A great many changes took place in the Americas from
1800 to 1870. The United
States more than doubled in size, and its
government was set on a firm base. This allowed the country to become strong.
Latin America, or Central and South America,
won independence from European rule. But traditions established under colonial
rule remained strong. So despite strong efforts, democracy did not develop. In
all, the 70-year period was a time of both great promise and great hardship.
A strong spirit of reform
swept through the United
States during the late 1800's and early
1900's. Many Americans called for changes in the country's economic, political,
and social systems. They wanted to reduce poverty, improve the living
conditions of the poor, and regulate big business. They worked to end
corruption in goverment, make government more responsive to the people, and
accomplish other goals.
During the 1870's and
1880's, the reformers made relatively little progress. But after 1890, they
gained much public support and influence in government. By 1917, the reformers
had brought about many changes. Some reformers called themselves progressives.
As a result, the period of American history from about 1890 to about 1917 is
often called the Progressive Era.
During the Expansion Era,
many Americans came to believe that social reforms were needed to improve their
society. Churches and social groups set up charities the poor and teach them
how to help themselves Reformers worked to reduce the working day of laborers
from the usual 12 or 14 hours to 10 hours.
Prohibitionists — convinced
that drunkenness was the chief cause of poverty and other problems —
persuaded 13 states to outlaw the sale of alcohol between 1846 and 1855.
Dorothea Dix and others worked to improve the dismal conditions in the nation's
prisons and insane asylums. Other important targets of reformers were women's
rights, improvements in education, and the abolition of slavery.
The drive for women's
rights.Early American women had
few rights. There were almost no colleges for women, and most professional
careers were closed to them. A married woman could not own property. Instead,
any property she had legally belonged to her husband. In addition, American
women were barred from voting in almost all elections.
A women's rights movement
developed after 1820, and brought about some changes. In 1833, the Oberlin
Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College) opened as the first coeducational college in
the United States.
Some men's colleges soon began admitting women, and new colleges for women were
built. In 1848, New York
passed a law allowing women to keep control of their own real estate and
personal property after marriage. That same year, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth
Cady Stan-ton organized a Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
The convention issued the first formal appeal for woman suffrage (the
right to vote). But nationwide suffrage did not come about until 1920.
Education reform. In the early 1800's, most
good schools in the United
States were expensive private schools. Poor
children went to second-rate "pauper," or "charity",
schools, or did not go at all. During the 1830's, Hornce Mann of Massachusetts and other
reformers began demanding education and better schools for all American
children. States soon began establishing public school systems, and more and
more children received an education. Colleges started training teachers for a
system of public education based on standardized courses of study. As a result,
schoolchildren throughout the country were taught much the same lessons. For example,
almost all children of the mid-1800`s studied the McCuffey, or Eclectic,
Readers to learn to read. These books taught patriotism and morality as
well as reading.
The abolition movement became the most intense
and controversial reform activity of the period. Beginning in colonial times,
many Americans — called abolitionists — had demanded an end to slavery.
By the early 1800's, every Northern state had outlawed slavery. But the
plantation system had spread throughout the South, and the economy of the
Southern States depended more and more on slaves as a source of cheap labor.
The question of whether to
outlaw or allow slavery became an important political and social issue in the
early 1800's. Through the years, a balance between the number of free states
(states where slavery was prohibited) and slave states (those where it
was allowed) had been sought. This meant that both sides would have an equal
number of representatives in the United States Senate. As of 1819, the federal
government had achieved a balance between free states and slave states. There were 11
When the Territory of Missouri
applied for admission to the Union in 1818,
bitter controversy broke out over whether to admit it as a free or slave state.
In either case, the balance between free and slave states would be upset. But
in 1820, the nation's leaders worked out the Missouri Compromise, which
temporarily maintained the balance. Massachusetts
agreed to give up the northern part of its territory. This area became the
state of Maine, and entered the Union as a free state in 1820. In 1821, Missouri entered as a
slave state, and so there were 12 free and 12 slave states.
The Missouri Compromise had
another important provision. It provided that slavery would be "forever
prohibited" in all the territory gained from the Louisiana Purchase north
of Missouri's southern border, except for Missouri itself.
The Missouri Compromise
satisfied many Americans as an answer to the slavery question. But large
numbers of people still called for complete abolition. In 1821, Benjamin Lundy,
a Quaker, pleaded for gradual abolition in a journal called The Genius of
Universal Emancipation. William Lloyd Garrison, a fiery New
England journalist, opposed even gradual abolition. Garrison demanded
an immediate end to slavery. He founded The Liberator, an important
abolitionist journal, in 1831. Many blacks who had gained their freedom became
important speakers for the abolition movement. They included Frederick
Douglass and Sojourner Truth.
