US History/Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny

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Jacksonian Democracy[edit]

Jacksonian Democracy refers to the period of time (perhaps 1828-1840) dominated by the controversial presidency of Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), and characterized by expanding democratization, the rise of the common man, and increased white male suffrage.

Andrew Jackson, a westerner and the hero of the Battle of New Orleans (1815), ran for the presidency in 1824. Initially, five candidates attempted to attain the presidency: John C. Calhoun, William Crawford, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and John Quincy Adams. All were 'Democratic-Republicans'. Calhoun dropped out and instead ran for Vice President, which he won. Crawford might have won had he not suffered a paralyzing stroke. Andrew Jackson won the popular and electoral votes, but since he only got a plurality and not a majority, the decision on who would become president went to the House of Representatives. The House voted for John Quincy Adams instead, which cost Jackson the election of 1824. Although this was a temporary defeat, it helped to rally the public behind Jackson and was one of the factors that contributed to Jackson's victory in 1828. Here is a table from the Wikipedia article on the election:

Election results[edit]

Presidential Candidate Party State Popular Vote: Electoral Vote:
John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican Massachusetts 108,740 84
Andrew Jackson Democratic-Republican Tennessee 153,544 99
William Harris Crawford Democratic-Republican Georgia 46,618 41
Henry Clay Democratic-Republican Kentucky 47,136 37
Vice Presidential Candidate Party State Popular Vote: Electoral Vote:
John Caldwell Calhoun Democratic-Republican South Carolina Unknown 182
Nathan Sanford Democratic-Republican New York Unknown 30
Nathaniel Macon Democratic-Republican North Carolina Unknown 24
Andrew Jackson Democratic-Republican Tennessee Unknown 13
Martin Van Buren Democratic-Republican New York Unknown 9
Henry Clay Democratic-Republican Kentucky Unknown 2

Caroline Affair[edit]

The Caroline Affair (also known as the Caroline case) was a series of events beginning in 1837 that strained relations between the United States and Britain. A group of Canadian rebels, led by William Lyon Mackenzie, seeking a Canadian republic, had been forced to flee to the United States after leading the failed Upper Canada Rebellion in Upper Canada (now Ontario). They took refuge on Navy Island on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, which separates the two counties (between Ontario and New York). American sympathizers, who considered the rebellion a belated continuation of the American Revolutionary War, supplied them with money, provisions, and arms via the steamboat SS Caroline. On December 29, Canadian loyalist Colonel Sir Allan MacNab ordered a party of militia to cross the river and set the Caroline ablaze. Finding her docked at Fort Schlosser, New York, (near the current Power Authority intakes), they seized her, towed her into the current, set her afire and cast her adrift over Niagara Falls, killing one American (Amos Durfree) in the process. It was reported that dozens of Americans were killed as they were trapped on board, although the ship had been abandoned before being set adrift. In response on May 29, 1838 American forces burned British steamer Sir Robert Peel while it was in the United States. The tensions were ultimately settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. President Martin Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott to prevent further American incursions into Canada.This incident has been used to establish the principle of "anticipatory self-defense" in international politics, which holds that military action may be justified by the mere threat of armed attack.

Indian Removal and Massacre[edit]

The United States, as it expanded to the west, forcibly removed or killed many Native Americans from their lands as it violated the treaties and Indian rights which both parties had agreed upon. In this way, the concerns of white landowners were considered above the interests of the Indians. In Georgia, for instance, the governor ordered the Cherokee to vacate their lands so the territory would be able to be redistributed to poor Georgians. The Cherokee refused, as they contended that a treaty with the United States that had been signed earlier guaranteed their right to the land. Through a friend of the tribe, they brought their case all the way to the Supreme Court.

In 1832, when Andrew Jackson was President, the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia had acted unconstitutionally. However, Jackson refused to enforce the Court's ruling. Meanwhile, Congress had passed the Indian Removal Act, which granted refuge to Native Americans who relocated to territory west of the Mississippi.The Native Americans could have stayed and became citizens of their home states. The removal was suppose to be peaceful and by their own will, but Jackson forced them to go west.

