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by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard

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Title: History of the United States

Author: Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard

Release Date: October 28, 2005 [EBook #16960]

Language: English

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New York
All rights reserved

Copyright, 1921,
Set up and electrotyped. Published March, 1921.
Norwood Press
J.S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.


As things now stand, the course of instruction in American history in our public schools embraces three distinct treatments of the subject. Three separate books are used. First, there is the primary book, which is usually a very condensed narrative with emphasis on biographies and anecdotes. Second, there is the advanced text for the seventh or eighth grade, generally speaking, an expansion of the elementary book by the addition of forty or fifty thousand words. Finally, there is the high school manual. This, too, ordinarily follows the beaten path, giving fuller accounts of the same events and characters. To put it bluntly, we do not assume that our children obtain permanent possessions from their study of history in the lower grades. If mathematicians followed the same method, high school texts on algebra and geometry would include the multiplication table and fractions.

There is, of course, a ready answer to the criticism advanced above. It is that teachers have learned from bitter experience how little history their pupils retain as they pass along the regular route. No teacher of history will deny this. Still it is a standing challenge to existing methods of historical instruction. If the study of history cannot be made truly progressive like the study of mathematics, science, and languages, then the historians assume a grave responsibility in adding their subject to the already overloaded curriculum. If the successive historical texts are only enlarged editions of the first text—more facts, more dates, more words—then history deserves most of the sharp criticism which it is receiving from teachers of science, civics, and economics.

In this condition of affairs we find our justification for offering a new high school text in American history. Our first contribution is one of omission. The time-honored stories of exploration and the biographies of heroes are left out. We frankly hold that, if pupils know little or nothing about Columbus, Cortes, Magellan, or Captain John Smith by the time they reach the high school, it is useless to tell the same stories for perhaps the fourth time. It is worse than useless. It is an offense against the teachers of those subjects that are demonstrated to be progressive in character.

In the next place we have omitted all descriptions of battles. Our reasons for this are simple. The strategy of a campaign or of a single battle is a highly technical, and usually a highly controversial, matter about which experts differ widely. In the field of military and naval operations most writers and teachers of history are mere novices. To dispose of Gettysburg or the Wilderness in ten lines or ten pages is equally absurd to the serious student of military affairs. Any one who compares the ordinary textbook account of a single Civil War campaign with the account given by Ropes, for instance, will ask for no further comment. No youth called upon to serve our country in arms would think of turning to a high school manual for information about the art of warfare. The dramatic scene or episode, so useful in arousing the interest of the immature pupil, seems out of place in a book that deliberately appeals to boys and girls on the very threshold of life's serious responsibilities.

It is not upon negative features, however, that we rest our case. It is rather upon constructive features.

First. We have written a topical, not a narrative, history. We have tried to set forth the important aspects, problems, and movements of each period, bringing in the narrative rather by way of illustration.

Second. We have emphasized those historical topics which help to explain how our nation has come to be what it is to-day.

Third. We have dwelt fully upon the social and economic aspects of our history, especially in relation to the politics of each period.

Fourth. We have treated the causes and results of wars, the problems of financing and sustaining armed forces, rather than military strategy. These are the subjects which belong to a history for civilians. These are matters which civilians can understand—matters which they must understand, if they are to play well their part in war and peace.

Fifth. By omitting the period of exploration, we have been able to enlarge the treatment of our own time. We have given special attention to the history of those current questions which must form the subject matter of sound instruction in citizenship.

Sixth. We have borne in mind that America, with all her unique characteristics, is a part of a general civilization. Accordingly we have given diplomacy, foreign affairs, world relations, and the reciprocal influences of nations their appropriate place.

Seventh. We have deliberately aimed at standards of maturity. The study of a mere narrative calls mainly for the use of the memory. We have aimed to stimulate habits of analysis, comparison, association, reflection, and generalization—habits calculated to enlarge as well as inform the mind. We have been at great pains to make our text clear, simple, and direct; but we have earnestly sought to stretch the intellects of our readers—to put them upon their mettle. Most of them will receive the last of their formal instruction in the high school. The world will soon expect maturity from them. Their achievements will depend upon the possession of other powers than memory alone. The effectiveness of their citizenship in our republic will be measured by the excellence of their judgment as well as the fullness of their information.

New York City,
February 8, 1921.



BASSETT, J.S. A Short History of the United States
ELSON, H.W. History of the United States of America


"Epochs of American History," edited by A.B. Hart

HART, A.B. Formation of the Union
THWAITES, R.G. The Colonies
WILSON, WOODROW. Division and Reunion

"Riverside Series," edited by W.E. Dodd

BECKER, C.L. Beginnings of the American People
DODD, W.E. Expansion and Conflict
JOHNSON, A. Union and Democracy
PAXSON, F.L. The New Nation


chapter page
I. The Great Migration to America 1
The Agencies of American Colonization 2
The Colonial Peoples 6
The Process of Colonization 12
II. Colonial Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce 20
The Land and the Westward Movement 20
Industrial and Commercial Development 28
III. Social and Political Progress 38
The Leadership of the Churches 39
Schools and Colleges 43
The Colonial Press 46
The Evolution in Political Institutions 48
IV. The Development of Colonial Nationalism 56
Relations with the Indians and the French 57
The Effects of Warfare on the Colonies 61
Colonial Relations with the British Government 64
Summary of Colonial Period 73

V. The New Course in British Imperial Policy 77
George III and His System 77
George III's Ministers and Their Colonial Policies 79
Colonial Resistance Forces Repeal 83
Resumption of British Revenue and Commercial Policies 87
Renewed Resistance in America 90
Retaliation by the British Government 93
From Reform to Revolution in America 95
VI. The American Revolution 99
Resistance and Retaliation 99
American Independence 101
The Establishment of Government and the New Allegiance 108
Military Affairs 116
The Finances of the Revolution 125
The Diplomacy of the Revolution 127
Peace at Last 132
Summary of the Revolutionary Period 135

VII. The Formation of the Constitution 139
The Promise and the Difficulties of America 139
The Calling of a Constitutional Convention 143
The Framing of the Constitution 146
The Struggle over Ratification 157
VIII. The Clash of Political Parties 162
The Men and Measures of the New Government 162
The Rise of Political Parties 168
Foreign Influences and Domestic Politics 171
IX. The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power 186
Republican Principles and Policies 186
The Republicans and the Great West 188
The Republican War for Commercial Independence 193
The Republicans Nationalized 201
The National Decisions of Chief Justice Marshall208
Summary of Union and National Politics 212

X. The Farmers beyond the Appalachians 217
Preparation for Western Settlement 217
The Western Migration and New States 221
The Spirit of the Frontier 228
The West and the East Meet 230
XI. Jacksonian Democracy 238
The Democratic Movement in the East 238
The New Democracy Enters the Arena 244
The New Democracy at Washington 250
The Rise of the Whigs 260
The Interaction of American and European Opinion 265
XII. The Middle Border and the Great West 271
The Advance of the Middle Border 271
On to the Pacific—Texas and the Mexican War 276
The Pacific Coast and Utah 284
Summary of Western Development and National Politics 292

XIII. The Rise of the Industrial System 295
The Industrial Revolution 296
The Industrial Revolution and National Politics 307
XIV.The Planting System and National Politics 316
Slavery—North and South 316
Slavery in National Politics 324
The Drift of Events toward the Irrepressible Conflict 332
XV. The Civil War and Reconstruction 344
The Southern Confederacy 344
The War Measures of the Federal Government 350
The Results of the Civil War 365
Reconstruction in the South 370
Summary of the Sectional Conflict 375

XVI. The Political and Economic Evolution of the South 379
The South at the Close of the War 379
The Restoration of White Supremacy 382
The Economic Advance of the South 389
XVII. Business Enterprise and the Republican Party 401
Railways and Industry 401
The Supremacy of the Republican Party (1861-1885) 412
The Growth of Opposition to Republican Rule 417
XVIII. The Development of the Great West 425
The Railways as Trail Blazers 425
The Evolution of Grazing and Agriculture 431
Mining and Manufacturing in the West 436
The Admission of New States 440
The Influence of the Far West on National Life 443
XIX. Domestic Issues before the Country(1865-1897) 451
The Currency Question 452
The Protective Tariff and Taxation 459
The Railways and Trusts 460
The Minor Parties and Unrest 462
The Sound Money Battle of 1896 466
Republican Measures and Results 472
XX. America a World Power(1865-1900) 477
American Foreign Relations (1865-1898) 478
Cuba and the Spanish War 485
American Policies in the Philippines and the Orient 497
Summary of National Growth and World Politics 504

XXI. The Evolution of Republican Policies(1901-1913) 507
Foreign Affairs 508
Colonial Administration 515
The Roosevelt Domestic Policies 519
Legislative and Executive Activities 523
The Administration of President Taft 527
Progressive Insurgency and the Election of 1912 530
XXII. The Spirit of Reform in America 536
An Age of Criticism 536
Political Reforms 538
Measures of Economic Reform 546
XXIII. The New Political Democracy 554
The Rise of the Woman Movement 555
The National Struggle for Woman Suffrage 562
XXIV. Industrial Democracy 570
Coöperation between Employers and Employees 571
The Rise and Growth of Organized Labor 575
The Wider Relations of Organized Labor 577
Immigration and Americanization 582
XXV. President Wilson and the World War 588
Domestic Legislation 588
Colonial and Foreign Policies 592
The United States and the European War 596
The United States at War 604
The Settlement at Paris 612
Summary of Democracy and the World War 620
Appendix 627
A Topical Syllabus 645
Index 655


The Original Grants (color map) Facing 4
German and Scotch-Irish Settlements 8
Distribution of Population in 1790 27
English, French, and Spanish Possessions in America, 1750 (color map) Facing 59
The Colonies at the Time of the Declaration of Independence (color map) Facing 108
North America according to the Treaty of 1783 (color map) Facing 134
The United States in 1805 (color map) Facing 193
Roads and Trails into Western Territory (color map) Facing 224
The Cumberland Road 233
Distribution of Population in 1830 235
Texas and the Territory in Dispute 282
The Oregon Country and the Disputed Boundary 285
The Overland Trails 287
Distribution of Slaves in Southern States 323
The Missouri Compromise 326
Slave and Free Soil on the Eve of the Civil War 335
The United States in 1861 (color map) Facing 345
Railroads of the United States in 1918 405
The United States in 1870 (color map) Facing 427
The United States in 1912 (color map) Facing 443
American Dominions in the Pacific (color map) Facing 500
The Caribbean Region (color map) Facing 592
Battle Lines of the Various Years of the World War 613
Europe in 1919 (color map) Between 618-619


The Nations of the West
John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company
William Penn, Proprietor of Pennsylvania
A Glimpse of Old Germantown
Old Dutch Fort and English Church Near Albany
Southern Plantation Mansion
A New England Farmhouse
Domestic Industry: Dipping Tallow Candles
The Dutch West India Warehouse in New Amsterdam (New York City)
A Page from a Famous Schoolbook
The Royal Governor's Palace at New Berne
Virginians Defending Themselves against the Indians
Braddock's Retreat
Benjamin Franklin
George III
Patrick Henry
Samuel Adams
Spirit of 1776
Thomas Paine
Thomas Jefferson Reading His Draft of the Declaration
Mobbing the Tories
George Washington
Robert Morris
Alexander Hamilton
An Advertisement of The Federalist
Celebrating the Ratification
First United States Bank at Philadelphia
Louis XVI in the Hands of the Mob
A Quarrel between a Federalist and a Republican
New England Jumping into the Hands of George III
John Marshall
A Log Cabin—Lincoln's Birthplace
An Early Mississippi Steamboat
Thomas Dorr Arousing His Followers
Andrew Jackson
Daniel Webster
An Old Cartoon Ridiculing Clay's Tariff
Santa Barbara Mission
San Francisco in 1849
A New England Mill Built in 1793
An Early Railway
Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1838
John C. Calhoun
Henry Clay
An Old Cartoon Representing Webster "Stealing Clay's Thunder"
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Jefferson Davis
The Draft Riots in New York City
A Blockade Runner
John Bright
William H. Seward
Abraham Lincoln
General Ulysses S. Grant
General Robert E. Lee
The Federal Military Hospital at Gettysburg
Steel Mills—Birmingham, Alabama
A Southern Cotton Mill in a Cotton Field
A Glimpse of Memphis, Tennessee
A Corner in the Bethlehem Steel Works
John D. Rockefeller
Wall Street, New York City
A Town on the Prairie
The Canadian Building
Commodore Perry's Men Making Presents to the Japanese
William J. Bryan in 1898
President McKinley and His Cabinet
Grover Cleveland
An old cartoon.A Sight Too Bad
Cuban Revolutionists
A Philippine Home
Roosevelt Talking to the Engineer of a Railroad Train
Panama Canal
A Sugar Mill, Porto Rico
Mr Taft in the Philippines
The Roosevelt Dam, Phoenix, Arizona
An East Side Street in New York
Abigail Adams
Susan B. Anthony
Conference of Men and Women Delegates
Samuel Gompers and Other Labor Leaders
The Launching of a Ship at the Great Naval Yards, Newark, N.J.
Troops Returning from France
Premiers Lloyd George, Orlando and Clémenceau and President Wilson at Paris

"The Nations of the West" (popularly called "The Pioneers"), designed by A. Stirling Calder and modeled by Mr. Calder, F.G.R. Roth, and Leo Lentelli, topped the Arch of the Setting Sun at the Panama-Pacific Exposition held at San Francisco in 1915. Facing the Court of the Universe moves a group of men and women typical of those who have made our civilization. From left to right appear the French-Canadian, the Alaskan, the Latin-American, the German, the Italian, the Anglo-American, and the American Indian, squaw and warrior. In the place of honor in the center of the group, standing between the oxen on the tongue of the prairie schooner, is a figure, beautiful and almost girlish, but strong, dignified, and womanly, the Mother of To-morrow. Above the group rides the Spirit of Enterprise, flanked right and left by the Hopes of the Future in the person of two boys. The group as a whole is beautifully symbolic of the westward march of American civilization.

The Nations of the West
Photograph by Cardinell-Vincent Co., San Francisco
"The Nations of the West"






The tide of migration that set in toward the shores of North America during the early years of the seventeenth century was but one phase in the restless and eternal movement of mankind upon the surface of the earth. The ancient Greeks flung out their colonies in every direction, westward as far as Gaul, across the Mediterranean, and eastward into Asia Minor, perhaps to the very confines of India. The Romans, supported by their armies and their government, spread their dominion beyond the narrow lands of Italy until it stretched from the heather of Scotland to the sands of Arabia. The Teutonic tribes, from their home beyond the Danube and the Rhine, poured into the empire of the Cæsars and made the beginnings of modern Europe. Of this great sweep of races and empires the settlement of America was merely a part. And it was, moreover, only one aspect of the expansion which finally carried the peoples, the institutions, and the trade of Europe to the very ends of the earth.

In one vital point, it must be noted, American colonization differed from that of the ancients. The Greeks usually carried with them affection for the government they left behind and sacred fire from the altar of the parent city; but thousands of the immigrants who came to America disliked the state and disowned the church of the mother country. They established compacts of government for themselves and set up altars of their own. They sought not only new soil to till but also political and religious liberty for themselves and their children.

The Agencies of American Colonization

It was no light matter for the English to cross three thousand miles of water and found homes in the American wilderness at the opening of the seventeenth century. Ships, tools, and supplies called for huge outlays of money. Stores had to be furnished in quantities sufficient to sustain the life of the settlers until they could gather harvests of their own. Artisans and laborers of skill and industry had to be induced to risk the hazards of the new world. Soldiers were required for defense and mariners for the exploration of inland waters. Leaders of good judgment, adept in managing men, had to be discovered. Altogether such an enterprise demanded capital larger than the ordinary merchant or gentleman could amass and involved risks more imminent than he dared to assume. Though in later days, after initial tests had been made, wealthy proprietors were able to establish colonies on their own account, it was the corporation that furnished the capital and leadership in the beginning.

The Trading Company.—English pioneers in exploration found an instrument for colonization in companies of merchant adventurers, which had long been employed in carrying on commerce with foreign countries. Such a corporation was composed of many persons of different ranks of society—noblemen, merchants, and gentlemen—who banded together for a particular undertaking, each contributing a sum of money and sharing in the profits of the venture. It was organized under royal authority; it received its charter, its grant of land, and its trading privileges from the king and carried on its operations under his supervision and control. The charter named all the persons originally included in the corporation and gave them certain powers in the management of its affairs, including the right to admit new members. The company was in fact a little government set up by the king. When the members of the corporation remained in England, as in the case of the Virginia Company, they operated through agents sent to the colony. When they came over the seas themselves and settled in America, as in the case of Massachusetts, they became the direct government of the country they possessed. The stockholders in that instance became the voters and the governor, the chief magistrate.

John Winthrop, Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company
John Winthrop, Governor of the
Massachusetts Bay Company

Four of the thirteen colonies in America owed their origins to the trading corporation. It was the London Company, created by King James I, in 1606, that laid during the following year the foundations of Virginia at Jamestown. It was under the auspices of their West India Company, chartered in 1621, that the Dutch planted the settlements of the New Netherland in the valley of the Hudson. The founders of Massachusetts were Puritan leaders and men of affairs whom King Charles I incorporated in 1629 under the title: "The governor and company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England." In this case the law did but incorporate a group drawn together by religious ties. "We must be knit together as one man," wrote John Winthrop, the first Puritan governor in America. Far to the south, on the banks of the Delaware River, a Swedish commercial company in 1638 made the beginnings of a settlement, christened New Sweden; it was destined to pass under the rule of the Dutch, and finally under the rule of William Penn as the proprietary colony of Delaware.

In a certain sense, Georgia may be included among the "company colonies." It was, however, originally conceived by the moving spirit, James Oglethorpe, as an asylum for poor men, especially those imprisoned for debt. To realize this humane purpose, he secured from King George II, in 1732, a royal charter uniting several gentlemen, including himself, into "one body politic and corporate," known as the "Trustees for establishing the colony of Georgia in America." In the structure of their organization and their methods of government, the trustees did not differ materially from the regular companies created for trade and colonization. Though their purposes were benevolent, their transactions had to be under the forms of law and according to the rules of business.

The Religious Congregation.—A second agency which figured largely in the settlement of America was the religious brotherhood, or congregation, of men and women brought together in the bonds of a common religious faith. By one of the strange fortunes of history, this institution, founded in the early days of Christianity, proved to be a potent force in the origin and growth of self-government in a land far away from Galilee. "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul," we are told in the Acts describing the Church at Jerusalem. "We are knit together as a body in a most sacred covenant of the Lord ... by virtue of which we hold ourselves strictly tied to all care of each other's good and of the whole," wrote John Robinson, a leader among the Pilgrims who founded their tiny colony of Plymouth in 1620. The Mayflower Compact, so famous in American history, was but a written and signed agreement, incorporating the spirit of obedience to the common good, which served as a guide to self-government until Plymouth was annexed to Massachusetts in 1691.


Three other colonies, all of which retained their identity until the eve of the American Revolution, likewise sprang directly from the congregations of the faithful: Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, mainly offshoots from Massachusetts. They were founded by small bodies of men and women, "united in solemn covenants with the Lord," who planted their settlements in the wilderness. Not until many a year after Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson conducted their followers to the Narragansett country was Rhode Island granted a charter of incorporation (1663) by the crown. Not until long after the congregation of Thomas Hooker from Newtown blazed the way into the Connecticut River Valley did the king of England give Connecticut a charter of its own (1662) and a place among the colonies. Half a century elapsed before the towns laid out beyond the Merrimac River by emigrants from Massachusetts were formed into the royal province of New Hampshire in 1679.

Even when Connecticut was chartered, the parchment and sealing wax of the royal lawyers did but confirm rights and habits of self-government and obedience to law previously established by the congregations. The towns of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield had long lived happily under their "Fundamental Orders" drawn up by themselves in 1639; so had the settlers dwelt peacefully at New Haven under their "Fundamental Articles" drafted in the same year. The pioneers on the Connecticut shore had no difficulty in agreeing that "the Scriptures do hold forth a perfect rule for the direction and government of all men."

The Proprietor.—A third and very important colonial agency was the proprietor, or proprietary. As the name, associated with the word "property," implies, the proprietor was a person to whom the king granted property in lands in North America to have, hold, use, and enjoy for his own benefit and profit, with the right to hand the estate down to his heirs in perpetual succession. The proprietor was a rich and powerful person, prepared to furnish or secure the capital, collect the ships, supply the stores, and assemble the settlers necessary to found and sustain a plantation beyond the seas. Sometimes the proprietor worked alone. Sometimes two or more were associated like partners in the common undertaking.

William Penn, Proprietor of Pennsylvania
William Penn,
Proprietor of Pennsylvania

Five colonies, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Carolinas, owe their formal origins, though not always their first settlements, nor in most cases their prosperity, to the proprietary system. Maryland, established in 1634 under a Catholic nobleman, Lord Baltimore, and blessed with religious toleration by the act of 1649, flourished under the mild rule of proprietors until it became a state in the American union. New Jersey, beginning its career under two proprietors, Berkeley and Carteret, in 1664, passed under the direct government of the crown in 1702. Pennsylvania was, in a very large measure, the product of the generous spirit and tireless labors of its first proprietor, the leader of the Friends, William Penn, to whom it was granted in 1681 and in whose family it remained until 1776. The two Carolinas were first organized as one colony in 1663 under the government and patronage of eight proprietors, including Lord Clarendon; but after more than half a century both became royal provinces governed by the king.

The Colonial Peoples

The English.—In leadership and origin the thirteen colonies, except New York and Delaware, were English. During the early days of all, save these two, the main, if not the sole, current of immigration was from England. The colonists came from every walk of life. They were men, women, and children of "all sorts and conditions." The major portion were yeomen, or small land owners, farm laborers, and artisans. With them were merchants and gentlemen who brought their stocks of goods or their fortunes to the New World. Scholars came from Oxford and Cambridge to preach the gospel or to teach. Now and then the son of an English nobleman left his baronial hall behind and cast his lot with America. The people represented every religious faith—members of the Established Church of England; Puritans who had labored to reform that church; Separatists, Baptists, and Friends, who had left it altogether; and Catholics, who clung to the religion of their fathers.

New England was almost purely English. During the years between 1629 and 1640, the period of arbitrary Stuart government, about twenty thousand Puritans emigrated to America, settling in the colonies of the far North. Although minor additions were made from time to time, the greater portion of the New England people sprang from this original stock. Virginia, too, for a long time drew nearly all her immigrants from England alone. Not until the eve of the Revolution did other nationalities, mainly the Scotch-Irish and Germans, rival the English in numbers.

The populations of later English colonies—the Carolinas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia—while receiving a steady stream of immigration from England, were constantly augmented by wanderers from the older settlements. New York was invaded by Puritans from New England in such numbers as to cause the Anglican clergymen there to lament that "free thinking spreads almost as fast as the Church." North Carolina was first settled toward the northern border by immigrants from Virginia. Some of the North Carolinians, particularly the Quakers, came all the way from New England, tarrying in Virginia only long enough to learn how little they were wanted in that Anglican colony.

The Scotch-Irish.—Next to the English in numbers and influence were the Scotch-Irish, Presbyterians in belief, English in tongue. Both religious and economic reasons sent them across the sea. Their Scotch ancestors, in the days of Cromwell, had settled in the north of Ireland whence the native Irish had been driven by the conqueror's sword. There the Scotch nourished for many years enjoying in peace their own form of religion and growing prosperous in the manufacture of fine linen and woolen cloth. Then the blow fell. Toward the end of the seventeenth century their religious worship was put under the ban and the export of their cloth was forbidden by the English Parliament. Within two decades twenty thousand Scotch-Irish left Ulster alone, for America; and all during the eighteenth century the migration continued to be heavy. Although no exact record was kept, it is reckoned that the Scotch-Irish and the Scotch who came directly from Scotland, composed one-sixth of the entire American population on the eve of the Revolution.

Settlements of German and
Scotch-Irish Immigrants

These newcomers in America made their homes chiefly in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Coming late upon the scene, they found much of the land immediately upon the seaboard already taken up. For this reason most of them became frontier people settling the interior and upland regions. There they cleared the land, laid out their small farms, and worked as "sturdy yeomen on the soil," hardy, industrious, and independent in spirit, sharing neither the luxuries of the rich planters nor the easy life of the leisurely merchants. To their agriculture they added woolen and linen manufactures, which, flourishing in the supple fingers of their tireless women, made heavy inroads upon the trade of the English merchants in the colonies. Of their labors a poet has sung:

"O, willing hands to toil;
Strong natures tuned to the harvest-song and bound to the kindly soil;
Bold pioneers for the wilderness, defenders in the field."

The Germans.—Third among the colonists in order of numerical importance were the Germans. From the very beginning, they appeared in colonial records. A number of the artisans and carpenters in the first Jamestown colony were of German descent. Peter Minuit, the famous governor of New Motherland, was a German from Wesel on the Rhine, and Jacob Leisler, leader of a popular uprising against the provincial administration of New York, was a German from Frankfort-on-Main. The wholesale migration of Germans began with the founding of Pennsylvania. Penn was diligent in searching for thrifty farmers to cultivate his lands and he made a special effort to attract peasants from the Rhine country. A great association, known as the Frankfort Company, bought more than twenty thousand acres from him and in 1684 established a center at Germantown for the distribution of German immigrants. In old New York, Rhinebeck-on-the-Hudson became a similar center for distribution. All the way from Maine to Georgia inducements were offered to the German farmers and in nearly every colony were to be found, in time, German settlements. In fact the migration became so large that German princes were frightened at the loss of so many subjects and England was alarmed by the influx of foreigners into her overseas dominions. Yet nothing could stop the movement. By the end of the colonial period, the number of Germans had risen to more than two hundred thousand.

The majority of them were Protestants from the Rhine region, and South Germany. Wars, religious controversies, oppression, and poverty drove them forth to America. Though most of them were farmers, there were also among them skilled artisans who contributed to the rapid growth of industries in Pennsylvania. Their iron, glass, paper, and woolen mills, dotted here and there among the thickly settled regions, added to the wealth and independence of the province.

A Glimpse of Old Germantown
From an old print
A Glimpse of Old Germantown

Unlike the Scotch-Irish, the Germans did not speak the language of the original colonists or mingle freely with them. They kept to themselves, built their own schools, founded their own newspapers, and published their own books. Their clannish habits often irritated their neighbors and led to occasional agitations against "foreigners." However, no serious collisions seem to have occurred; and in the days of the Revolution, German soldiers from Pennsylvania fought in the patriot armies side by side with soldiers from the English and Scotch-Irish sections.

Other Nationalities.—Though the English, the Scotch-Irish, and the Germans made up the bulk of the colonial population, there were other racial strains as well, varying in numerical importance but contributing their share to colonial life.

From France came the Huguenots fleeing from the decree of the king which inflicted terrible penalties upon Protestants.

From "Old Ireland" came thousands of native Irish, Celtic in race and Catholic in religion. Like their Scotch-Irish neighbors to the north, they revered neither the government nor the church of England imposed upon them by the sword. How many came we do not know, but shipping records of the colonial period show that boatload after boatload left the southern and eastern shores of Ireland for the New World. Undoubtedly thousands of their passengers were Irish of the native stock. This surmise is well sustained by the constant appearance of Celtic names in the records of various colonies.

Old Dutch Fort and English Church Near Albany
From an old print
Old Dutch Fort and English Church Near Albany

The Jews, then as ever engaged in their age-long battle for religious and economic toleration, found in the American colonies, not complete liberty, but certainly more freedom than they enjoyed in England, France, Spain, or Portugal. The English law did not actually recognize their right to live in any of the dominions, but owing to the easy-going habits of the Americans they were allowed to filter into the seaboard towns. The treatment they received there varied. On one occasion the mayor and council of New York forbade them to sell by retail and on another prohibited the exercise of their religious worship. Newport, Philadelphia, and Charleston were more hospitable, and there large Jewish colonies, consisting principally of merchants and their families, flourished in spite of nominal prohibitions of the law.

Though the small Swedish colony in Delaware was quickly submerged beneath the tide of English migration, the Dutch in New York continued to hold their own for more than a hundred years after the English conquest in 1664. At the end of the colonial period over one-half of the 170,000 inhabitants of the province were descendants of the original Dutch—still distinct enough to give a decided cast to the life and manners of New York. Many of them clung as tenaciously to their mother tongue as they did to their capacious farmhouses or their Dutch ovens; but they were slowly losing their identity as the English pressed in beside them to farm and trade.

The melting pot had begun its historic mission.

The Process of Colonization

Considered from one side, colonization, whatever the motives of the emigrants, was an economic matter. It involved the use of capital to pay for their passage, to sustain them on the voyage, and to start them on the way of production. Under this stern economic necessity, Puritans, Scotch-Irish, Germans, and all were alike laid.

Immigrants Who Paid Their Own Way.—Many of the immigrants to America in colonial days were capitalists themselves, in a small or a large way, and paid their own passage. What proportion of the colonists were able to finance their voyage across the sea is a matter of pure conjecture. Undoubtedly a very considerable number could do so, for we can trace the family fortunes of many early settlers. Henry Cabot Lodge is authority for the statement that "the settlers of New England were drawn from the country gentlemen, small farmers, and yeomanry of the mother country.... Many of the emigrants were men of wealth, as the old lists show, and all of them, with few exceptions, were men of property and good standing. They did not belong to the classes from which emigration is usually supplied, for they all had a stake in the country they left behind." Though it would be interesting to know how accurate this statement is or how applicable to the other colonies, no study has as yet been made to gratify that interest. For the present it is an unsolved problem just how many of the colonists were able to bear the cost of their own transfer to the New World.

Indentured Servants.—That at least tens of thousands of immigrants were unable to pay for their passage is established beyond the shadow of a doubt by the shipping records that have come down to us. The great barrier in the way of the poor who wanted to go to America was the cost of the sea voyage. To overcome this difficulty a plan was worked out whereby shipowners and other persons of means furnished the passage money to immigrants in return for their promise, or bond, to work for a term of years to repay the sum advanced. This system was called indentured servitude.

It is probable that the number of bond servants exceeded the original twenty thousand Puritans, the yeomen, the Virginia gentlemen, and the Huguenots combined. All the way down the coast from Massachusetts to Georgia were to be found in the fields, kitchens, and workshops, men, women, and children serving out terms of bondage generally ranging from five to seven years. In the proprietary colonies the proportion of bond servants was very high. The Baltimores, Penns, Carterets, and other promoters anxiously sought for workers of every nationality to till their fields, for land without labor was worth no more than land in the moon. Hence the gates of the proprietary colonies were flung wide open. Every inducement was offered to immigrants in the form of cheap land, and special efforts were made to increase the population by importing servants. In Pennsylvania, it was not uncommon to find a master with fifty bond servants on his estate. It has been estimated that two-thirds of all the immigrants into Pennsylvania between the opening of the eighteenth century and the outbreak of the Revolution were in bondage. In the other Middle colonies the number was doubtless not so large; but it formed a considerable part of the population.

The story of this traffic in white servants is one of the most striking things in the history of labor. Bondmen differed from the serfs of the feudal age in that they were not bound to the soil but to the master. They likewise differed from the negro slaves in that their servitude had a time limit. Still they were subject to many special disabilities. It was, for instance, a common practice to impose on them penalties far heavier than were imposed upon freemen for the same offense. A free citizen of Pennsylvania who indulged in horse racing and gambling was let off with a fine; a white servant guilty of the same unlawful conduct was whipped at the post and fined as well.

The ordinary life of the white servant was also severely restricted. A bondman could not marry without his master's consent; nor engage in trade; nor refuse work assigned to him. For an attempt to escape or indeed for any infraction of the law, the term of service was extended. The condition of white bondmen in Virginia, according to Lodge, "was little better than that of slaves. Loose indentures and harsh laws put them at the mercy of their masters." It would not be unfair to add that such was their lot in all other colonies. Their fate depended upon the temper of their masters.

Cruel as was the system in many ways, it gave thousands of people in the Old World a chance to reach the New—an opportunity to wrestle with fate for freedom and a home of their own. When their weary years of servitude were over, if they survived, they might obtain land of their own or settle as free mechanics in the towns. For many a bondman the gamble proved to be a losing venture because he found himself unable to rise out of the state of poverty and dependence into which his servitude carried him. For thousands, on the contrary, bondage proved to be a real avenue to freedom and prosperity. Some of the best citizens of America have the blood of indentured servants in their veins.

The Transported—Involuntary Servitude.—In their anxiety to secure settlers, the companies and proprietors having colonies in America either resorted to or connived at the practice of kidnapping men, women, and children from the streets of English cities. In 1680 it was officially estimated that "ten thousand persons were spirited away" to America. Many of the victims of the practice were young children, for the traffic in them was highly profitable. Orphans and dependents were sometimes disposed of in America by relatives unwilling to support them. In a single year, 1627, about fifteen hundred children were shipped to Virginia.

In this gruesome business there lurked many tragedies, and very few romances. Parents were separated from their children and husbands from their wives. Hundreds of skilled artisans—carpenters, smiths, and weavers—utterly disappeared as if swallowed up by death. A few thus dragged off to the New World to be sold into servitude for a term of five or seven years later became prosperous and returned home with fortunes. In one case a young man who was forcibly carried over the sea lived to make his way back to England and establish his claim to a peerage.

Akin to the kidnapped, at least in economic position, were convicts deported to the colonies for life in lieu of fines and imprisonment. The Americans protested vigorously but ineffectually against this practice. Indeed, they exaggerated its evils, for many of the "criminals" were only mild offenders against unduly harsh and cruel laws. A peasant caught shooting a rabbit on a lord's estate or a luckless servant girl who purloined a pocket handkerchief was branded as a criminal along with sturdy thieves and incorrigible rascals. Other transported offenders were "political criminals"; that is, persons who criticized or opposed the government. This class included now Irish who revolted against British rule in Ireland; now Cavaliers who championed the king against the Puritan revolutionists; Puritans, in turn, dispatched after the monarchy was restored; and Scotch and English subjects in general who joined in political uprisings against the king.

The African Slaves.—Rivaling in numbers, in the course of time, the indentured servants and whites carried to America against their will were the African negroes brought to America and sold into slavery. When this form of bondage was first introduced into Virginia in 1619, it was looked upon as a temporary necessity to be discarded with the increase of the white population. Moreover it does not appear that those planters who first bought negroes at the auction block intended to establish a system of permanent bondage. Only by a slow process did chattel slavery take firm root and become recognized as the leading source of the labor supply. In 1650, thirty years after the introduction of slavery, there were only three hundred Africans in Virginia.

The great increase in later years was due in no small measure to the inordinate zeal for profits that seized slave traders both in Old and in New England. Finding it relatively easy to secure negroes in Africa, they crowded the Southern ports with their vessels. The English Royal African Company sent to America annually between 1713 and 1743 from five to ten thousand slaves. The ship owners of New England were not far behind their English brethren in pushing this extraordinary traffic.

As the proportion of the negroes to the free white population steadily rose, and as whole sections were overrun with slaves and slave traders, the Southern colonies grew alarmed. In 1710, Virginia sought to curtail the importation by placing a duty of £5 on each slave. This effort was futile, for the royal governor promptly vetoed it. From time to time similar bills were passed, only to meet with royal disapproval. South Carolina, in 1760, absolutely prohibited importation; but the measure was killed by the British crown. As late as 1772, Virginia, not daunted by a century of rebuffs, sent to George III a petition in this vein: "The importation of slaves into the colonies from the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade of great inhumanity and under its present encouragement, we have too much reason to fear, will endanger the very existence of Your Majesty's American dominions.... Deeply impressed with these sentiments, we most humbly beseech Your Majesty to remove all those restraints on Your Majesty's governors of this colony which inhibit their assenting to such laws as might check so very pernicious a commerce."

All such protests were without avail. The negro population grew by leaps and bounds, until on the eve of the Revolution it amounted to more than half a million. In five states—Maryland, Virginia, the two Carolinas, and Georgia—the slaves nearly equalled or actually exceeded the whites in number. In South Carolina they formed almost two-thirds of the population. Even in the Middle colonies of Delaware and Pennsylvania about one-fifth of the inhabitants were from Africa. To the North, the proportion of slaves steadily diminished although chattel servitude was on the same legal footing as in the South. In New York approximately one in six and in New England one in fifty were negroes, including a few freedmen.

The climate, the soil, the commerce, and the industry of the North were all unfavorable to the growth of a servile population. Still, slavery, though sectional, was a part of the national system of economy. Northern ships carried slaves to the Southern colonies and the produce of the plantations to Europe. "If the Northern states will consult their interest, they will not oppose the increase in slaves which will increase the commodities of which they will become the carriers," said John Rutledge, of South Carolina, in the convention which framed the Constitution of the United States. "What enriches a part enriches the whole and the states are the best judges of their particular interest," responded Oliver Ellsworth, the distinguished spokesman of Connecticut.


E. Charming, History of the United States, Vols. I and II.
J.A. Doyle, The English Colonies in America (5 vols.).
J. Fiske, Old Virginia and Her Neighbors (2 vols.).
A.B. Faust, The German Element in the United States (2 vols.).
H.J. Ford, The Scotch-Irish in America.
L. Tyler, England in America (American Nation Series).
R. Usher, The Pilgrims and Their History.


1. America has been called a nation of immigrants. Explain why.

2. Why were individuals unable to go alone to America in the beginning? What agencies made colonization possible? Discuss each of them.

3. Make a table of the colonies, showing the methods employed in their settlement.

4. Why were capital and leadership so very important in early colonization?

5. What is meant by the "melting pot"? What nationalities were represented among the early colonists?

6. Compare the way immigrants come to-day with the way they came in colonial times.

7. Contrast indentured servitude with slavery and serfdom.

8. Account for the anxiety of companies and proprietors to secure colonists.

9. What forces favored the heavy importation of slaves?

10. In what way did the North derive advantages from slavery?

Research Topics

The Chartered Company.—Compare the first and third charters of Virginia in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book of American History, 1606-1898, pp. 1-14. Analyze the first and second Massachusetts charters in Macdonald, pp. 22-84. Special reference: W.A.S. Hewins, English Trading Companies.

Congregations and Compacts for Self-government.—A study of the Mayflower Compact, the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut and the Fundamental Articles of New Haven in Macdonald, pp. 19, 36, 39. Reference: Charles Borgeaud, Rise of Modern Democracy, and C.S. Lobingier, The People's Law, Chaps. I-VII.

The Proprietary System.—Analysis of Penn's charter of 1681, in Macdonald, p. 80. Reference: Lodge, Short History of the English Colonies in America, p. 211.

Studies of Individual Colonies.—Review of outstanding events in history of each colony, using Elson, History of the United States, pp. 55-159, as the basis.

Biographical Studies.—John Smith, John Winthrop, William Penn, Lord Baltimore, William Bradford, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Hooker, and Peter Stuyvesant, using any good encyclopedia.

Indentured Servitude.—In Virginia, Lodge, Short History, pp. 69-72; in Pennsylvania, pp. 242-244. Contemporary account in Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 44-51. Special reference: Karl Geiser, Redemptioners and Indentured Servants (Yale Review, X, No. 2 Supplement).

Slavery.—In Virginia, Lodge, Short History, pp. 67-69; in the Northern colonies, pp. 241, 275, 322, 408, 442.

The People of the Colonies.—Virginia, Lodge, Short History, pp. 67-73; New England, pp. 406-409, 441-450; Pennsylvania, pp. 227-229, 240-250; New York, pp. 312-313, 322-335.



The Land and the Westward Movement

The Significance of Land Tenure.—The way in which land may be acquired, held, divided among heirs, and bought and sold exercises a deep influence on the life and culture of a people. The feudal and aristocratic societies of Europe were founded on a system of landlordism which was characterized by two distinct features. In the first place, the land was nearly all held in great estates, each owned by a single proprietor. In the second place, every estate was kept intact under the law of primogeniture, which at the death of a lord transferred all his landed property to his eldest son. This prevented the subdivision of estates and the growth of a large body of small farmers or freeholders owning their own land. It made a form of tenantry or servitude inevitable for the mass of those who labored on the land. It also enabled the landlords to maintain themselves in power as a governing class and kept the tenants and laborers subject to their economic and political control. If land tenure was so significant in Europe, it was equally important in the development of America, where practically all the first immigrants were forced by circumstances to derive their livelihood from the soil.

Experiments in Common Tillage.—In the New World, with its broad extent of land awaiting the white man's plow, it was impossible to introduce in its entirety and over the whole area the system of lords and tenants that existed across the sea. So it happened that almost every kind of experiment in land tenure, from communism to feudalism, was tried. In the early days of the Jamestown colony, the land, though owned by the London Company, was tilled in common by the settlers. No man had a separate plot of his own. The motto of the community was: "Labor and share alike." All were supposed to work in the fields and receive an equal share of the produce. At Plymouth, the Pilgrims attempted a similar experiment, laying out the fields in common and distributing the joint produce of their labor with rough equality among the workers.

In both colonies the communistic experiments were failures. Angry at the lazy men in Jamestown who idled their time away and yet expected regular meals, Captain John Smith issued a manifesto: "Everyone that gathereth not every day as much as I do, the next day shall be set beyond the river and forever banished from the fort and live there or starve." Even this terrible threat did not bring a change in production. Not until each man was given a plot of his own to till, not until each gathered the fruits of his own labor, did the colony prosper. In Plymouth, where the communal experiment lasted for five years, the results were similar to those in Virginia, and the system was given up for one of separate fields in which every person could "set corn for his own particular." Some other New England towns, refusing to profit by the experience of their Plymouth neighbor, also made excursions into common ownership and labor, only to abandon the idea and go in for individual ownership of the land. "By degrees it was seen that even the Lord's people could not carry the complicated communist legislation into perfect and wholesome practice."

Feudal Elements in the Colonies—Quit Rents, Manors, and Plantations.—At the other end of the scale were the feudal elements of land tenure found in the proprietary colonies, in the seaboard regions of the South, and to some extent in New York. The proprietor was in fact a powerful feudal lord, owning land granted to him by royal charter. He could retain any part of it for his personal use or dispose of it all in large or small lots. While he generally kept for himself an estate of baronial proportions, it was impossible for him to manage directly any considerable part of the land in his dominion. Consequently he either sold it in parcels for lump sums or granted it to individuals on condition that they make to him an annual payment in money, known as "quit rent." In Maryland, the proprietor sometimes collected as high as £9000 (equal to about $500,000 to-day) in a single year from this source. In Pennsylvania, the quit rents brought a handsome annual tribute into the exchequer of the Penn family. In the royal provinces, the king of England claimed all revenues collected in this form from the land, a sum amounting to £19,000 at the time of the Revolution. The quit rent,—"really a feudal payment from freeholders,"—was thus a material source of income for the crown as well as for the proprietors. Wherever it was laid, however, it proved to be a burden, a source of constant irritation; and it became a formidable item in the long list of grievances which led to the American Revolution.

Something still more like the feudal system of the Old World appeared in the numerous manors or the huge landed estates granted by the crown, the companies, or the proprietors. In the colony of Maryland alone there were sixty manors of three thousand acres each, owned by wealthy men and tilled by tenants holding small plots under certain restrictions of tenure. In New York also there were many manors of wide extent, most of which originated in the days of the Dutch West India Company, when extensive concessions were made to patroons to induce them to bring over settlers. The Van Rensselaer, the Van Cortlandt, and the Livingston manors were so large and populous that each was entitled to send a representative to the provincial legislature. The tenants on the New York manors were in somewhat the same position as serfs on old European estates. They were bound to pay the owner a rent in money and kind; they ground their grain at his mill; and they were subject to his judicial power because he held court and meted out justice, in some instances extending to capital punishment.

The manors of New York or Maryland were, however, of slight consequence as compared with the vast plantations of the Southern seaboard—huge estates, far wider in expanse than many a European barony and tilled by slaves more servile than any feudal tenants. It must not be forgotten that this system of land tenure became the dominant feature of a large section and gave a decided bent to the economic and political life of America.

Southern Plantation Mansion
Southern Plantation Mansion

The Small Freehold.—In the upland regions of the South, however, and throughout most of the North, the drift was against all forms of servitude and tenantry and in the direction of the freehold; that is, the small farm owned outright and tilled by the possessor and his family. This was favored by natural circumstances and the spirit of the immigrants. For one thing, the abundance of land and the scarcity of labor made it impossible for the companies, the proprietors, or the crown to develop over the whole continent a network of vast estates. In many sections, particularly in New England, the climate, the stony soil, the hills, and the narrow valleys conspired to keep the farms within a moderate compass. For another thing, the English, Scotch-Irish, and German peasants, even if they had been tenants in the Old World, did not propose to accept permanent dependency of any kind in the New. If they could not get freeholds, they would not settle at all; thus they forced proprietors and companies to bid for their enterprise by selling land in small lots. So it happened that the freehold of modest proportions became the cherished unit of American farmers. The people who tilled the farms were drawn from every quarter of western Europe; but the freehold system gave a uniform cast to their economic and social life in America.

A New England Farmhouse
From an old print
A New England Farmhouse

Social Effects of Land Tenure.—Land tenure and the process of western settlement thus developed two distinct types of people engaged in the same pursuit—agriculture. They had a common tie in that they both cultivated the soil and possessed the local interest and independence which arise from that occupation. Their methods and their culture, however, differed widely.

The Southern planter, on his broad acres tilled by slaves, resembled the English landlord on his estates more than he did the colonial farmer who labored with his own hands in the fields and forests. He sold his rice and tobacco in large amounts directly to English factors, who took his entire crop in exchange for goods and cash. His fine clothes, silverware, china, and cutlery he bought in English markets. Loving the ripe old culture of the mother country, he often sent his sons to Oxford or Cambridge for their education. In short, he depended very largely for his prosperity and his enjoyment of life upon close relations with the Old World. He did not even need market towns in which to buy native goods, for they were made on his own plantation by his own artisans who were usually gifted slaves.

The economic condition of the small farmer was totally different. His crops were not big enough to warrant direct connection with English factors or the personal maintenance of a corps of artisans. He needed local markets, and they sprang up to meet the need. Smiths, hatters, weavers, wagon-makers, and potters at neighboring towns supplied him with the rough products of their native skill. The finer goods, bought by the rich planter in England, the small farmer ordinarily could not buy. His wants were restricted to staples like tea and sugar, and between him and the European market stood the merchant. His community was therefore more self-sufficient than the seaboard line of great plantations. It was more isolated, more provincial, more independent, more American. The planter faced the Old East. The farmer faced the New West.

The Westward Movement.—Yeoman and planter nevertheless were alike in one respect. Their land hunger was never appeased. Each had the eye of an expert for new and fertile soil; and so, north and south, as soon as a foothold was secured on the Atlantic coast, the current of migration set in westward, creeping through forests, across rivers, and over mountains. Many of the later immigrants, in their search for cheap lands, were compelled to go to the border; but in a large part the path breakers to the West were native Americans of the second and third generations. Explorers, fired by curiosity and the lure of the mysterious unknown, and hunters, fur traders, and squatters, following their own sweet wills, blazed the trail, opening paths and sending back stories of the new regions they traversed. Then came the regular settlers with lawful titles to the lands they had purchased, sometimes singly and sometimes in companies.

In Massachusetts, the westward movement is recorded in the founding of Springfield in 1636 and Great Barrington in 1725. By the opening of the eighteenth century the pioneers of Connecticut had pushed north and west until their outpost towns adjoined the Hudson Valley settlements. In New York, the inland movement was directed by the Hudson River to Albany, and from that old Dutch center it radiated in every direction, particularly westward through the Mohawk Valley. New Jersey was early filled to its borders, the beginnings of the present city of New Brunswick being made in 1681 and those of Trenton in 1685. In Pennsylvania, as in New York, the waterways determined the main lines of advance. Pioneers, pushing up through the valley of the Schuylkill, spread over the fertile lands of Berks and Lancaster counties, laying out Reading in 1748. Another current of migration was directed by the Susquehanna, and, in 1726, the first farmhouse was built on the bank where Harrisburg was later founded. Along the southern tier of counties a thin line of settlements stretched westward to Pittsburgh, reaching the upper waters of the Ohio while the colony was still under the Penn family.

In the South the westward march was equally swift. The seaboard was quickly occupied by large planters and their slaves engaged in the cultivation of tobacco and rice. The Piedmont Plateau, lying back from the coast all the way from Maryland to Georgia, was fed by two streams of migration, one westward from the sea and the other southward from the other colonies—Germans from Pennsylvania and Scotch-Irish furnishing the main supply. "By 1770, tide-water Virginia was full to overflowing and the 'back country' of the Blue Ridge and the Shenandoah was fully occupied. Even the mountain valleys ... were claimed by sturdy pioneers. Before the Declaration of Independence, the oncoming tide of home-seekers had reached the crest of the Alleghanies."

Distribution of Population, 1790

Beyond the mountains pioneers had already ventured, harbingers of an invasion that was about to break in upon Kentucky and Tennessee. As early as 1769 that mighty Nimrod, Daniel Boone, curious to hunt buffaloes, of which he had heard weird reports, passed through the Cumberland Gap and brought back news of a wonderful country awaiting the plow. A hint was sufficient. Singly, in pairs, and in groups, settlers followed the trail he had blazed. A great land corporation, the Transylvania Company, emulating the merchant adventurers of earlier times, secured a huge grant of territory and sought profits in quit rents from lands sold to farmers. By the outbreak of the Revolution there were several hundred people in the Kentucky region. Like the older colonists, they did not relish quit rents, and their opposition wrecked the Transylvania Company. They even carried their protests into the Continental Congress in 1776, for by that time they were our "embryo fourteenth colony."

Industrial and Commercial Development

Though the labor of the colonists was mainly spent in farming, there was a steady growth in industrial and commercial pursuits. Most of the staple industries of to-day, not omitting iron and textiles, have their beginnings in colonial times. Manufacturing and trade soon gave rise to towns which enjoyed an importance all out of proportion to their numbers. The great centers of commerce and finance on the seaboard originated in the days when the king of England was "lord of these dominions."

Domestic Industry: Dipping Tallow Candles
Domestic Industry: Dipping Tallow Candles

Textile Manufacture as a Domestic Industry.—Colonial women, in addition to sharing every hardship of pioneering, often the heavy labor of the open field, developed in the course of time a national industry which was almost exclusively their own. Wool and flax were raised in abundance in the North and South. "Every farm house," says Coman, the economic historian, "was a workshop where the women spun and wove the serges, kerseys, and linsey-woolseys which served for the common wear." By the close of the seventeenth century, New England manufactured cloth in sufficient quantities to export it to the Southern colonies and to the West Indies. As the industry developed, mills were erected for the more difficult process of dyeing, weaving, and fulling, but carding and spinning continued to be done in the home. The Dutch of New Netherland, the Swedes of Delaware, and the Scotch-Irish of the interior "were not one whit behind their Yankee neighbors."

The importance of this enterprise to British economic life can hardly be overestimated. For many a century the English had employed their fine woolen cloth as the chief staple in a lucrative foreign trade, and the government had come to look upon it as an object of special interest and protection. When the colonies were established, both merchants and statesmen naturally expected to maintain a monopoly of increasing value; but before long the Americans, instead of buying cloth, especially of the coarser varieties, were making it to sell. In the place of customers, here were rivals. In the place of helpless reliance upon English markets, here was the germ of economic independence.

If British merchants had not discovered it in the ordinary course of trade, observant officers in the provinces would have conveyed the news to them. Even in the early years of the eighteenth century the royal governor of New York wrote of the industrious Americans to his home government: "The consequence will be that if they can clothe themselves once, not only comfortably, but handsomely too, without the help of England, they who already are not very fond of submitting to government will soon think of putting in execution designs they have long harboured in their breasts. This will not seem strange when you consider what sort of people this country is inhabited by."

The Iron Industry.—Almost equally widespread was the art of iron working—one of the earliest and most picturesque of colonial industries. Lynn, Massachusetts, had a forge and skilled artisans within fifteen years after the founding of Boston. The smelting of iron began at New London and New Haven about 1658; in Litchfield county, Connecticut, a few years later; at Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1731; and near by at Lenox some thirty years after that. New Jersey had iron works at Shrewsbury within ten years after the founding of the colony in 1665. Iron forges appeared in the valleys of the Delaware and the Susquehanna early in the following century, and iron masters then laid the foundations of fortunes in a region destined to become one of the great iron centers of the world. Virginia began iron working in the year that saw the introduction of slavery. Although the industry soon lapsed, it was renewed and flourished in the eighteenth century. Governor Spotswood was called the "Tubal Cain" of the Old Dominion because he placed the industry on a firm foundation. Indeed it seems that every colony, except Georgia, had its iron foundry. Nails, wire, metallic ware, chains, anchors, bar and pig iron were made in large quantities; and Great Britain, by an act in 1750, encouraged the colonists to export rough iron to the British Islands.

Shipbuilding.—Of all the specialized industries in the colonies, shipbuilding was the most important. The abundance of fir for masts, oak for timbers and boards, pitch for tar and turpentine, and hemp for rope made the way of the shipbuilder easy. Early in the seventeenth century a ship was built at New Amsterdam, and by the middle of that century shipyards were scattered along the New England coast at Newburyport, Salem, New Bedford, Newport, Providence, New London, and New Haven. Yards at Albany and Poughkeepsie in New York built ships for the trade of that colony with England and the Indies. Wilmington and Philadelphia soon entered the race and outdistanced New York, though unable to equal the pace set by New England. While Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina also built ships, Southern interest was mainly confined to the lucrative business of producing ship materials: fir, cedar, hemp, and tar.

Fishing.—The greatest single economic resource of New England outside of agriculture was the fisheries. This industry, started by hardy sailors from Europe, long before the landing of the Pilgrims, flourished under the indomitable seamanship of the Puritans, who labored with the net and the harpoon in almost every quarter of the Atlantic. "Look," exclaimed Edmund Burke, in the House of Commons, "at the manner in which the people of New England have of late carried on the whale fishery. Whilst we follow them among the tumbling mountains of ice and behold them penetrating into the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson's Bay and Davis's Straits, while we are looking for them beneath the arctic circle, we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of polar cold, that they are at the antipodes and engaged under the frozen serpent of the south.... Nor is the equinoctial heat more discouraging to them than the accumulated winter of both poles. We know that, whilst some of them draw the line and strike the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude and pursue their gigantic game along the coast of Brazil. No sea but what is vexed by their fisheries. No climate that is not witness to their toils. Neither the perseverance of Holland nor the activity of France nor the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enterprise ever carried this most perilous mode of hard industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by this recent people."

The influence of the business was widespread. A large and lucrative European trade was built upon it. The better quality of the fish caught for food was sold in the markets of Spain, Portugal, and Italy, or exchanged for salt, lemons, and raisins for the American market. The lower grades of fish were carried to the West Indies for slave consumption, and in part traded for sugar and molasses, which furnished the raw materials for the thriving rum industry of New England. These activities, in turn, stimulated shipbuilding, steadily enlarging the demand for fishing and merchant craft of every kind and thus keeping the shipwrights, calkers, rope makers, and other artisans of the seaport towns rushed with work. They also increased trade with the mother country for, out of the cash collected in the fish markets of Europe and the West Indies, the colonists paid for English manufactures. So an ever-widening circle of American enterprise centered around this single industry, the nursery of seamanship and the maritime spirit.

Oceanic Commerce and American Merchants.—All through the eighteenth century, the commerce of the American colonies spread in every direction until it rivaled in the number of people employed, the capital engaged, and the profits gleaned, the commerce of European nations. A modern historian has said: "The enterprising merchants of New England developed a network of trade routes that covered well-nigh half the world." This commerce, destined to be of such significance in the conflict with the mother country, presented, broadly speaking, two aspects.

On the one side, it involved the export of raw materials and agricultural produce. The Southern colonies produced for shipping, tobacco, rice, tar, pitch, and pine; the Middle colonies, grain, flour, furs, lumber, and salt pork; New England, fish, flour, rum, furs, shoes, and small articles of manufacture. The variety of products was in fact astounding. A sarcastic writer, while sneering at the idea of an American union, once remarked of colonial trade: "What sort of dish will you make? New England will throw in fish and onions. The middle states, flax-seed and flour. Maryland and Virginia will add tobacco. North Carolina, pitch, tar, and turpentine. South Carolina, rice and indigo, and Georgia will sprinkle the whole composition with sawdust. Such an absurd jumble will you make if you attempt to form a union among such discordant materials as the thirteen British provinces."

On the other side, American commerce involved the import trade, consisting principally of English and continental manufactures, tea, and "India goods." Sugar and molasses, brought from the West Indies, supplied the flourishing distilleries of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The carriage of slaves from Africa to the Southern colonies engaged hundreds of New England's sailors and thousands of pounds of her capital.

The disposition of imported goods in the colonies, though in part controlled by English factors located in America, employed also a large and important body of American merchants like the Willings and Morrises of Philadelphia; the Amorys, Hancocks, and Faneuils of Boston; and the Livingstons and Lows of New York. In their zeal and enterprise, they were worthy rivals of their English competitors, so celebrated for world-wide commercial operations. Though fully aware of the advantages they enjoyed in British markets and under the protection of the British navy, the American merchants were high-spirited and mettlesome, ready to contend with royal officers in order to shield American interests against outside interference.

The Dutch West India Warehouse in New Amsterdam (New York City)
The Dutch West India Warehouse in New Amsterdam (New York City)

Measured against the immense business of modern times, colonial commerce seems perhaps trivial. That, however, is not the test of its significance. It must be considered in relation to the growth of English colonial trade in its entirety—a relation which can be shown by a few startling figures. The whole export trade of England, including that to the colonies, was, in 1704, £6,509,000. On the eve of the American Revolution, namely, in 1772, English exports to the American colonies alone amounted to £6,024,000; in other words, almost as much as the whole foreign business of England two generations before. At the first date, colonial trade was but one-twelfth of the English export business; at the second date, it was considerably more than one-third. In 1704, Pennsylvania bought in English markets goods to the value of £11,459; in 1772 the purchases of the same colony amounted to £507,909. In short, Pennsylvania imports increased fifty times within sixty-eight years, amounting in 1772 to almost the entire export trade of England to the colonies at the opening of the century. The American colonies were indeed a great source of wealth to English merchants.

Intercolonial Commerce.—Although the bad roads of colonial times made overland transportation difficult and costly, the many rivers and harbors along the coast favored a lively water-borne trade among the colonies. The Connecticut, Hudson, Delaware, and Susquehanna rivers in the North and the many smaller rivers in the South made it possible for goods to be brought from, and carried to, the interior regions in little sailing vessels with comparative ease. Sloops laden with manufactures, domestic and foreign, collected at some city like Providence, New York, or Philadelphia, skirted the coasts, visited small ports, and sailed up the navigable rivers to trade with local merchants who had for exchange the raw materials which they had gathered in from neighboring farms. Larger ships carried the grain, live stock, cloth, and hardware of New England to the Southern colonies, where they were traded for tobacco, leather, tar, and ship timber. From the harbors along the Connecticut shores there were frequent sailings down through Long Island Sound to Maryland, Virginia, and the distant Carolinas.

Growth of Towns.—In connection with this thriving trade and industry there grew up along the coast a number of prosperous commercial centers which were soon reckoned among the first commercial towns of the whole British empire, comparing favorably in numbers and wealth with such ports as Liverpool and Bristol. The statistical records of that time are mainly guesses; but we know that Philadelphia stood first in size among these towns. Serving as the port of entry for Pennsylvania, Delaware, and western Jersey, it had drawn within its borders, just before the Revolution, about 25,000 inhabitants. Boston was second in rank, with somewhat more than 20,000 people. New York, the "commercial capital of Connecticut and old East Jersey," was slightly smaller than Boston, but growing at a steady rate. The fourth town in size was Charleston, South Carolina, with about 10,000 inhabitants. Newport in Rhode Island, a center of rum manufacture and shipping, stood fifth, with a population of about 7000. Baltimore and Norfolk were counted as "considerable towns." In the interior, Hartford in Connecticut, Lancaster and York in Pennsylvania, and Albany in New York, with growing populations and increasing trade, gave prophecy of an urban America away from the seaboard. The other towns were straggling villages. Williamsburg, Virginia, for example, had about two hundred houses, in which dwelt a dozen families of the gentry and a few score of tradesmen. Inland county seats often consisted of nothing more than a log courthouse, a prison, and one wretched inn to house judges, lawyers, and litigants during the sessions of the court.

The leading towns exercised an influence on colonial opinion all out of proportion to their population. They were the centers of wealth, for one thing; of the press and political activity, for another. Merchants and artisans could readily take concerted action on public questions arising from their commercial operations. The towns were also centers for news, gossip, religious controversy, and political discussion. In the market places the farmers from the countryside learned of British policies and laws, and so, mingling with the townsmen, were drawn into the main currents of opinion which set in toward colonial nationalism and independence.


J. Bishop, History of American Manufactures (2 vols.).

E.L. Bogart, Economic History of the United States.

P.A. Bruce, Economic History of Virginia (2 vols.).

E. Semple, American History and Its Geographical Conditions.

W. Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England. (2 vols.).


1. Is land in your community parceled out into small farms? Contrast the system in your community with the feudal system of land tenure.

2. Are any things owned and used in common in your community? Why did common tillage fail in colonial times?

3. Describe the elements akin to feudalism which were introduced in the colonies.

4. Explain the success of freehold tillage.

5. Compare the life of the planter with that of the farmer.

6. How far had the western frontier advanced by 1776?

7. What colonial industry was mainly developed by women? Why was it very important both to the Americans and to the English?

8. What were the centers for iron working? Ship building?

9. Explain how the fisheries affected many branches of trade and industry.

10. Show how American trade formed a vital part of English business.

11. How was interstate commerce mainly carried on?

12. What were the leading towns? Did they compare in importance with British towns of the same period?

Research Topics

Land Tenure.—Coman, Industrial History (rev. ed.), pp. 32-38. Special reference: Bruce, Economic History of Virginia, Vol. I, Chap. VIII.

Tobacco Planting in Virginia.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 22-28.

Colonial Agriculture.—Coman, pp. 48-63. Callender, pp. 69-74. Reference: J.R.H. Moore, Industrial History of the American People, pp. 131-162.

Colonial Manufactures.—Coman, pp. 63-73. Callender, pp. 29-44. Special reference: Weeden, Economic and Social History of New England.

Colonial Commerce.—Coman, pp. 73-85. Callender, pp. 51-63, 78-84. Moore, pp. 163-208. Lodge, Short History of the English Colonies, pp. 409-412, 229-231, 312-314.

Chapter III


Colonial life, crowded as it was with hard and unremitting toil, left scant leisure for the cultivation of the arts and sciences. There was little money in private purses or public treasuries to be dedicated to schools, libraries, and museums. Few there were with time to read long and widely, and fewer still who could devote their lives to things that delight the eye and the mind. And yet, poor and meager as the intellectual life of the colonists may seem by way of comparison, heroic efforts were made in every community to lift the people above the plane of mere existence. After the first clearings were opened in the forests those efforts were redoubled, and with lengthening years told upon the thought and spirit of the land. The appearance, during the struggle with England, of an extraordinary group of leaders familiar with history, political philosophy, and the arts of war, government, and diplomacy itself bore eloquent testimony to the high quality of the American intellect. No one, not even the most critical, can run through the writings of distinguished Americans scattered from Massachusetts to Georgia—the Adamses, Ellsworth, the Morrises, the Livingstons, Hamilton, Franklin, Washington, Madison, Marshall, Henry, the Randolphs, and the Pinckneys—without coming to the conclusion that there was something in American colonial life which fostered minds of depth and power. Women surmounted even greater difficulties than the men in the process of self-education, and their keen interest in public issues is evident in many a record like the Letters of Mrs. John Adams to her husband during the Revolution; the writings of Mrs. Mercy Otis Warren, the sister of James Otis, who measured her pen with the British propagandists; and the patriot newspapers founded and managed by women.

The Leadership of the Churches

In the intellectual life of America, the churches assumed a rôle of high importance. There were abundant reasons for this. In many of the colonies—Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New England—the religious impulse had been one of the impelling motives in stimulating immigration. In all the colonies, the clergy, at least in the beginning, formed the only class with any leisure to devote to matters of the spirit. They preached on Sundays and taught school on week days. They led in the discussion of local problems and in the formation of political opinion, so much of which was concerned with the relation between church and state. They wrote books and pamphlets. They filled most of the chairs in the colleges; under clerical guidance, intellectual and spiritual, the Americans received their formal education. In several of the provinces the Anglican Church was established by law. In New England the Puritans were supreme, notwithstanding the efforts of the crown to overbear their authority. In the Middle colonies, particularly, the multiplication of sects made the dominance of any single denomination impossible; and in all of them there was a growing diversity of faith, which promised in time a separation of church and state and freedom of opinion.

