a voice in the colonial parliament in proportion to the size of their landholdings.

In reality, Carolina developed along lines quite different from the carefully ordered vision of Shaftesbury and Locke. For one thing, the northern and southern regions of settlement were widely separated and socially and economically distinct from each other. The northern settlers were mainly backwoods farmers. In the South, fertile lands and the good harbor at Charles Town promoted a more prosperous economy and a more stratified, aristocratic society. Settlements grew up rapidly along the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, and colonists

42 • CHAPTER 2

established a flourishing trade, particularly (beginning in the 1670s) in rice. Importantly, the development of the rice economy depended heavily on the role of African slaves. It was they who brought the experience and knowledge of how to grow the crop. They grew for themselves and then their masters, who eventually forces their slaves to raise it on a large-scale production.

Southern Carolina very early developed commercial ties to the large (and overpopulated) European colony on the Caribbean island of Barbados. During the first ten years of settlement, in fact, most of the new residents in Carolina were Barbadians, some of whom established themselves as substantial landlords. African slavery had taken root on Barbados earlier than in any of the mainland colonies, and the white Caribbean migrants—tough, uncompromising profit seekers—established a similar slave-based plantation society in Carolina.

Carolina was one of the most divided English colonies in America. There were tensions between the small farmers of the Albemarle region in the North and the wealthy planters in the South. And there were conflicts between the rich Barbadians in southern Carolina and the smaller landowners around them. After Lord Shaftesbury’s death, the proprietors proved unable to establish order. In 1719, the colonists seized control of the colony from them. Ten years later, the king divided the region into two royal colonies, North Carolina and South Carolina.

New Netherland, New York, and New JerseyIn 1664, Charles II granted his brother James, the Duke of York, all the territory lying between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers. This land, however, was also claimed by the Dutch. The growing conflict between the English and the Dutch was part of a larger commercial rivalry between the two nations throughout the world. But the English par-ticularly rejected the Dutch presence in America, because it served as a wedge between the northern and southern English colonies and because it provided bases for Dutch smugglers evading English custom laws. And so months after James received the grant, a English fleet under the command of Richard Nicolls put in at New Amsterdam, the capital of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, and extracted a surrender from the governor, Peter Stuyvesant. Several years later, in 1673, the Dutch reconquered and briefly held their old provincial capital. But they lost it again, this time for good, in 1674.

The Duke of York renamed his territory New York. It contained not only Dutch and English but also Scandinavians, Germans, French, and a large number of Africans (imported as slaves by the Dutch West India Company), as well as members of several different Indian tribes. James wisely made no effort to impose his own Roman Catholicism on the colony. He delegated powers to a governor and a council but made no provision for representative assemblies.

Slavery was different in New York in part because of its Dutch roots. In the 1640s, the Dutch West India Company responded to a petition for freedom from slaves by granting them “half freedom,” in which they were technically manumitted but their children were not and they were required to pay a fee to the Company every year. But the Company allowed the slaves to work for wages and also awarded them land, between two and 18 acres, in a watery, hilly region about a mile north from the city, in part to create buffer between Indians and white settlers. The freed slaves eventually inhabited over 130 acres in what was New York’s first free black community.

Property holding and political power remained highly divided and highly unequal in New York. In addition to confirming the great Dutch “patroonships” already in existence,


James granted large estates to some of his own political supporters. Power in the colony thus remained widely dispersed among wealthy English landlords, Dutch patroons, wealthy fur traders, and the duke’s political appointees. By 1685, when the Duke of York ascended the English throne as James II, New York contained about four times as many people (around 30,000) as it had twenty years before.

Shortly after James received his charter, he gave a large part of the land south of New York to a pair of political allies, both Carolina proprietors, Sir John Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. Carteret named the territory New Jersey. But the venture in New Jersey generated few profits, and in 1674, Berkeley sold his half interest. The colony was divided into two jurisdictions, East Jersey and West Jersey, which squabbled with each other until 1702, when the two halves of the colony were again joined. New Jersey, like New York, was a colony of enormous ethnic and religious diversity, and the weak colonial government made few efforts to impose strict control over the fragmented society. But unlike New York, New Jersey developed no important class of large landowners.

The Quaker ColoniesPennsylvania was born out of the efforts of a dissenting English Protestant sect, the Soci-ety of Friends. They wished to find a home for their own distinctive social order. The Society began in the mid-seventeenth century under the leadership of George Fox, a Nottingham shoemaker, and Margaret Fell. Their followers came to be known as Quakers (from Fox’s instruction to them to “tremble at the name of the Lord”). Unlike the Puritans, Quakers rejected the concept of predestination (that God foreordained who would go to heaven and to hell) and original sin (that all people were born sinful). Every person, they believed, had divinity within themselves from birth and needed only learn to cultivate it; all could attain salvation.

The Quakers had no formal church government and no paid clergy; in their worship they spoke up one by one as the spirit moved them. Disregarding distinctions of gender and class, they addressed one another with the terms thee and thou, words commonly used in other parts of British society only in speaking to servants and social inferiors. As con-firmed pacifists, they would not take part in wars. Until the mid-eighteenth century, though, Quakers did not oppose slavery and indeed some would own slaves themselves. And in Barbados, many did. Unpopular in England, the Quakers began looking to America for asylum. A few migrated to New England or Carolina, but most Quakers wanted a colony of their own. As members of a despised sect, however, they could not get the necessary royal grant without the aid of someone influential at the court.

Fortunately for the Quaker cause, a number of wealthy and prominent men had converted to the faith. One of them was William Penn, an outspoken evangelist who had been in prison several times. Penn worked with George Fox on plans for a Quaker colony in America, and when Penn’s father died in 1681, Charles II settled a large debt he had owed to the older Penn by making an enormous grant to the son of territory between New York and Maryland. At the king’s insistence, the territory was to be named Pennsylvania, after Penn’s late father.

Through his informative and honest advertising, Penn soon made Pennsylvania the best-known and most cosmopolitan of all the British colonies in America. More than any other British colony, Pennsylvania prospered from the outset because of Penn’s successful recruit-ing, his careful planning, and the region’s mild climate and fertile soil. Penn sailed to Pennsylvania in 1682 to oversee the laying out of the city he named Philadelphia (“Brotherly Love”) between the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.

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Penn’s relatively good relations with Indians were a result in large part of his religious beliefs. Quakerism was a faith that included a refusal to participate in war or any violence and that believed that all people, whatever their background, were capable of becoming Christian. Penn worked to respect the natives and their culture. He recognized Indians’ claim to the land in the province, and he was usually scrupulous in reimbursing the natives for their land. In later years, the relationships between the British residents of Pennsylvania and the natives were not always so peaceful.

By the late 1690s, some residents of Pennsylvania were beginning to resist the nearly absolute power of the proprietor. Pressure from these groups grew to the point that in 1701, shortly before he departed for England for the last time, Penn agreed to a Charter of Liberties for the colony. The charter established a representative assembly (consisting, alone among the British colonies, of only one house) that greatly limited the authority of the proprietor. The charter also permitted “the lower counties” of the colony to establish their own representative assembly. The three counties did so in 1703 and as a result became, in effect, a separate colony—Delaware—although until the American Revolution it continued to have the same governor as Pennsylvania.


The English colonies clustered along the Atlantic seaboard of North America eventually united, expanded, and became the beginnings of a powerful nation. But in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, their future was not at all clear. In those years, they were small, frail settlements surrounded by other competing ones and Indian societies. The British Empire in North America was, in fact, a much smaller and weaker one than the great Spanish Empire to the south, and in many ways weaker than the enormous French Empire to the north.

The continuing contests for control of North America were most clearly visible in areas around the borders of British settlement—the Caribbean and along the northern, southern, and western borders of the coastal colonies. In the regions of the borderlands emerged societies very different from those in the Briitsh seaboard colonies—areas described as middle grounds, in which diverse civilizations encountered one another and, for a time at least, shaped one another.

The Caribbean IslandsThe Chesapeake was the site of the first permanent English settlements in the North American continent. Throughout the first half of the seventeenth century, however, the most important destinations for British immigrants were the islands of the Caribbean and the northern way station of Bermuda. Far smaller in size than the colonies would eventu-ally become, they still became home to more than half of the English migrants to the New World in the early seventeenth century.

Before the arrival of Europeans, most of the Caribbean islands had substantial Indian populations. But beginning with Christopher Columbus’s first visit in 1492, and accelerat-ing after 1496, these populations were severely weakened by European epidemics.

The Spanish Empire claimed title to all the islands in the Caribbean, but Spain cre-ated substantial settlements only in the largest of them: Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. English, French, and Dutch traders began settling on some of the smaller islands


early in the sixteenth century, despite the Spanish claim to them. After Spain and the Netherlands went to war in 1621 (distracting the Spanish navy and leaving the British in the Caribbean relatively unmolested), the pace of English colonization increased. Its most important settlements were on St. Kitts (1623), Barbados (1627), Antigua (1632), and Jamaica (1655).

In their first years in the Caribbean, English settlers experimented unsuccessfully with tobacco and cotton. But they soon discovered that the most lucrative crop was sugar, for which there was a substantial and growing market in Europe. Sugarcane could also be distilled into rum, for which there was also a booming market abroad. Planters devoted almost all of their land to sugarcane.

Because sugar was a labor-intensive crop, British planters quickly found it necessary to import laborers. As in the Chesapeake, they began by bringing indentured servants from England but they soon came to prefer African slaves, over whom they could exert greater control for longer periods. By midcentury, therefore, the English planters in the Caribbean were relying more and more on an enslaved African workforce, which soon substantially outnumbered them. By the early eighteenth century, there were four times as many African slaves as there were white settlers on Barbados and African majorities on all English Leeward Islands.

Masters and Slaves in the CaribbeanFearful of slave revolts, whites in the Caribbean monitored their labor forces closely and often harshly. Planters paid little attention to the welfare of their workers. Many concluded that it was cheaper to buy new slaves periodically than to protect the well-being of those they already owned, and it was not uncommon for masters literally to work their slaves to death. Few African workers survived more than a decade in the brutal Caribbean working environment—they were either sold to planters in North America or died. Even whites, who worked far less hard than did the slaves, often succumbed to the harsh climate; most died before the age of forty.

Establishing a stable society and culture was extremely difficult for people living in such harsh and even deadly conditions. Still, English Leeward Islands landowners in the Caribbean islands built a range of intuitions that replicated those found in their homeland—government, courts, churches, and juridical codes. Even when many returned home to escape the harsh conditions, the institutions they birthed continued to shape society. The Barbados’ slave code of 1661, for example, influenced the practice of slavery in the Caribbean for decades. It empowered masters to treat slaves as they saw fit, including inflicting brutal punishments, with little fear of legal penalty. It stated that for “any Negro or other slave under punishment by his master . . . no person whatsoever shall be liable to any fine therefore.” The code also required slaveowners to provide at least one set of clothes to every slave every year, but specified not much else; it said nothing about providing health care, housing, food, or a period of rest. Rewards were promised to slaves who deterred slave uprisings or runaways.

Despite living in subhuman conditions, slaves developed a range of social practices that gave them a measure of comfort and relief, on the one hand, and nurtured an African–Caribbean culture at least partly independent of their masters’ control. They sustained African religious and social traditions and blended them with local customs to create new signature expressions of faith. They strove to build families, even though many were destroyed by death or the slave trade. And they challenged their lowly status as

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slaves by resisting—often quietly and in hidden ways—the circ*mstances of their lives. They sometimes sabotaged crops, poisoned seeds, set small fires to the harvest, broke hoes and shovels, slowed down their pace of work, or feigned illness to stay out of the fields. Occasionally they revolted, as in 1675 and 1692 in Barbados. While none of these efforts overturned the slave system, they signaled a willingness to buck the system and to build a life of their own making.

The Caribbean settlements were the most important colonies for Britain in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, a vital center in the Atlantic trading world. They were the key source for sugar and rum and a market for goods made in the mainland colonies and in England. More importantly, they were the first principal source of African slaves for the mainland colonies.

The Southwest BorderlandsBy the end of the seventeenth century, the Spanish had established a sophisticated and impressive empire. Their capital, Mexico City, was the most dazzling metropolis in the Americas. The Spanish residents, well over a million, enjoyed much greater prosperity than all but a few English settlers in North America.

But the principal Spanish colonies north of Mexico—Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California—were relatively unimportant economically to the empire. They attracted religious minorities, Catholic missionaries, and independent ranchers fleeing the heavy hand of imperial authority. Spanish troops defended the northern flank of the empire, but they remained weak and peripheral parts of the great empire to their south. New Mexico was the most prosperous and populous of these Spanish outposts. By the end of the eigh-teenth century, New Mexico had a non-Indian population of over 10,000—the largest European settlement west of the Mississippi and north of Mexico—and it was steadily expanding through the region.

The Spanish began to colonize California once they realized that other Europeans—among them English merchants and French and Russian trappers—were beginning to establish a presence in the region. Formal Spanish settlement of California began in the 1760s, when the governor of Baja California was ordered to create outposts of the empire farther north. Soon a string of missions, forts (or presidios), and trading com-munities were springing up along the Pacific Coast, beginning with San Diego and Monterey in 1769 and eventually San Francisco (1776), Los Angeles (1781), and Santa Barbara (1786). They sought to control a local Indian population that had as many as 300 tribes, most notably Tipais, Ipais, Luisenas, Gabrielinos, Chumashs, and Ohlones.

As was historically the case in other European incursions into land occupied by Indians, the arrival of the Spanish in California had a devastating effect on the local population, who died in great numbers from the diseases the colonists imported. As the new settlements spread, the Spanish, here as elsewhere in the Americas, insisted that the remaining Indians convert to Catholicism. And once again they met with mixed results, with some Indians adopting Catholic beliefs and rituals, others rejecting them, and still others creating a hybrid with their traditional convictions. The Spanish colonists were also intent on creating a prosperous agricultural economy. Abetting them was the encomienda program, imple-mented by the Spanish crown, which authorized colonists to force Indians to go to work for them and pay a yearly tribute or tax. Not all Indians complied, of course, and some ran away or fought back.


The Spanish considered the greatest threat to the northern borders of their empire to be the growing ambitions of the French. In the 1680s, French explorers traveled down the Mississippi Valley to the mouth of the river and claimed those lands for France in 1682. They called the territory Louisiana. Fearful of French incursions farther west, the Spanish began to fortify their claim to Texas by establishing new forts, missions, and settlements there, including San Fernando (later San Antonio) in 1731. Much of the region that is now Arizona was also becoming increasingly tied to the Spanish Empire and was governed from Santa Fe.

The Southeast BorderlandsThe southeastern areas of what is now the United States posed a direct challenge to English ambitions in North America. After Spain claimed Florida in the 1560s, missionaries and traders began moving northward into Georgia and westward into what is now known as the Florida panhandle. Some ambitious Spaniards began to dream of expanding their empire still farther north, into what became the Carolinas and beyond. The founding of Jamestown in 1607, however, dampened those hopes and replaced them with fears. The English colonies, the Spaniards worried, could threaten their existing settlements in Florida and Georgia. As a result, the Spanish built forts in both regions to defend themselves against the increasing English presence there. Throughout the eighteenth century, the area between the Carolinas and Florida was the site of continuing tension and frequent conflict, between the Spanish and the English—and, to a lesser degree, between the Spanish and the French, who were threatening their northwestern borders with settlements in Louisiana and in what is now Alabama.

There was no formal war between England and Spain in these years, but that did not dampen the hostilities in the Southeast. English pirates continually harassed the Spanish settlements and, in 1668, actually sacked St. Augustine. The English encouraged Indians in Florida to rise up against the Spanish missions. The Spanish offered freedom to African slaves owned by English settlers in the Carolinas if they agreed to convert to Catholicism. About 100 Africans accepted the offer, and the Spanish later organized some of them into a military regiment to defend the northern border of New Spain. By the early eighteenth century, the constant fighting in the region had driven almost all the Spanish out of Florida except for settlers in St. Augustine on the Atlantic Coast and Pensacola on the Gulf Coast.

Eventually, after more than a century of conflict in the southeastern borderlands, the English prevailed—acquiring Florida in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War (known in America as the French and Indian War) and rapidly populating it with settlers from their colonies to the North. Before that point, however, protecting the southern boundary of the British Empire in North America was a continual concern to the British and contributed in crucial ways to the founding of the colony of Georgia.

The Founding of GeorgiaGeorgia—the last English colony to be established in what would become the United States—was founded to create a military barrier against Spanish lands on the southern border of English America. It was also designed to provide a refuge for the impoverished, a place where British men and women without prospects at home could begin anew. Its founders, led by General James Oglethorpe, served as unpaid trustees of a society created to serve the needs of the British Empire.

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Oglethorpe, himself a veteran of the most recent Spanish wars with Britain, was keenly aware of the military advantages of an English colony south of the Carolinas. Yet his interest in settlement rested even more on his philanthropic commitments. As head of a parliamentary committee investigating English prisons, he had been appalled by the plight of honest debtors rotting in confinement. Such prisoners, and other poor people in danger of succumbing to a similar fate, could, he believed, become the farmer-soldiers of the new colony in America.

In 1732, King George II granted Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees control of the land between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers. Their colonization policies reflected the vital military purposes of the colony. They limited the size of landholdings to make the settle-ment compact and easier to defend against Spanish and Indian attacks. They excluded Africans, free or slave; Oglethorpe feared that slave labor would produce internal revolts and that disaffected slaves might turn to the Spanish as allies. The trustees strictly regulated trade with the Indians, again to limit the possibility of wartime insurrection. They also excluded Catholics for fear they might collude with their coreligionists in the Spanish colonies to the south.

Oglethorpe himself led the first colonial expedition to Georgia, which built a fortified town at the mouth of the Savannah River in 1733 and later constructed additional forts south of the Altamaha. In the end, only a few debtors were released from jail and sent to Georgia. Instead, the trustees brought hundreds of impoverished tradesmen and artisans

(©Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

SAVANNAH IN 1734 This view of Savannah by an English artist shows the intensely orderly character of early settlement in the Georgia colony. As the colony grew, its residents gradually abandoned the plan created by Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees.


from Britain and Scotland and many religious refugees from Switzerland and Germany. Among the immigrants was a small group of Jews. British settlers made up a lower propor-tion of the European population of Georgia than of any other English colony.

Oglethorpe (whom some residents of Georgia began calling “our perpetual dictator”) created almost constant dissensions and conflict through his heavy-handed regulation of the colony. He also suffered military disappointments, such as a 1740 assault on the Spanish outpost at St. Augustine, Florida, which ended in failure. Gradually, as the threats from Spain receded, he lost his grip on the colony, which over time became more like the rest of British North America, with an elected legislature that loosened the restrictions on settlers. Georgia continued to grow more slowly than the other southern colonies, but in other ways it now developed along lines roughly similar to those of South Carolina.

Middle GroundsThe struggle for the North American continent was not just one among competing European empires. It was also a series of contests among the many different peoples who shared the continent—the Spanish, English, French, Dutch, and other colonists, on one hand, and the many Indian tribes with whom they shared the continent, on the other.

In no part of the Americas did colonial settlers quickly establish their dominance, sub-jugating and displacing Indians with dispatch. Instead, the balance of power was in constant flux; never was colonial rule inevitable. Along the western borders of English settlement, in particular, Europeans and Indians lived together in regions in which neither side was able to establish clear dominance. In these middle grounds, the two populations—despite frequent conflicts—carved out ways of living together, with each side making concessions to the other. (See “Debating the Past: Native Americans and the Middle Ground.”) To be sure, settlers came to power faster in some colonies, like Virginia and parts of New England, but here Indians often continue to live among them.

It is important to recognize that these western areas tended to fall along the peripheries of European empires, in which the influence of formal colonial governments was at times minimal. European settlers, and the soldiers scattered in forts throughout these regions to protect them, were unable to displace the Indians. So they had to carve out their own relationships with the tribes. In those relationships, the Europeans found themselves obligated to adapt to tribal expectations at least as much as the Indians had to adapt to European ones.

In the seventeenth century, before many English settlers had entered the interior, the French were particularly adept at creating successful relationships with the tribes. French missionaries strove to learn local languages and customs and work within relationships between and among Indians. Fur traders practiced similar habits, welcoming the chance to attach themselves to—even to marry within—tribes. They also recognized the importance of treating tribal chiefs with respect and channeling gifts and tributes through them. But by the mid-eighteenth century, French influence in the interior was in decline, and British settlers gradually became the dominant European group. Eventually, the British learned the lessons that the French had long ago absorbed—that simple commands and raw force were ineffective in creating a workable relationship with the tribes; that they too had to learn to deal with Indian leaders through gifts and ceremonies and mediation. In large western regions—especially those around the Great Lakes—they established a precarious peace with the tribes that lasted for several decades.

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Native Americans and the Middle GroundFor many generations, historians chroni-cling the westward movement of European settlement in North America portrayed Native Americans largely as weak and inconvenient obstacles swept aside by the inevitable progress of “civilization.” Indians were presented either as murderous savages or as relatively docile allies of white people, but rarely as important actors of their own. Francis Parkman, the renowned nineteenth-century American historian, described Indians as a civilization “crushed” and “scorned” by the march of European powers in the New World. Many subsequent histori-ans departed little from his assessment.

In the past half century, historians have challenged this traditional view first by ex-amining how white civilization victimized the tribes. Gary Nash’s Red, White, and Black (1974) was an early important presentation of this approach, as was Ramon Guttierez’s When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went (1991). They, and other scholars, rejected the optimistic, progressive view of white triumph over adversity and presented, in-stead, a picture of white brutality and futile Indian resistance, ending in defeat.

Subsequently, scholars saw Native Americans and Euro-Americans as uneasy partners in the shaping of a new society in which, for a time at least, both were a vital part. Richard White’s influential 1991 book, The Middle Ground, was among the first significant statements of this view. White examined the culture of the Great Lakes region in the eighteenth century, in which Algonquian Indians created a series of com-plex trading and political relationships with

French, English, and American settlers and travelers. In this “borderland” between the growing European settlements in the east and the still largely intact Indian civiliza-tions farther west, a new kind of hybrid society emerged in which many cultures intermingled. James Merrell’s Into the American Woods (1999) contributed further to this new view of collaboration by examin-ing the world of negotiators and go- betweens along the western Pennsylvania frontier in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Like White, he emphasized the complicated blend of European and Native American diplomatic rituals that allowed both groups to conduct business, make treaties, and keep the peace.

Daniel Richter extended the idea of a middle ground further in two important books: The Ordeal of the Long-house (1992) and Facing East from Indian Country (2001). Richter demonstrates that the Iroquois Confederacy was an active participant in the power relationships in the Hudson River basin; in his later book, he tells the story of European colonization from the Native American perspective, revealing how Western myths of “first contact” such as the story of John Smith and Pocahontas look entirely different when seen through the eyes of Native Americans, who remained in many ways the more powerful of the two societies in the seventeenth century.

Building on Richter but firmly centering the power of Indian societies in the story of European colonization, Kathleen Duval (The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent, 2008) demonstrates

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But as the English (and after 1776 American) presence in the region grew, the balance of power between Europeans and natives shifted. Newer settlers had difficulty adapting to the complex rituals that the earlier migrants had developed. The stability of the relationship between the Indians and whites deteriorated. By the early nineteenth century, the middle ground had collapsed, replaced by a European world in which Indians were ruthlessly subjugated and eventually removed. Nevertheless, for a considerable period of early American history the story of the relationship between whites and Indians was not simply a story of conquest and subjugation, but also—in some regions—a story of difficult but stable accommodation and tolerance.


The British colonies in America had begun as separate projects, and for the most part they grew up independent of one another and subject to only nominal control from London. But by the mid-seventeenth century, the growing commercial success of the colonial ven-tures was producing pressure in England for a more uniform structure to the empire.

The English government began trying to regulate colonial trade in the 1650s, when Parliament passed laws to keep Dutch ships out of the British colonies. Later, Parliament passed three important Navigation Acts. The first of them, in 1660, closed the colonies to all trade except that carried by English ships. The English also required that tobacco and other items be exported from the colonies only to England or to English possessions. The second act, in 1663, required that all goods sent from Europe to the colonies pass through Britain on the way, where they would be subject to English taxation. The third act, in 1673, imposed duties on the coastal trade among the English colonies, and it provided for the appointment of customs officials to enforce the Navigation Acts. These acts formed the legal basis of England’s regulation of the colonies for a century.

how Indian societies often determined the character of relationships with colonial powers. Indeed, she argues that it was Indians who drew Europeans into their practices of diplomacy, warfare, family, agriculture, and gender. Similarly, Pekka Hamalainen, in The Comanche Empire (2008), details how the Comanche controlled vast swaths of the American Southwest, besting European colonial powers through their military and economic power throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centu-ries. He portrays the Comanche as building a successful empire that unraveled more because of internal mistakes and divisions than European conquest. And Michael Witgen, in An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America (2013), studies how the Anishinaabe and

Dakota of the Great Lakes and Northern Plains controlled trade and diplomacy in these regions despite the incursions of Europeans. Even as they interacted with European agents, they were far from con-quered or absorbed. Instead, they tended to control the patterns of interaction and cooperation and nurtured an independent culture for generations. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. How have historians’ views of Native Americans and their role in the European colonization of North America changed over time?

2. Why do you think scholars changed their portrayal of Indians in early America so radically?

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The Dominion of New EnglandBefore the creation of Navigation Acts, all the colonial governments except that of Virginia had operated largely independently of the crown, with governors chosen by the proprietors or by the colonists themselves and with powerful representative assemblies. Officials in London recognized that to increase their control over the colonies, they would have to increase British authority in order to enforce the new laws.

In 1675, the king created a new body, the Lords of Trade, to make recommendations for imperial reform. In 1679, the king moved to increase his control over Massachusetts. He stripped it of its authority over New Hampshire and chartered a separate, royal colony there whose governor he would himself appoint. And in 1684, citing the colonial assembly’s defiance of the Navigation Acts, he revoked the Massachusetts charter.

Charles II’s brother, James II, who succeeded him to the throne in 1685, went further. He created a single Dominion of New England, which combined the government of Mas-sachusetts with the governments of the rest of the New England colonies and later with those of New York and New Jersey as well. He appointed a single governor, Sir Edmund Andros, to supervise the entire region from Boston. Andros’s rigid enforcement of the Navigation Acts and his brusque dismissal of the colonists’ claims to the “rights of English-men” made him highly unpopular.

The “Glorious Revolution”James II, unlike his father, was openly Catholic. In addition, he made powerful enemies when he appointed his fellow Catholics to high offices. The restoration of Catholicism in England led to fears that the Vatican and the pope would soon overtake the country and that the king would support him. At the same time, James II tried to control Parlia-ment and the courts, making himself an absolute monarch. By 1688, the opposition to the king was so great that Parliament voted to force out James II. His daughter, Mary II, and her husband, William of Orange, of the Netherlands—both Protestants—replaced James II to reign jointly. However, James II went to Ireland, raised an army, and fought William but lost. He eventually left the country and spent the rest of his life in France. No Catholic monarch has reigned since. This coup came to be known as the “Glorious Revolution.”

When Bostonians heard of the overthrow of James II, they arrested and imprisoned the unpopular Andros. The new sovereigns in England abolished the Dominion of New England and restored separate colonial governments. In 1691, however, they combined Massachusetts with Plymouth and made it a single, royal colony. The new charter restored the colonial assembly, but it gave the crown the right to appoint the governor. It also replaced church membership with property ownership as the basis for voting and office-holding.

Andros had been governing New York through a lieutenant governor, Captain Francis Nicholson, who enjoyed the support of the wealthy merchants and fur traders of the province. Other, less-favored colonists had a long accumulation of grievances against Nicholson and his allies. The leader of the New York dissidents was Jacob Leisler, a German merchant. In May 1689, when news of the Glorious Revolution and the fall of Andros reached New York, Leisler raised a militia, captured the city fort, drove Nicholson into exile, and proclaimed himself the new head of government in New York. For two years, he tried in vain to stabilize his power in the colony amid fierce


factional rivalry. In 1691, when William and Mary appointed a new governor, Leisler briefly resisted. He was convicted of treason and executed. Fierce rivalry between what became known as the “Leislerians” and the “anti-Leislerians” dominated the politics of the colony for years thereafter.

In Maryland, many people wrongly assumed that their proprietor, the Catholic Lord Baltimore, who was living in England, had sided with the Catholic James II and opposed William and Mary. So in 1689, an old opponent of the proprietor’s government, the Protestant John Coode, led a revolt that drove out Lord Baltimore’s officials and led to Maryland’s establishment as a royal colony in 1691. The colonial assembly then established the Church of England as the colony’s official religion and excluded Catholics from public office. Maryland became a proprietary colony again in 1715, after the fifth Lord Baltimore joined the Anglican Church.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 in Britian touched off revolutions, mostly bloodless ones, in several colonies. Under the new king and queen, the representative assemblies that had been abolished were revived, and the scheme for colonial unification from above was abandoned. But the Glorious Revolution in America did not stop the reorganization of the empire. The new governments that emerged in America actually increased the crown’s potential authority. As the first century of English settlement in America came to its end, the colonists were becoming more a part of the imperial system than ever before.


The English colonization of North America was part of a larger effort by several European nations to expand the reach of their increasingly commercial societies. Indeed, for many years, the British Empire in America was among the smallest and weakest of the imperial ventures there, overshadowed by the French to the north and the Spanish to the south.

In the English colonies along the Atlantic seaboard, new agricultural and commercial societies gradually emerged—those in the South centered on the cultivation of tobacco and rice and were reliant on slave labor; those in the northern colonies centered on more traditional food crops and were based mostly on free labor. Substantial trading centers emerged in such cities as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charles Town, and a grow-ing proportion of the population became prosperous and settled in these increasingly com-plex communities. By the early eighteenth century, English settlement had spread from northern New England (in what is now Maine) south into Georgia.

But this growing English presence coexisted with, and often was in conflict with, other Europeans—most notably the Spanish and the French—in certain areas of North America. In these borderlands, societies did not assume the settled, prosperous form they were tak-ing in the Tidewater and New England. They were raw, sparsely populated settlements in which Europeans, including over time increasing numbers of English, had to learn to accommodate not only one another but also the substantial Indian tribes with whom they shared these interior lands. By the middle of the eighteenth century, there was a significant European presence across a broad swath of North America—from Florida to Maine, and from Texas to Mexico to California. No European power, however, controlled any major part of these large geographic regions. Yet changes were under way within the British Empire that would soon lead to its dominance through a much larger area of North America.

54 • CHAPTER 2


Anne Hutchinson 36Antinomianism 36Bacon’s Rebellion 30Cecilius Calvert 32Dominion of New England

52George Calvert 32headright system 29indentured servants 30Jacob Leisler 52James Oglethorpe 47

Jamestown 26John Smith 27John Winthrop 35King Philip’s War 37Massachusetts Bay

Company 35Mayflower Compact 34Metacom 39middle grounds 44Navigation Acts 51Pequot War 37

Plymouth Plantation 34Powhatan 26Quakers 43Roger Williams 36slave codes 31theocracy 35Virginia House of Burgesses

29William Berkeley 30William Penn 43


1. Compare patterns of colonization between the Spanish and the English. What similarities do you see? What differences?

2. How did the institution of slavery differ between Virginia and the Caribbean? What accounts for these differences?

3. How did the relationships between European settlers and Indians along the Atlantic seaboard differ from those found in the interior regions near and around what we now call the Great Lakes?

4. How did the Glorious Revolution in England affect England’s North American colonies?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

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MOST PEOPLE IN ENGLAND and America believed that the English colonies were outposts of the English world. And it is certainly true that as the colonies grew and became more prosperous, they came to closely resemble English society. To be sure, some of the early settlers had come to America to escape what they considered English tyranny. But by the early eighteenth century, many colonists considered themselves British just as much as the men and women in Britain itself did.

However, the colonies were quite different from England and from one other. What dis-tinguished the colonies from England was not simply landscape and climate but also the constant engagement with Indians, experimentation with new systems of local government, attempts to establish religious orthodoxy and the rebellions occasioned with them, and efforts to learn about and raise new crops. African laborers and slaves were stitched into the fabric of colonial life almost from the start. Indeed, the English colonies would eventually become the destination for millions of forcibly transplanted Africans. The area that would become the United States was a magnet for immigrants from many lands other than England: Scotland, Ireland, the European continent, eastern Russia, and the Spanish and French Empires already established in America. Indeed, part of the story of the development of the English colonies is just how distinctive they were becoming from England itself.


1. What accounted for the rapid increase in the colonial population in the seventeenth century?

2. Why did African slavery expand so rapidly in the late seventeenth century?3. How did religion shape and influence colonial society?

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After uncertain beginnings, the non-Indian population of English North America grew rapidly and substantially, through continued immigration, slave importation, and natural increase. By the late seventeenth century, Europeans and Africans outnumbered the Indians along the Atlantic Coast.

A few of the early settlers were members of the English upper classes, but most were English laborers. Some came independently, such as the religious dissenters in early New England. But in the Chesapeake, at least three-fourths of the immigrants in the seven-teenth century arrived as indentured servants.

Indentured ServitudeThe system of temporary (or “indentured”) servitude developed out of practices in England. Most were young men who bound themselves to masters for fixed terms of ser-vitude (usually four to five years) in exchange for passage to America, food, and shelter. Their passage to America was a terrible trial of want and hunger. (See “Consider the Source: Gottlieb Mittelberger, the Passage of Indentured Servants.”) Male indentured ser-vants were supposed to receive clothing, tools, and occasionally land upon completion of their service. In reality, however, many left service with nothing. Most women indentures—who constituted roughly one-fourth of the total in the Chesapeake—worked as domestic servants and were expected to marry when their terms of servitude expired.

By the late seventeenth century, the indentured servant population had become one of the largest elements of the colonial population and was creating serious social problems. Some former indentures managed to establish themselves successfully as farm-ers, tradespeople, or artisans, and some of the women married propertied men. Others found themselves without land, without



Indigo production begins


George Whitefield arrives in America

Great Awakening intensifies

Stono slave rebellion


Great Awakening begins

Zenger trial


Cotton Mather starts smallpox inoculation


Slave importations increase


Salem witchcraft trials conclude


Huguenots migrate to America


First printing press incolonies begins



America’s first college, Harvard, founded


employment, without families, and without prospects. As a result, there emerged in some areas, particularly in the Chesapeake, a large floating population of young single men who were a source of social unrest that prompted elites to begin to consider African slaves as a better, more dependable and controllable form of laborer.

Shortly after the arrival of African slaves, planters began to view them as critical to their economic successes. Most importantly, they saw great benefit in having a permanent labor population without hope of freedom, consigned to a life of work and servitude and—planters assumed—accepting of their plight. Accelerating their efforts to import more slaves as well were a series of economic and demographic changes. Beginning in the 1670s, a decrease in the birthrate in England and an improvement in economic conditions there reduced the pressures on laboring men and women to emigrate, and the flow of indentured servants into America slowly declined. Those who did travel to America as indentures now generally avoided the southern colonies, where prospects for advancement were slim.

Birth and DeathImmigration remained for a time the greatest source of population growth in the colonies. But the most important long-range factor in the increase of the colonial population was its ability to reproduce itself. Improvement in the reproduction rate began in New England and the mid-Atlantic colonies in the second half of the seventeenth century. After the 1650s, natural increase became the most important source of population growth in those areas. The New England population more than quadrupled through reproduction alone in the second half of the seventeenth century. This rise was a result not only of families having large num-bers of children. It was also because life expectancy in New England was unusually high.

Conditions improved much more slowly in the South. The high death rates in the Chesapeake region did not begin to decline to levels found elsewhere until the mid-eighteenth century. Throughout the seventeenth century, the average life expectancy for European men in the region was just over forty years, and for women slightly less. One in four white chil-dren died in infancy, and half died before the age of twenty. Children who survived infancy often lost one or both of their parents before reaching maturity. Widows, widowers, and orphans thus formed a substantial proportion of the white Chesapeake population. Only after settlers developed immunity to local diseases (particularly malaria) did life expectancy increase significantly. Population growth was substantial in the region, but it was largely a result of immigration.

The natural increases in the population in the seventeenth century reflected a steady improvement in the balance between men and women in the colonies. In the early years of settlement, more than three-quarters of the white population of the Chesapeake consisted of men. And even in New England, which from the beginning had attracted more families than the southern colonies, 60 percent of the inhabitants were male in 1650. Gradually, however, more women began to arrive in the colonies; and increasing birthrates contributed to shifting the the balance between men and women as well. Throughout the colonial period, the population almost doubled every twenty-five years. By 1775, the non-Indian population of the colonies was over 2 million.

Medicine in the ColoniesThere were very high death rates of women who bore children in the colonial era. Physi-cians had little or no understanding of infection and sterilization. As a result, many women


Gottlieb Mittelberger, a German laborer, traveled to Philadelphia in 1750 and chroni-cled his voyage.

Both in Rotterdam and in Amsterdam the people are packed densely, like herrings so to say, in the large sea-vessels. One person receives a place of scarcely 2 feet width and 6 feet length in the bedstead, while many a ship carries four to six hundred souls; not to mention the innumerable implements, tools, provisions, water- barrels and other things which likewise occupy such space.

On account of contrary winds it takes the ships sometimes 2, 3, and 4 weeks to make the trip from Holland to . . . England. But when the wind is good, they get there in 8 days or even sooner. Everything is examined there and the custom-duties paid, whence it comes that the ships ride there 8, 10 or 14 days and even longer at anchor, till they have taken in their full car-goes. During that time every one is com-pelled to spend his last remaining money and to consume his little stock of provi-sions which had been reserved for the sea; so that most passengers, finding them-selves on the ocean where they would be in greater need of them, must greatly suffer from hunger and want. Many suffer want already on the water between Holland and Old England.

When the ships have for the last time weighed their anchors near the city of Kaupp [Cowes] in Old England, the real mis-ery begins with the long voyage. For from there the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail 8, 9, 10 to 12 weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But even with the best wind the voyage lasts 7 weeks.

But during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of sea-sickness,

fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably.

Add to this want of provisions, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other trouble, as . . . the lice abound so frightfully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the body. The mis-ery reaches the climax when a gale rages for 2 or 3 nights and days, so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously.

Children from 1 to 7 years rarely survive the voyage. I witnessed . . . misery in no less than 32 children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea. The parents grieve all the more since their children find no resting-place in the earth, but are devoured by the monsters of the sea.

That most of the people get sick is not surprising, because, in addition to all other trials and hardships, warm food is served only three times a week, the rations being very poor and very little. Such meals can hardly be eaten, on account of being so unclean. The water which is served out of the ships is often very black, thick and full of worms, so that one cannot drink it with-out loathing, even with the greatest thirst. Toward the end we were compelled to eat the ship’s biscuit which had been spoiled long ago; though in a whole biscuit there was scarcely a piece the size of a dollar that had not been full of red worms and spiders’ nests. . . .

At length, when, after a long and tedious voyage, the ships come in sight of land, so that the promontories can be seen, which


58 •

the people were so eager and anxious to see, all creep from below on deck to see the land from afar and they weep for joy, and pray and sing, thanking and praising God. The sight of the land makes the people on board the ship, especially the sick and the half dead, alive again, so that their hearts leap within them; they shout and rejoice, and are content to bear their misery in patience, in the hope that they may soon reach the land in safety. But alas!

When the ships have landed at Philadel-phia after their long voyage, no one is permit-ted to leave them except those who pay for their passage or can give good security; the others, who cannot pay, must remain on board the ships till they are purchased, and are released from the ships by their purchas-ers. The sick always fare the worst, for the healthy are naturally preferred and purchased first; and so the sick and wretched must often remain on board in front of the city for 2 or 3 weeks, and frequently die, whereas many a one, if he could pay his debt and were permit-ted to leave the ship immediately, might recover and remain alive.

The sale of human beings in the market on board the ship is carried out thus: Every day Englishmen, Dutchmen and High- German people come from the city of Phila-delphia and other places, in part from a great distance, say 20, 30, or 40 hours away, and go on board the newly arrived ship that has brought and offers for sale passengers from Europe, and select among the healthy persons such as they deem suit-able for their business, and bargain with them how long they will serve for their pas-sage money, which most of them are still in debt for. When they have come to an agree-ment, it happens that adult persons bind themselves in writing to serve 3, 4, 5 or 6 years for the amount due by them, accord-ing to their age and strength. But very young people, from 10 to 15 years, must serve till they are 21 years old.

Many parents must sell and trade away their children like so many head of cattle;

for if their children take the debt upon themselves, the parents can leave the ship free and unrestrained; but as the parents often do not know where and to what people their children are going, it often happens that such parents and chil-dren, after leaving the ship, do not see each other again for many years, perhaps no more in all their lives. . . . It often hap-pens that whole families, husband, wife and children, are separated by being sold to different purchasers, especially when they have not paid any part of their pas-sage money.

When a husband or wife has died at sea, when the ship has made more than half of her trip, the survivor must pay or serve not only for himself or herself but also for the deceased.

When both parents have died over half-way at sea, their children, especially when they are young and have nothing to pawn or pay, must stand for their own and their par-ents’ passage, and serve till they are 21 years old. When one has served his or her term, he or she is entitled to a new suit of clothes at parting; and if it has been so stipulated, a man gets in addition a horse, a woman, a cow. When a serf has an opportu-nity to marry in this country, he or she must pay for each year which he or she would have yet to serve, 5 or 6 pounds.


1. What hardships did passengers suffer at sea? What relief could they hope for upon reaching Philadelphia?

2. Explain the different purchase agreements between passengers and masters. How did the death of a family member affect a passenger’s indenture contracts?

3. What do the ordeals of indentured ser-vants tell us about prospects in Europe? What do they tell us about the concept of liberty in the colonies?

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and babies died from infections contracted during childbirth or surgery. Unaware of bac-teria, many communities were plagued with infectious diseases transmitted by garbage or unclean water.

Because of the limited extent of formal medical knowledge, and the lack of regulations for any practitioners at the time, it was relatively easy for people to practice medicine, even without any professional training. The biggest beneficiaries of this were women, who estab-lished themselves in considerable numbers as midwives. Midwives assisted women in child-birth, but they also dispensed other medical advice. They were popular because they were usually friends and neighbors of the people they treated, unlike physicians, who were few and therefore not often well known to their patients. But their success also reflected their skill and compassion as health-care providers. Male doctors felt threatened by the midwives and struggled continually to drive them from the field, although they did not make sub-stantial progress in doing so until the nineteenth century.

Midwives and doctors alike practiced medicine on the basis of the prevailing assumptions of their time, most of them derived from the theory of “humoralism” popularized by the famous second-century Roman physician Galen. Galen argued that the human body was governed by four “humors” that were lodged in four bodily fluids: yellow bile (or “choler”), black bile (“melancholy”), blood, and phlegm. In a healthy body, the four humors existed in balance. Illness represented an imbalance and suggested the need for removing from the body the excesses of whatever fluid was causing the imbalance. That was the rationale that lay behind the principal medical techniques of the seventeenth century: purging, expulsion, and bleeding. Bleeding was practiced mostly by male physicians. Midwives favored “pukes” and laxatives. The great majority of early Americans, however, had little contact with physi-cians, or even midwives, and sought instead to deal with illness on their own. The assump-tion that treating illness was the exclusive province of trained professionals, so much a part of the twentieth century and beyond, lay far in the distance in the colonial era.

That seventeenth-century medicine rested so much on ideas produced 1,400 years before is evidence of how little support there was for the scientific method in England and America at the time. Bleeding, for example, had been in use for hundreds of years, during which time there had been no evidence at all that it helped people recover from illness; indeed, there was considerable evidence that bleeding could do great harm. But what would seem in later eras to be the simple process of testing scientific assumptions was not yet a common part of Western thought. That was one reason that the birth of the Enlightenment in the late seven-teenth century—with its faith in human reason and its belief in the capacity of individuals and societies to create better lives—was important not just to politics but also to science.

Women and Families in the ColoniesBecause there were many more men than women in seventeenth-century America, few women remained unmarried for long. The average white European woman in America married for the first time at twenty or twenty-one years of age. Because of the large numbers of indentured servants who were forbidden to marry until their terms of service expired, and that female indentured servants frequently had their terms of service extended, pre-marital sexual relationships were not uncommon. Children born out of wedlock to inden-tured white women were often taken from their mothers at a young age and were themselves bound as indentured servants.

White women in the Chesapeake could anticipate a life consumed with childbearing. The average wife experienced pregnancies every two years. Those who lived long enough


bore an average of eight children apiece (up to five of whom typically died in infancy or early childhood). Since childbirth was one of the most frequent causes of female death, many women did not survive to see their children grow to maturity. Those who did, how-ever, were often widowed, since they were usually much younger than their husbands.

White women lived under the principle of coverture, in which they had their legal rights assumed by their husbands upon marriage. Whereas an adult unmarried woman could own property and enter into contracts on her own, though often under the care of her father, once she married she lost such legal rights. Widows had a considerable amount of power because in most colonies they could inherit and hold property when their husband’s died. High death rates meant that some women gained control of property, making them highly desirable for men seeking wives.

In New England, where many more immigrants arrived with family members and where death rates declined more quickly, family structure was much more stable than in the Chesapeake. The sex ratio was more balanced than in the Chesapeake, so most men could expect to marry. As in the Chesapeake, women married young, began producing children early, and continued to do so well into their thirties. In contrast to their southern counter-parts, however, northern children were more likely to survive, and their families were more likely to remain intact. Fewer New England women became widows, and those who did generally lost their husbands later in life.

The longer life span in New England meant that parents continued to control their children longer than did parents in the South. Few sons and daughters could choose a spouse entirely independently of their parents’ wishes. Men tended to rely on their fathers for land to cultivate. Women needed dowries from their parents if they were to attract desirable husbands.


LIFE IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES This colored engraving shows the domestic life of white Americans during the eighteenth century. Depicted are family members at work in their cozy surroundings. The industriousness they show was a virtue of the era.

62 • CHAPTER 3

The Beginnings of Slavery in English AmericaThe demand for African servants to supplement the indentured or free labor force existed almost from the first moments of settlement. For a time, however, black workers were hard to find. Not until the mid-seventeenth century, when a substantial commerce in slaves grew up between the Caribbean islands and the southern colonies, did black workers become generally available in North America. Just how slavery actually took root and spread has been a source of endless debate among historians.

The rising demand for slaves in North America beginning in the late seventeenth century helped expand the transatlantic slave trade. Before it ended in the nineteenth century, it was responsible for the forced immigration of as many as 11 million Africans to the Americas and the Caribbean. In the flourishing slave marts on the African coast, native chieftains brought members of rival tribes captured in western and central Africa to the ports. A small number were also captured in raids by European slave traders.

After they were captured and marched to ports along the west African coast, terrified Africans were then tightly packed into the dark, filthy holds of ships for the horrors of the middle passage—the long transatlantic journey to the Americas. It took three to four months, during which time up to 600 hundred Africans were chained together in columns deep in the bowels of the ship or stuffed onto shelves running around the hull. So cramped were the quarters that most could not stand up. Men were kept apart from women and children. Food and fresh air were scarce. Many died, their corpses dumped overboard.

Olaadah Equiano, an African from Eboe (present-day Nigeria), was seized by slave traders at the age of 11 in 1745 and sent to the West Indies. He later escaped and penned an autobiography detailing his life, including the middle passage. “I was soon put down under the decks. . . . The closeness of the place, the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died.” Upon arrival in the New World, slaves like Equiano were auctioned off to white landowners and transported, frightened and bewildered, to their new homes.

Most African slaves shipped to the New World landed not in an English colony but the Caribbean islands, Brazil, or territories of the Spanish Empire. From there slaves were sometimes purchased and transported by traders to North America. But not until the 1670s did slave traders start importing blacks directly from Africa to North America. Even then, the flow remained small for a time, mainly because a single group, the Royal African Company of England, monopolized the trade and kept prices high and supplies low. Indeed, only 5 to 7 percent of enslaved Africans were ever sent directly to English North America.

A turning point in the history of the black population in North America was 1697, the year rival traders broke the Royal African Company’s monopoly. With the trade now open to competition, prices fell and the number of Africans greatly increased. In 1700, about 25,000 African slaves lived in English North America. Because African Americans were so heavily concentrated in a few southern colonies, they were already beginning to outnum-ber whites in some areas. By 1760, the number of Africans in the English mainland colonies had increased to approximately a quarter of a million, more of whom lived in the South than the North.

Initially, the legal and social status of the African laborers remained somewhat fluid. In some areas, white and black laborers worked together on terms of relative equality. Some


blacks were treated much like white hired servants, and some were freed after a fixed term of servitude. But white society eventually determined that slavery promised the most reli-able and pliable labor force and beginning in the late seventeenth century began to pass a series of slave codes. In 1662, Virginia declared that slavery followed the condition of the mother, meaning that children of enslaved women were themselves enslaved. Two years later Maryland passed a law stipulating that any free-born woman who married a slave becomes a slave herself. In 1667, Virginia reversed an earlier law and stated that any slave who undergoes the rite of Christian baptism was still a slave. And in 1712 South Carolina announced that “all negro[e]s, mulattoes, mestizo[s] or Indians, which at any time hereto-fore have been sold, or now are held or taken to be, or hereafter shall be bought and sold for slaves, are hereby declared slaves; and they, and their children, are hereby made and declared slaves.”

Changing Sources of European ImmigrationThe most distinctive and enduring feature of the American population was that it brought together peoples of many different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities. North America was home to a highly diverse population. The British colonies were the home to Native Americans, English immigrants, forcibly imported Africans, and a wide range of other European groups. Among the earliest European immigrants were about French Calvinists (known as Huguenots). The Edict of Nantes of 1598 had assured them freedom of religion in France. But in 1685, the Edict was revoked, driving about 10,000 Huguenots to North America. Germany had similar laws banning Protestantism, driving many Germans to America where they settled in Pennsylvania. They came to be known as the “Pennsylvania Dutch,” a corruption of the German term for their nationality, Deutsch. Frequent wars in Europe drove many other immigrants to the American colonies.

The most numerous of the newcomers were the so-called Scotch-Irish—Scotch Presbyte-rians who had settled in northern Ireland (in the province of Ulster) in the early seven-teenth century. Most of the Scotch-Irish in America pushed out to the western edges of European settlement and occupied land without much regard for who actually claimed to own it.

There were also immigrants from Scotland itself and from southern Ireland. The Irish migrated steadily over a long period. Some abandoned their Roman Catholic religion and much of their ethnic identity after they arrived in America.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-44000])

AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE This image is from a plate from British author Amelia Opie’s poem Black Slaves in the Hold of the Slave Ship: or How to Make Sugar, published in London in 1826. Opie’s poem depicts the life of an African who was captured by slave traders and chronicles his journey to the West Indies on a slave ship and his enforced work on the sugar plantations there. Slaves were fastened and packed like cargo for the long ocean voyage.

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POPULATIONS LIVING IN COLONIAL AMERICA, 1760 Even though the entire Atlantic seaboard of what is now the United States had become a series of British colonies by 1760, the nonnative population consisted of people from many places. As this map reveals, English settlers dominated most of the regions of North America. But note the large areas of German settlement in western Chesapeake and Pennsylvania; the swath of Dutch settlement in New York and New Jersey; the Scotch-Irish regions in the western regions of the South; and the large areas in which enslaved Africans were becoming the majority of the population. Note too the presence of multiple Indian nations along the seaboard and interior lands that prefigured the influx of Europeans. They played a vital role in the evolution of the European colonies, sometimes as allies and other times as enemies but always as a key force shaping colonial culture. • What aspects of the history of these colonies help explain their ethnic composition?



Farming, hunting, and fishing dominated almost all areas of European settlement and long-established Indian communities in North America throughout the seventeenth and eigh-teenth centuries. Even so, no colony was alike. Each developed its own economic focus and character—though all incorporated slavery into the routines of daily life.

Slavery and Economic LifeIn every colony, slave labor was essential to economic productivity. Slaves performed dif-ferent jobs under different conditions depending on their colony of residence, but were an integral and very visible part of every local culture. In Virginia where tobacco was the dominant crop, planters responded to the rising demand from markets in the colonies and Europe by bringing in more slaves to work larger plantations. By the mid-1700s, nearly 150,000 slaves lived in Virginia. South Carolina and Georgia relied on rice production, since the low-lying coastline with its many tidal rivers made it possible to create rice pad-dies that could be flooded and drained. Rice cultivation was so difficult and unhealthy that many white workers simply refused to perform it, forcing planters in South Carolina and Georgia to grow dependent on slave labor. African workers were highly valued as well because many had lived and worked in rice-producing regions of west Africa and were expert in cultivation techniques and harvesting strategies. In 1765 in South Carolina blacks, nearly all of whom were slaves, outnumbered whites 90,000 to 40,000, and the port of Charleston imported more slaves than any other city in the colonies.

There were fewer slaves in the North, in large part because of the lack of plantation-based economies dominated by a single crop. Slaves in Massachusetts, for example, worked on farms that raised a broad variety of crops, and many served as domestics and tradesmen. The colony was the center of the slave trade for New England and was home to about 4,500 slaves in 1754. The largest slave state in New England, though, was Connecticut. In 1774, nearly 6,500 slaves lived there and about one-half of all ministers, lawyers, judges, and public officials owned slaves.

Industry and Its LimitsIn northern New England, colder weather and hard, rocky soil made it difficult for colonists to develop the kind of large-scale commercial farming system that southerners were creat-ing. Conditions for agriculture were better in southern New England and the middle colo-nies, where the soil was fertile and the weather more temperate. New York, Pennsylvania, and the Connecticut River valley were the chief suppliers of wheat to much of New England, parts of the South, and the Caribbean. Even there, however, a substantial commercial economy emerged alongside the agricultural one.

Almost every colonist engaged in a certain amount of industry at home which occasion-ally provided families with surplus goods they could trade or sell. Beyond these domestic efforts, craftsmen and artisans established themselves in colonial towns as cobblers, black-smiths, rifle-makers, cabinetmakers, silversmiths, and printers. In some areas, entrepreneurs harnessed water power to run small mills for grinding grain, processing cloth, or milling lumber. And in several coastal areas, large-scale shipbuilding operations began to flourish.

The first effort to establish a significant metals industry in the colonies was an ironworks established in Saugus, Massachusetts, in the 1640s. The Saugus Ironworks used water power

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to drive a bellows, which controlled the heat in a charcoal furnace. The carbon from the burning charcoal helped remove the oxygen from the ore and thus reduced its melting temperature. As the ore melted, it trickled down into molds or was taken in the form of simple “sow bars” to a nearby forge to be shaped into iron objects such as pots and anvils. There was also a mill suitable for turning the sow bars into narrow rods that blacksmiths could cut into nails. The Saugus Ironworks was a technological success but a financial failure. It began operations in 1646; in 1668, its financial problems forced it to close its doors.

Metalworks, however, only gradually became an important part of the colonial economy. The largest industrial enterprise anywhere in English North America was the ironworks of the German ironmaster Peter Hasenclever in northern New Jersey. Founded in 1764 with British capital, it employed several hundred laborers. There were other, smaller ironmaking enterprises in every northern colony, and there were ironworks as well in several of the southern colonies. Even so, these and other growing industries did not immediately become the basis for the kind of explosive industrial growth that Great Britain experienced in the late eighteenth century—in part because English parliamentary regulations such as the Iron Act of 1750 restricted metal processing in the colonies. Similar prohibitions limited the manufacture of woolens, hats, and other goods. But the biggest obstacles to industrialization in America were an inadequate labor supply, a small domestic market, and inadequate transportation facilities and energy supplies.

(©MPI/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

TOBACCO PLANT This image clearly links the production of tobacco to the recreational pursuit of smoking. Note that the smoker is white and well-groomed, linking ownership of the tobacco crop to society’s elites.


More important than manufacturing were industries that took advantage of the natural resources of the continent. By the mid-seventeenth century, the flourishing fur trade of earlier years was in decline. Taking its place were lumbering, mining, and fishing. These industries provided commodities that could be exported to England in exchange for manu-factured goods. And they helped produce the most distinctive feature of the northern economy: a thriving commercial class.

Technological progress, however, did not reach all colonists, even in the North. Up to half of all the farmers did not own a plow, even less a wagon. Substantial numbers of households lacked pots and kettles for cooking and only about half owned guns. Few owned candles because they were unable to afford candle molds or tallow (wax) or because they had no access to commercially produced candles. In the early eighteenth century, very few farmers owned wagons. The low levels of ownership of these and other elementary tools were not because such things were difficult to make but because most Americans remained too poor or too isolated to be able to obtain them.

Indeed, few colonists were self-sufficient in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. A popular image of early American households is of people who grew their own food, made their own clothes, and bought little from anyone else. In fact, relatively few colonial families owned spinning wheels or looms, which suggests that most people pur-chased whatever yarn and cloth they needed. Most farmers who grew grain took it to centralized facilities for processing. In general, people who lived in isolated or poor areas owned fewer tools and had less access to advanced technologies than did those in more populous or affluent areas.

The Rise of Colonial CommercePerhaps the most remarkable feature of colonial commerce was that it was able to survive at all. American merchants faced bewildering obstacles and lacked so many of the basic institutions of trade that they managed to stay afloat only with great difficulty and through considerable ingenuity. The colonies had almost no gold or silver, and their paper currency was not acceptable as payment for goods from abroad. For many years, colonial merchants had to rely on barter or on money substitutes such as beaver skins, rice, sugar, or tobacco.

A second obstacle was lack of information about the supply and demand of goods and services. Traders had no way of knowing what they would find in foreign ports; American colonial vessels sometimes stayed at sea for years, journeying from one port to another, trading one commodity for another, attempting to find some way to turn a profit. There was also an enormous number of small, fiercely competitive companies, which made the problem of organizing the system of commerce even more acute.

Nevertheless, commerce in the colonies survived and grew. There was elaborate trade among the colonies themselves and with the West Indies. The mainland colonies offered their Caribbean trading partners rum, agricultural products, meat, and fish. The islands offered sugar, molasses, and at times slaves in return. There was also trade with England, continental Europe, and the west coast of Africa. This commerce has often been described, somewhat inaccurately, as the triangular trade, suggesting a neat process by which mer-chants carried rum and other goods from New England to Africa, exchanged their mer-chandise for slaves, whom they then transported to the West Indies (hence the term middle passage for the dreaded journey—it was the second of the three legs of the voyage), and then exchanged the slaves for sugar and molasses, which they shipped back to New England to be distilled into rum. In reality, the so-called triangular trade in rum, slaves, and sugar

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was a complicated maze of highly diverse trade routes. Out of this risky trade emerged a group of adventurous entrepreneurs who by the mid-eighteenth century were beginning to constitute a distinct merchant class. The British Navigation Acts protected them from foreign competition in the colonies. They had ready access to the market in England for such colonial products as furs, timber, and American-built ships. But they also developed markets illegally outside the British Empire—in the French, Spanish, and Dutch West Indies—where they could often get higher prices for their goods than in the British colonies.

The Rise of ConsumerismAs affluent residents of the colonies grew in number, the growing prosperity and commer-cialism of British America created both new appetites and new opportunities to satisfy them. The result was an emerging preoccupation with the consumption of material goods.

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THE TRIANGULAR TRADE This map illustrates the complex pattern of trade that fueled the colonial American economy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A simple explanation of this trade is that the American colonies exported raw materials (agricultural products, furs, and others) to Britain and Europe and imported manufactured goods in return. While that explanation is accurate, it is not complete, largely because the Atlantic trade was not a simple exchange between America and Europe, but a complex network of exchanges involving the Caribbean, Africa, and the Mediterranean. Note the important exchanges between the North American mainland and the Caribbean islands, the important trade between the American colonies and Africa, and the wide range of European and Mediterranean markets in which Americans were active. Not shown on this map, but also very important to colonial commerce, was a large coastal trade among the various regions of British North America. • Why did the major ports of trade emerge almost entirely in the northern colonies?


The growth of eighteenth-century consumerism increased the class divisions in the American colonies. As the difference between the upper and lower classes became more glaring, people of means became more intent on demonstrating their own membership in the upper ranks of society. The ability to purchase and display consumer goods was an important way of doing so, particularly for wealthy people in cities and towns, who did not have large estates to boast their success. But the growth of consumerism was also a prod-uct of the early stages of the Industrial Revolution. Although there was relatively little industry in America in the eighteenth century, England and Europe were making rapid advances and producing more and more affordable goods for affluent Americans to buy.

To facilitate the new consumer appetites, merchants and traders began advertising their goods in journals and newspapers. Agents of urban merchants—the ancestors of the travel-ing salesman—fanned out through the countryside, attempting to interest wealthy landown-ers and planters in the luxury goods now available to them. George and Martha Washington, for example, spent considerable time and money ordering elegant furnishings for their home at Mount Vernon, goods that were shipped to them mostly from England and Europe.

One feature of a consumer society is that things that once were considered luxuries quickly come to be seen as necessities once they are readily available. In the colonies, items that became commonplace after having once been expensive luxuries included tea, house-hold linens, glassware, manufactured cutlery, crockery, furniture, and many other things. Another result of consumerism is the association of material goods—of the quality of a person’s home and possessions and clothing, for example—with virtue and “refinement.” The ideal of the cultivated “gentleman” and the gracious “lady” became increasingly pow-erful throughout the colonies in the eighteenth century. In part that meant striving to become educated and “refined” in speech and behavior. Americans read books on manners and fashion. They bought magazines about London society. And they strove to develop themselves as witty and educated conversationalists. They also commissioned portraits of themselves and their families, devoted large portions of their homes to entertainment, built shelves and cases in which they could display fashionable possessions, constructed formal gardens, and lavished attention on their wardrobes and hairstyles.


Although there were sharp social distinctions in the colonies, the well-defined and deeply entrenched class system of England failed to reproduce itself in America. Aristocracies emerged, to be sure, but they tended to rely less on landownership than control of a sub-stantial workforce, and they were generally less secure and less powerful than their English counterparts. More than in England, white people in America faced opportunities for social mobility—both up and down. There were also new forms of community in America, and they varied greatly from one region to another.

Southern CommunitiesThe plantation system of the American South produced one form of community. The first plantations emerged in the tobacco-growing areas of Virginia and Maryland. Some of the early planters became established aristocrats with vast estates. On the whole, however, seventeenth-century colonial plantations were rough and relatively small. In the early days

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in Virginia, they were little more than crude clearings where landowners and indentured servants worked side by side in conditions so harsh that death was an everyday occurrence. Most landowners lived in rough cabins or houses, with their servants or slaves nearby. The economy of the plantation was precarious. Planters could not control their markets, so even the largest plantations were constantly at risk. When prices fell, planters faced the prospect of ruin. The plantation economy created many new wealthy landowners, but it also destroyed many.

Enslaved African Americans, of course, lived very differently. On the smaller farms with only a handful of slaves, it was not always possible for a rigid separation to develop between whites and blacks. But by the early eighteenth century, over three-fourths of all slaves lived on plantations of at least ten slaves, and nearly one-half lived in communities of fifty slaves or more. In those settings, they were able to develop a society and culture of their own. Although whites seldom encouraged formal marriages among slaves, many blacks them-selves developed strong and elaborate family structures. There were also distinctive forms of slave religion, which variously blended Christianity with African folklore and sacred practices, that became a central element in the emergence of an independent black culture.

Nevertheless, black society was subject to constant intrusions from and interaction with white society. Domestic slaves, for example, were often isolated from their own community. Black women faced sexual assault from owners and overseers; the mixed-race children of these unions were rarely recognized by their white fathers. On some plantations, black workers were treated with a modicum of humanity, but it was not common. More typically they encountered physical brutality and occasionally even sadism, against which they were virtually powerless.

Slaves often resisted their masters, in ways large and small. The most serious example in the colonial period was the Stono Rebellion in South Carolina in 1739, during which about 100 slaves banded together, seized weapons, killed several whites, and attempted to escape south to Florida. The uprising was quickly crushed and most participants were executed. A more frequent form of resistance was simply running away, sometimes to nearby Indian tribes in the hope of finding freedom there. Some Indian groups accepted the runaways, but others practiced slavery themselves and also held African slaves or Indian slaves. More often, runaways were caught and returned to their masters before they could reach a protective community. Subtler, often undetected forms of resistance were practiced within the confines of slavery as enslaved people evaded or defied their masters’ wishes through lying, cheating, stealing, and foot-dragging.

Most slaves, male and female, worked as field hands. But on the larger plantations that aspired to genuine self-sufficiency, some slaves learned trades and crafts: blacksmithing, carpentry, shoemaking, spinning, weaving, sewing, midwifery, and others. These skilled craftspeople were at times hired out to other planters. Some set up their own establishments in towns or cities and shared their profits with their owners. A few were able to buy their freedom.

Northern CommunitiesIt is important to note that slaves in the North experienced much of the same degradation and humiliation as in the South. While fewer in number, they still experienced similar bar-riers to freedom and white presumptions about their unfitness for citizenship and divine appointment as permanent laborers. No town or city in New England was without black slaves, who worked in the fields, in homes, and in shops and barns.





New York City




New Bern











Lake Er


61 to 71%51 to 60%31 to 50%11 to 30%0.1 to 10%




Lake Er


61 to 71%51 to 60%31 to 50%11 to 30%0.1 to 10%


Rhode Island




Claimed byNew York and

New Hampshire

Percent of Population That Was Black Per County/Colony in 1775

0 100 mi

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AFRICAN POPULATION AS A PROPORTION OF TOTAL POPULATION, CA. 1775 This map illustrates the parts of the colonies in which slaves made up a large proportion of the population—in some areas, a majority. The slave population was smallest in the western regions of the southern colonies and in the area north of the Chesapeake, although there remained a significant African population in parts of New Jersey and New York (some slave, some free). • What explains the dense concentration of slaves in certain areas?

The characteristic social unit in New England was not the isolated farm or the large plantation but the town. In the early years of colonization, each new settlement drew up a covenant binding all residents tightly together both religiously and socially. Colonists laid out a village, with houses and a meetinghouse arranged around a shared pasture, or “common.”


The Witchcraft TrialsThe witchcraft trials of the 1690s—which began in Salem, Massachusetts, and spread to other areas of New England—have been the stuff of popular legend for centuries. They have also engaged the interest of gen-erations of historians, who have tried to explain why these seventeenth-century Americans became so committed to the belief that some of their own neighbors were agents of Satan. Although there have been many explanations of the witchcraft phenomenon, some of the most important in recent decades have focused on the cen-tral place of women in the story.

Through the first half of the twentieth century, most historians dismissed the witchcraft trials as “hysteria,” prompted by the intolerance and rigidity of Puritan soci-ety. This interpretation informed the most prominent popular portrayal of witchcraft in the twentieth century: Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, first produced in 1953, which was clearly an effort to use the Salem trials as a comment on the great anticom-munist frenzy of his own era. But at almost the same time, Perry Miller, the renowned scholar of Puritanism, argued in a series of important studies that belief in witchcraft was not a product of simple public excite-ment or intolerance but a widely shared part of the religious worldview of the seven-teenth century. To the Puritans, witchcraft seemed not only plausible but scientifically rational.

A new wave of interpretation of witch-craft began in the 1970s, with the publica-tion of Salem Possessed (1976), by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum. Their examina-tion of the town records of Salem in the 1690s led them to conclude that the

witchcraft controversy was a product of class tensions between the poorer, more marginal residents of one part of Salem and the wealthier, more privileged residents of another. These social tensions, which could not find easy expression on their own terms, led some poorer Salemites to lash out at their richer neighbors by charging them, or their servants, with witchcraft. A few years later, John Demos, in Entertaining Satan (1983), examined witchcraft accusa-tions in a larger area of New England and similarly portrayed them as products of displaced anger about social and economic grievances that could not be expressed oth-erwise. Demos provided a far more complex picture of the nature of these grievances than had Boyer and Nissenbaum, but like them, he saw witchcraft as a symptom of a persistent set of social and psychological tensions.