The Cherokee were forced out of Georgia and had to endure a brutal and deadly trip to the area comprising present-day Oklahoma, a journey which they called the "Trail of Tears." Between 2,000 and 4,000 of the 16,000 migrating Cherokees died during the journey, including women, children, and elderly members of the tribe.The conditions were horrible. They were exposed to disease and starvation on their way to the makeshift forts that they would live in. The Cherokees weren't the only tribe that was forced to leave their homelands. The Choctaws, Creeks, Seminoles, and Chickasaws were also forced to migrate west. The Choctaws were forced to move first in the winter of 1831 and 1832 and many would die on the forced march. The Creek nation would resist the government in Alabama until 1836 but the army eventually pushed them towards Oklahoma. In the end the Natives forced to move traded about 100 million acres for about 32 million acres and about 65 million dollars total for all Native tribes forced to move. This forced relocation of the American Indians was only a chapter in the cruelty given to the Natives by the American government. These forced migrations would have a terrible effect on the Natives as many were victim to disease, starvation, and death.

Seminole Wars

In Florida the Seminole Nation resisted forced migration. Oscela who was the leader of the Seminoles waged a fierce guerrilla war against federal troops in 1835. The Seminole forces included Creeks, Seminoles, and even African Americans. Oscela would be captured by the US Army under a white flag truce and he would die in a POW camp in 1838. However the Seminoles continued to fight under Chief Coacoochee and other leaders. Finally in 1842 the US would cease the removal efforts. the Seminoles would remain in Florida to this day near the Everglades.

The National Bank and the Panic of 1837[edit]

Andrew Jackson hated the National Bank for a variety of reasons. Proud of being a self-made "common" man, he argued that the bank favored the wealthy. A Westerner, he feared the expansion of Eastern business interests and the draining of specie from the West, so he portrayed the bank as a "hydra-headed" monster. A nationalist, he distrusted foreign members of the bank board and argued the bank could not be trusted in time of war. Two Senators, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, disliked Jackson and wished to see him lose the presidential election of 1832. They convinced Nicholas Biddle, the president of the Bank, to apply early for a new charter for the bank, even though the charter would not expire until 1836. Believing many Americans supported the bank, they intended to force Jackson to veto the renewal of the charter which might cause him to lose the election. This did not work. Jackson vetoed the charter, but public opinion did not drop enough for him to lose the election.

Jackson decided to kill the National Bank early. He ordered the Secretary of the Treasury to take the money out of the national bank and put it in "pet banks," state banks that were friends of Jackson. These pet banks lent out money to poor farmers, who could not pay the money back.

The result of this whole process was the Panic of 1837, a severe economic depression. Business took a nosedive and unemployment soared. Prices of commodities rose so high that families could not afford many basic necessities. The depression lasted six years, as Martin Van Buren, the President elected after Jackson, did almost nothing to ease the impact of it.

Because of this, the first and only Whig President, William Henry Harrison, was elected. The Whigs were all the National Republicans along with the Democrats who disliked Jackson. Harrison died of pneumonia four weeks after his inaugural address, and John Tyler, his Vice President, became President.

Aroostook War[edit]

Aroostook War (1838–1839), an undeclared and bloodless war occasioned by the failure of the United States and Great Britain to determine the northeast boundary between New Brunswick and what is now Maine. After Maine became a state in 1820, the Maine legislature, jointly with Massachusetts, made grants to settlers along both branches of the Aroostook River, ignoring British claims to area in Aroostook County. In 1831, the United States and Great Britain tried to compromise on the boundary by submitting the issue to the king of the Netherlands for review. An agreement was reached, but the U.S. Senate rejected the plan in 1832. In January 1839, a posse of Americans entered the disputed area to oust Canadian lumberjacks working in the region. The Canadians arrested the posse's leader, and within two months 10,000 Maine troops were either encamped along the Aroostook River or were on their way there. At the insistence of Maine congressmen, the federal government voted to provide a force of 50,000 men and $10 million in the event of war. To prevent a clash, General Winfield Scott was dispatched to negotiate a truce with the lieutenant governor of New Brunswick. Great Britain, convinced of the seriousness of the situation, agreed to a boundary commission, whose findings were incorporated in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), which also addressed a number of other disputed boundary issues.

