Thanks Dad

After briefly examining the United States’ history, I felt as if I was a child again. It resurfaced memories of Saturday morning drives to soccer practice, when I would ask my dad questions about slavery or World War II. This blog has made me realize that even though my dad has passed on, I can still have a part of him with me when I partake in activities that we used to do together, such as discussing history. I want to thank my dad for igniting a passion in me that I will carry with me for my entire life and until I see him again. Thanks Dad, I love you and I miss you more and more every day.

 

Cold War to Barack Obama

The U.S. economy flourished after WWII as more Americans became employed. As such, birth rates increased leading to the baby boom. The Soviet Union was the only country vying for power after the war, leading to the Cold War – a period of political hostility between the Soviet Union and United States.  During the Cold War, the U.S. employed a policy of containment and initiated both the Truman Doctrine and Marshall Plan – in effort to stop the spread of communism. NATO was established, and the Warsaw Pact was created in response. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the U.S. and the Soviet Union came to conventional war but President Kennedy had the missiles removed.  McCarthyism and the Red Scare started becoming popular in the U.S. during the 1950s as Americans feared communism. There was little domestic opposition to the Korean War, which is now considered a successful proxy war as it contained communism; whereas, the Vietnam war was unsuccessful and faced a large amount of domestic disapproval. To please citizens, Nixon began Vietnamization in which he slowly removed troops from Vietnam. The Civil rights movement became popular during this time, as communism allowed for racial equality and thereby, made democracy seem weak. Brown v. Board made it unconstitutional to separate blacks and whites in schools and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited any discrimination in the U.S. LBJ’s Great Society was established to eliminate racism and social injustice. Additionally, a quota system was emplaced which limited the amount of immigrants allowed in the U.S.

The most recent events in the United States are defined by distrust in politics. The Watergate Scandal and political corruption continue to aid to sentiments of political distrust in America. The Oil Embargo of 1973 caused inflation and economic hardship; the policy of Reaganomics was formed to cut taxes and improve the economy. Under Reagan, the Cold War entered the period of détente, which is relaxed tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Cold War officially ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. War on terrorism and domestic security is an important topic that dominates American politics, especially in light of domestic terrorists such as 9/11. The economy suffered from a recession in 2008 due to outsourcing and the housing crash. There continues to be the debate over the Affordable Care Act, fossil fuels, abortion, and immigration. Barack Obama, the first African American president, demonstrates the improvement of racial relations in the U.S.

Post Civil War Reconstruction to World War II

In the aftermath of the Civil War new transportation and communication systems were established, requiring a large amount of manufacturing. This ultimately shifted the U.S. economy from an agricultural economy into an industrial economy with large-scale production efforts. Most Americans were employed during this time, raising the standard of living and new sharecropping technologies enabled more crops to be cultivated, lowering food prices. Due to the high percentage of employment during this age, unions grew in importance. However, despite the victories for the average American, the wealth gap grew. Many business leaders operated trusts/monopolies which further divided the wealth gap and resulted in trust leaders’ growing influence. In fact, during the Gilded Age, business tycoons had more governmental influence than many politicians. The Populist Party, which believed that the government should assume a stronger role in the economy, grew in popularity. The influx of immigrants helped urbanization, the middle class grew in size, and people enjoyed more leisure in their work days. New ideologies such as Social Darwinism were formed to justify wealth gaps and business tycoons’ actions. Andrew Carnegie’s The Gospel of Wealth detailed how the rich had a duty to help the poor and thereby, improve society. Corruption ensued during this period and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was established in 1890 in attempt to eliminate trusts’ political and economic control; however, it was ineffective and hurt labor unions. The result of Plessy v. Ferguson ruled that private segregation was allowed, reversing equality progress for African Americans.

The ineffective Sherman Anti-Trust Act was replaced by the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, which more effectively busted trusts. Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt composed his Square Deal, in which he planned to preserve the environment, bust trusts, and ensure consumer protection (particularly with respect to food). Ultimately, these policies shifted political power back to politicians. Before WWI, there were imperialistic exploits by both Europe and the United States; Europe primarily targeted African countries, while the U.S. colonized Latin American countries. Despite Woodrow Wilson promising to keep America out of WWI, the U.S. entered the war after the Zimmerman Telegram was intercepted. Basically, the telegram was from a German officer who detailed that Germany planned to invade America next. During the war, African American and women’s rights improved, leading to woman’s suffrage granted through the 19th amendment. The Treaty of Versailles ended WWI and Wilson proposed his Fourteen Points and the League of Nations; however, the U.S. never joined the League of Nations because it would entangle the U.S. in foreign alliances. The Roaring Twenties led to increasing consumerism and spending, causing the Great Depression. Additionally, the Harlem Renaissance occurred in the twenties which resulted in African American writers, musicians, and artists’ rise to fame. In order to combat the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt created his New Deal in which he established relief and recovery programs for individuals. The United States was just recovering from the Great Depression when WWII began. Initially, the U.S. declared a neutral policy but after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. entered the war; west coast Japanese Americans were put into Internment Camps. The U.S. developed the atomic bomb through the Manhattan Project and by the end of the war, the U.S. was the most powerful country in the world.

