CURRENT VIEW: BY ERA












































Display Information

The Critical Period

Having won the Revolutionary war and having negotiated a favorable peace settlement, the Americans still had to establish stable governments. Between 1776 and 1789 a variety of efforts were made to realize the nation's republican ideals. New state governments were established in most states, expanding voting and officeholding rights. Lawmakers let citizens decide which churches to support with their tax monies. Several states adopted bills of rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, as well as trial by jury. Western lands were opened to settlement. Educational opportunities for women increased. Most northern states either abolished slavery or adopted a gradual emancipation plan, while some southern states made it easier for slaveowners to manumit individual slaves. Concern for the new nation's political stability led leading revolutionary leaders to draft a new Constitution in 1787, which worked out compromises between large and small states and between northern and southern states.

Introduction
Articles of Confederation
The Threat of a Military Coup
Economic and Foreign Policy problems
The Tyranny of the Majority
Shays' Rebelliion

The Constitution & The Bill of Rights

Between 1776 and 1789 a variety of efforts were made to realize the nation's republican ideals. New state governments were established in most states, expanding voting and officeholding rights. Lawmakers let citizens decide which churches to support with their tax monies. Several states adopted bills of rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, as well as trial by jury. Western lands were opened to settlement. Educational opportunities for women increased. Most northern states either abolished slavery or adopted a gradual emancipation plan, while some southern states made it easier for slaveowners to manumit individual slaves.

Concern for the new nation's political stability led leading revolutionary leaders to draft a new Constitution in 1787, which worked out compromises between large and small states and between northern and southern states. The federal system balanced power between the national government and the state governments; within the national government, power was divided among three separate branches in a system of checks and balances.

In addition to listing the powers of the national government-which include the power to collect taxes, regulate trade, and declare war-the Constitution enumerates the powers forbidden to the states and to Congress; and the procedures for electing and appointing government officials as well as procedures for amending the document.

The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was ratified in 1791. These amendments, which were originally intended to protect individual liberties from the power of the central government, guarantee freedom of speech, the press, religion, petition, and assembly; and specify the rights of the accused in criminal and civil cases.

What Americans Don't Know About the Constitution
The Oldest Written National Framework of Government
Was the Constitutional Convention legal?
The Delegates
Philadelphia in 1787
The Convention
Republicanism
Drafting the Constitution
Compromises
Completing a Final Draft
The U.S. Constitution and the Organization of the National Government
The Constitution and Slavery
Ratifying the Constitution
The Bill of Rights
Amending the Constitution
Why has the Constitution survived? How has the constitutional system changed?
Constitutional Quiz

The Federalist Era

In 1789, it was an open question whether the Constitution was a workable plan of government. It was unclear whether the new nation could establish a strong national government, a vigorous economy, or win the respect of foreign nations. For a decade, the new nation battled threats to its existence, including serious disagreements over domestic and foreign policy and foreign interference with American shipping and commerce.

During the first 12 years under the new Constitution, the Federalists established a strong and vigorous national government. Alexander Hamilton’s economic program attracted foreign investment and stimulated economic growth. The creation of political parties was an unexpected development that involved the voting population in politics. Presidents George Washington and John Adams succeeded in keeping the nation free from foreign entanglements during the nation’s first crucial years. Despite bitter party battles, threats of secession, and foreign interference with American shipping and commerce, the new nation had overcome every obstacle it had faced.

James Thomson Callender, Scandalmonger
The Formative Decade
The First National Census
Challenges Facing the Nation
Defining the Presidency
Alexander Hamilton's Financial Program
The Birth of Political Parties
Years of Crisis
The Election of 1796
The Presidency of John Adams
The Revolution of 1800
Conclusion

The Jeffersonian Era

As president, Thomas Jefferson sought to implement his Republican principles, including a frugal, limited government; respect for states' rights, and encouragement for agriculture. He cut military expenditures, paid off the public debt, and repealed many taxes. His most important act was the purchase of Louisiana Territory, which nearly doubled the size of the nation.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review, which enables the courts to review the constitutionality of federal laws and invalidate acts of Congress when they conflict with the Constitution.

The Jeffersonian era was marked by severe foreign policy challenges, including harassment of American shipping by North African pirates and by the British and French. In an attempt to stave off war with Britain and France, the United States attempted various forms of economic coercion. But in 1812--to protect American shipping and seamen, clear westerns lands of Indians, and preserve national honor—the county once again waged war with Britain, fighting the world's strongest power to a stalemate.

An Affair of Honor
Jefferson in Power
War on the Judiciary
The Louisiana Purchase
Conspiracies
The Eagle, the Tiger, and the Shark
The Embargo of 1807
A Second War of Independence
The War of 1812
The War’s Significance

The Era of Good Feelings

The Era of Good Feelings was a period of dramatic growth and intense nationalism. The spirit of nationalism was apparent in Supreme Court decisions that established the supremacy of the federal government and expanded the powers of Congress. American interest and power in foreign policy was especially apparent in the Monroe Doctrine. Industrial development enhanced national self-sufficiency and united the nation with improved roads, canals, and river transportation.

Forces for division were also at work. The financial Panic of 1819 led to the emergence of new political parties. The Missouri Crisis contributed to a growing sectional split between North and South.

The Growth of American Nationalism
Shifting Political Values
Strengthening American Finances
Protecting American Industry
Judicial Nationalism
Conquering Space
Defending American Interests in Foreign Affairs
The Growth of Political Factionalism and Sectionalism