At about the same time, however, a num-ber of scholars were beginning to look at witchcraft through the scholarly lens of gender. Famously, Carol Karlsen’s The Devil in the Shape of a Woman (1987) demonstrated through intensive scrutiny of records across New England that a disproportion-ate number of those accused of witchcraft were property-owning widows or unmar-ried women—in other words, women who did not fit comfortably into the normal pat-tern of male-dominated families. Karlsen concluded that such women were vulnera-ble to these accusations because they seemed threatening to people (including many women) who were accustomed to women as subordinate members of the community. Mary Beth Norton’s In the Devil’s Snare (2002) placed the witchcraft trials in

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Thus families generally lived with their neighbors close by. They divided up the outlying fields and woodlands among the residents; the size and location of a family’s field depended on the family’s numbers, wealth, and social station.

Once a town was established, residents held a yearly “town meeting” to decide important questions and to choose a group of “selectmen,” who ran the town’s affairs. Participation in the meeting was generally restricted to adult males who were members of the church. Only those who could give evidence of being among the elect assured of salvation (the “visible saints”) were admitted to full church membership, although other residents of the town were required to attend church services.

New Englanders did not adopt the English system of primogeniture—the passing of all property to the firstborn son. Instead, a father divided up his land among all his sons. His control of this inheritance gave him great power over the family. Often a son would reach his late twenties before his father would allow him to move into his own household and work his own land. Even then, sons would usually continue to live in close proximity to their fathers.

The early Puritan community was a tightly knit organism. But as the years passed and the communities grew, social strains began to affect this communal structure. This was partly due to the increasing commercialization of New England society. It was also partly due to population growth. In the first generations, fathers generally controlled enough land to satisfy the needs of all their sons. After several generations, however, there was often too little to go around, particularly in communities surrounded by other towns, with no room to expand outward. The result was that in many communities, groups of younger residents broke off and moved elsewhere to form towns of their own.

The tensions building in Puritan communities could produce dramatic events. One example was the widespread excitement in the 1680s and 1690s over accusations of witchcraft—the human exercise of satanic powers—in New England. The most famous out-break was in Salem, Massachusetts. Fear of the devil’s influences spread quickly throughout the town, and hundreds of people, most of them women, were accused of witchcraft. (See “Debating the Past: The Witchcraft Trials.”) Twenty residents of Salem were ultimately put to death before the Salem witchcraft trials finally ended in 1692. Fourteen were women, all but one of whom was publicly hanged. The other five, including two children, died in prison. Tensions building in Puritan communities could produce dramatic events.

the context of other events of their time—and in particular the terrifying upheavals and dislocations that the Indian Wars of the late seventeenth century created in Puritan communities. In the face of this crisis, in which refugees from King William’s War were fleeing towns destroyed by the Indians and flooding Salem and other eastern towns, fear and social instability grew. Accusations of witchcraft and public trials and executions helped publicize and shore up social norms.

The witchcraft trials helped create a greater-than-normal readiness to connect

aberrant behavior—such as the actions of independent or powerful women—to supernatural causes and the result was a wave of deadly witchcraft accusations. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. How did the Salem witchcraft trials reflect attitudes toward women and the status of women in colonial New England?

2. Why were colonial New Englanders will-ing to believe accusations of witchcraft about their fellow colonists?

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The Salem experience was not unique. Accusations of witchcraft popped up in many New England towns in the early 1690s and centered mostly on women. Research into the background of accused “witches” reveals that most were middle-aged women, often wid-owed, with few or no children. Some were also of low social position, were often involved in domestic conflicts, had frequently been accused of other crimes, and were considered abrasive by their neighbors. Still others were women who, through inheritance or hard work, had come into possession of substantial property of their own and thus challenged the power of men in the community.

The witchcraft controversies were a reflection of the highly religious character of New England societies. New Englanders believed in the power of Satan. Belief in witchcraft was not a marginal superstition rejected by the mainstream. It was a common feature of Puritan religious conviction.

CitiesIn the 1770s, the two largest colonial ports—Philadelphia and New York—had populations of 28,000 and 25,000, respectively, which made them larger than most English urban centers of their time. Boston (16,000), Charles Town (later Charleston), South Carolina (12,000), and Newport, Rhode Island (11,000), were also substantial communities by the standards of the day.

Colonial cities served as trading centers for the farmers of their regions, as marts for international commerce, and locales where thousands of slaves were bought and sold. Cit-ies were the centers of what industry existed in the colonies. They were the locations of the most advanced schools and sophisticated cultural activities and of shops where imported goods could be bought. In addition, they were communities with urban social problems: crime, vice, pollution, traffic. Unlike smaller towns, cities needed to set up constables’ offices and fire departments and develop systems for supporting the urban poor, whose numbers became especially large in times of economic crisis.

Finally, cities were places where new ideas could circulate and be discussed. There were newspapers, books, and other publications from abroad, and hence new intellectual influ-ences. The taverns and coffeehouses of cities provided forums in which people could gather and debate the issues of the day. That is one reason why the Revolutionary crisis, when it began to build in the 1760s and 1770s, originated in the cities.


Intellectual life in colonial America revolved around the conflict between the traditional empha-sis on a personal God deeply involved in individual lives, and the new spirit of the Enlighten-ment, which stressed the importance of science and human reason. The old views placed a high value on a stern moral code in which intellect was less important than faith. The Enlight-enment suggested that people had substantial control over their own lives and societies.

The Pattern of ReligionsReligious toleration flourished in America to a degree unmatched in any European nation. Settlers in America brought with them so many different religious practices that it proved impossible to impose a single religious code on any large area.


The Church of England was established as the official faith in Virginia, Maryland, New York, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Except in Virginia and Maryland, however, the laws estab-lishing the Church of England as the official colonial religion were largely ignored. Even in New England, where the Puritans had originally believed that they were all part of a single faith, there was a growing tendency in the eighteenth century for different congregations to affiliate with different denominations. In parts of New York and New Jersey, Dutch settlers had established their own Calvinist denomination, Dutch Reformed. American Baptists devel-oped a great variety of sects and shared the belief that rebaptism, usually by total immersion, was necessary when believers reached maturity. But while some Baptists remained Calvinists (believers in predestination), others came to believe in salvation by free will.

Protestants extended toleration to one another more readily than they did to Roman Catholics. New Englanders, in particular, viewed their Catholic neighbors in New France (Canada) not only as commercial and military rivals but also as dangerous agents of Rome. In most of the English colonies, however, Roman Catholics were too few to cause serious conflict. They were most numerous in Maryland, where they numbered 3,000. Perhaps for that reason they suffered the most persecution in that colony. After the overthrow of the original proprietors in 1691, Catholics in Maryland not only lost their political rights but also were forbidden to hold religious services except in private houses.

Jews in provincial America totaled no more than about 2,000 at any time. The largest community lived in New York City. Smaller groups settled in Newport and Charles Town, and there were scattered Jewish families in all the colonies. Nowhere could they vote or hold office. Only in Rhode Island could they practice their religion openly.

African slaves brought their own religious heritage. Though from diverse religious envi-ronments in West and western Central Africa, they generally shared a central belief in a Supreme Being or Creator and a pantheon of lesser divinities, whom they appeased and sought favor from through prayer, song, dance, and sacrifice. They aimed to create and sustain a harmonious bond with nature and supernatural beings, including not only gods by also spirits and deceased family ancestors. Many strove to continue traditional practices in their new worlds but faced stern scrutiny and even hostility. Masters regularly compelled their slaves to adopt their own sacred beliefs, which led slaves to build hybrid faiths that blended African religions with Christianity and Judaism or to worship in secret, out of sight and earshot of whites.

Slaves from the Kingdom of Kongo, because of early contact with the Portuguese, tended to be Catholic while those from the Senegambia region often included Muslims. As many as 10 percent of African slaves brought to the colonies were Muslim, but they left only traces of their faith. Like other Africans, they struggled to live their native convic-tions openly and often took to worshiping clandestinely or integrating their beliefs with their master’s principles. Ayuba Suleimon Diallo, born in 1700 into a noble family in Bondu (now Senegal), was captured in 1730, packed on a slave ship, and sold in Annapolis, Mary-land, where he worked for two years as a tobacco hand. He ran away, was captured, and placed in jail. There he became known as a devout Muslim of royal lineage whose story of bondage won the sympathy of the Royal African Company, which freed him with the hope he might be of service to them in his native country. He later published an autobiography. African Muslim names appear on muster rolls in the Revolutionary War, such as Yusef ben Ali, Bampett Muhamad, and Joseph Sabo. And in 1777 Thomas Jefferson, arguing for an expansive view of religious tolerance in Virginia and quoting John Locke, wrote that “nei-ther Pagan nor Mahamedan [Muslim] nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights for the Commonwealth because of his religion.”

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The Great Awakening By the beginning of the eighteenth century, some Americans were growing troubled by the apparent decline in religious piety in their society. The movement of the population westward and the wide scattering of settlements had caused many communities to lose touch with organized religion. The rise of commercial prosperity created a more secular outlook in urban areas. The progress of science and free thought caused at least some colonists to doubt traditional religious beliefs.

Concerns about weakening piety surfaced as early as the 1660s in New England, where the Puritan oligarchy warned of a decline in the power of the church. Ministers preached sermons of despair (known as jeremiads), deploring the signs of waning piety. By the stan-dards of other societies or other eras, the Puritan faith remained remarkably strong. But to New Englanders, the “declension” of religious piety seemed a serious problem. By the early eighteenth century, similar concerns about declining piety were emerging in other regions and among members of other faiths. The result was the first great American revival: the Great Awakening.

The Great Awakening began in earnest in the 1730s and reached its climax in the 1740s. It was potentially a subversive force in society, challenging traditions of power and defer-ence. The rhetoric of the revival emphasized the potential for every person to break away from the constraints of the past and start anew in his or her relationship with God. Such beliefs reflected in part the desires of many people to break away from their families or communities and start a new life. Not surprisingly, then, the revival had particular appeal to women (the majority of converts) and to younger sons of the third or fourth generation of settlers—those who stood to inherit the least land and who faced the most uncertain futures. Enslaved men and women flocked to hear this message of a new community as well, and even participated, when allowed, in public services.

Powerful evangelists from England helped spread the revival. John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism, visited Georgia and other colonies in the 1730s. George Whitefield, a powerful open-air preacher from England, made several evangelizing tours through the colonies and drew massive crowds. He spoke in every colony and multiple times in Massachusetts and Connecticut—so many times, in fact, that it was estimated that every resident heard him preach at least once. But the outstanding preacher of the Great Awakening was the New England Congregationalist Jonathan Edwards. From his pulpit in Northampton, Massachusetts, Edwards attacked the new doctrines of easy salvation for all. He preached anew the traditional Puritan ideas of the absolute sovereignty of God, pre-destination, and salvation by God’s grace alone. His vivid descriptions of hell could terrify his listeners.

The Great Awakening led to the division of existing congregations (between “New Light” revivalists and “Old Light” traditionalists) and to the founding of new ones. It also affected areas of society outside the churches. Some of the revivalists denounced book learning as a hindrance to salvation. But other evangelists saw education as a means of furthering religion, and they founded or led schools for the training of New Light ministers.

The EnlightenmentThe Great Awakening caused one great cultural upheaval in the colonies. The Enlightenment caused another, very different one. The Enlightenment was the product of scientific and intellectual discoveries in Europe in the seventeenth century—discoveries that revealed the “natural laws” that regulated the workings of nature. The new scientific knowledge


encouraged many thinkers to begin celebrating the power of human reason and to argue that rational thought, not just religious faith, could create progress and advance knowl-edge in the world.

In celebrating reason, the Enlightenment encouraged men and women to look to them-selves and their own intellect—not just to God—for guidance as to how to live their lives and shape their societies. It helped produce a growing interest in education and a height-ened concern with politics and government.

In the early seventeenth century, Enlightenment ideas in America were largely borrowed from Europe—from such thinkers as Francis Bacon and John Locke of England, Baruch Spinoza of Amsterdam, and René Descartes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau of France. Later, however, such Americans as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison made their own important contributions to Enlightenment thought.

Literacy and TechnologyWhite male Americans achieved a high degree of literacy in the eighteenth century. By the time of the Revolution, well over one-half of all white men could read and write. The lit-eracy rate for women lagged behind the rate for men until the nineteenth century. While opportunities for education beyond the primary level were scarce for men, they were almost nonexistent for women.

The large number of colonists who could read created a market for the first widely circulated publications in America other than the Bible: almanacs. By 1700, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds, of almanacs circulating throughout the colonies and even in the sparsely settled lands to the west. Most families had at least one. Almanacs provided medical advice, navigational and agricultural information, practical wisdom, humor, and predictions about the future—most famously, predictions about weather patterns for the coming year, which many farmers used as the basis for decisions about crops, even though the predictions were notoriously unreliable. The most famous almanac in eighteenth-century America was Poor Richard’s Almanac, published by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia.

The wide availability of reading material in colonial America by the eighteenth century was a result of the spread of printing technology. The first printing press began operating in the colonies in 1639, and by 1695 there were more towns in America with printers than there were in England. At first, many of these presses did not get very much use. Over time, however, the rising literacy of the society created a demand for books, pamphlets, and almanacs that the presses rushed to fill.

The first newspaper in the colonies, Publick Occurrences, was published in Boston in 1690 using a relatively advanced printing facility. It was the first step toward what would eventually become a large newspaper industry. One reason the Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed a tax on printed materials, created such a furor was that printing technology had by then become central to colonial life.

EducationEven before Enlightenment ideas penetrated America, colonists placed a high value on formal education. Some families tried to teach their children to read and write at home, although the heavy burden of work in most agricultural households limited the time avail-able for schooling. In Massachusetts, a 1647 law required that every town support a school; and a modest network of public schools emerged as a result. The Quakers and other sects operated church schools, and in some communities widows or unmarried women conducted

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“dame schools” in their homes. In cities, some master craftsmen set up evening schools for their apprentices.

African Americans had virtually no access to education. Occasionally a master or mis-tress would teach slave children to read and write; but as the slave system became more firmly entrenched, strong social (and ultimately legal) sanctions developed to discourage such efforts. Indians, too, remained largely outside the white educational system—to a large degree by choice. Some white missionaries and philanthropists established schools for Native Americans and helped create a small population of Indians literate in spoken and written English.

Harvard, the first American college, was established in 1636 by Puritan theologians who wanted to create a training center for ministers. (The college was named for a Charlestown, Massachusetts, minister, John Harvard, who had left it his library and one-half of his estate.) In 1693, William and Mary College (named for the English king and queen) was established

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-58189])

GUIDE TO THE SEASONS Among their many purposes, almanacs sought to help farmers predict weather and plan for the demands of changing seasons.


in Williamsburg, Virginia, by Anglicans. And in 1701, conservative Congregationalists, dis-satisfied with the growing religious liberalism of Harvard, founded Yale (named for one of its first benefactors, Elihu Yale) in New Haven, Connecticut. Out of the Great Awakening emerged the College of New Jersey, founded in 1746 and known later as Princeton (after the town in which it was located); one of its first presidents was Jonathan Edwards. Despite the religious basis of these colleges, most of them offered curricula that included not only theol-ogy but also logic, ethics, physics, geometry, astronomy, rhetoric, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. King’s College, founded in New York City in 1754 and later renamed Columbia, was spe-cifically devoted to the spread of secular knowledge. The Academy and College of Philadel-phia, founded in 1755 and later renamed the University of Pennsylvania, was also a secular institution, established by a group of laymen under the inspiration of Benjamin Franklin.

After 1700, most colonial leaders received their entire education in America (rather than attending university in England, as had once been the case). But higher education remained available only to a few relatively affluent white men.

The Spread of ScienceThe clearest indication of the spreading influence of the Enlightenment in America was an increasing interest in scientific knowledge. Most of the early colleges established chairs in the natural sciences and introduced some of the advanced scientific theories of Europe, including Copernican astronomy and Newtonian physics, to their students. But the most vigorous promotion of science in these years occurred through the private efforts of ama-teurs and the activities of scientific societies. Leading merchants, planters, and even theo-logians became corresponding members of the Royal Society of London, the leading English scientific organization. Benjamin Franklin won international fame through his experiments with electricity. Particularly notable was his 1747 theory—and his 1752 dem-onstration, using a kite—that lightning and electricity were the same. (Previously, most scientists had believed that there were several distinct types of electricity.) His research on the way in which electricity could be “grounded” led to the development of the lightning rod, which greatly reduced fires and other damage to buildings during thunderstorms.

The high value that influential Americans were beginning to place on scientific knowl-edge was clearly demonstrated by the most controversial scientific experiment of the eigh-teenth century: inoculation against smallpox. The Puritan theologian Cotton Mather credited his onetime slave, whom he had given the name Onesimus after the biblical slave who escaped from Philemon, for teaching him. In a 1716 letter to the Royal Society of London, Mather wrote that Onesimus, after contracting the disease, confided “he had undergone an Operation, which had given him something of ye Small-Pox, & would forever preserve him from it, adding, That it was often used among [Africans] and whoever had ye Courage to use it was forever free from ye Fear of the Contagion.” Despite strong opposition, Mather urged inoculation on his fellow Bostonians during an epidemic in the 1720s. The results confirmed the effectiveness of the technique. Other theologians took up the cause, along with many physicians. By the mid-eighteenth century, inoculation had become a common medical procedure in America.

Concepts of Law and PoliticsIn law and politics, as in other parts of their lives, Americans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries believed that they were re-creating in the New World the practices and

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institutions of the Old World. But as in other areas, they created something very different. Although the American legal system adopted most of the essential elements of the English system, including such ancient rights as trial by jury, significant differences developed in court procedures, punishments, and the definition of crimes. In England, for example, a printed attack on a public official, whether true or false, was considered libelous. At the 1734–1735 trial of the New York publisher John Peter Zenger, the courts ruled that criti-cisms of the government were not libelous if factually true—a verdict that removed some colonial restrictions on the freedom of the press.

More significant for the future relationship between the colonies and England were dif-ferences emerging between the American and British political systems. Because the royal government was so far away, Americans created a group of institutions of their own that gave them a large measure of self-government. In most colonies, local communities grew accustomed to running their own affairs with minimal interference from higher authorities. The colonial assemblies came to exercise many of the powers that Parliament exercised in England. Provincial governors (appointed by the king after the 1690s) had broad powers on paper, but their actual influence was limited.

The result of all this was that the provincial governments became accustomed to acting more or less independently of Parliament, and a set of assumptions and expectations about the rights of the colonists took hold in America that was not shared by policymakers in England. These differences caused few problems before the 1760s, because the British did little to exert the authority they believed they possessed. But when, beginning in 1763, the English government began attempting to tighten its control over the American colonies, a great imperial crisis resulted.

(©Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

COLONIAL PUNISHMENT American communities prescribed a wide range of punishments for misconduct and crime. Among the more common punishments were public humiliations—placing offenders in stocks, forcing them to wear badges of shame, or, as in this woodcut, binding them into a “ducking stool ” and immersing them in water.



Between the 1650s and the 1750s, the English colonies in America grew steadily in popula-tion, in the size of their economies, and in the sophistication—and diversity—of their cul-tures. Although most settlers in the 1750s still believed that they were fully a part of the British Empire, they were in fact living in a very different world.

Diversity and difference characterized individual colonies. They developed their own economies, systems of government, ideas about religious toleration, and rules governing interactions with Indians. What they shared was constant engagement with Indians near the areas of their settlements. Those interactions varied from uneasy peace to outright hostility but always were part of each colony’s experience. Also shared was a growing com-mitment to the enslavement of Africans or African Americans. As increasingly numbers of planters, farmers, landowners, merchants, ministers, and public officials determined that the presence of a slave class benefitted them, colonial governments created slave codes and customs that birthed the colonial culture of human bondage. Many participated in the Great Awakening and embraced evangelical religion, leading to the transcolonial spread of Baptist and Methodist churches. And most colonists shared a belief in certain basic prin-ciples of law and politics, which they considered embedded in the English constitution. Their interpretation of that constitution, however, was becoming increasingly different from that of the Parliament in England and was laying the groundwork for future conflict.


Cotton Mather 79covenant 71Enlightenment 76evangelist 76Great Awakening 76

jeremiad 76John Peter Zenger 80Jonathan Edwards 76middle passage 62Salem witchcraft trials 73

Scotch-Irish 63Stono Rebellion 70triangular trade 67


1. How did patterns of family life and attitudes toward women differ in the northern and southern colonies?

2. How did the lives of African slaves change over the course of the first century of slavery?

3. Who emigrated to North America in the seventeenth century, and why did they come?

4. What was the intellectual culture of colonial America? 5. How and why did life in the English colonies diverge from life in England?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

82 •

AS LATE AS THE 1750S, few Americans objected to their membership in the British Empire. The imperial system provided many benefits to the Americans, and for the most part the British government left the colonies alone. Assemblies in those colonies passed laws, levied taxes, and otherwise strove to represent their white constituencies.

By the mid-1770s, the relationship between the American colonies and their British rul-ers was on the verge of unraveling. A global war between France and Britain had started in North America, and the colonists were thrust into the fight on Britain’s side. Most indigenous groups, other than the Iroquois Confederacy, sided with the French. Britain’s successes in that conflict left Native Americans divided and weakened, though it did not mark the end of their resistance to colonial encroachment in North America. Yet rather than uniting Britain and the colonists, the peace led to tensions, as London pressured the colonists to help pay for and otherwise contribute to the consolidation of empire. In the spring of 1775, the first shots were fired in a war that would ultimately win America its independence. How had it happened? And why so quickly?


1. How did the Seven Years’ War change the balance of power in North America and throughout the world?

2. What policies did Parliament implement with regard to the colonies in the 1760s and 1770s, and why did Britain adopt these policies?

3. How did the colonists respond to Parliament’s actions?



• 83


In one sense, it had not happened quickly at all. Ever since the first days of English settlement, the ideas and institutions of the colonies had been diverging from those in Britain. In another sense, however, the revo-lutionary crisis emerged in response to rela-tively sudden changes in the administration of the empire. In 1763, the British govern-ment began to enforce a series of colonial policies that brought the differences between the two societies into sharp focus.

A Decentralized EmpireIn the fifty years after the Glorious Revolu-tion, the British Parliament established a growing supremacy over the king. Under Kings George I (1714–1727) and George II (1727–1760), the prime minister and his cab-inet became the nation’s real executives. Because these kings depended politically on the great merchants and landholders of Britain, they were less inclined than seven-teenth-century monarchs to try to tighten con-trol over the empire, which many merchants feared would disrupt profitable commerce with the colonies. As a result, administration of the colonies remained loose, decentralized, and inefficient. What was more, some men appointed to govern the colonies remained in Britain and hired substitutes to take their places in America.

The colonial assemblies, taking advan-tage of the weak imperial administration, had asserted their own authority to levy taxes, make appropriations, approve appoint-ments, and pass laws. The assemblies came to look upon themselves as little parlia-ments, each practically as sovereign within its colony as Parliament itself was in Great Britain.

The Colonies DividedEven so, the colonists continued to think of themselves as loyal British subjects. Many


Beginning of French andIndian War


Seven Years’ War begins



George III becomes king1763

Launch of Pontiac’s War

Peace of Paris

Proclamation of 17631764

Sugar Act


Stamp Act


Stamp Act repealed

Declaratory Act1767

Townshend Duties


Boston Massacre

Most Townshend Dutiesrepealed


Regulator movement inNorth Carolina


Committees of correspondence


Gaspée incident1773

Tea Act; Boston TeaParty


Coercive Acts

First Continental Congress in Philadelphia


Battles of Lexington andConcord

American Revolution begins

84 • CHAPTER 4

felt stronger ties to Great Britain (as it was called after a 1707 act of unification with Scotland) than they did to the other American colonies. Although the colonies had slowly learned to cooperate with one another on such practical matters as intercolonial trade, road construction, and a colonial postal service, they remained reluctant to cooperate in larger ways, even when, in 1754, they faced a common threat from their old rivals, the French, and France’s Indian allies. Delegates from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and New England met in Albany in that year to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois Confed-eracy. They tentatively approved a proposal by Benjamin Franklin to set up a “general government” to manage relations with the Indians. War with the French and Indians was already beginning when the Albany Plan was presented to the colonial assemblies. None approved it.


The war that raged in North America through the late 1750s and early 1760s, which colonists called the French and Indian War, was the final stage in a long struggle among the three principal powers in northeastern North America: the British, the French, and the Iroquois. Two years into the conflict it expanded to Europe and beyond, where it became known as the Seven Years’ War. The British victory in that struggle confirmed Britain’s commercial supremacy and cemented its control over portions of North America.

New France and the Iroquois NationBy the end of the seventeenth century, the French Empire in America was vast: it consti-tuted the whole length of the Mississippi River and its delta (named Louisiana, after King Louis XIV) and the continental interior as far west as the Rocky Mountains and as far south as the Rio Grande. France claimed, in effect, the entire interior of the continent.

To secure their hold on these enormous claims, they founded a string of communities, fortresses, missions, and trading posts. Would-be feudal lords established large estates (seigneuries) along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. On a high bluff above the river stood the fortified city of Quebec. Montreal to the south and Sault Sainte Marie and Detroit to the west marked the northern boundaries of French settlement. On the lower Mississippi there were plantations much like those in the southern colonies of British America, worked by African slaves and owned by Creoles (people of European ancestry born in the Americas). New Orleans, founded in 1718 to service the French plantation economy, was soon as big as some of the larger cities of the Atlantic seaboard; Biloxi and Mobile to the east com-pleted the string of French settlement.

Both the French and the British were aware that the battle for control of North Amer-ica would be determined in part by who could best win the allegiance of native tribes. The British—with their more advanced commercial economy—could usually offer the Indians better and more plentiful goods. But the French offered tolerance. Unlike the British, who were much larger in number, the French settlers in the interior generally adjusted their own behavior to Indian patterns. French fur traders frequently married Indian women and adopted tribal ways. Jesuit missionaries interacted comfortably with the natives and con-verted them to Catholicism by the thousands without challenging most of their social customs. By the mid-eighteenth century, therefore, the French had better and closer rela-tions with most of the Indians of the interior than did the British.


The most powerful native group, however, had remained aloof from both sides. The Iroquois Confederacy—five Indian nations (Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida) that had formed a defensive alliance in the fifteenth century—had been the most powerful native presence in the Ohio Valley since the 1640s. Although the Iroquois claimed rights to the Valley, they maintained relations with the French and British and cemented their auton-omy by trading successfully with both and astutely playing them against each other.

Anglo–French ConflictsAs long as peace and stability in the North American interior lasted, English and French colonists coexisted without serious difficulty. But after the Glorious Revolution in England, a complicated series of Anglo–French wars erupted in Europe and continued intermittently for nearly eighty years, creating important repercussions in America.

King William’s War (1689–1697) produced only a few, indecisive clashes between the English and the French in northern New England. Queen Anne’s War, which began in 1701 and continued for nearly twelve years, generated more substantial conflicts. The Treaty of Utrecht, which brought the conflict to a close in 1713, transferred substantial territory from the French to the British in North America, including Acadia (Nova Scotia) and Newfoundland. Two decades later, disputes over British trading rights in the Spanish colo-nies produced a conflict between Great Britain and Spain that soon grew into a much larger European war. The British colonists in America were drawn into the struggle, which they called King George’s War (1744–1748). New Englanders captured the French bastion at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, but the peace treaty that finally ended the conflict forced them to abandon it.

In the aftermath of King George’s War, relations among the British, French, and Iroquois in North America quickly deteriorated. The Iroquois granted trading concessions in the interior to British merchants for the first time. The French feared, probably correctly, that the British were using the concessions as a first step toward expansion into French lands. They began in 1749 to construct new fortresses in the Ohio Valley. The British responded by increasing their military forces and building fortresses of their own. The balance of power that the Iroquois had carefully maintained for so long rapidly disintegrated.

For the next five years, tensions between the British and French increased. In the sum-mer of 1754, the governor of Virginia sent a militia force (under the command of an inexperienced young colonel, George Washington) into the Ohio Valley to challenge France’s Fort Duquesne, on the site of what is now Pittsburgh. The colonel’s men and an allied Indian force under the leader Tanaghrisson were met on the way by a French patrol, and the British–allied force killed a French officer and ten of his men. Washington built a crude stockade (Fort Necessity) not far from Fort Duquesne. After the Virginians staged an unsuccessful attack on a French detachment, the French countered with an assault on Fort Necessity, trapping Washington and his soldiers inside. After one-third of them died in the fighting, Washington surrendered. The clash marked the beginning of the French and Indian War.

The Great War for EmpireThe French and Indian War lasted nearly nine years, and it moved through three dis-tinct phases. The first phase—from Fort Necessity in 1754 until the expansion of the war to Europe in 1756—was primarily a local, North American conflict, but one that

The French and Indian War in North Amer-ica was part of a much larger conflict. Known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War, it was one of the longest, most widespread, and most important wars in modern his-tory. The war thrust Great Britain into con-flicts across Europe and North America. Winston Churchill once wrote of it as the first “world war.”

In North America, the war was a result of tensions along the frontiers of the British Empire. But it arose more broadly from larger conflicts among the great pow-ers in Europe. It began in the 1750s with what historians have called a “diplomatic revolution.” Well-established alliances between Britain and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and between France and Prussia collapsed, replaced by a new set of alliances setting Britain and Prussia against France and Austria. The instability that these changing alliances produced helped speed the European nations toward war.

The Austrian–British alliance collapsed because Austria suffered a series of signifi-cant defeats at the hands of the Prussians. To the British government, these failures suggested that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was now too weak to help Britain balance French power. As a result, Great Britain launched a search for new partner-ships with the rising powers of northern Germany, Austria’s enemies. In response, the Austrians sought an alliance with France to help protect them from the power of their former British allies. (One later result of this new alliance was the 1770 marriage of the future French king Louis XVI to the Austrian princess Marie Antoinette.) In the aftermath of these realignments, Austria sought again to defeat the Prussian-Hanover forces in

Germany. In the process, Russia became concerned about the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s possible dominance in central Europe and allied itself with the British and the Prussians. These complicated realignments eventually led to the Seven Years’ War, which soon spread across much of the world. The war engaged not only most of the great powers in Europe, from Britain to Russia, but also the emerg-ing colonial worlds—India, West Africa, the Caribbean, and the Philippines—as the powerful British navy worked to strip France, and eventually Spain, of its valu-able colonial holdings.

The Seven Years’ War was at heart a struggle for economic power. Colonial pos-sessions, many European nations believed, were critical to their future wealth. The war’s outcome affected not only the future of America but also the distribution of power throughout much of the world. It destroyed the French navy and much of the French Empire, and it elevated Great Britain to undisputed preeminence among the colonizing powers—especially when, at the conclusion of the war, India and all of eastern North America fell firmly under British control. The war also reorganized the balance of power in Europe, with Britain now preeminent among the great powers and Prussia (later to become the core of modern Germany) rapidly rising in wealth and military power.

The Seven Years’ War was not only one of the first great colonial wars but also one of the last big wars of religion, and it extended the dominance of Protestantism in Europe. In what is now Canada, the war replaced French with British rule and thus replaced Catholic with Protestant domi-nance. The Vatican, no longer a military

The First Global War


86 •

swept up native groups throughout the west. The Iroquois remained largely passive in the conflict. But virtually all the other tribes sided with the French, though a few fought with the British and some with one side then the other. Native Americans tended to view these alliances as means for expelling one power or the other from their lands, not as endorsem*nts of imperial presence in North America. Combat engulfed western white settlements, Indian villages, and frontier forts, featuring clashes between European and colonial armies and native warriors arrayed across the alliances. By late 1755, many British settlers along the frontier had withdrawn east of the Allegheny Mountains to escape the hostilities.

The second phase of the struggle began in 1756, when the Seven Years’ War expanded to Europe and beyond. (See “America in the World: The First Global War.”) The fighting now spread to the West Indies, India, and Europe itself. But the principal struggle remained the war in North America, where so far Britain had suffered nothing but frustration and defeat. Beginning in 1757, William Pitt, the British secretary of state (and future prime minister), brought the war fully under British control. He planned military strategy, appointed commanders, and issued orders to the colonists. British commanders began forcibly enlisting colonists into the army, a practice known as impressment. Officers also seized supplies from local farmers and tradesmen and compelled colonists to offer shelter to British troops, all generally without compensation. The Americans resented these new impositions and firmly resisted them. By early 1758, the friction between the British author-ities and the colonists was threatening to bring the war effort to a halt.

Beginning in 1758, Pitt initiated the third and final phase of the war by relaxing many of the policies that Americans had found obnoxious. He agreed to reimburse the colonists for all supplies requisitioned by the army. He returned control over recruitment to the colonial assemblies. And he dispatched large numbers of additional British troops to America, where the French had always been outnumbered by the British colonists. These moves turned the tide of battle in Great Britain’s favor. After 1756, moreover, the French suffered from a series of poor harvests and were unable to sustain their early military successes.

power itself, had relied on the great Catho-lic empires—Spain, France, and Austria-Hungary—as bulwarks of its power and influence. The shift of power toward Prot-estant governments in Europe and North America weakened the Catholic Church and reduced its geopolitical influence.

The conclusion of the Seven Years’ War strengthened Britain and Germany and weakened France. But it did not provide any lasting solution to the rivalries among the great colonial powers. In North America, a dozen years after the end of the conflict, the American Revolution—which in many ways arose from the Seven Years’ War—stripped the British Empire of one of its most important and valuable colonial

appendages. By the time the American Revolution came to an end, the French Revolution had sparked another lengthy period of conflict, culminating in the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century, which once again redrew the map of Europe and, for a while, the world. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. How did the Seven Years’ War change the balance of power among the nations of Europe? Who gained and who lost in the war?

2. Why is the Seven Years’ War described as one of the “most important wars in modern history”?

• 87

88 • CHAPTER 4

By mid-1758, British regulars and colonial militias were seizing one French stronghold after another. Two British generals, Jeffrey Amherst and James Wolfe, captured the fortress at Louisbourg in July 1758. A few months later Fort Duquesne fell without a fight. The next year, at the end of a siege of Quebec, the army of General Wolfe struggled up a hid-den ravine under cover of darkness, surprised the larger forces of the Marquis de Montcalm, and defeated them in a battle in which both commanders were killed. The dramatic fall of Quebec on September 13, 1759, marked the beginning of the end of the American phase of the war. A year later, in September 1760, the French army formally surrendered to Amherst in Montreal. Peace finally came in 1763, with the Peace of Paris, by which the French ceded to Great Britain some of their West Indian islands, most of their colonies in India and Canada, and all other French territory in North America east of the Missis-sippi. The French then turned over New Orleans and their claims west of the Mississippi to Spain, surrendering all title to the mainland of North America. Yet they kept hold of possessions in the Caribbean central to the economy of empire: Martinique, Guadaloupe, and Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti), the most profitable sugar colony in the world and home to hundreds of thousands of enslaved people.

The French and Indian War greatly expanded Britain’s territorial claims in the New World. At the same time, the cost of the war greatly enlarged Britain’s debt and substantially

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-pga-03470])

THE DEATH OF GENERAL WOLFE This engraving is based on a 1770 painting by Benjamin West of General James Wolfe, lying mortally wounded during the siege of Quebec in 1759. West took much dramatic license in the painting, positioning important and recognizable military figures around Wolfe who in fact were not present. He also depicted a Native American in the manner of a “noble savage,” a stock figure in contemporary art and literature simultaneously admired for his uncorrupted virtue but also set apart as irredeemably primitive. This portrayal also romanticized the connections between Indians and the British in the war.


increased British resentment of the Americans. British leaders were contemptuous of the colonists for what they considered American military ineptitude during the war. They were angry that the colonists had made so few financial contributions to a struggle waged, they believed, largely for American benefit. And they were particularly bitter that colonial mer-chants had been selling food and other goods to the French in the West Indies throughout the conflict. All these factors combined to persuade many British leaders that a major reorganization of the empire would be necessary. London wanted increased authority over the colonies.

The war had an equally profound effect on the American colonists. It was an experience that forced them, for the first time, to act in concert against a common foe. Yet resentments against British impressment and other wartime demands also mobilized common griev-ances against the government in London. The 1758 return of authority to the colonial assemblies seemed to many Americans to confirm the illegitimacy of British interference in local affairs. Thus Benjamin Franklin’s famous woodcut of a divided snake—“Join, or Die”—appeared in 1754 to encourage cooperation with the British against the French and Indians but later served to call for unity against Great Britain itself.

For the Indians of the Ohio Valley, the British victory was disastrous. Many of the ter-ritorial spoils came out of Indian land. Disease and starvation plagued indigenous groups, and they held the British responsible. Those tribes that had allied themselves with the French earned the enmity of the British. The Iroquois Confederacy, which had not allied with the French, fared only slightly better. British officials saw the passivity of the Iroquois during the war as evidence of duplicity. In the aftermath of the peace settlement, the frag-ile Iroquois alliance with the British quickly unraveled. The tribes were increasingly divided and outnumbered, and would seldom again be in a position to deal with their European rivals on terms of military or political equality. But even before the war ended, a coalition under the leadership of a chief named Pontiac was planning a united rebellion against British rule. Native groups were to continue contesting the British for control of the Ohio Valley for another fifty years.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-5315])

AN APPEAL FOR COLONIAL UNITY This sketch, one of the first American editorial cartoons, appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, on May 9, 1754. It was meant to illustrate the need for intercolonial unity against the French and Indians, but later served as a revolutionary rallying cry.

90 • CHAPTER 4


With the treaty of 1763, Great Britain found itself truly at peace for the first time in more than fifty years. As a result, the British government could now turn its attention to the organization of its empire. Saddled with enormous debts from the many years of war, Britain desperately needed new revenues. Responsible for vast holdings in the New World, the impe-rial government believed it must increase its administrative capacities in America. The result was a dramatic and, for Britain, disastrous redefinition of the colonial relationship.

Burdens of EmpireThe experience of the French and Indian War should have suggested that increasing imperial control over the colonies would not be easy. Not only had the resentment of colonists forced Pitt to relax his policies in 1758, but the colonial assemblies continued to defy imperial trade regulations and other British demands. The most immediate problem for London, however, was its staggering war debt. Landlords and merchants in Britain were objecting strenuously to any further tax increases, and the colonial assemblies had repeatedly demonstrated their unwillingness to pay for the war effort. Many officials in Britain believed that only by taxing the Americans directly could the empire effectively meet its financial needs.

At this crucial moment in Anglo–American relations, the government of Great Britain saw the 1760 accession to the throne of George III. He was determined to reassert the authority of the monarchy, removing from power the relatively stable coalition of Whigs (opponents of absolute monarchy) that had governed for much of the century and replaced it with a new and very unstable coalition of his own. The weak new ministers that emerged as a result each lasted in office an average of only about two years.

The king had serious intellectual and psychological limitations. He suffered, apparently, from a rare mental disease that produced intermittent bouts of insanity. (Indeed, in the last years of his long reign he was, according to most accounts, unable to perform any official functions.) Yet even when George III was lucid, which was most of the time in the 1760s and 1770s, he was painfully immature and insecure. The king’s personality, therefore, contributed both to the instability and to the rigidity of the British government during these critical years.

More directly responsible for the problems that soon emerged with the colonies, how-ever, was George Grenville, whom the king made prime minister in 1763. Grenville shared the prevailing opinion within Britain that the colonists should be compelled to pay a part of the cost of defending and administering the empire.

The British and the TribesWith the defeat of the French, frontiersmen from the British colonies began immediately to move over the mountains and into tribal lands in the upper Ohio Valley. An alliance of Ottowas, Potawatomis, and Ojibwes, under the Ottawa chieftain Pontiac, struck back. This “Three Fires Confederacy” maintained a long tradition of native resistance against European powers. Its motivations resembled, as well, the kind of war for independence the colonists would launch against the same British power twelve years later and which other groups (Apaches, Comanches, Utes, Navajos) had waged against the Spanish.

Warriors fighting loosely under Pontiac laid seige to Detroit and captured several British forts, at one point staging a ruse involving a stray lacrosse ball to infiltrate the garrison at


Michilimackinac. Five hundred soldiers and 2,000 white settlers ended up dead in a region spanning from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River to the Appalachians. The British determined to inflict horrific damage in return. Even as they negotiated, authorities at Fort Pitt gave blankets that had come from a smallpox hospital to a delegation of Delawares. The disease tore through the Indians the following summer.

The British government, fearing a disruption of western trade, issued the Proclamation of 1763, which forbade settlers to advance beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Many Indian groups supported the Proclamation as the best bargain available to them. The Cher-okees, in particular, worked actively to hasten the drawing of the border, hoping finally to put an end to white encroachment onto their lands. But the much-hoped-for boundary failed to stop white settlers from moving back into lands farther into the Ohio Valley. Meanwhile the Paxton Boys, a band of Pennsylvania frontiersmen, massacred Conestoga Indians in 1763–1764. This was the sort of racial terror that animated native certainty that the British intended to “extirpate you from being a people,” as one official in 1764 told the Delawares, Shawnees, and Mingoes.

Ultimately, white violence as well as Indian illness, supply shortages, and internal divi-sions brought the tribal revolt to its end. Native Americans did win membership in trade alliances and promises that the British would enforce the boundary line. But in 1768, new agreements with the western tribes pushed the border outward, and treaties failed to stop the white advance in any event. British settlers who had fought in the Seven Years’ War were never going to give up lands they believed they had earned by blood. George Wash-ington dismissed the Proclamation in 1767 as nothing more than “a temporary expedient to quiet the Minds of the Indians.” What was more, just as colonists had fumed at being forced to support the war in the West in the 1750s, they now resented being taxed to bankroll the new British commitment to policing the imperial frontier.

Battles over Trade and TaxesThe Grenville ministry tried to increase its authority in the colonies in other ways as well. The Sugar Act of 1764 aimed to tighten British control over American trade with French and Spanish colonies through a series of tariffs and rules that would be more strictly enforced than in the past. The duty on French molasses from the Caribbean, for example, was reduced to discourage smugglers who had evaded paying the higher tax. But by lower-ing the tax and enforcing its payment, the British law aimed to raise revenue from its colony. In addition to regulating imports, the Sugar Act specified that colonists could export timber and iron only to Britain. It also established new vice-admiralty courts in America to try accused smugglers, thus cutting them off from sympathetic local juries. The Currency Act of 1764 required that the colonial assemblies stop issuing paper money.

Regular British troops were stationed permanently in America, and under the Mutiny Act of 1765 the colonists were required to help provision and maintain the army. Ships of the British navy patrolled American waters to search for smugglers. The customs service was reorganized and enlarged. Royal officials were required to take up their colonial posts in person instead of sending substitutes. Colonial manufacturing was restricted so that it would not compete with rapidly expanding industries in Great Britain.

At first, it was difficult for the colonists to resist these unpopular new laws. That was partly because Americans continued to harbor as many grievances against one another as they did against the authorities in London. In 1763, for example, the Paxton Boys descended on Philadelphia to demand tax relief and financial support for their violence against Indians.

92 • CHAPTER 4

Colonial authorities conceded to their demands. In 1771, a small-scale civil war broke out in North Carolina when the “Regulators,” farmers of the interior, organized and armed themselves to resist high taxes. The colonial governor appointed sheriffs to enforce the levies. An army of militiamen, most of them from the eastern counties, crushed the Regu-lator revolt.

The unpopularity of the Grenville program helped the colonists overcome their internal conflicts and led them to regard the policies from London as a threat to all Americans. Northern merchants would suffer from restraints on their commerce. The closing of the West to land speculation and fur trading enraged many colonists. Others were angered by the restriction of opportunities for manufacturing. Southern planters, in debt to British merchants, would be unable to ease their debts by speculating in western land. Small



ippi R


Ohio R.





DISPUTED TERRITORY(Claimed by Spain and Britain)

H U D S O N ’ S B A Y C O M P A N Y


































Altamaha R.

Santee R.

Lake Superior





Lake Huron



Lake Onta


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e R.






Cooper R.




e R.

James R.S



ah R




ny R.












n R


Mohawk R.

Potomac R


Savannah R.

Cape Fear R.

Roanoke R.



sh R







nd R.


New York

BurlingtonNew Castle



BostonBennington Gloucester





SouthamptonNew Haven

Hartford Providence



Charles Town







VincennesSt. Louis

St. Joseph

Fort Detroit

La Baye










Perth Amboy








0 250 mi

0 250 500 km


Proclamation lineof 1763

Frontier line


Before 1700


Provincial capital

THE THIRTEEN COLONIES IN 1763 This map shows the thirteen colonies at the end of the Seven Years’ War. It shows the line of settlement established by the Proclamation of 1763 (the red line), as well as the extent of actual settlement in that year (the blue line). Note that in the middle colonies (North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania), settlement had already reached the red line—and in one small area of western Pennsylva-nia moved beyond it—by the time of the Proclamation of 1763. Note also the string of forts established beyond the Proclamation line. • How do the forts help explain the efforts of the British to restrict settlement? And how does the extent of actual settlement help explain why it was so difficult for the British to enforce their restrictions?


farmers would suffer from the abolition of paper money, which had been the source of most of their loans. Workers in towns faced the prospect of narrowing opportunities, par-ticularly because of the restraints on manufacturing and currency. Everyone stood to suffer from increased taxes.

Most Americans soon found ways to live with the new British laws without terrible economic hardship. But their political grievances remained. Americans were accustomed to wide latitude in self-government. They believed that colonial assemblies had the sole right to control appropriations for the costs of government within the colonies. By attempt-ing to raise extensive revenues directly from the public, the British government was chal-lenging the basis of colonial political power.


By the mid-1760s, a hardening of positions had begun in both Great Britain and America. The result was a progression of events that, more rapidly than imagined, diminished the British Empire in America.

The Stamp Act CrisisGrenville could not have devised a better method for antagonizing and unifying the colonies than the Stamp Act of 1765. Unlike the Sugar Act of a year earlier, which affected only a few New England merchants, the new tax fell on everyone. It levied taxes on every printed document in the colonies: newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, deeds, wills, licenses. British officials were soon collecting more than ten times as much revenue in America as they had been before 1763. More alarming than these taxes, however, was the precedent they seemed to create. In the past, taxes and duties on colonial trade had always been designed to regulate commerce. The Stamp Act, however, was clearly an attempt by Britain to raise revenue from the colonies without the consent of the colonial assemblies.

Few colonists believed that they could do anything more than grumble until the Virginia House of Burgesses roused Americans to action. The planter and lawyer Patrick Henry made a dramatic speech to the House in May 1765, concluding with a vague prediction that if present policies were not revised, George III, like earlier tyrants, might lose his head. Amid shocked cries of “Treason!” Henry introduced a set of reso-lutions (only some of which the assembly passed) declaring that Americans possessed the same rights as the British, especially the right to be taxed only by their own rep-resentatives; that Virginians should pay no taxes except those voted by the Virginia assembly; and that anyone advocating the right of Parliament to tax Virginians should be deemed an enemy of the colony. Henry’s resolutions were printed and circulated as the “Virginia Resolves.”

In Massachusetts at about the same time, James Otis persuaded his fellow members of the colonial assembly to call an intercolonial congress to take action against the new tax. In October 1765, the Stamp Act Congress, as it was called, met in New York with delegates from nine colonies. In a petition to the British government, the congress denied that the colonies could rightfully be taxed except through their own provincial assem-blies. Across the ocean, colonial agent Benjamin Franklin articulated such grievances before Parliament. (See “Consider the Source: Benjamin Franklin, Testimony against the Stamp Act.”)

94 •


In 1765 Parliament passed the first internal tax on the colonists, known as the Stamp Act. Benjamin Franklin was a colonial agent in London at the time, and as colonial opposi-tion to the act grew, he found himself repre-senting these views to the British government. In his testimony from Parliament he describes the role of taxes in Pennsylvania and the eco-nomic relationship between the colonies and the mother country.

Q. What is your name, and place of abode?A. Franklin, of Philadelphia.Q. Do the Americans pay any considerable

taxes among themselves?A. Certainly many, and very heavy taxes.Q. What are the present taxes in Pennsylvania,

laid by the laws of the colony?A. There are taxes on all estates, real and

personal; a poll tax; a tax on all offices, professions, trades, and businesses, according to their profits; an excise on all wine, rum, and other spirit; and a duty of ten pounds per head on all Negroes imported, with some other duties.

Q. For what purposes are those taxes laid?A. For the support of the civil and military

establishments of the country, and to discharge the heavy debt contracted in the last [Seven Years’] war. . . .

Q. Are not all the people very able to pay those taxes?

A. No. The frontier counties, all along the continent, have been frequently ravaged by the enemy and greatly impoverished, are able to pay very little tax. . . .

Q. Are not the colonies, from their circum-stances, very able to pay the stamp duty?

A. In my opinion there is not gold and silver enough in the colonies to pay the stamp duty for one year.

Q. Don’t you know that the money arising from the stamps was all to be laid out in America?

A. I know it is appropriated by the act to the American service; but it will be spent in the conquered colonies, where the sol-diers are, not in the colonies that pay it.

Q. Do you think it right that America should be protected by this country and pay no part of the expense?

A. That is not the case. The colonies raised, clothed, and paid, during the last war, near 25,000 men, and spent many millions.

Q. Were you not reimbursed by Parliament?A. We were only reimbursed what, in your

opinion, we had advanced beyond our pro-portion, or beyond what might reasonably be expected from us; and it was a very small part of what we spent. Pennsylvania, in particular, disbursed about 500,000 pounds, and the reimbursem*nts, in the whole, did not exceed 60,000 pounds. . . .

Q. Do you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty, if it was moderated?

A. No, never, unless compelled by force of arms. . . .

Q. What was the temper of America towards Great Britain before the year 1763?

A. The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the Crown, and paid, in all their courts, obe-dience to acts of Parliament. . . .

Q. What is your opinion of a future tax, imposed on the same principle with that of the Stamp Act? How would the Americans receive it?

A. Just as they do this. They would not pay it.Q. Have not you heard of the resolutions of

this House, and of the House of Lords, asserting the right of Parliament relating to America, including a power to tax the people there?


• 95

A. Yes, I have heard of such resolutions.Q. What will be the opinion of the Americans

on those resolutions?A. They will think them unconstitutional

and unjust.Q. Was it an opinion in America before

1763 that the Parliament had no right to lay taxes and duties there?

A. I never heard any objection to the right of laying duties to regulate commerce; but a right to lay internal taxes was never supposed to be in Parliament, as we are not represented there.

Q. Did the Americans ever dispute the con-trolling power of Parliament to regulate the commerce?

A. No.Q. Can anything less than a military force

carry the Stamp Act into execution?A. I do not see how a military force can be

applied to that purpose.Q. Why may it not?A. Suppose a military force sent into

America; they will find nobody in arms; what are they then to do? They cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them. They will not find a rebellion; they may indeed make one.

Q. If the act is not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences?

A. A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and affection.

Q. How can the commerce be affected?A. You will find that, if the act is not

repealed, they will take very little of your manufactures in a short time.

Q. Is it in their power to do without them?A. I think they may very well do without them.Q. Is it their interest not to take them?A. The goods they take from Britain are

either necessaries, mere conveniences, or superfluities. The first, as cloth, etc., with a little industry they can make at home; the second they can do without till they

are able to provide them among them-selves; and the last, which are mere articles of fashion, purchased and consumed because of the fashion in a respected coun-try; but will now be detested and rejected. The people have already struck off, by gen-eral agreement, the use of all goods fash-ionable in mourning.

Q. If the Stamp Act should be repealed, would it induce the assemblies of America to acknowledge the right of Parliament to tax them, and would they erase their res-olutions [against the Stamp Act]?

A. No, never.Q. Is there no means of obliging them to

erase those resolutions?A. None that I know of; they will never do it,

unless compelled by force of arms.Q. Is there a power on earth that can force

them to erase them?A. No power, how great so ever, can force

men to change their opinions. . . .Q. What used to be the pride of the

Americans?A. To indulge in the fashions and manufac-

tures of Great Britain.Q. What is now their pride?A. To wear their old clothes over again, till

they can make new ones.


1. What kind of taxes did colonists pay according to Franklin? What did the interviewer seem to think of the colo-nists’ tax burden? What disagreements existed between Franklin and his inter-viewer on the purpose, legality, and fea-sibility of the stamp tax?

2. How did Franklin characterize the British–colonial relationship prior to 1763?

3. What colonial response to the Stamp Act and other “internal taxes” did Franklin predict? What, if anything, could Parliament do to enforce the colonists’ compliance?

Source: The Parliamentar y Histor y of England, London, 1813, vol. XVI, 138–159; in Charles Morris, The Great Republic by the Master Historians, vol. II. R.S. Belcher Co., 1902.

96 • CHAPTER 4

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1765, mobs were rising up in several colonial cities against the Stamp Act. The largest was in Boston, where men belonging to the newly organized Sons of Liberty terrorized stamp agents and burned stamps. The mob also attacked such supposedly pro-British aristocrats as the lieutenant governor, Thomas Hutchinson, who had privately opposed passage of the Stamp Act but who felt obliged to support it once it became law. Hutchinson’s elegant house was pillaged and virtually destroyed.

The crisis finally subsided largely because Britain backed down. The authorities in London were less affected by the political protests than by economic pressure. Many New Englanders had stopped buying British goods to protest the Sugar Act of 1764, and the Stamp Act caused the boycott to spread. With pressure from British merchants, Parliament—under a new prime minister, the Marquis of Rockingham—repealed the unpopular law on March 18, 1766. To satisfy his strong and vociferous opponents, Rockingham also pushed through the Declaratory Act, which confirmed parliamentary authority over the colonies “in all cases whatsoever.” But in their rejoicing over the Stamp Act repeal, most Americans paid little attention to this sweeping declaration of power.

Internal RebellionsThe conflicts with Britain were not the only uprisings emerging in the turbulent years of the 1760s. In addition to the Stamp Act crisis and other challenges to London, there were internal rebellions that had their roots in the class system in New York and New England. In the Hudson Valley in New York, great estates had grown up, in which owners had rented out their land to small farmers. The revolutionary fervor of the time led many of these tenants to demand ownership of the land they worked. To emphasize their determination, they stopped paying rents.

The rebellion soon failed, but other challenges continued. In Vermont, which still was governed by New York, insurgent farmers challenged landowners (many of them the same owners whom tenants had challenged on the Hudson) by taking up arms and demanding ownership of the land they worked. Ethan Allen, later a hero of the Revo-lutionary War and himself a land speculator, took up the cause of the Green Mountain farmers and accused the landowners of trying to “enslave a free people.” Allen eventu-ally succeeded in making Vermont into a separate state, which broke up some of the large estates.

The Townshend ProgramWhen the Rockingham government’s policy of appeasem*nt met substantial opposition in Britain, the king dismissed the ministry and replaced it with a new government led by the aging but still powerful William Pitt, who was now Lord Chatham. Chatham had in the past been sympathetic toward American interests. Once in office, however, he was at times so incapacitated by mental illness that leadership of his administration fell to the chancel-lor of the exchequer, Charles Townshend.

With the Stamp Act repealed, the greatest remaining American grievance involved the Mutiny (or Quartering) Act of 1765, which required colonists to shelter and supply British troops. Many colonists objected not so much to the actual burden as to its coercive char-acter. The Massachusetts and New York assemblies went so far as to refuse to grant the mandated supplies to the troops.


Townshend responded in 1767 by disbanding the New York Assembly until the colo-nists agreed to obey the Mutiny Act. By singling out New York, he believed, he would avoid antagonizing all the colonies at once. He also imposed new taxes, known as the Townshend Duties, on various goods imported to the colonies from Great Britain—lead, paint, paper, and tea. Townshend assumed that since these were taxes purely on “external” transactions (imports from overseas), as opposed to the internal transactions the Stamp Act had taxed, the colonists would not object. But all the colonies resented the suspen-sion of the New York Assembly, believing it to be a threat to every colonial government. And all the colonies rejected Townshend’s careful distinction between external and inter-nal taxation.

Townshend also established a board of customs commissioners in America. The new commissioners established their headquarters in Boston. They virtually ended smuggling in Boston, although smugglers continued to carry on a busy trade in other colonial seaports. The Boston merchants, angry that the new commission was diverting the lucrative smug-gling trade elsewhere, helped organize a boycott of British goods that were subject to the Townshend Duties. Merchants in Philadelphia and New York joined them in a nonimpor-tation agreement in 1768, and later some southern merchants and planters also agreed to cooperate. Throughout the colonies, American homespun and other domestic products became suddenly fashionable.

Late in 1767, Charles Townshend died. In March 1770, the new prime minister, Lord North, hoping to end the American boycott, repealed all the Townshend Duties except the tea tax.

The Boston MassacreBefore news of the repeal reached America, an event in Massachusetts inflamed colonial opinion. The harassment of the new customs commissioners in Boston had grown so intense that the British government had placed four regiments of regular troops in the city. Many of the poorly paid British soldiers looked for jobs in their off-duty hours and thus competed with local workers. Clashes between the two groups were frequent.

On the night of March 5, 1770, a mob of dockworkers, “liberty boys,” and others began pelting the sentries at the customs house with rocks and snowballs. Hastily, Captain Thomas Preston of the British regiment lined up several of his men in front of the build-ing to protect it. There was some scuffling, one of the soldiers was knocked down, and in the midst of it all, apparently, several British soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five people.

This murky incident, almost certainly the result of panic and confusion, was quickly transformed by local resistance leaders into the “Boston Massacre.” It became the subject of such lurid (and inaccurate) accounts as the widely circulated pamphlet Innocent Blood Crying to God from the Streets of Boston. A famous engraving by Paul Revere portrayed the massacre as a calculated assault on a peaceful crowd. The British soldiers, tried before a jury of Bostonians and defended by future American president John Adams, were found guilty only of manslaughter and given token punishment. But colonial pamphlets and newspapers convinced many dissidents that the soldiers were guilty of murder.

The leading figure in fomenting public outrage over the Boston Massacre was the colo-nial official and political philosopher Samuel Adams, second cousin to John. Britain, he

98 • CHAPTER 4

argued, had become a morass of sin and corruption; only in America did public virtue survive. In 1772, he proposed the creation of “committees of correspondence” in Boston to publicize the grievances against Britain. Other colonies followed Massachusetts’s lead, and a loose intercolonial network of political organizations was soon established that kept the spirit of dissent alive through the 1770s.

The Philosophy of RevoltAlthough a superficial calm settled on the colonies after the Boston Massacre, the crises of the 1760s and early 1770s had helped arouse enduring challenges to British authority and had produced powerful instruments for circulating colonial complaints. Yet revolutionary impulses rarely came down to simple arguments for democracy over monarchy, and they rarely pulled in a single direction. Some dissidents rejected or sought to modify British traditions of governance, others lobbied simply for Britain to leave the colonies alone, still

(©Barney Burstein/Corbis Historical/Getty Images)

THE BOSTON MASSACRE (1770), BY PAUL REVERE This sensationalized engraving of the conflict between British troops and Boston laborers is one of many important propaganda documents, by Revere and others, for the revolutionary cause in the 1770s. Among the victims of the massacre listed by Revere was Crispus Attucks, probably the first person of color to die in the struggle for American independence.


others to break away from the monarchy altogether. Gradually these diverse voices would merge to form a political outlook in America that would serve to justify revolt, if not exactly a radical one.

British political philosophy, passed down and amended over time in the unwritten English constitution, called for distributing power among the three elements of society—the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the people—in order to prevent the exercise of unchecked authority. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, colonial assemblies in North America resembled the elected and increasingly influential House of Commons in the British Parliament. Neither were particularly democratic, nor did leaders on either side of the Atlantic intend them to be. Though some colonial regions granted voting rights more broadly, most parts of British America and Britain proper endowed the vote rather sparsely to property holders. Through elections for the assemblies, those voters transferred authority over their lives to their representatives, who often went on to govern as they saw fit without much additional consultation from the public. By this political ideology, only independent, landowning men should vote (dependent men could be manipulated by those they depended upon), and only the best minds should hold public office. Two future presidents believed in this model: George Washington in his youth feared the ignorance of the “grazing multitude,” John Adams the “common herd of mankind.” Some American revolutionaries continued to harbor such suspicions of democracy and the masses up to 1776 and well beyond.

Some colonists opposed the privileges of hereditary aristocracy and the powers of the monarchy. But their galvanizing grievance by the 1770s, as the controversies over duties and quartering demonstrated, concerned matters of representation and sovereignty, or the authority to govern. Some colonists objected less to how they were governed than to who was governing them, or put another way, rejected British practices of governance more than their principles. This sort of frustration materialized in the slo-gan, “No taxation without representation.” Whatever the nature of a tax, they said, it could not be levied without the consent of the colonists themselves. There were actually some supporters of colonial rights in Britain making such arguments on behalf of the colonists.

But to many other British observers and authorities, this clamor about representation made little sense. According to their constitutional theory, members of Parliament did not represent individuals or particular geographical areas. Instead, each member represented the interests of the whole nation and indeed the whole empire. The many boroughs of Britain that had no representative in Parliament, the whole of Ireland, and the colonies thousands of miles away—all were thus represented in Parliament at London, even though they elected no representatives of their own. This was the theory of “virtual representation.”Americans, in fact, practiced the very same thing within their colonies, whereby assemblies did not reflect universal suffrage yet still claimed to represent their communities.

But for many colonists, the difference was the literal and figurative distance separating themselves from the men supposedly protecting their interests in Parliament. How could officials impose policies and taxes, said a religious leader in Georgia, on those “who never invested them with any such power”? Such thinkers may have believed in virtual represen-tation across miles, but not continents and oceans. Soon enough, the king who shared power with Parliament similarly lost legitimacy. Indeed, this tradition, too, the colonists borrowed from the British, whose outburst of anti-monarchical dissent had separated King Charles I from his head over a century earlier.

100 •

In colonial Massachusetts, as in many other American colonies in the 1760s and 1770s, taverns (or “public houses,” as they were often known) were crucial to the develop-ment of popular resistance to British rule. The Puritan culture of New England created some resistance to taverns, and reformers tried to regulate or close them to reduce the problems caused by “public drunken-ness,” “lewd behavior,” and “anarchy.” But as the commercial life of the colonies expanded and more people began living in towns and cities, taverns became a central institution in American social life—and eventually in its political life as well.

Taverns were appealing, of course, because they provided alcoholic drinks in a culture where the craving for alcohol and the extent of drunkenness were very high. But taverns had other attractions as well. They were one of the few places where people could meet and talk openly in public; indeed, many colonists considered the life of the tav-ern as the only vaguely democratic experi-ence available to them. The tavern was a mostly male institution, just as political life was considered a mostly male concern. Male camaraderie and political discourse fused together out of tavern culture.

As the revolutionary crisis deepened, taverns and pubs became central meeting places for cultivating resistance to British policies. Educated and uneducated men alike joined in animated discussions of events. The many who could not read could learn about the contents of revolutionary pamphlets from listening to tavern conver-sations. They could join in the discussion of

the new republican ideas emerging in America by participating in tavern celebra-tions of, for example, the anniversaries of resistance to the Stamp Act. Those anni-versaries inspired elaborate toasts in public houses throughout the colonies.

In an age before wide distribution of newspapers, taverns and tavernkeepers were important sources of information about the political and social turmoil of the time. Taverns were also the settings for political events. In 1770, for example, a report circulated through the taverns of Danvers, Massachusetts, about a local man who was continuing to sell tea despite the colonial boycott. The Sons of Liberty brought the seller to the Bell Tavern and persuaded him to sign a confession and apology before a crowd of defiant men in the public room.

Taverns in Revolutionary Massachusetts


(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC2-1367])

TAVERNS AND POLITICS The London Coffee House and other taverns were centers for pre-Revolutionary social and political life in colonial Philadelphia.

• 101

Sites of ResistanceColonists kept the growing spirit of resistance alive in many ways, but most of all through writing and talking. Dissenting leaflets, pamphlets, and books circulated widely through the colonies. In towns and cities, people gathered in churches, schools, town squares, and, above all, taverns to discuss politics.

Taverns were also places where resistance pamphlets and leaflets could be distributed and where meetings for the planning of protests and demonstrations could be held. Mas-sachusetts had the most elaborately developed tavern culture, which was perhaps one rea-son why the spirit of resistance grew more quickly there than anywhere else. (See “Patterns of Popular Culture: Taverns in Revolutionary Massachusetts.”)

America in the 1760s and early 1770s featured growing resentment about the continued enforcement of the Navigation Acts. Popular anger was visible in occasional acts of rebel-lion. At one point, colonists seized a British revenue ship on the lower Delaware River. In 1772, angry residents of Rhode Island boarded the British schooner Gaspée, set it afire, and sank it.

The Tea ExcitementThe revolutionary fervor of the 1760s intensified as a result of a new act of Parliament, one that involved the business of selling tea. In 1773, Britain’s East India Company (on the verge of bankruptcy) was sitting on large stocks of tea that it could not sell in Britain. In an effort to save the company, the government passed the Tea Act of 1773, which gave the company the right to export its merchandise directly to the colonies without paying any of the regular taxes that were imposed on colonial importers. The law provided no new tax on tea, but the original Townshend duty on the commodity survived, and the East India Company was now exempt from paying it. That meant cheaper tea for consumers, which Lord North had assumed would make the law welcome among the colonists.

But resistance leaders in America argued that the law, in effect, imposed an unfair tax on American merchants, who would be undersold by the East India Company and become disadvantaged in the colonial tea trade. The colonists responded by boycotting tea. Unlike earlier protests, most of which had involved relatively small numbers of people, the tea boycott mobilized large segments of the population. It also helped link the colonies together in a common experience of mass popular protest. Particularly important to the movement

political value. In taverns, he once said, “bastards and legislatores are frequently begotten.” •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. Why were taverns so important in edu-cating colonists about the relationship with Britain?

2. What gathering places today serve the same purposes as taverns did in colonial America?

Almost all politicians who wanted any real contact with the public found it necessary to visit taverns in colonial Massachusetts. Samuel Adams spent con-siderable time in the public houses of Boston, where he sought to encourage resistance to British rule while taking care to drink moderately so as not to erode his stature as a leader. His cousin John Adams, although somewhat more skeptical of taverns and more sensitive to the vices they encouraged, also recognized their

102 • CHAPTER 4

were the activities of colonial women, who led the boycott. The Daughters of Liberty—a recently formed women’s organization—proclaimed, “rather than Freedom, we’ll part with our Tea.”

In the last weeks of 1773, with strong popular support, some colonial leaders made plans to prevent the East India Company from landing its cargoes. In Philadelphia and New York, determined colonists kept the tea from leaving the company’s ships, and in Charles Town, South Carolina, they stored it away in a public warehouse. In Boston, local dissenters staged a spectacular drama. On the evening of December 16, 1773, three companies of fifty men each, masquerading as Mohawk Indians, went aboard three ships, broke open the tea chests, and heaved them into the harbor. As the elec-trifying news of the Boston Tea Party spread, colonists in other seaports staged similar acts of resistance.

Parliament retaliated in four acts of 1774: closing the port of Boston, drastically reduc-ing the powers of self-government in Massachusetts, permitting royal officers in America to be tried for crimes in other colonies or in Great Britain, and providing for the quarter-ing of troops by the colonists. These Coercive Acts were more widely known in America as the “Intolerable Acts.”

The Coercive Acts backfired. Far from isolating Massachusetts, they made the colony a martyr in the eyes of residents of other colonies and sparked new resistance up and down the coast. Colonial legislatures passed a series of resolves supporting Massachusetts. Women’s groups mobilized to extend the boycotts of British goods and to create substitutes for the tea, textiles, and other commodities they were shunning. In Edenton, North Carolina, fifty-one women signed an agreement in October 1774 declaring their “sincere adherence” to the anti-British resolutions of their provincial assembly and proclaiming their duty to do “every thing as far as lies in our power” to support the “publick good.”


Beginning in 1765, colonial leaders developed a variety of organizations for converting popular discontent into action—organizations that in time formed the basis for an indepen-dent government.

