Hernando Cortés: Hernando Cortés was a Spanish government official in the early 1500s in Cuba. He failed; but, he had heard stories about treasures on Aztec land. Him and about 600 other men attacked the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán, which failed. However, him and his men had exposed the Aztecs to diseases, causing the deaths of many and allowing Cortés to succeed on his second attempt at attacking.
This is important because: Cortés became known as one of the most vicious conquistadors through his devastation of native populations. It also led to mining gold and silver in South America to increase the wealth of the Spanish and Portuguese. Later, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incas. This led to more and more Spanish moving into South America.
Bacon’s Rebellion: More and more people in the West “backcountry” were growing upset at the increasing power of Governor William Berkeley and how the House of Burgesses didn’t represent them. Nathanial Bacon was a member of the backcountry, and although he had a seat on the governor's council, he wanted to move more west, which Berkeley would not allow; he also wanted to be a part of the fur trade that Berkeley controlled. There was also tension because many indentured servants were finishing their terms but they didn’t have anywhere to go or any money. In 1675, there was a fight between natives and white settlers, to which Bacon demanded militia troops be sent. Berkeley did not, so Bacon formed his own army to fight the rebels, which caused Berkeley to label them as rebels. Bacon marched on Jamestown twice, burned the city, and caused Berkeley to go into exile. However, Bacon died and Berkeley got control again.
This is important because: the social unrest led to Virginia elites turning towards slavery instead of the indentured servant system, since slaves did not need to be freed after a certain amount of time. It also highlighted how landless men can cause instability and showed how competitive elite whites can be.
The Enlightenment: The Enlightenment was when reason began to be just as important if not more so than God. It was caused by new discoveries in Europe during the seventeenth century that unveiled natural laws that the world follows. It highlighted human reason as a way to advance society, and urged people to look to themselves for how to live.
This is important because: People became more interested in politics and education. The ideas created during this time were revolutionary, like Francis Bacon’s scientific method. John Locke’s ideas about government later were the backbone of the Declaration of Independence. There was an increased interest in science, which led to scientific organizations being established and science departments in colleges being created. Benjamin Franklin was a key figure of this time because of his work with electricity; his research led to the development of lightning rods. The Enlightenment also led to successful inoculation against smallpox.
Taverns: Taverns were bars that provided alcohol and where people could socialize. People could talk freely at taverns, and because of that they were highly valued. Taverns were mostly dominated by men. It was also a place where anyone could come and discuss politics.
This was important because: taverns played a crucial role during the Revolutionary War. They were used to spread revolutionary information, plan resistance, and discuss British policy. Everyone could join in on the discussion, and if one couldn’t read the pamphlets about the revolution, they could learn about it at the taverns. Politicians like Samual Adams utilized taverns to help spread the revolutionary message and get people to resist the British.
Native Americans role in the revolution: Native Americans did not all share the same opinion about the revolutionary war. Most chose to not participate, but others saw this as a chance to attack. Still others sided with the British because they preferred them over the Americans who were eager to expand westward. The Cherokee and some Iroquois attacked, but were decimated by American armies.
This is important because: the American victory in the Revolutionary War led to an increased interest in western land and expanding there. Many Americans were angry that some Native Americans had helped the British, and wanted to expand aggressively. While less aggressive, other Americans like Thomas Jefferson believed natives could become “civilized”, which included destroying their culture and having them assimilate to white society.
Federalism: Federalism is the separation of power between centralized federal government and state government. This is one of the most important parts of the Constitution. It left some important matters to states while also giving the Constitution the final word in legal matters. The government was supposed to be made up of different parts, contributing to the ideas of separation of powers and checks and balances.
This is important because: it set up the foundation of our government. States rights was and continued to be an important issue in the United States. The founding fathers viewed political power as coming from the people, and therefore the powers of the federal government should be limited. However, ideas of how much power states or the federal government should have were still heavily debated. These ideas led to the formation of the first two main political parties of the early United States: Federalists, who supported a strong central government, and Antifederalists, who supported a weaker central government.
Marbury v. Madison: Marbury v. Madison was a Supreme Court case decided in 1803. It was between William Marbury and James Madison. William Marbury was one of the judges Adams appointed through the Judiciary Act of 1801. Adams commissioned him, but Marbury never got the letter. Marbury argued that he should receive the letter, but Madison refused to. Ultimately, the Supreme Court decided that Marbury should get the letter but they couldn’t make Madison give it to him.