John Tyler Presidency[edit]

Tyler had once been a Democrat, but he disliked Jackson, and he became a Whig. He was a weak supporter of states' rights, so when many of the Whig bills came to him, they were never vetoed. It turned out that Tyler would veto the entire Whig congressional agenda. The Whigs saw this as the party leader turning on his own party. He was officially expelled from the Whig party in 1841.

Much of the public did not take Tyler's presidency seriously. They saw his lack of appeal in Congress and the embarrassing resignations of all of but one of Harrison's cabinet appointees in a single month. Tyler did, though, help polarize the two parties in the US. When he (a non-Whig) appointed John C. Calhoun, a staunch pro-slavery Democrat, as his Secretary of State, he essentially confirmed a growing feeling that Democrats were the party of the South and Whigs the party of the North.

The Tyler presidency threw the Whig party into disarray. Because of divisions between past groups which joined the party, the Whigs could not agree on one goal. In the election of 1844, Whigs voted by sectional ties, and because of these weakening divisions within the party, the Democratic candidate, James Polk, won. After one term, the Whigs were out of power.

Manifest Destiny[edit]

Acquisition and Conquest of Central North America by the US.

Instead of opposing the anti-Native American policies, many white Americans supported them. Citizens of the States were led to believe that the United States was destined to take over the continent of North America. Some felt that such was white America's destiny due to the appeal of freedom and democracy. Many of the white Americans felt that it was up to them to further develop the lifestyles of the Hispanics and Native Americans. They believed that these other simple living races were incapable of technologically and spiritually advancing into the future. The entire concept that the United States was destined to rule was termed "manifest destiny" by John O' Sullivan in 1845.[source needed] In the process of Manifest Destiny, many societies were displaced or killed by white settlers moving west. However, the expansion of the US to the West was largely due to confronting France with the inevitability of the "Louisiana Purchase" and the defeat of the Spanish and Mexicans in a succession of skirmishes and wars. Manifest Destiny helped the government pass legislation such as the Homestead Act.

Amistad Case[edit]

In February of 1839, Portuguese slave hunters abducted a large group of Africans from Sierra Leone and shipped them to Havana, Cuba, a center for the slave trade. This abduction violated all of the treaties then in existence. Fifty-three Africans were purchased by two Spanish planters and put aboard the Cuban schooner Amistad for shipment to a Caribbean plantation. On July 1, 1839, the Africans seized the ship, killed the captain and the cook, and ordered the planters to sail to Africa. On August 24, 1839, the Amistad was seized off Long Island, NY, by the U.S. brig Washington. The planters were freed and the Africans were imprisoned in New Haven, CT, on charges of murder. Although the murder charges were dismissed, the Africans continued to be held in confinement as the focus of the case turned to salvage claims and property rights. President Van Buren was in favor of extraditing the Africans to Cuba. However, abolitionists in the North opposed extradition and raised money to defend the Africans. Claims to the Africans by the planters, the government of Spain, and the captain of the brig led the case to trial in the Federal District Court in Connecticut. The court ruled that the case fell within Federal jurisdiction and that the claims to the Africans as property were not legitimate because they were illegally held as slaves. The case went to the Supreme Court in January 1841, and former President John Quincy Adams argued the defendants' case. Adams defended the right of the accused to fight to regain their freedom. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Africans, and 35 of them were returned to their homeland. The others died at sea or in prison while awaiting trial. The result, widely publicized court cases in the United States helped the abolitionist movement.

Problems with Industrialization[edit]

In 1850 the start of the Second Industrial Revolution gave birth to many steam-powered inventions such as ships, train engines, and later in the 1900s the combustible engine. But all of these advancements came with a cost. It increased pollution and led to widespread worker exploitation. It wasn't unusual for children to be used as laborers in these factories. In fact most of the workers in the factories in 1833-1844 were children. Children were payed significantly less than adults for the same work and hours and conditions in the factories were horrendous. Many young workers would develop lung cancer from over exposure to carbon monoxide and many died in the machines while working on them due to poor safety standards. In short, industrialization did not come without pain and suffering.