New Sources of AuthorityThe passage of authority from the royal government to the colonists themselves began on the local level. In colony after colony, local institutions responded to the resistance move-ment by simply seizing authority. At times, entirely new institutions emerged.

The most effective of these new groups were the committees of correspondence. Mas-sachusetts and Virginia and other colonies established these committees to foster continu-ous cooperation among them. After the royal governor dissolved the assembly in 1774, colonists met in the Raleigh Tavern at Williamsburg, declared that the Intolerable Acts menaced the liberties of every colony, and issued a call for a Continental Congress.

Delegates from all the colonies except Georgia were present when, in September 1774, the First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. They made five major decisions. First, they rejected a plan for a colonial union under British authority. Second, they endorsed a relatively moderate statement of grievances, which addressed the king as “Most Gracious Sovereign,” but which also included a demand for the repeal of all oppressive


legislation passed since 1763. Third, they approved a series of resolutions recommending that military preparations be made for defense against possible attack by the British troops in Boston. Fourth, they agreed to a series of boycotts they hoped would stop all trade with Great Britain, and they formed a “Continental Association” to see that these agreements were enforced. Fifth, the delegates agreed to meet again the following spring.

During the winter, the Parliament in London debated proposals for conciliating the colonists, and early in 1775 Lord North finally won approval for a series of measures known as the Conciliatory Propositions. Parliament proposed that the colonies tax themselves at Parliament’s demand. With this offer, Lord North hoped to separate the American moder-ates, whom he believed represented the views of the majority, from the extremist minority. But his offer was too little and too late. It did not reach America until after the first shots of war had been fired.

Lexington and ConcordFor months, the farmers and townspeople of Massachusetts had been gathering arms and ammunition and preparing “minutemen” to fight on a moment’s notice. The Continental Congress had approved preparations for a defensive war, and the citizen-soldiers waited only for an aggressive move by the British regulars in Boston.

There, General Thomas Gage, commanding the British garrison, considered his army too small to do anything without reinforcements. He resisted the advice of less cautious officers, who assured him that the Americans would back down quickly before any show of British force. When General Gage received orders to arrest the rebel leaders Sam Adams and the wealthy merchant John Hanco*ck, known to be in the vicinity of Lexington, he still hesitated. But when he heard that the minutemen had stored a large supply of gunpowder in Concord (eighteen miles from Boston), he decided to act. On the night of April 18, 1775, he sent a detachment of about 1,000 men out toward Lexington, hoping to surprise the colonials and seize the illegal supplies without bloodshed.

But dissenters in Boston were watching the British movements closely, and during the night two horsem*n, William Dawes and Paul Revere, rode out to warn the villages and farms. When the redcoats arrived in Lexington the next day, several dozen minutemen awaited them on the town common. Shots were fired and minutemen fell; eight were killed and ten wounded. Advancing to Concord, the British discovered that the Americans had hastily removed most of the powder supply. All along the road back to Boston, the British were harassed by the gunfire of farmers hiding behind trees, rocks, and stone walls. By the end of the day, the British had lost almost three times as many men as the Americans.

The first shot—the “shot heard ’round the world,” as the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson later called it—had been fired. But who had fired it first? According to one of the minute-men at Lexington, the British commander, Major Thomas Pitcairn, had shouted to the colonists on his arrival, “Disperse, ye rebels!” When they ignored him, he ordered his troops to fire. British officers and soldiers claimed that the minutemen had fired first. Whatever the truth, the rebels succeeded in circulating their account well ahead of the British version, adorning it with tales of British atrocities. The effect was to rally thousands of colonists to the rebel cause.

It was not immediately clear at the time that the skirmishes at Lexington and Concord were the first battles of a war. But whether people recognized it at the time or not, the American Revolution had begun.

104 • CHAPTER 4


When the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, it might have seemed reasonable to expect that relations between the British colonists in America and Great Britain itself would have been cemented more firmly than ever. But in fact, the resolution of that conflict altered the imperial relationship forever, in ways that ultimately drove Americans to rebel against Brit-ish rule and begin a war for independence. To the British, the lesson of the French and Indian War was that the colonies in America needed firmer control from London. The empire was now much bigger, and it needed better administration. The war had produced great debts, and the Americans—among the principal beneficiaries of the war—should help pay them. And so for more than a decade after the end of the fighting, the British tried one strategy after another to tighten control over and extract money from the colonies.

To the colonists, this effort to tighten imperial rule seemed both a betrayal of the sac-rifices they had made in the war and a challenge to their long-developing assumptions about the rights of British people to rule themselves. Gradually, white Americans came to see in the British policies evidence of a conspiracy to establish tyranny in the New World. And so throughout the 1760s and 1770s, the colonists developed an ideology of resistance and


Sudbury R.


es R.

Mystic R


Paul Revere’s ride, night of April 18, 1775

William Dawes’s ride, April 18, 1775

TROOP MOVEMENTSAmerican forcesBritish forces

BATTLES AND ENTRENCHMENTSAmerican victory British victoryAmerican entrenchmentRoad

0 3 mi

0 3 6 km








LexingtonApril 19, 1775


British return to Boston,April 19 (same day)

North Bridge

ConcordApril 19, 1775

Bunker Hill andBreed’s Hill

June 17, 1775

Dawes returnsto Boston

THE BATTLES OF LEXINGTON AND CONCORD, 1775 This map shows the fabled series of events that led to the first battle of the American Revolution. On the night of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and William Dawes rode out from Boston to warn the outlying towns of the approach of British troops. Revere was captured just west of Lexington, but Dawes escaped and returned to Boston. The next morning, British forces moved out of Boston toward Lexington, where they met armed American minutemen on the Lexington common and exchanged fire. The British dispersed the Americans in Lexington. But they next moved on to Concord, where they encountered more armed minutemen, clashed again, and were driven back toward Boston. All along their line of march, they were harassed by riflemen. • What impact did the Battles of Lexington and Concord (and the later Battle of Bunker Hill, also shown on this map) have on colonial sentiment toward the British?


defiance. By the time the first shots were fired in the American Revolution in 1775, Britain and America had come to view each other as two very different societies. Their differences, which soon appeared irreconcilable, propelled them into a war that would change the course of history for both sides.


Albany Plan 84Benjamin Franklin 93Boston Massacre 97Boston Tea Party 102Coercive Acts 102committees of

correspondence 98Creole 84Daughters of Liberty 102First Continental

Congress 102

Fort Necessity 85French and Indian War 84George Grenville 90George III 90impressment 87Iroquois Confederacy 85Patrick Henry 93Paxton Boys 91Pontiac 89Proclamation of 1763 91Seven Years’ War 84

Sons of Liberty 96sovereignty 99Stamp Act 93Sugar Act 91Tea Act 101Townshend Duties 97Virginia Resolves 93virtual representation 99William Pitt 87


1. What Native Americans fought in the French and Indian War, and how did the war’s outcome affect them? What about Native Americans who did not participate in the war?

2. How and why did the colonists’ attitude toward Britain change from the time of the Seven Years’ War to the beginning of the American Revolution?

3. What were the philosophical underpinnings of the colonists’ revolt against Britain? 4. What did the slogan “No taxation without representation” mean, and why was it a

rallying cry for the colonists?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

106 •

TWO STRUGGLES OCCURRED SIMULTANEOUSLY during the eight years of war that began in April 1775. The first was the military conflict with Great Britain. The sec-ond was a political conflict within America.

The military conflict was, by the standards of later wars, a relatively modest one. By the standards of its own day, however, it was an unusually savage conflict, pitting not only army against army but the civilian population against a powerful external force. The shift of the war from a traditional, conventional struggle to a new kind of conflict—a revolutionary war for liberation—is what made it possible for the United States to defeat the more powerful British.

At the same time, Americans were wrestling with the great political questions that the conflict necessarily produced: first, whether to demand independence from Britain; second, how to structure the new nation they had proclaimed; and third, how to deal with questions that the revolution had raised about slavery, the rights of Indians, the role of women, and the limits of religious tolerance in the new American society.


1. What were the military strategies (both British and American) of each of the three phases of the American Revolution? How successful were these strategies during

each phase?

2. How did the American Revolution become an international conflict, not just a colonial war against the British?

3. How did the new national government of the United States reflect the principles of republicanism?



• 107


Although some Americans had long expected a military conflict with Britain, the actual beginning of hostilities in 1775 found the colonies generally unprepared for war against the world’s greatest armed power.

Defining American War AimsThree weeks after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, when the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, delegates from every colony (except Georgia, which had not yet sent a representative) agreed to support the war. But they disagreed about its purpose. At one extreme was a group led by the Adams cousins (John and Samuel), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, and others, who already favored independence. At the other extreme was a group led by such mod-erates as John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, who hoped for a quick reconciliation with Great Britain.

Most Americans believed at first that they were fighting not for independence but for a resolution of grievances against the British Empire. During the first year of fighting, however, many colonists began to change their minds. The costs of the war were so high that the original war aims began to seem too modest to justify them. Many colonists were enraged when the Brit-ish began trying to recruit Indians, African slaves, and German mercenaries (the hated “Hessians”). Particularly galvanizing for sla-veowners in the southern colonies was the royal governor of Virginia’s announcement of late 1775 that enslaved people owned by rebels—not those enslaved by colonists loyal to the crown—could win freedom if they abandoned their masters and joined the British forces, known as Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation. When the British government blockaded colonial ports and rejected all efforts at conciliation, many colonists con-cluded that independence was the only remaining option.


Articles of Confederation ratified

Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown


Postwar depression begins



Northwest Ordinance


Second Continental Congress

Washington commands American forces

Lord Dunmores’s Proclamation1776

Paine’s Common Sense

Declaration of Independence

Battle of Trenton


French-American alliance


Articles of Confederation adopted

British defeat at Saratoga


Treaty of Paris


Shays’s Rebellion

108 •


The American RevolutionAlmost from the moment it ended, histori-ans have debated the character, meaning, and origins of the American Revolution. For the first several generations after 1776, they developed what historians call a “whig-gish” view of the rebellion. In this narrative, the colonists proceeded inexorably and with God’s approval toward independence from Britain, scoring a preordained victory for Enlightenment ideals and progress, for liberty over tyranny. Later, in the decades before and during the Civil War, the perpet-uation of this vision of the Revolution by George Bancroft and others served a con-temporary need to emphasize American unity and greatness at a time of roiling divi-sion and sectional violence.

In the early twentieth century, historians downplayed the importance of ideology in the Revolution, attributing it, rather, to social and economic forces. Carl Becker, J. Franklin Jameson, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and other “progressive” historians, so named for the period in which they wrote, characterized the Revolution as a burst of radical, populist outrage against not just the monarchy or Parliament but against colonial elites with property, prestige, and power. Thus, said Becker (in 1909), there were really two revolutions, one against Britain, the other against colonial aristo-crats, each animated by a different ques-tion: “The first was the question of home rule; the second was the question . . . of who should rule at home.”

Beginning in the 1950s, with the nation once again searching for unity in the Cold War era, a new generation of scholars began to reemphasize the role of consensus and ideology over class warfare and economic

interests. Edmund S. Morgan (in 1956) argued that most eighteenth-century Americans shared common political princi-ples and that the social and economic con-flicts other historians had identified were not severe. Bernard Bailyn, in The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967), found Revolutionary rhetoric rooted in deeply and widely held resentments against British imperial oppression. For Bailyn and for Pauline Maier in From Resistance to Revolu-tion (1972), the independence movement still tipped radical but in its resentment of monarchical corruption and abuse of power rather than of elite property holders. Scholars of this period argued over what to name the ideologies that drove the rebellion, but they returned to the privileging of ideas over economic motivators.

By the late 1960s, for a new generation of historians, many influenced by the New Left, the pendulum was swinging back to class-based interpretations and to the internal struggles of the Revolutionary generation. Historians like Gary Nash in The Urban Crucible (1979) cited economic dis-tress and the actions of mobs in colonial cit-ies, the economic pressures on colonial merchants, and other changes in the char-acter of American culture and society as critical prerequisites for the growth of the Revolutionary movement. Echoing Becker, Nash argued for two revolutions, one by common people against colonial elites and one by colonial elites bent on maintaining their status and power in a post-British environment.

According to many scholars up to the present day, colonial elites succeeded in reclaiming economic and political authority

• 109

after the British left. These scholars point to the crafting of the Constitution, with its protections for the propertied white male elite and exclusion of everyone else from citizenship rights, as evidence for the vic-tory of an essentially conservative revolu-tion. Along these same lines, groundbreaking work on women during the Revolution by Mary Beth Norton (Liberty’s Daughters, 1980) and Linda Kerber (Women of the Republic, 1980) turned attention to the women who played a major role in the rebellion. They worked in auxiliary functions for the army or as wartime maintainers of home and industry, but in a deeper sense, as cultivators

of civic virtue in the home, or “republican mothers.” And they lamented that these contributions did not merit citizenship rights in the country’s first constitutions.

The pendulum swung again with Gordon Wood, who argued in The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992) for a socially radi-cal revolution, whereby the Founders undermined time-worn social patterns of deference, patriarchy, and gender hierar-chies. “Americans had become,” Wood wrote, “almost overnight, the most liberal, the most democratic, the most commer-cially minded, and the most modern people in the world.” The Revolution did not end

(©MPI/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

THE BRITISH SURRENDER This contemporary drawing depicts the formal surrender of British troops at Yorktown on October 19, 1781. Columns of American troops and a large French fleet flank the surrender ceremony, suggesting part of the reason for the British defeat. General Cornwallis, the commander of British forces in Virginia, did not himself attend the surrender. He sent a deputy in his place.

110 •

slavery or the second-class status of women, he granted, but laid the founda-tions for those future transformations and should not have its radicalism undercut by those failures.

Others have found the picture Wood painted too rosy. They counter that a new democratic order was short-lived, or came much later, or was driven not by the framers but by societal actors left out of earlier histo-ries of the Revolution. Edward Countryman (A People in Revolution, 1989), Woody Holton (Forced Founders, 1999; Unruly Americans, 2007), and T. H. Breen (The Marketplace of Rev-olution, 2004) argued for a radical Revolution that saw common people, for a time, shape the course of independence. These scholars see in the rebellion rhetorical groundwork for later change or the momentary ignition of possibilities for marginalized groups, but then a retrenchment of elite white rule.

Similarly, scholars of enslaved peoples, women, and Native Americans during the Revolution have tracked the contributions of these groups to the war as well as their appropriation of liberating rhetoric from Revolutionary political culture, but ultimately

they have a bleak story to tell. Colin Callo-way’s The American Revolution in Indian Country (1995), Rosemarie Zagarri’s Revolutionary Backlash (2007), Douglas Egerton’s Death or Liberty (2009), Carroll Smith-Rosenberg’s This Violent Empire (2012), and many others have located in the nation’s birth founda-tional commitments to white supremacy, male dominance, and the destruction of indigenous peoples, despite various efforts by these groups to claim the Revolution’s transformative potential for themselves. For these and other scholars, America’s gradual (and still incomplete) inclusion of marginal-ized groups came in spite of, rather than because of, the intentions of the country’s founders. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. In what way was the American Revolu-tion an ideological struggle?

2. In what way was the American Revolu-tion a social and economic conflict?

3. Was the Revolution a fundamentally liberating or constricting event for the nation’s people?

Thomas Paine’s impassioned pamphlet Common Sense crystallized these feelings in January 1776. Paine, who had emigrated from Britain less than two years before, sought to turn the anger of Americans toward parliamentary overreach as well as the British monarchy more broadly. It was simple common sense, Paine wrote, for Americans to break completely with a political system that could inflict such hardships on its own people. Written in plain terms and in English, rather than French or Latin like some trea-tises, Common Sense sold more than 100,000 copies in only a few months and helped build support for the idea of independence in the early months of 1776. (For more on the origins of the rebellion, see “Debating the Past: The American Revolution.”)

The Declaration of IndependenceIn the meantime, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia was moving toward a complete break with Britain. At the beginning of the summer, it appointed a committee to draft a formal declaration of independence; and on July 2, 1776, it adopted a resolution: “That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” Two


days later, on July 4, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence itself, which provided formal justifications for this resolution.

The Declaration launched a period of energetic political innovation, as one colony after another reconstituted itself as a “state.” By 1781, most states had produced written consti-tutions for themselves. At the national level, however, the process was more uncertain. In November 1777, finally, Congress adopted a plan for union, the Articles of Confederation. The document confirmed the existing weak, decentralized system.

Thomas Jefferson, a thirty-three-year-old Virginian lawyer and former member of the state House of Burgesses, wrote most of the Declaration. He had help from the Pennsyl-vania political theorist, inventor, and scientist Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, a lawyer and Massachusetts delegate to the Second Continental Congress. The Declaration expressed concepts that had been circulating throughout the colonies over the previous few months in the form of at least ninety other, local “declarations of independence”— declarations drafted up and down the coast by town meetings, artisan and militia organiza-tions, county officials, grand juries, Sons of Liberty, and colonial assemblies. Jefferson borrowed heavily from these texts.

The final document had two parts. In the first, the Declaration restated the familiar contract theory of John Locke: that governments were formed to protect what Jefferson called “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Although these lines have become the most famous part of the document, at the time, the second part loomed larger in the minds of the rebels. It listed the alleged crimes of the king, who, with the backing of Parliament, had violated his contract with the colonists and thus had forfeited all claim to their loyalty.

Mobilizing for WarFinancing the war was difficult. Congress had no authority to levy taxes on its own, and when it requisitioned money from the state governments, none contributed more than a small part of its expected share. Congress had little success borrowing from the public, since few Americans could afford to buy bonds. Instead, Congress issued paper money. Printing presses turned out enormous amounts of “Continental currency,” and the states printed currencies of their own. The result, predictably, was soaring inflation, and Congress soon found the Continental currency was virtually worthless. Ultimately, Congress financed the war mostly by borrowing from other nations.

After a surge of revolutionary spirit in 1775, volunteer soldiers became scarce. States had to pay bounties or use a draft to recruit the needed men. At first, the militiamen remained under the control of their respective states. But Congress recognized the need for a centralized military command, and it created a Continental army with a single commander in chief: George Washington. An early advocate of independence with con-siderable military experience, Washington was admired, respected, and trusted by nearly all American Patriots, as supporters of independence came to be known. He took com-mand of the new army in June 1775. With the aid of foreign military experts such as the Marquis de Lafayette from France and the Baron von Steuben from Prussia, he built a formidable force.

Though Britain successfully lured many slaves to join its side in exchange for freedom (including some owned by George Washington), several thousand black men fought along-side the colonists, particularly in New England and other parts of the North. Almost all southern states refused to allow slaves to serve, even when Congress offered them money in exchange.

112 • CHAPTER 5


As the War for Independence began, the British seemed to have overwhelming advantages: the greatest navy and the best-equipped army in the world, the resources of an empire, a coherent structure of command. Yet the United States had advantages, too. Beginning in 1777, Americans received substantial aid from abroad. They were fighting on their own ground. They were more committed to the conflict than the British, who made a series of early miscalculations. The transformation of the war—through three regions—made it a new kind of conflict that the imperial military, for all its strength, was unable to win.

New EnglandFor the first year of the conflict—from the spring of 1775 to the spring of 1776—many British authorities thought their forces were not fighting a real war, but simply quelling pockets of rebellion in the contentious area around Boston. After the redcoats withdrew from Lexing-ton and Concord in April, American forces besieged them in Boston. In the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually fought on Breed’s Hill) on June 17, 1775, the Patriots suffered severe casualties and withdrew. But they inflicted even greater losses on the enemy. The siege continued. Early in 1776, finally, the British decided that Boston was a poor place from which to fight. It was in the center of the most anti-British part of America and tactically difficult to defend because it was easily isolated and surrounded. And so, on March 17, 1776, the redcoats evacuated Boston for Halifax, Nova Scotia, with hundreds of Loyalist, or Tory, refugees (Americans still loyal to Britain and the king).

In the meantime, the Americans began an invasion of Canada. After General Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen seized Fort Ticonderoga in May 1775, Arnold and General Richard

(©Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library)

REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIERS Jean Baptist de Verger, a French officer serving in America during the Revolution, kept an illustrated journal of his experiences. Here he portrays four American soldiers carrying different kinds of arms: a black infantryman with a light rifle, a musketman, a rifleman, and an artilleryman.


Montgomery unsuccessfully threatened Quebec in late 1775 and early 1776 in a battle in which Montgomery was killed and Arnold was wounded.

By the spring of 1776, it had become clear to the British that the conflict was not just a local phenomenon. The American campaigns in Canada, along with new agitation in the mid-Atlantic colonies and the South and growing evidence of colonial unity, all suggested that Great Britain must prepare to fight a much larger conflict.

The Mid-AtlanticDuring the next phase of the war, which lasted from 1776 until early 1778, the British were in a good position to win. Indeed, only a series of errors and misfortunes prevented them from crushing the rebellion.

The British regrouped quickly after their retreat from Boston. During the summer of 1776, hundreds of British ships and 32,000 British soldiers arrived in New York, under the command of General William Howe. He offered Congress a choice: surrender with royal pardon or face a battle against apparently overwhelming odds. To oppose Howe’s great force, Washington could muster only about 19,000 soldiers and had no navy at all. Even so, the Americans rejected Howe’s offer. The British then pushed the Patriot forces out of Manhattan and off Long Island and drove them in slow retreat over the plains of New Jersey, across the Delaware River, and into Pennsylvania.

The British settled down for the winter in northern and central New Jersey, with an outpost of Hessians at Trenton, on the Delaware River. But Washington did not sit still. On Christmas night 1776, he recrossed the icy Delaware River, surprised and scattered the





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THE REVOLUTION IN THE NORTH, 1775–1776 After initial battles in and around Boston, the British forces left Massachusetts and (after a brief stay in Halifax, Canada) moved south to New York. In the meantime, American forces moved north in an effort to capture British strongholds in Montreal and Quebec, with little success. • Why did the British consider New York a better base than Boston?

114 • CHAPTER 5

Hessians, and occupied Trenton. Then he advanced to Princeton and drove a force of redcoats from their base in the college there. But Washington was unable to hold either Princeton or Trenton and finally took refuge in the hills around Morristown. Still, the campaign of 1776 came to an end with the Americans having triumphed in two minor battles and with their main army still intact.

For the campaigns of 1777, the British devised a strategy to divide the colonies in two. Howe would move from New York up the Hudson to Albany, while another force would come down from Canada to meet him. John Burgoyne, commander of the northern force, began a two-pronged attack to the south along both the Mohawk and the upper Hudson approaches to Albany. But having set the plan in motion, Howe strangely abandoned his part of it. Instead of moving north to meet Burgoyne, he went south and captured Phila-delphia, hoping that his seizure of the rebel capital would bring the war to a speedy conclu-sion. Philadelphia fell with little resistance, and the Continental Congress moved into exile in York, Pennsylvania. After launching an unsuccessful attack against the British on Octo-ber 4 at Germantown (just outside Philadelphia), Washington went into winter quarters at Valley Forge.

Howe’s move to Philadelphia left Burgoyne to carry out the campaign in the north alone. He sent Colonel Barry St. Leger up the St. Lawrence River toward Lake Ontario. Burgoyne himself advanced directly down the upper Hudson Valley and easily seized Fort Ticonderoga. But Burgoyne soon experienced two staggering defeats. In one of them—at Oriskany, New York, on August 6—Patriots and Oneidas held off a force of Mohawks, Senecas, Loyalists, and British (all those tribes had once been allied in the Iroquois Confederacy). That allowed Benedict Arnold to close off the Mohawk Valley to St. Leger’s advance. In the other battle—at Bennington, Vermont, on August 16—New England militiamen mauled a detachment that Burgoyne had sent to seek supplies. Short of materials, with all help cut off, Burgoyne fought several costly engagements and then withdrew to Saratoga, where General Horatio Gates surrounded him. On October 17, 1777, Burgoyne surrendered.

The campaign in upstate New York was not just a British defeat. It signaled the splinter-ing of the Iroquois Confederacy, which had declared its neutrality in 1776 but now saw members ally themselves with both sides. Among those joining the British were a Mohawk brother and sister, Joseph and Mary Brant. This ill-fated alliance further divided the already weakened Iroquois Confederacy, because only three of the Iroquois nations (the Mohawks, Senecas, and Cayugas) followed the Brants in support of the British. A year after the defeat at Oriskany, Iroquois forces joined British troops in a series of raids on white settlements in upstate New York.

In late 1779, Patriot forces under the command of General John Sullivan harshly retal-iated, burning homes and towns, destroying crops, and leaving the land uninhabitable. The harsh winter that followed saw mass Iroquois starvation and disease. The Patriots wreaked such destruction on Indian settlements that large groups of Iroquois allied with the British fled north into Canada to seek refuge. Many never returned.

Meanwhile the fighting in the North settled into a stalemate. Sir Henry Clinton replaced the unsuccessful William Howe in May 1778 and moved what had been Howe’s army from Philadelphia back to New York. The British troops stayed there for more than a year. In the meantime, George Rogers Clark led a Patriot expedition over the Appalachian Moun-tains and captured settlements in the Illinois country from the British and their Indian allies. On the whole, however, there was relatively little military activity in the North after 1778. There was, however, considerable intrigue. In the fall of 1780, American forces were shocked by the exposure of treason on the part of General Benedict Arnold. Convinced


that the American cause was hopeless, Arnold conspired with British agents to betray the Patriot stronghold at West Point on the Hudson River. When the scheme was exposed and foiled, Arnold fled to the safety of the British camp, where he spent the rest of the war.

Securing Aid from AbroadThe leaders of the American effort knew that victory would not be likely without aid from abroad. Their most promising allies, they realized, were the French, who stood to gain from seeing Britain lose a crucial part of its empire. At first, France provided the United States with badly needed supplies. But France remained reluctant to formally acknowledge the new nation, despite the efforts of Benjamin Franklin in Paris to lobby for aid and diplomatic recognition. France’s foreign minister, the Count de Vergennes, wanted evidence that the Americans had a real chance of winning. The British defeat at Saratoga, he believed, offered that evidence.

When the news from Saratoga arrived in London and Paris in early December 1777, a shaken Lord North made a new peace offer: complete home rule within the empire for Americans if they would quit the war. Vergennes feared the Americans might accept the offer and thus destroy France’s opportunity to weaken Britain. Encouraged by Franklin, he

















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THE REVOLUTION IN THE MIDDLE COLONIES, 1776–1778 These maps illustrate the major campaigns of the Revolution in the middle colonies—New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—between 1776 and 1778. The large map on the left shows the two prongs of the British strategy: first, a movement of British forces south from Canada into the Hudson Valley and, second, a movement of other British forces, under General William Howe, out from New York. The strategy was designed to trap the American army between the two British movements. • What movements of Howe helped thwart that plan? The two smaller maps on the right show a detailed picture of some of the major battles. The upper one reveals the surprising American victory at Saratoga. The lower one shows a series of inconclusive battles between New York and Philadelphia in 1777 and 1778.

116 • CHAPTER 5

agreed on February 6, 1778, to give formal recognition to the United States and to provide it with greatly expanded military assistance.

France’s decision made the war an international conflict, which over the years pitted France, Spain, and the Netherlands against Great Britain. That helped reduce the resources available for the British effort in America. But France remained America’s most important ally.

The SouthThe American victory at Saratoga and the intervention of the French transformed the war. Instead of mounting a full-scale military struggle against the American army, the British now tried to enlist the support of those elements of the American population who were still loyal to the crown. Since Loyalist sentiment was strongest in the South, and since the British also enticed slaves to rally to their cause, the main focus of their effort shifted there. In the Carolinas in particular, something like a civil war between Loyalists and Patriots had already been brewing.

Late in 1775, colonials fought the British army at Kemp’s Landing in Virginia. Three months later, on February 27, 1776, a band of southern Patriots crushed an uprising of Loyalists at Moore’s Creek Bridge in North Carolina. The British tried and failed to take Charleston, South Carolina, in June 1776, but were more successful at a different port, Savannah, Georgia, on December 29, 1778. They captured Savannah despite the opposition of a contingent of Patriots, Frenchmen, and black soldiers from Saint-Domingue. British forces then spent three years (from 1778 to 1781) moving through the South, ultimately taking Charleston in May 1780, and then advancing into the interior.

But the British overestimated the extent of Loyalist sentiment, and underestimated the logistical problems they would face. Patriot forces could move at will throughout the region, blending in with the civilian population. Although the southern Continental army had been decimated by the loss of Charleston, the British faced constant harassment from such Patriots as Thomas Sumter, Andrew Pickens, and Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox.” British attempts to destabilize the South by offering refuge to slaves drew tens of thousands of escapees, but also had the effect of galvanizing white southern dedication to the Revolution. With neighbors fighting neighbors in the Carolina backcountry, both regular armies sent commanders to direct the action. Lord Cornwallis was named by Clinton to head British forces in the South, Horatio Gates of Saratoga fame to lead the Patriots. Penetrating to Camden, South Carolina, Cornwallis met and crushed a Patriot force under Gates on August 16, 1780. That October, at King’s Mountain (near the North Carolina–South Carolina border), a band of Patriot riflemen from the backwoods killed, wounded, or cap-tured every man in a force of 1,100 New York and South Carolina Loyalists upon whom Cornwallis had depended.

Congress recalled Gates, and Washington replaced him with Nathanael Greene, one of the ablest American generals of his time. Once Greene arrived, he confused and exasper-ated Cornwallis by dividing the American forces into fast-moving contingents while avoid-ing open, conventional battles. One of the contingents inflicted what Cornwallis admitted was “a very unexpected and severe blow” at Cowpens, near the border between the Carolinas, on January 17, 1781. Finally, after receiving reinforcements, Greene combined all his forces and maneuvered to meet the British at Guilford Court House, North Carolina. After a hard-fought battle there on March 15, 1781, Greene was driven from the field; but Cornwallis had lost so many men that he decided to abandon the Carolina campaign. Instead, he moved north, hoping to conduct raids in the interior of Virginia. But Clinton,


fearful that the southern army might be destroyed, ordered him to take up a defensive position at Yorktown.

American and French forces quickly descended on Yorktown along with the battle- hardened, all-black First Rhode Island regiment. Washington and the Count de Rochambeau marched a French-American army from New York to join the Marquis de Lafayette in Virginia, while Admiral de Grasse took a French fleet with additional troops up Chesapeake Bay to the York River. These joint operations caught Cornwallis between land and sea. After a few shows of resistance, he surrendered on October 17, 1781, the First Rhode Island having taken part in a key assault on Redoubt 10 a few nights earlier. Two days later, as a military band played “The World Turned Upside Down,” he surrendered his whole army of more than 7,000.

Winning the PeaceCornwallis’s defeat provoked outcries in Britain against continuing the war. Lord North resigned as prime minister, Lord Shelburne emerged from the political wreckage to succeed


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THE REVOLUTION IN THE SOUTH, 1778–1781 The final phase of the American Revolution occurred largely in the South, which the British thought would be a more receptive region for their troops. • Why did they believe that? This map reveals the many scattered military efforts of the British and the Americans in those years, none of them conclusive. It also shows the final chapter of the Revolution around Chesapeake Bay and the James River. • What errors led the British to their surrender at Yorktown?

The American Revolution was a result of tensions and conflicts between imperial Britain and its North American colonies. But it was also both a part, and a cause, of what historians have come to call an “age of revolutions,” which spread through much of the Western world in the last de-cades of the eighteenth century and the first decades of the nineteenth.

The modern idea of revolution—the over-turning of old systems and regimes and the creation of new ones—was to a large degree a product of the ideas of the Enlightenment. Among those ideas was the notion of popular sovereignty, articulated by, among others, the English philosopher John Locke. Locke argued that political authority did not derive from the divine right of kings or the inherited authority of aristocracies, but from the con-sent of the governed. A related Enlighten-ment idea was the concept of individual freedom, which challenged the traditional belief that governments had the right to pre-scribe the way people act, speak, and even think. Champions of individual freedom in the eighteenth century—among them the French philosopher Voltaire—advocated reli-gious toleration and freedom of thought and expression. The Enlightenment also helped spread the idea of political and legal equality for all people—the end of special privileges for aristocrats and elites and the right of all citizens to participate in the formation of policies and laws. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a Swiss-French theorist, helped define these new ideas of equality. Together, Enlighten-ment ideas formed the basis for challenges to existing social orders in many parts of the Western world, and eventually beyond it.

The American Revolution was the first of the Enlightenment-derived uprisings against established orders. It served as an inspiration to people in other lands who opposed

unpopular regimes. In 1789, a little over a decade after the beginning of the American Revolution, dissenters rebelled in France—at first through a revolt by the national legisla-ture against the king, and then through a series of increasingly radical challenges to established authority. The monarchy was abolished (and the king and queen publicly executed in 1793), the authority of the Cath-olic Church was challenged and greatly weak-ened, and at the peak of revolutionary chaos during the Jacobin period (1793–1794), over 40,000 suspected enemies of the revolution were executed and hundreds of thousands of others imprisoned. The radical phase of the revolution came to an end in 1799, when Napoleon Bonaparte, a young general, seized power and began to build a new French Empire. But France’s ancien regime of king and aristocracy never wholly recovered.

Together, the French and American Revo-lutions helped inspire uprisings in many other parts of the Atlantic World, which in many ways sought to expand Enlightenment promises of liberty and equality to all people, not just property-holding whites. In 1791, a major slave revolt began in Saint-Domingue, or Haiti, the greatest sugar-producing col-ony in the world, and soon attracted over 100,000 rebels. The army of enslaved people defeated both the white settlers of the island and the French colonial armies sent to quell their rebellion, then British and Spanish forces attempting to claim the lucrative col-ony for themselves. Under the leadership of Toussaint-Louverture, they began to agitate for independence, which they obtained on January 1, 1804, a few months after Toussaint’s death in a French prison.

The ideas of these revolutions spread next into Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Americas, particularly among the so-called Creoles, people of European ancestry born in

The Age of Revolutions


the Americas. In the late eighteenth century, they began to resist the continuing authority of colonial officials from Spain and Portugal and to demand a greater say in governing their own lands. When Napoleon’s French armies invaded Spain and Portugal in 1807, they weakened the ability of the European regimes to sustain authority over their American colo-nies. In the years that followed, revolutions swept through much of Latin America. Mexico became an independent nation in 1821, and provinces of Central America that had once been part of Mexico (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica) estab-lished their independence three years later. Simón Bolívar, modeling his efforts on those of George Washington, led a movement that helped inspire revolutionary campaigns in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru, all of which won their independence in the 1820s. At about the same time, Greek patriots, drawing from the examples of other revolutionary nations, launched a movement to win their indepen-dence from the Ottoman Empire, which finally succeeded in 1830.

The age of revolutions left many new, independent nations in its wake. It did not, however, succeed in establishing the ideals of popular sovereignty, individual freedom, and political equality in all the nations it affected. Slavery survived in the United States and in many areas of Latin America. New forms of aristocracy and even monar-chy emerged in France, Mexico, Brazil, and elsewhere. Women—many of whom had hoped the revolutionary age would win them new rights—made few legal or polit-ical gains in this era. But the ideals that the revolutionary era introduced to the West-ern world continued to shape the histories of nations throughout the nineteenth cen-tury and beyond. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. How did the American Revolution influ-ence the French Revolution, and how were other nations affected by it?

2. What was the significance of the revolu-tion in Haiti?

(©Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

STORMING THE BASTILLE This illustration portrays the storming of the great Parisian fortress and prison, the Bastille, on July 14, 1789. The Bastille was a despised symbol of royal tyranny to many of the French because of the arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned people who were sent there. The July assault was designed to release the prisoners, but in fact the revolutionaries found only seven people in the vast fortress. Even so, the capture of the Bastille—which marked one of the first moments in which ordinary Frenchmen joined the Revolution—became one of the great moments in modern French history. The anniversary of the event, “Bastille Day,” remains the French national holiday.

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him, and British emissaries appeared in France to talk informally with the American diplomats there: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay.

The Americans were under instructions to cooperate with France in their negotiations with Britain. But Vergennes insisted that France could not agree to any settlement with the British until its ally Spain had achieved its principal war aim: winning back Gibraltar from British control. There was no real prospect of that happening soon, and the Americans began to fear that the alliance with France might keep them at war indefinitely. As a result, the Americans began proceeding on their own, without informing Vergennes, and soon drew up a preliminary treaty with Great Britain, which was signed on November 30, 1782. Benjamin Franklin, in the meantime, skillfully pacified Vergennes and avoided an immedi-ate rift in the French–American alliance.

The final treaty, signed September 3, 1783, was, on the whole, remarkably favorable to the United States. It provided a clear-cut recognition of independence and a large, though ambiguous, cession of territory to the new nation—from the southern boundary of Canada to the northern boundary of Florida and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi. The Amer-ican people had good reason to celebrate as the last of the British occupation forces left New York. Dissenters around the world, too, found inspiration in news of the Revolution. (See “America in the World: The Age of Revolutions.”)


Historians have long debated whether the American Revolution was a social as well as a political revolution, whether it was radical or conservative, whether it arose from economic or ideological agendas. But whatever the intention of those who launched and fought the war, the conflict implicated people from every corner of American society, and accelerated, as wars tend to do, certain kinds of social change, even if temporarily.

Loyalists and Religious GroupsEstimates differ as to how many Americans remained loyal to Britain during the Revolution, but it is clear that there were many—at least one-fifth (and some historians estimate as much as one-third) of the white population. Some were officeholders in the imperial gov-ernment. Others were merchants whose trade was closely tied to the imperial system. Still others were people who lived in relative isolation and had simply retained their traditional loyalties. And there were those who, expecting the British to win the war, were currying favor with the anticipated victors. However they came to their positions, Loyalists held what had been the dominant and respected view until rather recently: that colonists should remain faithful to their sovereign.

Many of these Loyalists were hounded by Patriots in their communities and harassed by legislative and judicial actions. Up to 100,000 fled the country. Those who could afford it moved to Britain. Others moved to Canada, establishing the first English-speaking com-munity in the French-speaking province of Quebec. Some returned to America after the war and gradually reentered the life of the nation.

The war weakened other groups as well. The Anglican Church, headed officially by the king and counting many Loyalist members, lost its status as the official religion of Virginia and Maryland. By the time the fighting ended, many Anglican parishes could no longer even afford clergymen. Also weakened were the Quakers, whose pacifism generated widespread derision.


Other Protestant denominations, however, grew stronger. Presbyterian, Congregational, and Baptist churches successfully tied themselves to the Patriot cause. Most American Catholics also supported the Patriots and won increased popularity as a result. Shortly after the peace treaty was signed, the Vatican provided the United States with its own hierarchy and, in 1789, its first bishop.

The War and SlaveryFor some African Americans, the war meant freedom because the British enabled escaped slaves to leave the country as a way of disrupting the American war effort. The Dunmore Proclamation was aimed at slaves owned by Patriots, not Loyalists, but many enslaved peoples made no such distinction once they learned of the policy. In South Carolina, for example, nearly one-third of all slaves defected during the war. White southerners in Vir-ginia and Maryland even permitted slaveowners to free—“manumit”—their slaves if they wished, and some southern churches flirted briefly with voicing objections to the system. But these trends, nor the revolutionary ideals of which they were parts, never seriously threatened slavery or white supremacy in the South.

In much of the North, the combination of revolutionary sentiment and evangelical Chris-tian fervor helped spread antislavery ideology widely. But even there, white supremacy flour-ished, and qualifications to the laws limited the character or speed of emancipation, which tended to be either “absolute” or “gradual.” Vermont seceded from New York in 1777 and became the first colony to abolish slavery outright (though it was technically an independent republic until admitted to the union in 1791). Soon New Hampshire and Massachusetts joined on the side of absolute emancipation. In Massachusetts, an enslaved woman named Mum Bett, servant to wealthy revolutionaries, heard talk of freedom and equality and understood her condition to violate such precepts. She successfully sued for her freedom in 1781, taking the name Elizabeth Freeman, and others followed suit, leading to abolition in that state in 1783. (Freeman’s great-grandson was civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois, born in 1868.) Meanwhile Pennsylvania had become the first state to pass gradual emancipation in 1780, and Rhode Island and Connecticut followed suit in 1784. Gradual emancipation generally meant curtailing the importation of new slaves and granting freedom to those born in bond-age after the passage of the laws. Current enslaved people tended to stay enslaved unless states passed full abolition—in the case of Pennsylvania, sixty-seven years later, in 1847.

At war’s end, slavery was intact in New York and New Jersey, where the institution played a larger role in the economy than in New England. Both states passed gradual abolition in 1799 and 1804, respectively, but the New York law demonstrated the incom-plete and cruel nature of such emancipation. The 1799 measure subjected children born after that date to indentured servitude until young adulthood. Then, the legislature decreed in 1817 that slaves born before 1799 would be freed—but not until 1827. Across the North, a significant though dwindling number of slaves could be found for several decades after the Revolution, and of course they remained in massive numbers in the South. At some point during the war, almost all states in both regions banned the transatlantic slave trade, but in many cases as part of a broader prohibition of commerce with Britain. It resumed after the war, and southern slaveowners succeeded in pushing back a national ban on the impor-tation of slaves until 1808. But the heartbreaking, family-splitting internal traffic in enslaved peoples continued as long as bondage was legal.

Thus the Revolution exposed the continuing contradiction between the nation’s commit-ment to liberty and its simultaneous commitment to slavery, with many colonists even using

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(without irony) the terminology of “enslavement” to characterize their subjugation by Britain. To people in our time, and even to some people in Revolutionary times like Mum Bett, liberty and slavery were incompatible. But to many white Americans in the eighteenth century, that did not seem obvious. Many white southerners and some northerners believed, in fact, that enslaving Africans—whom they considered inferior and unfit for citizenship—was the best way to ensure liberty for white people. They feared that without slaves, it would be necessary to recruit a servile white workforce in the South, and that the resulting inequalities would jeopardize the survival of liberty. Even men such as Washington and Jefferson, who had moral misgivings about slavery, struggled to envision any alternative to it. Washington, in fact, insisted his slaves be returned to him at war’s end by the British, under whom they had served by the terms of Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation of 1775, and Jefferson did little to manumit the hundreds of enslaved people in his possession. If slavery was abolished nationwide, these and other white Americans asked, what would happen to black people in America? Few whites, North or South, believed freed men and women could be integrated into American society as equals.

Native Americans and the RevolutionIndians viewed the American Revolution with considerable trepidation, sensing that the battle between white forces was essentially a battle over their own lands. Most tribes chose to stay out of the war, but those who fought did so for their own purposes, purposes in fact shared by the colonists: to secure freedom from encroachment and interference. But because Indians feared the Revolution would replace a somewhat trustworthy ruling group (the British, who had tried to limit the expansion of white settlement) with one they con-sidered hostile to them (the Patriots, who had spearheaded the expansion), most Indians who chose sides joined the British cause. Thus despite their similar agendas, the colonists developed a searing resentment of indigenous groups during the Revolution. In the Decla-ration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson even counted the inflaming of “merciless Indian Savages” among the British king’s crimes.

In the western Carolinas and Virginia, Cherokees led by Chief Dragging Canoe launched a series of attacks on outlying white settlements in the summer of 1776. Patriot militias responded in great force, ravaging Cherokee lands and forcing the chief and many of his followers to flee west across the Tennessee River. Those Cherokees who remained behind agreed to a new treaty by which they gave up still more land. Some Iroquois, despite the setbacks at Oriskany, continued to wage war against Americans in the West and caused widespread destruction in agricultural areas of New York and Pennsylvania. The retaliating American armies inflicted heavy losses on the Indians, but the attacks continued.

In the end, the Revolution generally weakened the position of Native Americans in several ways. The Patriot victory increased white demand for western lands. Many whites resented the assistance such nations as the Mohawk had given the British and insisted on treating them as a conquered people. Others drew from the Revolution a paternalistic view of the tribes. Jefferson, for example, despite his earlier venom, came to view the Indians as “noble savages,” uncivilized in their present state but redeemable if they were willing to adapt to the norms of white society.

The triumph of the Patriots in the Revolution contributed to the ultimate defeat of the Indian tribes. To white Americans, independence meant, among other things, their right to move aggressively into the western lands, despite the opposition of the Indians. To the


Indians, American independence was “the greatest blow that could have been dealt us,” one tribal leader warned.

Women’s Rights and RolesThe long Revolutionary War had a profound effect on white American women. The depar-ture of so many men to fight in the Patriot armies left women in charge of farms and businesses. Often, women handled these tasks with great success. But inflation, the unavail-ability of male labor, or the threat of enemy troops posed significant challenges. Some women whose husbands or fathers were called away to war did not have even a farm or shop to fall back on. Cities and towns had significant populations of impoverished women, who on occasion led protests against price increases, rioted, or looted food. At other times, women launched attacks on occupying British troops, whom they were required to house and feed at considerable expense.

Not all women stayed behind when the men went off to war. Some joined their male relatives in the camps of the Patriot armies. These female “camp followers” increased army morale and provided a ready source of volunteers to cook, launder, nurse, and do other necessary tasks. In the rough environment of the camps, traditional gender distinctions proved difficult to maintain. Considerable numbers of women became involved, at least intermittently, in combat. A few women even disguised themselves as men to be able to fight. The former indentured servant Deborah Sampson of Massachusetts refashioned herself as Robert Shur-tleff and served as a scout and combatant in New York and at the final siege of Yorktown. Her sex was later discovered but the state of Massachusetts granted her an army pension.

The emphasis on liberty and the “rights of man” led some women to begin to question their own position in society. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John Adams, in 1776, “In the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.” (See “Consider the Source: The Correspondence of Abigail Adams on Women’s Rights.”) Adams was simply calling for new protections against abusive and tyrannical men. A few women, however, went further. Judith Sargent Murray, one of the leading essayists of the late eighteenth century, wrote in 1779 that women’s minds were as good as those of men and that girls as well as boys therefore deserved access to education.

But little changed as a result. Under English common law, an unmarried woman had some legal rights, but a married woman had virtually no rights at all. Everything she owned and everything she earned belonged to her husband. Because she had no property rights, she could not engage in any legal transactions on her own. She could not vote. She had no legal authority over her children. Nor could she initiate a divorce; that, too, was a right reserved almost exclusively for men. After the Revolution, it did become easier for women to obtain divorces in a few states. Otherwise, there were few advances and some setbacks—including the loss of widows’ rights to regain their dowries from their husbands’ estates. The Revolution, in other words, did not really challenge, but actually confirmed and strengthened, the patriarchal legal system.

Still, the Revolution did encourage people of both sexes to reevaluate the contribution of women to the family and society. As the new republic searched for a cultural identity for itself, it attributed a higher value to the role of women as mothers. The new nation was, many Americans liked to believe, producing a new kind of citizen, steeped in the principles of liberty. Mothers had a particularly important task, therefore, in instructing their children in the virtues that the republican citizenry now was expected to possess.

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Between March and May 1776, Abigail Adams exchanged letters with her husband John on the matter of women’s rights in revo-lutionary America. She was the daughter of a minister and read widely despite lacking a formal education. The couple kept up a regu-lar correspondence on political and social issues of the day.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 31, 1776:I long to hear that you have declared an inde-pendency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favor-able to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be ty-rants if they could. If particular care and at-tention is not paid to the [150] ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up the harsh title of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend. Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impu-nity? Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the vassals of your sex; regard us then as beings placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, April 14, 1776:As to your extraordinary code of laws, I can-not but laugh. We have been told that our

struggle has loosened the bonds of govern-ment everywhere; that children and appren-tices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent; that Indians slighted their guardians, and negroes grew insolent to their masters. But your letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest, were grown discontented. This is rather too coarse a compliment, but you are so saucy, I won’t blot it out. Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Although they are in full force, you know they are little more than theory. We dare not exert our power in its full latitude. We are obliged to go fair and softly, and, in practice, you know we are the subjects. We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight; I am sure every good politician would plot, as long as he would against despotism, empire, monarchy, aris-tocracy, oligarchy, or ochlocracy.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, May 7, 1776:I cannot say that I think you are very gener-ous to the ladies; for, whilst you are pro-claiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives. But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstand-ing all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and, without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet;—“Charm by accepting, by submitting sway, Yet have our humor most when we obey.”


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1. What was Abigail Adams’s opinion of men in power and what did she request of John Adams as they declared independence?

2. To what other social developments did John Adams compare his wife’s

request? What did he mean by the “despotism of the petticoat” (a women’s undergarment)?

3. What did Abigail Adams predict in her May 7 letter to John Adams? What do you think of her assessment of “arbitrary power ”?

Source: Adams, John, Abigail Adams, and Charles Francis Adams, Familiar Letters of John Adams and His Wife Abigail Adams During the Revolution. Project Gutenberg, 1776.

The War EconomyThe Revolution also produced important changes in the structure of the American economy. After more than a century of dependence on the British imperial system, American commerce suddenly found itself on its own. British ships no longer protected American vessels. In fact, they tried to drive them from the seas. British imperial ports were closed to American trade. But this disruption in traditional economic patterns strengthened the American economy in the long run. Enterprising merchants in New England and elsewhere began to develop new commercial networks in the Caribbean and South America. By the mid-1780s, American merchants were also developing an important trade with Asia.

When British imports to America were cut off, states desperately tried to stimulate domestic manufacturing. No great industrial expansion resulted, but there was a modest increase in production. Trade also increased substantially among the American states.


At the same time as Americans were struggling to win their independence on the battlefield, they were also struggling to create new institutions of government to replace the British system they had repudiated.

The Principles of RepublicanismIf Americans agreed on nothing else, they agreed that their new governments would be republican. To them, republicanism meant a political system in which all power came from the people, rather than from some supreme authority like a king. The success of such a government depended on the character of its citizenry. If the population consisted of sturdy, independent property owners imbued with civic virtue, then the republic could survive. If it consisted of a few powerful aristocrats and a great mass of dependent work-ers, then it would be in danger. From the beginning, therefore, the ideal of the small freeholder (the independent landowner) was basic to American political ideology. Jefferson, the great champion of the independent yeoman farmer, once wrote: “Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.”

Another crucial part of republican ideology was the concept of equality. The Declara-tion of Independence had given voice to the idea in its most ringing phrase: “All men are

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created equal.” This idea would provide a powerful rhetorical framework for claimants to the rights of American citizenship for generations to come.

But for now, those rights went to a limited population of Americans. The United States was not a nation in which all men were independent property holders, and those who were not found their citizenship rights circ*mscribed. From the beginning, there was a sizable dependent labor force, white and black. White women remained both politically and eco-nomically subordinate. Native Americans were systematically exploited and displaced. Nor was there ever full equality of opportunity. American society was more open and fluid than that of most European nations, but the condition of a person’s birth was almost always a crucial determinant of success. As we have seen, even in northern states that abolished slavery, emancipation could be a slow process.

Important Revolutionary leaders, including John Adams, continued to defend a very narrow vision of citizenship and suffrage beyond the year 1776 and shuddered at the increas-ingly egalitarian calls for truly democratic government from the people of the young coun-try. One day, he predicted with fear, “new claims will arise; women will demand a vote; lads from twelve to twenty-one will think their claims not closely attended to; and every man who has not a farthing will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state.”

The First State ConstitutionsTwo states—Connecticut and Rhode Island—already had governments that were republican in all but name. They simply deleted references to England and the king from their charters and adopted them as constitutions. The other eleven states, however, produced new documents.

The first and perhaps most basic decision was that the constitutions were to be written down, unlike Britain’s unwritten constitution. The second decision was that the power of the executive, which Americans believed had grown too great in Britain, must be limited. Pennsylvania elim-inated the executive altogether. Most other states inserted provisions limiting the power of governors over appointments, reducing or eliminating their right to veto bills, and preventing them from dismissing the legislature. Most important, every state forbade the governor or any other executive officer from holding a seat in the legislature, thus ensuring that, unlike in Britain, the executive and legislative branches of government would remain separate.

Even so, most new constitutions did not embrace direct popular rule. In Georgia and Pennsylvania, the legislature consisted of one popularly elected house. But in every other state, there were upper and lower chambers, and in most cases the upper chamber was designed to represent the “higher orders” of society. There were property requirements for voters—some modest, others substantial—in all states. All of this roughly mimicked the workings of Parliament in Great Britain.

Revising State GovernmentsBy the late 1770s, Americans were growing concerned about the apparent instability of their new state governments. Many believed, once again, the problem was one of too much democracy. As a result, most of the states began to revise their constitutions to limit popular power. Massachusetts, which ratified its first constitution in 1780, became the first state to act on the new concerns.

Two changes in particular differentiated the Massachusetts and later constitutions from the earlier ones. The first was a change in the process of constitution writing itself. Most of the first documents had been written by state legislatures and thus could easily


be amended (or violated) by them. Massachusetts created the constitutional convention: a special assembly of the people that would meet only for the purpose of writing the constitution.

The second change was a significant strengthening of the executive. The 1780 Massa-chusetts constitution made the governor one of the strongest in any state. He was to be elected directly by the people; he was to have a fixed salary (in other words, he would not be dependent on the legislature each year for his wages); he would have significant appoint-ment powers and a veto over legislation. Other states followed. Those with weak or nonex-istent upper houses strengthened or created them. Most increased the powers of the governor. Pennsylvania, which had no executive at all at first, now produced a strong one. By the late 1780s, almost every state had either revised its constitution or drawn up an entirely new one in an effort to produce greater stability in government.

Most Americans continued to believe that religion should play some role in government, but they did not wish to give special privileges to any particular denomination. The privi-leges that churches had once enjoyed were now largely stripped away. In 1786, Virginia enacted the Statute of Religious Liberty, written by Thomas Jefferson, which called for the separation of church and state. But in Massachusetts, state-sponsored religion and religious constitutional clauses survived well into the nineteenth century.


Americans were much quicker to agree on state institutions than they were on the structure of their national government. At first, most believed that the central government should remain relatively weak and that each state would be virtually a sovereign nation. It was in response to such ideas that the Articles of Confederation emerged.

The ConfederationThe Articles of Confederation, which the Continental Congress had adopted in 1777, pro-vided for a national government much like the one already in place before independence. Congress remained the central—indeed the only—institution of national authority. Its powers expanded to give it authority to conduct wars and foreign relations and to appropriate, borrow, and issue money. But it did not have power to regulate trade, draft troops, or levy taxes directly on the people. For troops and taxes, it had to make formal requests of the state legislatures, which could—and often did—refuse them. There was no separate executive; the “president of the United States” was merely the presiding officer at the sessions of Congress. Each state had a single vote in Congress, and at least nine of the states had to approve any important measure. All thirteen state legislatures had to approve any amend-ment of the Articles.

During the process of ratifying the Articles of Confederation (which required approval by all thirteen states), broad disagreements over the plan became evident. The small states had insisted on equal state representation, but the larger states wanted representation based on population. The smaller states prevailed on that issue. More important, the states claiming western lands wished to keep them, but the rest of the states demanded that all such territory be turned over to the national government. New York and Virginia had to give up their western claims before the Articles were finally approved. They went into effect in 1781.

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The Confederation, which existed from 1781 until 1789, was not a complete failure, but it was far from a success. It lacked adequate powers to deal with interstate issues or to enforce its will on the states.

Diplomatic FailuresIn the peace treaty of 1783, the British had promised to evacuate American territory, but British forces continued to occupy a string of frontier posts along the Great Lakes within the United States. Nor did the British honor their agreement to make restitution to slave-owners whose slaves had made their way to British lines. Disputes also erupted over the northeastern boundary of the new nation and over the border between the United States and Florida. Most American trade remained within the British Empire, and Americans wanted full access to British markets. The government in London, however, placed sharp restrictions on that access.

In 1784, Congress sent John Adams as minister to London to resolve these differences, but Adams made no headway with the British, who were never sure whether he represented a single nation or thirteen different ones. Throughout the 1780s, the British government refused even to send a diplomatic minister to the American capital.

Confederation diplomats agreed to a treaty with Spain in 1786. The Spanish accepted the American interpretation of the Florida boundary. In return, the Americans recognized the Spanish possessions in North America and accepted limits on the right of U.S. vessels to navigate the Mississippi for twenty years. But southern states, incensed at the idea of giving up their access to the Mississippi, blocked ratification.

The Confederation and the NorthwestThe Confederation’s most important accomplishment was its resolution of controversies involving the western lands. The Confederation had to find a way to include these areas in the political structure of the new nation.

The Ordinance of 1784, based on a proposal by Thomas Jefferson, divided the west-ern territory into ten self-governing districts, each of which could petition Congress for statehood when its population equaled the number of free inhabitants of the smallest existing state. Then, in the Ordinance of 1785, Congress created a system for surveying and selling the western lands. The territory north of the Ohio River was to be surveyed and marked off into neat rectangular townships, each divided into thirty-six identical sections. In every township, four sections were to be reserved by the federal government for future use or sale (a policy that helped establish the idea of “public land”). The revenue from the sale of one of these federally reserved sections was to support creation of a public school.

The precise rectangular pattern imposed on the Northwest Territory—the grid—became a model for all subsequent land policies of the federal government and for many other planning decisions in states and localities. The grid also became characteristic of the layout of many American cities. It had many advantages. It eliminated the uncertainty about property borders that earlier, more informal land systems had produced. It sped the devel-opment of western lands by making land ownership simple and understandable. But it also encouraged a dispersed form of settlement—with each farm family separated from its neighbors—that made the formation of community more difficult. The 1785 Ordinance made a dramatic and indelible mark on the American landscape.


These ordinances proved highly favorable to land speculators and less so to ordinary settlers, many of whom could not afford the price of the land. Congress compounded the problem by selling much of the best land to the Ohio and Scioto Companies before making it available to anyone else. Criticism of these policies led to the passage in 1787 of another law governing western settlement—legislation that became known as the “Northwest Ordinance.” The 1787 Ordinance maintained the grid system, but it abandoned the ten districts established in 1784 and created a single Northwest Territory out of the lands north of the Ohio. The territory could be divided subsequently into three to five territories. It also specified a population of 60,000 as a minimum for statehood, guaranteed freedom of religion and the right to trial by jury to residents of the region, and prohibited slavery throughout the territory.

The western lands south of the Ohio River received less attention from Congress. The region that became Kentucky and Tennessee developed rapidly in the late 1770s as slaveowning territories, and in the 1780s began setting up governments and asking for statehood. The Con-federation Congress was never able to resolve the conflicting claims in that region successfully.



























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36*Four sections reserved for subsequent sales

Section 16 reserved for school funds

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The Seven Ranges—First Area SurveyedGEOGRAPHER’S LINE (BASE LINE)









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LAND SURVEY: ORDINANCE OF 1785 In the Ordinance of 1785, the Congress established a new system for surveying and selling western lands. These maps illustrate the way in which the lands were divided in an area of Ohio. Note the highly geometrical grid pattern that the ordinance imposed on these lands. Each of the squares in the map on the left was subdivided into 36 sections, as illustrated in the map at the lower right. • Why was this grid pattern so appealing to the planners of the western lands?

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Indians and the Western LandsOn paper, the western land policies of the Confederation brought order and stability to the process of white settlement in the Northwest. But in reality, order and stability came slowly and at great cost because much of the land belonged to Indians. Congress tried to resolve that problem in 1784, 1785, and 1786 by persuading Iroquois, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokee leaders to sign treaties ceding lands to the United States. However, those agreements proved ineffective. In 1786, the leadership of the Iroquois Confederacy repudiated the treaty it had signed two years earlier. Other tribes had never really accepted the treaties affecting them and continued to resist white movement into their lands.

Violence between whites and Indians on the Northwest frontier reached a crescendo in the early 1790s. In 1790 and again in 1791, the Miamis, led by the famed warrior Little Turtle, defeated U.S. forces in two major battles. Efforts to negotiate a settlement failed because of the Miamis’ insistence that no treaty was possible unless it forbade white settle-ment west of the Ohio River. Negotiations did not resume until after General Anthony Wayne led 4,000 soldiers into the Ohio Valley in 1794 and defeated the Indians in the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

A year later, the Miamis signed the Treaty of Greenville, ceding substantial lands in present-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan to the United States in exchange for a formal acknowledgment of their claim to territory beyond the new lines. But that hard-won assurance proved a frail protection against the pressure of white expansion.

Debts, Taxes, and Daniel ShaysThe postwar depression, which lasted from 1784 to 1787, increased the perennial American problem of an inadequate money supply, a burden that weighed particularly heavily on debtors. The Confederation itself had an enormous outstanding debt, accumulated during the Revolutionary War, and few means with which to pay it down. It had sold war bonds that were now due to be repaid, it owed money to its soldiers, and it carried substantial debts abroad. But with no power to tax, it could request money only from the states, and it received only about one-sixth of the money it asked for. The fragile new nation was faced with the grim prospect of defaulting on its obligations.

This alarming possibility brought to prominence a group of leaders who would play a crucial role in the shaping of the republic for several decades. Robert Morris, the head of the Confederation’s treasury, Alexander Hamilton, his young protégé, James Madison of Virginia, and others—all called for a “continental impost,” a 5 percent duty on imported goods to be levied by Congress and used to fund the debt. Many Americans, however, feared that the impost plan would concentrate too much financial power in the hands of Morris and his allies in Philadelphia. Congress failed to approve the impost in 1781 and again in 1783.

The states had war debts, too, and they generally relied on increased taxation to pay them. But poor farmers, already burdened by debt, considered such policies unfair. They demanded that the state governments issue paper currency to increase the money supply and make it easier for them to meet their obligations. Resentment was especially high among farmers in New England, who felt that the states were squeezing them to enrich already wealthy bondholders in Boston and other towns. Elite merchants and their allies controlled the state legislatures implementing the taxes in places like Massachusetts, further exacerbating class conflict. Here, in microcosm, were some of the tensions that


had concerned the revolutionary generation since 1776. In crafting a decentralized government and favoring the states, the framers of the Confederation made a weak Congress with debts and responsibilities but no way to meet them. When the states exercised their power to tax, it fell on common people to fund the public debt, a burden rather resembling ones of the colonial period. Farmers may have been technically “represented” in the legislatures, but elites still controlled them. Like before 1776, all of this might erupt into mob rule.

True to those fears, throughout the late 1780s, bands of distressed farmers rioted peri-odically in various parts of New England. Dissidents in the Connecticut Valley and the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts rallied behind Daniel Shays, a former captain in the Continental army representing farmers already impoverished by the dislocations of the war. Shays issued a set of demands that included paper money, tax relief, a moratorium on debts, and the abolition of imprisonment for debt. During the summer of 1786, the Shaysites prevented the collection of debts, private or public, and used force to keep courts from convening and sheriffs from selling confiscated property. When winter came, the rebels advanced on Springfield, hoping to seize weapons from the arsenal there. In Janu-ary 1787, an army of state militiamen set out from Boston, met Shays’s band, and dispersed his ragged troops.

As a military enterprise, Shays’s Rebellion was a failure, although it did produce some concessions to the aggrieved farmers. Shays and his lieutenants, at first sentenced to death, were later pardoned, and Massachusetts offered the protesters some tax relief and a post-ponement of debt payments. But the rebellion had important consequences for the future of the United States, for it added urgency to the movement to produce a new, national constitution.


DANIEL SHAYS AND JOB SHATTUCK Shays and Shattuck were the principal leaders of the 1786 uprising of poor Massachusetts farmers demanding relief from their indebtedness. Shattuck led an insurrection in the east, which collapsed when he was captured on November 30. Shays organized the rebellion in the west, which continued until it was finally dispersed by state militia in late February 1787. The following year, state authorities pardoned Shays; even before that, the legislature responded to the rebellion by providing some relief to the impoverished farmers. This drawing is part of a hostile account of the rebellion published in 1787 in a Boston almanac.

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Between a small, inconclusive battle on a village green in New England in 1775 and a momentous surrender at Yorktown in 1781, the American people fought a great and ter-rible war against the mightiest military nation in the world. Few would have predicted in 1775 that the makeshift armies of the colonies could withstand the forces of the British Empire. But a combination of luck, determination, costly errors by the British, and timely aid from abroad allowed the Patriots, as they began to call themselves, to make full use of the advantages of fighting on their home soil and to frustrate British designs.

This historic military event also propelled the colonies to unite, to organize, and to declare their independence. Having done so, they fought with even greater determination, defending an actual, fledgling nation. By the end of the war, they had created new govern-ments at both the state and national level and had begun experimenting with new political forms.

Yet although the Revolution hinged rhetorically on the notion of freedom from the Brit-ish monarchy, many of its architects harbored a narrow vision of that concept when it came to the actual practices of governance and power. Many of them openly believed only the best minds and the economically independent should enjoy the rights of citizenship, and in their view, such standards limited those rights to white males and usually just ones with property. But in the republic’s first days, the rhetoric of equality was already underwriting murmurings to expand the electorate, frightening some of the founders. And cracks were forming in the edifice of slavery, though it would be many generations before the institu-tion would crumble.

Victory in the American Revolution thus solved many of the problems of the new nation, but it also produced others. What should the United States do about its relations with the Indians and with its neighbors to the north and south? What should it do about the dis-tribution of western lands? What should it do about slavery? How should it balance its commitment to liberty with its need for order? These questions bedeviled the new national government in its first years of existence.


Abigail Adams 123American Patriots 111Articles of Confederation

111Battle of Fallen

Timbers 130Benedict Arnold 112Common Sense 110Declaration of

Independence 111

George Washington 111Hessians 107John Burgoyne 114Joseph and Mary Brant 114Lord Cornwallis 116Lord Dunmore’s

Proclamation 107Loyalists (Tories) 112Northwest Ordinance 129republicanism 125

Saratoga 114Second Continental

Congress 107Shays’s Rebellion 131Thomas Jefferson 111William Howe 113yeoman farmers 125Yorktown 117



1. What questions did the Second Continental Congress debate, and how did it address them?

2. What was the impact of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense on Americans’ view of the war with Britain?

3. What were the ideals of the new state and national governments, and how did those ideals compare with the realities of American society?

4. What was the purpose of the Articles of Confederation?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

134 •

BY THE LATE 1780S, many Americans had grown dissatisfied with the Confederation. It was, they believed, ridden with factions, unable to deal effectively with economic prob-lems, and frighteningly powerless in the face of Shays’s Rebellion. A decade earlier, Americans had deliberately avoided creating a strong national government, fearing it would encroach on the sovereignty of the individual states. Now they reconsidered.

In the summer of 1787, delegates from every state except Rhode Island gathered in Philadelphia to produce a new governing document for the country. Behind closed doors, disagreements flared over how to represent the states in a new Congress, how to treat the matter of slavery, how to balance individual rights and the common good, and perhaps above all, how to share power between the federal government and the states and mitigate against dangerous aggregations of authority.

By September, the delegates had produced a new constitution that created a much more powerful government with three independent branches. The document then came in for intense debate while the states considered ratification. “Federalists” defended the Constitu-tion and thought it properly checked the power of the masses; “Antifederalists” argued it gave


1. What were the most important questions debated at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and how were they resolved?

2. What were the main tenets of the Federalist and Antifederalist arguments on ratifi-cation of the Constitution?

3. What were the origins of America’s “first party system”?




• 135

too much power to the federal government and worried about the rights of citizens. In 1788, the last few states to decide voted to ratify, with assurances that amendments would be added to guarantee individual rights. But the adoption of the Constitution did not complete the creation of the republic, for although most people came to agree that the Constitution should guide American gov-ernance, they often disagreed on what that document meant.


The Confederation Congress had become so unpopular and ineffectual by the mid-1780s that it began to lead an almost waif-like existence. In 1783, its members timidly withdrew from Philadelphia to escape army veterans demanding their back pay. They took refuge for a while in Princeton, New Jersey, then moved on to Annapolis, Mary-land, and in 1785 settled in New York. Del-egates were often scarce. Only with great difficulty could Congress produce a quorum to ratify the treaty with Great Britain, end-ing the Revolutionary War.

Advocates of ReformIn the 1780s, some of the wealthiest and most powerful groups in the population began to clamor for a stronger national gov-ernment. By 1786, such demands had grown so intense that even defenders of the exist-ing system reluctantly agreed that the gov-ernment needed strengthening at its weakest point—its lack of power to tax.