The Church of England.—Virginia was the stronghold of the English system of church and state. The Anglican faith and worship were prescribed by law, sustained by taxes imposed on all, and favored by the governor, the provincial councilors, and the richest planters. "The Established Church," says Lodge, "was one of the appendages of the Virginia aristocracy. They controlled the vestries and the ministers, and the parish church stood not infrequently on the estate of the planter who built and managed it." As in England, Catholics and Protestant Dissenters were at first laid under heavy disabilities. Only slowly and on sufferance were they admitted to the province; but when once they were even covertly tolerated, they pressed steadily in, until, by the Revolution, they outnumbered the adherents of the established order.

The Church was also sanctioned by law and supported by taxes in the Carolinas after 1704, and in Georgia after that colony passed directly under the crown in 1754—this in spite of the fact that the majority of the inhabitants were Dissenters. Against the protests of the Catholics it was likewise established in Maryland. In New York, too, notwithstanding the resistance of the Dutch, the Established Church was fostered by the provincial officials, and the Anglicans, embracing about one-fifteenth of the population, exerted an influence all out of proportion to their numbers.

Many factors helped to enhance the power of the English Church in the colonies. It was supported by the British government and the official class sent out to the provinces. Its bishops and archbishops in England were appointed by the king, and its faith and service were set forth by acts of Parliament. Having its seat of power in the English monarchy, it could hold its clergy and missionaries loyal to the crown and so counteract to some extent the independent spirit that was growing up in America. The Church, always a strong bulwark of the state, therefore had a political rôle to play here as in England. Able bishops and far-seeing leaders firmly grasped this fact about the middle of the eighteenth century and redoubled their efforts to augment the influence of the Church in provincial affairs. Unhappily for their plans they failed to calculate in advance the effect of their methods upon dissenting Protestants, who still cherished memories of bitter religious conflicts in the mother country.

Puritanism in New England.—If the established faith made for imperial unity, the same could not be said of Puritanism. The Plymouth Pilgrims had cast off all allegiance to the Anglican Church and established a separate and independent congregation before they came to America. The Puritans, essaying at first the task of reformers within the Church, soon after their arrival in Massachusetts, likewise flung off their yoke of union with the Anglicans. In each town a separate congregation was organized, the male members choosing the pastor, the teachers, and the other officers. They also composed the voters in the town meeting, where secular matters were determined. The union of church and government was thus complete, and uniformity of faith and life prescribed by law and enforced by civil authorities; but this worked for local autonomy instead of imperial unity.

The clergy became a powerful class, dominant through their learning and their fearful denunciations of the faithless. They wrote the books for the people to read—the famous Cotton Mather having three hundred and eighty-three books and pamphlets to his credit. In coöperation with the civil officers they enforced a strict observance of the Puritan Sabbath—a day of rest that began at six o'clock on Saturday evening and lasted until sunset on Sunday. All work, all trading, all amusement, and all worldly conversation were absolutely prohibited during those hours. A thoughtless maid servant who for some earthly reason smiled in church was in danger of being banished as a vagabond. Robert Pike, a devout Puritan, thinking the sun had gone to rest, ventured forth on horseback one Sunday evening and was luckless enough to have a ray of light strike him through a rift in the clouds. The next day he was brought into court and fined for "his ungodly conduct." With persons accused of witchcraft the Puritans were still more ruthless. When a mania of persecution swept over Massachusetts in 1692, eighteen people were hanged, one was pressed to death, many suffered imprisonment, and two died in jail.

Just about this time, however, there came a break in the uniformity of Puritan rule. The crown and church in England had long looked upon it with disfavor, and in 1684 King Charles II annulled the old charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company. A new document issued seven years later wrested from the Puritans of the colony the right to elect their own governor and reserved the power of appointment to the king. It also abolished the rule limiting the suffrage to church members, substituting for it a simple property qualification. Thus a royal governor and an official family, certain to be Episcopalian in faith and monarchist in sympathies, were forced upon Massachusetts; and members of all religious denominations, if they had the required amount of property, were permitted to take part in elections. By this act in the name of the crown, the Puritan monopoly was broken down in Massachusetts, and that province was brought into line with Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, where property, not religious faith, was the test for the suffrage.

Growth of Religious Toleration.—Though neither the Anglicans of Virginia nor the Puritans of Massachusetts believed in toleration for other denominations, that principle was strictly applied in Rhode Island. There, under the leadership of Roger Williams, liberty in matters of conscience was established in the beginning. Maryland, by granting in 1649 freedom to those who professed to believe in Jesus Christ, opened its gates to all Christians; and Pennsylvania, true to the tenets of the Friends, gave freedom of conscience to those "who confess and acknowledge the one Almighty and Eternal God to be the creator, upholder, and ruler of the World." By one circumstance or another, the Middle colonies were thus early characterized by diversity rather than uniformity of opinion. Dutch Protestants, Huguenots, Quakers, Baptists, Presbyterians, New Lights, Moravians, Lutherans, Catholics, and other denominations became too strongly intrenched and too widely scattered to permit any one of them to rule, if it had desired to do so. There were communities and indeed whole sections where one or another church prevailed, but in no colony was a legislature steadily controlled by a single group. Toleration encouraged diversity, and diversity, in turn, worked for greater toleration.

The government and faith of the dissenting denominations conspired with economic and political tendencies to draw America away from the English state. Presbyterians, Quakers, Baptists, and Puritans had no hierarchy of bishops and archbishops to bind them to the seat of power in London. Neither did they look to that metropolis for guidance in interpreting articles of faith. Local self-government in matters ecclesiastical helped to train them for local self-government in matters political. The spirit of independence which led Dissenters to revolt in the Old World, nourished as it was amid favorable circumstances in the New World, made them all the more zealous in the defense of every right against authority imposed from without.

Schools and Colleges

Religion and Local Schools.—One of the first cares of each Protestant denomination was the education of the children in the faith. In this work the Bible became the center of interest. The English version was indeed the one book of the people. Farmers, shopkeepers, and artisans, whose life had once been bounded by the daily routine of labor, found in the Scriptures not only an inspiration to religious conduct, but also a book of romance, travel, and history. "Legend and annal," says John Richard Green, "war-song and psalm, state-roll and biography, the mighty voices of prophets, the parables of Evangelists, stories of mission journeys, of perils by sea and among the heathen, philosophic arguments, apocalyptic visions, all were flung broadcast over minds unoccupied for the most part by any rival learning.... As a mere literary monument, the English version of the Bible remains the noblest example of the English tongue." It was the King James version just from the press that the Pilgrims brought across the sea with them.

A Page from a Famous Schoolbook
A Page from a Famous Schoolbook

For the authority of the Established Church was substituted the authority of the Scriptures. The Puritans devised a catechism based upon their interpretation of the Bible, and, very soon after their arrival in America, they ordered all parents and masters of servants to be diligent in seeing that their children and wards were taught to read religious works and give answers to the religious questions. Massachusetts was scarcely twenty years old before education of this character was declared to be compulsory, and provision was made for public schools where those not taught at home could receive instruction in reading and writing.

Outside of New England the idea of compulsory education was not regarded with the same favor; but the whole land was nevertheless dotted with little schools kept by "dames, itinerant teachers, or local parsons." Whether we turn to the life of Franklin in the North or Washington in the South, we read of tiny schoolhouses, where boys, and sometimes girls, were taught to read and write. Where there were no schools, fathers and mothers of the better kind gave their children the rudiments of learning. Though illiteracy was widespread, there is evidence to show that the diffusion of knowledge among the masses was making steady progress all through the eighteenth century.

Religion and Higher Learning.—Religious motives entered into the establishment of colleges as well as local schools. Harvard, founded in 1636, and Yale, opened in 1718, were intended primarily to train "learned and godly ministers" for the Puritan churches of New England. To the far North, Dartmouth, chartered in 1769, was designed first as a mission to the Indians and then as a college for the sons of New England farmers preparing to preach, teach, or practice law. The College of New Jersey, organized in 1746 and removed to Princeton eleven years later, was sustained by the Presbyterians. Two colleges looked to the Established Church as their source of inspiration and support: William and Mary, founded in Virginia in 1693, and King's College, now Columbia University, chartered by King George II in 1754, on an appeal from the New York Anglicans, alarmed at the growth of religious dissent and the "republican tendencies" of the age. Two colleges revealed a drift away from sectarianism. Brown, established in Rhode Island in 1764, and the Philadelphia Academy, forerunner of the University of Pennsylvania, organized by Benjamin Franklin, reflected the spirit of toleration by giving representation on the board of trustees to several religious sects. It was Franklin's idea that his college should prepare young men to serve in public office as leaders of the people and ornaments to their country.

Self-education in America.—Important as were these institutions of learning, higher education was by no means confined within their walls. Many well-to-do families sent their sons to Oxford or Cambridge in England. Private tutoring in the home was common. In still more families there were intelligent children who grew up in the great colonial school of adversity and who trained themselves until, in every contest of mind and wit, they could vie with the sons of Harvard or William and Mary or any other college. Such, for example, was Benjamin Franklin, whose charming autobiography, in addition to being an American classic, is a fine record of self-education. His formal training in the classroom was limited to a few years at a local school in Boston; but his self-education continued throughout his life. He early manifested a zeal for reading, and devoured, he tells us, his father's dry library on theology, Bunyan's works, Defoe's writings, Plutarch's Lives, Locke's On the Human Understanding, and innumerable volumes dealing with secular subjects. His literary style, perhaps the best of his time, Franklin acquired by the diligent and repeated analysis of the Spectator. In a life crowded with labors, he found time to read widely in natural science and to win single-handed recognition at the hands of European savants for his discoveries in electricity. By his own efforts he "attained an acquaintance" with Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, thus unconsciously preparing himself for the day when he was to speak for all America at the court of the king of France.

Lesser lights than Franklin, educated by the same process, were found all over colonial America. From this fruitful source of native ability, self-educated, the American cause drew great strength in the trials of the Revolution.

The Colonial Press

The Rise of the Newspaper.—The evolution of American democracy into a government by public opinion, enlightened by the open discussion of political questions, was in no small measure aided by a free press. That too, like education, was a matter of slow growth. A printing press was brought to Massachusetts in 1639, but it was put in charge of an official censor and limited to the publication of religious works. Forty years elapsed before the first newspaper appeared, bearing the curious title, Public Occurrences Both Foreign and Domestic, and it had not been running very long before the government of Massachusetts suppressed it for discussing a political question.

Publishing, indeed, seemed to be a precarious business; but in 1704 there came a second venture in journalism, The Boston News-Letter, which proved to be a more lasting enterprise because it refrained from criticizing the authorities. Still the public interest languished. When Franklin's brother, James, began to issue his New England Courant about 1720, his friends sought to dissuade him, saying that one newspaper was enough for America. Nevertheless he continued it; and his confidence in the future was rewarded. In nearly every colony a gazette or chronicle appeared within the next thirty years or more. Benjamin Franklin was able to record in 1771 that America had twenty-five newspapers. Boston led with five. Philadelphia had three: two in English and one in German.

Censorship and Restraints on the Press.—The idea of printing, unlicensed by the government and uncontrolled by the church, was, however, slow in taking form. The founders of the American colonies had never known what it was to have the free and open publication of books, pamphlets, broadsides, and newspapers. When the art of printing was first discovered, the control of publishing was vested in clerical authorities. After the establishment of the State Church in England in the reign of Elizabeth, censorship of the press became a part of royal prerogative. Printing was restricted to Oxford, Cambridge, and London; and no one could publish anything without previous approval of the official censor. When the Puritans were in power, the popular party, with a zeal which rivaled that of the crown, sought, in turn, to silence royalist and clerical writers by a vigorous censorship. After the restoration of the monarchy, control of the press was once more placed in royal hands, where it remained until 1695, when Parliament, by failing to renew the licensing act, did away entirely with the official censorship. By that time political parties were so powerful and so active and printing presses were so numerous that official review of all published matter became a sheer impossibility.

In America, likewise, some troublesome questions arose in connection with freedom of the press. The Puritans of Massachusetts were no less anxious than King Charles or the Archbishop of London to shut out from the prying eyes of the people all literature "not mete for them to read"; and so they established a system of official licensing for presses, which lasted until 1755. In the other colonies where there was more diversity of opinion and publishers could set up in business with impunity, they were nevertheless constantly liable to arrest for printing anything displeasing to the colonial governments. In 1721 the editor of the Mercury in Philadelphia was called before the proprietary council and ordered to apologize for a political article, and for a later offense of a similar character he was thrown into jail. A still more famous case was that of Peter Zenger, a New York publisher, who was arrested in 1735 for criticising the administration. Lawyers who ventured to defend the unlucky editor were deprived of their licenses to practice, and it became necessary to bring an attorney all the way from Philadelphia. By this time the tension of feeling was high, and the approbation of the public was forthcoming when the lawyer for the defense exclaimed to the jury that the very cause of liberty itself, not that of the poor printer, was on trial! The verdict for Zenger, when it finally came, was the signal for an outburst of popular rejoicing. Already the people of King George's province knew how precious a thing is the freedom of the press.

Thanks to the schools, few and scattered as they were, and to the vigilance of parents, a very large portion, perhaps nearly one-half, of the colonists could read. Through the newspapers, pamphlets, and almanacs that streamed from the types, the people could follow the course of public events and grasp the significance of political arguments. An American opinion was in the process of making—an independent opinion nourished by the press and enriched by discussions around the fireside and at the taverns. When the day of resistance to British rule came, government by opinion was at hand. For every person who could hear the voice of Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams, there were a thousand who could see their appeals on the printed page. Men who had spelled out their letters while poring over Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac lived to read Thomas Paine's thrilling call to arms.

The Evolution in Political Institutions

Two very distinct lines of development appeared in colonial politics. The one, exalting royal rights and aristocratic privileges, was the drift toward provincial government through royal officers appointed in England. The other, leading toward democracy and self-government, was the growth in the power of the popular legislative assembly. Each movement gave impetus to the other, with increasing force during the passing years, until at last the final collision between the two ideals of government came in the war of independence.

The Royal Provinces.—Of the thirteen English colonies eight were royal provinces in 1776, with governors appointed by the king. Virginia passed under the direct rule of the crown in 1624, when the charter of the London Company was annulled. The Massachusetts Bay corporation lost its charter in 1684, and the new instrument granted seven years later stripped the colonists of the right to choose their chief executive. In the early decades of the eighteenth century both the Carolinas were given the provincial instead of the proprietary form. New Hampshire, severed from Massachusetts in 1679, and Georgia, surrendered by the trustees in 1752, went into the hands of the crown. New York, transferred to the Duke of York on its capture from the Dutch in 1664, became a province when he took the title of James II in 1685. New Jersey, after remaining for nearly forty years under proprietors, was brought directly under the king in 1702. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, although they retained their proprietary character until the Revolution, were in some respects like the royal colonies, for their governors were as independent of popular choice as were the appointees of King George. Only two colonies, Rhode Island and Connecticut, retained full self-government on the eve of the Revolution. They alone had governors and legislatures entirely of their own choosing.

The chief officer of the royal province was the governor, who enjoyed high and important powers which he naturally sought to augment at every turn. He enforced the laws and, usually with the consent of a council, appointed the civil and military officers. He granted pardons and reprieves; he was head of the highest court; he was commander-in-chief of the militia; he levied troops for defense and enforced martial law in time of invasion, war, and rebellion. In all the provinces, except Massachusetts, he named the councilors who composed the upper house of the legislature and was likely to choose those who favored his claims. He summoned, adjourned, and dissolved the popular assembly, or the lower house; he laid before it the projects of law desired by the crown; and he vetoed measures which he thought objectionable. Here were in America all the elements of royal prerogative against which Hampden had protested and Cromwell had battled in England.

The Royal Governor's Palace at New Berne
The Royal Governor's Palace at New Berne

The colonial governors were generally surrounded by a body of office-seekers and hunters for land grants. Some of them were noblemen of broken estates who had come to America to improve their fortunes. The pretensions of this circle grated on colonial nerves, and privileges granted to them, often at the expense of colonists, did much to deepen popular antipathy to the British government. Favors extended to adherents of the Established Church displeased Dissenters. The reappearance of this formidable union of church and state, from which they had fled, stirred anew the ancient wrath against that combination.

The Colonial Assembly.—Coincident with the drift toward administration through royal governors was the second and opposite tendency, namely, a steady growth in the practice of self-government. The voters of England had long been accustomed to share in taxation and law-making through representatives in Parliament, and the idea was early introduced in America. Virginia was only twelve years old (1619) when its first representative assembly appeared. As the towns of Massachusetts multiplied and it became impossible for all the members of the corporation to meet at one place, the representative idea was adopted, in 1633. The river towns of Connecticut formed a representative system under their "Fundamental Orders" of 1639, and the entire colony was given a royal charter in 1662. Generosity, as well as practical considerations, induced such proprietors as Lord Baltimore and William Penn to invite their colonists to share in the government as soon as any considerable settlements were made. Thus by one process or another every one of the colonies secured a popular assembly.

It is true that in the provision for popular elections, the suffrage was finally restricted to property owners or taxpayers, with a leaning toward the freehold qualification. In Virginia, the rural voter had to be a freeholder owning at least fifty acres of land, if there was no house on it, or twenty-five acres with a house twenty-five feet square. In Massachusetts, the voter for member of the assembly under the charter of 1691 had to be a freeholder of an estate worth forty shillings a year at least or of other property to the value of forty pounds sterling. In Pennsylvania, the suffrage was granted to freeholders owning fifty acres or more of land well seated, twelve acres cleared, and to other persons worth at least fifty pounds in lawful money.

Restrictions like these undoubtedly excluded from the suffrage a very considerable number of men, particularly the mechanics and artisans of the towns, who were by no means content with their position. Nevertheless, it was relatively easy for any man to acquire a small freehold, so cheap and abundant was land; and in fact a large proportion of the colonists were land owners. Thus the assemblies, in spite of the limited suffrage, acquired a democratic tone.

The popular character of the assemblies increased as they became engaged in battles with the royal and proprietary governors. When called upon by the executive to make provision for the support of the administration, the legislature took advantage of the opportunity to make terms in the interest of the taxpayers. It made annual, not permanent, grants of money to pay official salaries and then insisted upon electing a treasurer to dole it out. Thus the colonists learned some of the mysteries of public finance, as well as the management of rapacious officials. The legislature also used its power over money grants to force the governor to sign bills which he would otherwise have vetoed.

Contests between Legislatures and Governors.—As may be imagined, many and bitter were the contests between the royal and proprietary governors and the colonial assemblies. Franklin relates an amusing story of how the Pennsylvania assembly held in one hand a bill for the executive to sign and, in the other hand, the money to pay his salary. Then, with sly humor, Franklin adds: "Do not, my courteous reader, take pet at our proprietary constitution for these our bargain and sale proceedings in legislation. It is a happy country where justice and what was your own before can be had for ready money. It is another addition to the value of money and of course another spur to industry. Every land is not so blessed."

It must not be thought, however, that every governor got off as easily as Franklin's tale implies. On the contrary, the legislatures, like Cæsar, fed upon meat that made them great and steadily encroached upon executive prerogatives as they tried out and found their strength. If we may believe contemporary laments, the power of the crown in America was diminishing when it was struck down altogether. In New York, the friends of the governor complained in 1747 that "the inhabitants of plantations are generally educated in republican principles; upon republican principles all is conducted. Little more than a shadow of royal authority remains in the Northern colonies." "Here," echoed the governor of South Carolina, the following year, "levelling principles prevail; the frame of the civil government is unhinged; a governor, if he would be idolized, must betray his trust; the people have got their whole administration in their hands; the election of the members of the assembly is by ballot; not civil posts only, but all ecclesiastical preferments, are in the disposal or election of the people."

Though baffled by the "levelling principles" of the colonial assemblies, the governors did not give up the case as hopeless. Instead they evolved a system of policy and action which they thought could bring the obstinate provincials to terms. That system, traceable in their letters to the government in London, consisted of three parts: (1) the royal officers in the colonies were to be made independent of the legislatures by taxes imposed by acts of Parliament; (2) a British standing army was to be maintained in America; (3) the remaining colonial charters were to be revoked and government by direct royal authority was to be enlarged.

Such a system seemed plausible enough to King George III and to many ministers of the crown in London. With governors, courts, and an army independent of the colonists, they imagined it would be easy to carry out both royal orders and acts of Parliament. This reasoning seemed both practical and logical. Nor was it founded on theory, for it came fresh from the governors themselves. It was wanting in one respect only. It failed to take account of the fact that the American people were growing strong in the practice of self-government and could dispense with the tutelage of the British ministry, no matter how excellent it might be or how benevolent its intentions.


A.M. Earle, Home Life in Colonial Days.

A.L. Cross, The Anglican Episcopate and the American Colonies (Harvard Studies).

E.G. Dexter, History of Education in the United States.

C.A. Duniway, Freedom of the Press in Massachusetts.

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography.

E.B. Greene, The Provincial Governor (Harvard Studies).

A.E. McKinley, The Suffrage Franchise in the Thirteen English Colonies (Pennsylvania University Studies).

M.C. Tyler, History of American Literature during the Colonial Times (2 vols.).


1. Why is leisure necessary for the production of art and literature? How may leisure be secured?

2. Explain the position of the church in colonial life.

3. Contrast the political rôles of Puritanism and the Established Church.

4. How did diversity of opinion work for toleration?

5. Show the connection between religion and learning in colonial times.

6. Why is a "free press" such an important thing to American democracy?

7. Relate some of the troubles of early American publishers.

8. Give the undemocratic features of provincial government.

9. How did the colonial assemblies help to create an independent American spirit, in spite of a restricted suffrage?

10. Explain the nature of the contests between the governors and the legislatures.

Research Topics

Religious and Intellectual Life.—Lodge, Short History of the English Colonies: (1) in New England, pp. 418-438, 465-475; (2) in Virginia, pp. 54-61, 87-89; (3) in Pennsylvania, pp. 232-237, 253-257; (4) in New York, pp. 316-321. Interesting source materials in Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. II, pp. 255-275, 276-290.

The Government of a Royal Province, Virginia.—Lodge, pp. 43-50. Special Reference: E.B. Greene, The Provincial Governor (Harvard Studies).

The Government of a Proprietary Colony, Pennsylvania.—Lodge, pp. 230-232.

Government in New England.—Lodge, pp. 412-417.

The Colonial Press.—Special Reference: G.H. Payne, History of Journalism in the United States (1920).

Colonial Life in General.—John Fiske, Old Virginia and Her Neighbors, Vol. II, pp. 174-269; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 197-210.

Colonial Government in General.—Elson, pp. 210-216.



It is one of the well-known facts of history that a people loosely united by domestic ties of a political and economic nature, even a people torn by domestic strife, may be welded into a solid and compact body by an attack from a foreign power. The imperative call to common defense, the habit of sharing common burdens, the fusing force of common service—these things, induced by the necessity of resisting outside interference, act as an amalgam drawing together all elements, except, perhaps, the most discordant. The presence of the enemy allays the most virulent of quarrels, temporarily at least. "Politics," runs an old saying, "stops at the water's edge."

This ancient political principle, so well understood in diplomatic circles, applied nearly as well to the original thirteen American colonies as to the countries of Europe. The necessity for common defense, if not equally great, was certainly always pressing. Though it has long been the practice to speak of the early settlements as founded in "a wilderness," this was not actually the case. From the earliest days of Jamestown on through the years, the American people were confronted by dangers from without. All about their tiny settlements were Indians, growing more and more hostile as the frontier advanced and as sharp conflicts over land aroused angry passions. To the south and west was the power of Spain, humiliated, it is true, by the disaster to the Armada, but still presenting an imposing front to the British empire. To the north and west were the French, ambitious, energetic, imperial in temper, and prepared to contest on land and water the advance of British dominion in America.

Relations with the Indians and the French

Indian Affairs.—It is difficult to make general statements about the relations of the colonists to the Indians. The problem was presented in different shape in different sections of America. It was not handled according to any coherent or uniform plan by the British government, which alone could speak for all the provinces at the same time. Neither did the proprietors and the governors who succeeded one another, in an irregular train, have the consistent policy or the matured experience necessary for dealing wisely with Indian matters. As the difficulties arose mainly on the frontiers, where the restless and pushing pioneers were making their way with gun and ax, nearly everything that happened was the result of chance rather than of calculation. A personal quarrel between traders and an Indian, a jug of whisky, a keg of gunpowder, the exchange of guns for furs, personal treachery, or a flash of bad temper often set in motion destructive forces of the most terrible character.

On one side of the ledger may be set innumerable generous records—of Squanto and Samoset teaching the Pilgrims the ways of the wilds; of Roger Williams buying his lands from the friendly natives; or of William Penn treating with them on his arrival in America. On the other side of the ledger must be recorded many a cruel and bloody conflict as the frontier rolled westward with deadly precision. The Pequots on the Connecticut border, sensing their doom, fell upon the tiny settlements with awful fury in 1637 only to meet with equally terrible punishment. A generation later, King Philip, son of Massasoit, the friend of the Pilgrims, called his tribesmen to a war of extermination which brought the strength of all New England to the field and ended in his own destruction. In New York, the relations with the Indians, especially with the Algonquins and the Mohawks, were marked by periodic and desperate wars. Virginia and her Southern neighbors suffered as did New England. In 1622 Opecacano, a brother of Powhatan, the friend of the Jamestown settlers, launched a general massacre; and in 1644 he attempted a war of extermination. In 1675 the whole frontier was ablaze. Nathaniel Bacon vainly attempted to stir the colonial governor to put up an adequate defense and, failing in that plea, himself headed a revolt and a successful expedition against the Indians. As the Virginia outposts advanced into the Kentucky country, the strife with the natives was transferred to that "dark and bloody ground"; while to the southeast, a desperate struggle with the Tuscaroras called forth the combined forces of the two Carolinas and Virginia.

Virginians Defending Themselves against the Indians
From an old print
Virginians Defending Themselves against the Indians

From such horrors New Jersey and Delaware were saved on account of their geographical location. Pennsylvania, consistently following a policy of conciliation, was likewise spared until her western vanguard came into full conflict with the allied French and Indians. Georgia, by clever negotiations and treaties of alliance, managed to keep on fair terms with her belligerent Cherokees and Creeks. But neither diplomacy nor generosity could stay the inevitable conflict as the frontier advanced, especially after the French soldiers enlisted the Indians in their imperial enterprises. It was then that desultory fighting became general warfare.

English, French, and Spanish Possessions in America, 1750
English, French, and Spanish Possessions in America, 1750

Early Relations with the French.—During the first decades of French exploration and settlement in the St. Lawrence country, the English colonies, engrossed with their own problems, gave little or no thought to their distant neighbors. Quebec, founded in 1608, and Montreal, in 1642, were too far away, too small in population, and too slight in strength to be much of a menace to Boston, Hartford, or New York. It was the statesmen in France and England, rather than the colonists in America, who first grasped the significance of the slowly converging empires in North America. It was the ambition of Louis XIV of France, rather than the labors of Jesuit missionaries and French rangers, that sounded the first note of colonial alarm.

Evidence of this lies in the fact that three conflicts between the English and the French occurred before their advancing frontiers met on the Pennsylvania border. King William's War (1689-1697), Queen Anne's War (1701-1713), and King George's War (1744-1748) owed their origins and their endings mainly to the intrigues and rivalries of European powers, although they all involved the American colonies in struggles with the French and their savage allies.

The Clash in the Ohio Valley.—The second of these wars had hardly closed, however, before the English colonists themselves began to be seriously alarmed about the rapidly expanding French dominion in the West. Marquette and Joliet, who opened the Lake region, and La Salle, who in 1682 had gone down the Mississippi to the Gulf, had been followed by the builders of forts. In 1718, the French founded New Orleans, thus taking possession of the gateway to the Mississippi as well as the St. Lawrence. A few years later they built Fort Niagara; in 1731 they occupied Crown Point; in 1749 they formally announced their dominion over all the territory drained by the Ohio River. Having asserted this lofty claim, they set out to make it good by constructing in the years 1752-1754 Fort Le Bœuf near Lake Erie, Fort Venango on the upper waters of the Allegheny, and Fort Duquesne at the junction of the streams forming the Ohio. Though they were warned by George Washington, in the name of the governor of Virginia, to keep out of territory "so notoriously known to be property of the crown of Great Britain," the French showed no signs of relinquishing their pretensions.

Braddock's Retreat
From an old print
Braddock's Retreat

The Final Phase—the French and Indian War.—Thus it happened that the shot which opened the Seven Years' War, known in America as the French and Indian War, was fired in the wilds of Pennsylvania. There began the conflict that spread to Europe and even Asia and finally involved England and Prussia, on the one side, and France, Austria, Spain, and minor powers on the other. On American soil, the defeat of Braddock in 1755 and Wolfe's exploit in capturing Quebec four years later were the dramatic features. On the continent of Europe, England subsidized Prussian arms to hold France at bay. In India, on the banks of the Ganges, as on the banks of the St. Lawrence, British arms were triumphant. Well could the historian write: "Conquests equaling in rapidity and far surpassing in magnitude those of Cortes and Pizarro had been achieved in the East." Well could the merchants of London declare that under the administration of William Pitt, the imperial genius of this world-wide conflict, commerce had been "united with and made to flourish by war."

From the point of view of the British empire, the results of the war were momentous. By the peace of 1763, Canada and the territory east of the Mississippi, except New Orleans, passed under the British flag. The remainder of the Louisiana territory was transferred to Spain and French imperial ambitions on the American continent were laid to rest. In exchange for Havana, which the British had seized during the war, Spain ceded to King George the colony of Florida. Not without warrant did Macaulay write in after years that Pitt "was the first Englishman of his time; and he had made England the first country in the world."

The Effects of Warfare on the Colonies

The various wars with the French and the Indians, trivial in detail as they seem to-day, had a profound influence on colonial life and on the destiny of America. Circumstances beyond the control of popular assemblies, jealous of their individual powers, compelled coöperation among them, grudging and stingy no doubt, but still coöperation. The American people, more eager to be busy in their fields or at their trades, were simply forced to raise and support armies, to learn the arts of warfare, and to practice, if in a small theater, the science of statecraft. These forces, all cumulative, drove the colonists, so tenaciously provincial in their habits, in the direction of nationalism.

The New England Confederation.—It was in their efforts to deal with the problems presented by the Indian and French menace that the Americans took the first steps toward union. Though there were many common ties among the settlers of New England, it required a deadly fear of the Indians to produce in 1643 the New England Confederation, composed of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. The colonies so united were bound together in "a firm and perpetual league of friendship and amity for offense and defense, mutual service and succor, upon all just occasions." They made provision for distributing the burdens of wars among the members and provided for a congress of commissioners from each colony to determine upon common policies. For some twenty years the Confederation was active and it continued to hold meetings until after the extinction of the Indian peril on the immediate border.

Virginia, no less than Massachusetts, was aware of the importance of intercolonial coöperation. In the middle of the seventeenth century, the Old Dominion began treaties of commerce and amity with New York and the colonies of New England. In 1684 delegates from Virginia met at Albany with the agents of New York and Massachusetts to discuss problems of mutual defense. A few years later the Old Dominion coöperated loyally with the Carolinas in defending their borders against Indian forays.

The Albany Plan of Union.—An attempt at a general colonial union was made in 1754. On the suggestion of the Lords of Trade in England, a conference was held at Albany to consider Indian relations, to devise measures of defense against the French, and to enter into "articles of union and confederation for the general defense of his Majesty's subjects and interests in North America as well in time of peace as of war." New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were represented. After a long discussion, a plan of union, drafted mainly, it seems, by Benjamin Franklin, was adopted and sent to the colonies and the crown for approval. The colonies, jealous of their individual rights, refused to accept the scheme and the king disapproved it for the reason, Franklin said, that it had "too much weight in the democratic part of the constitution." Though the Albany union failed, the document is still worthy of study because it forecast many of the perplexing problems that were not solved until thirty-three years afterward, when another convention of which also Franklin was a member drafted the Constitution of the United States.

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin

The Military Education of the Colonists.—The same wars that showed the provincials the meaning of union likewise instructed them in the art of defending their institutions. Particularly was this true of the last French and Indian conflict, which stretched all the way from Maine to the Carolinas and made heavy calls upon them all for troops. The answer, it is admitted, was far from satisfactory to the British government and the conduct of the militiamen was far from professional; but thousands of Americans got a taste, a strong taste, of actual fighting in the field. Men like George Washington and Daniel Morgan learned lessons that were not forgotten in after years. They saw what American militiamen could do under favorable circumstances and they watched British regulars operating on American soil. "This whole transaction," shrewdly remarked Franklin of Braddock's campaign, "gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regular troops had not been well founded." It was no mere accident that the Virginia colonel who drew his sword under the elm at Cambridge and took command of the army of the Revolution was the brave officer who had "spurned the whistle of bullets" at the memorable battle in western Pennsylvania.

Financial Burdens and Commercial Disorder.—While the provincials were learning lessons in warfare they were also paying the bills. All the conflicts were costly in treasure as in blood. King Philip's war left New England weak and almost bankrupt. The French and Indian struggle was especially expensive. The twenty-five thousand men put in the field by the colonies were sustained only by huge outlays of money. Paper currency streamed from the press and debts were accumulated. Commerce was driven from its usual channels and prices were enhanced. When the end came, both England and America were staggering under heavy liabilities, and to make matters worse there was a fall of prices accompanied by a commercial depression which extended over a period of ten years. It was in the midst of this crisis that measures of taxation had to be devised to pay the cost of the war, precipitating the quarrel which led to American independence.

The Expulsion of French Power from North America.—The effects of the defeat administered to France, as time proved, were difficult to estimate. Some British statesmen regarded it as a happy circumstance that the colonists, already restive under their administration, had no foreign power at hand to aid them in case they struck for independence. American leaders, on the other hand, now that the soldiers of King Louis were driven from the continent, thought that they had no other country to fear if they cast off British sovereignty. At all events, France, though defeated, was not out of the sphere of American influence; for, as events proved, it was the fortunate French alliance negotiated by Franklin that assured the triumph of American arms in the War of the Revolution.

Colonial Relations with the British Government

It was neither the Indian wars nor the French wars that finally brought forth American nationality. That was the product of the long strife with the mother country which culminated in union for the war of independence. The forces that created this nation did not operate in the colonies alone. The character of the English sovereigns, the course of events in English domestic politics, and English measures of control over the colonies—executive, legislative, and judicial—must all be taken into account.

The Last of the Stuarts.—The struggles between Charles I (1625-49) and the parliamentary party and the turmoil of the Puritan régime (1649-60) so engrossed the attention of Englishmen at home that they had little time to think of colonial policies or to interfere with colonial affairs. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660, accompanied by internal peace and the increasing power of the mercantile classes in the House of Commons, changed all that. In the reign of Charles II (1660-85), himself an easy-going person, the policy of regulating trade by act of Parliament was developed into a closely knit system and powerful agencies to supervise the colonies were created. At the same time a system of stricter control over the dominions was ushered in by the annulment of the old charter of Massachusetts which conferred so much self-government on the Puritans.

Charles' successor, James II, a man of sterner stuff and jealous of his authority in the colonies as well as at home, continued the policy thus inaugurated and enlarged upon it. If he could have kept his throne, he would have bent the Americans under a harsh rule or brought on in his dominions a revolution like that which he precipitated at home in 1688. He determined to unite the Northern colonies and introduce a more efficient administration based on the pattern of the royal provinces. He made a martinet, Sir Edmund Andros, governor of all New England, New York, and New Jersey. The charter of Massachusetts, annulled in the last days of his brother's reign, he continued to ignore, and that of Connecticut would have been seized if it had not been spirited away and hidden, according to tradition, in a hollow oak.

For several months, Andros gave the Northern colonies a taste of ill-tempered despotism. He wrung quit rents from land owners not accustomed to feudal dues; he abrogated titles to land where, in his opinion, they were unlawful; he forced the Episcopal service upon the Old South Church in Boston; and he denied the writ of habeas corpus to a preacher who denounced taxation without representation. In the middle of his arbitrary course, however, his hand was stayed. The news came that King James had been dethroned by his angry subjects, and the people of Boston, kindling a fire on Beacon Hill, summoned the countryside to dispose of Andros. The response was prompt and hearty. The hated governor was arrested, imprisoned, and sent back across the sea under guard.

The overthrow of James, followed by the accession of William and Mary and by assured parliamentary supremacy, had an immediate effect in the colonies. The new order was greeted with thanksgiving. Massachusetts was given another charter which, though not so liberal as the first, restored the spirit if not the entire letter of self-government. In the other colonies where Andros had been operating, the old course of affairs was resumed.

The Indifference of the First Two Georges.—On the death in 1714 of Queen Anne, the successor of King William, the throne passed to a Hanoverian prince who, though grateful for English honors and revenues, was more interested in Hanover than in England. George I and George II, whose combined reigns extended from 1714 to 1760, never even learned to speak the English language, at least without an accent. The necessity of taking thought about colonial affairs bored both of them so that the stoutest defender of popular privileges in Boston or Charleston had no ground to complain of the exercise of personal prerogatives by the king. Moreover, during a large part of this period, the direction of affairs was in the hands of an astute leader, Sir Robert Walpole, who betrayed his somewhat cynical view of politics by adopting as his motto: "Let sleeping dogs lie." He revealed his appreciation of popular sentiment by exclaiming: "I will not be the minister to enforce taxes at the expense of blood." Such kings and such ministers were not likely to arouse the slumbering resistance of the thirteen colonies across the sea.

Control of the Crown over the Colonies.—While no English ruler from James II to George III ventured to interfere with colonial matters personally, constant control over the colonies was exercised by royal officers acting under the authority of the crown. Systematic supervision began in 1660, when there was created by royal order a committee of the king's council to meet on Mondays and Thursdays of each week to consider petitions, memorials, and addresses respecting the plantations. In 1696 a regular board was established, known as the "Lords of Trade and Plantations," which continued, until the American Revolution, to scrutinize closely colonial business. The chief duties of the board were to examine acts of colonial legislatures, to recommend measures to those assemblies for adoption, and to hear memorials and petitions from the colonies relative to their affairs.

The methods employed by this board were varied. All laws passed by American legislatures came before it for review as a matter of routine. If it found an act unsatisfactory, it recommended to the king the exercise of his veto power, known as the royal disallowance. Any person who believed his personal or property rights injured by a colonial law could be heard by the board in person or by attorney; in such cases it was the practice to hear at the same time the agent of the colony so involved. The royal veto power over colonial legislation was not, therefore, a formal affair, but was constantly employed on the suggestion of a highly efficient agency of the crown. All this was in addition to the powers exercised by the governors in the royal provinces.

Judicial Control.—Supplementing this administrative control over the colonies was a constant supervision by the English courts of law. The king, by virtue of his inherent authority, claimed and exercised high appellate powers over all judicial tribunals in the empire. The right of appeal from local courts, expressly set forth in some charters, was, on the eve of the Revolution, maintained in every colony. Any subject in England or America, who, in the regular legal course, was aggrieved by any act of a colonial legislature or any decision of a colonial court, had the right, subject to certain regulations, to carry his case to the king in council, forcing his opponent to follow him across the sea. In the exercise of appellate power, the king in council acting as a court could, and frequently did, declare acts of colonial legislatures duly enacted and approved, null and void, on the ground that they were contrary to English law.

Imperial Control in Operation.—Day after day, week after week, year after year, the machinery for political and judicial control over colonial affairs was in operation. At one time the British governors in the colonies were ordered not to approve any colonial law imposing a duty on European goods imported in English vessels. Again, when North Carolina laid a tax on peddlers, the council objected to it as "restrictive upon the trade and dispersion of English manufactures throughout the continent." At other times, Indian trade was regulated in the interests of the whole empire or grants of lands by a colonial legislature were set aside. Virginia was forbidden to close her ports to North Carolina lest there should be retaliation.

In short, foreign and intercolonial trade were subjected to a control higher than that of the colony, foreshadowing a day when the Constitution of the United States was to commit to Congress the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce and commerce with the Indians. A superior judicial power, towering above that of the colonies, as the Supreme Court at Washington now towers above the states, kept the colonial legislatures within the metes and bounds of established law. In the thousands of appeals, memorials, petitions, and complaints, and the rulings and decisions upon them, were written the real history of British imperial control over the American colonies.

So great was the business before the Lords of Trade that the colonies had to keep skilled agents in London to protect their interests. As common grievances against the operation of this machinery of control arose, there appeared in each colony a considerable body of men, with the merchants in the lead, who chafed at the restraints imposed on their enterprise. Only a powerful blow was needed to weld these bodies into a common mass nourishing the spirit of colonial nationalism. When to the repeated minor irritations were added general and sweeping measures of Parliament applying to every colony, the rebound came in the Revolution.

Parliamentary Control over Colonial Affairs.—As soon as Parliament gained in power at the expense of the king, it reached out to bring the American colonies under its sway as well. Between the execution of Charles I and the accession of George III, there was enacted an immense body of legislation regulating the shipping, trade, and manufactures of America. All of it, based on the "mercantile" theory then prevalent in all countries of Europe, was designed to control the overseas plantations in such a way as to foster the commercial and business interests of the mother country, where merchants and men of finance had got the upper hand. According to this theory, the colonies of the British empire should be confined to agriculture and the production of raw materials, and forced to buy their manufactured goods of England.

The Navigation Acts.—In the first rank among these measures of British colonial policy must be placed the navigation laws framed for the purpose of building up the British merchant marine and navy—arms so essential in defending the colonies against the Spanish, Dutch, and French. The beginning of this type of legislation was made in 1651 and it was worked out into a system early in the reign of Charles II (1660-85).

The Navigation Acts, in effect, gave a monopoly of colonial commerce to British ships. No trade could be carried on between Great Britain and her dominions save in vessels built and manned by British subjects. No European goods could be brought to America save in the ships of the country that produced them or in English ships. These laws, which were almost fatal to Dutch shipping in America, fell with severity upon the colonists, compelling them to pay higher freight rates. The adverse effect, however, was short-lived, for the measures stimulated shipbuilding in the colonies, where the abundance of raw materials gave the master builders of America an advantage over those of the mother country. Thus the colonists in the end profited from the restrictive policy written into the Navigation Acts.

The Acts against Manufactures.—The second group of laws was deliberately aimed to prevent colonial industries from competing too sharply with those of England. Among the earliest of these measures may be counted the Woolen Act of 1699, forbidding the exportation of woolen goods from the colonies and even the woolen trade between towns and colonies. When Parliament learned, as the result of an inquiry, that New England and New York were making thousands of hats a year and sending large numbers annually to the Southern colonies and to Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, it enacted in 1732 a law declaring that "no hats or felts, dyed or undyed, finished or unfinished" should be "put upon any vessel or laden upon any horse or cart with intent to export to any place whatever." The effect of this measure upon the hat industry was almost ruinous. A few years later a similar blow was given to the iron industry. By an act of 1750, pig and bar iron from the colonies were given free entry to England to encourage the production of the raw material; but at the same time the law provided that "no mill or other engine for slitting or rolling of iron, no plating forge to work with a tilt hammer, and no furnace for making steel" should be built in the colonies. As for those already built, they were declared public nuisances and ordered closed. Thus three important economic interests of the colonists, the woolen, hat, and iron industries, were laid under the ban.

The Trade Laws.—The third group of restrictive measures passed by the British Parliament related to the sale of colonial produce. An act of 1663 required the colonies to export certain articles to Great Britain or to her dominions alone; while sugar, tobacco, and ginger consigned to the continent of Europe had to pass through a British port paying custom duties and through a British merchant's hands paying the usual commission. At first tobacco was the only one of the "enumerated articles" which seriously concerned the American colonies, the rest coming mainly from the British West Indies. In the course of time, however, other commodities were added to the list of enumerated articles, until by 1764 it embraced rice, naval stores, copper, furs, hides, iron, lumber, and pearl ashes. This was not all. The colonies were compelled to bring their European purchases back through English ports, paying duties to the government and commissions to merchants again.

The Molasses Act.—Not content with laws enacted in the interest of English merchants and manufacturers, Parliament sought to protect the British West Indies against competition from their French and Dutch neighbors. New England merchants had long carried on a lucrative trade with the French islands in the West Indies and Dutch Guiana, where sugar and molasses could be obtained in large quantities at low prices. Acting on the protests of English planters in the Barbadoes and Jamaica, Parliament, in 1733, passed the famous Molasses Act imposing duties on sugar and molasses imported into the colonies from foreign countries—rates which would have destroyed the American trade with the French and Dutch if the law had been enforced. The duties, however, were not collected. The molasses and sugar trade with the foreigners went on merrily, smuggling taking the place of lawful traffic.

Effect of the Laws in America.—As compared with the strict monopoly of her colonial trade which Spain consistently sought to maintain, the policy of England was both moderate and liberal. Furthermore, the restrictive laws were supplemented by many measures intended to be favorable to colonial prosperity. The Navigation Acts, for example, redounded to the advantage of American shipbuilders and the producers of hemp, tar, lumber, and ship stores in general. Favors in British ports were granted to colonial producers as against foreign competitors and in some instances bounties were paid by England to encourage colonial enterprise. Taken all in all, there is much justification in the argument advanced by some modern scholars to the effect that the colonists gained more than they lost by British trade and industrial legislation. Certainly after the establishment of independence, when free from these old restrictions, the Americans found themselves handicapped by being treated as foreigners rather than favored traders and the recipients of bounties in English markets.

Be that as it may, it appears that the colonists felt little irritation against the mother country on account of the trade and navigation laws enacted previous to the close of the French and Indian war. Relatively few were engaged in the hat and iron industries as compared with those in farming and planting, so that England's policy of restricting America to agriculture did not conflict with the interests of the majority of the inhabitants. The woolen industry was largely in the hands of women and carried on in connection with their domestic duties, so that it was not the sole support of any considerable number of people.

As a matter of fact, moreover, the restrictive laws, especially those relating to trade, were not rigidly enforced. Cargoes of tobacco were boldly sent to continental ports without even so much as a bow to the English government, to which duties should have been paid. Sugar and molasses from the French and Dutch colonies were shipped into New England in spite of the law. Royal officers sometimes protested against smuggling and sometimes connived at it; but at no time did they succeed in stopping it. Taken all in all, very little was heard of "the galling restraints of trade" until after the French war, when the British government suddenly entered upon a new course.

Summary of the Colonial Period

In the period between the landing of the English at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, and the close of the French and Indian war in 1763—a period of a century and a half—a new nation was being prepared on this continent to take its place among the powers of the earth. It was an epoch of migration. Western Europe contributed emigrants of many races and nationalities. The English led the way. Next to them in numerical importance were the Scotch-Irish and the Germans. Into the melting pot were also cast Dutch, Swedes, French, Jews, Welsh, and Irish. Thousands of negroes were brought from Africa to till Southern fields or labor as domestic servants in the North.

Why did they come? The reasons are various. Some of them, the Pilgrims and Puritans of New England, the French Huguenots, Scotch-Irish and Irish, and the Catholics of Maryland, fled from intolerant governments that denied them the right to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences. Thousands came to escape the bondage of poverty in the Old World and to find free homes in America. Thousands, like the negroes from Africa, were dragged here against their will. The lure of adventure appealed to the restless and the lure of profits to the enterprising merchants.

How did they come? In some cases religious brotherhoods banded together and borrowed or furnished the funds necessary to pay the way. In other cases great trading companies were organized to found colonies. Again it was the wealthy proprietor, like Lord Baltimore or William Penn, who undertook to plant settlements. Many immigrants were able to pay their own way across the sea. Others bound themselves out for a term of years in exchange for the cost of the passage. Negroes were brought on account of the profits derived from their sale as slaves.

Whatever the motive for their coming, however, they managed to get across the sea. The immigrants set to work with a will. They cut down forests, built houses, and laid out fields. They founded churches, schools, and colleges. They set up forges and workshops. They spun and wove. They fashioned ships and sailed the seas. They bartered and traded. Here and there on favorable harbors they established centers of commerce—Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Charleston. As soon as a firm foothold was secured on the shore line they pressed westward until, by the close of the colonial period, they were already on the crest of the Alleghanies.

Though they were widely scattered along a thousand miles of seacoast, the colonists were united in spirit by many common ties. The major portion of them were Protestants. The language, the law, and the literature of England furnished the basis of national unity. Most of the colonists were engaged in the same hard task; that of conquering a wilderness. To ties of kinship and language were added ties created by necessity. They had to unite in defense; first, against the Indians and later against the French. They were all subjects of the same sovereign—the king of England. The English Parliament made laws for them and the English government supervised their local affairs, their trade, and their manufactures. Common forces assailed them. Common grievances vexed them. Common hopes inspired them.

Many of the things which tended to unite them likewise tended to throw them into opposition to the British Crown and Parliament. Most of them were freeholders; that is, farmers who owned their own land and tilled it with their own hands. A free soil nourished the spirit of freedom. The majority of them were Dissenters, critics, not friends, of the Church of England, that stanch defender of the British monarchy. Each colony in time developed its own legislature elected by the voters; it grew accustomed to making laws and laying taxes for itself. Here was a people learning self-reliance and self-government. The attempts to strengthen the Church of England in America and the transformation of colonies into royal provinces only fanned the spirit of independence which they were designed to quench.

Nevertheless, the Americans owed much of their prosperity to the assistance of the government that irritated them. It was the protection of the British navy that prevented Holland, Spain, and France from wiping out their settlements. Though their manufacture and trade were controlled in the interests of the mother country, they also enjoyed great advantages in her markets. Free trade existed nowhere upon the earth; but the broad empire of Britain was open to American ships and merchandise. It could be said, with good reason, that the disadvantages which the colonists suffered through British regulation of their industry and trade were more than offset by the privileges they enjoyed. Still that is somewhat beside the point, for mere economic advantage is not necessarily the determining factor in the fate of peoples. A thousand circumstances had helped to develop on this continent a nation, to inspire it with a passion for independence, and to prepare it for a destiny greater than that of a prosperous dominion of the British empire. The economists, who tried to prove by logic unassailable that America would be richer under the British flag, could not change the spirit of Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, or George Washington.


G.L. Beer, Origin of the British Colonial System and The Old Colonial System.

A. Bradley, The Fight for Canada in North America.

C.M. Andrews, Colonial Self-Government (American Nation Series).

H. Egerton, Short History of British Colonial Policy.

F. Parkman, France and England in North America (12 vols.).

R. Thwaites, France in America (American Nation Series).

J. Winsor, The Mississippi Valley and Cartier to Frontenac.


1. How would you define "nationalism"?

2. Can you give any illustrations of the way that war promotes nationalism?

3. Why was it impossible to establish and maintain a uniform policy in dealing with the Indians?

4. What was the outcome of the final clash with the French?

5. Enumerate the five chief results of the wars with the French and the Indians. Discuss each in detail.

6. Explain why it was that the character of the English king mattered to the colonists.

7. Contrast England under the Stuarts with England under the Hanoverians.

8. Explain how the English Crown, Courts, and Parliament controlled the colonies.

9. Name the three important classes of English legislation affecting the colonies. Explain each.

10. Do you think the English legislation was beneficial or injurious to the colonies? Why?

Research Topics

Rise of French Power in North America.—Special reference: Francis Parkman, Struggle for a Continent.

The French and Indian Wars.—Special reference: W.M. Sloane, French War and the Revolution, Chaps. VI-IX. Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. II, pp. 195-299. Elson, History of the United States, pp. 171-196.

English Navigation Acts.—Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 55, 72, 78, 90, 103. Coman, Industrial History, pp. 79-85.

British Colonial Policy.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 102-108.

The New England Confederation.—Analyze the document in Macdonald, Source Book, p. 45. Special reference: Fiske, Beginnings of New England, pp. 140-198.

The Administration of Andros.—Fiske, Beginnings, pp. 242-278.

Biographical Studies.—William Pitt and Sir Robert Walpole. Consult Green, Short History of England, on their policies, using the index.




On October 25, 1760, King George II died and the British crown passed to his young grandson. The first George, the son of the Elector of Hanover and Sophia the granddaughter of James I, was a thorough German who never even learned to speak the language of the land over which he reigned. The second George never saw England until he was a man. He spoke English with an accent and until his death preferred his German home. During their reign, the principle had become well established that the king did not govern but acted only through ministers representing the majority in Parliament.

George III and His System

The Character of the New King.—The third George rudely broke the German tradition of his family. He resented the imputation that he was a foreigner and on all occasions made a display of his British sympathies. To the draft of his first speech to Parliament, he added the popular phrase: "Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton." Macaulay, the English historian, certainly of no liking for high royal prerogative, said of George: "The young king was a born Englishman. All his tastes and habits, good and bad, were English. No portion of his subjects had anything to reproach him with.... His age, his appearance, and all that was known of his character conciliated public favor. He was in the bloom of youth; his person and address were pleasing; scandal imputed to him no vice; and flattery might without glaring absurdity ascribe to him many princely virtues."

Nevertheless George III had been spoiled by his mother, his tutors, and his courtiers. Under their influence he developed high and mighty notions about the sacredness of royal authority and his duty to check the pretensions of Parliament and the ministers dependent upon it. His mother had dinned into his ears the slogan: "George, be king!" Lord Bute, his teacher and adviser, had told him that his honor required him to take an active part in the shaping of public policy and the making of laws. Thus educated, he surrounded himself with courtiers who encouraged him in the determination to rule as well as reign, to subdue all parties, and to place himself at the head of the nation and empire.

George III
From an old print
George III

Political Parties and George III.—The state of the political parties favored the plans of the king to restore some of the ancient luster of the crown. The Whigs, who were composed mainly of the smaller freeholders, merchants, inhabitants of towns, and Protestant non-conformists, had grown haughty and overbearing through long continuance in power and had as a consequence raised up many enemies in their own ranks. Their opponents, the Tories, had by this time given up all hope of restoring to the throne the direct Stuart line; but they still cherished their old notions about divine right. With the accession of George III the coveted opportunity came to them to rally around the throne again. George received his Tory friends with open arms, gave them offices, and bought them seats in the House of Commons.

The British Parliamentary System.—The peculiarities of the British Parliament at the time made smooth the way for the king and his allies with their designs for controlling the entire government. In the first place, the House of Lords was composed mainly of hereditary nobles whose number the king could increase by the appointment of his favorites, as of old. Though the members of the House of Commons were elected by popular vote, they did not speak for the mass of English people. Great towns like Leeds, Manchester, and Birmingham, for example, had no representatives at all. While there were about eight million inhabitants in Great Britain, there were in 1768 only about 160,000 voters; that is to say, only about one in every ten adult males had a voice in the government. Many boroughs returned one or more members to the Commons although they had merely a handful of voters or in some instances no voters at all. Furthermore, these tiny boroughs were often controlled by lords who openly sold the right of representation to the highest bidder. The "rotten-boroughs," as they were called by reformers, were a public scandal, but George III readily made use of them to get his friends into the House of Commons.

George III's Ministers and Their Colonial Policies

Grenville and the War Debt.—Within a year after the accession of George III, William Pitt was turned out of office, the king treating him with "gross incivility" and the crowds shouting "Pitt forever!" The direction of affairs was entrusted to men enjoying the king's confidence. Leadership in the House of Commons fell to George Grenville, a grave and laborious man who for years had groaned over the increasing cost of government.

The first task after the conclusion of peace in 1763 was the adjustment of the disordered finances of the kingdom. The debt stood at the highest point in the history of the country. More revenue was absolutely necessary and Grenville began to search for it, turning his attention finally to the American colonies. In this quest he had the aid of a zealous colleague, Charles Townshend, who had long been in public service and was familiar with the difficulties encountered by royal governors in America. These two men, with the support of the entire ministry, inaugurated in February, 1763, "a new system of colonial government. It was announced by authority that there were to be no more requisitions from the king to the colonial assemblies for supplies, but that the colonies were to be taxed instead by act of Parliament. Colonial governors and judges were to be paid by the Crown; they were to be supported by a standing army of twenty regiments; and all the expenses of this force were to be met by parliamentary taxation."

Restriction of Paper Money (1763).—Among the many complaints filed before the board of trade were vigorous protests against the issuance of paper money by the colonial legislatures. The new ministry provided a remedy in the act of 1763, which declared void all colonial laws authorizing paper money or extending the life of outstanding bills. This law was aimed at the "cheap money" which the Americans were fond of making when specie was scarce—money which they tried to force on their English creditors in return for goods and in payment of the interest and principal of debts. Thus the first chapter was written in the long battle over sound money on this continent.

Limitation on Western Land Sales.—Later in the same year (1763) George III issued a royal proclamation providing, among other things, for the government of the territory recently acquired by the treaty of Paris from the French. One of the provisions in this royal decree touched frontiersmen to the quick. The contests between the king's officers and the colonists over the disposition of western lands had been long and sharp. The Americans chafed at restrictions on settlement. The more adventurous were continually moving west and "squatting" on land purchased from the Indians or simply seized without authority. To put an end to this, the king forbade all further purchases from the Indians, reserving to the crown the right to acquire such lands and dispose of them for settlement. A second provision in the same proclamation vested the power of licensing trade with the Indians, including the lucrative fur business, in the hands of royal officers in the colonies. These two limitations on American freedom and enterprise were declared to be in the interest of the crown and for the preservation of the rights of the Indians against fraud and abuses.

The Sugar Act of 1764.—King George's ministers next turned their attention to measures of taxation and trade. Since the heavy debt under which England was laboring had been largely incurred in the defense of America, nothing seemed more reasonable to them than the proposition that the colonies should help to bear the burden which fell so heavily upon the English taxpayer. The Sugar Act of 1764 was the result of this reasoning. There was no doubt about the purpose of this law, for it was set forth clearly in the title: "An act for granting certain duties in the British colonies and plantations in America ... for applying the produce of such duties ... towards defraying the expenses of defending, protecting and securing the said colonies and plantations ... and for more effectually preventing the clandestine conveyance of goods to and from the said colonies and plantations and improving and securing the trade between the same and Great Britain." The old Molasses Act had been prohibitive; the Sugar Act of 1764 was clearly intended as a revenue measure. Specified duties were laid upon sugar, indigo, calico, silks, and many other commodities imported into the colonies. The enforcement of the Molasses Act had been utterly neglected; but this Sugar Act had "teeth in it." Special precautions as to bonds, security, and registration of ship masters, accompanied by heavy penalties, promised a vigorous execution of the new revenue law.

The strict terms of the Sugar Act were strengthened by administrative measures. Under a law of the previous year the commanders of armed vessels stationed along the American coast were authorized to stop, search, and, on suspicion, seize merchant ships approaching colonial ports. By supplementary orders, the entire British official force in America was instructed to be diligent in the execution of all trade and navigation laws. Revenue collectors, officers of the army and navy, and royal governors were curtly ordered to the front to do their full duty in the matter of law enforcement. The ordinary motives for the discharge of official obligations were sharpened by an appeal to avarice, for naval officers who seized offenders against the law were rewarded by large prizes out of the forfeitures and penalties.

The Stamp Act (1765).—The Grenville-Townshend combination moved steadily towards its goal. While the Sugar Act was under consideration in Parliament, Grenville announced a plan for a stamp bill. The next year it went through both Houses with a speed that must have astounded its authors. The vote in the Commons stood 205 in favor to 49 against; while in the Lords it was not even necessary to go through the formality of a count. As George III was temporarily insane, the measure received royal assent by a commission acting as a board of regency. Protests of colonial agents in London were futile. "We might as well have hindered the sun's progress!" exclaimed Franklin. Protests of a few opponents in the Commons were equally vain. The ministry was firm in its course and from all appearances the Stamp Act hardly roused as much as a languid interest in the city of London. In fact, it is recorded that the fateful measure attracted less notice than a bill providing for a commission to act for the king when he was incapacitated.

The Stamp Act, like the Sugar Act, declared the purpose of the British government to raise revenue in America "towards defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the British colonies and plantations in America." It was a long measure of more than fifty sections, carefully planned and skillfully drawn. By its provisions duties were imposed on practically all papers used in legal transactions,—deeds, mortgages, inventories, writs, bail bonds,—on licenses to practice law and sell liquor, on college diplomas, playing cards, dice, pamphlets, newspapers, almanacs, calendars, and advertisements. The drag net was closely knit, for scarcely anything escaped.

The Quartering Act (1765).—The ministers were aware that the Stamp Act would rouse opposition in America—how great they could not conjecture. While the measure was being debated, a friend of General Wolfe, Colonel Barré, who knew America well, gave them an ominous warning in the Commons. "Believe me—remember I this day told you so—" he exclaimed, "the same spirit of freedom which actuated that people at first will accompany them still ... a people jealous of their liberties and who will vindicate them, if ever they should be violated." The answer of the ministry to a prophecy of force was a threat of force. Preparations were accordingly made to dispatch a larger number of soldiers than usual to the colonies, and the ink was hardly dry on the Stamp Act when Parliament passed the Quartering Act ordering the colonists to provide accommodations for the soldiers who were to enforce the new laws. "We have the power to tax them," said one of the ministry, "and we will tax them."

Colonial Resistance Forces Repeal

Popular Opposition.—The Stamp Act was greeted in America by an outburst of denunciation. The merchants of the seaboard cities took the lead in making a dignified but unmistakable protest, agreeing not to import British goods while the hated law stood upon the books. Lawyers, some of them incensed at the heavy taxes on their operations and others intimidated by patriots who refused to permit them to use stamped papers, joined with the merchants. Aristocratic colonial Whigs, who had long grumbled at the administration of royal governors, protested against taxation without their consent, as the Whigs had done in old England. There were Tories, however, in the colonies as in England—many of them of the official class—who denounced the merchants, lawyers, and Whig aristocrats as "seditious, factious and republican." Yet the opposition to the Stamp Act and its accompanying measure, the Quartering Act, grew steadily all through the summer of 1765.

In a little while it was taken up in the streets and along the countryside. All through the North and in some of the Southern colonies, there sprang up, as if by magic, committees and societies pledged to resist the Stamp Act to the bitter end. These popular societies were known as Sons of Liberty and Daughters of Liberty: the former including artisans, mechanics, and laborers; and the latter, patriotic women. Both groups were alike in that they had as yet taken little part in public affairs. Many artisans, as well as all the women, were excluded from the right to vote for colonial assemblymen.

While the merchants and Whig gentlemen confined their efforts chiefly to drafting well-phrased protests against British measures, the Sons of Liberty operated in the streets and chose rougher measures. They stirred up riots in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston when attempts were made to sell the stamps. They sacked and burned the residences of high royal officers. They organized committees of inquisition who by threats and intimidation curtailed the sale of British goods and the use of stamped papers. In fact, the Sons of Liberty carried their operations to such excesses that many mild opponents of the stamp tax were frightened and drew back in astonishment at the forces they had unloosed. The Daughters of Liberty in a quieter way were making a very effective resistance to the sale of the hated goods by spurring on domestic industries, their own particular province being the manufacture of clothing, and devising substitutes for taxed foods. They helped to feed and clothe their families without buying British goods.

Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry

Legislative Action against the Stamp Act.—Leaders in the colonial assemblies, accustomed to battle against British policies, supported the popular protest. The Stamp Act was signed on March 22, 1765. On May 30, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a set of resolutions declaring that the General Assembly of the colony alone had the right to lay taxes upon the inhabitants and that attempts to impose them otherwise were "illegal, unconstitutional, and unjust." It was in support of these resolutions that Patrick Henry uttered the immortal challenge: "Cæsar had his Brutus, Charles I his Cromwell, and George III...." Cries of "Treason" were calmly met by the orator who finished: "George III may profit by their example. If that be treason, make the most of it."

The Stamp Act Congress.—The Massachusetts Assembly answered the call of Virginia by inviting the colonies to elect delegates to a Congress to be held in New York to discuss the situation. Nine colonies responded and sent representatives. The delegates, while professing the warmest affection for the king's person and government, firmly spread on record a series of resolutions that admitted of no double meaning. They declared that taxes could not be imposed without their consent, given through their respective colonial assemblies; that the Stamp Act showed a tendency to subvert their rights and liberties; that the recent trade acts were burdensome and grievous; and that the right to petition the king and Parliament was their heritage. They thereupon made "humble supplication" for the repeal of the Stamp Act.

The Stamp Act Congress was more than an assembly of protest. It marked the rise of a new agency of government to express the will of America. It was the germ of a government which in time was to supersede the government of George III in the colonies. It foreshadowed the Congress of the United States under the Constitution. It was a successful attempt at union. "There ought to be no New England men," declared Christopher Gadsden, in the Stamp Act Congress, "no New Yorkers known on the Continent, but all of us Americans."

The Repeal of the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act.—The effect of American resistance on opinion in England was telling. Commerce with the colonies had been effectively boycotted by the Americans; ships lay idly swinging at the wharves; bankruptcy threatened hundreds of merchants in London, Bristol, and Liverpool. Workingmen in the manufacturing towns of England were thrown out of employment. The government had sown folly and was reaping, in place of the coveted revenue, rebellion.