 

  

 

Federalism to the Civil War

Even after the establishment of the United States, there was still conflict between Americans regrading Federalists and Anti-federalists ideologies. Federalists believed that there should be a strong, central government; whereas, Anti-Federalists desired independent state governance. Ultimately, Federalists ideologies prevailed as demonstrated through the Embargo Act of 1807 and the establishment of canals, both of which insured that interstate trade occurred. Women’s rights and abolitionist pursuits were discussed at the Seneca Falls Convention. Many Americans were disgusted about the ideas exchanged at this conference, leading to rebellions such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion. Irish citizens immigrated to the United States during this time due to a potato famine in Ireland. Xenophobia spread rampantly, seen by the establishment of the Know-Nothing Party. Andrew Jackson, who rose to fame as a common man and patriot in the War of 1812, initiated the Indian Removal Act/Trail of Tears. Cotton was grown in the south through slave labor and the northeast became a large manufacturing economy. Slavery became a heated topic during this time and the Missouri Compromise was created to retain a balance of slave and free states and to appeal to both the north and the south. The Monroe Doctrine was established to keep European countries out of United States affairs but, of course, was virtually ineffective until the Roosevelt Corollary was added nearly a hundred years later.

There was a lot of enthusiasm for western expansion due to the acquisition of new territories gained through the Mexican American War. Many Americans hoped to achieve wealth by traveling west, believing that they would mine gold, just as some Americans did in the 1849 Gold Rush. Additionally, immigrants, like the Chinese, sought refuge in the west. Manifest Destiny became a popularized philosophy during this time as people believed that American’s had a divine right to expand westward. But with this new expansion, lingering questions about slavery arose; such as, which states should be free and which states should be slave states. To appease tensions, the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas–Nebraska Act were enacted but to no avail. Lincoln was elected without any southern electoral votes and once the southern states began to secede from the Union, the Civil War began. The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves in revolting states, which prevented foreign powers from helping the south as the war was now about slavery. After the war, the Reconstructive Era began but there were still issues regarding citizenship rights for blacks. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment were added to the Constitution; however, segregation and black dissent still existed in the south, even in the Reconstruction Era.

Spanish Settlement to the Formation of the United States

Before Europeans settled in North America, natives roamed the land. In the southwestern U.S., maize was a significant food source that provided the natives with necessary nutrients; whereas, natives in the northwest and Great Plains hunted. The Native Americans’ lives were forever disturbed and altered when European influence first appeared. Through joint stock companies, many Europeans traveled to the U.S. in pursuit of gold, glory, and/or spreading Christianity. In effort to provide resources to the new colonies the Columbian Exchange began, which rampantly spread disease among the Indians. Due to the death of many natives through both disease and the Encomienda System, slave trade began around 1620.

The Spanish’s arrival inspired other European nations’ ventures to the New World; however, each country retained its own goals. For instance, the Spanish wanted to convert the natives and find gold, while the Dutch and French wanted to establish traded routes for furs and attain friendly relations with the natives. In contrast, the English wanted to establish new religious settlements in which families could prosper and survive on self-sustaining agriculture. The British and Spanish retained the most hostile relationships with the natives, an aspect demonstrated through the Bacon Rebellion – in which poor farmers slaughtered natives. The east coast was separated into three colonies: New England, Middle, and Southern. The Puritans lived in the homogeneous New England colonies, focused on religion. The Middle Colonies were diverse religiously and harvested various crops; whereas, the Southern colonies were more labor-intensive and prospered by selling tobacco, a cash crop that saved the Jamestown colony. Through trade, the natives were exposed to alcohol which resulted in many Native Americans becoming severe alcoholics. During this period, Mercantilist policies were revered and Salutatory Neglect, a British policy of self-rule, left the colonists satisfied.

By the culmination of the French and Indian War, French presence was removed from North America. The British began to dismiss their policy of Salutatory Neglect due to debts that they had accumulated over the war and British resentment grew in the U.S. In attempt to resist British control, colonists created the Stamp Act Congress, Committees of Correspondence, and the First Continental Congress; however, these efforts were unsuccessful. Thomas Paine published Common Sense during this tumultuous time, urging colonists to rebel against the British. Paine’s work in addition to enlightenment ideologies sprouted ideas of revolution in the colonies. The British continued to impose unpopular laws during this time such as the Homestead Act, Stamp Act, and Quartering Act, ultimately leading to the Boston Tea Party/Boston Massacre and the Revolutionary War. Despite a relatively weaker army, the colonists were victorious in war due to strong leadership/desire to win, knowledge about the land, and French aid. After the colonies’ victory, the first government – the Articles of Confederation –  was established. It ultimately failed since the central government did not possess the ability to tax states.  Eventually, the United States of America, the government we know today, formed and the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution. When George Washington left office, he detailed important political advice – warning of the destructiveness of political parties and foreign alliances. During this period, women were still virtually powerless and debate against state government versus the national government still lingered.

 

Inspiration: A Tribute to my Father

I have always been fascinated by history. Growing up, my car rides consisted of my seven-year-old self asking my father things like, “who was the best President?” and “what is the importance of the Alamo?” He would kindly and patiently answer all fifty of my questions, fueling my passion for history. Some of my greatest memories have been reading my R.M.S. Titanic pop-out book and watching a Pearl Harbor documentary with him on snow days. Even after his death, he continues to be the best dad in the world. After his passing, I struggled with finding ways to still feel connected to him. I knew that our parting was temporary, as we will meet again, but I desired to find means to keep his memory alive. Until one day, I realized that my continuation of studying history could accomplish this. As such, I chose to blog an overview of American history – my father’s favorite history topic. This blog’s meaning transcends much more than me being an American; they are really about me being my father’s daughter.