United States History, Essay Example

The Proclamation of 1763 and The Stamp Act are probably the three most important precursors to the American Revolution committed by the British throne. The Proclamation of 1763 forbade the American colonies from expanding into the newly acquired western territories. The Stamp Act was a tax imposed on the colonies by King George III–applying to virtually any paper product. This is very often where the phrase “no taxation without representation” comes from.

The Nullification Crisis, the enactment of the Articles of Confederation, as well as Marbury v. Madison was some of the earliest tests to the newly formed American nation. The Articles of Confederation, the precursor to the Constitution, left way too much power in the hands of the States–not allowing the Federal government to effectively do its job. It was repealed with the passage of the Constitution. Marbury v. Madison was the first test of the Judicial System, carried out successfully by Chief Justice John Marshall. The Nullification Crisis, under President Jackson, also heavily dealt with states’ rights–and, in hindsight, was South Carolina’s foreshadowing of the secession to come.

Washington’s Farewell Address set a very large precedent in American political policy. Although it is written nowhere, the first American President served two terms before bowing out, and mentions such in his Farewell Address. His wishes and precedent has only been broken once–by Franklin Roosevelt–in the history of the country.

The Alien and Sedition Acts themselves–all four bills–threatened to destroy the nation as well. Passed due to the violent overthrow of the French government and the subsequent radicalism that crossed the Atlantic, these laws called the issue of states’ rights into question once again, as some states refused to enforce them. Most of these laws were repealed, or expired, by 1802.

The concepts that arose from Manifest Destiny, the Compromise of 1850, as well as the Dred Scot case, are all clearly intertwined. Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States should stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This naturally brought up many questions as to territory–and especially the balance of power in Congress between free and slave states. The Dred Scot case proved the Supreme Court viewed slaves as property and not people–taking into consideration the returning of runaway slaves, this issue was temporarily addressed by the Compromise of 1850–only for the next eleven years, however.

In 1848, before the band-aid of 1850 that did not last long, the country as a whole was a mess. The age-old issue of states’ rights had never been formally addressed among the states, and the difference between the Federal government and individual State’s was growing. With Manifest Destiny came more territory to annex–sometimes into statehood, and sometimes organized into territories. The question became the legality of slavery in these new territories. The Federal Government, especially Congress, did so much damage control between the turn of the 19th century and the onset of the Civil War to prevent secession by balancing votes in the Senate and Congress.

By 1861, when the Civil War finally erupted, virtually every “civilized” country had already outlawed slavery. This is truly the only reason the North was able to win–countries such as England and France had much stake in a broken up United States. Without the manufacturing the North provided, European countries could purchase cheap raw materials from the Confederacy–and indeed this is almost what happened.

When Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all Southern slaves, he was able to successfully make the war directly about slavery, rather than a quibble in Congress. This, in effect, forced out the possible aid from European countries that could not ally themselves with slavery.

After the Union was restored and Reconstruction begun, it is surprising to note that many blacks had great opportunities in the South. They saw their newfound freedom and seized it initially–with some black men even running, and being voted into local public office positions. This may have been a great start, had Reconstruction not been an utter failure on every level.

The Federal Government stationed troops in the South long after the end of the War, and this coupled with the rise of black culture was not amiable to many Southerners. The true result was the rise of the notorious Ku Klux Klan, scaring blacks back into the hiding they were subjected to during slavery. Many of these blacks, denied education by Jim Crowe laws, fell back into farm work. Although not enslaved, the process of sharecropping–where the landowner benefits and the farmer barely make it by–was truly no different.

There was a time after the Civil War where blacks were afforded opportunities, however. Sectionalism amongst the nation–and the prejudices that still exist today–made it impossible for the rise of the black man. The issue of Federalism verses States’ Rights still exists today, and the inability to reunite the nation was the true failure of Reconstruction.


A People’s History of the United States: 1492. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2013.  <http://www.abebooks.com/9780060838652/Peoples-History-United-States-1492-0060838655/plp>.

Carnes, Mark Christopher, and John Arthur Garraty. The American Nation: A History of    the United States. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2012. Print.