Perplexed by the storm they had raised, the ministers summoned to the bar of the House of Commons, Benjamin Franklin, the agent for Pennsylvania, who was in London. "Do you think it right," asked Grenville, "that America should be protected by this country and pay no part of the expenses?" The answer was brief: "That is not the case; the colonies raised, clothed, and paid during the last war twenty-five thousand men and spent many millions." Then came an inquiry whether the colonists would accept a modified stamp act. "No, never," replied Franklin, "never! They will never submit to it!" It was next suggested that military force might compel obedience to law. Franklin had a ready answer. "They cannot force a man to take stamps.... They may not find a rebellion; they may, indeed, make one."

The repeal of the Stamp Act was moved in the House of Commons a few days later. The sponsor for the repeal spoke of commerce interrupted, debts due British merchants placed in jeopardy, Manchester industries closed, workingmen unemployed, oppression instituted, and the loss of the colonies threatened. Pitt and Edmund Burke, the former near the close of his career, the latter just beginning his, argued cogently in favor of retracing the steps taken the year before. Grenville refused. "America must learn," he wailed, "that prayers are not to be brought to Cæsar through riot and sedition." His protests were idle. The Commons agreed to the repeal on February 22, 1766, amid the cheers of the victorious majority. It was carried through the Lords in the face of strong opposition and, on March 18, reluctantly signed by the king, now restored to his right mind.

In rescinding the Stamp Act, Parliament did not admit the contention of the Americans that it was without power to tax them. On the contrary, it accompanied the repeal with a Declaratory Act. It announced that the colonies were subordinate to the crown and Parliament of Great Britain; that the king and Parliament therefore had undoubted authority to make laws binding the colonies in all cases whatsoever; and that the resolutions and proceedings of the colonists denying such authority were null and void.

The repeal was greeted by the colonists with great popular demonstrations. Bells were rung; toasts to the king were drunk; and trade resumed its normal course. The Declaratory Act, as a mere paper resolution, did not disturb the good humor of those who again cheered the name of King George. Their confidence was soon strengthened by the news that even the Sugar Act had been repealed, thus practically restoring the condition of affairs before Grenville and Townshend inaugurated their policy of "thoroughness."

Resumption of British Revenue and Commercial Policies

The Townshend Acts (1767).—The triumph of the colonists was brief. Though Pitt, the friend of America, was once more prime minister, and seated in the House of Lords as the Earl of Chatham, his severe illness gave to Townshend and the Tory party practical control over Parliament. Unconvinced by the experience with the Stamp Act, Townshend brought forward and pushed through both Houses of Parliament three measures, which to this day are associated with his name. First among his restrictive laws was that of June 29, 1767, which placed the enforcement of the collection of duties and customs on colonial imports and exports in the hands of British commissioners appointed by the king, resident in the colonies, paid from the British treasury, and independent of all control by the colonists. The second measure of the same date imposed a tax on lead, glass, paint, tea, and a few other articles imported into the colonies, the revenue derived from the duties to be applied toward the payment of the salaries and other expenses of royal colonial officials. A third measure was the Tea Act of July 2, 1767, aimed at the tea trade which the Americans carried on illegally with foreigners. This law abolished the duty which the East India Company had to pay in England on tea exported to America, for it was thought that English tea merchants might thus find it possible to undersell American tea smugglers.

Writs of Assistance Legalized by Parliament.—Had Parliament been content with laying duties, just as a manifestation of power and right, and neglected their collection, perhaps little would have been heard of the Townshend Acts. It provided, however, for the strict, even the harsh, enforcement of the law. It ordered customs officers to remain at their posts and put an end to smuggling. In the revenue act of June 29, 1767, it expressly authorized the superior courts of the colonies to issue "writs of assistance," empowering customs officers to enter "any house, warehouse, shop, cellar, or other place in the British colonies or plantations in America to search for and seize" prohibited or smuggled goods.

The writ of assistance, which was a general search warrant issued to revenue officers, was an ancient device hateful to a people who cherished the spirit of personal independence and who had made actual gains in the practice of civil liberty. To allow a "minion of the law" to enter a man's house and search his papers and premises, was too much for the emotions of people who had fled to America in a quest for self-government and free homes, who had braved such hardships to establish them, and who wanted to trade without official interference.

The writ of assistance had been used in Massachusetts in 1755 to prevent illicit trade with Canada and had aroused a violent hostility at that time. In 1761 it was again the subject of a bitter controversy which arose in connection with the application of a customs officer to a Massachusetts court for writs of assistance "as usual." This application was vainly opposed by James Otis in a speech of five hours' duration—a speech of such fire and eloquence that it sent every man who heard it away "ready to take up arms against writs of assistance." Otis denounced the practice as an exercise of arbitrary power which had cost one king his head and another his throne, a tyrant's device which placed the liberty of every man in jeopardy, enabling any petty officer to work possible malice on any innocent citizen on the merest suspicion, and to spread terror and desolation through the land. "What a scene," he exclaimed, "does this open! Every man, prompted by revenge, ill-humor, or wantonness to inspect the inside of his neighbor's house, may get a writ of assistance. Others will ask it from self-defense; one arbitrary exertion will provoke another until society is involved in tumult and blood." He did more than attack the writ itself. He said that Parliament could not establish it because it was against the British constitution. This was an assertion resting on slender foundation, but it was quickly echoed by the people. Then and there James Otis sounded the call to America to resist the exercise of arbitrary power by royal officers. "Then and there," wrote John Adams, "the child Independence was born." Such was the hated writ that Townshend proposed to put into the hands of customs officers in his grim determination to enforce the law.

The New York Assembly Suspended.—In the very month that Townshend's Acts were signed by the king, Parliament took a still more drastic step. The assembly of New York, protesting against the "ruinous and insupportable" expense involved, had failed to make provision for the care of British troops in accordance with the terms of the Quartering Act. Parliament therefore suspended the assembly until it promised to obey the law. It was not until a third election was held that compliance with the Quartering Act was wrung from the reluctant province. In the meantime, all the colonies had learned on how frail a foundation their representative bodies rested.

Renewed Resistance in America

Samuel Adams
From an old print
Samuel Adams

The Massachusetts Circular (1768).—Massachusetts, under the leadership of Samuel Adams, resolved to resist the policy of renewed intervention in America. At his suggestion the assembly adopted a Circular Letter addressed to the assemblies of the other colonies informing them of the state of affairs in Massachusetts and roundly condemning the whole British program. The Circular Letter declared that Parliament had no right to lay taxes on Americans without their consent and that the colonists could not, from the nature of the case, be represented in Parliament. It went on shrewdly to submit to consideration the question as to whether any people could be called free who were subjected to governors and judges appointed by the crown and paid out of funds raised independently. It invited the other colonies, in the most temperate tones, to take thought about the common predicament in which they were all placed.

The Dissolution of Assemblies.—The governor of Massachusetts, hearing of the Circular Letter, ordered the assembly to rescind its appeal. On meeting refusal, he promptly dissolved it. The Maryland, Georgia, and South Carolina assemblies indorsed the Circular Letter and were also dissolved at once. The Virginia House of Burgesses, thoroughly aroused, passed resolutions on May 16, 1769, declaring that the sole right of imposing taxes in Virginia was vested in its legislature, asserting anew the right of petition to the crown, condemning the transportation of persons accused of crimes or trial beyond the seas, and beseeching the king for a redress of the general grievances. The immediate dissolution of the Virginia assembly, in its turn, was the answer of the royal governor.

The Boston Massacre.—American opposition to the British authorities kept steadily rising as assemblies were dissolved, the houses of citizens searched, and troops distributed in increasing numbers among the centers of discontent. Merchants again agreed not to import British goods, the Sons of Liberty renewed their agitation, and women set about the patronage of home products still more loyally.

On the night of March 5, 1770, a crowd on the streets of Boston began to jostle and tease some British regulars stationed in the town. Things went from bad to worse until some "boys and young fellows" began to throw snowballs and stones. Then the exasperated soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five and wounding half a dozen more. The day after the "massacre," a mass meeting was held in the town and Samuel Adams was sent to demand the withdrawal of the soldiers. The governor hesitated and tried to compromise. Finding Adams relentless, the governor yielded and ordered the regulars away.

The Boston Massacre stirred the country from New Hampshire to Georgia. Popular passions ran high. The guilty soldiers were charged with murder. Their defense was undertaken, in spite of the wrath of the populace, by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, who as lawyers thought even the worst offenders entitled to their full rights in law. In his speech to the jury, however, Adams warned the British government against its course, saying, that "from the nature of things soldiers quartered in a populous town will always occasion two mobs where they will prevent one." Two of the soldiers were convicted and lightly punished.

Resistance in the South.—The year following the Boston Massacre some citizens of North Carolina, goaded by the conduct of the royal governor, openly resisted his authority. Many were killed as a result and seven who were taken prisoners were hanged as traitors. A little later royal troops and local militia met in a pitched battle near Alamance River, called the "Lexington of the South."

The Gaspee Affair and the Virginia Resolutions of 1773.—On sea as well as on land, friction between the royal officers and the colonists broke out into overt acts. While patrolling Narragansett Bay looking for smugglers one day in 1772, the armed ship, Gaspee, ran ashore and was caught fast. During the night several men from Providence boarded the vessel and, after seizing the crew, set it on fire. A royal commission, sent to Rhode Island to discover the offenders and bring them to account, failed because it could not find a single informer. The very appointment of such a commission aroused the patriots of Virginia to action; and in March, 1773, the House of Burgesses passed a resolution creating a standing committee of correspondence to develop coöperation among the colonies in resistance to British measures.

The Boston Tea Party.—Although the British government, finding the Townshend revenue act a failure, repealed in 1770 all the duties except that on tea, it in no way relaxed its resolve to enforce the other commercial regulations it had imposed on the colonies. Moreover, Parliament decided to relieve the British East India Company of the financial difficulties into which it had fallen partly by reason of the Tea Act and the colonial boycott that followed. In 1773 it agreed to return to the Company the regular import duties, levied in England, on all tea transshipped to America. A small impost of three pence, to be collected in America, was left as a reminder of the principle laid down in the Declaratory Act that Parliament had the right to tax the colonists.

This arrangement with the East India Company was obnoxious to the colonists for several reasons. It was an act of favoritism for one thing, in the interest of a great monopoly. For another thing, it promised to dump on the American market, suddenly, an immense amount of cheap tea and so cause heavy losses to American merchants who had large stocks on hand. It threatened with ruin the business of all those who were engaged in clandestine trade with the Dutch. It carried with it an irritating tax of three pence on imports. In Charleston, Annapolis, New York, and Boston, captains of ships who brought tea under this act were roughly handled. One night in December, 1773, a band of Boston citizens, disguised as Indians, boarded the hated tea ships and dumped the cargo into the harbor. This was serious business, for it was open, flagrant, determined violation of the law. As such the British government viewed it.

Retaliation by the British Government

Reception of the News of the Tea Riot.—The news of the tea riot in Boston confirmed King George in his conviction that there should be no soft policy in dealing with his American subjects. "The die is cast," he stated with evident satisfaction. "The colonies must either triumph or submit.... If we take the resolute part, they will undoubtedly be very meek." Lord George Germain characterized the tea party as "the proceedings of a tumultuous and riotous rabble who ought, if they had the least prudence, to follow their mercantile employments and not trouble themselves with politics and government, which they do not understand." This expressed, in concise form, exactly the sentiments of Lord North, who had then for three years been the king's chief minister. Even Pitt, Lord Chatham, was prepared to support the government in upholding its authority.

The Five Intolerable Acts.—Parliament, beginning on March 31, 1774, passed five stringent measures, known in American history as the five "intolerable acts." They were aimed at curing the unrest in America. The first of them was a bill absolutely shutting the port of Boston to commerce with the outside world. The second, following closely, revoked the Massachusetts charter of 1691 and provided furthermore that the councilors should be appointed by the king, that all judges should be named by the royal governor, and that town meetings (except to elect certain officers) could not be held without the governor's consent. A third measure, after denouncing the "utter subversion of all lawful government" in the provinces, authorized royal agents to transfer to Great Britain or to other colonies the trials of officers or other persons accused of murder in connection with the enforcement of the law. The fourth act legalized the quartering of troops in Massachusetts towns. The fifth of the measures was the Quebec Act, which granted religious toleration to the Catholics in Canada, extended the boundaries of Quebec southward to the Ohio River, and established, in this western region, government by a viceroy.

The intolerable acts went through Parliament with extraordinary celerity. There was an opposition, alert and informed; but it was ineffective. Burke spoke eloquently against the Boston port bill, condemning it roundly for punishing the innocent with the guilty, and showing how likely it was to bring grave consequences in its train. He was heard with respect and his pleas were rejected. The bill passed both houses without a division, the entry "unanimous" being made upon their journals although it did not accurately represent the state of opinion. The law destroying the charter of Massachusetts passed the Commons by a vote of three to one; and the third intolerable act by a vote of four to one. The triumph of the ministry was complete. "What passed in Boston," exclaimed the great jurist, Lord Mansfield, "is the overt act of High Treason proceeding from our over lenity and want of foresight." The crown and Parliament were united in resorting to punitive measures.

In the colonies the laws were received with consternation. To the American Protestants, the Quebec Act was the most offensive. That project they viewed not as an act of grace or of mercy but as a direct attempt to enlist French Canadians on the side of Great Britain. The British government did not grant religious toleration to Catholics either at home or in Ireland and the Americans could see no good motive in granting it in North America. The act was also offensive because Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia had, under their charters, large claims in the territory thus annexed to Quebec.

To enforce these intolerable acts the military arm of the British government was brought into play. The commander-in-chief of the armed forces in America, General Gage, was appointed governor of Massachusetts. Reinforcements were brought to the colonies, for now King George was to give "the rebels," as he called them, a taste of strong medicine. The majesty of his law was to be vindicated by force.

From Reform to Revolution in America

The Doctrine of Natural Rights.—The dissolution of assemblies, the destruction of charters, and the use of troops produced in the colonies a new phase in the struggle. In the early days of the contest with the British ministry, the Americans spoke of their "rights as Englishmen" and condemned the acts of Parliament as unlawful, as violating the principles of the English constitution under which they all lived. When they saw that such arguments had no effect on Parliament, they turned for support to their "natural rights." The latter doctrine, in the form in which it was employed by the colonists, was as English as the constitutional argument. John Locke had used it with good effect in defense of the English revolution in the seventeenth century. American leaders, familiar with the writings of Locke, also took up his thesis in the hour of their distress. They openly declared that their rights did not rest after all upon the English constitution or a charter from the crown. "Old Magna Carta was not the beginning of all things," retorted Otis when the constitutional argument failed. "A time may come when Parliament shall declare every American charter void, but the natural, inherent, and inseparable rights of the colonists as men and as citizens would remain and whatever became of charters can never be abolished until the general conflagration." Of the same opinion was the young and impetuous Alexander Hamilton. "The sacred rights of mankind," he exclaimed, "are not to be rummaged for among old parchments or musty records. They are written as with a sunbeam in the whole volume of human destiny by the hand of divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power."

Firm as the American leaders were in the statement and defense of their rights, there is every reason for believing that in the beginning they hoped to confine the conflict to the realm of opinion. They constantly avowed that they were loyal to the king when protesting in the strongest language against his policies. Even Otis, regarded by the loyalists as a firebrand, was in fact attempting to avert revolution by winning concessions from England. "I argue this cause with the greater pleasure," he solemnly urged in his speech against the writs of assistance, "as it is in favor of British liberty ... and as it is in opposition to a kind of power, the exercise of which in former periods cost one king of England his head and another his throne."

Burke Offers the Doctrine of Conciliation.—The flooding tide of American sentiment was correctly measured by one Englishman at least, Edmund Burke, who quickly saw that attempts to restrain the rise of American democracy were efforts to reverse the processes of nature. He saw how fixed and rooted in the nature of things was the American spirit—how inevitable, how irresistible. He warned his countrymen that there were three ways of handling the delicate situation—and only three. One was to remove the cause of friction by changing the spirit of the colonists—an utter impossibility because that spirit was grounded in the essential circumstances of American life. The second was to prosecute American leaders as criminals; of this he begged his countrymen to beware lest the colonists declare that "a government against which a claim of liberty is tantamount to high treason is a government to which submission is equivalent to slavery." The third and right way to meet the problem, Burke concluded, was to accept the American spirit, repeal the obnoxious measures, and receive the colonies into equal partnership.

Events Produce the Great Decision.—The right way, indicated by Burke, was equally impossible to George III and the majority in Parliament. To their narrow minds, American opinion was contemptible and American resistance unlawful, riotous, and treasonable. The correct way, in their view, was to dispatch more troops to crush the "rebels"; and that very act took the contest from the realm of opinion. As John Adams said: "Facts are stubborn things." Opinions were unseen, but marching soldiers were visible to the veriest street urchin. "Now," said Gouverneur Morris, "the sheep, simple as they are, cannot be gulled as heretofore." It was too late to talk about the excellence of the British constitution. If any one is bewildered by the controversies of modern historians as to why the crisis came at last, he can clarify his understanding by reading again Edmund Burke's stately oration, On Conciliation with America.


G.L. Beer, British Colonial Policy (1754-63).

E. Channing, History of the United States, Vol. III.

R. Frothingham, Rise of the Republic.

G.E. Howard, Preliminaries of the Revolution (American Nation Series).

J.K. Hosmer, Samuel Adams.

J.T. Morse, Benjamin Franklin.

M.C. Tyler, Patrick Henry.

J.A. Woodburn (editor), The American Revolution (Selections from the English work by Lecky).


1. Show how the character of George III made for trouble with the colonies.

2. Explain why the party and parliamentary systems of England favored the plans of George III.

3. How did the state of English finances affect English policy?

4. Enumerate five important measures of the English government affecting the colonies between 1763 and 1765. Explain each in detail.

5. Describe American resistance to the Stamp Act. What was the outcome?

6. Show how England renewed her policy of regulation in 1767.

7. Summarize the events connected with American resistance.

8. With what measures did Great Britain retaliate?

9. Contrast "constitutional" with "natural" rights.

10. What solution did Burke offer? Why was it rejected?

Research Topics

Powers Conferred on Revenue Officers by Writs of Assistance.—See a writ in Macdonald, Source Book, p. 109.

The Acts of Parliament Respecting America.—Macdonald, pp. 117-146. Assign one to each student for report and comment.

Source Studies on the Stamp Act.—Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. II, pp. 394-412.

Source Studies of the Townshend Acts.—Hart, Vol. II, pp. 413-433.

American Principles.—Prepare a table of them from the Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress and the Massachusetts Circular. Macdonald, pp. 136-146.

An English Historian's View of the Period.—Green, Short History of England, Chap. X.

English Policy Not Injurious to America.—Callender, Economic History, pp. 85-121.

A Review of English Policy.—Woodrow Wilson, History of the American People, Vol. II, pp. 129-170.

The Opening of the Revolution.—Elson, History of the United States, pp. 220-235.



Resistance and Retaliation

The Continental Congress.—When the news of the "intolerable acts" reached America, every one knew what strong medicine Parliament was prepared to administer to all those who resisted its authority. The cause of Massachusetts became the cause of all the colonies. Opposition to British policy, hitherto local and spasmodic, now took on a national character. To local committees and provincial conventions was added a Continental Congress, appropriately called by Massachusetts on June 17, 1774, at the instigation of Samuel Adams. The response to the summons was electric. By hurried and irregular methods delegates were elected during the summer, and on September 5 the Congress duly assembled in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia. Many of the greatest men in America were there—George Washington and Patrick Henry from Virginia and John and Samuel Adams from Massachusetts. Every shade of opinion was represented. Some were impatient with mild devices; the majority favored moderation.

The Congress drew up a declaration of American rights and stated in clear and dignified language the grievances of the colonists. It approved the resistance to British measures offered by Massachusetts and promised the united support of all sections. It prepared an address to King George and another to the people of England, disavowing the idea of independence but firmly attacking the policies pursued by the British government.

The Non-Importation Agreement.—The Congress was not content, however, with professions of faith and with petitions. It took one revolutionary step. It agreed to stop the importation of British goods into America, and the enforcement of this agreement it placed in the hands of local "committees of safety and inspection," to be elected by the qualified voters. The significance of this action is obvious. Congress threw itself athwart British law. It made a rule to bind American citizens and to be carried into effect by American officers. It set up a state within the British state and laid down a test of allegiance to the new order. The colonists, who up to this moment had been wavering, had to choose one authority or the other. They were for the enforcement of the non-importation agreement or they were against it. They either bought English goods or they did not. In the spirit of the toast—"May Britain be wise and America be free"—the first Continental Congress adjourned in October, having appointed the tenth of May following for the meeting of a second Congress, should necessity require.

Lord North's "Olive Branch."—When the news of the action of the American Congress reached England, Pitt and Burke warmly urged a repeal of the obnoxious laws, but in vain. All they could wring from the prime minister, Lord North, was a set of "conciliatory resolutions" proposing to relieve from taxation any colony that would assume its share of imperial defense and make provision for supporting the local officers of the crown. This "olive branch" was accompanied by a resolution assuring the king of support at all hazards in suppressing the rebellion and by the restraining act of March 30, 1775, which in effect destroyed the commerce of New England.

Bloodshed at Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775).—Meanwhile the British authorities in Massachusetts relaxed none of their efforts in upholding British sovereignty. General Gage, hearing that military stores had been collected at Concord, dispatched a small force to seize them. By this act he precipitated the conflict he had sought to avoid. At Lexington, on the road to Concord, occurred "the little thing" that produced "the great event." An unexpected collision beyond the thought or purpose of any man had transferred the contest from the forum to the battle field.

The Second Continental Congress.—Though blood had been shed and war was actually at hand, the second Continental Congress, which met at Philadelphia in May, 1775, was not yet convinced that conciliation was beyond human power. It petitioned the king to interpose on behalf of the colonists in order that the empire might avoid the calamities of civil war. On the last day of July, it made a temperate but firm answer to Lord North's offer of conciliation, stating that the proposal was unsatisfactory because it did not renounce the right to tax or repeal the offensive acts of Parliament.

Force, the British Answer.—Just as the representatives of America were about to present the last petition of Congress to the king on August 23, 1775, George III issued a proclamation of rebellion. This announcement declared that the colonists, "misled by dangerous and ill-designing men," were in a state of insurrection; it called on the civil and military powers to bring "the traitors to justice"; and it threatened with "condign punishment the authors, perpetrators, and abettors of such traitorous designs." It closed with the usual prayer: "God, save the king." Later in the year, Parliament passed a sweeping act destroying all trade and intercourse with America. Congress was silent at last. Force was also America's answer.

American Independence

Drifting into War.—Although the Congress had not given up all hope of reconciliation in the spring and summer of 1775, it had firmly resolved to defend American rights by arms if necessary. It transformed the militiamen who had assembled near Boston, after the battle of Lexington, into a Continental army and selected Washington as commander-in-chief. It assumed the powers of a government and prepared to raise money, wage war, and carry on diplomatic relations with foreign countries.

Spirit of 1776
From an old print
Spirit of 1776

Events followed thick and fast. On June 17, the American militia, by the stubborn defense of Bunker Hill, showed that it could make British regulars pay dearly for all they got. On July 3, Washington took command of the army at Cambridge. In January, 1776, after bitter disappointments in drumming up recruits for its army in England, Scotland, and Ireland, the British government concluded a treaty with the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel in Germany contracting, at a handsome figure, for thousands of soldiers and many pieces of cannon. This was the crowning insult to America. Such was the view of all friends of the colonies on both sides of the water. Such was, long afterward, the judgment of the conservative historian Lecky: "The conduct of England in hiring German mercenaries to subdue the essentially English population beyond the Atlantic made reconciliation hopeless and independence inevitable." The news of this wretched transaction in German soldiers had hardly reached America before there ran all down the coast the thrilling story that Washington had taken Boston, on March 17, 1776, compelling Lord Howe to sail with his entire army for Halifax.

The Growth of Public Sentiment in Favor of Independence.—Events were bearing the Americans away from their old position under the British constitution toward a final separation. Slowly and against their desires, prudent and honorable men, who cherished the ties that united them to the old order and dreaded with genuine horror all thought of revolution, were drawn into the path that led to the great decision. In all parts of the country and among all classes, the question of the hour was being debated. "American independence," as the historian Bancroft says, "was not an act of sudden passion nor the work of one man or one assembly. It had been discussed in every part of the country by farmers and merchants, by mechanics and planters, by the fishermen along the coast and the backwoodsmen of the West; in town meetings and from the pulpit; at social gatherings and around the camp fires; in county conventions and conferences or committees; in colonial congresses and assemblies."

Thomas Paine
From an old print
Thomas Paine

Paine's "Commonsense."—In the midst of this ferment of American opinion, a bold and eloquent pamphleteer broke in upon the hesitating public with a program for absolute independence, without fears and without apologies. In the early days of 1776, Thomas Paine issued the first of his famous tracts, "Commonsense," a passionate attack upon the British monarchy and an equally passionate plea for American liberty. Casting aside the language of petition with which Americans had hitherto addressed George III, Paine went to the other extreme and assailed him with many a violent epithet. He condemned monarchy itself as a system which had laid the world "in blood and ashes." Instead of praising the British constitution under which colonists had been claiming their rights, he brushed it aside as ridiculous, protesting that it was "owing to the constitution of the people, not to the constitution of the government, that the Crown is not as oppressive in England as in Turkey."

Having thus summarily swept away the grounds of allegiance to the old order, Paine proceeded relentlessly to an argument for immediate separation from Great Britain. There was nothing in the sphere of practical interest, he insisted, which should bind the colonies to the mother country. Allegiance to her had been responsible for the many wars in which they had been involved. Reasons of trade were not less weighty in behalf of independence. "Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe and our imported goods must be paid for, buy them where we will." As to matters of government, "it is not in the power of Britain to do this continent justice; the business of it will soon be too weighty and intricate to be managed with any tolerable degree of convenience by a power so distant from us and so very ignorant of us."

There is accordingly no alternative to independence for America. "Everything that is right or natural pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries ''tis time to part.' ... Arms, the last resort, must decide the contest; the appeal was the choice of the king and the continent hath accepted the challenge.... The sun never shone on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a county, a province or a kingdom, but of a continent.... 'Tis not the concern of a day, a year or an age; posterity is involved in the contest and will be more or less affected to the end of time by the proceedings now. Now is the seed-time of Continental union, faith, and honor.... O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth.... Let names of Whig and Tory be extinct. Let none other be heard among us than those of a good citizen, an open and resolute friend, and a virtuous supporter of the rights of mankind and of the free and independent states of America." As more than 100,000 copies were scattered broadcast over the country, patriots exclaimed with Washington: "Sound doctrine and unanswerable reason!"

The Drift of Events toward Independence.—Official support for the idea of independence began to come from many quarters. On the tenth of February, 1776, Gadsden, in the provincial convention of South Carolina, advocated a new constitution for the colony and absolute independence for all America. The convention balked at the latter but went half way by abolishing the system of royal administration and establishing a complete plan of self-government. A month later, on April 12, the neighboring state of North Carolina uttered the daring phrase from which others shrank. It empowered its representatives in the Congress to concur with the delegates of the other colonies in declaring independence. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia quickly responded to the challenge. The convention of the Old Dominion, on May 15, instructed its delegates at Philadelphia to propose the independence of the United Colonies and to give the assent of Virginia to the act of separation. When the resolution was carried the British flag on the state house was lowered for all time.

Meanwhile the Continental Congress was alive to the course of events outside. The subject of independence was constantly being raised. "Are we rebels?" exclaimed Wyeth of Virginia during a debate in February. "No: we must declare ourselves a free people." Others hesitated and spoke of waiting for the arrival of commissioners of conciliation. "Is not America already independent?" asked Samuel Adams a few weeks later. "Why not then declare it?" Still there was uncertainty and delegates avoided the direct word. A few more weeks elapsed. At last, on May 10, Congress declared that the authority of the British crown in America must be suppressed and advised the colonies to set up governments of their own.

Thomas Jefferson Reading His Draft
From an old print
Thomas Jefferson Reading His Draft of the
Declaration of Independence to the
Committee of Congress

Independence Declared.—The way was fully prepared, therefore, when, on June 7, the Virginia delegation in the Congress moved that "these united colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent states." A committee was immediately appointed to draft a formal document setting forth the reasons for the act, and on July 2 all the states save New York went on record in favor of severing their political connection with Great Britain. Two days later, July 4, Jefferson's draft of the Declaration of Independence, changed in some slight particulars, was adopted. The old bell in Independence Hall, as it is now known, rang out the glad tidings; couriers swiftly carried the news to the uttermost hamlet and farm. A new nation announced its will to have a place among the powers of the world.

To some documents is given immortality. The Declaration of Independence is one of them. American patriotism is forever associated with it; but patriotism alone does not make it immortal. Neither does the vigor of its language or the severity of its indictment give it a secure place in the records of time. The secret of its greatness lies in the simple fact that it is one of the memorable landmarks in the history of a political ideal which for three centuries has been taking form and spreading throughout the earth, challenging kings and potentates, shaking down thrones and aristocracies, breaking the armies of irresponsible power on battle fields as far apart as Marston Moor and Château-Thierry. That ideal, now so familiar, then so novel, is summed up in the simple sentence: "Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Written in a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind," to set forth the causes which impelled the American colonists to separate from Britain, the Declaration contained a long list of "abuses and usurpations" which had induced them to throw off the government of King George. That section of the Declaration has passed into "ancient" history and is seldom read. It is the part laying down a new basis for government and giving a new dignity to the common man that has become a household phrase in the Old World as in the New.

In the more enduring passages there are four fundamental ideas which, from the standpoint of the old system of government, were the essence of revolution: (1) all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; (2) the purpose of government is to secure these rights; (3) governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed; (4) whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Here was the prelude to the historic drama of democracy—a challenge to every form of government and every privilege not founded on popular assent.

The Establishment of Government and the New Allegiance

The Committees of Correspondence.—As soon as debate had passed into armed resistance, the patriots found it necessary to consolidate their forces by organizing civil government. This was readily effected, for the means were at hand in town meetings, provincial legislatures, and committees of correspondence. The working tools of the Revolution were in fact the committees of correspondence—small, local, unofficial groups of patriots formed to exchange views and create public sentiment. As early as November, 1772, such a committee had been created in Boston under the leadership of Samuel Adams. It held regular meetings, sent emissaries to neighboring towns, and carried on a campaign of education in the doctrines of liberty.

The Colonies of North America at the Time of the Declaration of Independence
The Colonies of North America at the Time of the Declaration of Independence

Upon local organizations similar in character to the Boston committee were built county committees and then the larger colonial committees, congresses, and conventions, all unofficial and representing the revolutionary elements. Ordinarily the provincial convention was merely the old legislative assembly freed from all royalist sympathizers and controlled by patriots. Finally, upon these colonial assemblies was built the Continental Congress, the precursor of union under the Articles of Confederation and ultimately under the Constitution of the United States. This was the revolutionary government set up within the British empire in America.

State Constitutions Framed.—With the rise of these new assemblies of the people, the old colonial governments broke down. From the royal provinces the governor, the judges, and the high officers fled in haste, and it became necessary to substitute patriot authorities. The appeal to the colonies advising them to adopt a new form of government for themselves, issued by the Congress in May, 1776, was quickly acted upon. Before the expiration of a year, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, and New York had drafted new constitutions as states, not as colonies uncertain of their destinies. Connecticut and Rhode Island, holding that their ancient charters were equal to their needs, merely renounced their allegiance to the king and went on as before so far as the form of government was concerned. South Carolina, which had drafted a temporary plan early in 1776, drew up a new and more complete constitution in 1778. Two years later Massachusetts with much deliberation put into force its fundamental law, which in most of its essential features remains unchanged to-day.

The new state constitutions in their broad outlines followed colonial models. For the royal governor was substituted a governor or president chosen usually by the legislature; but in two instances, New York and Massachusetts, by popular vote. For the provincial council there was substituted, except in Georgia, a senate; while the lower house, or assembly, was continued virtually without change. The old property restriction on the suffrage, though lowered slightly in some states, was continued in full force to the great discontent of the mechanics thus deprived of the ballot. The special qualifications, laid down in several constitutions, for governors, senators, and representatives, indicated that the revolutionary leaders were not prepared for any radical experiments in democracy. The protests of a few women, like Mrs. John Adams of Massachusetts and Mrs. Henry Corbin of Virginia, against a government which excluded them from political rights were treated as mild curiosities of no significance, although in New Jersey women were allowed to vote for many years on the same terms as men.

By the new state constitutions the signs and symbols of royal power, of authority derived from any source save "the people," were swept aside and republican governments on an imposing scale presented for the first time to the modern world. Copies of these remarkable documents prepared by plain citizens were translated into French and widely circulated in Europe. There they were destined to serve as a guide and inspiration to a generation of constitution-makers whose mission it was to begin the democratic revolution in the Old World.

The Articles of Confederation.—The formation of state constitutions was an easy task for the revolutionary leaders. They had only to build on foundations already laid. The establishment of a national system of government was another matter. There had always been, it must be remembered, a system of central control over the colonies, but Americans had had little experience in its operation. When the supervision of the crown of Great Britain was suddenly broken, the patriot leaders, accustomed merely to provincial statesmanship, were poorly trained for action on a national stage.

Many forces worked against those who, like Franklin, had a vision of national destiny. There were differences in economic interest—commerce and industry in the North and the planting system of the South. There were contests over the apportionment of taxes and the quotas of troops for common defense. To these practical difficulties were added local pride, the vested rights of state and village politicians in their provincial dignity, and the scarcity of men with a large outlook upon the common enterprise.

Nevertheless, necessity compelled them to consider some sort of federation. The second Continental Congress had hardly opened its work before the most sagacious leaders began to urge the desirability of a permanent connection. As early as July, 1775, Congress resolved to go into a committee of the whole on the state of the union, and Franklin, undaunted by the fate of his Albany plan of twenty years before, again presented a draft of a constitution. Long and desultory debates followed and it was not until late in 1777 that Congress presented to the states the Articles of Confederation. Provincial jealousies delayed ratification, and it was the spring of 1781, a few months before the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, when Maryland, the last of the states, approved the Articles. This plan of union, though it was all that could be wrung from the reluctant states, provided for neither a chief executive nor a system of federal courts. It created simply a Congress of delegates in which each state had an equal voice and gave it the right to call upon the state legislatures for the sinews of government—money and soldiers.

The Application of Tests of Allegiance.—As the successive steps were taken in the direction of independent government, the patriots devised and applied tests designed to discover who were for and who were against the new nation in the process of making. When the first Continental Congress agreed not to allow the importation of British goods, it provided for the creation of local committees to enforce the rules. Such agencies were duly formed by the choice of men favoring the scheme, all opponents being excluded from the elections. Before these bodies those who persisted in buying British goods were summoned and warned or punished according to circumstances. As soon as the new state constitutions were put into effect, local committees set to work in the same way to ferret out all who were not outspoken in their support of the new order of things.

Mobbing the Tories
Mobbing the Tories

These patriot agencies, bearing different names in different sections, were sometimes ruthless in their methods. They called upon all men to sign the test of loyalty, frequently known as the "association test." Those who refused were promptly branded as outlaws, while some of the more dangerous were thrown into jail. The prison camp in Connecticut at one time held the former governor of New Jersey and the mayor of New York. Thousands were black-listed and subjected to espionage. The black-list of Pennsylvania contained the names of nearly five hundred persons of prominence who were under suspicion. Loyalists or Tories who were bold enough to speak and write against the Revolution were suppressed and their pamphlets burned. In many places, particularly in the North, the property of the loyalists was confiscated and the proceeds applied to the cause of the Revolution.

The work of the official agencies for suppression of opposition was sometimes supplemented by mob violence. A few Tories were hanged without trial, and others were tarred and feathered. One was placed upon a cake of ice and held there "until his loyalty to King George might cool." Whole families were driven out of their homes to find their way as best they could within the British lines or into Canada, where the British government gave them lands. Such excesses were deplored by Washington, but they were defended on the ground that in effect a civil war, as well as a war for independence, was being waged.

The Patriots and Tories.—Thus, by one process or another, those who were to be citizens of the new republic were separated from those who preferred to be subjects of King George. Just what proportion of the Americans favored independence and what share remained loyal to the British monarchy there is no way of knowing. The question of revolution was not submitted to popular vote, and on the point of numbers we have conflicting evidence. On the patriot side, there is the testimony of a careful and informed observer, John Adams, who asserted that two-thirds of the people were for the American cause and not more than one-third opposed the Revolution at all stages.

On behalf of the loyalists, or Tories as they were popularly known, extravagant claims were made. Joseph Galloway, who had been a member of the first Continental Congress and had fled to England when he saw its temper, testified before a committee of Parliament in 1779 that not one-fifth of the American people supported the insurrection and that "many more than four-fifths of the people prefer a union with Great Britain upon constitutional principles to independence." At the same time General Robertson, who had lived in America twenty-four years, declared that "more than two-thirds of the people would prefer the king's government to the Congress' tyranny." In an address to the king in that year a committee of American loyalists asserted that "the number of Americans in his Majesty's army exceeded the number of troops enlisted by Congress to oppose them."

The Character of the Loyalists.—When General Howe evacuated Boston, more than a thousand people fled with him. This great company, according to a careful historian, "formed the aristocracy of the province by virtue of their official rank; of their dignified callings and professions; of their hereditary wealth and of their culture." The act of banishment passed by Massachusetts in 1778, listing over 300 Tories, "reads like the social register of the oldest and noblest families of New England," more than one out of five being graduates of Harvard College. The same was true of New York and Philadelphia; namely, that the leading loyalists were prominent officials of the old order, clergymen and wealthy merchants. With passion the loyalists fought against the inevitable or with anguish of heart they left as refugees for a life of uncertainty in Canada or the mother country.

Tories Assail the Patriots.—The Tories who remained in America joined the British army by the thousands or in other ways aided the royal cause. Those who were skillful with the pen assailed the patriots in editorials, rhymes, satires, and political catechisms. They declared that the members of Congress were "obscure, pettifogging attorneys, bankrupt shopkeepers, outlawed smugglers, etc." The people and their leaders they characterized as "wretched banditti ... the refuse and dregs of mankind." The generals in the army they sneered at as "men of rank and honor nearly on a par with those of the Congress."

Patriot Writers Arouse the National Spirit.—Stung by Tory taunts, patriot writers devoted themselves to creating and sustaining a public opinion favorable to the American cause. Moreover, they had to combat the depression that grew out of the misfortunes in the early days of the war. A terrible disaster befell Generals Arnold and Montgomery in the winter of 1775 as they attempted to bring Canada into the revolution—a disaster that cost 5000 men; repeated calamities harassed Washington in 1776 as he was defeated on Long Island, driven out of New York City, and beaten at Harlem Heights and White Plains. These reverses were almost too great for the stoutest patriots.

Pamphleteers, preachers, and publicists rose, however, to meet the needs of the hour. John Witherspoon, provost of the College of New Jersey, forsook the classroom for the field of political controversy. The poet, Philip Freneau, flung taunts of cowardice at the Tories and celebrated the spirit of liberty in many a stirring poem. Songs, ballads, plays, and satires flowed from the press in an unending stream. Fast days, battle anniversaries, celebrations of important steps taken by Congress afforded to patriotic clergymen abundant opportunities for sermons. "Does Mr. Wiberd preach against oppression?" anxiously inquired John Adams in a letter to his wife. The answer was decisive. "The clergy of every denomination, not excepting the Episcopalian, thunder and lighten every Sabbath. They pray for Boston and Massachusetts. They thank God most explicitly and fervently for our remarkable successes. They pray for the American army."

Thomas Paine never let his pen rest. He had been with the forces of Washington when they retreated from Fort Lee and were harried from New Jersey into Pennsylvania. He knew the effect of such reverses on the army as well as on the public. In December, 1776, he made a second great appeal to his countrymen in his pamphlet, "The Crisis," the first part of which he had written while defeat and gloom were all about him. This tract was a cry for continued support of the Revolution. "These are the times that try men's souls," he opened. "The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of men and women." Paine laid his lash fiercely on the Tories, branding every one as a coward grounded in "servile, slavish, self-interested fear." He deplored the inadequacy of the militia and called for a real army. He refuted the charge that the retreat through New Jersey was a disaster and he promised victory soon. "By perseverance and fortitude," he concluded, "we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission the sad choice of a variety of evils—a ravaged country, a depopulated city, habitations without safety and slavery without hope.... Look on this picture and weep over it." His ringing call to arms was followed by another and another until the long contest was over.

Military Affairs

The Two Phases of the War.—The war which opened with the battle of Lexington, on April 19, 1775, and closed with the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown on October 19, 1781, passed through two distinct phases—the first lasting until the treaty of alliance with France, in 1778, and the second until the end of the struggle. During the first phase, the war was confined mainly to the North. The outstanding features of the contest were the evacuation of Boston by the British, the expulsion of American forces from New York and their retreat through New Jersey, the battle of Trenton, the seizure of Philadelphia by the British (September, 1777), the invasion of New York by Burgoyne and his capture at Saratoga in October, 1777, and the encampment of American forces at Valley Forge for the terrible winter of 1777-78.

The final phase of the war, opening with the treaty of alliance with France on February 6, 1778, was confined mainly to the Middle states, the West, and the South. In the first sphere of action the chief events were the withdrawal of the British from Philadelphia, the battle of Monmouth, and the inclosure of the British in New York by deploying American forces from Morristown, New Jersey, up to West Point. In the West, George Rogers Clark, by his famous march into the Illinois country, secured Kaskaskia and Vincennes and laid a firm grip on the country between the Ohio and the Great Lakes. In the South, the second period opened with successes for the British. They captured Savannah, conquered Georgia, and restored the royal governor. In 1780 they seized Charleston, administered a crushing defeat to the American forces under Gates at Camden, and overran South Carolina, though meeting reverses at Cowpens and King's Mountain. Then came the closing scenes. Cornwallis began the last of his operations. He pursued General Greene far into North Carolina, clashed with him at Guilford Court House, retired to the coast, took charge of British forces engaged in plundering Virginia, and fortified Yorktown, where he was penned up by the French fleet from the sea and the combined French and American forces on land.

The Geographical Aspects of the War.—For the British the theater of the war offered many problems. From first to last it extended from Massachusetts to Georgia, a distance of almost a thousand miles. It was nearly three thousand miles from the main base of supplies and, though the British navy kept the channel open, transports were constantly falling prey to daring privateers and fleet American war vessels. The sea, on the other hand, offered an easy means of transportation between points along the coast and gave ready access to the American centers of wealth and population. Of this the British made good use. Though early forced to give up Boston, they seized New York and kept it until the end of the war; they took Philadelphia and retained it until threatened by the approach of the French fleet; and they captured and held both Savannah and Charleston. Wars, however, are seldom won by the conquest of cities.

Particularly was this true in the case of the Revolution. Only a small portion of the American people lived in towns. Countrymen back from the coast were in no way dependent upon them for a livelihood. They lived on the produce of the soil, not upon the profits of trade. This very fact gave strength to them in the contest. Whenever the British ventured far from the ports of entry, they encountered reverses. Burgoyne was forced to surrender at Saratoga because he was surrounded and cut off from his base of supplies. As soon as the British got away from Charleston, they were harassed and worried by the guerrilla warriors of Marion, Sumter, and Pickens. Cornwallis could technically defeat Greene at Guilford far in the interior; but he could not hold the inland region he had invaded. Sustained by their own labor, possessing the interior to which their armies could readily retreat, supplied mainly from native resources, the Americans could not be hemmed in, penned up, and destroyed at one fell blow.

The Sea Power.—The British made good use of their fleet in cutting off American trade, but control of the sea did not seriously affect the United States. As an agricultural country, the ruin of its commerce was not such a vital matter. All the materials for a comfortable though somewhat rude life were right at hand. It made little difference to a nation fighting for existence, if silks, fine linens, and chinaware were cut off. This was an evil to which submission was necessary.

Nor did the brilliant exploits of John Paul Jones and Captain John Barry materially change the situation. They demonstrated the skill of American seamen and their courage as fighting men. They raised the rates of British marine insurance, but they did not dethrone the mistress of the seas. Less spectacular, and more distinctive, were the deeds of the hundreds of privateers and minor captains who overhauled British supply ships and kept British merchantmen in constant anxiety. Not until the French fleet was thrown into the scale, were the British compelled to reckon seriously with the enemy on the sea and make plans based upon the possibilities of a maritime disaster.

Commanding Officers.—On the score of military leadership it is difficult to compare the contending forces in the revolutionary contest. There is no doubt that all the British commanders were men of experience in the art of warfare. Sir William Howe had served in America during the French War and was accounted an excellent officer, a strict disciplinarian, and a gallant gentleman. Nevertheless he loved ease, society, and good living, and his expulsion from Boston, his failure to overwhelm Washington by sallies from his comfortable bases at New York and Philadelphia, destroyed every shred of his military reputation. John Burgoyne, to whom was given the task of penetrating New York from Canada, had likewise seen service in the French War both in America and Europe. He had, however, a touch of the theatrical in his nature and after the collapse of his plans and the surrender of his army in 1777, he devoted his time mainly to light literature. Sir Henry Clinton, who directed the movement which ended in the capture of Charleston in 1780, had "learned his trade on the continent," and was regarded as a man of discretion and understanding in military matters. Lord Cornwallis, whose achievements at Camden and Guilford were blotted out by his surrender at Yorktown, had seen service in the Seven Years' War and had undoubted talents which he afterward displayed with great credit to himself in India. Though none of them, perhaps, were men of first-rate ability, they all had training and experience to guide them.

George Washington
George Washington

The Americans had a host in Washington himself. He had long been interested in military strategy and had tested his coolness under fire during the first clashes with the French nearly twenty years before. He had no doubts about the justice of his cause, such as plagued some of the British generals. He was a stern but reasonable disciplinarian. He was reserved and patient, little given to exaltation at success or depression at reverses. In the dark hour of the Revolution, "what held the patriot forces together?" asks Beveridge in his Life of John Marshall. Then he answers: "George Washington and he alone. Had he died or been seriously disabled, the Revolution would have ended.... Washington was the soul of the American cause. Washington was the government. Washington was the Revolution." The weakness of Congress in furnishing men and supplies, the indolence of civilians, who lived at ease while the army starved, the intrigues of army officers against him such as the "Conway cabal," the cowardice of Lee at Monmouth, even the treason of Benedict Arnold, while they stirred deep emotions in his breast and aroused him to make passionate pleas to his countrymen, did not shake his iron will or his firm determination to see the war through to the bitter end. The weight of Washington's moral force was immeasurable.

Of the generals who served under him, none can really be said to have been experienced military men when the war opened. Benedict Arnold, the unhappy traitor but brave and daring soldier, was a druggist, book seller, and ship owner at New Haven when the news of Lexington called him to battle. Horatio Gates was looked upon as a "seasoned soldier" because he had entered the British army as a youth, had been wounded at Braddock's memorable defeat, and had served with credit during the Seven Years' War; but he was the most conspicuous failure of the Revolution. The triumph over Burgoyne was the work of other men; and his crushing defeat at Camden put an end to his military pretensions. Nathanael Greene was a Rhode Island farmer and smith without military experience who, when convinced that war was coming, read Cæsar's Commentaries and took up the sword. Francis Marion was a shy and modest planter of South Carolina whose sole passage at arms had been a brief but desperate brush with the Indians ten or twelve years earlier. Daniel Morgan, one of the heroes of Cowpens, had been a teamster with Braddock's army and had seen some fighting during the French and Indian War, but his military knowledge, from the point of view of a trained British officer, was negligible. John Sullivan was a successful lawyer at Durham, New Hampshire, and a major in the local militia when duty summoned him to lay down his briefs and take up the sword. Anthony Wayne was a Pennsylvania farmer and land surveyor who, on hearing the clash of arms, read a few books on war, raised a regiment, and offered himself for service. Such is the story of the chief American military leaders, and it is typical of them all. Some had seen fighting with the French and Indians, but none of them had seen warfare on a large scale with regular troops commanded according to the strategy evolved in European experience. Courage, native ability, quickness of mind, and knowledge of the country they had in abundance, and in battles such as were fought during the Revolution all those qualities counted heavily in the balance.

Foreign Officers in American Service.—To native genius was added military talent from beyond the seas. Baron Steuben, well schooled in the iron régime of Frederick the Great, came over from Prussia, joined Washington at Valley Forge, and day after day drilled and manœuvered the men, laughing and cursing as he turned raw countrymen into regular soldiers. From France came young Lafayette and the stern De Kalb, from Poland came Pulaski and Kosciusko;—all acquainted with the arts of war as waged in Europe and fitted for leadership as well as teaching. Lafayette came early, in 1776, in a ship of his own, accompanied by several officers of wide experience, and remained loyally throughout the war sharing the hardships of American army life. Pulaski fell at the siege of Savannah and De Kalb at Camden. Kosciusko survived the American war to defend in vain the independence of his native land. To these distinguished foreigners, who freely threw in their lot with American revolutionary fortunes, was due much of that spirit and discipline which fitted raw recruits and temperamental militiamen to cope with a military power of the first rank.

The Soldiers.—As far as the British soldiers were concerned their annals are short and simple. The regulars from the standing army who were sent over at the opening of the contest, the recruits drummed up by special efforts at home, and the thousands of Hessians bought outright by King George presented few problems of management to the British officers. These common soldiers were far away from home and enlisted for the war. Nearly all of them were well disciplined and many of them experienced in actual campaigns. The armies of King George fought bravely, as the records of Bunker Hill, Brandywine, and Monmouth demonstrate. Many a man and subordinate officer and, for that matter, some of the high officers expressed a reluctance at fighting against their own kin; but they obeyed orders.

The Americans, on the other hand, while they fought with grim determination, as men fighting for their homes, were lacking in discipline and in the experience of regular troops. When the war broke in upon them, there were no common preparations for it. There was no continental army; there were only local bands of militiamen, many of them experienced in fighting but few of them "regulars" in the military sense. Moreover they were volunteers serving for a short time, unaccustomed to severe discipline, and impatient at the restraints imposed on them by long and arduous campaigns. They were continually leaving the service just at the most critical moments. "The militia," lamented Washington, "come in, you cannot tell how; go, you cannot tell where; consume your provisions; exhaust your stores; and leave you at last at a critical moment."

Again and again Washington begged Congress to provide for an army of regulars enlisted for the war, thoroughly trained and paid according to some definite plan. At last he was able to overcome, in part at least, the chronic fear of civilians in Congress and to wring from that reluctant body an agreement to grant half pay to all officers and a bonus to all privates who served until the end of the war. Even this scheme, which Washington regarded as far short of justice to the soldiers, did not produce quick results. It was near the close of the conflict before he had an army of well-disciplined veterans capable of meeting British regulars on equal terms.

Though there were times when militiamen and frontiersmen did valiant and effective work, it is due to historical accuracy to deny the time-honored tradition that a few minutemen overwhelmed more numerous forces of regulars in a seven years' war for independence. They did nothing of the sort. For the victories of Bennington, Trenton, Saratoga, and Yorktown there were the defeats of Bunker Hill, Long Island, White Plains, Germantown, and Camden. Not once did an army of militiamen overcome an equal number of British regulars in an open trial by battle. "To bring men to be well acquainted with the duties of a soldier," wrote Washington, "requires time.... To expect the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits as from veteran soldiers is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen."

How the War Was Won.—Then how did the American army win the war? For one thing there were delays and blunders on the part of the British generals who, in 1775 and 1776, dallied in Boston and New York with large bodies of regular troops when they might have been dealing paralyzing blows at the scattered bands that constituted the American army. "Nothing but the supineness or folly of the enemy could have saved us," solemnly averred Washington in 1780. Still it is fair to say that this apparent supineness was not all due to the British generals. The ministers behind them believed that a large part of the colonists were loyal and that compromise would be promoted by inaction rather than by a war vigorously prosecuted. Victory by masterly inactivity was obviously better than conquest, and the slighter the wounds the quicker the healing. Later in the conflict when the seasoned forces of France were thrown into the scale, the Americans themselves had learned many things about the practical conduct of campaigns. All along, the British were embarrassed by the problem of supplies. Their troops could not forage with the skill of militiamen, as they were in unfamiliar territory. The long oversea voyages were uncertain at best and doubly so when the warships of France joined the American privateers in preying on supply boats.

The British were in fact battered and worn down by a guerrilla war and outdone on two important occasions by superior forces—at Saratoga and Yorktown. Stern facts convinced them finally that an immense army, which could be raised only by a supreme effort, would be necessary to subdue the colonies if that hazardous enterprise could be accomplished at all. They learned also that America would then be alienated, fretful, and the scene of endless uprisings calling for an army of occupation. That was a price which staggered even Lord North and George III. Moreover, there were forces of opposition at home with which they had to reckon.

Women and the War.—At no time were the women of America indifferent to the struggle for independence. When it was confined to the realm of opinion they did their part in creating public sentiment. Mrs. Elizabeth Timothee, for example, founded in Charleston, in 1773, a newspaper to espouse the cause of the province. Far to the north the sister of James Otis, Mrs. Mercy Warren, early begged her countrymen to rest their case upon their natural rights, and in influential circles she urged the leaders to stand fast by their principles. While John Adams was tossing about with uncertainty at the Continental Congress, his wife was writing letters to him declaring her faith in "independency."

When the war came down upon the country, women helped in every field. In sustaining public sentiment they were active. Mrs. Warren with a tireless pen combatted loyalist propaganda in many a drama and satire. Almost every revolutionary leader had a wife or daughter who rendered service in the "second line of defense." Mrs. Washington managed the plantation while the General was at the front and went north to face the rigors of the awful winter at Valley Forge—an inspiration to her husband and his men. The daughter of Benjamin Franklin, Mrs. Sarah Bache, while her father was pleading the American cause in France, set the women of Pennsylvania to work sewing and collecting supplies. Even near the firing line women were to be found, aiding the wounded, hauling powder to the front, and carrying dispatches at the peril of their lives.

In the economic sphere, the work of women was invaluable. They harvested crops without enjoying the picturesque title of "farmerettes" and they canned and preserved for the wounded and the prisoners of war. Of their labor in spinning and weaving it is recorded: "Immediately on being cut off from the use of English manufactures, the women engaged within their own families in manufacturing various kinds of cloth for domestic use. They thus kept their households decently clad and the surplus of their labors they sold to such as chose to buy rather than make for themselves. In this way the female part of families by their industry and strict economy frequently supported the whole domestic circle, evincing the strength of their attachment and the value of their service."

For their war work, women were commended by high authorities on more than one occasion. They were given medals and public testimonials even as in our own day. Washington thanked them for their labors and paid tribute to them for the inspiration and material aid which they had given to the cause of independence.

The Finances of the Revolution

When the Revolution opened, there were thirteen little treasuries in America but no common treasury, and from first to last the Congress was in the position of a beggar rather than a sovereign. Having no authority to lay and collect taxes directly and knowing the hatred of the provincials for taxation, it resorted mainly to loans and paper money to finance the war. "Do you think," boldly inquired one of the delegates, "that I will consent to load my constituents with taxes when we can send to the printer and get a wagon load of money, one quire of which will pay for the whole?"

Paper Money and Loans.—Acting on this curious but appealing political economy, Congress issued in June, 1776, two million dollars in bills of credit to be redeemed by the states on the basis of their respective populations. Other issues followed in quick succession. In all about $241,000,000 of continental paper was printed, to which the several states added nearly $210,000,000 of their own notes. Then came interest-bearing bonds in ever increasing quantities. Several millions were also borrowed from France and small sums from Holland and Spain. In desperation a national lottery was held, producing meager results. The property of Tories was confiscated and sold, bringing in about $16,000,000. Begging letters were sent to the states asking them to raise revenues for the continental treasury, but the states, burdened with their own affairs, gave little heed.

Inflation and Depreciation.—As paper money flowed from the press, it rapidly declined in purchasing power until in 1779 a dollar was worth only two or three cents in gold or silver. Attempts were made by Congress and the states to compel people to accept the notes at face value; but these were like attempts to make water flow uphill. Speculators collected at once to fatten on the calamities of the republic. Fortunes were made and lost gambling on the prices of public securities while the patriot army, half clothed, was freezing at Valley Forge. "Speculation, peculation, engrossing, forestalling," exclaimed Washington, "afford too many melancholy proofs of the decay of public virtue. Nothing, I am convinced, but the depreciation of our currency ... aided by stock jobbing and party dissensions has fed the hopes of the enemy."

Robert Morris
Robert Morris

The Patriot Financiers.—To the efforts of Congress in financing the war were added the labors of private citizens. Hayn Solomon, a merchant of Philadelphia, supplied members of Congress, including Madison, Jefferson, and Monroe, and army officers, like Lee and Steuben, with money for their daily needs. All together he contributed the huge sum of half a million dollars to the American cause and died broken in purse, if not in spirit, a British prisoner of war. Another Philadelphia merchant, Robert Morris, won for himself the name of the "patriot financier" because he labored night and day to find the money to meet the bills which poured in upon the bankrupt government. When his own funds were exhausted, he borrowed from his friends. Experienced in the handling of merchandise, he created agencies at important points to distribute supplies to the troops, thus displaying administrative as well as financial talents.

Women organized "drives" for money, contributed their plate and their jewels, and collected from door to door. Farmers took worthless paper in return for their produce, and soldiers saw many a pay day pass without yielding them a penny. Thus by the labors and sacrifices of citizens, the issuance of paper money, lotteries, the floating of loans, borrowings in Europe, and the impressment of supplies, the Congress staggered through the Revolution like a pauper who knows not how his next meal is to be secured but is continuously relieved at a crisis by a kindly fate.

The Diplomacy of the Revolution

When the full measure of honor is given to the soldiers and sailors and their commanding officers, the civilians who managed finances and supplies, the writers who sustained the American spirit, and the women who did well their part, there yet remains the duty of recognizing the achievements of diplomacy. The importance of this field of activity was keenly appreciated by the leaders in the Continental Congress. They were fairly well versed in European history. They knew of the balance of power and the sympathies, interests, and prejudices of nations and their rulers. All this information they turned to good account, in opening relations with continental countries and seeking money, supplies, and even military assistance. For the transaction of this delicate business, they created a secret committee on foreign correspondence as early as 1775 and prepared to send agents abroad.

American Agents Sent Abroad.—Having heard that France was inclining a friendly ear to the American cause, the Congress, in March, 1776, sent a commissioner to Paris, Silas Deane of Connecticut, often styled the "first American diplomat." Later in the year a form of treaty to be presented to foreign powers was drawn up, and Franklin, Arthur Lee, and Deane were selected as American representatives at the court of "His Most Christian Majesty the King of France." John Jay of New York was chosen minister to Spain in 1779; John Adams was sent to Holland the same year; and other agents were dispatched to Florence, Vienna, and Berlin. The representative selected for St. Petersburg spent two fruitless years there, "ignored by the court, living in obscurity and experiencing nothing but humiliation and failure." Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, expressed a desire to find in America a market for Silesian linens and woolens, but, fearing England's command of the sea, he refused to give direct aid to the Revolutionary cause.

Early French Interest.—The great diplomatic triumph of the Revolution was won at Paris, and Benjamin Franklin was the hero of the occasion, although many circumstances prepared the way for his success. Louis XVI's foreign minister, Count de Vergennes, before the arrival of any American representative, had brought to the attention of the king the opportunity offered by the outbreak of the war between England and her colonies. He showed him how France could redress her grievances and "reduce the power and greatness of England"—the empire that in 1763 had forced upon her a humiliating peace "at the price of our possessions, of our commerce, and our credit in the Indies, at the price of Canada, Louisiana, Isle Royale, Acadia, and Senegal." Equally successful in gaining the king's interest was a curious French adventurer, Beaumarchais, a man of wealth, a lover of music, and the author of two popular plays, "Figaro" and "The Barber of Seville." These two men had already urged upon the king secret aid for America before Deane appeared on the scene. Shortly after his arrival they made confidential arrangements to furnish money, clothing, powder, and other supplies to the struggling colonies, although official requests for them were officially refused by the French government.

Franklin at Paris.—When Franklin reached Paris, he was received only in private by the king's minister, Vergennes. The French people, however, made manifest their affection for the "plain republican" in "his full dress suit of spotted Manchester velvet." He was known among men of letters as an author, a scientist, and a philosopher of extraordinary ability. His "Poor Richard" had thrice been translated into French and was scattered in numerous editions throughout the kingdom. People of all ranks—ministers, ladies at court, philosophers, peasants, and stable boys—knew of Franklin and wished him success in his mission. The queen, Marie Antoinette, fated to lose her head in a revolution soon to follow, played with fire by encouraging "our dear republican."

For the king of France, however, this was more serious business. England resented the presence of this "traitor" in Paris, and Louis had to be cautious about plunging into another war that might also end disastrously. Moreover, the early period of Franklin's sojourn in Paris was a dark hour for the American Revolution. Washington's brilliant exploit at Trenton on Christmas night, 1776, and the battle with Cornwallis at Princeton had been followed by the disaster at Brandywine, the loss of Philadelphia, the defeat at Germantown, and the retirement to Valley Forge for the winter of 1777-78. New York City and Philadelphia—two strategic ports—were in British hands; the Hudson and Delaware rivers were blocked; and General Burgoyne with his British troops was on his way down through the heart of northern New York, cutting New England off from the rest of the colonies. No wonder the king was cautious. Then the unexpected happened. Burgoyne, hemmed in from all sides by the American forces, his flanks harried, his foraging parties beaten back, his supplies cut off, surrendered on October 17, 1777, to General Gates, who had superseded General Schuyler in time to receive the honor.

Treaties of Alliance and Commerce (1778).—News of this victory, placed by historians among the fifteen decisive battles of the world, reached Franklin one night early in December while he and some friends sat gloomily at dinner. Beaumarchais, who was with him, grasped at once the meaning of the situation and set off to the court at Versailles with such haste that he upset his coach and dislocated his arm. The king and his ministers were at last convinced that the hour had come to aid the Revolution. Treaties of commerce and alliance were drawn up and signed in February, 1778. The independence of the United States was recognized by France and an alliance was formed to guarantee that independence. Combined military action was agreed upon and Louis then formally declared war on England. Men who had, a few short years before, fought one another in the wilderness of Pennsylvania or on the Plains of Abraham, were now ranged side by side in a war on the Empire that Pitt had erected and that George III was pulling down.

Spain and Holland Involved.—Within a few months, Spain, remembering the steady decline of her sea power since the days of the Armada and hoping to drive the British out of Gibraltar, once more joined the concert of nations against England. Holland, a member of a league of armed neutrals formed in protest against British searches on the high seas, sent her fleet to unite with the forces of Spain, France, and America to prey upon British commerce. To all this trouble for England was added the danger of a possible revolt in Ireland, where the spirit of independence was flaming up.

The British Offer Terms to America.—Seeing the colonists about to be joined by France in a common war on the English empire, Lord North proposed, in February, 1778, a renewal of negotiations. By solemn enactment, Parliament declared its intention not to exercise the right of imposing taxes within the colonies; at the same time it authorized the opening of negotiations through commissioners to be sent to America. A truce was to be established, pardons granted, objectionable laws suspended, and the old imperial constitution, as it stood before the opening of hostilities, restored to full vigor. It was too late. Events had taken the affairs of America out of the hands of British commissioners and diplomats.

Effects of French Aid.—The French alliance brought ships of war, large sums of gold and silver, loads of supplies, and a considerable body of trained soldiers to the aid of the Americans. Timely as was this help, it meant no sudden change in the fortunes of war. The British evacuated Philadelphia in the summer following the alliance, and Washington's troops were encouraged to come out of Valley Forge. They inflicted a heavy blow on the British at Monmouth, but the treasonable conduct of General Charles Lee prevented a triumph. The recovery of Philadelphia was offset by the treason of Benedict Arnold, the loss of Savannah and Charleston (1780), and the defeat of Gates at Camden.

The full effect of the French alliance was not felt until 1781, when Cornwallis went into Virginia and settled at Yorktown. Accompanied by French troops Washington swept rapidly southward and penned the British to the shore while a powerful French fleet shut off their escape by sea. It was this movement, which certainly could not have been executed without French aid, that put an end to all chance of restoring British dominion in America. It was the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown that caused Lord North to pace the floor and cry out: "It is all over! It is all over!" What might have been done without the French alliance lies hidden from mankind. What was accomplished with the help of French soldiers, sailors, officers, money, and supplies, is known to all the earth. "All the world agree," exultantly wrote Franklin from Paris to General Washington, "that no expedition was ever better planned or better executed. It brightens the glory that must accompany your name to the latest posterity." Diplomacy as well as martial valor had its reward.