The most effective advocate of a stronger national government was Alexander Hamilton, a successful New York lawyer and illegitimate son of a Scottish merchant in the West Indies. Hamilton now called for a national convention to overhaul the Articles of Confederation. He found an important


Annapolis Conference


First Bank of U.S. chartered


Whiskey Rebellion

Jay’s Treaty


John Adams elected president


Quasi war with France

Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions


Washington becomes first president

Bill of Rights

French Revolution

Judiciary Act


Washington reelected


Pinckney’s Treaty


XYZ Affair

Alien and Sedition Acts


Constitutional Convention;

Constitution adopted


States ratify Constitution



Jefferson elected president

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ally in James Madison of Virginia, who persuaded the Virginia legislature to convene an interstate conference on commercial questions. Only five states sent delegates to the meet-ing, which took place at Annapolis in 1786, but the conference approved a proposal by Hamilton for a convention of special delegates from all the states to meet in Philadelphia the next year.

At first there seemed little reason to believe the Philadelphia convention would attract any more delegates than had the Annapolis meeting. Then, early in 1787, the news of Shays’s Rebellion spread throughout the nation, alarming many previously apathetic lead-ers, including George Washington, who promptly made plans to travel to Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention. Washington’s support gave the meeting wide credibility.

A Divided ConventionFifty-five men, representing all the states except Rhode Island, attended one or more ses-sions of the convention that sat in the Philadelphia State House from May to September 1787. These “Founding Fathers,” as they became known much later, averaged forty-four years in age and were well educated by the standards of their time. Most were wealthy property owners, and many feared what one of them called the “turbulence and follies” of democracy. Yet all retained the revolutionary suspicion of concentrated power.

The convention unanimously chose Washington to preside over its sessions and then closed it to the public and press. It then ruled that each state delegation would have a single vote and that major decisions would require not unanimity, as they did in Congress, but a simple majority. Almost all the delegates agreed that the United States needed a stronger central government. But there agreement ended.

Virginia, the most populous state, sent a well-prepared delegation to Philadelphia led by James Madison, who had devised in some detail a plan for a new “national” government. The Virginia Plan shaped the agenda of the convention from the moment Edmund Randolph of Virginia opened the debate by proposing that “a national government ought to be estab-lished, consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary.” Even that brief descrip-tion outlined a government very different from the Confederation. But the delegates were so committed to fundamental reform that they approved the resolution after only brief debate.

There was less agreement about the details of Madison’s Virginia Plan. It called for a national legislature of two houses, with states represented in both bodies in proportion to their population. Smaller states, quite predictably, raised immediate objections. William Paterson of New Jersey offered an alternative (the New Jersey Plan) that would retain the essence of the Confederation with its one-house legislature in which all states had equal representation. It would, however, give Congress expanded powers to tax and to regulate commerce. The convention rejected Paterson’s proposal, but supporters of the Virginia Plan now realized they would have to make concessions to the smaller states. They agreed to permit members of the upper house (what became the Senate) to be elected by state leg-islatures, not the general voting public.

Many questions remained unresolved. Among the most important was the question of slavery. There was no serious discussion of abolishing slavery during the convention. But other issues were debated heatedly. Would slaves be counted as part of the population in determining representation in Congress? Or would they be considered property, not entitled to representation? Delegates from the states with large slave populations wanted to have it both ways. They argued that slaves should be considered persons in determining represen-tation but as property if the new government levied taxes on the states on the basis of


population. Representatives from states where slavery had disappeared or was expected to disappear argued the opposite, that slaves should be included in calculating taxation but not representation.

CompromiseThe delegates bickered for weeks. By the end of June, with both temperature and tempers rising, the convention seemed in danger of collapsing. Finally, on July 2, the convention created a “grand committee,” comprised of one delegate from each state, which produced a proposal that became the basis of the “Great Compromise.” It called for a two-house legislature. In the lower House of Representatives, the states would be represented on the basis of population. Each slave would be counted as three-fifths of a free person in deter-mining the basis for both representation and direct taxation. In the upper Senate the states would be represented equally with two members apiece. On July 16, 1787, the convention voted to accept the compromise.

In the next few weeks, the convention agreed to another important compromise. To placate southern delegates, who feared the new government would interfere with slavery, the convention agreed to bar the new government from stopping the slave trade for twenty years.

Some significant issues remained unaddressed. The Constitution provided no definition of citizenship. Nor did it resolve the status of Native American tribes. Most important to many Americans was the absence of a list of individual rights, which would restrain the powers of the national government. Madison opposed the idea, arguing that specifying rights that were reserved to the people would, in effect, limit those rights. Others, however, feared that without such protections the national government might abuse its new authority.

The Constitution of 1787Many people contributed to the creation of the American Constitution, but the most impor-tant person in the process was James Madison. Madison had devised the Virginia Plan, and he did most of the drafting of the Constitution itself. Madison’s most important achievement, however, was in helping resolve two important philosophical questions: the question of sovereignty and the question of limiting power. (For historians’ evolving views on the Constitution’s purpose, see “Debating the Past: The Meaning of the Constitution.”)

How could a national government exercise sovereignty concurrently with state govern-ments? Where did ultimate sovereignty lie? The answer, Madison and his contemporaries decided, was that all power, at all levels of government, flowed ultimately from the people. Thus neither the federal government nor the state governments were truly sovereign. All of them derived their authority from below. The resolution of the problem of sovereignty made possible one of the distinctive features of the Constitution—its federalism, or division of powers between the national and state governments. The Constitution and the govern-ment it created were to be the “supreme law” of the land. At the same time, however, the Constitution left important powers in the hands of the states.

In addition to addressing the question of sovereignty, the writers of the Constitution resolved to spread authority over several centers of power. Drawing from the ideas of the French philosopher Baron de Montesquieu, the framers endeavored to prevent any single group, or tyrannical individual, from dominating the government. The Constitution pro-vided for a separation of powers within the government, managed by a system of checks and balances among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The forces within the


The Meaning of the ConstitutionThe Constitution of the United States inspired debate from the moment it was drafted. Some argue that the Constitution is a flexible document intended to evolve in response to society’s evolution. Others counter that it has a fixed meaning, rooted in the “original intent” of the framers, and that to move beyond that is to deny its value.

Historians, too, disagree about why the Constitution was written and what it meant. To some scholars, the creation of the federal system was an effort to preserve the ideals of the Revolution and to create a strong national government capable of exercising real authority. To others, the Constitution was an effort to protect the economic inter-ests of existing elites, even at the cost of betraying the principles of the Revolution. And to still others, the Constitution was designed to protect individual freedom and to limit the power of the federal government.

The first influential exponent of the heroic view of the Constitution as the culmination of the Revolution was John Fiske, whose book The Critical Period of American History (1888) painted a grim picture of political life under the Articles of Confederation. Many problems, including economic difficulties, the weakness and ineptitude of the national government, threats from abroad, interstate jealousies, and widespread lawlessness, beset the new nation. Fiske argued that only the timely adoption of the Constitution saved the young republic from disaster.

In An Economic Interpretation of the Constitu-tion of the United States (1913), Charles A. Beard presented a powerful challenge to Fiske’s view. According to Beard, the 1780s had been a “critical period” primarily for conservative business interests who feared that the decentralized political structure of

the republic imperiled their financial posi-tion. Such men, he claimed, wanted a gov-ernment able to promote industry and trade, protect private property, and perhaps, most of all, make good the public debt—much of which was owed to them. The Constitution was, Beard claimed, “an economic document drawn with superb skill by men whose prop-erty interests were immediately at stake” and who won its ratification over the opposi-tion of a majority of the people.

A series of powerful challenges to Beard’s thesis emerged in the 1950s. The Constitu-tion, many scholars now began to argue, was not an effort to preserve property but an enlightened effort to ensure stability and order. Robert E. Brown, for example, argued in 1956 that “absolutely no correlation” could be shown between the wealth of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention and their position on the Constitution. Examining the debate between the Federalists and the Anti-federalists, Forrest McDonald, in We the People (1958), also concluded that there was no consistent relationship between wealth and property and support for the Constitution. Instead, opinion on the new system was far more likely to reflect local and regional inter-ests. These challenges greatly weakened Beard’s argument. Few historians any longer accept his thesis without reservation.

In the 1960s, scholars began again to revive an economic interpretation of the Constitution—one that differed from Beard’s but nevertheless emphasized social and economic factors as motives for sup-porting the federal system. Jackson Turner Main argued in The Anti-federalists (1961) that supporters of the Constitution were “cosmo-politan commercialists,” eager to advance the economic development of the nation; the

Antifederalists, by contrast, were “agrarian localists,” fearful of centralization. Gordon Wood, in The Creation of the American Republic (1969), suggested that the debate over the state constitutions in the 1770s and 1780s reflected profound social divisions and that those same divisions helped shape the argu-ment over the federal Constitution. The Fed-eralists, Wood suggested, were largely traditional aristocrats who had become deeply concerned by the instability of life under the Articles of Confederation and were particularly alarmed by the decline in popular deference toward social elites. The creation of the Constitution was part of a larger search to create a legitimate political leader-ship based on the existing social hierarchy. It reflected the efforts of elites to contain what they considered the excesses of democracy.

More recently, historians have continued to examine the question of “intent.” Did the framers intend a strong, centralized political system; or did they intend to create a decen-tralized system with a heavy emphasis on indi-vidual rights? The answer, according to Jack Rakove in Original Meanings (1996), and Revolu-tionaries (2010), is both—and many other things as well. The Constitution, he argues, was the result of a long and vigorous debate through which the views of many different groups found their way into the document. James Madison, generally known as the father of the Constitution, was a strong nationalist, as was Alexander Hamilton. They believed that only a powerful central government could pre-serve stability in a large nation, and they saw the Constitution as a way to protect order and property and defend the nation against the dangers of too much liberty. But if Madison and Hamilton feared too much liberty, they also feared too little. And that made them receptive to the demands of the Antifederal-ists for protections of individual rights, which culminated in the Bill of Rights. The very “mid-dling sorts” who had exercised more and more power since 1776, scaring many conservative founders, also helped push for such citizen rights, Woody Holton argues in Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution (2007).

The framers differed as well in their views of the proper relationship between the federal government and the state governments. Madison favored unquestioned federal supremacy, while many others, who wanted to preserve the rights of the states, saw in the federal system—and in its division of sover-eignty among different levels and branches of government—a guarantee against too much national power. The Constitution is not, Rak-ove argues, “infinitely malleable.” But neither does it have a fixed meaning that can be an inflexible guide to how we interpret it today. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. Is the Constitution a conservative, liberal, or radical document?

2. Did the framers consider the Constitu-tion something “finished” (with the exception of constitutional amend-ments), or did they consider it a document that would evolve in response to changes in society over time?

3. Which parts of the Constitution suggest that the framers’ intent was to create a strong, centralized political system? Which parts suggest that the framers’ intent was to create a decen-tralized system with heavy emphasis on individual rights?

(Source: National Archives and Records Administration)

140 • CHAPTER 6

government would constantly check one another. Congress would have two chambers, each constraining the other, since both would have to agree before any law could be passed. The president would have the power to veto acts of Congress. The federal courts would be protected from both the executive and the legislature, because judges would serve for life.

The “federal” structure of the government was designed to protect the United States from the kind of despotism that Americans believed had emerged in Britain. Framers of the Constitution wanted a stronger central government, but one not too strong. Likewise, they wanted a government representative of and answerable to the popular will, but not too much so. Many of them harbored limited trust in the abilities of citizens to put the common good before their individual needs, and pointed to Shays’s Rebellion as recent evidence of popular power run amok. Thus in the new government, only the members of the House of Representatives would be elected directly by the people. Senators would be chosen by state legislatures. The president would be chosen by an electoral college, with each state promoting electors to that body however it saw fit but equal to the total number of the state’s members of Congress (Senate plus House). No requirement was written into the Constitution that these electors cast their ballots for president and vice president according to the popular will in their states, though that later became the accepted practice when states began recording a popular vote. Federal judges would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

On September 17, 1787, thirty-nine delegates signed the Constitution. It was a document that established a democratic republic governed by white people, mostly white men. The framers did not explicitly define citizenship—the legal recognition of a person’s inclusion in a body politic through the granting of rights and privileges—but common wisdom and jurisprudence held that birth in the United States and whiteness made one a citizen. Con-gress made this explicit for immigrants with the Naturalization Act of 1790, which helped legalize the stream of newcomers and allowed them to become citizens—provided they were “free white person[s].”

States were left to adjudicate the particulars of citizenship and suffrage rights, but in general they reserved that status for white people and those privileges for white male prop-erty owners. New Jersey allowed propertied white women to vote, but brought its suffrage laws into line with those of the other (male suffrage only) states in 1807. A few states would extend citizenship and suffrage rights to free blacks, and free blacks in South Carolina and North Carolina petitioned their state legislature and the U.S. Congress in 1791 and 1797, respectively, for some of the protections afforded white people by the Constitution. Both met rejection, and indeed, black citizenship at the state level was not the norm. They were not, one southern official noted, “constituent members of our society.”

Thomas Jefferson worried about excluding “a whole race of men” from the natural rights he had done much to promote. But he could never accept the idea that black men and women could attain the level of knowledge and intelligence of white people, despite an intimate relationship with a black woman, Sally Hemings, who was enslaved on Jefferson’s plantation in Virginia. He lived with her after the death of his wife and fathered several of her children, yet he did not change his position on slavery. Unlike George Washington, who freed his slaves after his death, Jefferson (deeply in debt) required his heirs to sell his slaves upon his death, after liberating the Hemings family.

Jefferson did profess to believe Native Americans could be taught the ways of “civiliza-tion,” taught to live as white Americans did. And indigenous groups had at least the sem-blance of a legal status within the nation, through treaties that assured them of land possession. But most of these treaties did not survive for long, and native groups found


themselves driven farther and farther west without very much of the protection the govern-ment had promised. Efforts to teach Anglo farming methods, whereby men did the farming and women cared for the home, clashed with Native American practices and traditions.

Thus indigenous groups, African Americans, and women enjoyed virtually none of the citizenship rights offered to the white population. It was not until 1868 that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed people of color born in the United States the status, if not yet the privileges, of citizenship. Indians were not granted birthright citizenship in the United States until the 1920s. And though some states passed woman suffrage laws in the late nineteenth century, it wasn’t until 1920 that women secured ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, giving them the ballot throughout the nation.


The delegates at Philadelphia had greatly exceeded their instructions from Congress and the states. Instead of making simple revisions in the Articles of Confederation, they had produced a plan for a completely different form of government. They feared that the Con-stitution would not be ratified under the rules of the Articles of Confederation, which required unanimous approval by the state legislatures. So the convention changed the rules, proposing that the new government would come into being when nine of the thirteen states ratified the Constitution and recommending that state conventions, not state legislatures, be called to ratify it.

Federalists and AntifederalistsThe Congress in New York accepted the convention’s work and submitted it to the states for approval. All the state legislatures except Rhode Island elected delegates to ratifying conventions, most of which began meeting in early 1788. Even before the ratifying conven-tions convened, however, a great national debate on the new Constitution had begun.

Supporters of the Constitution had a number of advantages. Better organized than their opponents, they seized an appealing label for themselves: Federalists—a term that opponents of centralization had once used to describe themselves—thus implying that they were less committed to a “nationalist” government than in fact they were. In addition, the Federalists had the support of not only the two most eminent men in America, Ben Franklin and George Washington, but also the ablest political philosophers of their time: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Under the joint pseudonym Publius, these three men wrote a series of essays, widely published in newspapers throughout the nation, explaining the meaning and virtues of the Constitution. The essays were later gathered together and published as a book known today as The Federalist Papers. In just one exam-ple, the papers defended the controversial “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitu-tion, an important measure that gave Congress sweeping authority to make laws “necessary and proper” to executing the federal government’s authority. The states, not Congress, had been given that sort of incidental power by the outgoing Articles of Confederation.

The Federalists called their critics “Antifederalists,” suggesting that their rivals had nothing to offer except opposition. But the Antifederalists, too, led by such distinguished revolutionary leaders as Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams, had serious arguments. They were, they believed, the defenders of the true principles of the Revolution. They believed that the Constitution would increase taxes, weaken the states, wield dictatorial powers, favor the “well-born” over

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the common people, and abolish individual liberty. Antifederalists found the necessary and proper clause a particularly frightening transfer of powers not expressly “delegated” by the Constitution from the states to the federal government. But their biggest complaint was that the Constitution lacked a bill of rights. Only by enumerating the natural rights of the people, they argued, could there be any certainty that those rights would be protected.

Despite the efforts of the Antifederalists, ratification proceeded quickly during the win-ter of 1787–1788. The Delaware convention, the first to act, ratified the Constitution unan-imously, as did the New Jersey and Georgia conventions. And in June 1788, New Hampshire, the critical ninth state, ratified the document. It was now theoretically possible for the Constitution to go into effect. But a new government could not hope to succeed without Virginia and New York, the largest states, whose conventions remained closely divided. By the end of June, first Virginia and then New York consented to the Constitution by narrow margins, and on the assumption that a bill of rights would be added in the form of amend-ments to the Constitution. North Carolina’s convention adjourned without taking action, waiting to see what happened with the amendments. Rhode Island, controlled by staunch opponents of centralized government, did not even consider ratification.

Completing the StructureThe first elections under the Constitution were held in the early months of 1789. There was never any doubt about who would be the first president. George Washington had pre-sided at the Constitutional Convention, and many who had favored ratification did so only because they expected him to preside over the new government as well. Washington received the votes of all the presidential electors. (John Adams, a leading Federalist, became vice

(Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington)

GEORGE WASHINGTON AT MOUNT VERNON Washington was in his first term as president in 1790 when an anonymous folk artist painted this view of his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Washington appears in uniform, along with members of his family, on the lawn. After he retired from office in 1797, Washington returned happily to his plantation and spent the two years before his death in 1799 “amusing myself in agricultural and rural pursuits.” He also played host to an endless stream of visitors from throughout the country and Europe.


president.) After a journey from his estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia, marked by elaborate celebrations along the way, Washington was inaugurated in New York on April 30, 1789.

The first Congress served in many ways as a continuation of the Constitutional Conven-tion. Its most important task was drafting a bill of rights. By early 1789, even Madison had come to agree that some sort of bill of rights would be essential to legitimize the new government. On September 25, 1789, Congress approved twelve amendments, ten of which were ratified by the states by the end of 1791. These first ten amendments to the Constitu-tion comprise what we know as the Bill of Rights. Nine of them placed limitations on the new government by forbidding it to infringe on certain fundamental rights: freedom of religion, speech, and the press, immunity from arbitrary arrest, trial by jury, and others.

The Bill of Rights had very specific terms. Provisions for the judiciary branch were more vague. The Constitution said only: “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” It was left to Congress to determine the number of Supreme Court judges to be appointed and the kinds of lower courts to be organized. In the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress provided for a Supreme Court of six members and a system of lower district courts and courts of appeal. It also gave the Supreme Court the power to make the final decision in cases involving the constitutionality of state laws.

The Constitution also said little about the organization of the executive branch. It referred indirectly to executive departments but did not specify which ones or how many there should be. The first Congress created three such departments—state, treasury, and war—and also established the offices of the attorney general and postmaster general. To the office of secretary of the treasury, Washington appointed Alexander Hamilton of New York. For secretary of war, he chose a Massachusetts Federalist, General Henry Knox. He named Edmund Randolph of Virginia as attorney general and chose another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, for secretary of state.


The framers of the Constitution had dealt with many controversies by papering them over with a series of vague compromises. As a result, the disagreements survived to plague the new government.

At the heart of the controversies of the 1790s was the same basic difference in philoso-phy that had fueled the debate over the Constitution. On one side stood a powerful group who envisioned America as a genuine nation-state, with centralized authority and a complex commercial economy. On the other side stood thinkers who envisioned a more modest national government. Rather than aspire to be a highly commercial or urban nation, it should remain predominantly rural and agrarian. The centralizers became known as the Federalists and gravitated to the leadership of Alexander Hamilton. Their opponents acquired the name Republicans and admired the views of Thomas Jefferson as well as James Madison, who grew skeptical of Federalist rule.

Hamilton and the FederalistsFor twelve years, the Federalists retained firm control over the new government. That was in part because George Washington had always envisioned a strong national government. But the president, Washington believed, should stand above political controversies, and so he avoided

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personal involvement in the deliberations of Congress. As a result, the dominant figure in his administration became Alexander Hamilton. Of all the national leaders of his time, Hamilton was one of the most aristocratic in his political philosophy. He believed a stable and effective government required an elite ruling class. Thus the new government needed the support of the wealthy and powerful, and to get that, it needed to give elites a stake in its success.

Hamilton proposed, therefore, that the existing public debt be “funded.” This meant that the various certificates of indebtedness that the old Congress had issued during and after the Revolution—many of them now in the possession of wealthy speculators—be called in and exchanged for interest-bearing bonds. He also recommended that the states’ revolution-ary debts be “assumed” (taken over) to cause state bondholders also to look to the central government for eventual payment. Hamilton wanted to create a permanent national debt, with new bonds being issued as old ones were paid off. He hoped to motivate the wealthy classes, who were the most likely to lend money to the government, to support perpetually the survival of that centralized state.

Hamilton also wanted to create a national bank. It would provide loans and currency to businesses, give the government a safe place for the deposit of federal funds, facilitate the collection of taxes and the disbursem*nt of the government’s expenditures, and provide a stable center to the nation’s small and feeble banking system. The bank would be char-tered by the federal government, but much of its capital would come from private investors.

The funding and assumption of debts would require new sources of revenue. Hamilton recommended two kinds of taxes to complement the receipts anticipated from the sales of public land. One was an excise tax on alcoholic beverages, a tax that would be most bur-densome to the whiskey distillers of the backcountry, small farmers who converted part of their corn and rye crops into whiskey. The other was a tariff on imports, which Hamilton saw not only as a way to raise money but also as a way to protect domestic industries from foreign competition. In his famous “Report on Manufactures” of 1791, he outlined a plan for stimulating the growth of industry and spoke glowingly of the advantages to society of a healthy manufacturing sector.

The Federalists, in short, offered more than a vision of a stable new government. They offered a vision of the sort of nation America should become—a nation with a wealthy, enlightened ruling class, a vigorous, independent commercial economy, and a thriving manufacturing sector.

Enacting the Federalist ProgramFew members of Congress objected to Hamilton’s plan for funding the national debt, but many did oppose his proposal to exchange new bonds for old certificates of indebtedness on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Many of the original holders had been forced to sell during the hard times of the 1780s to speculators, who had bought them at a fraction of their face value. James Madison, now a House representative from Virginia, argued for a plan by which the new bonds would be divided between the original purchasers and the speculators. But Hamilton’s allies insisted that the honor of the government required a literal fulfillment of its earlier promises to pay whoever held the bonds. Congress finally passed the funding bill Hamilton wanted.

Hamilton’s proposal that the federal government assume the state debts encountered greater difficulty. Its opponents argued that if the federal government took over the state debts, the states with small debts would have to pay taxes to service the states with large ones. Massachusetts, for example, owed much more money than did Virginia. Only by


striking a bargain with the Virginians were Hamilton and his supporters able to win passage of the assumption bill.

The deal involved the location of the national capital, which the Virginians wanted near them in the South. Hamilton and Jefferson met and agreed to exchange northern support for placing the capital in the South for Virginia’s votes for the assumption bill. The bargain called for the construction of a new capital city on the banks of the Potomac River, which divided Maryland and Virginia, on land to be selected by George Washington.

Hamilton’s bank bill produced the most heated debates. Madison, Jefferson, Randolph, and others argued that because the Constitution made no provision for a national bank, Congress had no authority to create one. But Congress agreed to Hamilton’s bill despite these objections, and Washington signed it. The Bank of the United States began operations in 1791.

Hamilton also had his way with the excise tax, although protests from farmers later forced revisions to reduce the burden on smaller distillers. He failed to win passage of a tariff as highly protective as he had hoped for, but the tariff law of 1792 did raise the rates somewhat.

Once enacted, Hamilton’s program won the support of manufacturers, creditors, and other influential segments of the population. But others found it less appealing. Small farm-ers complained they were being taxed excessively. They and others began to argue that the Federalist program served the interests of a small number of wealthy elites rather than the people at large. From these sentiments, an organized political opposition arose.

The Republican OppositionThe Constitution made no reference to political parties. Most of the framers believed that organized parties were dangerous “factions” to be avoided. Disagreement was inevitable on particular issues, but they believed that such disagreements need not and should not lead to the formation of permanent factions.

Yet not many years had passed after the ratification of the Constitution before Madison and others became convinced that Hamilton and his followers had become dangerous and self-interested. The Federalists had used the powers of their offices to reward their support-ers and win additional allies. They were doing many of the same things, their opponents believed, that the corrupt British governments of the early eighteenth century had done.

Because the Federalists appeared to their critics so menacing and tyrannical, there was no alternative but to organize a vigorous opposition. The result was the emergence of an alternative political organization, whose members ultimately called themselves “Democratic-Republicans” or just Republicans. (These first Republicans are not institutionally related to the modern Republican Party, which was created in the 1850s.) By the late 1790s, Republicans were going to even greater lengths than Federalists to create vehicles of partisan influence. In every state they formed committees, societies, and caucuses. Repub-lican groups banded together to influence state and local elections. Neither side was willing to admit that it was acting as a party, nor would either concede the right of the other to exist. This institutionalized factionalism is known to historians as the “first party system.”

From the beginning, the preeminent figures among the Republicans were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The most prominent spokesman for the cause, Jefferson promoted a vision of an agrarian republic in which most citizens would farm their own land. Jefferson did not scorn commercial or industrial activity. But he believed that the nation should be wary of too much urbanization and industrialization.

Although both parties had supporters across the country and among all classes, there were regional and economic differences. Federalists were most numerous in the commercial

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centers of the Northeast and in such southern seaports as Charleston. Republicans were stronger in rural areas of the South and West. The difference in their philosophies was visible in, among other things, their reactions to the progress of the French Revolution. As that revolution grew increasingly radical in the 1790s, the Federalists expressed horror. But the Republicans applauded the democratic, anti-aristocratic spirit they believed the French Revolution embodied.

When the time came for the nation’s second presidential election, in 1792, both Jefferson and Hamilton urged Washington to run for a second term. The president reluctantly agreed. But while Washington had the respect of both factions, he was, in reality, more in sympa-thy with the Federalists than with the Republicans.


The Federalists consolidated their position by acting effectively in managing the western territories and diplomacy.

Securing the WestDespite the Northwest Ordinance, the old Congress had largely failed to tie the outlying western areas of the country firmly to the national government. Farmers in western Massachusetts had rebelled. Settlers in Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee had flirted with seceding from the Union. At first, the new government under the Constitution faced simi-lar problems.

In 1794, farmers in western Pennsylvania raised a major challenge to federal authority when they refused to pay the new whiskey excise tax and began terrorizing tax collectors in

(Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington)

THE JEFFERSONIAN IDYLL American artists in the early nineteenth century were drawn to tranquil rural scenes, symbolic of the Jeffersonian vision of a nation of small, independent farmers. By 1822, when Francis Alexander painted Ralph Wheelock’s Farm, the simple agrarian republic was already being transformed by rapid economic growth.


the region. But the federal government did not leave settlement of the so-called Whiskey Rebellion to the authorities of Pennsylvania. At Hamilton’s urging, Washington called out the militias of three states and assembled an army of nearly 15,000, and he personally led the troops into Pennsylvania. At the approach of the militiamen, the rebellion quickly collapsed.

The federal government won the allegiance of the whiskey rebels through intimidation. It secured the loyalties of other western people by accepting new states as members of the Union. The last two of the original thirteen colonies joined the Union once the Bill of Rights had been appended to the Constitution—North Carolina in 1789 and Rhode Island in 1790. Vermont became the fourteenth state in 1791, after New York and New Hampshire agreed to give up their rights to it. Next came Kentucky, in 1792, when Virginia relinquished its claim to that region. After North Carolina ceded its western lands to the Union, Tennessee became a state in 1796.

The new government faced a greater challenge in more distant areas of the Northwest and the Southwest. The ordinances of 1784–1787, establishing the terms of white settle-ment in the West, had produced a series of border conflicts with indigenous peoples. The new government inherited these tensions, which continued with few interruptions for nearly a decade.

Such clashes revealed another issue the Constitution had done little to resolve: the place of Native Americans within the new federal structure. The Constitution gave Con-gress power to “regulate Commerce . . . with the Indian tribes.” And it bound the new government to respect treaty agreements negotiated by the Confederation, most of which had been struck with tribal representatives. But none of this did very much to clarify the precise legal standing of Indians within the United States. The tribes received no direct representation in the new government. Above all, the Constitution did not address the major issue of land. Native Americans lived within the boundaries of the United States, yet they claimed (and the white government at times agreed) that they had some measure of sovereignty over their own land. But neither the Constitution nor common law offered any clear guide to the rights of a “nation within a nation” or to the precise nature of indigenous sovereignty.

Maintaining NeutralityA crisis in Anglo–American relations emerged in 1793, when the revolutionary French government went to war with Great Britain. Both the president and Congress took steps to establish American neutrality in the conflict, but that neutrality was severely tested.

Early in 1794, the Royal Navy began seizing hundreds of American ships engaged in trade in the French West Indies. Hamilton was deeply concerned. War would mean an end to imports from Britain, and most of the revenue for maintaining his financial system came from duties on those imports. Hamilton and the Federalists did not trust the State Depart-ment, now in the hands of the ardently pro-French Edmund Randolph, to find a solution to the crisis. So they persuaded Washington to name a special commissioner—the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay—to go to England and negotiate a solution. Jay was instructed to secure compensation for the recent British assaults on American shipping, to demand withdrawal of British forces from their posts on the frontier of the United States, and to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain.

The long and complex treaty Jay negotiated in 1794 failed to achieve all these goals. But it settled the conflict with Britain, avoiding a likely war. It provided for undisputed American sovereignty over the entire Northwest and produced a reasonably satisfactory

148 •


In this open letter to the American people, drafted by James Madison in 1792 and later revised with the aid of Alexander Hamilton, President Washington defended the young Constitution and warned against disunity among the nation’s various states and politi-cal factions. Here he cautions citizens about another threat to the republic—entangling engagements abroad.

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct. And can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlight-ened, and, at no distant period, a great nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. . . .

In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, invet-erate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded, and that, in place of them just and amicable feelings toward all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. The nation prompted by ill will and resentment sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject. . . .

So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facili-tating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common

interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. . . .

As avenues to foreign influence in innu-merable ways, such attachments are par-ticularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many oppor-tunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak toward a great and powerful nation dooms the for-mer to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fel-low citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. . . .

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our com-mercial relation to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have no, or a very remote, rela-tion. Hence she must be engaged in fre-quent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different


• 149

course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scru-pulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by jus-tice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so pecu-liar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, inter-est, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of per-manent alliances with any portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it. For let me not be under-stood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim of less applicable to public than to private affairs that honesty is always the best pol-icy. I repeat therefore, let those engage-ments be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable

defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our com-mercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor grant-ing exclusive favors or preferences; . . . con-stantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such accep-tance it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingrati-tude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.


1. What advice did George Washington offer on foreign policy?

2. Did Washington advocate the complete isolation of the United States from Europe? Explain.

3. How did Washington characterize Europe? What circ*mstances of the 1790s may have inspired this assessment?


commercial relationship. Nevertheless, when the terms became known in America, criti-cism was intense. Opponents of the treaty—Jeffersonian Republicans fearful that economic ties to Britain would fund and strengthen the Federalist agenda—went to great lengths to defeat it. But in the end the Senate ratified what was by then known as Jay’s Treaty.

Jay’s Treaty paved the way for a settlement of important American disputes with Spain. Under Pinckney’s Treaty (negotiated by Thomas Pinckney and signed in 1795), Spain recognized the right of Americans to navigate the Mississippi to its mouth and to deposit goods at New Orleans for reloading on oceangoing ships; agreed to fix the northern bound-ary of Florida along the 31st parallel; and commanded its authorities to prevent Native Americans in Florida from launching raids north across that border. (For President Washington’s views on such matters of foreign policy, see “Consider the Source: Washington’s Farewell Address.”)

150 • CHAPTER 6


Since almost everyone in the 1790s agreed there was no place in a stable republic for organized parties, the emergence of the Republicans as a powerful and apparently perma-nent opposition seemed to Federalists a grave threat to national stability. And so when international perils confronted the government in the 1790s, Hamilton and his followers moved forcefully against what they considered illegitimate dissent.

The Election of 1796George Washington refused to run for a third term as president in 1796. Jefferson was the obvious presidential candidate of the Republicans that year, but the Federalists faced a more difficult choice. Hamilton had created too many enemies to be a credible candidate. Vice President John Adams, who was not directly associated with any of the controversial Federalist achievements, received the party’s nomination for president at a caucus of Fed-eralists in Congress.

The Federalists were still clearly the dominant party. But without Washington to mediate, they fell victim to fierce factional rivalries. Adams defeated Jefferson by only three electoral votes and assumed the presidency as head of a divided party facing a powerful opposition. Jefferson became vice president by finishing second. (Not until the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804 did electors vote separately for president and vice president.)

The Quasi War with FranceAmerican relations with Great Britain and Spain improved as a result of Jay’s and Pinckney’s treaties. But the nation’s relations with revolutionary France quickly deteriorated. French vessels captured American ships on the high seas. The French government refused to receive Charles Cotesworth Pinckney when he arrived in Paris as the new American min-ister. In an effort to stabilize relations, Adams appointed a bipartisan commission to nego-tiate with France. When the Americans arrived in Paris in 1797, three agents of the French foreign minister, Prince Talleyrand, demanded a loan for France and a bribe for French officials before any negotiations could begin. Pinckney, a member of the commission, responded, “No! No! Not a sixpence!”

Even when Adams heard of the failure of diplomacy, he remained reluctant to go to war. Under pressure from Congress, including Federalists eager to fight the French, he sent that body the commissioners’ report, though not before deleting the names of the three French agents and designated them only as Messrs. X, Y, and Z. When the report was published, the “XYZ Affair,” as it quickly became known, provoked widespread popu-lar outrage at France’s actions and strong popular support for the Federalists’ response. For nearly two years, 1798 and 1799, the United States found itself engaged in a quasi war with France.

Adams never asked for a declaration of war, but Congress passed measures cutting off all trade with France, nullifying the Treaty of Alliance of 1778, authorizing American vessels to capture French armed ships, and creating the Department of the Navy. The new maritime force soon won a number of battles and captured a total of eighty-five French ships. The United States also began cooperating closely with the British. At last, the French began trying to conciliate the United States. Adams sent another commission


to Paris in 1800, and the new French government (headed now by “First Consul” Napo-leon Bonaparte) agreed to a treaty with the United States that canceled the old agreements of 1778 and established new commercial arrangements. As a result, the “war” came to a reasonably peaceful end.

Repression and ProtestThe conflict with France helped the Federalists increase their majorities in Congress in 1798. They now began to consider ways to silence the Republican opposition. The result was some of the most controversial legislation in American history: the Alien and Sedition Acts.

The Alien Act placed new obstacles in the way of foreigners who wished to become American citizens. The Sedition Act allowed the government to prosecute those who engaged in “sedition” against the government. In theory, only libelous or treasonous activ-ities were subject to prosecution, but since such activities had no clear definition, the law, in effect, gave the government authority to stifle virtually any opposition. The Republicans interpreted the new laws as part of a Federalist campaign to destroy them.

President Adams signed the new laws but was cautious in implementing them. He did not deport any aliens, and he prevented the government from launching a broad crusade against the Republicans. But the Alien Act discouraged immigration and encouraged some foreigners already in the country to leave. And the administration used the Sedition Act to arrest and convict ten men, most of them Republican newspaper editors whose only crime had been criticism of Federalists in government.

Republican leaders contemplated ways to reverse the Alien and Sedition Acts. Some looked to the state legislatures for help. They developed a theory to justify action by the

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31832])

CONGRESSIONAL BRAWLERS, 1798 This cartoon was inspired by the celebrated fight on the floor of the House of Representatives between Matthew Lyon, a Republican representative from Vermont, and Roger Griswold, a Federalist from Connecticut. Griswold (at right) attacks Lyon with his cane, and Lyon retaliates with fire tongs. Other members of Congress are portrayed enjoying the battle.

152 • CHAPTER 6

states against the federal government in two sets of resolutions of 1798–1799, one written (anonymously) by Jefferson and adopted by the Kentucky legislature, and the other drafted by Madison and approved by the Virginia legislature. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, as they were known, relied on the ideas of John Locke and the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gave to the states powers not explicitly granted to the federal government. They argued that the federal government had been formed by a “compact,” or contract, among the states and possessed only certain delegated powers. Whenever a state decided that the central government had exceeded those powers, it had the right to “nullify” the appropriate laws.

The Republicans did not win wide support for the nullification idea. They did, however, succeed in elevating their dispute with the Federalists to the level of a national crisis. By the late 1790s, the entire nation was deeply and bitterly politicized. State legislatures at times resembled battlegrounds. Even the U.S. Congress was plagued with violent disagree-ments. In one celebrated incident in the chamber of the House of Representatives, Mat-thew Lyon, a Republican from Vermont, responded to an insult from Roger Griswold, a Federalist from Connecticut, by spitting in Griswold’s eye. Griswold attacked Lyon with his cane, Lyon fought back with a pair of fire tongs, and soon the two men were wrestling on the floor.

The “Revolution” of 1800These bitter controversies shaped the presidential election of 1800. The presidential can-didates were the same as four years earlier: Adams for the Federalists, Jefferson for the Republicans. But the campaign of 1800 was very different from the one preceding it. Adams and Jefferson themselves displayed reasonable dignity, but their supporters showed no such restraint. The Federalists accused Jefferson of being a dangerous radical whose followers were wild men who, if they should come to power, would bring on a reign of terror comparable to that of the French Revolution. The Republicans portrayed Adams as a tyrant conspiring to become king, and they accused the Federalists of plotting to impose slavery on the people. The election was close, and the crucial contest was in New York. There, Aaron Burr mobilized an organization of Revolutionary War veterans, the Tammany Society, to serve as a Republican political machine. Through Tammany’s efforts, the party carried the city by a large majority, and with it the state. Jefferson, it seemed, had won.

But an unexpected complication soon jeopardized the Republican victory. The Constitu-tion called for each elector to “vote by ballot for two persons.” The expectation was that an elector would cast one vote for his party’s presidential candidate and the other for his party’s vice presidential candidate. To avoid a tie, the Republicans had intended that one elector would refrain from voting for the party’s vice presidential candidate, Aaron Burr. But when the votes were counted, Jefferson and Burr each had 73. No candidate had a majority, and the House of Representatives had to choose between the two top candidates, Jefferson and Burr. Each state delegation would cast a single vote.

The new Congress, elected in 1800 with a Republican majority, was not to convene until after the inauguration of the president, so it was the Federalist Congress that had to decide the question. After a long deadlock, several leading Federalists concluded, following Hamilton’s advice, that Burr was too unreliable to trust with the presidency. On the thirty-sixth ballot, Jefferson was elected.


After the election of 1800, the only branch of the federal government left in Federal-ist hands was the judiciary. The Adams administration spent its last months in office taking steps to make the party’s hold on the courts secure. With the Judiciary Act of 1801, the Federalists reduced the number of Supreme Court justiceships by one but greatly increased the number of federal judgeships as a whole. Adams quickly appointed Federal-ists to the newly created positions. He also appointed a leading Federalist, John Marshall, to be chief justice of the Supreme Court, a position Marshall held for thirty-four years. Indeed, there were charges that he stayed up until midnight on his last day in office to finish signing the new judges’ commissions. These officeholders became known as the “midnight appointments.”

Even so, the Republicans viewed their victory as almost complete. The nation had, they believed, been saved from tyranny. The exuberance with which the victors viewed the future—and the importance they ascribed to the defeat of the Federalists—was evident in the phrase Jefferson himself later used to describe his election. He called it the “Revolution of 1800.”


The Constitution of 1787 created a federal system of dispersed authority, divided among national and state governments and among an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary. The young nation thus sought to balance its need for an effective central government against its fear of concentrated and despotic power. The ability of the delegates to the Constitu-tional Convention to compromise revealed their yearning for a stable political system. The same willingness to compromise allowed the greatest challenge to the ideals of the new democracy—slavery—to survive intact.

The writing and ratifying of the Constitution settled some questions about the shape of the new nation. The first twelve years under the government created by the Constitution solved others. And yet by the year 1800, a basic disagreement about the future of the nation remained unresolved and was creating bitter divisions and conflicts on the political scene. The election of Thomas Jefferson to the presidency that year opened a new chapter in the nation’s public history. It also brought to a close, at least temporarily, savage political conflicts that had seemed to threaten the nation’s future.


Alexander Hamilton 135Alien and Sedition Acts 151Antifederalists 141Bill of Rights 143checks and balances 137citizenship 140Constitution 137federalism 137

Federalists 141James Madison 137Jay’s Treaty 149John Adams 142New Jersey Plan 136Pinckney’s Treaty 149quasi war 150Republicans 143

Revolution of 1800 153separation of powers 137The Federalist Papers 141Virginia and Kentucky

Resolutions 152Virginia Plan 136Whiskey Rebellion 147XYZ Affair 150

154 • CHAPTER 6


1. How did the Constitution of 1787 attempt to resolve the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?

2. What role did The Federalist Papers play in the battle over ratification of the Constitution?

3. What were the main tenets of Alexander Hamilton’s financial program? 4. What diplomatic crises did the United States face in the first decade of its

existence, and how did the new government respond to these crises? 5. What was the “Revolution of 1800” and in what way was it a revolution?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

• 155



THOMAS JEFFERSON AND HIS FOLLOWERS assumed control of the national government in 1801 as the champions of a distinctive vision of America. They favored a society of sturdy, independent farmers, happily free from the workshops, industrial towns, and urban mobs of Europe. They celebrated localism and simplicity. Above all, they proposed a federal government of sharply limited power.

Almost nothing worked out as they had planned, for during the Republican years in power the young republic was developing in ways that made much of their vision obsolete. The American economy became steadily more diversified and complex, making the ideal of a simple, agrarian society impossible to maintain. American cultural life was dominated by a vigorous and ambitious nationalism. Jefferson himself contributed to the changes by exercis-ing strong national authority at times and by arranging the greatest single increase in the size of the United States in its history.


1. How successful was Jefferson’s effort to create a “republican” society dominated by sturdy, independent farmers?

2. How did the Napoleonic Wars affect the United States?3. What events and issues led to the War of 1812?

156 •


In many respects, American cultural life in the early nineteenth century reflected the Republican vision of the nation’s future. Opportunities for education increased, the nation’s literary and artistic life began to free itself from European influences, and American religion began to adjust to the spread of Enlightenment rationalism. In other ways, however, the new culture was posing a serious challenge to Republican ideals.

Educational and Literary NationalismCentral to the Republican vision of America was the concept of a virtuous and enlightened citizenry. Republicans believed, therefore, in the creation of a nationwide system of public schools in which all male citizens would receive free education. Such hopes were not fulfilled, as it would be many decades before some states, particularly in the South, estab-lished viable public education systems. Schooling remained primarily the responsi-bility of private institutions, most of which were open only to those who could afford to pay for them. In southern and mid- Atlantic states, most schools were run by religious groups. In New England, private academies were often more secular, many of them mod-eled on those founded by the Phillips family at Andover, Massachusetts, in 1778, and at Exeter, New Hampshire, three years later. Many were frankly aristocratic in outlook. Some educational institutions were open to the poor, but not nearly enough to accom-modate everyone, and the education they offered was usually clearly inferior to that provided for more prosperous students.

Private secondary schools such as those in New England as well as many public schools generally excluded females from the



Battle of New Orleans


Hartford Convention

Treaty of Ghent


U.S. declares war on Great Britain

Madison reelected


Battle of Tippecanoe


Macon’s Bill No. 2


Non-Intercourse Act

Tec*mseh Confederacy formed


Madison elected president




Jefferson reelected


Lewis and Clark expedition


Louisiana Purchase

Marbury v. Madison


Second Great Awakening begins

Marshall named chief justice of Supreme



U.S. capital moves to Washington


Eli Whitney invents cotton gin


classroom. Yet the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries did see some important advances in education for women. As Americans began to place a higher value on the importance of the “republican mother” who would help train the new generation for citi-zenship, people began to ask how mothers could raise their children to be enlightened if the mothers themselves were uneducated. Such concerns helped speed the creation of female academies throughout the nation, usually for the daughters of affluent families. In 1789, Massachusetts required that its public schools serve females as well as males. Other states, although not all, soon followed.

Some women aspired to more. In 1784, Judith Sargent Murray published an essay defending the right of women to education. Women and men were equal in intellect and potential, Murray argued, so their educational opportunities should be equivalent. And they should have opportunities to earn their own livings and establish roles in society apart from their husbands and families. Murray’s ideas attracted relatively little support.

Because Jefferson and his followers liked to think of Native Americans as “noble savages” (uncivilized but not necessarily uncivilizable), they hoped that schooling the Indians in white culture would “uplift” the tribes. Missionaries and mission schools proliferated among the tribes. But there were no comparable efforts to educate enslaved African Americans.

Higher education similarly diverged from Republican ideals. The number of colleges and universities in America grew substantially, from nine at the time of the Revolution to twenty-two in 1800. None of the new schools, however, were truly public. Even universities established by state legislatures relied on private contributions and tuition fees to survive. Scarcely more than one white man in a thousand (and virtually no women, blacks, or indigenous people) had access to any college education, and those few who did attend universities were, almost without exception, members of prosperous, propertied families.

Medicine and ScienceMedicine and science were not always closely connected to each other in the early nineteenth century, but many physicians were working hard to strengthen the link. The University of Pennsylvania created the first American medical school in 1765. Most doctors, however, stud-ied medicine by working with an established practitioner. Some American physicians believed in applying new scientific methods to medicine, but they had to struggle against age-old prejudices and superstitions. Efforts to teach anatomy, for example, encountered strong public hostility because of the dissection of cadavers that the study required. Municipal authorities had virtually no understanding of medical science and almost no idea of what to do in the face of the severe epidemics that often swept their populations; only slowly did they respond to warnings that the lack of adequate sanitation programs was to blame for much disease.

Individual patients often had more to fear from their doctors than from their illnesses. Even the leading advocates of scientific medicine often embraced ineffective or dangerous treatments. George Washington’s death in 1799 was probably less a result of the minor throat infection that had afflicted him than of his physicians’ efforts to cure him by bleeding and purging.

The medical profession also used its newfound commitment to the scientific method to justify expanding its control over kinds of care that had traditionally been outside its domain. Most childbirths, for example, had been attended by female midwives in the eighteenth century. In the early nineteenth century, physicians began to handle deliveries themselves. Among the results of that change were a narrowing of opportunities for women and a restriction of access to childbirth care for poor mothers, who could afford midwives but not physicians.

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Cultural Aspirations of the New NationMany Americans dreamed of an American literary and artistic life that would rival the greatest achievements of Europe. The 1772 “Poem on the Rising Glory of America” pre-dicted that America was destined to become the “seat of empire” and the “final stage” of civilization. Noah Webster, the Connecticut schoolmaster, lawyer, and author of widely used American spellers and dictionaries, echoed such sentiments, arguing that the American schoolboy should be educated as a nationalist. “As soon as he opens his lips,” Webster wrote, “he should rehearse the history of his own country; he should lisp the praise of liberty, and of those illustrious heroes and statesmen who have wrought a revolution in her favor.”

A growing number of writers began working to create a strong American literature. Among the most popular was Washington Irving of New York, who won popular acclaim for his satirical histories of early American life and his powerful fables of society in the New World. His folktales, recounting the adventures of American fictional literary heroes such as Ichabod Crane and Rip Van Winkle, made him the widely acknowledged leader of American literary life in the early eighteenth century.

Religion and RevivalismBy elevating ideas of individual liberty and reason, the American Revolution had weakened traditional forms of religious practice and challenged many ecclesiastical traditions. By the 1790s, only a small proportion of white Americans were members of formal churches, and ministers were complaining about the “decay of vital piety.”

Religious traditionalists were particularly alarmed about the emergence of new, “ratio-nal” religious doctrines—theologies that reflected modern, scientific attitudes. Deism, which had originated among Enlightenment philosophers in France, attracted such educated Americans as Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and by 1800 was reaching a moderately broad popular audience. Deists accepted the existence of God, but they considered God a remote “watchmaker” who, after having created the universe, had withdrawn from direct involvement with the human race and its sins. Religious skepticism also produced the philosophies of “universalism” and “unitarianism.” Disciples of these new ideas rejected the traditional Calvinist belief in predestination and the idea of the Trinity. Jesus was only a great religious teacher, they claimed, not the son of God.

But religious skepticism attracted relatively few people. Most Americans who remained religious clung to more traditional faiths. And beginning in 1801, those traditions staged a dramatic comeback in a wave of revivalism known as the Second Great Awakening. The origins of the Awakening lay in the efforts of conservative theologians to fight the spread of religious rationalism. Presbyterians expanded their efforts on the western fringes of white settlement. Itinerant Methodist preachers traveled throughout the nation to win recruits for their new church, which soon became the fastest-growing denomination in America. Almost as successful were the Baptists, who found an especially fervent following in the South.

By the early nineteenth century, the revivalist energies of all these Protestant denomina-tions were combining to create the greatest surge of evangelical fervor since the first Great Awakening sixty years before. In only a few years, membership in churches embracing reviv-alism was mushrooming. At Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in the summer of 1801, a group of evangelical ministers presided over the nation’s first “camp meeting”—an extraordinary revival that lasted several days and impressed all who saw it with its fervor and its size (some estimated that 25,000 people attended). Such events became common in subsequent years.


The basic message of the Second Great Awakening was that individuals must readmit God and Christ into their daily lives. They must embrace a fervent, active piety, and they must reject the skeptical rationalism that threatened traditional beliefs. Yet the wave of revivalism did not restore the religion of the past whole cloth. Few denominations any longer accepted the idea of predestination, and the belief that people could affect their own destinies added intensity to the individual’s search for salvation. The Awakening, in short, combined a more active piety with a belief in a God whose grace could be attained through faith and good works.

One of the striking features of the Awakening was the preponderance of women within it. Female converts far outnumbered males. That may have been due in part to the move-ment of industrial work out of the home and into the factory. That process robbed women of one of their roles as part of a household-based economy and left many feeling isolated. Religious enthusiasm provided, among other things, access to a new range of activities—charitable societies ministering to orphans and the poor, missionary organizations, and others—in which women came to play important parts.

In some areas of the country, revival meetings were open to people of all races. From these revivals emerged a group of black preachers who became important figures within the enslaved community. Some of them translated the apparently egalitarian religious mes-sage of the Awakening—that salvation was available to all—into a similarly liberating message for blacks in the present world. Out of black revival meetings in Virginia, for example, arose

METHODIST CAMP MEETING, c. 1819 Camp (or revival) meetings were popular among some evangelical Christians in America as early as 1800. By the 1820s, there were approximately 1,000 meetings a year, most of them in the South and the West. After one such meeting in 1806, a participant wrote: “ Will I ever see anything more like the day of Judgement on the side of eternity—to see the people running, yes, running from every direction to the stand, weeping, shouting, and shouting for joy. . . . O! Glorious day they went home singing shouting.” This image from the 1810s suggests the degree to which women participated in many revivals.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-772])

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an elaborate plan in 1800 (devised by Gabriel Prosser, the brother of a black preacher) for a slave rebellion and an attack on Richmond. The plan was discovered and foiled in advance by whites, but revivalism continued in subsequent years to create occasional racial unrest in the South.

The spirit of revivalism was particularly strong among Native Americans. Presbyterian and Baptist missionaries were active among the southern tribes and sparked a wave of conversions. But the most important revivalist was Handsome Lake, a Seneca whose seem-ingly miraculous “rebirth” after years of alcoholism helped give him a special stature within his tribe. Handsome Lake blended traditionalism and change, calling for a revival of Indian ways and a repudiation of the individualism of white society, but also encouraging Christian missionaries to become active within the tribes and Iroquois men to abandon their roles as hunters and become sedentary farmers. As in much of white society, Iroquois women, who had traditionally done the farming, were to move into more domestic roles. His mix-ture of messages spread through the scattered Iroquois communities that had survived the military and political setbacks of previous decades and inspired many Indians to give up whiskey, gambling, and other destructive customs derived from white society.


While Americans had been engaged in a revolution to win their independence, a momen-tous economic transformation had been in progress in Great Britain: the Industrial Revolu-tion. Power-driven machines were permitting manufacturing to become more rapid and extensive, with profound social and economic consequences. (See “America in the World: The Global Industrial Revolution.”)

Technology in AmericaNothing comparable to the European Industrial Revolution occurred in America in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Yet even while Jeffersonians warned of the dangers of rapid economic change, they witnessed a series of technological advances that would ultimately transform the United States. Some of these innovations were British imports. Despite efforts by the London government to prevent the export of textile machinery or the emigration of skilled mechanics, a number of immigrants with advanced technological knowledge arrived in the United States, eager to introduce the new machines to America. Samuel Slater, for example, used knowledge he had acquired before leaving England to build a spinning mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for the Quaker merchant Moses Brown in 1790.

America also produced notable inventors of its own. In 1793, Eli Whitney developed a machine that performed the arduous task of removing the seeds from short-staple cotton quickly and efficiently. It was dubbed the cotton “gin,” a derivative of “engine.” With the device, a single operator could clean as much cotton in a few hours as it once took a group of workers to do in a day. The results were profound. Previously cotton cultivation had been restricted largely to the coast and the Sea Islands, the only places where long-staple cotton—easily cleaned by hand—could be grown. With the invention of an efficient mechan-ical means for cleaning short-staple cotton, it too became a profitable crop, and one that could be grown throughout the South. Cotton cultivation spread, and within a decade, the total crop increased eightfold. African American slavery, which with the decline of tobacco


production had seemed to be a dwindling institution, expanded and firmly fixed itself upon the South. The large supply of domestically produced fiber also encouraged entrepreneurs in New England and elsewhere to develop a native textile industry.

Whitney was an important figure in the history of American technology for another reason as well. He helped introduce the concept of interchangeable parts to the United States. As machines such as the cotton gin became widely used, it was increasingly impor-tant for owners of such machines to have access to spare parts, and for the parts to be made so that they fit the machines properly. Whitney designed not only the cotton gin, but also machine tools that could manufacture its component parts to exact specifications. The U.S. government later commissioned Whitney to manufacture 1,000 muskets for the army. Each part of the gun had to be interchangeable with the equivalent part in every other gun.

Interchangeability was of great importance in the United States because of the great distances many people had to travel to reach towns or cities and the relatively limited transportation systems available to them. Interchangeable parts meant a farmer could repair a machine himself. But interchangeability was not easy to achieve. In theory, many parts were designed to be interchangeable. In reality, the actual manufacturing of such parts was for many years not nearly precise enough. Farmers and others often had to do considerable fitting before the parts would work in their equipment. Not until later in the century would machine tools be developed to the point that they could make truly interchangeable parts.

PAWTUCKET BRIDGE AND FALLS One reason for the growth of the textile industry in New England in the early nineteenth century was that there were many sources of water power in the region to run the machinery in the factories. That was certainly the case with Slater ’s Mill, one of the first American textile factories. It was located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, alongside a powerful waterfall, demonstrating the critical importance of water power to early American industry.


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While Americans were engaged in a revolu-tion to win their independence, they were also taking the first steps toward another great revolution—one that was already in progress in England and Europe. It was the emergence of modern industrialism. Historians differ over precisely when the Industrial Revolution began, but it is clear that by the end of the eighteenth century it was well under way in many parts of the world. A hundred years later, the global pro-cess of industrialization had transformed the societies of Britain, most of continental Europe, Japan, and the United States. Its social and economic consequences were complex and profound and continue to shape the nature of global society.

For Americans, the Industrial Revolu-tion largely resulted from rapid changes in Great Britain, the nation with which they had the closest relations. Britain was the first nation to develop significant indus-trial capacity. The factory system took root in Britain in the late eighteenth cen-tury, revolutionizing the manufacture of cotton thread and cloth. One invention followed another in quick succession. Improvements in weaving drove improve-ments in spinning, and these changes created a demand for new devices for carding (combing and straightening the fibers for the spinner). Water, wind, and animal power continued to be important in the textile industry. But more important was the emergence of steam power, which began to proliferate after the appearance of James Watt’s advanced steam engine (patented in 1769). Cumbersome and inef-ficient by modern standards, Watt’s engine was nevertheless a major improvement over earlier “atmospheric” engines. Britain’s textile industry quickly became the most

profitable in the world, and it helped encourage comparable advances in other fields of manufacturing as well.

Despite the efforts of the British gov-ernment to prevent the export of indus-trial technology, knowledge of the new machines reached other nations quickly, usually through the emigration of people who had learned the technology in British factories. America benefited the most because it received more immigrants from Great Britain than from any other country, but technology spread quickly to the nations of continental Europe as well. Belgium was the first, developing a signifi-cant coal, iron, and armaments industry in the early nineteenth century. France, prof-iting from the immigration of approxi-mately fifteen thousand British workers with advanced technological skills, had created a substantial industrial capacity in textiles and metals by the end of the 1820s, which in turn contributed to a great boom in railroad construction later in the century. German industrialization progressed rapidly after 1840, beginning with coal and iron production and then, in the 1850s, moving into large-scale rail-road construction. By the late nineteenth century, Germany had created some of the world’s largest industrial corporations. In Japan, the sudden intrusion of American and European traders helped spur the so-called Meiji reforms of the 1880s and 1890s, which launched a period of rapid industrialization there as well.

Industrialization changed not just the world’s economies but also its societies. First in England and then in Europe, America, and Japan, social systems underwent wrenching changes. Hundreds of thousands of men and women moved from rural areas

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Transportation InnovationsOne of the prerequisites for industrialization is a transportation system that allows the efficient movement of raw materials to factories and of finished goods to markets. The United States had no such system in the early years of the republic, and thus it had no domestic market extensive enough to justify large-scale production. But projects were under way that would ultimately expand the transportation network.

One such project was the development of the steamboat. Britain had pioneered steam power, and even steam navigation, in the eighteenth century, and there had been experiments in America in the 1780s and 1790s in various forms of steam-powered transportation.

into cities to work in factories, where they experienced both the benefits and the costs of industrialization. The standard of living of the new working class, when objectively quantified, was usually significantly higher than that of the rural poor, and factory laborers experienced some improvement in nutrition and other material circ*mstances. But the psychological costs of being sud-denly uprooted from one way of life and thrust into a fundamentally different one could outweigh the economic gains. There was little in most workers’ prior experience to prepare them for the nature of industrial labor. It was disciplined, routinized work with a fixed and rigid schedule, a sharp con-trast to the varying, seasonal work pattern of the rural economy. Nor were many fac-tory workers prepared for life in the new industrial towns and expanding cities.

Industrial workers experienced, too, a fundamental change in their relationship with their employers. Unlike rural landlords and local aristocrats, factory owners and managers were usually remote and inacces-sible figures. The new class of industrial capitalists, many of them accumulating unprecedented wealth, dealt with their workers impersonally, and the result was a growing schism between the two classes, each lacking access to or understanding of the other. Working men and women throughout the globe began thinking of themselves as a distinct class, with com-mon goals and interests. And their efforts simultaneously to adjust to their new way

of life and to resist its most damaging aspects sometimes created great social turbulence. Battles between workers and employers became a characteristic feature of industrial life throughout the world.

Life in industrial nations changed at every level. Populations grew rapidly, and people began to live longer. At the same time, pollution, crime, and infectious disease (until modern sanitation systems emerged) increased greatly in industrialized cities. Around the industrial world, middle classes expanded and came, in varying degrees, to dominate the economy, although not always the culture or the politics, of their nations.

Not since the agrarian revolution thou-sands of years earlier, when many humans had turned from hunting to farming for sus-tenance, had there been an economic change comparable to the Industrial Revolution. Centuries of traditions, social patterns, and cultural and religious assumptions were challenged and often shattered. The tenta-tive stirrings of industrialism in the United States in the early nineteenth century, therefore, were part of a vast movement that over the course of the next century transformed much of the globe. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. Why did the British government attempt to prevent the export of Britain’s industrial technology?

2. What did the Industrial Revolution mean for ordinary people around the world?

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Informal horse racing began in North America almost as soon as Europeans set-tled the English colonies. Formal racing followed quickly. The first racetrack in North America—New Market (named for a popular racecourse in England)—was estab-lished in 1665 on Long Island, near present-day Garden City, New York. Tracks quickly developed wide appeal, and soon horse rac-ing had spread up and down the Atlantic Coast. By the time of the American Revolu-tion, it was popular in almost every colony and was moving as well into the newly settled areas of the Southwest. Andrew Jackson was a founder of the first racetrack in Nashville, Tennessee, in the early nine-teenth century. Kentucky—whose native bluegrass was early recognized as ideal for grazing horses—had eight tracks by 1800.

Like almost everything else in the life of early America, the world of horse racing was bounded by lines of class and race. For many years, it was considered the exclusive preserve of “gentlemen,” so much so that in 1674, a Virginia court fined James Bullocke, a tailor, for proposing a race, “it being con-trary to Law for a Labourer to make a race, being a sport only for Gentlemen.” But while white aristocrats retained control of racing, they were not the only people who participated in it. Southern planters often trained young male slaves as jockeys for their horses, just as northern horse owners employed the services of free blacks as rid-ers. In the North and the South, African Americans eventually emerged as some of the most talented and experienced trainers of racing horses. And despite social and legal pressures, free blacks and poor whites often staged their own informal races.

Racing also began early to reflect the growing sectional rivalry between North and South. In 1824, the Union Race Course on Long Island established an astounding $24,000 purse for a race between two famous thoroughbreds: American Eclipse (from the North) and Sir Henry (from the South). American Eclipse won two of the three heats. A southern racehorse pre-vailed in another such celebrated contest in 1836. These intersectional races, which drew enormous crowds and created tre-mendous publicity, continued into the 1850s, until the North–South rivalry began to take a more deadly form.

Horse racing remained popular after the Civil War, but two developments changed its character considerably. One was the suc-cessful effort to drive African Americans out of the sport. At least until the 1890s, black jockeys and trainers remained central to racing. At the first Kentucky Derby, in 1875, fourteen of the fifteen horses had African American riders. One black man, Isaac Murphy, won a remarkable 44 percent of all races in which he rode, including three Kentucky Derbys. Gradually, however, the same social dynamics that enforced racial segregation in so many other areas of American life penetrated racing as well. By the beginning of the twentieth century, white jockeys and organized jockey clubs had driven almost all black riders and many black trainers out of the sport.

The second change was the introduction of formalized betting. In the late nineteenth century, racetracks created betting sys-tems to lure customers to the races. At the same time that the breeding of racehorses was moving into the hands of enormously

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wealthy families, the audience for racing was becoming increasingly working class and lower middle class. The people who now came to racetracks were mostly white men, and some white women, who were lured not by a love of horses but by the usually futile hope of quick and easy riches through gambling. •


1. Why do you think horse racing was such a popular spectator sport in early America? Why has it continued to be popular?

2. How did changes in the sport of horse racing reflect similar changes in American society at large?

“TROTTING CRACKS” ON THE SNOW, 1858 This lithograph by Louis Maurer portrays trotting racehorses hitched to sleighs. The publishing duo Currier and Ives circulated this and many other images of trotters, reflecting and contributing to the popularity of the sport in the nineteenth century.

(Source: Bequest of Adele S. Colgate, 1962/The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

A major advance emerged out of the efforts of the inventor Robert Fulton and the promoter Robert R. Livingston, who made possible the launching of a steamboat large enough to carry passengers. Their Clermont, equipped with paddle wheels and a British-built engine, sailed up the Hudson River in the summer of 1807.

Meanwhile, what was to become known as the “turnpike era” had begun. In 1794, a corporation built a toll road running the sixty miles from Philadelphia to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a hard-packed surface of crushed stone that provided a good year-round surface with effective drainage, but was very expensive to construct. The Pennsylvania venture proved so successful that similar turnpikes, so named from the kind of tollgate frequently used, were laid out from other cities to neighboring towns. Like they do today, travelers on these roads paid to use them.

The process of building the turnpikes was a difficult one. Companies had to survey their routes with many things in mind, particularly elevation. Horse-drawn vehicles had great difficulty traveling along roads with more than a five-degree incline, which required many roads to take very circuitous routes to avoid steep hills. Building roads over mountains was

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an almost insurmountable task, and no company was successful in doing so until govern-ments began to participate in the financing of the projects.

Country and CityDespite all these changes, America remained an overwhelmingly rural and agrarian nation. Only 3 percent of the population lived in towns of more than 8,000 in 1800. Even the nation’s largest cities could not begin to compare with such European capitals as London and Paris, though Philadelphia, with 70,000 residents, New York, with 60,000, and others were becoming centers of commerce, learning, and urban culture comparable to many of the secondary cities of Europe.

People in cities and towns lived differently from the vast majority of Americans who continued to work as farmers. Among other things, urban life often required affluence, and affluent people sought increasing elegance and refinement in their homes, their grounds, and their dress. They also looked for diversions—music, theater, dancing, and, for many people, horse racing. Informal horse racing had begun as early as the 1620s, and the first formal race course in North America opened near New York City in 1665. By the early nineteenth cen-tury, it was a popular activity in most areas of the country. The crowds that gathered at horse races were an early sign of the vast appetite for popular, public entertainments that would be an enduring part of American culture. (See “Patterns of Popular Culture: Horse Racing.”)

It was still possible for some to believe that this small nation might not become a com-plex modern society. But the forces pushing such a transformation were already at work. And Thomas Jefferson, for all his commitment to the agrarian ideal, found himself as president obliged to confront and accommodate them.


Privately, Thomas Jefferson may well have considered his victory over John Adams in 1800 to be what he later termed it: a revolution “as real . . . as that of 1776.” Publicly, however, he was restrained and conciliatory, attempting to minimize the differences between the two parties and calm the passions that the bitter campaign had aroused. There was no public repudiation of Federalist policies, no true “revolution.” Indeed, at times Jefferson seemed to outdo the Federalists at their own work.

The Federal City and the “People’s President”The modest character of the federal government during the Jeffersonian era was symbolized by the newly founded national capital, the city of Washington, D.C. There were many who envisioned that the uncompleted town, designed by the French architect Pierre L’Enfant, would soon emerge as the Paris of the United States.

In reality, throughout most of the nineteenth century Washington remained little more than a straggling, provincial village. Although the population increased steadily from the 3,200 counted in the 1800 census, it never rivaled that of New York, Philadelphia, or the other major cities of the nation and remained a raw, inhospitable community. Members of Congress viewed Washington not as a home but as a place to visit briefly during sessions of the legislature. Most lived in a cluster of simple boardinghouses in the vicinity of the Capitol. It was not unusual for a member of Congress to resign his seat in the midst of a


session to return home if he had an opportunity to accept the more prestigious post of member of his state legislature.

Jefferson was a wealthy planter by background, but as president he conveyed to the public an image of plain, almost crude disdain for pretension. Like an ordinary citizen, he walked to and from his inauguration at the Capitol. In the presidential mansion, which had not yet acquired the name “White House,” he disregarded the courtly etiquette of his pre-decessors. He did not always bother to dress up, prompting the British ambassador to complain of being received by the president in clothes that were “indicative of utter slov-enliness and indifference to appearances.”

Yet Jefferson managed to impress most of those who knew him. He probably had a wider range of interests and accomplishments than any other major political figure in American history, with the possible exception of Benjamin Franklin. In addition to politics and diplo-macy, he was an active architect, educator, inventor, farmer, and philosopher-scientist.