Compromise of 1850[edit]

The Compromise of 1850 was an intricate package of five bills, passed in September 1850, defusing a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North that arose following the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). The compromise, drafted by Whig Henry Clay and brokered by Democrat Stephen Douglas avoided secession or civil war at the time and quieted sectional conflict for four years. The Compromise was greeted with relief, although each side disliked specific provisions. Texas surrendered its claim to New Mexico but received debt relief and the Texas Panhandle, and retained the control over El Paso that it had established earlier in 1850. The South avoided the humiliating Wilmot Proviso but did not receive desired Pacific territory in Southern California or a guarantee of slavery south of a territorial compromise line like the Missouri Compromise Line or the 35th parallel north. As compensation, the South received the possibility of slave states by popular sovereignty in the new New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory, which, however, were unsuited to plantation agriculture and populated by non-Southerners; a stronger Fugitive Slave Act, which in practice outraged Northern public opinion; and preservation of slavery in the national capital, although the slave trade was banned there except in the portion of the District of Columbia that rejoined Virginia. The Compromise became possible after the sudden death of President Zachary Taylor, who, although a slave owner himself, tried to implement the Northern policy of excluding slavery from the Southwest. Whig leader Henry Clay designed a compromise, which failed to pass in early 1850. In the next session of Congress, Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas (Illinois) narrowly passed a slightly modified package over opposition by extremists on both sides, including Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina.

Texas and Mexico[edit]

Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821. Weakened by more than a decade of struggle, the new Republic of Mexico attempted to attract settlers from the United States to the then-sparsely populated Mexican state of Coahuila y Texas. The first white settlers were 200 families led by Stephen F. Austin as a part of a business venture started by Austin's father. Despite nominal attempts to ensure that immigrants would be double penetrated with Mexican cultural values -- by requiring, for example, acceptance of Catholicism and a ban on slave holding -- Mexico's immigration policy led to the whites, rather than Mexicans, becoming the demographic majority in Texas by the 1830's, their beliefs and American values intact.

Due to past US actions in Texas, Mexico feared that white Americans would convince the United States to annex Texas and Mexico. In April 1830, Mexico issued a proclamation that people from the United States could no longer enter Texas. Mexico also would start to place custom duties on goods from the United States. In October 1835, white colonists in Texas revolted against Mexico by attacking a Mexican fort at Goliad, defeating the Mexican garrison. At about the same time, the Mexican president and dictator, Antonio López de Santa Anna, provoked a constitutional crisis that was among the causes of the revolt in Texas, as well as a rebellion in the southern Mexican province of Yucután. An official declaration of Texas independence was signed at Goliad that December. The next March, the declaration was officially enacted at the Texan capital of Washington-on-the-Brazos, creating the Republic of Texas.

A few days before the enactment of the declaration, a Mexican force led by General Antonio López de Santa Anna laid siege to the Alamo, a mission in present day San Antonio. Vastly outnumbered, fewer than 200 Texans at San Antonio de Béxa, renamed the Alamo, held out for 12 days, until the final attack at dawn on March 6, 1836. Santa Anna, as he had promised during the siege, killed the few prisoners taken in the capture. Though the Alamo had been garrisoned in contravention of orders from Sam Houston, who had been placed in charge of Texan armed forces, the delay their defense forced on the Mexican army allowed the Texan government some crucial time to organize.

The next month saw the battle of San Jacinto, the final battle of the Texas Revolution. A force of 800 led by Sam Houston, empowered by their rallying war cry of "Remember the Alamo!", defeated Santa Anna's force of 1600 as they camped beside the sluggish creek for which the 20-minute-long battle is named. Santa Anna himself was captured and the next day was tortured to sign the Treaties of Velasco, which ended Mexico-Texas hostilities. After the fighting had ended, Texas asked to be admitted to the Union, but Texas's request forced Congress to an impasse.

Evolution of the Mexican territory.