Peace at Last

British Opposition to the War.—In measuring the forces that led to the final discomfiture of King George and Lord North, it is necessary to remember that from the beginning to the end the British ministry at home faced a powerful, informed, and relentless opposition. There were vigorous protests, first against the obnoxious acts which precipitated the unhappy quarrel, then against the way in which the war was waged, and finally against the futile struggle to retain a hold upon the American dominions. Among the members of Parliament who thundered against the government were the first statesmen and orators of the land. William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, though he deplored the idea of American independence, denounced the government as the aggressor and rejoiced in American resistance. Edmund Burke leveled his heavy batteries against every measure of coercion and at last strove for a peace which, while giving independence to America, would work for reconciliation rather than estrangement. Charles James Fox gave the colonies his generous sympathy and warmly championed their rights. Outside of the circle of statesmen there were stout friends of the American cause like David Hume, the philosopher and historian, and Catherine Macaulay, an author of wide fame and a republican bold enough to encourage Washington in seeing it through.

Against this powerful opposition, the government enlisted a whole army of scribes and journalists to pour out criticism on the Americans and their friends. Dr. Samuel Johnson, whom it employed in this business, was so savage that even the ministers had to tone down his pamphlets before printing them. Far more weighty was Edward Gibbon, who was in time to win fame as the historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. He had at first opposed the government; but, on being given a lucrative post, he used his sharp pen in its support, causing his friends to ridicule him in these lines:

"King George, in a fright
Lest Gibbon should write
The story of England's disgrace,
Thought no way so sure
His pen to secure
As to give the historian a place."

Lord North Yields.—As time wore on, events bore heavily on the side of the opponents of the government's measures. They had predicted that conquest was impossible, and they had urged the advantages of a peace which would in some measure restore the affections of the Americans. Every day's news confirmed their predictions and lent support to their arguments. Moreover, the war, which sprang out of an effort to relieve English burdens, made those burdens heavier than ever. Military expenses were daily increasing. Trade with the colonies, the greatest single outlet for British goods and capital, was paralyzed. The heavy debts due British merchants in America were not only unpaid but postponed into an indefinite future. Ireland was on the verge of revolution. The French had a dangerous fleet on the high seas. In vain did the king assert in December, 1781, that no difficulties would ever make him consent to a peace that meant American independence. Parliament knew better, and on February 27, 1782, in the House of Commons was carried an address to the throne against continuing the war. Burke, Fox, the younger Pitt, Barré, and other friends of the colonies voted in the affirmative. Lord North gave notice then that his ministry was at an end. The king moaned: "Necessity made me yield."

In April, 1782, Franklin received word from the English government that it was prepared to enter into negotiations leading to a settlement. This was embarrassing. In the treaty of alliance with France, the United States had promised that peace should be a joint affair agreed to by both nations in open conference. Finding France, however, opposed to some of their claims respecting boundaries and fisheries, the American commissioners conferred with the British agents at Paris without consulting the French minister. They actually signed a preliminary peace draft before they informed him of their operations. When Vergennes reproached him, Franklin replied that they "had been guilty of neglecting bienséance [good manners] but hoped that the great work would not be ruined by a single indiscretion."

The Terms of Peace (1783).—The general settlement at Paris in 1783 was a triumph for America. England recognized the independence of the United States, naming each state specifically, and agreed to boundaries extending from the Atlantic to the Mississippi and from the Great Lakes to the Floridas. England held Canada, Newfoundland, and the West Indies intact, made gains in India, and maintained her supremacy on the seas. Spain won Florida and Minorca but not the coveted Gibraltar. France gained nothing important save the satisfaction of seeing England humbled and the colonies independent.

The generous terms secured by the American commission at Paris called forth surprise and gratitude in the United States and smoothed the way for a renewal of commercial relations with the mother country. At the same time they gave genuine anxiety to European diplomats. "This federal republic is born a pigmy," wrote the Spanish ambassador to his royal master. "A day will come when it will be a giant; even a colossus formidable to these countries. Liberty of conscience and the facility for establishing a new population on immense lands, as well as the advantages of the new government, will draw thither farmers and artisans from all the nations. In a few years we shall watch with grief the tyrannical existence of the same colossus."

North America according to the Treaty of 1783
North America according to the Treaty of 1783

Summary of the Revolutionary Period

The independence of the American colonies was foreseen by many European statesmen as they watched the growth of their population, wealth, and power; but no one could fix the hour of the great event. Until 1763 the American colonists lived fairly happily under British dominion. There were collisions from time to time, of course. Royal governors clashed with stiff-necked colonial legislatures. There were protests against the exercise of the king's veto power in specific cases. Nevertheless, on the whole, the relations between America and the mother country were more amicable in 1763 than at any period under the Stuart régime which closed in 1688.

The crash, when it came, was not deliberately willed by any one. It was the product of a number of forces that happened to converge about 1763. Three years before, there had come to the throne George III, a young, proud, inexperienced, and stubborn king. For nearly fifty years his predecessors, Germans as they were in language and interest, had allowed things to drift in England and America. George III decided that he would be king in fact as well as in name. About the same time England brought to a close the long and costly French and Indian War and was staggering under a heavy burden of debt and taxes. The war had been fought partly in defense of the American colonies and nothing seemed more reasonable to English statesmen than the idea that the colonies should bear part of the cost of their own defense. At this juncture there came into prominence, in royal councils, two men bent on taxing America and controlling her trade, Grenville and Townshend. The king was willing, the English taxpayers were thankful for any promise of relief, and statesmen were found to undertake the experiment. England therefore set out upon a new course. She imposed taxes upon the colonists, regulated their trade and set royal officers upon them to enforce the law. This action evoked protests from the colonists. They held a Stamp Act Congress to declare their rights and petition for a redress of grievances. Some of the more restless spirits rioted in the streets, sacked the houses of the king's officers, and tore up the stamped paper.

Frightened by uprising, the English government drew back and repealed the Stamp Act. Then it veered again and renewed its policy of interference. Interference again called forth American protests. Protests aroused sharper retaliation. More British regulars were sent over to keep order. More irritating laws were passed by Parliament. Rioting again appeared: tea was dumped in the harbor of Boston and seized in the harbor of Charleston. The British answer was more force. The response of the colonists was a Continental Congress for defense. An unexpected and unintended clash of arms at Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775 brought forth from the king of England a proclamation: "The Americans are rebels!"

The die was cast. The American Revolution had begun. Washington was made commander-in-chief. Armies were raised, money was borrowed, a huge volume of paper currency was issued, and foreign aid was summoned. Franklin plied his diplomatic arts at Paris until in 1778 he induced France to throw her sword into the balance. Three years later, Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. In 1783, by the formal treaty of peace, George III acknowledged the independence of the United States. The new nation, endowed with an imperial domain stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, began its career among the sovereign powers of the earth.

In the sphere of civil government, the results of the Revolution were equally remarkable. Royal officers and royal authorities were driven from the former dominions. All power was declared to be in the people. All the colonies became states, each with its own constitution or plan of government. The thirteen states were united in common bonds under the Articles of Confederation. A republic on a large scale was instituted. Thus there was begun an adventure in popular government such as the world had never seen. Could it succeed or was it destined to break down and be supplanted by a monarchy? The fate of whole continents hung upon the answer.


J. Fiske, The American Revolution (2 vols.).

H. Lodge, Life of Washington (2 vols.).

W. Sumner, The Financier and the Finances of the American Revolution.

O. Trevelyan, The American Revolution (4 vols.). A sympathetic account by an English historian.

M.C. Tyler, Literary History of the American Revolution (2 vols.).

C.H. Van Tyne, The American Revolution (American Nation Series) and The Loyalists in the American Revolution.


1. What was the non-importation agreement? By what body was it adopted? Why was it revolutionary in character?

2. Contrast the work of the first and second Continental Congresses.

3. Why did efforts at conciliation fail?

4. Trace the growth of American independence from opinion to the sphere of action.

5. Why is the Declaration of Independence an "immortal" document?

6. What was the effect of the Revolution on colonial governments? On national union?

7. Describe the contest between "Patriots" and "Tories."

8. What topics are considered under "military affairs"? Discuss each in detail.

9. Contrast the American forces with the British forces and show how the war was won.

10. Compare the work of women in the Revolutionary War with their labors in the World War (1917-18).

11. How was the Revolution financed?

12. Why is diplomacy important in war? Describe the diplomatic triumph of the Revolution.

13. What was the nature of the opposition in England to the war?

14. Give the events connected with the peace settlement; the terms of peace.

Research Topics

The Spirit of America.—Woodrow Wilson, History of the American People, Vol. II, pp. 98-126.

American Rights.—Draw up a table showing all the principles laid down by American leaders in (1) the Resolves of the First Continental Congress, Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 162-166; (2) the Declaration of the Causes and the Necessity of Taking Up Arms, Macdonald, pp. 176-183; and (3) the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence.—Fiske, The American Revolution, Vol. I, pp. 147-197. Elson, History of the United States, pp. 250-254.

Diplomacy and the French Alliance.—Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. II, pp. 574-590. Fiske, Vol. II, pp. 1-24. Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 159-168; Elson, pp. 275-280.

Biographical Studies.—Washington, Franklin, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson—emphasizing the peculiar services of each.

The Tories.—Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. II, pp. 470-480.

Valley Forge.—Fiske, Vol. II, pp. 25-49.

The Battles of the Revolution.—Elson, pp. 235-317.

An English View of the Revolution.—Green, Short History of England, Chap. X, Sect. 2.

English Opinion and the Revolution.—Trevelyan, The American Revolution, Vol. III (or Part 2, Vol. II), Chaps. XXIV-XXVII.




The Promise and the Difficulties of America

The rise of a young republic composed of thirteen states, each governed by officials popularly elected under constitutions drafted by "the plain people," was the most significant feature of the eighteenth century. The majority of the patriots whose labors and sacrifices had made this possible naturally looked upon their work and pronounced it good. Those Americans, however, who peered beneath the surface of things, saw that the Declaration of Independence, even if splendidly phrased, and paper constitutions, drawn by finest enthusiasm "uninstructed by experience," could not alone make the republic great and prosperous or even free. All around them they saw chaos in finance and in industry and perils for the immediate future.

The Weakness of the Articles of Confederation.—The government under the Articles of Confederation had neither the strength nor the resources necessary to cope with the problems of reconstruction left by the war. The sole organ of government was a Congress composed of from two to seven members from each state chosen as the legislature might direct and paid by the state. In determining all questions, each state had one vote—Delaware thus enjoying the same weight as Virginia. There was no president to enforce the laws. Congress was given power to select a committee of thirteen—one from each state—to act as an executive body when it was not in session; but this device, on being tried out, proved a failure. There was no system of national courts to which citizens and states could appeal for the protection of their rights or through which they could compel obedience to law. The two great powers of government, military and financial, were withheld. Congress, it is true, could authorize expenditures but had to rely upon the states for the payment of contributions to meet its bills. It could also order the establishment of an army, but it could only request the states to supply their respective quotas of soldiers. It could not lay taxes nor bring any pressure to bear upon a single citizen in the whole country. It could act only through the medium of the state governments.

Financial and Commercial Disorders.—In the field of public finance, the disorders were pronounced. The huge debt incurred during the war was still outstanding. Congress was unable to pay either the interest or the principal. Public creditors were in despair, as the market value of their bonds sank to twenty-five or even ten cents on the dollar. The current bills of Congress were unpaid. As some one complained, there was not enough money in the treasury to buy pen and ink with which to record the transactions of the shadow legislature. The currency was in utter chaos. Millions of dollars in notes issued by Congress had become mere trash worth a cent or two on the dollar. There was no other expression of contempt so forceful as the popular saying: "not worth a Continental." To make matters worse, several of the states were pouring new streams of paper money from the press. Almost the only good money in circulation consisted of English, French, and Spanish coins, and the public was even defrauded by them because money changers were busy clipping and filing away the metal. Foreign commerce was unsettled. The entire British system of trade discrimination was turned against the Americans, and Congress, having no power to regulate foreign commerce, was unable to retaliate or to negotiate treaties which it could enforce. Domestic commerce was impeded by the jealousies of the states, which erected tariff barriers against their neighbors. The condition of the currency made the exchange of money and goods extremely difficult, and, as if to increase the confusion, backward states enacted laws hindering the prompt collection of debts within their borders—an evil which nothing but a national system of courts could cure.

Congress in Disrepute.—With treaties set at naught by the states, the laws unenforced, the treasury empty, and the public credit gone, the Congress of the United States fell into utter disrepute. It called upon the states to pay their quotas of money into the treasury, only to be treated with contempt. Even its own members looked upon it as a solemn futility. Some of the ablest men refused to accept election to it, and many who did take the doubtful honor failed to attend the sessions. Again and again it was impossible to secure a quorum for the transaction of business.

Troubles of the State Governments.—The state governments, free to pursue their own course with no interference from without, had almost as many difficulties as the Congress. They too were loaded with revolutionary debts calling for heavy taxes upon an already restive population. Oppressed by their financial burdens and discouraged by the fall in prices which followed the return of peace, the farmers of several states joined in a concerted effort and compelled their legislatures to issue large sums of paper money. The currency fell in value, but nevertheless it was forced on unwilling creditors to square old accounts.

In every part of the country legislative action fluctuated violently. Laws were made one year only to be repealed the next and reënacted the third year. Lands were sold by one legislature and the sales were canceled by its successor. Uncertainty and distrust were the natural consequences. Men of substance longed for some power that would forbid states to issue bills of credit, to make paper money legal tender in payment of debts, or to impair the obligation of contracts. Men heavily in debt, on the other hand, urged even more drastic action against creditors.

So great did the discontent of the farmers in New Hampshire become in 1786 that a mob surrounded the legislature, demanding a repeal of the taxes and the issuance of paper money. It was with difficulty that an armed rebellion was avoided. In Massachusetts the malcontents, under the leadership of Daniel Shays, a captain in the Revolutionary army, organized that same year open resistance to the government of the state. Shays and his followers protested against the conduct of creditors in foreclosing mortgages upon the debt-burdened farmers, against the lawyers for increasing the costs of legal proceedings, against the senate of the state the members of which were apportioned among the towns on the basis of the amount of taxes paid, against heavy taxes, and against the refusal of the legislature to issue paper money. They seized the towns of Worcester and Springfield and broke up the courts of justice. All through the western part of the state the revolt spread, sending a shock of alarm to every center and section of the young republic. Only by the most vigorous action was Governor Bowdoin able to quell the uprising; and when that task was accomplished, the state government did not dare to execute any of the prisoners because they had so many sympathizers. Moreover, Bowdoin and several members of the legislature who had been most zealous in their attacks on the insurgents were defeated at the ensuing election. The need of national assistance for state governments in times of domestic violence was everywhere emphasized by men who were opposed to revolutionary acts.

Alarm over Dangers to the Republic.—Leading American citizens, watching the drift of affairs, were slowly driven to the conclusion that the new ship of state so proudly launched a few years before was careening into anarchy. "The facts of our peace and independence," wrote a friend of Washington, "do not at present wear so promising an appearance as I had fondly painted in my mind. The prejudices, jealousies, and turbulence of the people at times almost stagger my confidence in our political establishments; and almost occasion me to think that they will show themselves unworthy of the noble prize for which we have contended."

Washington himself was profoundly discouraged. On hearing of Shays's rebellion, he exclaimed: "What, gracious God, is man that there should be such inconsistency and perfidiousness in his conduct! It is but the other day that we were shedding our blood to obtain the constitutions under which we now live—constitutions of our own choice and making—and now we are unsheathing our sword to overturn them." The same year he burst out in a lament over rumors of restoring royal government. "I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking. Hence to acting is often but a single step. But how irresistible and tremendous! What a triumph for our enemies to verify their predictions! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves!"

Congress Attempts Some Reforms.—The Congress was not indifferent to the events that disturbed Washington. On the contrary it put forth many efforts to check tendencies so dangerous to finance, commerce, industries, and the Confederation itself. In 1781, even before the treaty of peace was signed, the Congress, having found out how futile were its taxing powers, carried a resolution of amendment to the Articles of Confederation, authorizing the levy of a moderate duty on imports. Yet this mild measure was rejected by the states. Two years later the Congress prepared another amendment sanctioning the levy of duties on imports, to be collected this time by state officers and applied to the payment of the public debt. This more limited proposal, designed to save public credit, likewise failed. In 1786, the Congress made a third appeal to the states for help, declaring that they had been so irregular and so negligent in paying their quotas that further reliance upon that mode of raising revenues was dishonorable and dangerous.

The Calling of a Constitutional Convention

Hamilton and Washington Urge Reform.—The attempts at reform by the Congress were accompanied by demand for, both within and without that body, a convention to frame a new plan of government. In 1780, the youthful Alexander Hamilton, realizing the weakness of the Articles, so widely discussed, proposed a general convention for the purpose of drafting a new constitution on entirely different principles. With tireless energy he strove to bring his countrymen to his view. Washington, agreeing with him on every point, declared, in a circular letter to the governors, that the duration of the union would be short unless there was lodged somewhere a supreme power "to regulate and govern the general concerns of the confederated republic." The governor of Massachusetts, disturbed by the growth of discontent all about him, suggested to the state legislature in 1785 the advisability of a national convention to enlarge the powers of the Congress. The legislature approved the plan, but did not press it to a conclusion.

Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton

The Annapolis Convention.—Action finally came from the South. The Virginia legislature, taking things into its own hands, called a conference of delegates at Annapolis to consider matters of taxation and commerce. When the convention assembled in 1786, it was found that only five states had taken the trouble to send representatives. The leaders were deeply discouraged, but the resourceful Hamilton, a delegate from New York, turned the affair to good account. He secured the adoption of a resolution, calling upon the Congress itself to summon another convention, to meet at Philadelphia.

A National Convention Called (1787).—The Congress, as tardy as ever, at last decided in February, 1787, to issue the call. Fearing drastic changes, however, it restricted the convention to "the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation." Jealous of its own powers, it added that any alterations proposed should be referred to the Congress and the states for their approval.

Every state in the union, except Rhode Island, responded to this call. Indeed some of the states, having the Annapolis resolution before them, had already anticipated the Congress by selecting delegates before the formal summons came. Thus, by the persistence of governors, legislatures, and private citizens, there was brought about the long-desired national convention. In May, 1787, it assembled in Philadelphia.

The Eminent Men of the Convention.—On the roll of that memorable convention were fifty-five men, at least half of whom were acknowledged to be among the foremost statesmen and thinkers in America. Every field of statecraft was represented by them: war and practical management in Washington, who was chosen president of the convention; diplomacy in Franklin, now old and full of honor in his own land as well as abroad; finance in Alexander Hamilton and Robert Morris; law in James Wilson of Pennsylvania; the philosophy of government in James Madison, called the "father of the Constitution." They were not theorists but practical men, rich in political experience and endowed with deep insight into the springs of human action. Three of them had served in the Stamp Act Congress: Dickinson of Delaware, William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut, and John Rutledge of South Carolina. Eight had been signers of the Declaration of Independence: Read of Delaware, Sherman of Connecticut, Wythe of Virginia, Gerry of Massachusetts, Franklin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, and James Wilson of Pennsylvania. All but twelve had at some time served in the Continental Congress and eighteen were members of that body in the spring of 1787. Washington, Hamilton, Mifflin, and Charles Pinckney had been officers in the Revolutionary army. Seven of the delegates had gained political experience as governors of states. "The convention as a whole," according to the historian Hildreth, "represented in a marked manner the talent, intelligence, and especially the conservative sentiment of the country."

The Framing of the Constitution

Problems Involved.—The great problems before the convention were nine in number: (1) Shall the Articles of Confederation be revised or a new system of government constructed? (2) Shall the government be founded on states equal in power as under the Articles or on the broader and deeper foundation of population? (3) What direct share shall the people have in the election of national officers? (4) What shall be the qualifications for the suffrage? (5) How shall the conflicting interests of the commercial and the planting states be balanced so as to safeguard the essential rights of each? (6) What shall be the form of the new government? (7) What powers shall be conferred on it? (8) How shall the state legislatures be restrained from their attacks on property rights such as the issuance of paper money? (9) Shall the approval of all the states be necessary, as under the Articles, for the adoption and amendment of the Constitution?

Revision of the Articles or a New Government?—The moment the first problem was raised, representatives of the small states, led by William Paterson of New Jersey, were on their feet. They feared that, if the Articles were overthrown, the equality and rights of the states would be put in jeopardy. Their protest was therefore vigorous. They cited the call issued by the Congress in summoning the convention which specifically stated that they were assembled for "the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation." They cited also their instructions from their state legislatures, which authorized them to "revise and amend" the existing scheme of government, not to make a revolution in it. To depart from the authorization laid down by the Congress and the legislatures would be to exceed their powers, they argued, and to betray the trust reposed in them by their countrymen.

To their contentions, Randolph of Virginia replied: "When the salvation of the republic is at stake, it would be treason to our trust not to propose what we find necessary." Hamilton, reminding the delegates that their work was still subject to the approval of the states, frankly said that on the point of their powers he had no scruples. With the issue clear, the convention cast aside the Articles as if they did not exist and proceeded to the work of drawing up a new constitution, "laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form" as to the delegates seemed "most likely to affect their safety and happiness."

A Government Founded on States or on People?—The Compromise.—Defeated in their attempt to limit the convention to a mere revision of the Articles, the spokesmen of the smaller states redoubled their efforts to preserve the equality of the states. The signal for a radical departure from the Articles on this point was given early in the sessions when Randolph presented "the Virginia plan." He proposed that the new national legislature consist of two houses, the members of which were to be apportioned among the states according to their wealth or free white population, as the convention might decide. This plan was vehemently challenged. Paterson of New Jersey flatly avowed that neither he nor his state would ever bow to such tyranny. As an alternative, he presented "the New Jersey plan" calling for a national legislature of one house representing states as such, not wealth or people—a legislature in which all states, large or small, would have equal voice. Wilson of Pennsylvania, on behalf of the more populous states, took up the gauntlet which Paterson had thrown down. It was absurd, he urged, for 180,000 men in one state to have the same weight in national counsels as 750,000 men in another state. "The gentleman from New Jersey," he said, "is candid. He declares his opinion boldly.... I will be equally candid.... I will never confederate on his principles." So the bitter controversy ran on through many exciting sessions.

Greek had met Greek. The convention was hopelessly deadlocked and on the verge of dissolution, "scarce held together by the strength of a hair," as one of the delegates remarked. A crash was averted only by a compromise. Instead of a Congress of one house as provided by the Articles, the convention agreed upon a legislature of two houses. In the Senate, the aspirations of the small states were to be satisfied, for each state was given two members in that body. In the formation of the House of Representatives, the larger states were placated, for it was agreed that the members of that chamber were to be apportioned among the states on the basis of population, counting three-fifths of the slaves.

The Question of Popular Election.—The method of selecting federal officers and members of Congress also produced an acrimonious debate which revealed how deep-seated was the distrust of the capacity of the people to govern themselves. Few there were who believed that no branch of the government should be elected directly by the voters; still fewer were there, however, who desired to see all branches so chosen. One or two even expressed a desire for a monarchy. The dangers of democracy were stressed by Gerry of Massachusetts: "All the evils we experience flow from an excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue but are the dupes of pretended patriots.... I have been too republican heretofore but have been taught by experience the danger of a leveling spirit." To the "democratic licentiousness of the state legislatures," Randolph sought to oppose a "firm senate." To check the excesses of popular government Charles Pinckney of South Carolina declared that no one should be elected President who was not worth $100,000 and that high property qualifications should be placed on members of Congress and judges. Other members of the convention were stoutly opposed to such "high-toned notions of government." Franklin and Wilson, both from Pennsylvania, vigorously championed popular election; while men like Madison insisted that at least one part of the government should rest on the broad foundation of the people.

Out of this clash of opinion also came compromise. One branch, the House of Representatives, it was agreed, was to be elected directly by the voters, while the Senators were to be elected indirectly by the state legislatures. The President was to be chosen by electors selected as the legislatures of the states might determine, and the judges of the federal courts, supreme and inferior, by the President and the Senate.

The Question of the Suffrage.—The battle over the suffrage was sharp but brief. Gouverneur Morris proposed that only land owners should be permitted to vote. Madison replied that the state legislatures, which had made so much trouble with radical laws, were elected by freeholders. After the debate, the delegates, unable to agree on any property limitations on the suffrage, decided that the House of Representatives should be elected by voters having the "qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature." Thus they accepted the suffrage provisions of the states.

The Balance between the Planting and the Commercial States.—After the debates had gone on for a few weeks, Madison came to the conclusion that the real division in the convention was not between the large and the small states but between the planting section founded on slave labor and the commercial North. Thus he anticipated by nearly three-quarters of a century "the irrepressible conflict." The planting states had neither the free white population nor the wealth of the North. There were, counting Delaware, six of them as against seven commercial states. Dependent for their prosperity mainly upon the sale of tobacco, rice, and other staples abroad, they feared that Congress might impose restraints upon their enterprise. Being weaker in numbers, they were afraid that the majority might lay an unfair burden of taxes upon them.

Representation and Taxation.—The Southern members of the convention were therefore very anxious to secure for their section the largest possible representation in Congress, and at the same time to restrain the taxing power of that body. Two devices were thought adapted to these ends. One was to count the slaves as people when apportioning representatives among the states according to their respective populations; the other was to provide that direct taxes should be apportioned among the states, in proportion not to their wealth but to the number of their free white inhabitants. For obvious reasons the Northern delegates objected to these proposals. Once more a compromise proved to be the solution. It was agreed that not all the slaves but three-fifths of them should be counted for both purposes—representation and direct taxation.

Commerce and the Slave Trade.—Southern interests were also involved in the project to confer upon Congress the power to regulate interstate and foreign commerce. To the manufacturing and trading states this was essential. It would prevent interstate tariffs and trade jealousies; it would enable Congress to protect American manufactures and to break down, by appropriate retaliations, foreign discriminations against American commerce. To the South the proposal was menacing because tariffs might interfere with the free exchange of the produce of plantations in European markets, and navigation acts might confine the carrying trade to American, that is Northern, ships. The importation of slaves, moreover, it was feared might be heavily taxed or immediately prohibited altogether.

The result of this and related controversies was a debate on the merits of slavery. Gouverneur Morris delivered his mind and heart on that subject, denouncing slavery as a nefarious institution and the curse of heaven on the states in which it prevailed. Mason of Virginia, a slaveholder himself, was hardly less outspoken, saying: "Slavery discourages arts and manufactures. The poor despise labor when performed by slaves. They prevent the migration of whites who really strengthen and enrich a country."

The system, however, had its defenders. Representatives from South Carolina argued that their entire economic life rested on slave labor and that the high death rate in the rice swamps made continuous importation necessary. Ellsworth of Connecticut took the ground that the convention should not meddle with slavery. "The morality or wisdom of slavery," he said, "are considerations belonging to the states. What enriches a part enriches the whole." To the future he turned an untroubled face: "As population increases, poor laborers will be so plenty as to render slaves useless. Slavery in time will not be a speck in our country." Virginia and North Carolina, already overstocked with slaves, favored prohibiting the traffic in them; but South Carolina was adamant. She must have fresh supplies of slaves or she would not federate.

So it was agreed that, while Congress might regulate foreign trade by majority vote, the importation of slaves should not be forbidden before the lapse of twenty years, and that any import tax should not exceed $10 a head. At the same time, in connection with the regulation of foreign trade, it was stipulated that a two-thirds vote in the Senate should be necessary in the ratification of treaties. A further concession to the South was made in the provision for the return of runaway slaves—a provision also useful in the North, where indentured servants were about as troublesome as slaves in escaping from their masters.

The Form of the Government.—As to the details of the frame of government and the grand principles involved, the opinion of the convention ebbed and flowed, decisions being taken in the heat of debate, only to be revoked and taken again.

The Executive.—There was general agreement that there should be an executive branch; for reliance upon Congress to enforce its own laws and treaties had been a broken reed. On the character and functions of the executive, however, there were many views. The New Jersey plan called for a council selected by the Congress; the Virginia plan provided that the executive branch should be chosen by the Congress but did not state whether it should be composed of one or several persons. On this matter the convention voted first one way and then another; finally it agreed on a single executive chosen indirectly by electors selected as the state legislatures might decide, serving for four years, subject to impeachment, and endowed with regal powers in the command of the army and the navy and in the enforcement of the laws.

The Legislative Branch—Congress.—After the convention had made the great compromise between the large and small commonwealths by giving representation to states in the Senate and to population in the House, the question of methods of election had to be decided. As to the House of Representatives it was readily agreed that the members should be elected by direct popular vote. There was also easy agreement on the proposition that a strong Senate was needed to check the "turbulence" of the lower house. Four devices were finally selected to accomplish this purpose. In the first place, the Senators were not to be chosen directly by the voters but by the legislatures of the states, thus removing their election one degree from the populace. In the second place, their term was fixed at six years instead of two, as in the case of the House. In the third place, provision was made for continuity by having only one-third of the members go out at a time while two-thirds remained in service. Finally, it was provided that Senators must be at least thirty years old while Representatives need be only twenty-five.

The Judiciary.—The need for federal courts to carry out the law was hardly open to debate. The feebleness of the Articles of Confederation was, in a large measure, attributed to the want of a judiciary to hold states and individuals in obedience to the laws and treaties of the union. Nevertheless on this point the advocates of states' rights were extremely sensitive. They looked with distrust upon judges appointed at the national capital and emancipated from local interests and traditions; they remembered with what insistence they had claimed against Britain the right of local trial by jury and with what consternation they had viewed the proposal to make colonial judges independent of the assemblies in the matter of their salaries. Reluctantly they yielded to the demand for federal courts, consenting at first only to a supreme court to review cases heard in lower state courts and finally to such additional inferior courts as Congress might deem necessary.

The System of Checks and Balances.—It is thus apparent that the framers of the Constitution, in shaping the form of government, arranged for a distribution of power among three branches, executive, legislative, and judicial. Strictly speaking we might say four branches, for the legislature, or Congress, was composed of two houses, elected in different ways, and one of them, the Senate, was made a check on the President through its power of ratifying treaties and appointments. "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judicial, in the same hands," wrote Madison, "whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." The devices which the convention adopted to prevent such a centralization of authority were exceedingly ingenious and well calculated to accomplish the purposes of the authors.

The legislature consisted of two houses, the members of which were to be apportioned on a different basis, elected in different ways, and to serve for different terms. A veto on all its acts was vested in a President elected in a manner not employed in the choice of either branch of the legislature, serving for four years, and subject to removal only by the difficult process of impeachment. After a law had run the gantlet of both houses and the executive, it was subject to interpretation and annulment by the judiciary, appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate and serving for life. Thus it was made almost impossible for any political party to get possession of all branches of the government at a single popular election. As Hamilton remarked, the friends of good government considered "every institution calculated to restrain the excess of law making and to keep things in the same state in which they happen to be at any given period as more likely to do good than harm."

The Powers of the Federal Government.—On the question of the powers to be conferred upon the new government there was less occasion for a serious dispute. Even the delegates from the small states agreed with those from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia that new powers should be added to those intrusted to Congress by the Articles of Confederation. The New Jersey plan as well as the Virginia plan recognized this fact. Some of the delegates, like Hamilton and Madison, even proposed to give Congress a general legislative authority covering all national matters; but others, frightened by the specter of nationalism, insisted on specifying each power to be conferred and finally carried the day.

Taxation and Commerce.—There were none bold enough to dissent from the proposition that revenue must be provided to pay current expenses and discharge the public debt. When once the dispute over the apportionment of direct taxes among the slave states was settled, it was an easy matter to decide that Congress should have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises. In this way the national government was freed from dependence upon stubborn and tardy legislatures and enabled to collect funds directly from citizens. There were likewise none bold enough to contend that the anarchy of state tariffs and trade discriminations should be longer endured. When the fears of the planting states were allayed and the "bargain" over the importation of slaves was reached, the convention vested in Congress the power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce.

National Defense.—The necessity for national defense was realized, though the fear of huge military establishments was equally present. The old practice of relying on quotas furnished by the state legislatures was completely discredited. As in the case of taxes a direct authority over citizens was demanded. Congress was therefore given full power to raise and support armies and a navy. It could employ the state militia when desirable; but it could at the same time maintain a regular army and call directly upon all able-bodied males if the nature of a crisis was thought to require it.

The "Necessary and Proper" Clause.—To the specified power vested in Congress by the Constitution, the advocates of a strong national government added a general clause authorizing it to make all laws "necessary and proper" for carrying into effect any and all of the enumerated powers. This clause, interpreted by that master mind, Chief Justice Marshall, was later construed to confer powers as wide as the requirements of a vast country spanning a continent and taking its place among the mighty nations of the earth.

Restraints on the States.—Framing a government and endowing it with large powers were by no means the sole concern of the convention. Its very existence had been due quite as much to the conduct of the state legislatures as to the futilities of a paralyzed Continental Congress. In every state, explains Marshall in his Life of Washington, there was a party of men who had "marked out for themselves a more indulgent course. Viewing with extreme tenderness the case of the debtor, their efforts were unceasingly directed to his relief. To exact a faithful compliance with contracts was, in their opinion, a harsh measure which the people could not bear. They were uniformly in favor of relaxing the administration of justice, of affording facilities for the payment of debts, or of suspending their collection, and remitting taxes."

The legislatures under the dominance of these men had enacted paper money laws enabling debtors to discharge their obligations more easily. The convention put an end to such practices by providing that no state should emit bills of credit or make anything but gold or silver legal tender in the payment of debts. The state legislatures had enacted laws allowing men to pay their debts by turning over to creditors land or personal property; they had repealed the charter of an endowed college and taken the management from the hands of the lawful trustees; and they had otherwise interfered with the enforcement of private agreements. The convention, taking notice of such matters, inserted a clause forbidding states "to impair the obligation of contracts." The more venturous of the radicals had in Massachusetts raised the standard of revolt against the authorities of the state. The convention answered by a brief sentence to the effect that the President of the United States, to be equipped with a regular army, would send troops to suppress domestic insurrections whenever called upon by the legislature or, if it was not in session, by the governor of the state. To make sure that the restrictions on the states would not be dead letters, the federal Constitution, laws, and treaties were made the supreme law of the land, to be enforced whenever necessary by a national judiciary and executive against violations on the part of any state authorities.

Provisions for Ratification and Amendment.—When the frame of government had been determined, the powers to be vested in it had been enumerated, and the restrictions upon the states had been written into the bond, there remained three final questions. How shall the Constitution be ratified? What number of states shall be necessary to put it into effect? How shall it be amended in the future?

On the first point, the mandate under which the convention was sitting seemed positive. The Articles of Confederation were still in effect. They provided that amendments could be made only by unanimous adoption in Congress and the approval of all the states. As if to give force to this provision of law, the call for the convention had expressly stated that all alterations and revisions should be reported to Congress for adoption or rejection, Congress itself to transmit the document thereafter to the states for their review.

To have observed the strict letter of the law would have defeated the purposes of the delegates, because Congress and the state legislatures were openly hostile to such drastic changes as had been made. Unanimous ratification, as events proved, would have been impossible. Therefore the delegates decided that the Constitution should be sent to Congress with the recommendation that it, in turn, transmit the document, not to the state legislatures, but to conventions held in the states for the special object of deciding upon ratification. This process was followed. It was their belief that special conventions would be more friendly than the state legislatures.

The convention was equally positive in dealing with the problem of the number of states necessary to establish the new Constitution. Attempts to change the Articles had failed because amendment required the approval of every state and there was always at least one recalcitrant member of the union. The opposition to a new Constitution was undoubtedly formidable. Rhode Island had even refused to take part in framing it, and her hostility was deep and open. So the convention cast aside the provision of the Articles of Confederation which required unanimous approval for any change in the plan of government; it decreed that the new Constitution should go into effect when ratified by nine states.

In providing for future changes in the Constitution itself the convention also thrust aside the old rule of unanimous approval, and decided that an amendment could be made on a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. This change was of profound significance. Every state agreed to be bound in the future by amendments duly adopted even in case it did not approve them itself. America in this way set out upon the high road that led from a league of states to a nation.

The Struggle over Ratification

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution, having been finally drafted in clear and simple language, a model to all makers of fundamental law, was adopted. The convention, after nearly four months of debate in secret session, flung open the doors and presented to the Americans the finished plan for the new government. Then the great debate passed to the people.

An Advertisement of _The Federalist_
An Advertisement of The Federalist

The Opposition.—Storms of criticism at once descended upon the Constitution. "Fraudulent usurpation!" exclaimed Gerry, who had refused to sign it. "A monster" out of the "thick veil of secrecy," declaimed a Pennsylvania newspaper. "An iron-handed despotism will be the result," protested a third. "We, 'the low-born,'" sarcastically wrote a fourth, "will now admit the 'six hundred well-born' immediately to establish this most noble, most excellent, and truly divine constitution." The President will become a king; Congress will be as tyrannical as Parliament in the old days; the states will be swallowed up; the rights of the people will be trampled upon; the poor man's justice will be lost in the endless delays of the federal courts—such was the strain of the protests against ratification.

Defense of the Constitution.—Moved by the tempest of opposition, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay took up their pens in defense of the Constitution. In a series of newspaper articles they discussed and expounded with eloquence, learning, and dignity every important clause and provision of the proposed plan. These papers, afterwards collected and published in a volume known as The Federalist, form the finest textbook on the Constitution that has ever been printed. It takes its place, moreover, among the wisest and weightiest treatises on government ever written in any language in any time. Other men, not so gifted, were no less earnest in their support of ratification. In private correspondence, editorials, pamphlets, and letters to the newspapers, they urged their countrymen to forget their partisanship and accept a Constitution which, in spite of any defects great or small, was the only guarantee against dissolution and warfare at home and dishonor and weakness abroad.

Celebrating the Ratification
Celebrating the Ratification

The Action of the State Conventions.—Before the end of the year, 1787, three states had ratified the Constitution: Delaware and New Jersey unanimously and Pennsylvania after a short, though savage, contest. Connecticut and Georgia followed early the next year. Then came the battle royal in Massachusetts, ending in ratification in February by the narrow margin of 187 votes to 168. In the spring came the news that Maryland and South Carolina were "under the new roof." On June 21, New Hampshire, where the sentiment was at first strong enough to defeat the Constitution, joined the new republic, influenced by the favorable decision in Massachusetts. Swift couriers were sent to carry the news to New York and Virginia, where the question of ratification was still undecided. Nine states had accepted it and were united, whether more saw fit to join or not.

Meanwhile, however, Virginia, after a long and searching debate, had given her approval by a narrow margin, leaving New York as the next seat of anxiety. In that state the popular vote for the delegates to the convention had been clearly and heavily against ratification. Events finally demonstrated the futility of resistance, and Hamilton by good judgment and masterly arguments was at last able to marshal a majority of thirty to twenty-seven votes in favor of ratification.

The great contest was over. All the states, except North Carolina and Rhode Island, had ratified. "The sloop Anarchy," wrote an ebullient journalist, "when last heard from was ashore on Union rocks."

The First Election.—In the autumn of 1788, elections were held to fill the places in the new government. Public opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of Washington as the first President. Yielding to the importunities of friends, he accepted the post in the spirit of public service. On April 30, 1789, he took the oath of office at Federal Hall in New York City. "Long live George Washington, President of the United States!" cried Chancellor Livingston as soon as the General had kissed the Bible. The cry was caught by the assembled multitude and given back. A new experiment in popular government was launched.


M. Farrand, The Framing of the Constitution of the United States.

P.L. Ford, Essays on the Constitution of the United States.

The Federalist (in many editions).

G. Hunt, Life of James Madison.

A.C. McLaughlin, The Confederation and the Constitution (American Nation Series).


1. Account for the failure of the Articles of Confederation.

2. Explain the domestic difficulties of the individual states.

3. Why did efforts at reform by the Congress come to naught?

4. Narrate the events leading up to the constitutional convention.

5. Who were some of the leading men in the convention? What had been their previous training?

6. State the great problems before the convention.

7. In what respects were the planting and commercial states opposed? What compromises were reached?

8. Show how the "check and balance" system is embodied in our form of government.

9. How did the powers conferred upon the federal government help cure the defects of the Articles of Confederation?

10. In what way did the provisions for ratifying and amending the Constitution depart from the old system?

11. What was the nature of the conflict over ratification?

Research Topics

English Treatment of American Commerce.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 210-220.

Financial Condition of the United States.—Fiske, Critical Period of American History, pp. 163-186.

Disordered Commerce.—Fiske, pp. 134-162.

Selfish Conduct of the States.—Callender, pp. 185-191.

The Failure of the Confederation.—Elson, History of the United States, pp. 318-326.

Formation of the Constitution.—(1) The plans before the convention, Fiske, pp. 236-249; (2) the great compromise, Fiske, pp. 250-255; (3) slavery and the convention, Fiske, pp. 256-266; and (4) the frame of government, Fiske, pp. 275-301; Elson, pp. 328-334.

Biographical Studies.—Look up the history and services of the leaders in the convention in any good encyclopedia.

Ratification of the Constitution.—Hart, History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. III, pp. 233-254; Elson, pp. 334-340.

Source Study.—Compare the Constitution and Articles of Confederation under the following heads: (1) frame of government; (2) powers of Congress; (3) limits on states; and (4) methods of amendment. Every line of the Constitution should be read and re-read in the light of the historical circumstances set forth in this chapter.



The Men and Measures of the New Government

Friends of the Constitution in Power.—In the first Congress that assembled after the adoption of the Constitution, there were eleven Senators, led by Robert Morris, the financier, who had been delegates to the national convention. Several members of the House of Representatives, headed by James Madison, had also been at Philadelphia in 1787. In making his appointments, Washington strengthened the new system of government still further by a judicious selection of officials. He chose as Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, who had been the most zealous for its success; General Knox, head of the War Department, and Edmund Randolph, the Attorney-General, were likewise conspicuous friends of the experiment. Every member of the federal judiciary whom Washington appointed, from the Chief Justice, John Jay, down to the justices of the district courts, had favored the ratification of the Constitution; and a majority of them had served as members of the national convention that framed the document or of the state ratifying conventions. Only one man of influence in the new government, Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, was reckoned as a doubter in the house of the faithful. He had expressed opinions both for and against the Constitution; but he had been out of the country acting as the minister at Paris when the Constitution was drafted and ratified.

An Opposition to Conciliate.—The inauguration of Washington amid the plaudits of his countrymen did not set at rest all the political turmoil which had been aroused by the angry contest over ratification. "The interesting nature of the question," wrote John Marshall, "the equality of the parties, the animation produced inevitably by ardent debate had a necessary tendency to embitter the dispositions of the vanquished and to fix more deeply in many bosoms their prejudices against a plan of government in opposition to which all their passions were enlisted." The leaders gathered around Washington were well aware of the excited state of the country. They saw Rhode Island and North Carolina still outside of the union.[1] They knew by what small margins the Constitution had been approved in the great states of Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York. They were equally aware that a majority of the state conventions, in yielding reluctant approval to the Constitution, had drawn a number of amendments for immediate submission to the states.

The First Amendments—a Bill of Rights.—To meet the opposition, Madison proposed, and the first Congress adopted, a series of amendments to the Constitution. Ten of them were soon ratified and became in 1791 a part of the law of the land. These amendments provided, among other things, that Congress could make no law respecting the establishment of religion, abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. They also guaranteed indictment by grand jury and trial by jury for all persons charged by federal officers with serious crimes. To reassure those who still feared that local rights might be invaded by the federal government, the tenth amendment expressly provided that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively or to the people. Seven years later, the eleventh amendment was written in the same spirit as the first ten, after a heated debate over the action of the Supreme Court in permitting a citizen to bring a suit against "the sovereign state" of Georgia. The new amendment was designed to protect states against the federal judiciary by forbidding it to hear any case in which a state was sued by a citizen.

Funding the National Debt.—Paper declarations of rights, however, paid no bills. To this task Hamilton turned all his splendid genius. At the very outset he addressed himself to the problem of the huge public debt, daily mounting as the unpaid interest accumulated. In a Report on Public Credit under date of January 9, 1790, one of the first and greatest of American state papers, he laid before Congress the outlines of his plan. He proposed that the federal government should call in all the old bonds, certificates of indebtedness, and other promises to pay which had been issued by the Congress since the beginning of the Revolution. These national obligations, he urged, should be put into one consolidated debt resting on the credit of the United States; to the holders of the old paper should be issued new bonds drawing interest at fixed rates. This process was called "funding the debt." Such a provision for the support of public credit, Hamilton insisted, would satisfy creditors, restore landed property to its former value, and furnish new resources to agriculture and commerce in the form of credit and capital.

Assumption and Funding of State Debts.—Hamilton then turned to the obligations incurred by the several states in support of the Revolution. These debts he proposed to add to the national debt. They were to be "assumed" by the United States government and placed on the same secure foundation as the continental debt. This measure he defended not merely on grounds of national honor. It would, as he foresaw, give strength to the new national government by making all public creditors, men of substance in their several communities, look to the federal, rather than the state government, for the satisfaction of their claims.

Funding at Face Value.—On the question of the terms of consolidation, assumption, and funding, Hamilton had a firm conviction. That millions of dollars' worth of the continental and state bonds had passed out of the hands of those who had originally subscribed their funds to the support of the government or had sold supplies for the Revolutionary army was well known. It was also a matter of common knowledge that a very large part of these bonds had been bought by speculators at ruinous figures—ten, twenty, and thirty cents on the dollar. Accordingly, it had been suggested, even in very respectable quarters, that a discrimination should be made between original holders and speculative purchasers. Some who held this opinion urged that the speculators who had paid nominal sums for their bonds should be reimbursed for their outlays and the original holders paid the difference; others said that the government should "scale the debt" by redeeming, not at full value but at a figure reasonably above the market price. Against the proposition Hamilton set his face like flint. He maintained that the government was honestly bound to redeem every bond at its face value, although the difficulty of securing revenue made necessary a lower rate of interest on a part of the bonds and the deferring of interest on another part.

Funding and Assumption Carried.—There was little difficulty in securing the approval of both houses of Congress for the funding of the national debt at full value. The bill for the assumption of state debts, however, brought the sharpest division of opinions. To the Southern members of Congress assumption was a gross violation of states' rights, without any warrant in the Constitution and devised in the interest of Northern speculators who, anticipating assumption and funding, had bought up at low prices the Southern bonds and other promises to pay. New England, on the other hand, was strongly in favor of assumption; several representatives from that section were rash enough to threaten a dissolution of the union if the bill was defeated. To this dispute was added an equally bitter quarrel over the location of the national capital, then temporarily at New York City.

First United States Bank at Philadelphia
From an old print
First United States Bank at Philadelphia

A deadlock, accompanied by the most surly feelings on both sides, threatened the very existence of the young government. Washington and Hamilton were thoroughly alarmed. Hearing of the extremity to which the contest had been carried and acting on the appeal from the Secretary of the Treasury, Jefferson intervened at this point. By skillful management at a good dinner he brought the opposing leaders together; and thus once more, as on many other occasions, peace was purchased and the union saved by compromise. The bargain this time consisted of an exchange of votes for assumption in return for votes for the capital. Enough Southern members voted for assumption to pass the bill, and a majority was mustered in favor of building the capital on the banks of the Potomac, after locating it for a ten-year period at Philadelphia to satisfy Pennsylvania members.

The United States Bank.—Encouraged by the success of his funding and assumption measures, Hamilton laid before Congress a project for a great United States Bank. He proposed that a private corporation be chartered by Congress, authorized to raise a capital stock of $10,000,000 (three-fourths in new six per cent federal bonds and one-fourth in specie) and empowered to issue paper currency under proper safeguards. Many advantages, Hamilton contended, would accrue to the government from this institution. The price of the government bonds would be increased, thus enhancing public credit. A national currency would be created of uniform value from one end of the land to the other. The branches of the bank in various cities would make easy the exchange of funds so vital to commercial transactions on a national scale. Finally, through the issue of bank notes, the money capital available for agriculture and industry would be increased, thus stimulating business enterprise. Jefferson hotly attacked the bank on the ground that Congress had no power whatever under the Constitution to charter such a private corporation. Hamilton defended it with great cogency. Washington, after weighing all opinions, decided in favor of the proposal. In 1791 the bill establishing the first United States Bank for a period of twenty years became a law.

The Protective Tariff.—A third part of Hamilton's program was the protection of American industries. The first revenue act of 1789, though designed primarily to bring money into the empty treasury, declared in favor of the principle. The following year Washington referred to the subject in his address to Congress. Thereupon Hamilton was instructed to prepare recommendations for legislative action. The result, after a delay of more than a year, was his Report on Manufactures, another state paper worthy, in closeness of reasoning and keenness of understanding, of a place beside his report on public credit. Hamilton based his argument on the broadest national grounds: the protective tariff would, by encouraging the building of factories, create a home market for the produce of farms and plantations; by making the United States independent of other countries in times of peace, it would double its security in time of war; by making use of the labor of women and children, it would turn to the production of goods persons otherwise idle or only partly employed; by increasing the trade between the North and South it would strengthen the links of union and add to political ties those of commerce and intercourse. The revenue measure of 1792 bore the impress of these arguments.

The Rise of Political Parties

Dissensions over Hamilton's Measures.—Hamilton's plans, touching deeply as they did the resources of individuals and the interests of the states, awakened alarm and opposition. Funding at face value, said his critics, was a government favor to speculators; the assumption of state debts was a deep design to undermine the state governments; Congress had no constitutional power to create a bank; the law creating the bank merely allowed a private corporation to make paper money and lend it at a high rate of interest; and the tariff was a tax on land and labor for the benefit of manufacturers.

Hamilton's reply to this bill of indictment was simple and straightforward. Some rascally speculators had profited from the funding of the debt at face value, but that was only an incident in the restoration of public credit. In view of the jealousies of the states it was a good thing to reduce their powers and pretensions. The Constitution was not to be interpreted narrowly but in the full light of national needs. The bank would enlarge the amount of capital so sorely needed to start up American industries, giving markets to farmers and planters. The tariff by creating a home market and increasing opportunities for employment would benefit both land and labor. Out of such wise policies firmly pursued by the government, he concluded, were bound to come strength and prosperity for the new government at home, credit and power abroad. This view Washington fully indorsed, adding the weight of his great name to the inherent merits of the measures adopted under his administration.

The Sharpness of the Partisan Conflict.—As a result of the clash of opinion, the people of the country gradually divided into two parties: Federalists and Anti-Federalists, the former led by Hamilton, the latter by Jefferson. The strength of the Federalists lay in the cities—Boston, Providence, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston—among the manufacturing, financial, and commercial groups of the population who were eager to extend their business operations. The strength of the Anti-Federalists lay mainly among the debt-burdened farmers who feared the growth of what they called "a money power" and planters in all sections who feared the dominance of commercial and manufacturing interests. The farming and planting South, outside of the few towns, finally presented an almost solid front against assumption, the bank, and the tariff. The conflict between the parties grew steadily in bitterness, despite the conciliatory and engaging manner in which Hamilton presented his cause in his state papers and despite the constant efforts of Washington to soften the asperity of the contestants.

The Leadership and Doctrines of Jefferson.—The party dispute had not gone far before the opponents of the administration began to look to Jefferson as their leader. Some of Hamilton's measures he had approved, declaring afterward that he did not at the time understand their significance. Others, particularly the bank, he fiercely assailed. More than once, he and Hamilton, shaking violently with anger, attacked each other at cabinet meetings, and nothing short of the grave and dignified pleas of Washington prevented an early and open break between them. In 1794 it finally came. Jefferson resigned as Secretary of State and retired to his home in Virginia to assume, through correspondence and negotiation, the leadership of the steadily growing party of opposition.

Shy and modest in manner, halting in speech, disliking the turmoil of public debate, and deeply interested in science and philosophy, Jefferson was not very well fitted for the strenuous life of political contest. Nevertheless, he was an ambitious and shrewd negotiator. He was also by honest opinion and matured conviction the exact opposite of Hamilton. The latter believed in a strong, active, "high-toned" government, vigorously compelling in all its branches. Jefferson looked upon such government as dangerous to the liberties of citizens and openly avowed his faith in the desirability of occasional popular uprisings. Hamilton distrusted the people. "Your people is a great beast," he is reported to have said. Jefferson professed his faith in the people with an abandon that was considered reckless in his time.

On economic matters, the opinions of the two leaders were also hopelessly at variance. Hamilton, while cherishing agriculture, desired to see America a great commercial and industrial nation. Jefferson was equally set against this course for his country. He feared the accumulation of riches and the growth of a large urban working class. The mobs of great cities, he said, are sores on the body politic; artisans are usually the dangerous element that make revolutions; workshops should be kept in Europe and with them the artisans with their insidious morals and manners. The only substantial foundation for a republic, Jefferson believed to be agriculture. The spirit of independence could be kept alive only by free farmers, owning the land they tilled and looking to the sun in heaven and the labor of their hands for their sustenance. Trusting as he did in the innate goodness of human nature when nourished on a free soil, Jefferson advocated those measures calculated to favor agriculture and to enlarge the rights of persons rather than the powers of government. Thus he became the champion of the individual against the interference of the government, and an ardent advocate of freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of scientific inquiry. It was, accordingly, no mere factious spirit that drove him into opposition to Hamilton.

The Whisky Rebellion.—The political agitation of the Anti-Federalists was accompanied by an armed revolt against the government in 1794. The occasion for this uprising was another of Hamilton's measures, a law laying an excise tax on distilled spirits, for the purpose of increasing the revenue needed to pay the interest on the funded debt. It so happened that a very considerable part of the whisky manufactured in the country was made by the farmers, especially on the frontier, in their own stills. The new revenue law meant that federal officers would now come into the homes of the people, measure their liquor, and take the tax out of their pockets. All the bitterness which farmers felt against the fiscal measures of the government was redoubled. In the western districts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, they refused to pay the tax. In Pennsylvania, some of them sacked and burned the houses of the tax collectors, as the Revolutionists thirty years before had mobbed the agents of King George sent over to sell stamps. They were in a fair way to nullify the law in whole districts when Washington called out the troops to suppress "the Whisky Rebellion." Then the movement collapsed; but it left behind a deep-seated resentment which flared up in the election of several obdurate Anti-Federalist Congressmen from the disaffected regions.

Foreign Influences and Domestic Politics

The French Revolution.—In this exciting period, when all America was distracted by partisan disputes, a storm broke in Europe—the epoch-making French Revolution—which not only shook the thrones of the Old World but stirred to its depths the young republic of the New World. The first scene in this dramatic affair occurred in the spring of 1789, a few days after Washington was inaugurated. The king of France, Louis XVI, driven into bankruptcy by extravagance and costly wars, was forced to resort to his people for financial help. Accordingly he called, for the first time in more than one hundred fifty years, a meeting of the national parliament, the "Estates General," composed of representatives of the "three estates"—the clergy, nobility, and commoners. Acting under powerful leaders, the commoners, or "third estate," swept aside the clergy and nobility and resolved themselves into a national assembly. This stirred the country to its depths.

Louis XVI in the Hands of the Mob
From an old print
Louis XVI in the Hands of the Mob

Great events followed in swift succession. On July 14, 1789, the Bastille, an old royal prison, symbol of the king's absolutism, was stormed by a Paris crowd and destroyed. On the night of August 4, the feudal privileges of the nobility were abolished by the national assembly amid great excitement. A few days later came the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man, proclaiming the sovereignty of the people and the privileges of citizens. In the autumn of 1791, Louis XVI was forced to accept a new constitution for France vesting the legislative power in a popular assembly. Little disorder accompanied these startling changes. To all appearances a peaceful revolution had stripped the French king of his royal prerogatives and based the government of his country on the consent of the governed.

American Influence in France.—In undertaking their great political revolt the French had been encouraged by the outcome of the American Revolution. Officers and soldiers, who had served in the American war, reported to their French countrymen marvelous tales. At the frugal table of General Washington, in council with the unpretentious Franklin, or at conferences over the strategy of war, French noblemen of ancient lineage learned to respect both the talents and the simple character of the leaders in the great republican commonwealth beyond the seas. Travelers, who had gone to see the experiment in republicanism with their own eyes, carried home to the king and ruling class stories of an astounding system of popular government.

On the other hand the dalliance with American democracy was regarded by French conservatives as playing with fire. "When we think of the false ideas of government and philanthropy," wrote one of Lafayette's aides, "which these youths acquired in America and propagated in France with so much enthusiasm and such deplorable success—for this mania of imitation powerfully aided the Revolution, though it was not the sole cause of it—we are bound to confess that it would have been better, both for themselves and for us, if these young philosophers in red-heeled shoes had stayed at home in attendance on the court."

Early American Opinion of the French Revolution.—So close were the ties between the two nations that it is not surprising to find every step in the first stages of the French Revolution greeted with applause in the United States. "Liberty will have another feather in her cap," exultantly wrote a Boston editor. "In no part of the globe," soberly wrote John Marshall, "was this revolution hailed with more joy than in America.... But one sentiment existed." The main key to the Bastille, sent to Washington as a memento, was accepted as "a token of the victory gained by liberty." Thomas Paine saw in the great event "the first ripe fruits of American principles transplanted into Europe." Federalists and Anti-Federalists regarded the new constitution of France as another vindication of American ideals.

The Reign of Terror.—While profuse congratulations were being exchanged, rumors began to come that all was not well in France. Many noblemen, enraged at the loss of their special privileges, fled into Germany and plotted an invasion of France to overthrow the new system of government. Louis XVI entered into negotiations with his brother monarchs on the continent to secure their help in the same enterprise, and he finally betrayed to the French people his true sentiments by attempting to escape from his kingdom, only to be captured and taken back to Paris in disgrace.

A new phase of the revolution now opened. The working people, excluded from all share in the government by the first French constitution, became restless, especially in Paris. Assembling on the Champs de Mars, a great open field, they signed a petition calling for another constitution giving them the suffrage. When told to disperse, they refused and were fired upon by the national guard. This "massacre," as it was called, enraged the populace. A radical party, known as "Jacobins," then sprang up, taking its name from a Jacobin monastery in which it held its sessions. In a little while it became the master of the popular convention convoked in September, 1792. The monarchy was immediately abolished and a republic established. On January 21, 1793, Louis was sent to the scaffold. To the war on Austria, already raging, was added a war on England. Then came the Reign of Terror, during which radicals in possession of the convention executed in large numbers counter-revolutionists and those suspected of sympathy with the monarchy. They shot down peasants who rose in insurrection against their rule and established a relentless dictatorship. Civil war followed. Terrible atrocities were committed on both sides in the name of liberty, and in the name of monarchy. To Americans of conservative temper it now seemed that the Revolution, so auspiciously begun, had degenerated into anarchy and mere bloodthirsty strife.

Burke Summons the World to War on France.—In England, Edmund Burke led the fight against the new French principles which he feared might spread to all Europe. In his Reflections on the French Revolution, written in 1790, he attacked with terrible wrath the whole program of popular government; he called for war, relentless war, upon the French as monsters and outlaws; he demanded that they be reduced to order by the restoration of the king to full power under the protection of the arms of European nations.

Paine's Defense of the French Revolution.—To counteract the campaign of hate against the French, Thomas Paine replied to Burke in another of his famous tracts, The Rights of Man, which was given to the American public in an edition containing a letter of approval from Jefferson. Burke, said Paine, had been mourning about the glories of the French monarchy and aristocracy but had forgotten the starving peasants and the oppressed people; had wept over the plumage and neglected the dying bird. Burke had denied the right of the French people to choose their own governors, blandly forgetting that the English government in which he saw final perfection itself rested on two revolutions. He had boasted that the king of England held his crown in contempt of the democratic societies. Paine answered: "If I ask a man in America if he wants a king, he retorts and asks me if I take him for an idiot." To the charge that the doctrines of the rights of man were "new fangled," Paine replied that the question was not whether they were new or old but whether they were right or wrong. As to the French disorders and difficulties, he bade the world wait to see what would be brought forth in due time.

The Effect of the French Revolution on American Politics.—The course of the French Revolution and the controversies accompanying it, exercised a profound influence on the formation of the first political parties in America. The followers of Hamilton, now proud of the name "Federalists," drew back in fright as they heard of the cruel deeds committed during the Reign of Terror. They turned savagely upon the revolutionists and their friends in America, denouncing as "Jacobin" everybody who did not condemn loudly enough the proceedings of the French Republic. A Massachusetts preacher roundly assailed "the atheistical, anarchical, and in other respects immoral principles of the French Republicans"; he then proceeded with equal passion to attack Jefferson and the Anti-Federalists, whom he charged with spreading false French propaganda and betraying America. "The editors, patrons, and abettors of these vehicles of slander," he exclaimed, "ought to be considered and treated as enemies to their country.... Of all traitors they are the most aggravatedly criminal; of all villains, they are the most infamous and detestable."

The Anti-Federalists, as a matter of fact, were generally favorable to the Revolution although they deplored many of the events associated with it. Paine's pamphlet, indorsed by Jefferson, was widely read. Democratic societies, after the fashion of French political clubs, arose in the cities; the coalition of European monarchs against France was denounced as a coalition against the very principles of republicanism; and the execution of Louis XVI was openly celebrated at a banquet in Philadelphia. Harmless titles, such as "Sir," "the Honorable," and "His Excellency," were decried as aristocratic and some of the more excited insisted on adopting the French title, "Citizen," speaking, for example, of "Citizen Judge" and "Citizen Toastmaster." Pamphlets in defense of the French streamed from the press, while subsidized newspapers kept the propaganda in full swing.

The European War Disturbs American Commerce.—This battle of wits, or rather contest in calumny, might have gone on indefinitely in America without producing any serious results, had it not been for the war between England and France, then raging. The English, having command of the seas, claimed the right to seize American produce bound for French ports and to confiscate American ships engaged in carrying French goods. Adding fuel to a fire already hot enough, they began to search American ships and to carry off British-born sailors found on board American vessels.

The French Appeal for Help.—At the same time the French Republic turned to the United States for aid in its war on England and sent over as its diplomatic representative "Citizen" Genêt, an ardent supporter of the new order. On his arrival at Charleston, he was greeted with fervor by the Anti-Federalists. As he made his way North, he was wined and dined and given popular ovations that turned his head. He thought the whole country was ready to join the French Republic in its contest with England. Genêt therefore attempted to use the American ports as the base of operations for French privateers preying on British merchant ships; and he insisted that the United States was in honor bound to help France under the treaty of 1778.

The Proclamation of Neutrality and the Jay Treaty.—Unmoved by the rising tide of popular sympathy for France, Washington took a firm course. He received Genêt coldly. The demand that the United States aid France under the old treaty of alliance he answered by proclaiming the neutrality of America and warning American citizens against hostile acts toward either France or England. When Genêt continued to hold meetings, issue manifestoes, and stir up the people against England, Washington asked the French government to recall him. This act he followed up by sending the Chief Justice, John Jay, on a pacific mission to England.

The result was the celebrated Jay treaty of 1794. By its terms Great Britain agreed to withdraw her troops from the western forts where they had been since the war for independence and to grant certain slight trade concessions. The chief sources of bitterness—the failure of the British to return slaves carried off during the Revolution, the seizure of American ships, and the impressment of sailors—were not touched, much to the distress of everybody in America, including loyal Federalists. Nevertheless, Washington, dreading an armed conflict with England, urged the Senate to ratify the treaty. The weight of his influence carried the day.

At this, the hostility of the Anti-Federalists knew no bounds. Jefferson declared the Jay treaty "an infamous act which is really nothing more than an alliance between England and the Anglo-men of this country, against the legislature and the people of the United States." Hamilton, defending it with his usual courage, was stoned by a mob in New York and driven from the platform with blood streaming from his face. Jay was burned in effigy. Even Washington was not spared. The House of Representatives was openly hostile. To display its feelings, it called upon the President for the papers relative to the treaty negotiations, only to be more highly incensed by his flat refusal to present them, on the ground that the House did not share in the treaty-making power.

Washington Retires from Politics.—Such angry contests confirmed the President in his slowly maturing determination to retire at the end of his second term in office. He did not believe that a third term was unconstitutional or improper; but, worn out by his long and arduous labors in war and in peace and wounded by harsh attacks from former friends, he longed for the quiet of his beautiful estate at Mount Vernon.

In September, 1796, on the eve of the presidential election, Washington issued his Farewell Address, another state paper to be treasured and read by generations of Americans to come. In this address he directed the attention of the people to three subjects of lasting interest. He warned them against sectional jealousies. He remonstrated against the spirit of partisanship, saying that in government "of the popular character, in government purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged." He likewise cautioned the people against "the insidious wiles of foreign influence," saying: "Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it would be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.... Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation?... It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.... Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies."