The growing strength of the
abolition movement raised fears among Southerners that the federal government
would outlaw slavery. Increasingly, the South hardened its defense of slavery.
Southerners had always argued that slavery was necessary to the plantation
economy. But after 1830, some Southern leaders began arguing that blacks were
inferior to whites, and therefore fit for their role as slaves. Even many
Southern whites who owned no slaves took comfort in the belief that they were
superior to blacks. As a result, Southern support of slavery increased.
Cultural change. After 1820, the wilderness
seemed less and less hostile to Americans, increasingly, society glorified the
frontier and nature. The public eagerly read the novels of James Fenimore
Cooper, which described Indians and pioneers as pure of heart and noble in
deeds. Ralph Waldo Emerson and other American philosophers praised nature as a
source of truth and beauty available to all people, rich and poor alike.
The years of expansion see important social changes. By the mid-1800's the United States had expanded westward
across the North American continent. This era of expansion brought with it
other profound changes in American society.
With new territory and a growing population, the
nation needed better transportation systems. In the early 1800's workers built
hundreds of miles of canals to link the valleys of the Ohio
and Mississippi rivers with the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast. Along these water
routes, canal boats carried manufactured goods to the West and raw materials
and agricultural products to the East. Railroads also developed during this
period. Thousands of miles of track were built between 1820 and 1850.
Early reform efforts included movements
to organize laborers and farmers. In 1886, skilled laborers formed the American
Federation of Labor (AFL) — now the American Federation of Labor-Congress of
Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Led by Samuel Gompers, this union bargained
with employers and gained betterwages
and working conditions for its members. Farmers founded the National Grange in
1867 and Farmers Alliances during the 1870's and 1880's. These groups helped
force railroads to lower their charges for hauling farm products and assisted
the farmers in other ways.
Unskilled laborers had less
success in organizing than did skilled laborers and farmers. The Knights of
Labor, a union open to both the unskilled and skilled workers, gained a large
membership during the 1880's. But its membership declined sharply after the
Ha/market Riot of 1886. In
this incident, someone threw a bomb during a meeting of workers in Haymarket Square in
Chicago, and a
riot erupted. At least seven police officers and one civilian died. Many
Americans blamed the disaster on the labor movement. The Haymarket Riot aroused
antilabor feelings and temporarily weakened the cause of unskilled workers.
The drive for woman
suffrage became strong after the Civil War. In 1869, Susan B. Anthony and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. The Territory of Wyoming gave women the right to vote the
same year. Soon, a few states allowed women to vote, but only in local
Early reformers brought
about some changes in government. In 1883, their efforts led to passage of the
Pendleton, or Civil Service, Act. This federal law set up the Civil Service
Commission, an agency charged with granting federal government jobs on the
basis of merit, rather than as political favors. The commission was the first
federal government regulatory agency in the nation's history. In 1884,
Democrats and liberal Republicans joined together to elect Grover Cleveland
President. A reform-minded Democrat, Cleveland
did much to enforce the Pendleton Act.
The Progressive Era. The outcry for reform increased
sharply after 1890. Members of the clergy, social workers, and others studied
life in the slums and reported on the awful living conditions there. Educators
criticized the nation's school system. A group of writers—called muckrakers
by their critics—published exposes about such evils as corruption in government
and how some businesses cheated the public. The writers included Upton
Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and Ida M. Tarbell. Increasingly, unskilled workers
resorted to strikes in an attempt to gain concessions from their employers.
Often, violence broke out between strikers and strikebreakers hired by the
employers. Socialists and others who opposed the U.S. economic system of capitalism
supported the strikers and gained a large following.
These and other
developments caused many middle-class and some upper-class Americans to back
reforms. The people wondered about the justice of a society that tolerated such
extremes of poverty and wealth. More and more, the power of big business,
corruption in government, violent strikes, and the inroads of socialism seemed
to threaten American democracy.
As public support for
reform grew, so did the political influence of the reformers. In 1891, farmers
and some laborers formed the People's, or Populist, Party. The Populists called
for government action to help farmers and laborers. They gained a large
following, and convinced many Democrats and Republicans to support reforms. See
Reformers won control of
many city and some state governments. They also elected many people to Congress
who favored their views. In addition, the first three Presidents elected after
1900—Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson — supported
certain reform laws. These political developments resulted in a flood of
reform legislation on the local, state, and federal levels.
The reform movement
flourished under Wilson.
Two amendments to the Constitution proposed during Taft's Administration were
ratified in 1913. The 16th Amendment gave the federal government the power to
levy an income tax. The 17th Amendment provided for the election of U.S. senators
by the people, rather than by state legislatures. The Clayton Antitrust Act of
1914 struck a blow against monopolies. It prohibited corporations from grouping
together under interlocking boards of directors. It also helped labor by
making it impossible to prosecute unions under antitrust laws. In 1914, the
government set up the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to handle complaints about
unfair business practices. The many other reform measures passed during Wilson's presidency
included the Underwood Tariff Act of 1913, which lowered a high tariff that
protected American business from foreign competition.