One of the most significant problems with the annexation of Texas was slavery. Despite Mexican attempts to exclude the practice, a number of white-Texans held slaves, and the new Republic of Texas recognized the practice as legitimate. In the United States, The Missouri Compromise of 1818 provided for an equality in the numbers of slave and non-slave states in the US, and to allow Texas to join would upset that power balance. For about ten years, the issue was unresolved, until President James Polk agreed to support the annexation of Texas. In 1845, Texas formally voted to join the US. The Mexicans, however, who had never formally recognized Texas's independence, resented this decision.

The southern boundary with Texas had never officially been settled and when the United States moved federal troops into this disputed territory, war broke out (assisted by raids carried out across the border by both sides). In the Mexican-American War, as this was called, the US quickly defeated the Mexican Army by 1848. The peace settlement, called the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ceded one-third of Mexico's territory to the United States. In addition to Texas, with the border fixed at the Rio Grande River, the United States acquired land that would become the present-day states of New Mexico, California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming; the US paid Mexico $15 million. However, the new territories posed even more problems relating to slavery: the balance between slave and non-slave states seemed threatened again.


In 1824 and 1825 Russia gave up its claim to Oregon. Both the U.S. and Canada made an agreement for joint occupation. However disputes surfaced over the northwestern boundary of the US and the southwestern boundary of Canada. The US claimed that it owned land south of Alaska, while the British claimed that the boundary was drawn at present-day Oregon. President Polk, who initiated the dispute, also settled it. Britain was given an ultimatum - negotiate or go to war. Britain decided to keep Vancouver Island as well as navigation rights to the Columbia River, and on June 15, 1846 Britain agreed to give up the land south of the 49th parallel. However, by comparing this to Polk's greater aggressiveness in Mexico, several individuals concluded that Polk favored the South over the North.

Oregon Trail

Not every encounter with Native Americans and white settlers was violent. During twenty years after 1840 around 250,000 to 500,000 people walked across most of the continent on foot, and the trek took an average of seven months. Most of these settlers were armed in preparation for Native attack; however most of the encounters with the Natives were peaceful. Most of the starting points were along the Missouri River. These starting points included Independence, St. Joseph, and Westport MO. Many settlers set out on organized wagon trains or, in some situations, on their own. The settlers timed their departure so they could still reach their intended destination in time for their livestock to graze but not too late as to necessitate travel during the harsh winter. Settlers would usually cover a good 15 miles a day on foot walking along their wagons. The weather that these men and women endured ranged between extreme heat and frozen winters in their 2,000 mile journey to the west. Trail life was exhausting in all aspects and only the strong could finish the trail. Although most interactions between Natives and settlers were peaceful sometimes things could go bad. If either side attempted to swindle the other then relationships between the whites and the Natives grew negatively not just for the individuals but for both societies. Eventually hostile relations between the Natives and whites would escalate into full blown war and many years of bloodshed.


When war broke out between the United States and Mexico in 1845, a few white settlers in the Sacramento Valley in the Mexican state of California seized the opportunity to advance white business interests by declaring independence from Mexico despite the wishes of many Mexicans and natives present in California. Before the arrival of Europeans, scholars place the population of California at 10 million natives. The sparsely populated Bear Flag Republic, as the new nation was called, quickly asked the US for protection from Mexico, allowing US military operations in the new Republic's territory. As skirmishes occurred in California, Mexicans suffered many abuses at the hands of the new white government.

When the war ended, the California territory and a large surrounding territory were ceded by Mexico to the US in exchange for $15 million. The territory included what would become present day California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado and a small part of Wyoming. The continental US was nearly complete. The final piece would come in 1853, when southern Arizona and New Mexico were bought from Mexico for $10 million. The land from the purchase, known as the Gadsden Purchase, was well suited for building a southern transcontinental railroad.

In 1848 gold was found at the mill of John Sutter, who lived in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, 40 miles east of Sacramento. Word of the gold on the American River (the river on which Sutter's mill was located on) spread, and hordes of people rushed into California to mine gold. The rush peaked in 1849, and those who came during that year were known as "forty-niners." The population of the northern California city of San Francisco exploded as a result of the immigration to the region.