The Campaign of 1796—Adams Elected.—On hearing of the retirement of Washington, the Anti-Federalists cast off all restraints. In honor of France and in opposition to what they were pleased to call the monarchical tendencies of the Federalists, they boldly assumed the name "Republican"; the term "Democrat," then applied only to obscure and despised radicals, had not come into general use. They selected Jefferson as their candidate for President against John Adams, the Federalist nominee, and carried on such a spirited campaign that they came within four votes of electing him.

The successful candidate, Adams, was not fitted by training or opinion for conciliating a determined opposition. He was a reserved and studious man. He was neither a good speaker nor a skillful negotiator. In one of his books he had declared himself in favor of "government by an aristocracy of talents and wealth"—an offense which the Republicans never forgave. While John Marshall found him "a sensible, plain, candid, good-tempered man," Jefferson could see in him nothing but a "monocrat" and "Anglo-man." Had it not been for the conduct of the French government, Adams would hardly have enjoyed a moment's genuine popularity during his administration.

The Quarrel with France.—The French Directory, the executive department established under the constitution of 1795, managed, however, to stir the anger of Republicans and Federalists alike. It regarded the Jay treaty as a rebuke to France and a flagrant violation of obligations solemnly registered in the treaty of 1778. Accordingly it refused to receive the American minister, treated him in a humiliating way, and finally told him to leave the country. Overlooking this affront in his anxiety to maintain peace, Adams dispatched to France a commission of eminent men with instructions to reach an understanding with the French Republic. On their arrival, they were chagrined to find, instead of a decent reception, an indirect demand for an apology respecting the past conduct of the American government, a payment in cash, and an annual tribute as the price of continued friendship. When the news of this affair reached President Adams, he promptly laid it before Congress, referring to the Frenchmen who had made the demands as "Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z."

This insult, coupled with the fact that French privateers, like the British, were preying upon American commerce, enraged even the Republicans who had been loudest in the profession of their French sympathies. They forgot their wrath over the Jay treaty and joined with the Federalists in shouting: "Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute!" Preparations for war were made on every hand. Washington was once more called from Mount Vernon to take his old position at the head of the army. Indeed, fighting actually began upon the high seas and went on without a formal declaration of war until the year 1800. By that time the Directory had been overthrown. A treaty was readily made with Napoleon, the First Consul, who was beginning his remarkable career as chief of the French Republic, soon to be turned into an empire.

Alien and Sedition Laws.—Flushed with success, the Federalists determined, if possible, to put an end to radical French influence in America and to silence Republican opposition. They therefore passed two drastic laws in the summer of 1798: the Alien and Sedition Acts.

The first of these measures empowered the President to expel from the country or to imprison any alien whom he regarded as "dangerous" or "had reasonable grounds to suspect" of "any treasonable or secret machinations against the government."

The second of the measures, the Sedition Act, penalized not only those who attempted to stir up unlawful combinations against the government but also every one who wrote, uttered, or published "any false, scandalous, and malicious writing ... against the government of the United States or either House of Congress, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame said government ... or to bring them or either of them into contempt or disrepute." This measure was hurried through Congress in spite of the opposition and the clear provision in the Constitution that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press. Even many Federalists feared the consequences of the action. Hamilton was alarmed when he read the bill, exclaiming: "Let us not establish a tyranny. Energy is a very different thing from violence." John Marshall told his friends in Virginia that, had he been in Congress, he would have opposed the two bills because he thought them "useless" and "calculated to create unnecessary discontents and jealousies."

The Alien law was not enforced; but it gave great offense to the Irish and French whose activities against the American government's policy respecting Great Britain put them in danger of prison. The Sedition law, on the other hand, was vigorously applied. Several editors of Republican newspapers soon found themselves in jail or broken by ruinous fines for their caustic criticisms of the Federalist President and his policies. Bystanders at political meetings, who uttered sentiments which, though ungenerous and severe, seem harmless enough now, were hurried before Federalist judges and promptly fined and imprisoned. Although the prosecutions were not numerous, they aroused a keen resentment. The Republicans were convinced that their political opponents, having saddled upon the country Hamilton's fiscal system and the British treaty, were bent on silencing all censure. The measures therefore had exactly the opposite effect from that which their authors intended. Instead of helping the Federalist party, they made criticism of it more bitter than ever.

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.—Jefferson was quick to take advantage of the discontent. He drafted a set of resolutions declaring the Sedition law null and void, as violating the federal Constitution. His resolutions were passed by the Kentucky legislature late in 1798, signed by the governor, and transmitted to the other states for their consideration. Though receiving unfavorable replies from a number of Northern states, Kentucky the following year reaffirmed its position and declared that the nullification of all unconstitutional acts of Congress was the rightful remedy to be used by the states in the redress of grievances. It thus defied the federal government and announced a doctrine hostile to nationality and fraught with terrible meaning for the future. In the neighboring state of Virginia, Madison led a movement against the Alien and Sedition laws. He induced the legislature to pass resolutions condemning the acts as unconstitutional and calling upon the other states to take proper means to preserve their rights and the rights of the people.

The Republican Triumph in 1800.—Thus the way was prepared for the election of 1800. The Republicans left no stone unturned in their efforts to place on the Federalist candidate, President Adams, all the odium of the Alien and Sedition laws, in addition to responsibility for approving Hamilton's measures and policies. The Federalists, divided in councils and cold in their affection for Adams, made a poor campaign. They tried to discredit their opponents with epithets of "Jacobins" and "Anarchists"—terms which had been weakened by excessive use. When the vote was counted, it was found that Adams had been defeated; while the Republicans had carried the entire South and New York also and secured eight of the fifteen electoral votes cast by Pennsylvania. "Our beloved Adams will now close his bright career," lamented a Federalist newspaper. "Sons of faction, demagogues and high priests of anarchy, now you have cause to triumph!"

A Quarrel between a Federalist and a Republican in the House of Representatives
An old cartoon
A Quarrel between a Federalist and a Republican in the House of Representatives

Jefferson's election, however, was still uncertain. By a curious provision in the Constitution, presidential electors were required to vote for two persons without indicating which office each was to fill, the one receiving the highest number of votes to be President and the candidate standing next to be Vice President. It so happened that Aaron Burr, the Republican candidate for Vice President, had received the same number of votes as Jefferson; as neither had a majority the election was thrown into the House of Representatives, where the Federalists held the balance of power. Although it was well known that Burr was not even a candidate for President, his friends and many Federalists began intriguing for his election to that high office. Had it not been for the vigorous action of Hamilton the prize might have been snatched out of Jefferson's hands. Not until the thirty-sixth ballot on February 17, 1801, was the great issue decided in his favor.[2]


J.S. Bassett, The Federalist System (American Nation Series).

C.A. Beard, Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy.

H. Lodge, Alexander Hamilton.

J.T. Morse, Thomas Jefferson.


1. Who were the leaders in the first administration under the Constitution?

2. What step was taken to appease the opposition?

3. Enumerate Hamilton's great measures and explain each in detail.

4. Show the connection between the parts of Hamilton's system.

5. Contrast the general political views of Hamilton and Jefferson.

6. What were the important results of the "peaceful" French Revolution (1789-92)?

7. Explain the interaction of opinion between France and the United States.

8. How did the "Reign of Terror" change American opinion?

9. What was the Burke-Paine controversy?

10. Show how the war in Europe affected American commerce and involved America with England and France.

11. What were American policies with regard to each of those countries?

12. What was the outcome of the Alien and Sedition Acts?

Research Topics

Early Federal Legislation.—Coman, Industrial History of the United States, pp. 133-156; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 341-348.

Hamilton's Report on Public Credit.—Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 233-243.

The French Revolution.—Robinson and Beard, Development of Modern Europe, Vol. I, pp. 224-282; Elson, pp. 351-354.

The Burke-Paine Controversy.—Make an analysis of Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution and Paine's Rights of Man.

The Alien and Sedition Acts.—Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 259-267; Elson, pp. 367-375.

Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.—Macdonald, pp. 267-278.

Source Studies.—Materials in Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. III, pp. 255-343.

Biographical Studies.—Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Gallatin.

The Twelfth Amendment.—Contrast the provision in the original Constitution with the terms of the Amendment. See Appendix.



Republican Principles and Policies

Opposition to Strong Central Government.—Cherishing especially the agricultural interest, as Jefferson said, the Republicans were in the beginning provincial in their concern and outlook. Their attachment to America was, certainly, as strong as that of Hamilton; but they regarded the state, rather than the national government, as the proper center of power and affection. Indeed, a large part of the rank and file had been among the opponents of the Constitution in the days of its adoption. Jefferson had entertained doubts about it and Monroe, destined to be the fifth President, had been one of the bitter foes of ratification. The former went so far in the direction of local autonomy that he exalted the state above the nation in the Kentucky resolutions of 1798, declaring the Constitution to be a mere compact and the states competent to interpret and nullify federal law. This was provincialism with a vengeance. "It is jealousy, not confidence, which prescribes limited constitutions," wrote Jefferson for the Kentucky legislature. Jealousy of the national government, not confidence in it—this is the ideal that reflected the provincial and agricultural interest.

Republican Simplicity.—Every act of the Jeffersonian party during its early days of power was in accord with the ideals of government which it professed. It had opposed all pomp and ceremony, calculated to give weight and dignity to the chief executive of the nation, as symbols of monarchy and high prerogative. Appropriately, therefore, Jefferson's inauguration on March 4, 1801, the first at the new capital at Washington, was marked by extreme simplicity. In keeping with this procedure he quit the practice, followed by Washington and Adams, of reading presidential addresses to Congress in joint assembly and adopted in its stead the plan of sending his messages in writing—a custom that was continued unbroken until 1913 when President Wilson returned to the example set by the first chief magistrate.

Republican Measures.—The Republicans had complained of a great national debt as the source of a dangerous "money power," giving strength to the federal government; accordingly they began to pay it off as rapidly as possible. They had held commerce in low esteem and looked upon a large navy as a mere device to protect it; consequently they reduced the number of warships. They had objected to excise taxes, particularly on whisky; these they quickly abolished, to the intense satisfaction of the farmers. They had protested against the heavy cost of the federal government; they reduced expenses by discharging hundreds of men from the army and abolishing many offices.

They had savagely criticized the Sedition law and Jefferson refused to enforce it. They had been deeply offended by the assault on freedom of speech and press and they promptly impeached Samuel Chase, a justice of the Supreme Court, who had been especially severe in his attacks upon offenders under the Sedition Act. Their failure to convict Justice Chase by a narrow margin was due to no lack of zeal on their part but to the Federalist strength in the Senate where the trial was held. They had regarded the appointment of a large number of federal judges during the last hours of Adams' administration as an attempt to intrench Federalists in the judiciary and to enlarge the sphere of the national government. Accordingly, they at once repealed the act creating the new judgeships, thus depriving the "midnight appointees" of their posts. They had considered the federal offices, civil and military, as sources of great strength to the Federalists and Jefferson, though committed to the principle that offices should be open to all and distributed according to merit, was careful to fill most of the vacancies as they occurred with trusted Republicans. To his credit, however, it must be said that he did not make wholesale removals to find room for party workers.

The Republicans thus hewed to the line of their general policy of restricting the weight, dignity, and activity of the national government. Yet there were no Republicans, as the Federalists asserted, prepared to urge serious modifications in the Constitution. "If there be any among us who wish to dissolve this union or to change its republican form," wrote Jefferson in his first inaugural, "let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it." After reciting the fortunate circumstances of climate, soil, and isolation which made the future of America so full of promise, Jefferson concluded: "A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labour the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government; and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities."

In all this the Republicans had not reckoned with destiny. In a few short years that lay ahead it was their fate to double the territory of the country, making inevitable a continental nation; to give the Constitution a generous interpretation that shocked many a Federalist; to wage war on behalf of American commerce; to reëstablish the hated United States Bank; to enact a high protective tariff; to see their Federalist opponents in their turn discredited as nullifiers and provincials; to announce high national doctrines in foreign affairs; and to behold the Constitution exalted and defended against the pretensions of states by a son of old Virginia, John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Republicans and the Great West

Expansion and Land Hunger.—The first of the great measures which drove the Republicans out upon this new national course—the purchase of the Louisiana territory—was the product of circumstances rather than of their deliberate choosing. It was not the lack of land for his cherished farmers that led Jefferson to add such an immense domain to the original possessions of the United States. In the Northwest territory, now embracing Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and a portion of Minnesota, settlements were mainly confined to the north bank of the Ohio River. To the south, in Kentucky and Tennessee, where there were more than one hundred thousand white people who had pushed over the mountains from Virginia and the Carolinas, there were still wide reaches of untilled soil. The Alabama and Mississippi regions were vast Indian frontiers of the state of Georgia, unsettled and almost unexplored. Even to the wildest imagination there seemed to be territory enough to satisfy the land hunger of the American people for a century to come.

The Significance of the Mississippi River.—At all events the East, then the center of power, saw no good reason for expansion. The planters of the Carolinas, the manufacturers of Pennsylvania, the importers of New York, the shipbuilders of New England, looking to the seaboard and to Europe for trade, refinements, and sometimes their ideas of government, were slow to appreciate the place of the West in national economy. The better educated the Easterners were, the less, it seems, they comprehended the destiny of the nation. Sons of Federalist fathers at Williams College, after a long debate decided by a vote of fifteen to one that the purchase of Louisiana was undesirable.

On the other hand, the pioneers of Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, unlearned in books, saw with their own eyes the resources of the wilderness. Many of them had been across the Mississippi and had beheld the rich lands awaiting the plow of the white man. Down the great river they floated their wheat, corn, and bacon to ocean-going ships bound for the ports of the seaboard or for Europe. The land journeys over the mountain barriers with bulky farm produce, they knew from experience, were almost impossible, and costly at best. Nails, bolts of cloth, tea, and coffee could go or come that way, but not corn and bacon. A free outlet to the sea by the Mississippi was as essential to the pioneers of the Kentucky region as the harbor of Boston to the merchant princes of that metropolis.

Louisiana under Spanish Rule.—For this reason they watched with deep solicitude the fortunes of the Spanish king to whom, at the close of the Seven Years' War, had fallen the Louisiana territory stretching from New Orleans to the Rocky Mountains. While he controlled the mouth of the Mississippi there was little to fear, for he had neither the army nor the navy necessary to resist any invasion of American trade. Moreover, Washington had been able, by the exercise of great tact, to secure from Spain in 1795 a trading privilege through New Orleans which satisfied the present requirements of the frontiersmen even if it did not allay their fears for the future. So things stood when a swift succession of events altered the whole situation.

Louisiana Transferred to France.—In July, 1802, a royal order from Spain instructed the officials at New Orleans to close the port to American produce. About the same time a disturbing rumor, long current, was confirmed—Napoleon had coerced Spain into returning Louisiana to France by a secret treaty signed in 1800. "The scalers of the Alps and conquerors of Venice" now looked across the sea for new scenes of adventure. The West was ablaze with excitement. A call for war ran through the frontier; expeditions were organized to prevent the landing of the French; and petitions for instant action flooded in upon Jefferson.

Jefferson Sees the Danger.—Jefferson, the friend of France and sworn enemy of England, compelled to choose in the interest of America, never winced. "The cession of Louisiana and the Floridas by Spain to France," he wrote to Livingston, the American minister in Paris, "works sorely on the United States. It completely reverses all the political relations of the United States and will form a new epoch in our political course.... There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans through which the produce of three-eighths of our territory must pass to market.... France, placing herself in that door, assumes to us an attitude of defiance. Spain might have retained it quietly for years. Her pacific dispositions, her feeble state would induce her to increase our facilities there.... Not so can it ever be in the hands of France.... The day that France takes possession of New Orleans fixes the sentence which is to restrain her forever within her low water mark.... It seals the union of the two nations who in conjunction can maintain exclusive possession of the ocean. From that moment we must marry ourselves to the British fleet and nation.... This is not a state of things we seek or desire. It is one which this measure, if adopted by France, forces on us as necessarily as any other cause by the laws of nature brings on its necessary effect."

Louisiana Purchased.—Acting on this belief, but apparently seeing only the Mississippi outlet at stake, Jefferson sent his friend, James Monroe, to France with the power to buy New Orleans and West Florida. Before Monroe arrived, the regular minister, Livingston, had already convinced Napoleon that it would be well to sell territory which might be wrested from him at any moment by the British sea power, especially as the war, temporarily stopped by the peace of Amiens, was once more raging in Europe. Wise as he was in his day, Livingston had at first no thought of buying the whole Louisiana country. He was simply dazed when Napoleon offered to sell the entire domain and get rid of the business altogether. Though staggered by the proposal, he and Monroe decided to accept. On April 30, they signed the treaty of cession, agreeing to pay $11,250,000 in six per cent bonds and to discharge certain debts due French citizens, making in all approximately fifteen millions. Spain protested, Napoleon's brother fumed, French newspapers objected; but the deed was done.

Jefferson and His Constitutional Scruples.—When the news of this extraordinary event reached the United States, the people were filled with astonishment, and no one was more surprised than Jefferson himself. He had thought of buying New Orleans and West Florida for a small sum, and now a vast domain had been dumped into the lap of the nation. He was puzzled. On looking into the Constitution he found not a line authorizing the purchase of more territory and so he drafted an amendment declaring "Louisiana, as ceded by France,—a part of the United States." He had belabored the Federalists for piling up a big national debt and he could hardly endure the thought of issuing more bonds himself.

In the midst of his doubts came the news that Napoleon might withdraw from the bargain. Thoroughly alarmed by that, Jefferson pressed the Senate for a ratification of the treaty. He still clung to his original idea that the Constitution did not warrant the purchase; but he lamely concluded: "If our friends shall think differently, I shall certainly acquiesce with satisfaction; confident that the good sense of our country will correct the evil of construction when it shall produce ill effects." Thus the stanch advocate of "strict interpretation" cut loose from his own doctrine and intrusted the construction of the Constitution to "the good sense" of his countrymen.

The Treaty Ratified.—This unusual transaction, so favorable to the West, aroused the ire of the seaboard Federalists. Some denounced it as unconstitutional, easily forgetting Hamilton's masterly defense of the bank, also not mentioned in the Constitution. Others urged that, if "the howling wilderness" ever should be settled, it would turn against the East, form new commercial connections, and escape from federal control. Still others protested that the purchase would lead inevitably to the dominance of a "hotch potch of wild men from the Far West." Federalists, who thought "the broad back of America" could readily bear Hamilton's consolidated debt, now went into agonies over a bond issue of less than one-sixth of that amount. But in vain. Jefferson's party with a high hand carried the day. The Senate, after hearing the Federalist protest, ratified the treaty. In December, 1803, the French flag was hauled down from the old government buildings in New Orleans and the Stars and Stripes were hoisted as a sign that the land of Coronado, De Soto, Marquette, and La Salle had passed forever to the United States.

The United States in 1805
The United States in 1805

By a single stroke, the original territory of the United States was more than doubled. While the boundaries of the purchase were uncertain, it is safe to say that the Louisiana territory included what is now Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and large portions of Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. The farm lands that the friends of "a little America" on the seacoast declared a hopeless wilderness were, within a hundred years, fully occupied and valued at nearly seven billion dollars—almost five hundred times the price paid to Napoleon.

Western Explorations.—Having taken the fateful step, Jefferson wisely began to make the most of it. He prepared for the opening of the new country by sending the Lewis and Clark expedition to explore it, discover its resources, and lay out an overland route through the Missouri Valley and across the Great Divide to the Pacific. The story of this mighty exploit, which began in the spring of 1804 and ended in the autumn of 1806, was set down with skill and pains in the journal of Lewis and Clark; when published even in a short form, it invited the forward-looking men of the East to take thought about the western empire. At the same time Zebulon Pike, in a series of journeys, explored the sources of the Mississippi River and penetrated the Spanish territories of the far Southwest. Thus scouts and pioneers continued the work of diplomats.

The Republican War for Commercial Independence

The English and French Blockades.—In addition to bringing Louisiana to the United States, the reopening of the European War in 1803, after a short lull, renewed in an acute form the commercial difficulties that had plagued the country all during the administrations of Washington and Adams. The Republicans were now plunged into the hornets' nest. The party whose ardent spirits had burned Jay in effigy, stoned Hamilton for defending his treaty, jeered Washington's proclamation of neutrality, and spoken bitterly of "timid traders," could no longer take refuge in criticism. It had to act.

Its troubles took a serious turn in 1806. England, in a determined effort to bring France to her knees by starvation, declared the coast of Europe blockaded from Brest to the mouth of the Elbe River. Napoleon retaliated by his Berlin Decree of November, 1806, blockading the British Isles—a measure terrifying to American ship owners whose vessels were liable to seizure by any French rover, though Napoleon had no navy to make good his proclamation. Great Britain countered with a still more irritating decree—the Orders in Council of 1807. It modified its blockade, but in so doing merely authorized American ships not carrying munitions of war to complete their voyage to the Continent, on condition of their stopping at a British port, securing a license, and paying a tax. This, responded Napoleon, was the height of insolence, and he denounced it as a gross violation of international law. He then closed the circle of American troubles by issuing his Milan Decree of December, 1807. This order declared that any ship which complied with the British rules would be subject to seizure and confiscation by French authorities.

The Impressment of Seamen.—That was not all. Great Britain, in dire need of men for her navy, adopted the practice of stopping American ships, searching them, and carrying away British-born sailors found on board. British sailors were so badly treated, so cruelly flogged for trivial causes, and so meanly fed that they fled in crowds to the American marine. In many cases it was difficult to tell whether seamen were English or American. They spoke the same language, so that language was no test. Rovers on the deep and stragglers in the ports of both countries, they frequently had no papers to show their nativity. Moreover, Great Britain held to the old rule—"Once an Englishman, always an Englishman"—a doctrine rejected by the United States in favor of the principle that a man could choose the nation to which he would give allegiance. British sea captains, sometimes by mistake, and often enough with reckless indifference, carried away into servitude in their own navy genuine American citizens. The process itself, even when executed with all the civilities of law, was painful enough, for it meant that American ships were forced to "come to," and compelled to rest submissively under British guns until the searching party had pried into records, questioned seamen, seized and handcuffed victims. Saints could not have done this work without raising angry passions, and only saints could have endured it with patience and fortitude.

Had the enactment of the scenes been confined to the high seas and knowledge of them to rumors and newspaper stories, American resentment might not have been so intense; but many a search and seizure was made in sight of land. British and French vessels patrolled the coasts, firing on one another and chasing one another in American waters within the three-mile limit. When, in the summer of 1807, the American frigate Chesapeake refused to surrender men alleged to be deserters from King George's navy, the British warship Leopard opened fire, killing three men and wounding eighteen more—an act which even the British ministry could hardly excuse. If the French were less frequently the offenders, it was not because of their tenderness about American rights but because so few of their ships escaped the hawk-eyed British navy to operate in American waters.

The Losses in American Commerce.—This high-handed conduct on the part of European belligerents was very injurious to American trade. By their enterprise, American shippers had become the foremost carriers on the Atlantic Ocean. In a decade they had doubled the tonnage of American merchant ships under the American flag, taking the place of the French marine when Britain swept that from the seas, and supplying Britain with the sinews of war for the contest with the Napoleonic empire. The American shipping engaged in foreign trade embraced 363,110 tons in 1791; 669,921 tons in 1800; and almost 1,000,000 tons in 1810. Such was the enterprise attacked by the British and French decrees. American ships bound for Great Britain were liable to be captured by French privateers which, in spite of the disasters of the Nile and Trafalgar, ranged the seas. American ships destined for the Continent, if they failed to stop at British ports and pay tribute, were in great danger of capture by the sleepless British navy and its swarm of auxiliaries. American sea captains who, in fear of British vengeance, heeded the Orders in Council and paid the tax were almost certain to fall a prey to French vengeance, for the French were vigorous in executing the Milan Decree.

Jefferson's Policy.—The President's dilemma was distressing. Both the belligerents in Europe were guilty of depredations on American commerce. War on both of them was out of the question. War on France was impossible because she had no territory on this side of the water which could be reached by American troops and her naval forces had been shattered at the battles of the Nile and Trafalgar. War on Great Britain, a power which Jefferson's followers feared and distrusted, was possible but not inviting. Jefferson shrank from it. A man of peace, he disliked war's brazen clamor; a man of kindly spirit, he was startled at the death and destruction which it brought in its train. So for the eight years Jefferson steered an even course, suggesting measure after measure with a view to avoiding bloodshed. He sent, it is true, Commodore Preble in 1803 to punish Mediterranean pirates preying upon American commerce; but a great war he evaded with passionate earnestness, trying in its place every other expedient to protect American rights.

The Embargo and Non-intercourse Acts.—In 1806, Congress passed and Jefferson approved a non-importation act closing American ports to certain products from British dominions—a measure intended as a club over the British government's head. This law, failing in its purpose, Jefferson proposed and Congress adopted in December, 1807, the Embargo Act forbidding all vessels to leave American harbors for foreign ports. France and England were to be brought to terms by cutting off their supplies.

The result of the embargo was pathetic. England and France refused to give up search and seizure. American ship owners who, lured by huge profits, had formerly been willing to take the risk were now restrained by law to their home ports. Every section suffered. The South and West found their markets for cotton, rice, tobacco, corn, and bacon curtailed. Thus they learned by bitter experience the national significance of commerce. Ship masters, ship builders, longshoremen, and sailors were thrown out of employment while the prices of foreign goods doubled. Those who obeyed the law were ruined; violators of the law smuggled goods into Canada and Florida for shipment abroad.

Jefferson's friends accepted the medicine with a wry face as the only alternative to supine submission or open war. His opponents, without offering any solution of their own, denounced it as a contemptible plan that brought neither relief nor honor. Beset by the clamor that arose on all sides, Congress, in the closing days of Jefferson's administration, repealed the Embargo law and substituted a Non-intercourse act forbidding trade with England and France while permitting it with other countries—a measure equally futile in staying the depredations on American shipping.

Jefferson Retires in Favor of Madison.—Jefferson, exhausted by endless wrangling and wounded, as Washington had been, by savage criticism, welcomed March 4, 1809. His friends urged him to "stay by the ship" and accept a third term. He declined, saying that election for life might result from repeated reëlection. In following Washington's course and defending it on principle, he set an example to all his successors, making the "third term doctrine" a part of American unwritten law.

His intimate friend, James Madison, to whom he turned over the burdens of his high office was, like himself, a man of peace. Madison had been a leader since the days of the Revolution, but in legislative halls and council chambers, not on the field of battle. Small in stature, sensitive in feelings, studious in habits, he was no man for the rough and tumble of practical politics. He had taken a prominent and distinguished part in the framing and the adoption of the Constitution. He had served in the first Congress as a friend of Hamilton's measures. Later he attached himself to Jefferson's fortunes and served for eight years as his first counselor, the Secretary of State. The principles of the Constitution, which he had helped to make and interpret, he was now as President called upon to apply in one of the most perplexing moments in all American history. In keeping with his own traditions and following in the footsteps of Jefferson, he vainly tried to solve the foreign problem by negotiation.

The Trend of Events.—Whatever difficulties Madison had in making up his mind on war and peace were settled by events beyond his own control. In the spring of 1811, a British frigate held up an American ship near the harbor of New York and impressed a seaman alleged to be an American citizen. Burning with resentment, the captain of the President, an American warship, acting under orders, poured several broadsides into the Little Belt, a British sloop, suspected of being the guilty party. The British also encouraged the Indian chief Tecumseh, who welded together the Indians of the Northwest under British protection and gave signs of restlessness presaging a revolt. This sent a note of alarm along the frontier that was not checked even when, in November, Tecumseh's men were badly beaten at Tippecanoe by William Henry Harrison. The Indians stood in the way of the advancing frontier, and it seemed to the pioneers that, without support from the British in Canada, the Red Men would soon be subdued.

Clay and Calhoun.—While events were moving swiftly and rumors were flying thick and fast, the mastery of the government passed from the uncertain hands of Madison to a party of ardent young men in Congress, dubbed "Young Republicans," under the leadership of two members destined to be mighty figures in American history: Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The former contended, in a flair of folly, that "the militia of Kentucky alone are competent to place Montreal and Upper Canada at your feet." The latter with a light heart spoke of conquering Canada in a four weeks' campaign. "It must not be inferred," says Channing, "that in advocating conquest, the Westerners were actuated merely by desire for land; they welcomed war because they thought it would be the easiest way to abate Indian troubles. The savages were supported by the fur-trading interests that centred at Quebec and London.... The Southerners on their part wished for Florida and they thought that the conquest of Canada would obviate some Northern opposition to this acquisition of slave territory." While Clay and Calhoun, spokesmen of the West and South, were not unmindful of what Napoleon had done to American commerce, they knew that their followers still remembered with deep gratitude the aid of the French in the war for independence and that the embers of the old hatred for George III, still on the throne, could be readily blown into flame.

Madison Accepts War as Inevitable.—The conduct of the British ministers with whom Madison had to deal did little to encourage him in adhering to the policy of "watchful waiting." One of them, a high Tory, believed that all Americans were alike "except that a few are less knaves than others" and his methods were colored by his belief. On the recall of this minister the British government selected another no less high and mighty in his principles and opinions. So Madison became thoroughly discouraged about the outcome of pacific measures. When the pressure from Congress upon him became too heavy, he gave way, signing on June 18, 1812, the declaration of war on Great Britain. In proclaiming hostilities, the administration set forth the causes which justified the declaration; namely, the British had been encouraging the Indians to attack American citizens on the frontier; they had ruined American trade by blockades; they had insulted the American flag by stopping and searching our ships; they had illegally seized American sailors and driven them into the British navy.

The Course of the War.—The war lasted for nearly three years without bringing victory to either side. The surrender of Detroit by General Hull to the British and the failure of the American invasion of Canada were offset by Perry's victory on Lake Erie and a decisive blow administered to British designs for an invasion of New York by way of Plattsburgh. The triumph of Jackson at New Orleans helped to atone for the humiliation suffered in the burning of the Capitol by the British. The stirring deeds of the Constitution, the United States, and the Argus on the seas, the heroic death of Lawrence and the victories of a hundred privateers furnished consolation for those who suffered from the iron blockade finally established by the British government when it came to appreciate the gravity of the situation. While men love the annals of the sea, they will turn to the running battles, the narrow escapes, and the reckless daring of American sailors in that naval contest with Great Britain.

All this was exciting but it was inconclusive. In fact, never was a government less prepared than was that of the United States in 1812. It had neither the disciplined troops, the ships of war, nor the supplies required by the magnitude of the military task. It was fortune that favored the American cause. Great Britain, harassed, worn, and financially embarrassed by nearly twenty years of fighting in Europe, was in no mood to gather her forces for a titanic effort in America even after Napoleon was overthrown and sent into exile at Elba in the spring of 1814. War clouds still hung on the European horizon and the conflict temporarily halted did again break out. To be rid of American anxieties and free for European eventualities, England was ready to settle with the United States, especially as that could be done without conceding anything or surrendering any claims.

The Treaty of Peace.—Both countries were in truth sick of a war that offered neither glory nor profit. Having indulged in the usual diplomatic skirmishing, they sent representatives to Ghent to discuss terms of peace. After long negotiations an agreement was reached on Christmas eve, 1814, a few days before Jackson's victory at New Orleans. When the treaty reached America the people were surprised to find that it said nothing about the seizure of American sailors, the destruction of American trade, the searching of American ships, or the support of Indians on the frontier. Nevertheless, we are told, the people "passed from gloom to glory" when the news of peace arrived. The bells were rung; schools were closed; flags were displayed; and many a rousing toast was drunk in tavern and private home. The rejoicing could continue. With Napoleon definitely beaten at Waterloo in June, 1815, Great Britain had no need to impress sailors, search ships, and confiscate American goods bound to the Continent. Once more the terrible sea power sank into the background and the ocean was again white with the sails of merchantmen.

The Republicans Nationalized

The Federalists Discredited.—By a strange turn of fortune's wheel, the party of Hamilton, Washington, Adams, the party of the grand nation, became the party of provincialism and nullification. New England, finding its shipping interests crippled in the European conflict and then penalized by embargoes, opposed the declaration of war on Great Britain, which meant the completion of the ruin already begun. In the course of the struggle, the Federalist leaders came perilously near to treason in their efforts to hamper the government of the United States; and in their desperation they fell back upon the doctrine of nullification so recently condemned by them when it came from Kentucky. The Senate of Massachusetts, while the war was in progress, resolved that it was waged "without justifiable cause," and refused to approve military and naval projects not connected with "the defense of our seacoast and soil." A Boston newspaper declared that the union was nothing but a treaty among sovereign states, that states could decide for themselves the question of obeying federal law, and that armed resistance under the banner of a state would not be rebellion or treason. The general assembly of Connecticut reminded the administration at Washington that "the state of Connecticut is a free, sovereign, and independent state." Gouverneur Morris, a member of the convention which had drafted the Constitution, suggested the holding of another conference to consider whether the Northern states should remain in the union.

New England Jumping into the Hands of George III
From an old cartoon
New England Jumping into the Hands of George III

In October, 1814, a convention of delegates from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and certain counties of New Hampshire and Vermont was held at Hartford, on the call of Massachusetts. The counsels of the extremists were rejected but the convention solemnly went on record to the effect that acts of Congress in violation of the Constitution are void; that in cases of deliberate, dangerous, and palpable infractions the state is duty bound to interpose its authority for the protection of its citizens; and that when emergencies occur the states must be their own judges and execute their own decisions. Thus New England answered the challenge of Calhoun and Clay. Fortunately its actions were not as rash as its words. The Hartford convention merely proposed certain amendments to the Constitution and adjourned. At the close of the war, its proposals vanished harmlessly; but the men who made them were hopelessly discredited.

The Second United States Bank.—In driving the Federalists towards nullification and waging a national war themselves, the Republicans lost all their old taint of provincialism. Moreover, in turning to measures of reconstruction called forth by the war, they resorted to the national devices of the Federalists. In 1816, they chartered for a period of twenty years a second United States Bank—the institution which Jefferson and Madison once had condemned as unsound and unconstitutional. The Constitution remained unchanged; times and circumstances had changed. Calhoun dismissed the vexed question of constitutionality with a scant reference to an ancient dispute, while Madison set aside his scruples and signed the bill.

The Protective Tariff of 1816.—The Republicans supplemented the Bank by another Federalist measure—a high protective tariff. Clay viewed it as the beginning of his "American system" of protection. Calhoun defended it on national principles. For this sudden reversal of policy the young Republicans were taunted by some of their older party colleagues with betraying the "agricultural interest" that Jefferson had fostered; but Calhoun refused to listen to their criticisms. "When the seas are open," he said, "the produce of the South may pour anywhere into the markets of the Old World.... What are the effects of a war with a maritime power—with England? Our commerce annihilated ... our agriculture cut off from its accustomed markets, the surplus of the farmer perishes on his hands.... The recent war fell with peculiar pressure on the growers of cotton and tobacco and the other great staples of the country; and the same state of things will recur in the event of another war unless prevented by the foresight of this body.... When our manufactures are grown to a certain perfection, as they soon will be under the fostering care of the government, we shall no longer experience these evils." With the Republicans nationalized, the Federalist party, as an organization, disappeared after a crushing defeat in the presidential campaign of 1816.

Monroe and the Florida Purchase.—To the victor in that political contest, James Monroe of Virginia, fell two tasks of national importance, adding to the prestige of the whole country and deepening the sense of patriotism that weaned men away from mere allegiance to states. The first of these was the purchase of Florida from Spain. The acquisition of Louisiana let the Mississippi flow "unvexed to the sea"; but it left all the states east of the river cut off from the Gulf, affording them ground for discontent akin to that which had moved the pioneers of Kentucky to action a generation earlier. The uncertainty as to the boundaries of Louisiana gave the United States a claim to West Florida, setting on foot a movement for occupation. The Florida swamps were a basis for Indian marauders who periodically swept into the frontier settlements, and hiding places for runaway slaves. Thus the sanction of international law was given to punitive expeditions into alien territory.

The pioneer leaders stood waiting for the signal. It came. President Monroe, on the occasion of an Indian outbreak, ordered General Jackson to seize the offenders, in the Floridas, if necessary. The high-spirited warrior, taking this as a hint that he was to occupy the coveted region, replied that, if possession was the object of the invasion, he could occupy the Floridas within sixty days. Without waiting for an answer to this letter, he launched his expedition, and in the spring of 1818 was master of the Spanish king's domain to the south.

There was nothing for the king to do but to make the best of the inevitable by ceding the Floridas to the United States in return for five million dollars to be paid to American citizens having claims against Spain. On Washington's birthday, 1819, the treaty was signed. It ceded the Floridas to the United States and defined the boundary between Mexico and the United States by drawing a line from the mouth of the Sabine River in a northwesterly direction to the Pacific. On this occasion even Monroe, former opponent of the Constitution, forgot to inquire whether new territory could be constitutionally acquired and incorporated into the American union. The Republicans seemed far away from the days of "strict construction." And Jefferson still lived!

The Monroe Doctrine.—Even more effective in fashioning the national idea was Monroe's enunciation of the famous doctrine that bears his name. The occasion was another European crisis. During the Napoleonic upheaval and the years of dissolution that ensued, the Spanish colonies in America, following the example set by their English neighbors in 1776, declared their independence. Unable to conquer them alone, the king of Spain turned for help to the friendly powers of Europe that looked upon revolution and republics with undisguised horror.

The Holy Alliance.—He found them prepared to view his case with sympathy. Three of them, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, under the leadership of the Czar, Alexander I, in the autumn of 1815, had entered into a Holy Alliance to sustain by reciprocal service the autocratic principle in government. Although the effusive, almost maudlin, language of the treaty did not express their purpose explicitly, the Alliance was later regarded as a mere union of monarchs to prevent the rise and growth of popular government.

The American people thought their worst fears confirmed when, in 1822, a conference of delegates from Russia, Austria, Prussia, and France met at Verona to consider, among other things, revolutions that had just broken out in Spain and Italy. The spirit of the conference is reflected in the first article of the agreement reached by the delegates: "The high contracting powers, being convinced that the system of representative government is equally incompatible with the monarchical principle and the maxim of the sovereignty of the people with the divine right, mutually engage in the most solemn manner to use all their efforts to put an end to the system of representative government in whatever country it may exist in Europe and to prevent its being introduced in those countries where it is not yet known." The Czar, who incidentally coveted the west coast of North America, proposed to send an army to aid the king of Spain in his troubles at home, thus preparing the way for intervention in Spanish America. It was material weakness not want of spirit, that prevented the grand union of monarchs from making open war on popular government.

The Position of England.—Unfortunately, too, for the Holy Alliance, England refused to coöperate. English merchants had built up a large trade with the independent Latin-American colonies and they protested against the restoration of Spanish sovereignty, which meant a renewal of Spain's former trade monopoly. Moreover, divine right doctrines had been laid to rest in England and the representative principle thoroughly established. Already there were signs of the coming democratic flood which was soon to carry the first reform bill of 1832, extending the suffrage, and sweep on to even greater achievements. British statesmen, therefore, had to be cautious. In such circumstances, instead of coöperating with the autocrats of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, they turned to the minister of the United States in London. The British prime minister, Canning, proposed that the two countries join in declaring their unwillingness to see the Spanish colonies transferred to any other power.

Jefferson's Advice.—The proposal was rejected; but President Monroe took up the suggestion with Madison and Jefferson as well as with his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams. They favored the plan. Jefferson said: "One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this pursuit [of freedom]; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it. By acceding to her proposition we detach her from the bands, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free government and emancipate a continent at one stroke.... With her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her then we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship."

Monroe's Statement of the Doctrine.—Acting on the advice of trusted friends, President Monroe embodied in his message to Congress, on December 2, 1823, a statement of principles now famous throughout the world as the Monroe Doctrine. To the autocrats of Europe he announced that he would regard "any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety." While he did not propose to interfere with existing colonies dependent on European powers, he ranged himself squarely on the side of those that had declared their independence. Any attempt by a European power to oppress them or control their destiny in any manner he characterized as "a manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States." Referring in another part of his message to a recent claim which the Czar had made to the Pacific coast, President Monroe warned the Old World that "the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers." The effect of this declaration was immediate and profound. Men whose political horizon had been limited to a community or state were led to consider their nation as a great power among the sovereignties of the earth, taking its part in shaping their international relations.

The Missouri Compromise.—Respecting one other important measure of this period, the Republicans also took a broad view of their obligations under the Constitution; namely, the Missouri Compromise. It is true, they insisted on the admission of Missouri as a slave state, balanced against the free state of Maine; but at the same time they assented to the prohibition of slavery in the Louisiana territory north of the line 36° 30'. During the debate on the subject an extreme view had been presented, to the effect that Congress had no constitutional warrant for abolishing slavery in the territories. The precedent of the Northwest Ordinance, ratified by Congress in 1789, seemed a conclusive answer from practice to this contention; but Monroe submitted the issue to his cabinet, which included Calhoun of South Carolina, Crawford of Georgia, and Wirt of Virginia, all presumably adherents to the Jeffersonian principle of strict construction. He received in reply a unanimous verdict to the effect that Congress did have the power to prohibit slavery in the territories governed by it. Acting on this advice he approved, on March 6, 1820, the bill establishing freedom north of the compromise line. This generous interpretation of the powers of Congress stood for nearly forty years, until repudiated by the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case.

The National Decisions of Chief Justice Marshall

John Marshall, the Nationalist.—The Republicans in the lower ranges of state politics, who did not catch the grand national style of their leaders charged with responsibilities in the national field, were assisted in their education by a Federalist from the Old Dominion, John Marshall, who, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1801 to 1835, lost no occasion to exalt the Constitution above the claims of the provinces. No differences of opinion as to his political views have ever led even his warmest opponents to deny his superb abilities or his sincere devotion to the national idea. All will likewise agree that for talents, native and acquired, he was an ornament to the humble democracy that brought him forth. His whole career was American. Born on the frontier of Virginia, reared in a log cabin, granted only the barest rudiments of education, inured to hardship and rough life, he rose by masterly efforts to the highest judicial honor America can bestow.

John Marshall
John Marshall

On him the bitter experience of the Revolution and of later days made a lasting impression. He was no "summer patriot." He had been a soldier in the Revolutionary army. He had suffered with Washington at Valley Forge. He had seen his comrades in arms starving and freezing because the Continental Congress had neither the power nor the inclination to force the states to do their full duty. To him the Articles of Confederation were the symbol of futility. Into the struggle for the formation of the Constitution and its ratification in Virginia he had thrown himself with the ardor of a soldier. Later, as a member of Congress, a representative to France, and Secretary of State, he had aided the Federalists in establishing the new government. When at length they were driven from power in the executive and legislative branches of the government, he was chosen for their last stronghold, the Supreme Court. By historic irony he administered the oath of office to his bitterest enemy, Thomas Jefferson; and, long after the author of the Declaration of Independence had retired to private life, the stern Chief Justice continued to announce the old Federalist principles from the Supreme Bench.

Marbury vs. Madison—An Act of Congress Annulled.—He had been in his high office only two years when he laid down for the first time in the name of the entire Court the doctrine that the judges have the power to declare an act of Congress null and void when in their opinion it violates the Constitution. This power was not expressly conferred on the Court. Though many able men held that the judicial branch of the government enjoyed it, the principle was not positively established until 1803 when the case of Marbury vs. Madison was decided. In rendering the opinion of the Court, Marshall cited no precedents. He sought no foundations for his argument in ancient history. He rested it on the general nature of the American system. The Constitution, ran his reasoning, is the supreme law of the land; it limits and binds all who act in the name of the United States; it limits the powers of Congress and defines the rights of citizens. If Congress can ignore its limitations and trespass upon the rights of citizens, Marshall argued, then the Constitution disappears and Congress is supreme. Since, however, the Constitution is supreme and superior to Congress, it is the duty of judges, under their oath of office, to sustain it against measures which violate it. Therefore, from the nature of the American constitutional system the courts must declare null and void all acts which are not authorized. "A law repugnant to the Constitution," he closed, "is void and the courts as well as other departments are bound by that instrument." From that day to this the practice of federal and state courts in passing upon the constitutionality of laws has remained unshaken.

This doctrine was received by Jefferson and many of his followers with consternation. If the idea was sound, he exclaimed, "then indeed is our Constitution a complete felo de se [legally, a suicide]. For, intending to establish three departments, coördinate and independent that they might check and balance one another, it has given, according to this opinion, to one of them alone the right to prescribe rules for the government of the others, and to that one, too, which is unelected by and independent of the nation.... The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please. It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also.... A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government." But Marshall was mighty and his view prevailed, though from time to time other men, clinging to Jefferson's opinion, likewise opposed the exercise by the Courts of the high power of passing upon the constitutionality of acts of Congress.

Acts of State Legislatures Declared Unconstitutional.—Had Marshall stopped with annulling an act of Congress, he would have heard less criticism from Republican quarters; but, with the same firmness, he set aside acts of state legislatures as well, whenever, in his opinion, they violated the federal Constitution. In 1810, in the case of Fletcher vs. Peck, he annulled an act of the Georgia legislature, informing the state that it was not sovereign, but "a part of a large empire, ... a member of the American union; and that union has a constitution ... which imposes limits to the legislatures of the several states." In the case of McCulloch vs. Maryland, decided in 1819, he declared void an act of the Maryland legislature designed to paralyze the branches of the United States Bank established in that state. In the same year, in the still more memorable Dartmouth College case, he annulled an act of the New Hampshire legislature which infringed upon the charter received by the college from King George long before. That charter, he declared, was a contract between the state and the college, which the legislature under the federal Constitution could not impair. Two years later he stirred the wrath of Virginia by summoning her to the bar of the Supreme Court to answer in a case in which the validity of one of her laws was involved and then justified his action in a powerful opinion rendered in the case of Cohens vs. Virginia.

All these decisions aroused the legislatures of the states. They passed sheaves of resolutions protesting and condemning; but Marshall never turned and never stayed. The Constitution of the United States, he fairly thundered at them, is the supreme law of the land; the Supreme Court is the proper tribunal to pass finally upon the validity of the laws of the states; and "those sovereignties," far from possessing the right of review and nullification, are irrevocably bound by the decisions of that Court. This was strong medicine for the authors of the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and for the members of the Hartford convention; but they had to take it.

The Doctrine of Implied Powers.—While restraining Congress in the Marbury case and the state legislatures in a score of cases, Marshall also laid the judicial foundation for a broad and liberal view of the Constitution as opposed to narrow and strict construction. In McCulloch vs. Maryland, he construed generously the words "necessary and proper" in such a way as to confer upon Congress a wide range of "implied powers" in addition to their express powers. That case involved, among other things, the question whether the act establishing the second United States Bank was authorized by the Constitution. Marshall answered in the affirmative. Congress, ran his reasoning, has large powers over taxation and the currency; a bank is of appropriate use in the exercise of these enumerated powers; and therefore, though not absolutely necessary, a bank is entirely proper and constitutional. "With respect to the means by which the powers that the Constitution confers are to be carried into execution," he said, Congress must be allowed the discretion which "will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it, in the manner most beneficial to the people." In short, the Constitution of the United States is not a strait jacket but a flexible instrument vesting in Congress the powers necessary to meet national problems as they arise. In delivering this opinion Marshall used language almost identical with that employed by Lincoln when, standing on the battle field of a war waged to preserve the nation, he said that "a government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Summary of the Union and National Politics

During the strenuous period between the establishment of American independence and the advent of Jacksonian democracy the great American experiment was under the direction of the men who had launched it. All the Presidents in that period, except John Quincy Adams, had taken part in the Revolution. James Madison, the chief author of the Constitution, lived until 1836. This age, therefore, was the "age of the fathers." It saw the threatened ruin of the country under the Articles of Confederation, the formation of the Constitution, the rise of political parties, the growth of the West, the second war with England, and the apparent triumph of the national spirit over sectionalism.

The new republic had hardly been started in 1783 before its troubles began. The government could not raise money to pay its debts or running expenses; it could not protect American commerce and manufactures against European competition; it could not stop the continual issues of paper money by the states; it could not intervene to put down domestic uprisings that threatened the existence of the state governments. Without money, without an army, without courts of law, the union under the Articles of Confederation was drifting into dissolution. Patriots, who had risked their lives for independence, began to talk of monarchy again. Washington, Hamilton, and Madison insisted that a new constitution alone could save America from disaster.

By dint of much labor the friends of a new form of government induced the Congress to call a national convention to take into account the state of America. In May, 1787, it assembled at Philadelphia and for months it debated and wrangled over plans for a constitution. The small states clamored for equal rights in the union. The large states vowed that they would never grant it. A spirit of conciliation, fair play, and compromise saved the convention from breaking up. In addition, there were jealousies between the planting states and the commercial states. Here, too, compromises had to be worked out. Some of the delegates feared the growth of democracy and others cherished it. These factions also had to be placated. At last a plan of government was drafted—the Constitution of the United States—and submitted to the states for approval. Only after a long and acrimonious debate did enough states ratify the instrument to put it into effect. On April 30, 1789, George Washington was inaugurated first President.

The new government proceeded to fund the old debt of the nation, assume the debts of the states, found a national bank, lay heavy taxes to pay the bills, and enact laws protecting American industry and commerce. Hamilton led the way, but he had not gone far before he encountered opposition. He found a formidable antagonist in Jefferson. In time two political parties appeared full armed upon the scene: the Federalists and the Republicans. For ten years they filled the country with political debate. In 1800 the Federalists were utterly vanquished by the Republicans with Jefferson in the lead.

By their proclamations of faith the Republicans favored the states rather than the new national government, but in practice they added immensely to the prestige and power of the nation. They purchased Louisiana from France, they waged a war for commercial independence against England, they created a second United States Bank, they enacted the protective tariff of 1816, they declared that Congress had power to abolish slavery north of the Missouri Compromise line, and they spread the shield of the Monroe Doctrine between the Western Hemisphere and Europe.

Still America was a part of European civilization. Currents of opinion flowed to and fro across the Atlantic. Friends of popular government in Europe looked to America as the great exemplar of their ideals. Events in Europe reacted upon thought in the United States. The French Revolution exerted a profound influence on the course of political debate. While it was in the stage of mere reform all Americans favored it. When the king was executed and a radical democracy set up, American opinion was divided. When France fell under the military dominion of Napoleon and preyed upon American commerce, the United States made ready for war.

The conduct of England likewise affected American affairs. In 1793 war broke out between England and France and raged with only a slight intermission until 1815. England and France both ravaged American commerce, but England was the more serious offender because she had command of the seas. Though Jefferson and Madison strove for peace, the country was swept into war by the vehemence of the "Young Republicans," headed by Clay and Calhoun.

When the armed conflict was closed, one in diplomacy opened. The autocratic powers of Europe threatened to intervene on behalf of Spain in her attempt to recover possession of her Latin-American colonies. Their challenge to America brought forth the Monroe Doctrine. The powers of Europe were warned not to interfere with the independence or the republican policies of this hemisphere or to attempt any new colonization in it. It seemed that nationalism was to have a peaceful triumph over sectionalism.


H. Adams, History of the United States, 1800-1817 (9 vols.).

K.C. Babcock, Rise of American Nationality (American Nation Series).

E. Channing, The Jeffersonian System (Same Series).

D.C. Gilman, James Monroe.

W. Reddaway, The Monroe Doctrine.

T. Roosevelt, Naval War of 1812.


1. What was the leading feature of Jefferson's political theory?

2. Enumerate the chief measures of his administration.

3. Were the Jeffersonians able to apply their theories? Give the reasons.

4. Explain the importance of the Mississippi River to Western farmers.

5. Show how events in Europe forced the Louisiana Purchase.

6. State the constitutional question involved in the Louisiana Purchase.

7. Show how American trade was affected by the European war.

8. Compare the policies of Jefferson and Madison.

9. Why did the United States become involved with England rather than with France?

10. Contrast the causes of the War of 1812 with the results.

11. Give the economic reasons for the attitude of New England.

12. Give five "nationalist" measures of the Republicans. Discuss each in detail.

13. Sketch the career of John Marshall.

14. Discuss the case of Marbury vs. Madison.

15. Summarize Marshall's views on: (a) states' rights; and (b) a liberal interpretation of the Constitution.

Research Topics

The Louisiana Purchase.—Text of Treaty in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 279-282. Source materials in Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. III, pp. 363-384. Narrative, Henry Adams, History of the United States, Vol. II, pp. 25-115; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 383-388.

The Embargo and Non-Intercourse Acts.—Macdonald, pp. 282-288; Adams, Vol. IV, pp. 152-177; Elson, pp. 394-405.

Congress and the War of 1812.—Adams, Vol. VI, pp. 113-198; Elson, pp. 408-450.

Proposals of the Hartford Convention.—Macdonald, pp. 293-302.

Manufactures and the Tariff of 1816.—Coman, Industrial History of the United States, pp. 184-194.

The Second United States Bank.—Macdonald, pp. 302-306.

Effect of European War on American Trade.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 240-250.

The Monroe Message.—Macdonald, pp. 318-320.

Lewis and Clark Expedition.—R.G. Thwaites, Rocky Mountain Explorations, pp. 92-187. Schafer, A History of the Pacific Northwest (rev. ed.), pp. 29-61.




The nationalism of Hamilton was undemocratic. The democracy of Jefferson was, in the beginning, provincial. The historic mission of uniting nationalism and democracy was in the course of time given to new leaders from a region beyond the mountains, peopled by men and women from all sections and free from those state traditions which ran back to the early days of colonization. The voice of the democratic nationalism nourished in the West was heard when Clay of Kentucky advocated his American system of protection for industries; when Jackson of Tennessee condemned nullification in a ringing proclamation that has taken its place among the great American state papers; and when Lincoln of Illinois, in a fateful hour, called upon a bewildered people to meet the supreme test whether this was a nation destined to survive or to perish. And it will be remembered that Lincoln's party chose for its banner that earlier device—Republican—which Jefferson had made a sign of power. The "rail splitter" from Illinois united the nationalism of Hamilton with the democracy of Jefferson, and his appeal was clothed in the simple language of the people, not in the sonorous rhetoric which Webster learned in the schools.

Preparation for Western Settlement

The West and the American Revolution.—The excessive attention devoted by historians to the military operations along the coast has obscured the rôle played by the frontier in the American Revolution. The action of Great Britain in closing western land to easy settlement in 1763 was more than an incident in precipitating the war for independence. Americans on the frontier did not forget it; when Indians were employed by England to defend that land, zeal for the patriot cause set the interior aflame. It was the members of the western vanguard, like Daniel Boone, John Sevier, and George Rogers Clark, who first understood the value of the far-away country under the guns of the English forts, where the Red Men still wielded the tomahawk and the scalping knife. It was they who gave the East no rest until their vision was seen by the leaders on the seaboard who directed the course of national policy. It was one of their number, a seasoned Indian fighter, George Rogers Clark, who with aid from Virginia seized Kaskaskia and Vincennes and secured the whole Northwest to the union while the fate of Washington's army was still hanging in the balance.

Western Problems at the End of the Revolution.—The treaty of peace, signed with Great Britain in 1783, brought the definite cession of the coveted territory west to the Mississippi River, but it left unsolved many problems. In the first place, tribes of resentful Indians in the Ohio region, even though British support was withdrawn at last, had to be reckoned with; and it was not until after the establishment of the federal Constitution that a well-equipped army could be provided to guarantee peace on the border. In the second place, British garrisons still occupied forts on Lake Erie pending the execution of the terms of the treaty of 1783—terms which were not fulfilled until after the ratification of the Jay treaty twelve years later. In the third place, Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts had conflicting claims to the land in the Northwest based on old English charters and Indian treaties. It was only after a bitter contest that the states reached an agreement to transfer their rights to the government of the United States, Virginia executing her deed of cession on March 1, 1784. In the fourth place, titles to lands bought by individuals remained uncertain in the absence of official maps and records. To meet this last situation, Congress instituted a systematic survey of the Ohio country, laying it out into townships, sections of 640 acres each, and quarter sections. In every township one section of land was set aside for the support of public schools.

The Northwest Ordinance.—The final problem which had to be solved before settlement on a large scale could be begun was that of governing the territory. Pioneers who looked with hungry eyes on the fertile valley of the Ohio could hardly restrain their impatience. Soldiers of the Revolution, who had been paid for their services in land warrants entitling them to make entries in the West, called for action.

Congress answered by passing in 1787 the famous Northwest Ordinance providing for temporary territorial government to be followed by the creation of a popular assembly as soon as there were five thousand free males in any district. Eventual admission to the union on an equal footing with the original states was promised to the new territories. Religious freedom was guaranteed. The safeguards of trial by jury, regular judicial procedure, and habeas corpus were established, in order that the methods of civilized life might take the place of the rough-and-ready justice of lynch law. During the course of the debate on the Ordinance, Congress added the sixth article forbidding slavery and involuntary servitude.

This Charter of the Northwest, so well planned by the Congress under the Articles of Confederation, was continued in force by the first Congress under the Constitution in 1789. The following year its essential provisions, except the ban on slavery, were applied to the territory south of the Ohio, ceded by North Carolina to the national government, and in 1798 to the Mississippi territory, once held by Georgia. Thus it was settled for all time that "the new colonies were not to be exploited for the benefit of the parent states (any more than for the benefit of England) but were to be autonomous and coördinate commonwealths." This outcome, bitterly opposed by some Eastern leaders who feared the triumph of Western states over the seaboard, completed the legal steps necessary by way of preparation for the flood of settlers.

The Land Companies, Speculators, and Western Land Tenure.—As in the original settlement of America, so in the opening of the West, great companies and single proprietors of large grants early figured. In 1787 the Ohio Land Company, a New England concern, acquired a million and a half acres on the Ohio and began operations by planting the town of Marietta. A professional land speculator, J.C. Symmes, secured a million acres lower down where the city of Cincinnati was founded. Other individuals bought up soldiers' claims and so acquired enormous holdings for speculative purposes. Indeed, there was such a rush to make fortunes quickly through the rise in land values that Washington was moved to cry out against the "rage for speculating in and forestalling of land on the North West of the Ohio," protesting that "scarce a valuable spot within any tolerable distance of it is left without a claimant." He therefore urged Congress to fix a reasonable price for the land, not "too exorbitant and burdensome for real occupiers, but high enough to discourage monopolizers."

Congress, however, was not prepared to use the public domain for the sole purpose of developing a body of small freeholders in the West. It still looked upon the sale of public lands as an important source of revenue with which to pay off the public debt; consequently it thought more of instant income than of ultimate results. It placed no limit on the amount which could be bought when it fixed the price at $2 an acre in 1796, and it encouraged the professional land operator by making the first installment only twenty cents an acre in addition to the small registration and survey fee. On such terms a speculator with a few thousand dollars could get possession of an enormous plot of land. If he was fortunate in disposing of it, he could meet the installments, which were spread over a period of four years, and make a handsome profit for himself. Even when the credit or installment feature was abolished in 1821 and the price of the land lowered to a cash price of $1.75 an acre, the opportunity for large speculative purchases continued to attract capital to land ventures.

The Development of the Small Freehold.—The cheapness of land and the scarcity of labor, nevertheless, made impossible the triumph of the huge estate with its semi-servile tenantry. For about $45 a man could get a farm of 160 acres on the installment plan; another payment of $80 was due in forty days; but a four-year term was allowed for the discharge of the balance. With a capital of from two to three hundred dollars a family could embark on a land venture. If it had good crops, it could meet the deferred payments. It was, however, a hard battle at best. Many a man forfeited his land through failure to pay the final installment; yet in the end, in spite of all the handicaps, the small freehold of a few hundred acres at most became the typical unit of Western agriculture, except in the planting states of the Gulf. Even the lands of the great companies were generally broken up and sold in small lots.

The tendency toward moderate holdings, so favored by Western conditions, was also promoted by a clause in the Northwest Ordinance declaring that the land of any person dying intestate—that is, without any will disposing of it—should be divided equally among his descendants. Hildreth says of this provision: "It established the important republican principle, not then introduced into all the states, of the equal distribution of landed as well as personal property." All these forces combined made the wide dispersion of wealth, in the early days of the nineteenth century, an American characteristic, in marked contrast with the European system of family prestige and vast estates based on the law of primogeniture.

The Western Migration and New States

The People.—With government established, federal arms victorious over the Indians, and the lands surveyed for sale, the way was prepared for the immigrants. They came with a rush. Young New Englanders, weary of tilling the stony soil of their native states, poured through New York and Pennsylvania, some settling on the northern bank of the Ohio but most of them in the Lake region. Sons and daughters of German farmers in Pennsylvania and many a redemptioner who had discharged his bond of servitude pressed out into Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, or beyond. From the exhausted fields and the clay hills of the Southern states came pioneers of English and Scotch-Irish descent, the latter in great numbers. Indeed one historian of high authority has ventured to say that "the rapid expansion of the United States from a coast strip to a continental area is largely a Scotch-Irish achievement." While native Americans of mixed stocks led the way into the West, it was not long before immigrants direct from Europe, under the stimulus of company enterprise, began to filter into the new settlements in increasing numbers.

The types of people were as various as the nations they represented. Timothy Flint, who published his entertaining Recollections in 1826, found the West a strange mixture of all sorts and conditions of people. Some of them, he relates, had been hunters in the upper world of the Mississippi, above the falls of St. Anthony. Some had been still farther north, in Canada. Still others had wandered from the South—the Gulf of Mexico, the Red River, and the Spanish country. French boatmen and trappers, Spanish traders from the Southwest, Virginia planters with their droves of slaves mingled with English, German, and Scotch-Irish farmers. Hunters, forest rangers, restless bordermen, and squatters, like the foaming combers of an advancing tide, went first. Then followed the farmers, masters of the ax and plow, with their wives who shared every burden and hardship and introduced some of the features of civilized life. The hunters and rangers passed on to new scenes; the home makers built for all time.

The Number of Immigrants.—There were no official stations on the frontier to record the number of immigrants who entered the West during the decades following the American Revolution. But travelers of the time record that every road was "crowded" with pioneers and their families, their wagons and cattle; and that they were seldom out of the sound of the snapping whip of the teamster urging forward his horses or the crack of the hunter's rifle as he brought down his evening meal. "During the latter half of 1787," says Coman, "more than nine hundred boats floated down the Ohio carrying eighteen thousand men, women, and children, and twelve thousand horses, sheep, and cattle, and six hundred and fifty wagons." Other lines of travel were also crowded and with the passing years the flooding tide of home seekers rose higher and higher.

The Western Routes.—Four main routes led into the country beyond the Appalachians. The Genesee road, beginning at Albany, ran almost due west to the present site of Buffalo on Lake Erie, through a level country. In the dry season, wagons laden with goods could easily pass along it into northern Ohio. A second route, through Pittsburgh, was fed by three eastern branches, one starting at Philadelphia, one at Baltimore, and another at Alexandria. A third main route wound through the mountains from Alexandria to Boonesboro in Kentucky and then westward across the Ohio to St. Louis. A fourth, the most famous of them all, passed through the Cumberland Gap and by branches extended into the Cumberland valley and the Kentucky country.

Of these four lines of travel, the Pittsburgh route offered the most advantages. Pioneers, no matter from what section they came, when once they were on the headwaters of the Ohio and in possession of a flatboat, could find a quick and easy passage into all parts of the West and Southwest. Whether they wanted to settle in Ohio, Kentucky, or western Tennessee they could find their way down the drifting flood to their destination or at least to some spot near it. Many people from the South as well as the Northern and Middle states chose this route; so it came about that the sons and daughters of Virginia and the Carolinas mingled with those of New York, Pennsylvania, and New England in the settlement of the Northwest territory.

The Methods of Travel into the West.—Many stories giving exact descriptions of methods of travel into the West in the early days have been preserved. The country was hardly opened before visitors from the Old World and from the Eastern states, impelled by curiosity, made their way to the very frontier of civilization and wrote books to inform or amuse the public. One of them, Gilbert Imlay, an English traveler, has given us an account of the Pittsburgh route as he found it in 1791. "If a man ... " he writes, "has a family or goods of any sort to remove, his best way, then, would be to purchase a waggon and team of horses to carry his property to Redstone Old Fort or to Pittsburgh, according as he may come from the Northern or Southern states. A good waggon will cost, at Philadelphia, about £10 ... and the horses about £12 each; they would cost something more both at Baltimore and Alexandria. The waggon may be covered with canvass, and if it is the choice of the people, they may sleep in it of nights with the greatest safety. But if they dislike that, there are inns of accommodation the whole distance on the different roads.... The provisions I would purchase in the same manner [that is, from the farmers along the road]; and by having two or three camp kettles and stopping every evening when the weather is fine upon the brink of some rivulet and by kindling a fire they may soon dress their own food.... This manner of journeying is so far from being disagreeable that in a fine season it is extremely pleasant." The immigrant once at Pittsburgh or Wheeling could then buy a flatboat of a size required for his goods and stock, and drift down the current to his journey's end.