Jefferson was a shrewd and practical politician. He worked hard to exert influence as the leader of his party, giving direction to Republicans in Congress by quiet and sometimes even devious means. Although the Republicans had objected strenuously to the efforts of their Federalist predecessors to build a network of influence through patronage, Jefferson

THOMAS JEFFERSON This 1805 portrait by the noted American painter Rembrandt Peale shows Jefferson at the beginning of his second term as president. It also conveys (through the simplicity of dress and the slightly unkempt hair) the image of democratic simplicity that Jefferson liked to project as the champion of the “common man.”

(©Bettmann/Getty Images)

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used his powers of appointment as an effective political weapon. Like Washington before him, he believed that federal offices should be filled with men loyal to the principles and policies of the administration. By the end of his second term, practically all federal jobs were held by loyal Republicans. Jefferson was a popular president and had little difficulty winning reelection against Federalist Charles C. Pinckney in 1804. Jefferson won by the overwhelming electoral college majority of 162 to 14, and Republican membership of both houses of Congress increased.

Dollars and ShipsUnder Washington and Adams, the Republicans believed, the government had been need-lessly extravagant. Yearly federal expenditures had almost tripled between 1793 and 1800, as Hamilton had hoped. The public debt had also risen, and an extensive system of inter-nal taxation had been erected.

The Jefferson administration moved deliberately to reverse these trends. In 1802, the president persuaded Congress to abolish all internal taxes, leaving customs duties and the sale of western lands as the only sources of revenue for the government. Meanwhile, Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin drastically reduced government spending. Although Jefferson was unable entirely to retire the national debt as he had hoped, he did cut it almost in half (from $83 million to $45 million).

Jefferson also scaled down the armed forces. He reduced the already tiny army of 4,000 men to 2,500 and pared down the navy from twenty-five ships in commission to seven. Any-thing but the smallest of standing armies, he argued, might menace civil liberties and civilian control of government. Yet Jefferson was not a pacifist. At the same time that he was reduc-ing the size of the army and navy, he helped establish the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, founded in 1802. And when trouble started brewing overseas, he began again to build up the fleet. Such trouble appeared first in the Mediterranean, off the coast of northern Africa.

For years the Barbary states of North Africa—Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli—had been demanding protection money from all nations whose ships sailed the Mediterranean. Even Great Britain regularly paid off the Barbary pirates to ensure safe passage. During the 1780s and 1790s the United States, too, had agreed to treaties providing for annual tribute to the Barbary states to protect American vessels trading in the region. But Jefferson showed reluctance to continue this policy of appeasem*nt. “Tribute or war is the usual alternative of these Barbary pirates,” he said. “Why not build a navy and decide on war?”

He got it. In 1801, the pasha (leader) of Tripoli forced Jefferson’s hand. Unhappy with American responses to his demands for tribute, he ordered the flagpole of the American consulate chopped down and declared war. Jefferson built up American naval forces in the area and the Marines defeated a contingent of the pasha’s forces. Finally, in 1805, Jefferson agreed to terms by which the United States ended the payment of tribute to Tripoli but paid a substantial ransom for the release of American prisoners seized by Barbary pirates.

Conflict with the CourtsHaving won control of the executive and legislative branches of government, the Republicans looked with suspicion on the judiciary, which remained largely in the hands of Federalist judges. Soon after Jefferson’s first inauguration, his followers in Congress launched an attack on this last preserve of the opposition. Their first step was the repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801, thus eliminating the judgeships to which Adams had made his “midnight appointments.”


The debate over the courts led to one of the most important judicial decisions in the history of the nation. Federalists had long maintained that the Supreme Court had the authority to nullify acts of Congress, and the Court itself had actually exercised the power of judicial review in 1796 when it upheld the validity of a law passed by Congress. But the Court’s authority in this area would not be secure, it was clear, until it actually declared a congressional act unconstitutional. In 1803, in the case of Marbury v. Madison, it did so. William Marbury, one of Adams’s midnight appointments, had been named a justice of the peace in the District of Columbia. But his commission, although signed and sealed, had not been delivered to him before Adams left office. When Jefferson took office, his secretary of state, James Madison, refused to hand over the commission. Marbury asked the Supreme Court to direct Madison to perform his official duty. But the Court ruled that while Marbury had a right to his commission, the Court had no authority to order Madison to deliver it. On the surface, therefore, the decision was a victory for the administration. But of much greater importance than the relatively insignificant matter of Marbury’s com-mission was the Court’s reasoning in the decision.

The original Judiciary Act of 1789 had given the Court the power to compel executive officials to act in such matters as the delivery of commissions, and it was on that basis that Marbury had filed his suit. But the Court ruled that Congress had exceeded its authority, that the Constitution defined the powers of the judiciary, and that the legislature had no right to expand them. The relevant section of the 1789 act was, therefore, unconstitutional and void. In seeming to deny its own authority, the Court was in fact radically enlarging it. The justices had repudiated a relatively minor power (the power to force the delivery of a commission) by asserting a vastly greater one (the power to nullify an act of Congress).

The chief justice of the United States at the time of the ruling (and until 1835) was John Marshall. A leading Federalist and prominent Virginia lawyer, he had served John Adams as secretary of state. Ironically, it was Marshall who had failed to deliver Marbury’s commission. In 1801, just before leaving office, Adams had appointed him chief justice, and almost immediately Marshall established himself as the dominant figure of the Court, shaping virtually all its most important rulings, including Marbury v. Madison. Through a succession of Republican presidents, he battled to give the federal government unity and strength. And in so doing, he established the judiciary as a coequal branch of government with the executive and the legislature.


In the same year Jefferson was elected president of the United States, Napoleon Bonaparte made himself ruler of France with the title of first consul. In the year Jefferson was reelected, Napoleon named himself emperor. The two men had little in common, yet for a time they were of great assistance to each other in international politics.

Jefferson and NapoleonHaving failed in a grandiose plan to seize India from the British Empire, Napoleon began to dream of restoring French power in the New World. The territory east of the Mississippi, which France had ceded to Great Britain in 1763, was now part of the United States, but Napoleon hoped to regain the lands west of the Mississippi, which had belonged to Spain since the end of the Seven Years’ War. In 1800, under the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso,

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France regained title to Louisiana, which included almost the whole of the Mississippi Valley to the west of the river. The Louisiana Territory would, Napoleon hoped, become the heart of a great French empire in America.

Jefferson was unaware at first of Napoleon’s imperial ambitions in America. For a time he pursued a foreign policy that reflected his well-known admiration for France. But he began to reassess American relations with the French when he heard rumors of the secret transfer of Louisiana. Particularly troubling to Jefferson was French control of New Orleans, the outlet through which the produce of the fast-growing western regions of the United States was shipped to the markets of the world.

Jefferson was even more alarmed when, in the fall of 1802, he learned that the Spanish intendant at New Orleans (the French had not yet taken formal possession) had announced a disturbing new regulation. American ships sailing the Mississippi River had for many years been accustomed to depositing their cargoes in New Orleans for transfer to oceango-ing vessels. The intendant now forbade the practice, even though Spain had guaranteed Americans that right in the Pinckney Treaty of 1795.

Westerners demanded that the federal government do something to reopen the river, and the president faced a dilemma. If he yielded to the frontier clamor and tried to change the policy by force, he would run the risk of a major war with France. If he ignored the westerners’ demands, he would lose political support. But Jefferson envisioned another solution. He instructed Robert Livingston, the American ambassador in Paris, to negotiate for the purchase of New Orleans. Livingston, on his own authority, proposed that the French sell the United States the rest of Louisiana as well.

THE LEVEE IN NEW ORLEANS Because of its location near the mouth of the Mississippi River, New Orleans was the principal port of western North America in the early nineteenth century. Through it, western farmers shipped their produce to markets in the East and Europe. This 1884 lithograph shows a busy traffic in goods through the port.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-DIG-pga-00809])


In the meantime, Jefferson persuaded Congress to appropriate funds for an expansion of the army and the construction of a river fleet, and he hinted that American forces might descend on New Orleans and that the United States might form an alliance with Great Britain if the problems with France were not resolved. Perhaps in response, Napoleon sud-denly decided to offer the United States the entire Louisiana Territory.

Napoleon had good reasons for the decision. His plans for an empire in America had already gone seriously awry, partly because a yellow fever epidemic had wiped out much of the French army sent to quell the rebellion in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) and partly because the expeditionary force he wished to send to reinforce the troops had been icebound in a Dutch harbor through the winter of 1802–1803. By the time the harbor thawed in the spring of 1803, Napoleon was preparing for a renewed war in Europe. He would not, he realized, have the resources to secure an empire in America.

The Louisiana PurchaseFaced with Napoleon’s sudden proposal, Livingston and James Monroe, whom Jefferson had sent to Paris to assist in the negotiations, had to decide whether they should accept it even if they had no authorization to do so. But fearful that Napoleon might withdraw the offer, they decided to proceed. After some haggling over the price, Livingston and Monroe signed an agreement with Napoleon on April 30, 1803.

By the terms of the treaty, the United States was to pay a total of $15 million to the French government, a bargain at under three cents an acre. The Americans would also grant certain exclusive commercial privileges to France in the port of New Orleans and incorporate the white residents of Louisiana into the Union with the same rights and privileges as other citizens. The boundaries of the purchase were not clearly defined. What was clear, however, was that the lands were far from uninhabited. The Osages, Kiowas, Mandans, Pawnees, Arapahos, Cheyennes, Shoshones, Omahas, Arikaras, Sioux, Otos, Crows, and other tribes lived within the Louisiana Purchase. But terrible smallpox epidem-ics had ravaged the West during the Revolution and then again in 1801. The decimation, though not destruction, of the native population allowed white people in the east to tell themselves stories of an empty West awaiting divinely ordained American expansion.

In Washington, the president was both pleased and embarrassed when he received the treaty. He was pleased with the terms of the bargain, but he was uncertain about his author-ity to accept it, since the Constitution said nothing about the acquisition of new territory. But Jefferson’s advisers persuaded him that his treaty-making power under the Constitution would justify the purchase, and Congress promptly approved it. Finally, late in 1803, General James Wilkinson, a commissioner of the United States, took formal control of the territory. Before long, the Louisiana Territory was organized on the general pattern of the Northwest Territory, with the assumption that it would be divided eventually into states. The first of these was admitted to the Union as the state of Louisiana in 1812.

Exploring the WestMeanwhile, a series of explorations revealed the geography of the far-flung new territory to white Americans. In 1803, Jefferson helped plan an expedition that was to cross the con-tinent to the Pacific Ocean, gather geographical information, and investigate prospects for trade with indigenous peoples. (See “Consider the Source: Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis.”) The expedition began in May 1804. He named as its leader the twenty-nine-year-old

172 •


In the summer of 1803, between the pur-chase and the incorporation of the Louisiana Territory, President Jefferson sent the follow-ing instructions to the explorer Meriwether Lewis. Here Jefferson reveals not only his own expansive curiosity, but also his admin-istration’s plans for the newly acquired lands.

To Meriwether Lewis, esquire, Captain of the 1st regiment of infantry of the United States of America: Your situation as Secre-tary of the President of the United States has made you acquainted with the objects of my confidential message of Jan. 18, 1803, to the legislature . . . you are appointed to carry them into execution.

Instruments for ascertaining by celestial observations the geography of the country thro’ which you will pass, have already been provided. Light articles for barter, & presents among the Indians, arms for your attendants, say for from 10 to 12 men, boats, tents, & other travelling apparatus, with ammunition, medicine, surgical instruments & provisions you will have prepared with such aids as the Secretary at War can yield in his depart-ment; & from him also you will receive authority to engage among our troops, by voluntary agreement, the number of atten-dants above mentioned, over whom you, as their commanding officer are invested with all the powers the laws give in such a case. . . .

Your mission has been communicated to the Ministers here from France, Spain & Great Britain, and through them to their governments: and such assurances given them as to it’s objects as we trust will sat-isfy them. The country of Louisiana having been ceded by Spain to France, the pass-port you have from the Minister of France, the representative of the present sovereign of the country, will be a protection with all its subjects: And that from the Minister of

England will entitle you to the friendly aid of any traders of that allegiance with whom you may happen to meet.

The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by it’s course & communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.

Beginning at the mouth of the Missouri, you will take observations of latitude & longitude, at all remarkable points on the river, & especially at the mouths of rivers, at rapids, at islands & other places & objects distinguished by such natural marks & char-acters of a durable kind, as that they may with certainty be recognized hereafter. . . . The interesting points of the portage between the heads of the Missouri & the water offer-ing the best communication with the Pacific Ocean should also be fixed by observation, & the course of that water to the ocean, in the same manner as that of the Missouri.

Your observations are to be taken with great pains & accuracy, to be entered dis-tinctly, & intelligibly for others as well as yourself, to comprehend all the elements necessary, with the aid of the usual tables, to fix the latitude and longitude of the places at which they were taken, & are to be ren-dered to the war office, for the purpose of having the calculations made concurrently by proper persons within the U.S. Several copies of these, as well as your other notes, should be made at leisure times & put into the care of the most trustworthy of your attendants, to guard by multiplying them, against the accidental losses to which they will be exposed. A further guard would be that one of these copies be written on the paper of the birch, as less liable to injury from damp than common paper.


• 173

The commerce which may be carried on with the people inhabiting the line you will pursue, renders a knowledge of these peo-ple important. You will therefore endeavor to make yourself acquainted, as far as a dili-gent pursuit of your journey shall admit, with the names of the nations & their num-bers; the extent & limits of their posses-sions; their relations with other tribes or nations; their language, traditions, monu-ments; their ordinary occupations in agricul-ture, fishing, hunting, war, arts, & the implements for these; their food, clothing, & domestic accomodations; the diseases prevalent among them, & the remedies they use; moral & physical circ*mstances which distinguish them from the tribes we know; peculiarities in their laws, customs & dispositions; and articles of commerce they may need or furnish, & to what extent.

And considering the interest which every nation has in extending & strengthening the authority of reason & justice among the peo-ple around them, it will be useful to acquire what knowledge you can of the state of mo-rality, religion & information among them, as it may better enable those who endeavor to civilize & instruct them, to adapt their mea-sures to the existing notions & practises of those on whom they are to operate.

Other objects worthy of notice will be the soil & face of the country, it’s growth & veg-etable productions; especially those not of the U.S.; the animals of the country gener-ally, & especially those not known in the U.S., the remains and accounts of any which may be deemed rare or extinct; the mineral productions of every kind; but more particu-larly metals, limestone, pit coal & saltpetre; salines & mineral waters, noting the temper-ature of the last, & such circ*mstances as may indicate their character. Volcanic appearances. Climate as characterized by the thermometer, by the proportion of rainy,

cloudy & clear days, by lightening, hail, snow, ice, by the access & recess of frost, by the winds prevailing at different seasons, the dates at which particular plants put forth or lose their flowers, or leaf, times of appear-ance of particular birds, reptiles or insects.

[. . .]In all your intercourse with the natives

treat them in the most friendly & conciliatory manner which their own conduct will admit; allay all jealousies as to the object of your journey, satisfy them of it’s innocence, make them acquainted with the position, extent, character, peaceable & commercial disposi-tions of the U.S., of our wish to be neighborly, friendly & useful to them, & of our disposi-tions to a commercial intercourse with them; confer with them on the points most conve-nient as mutual emporiums, & the articles of most desireable interchange for them & us. If a few of their influential chiefs, within practi-cable distance, wish to visit us, arrange such a visit with them, and furnish them with au-thority to call on our officers, on their enter-ing the U.S. to have them conveyed to this place at public expence. If any of them should wish to have some of their young people brought up with us, & taught such arts as may be useful to them, we will receive, instruct & take care of them, such a mission.


1. At the time that Jefferson wrote this letter, who held official possession of Louisiana? What European nations were present in the Louisiana Territory?

2. What do the details of this letter reveal about Jefferson’s own interest in nature and science?

3. What guidance did Jefferson offer Lewis in regard to natives? What policy toward Native Americans did Jefferson seem to have in mind for the future?

Source: Barth, Gunther (ed.), The Lewis and Clark Expedition: Selections from the Journals, Arranged by Topic. New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 1998, 18–22. Original manuscript in Bureau of Rolls, Jefferson Papers, ser. 1, vol. 9, doc. 269, reprinted in Thwaites, Original Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 7:247–252.

174 • CHAPTER 7

Meriwether Lewis, a veteran of wars against Native Americans who was skilled in the ways of the wilderness. Lewis chose as a colleague the thirty-four-year-old William Clark, an experienced frontiersman and soldier. Lewis and Clark, with a company of four dozen men, started up the Missouri River from St. Louis. With the Shoshone woman Sacajawea as their interpreter, they eventually crossed the Rocky Mountains, descended along the Snake and Columbia Rivers, and in the late autumn of 1805 camped on the Pacific Coast. In September 1806, they were back in St. Louis with elaborate records of the geography and the native civilizations they had observed along the way.

While Lewis and Clark explored, Jefferson dispatched groups to other parts of the Louisiana Territory. Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike, twenty-six years old, led an expedition in the fall of 1805 from St. Louis into the upper Mississippi Valley. In the sum-mer of 1806, he set out again, proceeding up the valley of the Arkansas River and into what later became Colorado. His account of his western travels helped create an enduring (and inaccurate) impression among most Americans that the land between the Missouri River and the Rockies was an uncultivable desert.

EXPLORING THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE, 1804—1807 When Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, he doubled the size of the nation. But few Americans knew what they had bought. The Lewis and Clark expedition set out in 1804 to investigate the new territory, and this map shows their route, along with that of another explorer, Zebulon Pike. Note the vast distances the two parties covered (including, in both cases, a great deal of land outside the Louisiana Purchase), as well as the fact these lands were already inhabited by indigenous groups. Note, too, how much of this enormous territory lay outside the orbit of even these ambitious explorations. • What might explain why the explorers took such winding routes through the territories?

Fort Mandan


FortClatsop LEWIS AND





CLARK 1806



PIKE 1806



G u l f o f M e x i c o



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e M



L. Huron

L. Er


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of the N


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(Claimed by Spain,Britain, and theUnited States)

Claimed by United States1803–1819










0 500 mi

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Louisiana Purchase, 1803

Lewis & Clark, 1804–1806

Zebulon Pike, 1805–1807

Native tribeHOPI


The Burr ConspiracyJefferson’s triumphant reelection in 1804 suggested that most of the nation approved of the new territorial acquisition. But some New England Federalists raged against it. They realized that the more new states joined the Union, the less power their region and party would retain. In Massachusetts, a group of the most extreme Federalists, known as the Essex Junto, concluded that the only recourse for New England was to secede from the Union and form a separate “northern confederacy.” If such a breakaway state were to have any hope for survival, the Federalists believed, it would have to include New York and New Jersey as well as New England. But the leading Federalist in New York, Alexander Hamilton, refused to support the secessionist scheme.

Federalists in New York then turned to Hamilton’s greatest political rival, Vice President Aaron Burr. Burr accepted a Federalist proposal that he become their candidate for gover-nor of New York in 1804, and there were rumors he had also agreed to support the Fed-eralist plans for secession. Hamilton accused Burr of plotting treason and made numerous private remarks, widely reported in the press, about Burr’s “despicable” character. When Burr lost the election, he blamed his defeat on Hamilton’s malevolence and challenged him to a duel. Hamilton feared that refusing Burr’s challenge would brand him a coward. And so, on a July morning in 1804, the two men met at Weehawken, New Jersey. Hamilton was wounded and died the next day.

Burr now had to flee New York to avoid an indictment for murder. He found new outlets for his ambitions in the West. Even before the duel, he had begun corresponding with General James Wilkinson, now governor of the Louisiana Territory. Burr and Wilkinson, it seems clear, hoped to lead an expedition that would capture Mexico from the Spanish. But there were also rumors they wanted to separate the Southwest from the Union and create a western empire that Burr would rule. (There is little evidence that these rumors were true.)

Whether true or not, many of Burr’s opponents chose to believe the rumors, including, ultimately, Jefferson himself. When Burr led a group of armed followers down the Ohio River by boat in 1806, disturbing reports flowed into Washington (the most alarming from Wilkinson, who had suddenly turned against Burr) that an attack on New Orleans was imminent. Jefferson ordered the arrest of Burr and his men as traitors. Burr was brought to Richmond for trial. But to Jefferson’s chagrin, Chief Justice Marshall limited the evidence the government could present and defined the charge in such a way the jury had little choice but to acquit. Burr soon faded from the public eye. But when he learned of the Texas revolution against Mexico years later, he said, “What was treason in me thirty years ago is patriotic now.”

The Burr conspiracy was in part the story of a single man’s soaring ambitions and flamboyant personality. But it also exposed the larger perils still facing the new nation. With a central government that remained deliberately weak, with ambitious political leaders willing, if necessary, to circumvent normal channels in their search for power, the legitimacy of the federal government—and indeed the existence of the United States as a stable and united nation—remained tenuous.


Two very different conflicts were taking shape in the last years of Jefferson’s presidency. One was the continuing tension in Europe, which in 1803 escalated once again into a full-scale conflict (the Napoleonic Wars). As fighting between the British and the French

176 • CHAPTER 7

increased, each side took steps to prevent the United States from trading with the other. The other conflict occurred in North America itself, a result of the ceaseless westward expansion of white settlement, which was colliding with a native population committed to protecting its lands from intruders. In both the North and the South, the threatened tribes mobilized to resist white encroachments. They began as well to forge connections with British forces in Canada and Spanish forces in Florida. The Indian conflict on land, there-fore, became intertwined with the European conflict on the seas, and ultimately helped cause the War of 1812.

Conflict on the SeasIn 1805, at the Battle of Trafalgar, a British fleet virtually destroyed what was left of the French navy. Because France could no longer challenge the British at sea, Napoleon now chose to pressure Britain in other ways. The result was what he called the Continental Sys-tem, designed to close the European continent to British trade. Napoleon issued a series of decrees barring British and neutral ships touching at British ports from landing their cargoes at any European port controlled by France or its allies. The British government replied to Napoleon’s decrees by establishing a blockade of the European coast. The blockade required that any goods being shipped to Napoleon’s Europe be carried either in British vessels or in neutral vessels stopping at British ports—precisely what Napoleon’s policies forbade.

In the early nineteenth century, the United States had developed one of the most impor-tant merchant marines in the world, one that soon controlled a large proportion of the trade between Europe and the West Indies. But the events in Europe now challenged that control, because American ships were caught between Napoleon’s decrees and Britain’s blockade. If they sailed directly for the European continent, they risked being captured by the British navy. If they sailed by way of a British port, they ran the risk of seizure by the French. Both of the warring powers were violating America’s rights as a neutral nation. But most Americans considered the British, with their greater sea power, the worse offender—especially since British vessels frequently stopped American ships on the high seas and seized sailors off the decks, making them victims of impressment.

ImpressmentMany British sailors called their navy—with its floggings, low pay, and terrible shipboard conditions—a “floating hell.” Few volunteered. Most had had to be “impressed” (forced) into service, and at every opportunity they deserted. By 1807, many of these deserters had emigrated to the United States and joined the American merchant marine or navy. To check this loss of manpower, the British claimed the right to stop and search American merchant-men and reimpress deserters. They did not claim the right to take native-born Americans, but they did insist on the right to seize naturalized Americans born on British soil. In practice, the British navy often made no careful distinctions, impressing British deserters and native-born Americans alike.

In the summer of 1807, the British went to more provocative extremes. Sailing from Norfolk, with several alleged deserters from the British navy among the crew, the American naval frigate Chesapeake was hailed by the British ship Leopard. When the American com-mander, James Barron, refused to allow the British to search the Chesapeake, the Leopard opened fire. Barron had no choice but to surrender, and a boarding party from the Leopard dragged four men off the American frigate.


When news of the Chesapeake-Leopard incident reached the United States, there was a great popular clamor for revenge. Jefferson and his secretary of state James Madison tried to maintain the peace. Jefferson expelled all British warships from American waters to lessen the likelihood of future incidents. Then he sent instructions to his minister in London, James Monroe, to demand from the British government an end to impressment. Britain disavowed the actions of the Leopard’s commanding officer and recalled him, offered compensation for those killed and wounded in the incident, and promised to return three of the captured sailors (the fourth had been hanged). But the British cabinet refused to renounce impressment and instead reasserted its right to recover deserting seamen.

“Peaceable Coercion”To prevent future incidents that might bring the nation again to the brink of war, Jefferson persuaded Congress to pass a drastic measure late in 1807. Known as the Embargo Act, it prohibited all foreign trade. The embargo was widely evaded, but it was effective enough to create a serious depression throughout most of the nation. Hardest hit were the mer-chants and shipowners of the Northeast, most of them Federalists.

The presidential election of 1808 came in the midst of this embargo-induced depression. James Madison was elected president, but the Federalist candidate, Charles Pinckney again, ran much more strongly than he had in 1804. The Embargo Act was clearly a growing political liability, and Jefferson decided to back down. A few days before leaving office, he approved a bill ending his experiment with what he called “peaceable coercion.”

STRUGGLING WITH THE EMBARGO This cartoon shows a merchant being injured by the terms of the U.S. embargo, which is personified by the snapping turtle. The word Ograbme is “embargo” spelled backward. The embargo not only enraged American merchants but also failed to resolve the maritime tensions with the British that ultimately helped lead to war in 1812.

(©North Wind Picture Archives/Alamy)

178 • CHAPTER 7

To replace the embargo, Congress passed the Non-Intercourse Act just before Madison took office. It reopened trade with all nations but Great Britain and France. A year later, in 1810, the Non-Intercourse Act expired and was replaced by Macon’s Bill No. 2, which reopened free commercial relations with those two powers but authorized the president to prohibit commerce with either belligerent if it should continue violating neutral shipping after the other had stopped. Napoleon, in an effort to induce the United States to reimpose the embargo against Britain, announced that France would no longer interfere with American shipping. Madison announced that an embargo against Great Britain alone would automatically go into effect early in 1811 unless Britain renounced its restrictions on American shipping.

In time, this new, limited embargo persuaded London to repeal its blockade of Europe. But the repeal came too late to prevent war. In any case, naval policies were only part of growing tensions between Britain and the United States.

The “Indian Problem” and the BritishGiven the ruthlessness with which white settlers in North America had continued to dis-lodge native tribes, it was hardly surprising that indigenous peoples continued to look to England for protection. The British in Canada, for their part, had relied on Native Amer-icans as partners in the lucrative fur trade. There had been relative peace in the Northwest for over a decade after Jay’s Treaty and Anthony Wayne’s victory over the tribes at Fallen Timbers in 1794. But the 1807 war crisis following the Chesapeake-Leopard incident revived the conflict between Indians and white settlers.

The Virginia-born William Henry Harrison, already a veteran of combat against Native Americans at age twenty-six, went to Washington as the congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory in 1799. An advocate of development in the western lands, he was largely responsible for the passage in 1800 of the so-called Harrison Land Law, which enabled white settlers to acquire farms from the public domain on much easier terms than before.

In 1801, Jefferson appointed Harrison governor of the Indiana Territory to administer the president’s proposed solution to the “Indian problem.” Jefferson offered native groups a choice: they could convert themselves into settled farmers and become part of white society, or they could migrate west of the Mississippi. In either case, they would have to agree by treaty to give up claims to their tribal lands in the Northwest.

Jefferson considered the assimilation policy a benign alternative to continuing conflict between Indians and white settlers. But to the tribes, the new policy seemed terribly harsh, especially given the cruel efficiency with which Harrison set out to implement it. He used threats, bribes, trickery, and whatever other tactics he felt would help him conclude treaties. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, the number of white Americans who had settled west of the Appalachians had grown to more than 500,000—a population far larger than that of the Native Americans. The tribes would face ever-growing pressure to move out of the way of the rapidly growing white settlements. By 1807 the United States had extracted treaty rights to eastern Michigan, southern Indiana, and most of Illinois from reluctant tribal leaders.

Meanwhile, in the Southwest, white Americans were taking millions of acres from other tribes in Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The Indians wanted desperately to resist, but the separate tribes were helpless by themselves against the power of the United States. Yet two new factors emboldened them. One was the policy of British authorities in Canada. After the Chesapeake incident, they began to expect an American invasion of Canada and therefore renewed efforts to forge alliances with the Indians. A second and more important factor was the rise of two remarkable native leaders, Tenskwatawa and Tec*mseh.


Tec*mseh and the ProphetTenskwatawa was a charismatic religious leader and orator known as “the Prophet.” Like Handsome Lake, he had experienced a mystical awakening in the process of recovering from alcoholism. Having freed himself from what he considered the evil effects of white culture, he began to speak to his people of the superior virtues of Indian civilization and the sinfulness and corruption of the white world. In the process, he inspired a religious revival that spread through numerous tribes and helped unite them. The Prophet’s head-quarters at the meeting of Tippecanoe Creek and the Wabash River (known as Prophetstown) became a sacred place for people of many tribes. Out of their common religious experi-ences, they began to consider joint military efforts as well. Tenskwatawa advocated an Indian society entirely separate from that of white Americans and a culture rooted in tribal tradition. The effort to trade with the Anglos and to borrow from their culture would, he argued, lead to the death of native ways.

Tec*mseh—the chief of the Shawnees, called by his tribe “the Shooting Star”—was in many ways more militant than his brother Tenskwatawa. “Where today are the Pequot,” he thundered. “Where are . . . the other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man.” He warned of his tribe’s extermina-tion if they did not take action against the white Americans moving into their lands.

Tec*mseh understood that only through united action could the tribes hope to resist the steady advance of white civilization. Beginning in 1809, he set out to unite all the tribes of the Mississippi Valley into what became known as the Tec*mseh Confederacy. Together, he promised, they would halt white expansion, recover the whole Northwest, and make the Ohio River the boundary between the United States and Indian country. He maintained that Harrison and others, by negotiating treaties with individual tribes, had obtained no real title to land. The land belonged to all the tribes; none of them could rightfully cede any of it without the consent of the others. In 1811, Tec*mseh left Prophetstown and traveled down the Mississippi to visit the tribes of the South and persuade them to join the alliance.

During Tec*mseh’s absence, Governor Harrison saw a chance to destroy the growing influence of the two Indian leaders. With 1,000 soldiers, he camped near Prophetstown, and on November 7, 1811, he provoked an armed conflict. Although the white forces suf-fered losses as heavy as those of the Native Americans, Harrison drove off the Indians and burned the town. The Battle of Tippecanoe, named for the creek, disillusioned many of the Prophet’s followers, and Tec*mseh returned to find the confederacy in disarray. But there were still warriors eager for combat, and by the spring of 1812 they were raiding white settlements along the frontier.

The mobilization of the tribes resulted largely from indigenous initiative, but Britain’s agents in Canada had encouraged and helped supply the uprising. To Harrison and most white residents of the regions, there seemed only one way to make the West safe for Americans: drive the British out of Canada and annex that province to the United States.

Florida and War FeverWhile white frontiersmen in the North demanded the conquest of Canada, those in the South looked to the acquisition of Spanish Florida. The territory was a continuing threat to whites in the southern United States. Enslaved people escaped across the Florida border, and Indians there launched frequent raids north. But white southerners also coveted Florida’s network of rivers that could provide residents of the Southwest with access to valuable ports on the Gulf of Mexico.

180 • CHAPTER 7

In 1810, American settlers in West Florida (presently part of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana) seized the Spanish fort at Baton Rouge and asked the federal government to annex the territory to the United States. President Madison happily agreed and then began planning to get the rest of Florida, too. The desire for Florida became yet another motiva-tion for war with Britain. Spain was Britain’s ally, and a war might provide an excuse for taking Spanish as well as British territory.

By 1812, therefore, war fever was raging on both the northern and southern borders of the United States. The demands of the residents of these areas found substantial support in Wash-ington among a group of determined young congressmen who earned the name War Hawks.

In the congressional elections of 1810, voters elected a large number of representatives of both parties eager for war with Britain. The most influential of them came from the new states in the West or from the backcountry of the old states in the South. Two of their leaders, both recently elected to the House of Representatives, were Henry Clay of Ken-tucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, men of great intellect, magnetism, and ambition. Both were supporters of war with Great Britain.

Clay was elected Speaker of the House in 1811, and he appointed Calhoun to the crucial Committee on Foreign Affairs. Both men began agitating for the conquest of Canada. Madison still preferred peace but was losing control of Congress. On June 18, 1812, he approved a declaration of war against Britain.


The British were not eager for conflict with the United States. Even after the Americans declared war, Britain largely ignored them for a time, occupied as they were with fighting the French in the Napoleonic Wars. But in the fall of 1812, Napoleon launched a cata-strophic campaign against Russia that left his army in disarray. By late 1813, with the French Empire on its way to final defeat, Britain was able to turn its military attention to America.

Battles with the TribesIn the summer of 1812, American forces invaded Canada through Detroit. They soon had to retreat back to Detroit and in August surrendered the fort there. Other invasion efforts also failed. In the meantime, Fort Dearborn (later Chicago) fell before an Indian attack.

Things went only slightly better for the United States on the seas. At first, American frigates won some spectacular victories over British warships. But by 1813, the British navy was counterattacking effectively, driving the American frigates to cover and imposing a blockade on the United States.

The United States did, however, achieve significant early military successes on the Great Lakes. First, the Americans took command of Lake Ontario, permitting them to raid and burn York (now Toronto), the capital of Canada. American forces then seized control of Lake Erie, mainly through the work of the young Oliver Hazard Perry, who engaged and dispersed a British fleet at Put-in-Bay on September 10, 1813. This made possible, at last, a more successful invasion of Canada by way of Detroit. William Henry Harrison pushed up the Thames River into upper Canada and on October 5, 1813, won a victory notable for the death of Tec*mseh, who was serving as a brigadier general in the British army. The Battle of the Thames resulted in no lasting occupation of Canada, but it weakened and disheartened the Native Americans of the Northwest.


In the meantime, another white military leader was striking an even harder blow at Indians in the Southwest. The Creek, supplied by the Spaniards in Florida, had been attack-ing white settlers near the Florida border. Andrew Jackson, a wealthy Tennessee planter and a general in the state militia, set off in pursuit of the Creek. On March 27, 1814, in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson’s men took terrible revenge on the Indians, slaugh-tering women and children along with warriors. The tribe agreed to cede most of its lands to the United States and would eventually retreat westward. The vicious battle also won Jackson a commission as major general in the U.S. Army, and in that capacity he led his men south into Florida. On November 7, 1814, he seized the Spanish fort at Pensacola.

Battles with the BritishBut the victories over the tribes did not end the war. After the surrender of Napoleon in 1814, Britain decided to invade the United States. A British armada sailed up the Patuxent River

THE WAR OF 1812 This map illustrates the military maneuvers of the British and the Americans during the War of 1812. It shows all the theaters of the war, from New Orleans to southern Canada, the extended land and water battle along the Canadian border and in the Great Lakes, and the fighting around Washington and Baltimore. Note how in all these theaters there are about the same number of British and American victories. • What finally brought this inconclusive war to an end?

U.S. forces

British forces

British blockade

U.S. victory

British victory

Indian victory

Territory ceded or annexedby U.S., 1810–1819


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ChâteauguayOct. 1813

LaColle MillMarch 1814

Ft. McHenry(Baltimore)Sept. 1814

York (Toronto)April 1813

Stoney CreekJune 1813

Ft. DetroitAug. 1812

FrenchtownJan. 1813

The Thames1813

Ft. MackinacJuly 1812

Ft. DearbornAug. 1812

MobileApr. 1813

PensacolaNov. 1814

Ft. MimsAug. 1813

Horseshoe BendMar. 1814

TalladegaNov. 1813

New OrleansJan. 1815

WashingtonAug. 1814

Put-in-BaySept. 1813

ChippewaJuly 1814

PlattsburghSept. 1814

182 • CHAPTER 7

from Chesapeake Bay and landed an army that marched to nearby Bladensburg, on the out-skirts of Washington, where it dispersed a poorly trained force of American militiamen. On August 24, 1814, British troops entered Washington and put the government to flight. Then they set fire to several public buildings, including the White House, in retaliation for the earlier American burning of the Canadian capital at York.

Leaving Washington in partial ruins, the invading army proceeded up the bay toward Baltimore. But that city, guarded by Fort McHenry, was prepared. To block the approaching fleet, the American garrison had sunk several ships in the Patapsco River (the entry to Baltimore’s harbor), thus forcing the British to bombard the fort from a distance. Through the night of September 13, Francis Scott Key, a Washington lawyer on board one of the British ships to negotiate the return of prisoners, watched the bombardment. The next morn-ing, “by the dawn’s early light,” he could see the flag on the fort still flying. He recorded his pride in the moment by writing a poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The British withdrew from Baltimore, and Key’s words were soon set to the tune of an old English drinking song. (In 1931 “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the official national anthem.)

Meanwhile, American forces repelled another British invasion in northern New York. At the Battle of Plattsburgh, on September 11, 1814, they turned back a much larger British naval and land force. In the South, a formidable array of battle-hardened British veterans landed below New Orleans and prepared to advance north up the Mississippi. Awaiting the British was Andrew Jackson with a contingent of Tennesseans, Kentuckians, Creoles, blacks, pirates, and regular army troops drawn up behind earthen breastworks. On January 8, 1815, the redcoats advanced on the American fortifications, but the exposed British forces were no match for Jackson’s well-protected men. After the Americans had repulsed several waves of attackers, the British finally retreated, leaving behind 700 dead, 1,400 wounded, and 500 prisoners. Jackson’s losses were 8 killed and 13 wounded. Only later did news reach North America that the United States and Britain had signed a peace treaty several weeks before the Battle of New Orleans.

The Revolt of New EnglandWith a few notable exceptions, the military efforts of the United States between 1812 and 1815 had failed. As a result, the Republican government became increasingly unpopular. In New England, opposition both to the war and to the Republicans was so extreme that some Federalists celebrated British victories. In Congress, in the meantime, the Republicans had continual trouble with the Federalist opposition, led by the young New Hampshire congressman Daniel Webster.

By now the Federalists were in the minority in the country, but they were still the major-ity party in New England. Some of them began to dream once again of creating a separate nation. Talk of secession reached a climax in the winter of 1814–1815.

On December 15, 1814, delegates from the New England states met in Hartford, Connecticut, to discuss their grievances against the Madison administration. The would-be seceders at the Hartford Convention were outnumbered by a comparatively moderate major-ity. But while the convention’s report only hinted at secession, it reasserted the right of nullification and proposed seven amendments to the Constitution designed to protect New England from the growing influence of the South and the West.

Because the war was going so badly, the New Englanders assumed that the Republicans would have to agree to their demands. Soon after the convention adjourned, however, the news of Jackson’s victory at New Orleans reached the cities of the Northeast. A day or


two later, reports of a peace treaty arrived from abroad. In the changed atmosphere, the aims of the Hartford Convention and the Federalist Party came to seem futile, irrelevant, even treasonable. The party would never recover from those associations with disloyalty.

The Peace SettlementNegotiations between the United States and Britain began in August 1814, when American and British diplomats met in Ghent, Belgium. John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and Albert Gallatin led the American delegation. Although both sides began with extravagant demands, the final treaty did little except end the fighting itself. The Americans gave up their demand for a British renunciation of impressment and for the cession of Canada to the United States. The British abandoned their call for the creation of an Indian buffer state in the Northwest and made other, minor territorial concessions. The treaty was signed on Christmas Eve 1814.

Both sides had reason to accept this skimpy agreement. The British, exhausted and in debt from their prolonged conflict with Napoleon, were eager to settle the lesser dispute in North America. The Americans realized that with the defeat of Napoleon in Europe, the British would no longer have much incentive to interfere with American commerce.

Other settlements followed the Treaty of Ghent. A commercial treaty in 1815 gave Americans the right to trade freely with England and much of the British Empire. The Rush-Bagot agreement of 1817 provided for mutual disarmament on the Great Lakes. Even-tually, though not until 1872, the Canadian–American boundary became the longest “unguarded frontier” in the world.

For Native Americans east of the Mississippi, the conflict dealt another disastrous blow to their ability to resist white expansion. Tec*mseh was dead. The British were gone from the Northwest. And the intertribal alliance of Tec*mseh and the Prophet had collapsed. As the end of the war spurred a new white movement westward, indigenous peoples were less able than ever to defend their land.


Thomas Jefferson called his election to the presidency the “Revolution of 1800,” and his supporters believed that his victory would bring a dramatic change in the character of the nation—a retreat from Hamilton’s dreams of a powerful, developing nation and a return to an ideal of a simple agrarian republic.

But American society was changing rapidly, making it virtually impossible for the Jeffersonian dream to prevail. The nation’s population was expanding and diversifying. Its cities were growing, and its commercial life was becoming ever more important. In 1803, the Jefferson administration made one of the most important contributions to the growth of the United States: the Louisiana Purchase, which dramatically expanded the physical boundaries of the nation and extended white settlement deeper into the continent. In the process, it greatly widened the battles between Europeans and Native Americans.

The growing national pride and commercial ambitions of the United States gradually created another serious conflict with Great Britain: the War of 1812, a war that was settled finally in 1814 on terms at least mildly favorable to the United States. By then, the bitter party rivalries that had characterized the first years of the republic had to some degree subsided, and the nation was poised to enter what became known, quite inaccurately, as the “era of good feelings.”

184 • CHAPTER 7


Cane Ridge 158capitalists 163deism 158Eli Whitney 160embargo 177Handsome Lake 160Hartford Convention 182impressment 176Industrial Revolution 160

John Marshall 169Judith Sargent Murray 157Lewis and Clark 174Marbury v. Madison 169Noah Webster 158Robert Fulton 165secession 175Second Great

Awakening 158

Tec*mseh 178the Prophet

(Tenskwatawa) 179War Hawks 180Washington Irving 158Washington, D.C. 166William Henry

Harrison 178


1. What was the impact of the Second Great Awakening on women, African Americans, and Native Americans?

2. What was the long-term significance of the Marbury v. Madison ruling? 3. How did Americans respond to the Louisiana Purchase? 4. What foreign entanglements and questions of foreign policy did Jefferson have to

deal with during his presidency? How did these affect his political philosophy? 5. What were the consequences of the War of 1812?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

• 185



LIKE A “FIRE BELL IN THE NIGHT,” as Thomas Jefferson said, the issue of slavery arose after the War of 1812 to threaten the unity of the nation. The debate began when the territory of Missouri applied for admission to the Union, raising the question of whether it would be a free or a slaveholding state. But the larger issue, one that would rise again and again to plague the republic, was whether the vast new western regions of the United States would ultimately align politically with the North or the South.

The Missouri crisis, settled in 1820, was significant because it was a sign of sectional crises to come. But at the time, it was also significant because it stood in such sharp contrast to the rising American nationalism of the years following the war. Whatever forces might have been working to pull the nation apart, stronger ones were acting, at least for a time, to draw it together. A set of widely shared sentiments and ideals worked to unite white Americans of what historians call the early republic: the memory of the Revolution, the ven-eration of the Constitution, the belief that America had a special mission in the world.

In their twilight years, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, members of opposing parties, one a northerner, one a southerner, kept up a correspondence in which they fretted over looming sectional conflict. Then, on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the two founders died within hours of each other. Bedside witnesses reported Jefferson asking at the end, “Is it the Fourth?” Adams, meanwhile, com-forted those around him moments before his death by saying, “ Thomas Jefferson still sur-vives.” In fact the Virginian had died a few hours earlier.


1. How did the economic developments and territorial expansion of this era affect American nationalism?

2. What was the “era of good feelings,” and why was it given that name?3. How did the Marshall Court seek to establish a strong national government?

186 •


After the War of 1812, the United States continued its economic growth and territo-rial expansion. Yet a vigorous postwar boom led to a disastrous bust in 1819. This col-lapse was evidence the United States contin-ued to lack some of the basic institutions necessary to sustain long-term growth.

The Government and Economic GrowthThe War of 1812 produced chaos in ship-ping and banking, and it exposed dramati-cally the inadequacy of the nation’s existing transportation and financial systems. The aftermath of the war, therefore, led to new efforts to strengthen national economic development.

The wartime experience underlined the need for another national bank. After the expiration of the first bank’s charter, a large number of state banks had issued vast quan-tities of banknotes, creating a confusing vari-ety of currency of widely differing value. It was difficult to tell what any banknote was really worth, and counterfeiting was easy. In response to these problems, Congress char-tered a second Bank of the United States in 1816, much like its predecessor of 1791 but with more capital. The national bank could not forbid state banks from issuing notes, but its size and power enabled it to compel the state banks to issue only sound notes or risk being forced out of business.

Congress also acted to promote manufac-turing, which the war (by cutting off imports) had already greatly stimulated. The American textile industry, in particular, had grown dra-matically. Between 1807 and 1815, the total number of cotton spindles in the country increased more than fifteenfold, from 8,000 to 130,000. Before the war, the textile facto-ries clustered in New England produced only yarn and thread, while families operating



U.S. treaties take western lands from


Second Bank of U.S.

Monroe elected president


Seminole War ends


Panic and depression

Dartmouth College v. Woodward; McCulloch



Missouri Compromise

Monroe reelected


Monroe Doctrine


John Quincy Adams elected president


Tariff of abominations

Jackson elected president


hand looms at home did the actual weaving of cloth. Then the Boston merchant Francis Cabot Lowell, after examining British textile machinery, developed a power loom that improved upon it. In 1813, in Waltham, Massachusetts, Lowell founded the first mill in America to carry on the processes of spinning and weaving under a single roof.

The end of the war suddenly dimmed the prospects for American industry. British ships swarmed into American ports and unloaded cargoes of manufactured goods, many priced below cost. In response, in 1816, protectionists in Congress passed a tariff law that effectively limited competition from abroad on a wide range of items, including cotton cloth, despite objections from agricultural interests, who stood to pay higher prices for manufactured goods.

TransportationA pressing economic need of the early republican period was a better transportation system to link the vast territories of the growing United States. But should the federal government help finance roads and other “internal improvements”? The idea of using government funds to finance road building was not a new one. When Ohio entered the Union in 1803, the federal government agreed that part of the proceeds from the sale of public lands there should finance road construc-tion. And in 1807, Congress enacted a law proposed by the Jefferson administration that permit-ted using revenues from Ohio land sales to finance a National Road from the Potomac River to the Ohio. By 1818, the highway ran as far as Wheeling, Virginia, on the Ohio River; and the Lancaster Pike, financed in part by the state of Pennsylvania, extended westward to Pittsburgh.

At the same time, steam-powered shipping was expanding rapidly. By 1816, river steam-ers were sailing up the Mississippi to the Ohio River and up the Ohio as far as Pittsburgh. Steamboats were soon carrying more cargo on the Mississippi than all the earlier forms of river transport combined—flatboats, barges, and others. They stimulated the agricultural economy of the West and the South by providing cheaper access to markets, and they enabled eastern manufacturers to send their finished goods west much more readily.

(Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington)

STEAMBOATS ON THE HUDSON Inventor Robert Fulton developed an engine that could propel a boat from Manhattan to Albany, a distance of about 150 miles, in 32 hours. His steam-powered vessels were the first to be large and reliable enough for commercial use. This painting from 1854 by James Bard depicts the towboat “John Birkbeck.”

188 • CHAPTER 8

Nevertheless, serious gaps in the nation’s transportation network remained, as the War of 1812 had shown. Once the British blockade had cut off Atlantic shipping, the coastal roads had become choked by the unaccustomed volume of north–south traffic. Congress passed a bill introduced by Representative John C. Calhoun that would use government funds to finance internal improvements. But President James Madison, on his last day in office, vetoed it. He believed that Congress lacked authority to fund the improvements without a constitutional amendment. For a time, state governments and private enterprise were left on their own to build the transportation network necessary for the growing American economy.


Another reason for the rising interest in internal improvements was the dramatic westward surge of white Americans. By 1820, white settlers had pushed well beyond the Mississippi River, and the western population of citizens was increasing more rapidly than the rest of the nation.

The Great MigrationThe westward movement of Euro-Americans was one of the most important developments of the early republican period and the nineteenth century more broadly. It occurred for several reasons.

One was population growth, which drove many white Americans out of the crowded East. Between 1800 and 1820, the American population nearly doubled—from 5.3 million to 9.6 million. Most Americans were still farmers, and the agricultural lands of the East were by now largely occupied or exhausted. In the South, the spread of the plantation system limited opportunities for new settlers. Another reason for westward migration was that the West itself was increasingly attractive to white settlers. Land there was much more plentiful than in the East. And in the aftermath of the War of 1812, the federal government continued its policy of pushing Native Americans westward, signing treaties in 1815 that took more land from the tribes. Migrants from throughout the East flocked in increasing numbers to what was then known as the Old Northwest (part of the present-day Midwest). Most settlers floated downstream on flatboats on the Ohio River, then left the river, often at Cincinnati, and traveled overland with wagons, handcarts, packhorses, cattle, and hogs.

White Settlers in the Old NorthwestHaving arrived at their new lands, most settlers built lean-tos or cabins, hewed clearings out of the forest, and planted crops of corn to supplement wild game and domestic animals. It was a rough and lonely existence. Men, women, and children worked side by side in the fields, and at times had virtually no outside contact for weeks or months.

Life in the western territories was not, however, entirely solitary or individualistic. Migrants often journeyed westward in groups and built communities with schools, churches, and stores. The labor shortage in the interior led neighbors to develop systems of mutual aid. They gathered periodically to raise a barn, clear land, or harvest crops.

Another common feature of life in the Old Northwest was mobility. Individuals and families were constantly on the move, settling for a few years in one place and then selling


their land (often at a significant profit) and resettling somewhere else. When new areas for settlement opened farther to the west, it was often the people already on the western edges of white settlement—rather than those coming from the East—who flocked to them first.

The Plantation System in the Old SouthwestIn the Old Southwest (later known as the Deep South), the new agricultural economy emerged along different lines. The market for cotton continued to grow, and the Old South-west contained a broad zone where cotton could thrive. That zone became known as the Black Belt, a region of dark, productive soil in Alabama and Mississippi.

The first whites to arrive in the Old Southwest were usually small farmers who made rough clearings in the forest. But wealthier planters soon followed. They bought up the cleared land, as the original settlers moved farther west. Success in the wilderness was by no means assured, even for the wealthiest settlers. Many planters managed to do little more than subsist in their new environment, and others experienced utter ruin. But some plant-ers soon expanded small clearings into vast cotton fields. They replaced the cabins of the early pioneers with more sumptuous log dwellings and ultimately with imposing mansions. They also built up large enslaved workforces.

The rapid seizure and settlement of the Old Northwest and Southwest resulted in the admission of four new states to the Union: Indiana in 1816, Mississippi in 1817, Illinois in 1818, and Alabama in 1819.

Trade and Trapping in the Far WestIn the early decades of the nineteenth century, few Anglo-Americans ventured into the far western areas of the continent. The lands comprising what is now Texas, California, and much of the rest of the far Southwest belonged to the Spanish colony of New Spain. But the revolutionary fervor of the age stimulated an independence movement, and in 1821 insurgents declared victory, replacing New Spain with the independent Mexican Empire. Several years later the Mexican Empire became a republic.

After independence, Mexico almost immediately opened its northern territories to trade with and settlement by Americans. The new government hoped that settlers, who were to become Mexican citizens, would help secure their northern border, and that traders would strengthen their connection to the continental economy. Instead, American traders quickly displaced Indian and Mexican traders. In New Mexico, for example, the Missouri merchant William Becknell began in 1821 to offer American manufactured goods for sale, priced considerably below the Mexican goods that had dominated the market in the past. Mexico effectively lost its markets in its own territory as a steady traffic of commercial wagon trains began moving back and forth along the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and New Mexico. Over in Texas, American land speculators like Moses Austin and his son Stephen sold off parcels of their huge land grants from Mexico to small farmers. Rather than assimilating into the Mexican state, the Texas settlers maintained a separate identity and practiced slavery that was banned elsewhere in the republic.

Fur traders created a wholly new kind of commerce. After the War of 1812, John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company and other firms extended their operations from the Great Lakes area westward to the Rockies. At first, fur traders did most of their business by purchasing pelts from indigenous peoples. But increasingly, white trappers entered the region and joined the Iroquois and other Indians in pursuit of beaver and other furs.

190 • CHAPTER 8

The trappers, or “mountain men,” who began trading in the Far West were small in number, and mostly young, single men. But they developed important commercial relation-ships with the Indian and Mexican residents of the West. Some entered into intimate relationships with native and Mexican women. They also recruited women as helpers in the difficult work of preparing furs and skins for trading. In some cases, though, white trappers clashed violently with the Mojave and other tribes.

In 1822, Andrew and William Ashley founded the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and recruited white trappers to move permanently into the Rockies. The Ashleys dispatched supplies annually to their trappers in exchange for furs and skins. The arrival of the supply train became the occasion for a gathering of scores of mountain men, some of whom lived much of the year in considerable isolation. But however isolated their daily lives, these mountain men were closely bound up with the expanding market economy, an economy in which the bulk of the profits from the trade flowed to the merchants, not the trappers.

Eastern Images of the WestAmericans in the East were only dimly aware of the world of the trappers. They were more aware of the explorers, many of them dispatched by the U.S. government. In 1819 and 1820, the War Department ordered Stephen H. Long to journey up the Platte and South Platte Rivers through what is now Nebraska and eastern Colorado (where he discovered the peak that would be named for him). He then returned eastward along the Arkansas River through what is now Kansas. Long wrote an influential report on his trip, which echoed the dismis-sive conclusions of Zebulon Pike fifteen years before. The region “between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains,” Long wrote, “is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence.” On the pub-lished map of his expedition, he labeled the Great Plains the “Great American Desert.”

(Source: Yale University Art Gallery)

THE TRAPPERS’ CAMP-FIRE This illustration by British artist F. F. Palmer imagines a moment of camaraderie among trappers, with the Rocky Mountains in the background.



The expansion of the economy, the growth of white settlement and trade in the West, the creation of new states—all reflected the rising spirit of nationalism that was spreading through the United States in the years following the War of 1812. That spirit found reflec-tion for a time as well in the character of early republican national politics.

The End of the First Party SystemEver since 1800, the presidency seemed to have been the possession of Virginians. After two terms in office, Jefferson secured the presidential nomination for his secretary of state, James Madison, and after two more terms, Madison did the same for his secretary of state, James Monroe, in 1816. Many in the North resented the so-called Virginia Dynasty, but the Republicans had no difficulty electing their candidate that year. Monroe received 183 ballots in the electoral college. His Federalist opponent, Rufus King of New York, received only 34.

Monroe entered office under what seemed to be favorable circ*mstances. With the decline of the Federalists amid their disloyal talk during the War of 1812, his party faced no serious opposition. And with the conclusion of that conflict, the nation faced no impor-tant international threats. Some American politicians had dreamed since the first days of the republic of a time in which partisan divisions and factional disputes might come to an end. In the prosperous postwar years, Monroe attempted to use his office to realize that dream.

He made that clear, above all, in the selection of his cabinet. For secretary of state, he chose former Federalist John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, son of the second president. Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe had all served as secretary of state before becoming president. Adams thus became the heir apparent, suggesting the Virginia Dynasty would soon come to an end. Speaker of the House Henry Clay declined an offer to be secretary of war, so Monroe named John C. Calhoun instead.

Soon after his inauguration, Monroe made a goodwill tour through the country. In New England, so recently the scene of rabid Federalist discontent, he was greeted everywhere with enthusiastic demonstrations. The Columbian Centinel, a Federalist newspaper in Boston, observed that an “era of good feelings” had arrived. And on the surface, at least, that seemed to be the case. In 1820, Monroe was reelected without opposition. For all practical purposes, the Federalist Party had ceased to exist.

John Quincy Adams and FloridaJohn Quincy Adams had spent much of his life in diplomatic service before becoming secretary of state. He was a committed nationalist, and he considered his most important task to be the promotion of American expansion.

His first challenge was Florida. The United States had already annexed West Florida, but that claim was in dispute. Most Americans, moreover, still believed the nation should gain possession of the entire peninsula. In 1817, Adams began negotiations with the Spanish minister, Luis de Onís, over the territory.

In the meantime, however, events in Florida were taking their own course. Andrew Jackson, now in command of American troops along the Florida frontier, had orders from Secretary of War Calhoun to “adopt the necessary measures” to stop continuing raids on

192 • CHAPTER 8

American territory by Seminole Indians south of the border. Jackson used those orders as an excuse to invade Florida and seize the Spanish forts at St. Marks and Pensacola. This became the first of several operations known as the Seminole Wars.

Instead of condemning Jackson’s raid, Adams urged the government to assume responsibility for it. The United States, he said, had the right under international law to defend itself against threats from across its borders. Jackson’s raid demonstrated to the Spanish that the United States could easily take Florida by force. Adams implied that the nation might consider doing so.

Onís realized, therefore, that he had little choice but to negotiate a settlement. Under the provisions of the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, Spain ceded all of Florida to the United States and gave up its claim to territory north of the 42nd parallel in the Pacific Northwest. In return, the American government gave up its claims to Texas—for a time.

The Panic of 1819The Monroe administration had little time to revel in its diplomatic successes, for the nation was facing a serious economic crisis: the Panic of 1819. It followed a period of high foreign demand for American farm goods and thus of exceptionally high prices for American farmers. But the rising prices for farm goods stimulated a land boom in the western United States. Fueled by speculative investments, land prices soared.

The availability of easy credit to settlers and speculators—from the government (under the land acts of 1800 and 1804), from state banks and wildcat banks, even for a time from the rechartered Bank of the United States—fueled the land boom. Beginning in 1819,

(©North Wind Picture Archives/Alamy)

CELEBRATING THE NATION Celebrations of Independence Day, like this one in New York City, became major festive events throughout the United States in the early nineteenth century, a sign of rising American nationalism.


however, new management at the national bank began tightening credit, calling in loans, and foreclosing mortgages. This precipitated a series of failures by state banks. The result was a financial panic. Six years of depression followed.

Some Americans saw the Panic of 1819 and the widespread distress that followed as a warning that rapid economic growth and territorial expansion would destabilize the nation. But by 1820, most Americans were irrevocably committed to the idea of growth and expansion.


For a brief but alarming moment in 1819–1820, the increasing differences between the North and the South threatened the unity of the United States—until the Missouri Com-promise averted a sectional crisis.

The Missouri CompromiseWhen Missouri applied for admission to the Union as a state in 1819, slavery was already well established there. Even so, Representative James Tallmadge Jr. of New York proposed an amendment to the Missouri statehood bill that would prohibit the further introduction of slaves into Missouri and provide for the gradual emancipation of those already there. The Tallmadge Amendment provoked a controversy that raged for the next two years.


OREGON COUNTRY(Occupied by United States

and Britain)

















MISS.1817 ALA.1819










Gulf of Mexico


G r e a t La



Free states and territories in 1820

Slave states and territories in 1820

Closed to slavery in Missouri Compromise

Missouri Compromise Line (36°30’)Except for Missouri, new territories, andstates closed to slavery north of this line

THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE, 1820 This map illustrates the way in which the Missouri Compromise proposed to settle the controversy over slavery in the new western territories of the United States. The compromise rested on the virtually simultaneous admission of Missouri and Maine to the Union, one a slave state and the other a free one. Note the red line extending beyond the southern border of Missouri, which in theory established a permanent boundary between areas in which slavery could be established and areas where it could not be. • What precipitated the Missouri Compromise?

194 •


In this letter to Massachusetts congressman John Holmes, the former president writes of the sectional divisions supposedly resolved by the recent Missouri Compromise. Jefferson wonders how the Union will hold together amid sharp disagreements over slavery and westward expansion.

Monticello, April 22, 1820 I thank you, Dear Sir, for the copy you have been so kind as to send me of the letter to your constituents on the Missouri question. It is a perfect justification to them. I had for a long time ceased to read newspapers, or pay any attention to public affairs, confi-dent they were in good hands, and content to be a passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am not distant. But this momentous question, like a firebell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. It is hushed, indeed, for the moment. But this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. A geographical line, coin-ciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be oblit-erated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper. I can say, with con-scious truth, that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way.

The cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expa-triation could be effected; and gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. But as it is, we have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let

him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preser vation in the other. Of one thing I am certain, that as the passage of slaves from one state to another would not make a slave of a single human being who would not be so without it, so their diffusion over a greater surface would make them individually happier, and pro-portionally facilitate the accomplishment of their emancipation, by dividing the bur-den on a greater number of coadjutors. An abstinence too, from this act of power, would remove the jealousy excited by the undertaking of Congress to regulate the condition of the different descriptions of men composing a state. This certainly is the exclusive right of every state, which nothing in the Constitution has taken from them and given to the general gov-ernment. Could Congress, for example, say that the non-freemen of Connecticut shall be freemen, or that they shall not emigrate into any other state?

I regret that I am now to die in the belief, that the useless sacrifice of them-selves by the generation of ’76, to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be, that I live not to weep over it. If they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves, and of treason against the hopes of the world. To your-self, as the faithful advocate of the Union, I tender the offering of my high esteem and respect.


• 195

Since the beginning of the republic, new states had come into the Union mostly in pairs, one from the North, another from the South. In 1819, there were eleven free states and eleven slave states. The admission of Missouri would upset that balance, hence the contro-versy over slavery and freedom in Missouri.

Complicating the Missouri question was the admission of Maine as a new (and free) state. Speaker of the House Henry Clay informed northern members that if they blocked Missouri from entering the Union as a slave state, southerners would block the admission of Maine. But ultimately the Senate agreed to combine the Maine and Missouri proposals into a single bill. Maine would be admitted as a free state, Missouri as a slave state. Then Senator Jesse B. Thomas of Illinois proposed an amendment prohibiting slavery in the rest of the Louisiana Purchase territory north of the southern boundary of Missouri (the 36°30′ parallel). The Senate adopted the Thomas Amendment, and Speaker Clay, with great dif-ficulty, guided the amended Maine-Missouri bill through the House.

Nationalists in both the North and South hailed this settlement—which became known as the Missouri Compromise—as the happy resolution of a danger to the Union. Former president Thomas Jefferson was less convinced that sectional harmony would last. (See “Consider the Source: Thomas Jefferson Reacts to the Missouri Compromise.”) Indeed, dur-ing the debate, members of Congress referred to the Mason-Dixon line, surveyed by two Englishmen before the Revolution and separating Pennsylvania and Maryland. That line, now, along with the new parallel and the Ohio River in between, would separate the worlds of slavery and freedom (other than the state of Missouri itself), and in popular parlance, the sociocultural distinctions between North and South.

Marshall and the CourtJohn Marshall served as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835. More than anyone but the framers themselves, he molded the development of the Constitution: strengthening the Supreme Court, increasing the power of the federal government, and advancing the interests of the propertied and commercial classes.

Committed to promoting commerce, the Marshall Court staunchly defended the invio-lability of contracts. In Fletcher v. Peck (1810), which arose out of a series of notorious land frauds in Georgia, the Court had to decide whether the Georgia legislature of 1796 could repeal the act of the previous legislature granting lands under shady circ*mstances to the Yazoo Land Companies. In a unanimous decision, Marshall held that a land grant was a valid contract and could not be repealed even if corruption was involved.


1. What does Jefferson’s metaphor of “a firebell in the night” suggest about his own feelings about the Missouri Compromise and its geographical line?

2. What was Jefferson referring to when he wrote that Americans had “the wolf by the ears”? How appropriate is this metaphor in your assessment?

3. What seemed to be Jefferson’s position on the powers of states and the federal government with respect to slavery?

Source: Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Series 1. General Correspondence. 1651–1827, Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes, April 22, 1820,; reproduced in Wayne Franklin (ed.), The Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, A Nor ton Critical Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010, 361–362.

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Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) further expanded the meaning of the contract clause of the Constitution. Having gained control of the New Hampshire state government, Repub-licans tried to revise Dartmouth College’s charter to convert the private college into a state university. Daniel Webster argued the college’s case. The Dartmouth charter, he insisted, was a contract, protected by the same doctrine that the Court had already upheld in Fletcher v. Peck. The Court ruled for Dartmouth, proclaiming that corporation charters such as the one the colonial legislature had granted the college were contracts and thus inviolable. The deci-sion placed important restrictions on the ability of state governments to control corporations.

In overturning the act of the legislature and the decisions of the New Hampshire courts, the justices also implicitly claimed for themselves the right to override the decisions of state courts. But advocates of states’ rights, especially in the South, continued to challenge this right. In Cohens v. Virginia (1821), Marshall explicitly affirmed the constitutionality of federal review of state court decisions. The states had given up part of their sovereignty in ratifying the Constitution, he explained, and their courts must submit to federal jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, in McCullochv.Maryland (1819), Marshall confirmed the “implied powers” of Congress by upholding the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States. The Bank

(©Stock Montage/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

JOHN MARSHALL A former secretary of state, Marshall served as chief justice from 1801 until his death in 1835 at the age of eighty. Such was the power of his intellect and personality that he dominated his fellow justices throughout that period, regardless of their previous party affiliations or legal ideologies. Marshall established the independence of the Court, gave it a reputation for nonpartisan integrity, and established its powers, which were only vaguely described by the Constitution.


had become so unpopular in the South and the West that several states tried to drive branches out of business. This case presented two constitutional questions to the Supreme Court: Could Congress charter a bank? And if so, could individual states ban it or tax it? Daniel Webster, one of the Bank’s attorneys, argued that establishing such an institution came within the “necessary and proper” clause of the Constitution and that the power to tax involved a “power to destroy.” If the states could tax the Bank at all, they could tax it to death. Marshall adopted Webster’s words in deciding for the Bank.

In the case of Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), the Court strengthened Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce. The state of New York had granted the steamboat company of Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston the exclusive right to carry passengers on the Hudson River to New York City. Fulton and Livingston then gave Aaron Ogden the business of carrying passengers across the river between New York and New Jersey. But Thomas Gibbons, who had a license granted by Congress, began competing with Ogden for the ferry traffic. Ogden brought suit against him and won in the New York courts. Gibbons appealed to the Supreme Court. The most important question facing the justices was whether Con-gress’s power to give Gibbons a license superseded the state of New York’s power to grant Ogden a monopoly. Marshall claimed that the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce (which, he said, included navigation) was “complete in itself ” and might be “exercised to its utmost extent.” Ogden’s state-granted monopoly, therefore, was void.

The highly nationalist decisions of the Marshall Court established the primacy of the federal government over the states in regulating the economy and opened the way for an increased federal role in promoting economic growth. They protected corporations and other private economic institutions from local government interference.

The Court and the TribesThe nationalist inclinations of the Marshall Court were visible as well in a series of deci-sions concerning the legal status of indigenous tribes. But these decisions did not simply affirm the supremacy of the United States. They also carved out a distinctive position for Native Americans within the constitutional structure.

The first of the crucial Indian decisions was Johnson v. McIntosh (1823). Leaders of the Illinois and Pinakeshaw tribes had sold parcels of their land to a group of white settlers (includ-ing Johnson) but had later signed a treaty with the federal government ceding territory that included those same parcels to the United States. The government proceeded to grant home-stead rights to new white settlers (among them McIntosh) on the land claimed by Johnson. The Court was asked to decide which claim had precedence. Marshall’s ruling, not surprisingly, favored the United States. But in explaining it, he offered a preliminary definition of the place of Indians within the nation. Native Americans had a basic right to their tribal lands, he said, that preceded all other American law. Individual American citizens could not buy or take land from the tribes. Only the federal government—the supreme authority—could do that.

Even more important was the Court’s 1832 decision in Worcester v. Georgia, in which the Court invalidated a Georgia law that attempted to regulate access by U.S. citizens to Cherokee country. Only the federal government could do so, Marshall claimed. The tribes, he explained, were sovereign entities in much the same way Georgia was a sovereign entity—“distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries within which their authority is exclusive.” In defending the power of the federal government, he was also affirming, indeed expanding, the rights of the tribes to remain free from the authority of state governments.

The Marshall decisions, therefore, did what the Constitution itself had not: define a place for Indian tribes within the American political system. The tribes had basic property rights.

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They were sovereign entities not subject to the authority of state governments. But the federal government, like a “guardian” governing its “ward,” had ultimate authority over tribal affairs.