Many immigrants that joined the Gold Rush did not find opportunity but rather discrimination at the hands of white prospectors and newly changed government. One of these, Joaquin Murrieta, known as the Mexican Robin Hood, had become a bandit and hero of those still loyal to Mexico. As a reaction the Governor of California, John Bigler, formed the California Rangers. This group went after and allegedly found Murrieta and his companions. They cut off his head, which was later put on display. Many still doubt whether the person the California Rangers decapitated was actually Murrieta or some other poor soul. Be that as it may, the memory of Murrieta is still much loved and respected by Mexican Americans today.

Apart from being gained by a handful of very lucky prospectors, a great deal of the wealth generated by the Gold Rush belonged to those who owned businesses that were relevant to gold mining. For example, Levi Strauss, a German Jew, invented denim pants for prospectors when he observed that normal pants could not withstand the strenuous activities of mining. Strauss eventually became a millionaire, and the Levi's brand still is recognized today.

Utah War[edit]

In U.S. history, there were a number of conflicts between Mormons and the U.S. government. In the spring of 1857, President James Buchanan appointed a non-Mormon, Alfred Cumming, as governor of the Utah Territory, replacing Brigham Young, and dispatched troops to enforce the order. The Mormons prepared to defend themselves and their property; Young declared martial law and issued an order on Sept. 15, 1857, forbidding the entry of U.S. troops into Utah. The order was disregarded, and throughout the winter sporadic raids were conducted by the Mormon militia against the encamped U.S. army. Buchanan dispatched (Apr., 1858) representatives to work out a settlement, and on June 26, the army entered Salt Lake City, Cumming was installed as governor, and peace was restored.

Public Schools and Education[edit]

The Board of Education in Massachusetts was established in 1837. It is the oldest state board in the United States. Its responsibilities are to interpret and implement laws that have something to do with public education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Public education in the Commonwealth is organized by the regulations adopted by the Board of Education, which are good faith interpretations of Massachusetts and federal law.[1] The Board of Education was also responsible for granting and renewing school applications, developing and implementing the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, submitting yearly budget proposals for public education to the Massachusetts General Court, setting standards for teachers, as well certifying them and principals, superintendents, and monitoring all achievements of underperforming districts in Commonwealth. There was a reform movement about public education. The leader of this movement was Horace Mann, a Massachusetts lawyer and reformer. He supported free, tax supported education to replace church schools and the private schools set up by untrained, young men. Mann proposed universal education, which would help Americanize immigrants. During Mann’s tenure as secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education from 1837 to 1848, Massachusetts led the common school movement brought training for teachers, lengthened school years and raised the teachers pay to attract people to that profession.[2]

Dred Scott v. Stanford - 1857[edit]

Dred Scott was an African-American slave who sued unsuccessfully for his freedom in 1857. His case was based on both him and his wife Harriet were slaves in both Illinois and Minnesota where state and territory laws made slavery illegal. Dred and Harriet started this lawsuit in the year of 1846. They started with two separate cases, one in Dred's name and one in Harriet's. Harriet had just as much desire or more to help free her family. She had two teenage daughters to protect and Dred was becoming very sick. After some time passed, their cases were pushed into one. In the year 1851, a decision was made that the state courts were to make the decisions about the status of blacks who lived in their jurisdiction. After many years and hesitation, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.[3] The United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the slave master, citing precedent that found that neither he nor his wife could claim citizenship in the United States. Since he wasn't a citizen, he could not make a claim in Federal Court. Under the Missouri Compromise of 1854, his temporary residence outside of Missouri did not immediately emancipate him, since the owner would be unfairly deprived of property.

Ostend Manifesto[edit]

Southern slave owners had a special interest in Spanish-held Cuba. Slavery existed on the island, but a recent rebellion in Haiti spurred some Spanish officials to consider emancipation. The Southerners did not want freed slaves so close to their shores and others thought Manifest Destiny should be extended to Cuba. In 1854 three American diplomats, Pierre Soulé (minister to Spain), James Buchanan (minister to Britain), and John Y. Mason (minister to France) met in Ostend, Belgium. Representing the views of many Southern Democrats, the diplomats issued a warning to Spain that it must sell Cuba to the United States or risk having it taken by force. This statement had not been authorized by the Franklin Pierce administration and was immediately repudiated. Reaction, both at home and abroad, was extremely negative.

