Digital History>Teachers>Modules>The New Nation

Learn About the New Nation

George WashingtonIn 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.

The nation's achievements during the first decade under the Constitution were impressive. The United States adopted a bill of rights, protecting the rights of the individual against the power of the central government; enacted a financial program that secured the nation's credit and stimulated the economy; and created the first political parties that involved the enfranchised segment of the population in national politics. In addition, the country built a new national capital in Washington, D.C. and became the first nation to transfer political power peacefully by an election. In foreign policy, Presidents Washington and Adams succeeded in keeping the country out of wars for which it was unprepared.

The United States was the first modern nation to achieve independence through a successful revolution against colonial rule. Many other colonies have subsequently won independence, but few have been as successful in subsequent economic and political development. Even the United States struggled to establish itself in its first decade under the constitution.

Learn more about the new nation
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"My movements to the chair of government…[are] not unlike those of a culprit…going to the place of his execution." George Washington to Henry Knox, April 1, 1789
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More documents in the our collection
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Handouts and fact sheets:

Federalists and Jeffersonians
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Recommended lesson plan:

George Washington: The Living Symbol
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/george-washington-living-symbol
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Quizzes:

Quiz 1, Answers to Quiz 1
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Recommended books:

Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Federalist Era.
A comprehensive overview of the political, cultural, economic, diplomatic, and military which explains why the Federalist worldview declined so rapidly in the face of the democratic pressures of the era.

Recommended film:

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens's account of the era of the French Revolution has been filmed many times. A 1935 version starring Ronald Colman won several Academy Award nomination. A 1958 English version starred Dirk Bogarde. A 1980 version featured Chris Sarandon.

Danton
Polish director Andrzej Wajda's drama depicts the battle of wills and ideas between the leaders of the French Revolution.

Recommended Website:

Religion and the Founding of the American Republic
http://lcweb.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/overview.html
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Copyright Digital History 2013