This is important because: it established the principle of judicial review that the Supreme Court can rule acts of Congress as unconstitutional. They ruled this because in the Judiciary Act of 1789, Congress said that the judiciary branch had the power to force federal officials to perform their desired duties. However, in this court case, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not have the authority to increase the powers of the judiciary, therefore making the law void. Chief Justice Marshall used the newfound power of judicial review to strengthen the power of the federal government.
John Quincy Adams: John Quincy Adams was the Secretary of State for President James Monroe. He supported the western expansion of the United States. One of his goals was to acquire the rest of Florida, which he did with the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819. This treaty gave the United States Florida and territory north of the 42nd parallel in the Pacific Northwest. During his presidency, the “corrupt bargain” caused many to turn against him. He also signed the “tariff of abominations,” an import tax on imported goods and other items.
This is important because: the Treaty of Adams-Onís reflected the Monroe Doctrine and how Europe was to not colonize anymore. Europe was losing its grip on North America. In the treaty, the United States also agreed to not interfere with Texas, a promise which it later broke. The tariff of abominations was important because it furthered the divide between the industrial North and agricultural South by angering the South. The South was upset because the tariff benefited manufacturers.
Martin Van Buren: Martin Van Buren first came to prominence after the War of 1812. Later, he led a group called “the Bucktails” in New York City that accused the governor, DeWitt Clinton, of obstructing democracy. They wanted a party system because parties could check each so they do not get too much power. Later, he was governor of New York and Secretary of State for Andrew Jackson. He gained influence when he became a part of Jackson’s “inner circle”— Calhoun, the Vice President, was not. He became Jackson’s choice for his successor. Van Buren ran for president in 1836 and won because of the economic boom happening at that time. However, Jackson implemented a specie circular that caused a financial panic in the first few months of Van Buren’s presidency. He did not do much to fix the panic, and most of what he did do failed or maybe even made it worse. However, he did introduce a new financial system called the independent treasury system where private banks couldn’t use the government for speculation and government money would be moved to an independent treasury in Washington.
This is important because: Van Buren’s group, the Bucktails, spurred the idea of having a party system. The financial panic under Van Buren and his inability to fix it led to the Whig party winning the next presidential election. William Henry Harrison became the first Whig president. However, he died one month into his presidency.
Income Gap: The Industrial Revolution was increasing the income gap between the rich and the poor. Many people did not see economic growth, while others saw an extreme increase. Landless farmers and Native Americans were among those who didn’t see much growth, while merchants and industrialists were seeing an increase. This led to greater separation between the rich and the poor and a culture of wealth grew. The rich tended to gather together and show off their wealth.
This is important because: the wealthy wanting an area to ride their carriages led to the construction of Central Park, an iconic American park. It also led to a growing population of people who had nothing or next to nothing. These people included widows, orphans, immigrants, and people with mental illnesses. However, there was little actual class conflict because life was still better than it was before and there was a significant amount of social mobility.
Slave Rebellions: There were some slave rebellions during the early 1800s. Gabriel Prosser led a rebellion with about 1000 slaves but it was stopped by the Virginia militia because the plot was given away. Later, Denmark Vesey was going to lead a rebellion but it also got stopped in 1822. In 1831, Nat Turner led a rebellion that killed 60 white people before it was stopped. Others resisted by running away, not doing their tasks properly, refusing to work hard, breaking tools, cutting off fingers, or killing themselves.
This is important because: many white people believed African American people were lazy, which they played into as a form of rebellion. Resistance led to the formation of the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to the north. Slave rebellions also evoked fear in white people because the possibility of slaves rebelling was always there. This sometimes led to stricter laws being passed against them.
Seneca Falls Convention: The Seneca Falls Convention took place in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. It took place because female delegates were turned away from an anti slavery convention in London, so they made it their goal to gain more rights for women. The convention in Seneca Falls was centered around the issue of women’s rights. The results of the convention were that women had the same rights as men, highlighted in the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions. Most of the women involved with the creation of the declaration were Quakers; the only one who wasn’t was Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
This is important because: it spread the idea that women are equal to men and thus deserve the same rights as them. It was the main beginning of the suffrage movement, so more and more people began to believe that women should have the right to vote. However, issues of slavery were usually considered more important than women. Still, they fought and fought, and eventually in 1920, women got the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.
Kansas-Nebraska Act: The Kansas-Nebraska Act was introduced by Stephan A. Douglas in 1854 in an attempt to organize the territory of Nebraska. Because organized territories become states and Nebraska was above the Missouri Compromise, Douglas anticipated Southern anger at the bill and provided a provision that stated that the territorial governments would decide if they are a free or slave state. Because of Southern Democrat demands, he separated the territory into two: Kansas and Nebraska. The bill was passed, though not easily.