Roads and Trails into the Western Territory
Roads and Trails into the Western Territory

The Admission of Kentucky and Tennessee.—When the eighteenth century drew to a close, Kentucky had a population larger than Delaware, Rhode Island, or New Hampshire. Tennessee claimed 60,000 inhabitants. In 1792 Kentucky took her place as a state beside her none too kindly parent, Virginia. The Eastern Federalists resented her intrusion; but they took some consolation in the admission of Vermont because the balance of Eastern power was still retained.

As if to assert their independence of old homes and conservative ideas the makers of Kentucky's first constitution swept aside the landed qualification on the suffrage and gave the vote to all free white males. Four years later, Kentucky's neighbor to the south, Tennessee, followed this step toward a wider democracy. After encountering fierce opposition from the Federalists, Tennessee was accepted as the sixteenth state.

Ohio.—The door of the union had hardly opened for Tennessee when another appeal was made to Congress, this time from the pioneers in Ohio. The little posts founded at Marietta and Cincinnati had grown into flourishing centers of trade. The stream of immigrants, flowing down the river, added daily to their numbers and the growing settlements all around poured produce into their markets to be exchanged for "store goods." After the Indians were disposed of in 1794 and the last British soldier left the frontier forts under the terms of the Jay treaty of 1795, tiny settlements of families appeared on Lake Erie in the "Western Reserve," a region that had been retained by Connecticut when she surrendered her other rights in the Northwest.

At the close of the century, Ohio, claiming a population of more than 50,000, grew discontented with its territorial status. Indeed, two years before the enactment of the Northwest Ordinance, squatters in that region had been invited by one John Emerson to hold a convention after the fashion of the men of Hartford, Windsor, and Wethersfield in old Connecticut and draft a frame of government for themselves. This true son of New England declared that men "have an undoubted right to pass into every vacant country and there to form their constitution and that from the confederation of the whole United States Congress is not empowered to forbid them." This grand convention was never held because the heavy hand of the government fell upon the leaders; but the spirit of John Emerson did not perish. In November, 1802, a convention chosen by voters, assembled under the authority of Congress at Chillicothe, drew up a constitution. It went into force after a popular ratification. The roll of the convention bore such names as Abbot, Baldwin, Cutler, Huntington, Putnam, and Sargent, and the list of counties from which they came included Adams, Fairfield, Hamilton, Jefferson, Trumbull, and Washington, showing that the new America in the West was peopled and led by the old stock. In 1803 Ohio was admitted to the union.

Indiana and Illinois.—As in the neighboring state, the frontier in Indiana advanced northward from the Ohio, mainly under the leadership, however, of settlers from the South—restless Kentuckians hoping for better luck in a newer country and pioneers from the far frontiers of Virginia and North Carolina. As soon as a tier of counties swinging upward like the horns of the moon against Ohio on the east and in the Wabash Valley on the west was fairly settled, a clamor went up for statehood. Under the authority of an act of Congress in 1816 the Indianians drafted a constitution and inaugurated their government at Corydon. "The majority of the members of the convention," we are told by a local historian, "were frontier farmers who had a general idea of what they wanted and had sense enough to let their more erudite colleagues put it into shape."

Two years later, the pioneers of Illinois, also settled upward from the Ohio, like Indiana, elected their delegates to draft a constitution. Leadership in the convention, quite properly, was taken by a man born in New York and reared in Tennessee; and the constitution as finally drafted "was in its principal provisions a copy of the then existing constitutions of Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana.... Many of the articles are exact copies in wording although differently arranged and numbered."

Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.—Across the Mississippi to the far south, clearing and planting had gone on with much bustle and enterprise. The cotton and sugar lands of Louisiana, opened by French and Spanish settlers, were widened in every direction by planters with their armies of slaves from the older states. New Orleans, a good market and a center of culture not despised even by the pioneer, grew apace. In 1810 the population of lower Louisiana was over 75,000. The time had come, said the leaders of the people, to fulfill the promise made to France in the treaty of cession; namely, to grant to the inhabitants of the territory statehood and the rights of American citizens. Federalists from New England still having a voice in Congress, if somewhat weaker, still protested in tones of horror. "I am compelled to declare it as my deliberate opinion," pronounced Josiah Quincy in the House of Representatives, "that if this bill [to admit Louisiana] passes, the bonds of this Union are virtually dissolved ... that as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some [states] to prepare definitely for a separation; amicably if they can, violently if they must.... It is a death blow to the Constitution. It may afterwards linger; but lingering, its fate will, at no very distant period, be consummated." Federalists from New York like those from New England had their doubts about the wisdom of admitting Western states; but the party of Jefferson and Madison, having the necessary majority, granted the coveted statehood to Louisiana in 1812.

When, a few years later, Mississippi and Alabama knocked at the doors of the union, the Federalists had so little influence, on account of their conduct during the second war with England, that spokesmen from the Southwest met a kindlier reception at Washington. Mississippi, in 1817, and Alabama, in 1819, took their places among the United States of America. Both of them, while granting white manhood suffrage, gave their constitutions the tone of the old East by providing landed qualifications for the governor and members of the legislature.

Missouri.—Far to the north in the Louisiana purchase, a new commonwealth was rising to power. It was peopled by immigrants who came down the Ohio in fleets of boats or crossed the Mississippi from Kentucky and Tennessee. Thrifty Germans from Pennsylvania, hardy farmers from Virginia ready to work with their own hands, freemen seeking freemen's homes, planters with their slaves moving on from worn-out fields on the seaboard, came together in the widening settlements of the Missouri country. Peoples from the North and South flowed together, small farmers and big planters mingling in one community. When their numbers had reached sixty thousand or more, they precipitated a contest over their admission to the union, "ringing an alarm bell in the night," as Jefferson phrased it. The favorite expedient of compromise with slavery was brought forth in Congress once more. Maine consequently was brought into the union without slavery and Missouri with slavery. At the same time there was drawn westward through the rest of the Louisiana territory a line separating servitude from slavery.

The Spirit of the Frontier

Land Tenure and Liberty.—Over an immense western area there developed an unbroken system of freehold farms. In the Gulf states and the lower Mississippi Valley, it is true, the planter with his many slaves even led in the pioneer movement; but through large sections of Tennessee and Kentucky, as well as upper Georgia and Alabama, and all throughout the Northwest territory the small farmer reigned supreme. In this immense dominion there sprang up a civilization without caste or class—a body of people all having about the same amount of this world's goods and deriving their livelihood from one source: the labor of their own hands on the soil. The Northwest territory alone almost equaled in area all the original thirteen states combined, except Georgia, and its system of agricultural economy was unbroken by plantations and feudal estates. "In the subdivision of the soil and the great equality of condition," as Webster said on more than one occasion, "lay the true basis, most certainly, of popular government." There was the undoubted source of Jacksonian democracy.

A Log Cabin—Lincoln's Birthplace
A Log Cabin—Lincoln's Birthplace

The Characteristics of the Western People.—Travelers into the Northwest during the early years of the nineteenth century were agreed that the people of that region were almost uniformly marked by the characteristics common to an independent yeomanry. A close observer thus recorded his impressions: "A spirit of adventurous enterprise, a willingness to go through any hardship to accomplish an object.... Independence of thought and action. They have felt the influence of these principles from their childhood. Men who can endure anything; that have lived almost without restraint, free as the mountain air or as the deer and the buffalo of their forests, and who know they are Americans all.... An apparent roughness which some would deem rudeness of manner.... Where there is perfect equality in a neighborhood of people who know little about each other's previous history or ancestry but where each is lord of the soil he cultivates. Where a log cabin is all that the best of families can expect to have for years and of course can possess few of the external decorations which have so much influence in creating a diversity of rank in society. These circumstances have laid the foundation for that equality of intercourse, simplicity of manners, want of deference, want of reserve, great readiness to make acquaintances, freedom of speech, indisposition to brook real or imaginary insults which one witnesses among people of the West."

This equality, this independence, this rudeness so often described by the traveler as marking a new country, were all accentuated by the character of the settlers themselves. Traces of the fierce, unsociable, eagle-eyed, hard-drinking hunter remained. The settlers who followed the hunter were, with some exceptions, soldiers of the Revolutionary army, farmers of the "middling order," and mechanics from the towns,—English, Scotch-Irish, Germans,—poor in possessions and thrown upon the labor of their own hands for support. Sons and daughters from well-to-do Eastern homes sometimes brought softer manners; but the equality of life and the leveling force of labor in forest and field soon made them one in spirit with their struggling neighbors. Even the preachers and teachers, who came when the cabins were raised in the clearings and rude churches and schoolhouses were built, preached sermons and taught lessons that savored of the frontier, as any one may know who reads Peter Cartwright's A Muscular Christian or Eggleston's The Hoosier Schoolmaster.

The West and the East Meet

The East Alarmed.—A people so independent as the Westerners and so attached to local self-government gave the conservative East many a rude shock, setting gentlemen in powdered wigs and knee breeches agog with the idea that terrible things might happen in the Mississippi Valley. Not without good grounds did Washington fear that "a touch of a feather would turn" the Western settlers away from the seaboard to the Spaniards; and seriously did he urge the East not to neglect them, lest they be "drawn into the arms of, or be dependent upon foreigners." Taking advantage of the restless spirit in the Southwest, Aaron Burr, having disgraced himself by killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, laid wild plans, if not to bring about a secession in that region, at least to build a state of some kind out of the Spanish dominions adjoining Louisiana. Frightened at such enterprises and fearing the dominance of the West, the Federalists, with a few conspicuous exceptions, opposed equality between the sections. Had their narrow views prevailed, the West, with its new democracy, would have been held in perpetual tutelage to the seaboard or perhaps been driven into independence as the thirteen colonies had been not long before.

Eastern Friends of the West.—Fortunately for the nation, there were many Eastern leaders, particularly from the South, who understood the West, approved its spirit, and sought to bring the two sections together by common bonds. Washington kept alive and keen the zeal for Western advancement which he acquired in his youth as a surveyor. He never grew tired of urging upon his Eastern friends the importance of the lands beyond the mountains. He pressed upon the governor of Virginia a project for a wagon road connecting the seaboard with the Ohio country and was active in a movement to improve the navigation of the Potomac. He advocated strengthening the ties of commerce. "Smooth the roads," he said, "and make easy the way for them, and then see what an influx of articles will be poured upon us; how amazingly our exports will be increased by them; and how amply we shall be compensated for any trouble and expense we may encounter to effect it." Jefferson, too, was interested in every phase of Western development—the survey of lands, the exploration of waterways, the opening of trade, and even the discovery of the bones of prehistoric animals. Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat, was another man of vision who for many years pressed upon his countrymen the necessity of uniting East and West by a canal which would cement the union, raise the value of the public lands, and extend the principles of confederate and republican government.

The Difficulties of Early Transportation.—Means of communication played an important part in the strategy of all those who sought to bring together the seaboard and the frontier. The produce of the West—wheat, corn, bacon, hemp, cattle, and tobacco—was bulky and the cost of overland transportation was prohibitive. In the Eastern market, "a cow and her calf were given for a bushel of salt, while a suit of 'store clothes' cost as much as a farm." In such circumstances, the inhabitants of the Mississippi Valley were forced to ship their produce over a long route by way of New Orleans and to pay high freight rates for everything that was brought across the mountains. Scows of from five to fifty tons were built at the towns along the rivers and piloted down the stream to the Crescent City. In a few cases small ocean-going vessels were built to transport goods to the West Indies or to the Eastern coast towns. Salt, iron, guns, powder, and the absolute essentials which the pioneers had to buy mainly in Eastern markets were carried over narrow wagon trails that were almost impassable in the rainy season.

The National Road.—To far-sighted men, like Albert Gallatin, "the father of internal improvements," the solution of this problem was the construction of roads and canals. Early in Jefferson's administration, Congress dedicated a part of the proceeds from the sale of lands to building highways from the headwaters of the navigable waters emptying into the Atlantic to the Ohio River and beyond into the Northwest territory. In 1806, after many misgivings, it authorized a great national highway binding the East and the West. The Cumberland Road, as it was called, began in northwestern Maryland, wound through southern Pennsylvania, crossed the narrow neck of Virginia at Wheeling, and then shot almost straight across Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, into Missouri. By 1817, stagecoaches were running between Washington and Wheeling; by 1833 contractors had carried their work to Columbus, Ohio, and by 1852, to Vandalia, Illinois. Over this ballasted road mail and passenger coaches could go at high speed, and heavy freight wagons proceed in safety at a steady pace.

The Cumberland Road
The Cumberland Road

Canals and Steamboats.—A second epoch in the economic union of the East and West was reached with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, offering an all-water route from New York City to the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley. Pennsylvania, alarmed by the advantages conferred on New York by this enterprise, began her system of canals and portages from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, completing the last link in 1834. In the South, the Chesapeake and Ohio Company, chartered in 1825, was busy with a project to connect Georgetown and Cumberland when railways broke in upon the undertaking before it was half finished. About the same time, Ohio built a canal across the state, affording water communication between Lake Erie and the Ohio River through a rich wheat belt. Passengers could now travel by canal boat into the West with comparative ease and comfort, if not at a rapid speed, and the bulkiest of freight could be easily handled. Moreover, the rate charged for carrying goods was cut by the Erie Canal from $32 a ton per hundred miles to $1. New Orleans was destined to lose her primacy in the Mississippi Valley.

The diversion of traffic to Eastern markets was also stimulated by steamboats which appeared on the Ohio about 1810, three years after Fulton had made his famous trip on the Hudson. It took twenty men to sail and row a five-ton scow up the river at a speed of from ten to twenty miles a day. In 1825, Timothy Flint traveled a hundred miles a day on the new steamer Grecian "against the whole weight of the Mississippi current." Three years later the round trip from Louisville to New Orleans was cut to eight days. Heavy produce that once had to float down to New Orleans could be carried upstream and sent to the East by way of the canal systems.

An Early Mississippi Steamboat
From an old print
An Early Mississippi Steamboat

Thus the far country was brought near. The timid no longer hesitated at the thought of the perilous journey. All routes were crowded with Western immigrants. The forests fell before the ax like grain before the sickle. Clearings scattered through the woods spread out into a great mosaic of farms stretching from the Southern Appalachians to Lake Michigan. The national census of 1830 gave 937,000 inhabitants to Ohio; 343,000 to Indiana; 157,000 to Illinois; 687,000 to Kentucky; and 681,000 to Tennessee.

Distribution of Population, 1830
Distribution of Population, 1830

With the increase in population and the growth of agriculture came political influence. People who had once petitioned Congress now sent their own representatives. Men who had hitherto accepted without protests Presidents from the seaboard expressed a new spirit of dissent in 1824 by giving only three electoral votes for John Quincy Adams; and four years later they sent a son of the soil from Tennessee, Andrew Jackson, to take Washington's chair as chief executive of the nation—the first of a long line of Presidents from the Mississippi basin.


W.G. Brown, The Lower South in American History.

B.A. Hinsdale, The Old North West (2 vols.).

A.B. Hulbert, Great American Canals and The Cumberland Road.

T. Roosevelt, Thomas H. Benton.

P.J. Treat, The National Land System (1785-1820).

F.J. Turner, Rise of the New West (American Nation Series).

J. Winsor, The Westward Movement.


1. How did the West come to play a rôle in the Revolution?

2. What preparations were necessary to settlement?

3. Give the principal provisions of the Northwest Ordinance.

4. Explain how freehold land tenure happened to predominate in the West.

5. Who were the early settlers in the West? What routes did they take? How did they travel?

6. Explain the Eastern opposition to the admission of new Western states. Show how it was overcome.

7. Trace a connection between the economic system of the West and the spirit of the people.

8. Who were among the early friends of Western development?

9. Describe the difficulties of trade between the East and the West.

10. Show how trade was promoted.

Research Topics

Northwest Ordinance.—Analysis of text in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book. Roosevelt, Winning of the West, Vol. V, pp. 5-57.

The West before the Revolution.—Roosevelt, Vol. I.

The West during the Revolution.—Roosevelt, Vols. II and III.

Tennessee.—Roosevelt, Vol. V, pp. 95-119 and Vol. VI, pp. 9-87.

The Cumberland Road.—A.B. Hulbert, The Cumberland Road.

Early Life in the Middle West.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 617-633; 636-641.

Slavery in the Southwest.—Callender, pp. 641-652.

Early Land Policy.—Callender, pp. 668-680.

Westward Movement of Peoples.—Roosevelt, Vol. IV, pp. 7-39.

Lists of books dealing with the early history of Western states are given in Hart, Channing, and Turner, Guide to the Study and Reading of American History (rev. ed.), pp. 62-89.

Kentucky.—Roosevelt, Vol. IV, pp. 176-263.



The New England Federalists, at the Hartford convention, prophesied that in time the West would dominate the East. "At the adoption of the Constitution," they said, "a certain balance of power among the original states was considered to exist, and there was at that time and yet is among those parties a strong affinity between their great and general interests. By the admission of these [new] states that balance has been materially affected and unless the practice be modified must ultimately be destroyed. The Southern states will first avail themselves of their new confederates to govern the East, and finally the Western states, multiplied in number, and augmented in population, will control the interests of the whole." Strangely enough the fulfillment of this prophecy was being prepared even in Federalist strongholds by the rise of a new urban democracy that was to make common cause with the farmers beyond the mountains.

The Democratic Movement in the East

The Aristocratic Features of the Old Order.—The Revolutionary fathers, in setting up their first state constitutions, although they often spoke of government as founded on the consent of the governed, did not think that consistency required giving the vote to all adult males. On the contrary they looked upon property owners as the only safe "depositary" of political power. They went back to the colonial tradition that related taxation and representation. This, they argued, was not only just but a safeguard against the "excesses of democracy."

In carrying their theory into execution they placed taxpaying or property qualifications on the right to vote. Broadly speaking, these limitations fell into three classes. Three states, Pennsylvania (1776), New Hampshire (1784), and Georgia (1798), gave the ballot to all who paid taxes, without reference to the value of their property. Three, Virginia, Delaware, and Rhode Island, clung firmly to the ancient principles that only freeholders could be intrusted with electoral rights. Still other states, while closely restricting the suffrage, accepted the ownership of other things as well as land in fulfillment of the requirements. In Massachusetts, for instance, the vote was granted to all men who held land yielding an annual income of three pounds or possessed other property worth sixty pounds.

The electors thus enfranchised, numerous as they were, owing to the wide distribution of land, often suffered from a very onerous disability. In many states they were able to vote only for persons of wealth because heavy property qualifications were imposed on public officers. In New Hampshire, the governor had to be worth five hundred pounds, one-half in land; in Massachusetts, one thousand pounds, all freehold; in Maryland, five thousand pounds, one thousand of which was freehold; in North Carolina, one thousand pounds freehold; and in South Carolina, ten thousand pounds freehold. A state senator in Massachusetts had to be the owner of a freehold worth three hundred pounds or personal property worth six hundred pounds; in New Jersey, one thousand pounds' worth of property; in North Carolina, three hundred acres of land; in South Carolina, two thousand pounds freehold. For members of the lower house of the legislature lower qualifications were required.

In most of the states the suffrage or office holding or both were further restricted by religious provisions. No single sect was powerful enough to dominate after the Revolution, but, for the most part, Catholics and Jews were either disfranchised or excluded from office. North Carolina and Georgia denied the ballot to any one who was not a Protestant. Delaware withheld it from all who did not believe in the Trinity and the inspiration of the Scriptures. Massachusetts and Maryland limited it to Christians. Virginia and New York, advanced for their day, made no discrimination in government on account of religious opinion.

The Defense of the Old Order.—It must not be supposed that property qualifications were thoughtlessly imposed at the outset or considered of little consequence in practice. In the beginning they were viewed as fundamental. As towns grew in size and the number of landless citizens increased, the restrictions were defended with even more vigor. In Massachusetts, the great Webster upheld the rights of property in government, saying: "It is entirely just that property should have its due weight and consideration in political arrangements.... The disastrous revolutions which the world has witnessed, those political thunderstorms and earthquakes which have shaken the pillars of society to their deepest foundations, have been revolutions against property." In Pennsylvania, a leader in local affairs cried out against a plan to remove the taxpaying limitation on the suffrage: "What does the delegate propose? To place the vicious vagrant, the wandering Arabs, the Tartar hordes of our large cities on the level with the virtuous and good man?" In Virginia, Jefferson himself had first believed in property qualifications and had feared with genuine alarm the "mobs of the great cities." It was near the end of the eighteenth century before he accepted the idea of manhood suffrage. Even then he was unable to convince the constitution-makers of his own state. "It is not an idle chimera of the brain," urged one of them, "that the possession of land furnishes the strongest evidence of permanent, common interest with, and attachment to, the community.... It is upon this foundation I wish to place the right of suffrage. This is the best general standard which can be resorted to for the purpose of determining whether the persons to be invested with the right of suffrage are such persons as could be, consistently with the safety and well-being of the community, intrusted with the exercise of that right."

Attacks on the Restricted Suffrage.—The changing circumstances of American life, however, soon challenged the rule of those with property. Prominent among the new forces were the rising mercantile and business interests. Where the freehold qualification was applied, business men who did not own land were deprived of the vote and excluded from office. In New York, for example, the most illiterate farmer who had one hundred pounds' worth of land could vote for state senator and governor, while the landless banker or merchant could not. It is not surprising, therefore, to find business men taking the lead in breaking down freehold limitations on the suffrage. The professional classes also were interested in removing the barriers which excluded many of them from public affairs. It was a schoolmaster, Thomas Dorr, who led the popular uprising in Rhode Island which brought the exclusive rule by freeholders to an end.

In addition to the business and professional classes, the mechanics of the towns showed a growing hostility to a system of government that generally barred them from voting or holding office. Though not numerous, they had early begun to exercise an influence on the course of public affairs. They had led the riots against the Stamp Act, overturned King George's statue, and "crammed stamps down the throats of collectors." When the state constitutions were framed they took a lively interest, particularly in New York City and Philadelphia. In June, 1776, the "mechanicks in union" in New York protested against putting the new state constitution into effect without their approval, declaring that the right to vote on the acceptance or rejection of a fundamental law "is the birthright of every man to whatever state he may belong." Though their petition was rejected, their spirit remained. When, a few years later, the federal Constitution was being framed, the mechanics watched the process with deep concern; they knew that one of its main objects was to promote trade and commerce, affecting directly their daily bread. During the struggle over ratification, they passed resolutions approving its provisions and they often joined in parades organized to stir up sentiment for the Constitution, even though they could not vote for members of the state conventions and so express their will directly. After the organization of trade unions they collided with the courts of law and thus became interested in the election of judges and lawmakers.

Those who attacked the old system of class rule found a strong moral support in the Declaration of Independence. Was it not said that all men are created equal? Whoever runs may read. Was it not declared that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed? That doctrine was applied with effect to George III and seemed appropriate for use against the privileged classes of Massachusetts or Virginia. "How do the principles thus proclaimed," asked the non-freeholders of Richmond, in petitioning for the ballot, "accord with the existing regulation of the suffrage? A regulation which, instead of the equality nature ordains, creates an odious distinction between members of the same community ... and vests in a favored class, not in consideration of their public services but of their private possessions, the highest of all privileges."

Abolition of Property Qualifications.—By many minor victories rather than by any spectacular triumphs did the advocates of manhood suffrage carry the day. Slight gains were made even during the Revolution or shortly afterward. In Pennsylvania, the mechanics, by taking an active part in the contest over the Constitution of 1776, were able to force the qualification down to the payment of a small tax. Vermont came into the union in 1792 without any property restrictions. In the same year Delaware gave the vote to all men who paid taxes. Maryland, reckoned one of the most conservative of states, embarked on the experiment of manhood suffrage in 1809; and nine years later, Connecticut, equally conservative, decided that all taxpayers were worthy of the ballot.

Five states, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, and North Carolina, remained obdurate while these changes were going on around them; finally they had to yield themselves. The last struggle in Massachusetts took place in the constitutional convention of 1820. There Webster, in the prime of his manhood, and John Adams, in the closing years of his old age, alike protested against such radical innovations as manhood suffrage. Their protests were futile. The property test was abolished and a small tax-paying qualification was substituted. New York surrendered the next year and, after trying some minor restrictions for five years, went completely over to white manhood suffrage in 1826. Rhode Island clung to her freehold qualification through thirty years of agitation. Then Dorr's Rebellion, almost culminating in bloodshed, brought about a reform in 1843 which introduced a slight tax-paying qualification as an alternative to the freehold. Virginia and North Carolina were still unconvinced. The former refused to abandon ownership of land as the test for political rights until 1850 and the latter until 1856. Although religious discriminations and property qualifications for office holders were sometimes retained after the establishment of manhood suffrage, they were usually abolished along with the monopoly of government enjoyed by property owners and taxpayers.

Thomas Dorr Arousing His Followers
Thomas Dorr Arousing His Followers

At the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the white male industrial workers and the mechanics of the Northern cities, at least, could lay aside the petition for the ballot and enjoy with the free farmer a voice in the government of their common country. "Universal democracy," sighed Carlyle, who was widely read in the United States, "whatever we may think of it has declared itself the inevitable fact of the days in which we live; and he who has any chance to instruct or lead in these days must begin by admitting that ... Where no government is wanted, save that of the parish constable, as in America with its boundless soil, every man being able to find work and recompense for himself, democracy may subsist; not elsewhere." Amid the grave misgivings of the first generation of statesmen, America was committed to the great adventure, in the populous towns of the East as well as in the forests and fields of the West.

The New Democracy Enters the Arena

The spirit of the new order soon had a pronounced effect on the machinery of government and the practice of politics. The enfranchised electors were not long in demanding for themselves a larger share in administration.

The Spoils System and Rotation in Office.—First of all they wanted office for themselves, regardless of their fitness. They therefore extended the system of rewarding party workers with government positions—a system early established in several states, notably New York and Pennsylvania. Closely connected with it was the practice of fixing short terms for officers and making frequent changes in personnel. "Long continuance in office," explained a champion of this idea in Pennsylvania in 1837, "unfits a man for the discharge of its duties, by rendering him arbitrary and aristocratic, and tends to beget, first life office, and then hereditary office, which leads to the destruction of free government." The solution offered was the historic doctrine of "rotation in office." At the same time the principle of popular election was extended to an increasing number of officials who had once been appointed either by the governor or the legislature. Even geologists, veterinarians, surveyors, and other technical officers were declared elective on the theory that their appointment "smacked of monarchy."

Popular Election of Presidential Electors.—In a short time the spirit of democracy, while playing havoc with the old order in state government, made its way upward into the federal system. The framers of the Constitution, bewildered by many proposals and unable to agree on any single plan, had committed the choice of presidential electors to the discretion of the state legislatures. The legislatures, in turn, greedy of power, early adopted the practice of choosing the electors themselves; but they did not enjoy it long undisturbed. Democracy, thundering at their doors, demanded that they surrender the privilege to the people. Reluctantly they yielded, sometimes granting popular election and then withdrawing it. The drift was inevitable, and the climax came with the advent of Jacksonian democracy. In 1824, Vermont, New York, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana, though some had experimented with popular election, still left the choice of electors with the legislature. Eight years later South Carolina alone held to the old practice. Popular election had become the final word. The fanciful idea of an electoral college of "good and wise men," selected without passion or partisanship by state legislatures acting as deliberative bodies, was exploded for all time; the election of the nation's chief magistrate was committed to the tempestuous methods of democracy.

The Nominating Convention.—As the suffrage was widened and the popular choice of presidential electors extended, there arose a violent protest against the methods used by the political parties in nominating candidates. After the retirement of Washington, both the Republicans and the Federalists found it necessary to agree upon their favorites before the election, and they adopted a colonial device—the pre-election caucus. The Federalist members of Congress held a conference and selected their candidate, and the Republicans followed the example. In a short time the practice of nominating by a "congressional caucus" became a recognized institution. The election still remained with the people; but the power of picking candidates for their approval passed into the hands of a small body of Senators and Representatives.

A reaction against this was unavoidable. To friends of "the plain people," like Andrew Jackson, it was intolerable, all the more so because the caucus never favored him with the nomination. More conservative men also found grave objections to it. They pointed out that, whereas the Constitution intended the President to be an independent officer, he had now fallen under the control of a caucus of congressmen. The supremacy of the legislative branch had been obtained by an extra-legal political device. To such objections were added practical considerations. In 1824, when personal rivalry had taken the place of party conflicts, the congressional caucus selected as the candidate, William H. Crawford, of Georgia, a man of distinction but no great popularity, passing by such an obvious hero as General Jackson. The followers of the General were enraged and demanded nothing short of the death of "King Caucus." Their clamor was effective. Under their attacks, the caucus came to an ignominious end.

In place of it there arose in 1831 a new device, the national nominating convention, composed of delegates elected by party voters for the sole purpose of nominating candidates. Senators and Representatives were still prominent in the party councils, but they were swamped by hundreds of delegates "fresh from the people," as Jackson was wont to say. In fact, each convention was made up mainly of office holders and office seekers, and the new institution was soon denounced as vigorously as King Caucus had been, particularly by statesmen who failed to obtain a nomination. Still it grew in strength and by 1840 was firmly established.

The End of the Old Generation.—In the election of 1824, the representatives of the "aristocracy" made their last successful stand. Until then the leadership by men of "wealth and talents" had been undisputed. There had been five Presidents—Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe—all Eastern men brought up in prosperous families with the advantages of culture which come from leisure and the possession of life's refinements. None of them had ever been compelled to work with his hands for a livelihood. Four of them had been slaveholders. Jefferson was a philosopher, learned in natural science, a master of foreign languages, a gentleman of dignity and grace of manner, notwithstanding his studied simplicity. Madison, it was said, was armed "with all the culture of his century." Monroe was a graduate of William and Mary, a gentleman of the old school. Jefferson and his three successors called themselves Republicans and professed a genuine faith in the people but they were not "of the people" themselves; they were not sons of the soil or the workshop. They were all men of "the grand old order of society" who gave finish and style even to popular government.

Monroe was the last of the Presidents belonging to the heroic epoch of the Revolution. He had served in the war for independence, in the Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and in official capacity after the adoption of the Constitution. In short, he was of the age that had wrought American independence and set the government afloat. With his passing, leadership went to a new generation; but his successor, John Quincy Adams, formed a bridge between the old and the new in that he combined a high degree of culture with democratic sympathies. Washington had died in 1799, preceded but a few months by Patrick Henry and followed in four years by Samuel Adams. Hamilton had been killed in a duel with Burr in 1804. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were yet alive in 1824 but they were soon to pass from the scene, reconciled at last, full of years and honors. Madison was in dignified retirement, destined to live long enough to protest against the doctrine of nullification proclaimed by South Carolina before death carried him away at the ripe old age of eighty-five.

The Election of John Quincy Adams (1824).—The campaign of 1824 marked the end of the "era of good feeling" inaugurated by the collapse of the Federalist party after the election of 1816. There were four leading candidates, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and W.H. Crawford. The result of the election was a division of the electoral votes into four parts and no one received a majority. Under the Constitution, therefore, the selection of President passed to the House of Representatives. Clay, who stood at the bottom of the poll, threw his weight to Adams and assured his triumph, much to the chagrin of Jackson's friends. They thought, with a certain justification, that inasmuch as the hero of New Orleans had received the largest electoral vote, the House was morally bound to accept the popular judgment and make him President. Jackson shook hands cordially with Adams on the day of the inauguration, but never forgave him for being elected.

While Adams called himself a Republican in politics and often spoke of "the rule of the people," he was regarded by Jackson's followers as "an aristocrat." He was not a son of the soil. Neither was he acquainted at first hand with the labor of farmers and mechanics. He had been educated at Harvard and in Europe. Like his illustrious father, John Adams, he was a stern and reserved man, little given to seeking popularity. Moreover, he was from the East and the frontiersmen of the West regarded him as a man "born with a silver spoon in his mouth." Jackson's supporters especially disliked him because they thought their hero entitled to the presidency. Their anger was deepened when Adams appointed Clay to the office of Secretary of State; and they set up a cry that there had been a "deal" by which Clay had helped to elect Adams to get office for himself.

Though Adams conducted his administration with great dignity and in a fine spirit of public service, he was unable to overcome the opposition which he encountered on his election to office or to win popularity in the West and South. On the contrary, by advocating government assistance in building roads and canals and public grants in aid of education, arts, and sciences, he ran counter to the current which had set in against appropriations of federal funds for internal improvements. By signing the Tariff Bill of 1828, soon known as the "Tariff of Abominations," he made new enemies without adding to his friends in New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio where he sorely needed them. Handicapped by the false charge that he had been a party to a "corrupt bargain" with Clay to secure his first election; attacked for his advocacy of a high protective tariff; charged with favoring an "aristocracy of office-holders" in Washington on account of his refusal to discharge government clerks by the wholesale, Adams was retired from the White House after he had served four years.

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson

The Triumph of Jackson in 1828.—Probably no candidate for the presidency ever had such passionate popular support as Andrew Jackson had in 1828. He was truly a man of the people. Born of poor parents in the upland region of South Carolina, schooled in poverty and adversity, without the advantages of education or the refinements of cultivated leisure, he seemed the embodiment of the spirit of the new American democracy. Early in his youth he had gone into the frontier of Tennessee where he soon won a name as a fearless and intrepid Indian fighter. On the march and in camp, he endeared himself to his men by sharing their hardships, sleeping on the ground with them, and eating parched corn when nothing better could be found for the privates. From local prominence he sprang into national fame by his exploit at the battle of New Orleans. His reputation as a military hero was enhanced by the feeling that he had been a martyr to political treachery in 1824. The farmers of the West and South claimed him as their own. The mechanics of the Eastern cities, newly enfranchised, also looked upon him as their friend. Though his views on the tariff, internal improvements, and other issues before the country were either vague or unknown, he was readily elected President.

The returns of the electoral vote in 1828 revealed the sources of Jackson's power. In New England, he received but one ballot, from Maine; he had a majority of the electors in New York and all of them in Pennsylvania; and he carried every state south of Maryland and beyond the Appalachians. Adams did not get a single electoral vote in the South and West. The prophecy of the Hartford convention had been fulfilled.

When Jackson took the oath of office on March 4, 1829, the government of the United States entered into a new era. Until this time the inauguration of a President—even that of Jefferson, the apostle of simplicity—had brought no rude shock to the course of affairs at the capital. Hitherto the installation of a President meant that an old-fashioned gentleman, accompanied by a few servants, had driven to the White House in his own coach, taken the oath with quiet dignity, appointed a few new men to the higher posts, continued in office the long list of regular civil employees, and begun his administration with respectable decorum. Jackson changed all this. When he was inaugurated, men and women journeyed hundreds of miles to witness the ceremony. Great throngs pressed into the White House, "upset the bowls of punch, broke the glasses, and stood with their muddy boots on the satin-covered chairs to see the people's President." If Jefferson's inauguration was, as he called it, the "great revolution," Jackson's inauguration was a cataclysm.

The New Democracy at Washington

The Spoils System.—The staid and respectable society of Washington was disturbed by this influx of farmers and frontiersmen. To speak of politics became "bad form" among fashionable women. The clerks and civil servants of the government who had enjoyed long and secure tenure of office became alarmed at the clamor of new men for their positions. Doubtless the major portion of them had opposed the election of Jackson and looked with feelings akin to contempt upon him and his followers. With a hunter's instinct, Jackson scented his prey. Determined to have none but his friends in office, he made a clean sweep, expelling old employees to make room for men "fresh from the people." This was a new custom. Other Presidents had discharged a few officers for engaging in opposition politics. They had been careful in making appointments not to choose inveterate enemies; but they discharged relatively few men on account of their political views and partisan activities.

By wholesale removals and the frank selection of officers on party grounds—a practice already well intrenched in New York—Jackson established the "spoils system" at Washington. The famous slogan, "to the victor belong the spoils of victory," became the avowed principle of the national government. Statesmen like Calhoun denounced it; poets like James Russell Lowell ridiculed it; faithful servants of the government suffered under it; but it held undisturbed sway for half a century thereafter, each succeeding generation outdoing, if possible, its predecessor in the use of public office for political purposes. If any one remarked that training and experience were necessary qualifications for important public positions, he met Jackson's own profession of faith: "The duties of any public office are so simple or admit of being made so simple that any man can in a short time become master of them."

The Tariff and Nullification.—Jackson had not been installed in power very long before he was compelled to choose between states' rights and nationalism. The immediate occasion of the trouble was the tariff—a matter on which Jackson did not have any very decided views. His mind did not run naturally to abstruse economic questions; and owing to the divided opinion of the country it was "good politics" to be vague and ambiguous in the controversy. Especially was this true, because the tariff issue was threatening to split the country into parties again.

The Development of the Policy of "Protection."—The war of 1812 and the commercial policies of England which followed it had accentuated the need for American economic independence. During that conflict, the United States, cut off from English manufactures as during the Revolution, built up home industries to meet the unusual call for iron, steel, cloth, and other military and naval supplies as well as the demands from ordinary markets. Iron foundries and textile mills sprang up as in the night; hundreds of business men invested fortunes in industrial enterprises so essential to the military needs of the government; and the people at large fell into the habit of buying American-made goods again. As the London Times tersely observed of the Americans, "their first war with England made them independent; their second war made them formidable."

In recognition of this state of affairs, the tariff of 1816 was designed: first, to prevent England from ruining these "infant industries" by dumping the accumulated stores of years suddenly upon American markets; and, secondly, to enlarge in the manufacturing centers the demand for American agricultural produce. It accomplished the purposes of its framers. It kept in operation the mills and furnaces so recently built. It multiplied the number of industrial workers and enhanced the demand for the produce of the soil. It brought about another very important result. It turned the capital and enterprise of New England from shipping to manufacturing, and converted her statesmen, once friends of low tariffs, into ardent advocates of protection.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, the Yankees had bent their energies toward building and operating ships to carry produce from America to Europe and manufactures from Europe to America. For this reason, they had opposed the tariff of 1816 calculated to increase domestic production and cut down the carrying trade. Defeated in their efforts, they accepted the inevitable and turned to manufacturing. Soon they were powerful friends of protection for American enterprise. As the money invested and the labor employed in the favored industries increased, the demand for continued and heavier protection grew apace. Even the farmers who furnished raw materials, like wool, flax, and hemp, began to see eye to eye with the manufacturers. So the textile interests of New England, the iron masters of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, the wool, hemp, and flax growers of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and the sugar planters of Louisiana developed into a formidable combination in support of a high protective tariff.

The Planting States Oppose the Tariff.—In the meantime, the cotton states on the seaboard had forgotten about the havoc wrought during the Napoleonic wars when their produce rotted because there were no ships to carry it to Europe. The seas were now open. The area devoted to cotton had swiftly expanded as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana were opened up. Cotton had in fact become "king" and the planters depended for their prosperity, as they thought, upon the sale of their staple to English manufacturers whose spinning and weaving mills were the wonder of the world. Manufacturing nothing and having to buy nearly everything except farm produce and even much of that for slaves, the planters naturally wanted to purchase manufactures in the cheapest market, England, where they sold most of their cotton. The tariff, they contended, raised the price of the goods they had to buy and was thus in fact a tribute laid on them for the benefit of the Northern mill owners.

The Tariff of Abominations.—They were overborne, however, in 1824 and again in 1828 when Northern manufacturers and Western farmers forced Congress to make an upward revision of the tariff. The Act of 1828 known as "the Tariff of Abominations," though slightly modified in 1832, was "the straw which broke the camel's back." Southern leaders turned in rage against the whole system. The legislatures of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama denounced it; a general convention of delegates held at Augusta issued a protest of defiance against it; and South Carolina, weary of verbal battles, decided to prevent its enforcement.

South Carolina Nullifies the Tariff.—The legislature of that state, on October 26, 1832, passed a bill calling for a state convention which duly assembled in the following month. In no mood for compromise, it adopted the famous Ordinance of Nullification after a few days' debate. Every line of this document was clear and firm. The tariff, it opened, gives "bounties to classes and individuals ... at the expense and to the injury and oppression of other classes and individuals"; it is a violation of the Constitution of the United States and therefore null and void; its enforcement in South Carolina is unlawful; if the federal government attempts to coerce the state into obeying the law, "the people of this state will thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligations to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other states and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate government and do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent states may of right do."

Southern States Condemn Nullification.—The answer of the country to this note of defiance, couched in the language used in the Kentucky resolutions and by the New England Federalists during the war of 1812, was quick and positive. The legislatures of the Southern states, while condemning the tariff, repudiated the step which South Carolina had taken. Georgia responded: "We abhor the doctrine of nullification as neither a peaceful nor a constitutional remedy." Alabama found it "unsound in theory and dangerous in practice." North Carolina replied that it was "revolutionary in character, subversive of the Constitution of the United States." Mississippi answered: "It is disunion by force—it is civil war." Virginia spoke more softly, condemning the tariff and sustaining the principle of the Virginia resolutions but denying that South Carolina could find in them any sanction for her proceedings.

Jackson Firmly Upholds the Union.—The eyes of the country were turned upon Andrew Jackson. It was known that he looked with no friendly feelings upon nullification, for, at a Jefferson dinner in the spring of 1830 while the subject was in the air, he had with laconic firmness announced a toast: "Our federal union; it must be preserved." When two years later the open challenge came from South Carolina, he replied that he would enforce the law, saying with his frontier directness: "If a single drop of blood shall be shed there in opposition to the laws of the United States, I will hang the first man I can lay my hands on engaged in such conduct upon the first tree that I can reach." He made ready to keep his word by preparing for the use of military and naval forces in sustaining the authority of the federal government. Then in a long and impassioned proclamation to the people of South Carolina he pointed out the national character of the union, and announced his solemn resolve to preserve it by all constitutional means. Nullification he branded as "incompatible with the existence of the union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great objects for which it was formed."

A Compromise.—In his messages to Congress, however, Jackson spoke the language of conciliation. A few days before issuing his proclamation he suggested that protection should be limited to the articles of domestic manufacture indispensable to safety in war time, and shortly afterward he asked for new legislation to aid him in enforcing the laws. With two propositions before it, one to remove the chief grounds for South Carolina's resistance and the other to apply force if it was continued, Congress bent its efforts to avoid a crisis. On February 12, 1833, Henry Clay laid before the Senate a compromise tariff bill providing for the gradual reduction of the duties until by 1842 they would reach the level of the law which Calhoun had supported in 1816. About the same time the "force bill," designed to give the President ample authority in executing the law in South Carolina, was taken up. After a short but acrimonious debate, both measures were passed and signed by President Jackson on the same day, March 2. Looking upon the reduction of the tariff as a complete vindication of her policy and an undoubted victory, South Carolina rescinded her ordinance and enacted another nullifying the force bill.

Daniel Webster
From an old print
Daniel Webster

The Webster-Hayne Debate.—Where the actual victory lay in this quarrel, long the subject of high dispute, need not concern us to-day. Perhaps the chief result of the whole affair was a clarification of the issue between the North and the South—a definite statement of the principles for which men on both sides were years afterward to lay down their lives. On behalf of nationalism and a perpetual union, the stanch old Democrat from Tennessee had, in his proclamation on nullification, spoken a language that admitted of only one meaning. On behalf of nullification, Senator Hayne, of South Carolina, a skilled lawyer and courtly orator, had in a great speech delivered in the Senate in January, 1830, set forth clearly and cogently the doctrine that the union is a compact among sovereign states from which the parties may lawfully withdraw. It was this address that called into the arena Daniel Webster, Senator from Massachusetts, who, spreading the mantle of oblivion over the Hartford convention, delivered a reply to Hayne that has been reckoned among the powerful orations of all time—a plea for the supremacy of the Constitution and the national character of the union.

The War on the United States Bank.—If events forced the issue of nationalism and nullification upon Jackson, the same could not be said of his attack on the bank. That institution, once denounced by every true Jeffersonian, had been reëstablished in 1816 under the administration of Jefferson's disciple, James Madison. It had not been in operation very long, however, before it aroused bitter opposition, especially in the South and the West. Its notes drove out of circulation the paper currency of unsound banks chartered by the states, to the great anger of local financiers. It was accused of favoritism in making loans, of conferring special privileges upon politicians in return for their support at Washington. To all Jackson's followers it was "an insidious money power." One of them openly denounced it as an institution designed "to strengthen the arm of wealth and counterpoise the influence of extended suffrage in the disposition of public affairs."

This sentiment President Jackson fully shared. In his first message to Congress he assailed the bank in vigorous language. He declared that its constitutionality was in doubt and alleged that it had failed to establish a sound and uniform currency. If such an institution was necessary, he continued, it should be a public bank, owned and managed by the government, not a private concern endowed with special privileges by it. In his second and third messages, Jackson came back to the subject, leaving the decision, however, to "an enlightened people and their representatives."

Moved by this frank hostility and anxious for the future, the bank applied to Congress for a renewal of its charter in 1832, four years before the expiration of its life. Clay, with his eye upon the presidency and an issue for the campaign, warmly supported the application. Congress, deeply impressed by his leadership, passed the bill granting the new charter, and sent the open defiance to Jackson. His response was an instant veto. The battle was on and it raged with fury until the close of his second administration, ending in the destruction of the bank, a disordered currency, and a national panic.

In his veto message, Jackson attacked the bank as unconstitutional and even hinted at corruption. He refused to assent to the proposition that the Supreme Court had settled the question of constitutionality by the decision in the McCulloch case. "Each public officer," he argued, "who takes an oath to support the Constitution, swears that he will support it as he understands it, not as it is understood by others."

Not satisfied with his veto and his declaration against the bank, Jackson ordered the Secretary of the Treasury to withdraw the government deposits which formed a large part of the institution's funds. This action he followed up by an open charge that the bank had used money shamefully to secure the return of its supporters to Congress. The Senate, stung by this charge, solemnly resolved that Jackson had "assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both."

The effects of the destruction of the bank were widespread. When its charter expired in 1836, banking was once more committed to the control of the states. The state legislatures, under a decision rendered by the Supreme Court after the death of Marshall, began to charter banks under state ownership and control, with full power to issue paper money—this in spite of the provision in the Constitution that states shall not issue bills of credit or make anything but gold and silver coin legal tender in the payment of debts. Once more the country was flooded by paper currency of uncertain value. To make matters worse, Jackson adopted the practice of depositing huge amounts of government funds in these banks, not forgetting to render favors to those institutions which supported him in politics—"pet banks," as they were styled at the time. In 1837, partially, though by no means entirely, as a result of the abolition of the bank, the country was plunged into one of the most disastrous panics which it ever experienced.

Internal Improvements Checked.—The bank had presented to Jackson a very clear problem—one of destruction. Other questions were not so simple, particularly the subject of federal appropriations in aid of roads and other internal improvements. Jefferson had strongly favored government assistance in such matters, but his administration was followed by a reaction. Both Madison and Monroe vetoed acts of Congress appropriating public funds for public roads, advancing as their reason the argument that the Constitution authorized no such laws. Jackson, puzzled by the clamor on both sides, followed their example without making the constitutional bar absolute. Congress, he thought, might lawfully build highways of a national and military value, but he strongly deprecated attacks by local interests on the federal treasury.

The Triumph of the Executive Branch.—Jackson's reëlection in 1832 served to confirm his opinion that he was the chosen leader of the people, freed and instructed to ride rough shod over Congress and even the courts. No President before or since ever entertained in times of peace such lofty notions of executive prerogative. The entire body of federal employees he transformed into obedient servants of his wishes, a sign or a nod from him making and undoing the fortunes of the humble and the mighty. His lawful cabinet of advisers, filling all of the high posts in the government, he treated with scant courtesy, preferring rather to secure his counsel and advice from an unofficial body of friends and dependents who, owing to their secret methods and back stairs arrangements, became known as "the kitchen cabinet." Under the leadership of a silent, astute, and resourceful politician, Amos Kendall, this informal gathering of the faithful both gave and carried out decrees and orders, communicating the President's lightest wish or strictest command to the uttermost part of the country. Resolutely and in the face of bitter opposition Jackson had removed the deposits from the United States Bank. When the Senate protested against this arbitrary conduct, he did not rest until it was forced to expunge the resolution of condemnation; in time one of his lieutenants with his own hands was able to tear the censure from the records. When Chief Justice Marshall issued a decree against Georgia which did not suit him, Jackson, according to tradition, blurted out that Marshall could go ahead and enforce his own orders. To the end he pursued his willful way, finally even choosing his own successor.

The Rise of the Whigs

Jackson's Measures Arouse Opposition.—Measures so decided, policies so radical, and conduct so high-handed could not fail to arouse against Jackson a deep and exasperated opposition. The truth is the conduct of his entire administration profoundly disturbed the business and finances of the country. It was accompanied by conditions similar to those which existed under the Articles of Confederation. A paper currency, almost as unstable and irritating as the worthless notes of revolutionary days, flooded the country, hindering the easy transaction of business. The use of federal funds for internal improvements, so vital to the exchange of commodities which is the very life of industry, was blocked by executive vetoes. The Supreme Court, which, under Marshall, had held refractory states to their obligations under the Constitution, was flouted; states' rights judges, deliberately selected by Jackson for the bench, began to sap and undermine the rulings of Marshall. The protective tariff, under which the textile industry of New England, the iron mills of Pennsylvania, and the wool, flax, and hemp farms of the West had flourished, had received a severe blow in the compromise of 1833 which promised a steady reduction of duties. To cap the climax, Jackson's party, casting aside the old and reputable name of Republican, boldly chose for its title the term "Democrat," throwing down the gauntlet to every conservative who doubted the omniscience of the people. All these things worked together to evoke an opposition that was sharp and determined.

An Old Cartoon Ridiculing Clay's Tariff and Internal Improvement Program
An Old Cartoon Ridiculing Clay's Tariff and Internal Improvement Program

Clay and the National Republicans.—In this opposition movement, leadership fell to Henry Clay, a son of Kentucky, rather than to Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Like Jackson, Clay was born in a home haunted by poverty. Left fatherless early and thrown upon his own resources, he went from Virginia into Kentucky where by sheer force of intellect he rose to eminence in the profession of law. Without the martial gifts or the martial spirit of Jackson, he slipped more easily into the social habits of the East at the same time that he retained his hold on the affections of the boisterous West. Farmers of Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky loved him; financiers of New York and Philadelphia trusted him. He was thus a leader well fitted to gather the forces of opposition into union against Jackson.

Around Clay's standard assembled a motley collection, representing every species of political opinion, united by one tie only—hatred for "Old Hickory." Nullifiers and less strenuous advocates of states' rights were yoked with nationalists of Webster's school; ardent protectionists were bound together with equally ardent free traders, all fraternizing in one grand confusion of ideas under the title of "National Republicans." Thus the ancient and honorable term selected by Jefferson and his party, now abandoned by Jacksonian Democracy, was adroitly adopted to cover the supporters of Clay. The platform of the party, however, embraced all the old Federalist principles: protection for American industry; internal improvements; respect for the Supreme Court; resistance to executive tyranny; and denunciation of the spoils system. Though Jackson was easily victorious in 1832, the popular vote cast for Clay should have given him some doubts about the faith of "the whole people" in the wisdom of his "reign."

Van Buren and the Panic of 1837.—Nothing could shake the General's superb confidence. At the end of his second term he insisted on selecting his own successor; at a national convention, chosen by party voters, but packed with his office holders and friends, he nominated Martin Van Buren of New York. Once more he proved his strength by carrying the country for the Democrats. With a fine flourish, he attended the inauguration of Van Buren and then retired, amid the applause and tears of his devotees, to the Hermitage, his home in Tennessee.

Fortunately for him, Jackson escaped the odium of a disastrous panic which struck the country with terrible force in the following summer. Among the contributory causes of this crisis, no doubt, were the destruction of the bank and the issuance of the "specie circular" of 1836 which required the purchasers of public lands to pay for them in coin, instead of the paper notes of state banks. Whatever the dominating cause, the ruin was widespread. Bank after bank went under; boom towns in the West collapsed; Eastern mills shut down; and working people in the industrial centers, starving from unemployment, begged for relief. Van Buren braved the storm, offering no measure of reform or assistance to the distracted people. He did seek security for government funds by suggesting the removal of deposits from private banks and the establishment of an independent treasury system, with government depositaries for public funds, in several leading cities. This plan was finally accepted by Congress in 1840.

Had Van Buren been a captivating figure he might have lived down the discredit of the panic unjustly laid at his door; but he was far from being a favorite with the populace. Though a man of many talents, he owed his position to the quiet and adept management of Jackson rather than to his own personal qualities. The men of the frontier did not care for him. They suspected that he ate from "gold plate" and they could not forgive him for being an astute politician from New York. Still the Democratic party, remembering Jackson's wishes, renominated him unanimously in 1840 and saw him go down to utter defeat.

The Whigs and General Harrison.—By this time, the National Republicans, now known as Whigs—a title taken from the party of opposition to the Crown in England, had learned many lessons. Taking a leaf out of the Democratic book, they nominated, not Clay of Kentucky, well known for his views on the bank, the tariff, and internal improvements, but a military hero, General William Henry Harrison, a man of uncertain political opinions. Harrison, a son of a Virginia signer of the Declaration of Independence, sprang into public view by winning a battle more famous than important, "Tippecanoe"—a brush with the Indians in Indiana. He added to his laurels by rendering praiseworthy services during the war of 1812. When days of peace returned he was rewarded by a grateful people with a seat in Congress. Then he retired to quiet life in a little village near Cincinnati. Like Jackson he was held to be a son of the South and the West. Like Jackson he was a military hero, a lesser light, but still a light. Like Old Hickory he rode into office on a tide of popular feeling against an Eastern man accused of being something of an aristocrat. His personal popularity was sufficient. The Whigs who nominated him shrewdly refused to adopt a platform or declare their belief in anything. When some Democrat asserted that Harrison was a backwoodsman whose sole wants were a jug of hard cider and a log cabin, the Whigs treated the remark not as an insult but as proof positive that Harrison deserved the votes of Jackson men. The jug and the cabin they proudly transformed into symbols of the campaign, and won for their chieftain 234 electoral votes, while Van Buren got only sixty.

Harrison and Tyler.—The Hero of Tippecanoe was not long to enjoy the fruits of his victory. The hungry horde of Whig office seekers descended upon him like wolves upon the fold. If he went out they waylaid him; if he stayed indoors, he was besieged; not even his bed chamber was spared. He was none too strong at best and he took a deep cold on the day of his inauguration. Between driving out Democrats and appeasing Whigs, he fell mortally ill. Before the end of a month he lay dead at the capitol.

Harrison's successor, John Tyler, the Vice President, whom the Whigs had nominated to catch votes in Virginia, was more of a Democrat than anything else, though he was not partisan enough to please anybody. The Whigs railed at him because he would not approve the founding of another United States Bank. The Democrats stormed at him for refusing, until near the end of his term, to sanction the annexation of Texas, which had declared its independence of Mexico in 1836. His entire administration, marked by unseemly wrangling, produced only two measures of importance. The Whigs, flushed by victory, with the aid of a few protectionist Democrats, enacted, in 1842, a new tariff law destroying the compromise which had brought about the truce between the North and the South, in the days of nullification. The distinguished leader of the Whigs, Daniel Webster, as Secretary of State, in negotiation with Lord Ashburton representing Great Britain, settled the long-standing dispute between the two countries over the Maine boundary. A year after closing this chapter in American diplomacy, Webster withdrew to private life, leaving the President to endure alone the buffets of political fortune.

To the end, the Whigs regarded Tyler as a traitor to their cause; but the judgment of history is that it was a case of the biter bitten. They had nominated him for the vice presidency as a man of views acceptable to Southern Democrats in order to catch their votes, little reckoning with the chances of his becoming President. Tyler had not deceived them and, thoroughly soured, he left the White House in 1845 not to appear in public life again until the days of secession, when he espoused the Southern confederacy. Jacksonian Democracy, with new leadership, serving a new cause—slavery—was returned to power under James K. Polk, a friend of the General from Tennessee. A few grains of sand were to run through the hour glass before the Whig party was to be broken and scattered as the Federalists had been more than a generation before.

The Interaction of American and European Opinion

Democracy in England and France.—During the period of Jacksonian Democracy, as in all epochs of ferment, there was a close relation between the thought of the New World and the Old. In England, the successes of the American experiment were used as arguments in favor of overthrowing the aristocracy which George III had manipulated with such effect against America half a century before. In the United States, on the other hand, conservatives like Chancellor Kent, the stout opponent of manhood suffrage in New York, cited the riots of the British working classes as a warning against admitting the same classes to a share in the government of the United States. Along with the agitation of opinion went epoch-making events. In 1832, the year of Jackson's second triumph, the British Parliament passed its first reform bill, which conferred the ballot—not on workingmen as yet—but on mill owners and shopkeepers whom the landlords regarded with genuine horror. The initial step was thus taken in breaking down the privileges of the landed aristocracy and the rich merchants of England.

About the same time a popular revolution occurred in France. The Bourbon family, restored to the throne of France by the allied powers after their victory over Napoleon in 1815, had embarked upon a policy of arbitrary government. To use the familiar phrase, they had learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Charles X, who came to the throne in 1824, set to work with zeal to undo the results of the French Revolution, to stifle the press, restrict the suffrage, and restore the clergy and the nobility to their ancient rights. His policy encountered equally zealous opposition and in 1830 he was overthrown. The popular party, under the leadership of Lafayette, established, not a republic as some of the radicals had hoped, but a "liberal" middle-class monarchy under Louis Philippe. This second French Revolution made a profound impression on Americans, convincing them that the whole world was moving toward democracy. The mayor, aldermen, and citizens of New York City joined in a great parade to celebrate the fall of the Bourbons. Mingled with cheers for the new order in France were hurrahs for "the people's own, Andrew Jackson, the Hero of New Orleans and President of the United States!"

European Interest in America.—To the older and more settled Europeans, the democratic experiment in America was either a menace or an inspiration. Conservatives viewed it with anxiety; liberals with optimism. Far-sighted leaders could see that the tide of democracy was rising all over the world and could not be stayed. Naturally the country that had advanced furthest along the new course was the place in which to find arguments for and against proposals that Europe should make experiments of the same character.

De Tocqueville's Democracy in America.—In addition to the casual traveler there began to visit the United States the thoughtful observer bent on finding out what manner of nation this was springing up in the wilderness. Those who looked with sympathy upon the growing popular forces of England and France found in the United States, in spite of many blemishes and defects, a guarantee for the future of the people's rule in the Old World. One of these, Alexis de Tocqueville, a French liberal of mildly democratic sympathies, made a journey to this country in 1831; he described in a very remarkable volume, Democracy in America, the grand experiment as he saw it. On the whole he was convinced. After examining with a critical eye the life and labor of the American people, as well as the constitutions of the states and the nation, he came to the conclusion that democracy with all its faults was both inevitable and successful. Slavery he thought was a painful contrast to the other features of American life, and he foresaw what proved to be the irrepressible conflict over it. He believed that through blundering the people were destined to learn the highest of all arts, self-government on a grand scale. The absence of a leisure class, devoted to no calling or profession, merely enjoying the refinements of life and adding to its graces—the flaw in American culture that gave deep distress to many a European leader—de Tocqueville thought a necessary virtue in the republic. "Amongst a democratic people where there is no hereditary wealth, every man works to earn a living, or has worked, or is born of parents who have worked. A notion of labor is therefore presented to the mind on every side as the necessary, natural, and honest condition of human existence." It was this notion of a government in the hands of people who labored that struck the French publicist as the most significant fact in the modern world.

Harriet Martineau's Visit to America.—This phase of American life also profoundly impressed the brilliant English writer, Harriet Martineau. She saw all parts of the country, the homes of the rich and the log cabins of the frontier; she traveled in stagecoaches, canal boats, and on horseback; and visited sessions of Congress and auctions at slave markets. She tried to view the country impartially and the thing that left the deepest mark on her mind was the solidarity of the people in one great political body. "However various may be the tribes of inhabitants in those states, whatever part of the world may have been their birthplace, or that of their fathers, however broken may be their language, however servile or noble their employments, however exalted or despised their state, all are declared to be bound together by equal political obligations.... In that self-governing country all are held to have an equal interest in the principles of its institutions and to be bound in equal duty to watch their workings." Miss Martineau was also impressed with the passion of Americans for land ownership and contrasted the United States favorably with England where the tillers of the soil were either tenants or laborers for wages.

Adverse Criticism.—By no means all observers and writers were convinced that America was a success. The fastidious traveler, Mrs. Trollope, who thought the English system of church and state was ideal, saw in the United States only roughness and ignorance. She lamented the "total and universal want of manners both in males and females," adding that while "they appear to have clear heads and active intellects," there was "no charm, no grace in their conversation." She found everywhere a lack of reverence for kings, learning, and rank. Other critics were even more savage. The editor of the Foreign Quarterly petulantly exclaimed that the United States was "a brigand confederation." Charles Dickens declared the country to be "so maimed and lame, so full of sores and ulcers that her best friends turn from the loathsome creature in disgust." Sydney Smith, editor of the Edinburgh Review, was never tired of trying his caustic wit at the expense of America. "Their Franklins and Washingtons and all the other sages and heroes of their revolution were born and bred subjects of the king of England," he observed in 1820. "During the thirty or forty years of their independence they have done absolutely nothing for the sciences, for the arts, for literature, or even for the statesmanlike studies of politics or political economy.... In the four quarters of the globe who reads an American book? Or goes to an American play? Or looks at an American picture or statue?" To put a sharp sting into his taunt he added, forgetting by whose authority slavery was introduced and fostered: "Under which of the old tyrannical governments of Europe is every sixth man a slave whom his fellow creatures may buy and sell?"

Some Americans, while resenting the hasty and often superficial judgments of European writers, winced under their satire and took thought about certain particulars in the indictments brought against them. The mass of the people, however, bent on the great experiment, gave little heed to carping critics who saw the flaws and not the achievements of our country—critics who were in fact less interested in America than in preventing the rise and growth of democracy in Europe.


J.S. Bassett, Life of Andrew Jackson.

J.W. Burgess, The Middle Period.

H. Lodge, Daniel Webster.

W. Macdonald, Jacksonian Democracy (American Nation Series).

Ostrogorski, Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties, Vol. II.

C.H. Peck, The Jacksonian Epoch.

C. Schurz, Henry Clay.


1. By what devices was democracy limited in the first days of our Republic?

2. On what grounds were the limitations defended? Attacked?

3. Outline the rise of political democracy in the United States.

4. Describe three important changes in our political system.

5. Contrast the Presidents of the old and the new generations.

6. Account for the unpopularity of John Adams' administration.

7. What had been the career of Andrew Jackson before 1829?

8. Sketch the history of the protective tariff and explain the theory underlying it.

9. Explain the growth of Southern opposition to the tariff.

10. Relate the leading events connected with nullification in South Carolina.

11. State Jackson's views and tell the outcome of the controversy.

12. Why was Jackson opposed to the bank? How did he finally destroy it?

13. The Whigs complained of Jackson's "executive tyranny." What did they mean?

14. Give some of the leading events in Clay's career.

15. How do you account for the triumph of Harrison in 1840?

16. Why was Europe especially interested in America at this period? Who were some of the European writers on American affairs?

Research Topics

Jackson's Criticisms of the Bank.—Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 320-329.

Financial Aspects of the Bank Controversy.—Dewey, Financial History of the United States, Sections 86-87; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 492-496.

Jackson's View of the Union.—See his proclamation on nullification in Macdonald, pp. 333-340.

Nullification.—McMaster, History of the People of the United States, Vol. VI, pp. 153-182; Elson, pp. 487-492.

The Webster-Hayne Debate.—Analyze the arguments. Extensive extracts are given in Macdonald's larger three-volume work, Select Documents of United States History, 1776-1761, pp. 239-260.

The Character of Jackson's Administration.—Woodrow Wilson, History of the American People, Vol. IV, pp. 1-87; Elson, pp. 498-501.

The People in 1830.—From contemporary writings in Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. III, pp. 509-530.

Biographical Studies.—Andrew Jackson, J.Q. Adams, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, J.C. Calhoun, and W.H. Harrison.



"We shall not send an emigrant beyond the Mississippi in a hundred years," exclaimed Livingston, the principal author of the Louisiana purchase. When he made this astounding declaration, he doubtless had before his mind's eye the great stretches of unoccupied lands between the Appalachians and the Mississippi. He also had before him the history of the English colonies, which told him of the two centuries required to settle the seaboard region. To practical men, his prophecy did not seem far wrong; but before the lapse of half that time there appeared beyond the Mississippi a tier of new states, reaching from the Gulf of Mexico to the southern boundary of Minnesota, and a new commonwealth on the Pacific Ocean where American emigrants had raised the Bear flag of California.

