American History: The 19th Century


Figure 1.--

Readers can view American history chronologically by decade. This provides more chronologicaly contunuity than the more thematic approach. The beginning of the century was dominated by the Louosiana Purchase (1803) and Anerican efforts to stay out of the Napoleonic Wars which engulfed Europe during the first two decades of the century. This effort ultimstely failed with the War of 1812, essentially fought to resolve unsettled issues from the Revolutionary War. This was followed by tge Era of Good feelings which spanned the 1810s and 20s. The 1830s ws dominated by the Jacksonian Era. The Ante-Bellum decades of the 1840s and 50s are often passed over, but of course included the Mexican War (1846-48). The best studied decade is of course the 1860s with the Civil War and Reconstruction. This finally ended the slavery, but not the race issue. The rest of the decades donnot stand out, but were dominated by two major trends, the ibdustrialization of the United States and the wave of European immigration leaving Amnerica a much more diverse country.

The 1800s

The Presidential election of 1800 was critical in providing for the peaceful tranistion between parties. The beginning of the century was dominated by the Louosiana Purchase (1803) and Anerican efforts to stay out of the Napoleonic Wars which engulfed Europe during the first two decades of the century.

The 1810s

This effort ultimstely failed with the War of 1812, essentially fought to resolve unsettled issues from the Revolutionary War. This was followed by the Era of Good feelings which spanned the 1810s and 20s.

The 1820s

Slavery first emerged as a major issue in the 1820s. Rather than slowly withering away as many had anticipsated, the cotton gin had made possible a highly profitable new crop that ws based on slsve labor. The Missori Compromise managed to paper over the issue by acepting a divided nation, half slave and half free,

The 1830s

The 1830s was dominated by the Jacksonian Era. Texas fought a war for independence from Mexico (1835-36).

The 1840s

The Ante-Bellum decades of the 1840s and 50s are often passed over, but of course were of immense importance. The decade opened with the election contest between the Whig candidate William Henry Harrison and Democrat candidate Martin Van Buren. Historiand tend to stress demogogery and moonshine, General Harrison was accused of being too psrtial to hard cider. In fact, it was the first election determined by economic issues. President Jackson's campsign against the Bank of the United States resulted in a depression and Van Buren suffered the consequences. Harrison was only nomially a Whig and as he died very early in his term, Democrat John Tyler inherited the office. Advances in communications were especially important in making a continental country workable. The telegraph was developed in the 1840s. Canals began to make a impact in the 1830s, but railroads appeared in the 1840s and steamboats on major rivers to open up the contry economically. The Abolitionist Movement began to make real inroads in public opinion during the 1840s. The break up of major churches (Baptidsts, Methodidts, and Presbyterians) into northern and southern factions was the beginning of the unraveling of America at the same time that Americam pioneers began reaching Oregon and California.. Major international conflicts emerged in the 1840s with Britain and Mexico. American politicans preaching Manifest Destiny felt strongly that the United States should span the continent. This was blocked by Britain in the northwest and Mexico in the southwest. Britain was unwilling to surrender the Oregon Territory. War was a real possibility. The issue was finally settled with the Oregon Treaty (1846). Diplomacy failed with Mexico, Mexico never recognized Texas Independence. American annexation of Texas meant war (1856). Major figures of the Civil War first came to national prominance during the Mexican War. The War was fought over Texas, but resulted in the acquisition of the entire southwest, including California. [Woodward] There was opposition to the War, in part because of the potential for expanding slavery. A young Abraham Lincoln was one of those critics. The Abolitions were the core of the opposition. The Missori Compromise only covered the area of the Louisiana Purchase.

The 1850s

The slavery issue rose to dominate the 1850s. As some had anticipated, the acquisition of the southwest from Mexico only intensified the national debate over slavery. The answer to these increasing tensiions was the Compromise of 1850 which Senator Henry Clay helped push through at the end of the decade. Tragically, by abrigating the Missori Compromise, it only opened new avenues for sectional division. Dramatic debates over slavery resounded in both chanbers of Congress. Clay hoped that the compromise on slavery would allow the economic sevelopment if the country to resolve the slavery issue over time. The idea was that a developing diversified eci\onomy would eventually overweal slave-based plantations. The Compromise averted Civil War, but provisions of the Compromise like the Fugative Slave Law only exacerbated tensions. And the Kansas-Nevraska Act (1854) brought the first actual bloodletting. The Abolitionist Movement by this time had so affected Northern thinking that an increasing number of Southerbers no longer wanted to be psrt of the same nation. The John Brown Raid on Harper Ferry convinced others that the South had to seceed.

The 1860s

The best studied decade of the19th century is of course the 1860s with the Civil War and Reconstruction. This finally ended the slavery, but not the race issue.

The 1870s

The rest of the decades donnot stand out, but were dominated by two major trends, the ibdustrialization of the United States and the wave of European immigration leaving Amnerica a much more diverse country.

Sources

Woodworth, Steven E. Manifest Destinies (Knopf: 2010), 42p.






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Created: 7:31 AM 12/30/2010
Last updated: 7:31 AM 12/30/2010