The role of American women
changed dramatically during the 1920's. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution,
which became law on Aug. 26, 1920, gave women the right to vote in all
elections. In addition, many new opportunities for education and careers opened
up to women during the decade.
Modern life and social
change. Developments of the 1920's broadened the experiences of millions of
Americans. The mass movement to cities meant more people could enjoy such
activities as movies, plays, and sporting events. Radio broadcasting began on a
large scale during the 1920's. It brought news of the world and entertainment
into millions of urban and rural homes. The automobile gave people a new way to
get around — whether for business, or to see far-off places, or just for fun.
Motion-picture theaters became part of almost every city and town during the
1920's. They became known as dream palaces because of their fancy design
and the excitement and romance that motion pictures provided for the public.
The new role of women also changed society. Many women who found careers
outside the home began thinking of themselves, more as the equal of men,
and less as housewives and mothers.
Change and problems. The modern trends of the
1920's brought about problems as well as benefits.
Many Americans had trouble
adjusting to the impersonal, fast-paced life of cities. This disorientation
led to a rise in juvenile delinquency, crime, and other antisocial behavior.
The complex life in cities also tended to weaken the strong family ties that
had always been part of American society.
The 18th Amendment to the
Constitution, called the prohibition amendment, caused unforeseen problems. It
outlawed the sale of alcoholic beverages throughout the United States
as of Jan. 16, 1920. Large numbers of otherwise law-abiding citizens considered
prohibition a violation of their rights. They ignored the law and bought liquor
provided by underworld gangs. The supplying of illegal liquor, called bootlegging,
helped many gangs prosper. In addition, competition for control of
Ube-lucrative bootlegging business led to many gang wars.
Roosevelt, recovery, and
reform. Early in the Great Depression, Hoover
promised that prosperity was "just around the corner." But the
depression deepened as the election of 1932 approached. The Republicans slated Hoover for reelection.
The Democrats chose Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In his campaign, Roosevelt promised government action to end the Great
Depression and reforms toavoid future
depressions. The people responded, and Roosevelt
won a landslide victory.
Roosevelt's program for recovery and
reform was called the New Deal. Its many provisions included public
works projects to provide jobs, relief for farmers, aid in manufacturing firms,
and the regulation of banks. A solidly Democratic Congress approved almost
every measure Roosevelt proposed. Many new
government agencies were set up to help fight the depression. The agencies
included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress
Administration (WPA), both of which provided jobs; the Farm Credit
Administration (FCA), which extended credit to farmers; and the Social Security
Board, which developed the social security system.
The New Deal helped relieve
the hardship of many Americans. However, hard times dragged on until World War
II military spending stimulated the economy.
Roosevelt's efforts to end
the depression made him one of the most popular U.S. Presidents. The voters elected
him to four terms. No other President won election more than twice. Roosevelt's New Deal was a turning point in American
history. It marked the start of a strong government role in the nation's
economic affairs that has continued and grown to the present day.
industrial growth that began in the United States in the early 1800's
continued steadily up to and through the Civil War. Still, by the end of the
war, the typical American industry was small. Hand labor remained widespread,
limiting the production capacity of industry. Most businesses served a small
market and lacked the capital needed for business expansion.
After the Civil War,
however, American industry changed dramatically. Machines replaced hand labor
as the main means of manufacturing, increasing the production capacity of
industry tremendously. A new nationwide network of railroads distributed goods
far and wide. Inventors developed new products the public wanted, and
businesses made the products in large quantities. Investors and bankers
supplied the huge amounts of money that business leaders needed to expand
their operations. Many big businesses grew up as a result of these and other
developments. They included coal mining, petroleum, and railroad companies; and
manufacturers and sellers of such products as steel, industrial machinery,
automobiles, and clothing.
The industrial growth had
major effects on American life. The new business activity centered in cities.
As a result, people moved to cities in record numbers, and the cities grew by
leaps and bounds. Many Americans amassed huge fortunes from the business boom,
but others lived in extreme poverty. The sharp contrast between the rich and
the poor and other features of American life stirred widespread discontent. The
discontent triggered new reform movements, which — among other things — led to
measures to aid the poor and control the size and power of big business.
The industrial growth
centered chiefly in the North. The war-torn South lagged behind the rest of the
country economically. In the West, frontier life was ending.
America's role in foreign affairs
also changed during the late 1800's and early 1900's. The country built up its
military strength and became a world power.