This is important because: it effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise. It also marked the end of the Whig party and the division of northern Democrats. People who opposed the bill created the Anti-Nebraska Whigs and Anti-Nebraska Democrats, which later became the Republican Party. The Republican Party quickly became popular and influential.
Confiscation Act: The Confiscation Act was passed in 1861. It was an act that said that slaves used against the government would be free; in short, it was to free Confederate slaves used for the military. It was the beginning of the movement to free slaves. More and more laws were passed, like the second Confiscation Act which freed the slaves of people who supported the rebellion and also allowed the government to use African Americans as soldiers.
This is important because: it started the push for emancipation. It led to more and more laws being passed abolishing slavery in certain areas and compensating the owners. For example, laws abolishing slavery were passed in the District of Columbia and western territories in 1862. The fight against slavery led to the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which abolished slavery in states inside the Confederacy. Later, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, which abolished slavery in the United States altogether.
Andrew Johnson: Andrew Johnson was Abraham Lincoln’s Vice President who became president when Lincoln was shot and killed. His plan for Reconstruction was that each state had a temporary governor who had to get voters to elect delegates for a constitutional convention. The states also had to abolish slavery, pass the Thirteenth Amendment, retract their war debt, and repeal their ordinance of secession. Johnson vetoed a bill to increase the Freedman Bureau’s power and the Civil Rights Act, but he was overridden by Congress. Johnson also vetoed three Reconstruction bills and was overridden on all of them again. He was impeached on the grounds that he dismissed his Secretary of State without the approval of Congress, but when his trial got to the Senate, he was not acquitted.
This is important because: Andrew Johnson is generally considered one of the worst presidents in history. The Radical Republicans did not think his ideas were strong enough, and they put more demands on the South. There were so many of them in the House and the Senate that they did what they wanted and Johnson was too weak to stop it. He was also the first president to be impeached.
The Dawes Act: The Dawes Act was the result of the government wanting to destroy Native American culture. Suddenly, they ended the communal ownership of Native American reservations. This would force them to become landowners and farmers. Some thought this was for the best. This act made the ownership of land have to be by a single person, and each person got a certain amount of land depending on if they were a child, adult, etc. Owners were given U.S citizenship.
This is important because: it was a continuation of the desire for the Native Americans to assimilate into white culture. They even took kids away from their families and forced them to go to white boarding schools. They also attempted to get each Native American family their own land, and tried to replace the Native American religions with Christianity. It was a continuation of the pattern of Native American oppression in U.S history.
The Gospel of Wealth: The gospel of wealth was an idea that emerged in the late 19th century regarding capitalism in American society. It was the idea that the wealthy have an obligation to use their money to create progress in society. Andrew Carnegie, a rich man, wrote extensively about this topic in an article and book titled “The Gospel of Wealth”; he was the main proponent of this idea.
This is important because: it is an example of one of the emerging theories about capitalism that was caused by the shift to a more capitalistic society with an increase in economic growth. It was the moderate result of changing the idea of Social Darwinism, which stated that poor people deserve to be poor and the rich are rich because they are innately superior. It also contributed to the idea that if one tries hard enough they can work their way up the social ladder and become wealthy as well.
European Immigration to America Between 1860-1900: Over 10 million European immigrants came to America between 1860-1900. Many did not have money, and primarily lived in industrial cities in order to get a job. Sometimes they formed “immigrant ghettos” to preserve their culture. However, many assimilated into American culture and many Americans were fearful of them.
This is important because: it was an immense amount of new people moving into the country that were assimilating but also bringing in aspects of their culture. In addition, many of these immigrants did the “dirty work” that others did not want to do because of its danger. Because of this, they ended up working risky jobs because they couldn’t afford not to. The large numbers of immigrants also caused some Americans to be fearful of them and led to Congress passing laws restricting immigration.
Annexing the Philippines: Theodore Roosevelt, who was in the Navy, ordered the Pacific fleet of the Navy to the Philippines. He did this because he wanted to expand America and have it become an imperial power, and his British friends convinced him this was the time to do it. They were told to attack when war was declared with Spain. When it was, they got Manila with ease, and Commodore George Dewey who led the Americans was considered a hero.
This is important because: it caused huge controversy. Some Americans did not like the idea of controlling an island so far away. President McKinley thought the Filipinos were unfit to govern themselves and thought the only answer was to Christianize them. The debate about the Philippines cause an anti-imperialist movement to emerge, some of which had moral issues with imperialism, some who feared economic competition, and some feared a threat on American rights. The annexation of the Philippines also led to the Philippine War, a long and bloody war, and to an increased interest in Asia.