The Latin American Revolution and the Monroe DoctrineJust as the Supreme Court was asserting American nationalism in shaping the country’s economic life, so the Monroe administration was asserting nationalism in formulating foreign policy. American diplomacy had been principally concerned with Europe. But in the 1820s, dealing with Europe forced the United States to develop a policy toward Latin America.

Americans looking southward in the years following the War of 1812 beheld a gigantic spectacle: the Spanish Empire in its death throes and a whole continent in revolt. Already the United States had developed a profitable trade with Latin America. Many believed the success of the anti-Spanish revolutions would further strengthen America’s position in the region.

In 1815, the United States proclaimed neutrality in the wars between Spain and its rebellious colonies. But the United States sold ships and supplies to the revolutionaries, a clear indication that it was trying to help the revolutions. Finally, in 1822, President Monroe established diplomatic relations with five new nations—La Plata (later Argentina), Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico—making the United States the first country to recognize them.

In 1823, Monroe went further and announced a policy that would ultimately be known (beginning some thirty years later) as the Monroe Doctrine, even though it was primarily

(©Culture Club/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

CHEROKEE LEADER SEQUOYAH Sequoyah (who also used the name George Guess) was a mixed-blood Cherokee who translated his tribe’s language into writing through an elaborate syllabary (equivalent to an alphabet) of his own invention, pictured here. He opposed Indian assimilation into white society and saw the preservation of the Cherokee language as a way to protect the culture of his tribe. He moved to Arkansas in the 1820s and became a chief of the western Cherokee tribes.


the work of John Quincy Adams. “The American continents,” Monroe declared, “are hence-forth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” The United States would consider any foreign challenge to the sovereignty of existing American nations as an unfriendly act. At the same time, he proclaimed, “Our policy in regard to Europe . . . is not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers.”

But Monroe also vowed not to interfere with current European powers operating in the Americas, and indeed, without a viable seafaring force, the United States relied on the British Royal Navy to make the implicit threats in the statement credible. The intended targets here were the French, Spain’s allies, who Americans feared might help Spain retake its lost empire, and the Russians, encroaching on the northern Pacific coastline.

The Monroe Doctrine had few immediate effects, but it was important as an expression of the growing spirit of nationalism in the United States in the 1820s. And it established the idea of the United States as the dominant power in the Western Hemisphere.


After 1816, the Federalist Party ceased to exist, discredited by its seemingly treasonous behavior during the War of 1812 and outmatched in several consecutive presidential races by the party of Jefferson. The Republican Party became the only national political organi-zation in America for a short time. In many ways, it now resembled the defunct Federalist Party in its commitment to economic growth and centralized government.

But divisions were growing, just as they had in the late eighteenth century. By the 1820s, a two-party system was emerging once again. The full name of the mighty Republican Party had always been the Democratic-Republican Party. It now split along the lines its name sug-gested, with the divisions visible in 1824 but explicit in 1828. By the latter election, there would be a Democratic Party, which leaned toward the old Jeffersonian vision of a decentral-ized nation. The Democrats opposed the federal government’s growing role in the economy. The other party was the National Republican Party (later the Whigs and unrelated to the modern Republican Party), which leaned toward the old Federalist belief in a powerful cen-tral government. The Whigs believed in a strong national bank and a centralized economy. Both parties believed in economic growth and expansion. But they disagreed on whether the national government should oversee the economy or release it from federal interference.

The “Corrupt Bargain”Until 1820, presidential candidates were nominated by party caucuses in Congress. But in 1824, “King Caucus” was overthrown. The Republican caucus nominated William H. Crawford of Georgia, the favorite of the extreme states’ rights faction of the party. But other candidates received nominations from state legislatures and won endorsem*nts from irregular mass meet-ings throughout the country.

One of them was Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. But he was a man of cold and forbidding manners, with little popular appeal. Another contender was Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House. He had a devoted personal following and a definite and coherent program: the American System, which proposed creating a great home market for factory and farm producers by raising the protective tariff, strengthening the national bank, and financing internal improvements. Andrew Jackson, the fourth major candidate, had no significant political record, even though he was a new member of the U.S. Senate. But he

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was a military hero and had the help of shrewd political allies from his home state of Ten-nessee. All four of these candidates technically ran as Democratic-Republicans, but the splintering of the party was obvious.

Jackson received more popular and electoral votes than any other candidate, but not a majority. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution (passed in the aftermath of the contested 1800 election) required the House of Representatives, with one vote per state delegation regardless of population, to choose among the three candidates with the largest numbers of electoral votes. Crawford was seriously ill. Clay was out of the running, but he was in a strong position to influence the result. Jackson was Clay’s most dangerous politi-cal rival in the West, so Clay supported Adams, in part because Adams was an ardent nationalist and a likely supporter of the American System. With Clay’s endorsem*nt, Adams won election in the House.

The Jacksonians believed that their large popular and electoral pluralities entitled their candidate to the presidency, and they were enraged when he lost. But they grew angrier still when Adams named Clay his secretary of state. The State Department was the well-established route to the presidency, and Adams thus appeared to be naming Clay as his own successor. The outrage the Jacksonians expressed at what they called a “corrupt bar-gain” haunted Adams throughout his presidency.

The Second President AdamsAdams proposed an ambitiously nationalist program reminiscent of Clay’s American System, but Jacksonians in Congress blocked most of it. Adams also experienced diplo-matic frustrations. He appointed delegates to an international conference that the Venezuelan liberator Simón Bolívar had called in Panama in 1826. But Haiti was one of the participating nations, and southerners in Congress opposed the idea of white Americans mingling with the black delegates. Congress delayed approving the Panama mission so long that the American delegation did not arrive until after the conference was over.

Even more damaging to the administration was its support for a new tariff on imported goods in 1828. This measure originated with the demands of New England woolen manu-facturers. But to win support from middle and western states, the administration had to accept duties on other items. In the process, it antagonized the original supporters of the bill; the benefits of protecting their manufactured goods from foreign competition now had to be weighed against the prospects of having to pay more for raw materials. Adams signed the bill, earning the animosity of southerners, who cursed it as the “tariff of abominations.”

Jackson TriumphantBy the time of the 1828 presidential election, the new two-party system was now in place. On one side stood the supporters of John Quincy Adams and the National Republicans. Opposing them were the followers of Andrew Jackson, the Democrats. Adams attracted the support of most remaining Federalists. Jackson appealed to a broad coalition that opposed the “economic aristocracy.”

But issues seemed to count for little in the end, as the campaign degenerated into a war of personal invective. The Jacksonians charged that Adams had been guilty of gross waste and extravagance. Adams’s supporters hurled even worse accusations at Jackson. They called him a murderer and distributed a “coffin handbill,” which listed, within coffin-shaped outlines, the names of militiamen whom Jackson was said to have shot in cold blood during the War of 1812. (The men had been deserters who were legally executed after sentence by a court-martial.) And they called his wife a bigamist. Jackson had married his beloved Rachel at a


time when the pair incorrectly believed her first husband had divorced her. (When Jackson’s wife read of the accusations against her, she collapsed and, a few weeks later, died.)

Jackson’s victory was decisive, but sectional. Adams swept virtually all of New England and showed significant strength in the mid-Atlantic region. Nevertheless, the Jacksonians considered their victory as complete and as important as Jefferson’s in 1800. Once again, the forces of privilege had been driven from Washington. Once again, a champion of democracy would occupy the White House. America had entered, some Jacksonians claimed, a new era of democracy, the “era of the common man.”


In the aftermath of the War of 1812, a vigorous nationalism increasingly came to character-ize the political and popular culture of the United States. In all regions of the country, white men and women celebrated the achievements of the early leaders of the republic, the genius of the Constitution, and the success of the nation in withstanding serious challenges from both without and within. Party divisions faded.

But the broad nationalism of the “era of good feelings” disguised some deep divisions. Indeed, philosophies of governance differed substantially from one region, and one group, to another. Battles continued between those who favored a strong central government com-mitted to advancing the economic development of the nation and those who wanted a decentralization of power to open opportunity to more people. Battles continued as well over the role of slavery in American life—and in particular over the place of slavery in the new western territories. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 postponed the day of reckoning on that issue, but only for a time.


Adams-Onís Treaty 192American System 199Francis Cabot Lowell 187Gibbons v. Ogden 197Henry Clay 195

John Quincy Adams 191McCulloch v. Maryland 196Missouri Compromise 195Monroe Doctrine 198Panic of 1819 192

Seminole Wars 192Stephen H. Long 190Tallmadge Amendment 193Worcester v. Georgia 197


1. How did the War of 1812 stimulate the national economy? 2. What were the reasons for the rise of sectional differences in this era? What

attempts were made to resolve these differences? How successful were those attempts?

3. Why was the Monroe Doctrine proclaimed? 4. What was the significance of Andrew Jackson’s victory in the election of 1828?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

202 •

MANY AMERICANS IN THE 1830s were growing apprehensive about the future of their expanding republic. Some feared that rapid economic and territorial growth would pro-duce social chaos or overextension. They insisted that the country’s first priority was to estab-lish order and a clear system of authority. Others argued that the greatest danger facing the nation was the growth of inequality and privilege. They wanted to eliminate the favored status of powerful elites and make opportunity more widely available. Advocates of this latter vision seized control of the federal government in 1829 with the inauguration of Andrew Jackson.

The democratization of government over which Jackson presided came wrapped in the rhetoric of equality and aroused the excitement of working people. But Jackson and his fol-lowers were not egalitarians. They accepted economic inequality and social gradation. Jackson himself was a frontier aristocrat who surrounded himself with advisers of wealth and prestige. However, many in Jackson’s circle had risen to prominence, in their own accounting, by talent and energy rather than accidents of birth. These national leaders con-sidered it their mission to ensure others would have the opportunity to do the same.

But Jackson and his followers did not imagine women, indigenous peoples, or African Americans, whether slave or free, as part of these democratic visions. Neither would poor farmers nor workers be their primary concern. Rather, the Jacksonians sought to challenge the power of eastern elites on behalf of the rising entrepreneurs of the South and West.


1. How did the electorate expand during the Jacksonian era, and what were the limits of that expansion?

2. What events fed the growing tension between nationalism and states’ rights, and what were the arguments on both sides of that issue?

3. What was the second party system, and how did its emergence change national politics?



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On March 4, 1829, thousands of Americans from all regions of the country crowded before the U.S. Capitol to watch the inaugu-ration of Andrew Jackson. After the ceremo-nies, the crowd poured into a public reception at the White House, where, in their eagerness to shake the new president’s hand, they filled the state rooms to overflow-ing, trampled one another, soiled the car-pets, and damaged the upholstery. “It was a proud day for the people,” wrote Amos Kendall, one of Jackson’s closest political associates. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, a friend and colleague of John Marshall, remarked with disgust: “The reign of King ‘Mob’ seems triumphant.”

In fact, the “age of Jackson” was much less a triumph of the common people than Kendall hoped and Story feared. But it did mark a transformation of American politics. Once restricted to a relatively small elite of property owners, politics now became open to virtually all the nation’s white male citi-zens. In a political sense at least, the period had some claim to the title the Jacksonians gave it: the “era of the common man.”

Expanding DemocracyWhat some have called the “age of Jackson” did not really bring economic equality. The distribution of wealth and property in America was little different at the end of the Jacksonian era than it had been at the start. But the extension of suffrage to new groups stimu-lated a transformation of American politics.

Until the 1820s, relatively few Americans had been permitted to vote. Most states restricted the franchise to white male property owners or taxpayers or both. But even before Jackson’s election, the franchise began to expand. Change came first in Ohio and other new states of the West, which, on joining the Union, adopted constitutions that guaranteed



Webster and Hayne debate


Nullification crisis


Taney named chief justice of Supreme Court


William Henry Harrison elected


Independent Treasury Act


Specie circular

Van Buren elected president


Jackson vetoes recharter of Bank of U.S.

Jackson reelected


Jackson removes deposits from Bank of U.S.


Seminole Wars


Panic and depression


Harrison dies; Tyler becomes



Indians expelled from Southeast


Anti-Mason Party holds first convention

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all adult white males—not just property owners or taxpayers—the right to vote and permitted all voters the right to hold public office. Older states, concerned about the loss of their population to the West, began to drop or reduce their own property ownership or taxpaying requirements.

The wave of state reforms was generally peaceful, but in Rhode Island, democratization efforts created considerable instability. The Rhode Island constitution barred more than half the adult males in the state from voting in the 1830s. In 1840, the lawyer and activist Thomas L. Dorr and a group of his followers formed a “People’s party,” held a convention, drafted a new constitution, and submitted it to a popular vote. It was overwhelmingly approved, and the Dorrites began to set up a new government, with Dorr as governor. The existing legislature, however, rejected the legitimacy of Dorr’s constitution. And so, in 1842, two governments were claiming power in Rhode Island. The old state government declared Dorr and his followers rebels and began to imprison them. The Dorrites, meanwhile, made an ineffectual effort to capture the state arsenal. The Dorr Rebellion quickly failed, but the episode helped spur the old guard to draft a new constitution with expanded suffrage.

The democratization process was far from complete. In the South, of course, no slaves could vote. In addition, southern election laws continued to favor the planters and politicians of the older counties. Free blacks could not vote anywhere in the South and hardly anywhere in the North. In no state could women vote. Nowhere was the ballot secret, and often it was cast as a spoken vote, which meant that voters could be easily bribed or intimidated. Despite the persisting limitations, however, the number of voters increased much more rapidly than did the population as a whole.

One of the most striking political trends of the early nineteenth century was the change in the method of choosing presidential electors for the electoral college. In 1800, the

CANVASSING FOR A VOTE (1853). This lithograph of a painting by George Caleb Bingham depicts a politician (in top hat) speaking with potential voters outside a hotel in Arrow Rock, Missouri. The men represent different social classes and ages. Women and blacks were barred from voting, but political rights expanded substantially in the 1830s and 1840s among white males.

(Source: Yale University Art Gallery)


legislatures had chosen the presidential electors (and thus determined those electors’ votes for president) in ten states; the electors were chosen by the people in only six states. By 1828, electors were chosen by popular vote in every state but South Carolina, which meant that state electors in the college would cast their votes for president and vice president in accordance with the popular vote (as is common practice today). In short, these changes gave common voters a greater say in who won elections. In the presidential election of 1824, fewer than 27 percent of adult white males had voted. Only four years later, the figure was 58 percent; and in 1840, 80 percent.

Tocqueville and Democracy in AmericaThe rapid growth of the electorate—and the emergence of political parties—was among the most striking events of the early nineteenth century. As the right to vote spread widely in these years, it came to be the mark of freedom and democracy. One of the most important commentaries on this extraordinary moment in American life was a book by the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville. He spent two years in the United States in the 1830s watching the dramatic political changes in the age of Andrew Jackson. The French government had requested that he make a study of American prisons, which were thought to be more humane and effective institutions than those in Europe. But Tocqueville quickly went far beyond the study of impris-onment and wrote a classic study of American life, titled Democracy in America. Tocqueville examined not just the politics of the United States, but also the daily lives of many groups of Americans and their cultures, their associations, and their visions of democracy. In France in the early decades of the nineteenth century, the fruits of democracy were largely restricted to landowners and aristocrats. But Tocqueville recognized that traditional aristocracies were rap-idly fading in America and that new elites could rise and fall no matter what their backgrounds.

Tocqueville also realized that the rising democracy of America had many limits. Democ-racy was a powerful, visible force in the lives of most white men. Few women could vote, although some shared the democratic ethos through their families. For many other Americans, democracy was a distant hope. Tocqueville wrote of the limits of equality and democracy:

he first who attracts the eye, the first in enlightenment, in power and in happiness, is the white man, the European, man par excellence; below him appear the Negro and the Indian. These two unfortunate races have neither birth, nor face, nor language, nor mores in common; only their misfortunes look alike. Both occupy an equally inferior position in the country that they inhabit; both experience the effects of tyranny; and if their miseries are different, they can accuse the same author for them.

Tocqueville’s book helped define the character of American democracy for readers in France and other European nations. Only later did it become widely read and studied in the United States as a remarkable portrait of the emerging democracy of the United States.

The Legitimization of PartyThe high level of voter participation was only partly the result of an expanded electorate. It resulted as well from growing interest in politics, a strengthening of party organization, and increasing party loyalty. Although party competition had been part of American poli-tics almost from the beginning, acceptance of the idea of party had not. For more than thirty years, most Americans who had opinions about the nature of government considered parties evils to be avoided and thought the nation should seek a broad consensus without permanent factional lines. But in the 1820s and 1830s, those assumptions gave way to a new view that permanent, institutionalized parties were a desirable part of the political process, that they were indeed essential to democracy.


Jacksonian DemocracyTo many Americans in the 1820s and 1830s, Andrew Jackson was a champion of democracy, a symbol of the spirit of antielit-ism and egalitarianism that was sweeping American life. Historians, however, have disagreed sharply not only in their assess-ments of Jackson himself but in their por-trayal of American society in his era.

The “progressive” historians of the early twentieth century tended to see Jacksonian politics as a forebear of their own battles against economic privilege and political corruption. Frederick Jackson Turner en-couraged scholars to see Jacksonianism as a protest by the frontier against the conser-vative aristocracy of the East. Jackson rep-resented those who wanted to make government responsive to the will of the people rather than to the power of special interests. The culmination of this progres-sive interpretation of Jacksonianism was Arthur M. Schlesinger’s The Age of Jackson (1945). Less interested in the regional basis of Jacksonianism than the disciples of Turner had been, Schlesinger argued that Jacksonian democracy was an effort “to control the power of the capitalist groups, mainly Eastern, for the benefit of non-capi-talist groups, farmers and laboring men, East, West, and South.” He portrayed Jack-sonianism as an early version of modern re-form efforts to “restrain the power of the business community.”

Richard Hofstadter, in an influential 1948 essay, sharply disagreed. Jackson, he argued, was the spokesman of rising entrepreneurs— aspiring businessmen who saw the road to opportunity blocked by the monopolistic power of eastern aristocrats. The Jacksonian leaders were less sympathetic to the

aspirations of those below them than they were to the destruction of obstacles to their own success. Bray Hammond, writing in 1957, argued similarly that the Jacksonian cause was “one of enterpriser against capi-talist.” Other historians saw Jacksonianism less as a democratic reform movement than as a nostalgic effort to restore a lost past. Marvin Meyers’s The Jacksonian Persuasion (1957) argued that Jackson and his followers looked with misgivings on the new industrial society emerging around them and yearned instead for a restoration of the agrarian, re-publican virtues of an earlier time.

In the 1960s, historians began taking less interest in Jackson and his supporters and more in the social and cultural bases of American politics in the time of Jackson. Lee Benson’s The Concept of Jacksonian Democ-racy (1961) used quantitative techniques to demonstrate the role of religion and ethnicity in shaping party divisions. Edward Pessen’s Jacksonian America (1969) portrayed America in the Jacksonian era as an increas-ingly stratified society. This inclination to look more closely at society than at formal “Jacksonianism” continued into the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Sean Wilentz, in Chants Democratic (1984) and in The Rise of American Democracy (2005), examined the rise of powerful movements among ordinary citizens who were attracted less to Jackson himself than to the notion of popular democracy.

Gradually, this attention to the nature of society has led to reassessments of Jackson himself and the nature of his regime. In Fa-thers and Children (1975), Michael Rogin por-trays Jackson as a leader determined to secure the supremacy of white men in the

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United States. Alexander Saxton, in The Rise and Fall of the White Republic (1990), makes the related argument that “Jacksonian De-mocracy” was explicitly a white man’s de-mocracy that rested on the subjugation of slaves, women, and Native Americans. But the portrayal of Jackson as a champion of the common people has not vanished from scholarship entirely. The most renowned postwar biographer of Jackson, Robert V. Remini, argued that despite the flaws in his democratic vision, he was a genuine “man of the people.” The journalist Jon Meacham

reaches a similar conclusion in his Pulitzer Prize–winning American Lion (2009).


1. What was Jacksonian democracy? Was it a reform movement against conserva-tive special interests? Was it a regional movement designed to shift power to the West? Or was it a class-based move-ment to elevate workers and farmers?

2. Jackson was known as a “man of the peo-ple.” Which people were attracted to him?

The elevation of party occurred first at the state level, most prominently in New York. There, after the War of 1812, Martin Van Buren led a dissident political faction (known as the “ Bucktails”) that challenged the established political elite led by the aristocratic governor, DeWitt Clinton. The Bucktails argued that Clinton’s closed circle made genuine democracy impossible. They advocated institutionalized political parties in its place, based on the support of a broad public constituency. A party would need a permanent opposition, they insisted, because com-petition would force it to remain sensitive to the will of the people. Parties would check and balance one another in much the same way as the different branches of government did.

By the late 1820s, this new idea of party had spread beyond New York. The election of Jackson in 1828, the result of a popular movement that stood apart from the usual politi-cal elites, seemed further to legitimize it. In the 1830s, finally, a fully formed two-party system began to operate at the national level. The anti-Jackson forces began to call them-selves Whigs. Jackson’s followers, once again, called themselves Democrats, thus giving a permanent name to what is now the nation’s oldest political party.

President of the Common PeopleAndrew Jackson had been born to recent Irish immigrants in 1767. From modest beginnings he went on to study law, then served as a representative, senator, and judge. By the early nineteenth century, he was prospering as a planter and merchant in Tennessee, serving in the militia, and earning notoriety for his armed campaigns against Native Americans in the Southeast and the British in New Orleans. Soon more than a hundred slaves labored at his plantation and home, the Hermitage.

Unlike Thomas Jefferson, Jackson was no democratic philosopher. The Democratic Party, much less than the old Jeffersonian Republicans, embraced no clear or uniform ideological position. But Jackson himself did embrace a distinct and simple theory of democracy. Government, he said, should offer “equal protection and equal benefits” to all its white male citizens and favor no one region or class over another, with a major exception—people of color could expect no protection from the administration. Jackson would ultimately expel Native Americans from the Southeast and try (unsuccessfully) to ban antislavery literature from the mails. Rather, Jackson’s brand of popular politics meant launching an assault on what he considered the citadels of the eastern aristocracy and extending opportunities to the rising classes of the West and the South. (For historians’ changing assessments of Jackson, see “Debating the Past: Jacksonian Democracy.”)

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Jackson’s first target was the entrenched officeholders in the federal government, whom he bitterly denounced. Offices, he said, belonged to the people, not to a self-serving bureau-cracy. Equally important, a large turnover in the bureaucracy would allow him to reward his own supporters with offices. One of Jackson’s allies, William L. Marcy of New York, once explained, “To the victors belong the spoils.” Patronage, the process of giving out jobs as political rewards, became known as the spoils system. Although Jackson removed no more than one-fifth of existing federal officeholders, his embrace of the spoils system helped cement its place in party politics.

Jackson’s supporters also worked to transform the process by which presidential candi-dates were selected. In 1832, the president’s followers staged a national convention to renominate him. Through the convention, its founders believed, power in the party would arise directly from the people rather than from such elite political institutions as the con-gressional caucus.


Jackson’s commitment to extending power beyond entrenched elites led him to want to reduce the functions of the federal government. A concentration of power in Washington would, he believed, restrict opportunity to people with political connections. But Jackson was also strongly committed to the preservation of the Union. Thus, at the same time as he was promoting an economic program to reduce the power of the national government, he was asserting the supremacy of the Union in the face of a potent challenge. For no sooner had he entered office than his own vice president—John C. Calhoun—began to cham-pion a controversial constitutional theory: nullification.

Calhoun and NullificationOnce an outspoken protectionist, Calhoun had strongly supported the tariff of 1816. But by the late 1820s, he had come to believe that the tariff was responsible for the stagnation of South Carolina’s economy, though the exhaustion of the state’s farmland was the real reason for the decline. Some exasperated Carolinians were ready to consider a drastic remedy: secession.

With his future political hopes resting on how he met this challenge in his home state, Calhoun developed the theory of nullification. Drawing from the ideas of Madison and Jefferson and citing the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, Calhoun argued that since the federal government was a creation of the states, the states—not the courts or Congress—were the final arbiters of the constitutionality of federal laws. If a state concluded that Congress had passed an unconstitutional law, then it could hold a special convention and declare the federal law null and void within the state. The nullification doctrine—and the idea of using it to nullify the 1828 tariff—quickly attracted broad support in South Carolina. But it did nothing to help Calhoun’s standing within the new Jackson administration, in part because he had a powerful rival in Martin Van Buren.

The Rise of Van BurenVan Buren had served briefly as governor of New York before becoming Jackson’s secretary of state in 1829. He soon established himself as a member both of the official cabinet and of the president’s unofficial circle of political allies, known as the “Kitchen Cabinet.” And


Van Buren’s influence with the president grew stronger still as a result of a quarrel over etiquette that drove a wedge between Jackson and Calhoun.

Peggy O’Neale was the daughter of a Washington tavernkeeper with whom both Andrew Jackson and his friend John H. Eaton had taken lodgings while serving as senators from Tennessee. O’Neale was married, but rumors circulated in Washington in the mid-1820s that she and Senator Eaton were having an affair. O’Neale’s husband died in 1828, and she and Eaton were soon married. A few weeks later, Jackson named Eaton secretary of war and thus made the new Mrs. Eaton a cabinet wife. The rest of the administration wives, led by Mrs. Calhoun, refused to receive her. Jackson, who blamed slanderous gossip for the death of his own wife, was furious, and demanded that the members of the cabinet accept her into their social world. Calhoun, under pressure from his wife, refused. Van Buren, a widower, befriended the Eatons and thus ingratiated himself with Jackson. By 1831, Jackson had tapped Van Buren as his preferred successor in the White House, appar-ently ending Calhoun’s dreams of the presidency.

The Webster–Hayne DebateIn January 1830, in the midst of a routine debate over federal policy toward western lands, a senator from Connecticut suggested that all land sales and surveys be temporarily dis-continued. Robert Y. Hayne, a young senator from South Carolina, charged that slowing down the growth of the West was simply a way for the East to retain its political and economic power. Hayne and other southerners believed the South and West might join an alliance to check the strength of the East; that slavery would only thrive with new western lands opened up to the institution; and most crucially, that states, not the federal govern-ment, should control local matters like the sale of land and thereby nullify federal laws attempting such control.

Daniel Webster, now a senator from Massachusetts, attacked Hayne (and through him Calhoun) for what he considered an attack on the integrity of the Union and the power of the federal government. Southern states, Webster charged, were putting crass economic and political advantages ahead of the survival of a strong nation unified by common respect for federal law. Hayne responded with a defense of nullification. Webster then spent two full afternoons delivering what became known as his “Second Reply to Hayne.” He con-cluded with the ringing appeal: “Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!” The exchange over federal versus state power became known as the Webster-Hayne debate.

Both sides waited to hear what President Jackson thought of the argument. That became clear at the annual Democratic Party banquet in honor of Thomas Jefferson. After dinner, guests delivered a series of toasts. The president arrived with a written text in which he had underscored certain words: “Our Federal Union—It must be preserved.” While he spoke, he looked directly at Calhoun. The diminutive Van Buren, who stood on his chair to see better, thought he saw Calhoun’s hand shake and a trickle of wine run down his glass as he responded to the president’s toast with his own: “The Union, next to our liberty most dear.”

The Nullification CrisisIn 1832, the controversy over nullification finally produced a crisis when South Carolinians responded angrily to a congressional tariff bill that offered them no relief from the 1828 tariff of abominations. Almost immediately, the legislature summoned a state convention,

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which voted to nullify the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 and to forbid the collection of duties within the state. At the same time, South Carolina elected Hayne to serve as governor and Calhoun to replace Hayne as senator.

Jackson insisted that nullification was treason. He strengthened the federal forts in South Carolina and ordered a warship to Charleston. When Congress convened early in 1833, Jackson proposed a force bill authorizing the president to use the military to see that acts of Congress were obeyed. Violence seemed a real possibility.

Calhoun faced a predicament as he took his place in the Senate. Not a single state had come to South Carolina’s defense. But the timely intervention of Henry Clay, also newly elected to the Senate, averted a crisis. Clay devised a compromise by which the tariff would be lowered gradually so that by 1842 it would reach approximately the same level as in 1816. The compro-mise and the force bill were passed on the same day, March 1, 1833. Jackson signed them both. In South Carolina, the convention reassembled and repealed its nullification of the tariffs. But unwilling to allow Congress to have the last word, the convention nullified the force act—a purely symbolic act, since the tariff had already been amended. Calhoun and his followers claimed a victory for nullification, which had, they insisted, forced the revision of the tariff. But the episode taught Calhoun and his allies that no state could defy the federal government alone.


There had never been any doubt about Andrew Jackson’s attitude toward the Indian tribes whose lands were now encircled by the eastern states and territories of the United States. He wanted them to move west. Since his early military expeditions in Florida, Jackson had harbored a deep hostility toward the Indians. In this he was little different from most white Americans.

White Attitudes toward the TribesIn the eighteenth century, many whites had shared Thomas Jefferson’s view of the Indians as “noble savages,” with an inherent dignity that made civilization possible among them if they would only mimic white social, cultural, political, and economic practices. Yet by the first decades of the nineteenth century, many whites were coming to view Native Americans simply as “savages” who should be removed from all the lands east of the Mississippi. White westerners also favored removal to put an end to violence and competition in the western areas of white settlement. Most of all, they wanted valuable land that the tribes still possessed.

Events in the Northwest added urgency to the issue of removal. In Illinois, an alliance of Sauk (or Sac) and Fox Indians under Black Hawk fought white settlers in 1831–1832 in an effort to overturn what Black Hawk considered an illegal cession of tribal lands to the United States. The Black Hawk War was notable for its viciousness. White forces attacked the Indians even when they attempted to surrender, pursued them as they retreated, and slaughtered many of them. The brutal war only reinforced the determination of whites to remove all the tribes to the West.

The “Five Civilized Tribes”Even more troubling to the government in the 1830s were the remaining Indian tribes of the South, who possessed lands southerners coveted for their growing cotton empire. In western Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida lived what were known as the


“Five Civilized Tribes”—the Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws. These groups had adopted various Euro-American institutions and practices, including literacy, organized government, laws, agricultural economies, and even slavery. In 1830, both the federal government and several southern states were accelerating efforts to remove the tribes to the West. That year Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the financing of federal negotiations to relocate the southern tribes to the West. Some Indians believed removal the least disagreeable option—better, perhaps, than the prospect of destitution, white encroachment, and violence. Others fought back.

The Cherokees tried to stop Georgia, which had passed its own laws of forcible removal, from taking their lands. The Supreme Court actually supported the tribe’s contention in Worcester v. Georgia that the state had no authority to negotiate with tribal representa-tives, a sovereign “nation” of sorts. But Jackson repudiated the decisions, reportedly responding to news of the rulings with the contemptuous statement: “John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.”

Then, in 1835, the U.S. government extracted a treaty from a minority faction of the Cherokees that ceded to Georgia the tribe’s land in that state in return for $5 million and a reservation west of the Mississippi. With removal inevitable, this Cherokee “Treaty Party” reasoned, a deal for cash and land to the west was the best alternative available. But the great majority of the 17,000 Cherokees, including their leader John Ross, did not recognize the treaty as legitimate. (See “Consider the Source: Letter from Chief John Ross.”) Jackson sent an army of 7,000 under General Winfield Scott to round them up and drive them westward.

BLACK HAWK AND FIVE OTHER SAUK PRISONERS After his defeat by white settlers in Illinois in 1832, Black Hawk and other Sauk warriors were captured and sent on a tour by Andrew Jackson, displayed to the public as trophies of war. This painting, by George Catlin, shows six Sauk prisoners the year of their capture at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis. Black Hawk is third from left, holding the feather. The Sauks insisted on being portrayed with the cannon balls chained to their legs.

(Source: National Gallery of Art, Washington)


Chief John Ross, leader of the Cherokee Na-tion, wrote the U.S. Congress to object to the Treaty of New Ochota. Signed by a minority faction within the tribe, the treaty's terms pledged the removal of Cherokees from all lands east of the Mississippi in return for money and land in present-day Oklahoma. Despite Ross's protests, the army forced the Cherokees westward on the "Trail of Tears." Thousands died on the route.

Red Clay Council Ground, Cherokee Na-tion, September 28, 1836

It is well known that for a number of years past we have been harassed by a se-ries of vexations, which it is deemed unnec-essary to recite in detail, but the evidence of which our delegation will be prepared to furnish. With a view to bringing our trou-bles to a close, a delegation was appointed on the 23rd of October, 1835, by the Gen-eral Council of the nation, clothed with full powers to enter into arrangements with the Government of the United States, for the final adjustment of all our existing difficul-ties. The delegation failing to effect an arrangement with the United States com-missioner, then in the nation, proceeded, agreeably to their instructions in that case, to Washington City, for the purpose of negotiating a treaty with the authorities of the United States.

After the departure of the Delegation, a contract was made by the Rev. John F. Schermerhorn, and certain individual Cher-okees, purporting to be a "treaty, concluded at New Echota, in the State of Georgia, on the 29th day of December, 1835, by Gen-eral William Carroll and John F. Schermer-horn, commissioners on the part of the United States, and the chiefs, headmen, and people of the Cherokee tribes of Indians." A spurious Delegation, in violation

of a special injunction of the general council of the nation, proceeded to Washington City with this pretended treaty, and by false and fraudulent representations supplanted in the favor of the Government the legal and accredited Delegation of the Cherokee people, and obtained for this instrument, after making important alterations in its provisions, the recognition of the United States Government. And now it is pre-sented to us as a treaty, ratified by the Sen-ate, and approved by the President [Andrew Jackson], and our acquiescence in its re-quirements demanded, under the sanction of the displeasure of the United States, and the threat of summary compulsion, in case of refusal. It comes to us, not through our legitimate authorities, the known and usual medium of communication between the Government of the United States and our nation, but through the agency of a compli-cation of powers, civil and military.

By the stipulations of this instrument, we are despoiled of our private possessions, the indefeasible property of individuals. We are stripped of every attribute of freedom and eligibility for legal self-defence. Our property may be plundered before our eyes; violence may be committed on our persons; even our lives may be taken away, and there is none to regard our complaints. We are denationalized; we are disfranchised. We are deprived of membership in the human family! We have neither land nor home, nor resting place that can be called our own. And this is effected by the provisions of a compact which assumes the venerated, the sacred appellation of treaty.

We are overwhelmed! Our hearts are sickened, our utterance is paralized, when we reflect on the condition in which we are placed, by the audacious practices of un-principled men, who have managed their


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stratagems with so much dexterity as to impose on the Government of the United States, in the face of our earnest, solemn, and reiterated protestations.

The instrument in question is not the act of our Nation; we are not parties to its cov-enants; it has not received the sanction of our people. The makers of it sustain no of-fice nor appointment in our Nation, under the designation of Chiefs, Head men, or any other title, by which they hold, or could ac-quire, authority to assume the reins of Gov-ernment, and to make bargain and sale of our rights, our possessions, and our com-mon country. And we are constrained sol-emnly to declare, that we cannot but contemplate the enforcement of the stipulations of this instrument on us, against our consent, as an act of injustice and op-pression, which, we are well persuaded, can never knowingly be countenanced by the Government and people of the United

States; nor can we believe it to be the design of these honorable and highminded individ-uals, who stand at the head of the Govt., to bind a whole Nation, by the acts of a few unauthorized individuals. And, therefore, we, the parties to be affected by the result, appeal with confidence to the justice, the magnanimity, the compassion, of your hon-orable bodies, against the enforcement, on us, of the provisions of a compact, in the formation of which we have had no agency.


1. On what grounds did Chief Ross object to the removal treaty?

2. What did the Cherokees stand to lose by the terms of removal, according to Chief Ross?

3. What options were available to native groups in their attempts to negotiate with the United States?

Source: Moulton, Gary E., ed. The Papers of Chief John Ross, vol. 1, 1807–1839. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.

• 213

Trail of TearsAbout 1,000 Cherokees fled to North Carolina, where eventually the federal government provided them with a small reservation in the Smoky Mountains that survives today. But most of the rest made a long, forced trek to “Indian Territory,” what later became Oklahoma, beginning in the winter of 1838. Thousands, perhaps a quarter or more of the émigrés, per-ished before reaching their unwanted destination. In the harsh new reservations, the survivors remembered the terrible journey as “The Trail Where They Cried,” the Trail of Tears.

Between 1830 and 1838, virtually all the Five Civilized Tribes were forced to travel to Indian Territory. The Choctaws of Mississippi and western Alabama were the first to make the trek, beginning in 1830. The army moved out the Creeks of eastern Alabama and western Georgia in 1836. A year later, the Chickasaws in northern Mississippi began their long march westward and the Cherokees, finally, a year after that.

The Seminoles in Florida were able to resist removal, but even their success was limited. Like other tribes, the Seminoles had agreed under pressure to a settlement by which they ceded their lands to the United States and agreed to move to Indian Territory within three years. Most did move west, but a substantial minority, under the leadership of the chieftain Osceola, balked and staged an uprising beginning in 1835 to defend their lands, the second of the Seminole Wars. Joining the Indians in their struggle was a group of runaway African American slaves, who had been living with the tribe. Jackson sent troops to Florida, but the Seminoles and their black allies were masters of guerrilla warfare in the junglelike Everglades. Finally, in 1842, the government abandoned the war. By then, many of the Seminoles had been either killed or forced westward.

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The Meaning of RemovalBy the end of the 1830s, most of the Indian societies east of the Mississippi had been removed to the West. The tribes had ceded over 100 million acres to the federal govern-ment and had received in return about $68 million and 32 million acres in the far less hospitable lands west of the Mississippi, territory that already had established native pop-ulations. There they lived, divided by tribe into a series of separate reservations, in a ter-ritory surrounded by a string of U.S. forts and whose climate and topography bore little relation to anything they had known before.

What, if any, were the alternatives to the removal of the Indians? There was probably never any realistic possibility that the government could stop white expansion westward. But there were alternatives to the brutal removal policy. The West was filled with examples of white settlers and native tribes living side by side. In the pueblos of New Mexico, in the fur trading posts of the Pacific Northwest, and in parts of Texas and California, Indians and the newcomers from Mexico, Canada, and the United States had created societies in which the various groups mingled intimately. Sometimes close contact between whites and Indians was beneficial to both sides; often it was cruel and exploitative. But the early mul-tiracial societies of the West did not separate whites and Indians. They demonstrated ways in which the two cultures could interact, each shaping the other.

Tribal lands (date ceded)


Removal routes

Native tribeCREEK

0 200 mi

0 100 200 km



G u l f o f M e x i c o

























Ft. MitchellMontgomery





Ft. Smith

Ft. Gibson


New Orleans

Ft. Co�ee

New Echota









THE EXPULSION OF THE TRIBES, 1830–1835 Well before he became president, Andrew Jackson was famous for his military exploits against the tribes. Once in the White House, he ensured that few Indians would remain in the southern states of the nation, now that white settlement was increasing there. The result was a series of dra-matic “removals” of Indian tribes out of their traditional lands and into new territories west of the Mississippi—mostly in Oklahoma. Note the very long distance many of these tribes had to travel. • Why was the route of the Cherokee, shown in the upper portion of the map, known as the Trail of Tears?


By the mid-nineteenth century, however, white Americans had adopted a different model. Much as the early British settlers along the Atlantic Coast had established “plantations,” from which natives were, in theory, to be excluded, so the western whites of later years believed that Indians could not be partners in the creation of new societies in the West. They were obstacles to be removed and, as far as possible, isolated.


Jackson was quite willing to manipulate the Indian tribes. But in other contexts, he was very reluctant to use federal authority, as shown by his 1830 veto of a congressional measure providing a subsidy to the proposed Maysville Road in Kentucky. The bill was unconstitu-tional, Jackson argued, because the road in question lay entirely within Kentucky and was not, therefore, a part of “interstate commerce.” Jackson also thought the bill unwise because it committed the government to what he considered extravagant expenditures. A similar resistance to federal power lay behind Jackson’s war against the Bank of the United States.

Biddle’s InstitutionThe Bank of the United States held a monopoly on federal deposits, provided credit to growing enterprises, issued banknotes that served as a dependable medium of exchange, and exercised a restraining effect on the less well-managed state banks. Nicholas Biddle, who ran the Bank from 1823 on, had done much to put the institution on a sound and prosperous basis. Nevertheless, many Americans—among them Andrew Jackson—were determined to destroy it.

Opposition to the Bank came from two very different groups: the “soft-money” and “hard-money” factions. Advocates of soft money consisted largely of state bankers and their allies. They objected to the Bank because it restrained state banks from issuing notes freely. The hard-money faction, which included Andrew Jackson, believed that gold or silver coin (specie) was the only safe currency, and they condemned all banks that issued banknotes, state or federal. Jackson inherently distrusted paper bills, which were essentially promissory in character and would become worthless if the specie that backed them dried up.

But his critiques of Biddle’s bank went deeper than that. The Bank of the United States was the largest corporation in the country, partially public and partially private: it owed its existence to Congress but could float loans to state banks, businesses, and individuals as it saw fit. Jackson attacked it as both an overly centralized and domineering federal institution and also as a greedy private enterprise currying favor with the rich and powerful. Thus like many political issues then and now, the battle over the Bank became a focal point for broader antagonisms of privilege, governance, and power. Jackson made clear that he would not favor renewing the charter of the Bank of the United States, which was due to expire in 1836.

A Philadelphia aristocrat unaccustomed to politics, Biddle began granting banking favors to influential men. In particular, he relied on Daniel Webster, whom he named the Bank’s legal counsel and director of the Boston branch. Webster helped Biddle enlist the support of Henry Clay as well. Clay, Webster, and other advisers persuaded Biddle to apply to Congress for a recharter bill in 1832, four years ahead of the expiration date. Congress passed the recharter bill, Jackson vetoed it, and the Bank’s supporters in Congress failed to override the veto. The Bank question then emerged as the paramount issue of the 1832 election, just as Clay had hoped.

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In 1832, Clay ran for president as the unanimous choice of the Whigs. But the “Bank War” failed to provide Clay with the winning issue he had hoped for. Jackson, with Van Buren as his running mate, won an overwhelming victory with 55 percent of the popular vote and 219 electoral votes.

The “Monster” DestroyedJackson was now more determined than ever to destroy the “monster.” He could not legally abolish the Bank before the expiration of its charter. But he could weaken it by removing the government’s deposits from it. When his secretary of the treasury, believing that such an action would destabilize the financial system, refused to give the order, Jackson fired him and appointed a replacement. When the new secretary similarly procrastinated, Jack-son fired him, too, and named a third: Roger B. Taney, the attorney general, a close friend and loyal ally of the president.

Taney soon began taking the government’s deposits out of the Bank of the United States and putting them in a number of state banks. In response, Biddle called in loans and raised interest rates, explaining that without the government deposits the Bank’s resources, previ-ously quite strong, were now stretched thin. His actions shrunk or destroyed corporations, led to worker layoffs, and precipitated a short recession, all done deliberately to reveal and protest the impact of Jackson’s withdrawal.

Indeed, as financial conditions worsened in the winter of 1833–1834, supporters of the Bank sent petitions to Washington urging its rechartering. But the Jacksonians blamed the recession on Biddle. He had the money, they said, not the government. In the court of public opinion, claims of Biddle's overly broad power over the economy appeared to have been borne out. When the banker finally carried his contraction of credit too far and had to reverse himself to appease the business community, his hopes of winning a recharter of the Bank died in the process. Jackson had won a considerable political victory. But when the Bank of the United States expired in 1836, the country was left with a fragmented and chronically unstable banking system that would plague the economy for many years.

In the aftermath of the Bank War, Jackson moved against the most powerful remaining institution of economic nationalism: the Supreme Court. In 1835, when John Marshall died, the president appointed as the new chief justice his trusted ally Roger B. Taney. Taney did not bring a sharp break in constitutional interpretation, but he did help modify Marshall’s vigorous nationalism. Perhaps the clearest indication of the new judicial climate was the celebrated case of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge of 1837. The case involved a dispute between two Massachusetts companies over the right to build a bridge across the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge. Reversing the spirit of many Marshall decisions, Taney argued that a state could amend or nullify a contract if such action was necessary to advance the well-being of the community. The decision reflected one of the cornerstones of the Jacksonian idea: that the key to democracy was an expansion of economic opportu-nity, which would not occur if older corporations could maintain monopolies.


Jackson’s forceful—some people claimed tyrannical—tactics in crushing first the nullifica-tion movement and then the Bank of the United States helped galvanize a growing oppo-sition coalition. It began as a gathering of national political leaders opposed to Jackson’s


use of power. Denouncing the president as “King Andrew I,” they began to refer to them-selves as Whigs, after the party in England that traditionally worked to limit the power of the king. With the emergence of the Whigs, the nation once again had two competing political parties. What scholars now call the “second party system” had begun its relatively brief life.

Democrats and WhigsThe philosophy of the Democratic Party in the 1830s bore the stamp of Andrew Jackson. The federal government, the Democrats believed, should be limited in power, except to the degree that it worked to eliminate social and economic arrangements that entrenched privilege and stifled opportunity. The rights of states should be protected except to the extent that state governments interfered with social and economic mobility. Jacksonian Democrats celebrated “honest workers,” “simple farmers,” and “forthright businessmen” and contrasted them to the corrupt, monopolistic, aristocratic forces of established wealth. Democrats were more likely than Whigs to support territorial expansion, which would, they believed, widen opportunities for aspiring Americans. Radical members of the party—the so-called Loco Focos, mainly workingmen, small businessmen, and professionals in the Northeast—called for a vigorous assault on privileged elites and what they saw as the gov-ernment’s economic manipulations on their behalf. A Loco Foco protest against inflation turned into a riot of hungry New York workers in February 1837, but the group’s philosophies

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Pho-tographs Division [LC-USZ62-1562])

KING ANDREW THE FIRST This parody appeared sometime in 1833 in response to Andrew Jackson's with-drawal of federal funds from the Bank of the United States and his veto of its recharter the previous year. Jackson, trampling on a torn Constitution and the coat of arms of Pennsylvania, where the Bank was located, holds a veto in his left hand and a scepter in his right.

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later found official expression in an 1840 act of Congress separating banking from the federal government.

In contrast, the political philosophy that became known as Whiggery favored the expan-sion of federal power and industrial and commercial development. Whigs were cautious about westward expansion, fearful that rapid territorial growth would produce instability. And although Whigs insisted that their vision would result in increasing opportunities for all Americans, they tended to attribute particular value to the entrepreneurs and institutions that most effectively promoted economic growth.

The Whigs were strongest among the more substantial merchants and manufacturers of the Northeast, the wealthier planters of the South, and the ambitious farmers and rising commercial class of the West. The Democrats drew more support from smaller merchants and the workingmen of the Northeast, as well as southern and western planters who favored a predominantly agrarian economy. Whigs tended to be wealthier, to have more aristocratic backgrounds, and to be more commercially ambitious than the Democrats. But Whigs and Democrats alike were more interested in winning elections than in maintaining philosoph-ical purity. And both parties made adjustments from region to region to attract the largest possible number of voters.

In New York, for example, the Whigs developed a popular following through a movement known as Anti-Masonry. The Anti-Mason Party had emerged in the 1820s in response to widespread resentment against the secret and exclusive, hence supposedly undemocratic, Society of Freemasons. Such resentment increased in 1826 when a former Mason, William Morgan, mysteriously disappeared from his home in Batavia, New York, shortly before he was scheduled to publish a book that would allegedly expose the secrets of Freemasonry. With help from a widespread assumption that Morgan had been abducted and murdered by vengeful Masons, Whigs seized on the Anti-Mason frenzy to launch spirited attacks on Jackson and Van Buren (both Freemasons), implying that the Democrats were connected with the antidemocratic conspiracy.

Religious and ethnic divisions also played an important role in determining the con-stituencies of the two parties. Irish and German Catholics tended to support the Demo-crats, who appeared to share their own vague aversion to commercial development and who seemed to respect their cultural values. Evangelical Protestants gravitated toward the Whigs because they associated the party with constant development and improvement. They envisioned a society progressing steadily toward unity and order, and they looked on the new immigrant communities as groups that needed to be disciplined and taught “American” ways.

The Whig Party was more successful at defining its positions and attracting a constitu-ency than it was at uniting behind a national leader. No one person was ever able to com-mand the loyalties of the party in the way Jackson commanded those of the Democrats. Instead, Whigs tended to divide their allegiance among the “Great Triumvirate” of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun.

Clay won support from many who favored internal improvements and economic develop-ment with what he called the American System. But Clay’s image as a devious political operator and his identification with the West were a liability. He ran for president three times and never won. Daniel Webster won broad support among the Whigs with his pas-sionate speeches in defense of the Constitution and the Union; but his close connection with the Bank of the United States and the protective tariff, his reliance on rich men for financial support, and his excessive fondness for brandy prevented him from developing enough of a national constituency to win him his desired office. John C. Calhoun never


considered himself a true Whig, and his identification with the nullification controversy in effect disqualified him from national leadership in any case. Yet he sided with Clay and Webster on the issue of the national bank, and he shared with them a strong animosity toward Andrew Jackson.

The Whigs competed relatively evenly with the Democrats in congressional, state, and local races, but they managed to win only two presidential elections in the more than twenty years of their history. Their problems became particularly clear in 1836. While the Demo-crats united behind Andrew Jackson’s personal choice for president, Martin Van Buren, the Whigs could not agree on a single candidate. Instead, they ran several candidates in different regions, hoping they might separately draw enough votes from Van Buren to throw the election to the House of Representatives, where the Whigs might be better able to elect one of their candidates. In the end, however, Van Buren won easily, with 170 electoral votes to 124 for all his opponents combined.


Andrew Jackson retired from public life in 1837, the most beloved political figure of his age. Martin Van Buren was less fortunate. He could not match Jackson’s personal mag-netism, and his administration suffered from economic difficulties that hurt both him and his party.

Van Buren and the Panic of 1837Van Buren’s success in the 1836 election was a result in part of a nationwide economic boom. Canal and railroad builders operated at a peak of activity. Prices were rising, credit was plentiful, and the land business, in particular, was booming. Between 1835 and 1837, the government sold nearly 40 million acres of public land, nearly three-fourths of it to speculators. These land sales, along with revenues the government received from the tariff of 1833, created a series of substantial federal budget surpluses and made pos-sible a steady reduction of the national debt. From 1835 to 1837, the government for the first and only time in its history was out of debt, with a substantial surplus in the Treasury.

Congress and the administration now faced the question of what to do with the Treasury surplus. Support soon grew for returning the federal surplus to the states. An 1836 “distribution” act required the federal government to pay its surplus funds to the states each year in four quarterly installments as interest-free, unsecured loans. No one expected the “loans” to be repaid. The states spent the money quickly, mainly to pro-mote the construction of highways, railroads, and canals. The distribution of the surplus thus gave further stimulus to the economic boom. At the same time, the withdrawal of federal funds strained the state banks in which they had been deposited by the govern-ment; the banks had to call in their own loans to make the transfer of funds to the state governments.

Congress did nothing to check the speculative fever. But Jackson feared that the government was selling land for state banknotes of questionable value. In 1836, he issued an executive order, the “specie circular.” It provided that in payment for public lands, the government would accept only gold or silver coins or currency backed by gold or silver. The specie circular produced a financial crisis that began in the first

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months of Van Buren’s presidency, the Panic of 1837. Banks and businesses failed; unemployment grew; bread riots shook some of the larger cities; and prices fell, espe-cially the price of land. Many railroad and canal projects failed; several of the debt-burdened state governments ceased to pay interest on their bonds, and a few repudiated their debts, at least temporarily. The worst depression in American history to that point, it lasted for five years, and it was a political catastrophe for Van Buren and the Democrats.

The Van Buren administration did little to fight the depression. In fact, some of the steps it took—borrowing money to pay government debts and accepting only specie for payment of taxes—may have made things worse. Other efforts failed in Congress: a “preemp-tion” bill that would have given settlers the right to buy government land near them before it was opened for public sale, and another bill that would have lowered the price of land. Van Buren did succeed in establishing a ten-hour workday on all federal projects via a presidential order, but he had few legislative achievements.

The most important and controversial measure in the president’s program was a pro-posal for a new financial system. Under Van Buren’s plan, known as the “independent treasury” or “subtreasury” system, government funds would be placed in an independent treasury in Washington and in subtreasuries in other cities. No private banks would have the government’s money or name to use as a basis for speculation. Van Buren called a special session of Congress in 1837 to consider the proposal, but it failed in the House. In 1840, however, the administration finally succeeded in driving the measure through both houses of Congress.

The Log Cabin CampaignAs the campaign of 1840 approached, the Whigs realized that they would have to settle on one candidate for president. In December 1839, they held their first nominating convention. Passing over Henry Clay, they chose William Henry Harrison, a renowned soldier and a popular national figure. The Democrats again nominated Van Buren.

The 1840 campaign was the first in which the new and popular “penny press” carried news of the candidates to large audiences. (See “Patterns of Popular Culture: The Penny Press.”) Such newspapers were deliberately livelier and more sensationalist than the

HUMBUG GLORY BANK This image mocked opponents of the specie circular, and more broadly, ridiculed the issuance of currency not backed by gold or silver. It reflected Andrew Jackson's charge that banks, here led by "Honest Amos," would circulate worthless paper rather than gold or silver coin (specie) or currency backed by those precious metals.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-89594])


newspapers of the past, which had been almost entirely directed at the upper classes. The Sun, the first of the new breed, began publishing in 1833 and was from the beginning self-consciously egalitarian. It soon had the largest circulation in New York. Other, similar papers soon began appearing in other cities—reinforcing the increasingly democratic char-acter of political culture and encouraging the inclination of both parties to try to appeal to ordinary voters as they planned their campaigns.

The campaign of 1840 also illustrated how fully the spirit of party competition had established itself in America. The Whigs—who had emerged as a party largely because of their opposition to Andrew Jackson’s common-people democracy—presented themselves in 1840 as the party of the common people. So, of course, did the Democrats. The Whig campaign was particularly effective in portraying William Henry Harrison, a wealthy mem-ber of the frontier elite with a considerable estate, as a simple man of the people who loved log cabins and hard cider. The Democrats, already weakened by the depression, had no effective defense against such tactics. Harrison won the election with 234 electoral votes to 60 for Van Buren and with a popular majority of 53 percent.

HARRISON AND REFORM This poster announced a meeting of supporters of William Henry Harrison. It con-veys Harrison’s presumably humble beginnings in a log cabin. In reality, Harrison was a wealthy, aristocratic man, but the unpopularity of the aristocratic airs of his opponent, President Martin Van Buren, persuaded the Whig Party that it would be good political strategy to portray Harrison as a humble “man of the people.”

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-40740])

On September 3, 1833, a small newspaper appeared in New York City for the first time: the Sun, published by a young former apprentice from Massachusetts named Benjamin Day. Four pages long, it contained mostly trivial local news, with particular emphasis on sex, crime, and violence. It sold for a penny, launching a new age in the history of American journalism, the age of the “penny press.”

Before the advent of the penny press, newspapers in America were far too expen-sive for most ordinary citizens to buy. But several important changes in both the busi-ness of journalism and the character of American society paved the way for Benja-min Day and others to challenge the estab-lished press. New technologies—the steam-powered cylinder printing press, new machines for making paper, railroads and canals for distributing issues to a larger market—made it possible to publish news-papers inexpensively and to sell them widely. A rising popular literacy rate, a result, in part, of the spread of public edu-cation, created a bigger reading public.

The penny press was also a response to the changing culture of the 1820s and 1830s. The spread of an urban market economy contributed to the growth of the penny press by drawing a large population of workers, artisans, and clerks into large cities, where they became an important market for the new papers. The spirit of de-mocracy—symbolized by the popularity of Andrew Jackson and the rising numbers of white male voters across the country—helped create an appetite for journalism that spoke to and for “the people.” The Sun and other papers like it were committed to

feeding the appetites of the people of mod-est means, who constituted most of their readership. “Human interest stories” helped solidify their hold on the working public.

Within six months of its first issue, the Sun had the largest circulation in New York—8,000 readers, more than twice the number of its nearest competitors. James Gordon Bennett’s New York Herald, which began publication in 1835, soon surpassed the Sun in popularity, with its lively combi-nation of sensationalism and local gossip and its aggressive pursuit of national and international stories. The Herald pioneered a “letters to the editor ” column, was the first paper to have regular reviews of books and the arts, and launched the first daily sports section. By 1860, its circulation of more than 77,000 was the largest of any daily newspaper in the world.

Not all the new penny papers were as sensationalistic as the Sun and the Herald. The New-York Tribune, founded in 1841 by Horace Greeley, prided itself on serious re-porting and commentary. As serious as the Tribune, but more sober and self-consciously “objective” in its reportage, was the New York Times, which Henry Raymond founded in 1851. “We do not mean to write as if we were in a passion—unless that shall really be the case,” the Times huffily proclaimed in its first issue, in an obvious reference to Greeley and his impassioned reportage, “and we shall make it a point to get into a passion as rarely as possible.”

The newspapers of the penny press initi-ated the process of turning journalism into a profession. They were the first papers to pay their reporters, and they were also the first to rely heavily on advertisem*nts,

The Penny Press


222 •

often devoting up to half their space to paid advertising. They tended to be sensational-istic and opinionated, but they were also usually aggressive in uncovering serious and

important news—in police stations, courts, jails, streets, and private homes as well as in city halls, state capitals, Washington, and the world.


1. How were the penny press newspapers a product of the Jacksonian era?

2. Before the advent of the penny press, newspapers in America were aimed at a

much narrower audience. Some pub-lished mainly business news, and others worked to advance the aims of a politi-cal party. What nationally circulated newspapers and other media today con-tinue this tradition?

• 223

(Source: Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers [sn83030311-18360101])

THE HERALD This 1836 front page of the Herald, which had begun publication the prior year, contains adver-tisem*nts for medicines and insurance, markets the services of a doctor, a school, and a furniture maker, and announces the enlargement of the newspaper.

224 • CHAPTER 9

The Frustration of the WhigsDespite their decisive victory, the Whigs found the four years after their resounding victory frustrating and divisive. The trouble began when their appealing new president died of pneumonia just one month after taking office. Vice President John Tyler of Virginia suc-ceeded him.

Tyler was a former Democrat who had left the party in reaction to what he considered Jackson’s excessively egalitarian program; Tyler’s approach to public policy still showed signs of his Democratic past. The president did agree to bills abolishing Van Buren’s independent-treasury system and raising tariff rates. But he refused to support Clay’s attempt to recharter the Bank of the United States, and he vetoed several internal improve-ment bills sponsored by Clay and other congressional Whigs. Finally, a conference of congressional Whigs voted Tyler out of the party. Every cabinet member but Webster, who was serving as secretary of state, resigned. Five former Democrats took their places. When Webster, too, left the cabinet, Tyler appointed Calhoun, who had rejoined the Democratic Party, to replace him.

A new political alignment was taking shape. Tyler and a small band of conservative southern Whigs were preparing to rejoin the Democrats. Into the common people’s party of Jackson and Van Buren was arriving a faction with decidedly aristocratic political ideas, men who thought that government had an obligation to protect and even expand the institution of slavery and who believed in states’ rights with almost fanatical devotion.

Whig DiplomacyIn the midst of these domestic controversies, anti-British factions in Canada launched an unsuccessful rebellion against the colonial government there in 1837. When the insurrec-tion failed, some of the rebels took refuge near the United States border and chartered an American steamship, the Caroline, to ship them supplies across the Niagara River from New York. British authorities in Canada seized the Caroline and burned it, killing one American in the process. Resentment over the Caroline affair in the United States grew rapidly. At the same time, tensions flared over the boundary between Canada and Maine, which had been in dispute since the treaty of 1783. In 1838, rival groups of Americans and Canadians, mostly lumberjacks, began moving into the Aroostook River region in the disputed area, precipitating a violent brawl that became known as the “Aroostook War.”

Several years later, in 1841, an American ship, the Creole, sailed from Virginia for New Orleans with more than 100 slaves aboard. En route the slaves mutinied, seized possession of the ship, and took it to the Bahamas. British officials there declared the slaves free, and the London government refused to overrule them. Many Americans, especially southerners, were furious.

At this critical juncture, a new government eager to reduce tensions with the United States came to power in Great Britain. It sent Lord Ashburton, an admirer of America, to negotiate an agreement on the Maine boundary and other matters. The result was the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, under which the United States received slightly more than half the disputed area and agreed to a northern boundary as far west as the Rocky Mountains. Ashburton also eased the memory of the Caroline and Creole affairs by


expressing regret and promising no future “officious interference” with American ships. Anglo–American relations improved significantly.

During the Tyler administration, the United States established its first diplomatic rela-tions with China. In the 1844 Treaty of Wang Hya, American diplomats secured the same trading privileges as the British. In the next ten years, American trade with China steadily increased.

In their diplomatic efforts, at least, the Whigs were able to secure some important suc-cesses. But by the end of the Tyler administration, the party could look back on few other victories. And in the election of 1844, the Whigs lost the White House to James K. Polk, a Democrat with an explicit agenda of westward expansion.


The election of Andrew Jackson in 1828 reflected the emergence of a new political world. Throughout the nation, the laws governing political participation were loosening, and the number of people permitted to vote was increasing to include most white males but almost no one else. Along with this expansion of the electorate was emerging a new spirit of party politics.

Jackson set out as president to entrench his party, the Democrats, in power. A fierce defender of the West and a sharp critic of what he considered the stranglehold of the aristocratic East on the nation’s economic life, he sought to limit the role of the federal government in economic affairs and worked to destroy the Bank of the United States, which he considered a corrupt vehicle of aristocratic influence. And he confronted the greatest challenge yet to American unity—the nullification crisis of 1832–33—with a strong assertion of the power and importance of the Union. These positions won him broad popularity and ensured his reelection in 1832 and the election of his designated successor, Martin Van Buren, in 1836.

But a new coalition of anti-Jacksonians, who called themselves the Whigs, launched a powerful new party that used much of the same anti-elitist rhetoric to win support for their own, much more nationalistic program. Their emergence culminated in the campaign of 1840 with the election of William Henry Harrison, the first Whig president. When his death led to the accidental presidency of John Tyler, however, further realignments were set in motion.


Alexis de Tocqueville 205Andrew Jackson 203Bank War 216Black Hawk War 210Daniel Webster 209Dorr Rebellion 204Five Civilized Tribes 211Indian Removal Act 211

Indian Territory 213John C. Calhoun 208John Tyler 224Martin Van Buren 208Nicholas Biddle 215nullification 208Panic of 1837 220Roger B. Taney 216

specie circular 219spoils system 208Trail of Tears 213Webster-Ashburton Treaty

224Webster-Hayne debate 209Whigs 207William Henry Harrison 220

226 • CHAPTER 9


1. What was Andrew Jackson’s political philosophy, and how was it reflected in the pol-icies and actions of his administration?

2. Who benefited under Jacksonian democracy? Who suffered? 3. How did Andrew Jackson change the office of the presidency? 4. Who supported and who opposed the Bank of the United States, and why? Who

was right? 5. How and why did white attitudes toward Native Americans change, and how did

these changes lead to the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears? 6. How did Native Americans in the Southeast respond to white efforts to seize their

land and remove them to the West?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

• 227

WHEN THE UNITED STATES ENTERED the War of 1812, it was still an essentially agrarian nation. There were, to be sure, some substantial cities in America and also modest but growing manufacturing centers, mainly in the Northeast. But the overwhelming majority of Americans were farmers and tradespeople.

By the time the Civil War began in 1861, however, the United States had transformed itself. Most Americans were still rural people. But even most farmers were now part of a national, and even international, market economy. Equally important, the United States was starting to challenge the industrial nations of Europe for supremacy in manufacturing. The nation had experienced the beginning of its own Industrial Revolution.


1. What were the factors sparking the U.S. economic revolution of the mid-nine-teenth century?

2. How did the U.S. population change between 1820 and 1840, and how did the population change affect the nation’s economy, society, and politics?

3. Why did America’s Industrial Revolution affect the northern economy and society differently than it did the southern economy and society?





228 •


The American Industrial Revolution was a result of many factors: advances in transpor-tation and communications, the growth of manufacturing technology, the development of new systems of business organization, and perhaps above all, surging population growth.

Population TrendsThree trends characterized the American population during the antebellum period: rapid increase, movement westward, and the growth of towns and cities where demand for work was expanding.

The American population, 4 million in 1790, had reached 10 million by 1820 and 17 million by 1840. Improvements in public health played a role in this growth. Epidemics declined in both frequency and intensity, and the death rate as a whole dipped. But the population increase was also a result of a high birthrate. In 1840, white women bore an average of 6.14 chil-dren each.

The African American population increased more slowly than the white popu-lation. After 1808, when the importation of slaves became illegal, the proportion of blacks to whites in the nation as a whole steadily declined. The slower increase of the black population was also a result of its comparatively high death rate. Slave moth-ers had large families, but life was shorter for both slaves and free blacks than for whites—a result of the enforced poverty and harsh working conditions in which virtually all African Americans lived.

Immigration, choked off by wars in Europe and economic crises in America, contributed little to the American popula-tion in the first three decades of the



Erie Canal constructed


Rotary press invented


Lowell Mills women strike

McCormick patents mechanical reaper


Native American Party formed


Immigration from Ireland and Germany



Native American Association fights



Morse sends first telegraph message


John Deere manufactures

steel plows1852

American Party (Know-Nothings)



Baltimore and Ohio Railroad begins



nineteenth century. Of the total 1830 population of nearly 13 million, the foreign-born numbered fewer than 500,000. Soon, however, immigration began to grow once again. Famine and political unrest in European countries fueled people’s desire to emigrate, while the transatlantic voyage became quicker and more affordable as steamships replaced older ships powered by wind alone.

Much of this new European immigration flowed into the rapidly growing cities of the Northeast. But urban growth was a result of substantial internal migration as well. As agriculture in New England and other areas grew less profitable, more and more people picked up stakes and moved—some to promising agricultural regions in the West, but many to eastern cities.

Immigration and Urban Growth, 1840–1860The growth of cities accelerated dramatically between 1840 and 1860. The population of New York, for example, rose from 312,000 to 805,000, making it the nation’s largest and most commercially important city. Philadelphia’s population grew over the same twenty-year period from 220,000 to 565,000; Boston’s, from 93,000 to 177,000. By 1860, 26 percent of the population of the free states was living in towns (places of 2,500 people or more) or cities, up from 14 percent in 1840. The urban population of the South, by contrast, increased from 6 percent in 1840 to only 10 percent in 1860.

The booming agricultural economy of the West produced significant urban growth as well. Between 1820 and 1840, communities that had once been small villages or trading posts became major cities: St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville. All became centers of the growing carrying trade that connected the farmers of the Midwest with New Orleans and, through it, the cities of the Northeast. After 1830, however, an increasing proportion of this trade moved from the Mississippi River to the Great Lakes, creating such important new port cities as Buffalo, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Chicago, which gradually overtook the river ports.

Immigration from Europe swelled. Between 1840 and 1850, more than 1.5 million Europeans moved to America. In the 1850s, the number rose to 2.5 million. Almost half the residents of New York City in the 1850s were recent immigrants. In St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee, the foreign-born outnumbered those of native birth. Comparatively few immigrants settled in the South.

The newcomers came from many different countries, but the overwhelming majority were from Ireland and Germany. By 1860, there were more than 1.5 million Irish-born and approximately 1 million German-born people in the United States. Many of the Irish were rural farmers escaping brutal poverty, British rule, and especially the Potato Famine that, from 1845 to 1852, rotted crops, caused widespread starvation, and helped spread disease. It killed nearly one million Irish. Most Irish immigrants abandoned their agricultural roots and stayed in the very eastern cities where they landed, becoming part of the unskilled labor force. The largest group of Irish immigrants comprised young, single women, who typically worked in factories or as domestics. Like the Irish, many German-speaking immigrants hungered for improved agricultural conditions, especially when wheat prices plummeted. But others came for explicitly political reasons. Many fled Europe in search of democracy after the failed revolutions of 1848. And those who were Jewish hoped to leave behind increasing anti-Semitism. Germans tended to arrive in America with more money and often came in family groups. They generally moved on to the Northwest, where they established farms or opened businesses.