The Advance of the Middle Border

Missouri.—When the middle of the nineteenth century had been reached, the Mississippi River, which Daniel Boone, the intrepid hunter, had crossed during Washington's administration "to escape from civilization" in Kentucky, had become the waterway for a vast empire. The center of population of the United States had passed to the Ohio Valley. Missouri, with its wide reaches of rich lands, low-lying, level, and fertile, well adapted to hemp raising, had drawn to its borders thousands of planters from the old Southern states—from Virginia and the Carolinas as well as from Kentucky and Tennessee. When the great compromise of 1820-21 admitted her to the union, wearing "every jewel of sovereignty," as a florid orator announced, migratory slave owners were assured that their property would be safe in Missouri. Along the western shore of the Mississippi and on both banks of the Missouri to the uttermost limits of the state, plantations tilled by bondmen spread out in broad expanses. In the neighborhood of Jefferson City the slaves numbered more than a fourth of the population.

Into this stream of migration from the planting South flowed another current of land-tilling farmers; some from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, driven out by the onrush of the planters buying and consolidating small farms into vast estates; and still more from the East and the Old World. To the northwest over against Iowa and to the southwest against Arkansas, these yeomen laid out farms to be tilled by their own labor. In those regions the number of slaves seldom rose above five or six per cent of the population. The old French post, St. Louis, enriched by the fur trade of the Far West and the steamboat traffic of the river, grew into a thriving commercial city, including among its seventy-five thousand inhabitants in 1850 nearly forty thousand foreigners, German immigrants from Pennsylvania and Europe being the largest single element.

Arkansas.—Below Missouri lay the territory of Arkansas, which had long been the paradise of the swarthy hunter and the restless frontiersman fleeing from the advancing borders of farm and town. In search of the life, wild and free, where the rifle supplied the game and a few acres of ground the corn and potatoes, they had filtered into the territory in an unending drift, "squatting" on the land. Without so much as asking the leave of any government, territorial or national, they claimed as their own the soil on which they first planted their feet. Like the Cherokee Indians, whom they had as neighbors, whose very customs and dress they sometimes adopted, the squatters spent their days in the midst of rough plenty, beset by chills, fevers, and the ills of the flesh, but for many years unvexed by political troubles or the restrictions of civilized life.

Unfortunately for them, however, the fertile valleys of the Mississippi and Arkansas were well adapted to the cultivation of cotton and tobacco and their sylvan peace was soon broken by an invasion of planters. The newcomers, with their servile workers, spread upward in the valley toward Missouri and along the southern border westward to the Red River. In time the slaves in the tier of counties against Louisiana ranged from thirty to seventy per cent of the population. This marked the doom of the small farmer, swept Arkansas into the main current of planting politics, and led to a powerful lobby at Washington in favor of admission to the union, a boon granted in 1836.

Michigan.—In accordance with a well-established custom, a free state was admitted to the union to balance a slave state. In 1833, the people of Michigan, a territory ten times the size of Connecticut, announced that the time had come for them to enjoy the privileges of a commonwealth. All along the southern border the land had been occupied largely by pioneers from New England, who built prim farmhouses and adopted the town-meeting plan of self-government after the fashion of the old home. The famous post of Detroit was growing into a flourishing city as the boats plying on the Great Lakes carried travelers, settlers, and freight through the narrows. In all, according to the census, there were more than ninety thousand inhabitants in the territory; so it was not without warrant that they clamored for statehood. Congress, busy as ever with politics, delayed; and the inhabitants of Michigan, unable to restrain their impatience, called a convention, drew up a constitution, and started a lively quarrel with Ohio over the southern boundary. The hand of Congress was now forced. Objections were made to the new constitution on the ground that it gave the ballot to all free white males, including aliens not yet naturalized; but the protests were overborne in a long debate. The boundary was fixed, and Michigan, though shorn of some of the land she claimed, came into the union in 1837.

Wisconsin.—Across Lake Michigan to the west lay the territory of Wisconsin, which shared with Michigan the interesting history of the Northwest, running back into the heroic days when French hunters and missionaries were planning a French empire for the great monarch, Louis XIV. It will not be forgotten that the French rangers of the woods, the black-robed priests, prepared for sacrifice, even to death, the trappers of the French agencies, and the French explorers—Marquette, Joliet, and Menard—were the first white men to paddle their frail barks through the northern waters. They first blazed their trails into the black forests and left traces of their work in the names of portages and little villages. It was from these forests that Red Men in full war paint journeyed far to fight under the fleur-de-lis of France when the soldiers of King Louis made their last stand at Quebec and Montreal against the imperial arms of Britain. It was here that the British flag was planted in 1761 and that the great Pontiac conspiracy was formed two years later to overthrow British dominion.

When, a generation afterward, the Stars and Stripes supplanted the Union Jack, the French were still almost the only white men in the region. They were soon joined by hustling Yankee fur traders who did battle royal against British interlopers. The traders cut their way through forest trails and laid out the routes through lake and stream and over portages for the settlers and their families from the states "back East." It was the forest ranger who discovered the water power later used to turn the busy mills grinding the grain from the spreading farm lands. In the wake of the fur hunters, forest men, and farmers came miners from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri crowding in to exploit the lead ores of the northwest, some of them bringing slaves to work their claims. Had it not been for the gold fever of 1849 that drew the wielders of pick and shovel to the Far West, Wisconsin would early have taken high rank among the mining regions of the country.

From a favorable point of vantage on Lake Michigan, the village of Milwaukee, a center for lumber and grain transport and a place of entry for Eastern goods, grew into a thriving city. It claimed twenty thousand inhabitants, when in 1848 Congress admitted Wisconsin to the union. Already the Germans, Irish, and Scandinavians had found their way into the territory. They joined Americans from the older states in clearing forests, building roads, transforming trails into highways, erecting mills, and connecting streams with canals to make a network of routes for the traffic that poured to and from the Great Lakes.

Iowa and Minnesota.—To the southwest of Wisconsin beyond the Mississippi, where the tall grass of the prairies waved like the sea, farmers from New England, New York, and Ohio had prepared Iowa for statehood. A tide of immigration that might have flowed into Missouri went northward; for freemen, unaccustomed to slavery and slave markets, preferred the open country above the compromise line. With incredible swiftness, they spread farms westward from the Mississippi. With Yankee ingenuity they turned to trading on the river, building before 1836 three prosperous centers of traffic: Dubuque, Davenport, and Burlington. True to their old traditions, they founded colleges and academies that religion and learning might be cherished on the frontier as in the states from which they came. Prepared for self-government, the Iowans laid siege to the door of Congress and were admitted to the union in 1846.

Above Iowa, on the Mississippi, lay the territory of Minnesota—the home of the Dakotas, the Ojibways, and the Sioux. Like Michigan and Wisconsin, it had been explored early by the French scouts, and the first white settlement was the little French village of Mendota. To the people of the United States, the resources of the country were first revealed by the historic journey of Zebulon Pike in 1805 and by American fur traders who were quick to take advantage of the opportunity to ply their arts of hunting and bartering in fresh fields. In 1839 an American settlement was planted at Marina on the St. Croix, the outpost of advancing civilization. Within twenty years, the territory, boasting a population of 150,000, asked for admission to the union. In 1858 the plea was granted and Minnesota showed her gratitude three years later by being first among the states to offer troops to Lincoln in the hour of peril.

On to the Pacific—Texas and the Mexican War

The Uniformity of the Middle West.—There was a certain monotony about pioneering in the Northwest and on the middle border. As the long stretches of land were cleared or prepared for the plow, they were laid out like checkerboards into squares of forty, eighty, one hundred sixty, or more acres, each the seat of a homestead. There was a striking uniformity also about the endless succession of fertile fields spreading far and wide under the hot summer sun. No majestic mountains relieved the sweep of the prairie. Few monuments of other races and antiquity were there to awaken curiosity about the region. No sonorous bells in old missions rang out the time of day. The chaffering Red Man bartering blankets and furs for powder and whisky had passed farther on. The population was made up of plain farmers and their families engaged in severe and unbroken labor, chopping down trees, draining fever-breeding swamps, breaking new ground, and planting from year to year the same rotation of crops. Nearly all the settlers were of native American stock into whose frugal and industrious lives the later Irish and German immigrants fitted, on the whole, with little friction. Even the Dutch oven fell before the cast-iron cooking stove. Happiness and sorrow, despair and hope were there, but all encompassed by the heavy tedium of prosaic sameness.

Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Barbara Mission

A Contrast in the Far West and Southwest.—As George Rogers Clark and Daniel Boone had stirred the snug Americans of the seaboard to seek their fortunes beyond the Appalachians, so now Kit Carson, James Bowie, Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, and John C. Frémont were to lead the way into a new land, only a part of which was under the American flag. The setting for this new scene in the westward movement was thrown out in a wide sweep from the headwaters of the Mississippi to the banks of the Rio Grande; from the valleys of the Sabine and Red rivers to Montana and the Pacific slope. In comparison with the middle border, this region presented such startling diversities that only the eye of faith could foresee the unifying power of nationalism binding its communities with the older sections of the country. What contrasts indeed! The blue grass region of Kentucky or the rich, black soil of Illinois—the painted desert, the home of the sage brush and the coyote! The level prairies of Iowa—the mighty Rockies shouldering themselves high against the horizon! The long bleak winters of Wisconsin—California of endless summer! The log churches of Indiana or Illinois—the quaint missions of San Antonio, Tucson, and Santa Barbara! The little state of Delaware—the empire of Texas, one hundred and twenty times its area! And scattered about through the Southwest were signs of an ancient civilization—fragments of four-and five-story dwellings, ruined dams, aqueducts, and broken canals, which told of once prosperous peoples who, by art and science, had conquered the aridity of the desert and lifted themselves in the scale of culture above the savages of the plain.

The settlers of this vast empire were to be as diverse in their origins and habits as those of the colonies on the coast had been. Americans of English, Irish, and Scotch-Irish descent came as usual from the Eastern states. To them were added the migratory Germans as well. Now for the first time came throngs of Scandinavians. Some were to make their homes on quiet farms as the border advanced against the setting sun. Others were to be Indian scouts, trappers, fur hunters, miners, cowboys, Texas planters, keepers of lonely posts on the plain and the desert, stage drivers, pilots of wagon trains, pony riders, fruit growers, "lumber jacks," and smelter workers. One common bond united them—a passion for the self-government accorded to states. As soon as a few thousand settlers came together in a single territory, there arose a mighty shout for a position beside the staid commonwealths of the East and the South. Statehood meant to the pioneers self-government, dignity, and the right to dispose of land, minerals, and timber in their own way. In the quest for this local autonomy there arose many a wordy contest in Congress, each of the political parties lending a helping hand in the admission of a state when it gave promise of adding new congressmen of the "right political persuasion," to use the current phrase.

Southern Planters and Texas.—While the farmers of the North found the broad acres of the Western prairies stretching on before them apparently in endless expanse, it was far different with the Southern planters. Ever active in their search for new fields as they exhausted the virgin soil of the older states, the restless subjects of King Cotton quickly reached the frontier of Louisiana. There they paused; but only for a moment. The fertile land of Texas just across the boundary lured them on and the Mexican republic to which it belonged extended to them a more than generous welcome. Little realizing the perils lurking in a "peaceful penetration," the authorities at Mexico City opened wide the doors and made large grants of land to American contractors, who agreed to bring a number of families into Texas. The omnipresent Yankee, in the person of Moses Austin of Connecticut, hearing of this good news in the Southwest, obtained a grant in 1820 to settle three hundred Americans near Bexar—a commission finally carried out to the letter by his son and celebrated in the name given to the present capital of the state of Texas. Within a decade some twenty thousand Americans had crossed the border.

Mexico Closes the Door.—The government of Mexico, unaccustomed to such enterprise and thoroughly frightened by its extent, drew back in dismay. Its fears were increased as quarrels broke out between the Americans and the natives in Texas. Fear grew into consternation when efforts were made by President Jackson to buy the territory for the United States. Mexico then sought to close the flood gates. It stopped all American colonization schemes, canceled many of the land grants, put a tariff on farming implements, and abolished slavery. These barriers were raised too late. A call for help ran through the western border of the United States. The sentinels of the frontier answered. Davy Crockett, the noted frontiersman, bear hunter, and backwoods politician; James Bowie, the dexterous wielder of the knife that to this day bears his name; and Sam Houston, warrior and pioneer, rushed to the aid of their countrymen in Texas. Unacquainted with the niceties of diplomacy, impatient at the formalities of international law, they soon made it known that in spite of Mexican sovereignty they would be their own masters.

The Independence of Texas Declared.—Numbering only about one-fourth of the population in Texas, they raised the standard of revolt in 1836 and summoned a convention. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they issued a declaration of independence signed mainly by Americans from the slave states. Anticipating that the government of Mexico would not quietly accept their word of defiance as final, they dispatched a force to repel "the invading army," as General Houston called the troops advancing under the command of Santa Ana, the Mexican president. A portion of the Texan soldiers took their stand in the Alamo, an old Spanish mission in the cottonwood trees in the town of San Antonio. Instead of obeying the order to blow up the mission and retire, they held their ground until they were completely surrounded and cut off from all help. Refusing to surrender, they fought to the bitter end, the last man falling a victim to the sword. Vengeance was swift. Within three months General Houston overwhelmed Santa Ana at the San Jacinto, taking him prisoner of war and putting an end to all hopes for the restoration of Mexican sovereignty over Texas.

The Lone Star Republic, with Houston at the head, then sought admission to the United States. This seemed at first an easy matter. All that was required to bring it about appeared to be a treaty annexing Texas to the union. Moreover, President Jackson, at the height of his popularity, had a warm regard for General Houston and, with his usual sympathy for rough and ready ways of doing things, approved the transaction. Through an American representative in Mexico, Jackson had long and anxiously labored, by means none too nice, to wring from the Mexican republic the cession of the coveted territory. When the Texans took matters into their own hands, he was more than pleased; but he could not marshal the approval of two-thirds of the Senators required for a treaty of annexation. Cautious as well as impetuous, Jackson did not press the issue; he went out of office in 1837 with Texas uncertain as to her future.

Northern Opposition to Annexation.—All through the North the opposition to annexation was clear and strong. Anti-slavery agitators could hardly find words savage enough to express their feelings. "Texas," exclaimed Channing in a letter to Clay, "is but the first step of aggression. I trust indeed that Providence will beat back and humble our cupidity and ambition. I now ask whether as a people we are prepared to seize on a neighboring territory for the end of extending slavery? I ask whether as a people we can stand forth in the sight of God, in the sight of nations, and adopt this atrocious policy? Sooner perish! Sooner be our name blotted out from the record of nations!" William Lloyd Garrison called for the secession of the Northern states if Texas was brought into the union with slavery. John Quincy Adams warned his countrymen that they were treading in the path of the imperialism that had brought the nations of antiquity to judgment and destruction. Henry Clay, the Whig candidate for President, taking into account changing public sentiment, blew hot and cold, losing the state of New York and the election of 1844 by giving a qualified approval of annexation. In the same campaign, the Democrats boldly demanded the "Reannexation of Texas," based on claims which the United States once had to Spanish territory beyond the Sabine River.

Annexation.—The politicians were disposed to walk very warily. Van Buren, at heart opposed to slavery extension, refused to press the issue of annexation. Tyler, a pro-slavery Democrat from Virginia, by a strange fling of fortune carried into office as a nominal Whig, kept his mind firmly fixed on the idea of reëlection and let the troublesome matter rest until the end of his administration was in sight. He then listened with favor to the voice of the South. Calhoun stated what seemed to be a convincing argument: All good Americans have their hearts set on the Constitution; the admission of Texas is absolutely essential to the preservation of the union; it will give a balance of power to the South as against the North growing with incredible swiftness in wealth and population. Tyler, impressed by the plea, appointed Calhoun to the office of Secretary of State in 1844, authorizing him to negotiate the treaty of annexation—a commission at once executed. This scheme was blocked in the Senate where the necessary two-thirds vote could not be secured. Balked but not defeated, the advocates of annexation drew up a joint resolution which required only a majority vote in both houses, and in February of the next year, just before Tyler gave way to Polk, they pushed it through Congress. So Texas, amid the groans of Boston and the hurrahs of Charleston, folded up her flag and came into the union.

Texas and the Territory in Dispute
Texas and the Territory in Dispute

The Mexican War.—The inevitable war with Mexico, foretold by the abolitionists and feared by Henry Clay, ensued, the ostensible cause being a dispute over the boundaries of the new state. The Texans claimed all the lands down to the Rio Grande. The Mexicans placed the border of Texas at the Nueces River and a line drawn thence in a northerly direction. President Polk, accepting the Texan view of the controversy, ordered General Zachary Taylor to move beyond the Nueces in defense of American sovereignty. This act of power, deemed by the Mexicans an invasion of their territory, was followed by an attack on our troops.

President Polk, not displeased with the turn of events, announced that American blood had been "spilled on American soil" and that war existed "by the act of Mexico." Congress, in a burst of patriotic fervor, brushed aside the protests of those who deplored the conduct of the government as wanton aggression on a weaker nation and granted money and supplies to prosecute the war. The few Whigs in the House of Representatives, who refused to vote in favor of taking up arms, accepted the inevitable with such good grace as they could command. All through the South and the West the war was popular. New England grumbled, but gave loyal, if not enthusiastic, support to a conflict precipitated by policies not of its own choosing. Only a handful of firm objectors held out. James Russell Lowell, in his Biglow Papers, flung scorn and sarcasm to the bitter end.

The Outcome of the War.—The foregone conclusion was soon reached. General Taylor might have delivered the fatal thrust from northern Mexico if politics had not intervened. Polk, anxious to avoid raising up another military hero for the Whigs to nominate for President, decided to divide the honors by sending General Scott to strike a blow at the capital, Mexico City. The deed was done with speed and pomp and two heroes were lifted into presidential possibilities. In the Far West a third candidate was made, John C. Frémont, who, in coöperation with Commodores Sloat and Stockton and General Kearney, planted the Stars and Stripes on the Pacific slope.

In February, 1848, the Mexicans came to terms, ceding to the victor California, Arizona, New Mexico, and more—a domain greater in extent than the combined areas of France and Germany. As a salve to the wound, the vanquished received fifteen million dollars in cash and the cancellation of many claims held by American citizens. Five years later, through the negotiations of James Gadsden, a further cession of lands along the southern border of Arizona and New Mexico was secured on payment of ten million dollars.

General Taylor Elected President.—The ink was hardly dry upon the treaty that closed the war before "rough and ready" General Taylor, a slave owner from Louisiana, "a Whig," as he said, "but not an ultra Whig," was put forward as the Whig candidate for President. He himself had not voted for years and he was fairly innocent in matters political. The tariff, the currency, and internal improvements, with a magnificent gesture he referred to the people's representatives in Congress, offering to enforce the laws as made, if elected. Clay's followers mourned. Polk stormed but could not win even a renomination at the hands of the Democrats. So it came about that the hero of Buena Vista, celebrated for his laconic order, "Give 'em a little more grape, Captain Bragg," became President of the United States.

The Pacific Coast and Utah

Oregon.—Closely associated in the popular mind with the contest about the affairs of Texas was a dispute with Great Britain over the possession of territory in Oregon. In their presidential campaign of 1844, the Democrats had coupled with the slogan, "The Reannexation of Texas," two other cries, "The Reoccupation of Oregon," and "Fifty-four Forty or Fight." The last two slogans were founded on American discoveries and explorations in the Far Northwest. Their appearance in politics showed that the distant Oregon country, larger in area than New England, New York, and Pennsylvania combined, was at last receiving from the nation the attention which its importance warranted.

Joint Occupation and Settlement.—Both England and the United States had long laid claim to Oregon and in 1818 they had agreed to occupy the territory jointly—a contract which was renewed ten years later for an indefinite period. Under this plan, citizens of both countries were free to hunt and settle anywhere in the region. The vanguard of British fur traders and Canadian priests was enlarged by many new recruits, with Americans not far behind them. John Jacob Astor, the resourceful New York merchant, sent out trappers and hunters who established a trading post at Astoria in 1811. Some twenty years later, American missionaries—among them two very remarkable men, Jason Lee and Marcus Whitman—were preaching the gospel to the Indians.

Through news from the fur traders and missionaries, Eastern farmers heard of the fertile lands awaiting their plows on the Pacific slope; those with the pioneering spirit made ready to take possession of the new country. In 1839 a band went around by Cape Horn. Four years later a great expedition went overland. The way once broken, others followed rapidly. As soon as a few settlements were well established, the pioneers held a mass meeting and agreed upon a plan of government. "We, the people of Oregon territory," runs the preamble to their compact, "for the purposes of mutual protection and to secure peace and prosperity among ourselves, agree to adopt the following laws and regulations until such time as the United States of America extend their jurisdiction over us." Thus self-government made its way across the Rocky Mountains.

The Oregon Country and the Disputed Boundary
The Oregon Country and
the Disputed Boundary

The Boundary Dispute with England Adjusted.—By this time it was evident that the boundaries of Oregon must be fixed. Having made the question an issue in his campaign, Polk, after his election in 1844, pressed it upon the attention of the country. In his inaugural address and his first message to Congress he reiterated the claim of the Democratic platform that "our title to the whole territory of Oregon is clear and unquestionable." This pretension Great Britain firmly rejected, leaving the President a choice between war and compromise.

Polk, already having the contest with Mexico on his hands, sought and obtained a compromise. The British government, moved by a hint from the American minister, offered a settlement which would fix the boundary at the forty-ninth parallel instead of "fifty-four forty," and give it Vancouver Island. Polk speedily chose this way out of the dilemma. Instead of making the decision himself, however, and drawing up a treaty, he turned to the Senate for "counsel." As prearranged with party leaders, the advice was favorable to the plan. The treaty, duly drawn in 1846, was ratified by the Senate after an acrimonious debate. "Oh! mountain that was delivered of a mouse," exclaimed Senator Benton, "thy name shall be fifty-four forty!" Thirteen years later, the southern part of the territory was admitted to the union as the state of Oregon, leaving the northern and eastern sections in the status of a territory.

California.—With the growth of the northwestern empire, dedicated by nature to freedom, the planting interests might have been content, had fortune not wrested from them the fair country of California. Upon this huge territory they had set their hearts. The mild climate and fertile soil seemed well suited to slavery and the planters expected to extend their sway to the entire domain. California was a state of more than 155,000 square miles—about seventy times the size of the state of Delaware. It could readily be divided into five or six large states, if that became necessary to preserve the Southern balance of power.

Early American Relations with California.—Time and tide, it seems, were not on the side of the planters. Already Americans of a far different type were invading the Pacific slope. Long before Polk ever dreamed of California, the Yankee with his cargo of notions had been around the Horn. Daring skippers had sailed out of New England harbors with a variety of goods, bent their course around South America to California, on to China and around the world, trading as they went and leaving pots, pans, woolen cloth, guns, boots, shoes, salt fish, naval stores, and rum in their wake. "Home from Californy!" rang the cry in many a New England port as a good captain let go his anchor on his return from the long trading voyage in the Pacific.

The Overland Trails
The Overland Trails

The Overland Trails.—Not to be outdone by the mariners of the deep, western scouts searched for overland routes to the Pacific. Zebulon Pike, explorer and pathfinder, by his expedition into the Southwest during Jefferson's administration, had discovered the resources of New Spain and had shown his countrymen how easy it was to reach Santa Fé from the upper waters of the Arkansas River. Not long afterward, traders laid open the route, making Franklin, Missouri, and later Fort Leavenworth the starting point. Along the trail, once surveyed, poured caravans heavily guarded by armed men against marauding Indians. Sand storms often wiped out all signs of the route; hunger and thirst did many a band of wagoners to death; but the lure of the game and the profits at the end kept the business thriving. Huge stocks of cottons, glass, hardware, and ammunition were drawn almost across the continent to be exchanged at Santa Fé for furs, Indian blankets, silver, and mules; and many a fortune was made out of the traffic.

Americans in California.—Why stop at Santa Fé? The question did not long remain unanswered. In 1829, Ewing Young broke the path to Los Angeles. Thirteen years later Frémont made the first of his celebrated expeditions across plain, desert, and mountain, arousing the interest of the entire country in the Far West. In the wake of the pathfinders went adventurers, settlers, and artisans. By 1847, more than one-fifth of the inhabitants in the little post of two thousand on San Francisco Bay were from the United States. The Mexican War, therefore, was not the beginning but the end of the American conquest of California—a conquest initiated by Americans who went to till the soil, to trade, or to follow some mechanical pursuit.

The Discovery of Gold.—As if to clinch the hold on California already secured by the friends of free soil, there came in 1848 the sudden discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in the Sacramento Valley. When this exciting news reached the East, a mighty rush began to California, over the trails, across the Isthmus of Panama, and around Cape Horn. Before two years had passed, it is estimated that a hundred thousand people, in search of fortunes, had arrived in California—mechanics, teachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, miners, and laborers from the four corners of the earth.

San Francisco in 1849
From an old print
San Francisco in 1849

California a Free State.—With this increase in population there naturally resulted the usual demand for admission to the union. Instead of waiting for authority from Washington, the Californians held a convention in 1849 and framed their constitution. With impatience, the delegates brushed aside the plea that "the balance of power between the North and South" required the admission of their state as a slave commonwealth. Without a dissenting voice, they voted in favor of freedom and boldly made their request for inclusion among the United States. President Taylor, though a Southern man, advised Congress to admit the applicant. Robert Toombs of Georgia vowed to God that he preferred secession. Henry Clay, the great compromiser, came to the rescue and in 1850 California was admitted as a free state.

Utah.—On the long road to California, in the midst of forbidding and barren wastes, a religious sect, the Mormons, had planted a colony destined to a stormy career. Founded in 1830 under the leadership of Joseph Smith of New York, the sect had suffered from many cruel buffets of fortune. From Ohio they had migrated into Missouri where they were set upon and beaten. Some of them were murdered by indignant neighbors. Harried out of Missouri, they went into Illinois only to see their director and prophet, Smith, first imprisoned by the authorities and then shot by a mob. Having raised up a cloud of enemies on account of both their religious faith and their practice of allowing a man to have more than one wife, they fell in heartily with the suggestion of a new leader, Brigham Young, that they go into the Far West beyond the plains of Kansas—into the forlorn desert where the wicked would cease from troubling and the weary could be at rest, as they read in the Bible. In 1847, Young, with a company of picked men, searched far and wide until he found a suitable spot overlooking the Salt Lake Valley. Returning to Illinois, he gathered up his followers, now numbering several thousand, and in one mighty wagon caravan they all went to their distant haven.

Brigham Young and His Economic System.—In Brigham Young the Mormons had a leader of remarkable power who gave direction to the redemption of the arid soil, the management of property, and the upbuilding of industry. He promised them to make the desert blossom as the rose, and verily he did it. He firmly shaped the enterprise of the colony along co-operative lines, holding down the speculator and profiteer with one hand and giving encouragement to the industrious poor with the other. With the shrewdness befitting a good business man, he knew how to draw the line between public and private interest. Land was given outright to each family, but great care was exercised in the distribution so that none should have great advantage over another. The purchase of supplies and the sale of produce were carried on through a coöperative store, the profits of which went to the common good. Encountering for the first time in the history of the Anglo-Saxon race the problem of aridity, the Mormons surmounted the most perplexing obstacles with astounding skill. They built irrigation works by coöperative labor and granted water rights to all families on equitable terms.

The Growth of Industries.—Though farming long remained the major interest of the colony, the Mormons, eager to be self-supporting in every possible way, bent their efforts also to manufacturing and later to mining. Their missionaries, who hunted in the highways and byways of Europe for converts, never failed to stress the economic advantages of the sect. "We want," proclaimed President Young to all the earth, "a company of woolen manufacturers to come with machinery and take the wool from the sheep and convert it into the best clothes. We want a company of potters; we need them; the clay is ready and the dishes wanted.... We want some men to start a furnace forthwith; the iron, coal, and molders are waiting.... We have a printing press and any one who can take good printing and writing paper to the Valley will be a blessing to themselves and the church." Roads and bridges were built; millions were spent in experiments in agriculture and manufacturing; missionaries at a huge cost were maintained in the East and in Europe; an army was kept for defense against the Indians; and colonies were planted in the outlying regions. A historian of Deseret, as the colony was called by the Mormons, estimated in 1895 that by the labor of their hands the people had produced nearly half a billion dollars in wealth since the coming of the vanguard.

Polygamy Forbidden.—The hope of the Mormons that they might forever remain undisturbed by outsiders was soon dashed to earth, for hundreds of farmers and artisans belonging to other religious sects came to settle among them. In 1850 the colony was so populous and prosperous that it was organized into a territory of the United States and brought under the supervision of the federal government. Protests against polygamy were raised in the colony and at the seat of authority three thousand miles away at Washington. The new Republican party in 1856 proclaimed it "the right and duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery." In due time the Mormons had to give up their marriage practices which were condemned by the common opinion of all western civilization; but they kept their religious faith. Monuments to their early enterprise are seen in the Temple and the Tabernacle, the irrigation works, and the great wealth of the Church.

Summary of Western Development and National Politics

While the statesmen of the old generation were solving the problems of their age, hunters, pioneers, and home seekers were preparing new problems beyond the Alleghanies. The West was rising in population and wealth. Between 1783 and 1829, eleven states were added to the original thirteen. All but two were in the West. Two of them were in the Louisiana territory beyond the Mississippi. Here the process of colonization was repeated. Hardy frontier people cut down the forests, built log cabins, laid out farms, and cut roads through the wilderness. They began a new civilization just as the immigrants to Virginia or Massachusetts had done two centuries earlier.

Like the seaboard colonists before them, they too cherished the spirit of independence and power. They had not gone far upon their course before they resented the monopoly of the presidency by the East. In 1829 they actually sent one of their own cherished leaders, Andrew Jackson, to the White House. Again in 1840, in 1844, in 1848, and in 1860, the Mississippi Valley could boast that one of its sons had been chosen for the seat of power at Washington. Its democratic temper evoked a cordial response in the towns of the East where the old aristocracy had been put aside and artisans had been given the ballot.

For three decades the West occupied the interest of the nation. Under Jackson's leadership, it destroyed the second United States Bank. When he smote nullification in South Carolina, it gave him cordial support. It approved his policy of parceling out government offices among party workers—"the spoils system" in all its fullness. On only one point did it really dissent. The West heartily favored internal improvements, the appropriation of federal funds for highways, canals, and railways. Jackson had misgivings on this question and awakened sharp criticism by vetoing a road improvement bill.

From their point of vantage on the frontier, the pioneers pressed on westward. They pushed into Texas, created a state, declared their independence, demanded a place in the union, and precipitated a war with Mexico. They crossed the trackless plain and desert, laying out trails to Santa Fé, to Oregon, and to California. They were upon the scene when the Mexican War brought California under the Stars and Stripes. They had laid out their farms in the Willamette Valley when the slogan "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight" forced a settlement of the Oregon boundary. California and Oregon were already in the union when there arose the Great Civil War testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long endure.


G.P. Brown, Westward Expansion (American Nation Series).

K. Coman, Economic Beginnings of the Far West (2 vols.).

F. Parkman, California and the Oregon Trail.

R.S. Ripley, The War with Mexico.

W.C. Rives, The United States and Mexico, 1821-48 (2 vols.).


1. Give some of the special features in the history of Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.

2. Contrast the climate and soil of the Middle West and the Far West.

3. How did Mexico at first encourage American immigration?

4. What produced the revolution in Texas? Who led in it?

5. Narrate some of the leading events in the struggle over annexation to the United States.

6. What action by President Polk precipitated war?

7. Give the details of the peace settlement with Mexico.

8. What is meant by the "joint occupation" of Oregon?

9. How was the Oregon boundary dispute finally settled?

10. Compare the American "invasion" of California with the migration into Texas.

11. Explain how California became a free state.

12. Describe the early economic policy of the Mormons.

Research Topics

The Independence of Texas.—McMaster, History of the People of the United States, Vol. VI, pp. 251-270. Woodrow Wilson, History of the American People, Vol. IV, pp. 102-126.

The Annexation of Texas.—McMaster, Vol. VII. The passages on annexation are scattered through this volume and it is an exercise in ingenuity to make a connected story of them. Source materials in Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. III, pp. 637-655; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 516-521, 526-527.

The War with Mexico.—Elson, pp. 526-538.

The Oregon Boundary Dispute.—Schafer, History of the Pacific Northwest (rev. ed.), pp. 88-104; 173-185.

The Migration to Oregon.—Schafer, pp. 105-172. Coman, Economic Beginnings of the Far West, Vol. II, pp. 113-166.

The Santa Fé Trail.—Coman, Economic Beginnings, Vol. II, pp. 75-93.

The Conquest of California.—Coman, Vol. II, pp. 297-319.

Gold in California.—McMaster, Vol. VII, pp. 585-614.

The Mormon Migration.—Coman, Vol. II, pp. 167-206.

Biographical Studies.—Frémont, Generals Scott and Taylor, Sam Houston, and David Crockett.

The Romance of Western Exploration.—J.G. Neihardt, The Splendid Wayfaring. J.G. Neihardt, The Song of Hugh Glass.




If Jefferson could have lived to see the Stars and Stripes planted on the Pacific Coast, the broad empire of Texas added to the planting states, and the valley of the Willamette waving with wheat sown by farmers from New England, he would have been more than fortified in his faith that the future of America lay in agriculture. Even a stanch old Federalist like Gouverneur Morris or Josiah Quincy would have mournfully conceded both the prophecy and the claim. Manifest destiny never seemed more clearly written in the stars.

As the farmers from the Northwest and planters from the Southwest poured in upon the floor of Congress, the party of Jefferson, christened anew by Jackson, grew stronger year by year. Opponents there were, no doubt, disgruntled critics and Whigs by conviction; but in 1852 Franklin Pierce, the Democratic candidate for President, carried every state in the union except Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This victory, a triumph under ordinary circumstances, was all the more significant in that Pierce was pitted against a hero of the Mexican War, General Scott, whom the Whigs, hoping to win by rousing the martial ardor of the voters, had nominated. On looking at the election returns, the new President calmly assured the planters that "the general principle of reduction of duties with a view to revenue may now be regarded as the settled policy of the country." With equal confidence, he waved aside those agitators who devoted themselves "to the supposed interests of the relatively few Africans in the United States." Like a watchman in the night he called to the country: "All's well."

The party of Hamilton and Clay lay in the dust.

The Industrial Revolution

As pride often goeth before a fall, so sanguine expectation is sometimes the symbol of defeat. Jackson destroyed the bank. Polk signed the tariff bill of 1846 striking an effective blow at the principle of protection for manufactures. Pierce promised to silence the abolitionists. His successor was to approve a drastic step in the direction of free trade. Nevertheless all these things left untouched the springs of power that were in due time to make America the greatest industrial nation on the earth; namely, vast national resources, business enterprise, inventive genius, and the free labor supply of Europe. Unseen by the thoughtless, unrecorded in the diaries of wiseacres, rarely mentioned in the speeches of statesmen, there was swiftly rising such a tide in the affairs of America as Jefferson and Hamilton never dreamed of in their little philosophies.

The Inventors.—Watt and Boulton experimenting with steam in England, Whitney combining wood and steel into a cotton gin, Fulton and Fitch applying the steam engine to navigation, Stevens and Peter Cooper trying out the "iron horse" on "iron highways," Slater building spinning mills in Pawtucket, Howe attaching the needle to the flying wheel, Morse spanning a continent with the telegraph, Cyrus Field linking the markets of the new world with the old along the bed of the Atlantic, McCormick breaking the sickle under the reaper—these men and a thousand more were destroying in a mighty revolution of industry the world of the stagecoach and the tallow candle which Washington and Franklin had inherited little changed from the age of Cæsar. Whitney was to make cotton king. Watt and Fulton were to make steel and steam masters of the world. Agriculture was to fall behind in the race for supremacy.

Industry Outstrips Planting.—The story of invention, that tribute to the triumph of mind over matter, fascinating as a romance, need not be treated in detail here. The effects of invention on social and political life, multitudinous and never-ending, form the very warp and woof of American progress from the days of Andrew Jackson to the latest hour. Neither the great civil conflict—the clash of two systems—nor the problems of the modern age can be approached without an understanding of the striking phases of industrialism.

A New England Mill Built in 1793
A New England Mill Built in 1793

First and foremost among them was the uprush of mills managed by captains of industry and manned by labor drawn from farms, cities, and foreign lands. For every planter who cleared a domain in the Southwest and gathered his army of bondmen about him, there rose in the North a magician of steam and steel who collected under his roof an army of free workers.

In seven league boots this new giant strode ahead of the Southern giant. Between 1850 and 1859, to use dollars and cents as the measure of progress, the value of domestic manufactures including mines and fisheries rose from $1,019,106,616 to $1,900,000,000, an increase of eighty-six per cent in ten years. In this same period the total production of naval stores, rice, sugar, tobacco, and cotton, the staples of the South, went only from $165,000,000, in round figures, to $204,000,000. At the halfway point of the century, the capital invested in industry, commerce, and cities far exceeded the value of all the farm land between the Atlantic and the Pacific; thus the course of economy had been reversed in fifty years. Tested by figures of production, King Cotton had shriveled by 1860 to a petty prince in comparison, for each year the captains of industry turned out goods worth nearly twenty times all the bales of cotton picked on Southern plantations. Iron, boots and shoes, and leather goods pouring from Northern mills surpassed in value the entire cotton output.

The Agrarian West Turns to Industry.—Nor was this vast enterprise confined to the old Northeast where, as Madison had sagely remarked, commerce was early dominant. "Cincinnati," runs an official report in 1854, "appears to be a great central depot for ready-made clothing and its manufacture for the Western markets may be said to be one of the great trades of that city." There, wrote another traveler, "I heard the crack of the cattle driver's whip and the hum of the factory: the West and the East meeting." Louisville and St. Louis were already famous for their clothing trades and the manufacture of cotton bagging. Five hundred of the two thousand woolen mills in the country in 1860 were in the Western states. Of the output of flour and grist mills, which almost reached in value the cotton crop of 1850, the Ohio Valley furnished a rapidly growing share. The old home of Jacksonian democracy, where Federalists had been almost as scarce as monarchists, turned slowly backward, as the needle to the pole, toward the principle of protection for domestic industry, espoused by Hamilton and defended by Clay.

The Extension of Canals and Railways.—As necessary to mechanical industry as steel and steam power was the great market, spread over a wide and diversified area and knit together by efficient means of transportation. This service was supplied to industry by the steamship, which began its career on the Hudson in 1807; by the canals, of which the Erie opened in 1825 was the most noteworthy; and by the railways, which came into practical operation about 1830.

An Early Railway
From an old print
An Early Railway

With sure instinct the Eastern manufacturer reached out for the markets of the Northwest territory where free farmers were producing annually staggering crops of corn, wheat, bacon, and wool. The two great canal systems—the Erie connecting New York City with the waterways of the Great Lakes and the Pennsylvania chain linking Philadelphia with the headwaters of the Ohio—gradually turned the tide of trade from New Orleans to the Eastern seaboard. The railways followed the same paths. By 1860, New York had rail connections with Chicago and St. Louis, one of the routes running through the Hudson and Mohawk valleys and along the Great Lakes, the other through Philadelphia and Pennsylvania and across the rich wheat fields of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Baltimore, not to be outdone by her two rivals, reached out over the mountains for the Western trade and in 1857 had trains running into St. Louis.

In railway enterprise the South took more interest than in canals, and the friends of that section came to its aid. To offset the magnet drawing trade away from the Mississippi Valley, lines were built from the Gulf to Chicago, the Illinois Central part of the project being a monument to the zeal and industry of a Democrat, better known in politics than in business, Stephen A. Douglas. The swift movement of cotton and tobacco to the North or to seaports was of common concern to planters and manufacturers. Accordingly lines were flung down along the Southern coast, linking Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah with the Northern markets. Other lines struck inland from the coast, giving a rail outlet to the sea for Raleigh, Columbia, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Montgomery. Nevertheless, in spite of this enterprise, the mileage of all the Southern states in 1860 did not equal that of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois combined.

Banking and Finance.—Out of commerce and manufactures and the construction and operation of railways came such an accumulation of capital in the Northern states as merchants of old never imagined. The banks of the four industrial states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania in 1860 had funds greater than the banks in all the other states combined. New York City had become the money market of America, the center to which industrial companies, railway promoters, farmers, and planters turned for capital to initiate and carry on their operations. The banks of Louisiana, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia, it is true, had capital far in excess of the banks of the Northwest; but still they were relatively small compared with the financial institutions of the East.

The Growth of the Industrial Population.—A revolution of such magnitude in industry, transport, and finance, overturning as it did the agrarian civilization of the old Northwest and reaching out to the very borders of the country, could not fail to bring in its train consequences of a striking character. Some were immediate and obvious. Others require a fullness of time not yet reached to reveal their complete significance. Outstanding among them was the growth of an industrial population, detached from the land, concentrated in cities, and, to use Jefferson's phrase, dependent upon "the caprices and casualties of trade" for a livelihood. This was a result, as the great Virginian had foreseen, which flowed inevitably from public and private efforts to stimulate industry as against agriculture.

Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1838, an Early Industrial Town
From an old print
Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1838, an Early Industrial Town

It was estimated in 1860, on the basis of the census figures, that mechanical production gave employment to 1,100,000 men and 285,000 women, making, if the average number of dependents upon them be reckoned, nearly six million people or about one-sixth of the population of the country sustained from manufactures. "This," runs the official record, "was exclusive of the number engaged in the production of many of the raw materials and of the food for manufacturers; in the distribution of their products, such as merchants, clerks, draymen, mariners, the employees of railroads, expresses, and steamboats; of capitalists, various artistic and professional classes, as well as carpenters, bricklayers, painters, and the members of other mechanical trades not classed as manufactures. It is safe to assume, then, that one-third of the whole population is supported, directly, or indirectly, by manufacturing industry." Taking, however, the number of persons directly supported by manufactures, namely about six millions, reveals the astounding fact that the white laboring population, divorced from the soil, already exceeded the number of slaves on Southern farms and plantations.

Immigration.—The more carefully the rapid growth of the industrial population is examined, the more surprising is the fact that such an immense body of free laborers could be found, particularly when it is recalled to what desperate straits the colonial leaders were put in securing immigrants,—slavery, indentured servitude, and kidnapping being the fruits of their necessities. The answer to the enigma is to be found partly in European conditions and partly in the cheapness of transportation after the opening of the era of steam navigation. Shrewd observers of the course of events had long foreseen that a flood of cheap labor was bound to come when the way was made easy. Some, among them Chief Justice Ellsworth, went so far as to prophesy that white labor would in time be so abundant that slavery would disappear as the more costly of the two labor systems. The processes of nature were aided by the policies of government in England and Germany.

The Coming of the Irish.—The opposition of the Irish people to the English government, ever furious and irrepressible, was increased in the mid forties by an almost total failure of the potato crop, the main support of the peasants. Catholic in religion, they had been compelled to support a Protestant church. Tillers of the soil by necessity, they were forced to pay enormous tributes to absentee landlords in England whose claim to their estates rested upon the title of conquest and confiscation. Intensely loyal to their race, the Irish were subjected in all things to the Parliament at London, in which their small minority of representatives had little influence save in holding a balance of power between the two contending English parties. To the constant political irritation, the potato famine added physical distress beyond description. In cottages and fields and along the highways the victims of starvation lay dead by the hundreds, the relief which charity afforded only bringing misery more sharply to the foreground. Those who were fortunate enough to secure passage money sought escape to America. In 1844 the total immigration into the United States was less than eighty thousand; in 1850 it had risen by leaps and bounds to more than three hundred thousand. Between 1820 and 1860 the immigrants from the United Kingdom numbered 2,750,000, of whom more than one-half were Irish. It has been said with a touch of exaggeration that the American canals and railways of those days were built by the labor of Irishmen.

The German Migration.—To political discontent and economic distress, such as was responsible for the coming of the Irish, may likewise be traced the source of the Germanic migration. The potato blight that fell upon Ireland visited the Rhine Valley and Southern Germany at the same time with results as pitiful, if less extensive. The calamity inflicted by nature was followed shortly by another inflicted by the despotic conduct of German kings and princes. In 1848 there had occurred throughout Europe a popular uprising in behalf of republics and democratic government. For a time it rode on a full tide of success. Kings were overthrown, or compelled to promise constitutional government, and tyrannical ministers fled from their palaces. Then came reaction. Those who had championed the popular cause were imprisoned, shot, or driven out of the land. Men of attainments and distinction, whose sole offense was opposition to the government of kings and princes, sought an asylum in America, carrying with them to the land of their adoption the spirit of liberty and democracy. In 1847 over fifty thousand Germans came to America, the forerunners of a migration that increased, almost steadily, for many years. The record of 1860 showed that in the previous twenty years nearly a million and a half had found homes in the United States. Far and wide they scattered, from the mills and shops of the seacoast towns to the uttermost frontiers of Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The Labor of Women and Children.—If the industries, canals, and railways of the country were largely manned by foreign labor, still important native sources must not be overlooked; above all, the women and children of the New England textile districts. Spinning and weaving, by a tradition that runs far beyond the written records of mankind, belonged to women. Indeed it was the dexterous housewives, spinsters, and boys and girls that laid the foundations of the textile industry in America, foundations upon which the mechanical revolution was built. As the wheel and loom were taken out of the homes to the factories operated by water power or the steam engine, the women and, to use Hamilton's phrase, "the children of tender years," followed as a matter of course. "The cotton manufacture alone employs six thousand persons in Lowell," wrote a French observer in 1836; "of this number nearly five thousand are young women from seventeen to twenty-four years of age, the daughters of farmers from the different New England states." It was not until after the middle of the century that foreign lands proved to be the chief source from which workers were recruited for the factories of New England. It was then that the daughters of the Puritans, outdone by the competition of foreign labor, both of men and women, left the spinning jenny and the loom to other hands.

The Rise of Organized Labor.—The changing conditions of American life, marked by the spreading mill towns of New England, New York, and Pennsylvania and the growth of cities like Buffalo, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Detroit, and Chicago in the West, naturally brought changes, as Jefferson had prophesied, in "manners and morals." A few mechanics, smiths, carpenters, and masons, widely scattered through farming regions and rural villages, raise no such problems as tens of thousands of workers collected in one center in daily intercourse, learning the power of coöperation and union.

Even before the coming of steam and machinery, in the "good old days" of handicrafts, laborers in many trades—printers, shoemakers, carpenters, for example—had begun to draw together in the towns for the advancement of their interests in the form of higher wages, shorter days, and milder laws. The shoemakers of Philadelphia, organized in 1794, conducted a strike in 1799 and held together until indicted seven years later for conspiracy. During the twenties and thirties, local labor unions sprang up in all industrial centers and they led almost immediately to city federations of the several crafts.

As the thousands who were dependent upon their daily labor for their livelihood mounted into the millions and industries spread across the continent, the local unions of craftsmen grew into national craft organizations bound together by the newspapers, the telegraph, and the railways. Before 1860 there were several such national trade unions, including the plumbers, printers, mule spinners, iron molders, and stone cutters. All over the North labor leaders arose—men unknown to general history but forceful and resourceful characters who forged links binding scattered and individual workers into a common brotherhood. An attempt was even made in 1834 to federate all the crafts into a permanent national organization; but it perished within three years through lack of support. Half a century had to elapse before the American Federation of Labor was to accomplish this task.

All the manifestations of the modern labor movement had appeared, in germ at least, by the time the mid-century was reached: unions, labor leaders, strikes, a labor press, a labor political program, and a labor political party. In every great city industrial disputes were a common occurrence. The papers recorded about four hundred in two years, 1853-54, local affairs but forecasting economic struggles in a larger field. The labor press seems to have begun with the founding of the Mechanics' Free Press in Philadelphia in 1828 and the establishment of the New York Workingman's Advocate shortly afterward. These semi-political papers were in later years followed by regular trade papers designed to weld together and advance the interests of particular crafts. Edited by able leaders, these little sheets with limited circulation wielded an enormous influence in the ranks of the workers.

Labor and Politics.—As for the political program of labor, the main planks were clear and specific: the abolition of imprisonment for debt, manhood suffrage in states where property qualifications still prevailed, free and universal education, laws protecting the safety and health of workers in mills and factories, abolition of lotteries, repeal of laws requiring militia service, and free land in the West.

Into the labor papers and platforms there sometimes crept a note of hostility to the masters of industry, a sign of bitterness that excited little alarm while cheap land in the West was open to the discontented. The Philadelphia workmen, in issuing a call for a local convention, invited "all those of our fellow citizens who live by their own labor and none other." In Newcastle county, Delaware, the association of working people complained in 1830: "The poor have no laws; the laws are made by the rich and of course for the rich." Here and there an extremist went to the length of advocating an equal division of wealth among all the people—the crudest kind of communism.

Agitation of this character produced in labor circles profound distrust of both Whigs and Democrats who talked principally about tariffs and banks; it resulted in attempts to found independent labor parties. In Philadelphia, Albany, New York City, and New England, labor candidates were put up for elections in the early thirties and in a few cases were victorious at the polls. "The balance of power has at length got into the hands of the working people, where it properly belongs," triumphantly exclaimed the Mechanics' Free Press of Philadelphia in 1829. But the triumph was illusory. Dissensions appeared in the labor ranks. The old party leaders, particularly of Tammany Hall, the Democratic party organization in New York City, offered concessions to labor in return for votes. Newspapers unsparingly denounced "trade union politicians" as "demagogues," "levellers," and "rag, tag, and bobtail"; and some of them, deeming labor unrest the sour fruit of manhood suffrage, suggested disfranchisement as a remedy. Under the influence of concessions and attacks the political fever quickly died away, and the end of the decade left no remnant of the labor political parties. Labor leaders turned to a task which seemed more substantial and practical, that of organizing workingmen into craft unions for the definite purpose of raising wages and reducing hours.

The Industrial Revolution and National Politics

Southern Plans for Union with the West.—It was long the design of Southern statesmen like Calhoun to hold the West and the South together in one political party. The theory on which they based their hope was simple. Both sections were agricultural—the producers of raw materials and the buyers of manufactured goods. The planters were heavy purchasers of Western bacon, pork, mules, and grain. The Mississippi River and its tributaries formed the natural channel for the transportation of heavy produce southward to the plantations and outward to Europe. Therefore, ran their political reasoning, the interests of the two sections were one. By standing together in favor of low tariffs, they could buy their manufactures cheaply in Europe and pay for them in cotton, tobacco, and grain. The union of the two sections under Jackson's management seemed perfect.

The East Forms Ties with the West.—Eastern leaders were not blind to the ambitions of Southern statesmen. On the contrary, they also recognized the importance of forming strong ties with the agrarian West and drawing the produce of the Ohio Valley to Philadelphia and New York. The canals and railways were the physical signs of this economic union, and the results, commercial and political, were soon evident. By the middle of the century, Southern economists noted the change, one of them, De Bow, lamenting that "the great cities of the North have severally penetrated the interior with artificial lines until they have taken from the open and untaxed current of the Mississippi the commerce produced on its borders." To this writer it was an astounding thing to behold "the number of steamers that now descend the upper Mississippi River, loaded to the guards with produce, as far as the mouth of the Illinois River and then turn up that stream with their cargoes to be shipped to New York via Chicago. The Illinois canal has not only swept the whole produce along the line of the Illinois River to the East, but it is drawing the products of the upper Mississippi through the same channel; thus depriving New Orleans and St. Louis of a rich portion of their former trade."

If to any shippers the broad current of the great river sweeping down to New Orleans offered easier means of physical communication to the sea than the canals and railways, the difference could be overcome by the credit which Eastern bankers were able to extend to the grain and produce buyers, in the first instance, and through them to the farmers on the soil. The acute Southern observer just quoted, De Bow, admitted with evident regret, in 1852, that "last autumn, the rich regions of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were flooded with the local bank notes of the Eastern States, advanced by the New York houses on produce to be shipped by way of the canals in the spring.... These moneyed facilities enable the packer, miller, and speculator to hold on to their produce until the opening of navigation in the spring and they are no longer obliged, as formerly, to hurry off their shipments during the winter by the way of New Orleans in order to realize funds by drafts on their shipments. The banking facilities at the East are doing as much to draw trade from us as the canals and railways which Eastern capital is constructing." Thus canals, railways, and financial credit were swiftly forging bonds of union between the old home of Jacksonian Democracy in the West and the older home of Federalism in the East. The nationalism to which Webster paid eloquent tribute became more and more real with the passing of time. The self-sufficiency of the pioneer was broken down as he began to watch the produce markets of New York and Philadelphia where the prices of corn and hogs fixed his earnings for the year.

The West and Manufactures.—In addition to the commercial bonds between the East and the West there was growing up a common interest in manufactures. As skilled white labor increased in the Ohio Valley, the industries springing up in the new cities made Western life more like that of the industrial East than like that of the planting South. Moreover, the Western states produced some important raw materials for American factories, which called for protection against foreign competition, notably, wool, hemp, and flax. As the South had little or no foreign competition in cotton and tobacco, the East could not offer protection for her raw materials in exchange for protection for industries. With the West, however, it became possible to establish reciprocity in tariffs; that is, for example, to trade a high rate on wool for a high rate on textiles or iron.

The South Dependent on the North.—While East and West were drawing together, the distinctions between North and South were becoming more marked; the latter, having few industries and producing little save raw materials, was being forced into the position of a dependent section. As a result of the protective tariff, Southern planters were compelled to turn more and more to Northern mills for their cloth, shoes, hats, hoes, plows, and machinery. Nearly all the goods which they bought in Europe in exchange for their produce came overseas to Northern ports, whence transshipments were made by rail and water to Southern points of distribution. Their rice, cotton, and tobacco, in as far as they were not carried to Europe in British bottoms, were transported by Northern masters. In these ways, a large part of the financial operations connected with the sale of Southern produce and the purchase of goods in exchange passed into the hands of Northern merchants and bankers who, naturally, made profits from their transactions. Finally, Southern planters who wanted to buy more land and more slaves on credit borrowed heavily in the North where huge accumulations made the rates of interest lower than the smaller banks of the South could afford.

The South Reckons the Cost of Economic Dependence.—As Southern dependence upon Northern capital became more and more marked, Southern leaders began to chafe at what they regarded as restraints laid upon their enterprise. In a word, they came to look upon the planter as a tribute-bearer to the manufacturer and financier. "The South," expostulated De Bow, "stands in the attitude of feeding ... a vast population of [Northern] merchants, shipowners, capitalists, and others who, without claims on her progeny, drink up the life blood of her trade.... Where goes the value of our labor but to those who, taking advantage of our folly, ship for us, buy for us, sell to us, and, after turning our own capital to their profitable account, return laden with our money to enjoy their easily earned opulence at home."

Southern statisticians, not satisfied with generalities, attempted to figure out how great was this tribute in dollars and cents. They estimated that the planters annually lent to Northern merchants the full value of their exports, a hundred millions or more, "to be used in the manipulation of foreign imports." They calculated that no less than forty millions all told had been paid to shipowners in profits. They reckoned that, if the South were to work up her own cotton, she would realize from seventy to one hundred millions a year that otherwise went North. Finally, to cap the climax, they regretted that planters spent some fifteen millions a year pleasure-seeking in the alluring cities and summer resorts of the North.

Southern Opposition to Northern Policies.—Proceeding from these premises, Southern leaders drew the logical conclusion that the entire program of economic measures demanded in the North was without exception adverse to Southern interests and, by a similar chain of reasoning, injurious to the corn and wheat producers of the West. Cheap labor afforded by free immigration, a protective tariff raising prices of manufactures for the tiller of the soil, ship subsidies increasing the tonnage of carrying trade in Northern hands, internal improvements forging new economic bonds between the East and the West, a national banking system giving strict national control over the currency as a safeguard against paper inflation—all these devices were regarded in the South as contrary to the planting interest. They were constantly compared with the restrictive measures by which Great Britain more than half a century before had sought to bind American interests.

As oppression justified a war for independence once, statesmen argued, so it can justify it again. "It is curious as it is melancholy and distressing," came a broad hint from South Carolina, "to see how striking is the analogy between the colonial vassalage to which the manufacturing states have reduced the planting states and that which formerly bound the Anglo-American colonies to the British empire.... England said to her American colonies: 'You shall not trade with the rest of the world for such manufactures as are produced in the mother country.' The manufacturing states say to their Southern colonies: 'You shall not trade with the rest of the world for such manufactures as we produce.'" The conclusion was inexorable: either the South must control the national government and its economic measures, or it must declare, as America had done four score years before, its political and economic independence. As Northern mills multiplied, as railways spun their mighty web over the face of the North, and as accumulated capital rose into the hundreds of millions, the conviction of the planters and their statesmen deepened into desperation.

Efforts to Start Southern Industries Fail.—A few of them, seeing the predominance of the North, made determined efforts to introduce manufactures into the South. To the leaders who were averse to secession and nullification this seemed the only remedy for the growing disparity in the power of the two sections. Societies for the encouragement of mechanical industries were formed, the investment of capital was sought, and indeed a few mills were built on Southern soil. The results were meager. The natural resources, coal and water power, were abundant; but the enterprise for direction and the skilled labor were wanting. The stream of European immigration flowed North and West, not South. The Irish or German laborer, even if he finally made his home in a city, had before him, while in the North, the alternative of a homestead on Western land. To him slavery was a strange, if not a repelling, institution. He did not take to it kindly nor care to fix his home where it flourished. While slavery lasted, the economy of the South was inevitably agricultural. While agriculture predominated, leadership with equal necessity fell to the planting interest. While the planting interest ruled, political opposition to Northern economy was destined to grow in strength.

The Southern Theory of Sectionalism.—In the opinion of the statesmen who frankly represented the planting interest, the industrial system was its deadly enemy. Their entire philosophy of American politics was summed up in a single paragraph by McDuffie, a spokesman for South Carolina: "Owing to the federative character of our government, the great geographical extent of our territory, and the diversity of the pursuits of our citizens in different parts of the union, it has so happened that two great interests have sprung up, standing directly opposed to each other. One of these consists of those manufactures which the Northern and Middle states are capable of producing but which, owing to the high price of labor and the high profits of capital in those states, cannot hold competition with foreign manufactures without the aid of bounties, directly or indirectly given, either by the general government or by the state governments. The other of these interests consists of the great agricultural staples of the Southern states which can find a market only in foreign countries and which can be advantageously sold only in exchange for foreign manufactures which come in competition with those of the Northern and Middle states.... These interests then stand diametrically and irreconcilably opposed to each other. The interest, the pecuniary interest of the Northern manufacturer, is directly promoted by every increase of the taxes imposed upon Southern commerce; and it is unnecessary to add that the interest of the Southern planter is promoted by every diminution of taxes imposed upon the productions of their industry. If, under these circumstances, the manufacturers were clothed with the power of imposing taxes, at their pleasure, upon the foreign imports of the planter, no doubt would exist in the mind of any man that it would have all the characteristics of an absolute and unqualified despotism." The economic soundness of this reasoning, a subject of interesting speculation for the economist, is of little concern to the historian. The historical point is that this opinion was widely held in the South and with the progress of time became the prevailing doctrine of the planting statesmen.

Their antagonism was deepened because they also became convinced, on what grounds it is not necessary to inquire, that the leaders of the industrial interest thus opposed to planting formed a consolidated "aristocracy of wealth," bent upon the pursuit and attainment of political power at Washington. "By the aid of various associated interests," continued McDuffie, "the manufacturing capitalists have obtained a complete and permanent control over the legislation of Congress on this subject [the tariff].... Men confederated together upon selfish and interested principles, whether in pursuit of the offices or the bounties of the government, are ever more active and vigilant than the great majority who act from disinterested and patriotic impulses. Have we not witnessed it on this floor, sir? Who ever knew the tariff men to divide on any question affecting their confederated interests?... The watchword is, stick together, right or wrong upon every question affecting the common cause. Such, sir, is the concert and vigilance and such the combinations by which the manufacturing party, acting upon the interests of some and the prejudices of others, have obtained a decided and permanent control over public opinion in all the tariff states." Thus, as the Southern statesman would have it, the North, in matters affecting national policies, was ruled by a "confederated interest" which menaced the planting interest. As the former grew in magnitude and attached to itself the free farmers of the West through channels of trade and credit, it followed as night the day that in time the planters would be overshadowed and at length overborne in the struggle of giants. Whether the theory was sound or not, Southern statesmen believed it and acted upon it.


M. Beard, Short History of the American Labor Movement.

E.L. Bogart, Economic History of the United States.

J.R. Commons, History of Labour in the United States (2 vols.).

E.R. Johnson, American Railway Transportation.

C.D. Wright, Industrial Evolution of the United States.


1. What signs pointed to a complete Democratic triumph in 1852?

2. What is the explanation of the extraordinary industrial progress of America?

3. Compare the planting system with the factory system.

4. In what sections did industry flourish before the Civil War? Why?

5. Show why transportation is so vital to modern industry and agriculture.

6. Explain how it was possible to secure so many people to labor in American industries.

7. Trace the steps in the rise of organized labor before 1860.

8. What political and economic reforms did labor demand?

9. Why did the East and the South seek closer ties with the West?

10. Describe the economic forces which were drawing the East and the West together.

11. In what way was the South economically dependent upon the North?

12 State the national policies generally favored in the North and condemned in the South.

13. Show how economic conditions in the South were unfavorable to industry.

14. Give the Southern explanation of the antagonism between the North and the South.

Research Topics

The Inventions.—Assign one to each student. Satisfactory accounts are to be found in any good encyclopedia, especially the Britannica.

River and Lake Commerce.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 313-326.

Railways and Canals.—Callender, pp. 326-344; 359-387. Coman, Industrial History of the United States, pp. 216-225.

The Growth of Industry, 1815-1840.—Callender, pp. 459-471. From 1850 to 1860, Callender, pp. 471-486.

Early Labor Conditions.—Callender, pp. 701-718.

Early Immigration.—Callender, pp. 719-732.

Clay's Home Market Theory of the Tariff.—Callender, pp. 498-503.

The New England View of the Tariff.—Callender, pp. 503-514.



James Madison, the father of the federal Constitution, after he had watched for many days the battle royal in the national convention of 1787, exclaimed that the contest was not between the large and the small states, but between the commercial North and the planting South. From the inauguration of Washington to the election of Lincoln the sectional conflict, discerned by this penetrating thinker, exercised a profound influence on the course of American politics. It was latent during the "era of good feeling" when the Jeffersonian Republicans adopted Federalist policies; it flamed up in the contest between the Democrats and Whigs. Finally it raged in the angry political quarrel which culminated in the Civil War.

Slavery—North and South

The Decline of Slavery in the North.—At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, slavery was lawful in all the Northern states except Massachusetts. There were almost as many bondmen in New York as in Georgia. New Jersey had more than Delaware or Tennessee, indeed nearly as many as both combined. All told, however, there were only about forty thousand in the North as against nearly seven hundred thousand in the South. Moreover, most of the Northern slaves were domestic servants, not laborers necessary to keep mills going or fields under cultivation.

There was, in the North, a steadily growing moral sentiment against the system. Massachusetts abandoned it in 1780. In the same year, Pennsylvania provided for gradual emancipation. New Hampshire, where there had been only a handful, Connecticut with a few thousand domestics, and New Jersey early followed these examples. New York, in 1799, declared that all children born of slaves after July 4 of that year should be free, though held for a term as apprentices; and in 1827 it swept away the last vestiges of slavery. So with the passing of the generation that had framed the Constitution, chattel servitude disappeared in the commercial states, leaving behind only such discriminations as disfranchisement or high property qualifications on colored voters.

The Growth of Northern Sentiment against Slavery.—In both sections of the country there early existed, among those more or less philosophically inclined, a strong opposition to slavery on moral as well as economic grounds. In the constitutional convention of 1787, Gouverneur Morris had vigorously condemned it and proposed that the whole country should bear the cost of abolishing it. About the same time a society for promoting the abolition of slavery, under the presidency of Benjamin Franklin, laid before Congress a petition that serious attention be given to the emancipation of "those unhappy men who alone in this land of freedom are degraded into perpetual bondage." When Congress, acting on the recommendations of President Jefferson, provided for the abolition of the foreign slave trade on January 1, 1808, several Northern members joined with Southern members in condemning the system as well as the trade. Later, colonization societies were formed to encourage the emancipation of slaves and their return to Africa. James Madison was president and Henry Clay vice president of such an organization.

The anti-slavery sentiment of which these were the signs was nevertheless confined to narrow circles and bore no trace of bitterness. "We consider slavery your calamity, not your crime," wrote a distinguished Boston clergyman to his Southern brethren, "and we will share with you the burden of putting an end to it. We will consent that the public lands shall be appropriated to this object.... I deprecate everything which sows discord and exasperating sectional animosities."