Women's History of the Period[edit]

Mt. Holyoke[edit]

Mt. Holyoke was the first women's college that was founded in 1837 by Mary Lyon. It is a liberal arts college in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Mt. Holyoke was listed 47th among Forbes list of America's Best Colleges in 2009. The school was also ranked number one in a Princeton University review for Best Classroom Experience in 2010.

Declaration of Sentiments[edit]

1848 marked the year of the Declaration of Sentiments; it was a document written as a plea for the end of discrimination against women in all spheres of Society. Main credit is given to Elizabeth Cady Stanton for writing the document. The document was presented at the first women's rights convention held at Seneca Falls, New York. Though the convention was attended by 300 women and men, only 100 of them actually signed the document which included; 68 women and 32 men.

Elizabeth Blackwell[edit]

In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive a medical degree. She attended Geneva College in New York and graduated on January 23, 1849. Even though she had her medical degree she was still banned from practicing in most hospitals. She then relocated to Paris, France and continued her training as a midwife instead of a physician. While in Paris she contracted an eye infection from a small baby that forced her to lose her right eye. It was replaced by a glass eye which ended her medical career.

Missouri v. Celia[edit]

This murder trial took place in Calloway County, Missouri beginning October 9, 1855. It involved a slave woman named Celia and her master Robert Newsome. After being purchased at the age of 14 in 1850 Celia bore two of her masters children. Soon after becoming intimate with another slave while still being sought after by her master Celia became pregnant. On June 23, 1855, feeling unwell from the pregnancy, Celia pleaded with her master to let her rest; when Newsome ignored her pleas she struck him twice in the head with a heavy stick. She then spent the night burning his corpse in her fireplace and grinding the smaller bones into pieces with a rock. Although Missouri statutes forbade anyone "to take any woman unlawfully against her will and by force, menace or duress, compel her to be defiled," the judge residing over the case instructed the jury that Celia, being enslaved, did not fall within the meaning of "any woman" thus since the "sexual abuser" was her master the murder was not justified on the claim of self-defense. Celia was found guilty of the crime on October 10, 1855 and was sentenced to be hanged. The case still remains significant in history because it graphically illustrates the dreadful truth that enslaved women had absolutely no recourse when it came to being raped by their masters.

Rebellion at Harper's Ferry, Virginia[edit]

John Brown[edit]

John Brown was an abolitionist born in Connecticut on May 19, 1800. He grew up in Ohio, where his father worked as a tanner and a minister near Oberlin, Ohio. His father preached anti-slavery and John Brown learned his abolitionist ways from his father. He married twice, his first wife died while giving birth to their 7th child together. When he remarried, he had 13 more children for a total of 20. 11 of the 20 children made it to adulthood. He started several failed business venture and land deals in Ohio and Massachusetts, before settling in a mixed community with both black and white settlers, North Elba, New York for $1 an acre in 1848. He lived there peacefully until the mid 1850s when he received word from two of his sons who had relocated to Kansas that they were in dire need of guns to defend themselves from attack from the Border Ruffians of Missouri. After a couple of failed defense efforts, Brown left the Kansas area to avoid prosecution for the Pottawatomie massacre and moved back east where he planned a more effective way to destroy slavery in America forever.

Brown's Raid On Harper's Ferry[edit]