230 • CHAPTER 10

The Rise of NativismMany politicians, particularly Democrats, eagerly courted the support of the new arrivals. Other citizens, however, viewed the growing foreign population with alarm. Some people argued that the immigrants were racially inferior or that they corrupted politics by selling their votes. Oth-ers complained that they were stealing jobs from the native workforce. Protestants worried that the growing Irish population would increase the power of the Catholic Church in America. Older-stock Americans feared that immigrants would become a radical force in politics. Out of these fears and prejudices emerged a number of secret societies to combat the “alien menace.”

The first was the Native American Association, founded in 1837, which in 1845 became the Native American Party. In 1850, it joined with other groups supporting nativism to form the Supreme Order of the Star-Spangled Banner, whose demands included banning Catholics or aliens from holding public office, enacting more restrictive naturalization laws, and establishing literacy tests for voting. The order adopted a strict code of secrecy, which included a secret password: “I know nothing.” Ultimately, members of the movement came to be known as the “Know-Nothings.”

After the 1852 elections, the Know-Nothings created a new political organization that they called the American Party. It scored an immediate and astonishing success in the elections of 1854. The Know-Nothings did well in Pennsylvania and New York and actually won control of the state government in Massachusetts. Outside the Northeast, however, their progress was more modest. After 1854, the strength of the Know-Nothings declined, and the party soon disappeared.

KNOW-NOTHING SOAP This illustrated advertising label for soap manufactured in Boston alludes to the Know-Nothing or nativist movement. The Indian depicted in the foreground and teepees and camp in the background symbolize the movement’s prejudice against new arrivals.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-5004])



Just as the Industrial Revolution required an expanding population, it also required an efficient system of transportation and communications. The first half of the nineteenth century saw dramatic changes in both.

The Canal AgeFrom 1790 until the 1820s, the so-called turnpike era, the United States had relied largely on roads for internal transportation. But roads alone were not adequate for the nation’s expanding needs. And so, in the 1820s and 1830s, Americans began to turn to other means of transportation as well.

Larger rivers like the Mississippi became increasingly important as steamboats replaced the slow barges that had previously dominated water traffic. The new riverboats carried the corn and wheat of northwestern farmers and the cotton and tobacco of southwestern plant-ers to New Orleans, where oceangoing ships took the cargoes on to eastern ports or abroad.

But this roundabout river–sea route satisfied neither western farmers nor eastern merchants, who wanted a new way to ship goods cheaper and more directly to the urban markets and ports of the Atlantic Coast. New highways across the mountains provided a partial solution to the problem. But the costs of hauling goods overland, although lower than before, were still too

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Chenango Canal1837Genessee

Valley Canal

Welland Canal1833

Chesapeake andOhio Canal


CANALS IN THE NORTH, 1823–1860 Note how the East and West are being connected through a growing transportation network. The great success of the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, inspired decades of energetic canal building in many areas of the United States, as this map illustrates. But none of the new canals had anything like the impact of the original Erie Canal, and thus none of New York’s competitors—among them Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston—were able to displace it as the nation’s leading commercial center. • How did the emergence of canals change the distribution of goods in America?

232 • CHAPTER 10

high for anything except the most compact and valuable merchandise. And so interest grew in building canals—human-made waterways that connected bodies of water and were wide and deep enough for commercial vessels.

The job of financing canals fell largely to the states. New York was the first to act. It had the natural advantage of a good land route between the Hudson River and Lake Erie through the only break in the Appalachian chain. But the engineering tasks were still imposing. The more than 350-mile-long route was interrupted by high ridges and thick woods. After a long public debate, canal advocates prevailed, and digging began on July 4, 1817.

The Erie Canal was the greatest construction project Americans had ever undertaken. The canal itself was basically a simple ditch forty feet wide and four feet deep, with towpaths along the banks for the horses or mules that were to draw the canal boats. But its construc-tion involved hundreds of difficult cuts and fills to enable the canal to pass through hills and over valleys, stone aqueducts to carry it across streams, and eighty-eight locks of heavy masonry with great wooden gates to permit ascents and descents. Still, the Erie Canal opened in October 1825 amid elaborate ceremonies and celebrations, and traffic was soon so heavy that within about seven years, tolls had repaid the entire cost of construction. By providing a route to the Great Lakes, the canal gave New York access to Chicago and the growing markets of the West. The Erie Canal also contributed to the decline of agriculture in New England. Now that it was so much cheaper for western farmers to ship their crops east, people farming marginal land in the Northeast found themselves unable to compete.

The system of water transportation extended farther when Ohio and Indiana, inspired by the success of the Erie Canal, provided water connections between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. These canals made it possible to ship goods by inland waterways all the way from New York to New Orleans.

One of the immediate results of these new transportation routes was increased white settlement in the Northwest, because it was now easier for migrants to make the westward journey and to ship their goods back to eastern markets. Much of the western produce continued to go downriver to New Orleans, but an increasing proportion went east to New York. And manufactured goods from throughout the East now moved in growing volume through New York and then to the West via the new water routes.

Rival cities along the Atlantic seaboard took alarm at New York’s access to (and control over) so vast a market, largely at their expense. But they had limited success in catching up. Boston, its way to the Hudson River blocked by the Berkshire Mountains, did not even try to connect itself to the West by canal. Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, and Charleston all aspired to build water routes to the Ohio Valley but never completed them. Some cities, however, saw opportunities in a different and newer means of transportation. Even before the canal age had reached its height, the era of the railroad was beginning.

The Early RailroadsRailroads played a relatively small role in the nation’s transportation system in the 1820s and 1830s, but railroad pioneers laid the groundwork in those years for the great surge of railroad building in the midcentury. Eventually, railroads became the primary transportation system for the United States, as well as critical sites of development for innovations in tech-nology and corporate organization.

Railroads emerged from a combination of technological and entrepreneurial innovations: the invention of tracks, the creation of steam-powered locomotives, and the development of trains as public carriers of passengers and freight. By 1804, both English and American inven-tors had experimented with steam engines for propelling land vehicles. In 1820, John Stevens


ran a locomotive and cars around a circular track on his New Jersey estate. And in 1825, the Stockton and Darlington Railroad in England became the first line to carry general traffic.

American entrepreneurs quickly grew interested in the English experiment. The first company to begin actual operations was the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which opened a thirteen-mile stretch of track in 1830. In New York, the Mohawk and Hudson began running trains along the sixteen miles between Schenectady and Albany in 1831. By 1836, more than a thousand miles of track had been laid in eleven states.

The Triumph of the RailsRailroads gradually supplanted canals and all other forms of transport. In 1840, the total railroad trackage of the country was under 3,000 miles. By 1860, it was over 27,000 miles, mostly in the Northeast. Railroads even crossed the Mississippi at several points by great iron bridges. Chicago eventually became the rail center of the West, securing its place as the dominant city of that region.

The emergence of the great train lines diverted traffic from the main water routes—the Erie Canal and the Mississippi River. By lessening the dependence of the West on the Mississippi, the railroads also helped weaken further the connection between the Northwest and the South.

Railroad construction required massive amounts of capital. Some came from private sources, but much of it came from government funding. State and local governments invested in railroads, but even greater assistance came from the federal government in the form of public land grants. By 1860, Congress had allotted over 30 million acres to eleven states to assist railroad construction.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the impact of the rails on the American economy, on American society, even on American culture. Where railroads went, towns, ranches, and farms grew up rapidly along their routes. Areas once cut off from markets during winter found that the railroad could transport goods to and from them year-round. Most of all, the railroads cut the time of shipment and travel. In the 1830s, traveling from New York to Chicago by lake and canal took roughly three weeks. By railroad in the 1850s, the same trip took less than two days.

The railroads were much more than a fast and economically attractive form of transpor-tation. They were also a breeding ground for technological advances, a key to the nation’s economic growth, and the birthplace of the modern corporate form of organization. They became a symbol of the nation’s technological prowess. To many people, railroads were the most visible sign of American advancement and greatness.

RACING ON THE RAILROAD Peter Cooper designed and built the first steam-powered locomotives in America in 1830 for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. On August 28 of that year, he raced his locomotive (the “ Tom Thumb”) against a horse-drawn railroad car. This sketch depicts the moment when Cooper ’s engine overtook the horse-drawn railroad car.

(©Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

234 • CHAPTER 10

The TelegraphWhat the railroad was to transportation, the telegraph was to communication—a dramatic advance over traditional methods and a symbol of national progress and technological expertise.

Before the telegraph, communication over great distances could be achieved only by direct, physical contact. That meant that virtually all long-distance communication relied

RAILROAD GROWTH, 1850–1860 These two maps illustrate the dramatic growth of American railroads in the 1850s. Note the particularly extensive increase in mileage in the upper Midwest (known at the time as the Old Northwest). Note, too, the relatively smaller increase in railroad mileage in the South. Railroads forged a close economic relationship between the upper Midwest and the Northeast and weakened the Midwest’s relationship with the South. • How did this contribute to the South’s growing sense of insecurity within the Union?


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on the mail, which traveled first on horseback and coach and later by railroad. There were obvious disadvantages to this system, not the least of which was the difficulty in coordinat-ing the railroad schedules. By the 1830s, experiments with many methods of improving long-distance communication had been conducted, among them a procedure for using the sun and reflective devices to send light signals as far as 187 miles.

In 1832, Samuel F. B. Morse—a professor of art with an interest in science—began experimenting with a different system. Fascinated with the possibilities of electricity, Morse set out to find a way to send signals along an electric cable. Technology did not yet permit the use of electric wiring to send reproductions of the human voice or any complex information. But Morse realized that electricity itself could serve as a communi-cation device—that pulses of electricity could themselves become a kind of language. He experimented at first with a numerical code, in which each number would represent a word on a list available to recipients. Gradually, however, he became convinced of the need to find a more universal telegraphic “language,” and he developed what became the Morse code, in which alternating long and short bursts of electric current would represent individual letters.

In 1843, Congress appropriated $30,000 for the construction of an experimental tele-graph line between Baltimore and Washington; in May 1844 it was complete, and Morse succeeded in transmitting the news of James K. Polk’s nomination for the presidency over the wires. By 1860, more than 50,000 miles of wire connected most parts of the country; a year later, the Pacific Telegraph, with 3,595 miles of wire, opened between New York and San Francisco. By then, nearly all the independent lines had joined in one organiza-tion, the Western Union Telegraph Company. The telegraph spread rapidly across Europe as well, and in 1866, the first transatlantic cable was laid, allowing telegraphic communica-tion between America and Europe.

THE TELEGRAPH The telegraph provided rapid communication across the country—and eventually across oceans—for the first time. Samuel F. B. Morse was one of a number of inventors who helped create the telegraph, but he was the most commercially successful of the rivals.


236 • CHAPTER 10

One of the first beneficiaries of the telegraph was the growing system of rails. Wires often ran alongside railroad tracks, and telegraph offices were often located in railroad stations. The telegraph allowed railroad operators to communicate directly with stations in cities, small towns, and even rural hamlets—to alert them to schedule changes and warn them about delays and breakdowns. Among other things, this new form of communication helped prevent accidents by alerting stations to problems that engineers in the past had to discover for themselves.

New Technology and JournalismAnother beneficiary of the telegraph was American journalism. The wires delivered news in a matter of hours—not days, weeks, or months, as in the past—across the country and the world. Where once the exchange of national and international news relied on the cum-bersome exchange of newspapers by mail, now it was possible for papers to share their reporting. In 1846, newspaper publishers from around the nation formed the Associated Press to promote cooperative news gathering by wire.

Other technological advances spurred the development of the American press. In 1846, Richard Hoe invented the steam-powered cylinder rotary press, making it possible to print newspapers much more rapidly and cheaply than had been possible in the past. Among other things, the rotary press spurred the dramatic growth of mass-circulation newspapers. The New York Sun, the most widely circulated paper in the nation, had 8,000 readers in 1834. By 1860, its successful rival the New York Herald—benefiting from the speed and economies of production the rotary press made possible—had a circulation of 77,000.


By the mid-nineteenth century, the United States had developed the beginnings of a modern capitalist economy and an advanced industrial capacity. But the economy had developed along highly unequal lines—benefiting some classes and some regions far more than others.

The Expansion of Business, 1820–1840American business grew rapidly in the 1820s and 1830s in part because of important innovations in management. Individuals or limited partnerships continued to operate most businesses, and the dominant figures were still the great merchant capitalists, who generally had sole ownership of their enterprises. In some larger businesses, however, the individual merchant capitalist was giving way to the corporation. Corporations, which had the advantage of combining the resources of a large number of shareholders, began to develop particularly rapidly in the 1830s, when some legal obstacles to their formation were removed. Previously, a corporation could obtain a charter only by a special act of a state legislature; by the 1830s, states began passing general incorporation laws, under which a group could secure a charter merely by paying a fee. The laws also permitted a system of limited liability, in which individual stockholders risked losing only the value of their own investment—and not the corporation’s larger losses as in the past—if the enterprise failed. These changes made possible much larger manufacturing and business enterprises.


The Emergence of the FactoryThe most profound economic development in mid-nineteenth-century America was the rise of the factory. Before the War of 1812, most manufacturing took place within households or in small workshops. Later in the nineteenth century, however, New England textile manufacturers began using new water-powered machines that allowed them to bring their operations together under a single roof. This factory system, as it came to be known, soon penetrated the shoe industry and other industries as well.

Between 1840 and 1860, American industry experienced particularly dramatic growth. For the first time, the value of manufactured goods was roughly equal to that of agricultural products. More than half of the approximately 140,000 manufacturing establishments in the country in 1860, including most of the larger enterprises, were located in the Northeast. The Northeast thus produced more than two-thirds of the manufactured goods and employed nearly three-quarters of the men and women working in manufacturing.

Advances in TechnologyEven the most highly developed industries were still relatively immature. American cotton manufacturers, for example, produced goods of coarse grade; fine items continued to come from England. But by the 1840s, significant advances were occurring.

Among the most important was in the manufacturing of machine tools—the tools used to make machinery parts. The government supported much of the research and develop-ment of machine tools, often in connection with supplying the military. For example, a government armory in Springfield, Massachusetts, developed two important tools—the tur-ret lathe (used for cutting screws and other metal parts) and the universal milling machine (which replaced the hand chiseling of complicated parts and dies)—early in the nineteenth century. The precision grinder (which became critical to, among other things, the construc-tion of sewing machines) was designed in the 1850s to help the army produce standardized rifle parts. By the 1840s, the machine tools used in the factories of the Northeast were already better than those in most European factories.

One important result of better machine tools was that the principle of interchangeable parts spread into many industries. Eventually, interchangeability would revolutionize watch and clock making, the manufacturing of locomotives, the creation of steam engines, and the making of many farm tools and guns. It would also help make possible bicycles, sewing machines, typewriters, cash registers, and eventually the automobile.

Industrialization was also profiting from new sources of energy. The production of coal, most of it mined around Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania, leaped from 50,000 tons in 1820 to 14 million tons in 1860. The new power source, which replaced wood and water power, made it possible to locate mills away from running streams and thus permitted the wider expansion of the industry.

The great industrial advances owed much to American inventors. In 1830, the number of inventions patented was 544; in 1860, it stood at 4,778. Several industries provide par-ticularly vivid examples of how a technological innovation could produce major economic change. In 1839, Charles Goodyear, a New England hardware merchant, discovered a method of vulcanizing rubber (treating it to give it greater strength and elasticity); by 1860, his process had found over 500 uses and had helped create a major American rubber industry. In 1846, Elias Howe of Massachusetts constructed a sewing machine; Isaac Singer made improvements on it, and the Howe-Singer machine was soon being used in the manufacture of ready-to-wear clothing.

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Industrialization was not without environmental costs, however. It brought unprece-dented levels of water and air pollution that eventually triggered early efforts at reform and contributed to growing public awareness about the need to protect the environment and citizens. To stop toxic runoff from cattle processing plants, for example, Wisconsin passed the Slaughterhouse Offal Act of 1862 that prohibited dumping slaughter wastes in surface water. By 1861 Chicago and Cincinnati had both implemented smoke laws aimed at decreas-ing the soot, ash, and heavy smog produced by coal and iron factories, railroads, and ships.

Rise of the Industrial Ruling ClassThe merchant capitalists remained figures of importance in the 1840s. In such cities as New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, influential mercantile groups operated shipping lines to southern ports or dispatched fleets of trading vessels to Europe and Asia. But merchant capitalism was declining by the middle of the century. This was partly because British competitors were stealing much of America’s export trade, but mostly because there were greater opportunities for profit in manufacturing than in trade. That was one reason why industries developed first in the Northeast: an affluent merchant class with the money and the will to finance them already existed there. They supported the emerging industrial capitalists and soon became the new aristocrats of the Northeast, with far-reaching eco-nomic and political influence.


In the 1820s and 1830s, factory labor came primarily from the native-born population. After 1840, the growing immigrant population became the most important new source of workers.

Recruiting a Native WorkforceRecruiting a labor force was not an easy task in the early years of the factory system. Ninety percent of the American people in the 1820s still lived and worked on farms. Many urban residents were skilled artisans who owned and managed their own shops, and the available unskilled workers were not numerous enough to meet industry’s needs. But dramatic

THE ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS OF INDUSTRIALIZATION Nineteenth-century factories like this print works in Manchester contributed to unprecedented levels of air pollution.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-69112])


improvements in agricultural production, particularly in the Midwest, meant that each region no longer had to feed itself; it could import the food it needed. As a result, rural people from relatively unprofitable farming areas of the East began leaving the land to work in the factories.

Two systems of recruitment emerged to bring this new labor supply to the expanding textile mills. One, common in the mid-Atlantic states, brought whole families from the farm to work together in the mill. The second system, common in Massachusetts and New England in general, enlisted young women, mostly farmers’ daughters in their late teens and early twenties. It was known as the Lowell or Waltham system, after the towns in which it first emerged. Many of these women worked for several years, saved their wages, and then returned home to marry and raise children. Others married men they met in the factories or in town. Most eventually stopped working in the mills and took up domestic roles instead.

Labor conditions in these early years of the factory system, hard as they often were, remained significantly better than they would later become. The Lowell workers, for exam-ple, were generally well fed, carefully supervised, and housed in clean boardinghouses and dormitories, which the factory owners maintained. (See “Consider the Source: Handbook to Lowell.”) Wages for the Lowell workers were relatively generous by the standards of the time. The women even published a monthly magazine, the Lowell Offering.

Yet even these relatively well-treated workers found the transition from farm life to fac-tory work difficult. Forced to live among strangers in a regimented environment, many women had trouble adjusting to the nature of factory work. However uncomfortable women may have found factory work, they had few other options. Work in the mills was in many cases virtually the only alternative to returning to farms that could no longer support them.

The factory system of Lowell did not, in any case, survive for long. In the competitive textile market of the 1830s and 1840s, manufacturers found it difficult to maintain the high living standards and reasonably attractive working conditions of before. Wages declined; the hours of work lengthened; the conditions of the boardinghouses deteriorated. In 1834, mill workers in Lowell organized a union—the Factory Girls Association—which staged a strike to protest a 25 percent wage cut. Two years later, the association struck again—against a rent increase in the boardinghouses. Both strikes failed, and a recession in 1837 virtually destroyed the organization. Eight years later, the Lowell women, led by the militant Sarah Bagley, created the Female Labor Reform Association, which grew to around 500 members in five months. It was one of the first American labor organizations created by women. Members published the Voice of Industry to air their grievances and political goals, which included a ten-hour day and improvements in conditions in the mills. The new association also asked state governments for legislative investigation of conditions in the mills. Although mill owners reduced the workday by 30 minutes, larger labor reforms would have to wait. The association dissolved in 1848 because the character of the factory workforce was chang-ing again, lessening the urgency of their demands. Many mill girls were gradually moving into other occupations: teaching, domestic service, or homemaking. And textile manufactur-ers were turning to a less demanding labor supply: immigrants.

The Immigrant WorkforceThe increasing supply of immigrant workers after 1840 was a boon to manufacturers and other entrepreneurs. These new workers, because of their growing numbers and their unfa-miliarity with their new country, had even less leverage than the women they displaced,

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Strict rules governed the working life of the young women who worked in the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the first half of the nineteenth century. Equally strict rules regulated their time away from work (what little leisure time they enjoyed) in the company-supervised boardinghouses in which they lived. The excerpts from the Hand-book to Lowell from 1848 that follow suggest the tight supervision under which the Lowell mill girls worked and lived.


REGULATIONS TO BE OBSERVED by all persons employed in the factories of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. The overseers are to be always in their rooms at the starting of the mill, and not absent un-necessarily during working hours. They are to see that all those employed in their rooms are in their places in due season, and keep a correct account of their time and work. They may grant leave of absence to those employed under them, when they have spare hands to supply their places and not otherwise, except in cases of absolute necessity.

All persons in the employ of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company are to observe the regulations of the room where they are employed. They are not to be absent from their work without the consent of the overseer, except in cases of sickness, and then they are to send him word of the cause of their absence. They are to board in one of the houses of the company and give infor-mation at the counting room, where they board, when they begin, or, whenever they change their boarding place; and are to observe the regulations of their boarding-house.

Those intending to leave the employ-ment of the company are to give at least two weeks’ notice thereof to their overseer.

All persons entering into the employ-ment of the company are considered as engaged for twelve months, and those who leave sooner, or do not comply with all these regulations, will not be entitled to a regular discharge.

The company will not employ anyone who is habitually absent from public wor-ship on the Sabbath, or known to be guilty of immorality.

A physician will attend once in every month at the counting-room, to vaccinate all who may need it, free of expense.

Anyone who shall take from the mills or the yard, any yarn, cloth or other article belonging to the company will be considered guilty of stealing and be liable to prosecution.

Payment will be made monthly, including board and wages. The accounts will be made up to the last Saturday but one in every month, and paid in the course of the follow-ing week.

These regulations are considered part of the contract, with which all persons enter-ing into the employment of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company, engage to comply.


REGULATIONS FOR THE BOARDING-HOUSES of the Hamilton Manufacturing Company. The tenants of the boarding-houses are not to board, or permit any part of their houses to be occupied by any person, except those in the employ of the company, without special permission.

They will be considered answerable for any improper conduct in their houses, and are not to permit their boarders to have company at unseasonable hours.


• 241

and thus they often experienced far worse working conditions. Poorly paid construction gangs, made up increasingly of Irish immigrants, performed the heavy, unskilled work on turnpikes, canals, and railroads. Many of them lived in flimsy shanties, in grim conditions that endangered the health of their families (and reinforced native prejudices toward the “shanty Irish”). Irish workers began to predominate in the New England textile mills as well in the 1840s. Employers began paying piece rates rather than a daily wage and used other devices to speed up production and exploit the labor force more efficiently. The factories themselves were becoming large, noisy, unsanitary, and often dangerous places to work; the average workday was extending to twelve, often fourteen hours; and wages were declining. Women and children, whatever their skills, earned less than most men.

The Factory System and the Artisan TraditionFactories were also displacing the trades of skilled artisans. Artisans were as much a part of the older, republican vision of America as sturdy yeoman farmers. Independent crafts-people clung to a vision of economic life that was very different from that promoted by the new capitalist class. The artisans embraced not just the idea of individual, acquisitive success but also a sense of a “moral community.” Skilled artisans valued their indepen-dence, their stability, and their relative equality within their economic world.

Some artisans made successful transitions into small-scale industry. But others found themselves unable to compete with the new factory-made goods. In the face of this competition, skilled workers in cities such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and New York formed

The doors must be closed at ten o’clock in the evening, and no person admitted after that time, without some reasonable excuse.

The keepers of the boarding-houses must give an account of the number, names and employment of their boarders, when required, and report the names of such as are guilty of any improper conduct, or are not in the regular habit of attending public worship.

The buildings, and yards about them, must be kept clean and in good order; and if they are injured, otherwise than from ordi-nary use, all necessary repairs will be made, and charged to the occupant.

The sidewalks, also, in front of the houses, must be kept clean, and free from snow, which must be removed from them immediately after it has ceased falling; if neglected, it will be removed by the com-pany at the expense of the tenant.

It is desirable that the families of those who live in the houses, as well as the

boarders, who have not had the kine pox, should be vaccinated, which will be done at the expense of the company, for such as wish it.

Some suitable chamber in the house must be reserved, and appropriated for the use of the sick, so that others may not be under the necessity of sleeping in the same room.



1. What do these rules suggest about the everyday lives of the mill workers?

2. What do the rules suggest about the company’s attitude toward the workers? Do the rules offer any protections to the employees, or are they all geared toward benefiting the employer?

3. Why would the company enforce suchstrict rules? Why would the mill workers accept them?

Source: Handbook to Lowell, 1848.

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societies for mutual aid. During the 1820s and 1830s, these craft societies began to combine on a citywide basis and set up central organizations known as trade unions. In 1834, delegates from six cities founded the National Trades’ Union, and in 1836, printers and cordwainers (makers of high-quality shoes and boots) set up their own national craft unions.

Hostile laws and hostile courts handicapped the unions, as did the Panic of 1837 and the depression that followed. But some artisans managed to retain control over their pro-ductive lives.

Fighting for ControlIndustrial workers made continuous efforts to improve their lots. They tried, with little success, to persuade state legislatures to pass laws setting a maximum workday and regulat-ing child labor. Their greatest legal victory came in Massachusetts in 1842, when the state supreme court, in Commonwealth v. Hunt, declared that unions were lawful organizations and that the strike was a lawful weapon. Other state courts gradually accepted the prin-ciples of the Massachusetts decision, but employers continued to resist.

Virtually all the early craft unions excluded women. As a result, women began establish-ing their own, new protective unions in the 1850s. Like the male craft unions, the female unions had little power in dealing with employers. They did, however, serve an important role as mutual aid societies for women workers.

Many factors combined to inhibit the growth of better working standards. Among the most important obstacles was the flood into the country of immigrant laborers, who were usually willing to work for lower wages than native workers. Because they were so numer-ous, manufacturers had little difficulty replacing disgruntled or striking workers with eager immigrants. Ethnic divisions often led workers to channel their resentments into internal bickering among one another rather than into their shared grievances. Another obstacle was the sheer strength of the industrial capitalists, who possessed not only economic but also political and social power.


The Industrial Revolution was making the United States both dramatically wealthier and increasingly unequal. It was transforming social relationships at almost every level.

The Rich and the PoorThe commercial and industrial growth of the United States greatly elevated the average income of the American people. But this increasing wealth was being distributed highly unequally. Substantial groups of the population—slaves, Indians, landless farmers, and many of the unskilled workers on the fringes of the manufacturing system—shared hardly at all in the economic growth. But even among the rest of the population, disparities of income were growing. Merchants and industrialists were accumulating enormous fortunes; and in the cities, a distinctive culture of wealth began to emerge.

In large cities, people of great wealth gathered together in neighborhoods of astonishing opulence. They founded clubs and developed elaborate social rituals. They looked increas-ingly for ways to display their wealth—in great mansions, showy carriages, lavish household goods, and the elegant social establishments they patronized. New York developed a


particularly elaborate high society. The construction of Central Park, which began in the 1850s, was in part a result of pressure from the members of high society, who wanted an elegant setting for their daily carriage rides.

A significant population of genuinely destitute people also emerged in the growing urban centers. These people were almost entirely without resources, often homeless, and dependent on charity or crime, or both, for survival. Substantial numbers of people actually starved to death or died of exposure. Some of these “paupers,” as contemporaries called them, were recent immigrants. Some were widows and orphans, stripped of the family structures that allowed most working-class Americans to survive. Some were people suffering from alcohol-ism or mental illness, unable to work. Others were victims of native prejudice—barred from all but the most menial employment because of race or ethnicity. The Irish were particular victims of such prejudice.

The worst victims in the North were free blacks. Most major urban areas had significant black populations. Some of these African Americans were descendants of families who had lived in the North for generations. Others were former slaves who had escaped or been released by their masters. In material terms, at least, life was not always much better for them in the North than it had been in slavery. Most had access to very menial jobs at best. In most parts of the North, blacks could not vote, attend public schools, or use any of the public services available to white residents. Even so, most African Americans preferred life in the North, however arduous, to life in the South.

Social and Geographical MobilityDespite the contrasts between conspicuous wealth and poverty in antebellum America, there was relatively little overt class conflict at this time. For one thing, life, in material

CENTRAL PARK Daily carriage rides allowed the wealthy to take in fresh air while showing off their finery to their neighbors.

(©Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

244 • CHAPTER 10

terms at least, was better for most factory workers than it had been on the farms or in Europe. Laborers also found that it was possible to move up the economic ladder, especially when compared to opportunities in much of Europe. A significant amount of mobility within the working class also helped limit discontent. A few workers—a very small number, but enough to support the dreams of others—managed to move from poverty to riches by dint of work, ingenuity, and luck. And a much larger number of workers managed to move at least one notch up the ladder—for example, becoming in the course of a lifetime a skilled, rather than an unskilled, laborer.

More important than social mobility was geographical mobility. Some workers saved money, bought land, and moved west to farm it. But few urban workers, and even fewer poor ones, could afford to make such a move. Much more common was the movement of laborers from one industrial town to another. These migrants, often the victims of layoffs, looked for better opportunities elsewhere. Their search seldom led to marked improvement in their circ*mstances. The rootlessness of this large and distressed segment of the work-force made effective organization and protest difficult.

Middle-Class LifeDespite the visibility of the very rich and the very poor in antebellum society, the fastest-growing group in America was the middle class. Economic development opened many more opportunities for people to own or work in shops or businesses, to engage in trade, to enter professions, and to administer organizations. In earlier times, when landownership had been the only real basis of wealth, society had been divided between those with little or no land (people Europeans generally called peasants) and a landed gentry (which in Europe usually became an inherited aristocracy). Once commerce and industry became a source of wealth, these rigid distinctions broke down; many people could become prosperous without owning land, but by providing valuable services.

Middle-class life in the antebellum years rapidly established itself as the most influential cultural form of urban America. Solid, substantial middle-class houses lined city streets, larger in size and more elaborate in design than the cramped, functional rowhouses in working-class neighborhoods—but also far less lavish than the great houses of the very rich. Middle-class people tended to own their homes, often for the first time. Workers and arti-sans remained mostly renters.

Middle-class women usually remained in the household, although increasingly they were also able to hire servants—usually young, unmarried immigrant women. In an age when doing the family’s laundry could take an entire day, one of the aspirations of middle-class women was to escape from some of the drudgery of housework.

New household inventions altered, and greatly improved, the character of life in middle-class homes. Perhaps the most important was the invention of the cast-iron stove, which began to replace fireplaces as the principal vehicle for cooking in the 1840s. These wood- or coal-burning devices were hot, clumsy, and dirty by later standards, but compared to the inconvenience and danger of cooking on an open hearth, they seemed a great luxury. Stoves gave cooks greater control over food preparation and allowed them to cook several things at once.

Middle-class diets were changing rapidly, and not just because of the wider range of cooking that the stove made possible. The expansion and diversification of American agri-culture and the ability of distant farmers to ship goods to urban markets by rail greatly increased the variety of food available in cities. Fruits and vegetables were difficult to ship over long distances in an age with little refrigeration, but families had access to a greater


variety of meats, grains, and dairy products than in the past. A few wealthy households acquired iceboxes, which allowed them to keep meat and dairy products fresh for several days. Most families, however, did not yet have any refrigeration. For them, preserving food meant curing meat with salt and preserving fruits in sugar. Diets were generally much heavier and starchier than they are today, and middle-class people tended to be considerably stouter than would be considered healthy or fashionable now.

Middle-class homes came to differentiate themselves from those of workers and artisans in other ways as well. The spare, simple styles of eighteenth-century homes gave way to the much more elaborate, even baroque household styles of the Victorian era—styles increas-ingly characterized by crowded, even cluttered rooms, dark colors, lush fabrics, and heavy furniture and draperies. Middle-class homes also became larger. It became less common for children to share beds and for all members of a family to sleep in the same room. Parlors and dining rooms separate from the kitchen—once a luxury—became the norm among the middle class. Some urban middle-class homes had indoor plumbing and indoor toilets by the 1850s—a significant advance over outdoor wells and privies.

The Changing FamilyThe new industrializing society produced profound changes in the nature of the family. Among them was the movement of families from farms to urban areas. Sons and daughters in urban households were much more likely to leave the family in search of work than they had been in the rural world. This was largely because of the shift of income-earning work out of the home. In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the family itself had been the principal unit of economic activity. Now most income earners left home each day to work in a shop, mill, or factory. A sharp distinction began to emerge between the public

FAMILY TIME, 1842 This illustration for Godey’s Lady’s Book, a magazine whose audience was better-off white women, offers an idealized image of family life. The father reads to his family from a devotional text; two servants off to the side listen attentively as well. What does this image communicate about the roles of the household members?

(©Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

246 • CHAPTER 10

world of the workplace and the private world of the family. The world of the family was now dominated not by production but by housekeeping, child rearing, and other primarily domestic concerns.

There was a significant decline in the birthrate, particularly in urban areas and in mid-dle-class families. In 1800, the average American woman could be expected to give birth to approximately seven children. By 1860, the average woman bore five children.

The “Cult of Domesticity”The growing separation between the workplace and the home sharpened distinctions between the social roles of men and women. Those distinctions affected not only factory workers and farmers but also members of the growing middle class.

With fewer legal and political rights than men, most women remained under the virtually absolute authority of their husbands. They were seldom encouraged to pursue education above the primary level. Women students were not accepted in any college or university until 1837. For a considerable time after that, only Oberlin in Ohio offered education to both men and women, and Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts was founded by Mary Lyon as an academy for women.

However unequal the positions of men and women in the preindustrial era, those positions had generally been defined within the context of a household in which all members played important economic roles. In the middle-class family of the new industrial society, by contrast, the husband was assumed to be the principal, usually the only, income producer. The image of women changed from one of contributors to the family economy to one of guardians of the “domestic virtues.” Middle-class women learned to place a higher value on keeping a clean, comfortable, and well-appointed home; on entertaining; and on dressing elegantly and stylishly.

Within their own separate sphere, middle-class women began to develop a distinctive female culture. A “lady’s” literature began to emerge. Romantic novels written for female readers focused on the private sphere that middle-class women now inhabited, as did women’s maga-zines that focused on fashions, shopping, homemaking, and other purely domestic concerns.

This cult of domesticity, as some scholars have called it, provided many women greater material comfort than they had enjoyed in the past and placed a higher value on their “female virtues.” At the same time, it left women increasingly detached from the public world, with fewer outlets for their interests and energies. Except for teaching and nursing, work by women outside the household gradually came to be seen as a lower-class preserve.

Working-class women continued to work in factories and mills, but under conditions far worse than those that the original, more “respectable” women workers of Lowell and Waltham had experienced. Domestic service became another frequent source of female employment.

Leisure ActivitiesLeisure time was scarce for all but the wealthiest Americans. Most people worked long hours every day without any vacation. For the lucky, Sunday was a day off, set aside for rest and religion. Not surprising, then, holidays took on a special importance, as suggested by the strikingly elaborate celebrations of the Fourth of July in the nineteenth century. The celebrations were not just expressions of patriotism, but a way of enjoying one of the few nonreligious holidays from work available to most Americans.

For urban people, leisure was something to be seized in what few free moments they had. Men gravitated to taverns for drinking, talking, and game-playing after work. Women


gathered in one another’s homes for conversation and card games. For educated people, reading became one of the principal leisure activities. Newspapers and magazines prolifer-ated rapidly, and books became staples of affluent homes. In contrast, rural Americans, because of the seasonal nature of farm work, enjoyed more free time in the late fall and winter. They pursued similar past times as urbanites, but within the home.

A public culture of leisure emerged too, especially in larger cities. Theaters became popular and attracted audiences that crossed class lines. Much of the popular theater of the time consisted of melodrama based on novels or American myths. Also popular were Shakespeare’s plays, reworked to appeal to American audiences. Tragedies were given happy endings; comedies were interlaced with regional humor; lines were rewritten with American dialect; and scenes were abbreviated or cut so that the play could be one of several in an evening’s program. So familiar were many Shakespearean plots that audiences took delight in seeing them parodied in productions such as Julius Sneezer and Hamlet and Egglet.

P. T. BARNUM AND TOM THUMB P. T. Barnum stands next to his star Charles Stratton, whose stage name was General Tom Thumb after the fairy-tale character. Stratton joined Barnum’s touring company as a child, singing, dancing, and playing roles such as Cupid and Napoleon Bonaparte. The adult Stratton and Barnum became business partners.


248 • CHAPTER 10

Minstrel shows—in which white actors wearing blackface mimicked (and ridiculed) African American culture—became staples among white audiences. Public sporting events—boxing, horse racing, co*ckfighting (already becoming controversial), and others—often attracted considerable audiences. Baseball, not yet organized into professional leagues, was beginning to attract large crowds when played in city parks or fields. A particularly exciting event in many communities was the arrival of the circus.

Popular tastes in public spectacle tended toward the bizarre and the fantastic. Relatively few people traveled; and in the absence of film, radio, television, or even much photography, Americans hungered for visions of unusual phenomena. People going to the theater or the circus or the museum wanted to see things that amazed and even frightened them. The most celebrated provider of such experiences was the famous and unscrupulous showman P. T. Barnum, who opened the American Museum in New York in 1842—not a showcase for art or nature, but as an exhibit of “human curiosities” that included people with dwarf-ism, Siamese twins, magicians, and ventriloquists. Barnum was a genius in publicizing his ventures with garish posters and elaborate newspaper announcements. Later, in the 1870s, he launched the famous circus for which he is still best remembered.

Lectures were one of the most popular forms of entertainment in nineteenth-century America. Men and women flocked in enormous numbers to lyceums, churches, schools, and auditoriums to hear lecturers explain the latest advances in science, describe their visits to exotic places, provide vivid historical narratives, or rail against the evils of alcohol or slavery. Messages of social uplift and reform attracted rapt audiences, particularly among women.


Even in the rapidly urbanizing and industrializing Northeast, and more so in what nine-teenth-century Americans called the Northwest, most people remained tied to the agricul-tural world. But agriculture, like industry and commerce, was becoming increasingly a part of the new capitalist economy.

Northeastern AgricultureThe story of agriculture in the Northeast after 1840 is one of decline and transformation. Farmers of this section of the country could no longer compete with the new and richer soil of the Northwest. In 1840, the leading wheat-growing states were New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia. In 1860, they were Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan. Illinois, Ohio, and Missouri also supplanted New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia as grow-ers of corn. In 1840, the most important cattle-raising areas in the country were New York, Pennsylvania, and New England. By the 1850s, the leading cattle states were Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa in the Northwest and Texas in the Southwest.

Some eastern farmers responded to these changes by moving west themselves and estab-lishing new farms. Still others moved to mill towns and became laborers. Some farmers, however, remained on the land and turned to what was known as “truck farming”— supplying food to the growing cities. They raised vegetables or fruit and sold their produce in nearby towns. Supplying milk, butter, and cheese to local urban markets also attracted many farm-ers in central New York, southeastern Pennsylvania, and various parts of New England.


The Old NorthwestLife was different in the states of the Old Northwest (now known as the Midwest). In the two decades before the Civil War, this section of the country experienced steady industrial growth, particularly in and around Cleveland (on Lake Erie) and Cincinnati, the center of meatpacking in the Ohio Valley. Farther west, Chicago was emerging as the national center of the agricultural machinery and meatpacking industries. Most of the major industrial activities of the Old North-west either served agriculture (as in the case of farm machinery) or relied on agricultural products (as in flour milling, meatpacking, whiskey distilling, and the making of leather goods).

Some areas of the Old Northwest were not yet dominated by whites. Indians remained the most numerous inhabitants of large portions of the upper third of the Great Lakes states until after the Civil War. In those areas, hunting and fishing, along with some sed-entary agriculture, remained the principal economic activities.

For the settlers who populated the lands farther south, the Old Northwest was primar-ily an agricultural region. Its rich lands made farming highly lucrative. Thus the typical citizen of the Old Northwest was not the industrial worker or poor, marginal farmer, but the owner of a reasonably prosperous family farm.

Industrialization, in both the United States and Europe, provided the greatest boost to agriculture. With the growth of factories and cities in the Northeast, the domestic market for farm goods increased dramatically. The growing national and worldwide demand for farm products resulted in steadily rising farm prices. For most farmers, the 1840s and early 1850s were years of increasing prosperity.

The expansion of agricultural markets also had profound effects on sectional alignments in the United States. The Old Northwest sold most of its products to the Northeast and became an important market for the products of eastern industry. A strong economic relationship was emerging between the two sections that was profitable to both—and that was increasing the isolation of the South within the Union.

By 1850, the growing western white population was moving into the prairie regions on both sides of the Mississippi. These farmers cleared forest lands or made use of fields the Indians had cleared many years earlier. And they developed a timber industry to make use of the remaining forests. Although wheat was the staple crop of the region, other crops—corn, potatoes, and oats—and livestock were also important.

The Old Northwest also increased production by adopting new agricultural techniques. Farmers began to cultivate new varieties of seed, notably Mediterranean wheat, which was hardier than the native type; and they imported better breeds of animals, such as hogs and sheep from England and Spain. Most important were improved tools and farm machines. The cast-iron plow, invented in 1814, had the advantage of being more durable than older wooden plows, more capable of breaking up hard and stony fields, and eventually having replaceable parts. But it was still ineffective at churning up the thick sod and clay soils found through-out the Midwest. It was replaced in 1847 by the steel plow, manufactured by the John Deere company in Moline, Illinois, and the steel plow quickly became a farming staple.

Two new machines heralded a coming revolution in grain production. The automatic reaper, the invention of Cyrus H. McCormick of Virginia, took the place of sickle, cradle, and hand labor. Pulled by a team of horses, it had a row of horizontal knives on one side for cutting wheat; the wheels drove a paddle that bent the stalks over the knives, which then fell onto a moving belt and into the back of the vehicle. The reaper enabled a crew of six or seven men to harvest in a day as much wheat as fifteen men could harvest using the older methods. McCormick, who had patented his device in 1834, established a factory

250 • CHAPTER 10

at Chicago in 1847. By 1860, more than 100,000 reapers were in use. Almost as important to the grain grower was the thresher—a machine that separated the grain from the wheat stalks—which appeared in large numbers after 1840. (Before that, farmers generally flailed grain by hand or used farm animals to tread it.) The Jerome I. Case factory in Racine, Wisconsin, manufactured most of the threshers. (Modern “harvesters” later combined the functions of the reaper and the thresher.)

The Old Northwest was the most self-consciously democratic section of the country. But its democracy was of a relatively conservative type—capitalistic, property-conscious, middle-class. Abraham Lincoln, an Illinois Whig, voiced the optimistic economic opinions of many of the people of his section. “I take it that it is best for all to leave each man free to acquire property as fast as he can,” said Lincoln. “When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his condition; he knows that there is no fixed condition of labor for his whole life.”

Rural LifeLife for farming people varied greatly from one region to another. In the more densely populated areas east of the Appalachians and in the easternmost areas of the Old North-west, farmers made extensive use of the institutions of communities—churches, schools, stores, and taverns. As white settlement moved farther west, farmers became more isolated and had to struggle to find any occasions for contact with people outside their own families.

Religion drew farm communities together more than any other force in remote com-munities. Town or village churches were popular meeting places, both for services and for social events—most of them dominated by women. Even in areas with no organized churches, farm families—and women in particular—gathered in one another’s homes for prayer meet-ings, Bible readings, and other religious activities. Weddings, baptisms, and funerals also united communities.


(©Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images)


But religion was only one of many reasons for interaction. Farm people joined together frequently to share tasks such as barn raising. Large numbers of families gathered at har-vesttime to help bring in crops, husk corn, or thresh wheat. Women came together to share domestic tasks, holding “bees” in which groups of women made quilts, baked goods, pre-serves, and other products.

Despite the many social gatherings farm families managed to create, they had much less contact with popular culture and public life than people who lived in towns and cities. Most rural people treasured their links to the outside world—letters from relatives and friends in distant places, newspapers and magazines from cities they had never seen, cata-logs advertising merchandise that their local stores never had. Yet many also valued the relative autonomy that a farm life gave them. One reason many rural Americans looked back nostalgically on country life once they moved to the city was that they sensed that in the urban world they had lost some control over the patterns of their daily lives.


Between the 1820s and the 1850s, the American economy experienced the beginnings of an industrial revolution—a change that transformed almost every area of life in fundamen-tal ways.

The American Industrial Revolution was a result of many things: population growth, advances in transportation and communication, new technologies that spurred the develop-ment of factories and mass production, the recruiting of a large industrial labor force, and the creation of corporate bodies capable of managing large enterprises. The new economy expanded the ranks of the wealthy, helped create a large new middle class, and introduced high levels of inequality.

Culture in the industrializing areas of the North changed, too, as did the structure and behavior of the family, the role of women, and the way people used their leisure time and encountered popular culture. The changes helped widen the gap in experience and under-standing between the generation of the Revolution and the generation of the mid-nineteenth century. They also helped widen the gap between North and South.


antebellum 228artisan 241Baltimore and Ohio

Railroad 233Commonwealth v. Hunt 242cult of domesticity 246Erie Canal 232

Factory Girls Association 239

factory system 237industrialization 237Know-Nothings 230Lowell or Waltham

system 239

Morse code 235nativism 230Sarah Bagley 239Western Union Telegraph

Company 235

252 • CHAPTER 10


1. What were the political responses to immigration in mid-nineteenth-century America? Do you see any parallels to responses to immigration today?

2. Why did the rail system supplant the canal system as the nation’s major transporta-tion network?

3. How did the industrial workforce change between the 1820s and the 1840s? What were the effects on American society of changes in the workforce?

4. How did America’s Industrial Revolution and the factory system change family life and women’s social and economic roles?

5. How did agriculture in the North change as a result of growing industrialization and urbanization?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

• 253


THE SOUTH, LIKE THE NORTH, experienced significant growth in the middle years of the nineteenth century. The southern agricultural economy grew increasingly productive and prosperous. Trade in such staples as sugar, rice, tobacco, and above all cotton made the South a major force in international commerce. It also tied the South securely to the emerg-ing capitalist world of the United States and its European trading partners.

Yet despite all these changes, the South experienced a much less fundamental transforma-tion in these years than did the North. It had begun the nineteenth century as a primarily agricultural region; it remained overwhelmingly so in 1860. It had begun the century with few important cities and little industry; and so it remained sixty years later. In 1800, a plan-tation system dependent on slave labor had dominated the southern economy; by 1860, that system had only strengthened its grip on the region. And by the outbreak of the Civil War, few southern white leaders could imagine the health and prosperity of their homeland with-out slavery.


1. How did slavery shape the southern economy and society, and how did it make the South different from the North?

2. What was the myth and what was the reality of white society in the South? Why was the myth so pervasive and widely believed?

3. How did slaves resist their enslavement? How successful were their efforts? What was the response of whites?



254 •


The most important economic development in the mid-nineteenth-century South was the shift of economic power from the “upper South,” the original southern states along the Atlantic Coast, to the “lower South,” the expanding agricultural regions in the new states of the Southwest. That shift reflected above all the growing dominance of cotton in the southern economy.

The Rise of King CottonMuch of the upper South continued to rely on the cultivation of tobacco. But the mar-ket for that crop was notoriously unstable, and tobacco rapidly exhausted the land on which it grew. By the 1830s, therefore, many farmers in the old tobacco-growing regions of Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina were shifting to other crops, while the cen-ter of tobacco cultivation was moving west-ward, into the Piedmont area.

The southern regions of the coastal South—South Carolina, Georgia, and parts of Florida—continued to rely on the cultivation of rice, a more stable and lucrative crop. But rice demanded substantial irrigation and needed an exceptionally long growing season (nine months), so its cultivation remained restricted to a relatively small area. Sugar growers along the Gulf Coast similarly enjoyed a reasonably profitable market for their crop. But sugar cultivation required intensive (and debilitating) labor and a long growing time; only relatively wealthy planters could afford to grow it. In addition, produc-ers faced major competition from the great sugar plantations of the Caribbean. Sugar cultivation, therefore, did not spread much beyond a small area in southern Louisiana and eastern Texas. Long-staple (Sea Island) cotton was another lucrative crop, but like rice and sugar, it could grow only in a limited area—the coastal regions of the Southeast.



Gabriel Prosser’s unsuccessful slave



Nat Turner slave rebellion


Cotton production boom


Cotton prices plummet


Denmark Vesey’s conspiracy


John Randolph frees 400 slaves


De Bow’s Commercial Review founded


Slave importation banned


Depression in tobacco prices begins

High cotton production in Southwest





































































Little Rock



New OrleansHouston

San Antonio










New OrleansHouston

San Antonio


Areas of cotton production

Slave distribution(One dot approximates 200 slaves)

0 200 mi

0 200 400 km

0 200 mi

0 200 400 km


Areas of cotton production

Slave distribution(One dot approximates 200 slaves)

SLAVERY AND COTTON IN THE SOUTH, 1820 AND 1860 These two maps show the remarkable spread of cotton cultivation in the South in the decades before the Civil War. Both maps show the areas of cotton cultiva-tion (the green-colored areas) as well as areas with large slave populations (the brown-dotted areas). Note how in the top map, which represents 1820, cotton production is concentrated largely in the East, with a few areas scattered among Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. Slavery is concentrated along the Georgia and South Carolina coast, areas in which long-staple cotton was grown, with only a few other areas of highly dense slave populations. By 1860, the South had changed dramatically. Cotton production had spread throughout the lower South, from Texas to northern Florida, and slavery had moved with it. Slavery was much denser in the tobacco-growing regions of Virginia and North Carolina, which had also grown. • How did this economic shift affect the white South’s commitment to slavery?

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The decline of the tobacco economy and the limits of the sugar, rice, and long-staple cotton economies might have forced the region to shift its attention to other, nonagricul-tural pursuits had it not been for the growing importance of a new product that soon overshadowed all else: short-staple cotton. It was a hardier and coarser strain of cotton that could grow successfully in a variety of climates and soils. It was harder to process than the long-staple cotton because its seeds were difficult to remove from the fiber. But the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 had largely solved that problem.

Demand for cotton increased rapidly in Britain in the 1820s and 1830s and in New England in the 1840s and 1850s. From the western areas of South Carolina and Georgia, production moved into Alabama and Mississippi and then into northern Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. By the 1850s, cotton had become the linchpin of the southern economy. By the time of the Civil War, cotton constituted nearly two-thirds of the total export trade of the United States.

Cotton production boomed in the lower South (later known as the “Deep South”). Some began to call it the “cotton kingdom.” The prospect of tremendous profits drew settlers to the lower South by the thousands. Some were wealthy planters from the older states, but most were small slaveholders or slaveless farmers who hoped to move into the planter class.

A similar shift, if an involuntary one, occurred in the slave population. Between 1840 and 1860, hundreds of thousands of slaves moved from the upper South to the cotton states—either accompanying masters who were themselves migrating to the lower South or (more often) sold to planters already there.

This “second middle passage,” as the historian Ira Berlin has called it (using a term usually associated with the transatlantic slave trade), was a traumatic experience for perhaps a million dislocated African Americans. Slave families were broken up and scattered across the expanding cotton kingdom. Marched over hundreds of rugged miles, tied together in “coffles” (as on the earlier slave ships coming from Africa), they arrived in unfamiliar and usually forbidding territory, where they were made to construct new plantations and work in cotton fields. The sale of slaves to the lower South became an important economic activity for whites in the upper South, where agricultural production was declining.

Even as slavery slowly became the lifeblood of the southern economy and society, it was never strictly a southern phenomenon. In the North during the Colonial era, the enslaved populations numbered about 40,000, mostly concentrated in seabound cities and inland farms. In New York City in 1740, for example, about 20 percent of the entire population was enslaved. Northern sea merchants profited handsomely by trafficking in slaves, be it from African or Caribbean or eastern port cities or between those cities themselves. After the American Rev-olution, however, slavery in the North began to slowly die out. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 outlawed slavery in the Northwest Territory and the states that developed in this area—Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—were always “free” states. By 1804, all other northern states had outlawed slavery, although some implemented gradual emancipation. And in 1807 Congress enacted a law banning the importation of slaves from foreign lands to the United States. Despite these prohibitions, the North continued to indirectly support slavery. Its commerce and industry relied on crops and cotton produced by slaves in the South, and thus it largely tolerated southern slavery, at least until the late antebellum era.

Southern Trade and IndustryWhile slave-based agriculture boomed, other forms of economic activity were slow to develop in the South. Flour milling and textile and iron manufacturing grew, particularly in the upper South, but industry remained a relatively insignificant force in comparison


with the agricultural economy. The total value of southern textile manufactures in 1860 was $4.5 million—a threefold increase over the value of those goods twenty years before. But the value of cotton exports alone was approximately $200 million.

The limited nonfarm commercial sector that did develop in the South was largely intended to serve the needs of the plantation economy. Particularly important were the brokers, or “factors,” who, in the absence of banks, marketed the planters’ crops and pro-vided planters with credit. Other obstacles to economic development included the South’s inadequate transportation system: what little there was tended to serve the interests of planters first. Canals were almost nonexistent; most roads were crude and unsuitable for heavy transport; railroads, although they expanded substantially in the 1840s and 1850s, failed to tie the region together effectively. In fact, a key aim of many southern railroads was to link larger plantations to cities and their markets. Not surprisingly then, the prin-ciple means of large-scale transportation was by steamboats and other larger watercraft along major rivers or the sea to Charleston, New Orleans, Savannah, Houston, Mobile, and other port cities. While this system benefited planters, who typically located near major waterways, it made it difficult for industry to grow in landlocked areas far from cities.

The South, therefore, was becoming more and more dependent on the industrial manu-facturers, merchants, and professionals of the North. Concerned by this trend, some south-erners began to advocate economic independence for the region, among them James D. B. De Bow of New Orleans, whose magazine, De Bow’s Commercial Review, called for southern commercial expansion and economic independence from the North. Yet even De Bow’s Commercial Review was filled with advertisem*nts from northern manufacturing firms; and its circulation was far smaller in the South than such northern magazines as Harper’s Weekly.


An important question about antebellum southern history concerns why the region did so little to develop a larger industrial and commercial economy of its own. Why did it remain so different from the North?

Part of the reason was the great profitability of the region’s agricultural system. In the Northeast, many people had turned to manufacturing as the agricultural economy of the region declined. In the South, the agricultural economy was booming, and ambitious cap-italists had little incentive to look elsewhere. Another reason was that wealthy southerners had so much capital invested in land and slaves that they had little left for other invest-ments. Some historians have also suggested that the southern climate—with its long, hot, steamy summers—was less suitable for industrial development than the climate of the North.

The South’s resistance to transforming its economy was also tied to a culture that blindly celebrated the wealth and profit planters wrung from the labor of slaves and that viewed slavery itself as a benevolent institution in which slaves were well cared for, even loved. Not only was slavery an oppressive institution, but much of this culture failed to reflect the reality of southern society.

Significantly, only a very small minority of southern whites owned slaves. Indeed, most white southerners were yeoman farmers, meaning they farmed their own small plots of land usually without the assistance of slaves. In 1860, when the white population was just above 8 million, the number of slaveholders was only 383,637. Even with all members of slaveowning families included in the figures, those living in slaveowning households still amounted to perhaps no more than one-quarter of the white population. And only a small proportion of this relatively

258 •


James Henry Hammond, a U.S. senator from South Carolina, was a leading advocate for the overwhelming significance of cotton to the economy of the South and the nation. He famously made his point in 1858 in his “ Cotton Is King” speech.

If we never acquire another foot of terri-tory for the South, look at her. Eight hun-dred and fifty thousand square miles. As large as Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, and Spain. Is not that territory enough to make an empire that shall rule the world? . . . With the finest soil, the most delightful climate, whose staple pro-ductions none of those great countries can grow, we have three thousand miles of continental shore line, so indented with bays and crowded with islands, that, when their shore lines are added, we have twelve thousand miles. Through the heart of our country runs the great Mississippi, the father of waters, into whose bosom are poured thirty-six thousand miles of tribu-tary streams; and beyond we have the des-ert prairie wastes, to protect us in our rear. Can you hem in such a territory as that? . . .

[. . .] Upon our muster-rolls we have a million of militia. In a defensive war, upon an emergency, every one of them would be available. At any time, the South can raise, equip, and maintain in the field, a larger army than any Power of the earth can send against her, and an army of soldiers—men brought up on horseback, with guns in their hands.

[. . .] It appears, by going to the reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, which are authentic, that last year the United States exported in round numbers $279,000,000 worth of domestic produce, excluding gold and foreign merchandise re-exported. Of

this amount $158,000,000 worth is the clear produce of the South; . . .

[. . .] [W ]e have nothing to do but to take off restrictions on foreign merchandise and open our ports, and the whole world will come to us to trade. They will be too glad to bring and carry for us, and we never shall dream of a war. Why the South has never yet had a just cause of war. Every time she has drawn her sword it has been on the point of honor, and that point of honor has been mainly loyalty to her sister colonies and sister States, who have ever since plun-dered and calumniated her.

But if there were no other reason why we should never have war, would any sane nation make war on cotton? Without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should they make war on us we can bring the whole world to our feet. The South is per-fectly competent to go on, one, two, or three years without planting a seed of cot-ton. I believe that if she was to plant but half her cotton for three years to come, it would be an immense advantage to her. I am not so sure but that after three total years’ abstinence she would come out stronger than ever she was before and bet-ter prepared to enter afresh upon her great career of enterprise. . . . England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her, save the South. No, you dare not make war on cotton. No power on earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king.

In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. . . . Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand—a race inferior to her own, but eminently


258 •

• 259

qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves. We found them slaves by the “common consent of mankind,” which, according to Cicero, “lex naturae est”; the highest proof of what is Nature’s law. We are old-fashioned at the South yet; it is a word discarded now by “ears polite.” I will not characterize that class at the North by that term; but you have it; it is there; it is everywhere; it is eternal.


1. How did Hammond describe the South in comparison to the North? Compare this assessment with the experience of the South in the Civil War. How did Hammond view the South in a global context? What do you think of this assessment?

2. What justifications did Hammond offer for slavery? Describe the comparison Hammond drew between northern wage labor and southern slavery.

Source: Hammond, James Henry, Speech on the Kansas-Lecompton Constitution, U.S. Senate, March 4, 1858, in Congressional Globe, 35th Cong., 1st Sess., Appendix, 70–71, in Regina Lee Blaszczyk and Philip B. Scranton (eds.), Major Problems in American Business Histor y, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006, 149–154.

small number of slaveowners owned slaves in substantial numbers. Yet as the cotton economy surged in the late 1850s, white supporters such as Senator James Henry Hammond championed its value to southern society and argued for a ruling planter class and working slave class. (See “Consider the Source: Senator James Henry Hammond Declares, ‘Cotton Is King.’”)

The Planter ClassHow, then, did the South come to be seen as a society dominated by fabulously wealthy slaveowning planters when, in fact, there were very few of them? In large part, it was because the planter class exercised power and influence far in excess of its numbers and because yeoman farmers, even when they resented the superiority of planters, supported and identi-fied with the institution of slavery. Indeed, most aspired to be slaveholders themselves.

Nor was the world of the planter nearly as leisured and genteel as the aristocratic myth would suggest. Growing staple crops was a tough business. Planters focused on the hard, stubborn basics of running their business: buying and selling slaves, anticipating fluctuations in markets, arranging for the transportation of the harvest, controlling costs, and winning a profit at year’s end. Sometimes they managed poorly and lost everything. Planters were just as much competitive capitalists as the industrialists of the North. Even many affluent planters lived rather modestly, their wealth so heavily invested in land and slaves that there was often little left for personal comfort. And white planters, including some substantial ones, tended to move frequently as new and presumably more productive areas opened up to cultivation.

Wealthy southern whites sustained their image as aristocrats in many ways. They adopted an elaborate code of “chivalry,” which obligated white men to defend their “honor,” often through dueling. They tended to avoid such “coarse” occupations as trade and commerce; those who did not become planters often gravitated toward the military. The aristocratic ideal also found reflection in the definition of a special role for southern white women.

The “Southern Lady”In some respects, affluent white women in the South occupied roles very similar to those of middle-class white women in the North. Their lives generally centered in the home,

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where (according to the South’s social ideal) they served as companions to and hostesses for their husbands and as nurturing mothers for their children. “Genteel” southern white women seldom engaged in public activities or found income-producing employment.

But the life of the “southern lady” was also very different from that of her northern counterpart. For one thing, the cult of honor dictated that southern white men give par-ticular importance to the defense of women. In practice, this generally meant that white men were even more dominant and white women even more subordinate in southern cul-ture than they were in the North. Social theorist George Fitzhugh wrote in the 1850s: “Women, like children, have but one right, and that is the right to protection. The right to protection involves the obligation to obey.”

More important in determining the role of southern white women, however, was that the vast majority of them lived on farms, with little access to the “public world” and thus few opportunities to look beyond their roles as wives and mothers. For many white women, living on farms of modest size meant a fuller engagement in the economic life of the fam-ily than was typical for middle-class women in the North. These women engaged in spinning, weaving, and other production; they participated in agricultural tasks; they helped supervise the slave workforce. On the larger plantations, however, even these limited roles were often considered unsuitable for white women, and the “plantation mistress” became, in some cases, more an ornament for her husband than an active part of the economy or the society. Southern white women also had less access to education than their northern counterparts. The few female “academies” in the South trained women primarily to be suitable wives.

Southern white women had other special burdens as well. The southern white birthrate remained nearly 20 percent higher than that of the nation as a whole, but infant mortality in the region remained higher than elsewhere. The slave labor system also had a mixed impact on white women. It helped spare many of them from certain kinds of arduous labor, but it also damaged their relationships with their husbands. Male slaveowners had frequent forced sexual relationships with the female slaves on their plantations; the children of those unions served as a constant reminder to white women of their husbands’ infidelities and violence. Black women (and men) were obviously the most important victims of such practices, but white women suffered, too.

The Lower ClassesBelow planters on the economic scale were yeoman farmers, and below them were the landless poor. Some yeoman devoted themselves largely to subsistence farming; others grew cotton or other crops for the market but usually could not produce enough to allow them to expand their operations or even get out of debt.

One reason for the class divide was the southern educational system. For the sons of wealthy planters, the region provided ample opportunities to gain an education. In 1860, there were 260 southern colleges and universities, public and private, with 25,000 students enrolled in them. But as in the rest of the United States, universities were only within the reach of the upper class. The elementary and secondary schools of the South were not only fewer than but also inferior to those of the Northeast. The South had more than 500,000 illiterate whites, over half the nation’s total. The subordination of the lower classes to the planter class raises an important question: Why did lower-class whites not oppose the aristocratic social system from which they benefited so little?

Some did oppose the planter elite, but for the most part in limited ways and in isolated areas. These were mainly the “hill people,” who lived in the Appalachian ranges east of


the Mississippi, in the Ozarks to the west of the river, and in other “hill country” or “back-country” areas. They practiced a simple form of subsistence agriculture, owned practically no slaves, and were, in most respects, unconnected to the cotton economy. Such whites frequently expressed animosity toward the planter aristocracy. Unsurprisingly, the mountain regions were the only parts of the South to resist the movement toward secession in the early 1860s. Even during the Civil War itself, many refused to support the Confederacy.

Far greater in number, however, were the nonslaveowning whites who lived in the midst of the plantation system. Many, perhaps most of them, accepted that system because they were tied to it in important ways. Small farmers depended on the local plantation aristoc-racy for access to cotton gins, markets for their modest crops and their livestock, and credit or other financial assistance in time of need. In many areas, moreover, the poorest resident of a county might easily be a cousin of the richest aristocrat. In the 1850s, the cotton boom allowed many small farmers to improve their economic fortunes. Some bought more land, became slaveowners, and moved into at least the fringes of plantation society. Others sim-ply felt more secure in their positions as independent yeomen and hence were more likely to embrace the fierce regional loyalty that was spreading throughout the white South in these years.

There were other white southerners, however, who were known at the time variously as “crackers,” “sand hillers,” or “poor white trash.” Occupying the infertile lands of the pine barrens, the red hills, and the swamps, they lived in genuine squalor. Many owned no land and supported themselves by foraging or hunting. Others worked at times as common laborers for their neighbors. Their degradation resulted partly from dietary deficiencies and disease. Forced to resort at times to eating clay (hence the tendency of more-affluent whites to refer to them disparagingly as “clay eaters”), they suffered from pellagra, hookworm, and malaria. Planters and small farmers alike held them in contempt.

Even among these southerners—the true outcasts of white society—there was no real opposition to the plantation system or slavery. In part, this was because they were so benumbed by poverty that they had little strength to protest. But the single greatest unify-ing factor among the southern white population was their perception of race. However poor and miserable white southerners might be, they could still look down on the black population of the region and feel a bond with their fellow whites and a sense of racial supremacy.


White southerners often referred to slavery as the “peculiar institution,” meaning that it was distinctive, special. And indeed it was. The South in the mid-nineteenth century was the only area in the Western world—except for Brazil, Cuba, and Puerto Rico—where slavery still existed. Slavery, more than any other single factor, isolated the South from the rest of American society and much of the world.

Within the South itself, slavery produced paradoxical results. On one hand, it isolated blacks from whites. As a result, African Americans under slavery began to develop a society and culture of their own. On the other hand, slavery created a unique bond between blacks and whites—slaves and masters—in the South. The two groups may have maintained separate spheres, but each sphere was deeply influenced by the other. In both cases, slavery pro-foundly affected all aspects of southern and even American society. (See “Debating the Past: Analyzing Slavery.”)

262 •


Analyzing SlaveryNo issue in American history has produced a more spirited debate than the nature of plantation slavery. The debate began well before the Civil War, when abolitionists strove to expose slavery to the world as a brutal, dehumanizing institution, while southern defenders of slavery tried to depict it as a benevolent and paternalistic system. But by the late nineteenth century, with white Americans eager for sectional conciliation, most northern and southern chroniclers of slavery began to accept a romanticized and unthreatening picture of the Old South and its peculiar institution.

The first major scholarly examination of slavery was Ulrich B. Phillips’s American Negro Slavery (1918), which portrayed slavery as an essentially benign institution in which kindly masters looked after submissive and generally contented African Americans. Phillips’s apolo-gia for slavery remained the authoritative work on the subject for nearly thirty years.

In the 1940s, challenges to Phillips began to emerge. Melville J. Herskovits disputed Phillips’s contention that black Americans retained little of their African cultural inheritance. Herbert Aptheker published a chronicle of slave revolts as a way of refut-ing Phillips’s claim that blacks were submis-sive and content.

A somewhat different challenge to Phil-lips emerged in the 1950s from historians who emphasized the brutality of the insti-tution. Kenneth Stampp’s The Peculiar Insti-tution (1956) and Stanley Elkins’s Slavery (1959) described a labor system that did serious physical and psychological damage to its victims. They portrayed slavery as something like a prison, in which men and women had virtually no space to develop

their own social and cultural lives. Elkins compared the system to Nazi concentration camps and likened the childlike “Sambo” personality of slavery to tragic distortions of character produced by the Holocaust.

In the early 1970s, an explosion of new scholarship on slavery shifted the emphasis away from the damage the system inflicted on African Americans and toward the striking success of the slaves themselves in building a culture of their own. John Blassingame in 1973 argued that “the most remarkable aspect of the whole process of enslavement is the extent to which the American-born slaves were able to retain their ancestors’ culture.” Herbert Gutman, in The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom (1976), challenged the prevailing belief that slavery had weakened and even destroyed the African American family. On the contrary, Gutman argued, the black family survived slavery with impressive strength, although with some significant differences from the prevailing form of the white family. Eugene Genovese’s Roll, Jordan, Roll (1974) revealed how African Americans manipulated white paternalist assumptions to build a large cultural space of their own where they could develop their own family life, social traditions, and religious patterns. That same year, Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman published the controversial Time on the Cross, a highly quanti-tative study that supported some of the claims of Gutman and Genovese about black achieve-ment but that went much further in portray-ing slavery as a successful and reasonably humane (if ultimately immoral) system. Slave workers, they argued, were better treated and lived in greater comfort than most northern industrial workers of the same era. Their con-clusions produced a storm of criticism.

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Other important scholarship includes African American slave women. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s Within the Plantation Household (1988) examined the lives of both white and black women on the plantation. She por-trayed slave women as defined by their dual roles as members of the plantation work-force and anchors of the black family. Slave women, she argued, professed loyalty to their mistresses when forced to serve them as domestics; but their real loyalty remained to their own communities and families.

More recent studies by Walter Johnson and Ira Berlin mark an at least partial return to the “damage” approach to slavery of the 1970s. Johnson’s Soul by Soul (2000) exam-ines the South’s largest slave market, New Orleans. For whites, he argues, purchasing slaves was a way of fulfilling the middle-class male fantasy of success and indepen-dence. For the slaves themselves, the trade

was dehumanizing and destructive to black families and communities. Berlin’s Many Thousands Gone (2000) and Generation of Cap-tivity (2003)—among the most important studies of slavery in a generation—similarly emphasize the dehumanizing character of the slave market and show that, whatever white slaveowners might say, slavery was less a social system than a commodification of human beings. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. Why might the conclusions drawn by Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman inTime on the Cross have provoked vehement criticism?

2. What might be some reasons for the resurrection of focus on the “damage” thesis of slavery, as in the works by Walter Johnson and Ira Berlin?

NURSING THE MASTER’S CHILD This 1855 photograph of a slave woman and master ’s child is documentary evidence of the complex relationships that historians of slavery have studied.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-5251])

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Varieties of SlaverySouthern slave codes forbade slaves to hold property, to leave their masters’ premises with-out permission, to be out after dark, to congregate with other slaves except at church, to carry firearms, to testify in court against white people, or to strike a white person even in self-defense. The codes prohibited whites from teaching slaves to read or write. The laws contained no provisions to legalize slave marriages or divorces. If an owner killed a slave while punishing him, the act was generally not considered a crime. Slaves, however, faced the death penalty for killing or even resisting a white person and for inciting revolt. The codes also contained extraordinarily rigid provisions for defining a person’s race. Anyone with a trace (or, often, even a rumor) of African ancestry was defined as black.

Enforcement of the codes, however, was spotty and uneven. Some slaves did acquire property, did become literate, and did assemble with other slaves. White owners themselves handled most transgressions by their slaves and inflicted widely varying punishments. In other words, despite the rigid provisions of law, there was in reality considerable difference within the slave system. Some slaves lived in almost prisonlike conditions, rigidly and harshly controlled by their masters. Many (probably most) others experienced considerable flexibility and autonomy.

The nature of the relationship between masters and slaves depended in part on the size of the plantation. White farmers with few slaves generally supervised their workers directly and often worked closely alongside them. The paternal relationship between such masters

THE LASH This illustration, by H. L. Stephens, is a harsh reminder of the ever present risk of physical violence and suffering that permeated southern slavery. Published in 1863 in Philadelphia, it was part of a set of cards distributed by abolitionists to dramatize and protest the inhumanity of slavery.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-2524])


and their slaves could be warm and benevolent, or tyrannical and cruel. In general, African Americans themselves preferred to live on larger plantations, where they had a chance for a social world of their own.

Although the majority of slaveowners were small farmers, the majority of slaves lived on plantations of medium or large size, with substantial slave workforces. Thus the relation-ship between master and slave was much less intimate for the typical slave than for the typical slaveowner. Substantial planters often hired overseers and even assistant overseers to represent them. “Head drivers,” trusted and responsible slaves often assisted by several subdrivers, acted under the overseer as foremen.

Life under SlaveryMost, but not all, slaves received an adequate if rude diet, consisting mainly of cornmeal, salt pork, molasses, and, on rare occasions, fresh meat or poultry. Many slaves cultivated gardens for their own use. Their masters provided them with cheap clothing and shoes. They lived in rough cabins, called slave quarters. The plantation mistress or a doctor retained by the owner provided some medical care, but slave women themselves—as “healers,” mid-wives, or simply as mothers—often were the more important source of medical attention.

Slaves worked hard, beginning with light tasks as children. They toiled from sun-up to sun-down, and even longer during harvesttime. Slave women worked particularly hard. They generally labored in the fields with the men, and they also handled cooking, cleaning, and child rearing. Many slave families were divided. Husbands and fathers often lived on neighbor-ing plantations; at times, one spouse (usually the male) would be sold to a plantation owner far away. As a result, black women often found themselves acting in effect as single parents.

Slaves were, as a group, much less healthy than southern whites. After 1808, when the importation of slaves became illegal, the proportion of blacks to whites in the nation as a whole steadily declined as a result of the comparatively high black death rate. Slave moth-ers had large families, but the enforced poverty in which virtually all African Americans lived ensured that fewer of their children would survive to adulthood than the children of white parents. Even those who did survive typically died at a younger age than the average white person.

Household servants had a somewhat easier life—physically at least—than did field hands. On a small plantation, the same slaves might do both field work and housework. But on a large estate, there would generally be a separate domestic staff: nursemaids, housemaids, cooks, butlers, coachmen. These people lived close to the master and his family, eating the leftovers from the family table. Between the blacks and whites of such households, affec-tionate, almost familial relationships might develop. More often, however, house servants resented their isolation from their fellow slaves and the lack of privacy and increased dis-cipline that came with living in such close proximity to the master’s family. When eman-cipation came after the Civil War, it was often the house servants who were the first to leave the plantations of their former owners.

Female household servants were especially vulnerable to sexual abuse by their masters and white overseers. In addition to being subjected to unwanted sexual attention from white men, female slaves often received vindictive treatment from white women. Plantation mis-tresses naturally resented the sexual liaisons between their husbands and female slaves. Punishing their husbands was not usually possible, so they often punished the slaves instead—with arbitrary beatings, increased workloads, and various forms of psychological torment. Indeed, slave punishments tended to be violent and brutal. Runaways, thieves, and

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laggards faced the lash, but in reality, any action by a slave deemed inappropriate or wary by the master could bring swift and severe physical retribution. This ever-present threat of arbitrary and brutal discipline, oddly enough, rarely undercut white popular ideals of south-ern aristocracy as gracious and refined.

Slavery in the CitiesThe conditions of urban slavery differed significantly from those in the countryside. On the relatively isolated plantations, slaves had little contact with free blacks and lower-class whites, and masters maintained a fairly direct and effective control. In the city, however, a master often could not supervise his slaves closely and at the same time use them profit-ably. Even if they slept at night in carefully watched backyard barracks, they moved about during the day alone, performing errands of various kinds.

There was a considerable market in the South for common laborers, particularly since, unlike in the North, there were few European immigrants to perform menial chores. As a result, masters often hired out slaves for such tasks. Slaves on contract worked in mining and lumbering (often far from cities), but others worked on the docks and on construction sites, drove wagons, and performed other unskilled jobs in cities and towns. Slave women and children worked in the region’s few textile mills. Particularly skilled workers such as blacksmiths or carpenters were also often hired out. After regular working hours, many of them fended for themselves; thus urban slaves gained numerous opportunities to mingle with free blacks and with whites. In the cities, the line between slavery and freedom was less distinct than on the plantation.

CLEAR STARCHING IN LOUISIANA This 1837 etching by French artist Auguste Hervieu depicts a plantation mistress verbally abusing a slave woman and child. Hervieu traveled to America with British writer and abolitionist Frances Trollope. This illustration is from Trollope’s 1836 novel The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw: Or, Scenes on the Mississippi, a work that exposed the degrading effects of slavery on both slaves and slaveowners.

(Source: The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw, or, Scenes on the Mississippi, Vol. II, by Frances Trollope, 1836)


Free African AmericansOver 250,000 free African Americans lived in the slaveholding states by the start of the Civil War, more than half of them in Virginia and Maryland. In some cases, they were slaves who had somehow earned money to buy their own and their families’ freedom. It was most often urban blacks, with their greater freedom of movement and activity, who could take that route. One example was Elizabeth Keckley, a slave woman who bought freedom for herself and her son with proceeds from sewing. She later became a seamstress, personal servant, and companion to Mary Todd Lincoln in the White House. But few masters had any incentive, or inclination, to give up their slaves, so this route was open to relatively few people.

Some slaves were set free by a master who had moral qualms about slavery, or by a master’s will after his death—for example, the more than 400 slaves belonging to John Randolph of Roanoke, freed in 1833. From the 1830s on, however, state laws governing slavery became stricter, in part in response to the fears Nat Turner’s revolt created among white southerners. The new laws made manumission, or the ability of a slaveowner to free his slaves, much more difficult and in some cases practically impossible.

A few free blacks attained wealth and prominence. Some even owned slaves themselves, usually relatives whom they had bought to ensure their ultimate emancipation. In a few cities—New Orleans, Natchez, and Charleston—free black communities managed to flourish with relatively little interference from whites and with some economic stability. Most south-ern free blacks, however, lived in abject poverty. Yet, great as were the hardships of freedom, blacks much preferred it to slavery.

The Slave TradeThe domestic slave trade—transfer of slaves from one part of the South to another—was one of the most important and terrible consequences of slavery. Sometimes slaves moved to the new cotton lands in the company of their original owners, who were migrating themselves. More often, however, the transfer occurred through the efforts of professional slave traders. The traders took slaves to such central markets as Natchez, New Orleans, Mobile, and Charleston, where purchasers bid for them. A sound young field hand could fetch a price that might vary in the 1840s and 1850s from $500 to $1,700, depending on fluctuations in the market (and the health and age of the slaves).

The domestic slave trade dehumanized all who were involved in it. It separated children from parents, and parents from each other. Even families kept together by scrupulous own-ers might be broken up in the division of the estate after the master’s death. Planters might deplore the trade, but they eased their consciences by holding the traders in contempt.

While the domestic slave trade operated legally within the South, the importation of slaves from Africa and other foreign countries had been banned since 1808. However, some enslaved people continued to be smuggled into the United States as late as the 1850s. At the annual southern commercial conventions, planters began to discuss the legal reopening of the foreign slave trade. “If it is right to buy slaves in Virginia and carry them to New Orleans,” William L. Yancey asked his fellow delegates in 1858, “why is it not right to buy them in Cuba, Brazil, or Africa.” The convention that year voted to repeal all the laws against slave imports, but the federal government never acted on their proposal.

The continued smuggling of slaves was not without resistance. In 1839, a group of 53 Africans who had been abducted by Portuguese slave hunters and shipped to Cuba took charge of a ship, the Amistad, that was transporting them to a Caribbean plantation. Their

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goal was to sail back to their homelands in Africa. The slaves had no experience with sail-ing, and they tried to compel the crew to steer them across the Atlantic. Instead, the ship sailed up the Atlantic Coast until it was captured by a ship of the U.S. Revenue Service. Many Americans, including President Van Buren, thought the slaves should be returned to Cuba. But at the request of a group of abolitionists, former president John Quincy Adams went before the Supreme Court to argue that they should be freed. Adams claimed that the foreign slave trade was illegal and thus the Amistad rebels could not be returned to slavery. The Court accepted his argument in 1841, and those who survived were returned to Africa, with funding from American abolitionists.

Two years later, another group of slaves revolted onboard a ship and took control of it—this time an American vessel bound from Norfolk, Virginia, to New Orleans, Louisiana—and steered it (and its 135 slaves) to the British Bahamas, where slavery was illegal and the slaves were given sanctuary. Such shipboard revolts were rare, but they were symbols of the continued effort by Africans to overcome slavery.


Fleeing America by commandeering a ship was a very small if very dramatic part of how slaves responded to their plight. Much more common was an elaborate process of cultural adaptation. One of the ways blacks adapted was by developing their own, separate culture, one that enabled them to sustain a sense of racial pride and unity.

THE BUSINESS OF SLAVERY The offices of slave dealers were familiar sights on the streets of pre–Civil War southern cities and towns. They provide testimony to the way in which slavery was not just a social system but a business, deeply woven into the fabric of southern economic life.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-27657])


Slave ReligionAlmost all African Americans were Christians by the early nineteenth century. Some had converted voluntarily and others in response to coercion from their masters and Protestant missionaries who evangelized among them. Masters expected their slaves to join their denom-inations and worship under the supervision of white ministers. A separate slave religion was not supposed to exist. Indeed, autonomous black churches were banned by law.

Nevertheless, blacks throughout the South developed their own version of Christianity, at times incorporating into it such practices as voodoo or other polytheistic religious tradi-tions of Africa. Or they simply bent religion to the special circ*mstances of bondage.

African American religion was often more emotional than its white counterpart and reflected the influence of African customs and practices. Slave prayer meetings routinely involved fervent chanting, spontaneous exclamations from the congregation, and ecstatic conversion experiences. Black religion was also generally more joyful and affirming than that of many white denominations. And above all, African American religion emphasized the dream of freedom and deliverance. In their prayers and songs and sermons, black Christians talked and sang of the day when the Lord would “call us home,” “deliver us to freedom,” or “take us to the Promised Land.” While whites generally chose to inter-pret such language merely as the expression of hopes for life after death, many blacks used the images of Christian salvation to express their own dreams of freedom in the present world.

Language and MusicIn many areas, slaves retained a language of their own. Having arrived in America speaking many different African languages, the first generations of slaves had as much difficulty communicating with one another as they did with white people. To overcome these barri-ers, they learned a simple, common language (known to linguists as “pidgin”). It retained some African words, but it drew primarily, if selectively, from English. And while slave language grew more sophisticated as blacks spent more time in America, some features of this early pidgin survived in black speech for many generations.

Music was especially important in slave society. Again, the African heritage was an impor-tant influence. African music relied heavily on rhythm, and so did black music in America. Slaves often created instruments for themselves out of whatever materials were at hand. The banjo became important to slave music. But more important were voices and song.

Field workers often used songs to pass the time; since they sang them in the presence of the whites, they usually attached relatively innocuous words to them. But African Amer-icans also created more politically challenging music in the relative privacy of their own religious services. It was there that the tradition of the spiritual emerged. Through the spiritual, Africans in America not only expressed their religious faith, but also lamented their bondage and expressed continuing hope for freedom.

Slave songs were rarely written down and often seemed entirely spontaneous; but much slave music was really derived from African and Caribbean traditions passed on through generations. Performers also improvised variations on songs they had heard. When the setting permitted it, African Americans danced to their music—dances very different from and much more spontaneous than the formal steps that nineteenth-century whites generally learned. They also used music to accompany another of their important cultural traditions: storytelling.

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The Slave FamilyThe slave family was the other crucial institution of black culture in the South. Like religion, it suffered from legal restrictions. Nevertheless, what we now call the “nuclear family” consistently emerged as the dominant kinship model among African Americans.

Black women generally began bearing children at younger ages than most whites, often as early as fourteen or fifteen (sometimes as a result of unwanted sexual relations with their masters). Slave communities did not condemn premarital pregnancy in the way white society did, and black couples would often begin living together before marrying. It was customary, however, for couples to marry—in a ceremony involving formal vows—soon after conceiving a child. Husbands and wives on neighboring plantations sometimes visited each other with the permission of their masters, but often such visits had to be in secret, at night. Family ties among slaves were generally no less strong than those of whites.

When marriages did not survive, it was often because of circ*mstances over which blacks had no control. Up to a third of all black families were broken apart by the slave trade. Extended kinship networks were strong and important and often helped compensate for the breakup of nuclear families. A slave forced suddenly to move to a new area, far from his or her family, might create fictional kinship ties and become “adopted” by a family in the new community. Even so, the impulse to maintain contact with a spouse and children remained strong long after the breakup of a family. One of the most frequent causes of flight from the plantation was a slave’s desire to find a husband, wife, or child who had been sent elsewhere. After the Civil War, white and black newspapers were filled with notices from former slaves seeking to reconnect with family members separated during bondage.

However much blacks resented their lack of freedom, they often found it difficult to maintain an entirely hostile attitude toward their owners. They depended on whites for the material means of existence—food, clothing, and shelter—and they relied on them as well for security and protection. There was, in short, a paternal relationship between slave and master—frequently harsh, at other times kindly, but always important. That paternalism, in fact, became a vital instrument of white control. By creating a sense of mutual dependence, whites helped minimize though never came close to eliminating resistance to an institution that served only the interests of the ruling race.

Slave ResistanceSlaveowners liked to argue that the slaves were generally content and “happy with their lot.” But it is clear that the vast majority of southern blacks yearned for freedom and detested the peculiar institution. Evidence for that can be found, if nowhere else, in the reaction of slaves when emancipation finally came. Virtually all reacted to freedom with great joy; few chose to remain in the service of the whites who had owned them before the Civil War.

Rather than contented acceptance, the dominant response of African Americans to slavery was a complex one: a combination of adaptation and resistance. At the extremes, slavery could produce two very different reactions, each of which served as the basis for a powerful stereotype in white society. One extreme was what became known as the “Sambo”—the shuffling, grinning, head-scratching, deferential slave who acted out what he recognized as the role the white world expected of him. But the Sambo pattern of behavior was a charade put on by blacks, a façade assumed in the presence of whites. The other extreme was the slave rebel—the African American who resisted either acceptance or accommoda-tion but remained forever rebellious.


Actual slave revolts were extremely rare, but the knowledge that they were possible struck terror into the hearts of white southerners. In 1800, Gabriel Prosser gathered 1,000 rebel-lious slaves outside Richmond; but two African Americans gave away the plot, and the Virginia militia stymied the uprising before it could begin. Prosser and thirty-five others were executed. In 1822, the Charleston free black Denmark Vesey and his followers—rumored to total 9,000—made preparations for revolt; but again word leaked out and sup-pression and retribution followed. On a summer night in 1831, Nat Turner, a slave preacher, led a band of African Americans armed with guns and axes from house to house in Southampton County, Virginia. They killed sixty white men, women, and children before being overpowered by state and federal troops. More than a hundred blacks were executed in the aftermath.

For the most part, however, resistance to slavery took other, less violent forms. Some blacks attempted to resist by running away. A small number managed to escape to the North or to Canada, especially after sympathetic whites and free blacks began organizing secret escape routes, known as the “underground railroad,” to assist them in flight. But the odds against a successful escape were very high. The hazards of distance and the slaves’ ignorance of geography were serious obstacles, as were the white “slave patrols,” which stopped wandering blacks on sight and demanded to see travel permits. Despite all the obstacles to success, however, blacks continued to run away from their masters in large numbers.

Perhaps the most important method of resistance was simply a pattern of everyday behavior by which blacks defied their masters. That whites so often considered blacks to be lazy and shiftless suggests one means of resistance: refusal to work hard. Some slaves stole from their masters or from neighboring whites. Others performed isolated acts of

HARRIET TUBMAN WITH ESCAPED SLAVES Harriet Tubman (ca. 1820–1913) was born into slavery in Maryland. In 1849, when her master died, she escaped to Philadelphia to avoid being sold out of state. Over the next ten years, she assisted first members of her own family and then up to 300 other slaves escape from Maryland to freedom. She is shown here, on the far left, with some of the slaves she had helped free.

(©MPI/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

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sabotage: losing or breaking tools or performing tasks improperly. In extreme cases, blacks might make themselves useless by cutting off their fingers or even committing suicide. A few turned on their masters and killed them. The extremes, however, were rare. For the most part, blacks resisted by building subtle methods of rebellion into their normal patterns of behavior.


While the North was creating a complex and rapidly developing commercial-industrial econ-omy, the South was expanding its agrarian economy without making many fundamental changes in the region’s character. Great migrations took many southern whites, and even more African American slaves, into new agricultural areas in the Deep South, where they created a booming “cotton kingdom.” The cotton economy created many great fortunes and some mod-est ones. It also entrenched the planter class as the dominant force within southern society—both as owners of vast numbers of slaves and as patrons, creditors, politicians, landlords, and marketers for the large number of poor whites who lived on the edge of the planter world.

The differences between the North and the South were a result of differences in natural resources, social structure, climate, and culture. Above all, they were the result of the existence within the South of an unfree labor system that prevented the kind of social fluidity that an industrializing society usually requires. Within that system, however, slaves created a vital, independent culture and religion in the face of white subjugation.


abolitionist 262Amistad 267cotton kingdom 256cult of honor 260Denmark Vesey 271

Elizabeth Keckley 267Gabriel Prosser 271James Henry Hammond 259manumission 267Nat Turner 271

peculiar institution 261planter class 259second middle passage 256slave codes 264yeoman farmer 257


1. Why did cotton become the leading crop of the South? 2. Why did industry fail to develop in the South to the extent that it did in the North? 3. How did slavery function economically and socially? 4. What was the effect of slavery on white slaveowners? On slaves? On nonslaveown-

ing whites? On free blacks? 5. Through what means did slaves maintain a distinct African American culture?

Design elements: Scale: ©Graphic.mooi/Shutterstock; Phonograph: ©puruan/Shutterstock; Map, Stars and Stripes: ©McGraw-Hill Education.

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THE UNITED STATES IN THE MID-NINETEENTH CENTURY was growing rapidly in size, population, and economic complexity. Most Americans were excited by the new possibilities these changes produced. But many people were also painfully aware of the problems that accompanied them.

One result of these conflicting attitudes was the emergence of movements to “reform” the nation—to refine and improve it. Some reforms rested on an optimistic faith in human nature, a belief that within every individual resided a spirit that was basically good and that society should attempt to unleash. A second impulse was a desire for order and control. With their traditional values and institutions being challenged and eroded, many Americans yearned for above all stability and discipline. By the end of the 1840s, however, one issue—slavery—had come to overshadow all others. And one group of reformers—the abolitionists—had become the most influential of all.


1. How did an American national culture of art, literature, philosophy, and communal living develop in the nineteenth century?

2. What were the issues on which social and moral reformers tried to “remake the nation”? How successful were their efforts?

3. Why did the crusade against slavery become the preeminent issue of the reform movement?

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“In the four quarters of the globe,” wrote the English wit Sydney Smith in 1820, “who reads an American book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture or statue?” The answer, he assumed, was obvious: no one.

American intellectuals were painfully aware of the low regard in which Europeans held their culture, and they tried to create an artistic life that would express their own nation’s special virtues. At the same time, many of the nation’s cultural leaders were striving for another kind of liberation, which was—ironically—largely an import from Europe: the spirit of romanticism. In litera-ture, in philosophy, in art, even in politics and economics, American intellectuals were committing themselves to the liberation of the human spirit.

Nationalism and Romanticism in American PaintingDespite Sydney Smith’s contemptuous ques-tion, a great many people in the United States were, in fact, looking at American paintings—and they were doing so because they believed Americans were creating impor-tant new artistic traditions of their own.

American painters sought to capture the power of nature by portraying some of the nation’s grandest landscapes. The first great school of American painters—known as the Hudson River school—emerged in New York. Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, Thomas Doughty, Asher Durand, and others painted the spectacular vistas of the largely untamed Hudson Valley. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, whom many of the painters read and admired, they consid-ered nature—far more than civilization—the best source of wisdom and fulfillment. In portraying the Hudson Valley, they seemed to announce that in America, unlike in



New York constructs first penitentiary


Liberty Party formed


Frederick Douglass’s autobiography


Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter


Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin


Whitman’s Leaves of Grass


The Liberator begins publication


Horace Mann appointed secretary

of Massachusetts Board of Education


Brook Farm founded


Women’s rights convention at Seneca

Falls, N.Y.

Oneida Community founded


Melville’s Moby Dick


Thoreau’s Walden


Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans


American Antislavery Society founded


Joseph Smith publishes the Book of Mormon


Europe, “wild nature” still existed; and that America, therefore, was a nation of greater promise than the overdeveloped lands of the Old World.

In later years, some of the Hudson River painters traveled farther west. Their enormous canvases of great natural wonders—the Yosemite Valley, Yellowstone, the Rocky Mountains—touched a passionate chord among the public. Some of the most famous of their paintings—particularly the works of Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran—traveled around the country attracting enormous crowds.

An American LiteratureThe effort to create a distinctively American literature made considerable progress in the 1820s through the work of the first great American novelist: James Fenimore Cooper. What most distinguished his work was its evocation of the American West. Cooper had a lifelong fascination with the human relationship to nature and with the challenges (and dangers) of America’s expansion westward. His most important novels—among them The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and The Deerslayer (1841)—examined the experience of rugged white frontiersmen with Indians, pioneers, violence, and the law. Cooper evoked the ideal of the independent individual with a natural inner goodness—an ideal that many Americans feared was in jeopardy.

Another, later group of American writers displayed more clearly the influence of roman-ticism. Walt Whitman’s book of poems Leaves of Grass (1855) celebrated democracy, the liberation of the individual spirit, and the pleasures of the flesh. In helping free verse from traditional, restrictive conventions, he also expressed a yearning for emotional and physical release and personal fulfillment—a yearning perhaps rooted in part in his own experience as a hom*osexual living in a society profoundly intolerant of unconventional sexuality.

Less exuberant was Herman Melville, perhaps the greatest American writer of his era. Moby Dick, published in 1851, is Melville’s most important—although not, in his lifetime, his most popular—novel. It tells the story of Ahab, the powerful, driven captain of a whaling vessel, and his obsessive search for Moby Dick, the great white whale that had once maimed him. It is a story of courage and the strength of human will. But it is also a tragedy of pride and revenge. In some ways it is an uncomfortable metaphor for the harsh, individualistic, achievement-driven culture of nineteenth-century America.

Literature in the Antebellum SouthThe South experienced a literary flowering of its own in the mid-nineteenth century, and it produced writers and artists who were, like their northern counterparts, concerned with defining the nature of America. But white southerners tended to produce very different images of what society was and should be.

The southern writer Edgar Allan Poe penned stories and poems that were primarily sad and macabre. His first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827), received little recognition. But later works, including his most famous poem, “The Raven” (1845), established him as a major, if controversial, literary figure. Poe evoked images of individuals rising above the narrow confines of intellect and exploring the deeper—and often painful and horrifying—world of the spirit and emotions.

Other southern novelists of the 1830s (among them Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, William Alexander Caruthers, and John Pendleton Kennedy) produced historical romances and eulogies for the plantation system of the upper South. The most distinguished of the

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region’s authors was William Gilmore Simms. For a time, his work expressed a broad nationalism that transcended his regional background; but by the 1840s, he too became a strong defender of southern institutions—especially slavery—against the encroachments of the North. There was, he believed, a unique quality to southern life that fell to intellectuals to defend.

One group of southern writers, however, produced works that were more broadly American. These writers from the fringes of plantation society—Augustus B. Longstreet, Joseph G. Baldwin, Johnson J. Hooper, and others—depicted the world of the backwoods South and focused on ordinary people and poor whites. Instead of romanticizing their subjects, they were deliberately and sometimes painfully realistic, seasoning their sketches with a robust, vulgar humor that was new to American literature. These southern realists established a tradition of American regional humor that was ultimately to find its most powerful voice in Mark Twain.

The TranscendentalistsOne of the outstanding expressions of the romantic impulse in America came from a group of New England writers and philosophers known as the transcendentalists. Borrowing heav-ily from German and English writers and philosophers, the transcendentalists promoted a theory of the individual that rested on a distinction between what they called “reason” and “understanding.” Reason, as they defined it, had little to do with rationality. It was, rather, the individual’s innate capacity to grasp beauty and truth by giving full expression to the instincts and emotions. Understanding, by contrast, was the use of intellect in the narrow, artificial ways imposed by society; it involved the repression of instinct and the victory of externally imposed learning. Every person’s goal, therefore, should be the cultivation of “reason”—and, thus, liberation from “understanding.” Each individual should strive to “tran-scend” the limits of the intellect and allow the emotions, the “soul,” to create an “original relation to the Universe.”

Transcendentalist philosophy emerged first in America among a small group of intel-lectuals centered in Concord, Massachusetts, and led by Ralph Waldo Emerson. A Unitarian minister in his youth, Emerson left the clergy in 1832 to devote himself to writing, teaching, and lecturing. In “Nature” (1836), Emerson wrote that in the quest for self-fulfillment, individuals should work for a communion with the natural world: “in the woods, we return to reason and faith. . . . Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. . . . I am part and particle of God.” In other essays, he was even more explicit in advocating a commitment to individu-ality and the full exploration of inner capacities.

Emerson’s stress on individuality and the search for inner meaning apart from society inspired Margaret Fuller. In 1840 she became the first editor of the transcendentalist jour-nal The Dial, where she argued for the important relationship between the discovery of the “self ” and the questioning of the prevailing gender roles of her era. In Women in the Nine-teenth Century, published in 1845 and considered an important work in the early history of feminism, Fuller wrote, “Many women are considering within themselves what they need and what they have not.” She urged readers, especially women, to set aside conventional thinking about the place of women in society.

Henry David Thoreau went even further than Emerson and Fuller in repudiating the repressive forces of society, which produced, he said, “lives of quiet desperation.” Each individual should work for self-realization by resisting pressures to conform to society’s


expectations and responding instead to his or her own instincts. Thoreau’s own effort to free himself—immortalized in Walden (1854)—led him to build a small cabin in the Concord woods on the edge of Walden Pond, where he lived alone for two years as simply as he could, attempting to liberate himself from what he considered society’s excessive interest in material comforts. In his 1849 essay “Resistance to Civil Government,” he extended his critique of artificial constraints in society to government, arguing that when government required an individual to violate his or her own morality, it had no legitimate authority. The proper response was “civil disobedience,” or “passive resistance”—a public refusal to obey unjust laws. It was a belief that would undergird some antislavery reforms and, much later in the mid-twentieth century, attacks on racial segregation.

The Defense of NatureAs Emerson’s and Thoreau’s tributes to nature suggest, a small but influential group of Americans in the nineteenth century feared the impact of capitalism on the integrity of the natural world. “The mountains and cataracts, which were to have made poets and painters,” wrote the essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes, “have been mined for anthracite and dammed for water power.”

To the transcendentalists and others, nature was not just a setting for economic activity, as many farmers, miners, and others believed. It was the source of deep, personal human inspiration—the vehicle through which individuals could best realize the truth within their own souls. Genuine spirituality, they argued, did not come from formal religion but through communion with the natural world.

MARGARET FULLER Margaret Fuller was in the forefront of efforts to probe how contemporary gender roles limited the free expression of women’s souls and abilities.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-47039])

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In making such claims, the transcendentalists were among the first Americans to antic-ipate the conservation movement of the late nineteenth century and the environmental movement of the twentieth century. They had no scientific basis for their defense of the wilderness and little sense of the twentieth-century notion of the interconnectedness of species. But they did believe in, and articulate, an essential unity between humanity and nature—a spiritual unity, they believed, without which civilization would be impoverished. They looked at nature, they said, “with new eyes,” and with those eyes they saw that “behind nature, throughout nature, spirit is present.”

Visions of UtopiaAlthough transcendentalism was at its heart an individualistic philosophy, it helped spawn one of the most famous nineteenth-century experiments in communal living: Brook Farm. The dream of the Boston transcendentalist George Ripley, Brook Farm was established in 1841 as an experimental community in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. There, according to Ripley, individuals would gather to create a new society that would permit every member to have full opportunity for self-realization. All residents would share equally in the labor of the community so that all could share as well in the leisure, which was essential for cultivation of the self. The tension between the ideal of individual freedom and the demands of a communal society, however, eventually took its toll on Brook Farm. Many residents became disenchanted and left. When a fire destroyed the central building of the community in 1847, the experiment dissolved.

Among the original residents of Brook Farm was the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who expressed his disillusionment with the experiment and, to some extent, with transcendental-ism in a series of novels. In The Blithedale Romance (1852), he wrote scathingly of Brook Farm itself. In other novels—most notably The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851)—he wrote equally passionately about the price individuals pay for cut-ting themselves off from society. Egotism, he claimed (in an indirect challenge to the transcendentalist faith in the self), was the “serpent” that lay at the heart of human misery.

Brook Farm was only one of many experimental communities in the years before the Civil War. The Scottish industrialist and philanthropist Robert Owen founded an experimental com-munity in Indiana in 1825, which he named New Harmony. It was to be a “Village of Coop-eration,” in which every resident worked and lived in total equality. The community was an economic failure, but the vision that had inspired it continued to enchant some Americans. Dozens of other “Owenite” experiments were established in other locations in the ensuing years.

Redefining Gender RolesInspired by the transcendentalist emphasis on liberating the individual from the constraints of social convention, many of the new utopian communities revised the traditional relationship between men and women. Some even experimented with radical redefinitions of gender roles.

One of the more radical of the utopian colonies of the nineteenth century was the Oneida Community, established in 1848 in upstate New York by John Humphrey Noyes. The Oneida “Perfectionists,” as residents of the community called themselves, rejected traditional notions of family and marriage. All residents, Noyes declared, were “married” to all other residents; there were to be no permanent conjugal ties. But Oneida was not, as horrified critics often claimed, an experiment in unrestrained “free love.” It was a place


where the community carefully monitored sexual behavior, where women were protected from unwanted childbearing, and where children were raised communally, often seeing little of their own parents. The Oneidans took pride in what they considered their liberation of women from the demands of male “lust” and from the traditional restraints of family. Their numbers were never large—only once did they count more than 300 members—and the community itself lasted only 30 years.

The Shakers, too, redefined traditional gender roles. Founded by “Mother” Ann Lee in the 1770s, the society of the Shakers survived through the twentieth century. (A tiny rem-nant is left today.) But the Shakers attracted a particularly large following in the mid-nineteenth century and established more than twenty communities throughout the Northeast and Northwest in the 1840s. They derived their name from a unique religious ritual—in which members of a congregation would “shake” themselves free of sin while performing a loud chant and an ecstatic dance.

The most distinctive feature of Shakerism, however, was its commitment to complete celibacy—which meant, of course, that no one could be born into the faith. All Shakers had to choose it voluntarily. Shakerism attracted about 6,000 members in the 1840s, more women than men. They lived in communities where contacts between men and women were strictly limited, and they endorsed the idea of sexual equality, although women exercised the greater power.

The Shakers were not, however, motivated only by a desire to escape the burdens of traditional gender roles. They were also trying to create a society set apart from the chaos and disorder they believed had come to characterize American life. In that, they were much like other dissenting religious sects and utopian communities of their time.

The MormonsAmong the most important religious efforts to create a new and more ordered society was that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons. The original Mormons were white men and women, many of whom felt that social changes had left them economically marginalized and in doubt about the fundamental tenets of traditional Christianity. They discovered in Mormonism a new history of the world, a new establish-ment of the Christian church, a new book of scripture and set of prophets to join those of the Bible, a new call to prepare for the Second Coming, and a new promise that—just as God had once been a man—all believers could become like God himself.

Mormonism began in upstate New York through the efforts of Joseph Smith. In 1830, when he was just twenty-four, he organized the church and published a remarkable document— the Book of Mormon, named for the ancient prophet who he claimed had been its chief editor. It was, he said, a translation of a set of golden tablets he had found in the hills of New York, revealed to him by Moroni, an angel of God and the book’s last prophet. The Book of Mormon told the story of two ancient civilizations in America, whose people had anticipated the coming of Christ and were rewarded when Jesus actually came to America after his resurrection. Ultimately, both civilizations collapsed because of their rejection of Christian principles. But Smith believed their history as righteous societies could serve as a model for building a new holy community in the United States.

In 1831, gathering a small group of believers around him, Smith began searching for a sanctuary for his new community of “saints,” an effort that would continue unhappily for more than fifteen years. Time and again, the Latter-day Saints, as they called themselves, attempted to establish peaceful communities. Time and again, they met with persecution

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from their neighbors, who were suspicious of their radical religious doctrines—their claims of new prophets, new scripture, and divine authority. Opponents were also concerned by their rapid growth and their increasing political strength. Near the end of his life, Joseph Smith introduced the practice of polygamy (giving a man the right to take several wives), which became public knowledge after Smith’s death. From then on, polygamy became a central target of anti-Mormon opposition.

Driven from their original settlements in Independence, Missouri, and Kirtland, Ohio, the Mormons founded a new town in Illinois that they named Nauvoo. In the early 1840s, it became an imposing and economically successful community. In 1844, however, bitter enemies of Joseph Smith published an inflammatory attack on him. Smith ordered his followers to destroy the offending press, and he was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in nearby Carthage. There, an angry mob attacked the jail and fatally shot him. The Mormons soon abandoned Nauvoo and, under the leadership of Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, traveled—12,000 strong, in one of the largest single group migrations in American history—across the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. They established several communities in Utah, including the present Salt Lake City, where, finally, the Mormons were able to create a lasting settlement.


Central to romanticism and transcendentalism was a reform impulse—the drive to improve the life and health of men and women. Seeking to uncover the divinity of the individual inspired larger quests to perfect the world itself. The reform impulse helped create new

MORMONS HEADING WEST This lithograph by William Henry Jackson imagines the physical challenges that Mormon pioneers faced in their journey to Utah in 1850. Many of the men are shown pulling their families and possessions on handcarts.

(©Everett Historical/Shutterstock)


movements to remake mainstream society—movements in which, to a striking degree, women formed both the rank and file and the leadership. By the 1830s, such movements had become organized reform societies.

Revivalism, Morality, and OrderAlong with romanticism and transcendentalism, Protestant revivalism was another powerful source of the popular effort to rewrite society. It was the movement that had begun with the Second Great Awakening early in the century and had, by the 1820s, evolved into a powerful force for social reform.

The New Light evangelicals embraced the optimistic belief that every individual was capable of salvation through his or her own efforts. Partly as a result, revivalism soon became not only a means of personal salvation but also an effort to reform the larger society. In particular, revivalism produced a crusade against personal immorality.

Evangelical Protestantism greatly strengthened the crusade against drunkenness. No social vice, temperance advocates argued, was more responsible for crime, disorder, and poverty than the excessive use of alcohol. Women complained that men spent money their families needed on alcohol and that drunken husbands often beat and abused their wives. Temperance also appealed to those who were alarmed by immigration; drunken-ness, many nativists believed, was responsible for violence and disorder in immigrant communities. By 1840, temperance had become a major national movement, with power-ful organizations and more than a million followers who had signed a formal pledge to forgo hard liquor.

THE DRUNKARD’S PROGRESS This 1846 lithograph by Nathaniel Currier shows what temperance advocates argued was the inevitable consequence of alcohol consumption. Beginning with an apparently innocent “glass with a friend,” the young man rises step by step to the summit of drunken revelry, then declines to desperation and suicide while his abandoned wife and child grieve.

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-1629])

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Health, Science, and PhrenologyFor some Americans, the search for individual and social perfection led to an interest in new theories of health and knowledge. In the nineteenth century, more than half of those who contracted cholera—a severe bacterial infection of the intestines, usually contracted from contaminated food or water—died. Nearly a quarter of the population of New Orleans in 1833 perished from the disease. Many cities established health boards to try to find ways to prevent epidemics. But the medical profession of the time, not yet aware of the nature of bacterial infections, had no answers.

Instead, many Americans turned to nonscientific theories for improving health. Affluent men and especially women flocked to health spas for the celebrated “water cure” (known to modern scientists as hydrotherapy), which purported to improve health through immersing people in hot or cold baths or wrapping them in wet sheets. Other people adopted new dietary theories. Sylvester Graham, a Connecticut-born Presbyterian minister and committed reformer, won many followers with his prescriptions for eating fruits, vegetables, and bread made from coarsely ground flour—a prescription not unlike some dietary theories today—and for avoiding meat. (The graham cracker is made from a kind of flour named for him.)

Perhaps strangest of all to modern sensibilities was the widespread belief in the new “science” of phrenology, which appeared first in Germany and became popular in the United States beginning in the 1830s through the efforts of Orson and Lorenzo Fowler, publishers of the Phrenology Almanac. Phrenologists argued that the shape of an individu-al’s skull was an important indicator of his or her character and intelligence. They made elaborate measurements of bumps and indentations to calculate the size (and, they claimed, the strength) of different areas of the brain. Phrenology seemed to provide a way of mea-suring an individual’s fitness for various positions in life and to promise an end to the arbitrary process by which people matched their talents to occupations and responsibilities. The theory is now universally believed to have no scientific value at all.

Medical ScienceIn an age of rapid technological and scientific advances, medicine sometimes seemed to lag behind. In part, that was because of the character of the medical profession, which—in the absence of any significant regulation or prescribed pathway of schooling—attracted many poorly educated people and not a few quacks. Efforts to regulate the profession were beaten back in the 1830s and 1840s by those who considered the licensing of physicians to be a form of undemocratic monopoly. The prestige of the profession, therefore, remained uneven.

The biggest problem facing American medicine, however, was the absence of basic knowledge about disease. The great medical achievement of the eighteenth century—the development of a vaccination against smallpox by Edward Jenner—came from no broad theory of infection but from a brilliant adaptation of folk practices among country people. The development of anesthetics in the nineteenth century came not from medical doctors at first, but from a New England dentist, William Morton, who was looking for ways to help his patients endure the extraction of teeth. Beginning in 1844, Morton began experi-menting with sulfuric ether. John Warren, a Boston surgeon, soon began using ether to sedate surgical patients. Even these advances met with stiff resistance from some traditional physicians, who mistrusted innovation and experimentation.

In the absence of any broad acceptance of scientific methods and experimental practice in medicine, it was very difficult for even the most talented doctors to make progress in treating disease. Even so, halting progress toward the discovery of the germ theory did occur in antebel-lum America. In 1843, the Boston essayist, poet, and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes published


a study of large numbers of cases of “puerperal fever” (septicemia in children) and concluded that the disease could be transmitted from one person to another. This discovery of contagion met with a storm of criticism but was later vindicated by the clinical success of the Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis, who noticed that infection seemed to be spread by medical stu-dents who had been working with diseased corpses. Once he began requiring students to wash their hands and disinfect their instruments, the infections virtually disappeared.

EducationOne of the most important reform movements of the mid-nineteenth century was the effort to produce a system of universal public education. As of 1830, no state had such a system. Soon after that, however, interest in public education began growing rapidly.

The greatest of the educational reformers was Horace Mann, the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, which was established in 1837. To Mann and his fol-lowers, education was the only way to preserve democracy, for an educated electorate was essential to the workings of a free political system. Mann reorganized the Massachusetts school system, lengthened the academic year (to six months), doubled teachers’ salaries, broadened the curriculum, and introduced new methods of professional training for teach-ers. Other states followed by building new schools, creating teachers’ colleges, and offering many children access to education for the first time. By the 1850s, the principle (although not yet the reality) of tax-supported elementary schools was established in every state.

The quality of public education continued to vary widely. In some places—Massachusetts, for example—educators were generally capable men and women, often highly trained. In other areas, however, barely literate teachers and severely limited funding hindered education. Among the highly dispersed population of the West, many children had no access to schools at all. In the South, all African Americans were barred from education, and only about a third of all white children of school age were actually enrolled in schools in 1860. In the North, 72 percent were enrolled, but even there, many students attended classes only briefly and casually.

Among the goals of educational reformers was to teach children the social values of thrift, order, discipline, punctuality, and respect for authority. Horace Mann, for example, spoke of the role of public schools in extending democracy and expanding individual opportunity. But he spoke, too, of their role in creating social order: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

The interest in education contributed to the growing movement to educate American Indians. Some reformers believed that Indians could be “civilized” if only they could be taught the ways of the white world. Efforts by missionaries and others to educate Indians and encourage them to assimilate were particularly prominent in such areas of the Far West as Oregon, where conflicts with the natives had not yet become acute. Nevertheless, the great majority of Native Americans remained outside the reach of white educational reform.

Despite limitations and inequities, the achievements of the school reformers were impres-sive. By the beginning of the Civil War, the United States had one of the highest literacy rates of any nation in the world: 94 percent of the population of the North, and 83 percent of the white population of the South.

RehabilitationThe belief in the potential of the individual also sparked the creation of new institutions to help individuals with disabilities—institutions that formed part of a great network of charitable activities known as the Benevolent Empire. Among them was the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. Nothing better exemplified the romantic reform spirit of the era than the conviction

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of those who founded Perkins. They believed that even society’s supposedly most disadvan-taged members could be helped to discover their own inner strength and wisdom.

Similar impulses produced another powerful movement of reform: the creation of “ asylums” for criminals and those who were mentally ill. In advocating prison and hospital reform, Americans were reacting against one of society’s most glaring ills: antiquated jails and mental institutions whose inmates lived in almost inhuman conditions. Beginning in the 1820s, many states built new penitentiaries and mental asylums. New York built the first penitentiary at Auburn in 1821. In Massachusetts, the reformer Dorothea Dix began a national movement for new methods of treating individuals with mental illness.

New forms of prison discipline were designed to reform and rehabilitate criminals. Soli-tary confinement and the imposition of silence on work crews (both instituted in Pennsylvania and New York in the 1820s) were meant to give prisoners opportunities to meditate on their wrongdoings and develop “penitence” (hence the name “penitentiary”).

Some of the same impulses that produced asylums underlay the emergence of a new “reform” approach to the challenge of working with Native Americans. For several decades, the dominant thrust of the United States’ policy toward the Indians had been relocation—getting the tribes out of the way of white civilization. But among some whites, there had also been another intent: to move the Indians to a place where they would be allowed to develop to a point at which assimilation might be possible.

It was a small step from the idea of relocation to the idea of the reservation. Just as prisons, asylums, and orphanages would provide society with an opportunity to train and uplift misfits and unfortunates within white society, so the reservations might provide a way to undertake what one official called “the great work of regenerating the Indian race.” These optimistic goals failed to meet the expectations of the reformers.

The Rise of FeminismMany women who became involved in reform movements in the 1820s and 1830s came to resent the social and legal restrictions that limited their participation. Out of their concerns emerged the first American feminist movement. Sarah and Angelina Grimké, sisters who became active and outspoken abolitionists, ignored claims by men that their activism was inappropriate to their gender. “Men and women were created equal,” they argued. “They are both moral and accountable beings, and whatever is right for man to do, is right for women to do.” Other reformers—Catharine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe (her sister), Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Dorothea Dix—similarly pressed at the boundaries of “acceptable” female behavior.

In 1840, American female delegates arrived at a world antislavery convention in London, only to be turned away by the men who controlled the proceedings. Angered at the rejec-tion, several of the delegates became convinced that their first duty as reformers should now be to elevate the status of women. Over the next several years, Mott, Stanton, and others began drawing pointed parallels between the plight of women and the plight of slaves; and in 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, they organized a convention to discuss the question of women’s rights. Out of the meeting came the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, which stated that “all men and women are created equal,” and that women no less than men are endowed with certain inalienable rights. (See “Consider the Source: Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls, New York.”) In demanding the right to vote, they launched a movement for woman suffrage that would survive until the battle was finally won in 1920.


Many of the women involved in these feminist efforts were Quakers. Quakerism had long embraced the ideal of sexual equality and had tolerated, indeed encouraged, the emer-gence of women as preachers and community leaders. Of the women who drafted the Declaration of Sentiments, all but Elizabeth Cady Stanton were Quakers.

Feminists benefited greatly from their association with other reform movements, most nota-bly abolitionism, but they also suffered as a result. The demands of women were usually assigned a secondary position to what many considered the far greater issue of the rights of slaves.

Struggles of Black WomenAmong the leading voices for women’s rights was Sojourner Truth, a black woman born into slavery in Ulster County in New York in 1799 but who escaped to freedom at age 29. Born Isabella Baumfree, she changed her name after becoming a Methodist in 1843 and believed that God had called her to testify to the truth of freedom from sin and slavery. A staunch abolitionist, she attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, in 1851, and delivered an impassioned and well-publicized call for equal rights for women and blacks. Afterward Truth became a leading spokesperson for both causes.

While black women like Sojourner Truth campaigned publicly for women’s and blacks’ civil rights, others attempted to reform society from within their religious traditions. Like white clerics, black preachers in African American churches widely banned female congre-gants from becoming ordained and obtaining a license to preach and often required them to seek special permission to serve as class and prayer leaders. Indeed, no black denomina-tion formally recognized a woman as a cleric until the African Methodist Episcopal Church ordained Julia Foote in 1895. Still, black women sought to preach throughout the colonial and antebellum eras. Among the first was Jarena Lee, born free in 1783 in Cape May, New Jersey. As a twenty-one-year-old woman then living in Philadelphia, she preached in public with such verve and passion that she earned an invitation from Rev. Richard Allen to speak at his church. Yet few other ministers welcomed her, which Lee struggled to understand theologically. As she argued in 1833, “If the man may preach, because the Savior died for him, why not the women, seeing he died for her also? Is he not a whole Savior, instead of a half one, as those who hold it wrong for a woman to preach, would seem to make it appear? Did not Mary first preach the risen Savior? Then did not Mary, a woman, preach the gospel?”

A more radical contemporary of Lee’s was Rebecca Cox Jackson. Growing up a free woman in Philadelphia during the early 1800s, she lived much of her life with her brother, Joseph Cox, an African Methodist Episcopal minister. Following instructions given to her by a heavenly spirit in 1830, Jackson began to host prayer meetings that quickly surged in popularity. She stirred controversy by tossing aside convention and inviting men and women to worship side by side. She earned a temporary reprieve, however, after a visit by Rev. Morris Brown, who succeeded Rev. Richard Allen as bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Brown came to one of Jackson’s meetings with the idea of silencing her, but left thoroughly impressed by her preaching and ordered that she be left alone. In 1833 Jackson embarked on a preaching tour outside Philadelphia but met with new and greater resistance. Her insistence on her right to preach, open refusal to join a church, and radical views on sexuality that included celibacy within marriage angered area clerics and, Jackson claimed, motivated some to assault her. Eventually she broke ranks with the free black church movement and joined a Shaker group in Watervliet, New York. In 1851 she returned to Philadelphia and founded a Shaker community composed mainly of black women.

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On July 19 and 20, 1848, leaders of the wom-en’s rights movement gathered in Seneca Falls, New York, to host a national conversa-tion about “the social, civil, and religious con-ditions and rights of women.” They outlined their grievances and goals in the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, which helped shape a national reform movement.

When, in the course of human events, it be-comes necessary for one portion of the fam-ily of man to assume among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a course.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invari-ably the same object, evinces a design to

reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future secu-rity. Such has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled. The history of mankind is a his-tory of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an abso-lute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has never permitted her to exercise her inalienable right to the elective franchise. He has compelled her to submit to laws, in the formation of which she had no voice. He has withheld from her rights which are given to the most ignorant and degraded men—both natives and foreigners.

Having deprived her of this first right of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leav-ing her without representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed her on all sides. He has made her, if married, in the eye of the law, civilly dead.

He has taken from her all right in prop-erty, even to the wages she earns.

He has made her, morally, an irresponsi-ble being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedi-ence to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master—the law giving him power to deprive her of her lib-erty, and to administer chastisem*nt.

He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women—the law, in all cases, going upon


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Lee and Jackson rejected the limitations placed on their preaching because of their gender. Like other black women, they found confirmation for their efforts not in any church rule or clerical pronouncement but rather through their personal interpretation of the Bible and, more important, an unflagging conviction that God had called them to preach. Though denied official recognition as preachers, they still touched the lives of many and represented a vital dimension to the religious lives of northern blacks.


The antislavery movement was not new to the mid-nineteenth century. Nor was it primar-ily a domestic crusade. Indeed, the struggle to end slavery took root in countries around the world. (See “America in the World: The Abolition of Slavery.”) But not until 1830 in America did the antislavery movement begin to gather the force that would ultimately enable it to overshadow virtually all other efforts at social reform.

a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.

After depriving her of all rights as a mar-ried woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has taxed her to support a gov-ernment which recognizes her only when her property can be made profitable to it.

He has monopolized nearly all the profit-able employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most honorable to him-self. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known.

He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her.

He allows her in church, as well as state, but a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions, from any public participation in the affairs of the church.

He has created a false public sentiment by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account in man.

He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.

He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.

Now, in view of this entire disfranchise-ment of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation—in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of the United States.


1. What central claim about the relationship of men and women lies at the heart of this declaration? What evidence did the authors produce to support their claim?

2. With what demand did the authors conclude their resolution? How would you have reacted to this text?

Source: Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, A Histor y of Woman Suffrage, vol. 1. Rochester, NY: Fowler and Wells, 1889, 70–71.

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The United States formally abolished slav-ery through the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution in 1865, in the aftermath of the Civil War. But the effort to abolish slavery did not begin or end in North America. Emancipation in the United States was part of a worldwide antislavery movement that began in the late eigh-teenth century and continued through the end of the nineteenth.

The end of slavery, like the end of monar-chies and established aristocracies, was one of the ideals of the Enlightenment, which inspired new concepts of individual freedom and political equality. As Enlightenment ideas spread throughout the Western world

in the seventeenth and eighteenth centu-ries, people on both sides of the Atlantic began to examine slavery anew. Some Enlightenment thinkers, including some of the founders of the American republic, believed that freedom was appropriate for white people but not for people of color. But others came to believe that all human beings had an equal claim to liberty, and their views became the basis for an escalat-ing series of antislavery movements.

Opponents of slavery first targeted the slave trade—the vast commerce in human beings that had grown up in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and had come to involve large parts of Europe, Africa, the

The Abolition of Slavery


ANTISLAVERY MESSAGE The image of an enslaved man praying to God was popular in both British and American antislavery circles. It began as the seal of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, a British abolitionist group formed in 1787, accompanied by the quote, “Am I not a man and a brother?” This example from 1837 was used to illustrate John Greenleaf Whittier ’s antislavery poem “Our Countrymen in Chains.”

(Source: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZC4-5321])

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Caribbean, and North and South America. In the aftermath of the revolutions in America, France, and Haiti, the attack on the slave trade quickly gained momentum. Its central figure was the English reformer William Wilberforce, who spent years attacking Britain’s connection with the slave trade on moral and religious grounds. After the Haitian Revolution, Wilberforce and other antislavery activists denounced slavery on the grounds that its continuation would create more slave revolts. In 1807, he per-suaded Parliament to pass a law ending the slave trade within the entire British Empire. The British example foreshadowed many other nations to make the slave trade illegal as well: the United States in 1808, France in 1814, Holland in 1817, Spain in 1845. Trading in slaves persisted within countries and colonies where slavery remained legal (including the United States), and some ille-gal slave trading continued throughout the Atlantic World. But the international sale of slaves steadily declined after 1807. The last known shipment of slaves across the Atlantic—from Africa to Cuba—occurred in 1867.

Ending the slave trade was a great deal easier than ending slavery itself, in which many people had major investments and on which much agriculture, commerce, and in-dustry depended. But pressure to abolish slavery grew steadily throughout the nine-teenth century, with Wilberforce once more helping to lead the international outcry against the institution. In Haiti, the slave revolts that began in 1791 eventually abol-ished not only slavery but also French rule. In some parts of South America, slavery came to an end with the overthrow of Spanish rule in the 1820s. Simón Bolívar, the great leader of Latin American independence, considered abolishing slavery an important part of his mission, freeing those who joined his armies and insisting on constitutional prohibitions of slavery in several of the constitutions he helped frame. In 1833, the British parliament passed a law abolishing slavery throughout

the British Empire and compensated slaveo-wners for freeing their slaves. France abol-ished slavery in its empire, after years of agitation from abolitionists, in 1848. In the Caribbean, Spain followed Britain in slowly eliminating slavery from its colonies. Puerto Rico abolished slavery in 1873; and Cuba became the last colony in the Caribbean to end slavery, in 1886, in the face of increasing slave resistance and the declining profitabil-ity of slave-based plantations. Brazil was the last nation in the Americas to abolish slavery, ending the system in 1888. The Brazilian military began to turn against slavery after the valiant participation of slaves in Brazil’s war with Paraguay in the late 1860s; eventu-ally, educated Brazilians began to oppose the system too, arguing that it obstructed eco-nomic and social progress.

In the United States, the power of world opinion—and the example of Wilberforce’s movement in England—became an impor-tant influence on the abolitionist move-ment as it gained strength in the 1820s and 1830s. American abolitionism, in turn, helped reinforce the movements abroad. Frederick Douglass, the former American slave turned abolitionist, became a major figure in the international antislavery movement and was a much-admired and much-sought-after speaker in England and Europe in the 1840s and 1850s. No other nation paid such a terrible price for abol-ishing slavery as did the United States during its Civil War, but American emanci-pation was nevertheless part of a world-wide movement toward emancipation. •UNDERSTAND, ANALYZE, & EVALUATE

1. Why did opponents of slavery focus first on ending the slave trade, rather than abolishing slavery itself? Why was ending the slave trade easier than ending slavery?

2. How do William Wilberforce’s arguments against slavery compare with those of the abolitionists in the United States?

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Early Opposition to SlaveryIn the early years of the nineteenth century, those who opposed slavery were, for the most part, a calm and genteel lot, expressing moral disapproval but doing little else. To the extent that there was an organized antislavery movement, it centered on the effort to resettle American blacks in Africa or the Caribbean. In 1817, a group of prominent white Virgin-ians organized the American Colonization Society (ACS), which proposed a gradual free-ing of slaves, with masters receiving compensation. The liberated black men and women would then be transported out of the country and helped establish a new society of their own. The ACS received some private funding, some funding from Congress, and some funding from the legislatures of Virginia and Maryland. And it successfully arranged to have several groups of blacks transported out of the United States to the west coast of Africa, where in 1830 they established the nation of Liberia. (In 1846, Liberia became an independent black republic, with its capital, Monrovia, named for the American president who had presided over the initial settlement.)

But the ACS was in the end a negligible force. There were far too many blacks in America in the nineteenth century to be transported to Africa by any conceivable pro-gram. The ACS met resistance, in any case, from blacks themselves, many of whom were now three or more generations removed from Africa and, despite their loathing of slavery, had no wish to emigrate. They viewed themselves as entitled to fair treatment as Americans.

Garrison and AbolitionismIn 1830, with slavery spreading ideology rapidly in the South and the antislavery movement seemingly on the verge of collapse, a new figure emerged: William Lloyd Garrison. Born in Massachusetts in 1805, Garrison was in the 1820s an assistant to the New Jersey Quaker Benjamin Lundy, who published the leading antislavery newspaper of the time. Garrison grew impatient with his employer’s moderate tone, so in 1831 he returned to Boston to found his own newspaper, The Liberator.

Garrison’s philosophy was so simple that it was genuinely revolutionary. Opponents of slavery, he said, should not talk about the evil influence of slavery on white society but rather the damage the system did to slaves. And they should, therefore, reject “grad-ualism” and demand the immediate abolition of slavery and the extension of all the rights of American citizenship to both slaves and free African Americans. Garrison wrote in a relentless, uncompromising tone. “I am aware,” he wrote in the very first issue of The Liberator, “that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. . . . I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard.”

Garrison soon attracted a large group of followers throughout the North, enough to enable him to found the New England Antislavery Society in 1832 and, a year later, after a convention in Philadelphia, the American Antislavery Society.

Black AbolitionistsAbolitionism obviously had a particular appeal to the free black population of the North. These free blacks typically lived in conditions of poverty and oppression and faced


a barrage of local customs and state laws that frequently reminded them of their lowly social positions. For all their problems, however, northern blacks were fiercely proud of their freedom and sensitive to the plight of those members of their race who remained in bondage. Many in the 1830s came to support Garrison. But they also rallied to leaders of their own.

Among the earliest black abolitionists was David Walker, who preceded even Garrison in publicly calling for an uncompromising opposition to slavery on moral grounds. In 1829, Walker, a free black man who had moved from North Carolina to Boston, published a harsh pamphlet—An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World—that described slavery as a sin that would draw divine punishment if not abolished. “America is more our country than it is the whites’—we have enriched it with our blood and tears.” He urged slaves to “kill [their masters] or be killed.”

Most black critics of slavery were somewhat less violent in their rhetoric but equally uncompromising in their commitment to abolition. The greatest African American abo-litionist of all—and one of the most electrifying orators of his time, black or white—was Frederick Douglass. Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass escaped to Massachusetts in 1838, became an outspoken leader of antislavery sentiment, and spent two years lecturing

FUGITIVE SLAVE LAW CONVENTION Abolitionists gathered in Cazenovia, New York, in August 1850 to consider how to respond to the law recently passed by Congress requiring northern states to return fugitive slaves to their owners. Frederick Douglass is seated just to the left of the table in this photograph of some of the participants. The gathering was unusual among abolitionist gatherings in including substantial numbers of African Americans.

(Source: Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program)

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in England. On his return to the United States in 1847, Douglass purchased his freedom from his Maryland owner and founded an antislavery newspaper, The North Star, in Rochester, New York. He achieved wide renown as well for his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), in which he presented a damning picture of slavery. Douglass demanded not only freedom but also full social and economic equality for blacks.

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?,” Douglass harshly asked in an Inde-pendence Day speech in Rochester, New York, in 1854. “I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. . . . There is not a nation on earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States at this very hour.”

Black abolitionists had been active for years before Douglass emerged as a leader of their cause. They held their first national convention in 1830. But with Douglass’s leader-ship, they became a more influential force than any other African American. They began, too, to forge an alliance with white antislavery leaders such as Garrison.

Anti-AbolitionismThe rise of abolitionism provoked a powerful opposition. Almost all white southerners, of course, were bitterly hostile to the movement. But even in the North, abolitionists were a small, dissenting minority. Some whites feared that abolitionism would produce a destruc-tive civil war. Others feared that it would lead to a great influx of free blacks into the North and displace white workers.

The result of such fears was an escalating wave of violence. A mob in Philadelphia attacked the abolitionist headquarters there in 1834, burned it to the ground, and began a bloody race riot. Another mob seized Garrison on the streets of Boston in 1835 and threatened to hang him. He was saved from death only by being locked in jail. Elijah Lovejoy, the editor of an abolitionist newspaper in Alton, Illinois, was victimized repeatedly and finally killed when he tried to defend his printing press from attack.

That so many men and women continued to embrace abolitionism in the face of such vicious opposition suggests that abolitionists were not people who took their political commitments lightly. They were strong-willed, passionate crusaders who displayed not only enormous courage and moral strength but, at times, a fervency that many of their contemporaries found deeply disturbing. The mobs were only the most violent expres-sion of a hostility to abolitionism that many, perhaps most, other white Americans shared.

Abolitionism DividedBy the mid-1830s, the unity of the abolitionist crusade began to crack. One reason was the violence of the anti-abolitionists, which persuaded some members of the abolition movement that a more moderate approach was necessary. Another reason was the growing radicalism of William Lloyd Garrison, who shocked even many of his own allies (includ-ing Frederick Douglass) by attacking not only slavery but the government itself. The Constitution, he said, was “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.” In 1840, Garrison precipitated a formal division within the American Antislavery Society by insist-ing that women be permitted to participate in the movement on terms of full equality. He continued after 1840 to arouse controversy with new and even more radical stands: an


extreme pacifism that rejected even defensive wars; opposition to all forms of coercion—not just slavery, but prisons and asylums; and finally, in 1843, a call for northern disunion from the South.

From 1840 on, therefore, abolitionism moved in many channels and spoke with many different voices. The radical and uncompromising Garrisonians remained influential. But so were others who operated in more moderate ways, arguing that abolition could be accomplished only as the result of a long, patient, peaceful struggle. They appealed to the conscience of the slaveholders; and when that produced no results, they turned to political action, seeking to induce the northern states and the federal government to aid the cause. They joined the Garrisonians in helping runaway slaves find refuge in the North or in Canada through the underground railroad.

The abolitionists also helped fund the legal battle over the Spanish slave vessel, Amis-tad. After the Supreme Court (in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 1842) ruled that states need not aid in enforcing the 1793 law requiring the return of fugitive slaves to their owners, abo-litionists won passage in several northern states of “personal liberty laws,” which forbade state officials to assist in the capture and return of runaways. The antislavery societies also petitioned Congress to abolish slavery in places where the federal government had jurisdiction—in the territories and in the District of Columbia—and to prohibit the inter-state slave trade.

Antislavery sentiment underlay the formation in 1840 of the Liberty Party, which ran Kentucky antislavery leader James G. Birney for president. But this party and its succes-sors never campaigned for outright abolition. They stood instead for “Free Soil,” for keeping slavery out of the territories. Some Free-Soilers were concerned about the welfare of blacks; others were people who cared nothing about slavery but simply wanted to keep the West a country for whites. But the Free-Soil position would ultimately do what abo-litionism never could: attract the support of large numbers of the white population of the North.

The slow progress of abolitionism drove some critics of slavery to embrace more drastic measures. A few began to advocate violence. A group of prominent abolitionists in New England, for example, funneled money and arms to John Brown for his bloody uprisings in Kansas and Virginia. Others attempted to arouse public anger through propaganda.

The most powerful of all abolitionist propaganda was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published as a book in 1852. It sold more than 300,000 copies within a year of publication and was reissued again and again. It succeeded in bringing the mes-sage of abolitionism to an enormous new audience—not only those who read the book but also those who watched countless theater companies reenact it across the nation. When Abraham Lincoln was introduced to Stowe once in the White House, he reportedly said to her: “So you are the little lady that has brought this great war.” Reviled throughout the South, Stowe became a hero to many in the North. And in both regions, her novel helped inflame sectional tensions to a new level of passion.

Stowe’s novel emerged not just out of abolitionist politics but also a popular tradition of sentimental novels written by, and largely for, women. (See “Patterns of Popular Culture: Sentimental Novels.”) Stowe artfully integrated the emotional conventions of the sentimen-tal novel with the political ideas of the abolitionist movement, and to sensational effect. Her novel, by embedding the antislavery message within a familiar literary form in which women were the key protagonists serving to improve society, brought that message to an enormous new audience.

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“America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women,” Nathaniel Hawthorne complained in 1855, “and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash.” Hawthorne, one of the leading novelists of his time, was complaining about the most popular form of fiction in mid-nineteenth-century America—not his own dark and brooding works, but the “sentimental novel,” a genre of literature written and read mostly by middle-class women.

In an age when affluent women occupied primarily domestic roles, and in which find-ing a favorable marriage was the most important thing many women could do to secure or improve their lots in life, the sen-timental novel gave voice to both female hopes and female anxieties. The plots of sentimental novels were usually filled with character-improving problems and domes-tic trials, but most of them ended with the heroine securely and happily married. They were phenomenally successful, many of them selling more than 100,000 copies each—far more than almost any other books of the time.

Sentimental heroines were almost always beautiful and endowed with specifi-cally female qualities—“all the virtues,” one novelist wrote, “that are founded in the sensibility of the heart: Pity, the attribute of angels, and friendship, the balm of life, delight to dwell in the female breast.” Women were highly sensitive creatures, the sentimental writers believed, incapable of disguising their feelings, and subject to fainting, mysterious illnesses, trances, and, of course, tears—things rarely expected of

men. But they were also capable of a kind of nurturing love and natural sincerity that was hard to find in the predominantly male public world. In Susan Warner’s The Wide, Wide World (1850), for example, the hero-ine, a young girl named Ellen Montgomery, finds herself suddenly thrust into the “wide, wide world” of male competition after her father loses his fortune. She is unable to adapt to this world, but she is saved in the end when she is taken in by wealthy rela-tives, who will undoubtedly prepare her for a successful marriage. They restore to her the security and comfort to which she had been born and without which she seemed unable to thrive.

Sentimental novels accepted uncritically the popular assumptions about women’s special needs and desires, and they offered stirring tales of how women satisfied them. But sentimental novels were not limited to romanticized images of female fulfillment through protection and marriage. They hinted as well at the increasing role of women in reform movements. Many such books portrayed women dealing with social and moral problems—and using their highly developed female sensibilities to help other women escape from their troubles. Women were particularly suitable for such reform work, the writers implied, because they were specially gifted at helping and nurturing others.

The most famous sentimental novelist of the nineteenth century was Harriet Beecher Stowe. Most of her books—The Minister ’s Wooing, My Wife and I, We and Our Neighbors, and others—portrayed the travails an