After the troubles in Kansas, Brown began putting a plan into operation. The plan involved gathering a battalion of men, monetary investment to fund the operation, sharps rifles, and a thousand pikes. Brown planned to attack a lightly defended armory in Northern Virginia at Harper's Ferry. The armory contained over 100,000 muskets and rifles. With the weapons seized at the armory, Brown planned on arming an army of slaves freed by his personal army as it swept through the South. In a town that didn't have many plantations, Brown did not expect much resistance from the local townspeople, but he underestimated their resolve. On October 16, 1859, Brown carried out his raid, which he figured to be the beginning of his revolution. He did not however get the manpower that he thought would be assembled for the raid. He expected a battalion of 450 men to support the raid, but he went in with a group of 20 men, including 2 of his sons. They overtook the single nightwatchmen readily and killed multiple townspeople on the way into the armory including a free black man who stumbled onto their plot. Once in the armory, the townspeople formed a militia and surrounded Brown and his raiders in the armory. After being besieged in the armory for 2 days, the US Army sent in a detachment of Marines from Washington, D.C. since they were the closest physically to Harper's Ferry. The marines, led by Robert E. Lee, stormed the armory and in a 3 minute battle, 10 of Brown's men were killed. Brown and 6 others were taken alive and imprisoned awaiting trial. The trial was swift, and 5 of the raiders including Brown were hung before the end of the year. 3 others were killed in 1860 shortly after the first 5.

Panic of 1857[edit]

The Panic of 1857 introduced the United States, at least in a small way, to the intricate dealings of the worldwide economy. On the same day that the Central America wrecked, Cincinnati's Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company ceased operation thanks to embezzlement. News of the twin disasters spread quickly, in part because of the telegraph now becoming common. Investors, including British investors, began to withdraw money from Wall Street in massive numbers. Bank failures increased, mostly in the industrial Northeast and New England states, while the West and South, still more dependent on agriculture, seemed to weather the storm better. There were many underlying causes for the Panic of 1857, and by the time the twin disasters occurred the United States was well on its way into the economic downturn. For 3 years the Crimean War had involved European and Asian countries which increase foreign dependence on American agriculture. The return of the men and land to agricultural production meant an abundance of crops in 1857 which led to falling prices for farm goods. Land speculation, too, had become rampant throughout the United States. This led to an unsustainable expansion of the railroads. As investment money dried up, the land speculation collapsed, as did many of the railroads shortly thereafter. Attempts were made by the federal government to remedy the situation. A bank holiday was declared in October, 1857 and Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb recommended the government selling revenue bonds and reducing the tariff (Tariff of 1857). By 1859 the country was slowly pulling out of the downturn, but the effect lasted until the opening shots of the Civil War.

Election of 1860[edit]

By 1860, the Republican party had become the party of abolition. The Republican party selected Abraham Lincoln of Illinois as their presidential candidate, and Hannibal Hamlin of Maine as the vice-presidential candidate. The Democratic party had separated into separate factions. The main party or the Northern Democrats could not immediately decide on a candidate, and after several votes, their nominating convention was postponed when the southern delegates walked out of the convention. When they eventually resumed, they decided on Stephen Douglas of Illinois as their candidate. Their first vice-presidential candidate, Benjamin Fitzpatrick dropped his name from consideration once his home state of Alabama seceded from the Union. His replacement was Herschel Johnson of Georgia. The Southern delegates from the Democratic party selected their own candidate to run for president. John C. Breckenridge of Kentucky with Joseph Lane of Oregon as their vice-presidential candidate. Former Whigs and Southern Republicans who supported the union over the slavery issue formed the Constitutional Union party. Tennessee senator John Bell was chosen as the Constitutional Union party presidential candidate, over former Texas governor Sam Houston. Harvard President Edward Everett was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate. Abraham Lincoln wins the election with only 40% of the vote, but split up four ways, it lead to a landslide victory in the Electoral College. Lincoln garnered 180 electoral votes without being listed on any of the ballot of any of the future secessionist states in the deep south except for Virginia where he received 1.1% of the vote. Stephen Douglas won just under 30% of the popular vote, but only carried 2 states for a total of 12 electoral votes. John Breckenridge carried every state in the deep south and Maryland and Delaware for a total of 72 electoral votes. Bell carried the border slave states of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee for a total of 39 electoral votes. Except for the election of 1824 where the House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams as President when no candidate received a majority of the Electoral College votes, no President in US History has won with a smaller percentage of the popular vote. Within 2 months of the election before Lincoln is inaugurated, Southern states began secession from the United States.

War, Nationalism, and Division · Civil War


  1. A People and A Nation, Eighth Edition
  2. A People and A Nation, Eighth Edition
  3. "A People and A Nation" eighth edition