Uncompromising Abolition.—In a little while the spirit of generosity was gone. Just as Jacksonian Democracy rose to power there appeared a new kind of anti-slavery doctrine—the dogmatism of the abolition agitator. For mild speculation on the evils of the system was substituted an imperious and belligerent demand for instant emancipation. If a date must be fixed for its appearance, the year 1831 may be taken when William Lloyd Garrison founded in Boston his anti-slavery paper, The Liberator. With singleness of purpose and utter contempt for all opposing opinions and arguments, he pursued his course of passionate denunciation. He apologized for having ever "assented to the popular but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition." He chose for his motto: "Immediate and unconditional emancipation!" He promised his readers that he would be "harsh as truth and uncompromising as justice"; that he would not "think or speak or write with moderation." Then he flung out his defiant call: "I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch—and I will be heard....

'Such is the vow I take, so help me God.'"

Though Garrison complained that "the apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal," he soon learned how alive the masses were to the meaning of his propaganda. Abolition orators were stoned in the street and hissed from the platform. Their meeting places were often attacked and sometimes burned to the ground. Garrison himself was assaulted in the streets of Boston, finding refuge from the angry mob behind prison bars. Lovejoy, a publisher in Alton, Illinois, for his willingness to give abolition a fair hearing, was brutally murdered; his printing press was broken to pieces as a warning to all those who disturbed the nation's peace of mind. The South, doubly frightened by a slave revolt in 1831 which ended in the murder of a number of men, women, and children, closed all discussion of slavery in that section. "Now," exclaimed Calhoun, "it is a question which admits of neither concession nor compromise."

As the opposition hardened, the anti-slavery agitation gathered in force and intensity. Whittier blew his blast from the New England hills:

"No slave-hunt in our borders—no pirate on our strand;
No fetters in the Bay State—no slave upon our land."

Lowell, looking upon the espousal of a great cause as the noblest aim of his art, ridiculed and excoriated bondage in the South. Those abolitionists, not gifted as speakers or writers, signed petitions against slavery and poured them in upon Congress. The flood of them was so continuous that the House of Representatives, forgetting its traditions, adopted in 1836 a "gag rule" which prevented the reading of appeals and consigned them to the waste basket. Not until the Whigs were in power nearly ten years later was John Quincy Adams able, after a relentless campaign, to carry a motion rescinding the rule.

How deep was the impression made upon the country by this agitation for immediate and unconditional emancipation cannot be measured. If the popular vote for those candidates who opposed not slavery, but its extension to the territories, be taken as a standard, it was slight indeed. In 1844, the Free Soil candidate, Birney, polled 62,000 votes out of over a million and a half; the Free Soil vote of the next campaign went beyond a quarter of a million, but the increase was due to the strength of the leader, Martin Van Buren; four years afterward it receded to 156,000, affording all the outward signs for the belief that the pleas of the abolitionist found no widespread response among the people. Yet the agitation undoubtedly ran deeper than the ballot box. Young statesmen of the North, in whose hands the destiny of frightful years was to lie, found their indifference to slavery broken and their consciences stirred by the unending appeal and the tireless reiteration. Charles Sumner afterward boasted that he read the Liberator two years before Wendell Phillips, the young Boston lawyer who cast aside his profession to take up the dangerous cause.

Early Southern Opposition to Slavery.—In the South, the sentiment against slavery was strong; it led some to believe that it would also come to an end there in due time. Washington disliked it and directed in his will that his own slaves should be set free after the death of his wife. Jefferson, looking into the future, condemned the system by which he also lived, saying: "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties are the gift of God? Are they not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." Nor did Southern men confine their sentiments to expressions of academic opinion. They accepted in 1787 the Ordinance which excluded slavery from the Northwest territory forever and also the Missouri Compromise, which shut it out of a vast section of the Louisiana territory.

The Revolution in the Slave System.—Among the representatives of South Carolina and Georgia, however, the anti-slavery views of Washington and Jefferson were by no means approved; and the drift of Southern economy was decidedly in favor of extending and perpetuating, rather than abolishing, the system of chattel servitude. The invention of the cotton gin and textile machinery created a market for cotton which the planters, with all their skill and energy, could hardly supply. Almost every available acre was brought under cotton culture as the small farmers were driven steadily from the seaboard into the uplands or to the Northwest.

The demand for slaves to till the swiftly expanding fields was enormous. The number of bondmen rose from 700,000 in Washington's day to more than three millions in 1850. At the same time slavery itself was transformed. Instead of the homestead where the same family of masters kept the same families of slaves from generation to generation, came the plantation system of the Far South and Southwest where masters were ever moving and ever extending their holdings of lands and slaves. This in turn reacted on the older South where the raising of slaves for the market became a regular and highly profitable business.

John C. Calhoun
From an old print
John C. Calhoun

Slavery Defended as a Positive Good.—As the abolition agitation increased and the planting system expanded, apologies for slavery became fainter and fainter in the South. Then apologies were superseded by claims that slavery was a beneficial scheme of labor control. Calhoun, in a famous speech in the Senate in 1837, sounded the new note by declaring slavery "instead of an evil, a good—a positive good." His reasoning was as follows: in every civilized society one portion of the community must live on the labor of another; learning, science, and the arts are built upon leisure; the African slave, kindly treated by his master and mistress and looked after in his old age, is better off than the free laborers of Europe; and under the slave system conflicts between capital and labor are avoided. The advantages of slavery in this respect, he concluded, "will become more and more manifest, if left undisturbed by interference from without, as the country advances in wealth and numbers."

Slave Owners Dominate Politics.—The new doctrine of Calhoun was eagerly seized by the planters as they came more and more to overshadow the small farmers of the South and as they beheld the menace of abolition growing upon the horizon. It formed, as they viewed matters, a moral defense for their labor system—sound, logical, invincible. It warranted them in drawing together for the protection of an institution so necessary, so inevitable, so beneficent.

Though in 1850 the slave owners were only about three hundred and fifty thousand in a national population of nearly twenty million whites, they had an influence all out of proportion to their numbers. They were knit together by the bonds of a common interest. They had leisure and wealth. They could travel and attend conferences and conventions. Throughout the South and largely in the North, they had the press, the schools, and the pulpits on their side. They formed, as it were, a mighty union for the protection and advancement of their common cause. Aided by those mechanics and farmers of the North who stuck by Jacksonian Democracy through thick and thin, the planters became a power in the federal government. "We nominate Presidents," exultantly boasted a Richmond newspaper; "the North elects them."

This jubilant Southern claim was conceded by William H. Seward, a Republican Senator from New York, in a speech describing the power of slavery in the national government. "A party," he said, "is in one sense a joint stock association, in which those who contribute most direct the action and management of the concern.... The slaveholders, contributing in an overwhelming proportion to the strength of the Democratic party, necessarily dictate and prescribe its policy." He went on: "The slaveholding class has become the governing power in each of the slaveholding states and it practically chooses thirty of the sixty-two members of the Senate, ninety of the two hundred and thirty-three members of the House of Representatives, and one hundred and five of the two hundred and ninety-five electors of President and Vice-President of the United States." Then he considered the slave power in the Supreme Court. "That tribunal," he exclaimed, "consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices. Of these, five were called from slave states and four from free states. The opinions and bias of each of them were carefully considered by the President and Senate when he was appointed. Not one of them was found wanting in soundness of politics, according to the slaveholder's exposition of the Constitution." Such was the Northern view of the planting interest that, from the arena of national politics, challenged the whole country in 1860.

Distribution of Slaves in the Southern States
Distribution of Slaves in the Southern States

Slavery in National Politics

National Aspects of Slavery.—It may be asked why it was that slavery, founded originally on state law and subject to state government, was drawn into the current of national affairs. The answer is simple. There were, in the first place, constitutional reasons. The Congress of the United States had to make all needful rules for the government of the territories, the District of Columbia, the forts and other property under national authority; so it was compelled to determine whether slavery should exist in the places subject to its jurisdiction. Upon Congress was also conferred the power of admitting new states; whenever a territory asked for admission, the issue could be raised as to whether slavery should be sanctioned or excluded. Under the Constitution, provision was made for the return of runaway slaves; Congress had the power to enforce this clause by appropriate legislation. Since the control of the post office was vested in the federal government, it had to face the problem raised by the transmission of abolition literature through the mails. Finally citizens had the right of petition; it inheres in all free government and it is expressly guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution. It was therefore legal for abolitionists to present to Congress their petitions, even if they asked for something which it had no right to grant. It was thus impossible, constitutionally, to draw a cordon around the slavery issue and confine the discussion of it to state politics.

There were, in the second place, economic reasons why slavery was inevitably drawn into the national sphere. It was the basis of the planting system which had direct commercial relations with the North and European countries; it was affected by federal laws respecting tariffs, bounties, ship subsidies, banking, and kindred matters. The planters of the South, almost without exception, looked upon the protective tariff as a tribute laid upon them for the benefit of Northern industries. As heavy borrowers of money in the North, they were generally in favor of "easy money," if not paper currency, as an aid in the repayment of their debts. This threw most of them into opposition to the Whig program for a United States Bank. All financial aids to American shipping they stoutly resisted, preferring to rely upon the cheaper service rendered by English shippers. Internal improvements, those substantial ties that were binding the West to the East and turning the traffic from New Orleans to Philadelphia and New York, they viewed with alarm. Free homesteads from the public lands, which tended to overbalance the South by building free states, became to them a measure dangerous to their interests. Thus national economic policies, which could not by any twist or turn be confined to state control, drew the slave system and its defenders into the political conflict that centered at Washington.

Slavery and the Territories—the Missouri Compromise (1820).—Though men continually talked about "taking slavery out of politics," it could not be done. By 1818 slavery had become so entrenched and the anti-slavery sentiment so strong, that Missouri's quest for admission brought both houses of Congress into a deadlock that was broken only by compromise. The South, having half the Senators, could prevent the admission of Missouri stripped of slavery; and the North, powerful in the House of Representatives, could keep Missouri with slavery out of the union indefinitely. An adjustment of pretensions was the last resort. Maine, separated from the parent state of Massachusetts, was brought into the union with freedom and Missouri with bondage. At the same time it was agreed that the remainder of the vast Louisiana territory north of the parallel of 36° 30' should be, like the old Northwest, forever free; while the southern portion was left to slavery. In reality this was an immense gain for liberty. The area dedicated to free farmers was many times greater than that left to the planters. The principle was once more asserted that Congress had full power to prevent slavery in the territories.

The Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise

The Territorial Question Reopened by the Wilmot Proviso.—To the Southern leaders, the annexation of Texas and the conquest of Mexico meant renewed security to the planting interest against the increasing wealth and population of the North. Texas, it was said, could be divided into four slave states. The new territories secured by the treaty of peace with Mexico contained the promise of at least three more. Thus, as each new free soil state knocked for admission into the union, the South could demand as the price of its consent a new slave state. No wonder Southern statesmen saw, in the annexation of Texas and the conquest of Mexico, slavery and King Cotton triumphant—secure for all time against adverse legislation. Northern leaders were equally convinced that the Southern prophecy was true. Abolitionists and moderate opponents of slavery alike were in despair. Texas, they lamented, would fasten slavery upon the country forevermore. "No living man," cried one, "will see the end of slavery in the United States!"

It so happened, however, that the events which, it was thought, would secure slavery let loose a storm against it. A sign appeared first on August 6, 1846, only a few months after war was declared on Mexico. On that day, David Wilmot, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution to the effect that, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the republic of Mexico, slavery should be forever excluded from every part of it. "The Wilmot Proviso," as the resolution was popularly called, though defeated on that occasion, was a challenge to the South.

The South answered the challenge. Speaking in the House of Representatives, Robert Toombs of Georgia boldly declared: "In the presence of the living God, if by your legislation you seek to drive us from the territories of California and New Mexico ... I am for disunion." South Carolina announced that the day for talk had passed and the time had come to join her sister states "in resisting the application of the Wilmot Proviso at any and all hazards." A conference, assembled at Jackson, Mississippi, in the autumn of 1849, called a general convention of Southern states to meet at Nashville the following summer. The avowed purpose was to arrest "the course of aggression" and, if that was not possible, to provide "in the last resort for their separate welfare by the formation of a compact and union that will afford protection to their liberties and rights." States that had spurned South Carolina's plea for nullification in 1832 responded to this new appeal with alacrity—an augury of the secession to come.

Henry Clay
From an old print
Henry Clay

The Great Debate of 1850.—The temper of the country was white hot when Congress convened in December, 1849. It was a memorable session, memorable for the great men who took part in the debates and memorable for the grand Compromise of 1850 which it produced. In the Senate sat for the last time three heroic figures: Webster from the North, Calhoun from the South, and Clay from a border state. For nearly forty years these three had been leaders of men. All had grown old and gray in service. Calhoun was already broken in health and in a few months was to be borne from the political arena forever. Clay and Webster had but two more years in their allotted span.

Experience, learning, statecraft—all these things they now marshaled in a mighty effort to solve the slavery problem. On January 29, 1850, Clay offered to the Senate a compromise granting concessions to both sides; and a few days later, in a powerful oration, he made a passionate appeal for a union of hearts through mutual sacrifices. Calhoun relentlessly demanded the full measure of justice for the South: equal rights in the territories bought by common blood; the return of runaway slaves as required by the Constitution; the suppression of the abolitionists; and the restoration of the balance of power between the North and the South. Webster, in his notable "Seventh of March speech," condemned the Wilmot Proviso, advocated a strict enforcement of the fugitive slave law, denounced the abolitionists, and made a final plea for the Constitution, union, and liberty. This was the address which called forth from Whittier the poem, "Ichabod," deploring the fall of the mighty one whom he thought lost to all sense of faith and honor.

The Terms of the Compromise of 1850.—When the debates were closed, the results were totaled in a series of compromise measures, all of which were signed in September, 1850, by the new President, Millard Fillmore, who had taken office two months before on the death of Zachary Taylor. By these acts the boundaries of Texas were adjusted and the territory of New Mexico created, subject to the provision that all or any part of it might be admitted to the union "with or without slavery as their constitution may provide at the time of their admission." The Territory of Utah was similarly organized with the same conditions as to slavery, thus repudiating the Wilmot Proviso without guaranteeing slavery to the planters. California was admitted as a free state under a constitution in which the people of the territory had themselves prohibited slavery.

The slave trade was abolished in the District of Columbia, but slavery itself existed as before at the capital of the nation. This concession to anti-slavery sentiment was more than offset by a fugitive slave law, drastic in spirit and in letter. It placed the enforcement of its terms in the hands of federal officers appointed from Washington and so removed it from the control of authorities locally elected. It provided that masters or their agents, on filing claims in due form, might summarily remove their escaped slaves without affording their "alleged fugitives" the right of trial by jury, the right to witness, the right to offer any testimony in evidence. Finally, to "put teeth" into the act, heavy penalties were prescribed for all who obstructed or assisted in obstructing the enforcement of the law. Such was the Great Compromise of 1850.

An Old Cartoon Representing Webster "Stealing Clay's Thunder"
An Old Cartoon Representing Webster "Stealing Clay's Thunder"

The Pro-slavery Triumph in the Election of 1852.—The results of the election of 1852 seemed to show conclusively that the nation was weary of slavery agitation and wanted peace. Both parties, Whigs and Democrats, endorsed the fugitive slave law and approved the Great Compromise. The Democrats, with Franklin Pierce as their leader, swept the country against the war hero, General Winfield Scott, on whom the Whigs had staked their hopes. Even Webster, broken with grief at his failure to receive the nomination, advised his friends to vote for Pierce and turned away from politics to meditate upon approaching death. The verdict of the voters would seem to indicate that for the time everybody, save a handful of disgruntled agitators, looked upon Clay's settlement as the last word. "The people, especially the business men of the country," says Elson, "were utterly weary of the agitation and they gave their suffrages to the party that promised them rest." The Free Soil party, condemning slavery as "a sin against God and a crime against man," and advocating freedom for the territories, failed to carry a single state. In fact it polled fewer votes than it had four years earlier—156,000 as against nearly 3,000,000, the combined vote of the Whigs and Democrats. It is not surprising, therefore, that President Pierce, surrounded in his cabinet by strong Southern sympathizers, could promise to put an end to slavery agitation and to crush the abolition movement in the bud.

Anti-slavery Agitation Continued.—The promise was more difficult to fulfill than to utter. In fact, the vigorous execution of one measure included in the Compromise—the fugitive slave law—only made matters worse. Designed as security for the planters, it proved a powerful instrument in their undoing. Slavery five hundred miles away on a Louisiana plantation was so remote from the North that only the strongest imagination could maintain a constant rage against it. "Slave catching," "man hunting" by federal officers on the streets of Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, or Milwaukee and in the hamlets and villages of the wide-stretching farm lands of the North was another matter. It brought the most odious aspects of slavery home to thousands of men and women who would otherwise have been indifferent to the system. Law-abiding business men, mechanics, farmers, and women, when they saw peaceful negroes, who had resided in their neighborhoods perhaps for years, torn away by federal officers and carried back to bondage, were transformed into enemies of the law. They helped slaves to escape; they snatched them away from officers who had captured them; they broke open jails and carried fugitives off to Canada.

Assistance to runaway slaves, always more or less common in the North, was by this time organized into a system. Regular routes, known as "underground railways," were laid out across the free states into Canada, and trusted friends of freedom maintained "underground stations" where fugitives were concealed in the daytime between their long night journeys. Funds were raised and secret agents sent into the South to help negroes to flee. One negro woman, Harriet Tubman, "the Moses of her people," with headquarters at Philadelphia, is accredited with nineteen invasions into slave territory and the emancipation of three hundred negroes. Those who worked at this business were in constant peril. One underground operator, Calvin Fairbank, spent nearly twenty years in prison for aiding fugitives from justice. Yet perils and prisons did not stay those determined men and women who, in obedience to their consciences, set themselves to this lawless work.

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe

From thrilling stories of adventure along the underground railways came some of the scenes and themes of the novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, "Uncle Tom's Cabin," published two years after the Compromise of 1850. Her stirring tale set forth the worst features of slavery in vivid word pictures that caught and held the attention of millions of readers. Though the book was unfair to the South and was denounced as a hideous distortion of the truth, it was quickly dramatized and played in every city and town throughout the North. Topsy, Little Eva, Uncle Tom, the fleeing slave, Eliza Harris, and the cruel slave driver, Simon Legree, with his baying blood hounds, became living specters in many a home that sought to bar the door to the "unpleasant and irritating business of slavery agitation."

The Drift of Events toward the Irrepressible Conflict

Repeal of the Missouri Compromise.—To practical men, after all, the "rub-a-dub" agitation of a few abolitionists, an occasional riot over fugitive slaves, and the vogue of a popular novel seemed of slight or transient importance. They could point with satisfaction to the election returns of 1852; but their very security was founded upon shifting sands. The magnificent triumph of the pro-slavery Democrats in 1852 brought a turn in affairs that destroyed the foundations under their feet. Emboldened by their own strength and the weakness of their opponents, they now dared to repeal the Missouri Compromise. The leader in this fateful enterprise was Stephen A. Douglas, Senator from Illinois, and the occasion for the deed was the demand for the organization of territorial government in the regions west of Iowa and Missouri.

Douglas, like Clay and Webster before him, was consumed by a strong passion for the presidency, and, to reach his goal, it was necessary to win the support of the South. This he undoubtedly sought to do when he introduced on January 4, 1854, a bill organizing the Nebraska territory on the principle of the Compromise of 1850; namely, that the people in the territory might themselves decide whether they would have slavery or not. Unwittingly the avalanche was started.

After a stormy debate, in which important amendments were forced on Douglas, the Kansas-Nebraska Bill became a law on May 30, 1854. The measure created two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, and provided that they, or territories organized out of them, could come into the union as states "with or without slavery as their constitutions may prescribe at the time of their admission." Not content with this, the law went on to declare the Missouri Compromise null and void as being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the states and territories. Thus by a single blow the very heart of the continent, dedicated to freedom by solemn agreement, was thrown open to slavery. A desperate struggle between slave owners and the advocates of freedom was the outcome in Kansas.

If Douglas fancied that the North would receive the overthrow of the Missouri Compromise in the same temper that it greeted Clay's settlement, he was rapidly disillusioned. A blast of rage, terrific in its fury, swept from Maine to Iowa. Staid old Boston hanged him in effigy with an inscription—"Stephen A. Douglas, author of the infamous Nebraska bill: the Benedict Arnold of 1854." City after city burned him in effigy until, as he himself said, he could travel from the Atlantic coast to Chicago in the light of the fires. Thousands of Whigs and Free-soil Democrats deserted their parties which had sanctioned or at least tolerated the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, declaring that the startling measure showed an evident resolve on the part of the planters to rule the whole country. A gage of defiance was thrown down to the abolitionists. An issue was set even for the moderate and timid who had been unmoved by the agitation over slavery in the Far South. That issue was whether slavery was to be confined within its existing boundaries or be allowed to spread without interference, thereby placing the free states in the minority and surrendering the federal government wholly to the slave power.

The Rise of the Republican Party.—Events of terrible significance, swiftly following, drove the country like a ship before a gale straight into civil war. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill rent the old parties asunder and called into being the Republican party. While that bill was pending in Congress, many Northern Whigs and Democrats had come to the conclusion that a new party dedicated to freedom in the territories must follow the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Several places claim to be the original home of the Republican party; but historians generally yield it to Wisconsin. At Ripon in that state, a mass meeting of Whigs and Democrats assembled in February, 1854, and resolved to form a new party if the Kansas-Nebraska Bill should pass. At a second meeting a fusion committee representing Whigs, Free Soilers, and Democrats was formed and the name Republican—the name of Jefferson's old party—was selected. All over the country similar meetings were held and political committees were organized.

When the presidential campaign of 1856 began the Republicans entered the contest. After a preliminary conference in Pittsburgh in February, they held a convention in Philadelphia at which was drawn up a platform opposing the extension of slavery to the territories. John C. Frémont, the distinguished explorer, was named for the presidency. The results of the election were astounding as compared with the Free-soil failure of the preceding election. Prominent men like Longfellow, Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and George William Curtis went over to the new party and 1,341,264 votes were rolled up for "free labor, free speech, free men, free Kansas, and Frémont." Nevertheless the victory of the Democrats was decisive. Their candidate, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, was elected by a majority of 174 to 114 electoral votes.

Slave and Free Soil on Eve of Civil War
Slave and Free Soil on Eve of Civil War

The Dred Scott Decision (1857).—In his inaugural, Buchanan vaguely hinted that in a forthcoming decision the Supreme Court would settle one of the vital questions of the day. This was a reference to the Dred Scott case then pending. Scott was a slave who had been taken by his master into the upper Louisiana territory, where freedom had been established by the Missouri Compromise, and then carried back into his old state of Missouri. He brought suit for his liberty on the ground that his residence in the free territory made him free. This raised the question whether the law of Congress prohibiting slavery north of 36° 30' was authorized by the federal Constitution or not. The Court might have avoided answering it by saying that even though Scott was free in the territory, he became a slave again in Missouri by virtue of the law of that state. The Court, however, faced the issue squarely. It held that Scott had not been free anywhere and that, besides, the Missouri Compromise violated the Constitution and was null and void.

The decision was a triumph for the South. It meant that Congress after all had no power to abolish slavery in the territories. Under the decree of the highest court in the land, that could be done only by an amendment to the Constitution which required a two-thirds vote in Congress and the approval of three-fourths of the states. Such an amendment was obviously impossible—the Southern states were too numerous; but the Republicans were not daunted. "We know," said Lincoln, "the Court that made it has often overruled its own decisions and we shall do what we can to have it overrule this." Legislatures of Northern states passed resolutions condemning the decision and the Republican platform of 1860 characterized the dogma that the Constitution carried slavery into the territories as "a dangerous political heresy at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself ... with legislative and judicial precedent ... revolutionary in tendency and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country."

The Panic of 1857.—In the midst of the acrimonious dispute over the Dred Scott decision, came one of the worst business panics which ever afflicted the country. In the spring and summer of 1857, fourteen railroad corporations, including the Erie, Michigan Central, and the Illinois Central, failed to meet their obligations; banks and insurance companies, some of them the largest and strongest institutions in the North, closed their doors; stocks and bonds came down in a crash on the markets; manufacturing was paralyzed; tens of thousands of working people were thrown out of employment; "hunger meetings" of idle men were held in the cities and banners bearing the inscription, "We want bread," were flung out. In New York, working men threatened to invade the Council Chamber to demand "work or bread," and the frightened mayor called for the police and soldiers. For this distressing state of affairs many remedies were offered; none with more zeal and persistence than the proposal for a higher tariff to take the place of the law of March, 1857, a Democratic measure making drastic reductions in the rates of duty. In the manufacturing districts of the North, the panic was ascribed to the "Democratic assault on business." So an old issue was again vigorously advanced, preparatory to the next presidential campaign.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.—The following year the interest of the whole country was drawn to a series of debates held in Illinois by Lincoln and Douglas, both candidates for the United States Senate. In the course of his campaign Lincoln had uttered his trenchant saying that "a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free." At the same time he had accused Douglas, Buchanan, and the Supreme Court of acting in concert to make slavery national. This daring statement arrested the attention of Douglas, who was making his campaign on the doctrine of "squatter sovereignty;" that is, the right of the people of each territory "to vote slavery up or down." After a few long-distance shots at each other, the candidates agreed to meet face to face and discuss the issues of the day. Never had such crowds been seen at political meetings in Illinois. Farmers deserted their plows, smiths their forges, and housewives their baking to hear "Honest Abe" and "the Little Giant."

The results of the series of debates were momentous. Lincoln clearly defined his position. The South, he admitted, was entitled under the Constitution to a fair, fugitive slave law. He hoped that there might be no new slave states; but he did not see how Congress could exclude the people of a territory from admission as a state if they saw fit to adopt a constitution legalizing the ownership of slaves. He favored the gradual abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the total exclusion of it from the territories of the United States by act of Congress.

Moreover, he drove Douglas into a hole by asking how he squared "squatter sovereignty" with the Dred Scott decision; how, in other words, the people of a territory could abolish slavery when the Court had declared that Congress, the superior power, could not do it under the Constitution? To this baffling question Douglas lamely replied that the inhabitants of a territory, by "unfriendly legislation," might make property in slaves insecure and thus destroy the institution. This answer to Lincoln's query alienated many Southern Democrats who believed that the Dred Scott decision settled the question of slavery in the territories for all time. Douglas won the election to the Senate; but Lincoln, lifted into national fame by the debates, beat him in the campaign for President two years later.

John Brown's Raid.—To the abolitionists the line of argument pursued by Lincoln, including his proposal to leave slavery untouched in the states where it existed, was wholly unsatisfactory. One of them, a grim and resolute man, inflamed by a hatred for slavery in itself, turned from agitation to violence. "These men are all talk; what is needed is action—action!" So spoke John Brown of New York. During the sanguinary struggle in Kansas he hurried to the frontier, gun and dagger in hand, to help drive slave owners from the free soil of the West. There he committed deeds of such daring and cruelty that he was outlawed and a price put upon his head. Still he kept on the path of "action." Aided by funds from Northern friends, he gathered a small band of his followers around him, saying to them: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" He went into Virginia in the autumn of 1859, hoping, as he explained, "to effect a mighty conquest even though it be like the last victory of Samson." He seized the government armory at Harper's Ferry, declared free the slaves whom he found, and called upon them to take up arms in defense of their liberty. His was a hope as forlorn as it was desperate. Armed forces came down upon him and, after a hard battle, captured him. Tried for treason, Brown was condemned to death. The governor of Virginia turned a deaf ear to pleas for clemency based on the ground that the prisoner was simply a lunatic. "This is a beautiful country," said the stern old Brown glancing upward to the eternal hills on his way to the gallows, as calmly as if he were returning home from a long journey. "So perish all such enemies of Virginia. All such enemies of the Union. All such foes of the human race," solemnly announced the executioner as he fulfilled the judgment of the law.

The raid and its grim ending deeply moved the country. Abolitionists looked upon Brown as a martyr and tolled funeral bells on the day of his execution. Longfellow wrote in his diary: "This will be a great day in our history; the date of a new revolution as much needed as the old one." Jefferson Davis saw in the affair "the invasion of a state by a murderous gang of abolitionists bent on inciting slaves to murder helpless women and children"—a crime for which the leader had met a felon's death. Lincoln spoke of the raid as absurd, the deed of an enthusiast who had brooded over the oppression of a people until he fancied himself commissioned by heaven to liberate them—an attempt which ended in "little else than his own execution." To Republican leaders as a whole, the event was very embarrassing. They were taunted by the Democrats with responsibility for the deed. Douglas declared his "firm and deliberate conviction that the Harper's Ferry crime was the natural, logical, inevitable result of the doctrines and teachings of the Republican party." So persistent were such attacks that the Republicans felt called upon in 1860 to denounce Brown's raid "as among the gravest of crimes."

The Democrats Divided.—When the Democratic convention met at Charleston in the spring of 1860, a few months after Brown's execution, it soon became clear that there was danger ahead. Between the extreme slavery advocates of the Far South and the so-called pro-slavery Democrats of the Douglas type, there was a chasm which no appeals to party loyalty could bridge. As the spokesman of the West, Douglas knew that, while the North was not abolitionist, it was passionately set against an extension of slavery into the territories by act of Congress; that squatter sovereignty was the mildest kind of compromise acceptable to the farmers whose votes would determine the fate of the election. Southern leaders would not accept his opinion. Yancey, speaking for Alabama, refused to palter with any plan not built on the proposition that slavery was in itself right. He taunted the Northern Democrats with taking the view that slavery was wrong, but that they could not do anything about it. That, he said, was the fatal error—the cause of all discord, the source of "Black Republicanism," as well as squatter sovereignty. The gauntlet was thus thrown down at the feet of the Northern delegates: "You must not apologize for slavery; you must declare it right; you must advocate its extension." The challenge, so bluntly put, was as bluntly answered. "Gentlemen of the South," responded a delegate from Ohio, "you mistake us. You mistake us. We will not do it."

For ten days the Charleston convention wrangled over the platform and balloted for the nomination of a candidate. Douglas, though in the lead, could not get the two-thirds vote required for victory. For more than fifty times the roll of the convention was called without a decision. Then in sheer desperation the convention adjourned to meet later at Baltimore. When the delegates again assembled, their passions ran as high as ever. The division into two irreconcilable factions was unchanged. Uncompromising delegates from the South withdrew to Richmond, nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for President, and put forth a platform asserting the rights of slave owners in the territories and the duty of the federal government to protect them. The delegates who remained at Baltimore nominated Douglas and endorsed his doctrine of squatter sovereignty.

The Constitutional Union Party.—While the Democratic party was being disrupted, a fragment of the former Whig party, known as the Constitutional Unionists, held a convention at Baltimore and selected national candidates: John Bell from Tennessee and Edward Everett from Massachusetts. A melancholy interest attached to this assembly. It was mainly composed of old men whose political views were those of Clay and Webster, cherished leaders now dead and gone. In their platform they sought to exorcise the evil spirit of partisanship by inviting their fellow citizens to "support the Constitution of the country, the union of the states, and the enforcement of the laws." The party that campaigned on this grand sentiment only drew laughter from the Democrats and derision from the Republicans and polled less than one-fourth the votes.

The Republican Convention.—With the Whigs definitely forced into a separate group, the Republican convention at Chicago was fated to be sectional in character, although five slave states did send delegates. As the Democrats were split, the party that had led a forlorn hope four years before was on the high road to success at last. New and powerful recruits were found. The advocates of a high protective tariff and the friends of free homesteads for farmers and workingmen mingled with enthusiastic foes of slavery. While still firm in their opposition to slavery in the territories, the Republicans went on record in favor of a homestead law granting free lands to settlers and approved customs duties designed "to encourage the development of the industrial interests of the whole country." The platform was greeted with cheers which, according to the stenographic report of the convention, became loud and prolonged as the protective tariff and homestead planks were read.

Having skillfully drawn a platform to unite the North in opposition to slavery and the planting system, the Republicans were also adroit in their selection of a candidate. The tariff plank might carry Pennsylvania, a Democratic state; but Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were equally essential to success at the polls. The southern counties of these states were filled with settlers from Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky who, even if they had no love for slavery, were no friends of abolition. Moreover, remembering the old fight on the United States Bank in Andrew Jackson's day, they were suspicious of men from the East. Accordingly, they did not favor the candidacy of Seward, the leading Republican statesman and "favorite son" of New York.

After much trading and discussing, the convention came to the conclusion that Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was the most "available" candidate. He was of Southern origin, born in Kentucky in 1809, a fact that told heavily in the campaign in the Ohio Valley. He was a man of the soil, the son of poor frontier parents, a pioneer who in his youth had labored in the fields and forests, celebrated far and wide as "honest Abe, the rail-splitter." It was well-known that he disliked slavery, but was no abolitionist. He had come dangerously near to Seward's radicalism in his "house-divided-against-itself" speech but he had never committed himself to the reckless doctrine that there was a "higher law" than the Constitution. Slavery in the South he tolerated as a bitter fact; slavery in the territories he opposed with all his strength. Of his sincerity there could be no doubt. He was a speaker and writer of singular power, commanding, by the use of simple and homely language, the hearts and minds of those who heard him speak or read his printed words. He had gone far enough in his opposition to slavery; but not too far. He was the man of the hour! Amid lusty cheers from ten thousand throats, Lincoln was nominated for the presidency by the Republicans. In the ensuing election, he carried all the free states except New Jersey.


P.E. Chadwick, Causes of the Civil War (American Nation Series).

W.E. Dodd, Statesmen of the Old South.

E. Engle, Southern Sidelights (Sympathetic account of the Old South).

A.B. Hart, Slavery and Abolition (American Nation Series).

J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States, Vols. I and II.

T.C. Smith, Parties and Slavery (American Nation Series).


1. Trace the decline of slavery in the North and explain it.

2. Describe the character of early opposition to slavery.

3. What was the effect of abolition agitation?

4. Why did anti-slavery sentiment practically disappear in the South?

5. On what grounds did Calhoun defend slavery?

6. Explain how slave owners became powerful in politics.

7. Why was it impossible to keep the slavery issue out of national politics?

8. Give the leading steps in the long controversy over slavery in the territories.

9. State the terms of the Compromise of 1850 and explain its failure.

10. What were the startling events between 1850 and 1860?

11. Account for the rise of the Republican party. What party had used the title before?

12. How did the Dred Scott decision become a political issue?

13. What were some of the points brought out in the Lincoln-Douglas debates?

14. Describe the party division in 1860.

15. What were the main planks in the Republican platform?

Research Topics

The Extension of Cotton Planting.—Callender, Economic History of the United States, pp. 760-768.

Abolition Agitation.—McMaster, History of the People of the United States, Vol. VI, pp. 271-298.

Calhoun's Defense of Slavery.—Harding, Select Orations Illustrating American History, pp. 247-257.

The Compromise of 1850.—Clay's speech in Harding, Select Orations, pp. 267-289. The compromise laws in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book of American History, pp. 383-394. Narrative account in McMaster, Vol. VIII, pp. 1-55; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 540-548.

The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise.—McMaster, Vol. VIII, pp. 192-231; Elson, pp. 571-582.

The Dred Scott Case.—McMaster, Vol. VIII, pp. 278-282. Compare the opinion of Taney and the dissent of Curtis in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 405-420; Elson, pp. 595-598.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates.—Analysis of original speeches in Harding, Select Orations pp. 309-341; Elson, pp. 598-604.

Biographical Studies.—Calhoun, Clay, Webster, A.H. Stephens, Douglas, W.H. Seward, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.



"The irrepressible conflict is about to be visited upon us through the Black Republican nominee and his fanatical, diabolical Republican party," ran an appeal to the voters of South Carolina during the campaign of 1860. If that calamity comes to pass, responded the governor of the state, the answer should be a declaration of independence. In a few days the suspense was over. The news of Lincoln's election came speeding along the wires. Prepared for the event, the editor of the Charleston Mercury unfurled the flag of his state amid wild cheers from an excited throng in the streets. Then he seized his pen and wrote: "The tea has been thrown overboard; the revolution of 1860 has been initiated." The issue was submitted to the voters in the choice of delegates to a state convention called to cast off the yoke of the Constitution.

The Southern Confederacy

Secession.—As arranged, the convention of South Carolina assembled in December and without a dissenting voice passed the ordinance of secession withdrawing from the union. Bells were rung exultantly, the roar of cannon carried the news to outlying counties, fireworks lighted up the heavens, and champagne flowed. The crisis so long expected had come at last; even the conservatives who had prayed that they might escape the dreadful crash greeted it with a sigh of relief.

The United States in 1861
The United States in 1861
The border states (in purple) remained loyal.

South Carolina now sent forth an appeal to her sister states—states that had in Jackson's day repudiated nullification as leading to "the dissolution of the union." The answer that came this time was in a different vein. A month had hardly elapsed before five other states—Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana—had withdrawn from the union. In February, Texas followed. Virginia, hesitating until the bombardment of Fort Sumter forced a conclusion, seceded in April; but fifty-five of the one hundred and forty-three delegates dissented, foreshadowing the creation of the new state of West Virginia which Congress admitted to the union in 1863. In May, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee announced their independence.

Secession and the Theories of the Union.—In severing their relations with the union, the seceding states denied every point in the Northern theory of the Constitution. That theory, as every one knows, was carefully formulated by Webster and elaborated by Lincoln. According to it, the union was older than the states; it was created before the Declaration of Independence for the purpose of common defense. The Articles of Confederation did but strengthen this national bond and the Constitution sealed it forever. The federal government was not a creature of state governments. It was erected by the people and derived its powers directly from them. "It is," said Webster, "the people's Constitution, the people's government; made for the people; made by the people; and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that this Constitution shall be the supreme law." When a state questions the lawfulness of any act of the federal government, it cannot nullify that act or withdraw from the union; it must abide by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. The union of these states is perpetual, ran Lincoln's simple argument in the first inaugural; the federal Constitution has no provision for its own termination; it can be destroyed only by some action not provided for in the instrument itself; even if it is a compact among all the states the consent of all must be necessary to its dissolution; therefore no state can lawfully get out of the union and acts of violence against the United States are insurrectionary or revolutionary. This was the system which he believed himself bound to defend by his oath of office "registered in heaven."

All this reasoning Southern statesmen utterly rejected. In their opinion the thirteen original states won their independence as separate and sovereign powers. The treaty of peace with Great Britain named them all and acknowledged them "to be free, sovereign, and independent states." The Articles of Confederation very explicitly declared that "each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence." The Constitution was a "league of nations" formed by an alliance of thirteen separate powers, each one of which ratified the instrument before it was put into effect. They voluntarily entered the union under the Constitution and voluntarily they could leave it. Such was the constitutional doctrine of Hayne, Calhoun, and Jefferson Davis. In seceding, the Southern states had only to follow legal methods, and the transaction would be correct in every particular. So conventions were summoned, elections were held, and "sovereign assemblies of the people" set aside the Constitution in the same manner as it had been ratified nearly four score years before. Thus, said the Southern people, the moral judgment was fulfilled and the letter of the law carried into effect.

Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis

The Formation of the Confederacy.—Acting on the call of Mississippi, a congress of delegates from the seceded states met at Montgomery, Alabama, and on February 8, 1861, adopted a temporary plan of union. It selected, as provisional president, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, a man well fitted by experience and moderation for leadership, a graduate of West Point, who had rendered distinguished service on the field of battle in the Mexican War, in public office, and as a member of Congress.

In March, a permanent constitution of the Confederate states was drafted. It was quickly ratified by the states; elections were held in November; and the government under it went into effect the next year. This new constitution, in form, was very much like the famous instrument drafted at Philadelphia in 1787. It provided for a President, a Senate, and a House of Representatives along almost identical lines. In the powers conferred upon them, however, there were striking differences. The right to appropriate money for internal improvements was expressly withheld; bounties were not to be granted from the treasury nor import duties so laid as to promote or foster any branch of industry. The dignity of the state, if any might be bold enough to question it, was safeguarded in the opening line by the declaration that each acted "in its sovereign and independent character" in forming the Southern union.

Financing the Confederacy.—No government ever set out upon its career with more perplexing tasks in front of it. The North had a monetary system; the South had to create one. The North had a scheme of taxation that produced large revenues from numerous sources; the South had to formulate and carry out a financial plan. Like the North, the Confederacy expected to secure a large revenue from customs duties, easily collected and little felt among the masses. To this expectation the blockade of Southern ports inaugurated by Lincoln in April, 1861, soon put an end. Following the precedent set by Congress under the Articles of Confederation, the Southern Congress resorted to a direct property tax apportioned among the states, only to meet the failure that might have been foretold.

The Confederacy also sold bonds, the first issue bringing into the treasury nearly all the specie available in the Southern banks. This specie by unhappy management was early sent abroad to pay for supplies, sapping the foundations of a sound currency system. Large amounts of bonds were sold overseas, commanding at first better terms than those of the North in the markets of London, Paris, and Amsterdam, many an English lord and statesman buying with enthusiasm and confidence to lament within a few years the proofs of his folly. The difficulties of bringing through the blockade any supplies purchased by foreign bond issues, however, nullified the effect of foreign credit and forced the Confederacy back upon the device of paper money. In all approximately one billion dollars streamed from the printing presses, to fall in value at an alarming rate, reaching in January, 1863, the astounding figure of fifty dollars in paper money for one in gold. Every known device was used to prevent its depreciation, without result. To the issues of the Confederate Congress were added untold millions poured out by the states and by private banks.

Human and Material Resources.—When we measure strength for strength in those signs of power—men, money, and supplies—it is difficult to see how the South was able to embark on secession and war with such confidence in the outcome. In the Confederacy at the final reckoning there were eleven states in all, to be pitted against twenty-two; a population of nine millions, nearly one-half servile, to be pitted against twenty-two millions; a land without great industries to produce war supplies and without vast capital to furnish war finances, joined in battle with a nation already industrial and fortified by property worth eleven billion dollars. Even after the Confederate Congress authorized conscription in 1862, Southern man power, measured in numbers, was wholly inadequate to uphold the independence which had been declared. How, therefore, could the Confederacy hope to sustain itself against such a combination of men, money, and materials as the North could marshal?

Southern Expectations.—The answer to this question is to be found in the ideas that prevailed among Southern leaders. First of all, they hoped, in vain, to carry the Confederacy up to the Ohio River; and, with the aid of Missouri, to gain possession of the Mississippi Valley, the granary of the nation. In the second place, they reckoned upon a large and continuous trade with Great Britain—the exchange of cotton for war materials. They likewise expected to receive recognition and open aid from European powers that looked with satisfaction upon the breakup of the great American republic. In the third place, they believed that their control over several staples so essential to Northern industry would enable them to bring on an industrial crisis in the manufacturing states. "I firmly believe," wrote Senator Hammond, of South Carolina, in 1860, "that the slave-holding South is now the controlling power of the world; that no other power would face us in hostility. Cotton, rice, tobacco, and naval stores command the world; and we have the sense to know it and are sufficiently Teutonic to carry it out successfully. The North without us would be a motherless calf, bleating about, and die of mange and starvation."

There were other grounds for confidence. Having seized all of the federal military and naval supplies in the South, and having left the national government weak in armed power during their possession of the presidency, Southern leaders looked to a swift war, if it came at all, to put the finishing stroke to independence. "The greasy mechanics of the North," it was repeatedly said, "will not fight." As to disparity in numbers they drew historic parallels. "Our fathers, a mere handful, overcame the enormous power of Great Britain," a saying of ex-President Tyler, ran current to reassure the doubtful. Finally, and this point cannot be too strongly emphasized, the South expected to see a weakened and divided North. It knew that the abolitionists and the Southern sympathizers were ready to let the Confederate states go in peace; that Lincoln represented only a little more than one-third the voters of the country; and that the vote for Douglas, Bell, and Breckinridge meant a decided opposition to the Republicans and their policies.

Efforts at Compromise.—Republican leaders, on reviewing the same facts, were themselves uncertain as to the outcome of a civil war and made many efforts to avoid a crisis. Thurlow Weed, an Albany journalist and politician who had done much to carry New York for Lincoln, proposed a plan for extending the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific. Jefferson Davis, warning his followers that a war if it came would be terrible, was prepared to accept the offer; but Lincoln, remembering his campaign pledges, stood firm as a rock against it. His followers in Congress took the same position with regard to a similar settlement suggested by Senator Crittenden of Kentucky.

Though unwilling to surrender his solemn promises respecting slavery in the territories, Lincoln was prepared to give to Southern leaders a strong guarantee that his administration would not interfere directly or indirectly with slavery in the states. Anxious to reassure the South on this point, the Republicans in Congress proposed to write into the Constitution a declaration that no amendment should ever be made authorizing the abolition of or interference with slavery in any state. The resolution, duly passed, was sent forth on March 4, 1861, with the approval of Lincoln; it was actually ratified by three states before the storm of war destroyed it. By the irony of fate the thirteenth amendment was to abolish, not guarantee, slavery.

The War Measures of the Federal Government

Raising the Armies.—The crisis at Fort Sumter, on April 12-14, 1861, forced the President and Congress to turn from negotiations to problems of warfare. Little did they realize the magnitude of the task before them. Lincoln's first call for volunteers, issued on April 15, 1861, limited the number to 75,000, put their term of service at three months, and prescribed their duty as the enforcement of the law against combinations too powerful to be overcome by ordinary judicial process. Disillusionment swiftly followed. The terrible defeat of the Federals at Bull Run on July 21 revealed the serious character of the task before them; and by a series of measures Congress put the entire man power of the country at the President's command. Under these acts, he issued new calls for volunteers. Early in August, 1862, he ordered a draft of militiamen numbering 300,000 for nine months' service. The results were disappointing—ominous—for only about 87,000 soldiers were added to the army. Something more drastic was clearly necessary.

In March, 1863, Lincoln signed the inevitable draft law; it enrolled in the national forces liable to military duty all able-bodied male citizens and persons of foreign birth who had declared their intention to become citizens, between the ages of twenty and forty-five years—with exemptions on grounds of physical weakness and dependency. From the men enrolled were drawn by lot those destined to active service. Unhappily the measure struck a mortal blow at the principle of universal liability by excusing any person who found a substitute for himself or paid into the war office a sum, not exceeding three hundred dollars, to be fixed by general order. This provision, so crass and so obviously favoring the well-to-do, sowed seeds of bitterness which sprang up a hundredfold in the North.

The Draft Riots in New York City
The Draft Riots in New York City

The beginning of the drawings under the draft act in New York City, on Monday, July 13, 1863, was the signal for four days of rioting. In the course of this uprising, draft headquarters were destroyed; the office of the Tribune was gutted; negroes were seized, hanged, and shot; the homes of obnoxious Unionists were burned down; the residence of the mayor of the city was attacked; and regular battles were fought in the streets between the rioters and the police. Business stopped and a large part of the city passed absolutely into the control of the mob. Not until late the following Wednesday did enough troops arrive to restore order and enable the residents of the city to resume their daily activities. At least a thousand people had been killed or wounded and more than a million dollars' worth of damage done to property. The draft temporarily interrupted by this outbreak was then resumed and carried out without further trouble.

The results of the draft were in the end distinctly disappointing to the government. The exemptions were numerous and the number who preferred and were able to pay $300 rather than serve exceeded all expectations. Volunteering, it is true, was stimulated, but even that resource could hardly keep the thinning ranks of the army filled. With reluctance Congress struck out the $300 exemption clause, but still favored the well-to-do by allowing them to hire substitutes if they could find them. With all this power in its hands the administration was able by January, 1865, to construct a union army that outnumbered the Confederates two to one.

War Finance.—In the financial sphere the North faced immense difficulties. The surplus in the treasury had been dissipated by 1861 and the tariff of 1857 had failed to produce an income sufficient to meet the ordinary expenses of the government. Confronted by military and naval expenditures of appalling magnitude, rising from $35,000,000 in the first year of the war to $1,153,000,000 in the last year, the administration had to tap every available source of income. The duties on imports were increased, not once but many times, producing huge revenues and also meeting the most extravagant demands of the manufacturers for protection. Direct taxes were imposed on the states according to their respective populations, but the returns were meager—all out of proportion to the irritation involved. Stamp taxes and taxes on luxuries, occupations, and the earnings of corporations were laid with a weight that, in ordinary times, would have drawn forth opposition of ominous strength. The whole gamut of taxation was run. Even a tax on incomes and gains by the year, the first in the history of the federal government, was included in the long list.

Revenues were supplemented by bond issues, mounting in size and interest rate, until in October, at the end of the war, the debt stood at $2,208,000,000. The total cost of the war was many times the money value of all the slaves in the Southern states. To the debt must be added nearly half a billion dollars in "greenbacks"—paper money issued by Congress in desperation as bond sales and revenues from taxes failed to meet the rising expenditures. This currency issued at par on questionable warrant from the Constitution, like all such paper, quickly began to decline until in the worst fortunes of 1864 one dollar in gold was worth nearly three in greenbacks.

A Blockade Runner
A Blockade Runner

The Blockade of Southern Ports.—Four days after his call for volunteers, April 19, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation blockading the ports of the Southern Confederacy. Later the blockade was extended to Virginia and North Carolina, as they withdrew from the union. Vessels attempting to enter or leave these ports, if they disregarded the warnings of a blockading ship, were to be captured and brought as prizes to the nearest convenient port. To make the order effective, immediate steps were taken to increase the naval forces, depleted by neglect, until the entire coast line was patrolled with such a number of ships that it was a rare captain who ventured to run the gantlet. The collision between the Merrimac and the Monitor in March, 1862, sealed the fate of the Confederacy. The exploits of the union navy are recorded in the falling export of cotton: $202,000,000 in 1860; $42,000,000 in 1861; and $4,000,000 in 1862.

The deadly effect of this paralysis of trade upon Southern war power may be readily imagined. Foreign loans, payable in cotton, could be negotiated but not paid off. Supplies could be purchased on credit but not brought through the drag net. With extreme difficulty could the Confederate government secure even paper for the issue of money and bonds. Publishers, in despair at the loss of supplies, were finally driven to the use of brown wrapping paper and wall paper. As the railways and rolling stock wore out, it became impossible to renew them from England or France. Unable to export their cotton, planters on the seaboard burned it in what were called "fires of patriotism." In their lurid light the fatal weakness of Southern economy stood revealed.

Diplomacy.—The war had not advanced far before the federal government became involved in many perplexing problems of diplomacy in Europe. The Confederacy early turned to England and France for financial aid and for recognition as an independent power. Davis believed that the industrial crisis created by the cotton blockade would in time literally compel Europe to intervene in order to get this essential staple. The crisis came as he expected but not the result. Thousands of English textile workers were thrown out of employment; and yet, while on the point of starvation, they adopted resolutions favoring the North instead of petitioning their government to aid the South by breaking the blockade.

With the ruling classes it was far otherwise. Napoleon III, the Emperor of the French, was eager to help in disrupting the American republic; if he could have won England's support, he would have carried out his designs. As it turned out he found plenty of sympathy across the Channel but not open and official coöperation. According to the eminent historian, Rhodes, "four-fifths of the British House of Lords and most members of the House of Commons were favorable to the Confederacy and anxious for its triumph." Late in 1862 the British ministers, thus sustained, were on the point of recognizing the independence of the Confederacy. Had it not been for their extreme caution, for the constant and harassing criticism by English friends of the United States—like John Bright—and for the victories of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, both England and France would have doubtless declared the Confederacy to be one of the independent powers of the earth.

John Bright
John Bright

While stopping short of recognizing its independence, England and France took several steps that were in favor of the South. In proclaiming neutrality, they early accepted the Confederates as "belligerents" and accorded them the rights of people at war—a measure which aroused anger in the North at first but was later admitted to be sound. Otherwise Confederates taken in battle would have been regarded as "rebels" or "traitors" to be hanged or shot. Napoleon III proposed to Russia in 1861 a coalition of powers against the North, only to meet a firm refusal. The next year he suggested intervention to Great Britain, encountering this time a conditional rejection of his plans. In 1863, not daunted by rebuffs, he offered his services to Lincoln as a mediator, receiving in reply a polite letter declining his proposal and a sharp resolution from Congress suggesting that he attend to his own affairs.

In both England and France the governments pursued a policy of friendliness to the Confederate agents. The British ministry, with indifference if not connivance, permitted rams and ships to be built in British docks and allowed them to escape to play havoc under the Confederate flag with American commerce. One of them, the Alabama, built in Liverpool by a British firm and paid for by bonds sold in England, ran an extraordinary career and threatened to break the blockade. The course followed by the British government, against the protests of the American minister in London, was later regretted. By an award of a tribunal of arbitration at Geneva in 1872, Great Britain was required to pay the huge sum of $15,500,000 to cover the damages wrought by Confederate cruisers fitted out in England.

William H. Seward
William H. Seward

In all fairness it should be said that the conduct of the North contributed to the irritation between the two countries. Seward, the Secretary of State, was vindictive in dealing with Great Britain; had it not been for the moderation of Lincoln, he would have pursued a course verging in the direction of open war. The New York and Boston papers were severe in their attacks on England. Words were, on one occasion at least, accompanied by an act savoring of open hostility. In November, 1861, Captain Wilkes, commanding a union vessel, overhauled the British steamer Trent, and carried off by force two Confederate agents, Mason and Slidell, sent by President Davis to represent the Confederacy at London and Paris respectively. This was a clear violation of the right of merchant vessels to be immune from search and impressment; and, in answer to the demand of Great Britain for the release of the two men, the United States conceded that it was in the wrong. It surrendered the two Confederate agents to a British vessel for safe conduct abroad, and made appropriate apologies.

Emancipation.—Among the extreme war measures adopted by the Northern government must be counted the emancipation of the slaves in the states in arms against the union. This step was early and repeatedly suggested to Lincoln by the abolitionists; but was steadily put aside. He knew that the abolitionists were a mere handful, that emancipation might drive the border states into secession, and that the Northern soldiers had enlisted to save the union. Moreover, he had before him a solemn resolution passed by Congress on July 22, 1861, declaring the sole purpose of the war to be the salvation of the union and disavowing any intention of interfering with slavery.

The federal government, though pledged to the preservation of slavery, soon found itself beaten back upon its course and out upon a new tack. Before a year had elapsed, namely on April 10, 1862, Congress resolved that financial aid should be given to any state that might adopt gradual emancipation. Six days later it abolished slavery in the District of Columbia. Two short months elapsed. On June 19, 1862, it swept slavery forever from the territories of the United States. Chief Justice Taney still lived, the Dred Scott decision stood as written in the book, but the Constitution had been re-read in the light of the Civil War. The drift of public sentiment in the North was being revealed.

While these measures were pending in Congress, Lincoln was slowly making up his mind. By July of that year he had come to his great decision. Near the end of that month he read to his cabinet the draft of a proclamation of emancipation; but he laid it aside until a military achievement would make it something more than an idle gesture. In September, the severe check administered to Lee at Antietam seemed to offer the golden opportunity. On the 22d, the immortal document was given to the world announcing that, unless the states in arms returned to the union by January 1, 1863, the fatal blow at their "peculiar institution" would be delivered. Southern leaders treated it with slight regard, and so on the date set the promise was fulfilled. The proclamation was issued as a war measure, adopted by the President as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, on grounds of military necessity. It did not abolish slavery. It simply emancipated slaves in places then in arms against federal authority. Everywhere else slavery, as far as the Proclamation was concerned, remained lawful.

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

To seal forever the proclamation of emancipation, and to extend freedom to the whole country, Congress, in January, 1865, on the urgent recommendation of Lincoln, transmitted to the states the thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery throughout the United States. By the end of 1865 the amendment was ratified. The house was not divided against itself; it did not fall; it was all free.

The Restraint of Civil Liberty.—As in all great wars, particularly those in the nature of a civil strife, it was found necessary to use strong measures to sustain opinion favorable to the administration's military policies and to frustrate the designs of those who sought to hamper its action. Within two weeks of his first call for volunteers, Lincoln empowered General Scott to suspend the writ of habeas corpus along the line of march between Philadelphia and Washington and thus to arrest and hold without interference from civil courts any one whom he deemed a menace to the union. At a later date the area thus ruled by military officers was extended by executive proclamation. By an act of March 3, 1863, Congress, desiring to lay all doubts about the President's power, authorized him to suspend the writ throughout the United States or in any part thereof. It also freed military officers from the necessity of surrendering to civil courts persons arrested under their orders, or even making answers to writs issued from such courts. In the autumn of that year the President, acting under the terms of this law, declared this ancient and honorable instrument for the protection of civil liberties, the habeas corpus, suspended throughout the length and breadth of the land. The power of the government was also strengthened by an act defining and punishing certain conspiracies, passed on July 31, 1861—a measure which imposed heavy penalties on those who by force, intimidation, or threat interfered with the execution of the law.

Thus doubly armed, the military authorities spared no one suspected of active sympathy with the Southern cause. Editors were arrested and imprisoned, their papers suspended, and their newsboys locked up. Those who organized "peace meetings" soon found themselves in the toils of the law. Members of the Maryland legislature, the mayor of Baltimore, and local editors suspected of entertaining secessionist opinions, were imprisoned on military orders although charged with no offense, and were denied the privilege of examination before a civil magistrate. A Vermont farmer, too outspoken in his criticism of the government, found himself behind the bars until the government, in its good pleasure, saw fit to release him. These measures were not confined to the theater of war nor to the border states where the spirit of secession was strong enough to endanger the cause of union. They were applied all through the Northern states up to the very boundaries of Canada. Zeal for the national cause, too often supplemented by a zeal for persecution, spread terror among those who wavered in the singleness of their devotion to the union.

These drastic operations on the part of military authorities, so foreign to the normal course of civilized life, naturally aroused intense and bitter hostility. Meetings of protest were held throughout the country. Thirty-six members of the House of Representatives sought to put on record their condemnation of the suspension of the habeas corpus act, only to meet a firm denial by the supporters of the act. Chief Justice Taney, before whom the case of a man arrested under the President's military authority was brought, emphatically declared, in a long and learned opinion bristling with historical examples, that the President had no power to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. In Congress and out, Democrats, abolitionists, and champions of civil liberty denounced Lincoln and his Cabinet in unsparing terms. Vallandigham, a Democratic leader of Ohio, afterward banished to the South for his opposition to the war, constantly applied to Lincoln the epithet of "Cæsar." Wendell Phillips saw in him "a more unlimited despot than the world knows this side of China."

Sensitive to such stinging thrusts and no friend of wanton persecution, Lincoln attempted to mitigate the rigors of the law by paroling many political prisoners. The general policy, however, he defended in homely language, very different in tone and meaning from the involved reasoning of the lawyers. "Must I shoot a simple-minded soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of the wily agitator who induces him to desert?" he asked in a quiet way of some spokesmen for those who protested against arresting people for "talking against the war." This summed up his philosophy. He was engaged in a war to save the union, and all measures necessary and proper to accomplish that purpose were warranted by the Constitution which he had sworn to uphold.

Military Strategy—North and South.—The broad outlines of military strategy followed by the commanders of the opposing forces are clear even to the layman who cannot be expected to master the details of a campaign or, for that matter, the maneuvers of a single great battle. The problem for the South was one of defense mainly, though even for defense swift and paralyzing strokes at the North were later deemed imperative measures. The problem of the North was, to put it baldly, one of invasion and conquest. Southern territory had to be invaded and Southern armies beaten on their own ground or worn down to exhaustion there.

In the execution of this undertaking, geography, as usual, played a significant part in the disposition of forces. The Appalachian ranges, stretching through the Confederacy to Northern Alabama, divided the campaigns into Eastern and Western enterprises. Both were of signal importance. Victory in the East promised the capture of the Confederate capital of Richmond, a stroke of moral worth, hardly to be overestimated. Victory in the West meant severing the Confederacy and opening the Mississippi Valley down to the Gulf.

As it turned out, the Western forces accomplished their task first, vindicating the military powers of union soldiers and shaking the confidence of opposing commanders. In February, 1862, Grant captured Fort Donelson on the Tennessee River, rallied wavering unionists in Kentucky, forced the evacuation of Nashville, and opened the way for two hundred miles into the Confederacy. At Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, desperate fighting followed and, in spite of varying fortunes, it resulted in the discomfiture and retirement of Confederate forces to the Southeast into Georgia. By the middle of 1863, the Mississippi Valley was open to the Gulf, the initiative taken out of the hands of Southern commanders in the West, and the way prepared for Sherman's final stroke—the march from Atlanta to the sea—a maneuver executed with needless severity in the autumn of 1864.

General Ulysses S. Grant
General Ulysses S. Grant
General Robert E. Lee
General Robert E. Lee

For the almost unbroken succession of achievements in the West by Generals Grant, Sherman, Thomas, and Hooker against Albert Sidney Johnston, Bragg, Pemberton, and Hood, the union forces in the East offered at first an almost equally unbroken series of misfortunes and disasters. Far from capturing Richmond, they had been thrown on the defensive. General after general—McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade—was tried and found wanting. None of them could administer a crushing defeat to the Confederate troops and more than once the union soldiers were beaten in a fair battle. They did succeed, however, in delivering a severe check to advancing Confederates under General Robert E. Lee, first at Antietam in September, 1862, and then at Gettysburg in July, 1863—checks reckoned as victories though in each instance the Confederates escaped without demoralization. Not until the beginning of the next year, when General Grant, supplied with almost unlimited men and munitions, began his irresistible hammering at Lee's army, did the final phase of the war commence. The pitiless drive told at last. General Lee, on April 9, 1865, seeing the futility of further conflict, surrendered an army still capable of hard fighting, at Appomattox, not far from the capital of the Confederacy.

The Federal Military Hospital at Gettysburg
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
The Federal Military Hospital at Gettysburg

Abraham Lincoln.—The services of Lincoln to the cause of union defy description. A judicial scrutiny of the war reveals his thought and planning in every part of the varied activity that finally crowned Northern arms with victory. Is it in the field of diplomacy? Does Seward, the Secretary of State, propose harsh and caustic measures likely to draw England's sword into the scale? Lincoln counsels moderation. He takes the irritating message and with his own hand strikes out, erases, tones down, and interlines, exchanging for words that sting and burn the language of prudence and caution. Is it a matter of compromise with the South, so often proposed by men on both sides sick of carnage? Lincoln is always ready to listen and turns away only when he is invited to surrender principles essential to the safety of the union. Is it high strategy of war, a question of the general best fitted to win Gettysburg—Hooker, Sedgwick, or Meade? Lincoln goes in person to the War Department in the dead of night to take counsel with his Secretary and to make the fateful choice.

Is it a complaint from a citizen, deprived, as he believes, of his civil liberties unjustly or in violation of the Constitution? Lincoln is ready to hear it and anxious to afford relief, if warrant can be found for it. Is a mother begging for the life of a son sentenced to be shot as a deserter? Lincoln hears her petition, and grants it even against the protests made by his generals in the name of military discipline. Do politicians sow dissensions in the army and among civilians? Lincoln grandly waves aside their petty personalities and invites them to think of the greater cause. Is it a question of securing votes to ratify the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery? Lincoln thinks it not beneath his dignity to traffic and huckster with politicians over the trifling jobs asked in return by the members who hold out against him. Does a New York newspaper call him an ignorant Western boor? Lincoln's reply is a letter to a mother who has given her all—her sons on the field of battle—and an address at Gettysburg, both of which will live as long as the tongue in which they were written. These are tributes not only to his mastery of the English language but also to his mastery of all those sentiments of sweetness and strength which are the finest flowers of culture.

Throughout the entire span of service, however, Lincoln was beset by merciless critics. The fiery apostles of abolition accused him of cowardice when he delayed the bold stroke at slavery. Anti-war Democrats lashed out at every step he took. Even in his own party he found no peace. Charles Sumner complained: "Our President is now dictator, imperatorwhichever you like; but how vain to have the power of a god and not to use it godlike." Leaders among the Republicans sought to put him aside in 1864 and place Chase in his chair. "I hope we may never have a worse man," was Lincoln's quiet answer.

Wide were the dissensions in the North during that year and the Republicans, while selecting Lincoln as their candidate again, cast off their old name and chose the simple title of the "Union party." Moreover, they selected a Southern man, Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, to be associated with him as candidate for Vice President. This combination the Northern Democrats boldly confronted with a platform declaring that "after four years of failure to restore the union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretence of military necessity or war power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part and public liberty and private right alike trodden down ... justice, humanity, liberty, and public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, to the end that peace may be restored on the basis of the federal union of the states." It is true that the Democratic candidate, General McClellan, sought to break the yoke imposed upon him by the platform, saying that he could not look his old comrades in the face and pronounce their efforts vain; but the party call to the nation to repudiate Lincoln and his works had gone forth. The response came, giving Lincoln 2,200,000 votes against 1,800,000 for his opponent. The bitter things said about him during the campaign, he forgot and forgave. When in April, 1865, he was struck down by the assassin's hand, he above all others in Washington was planning measures of moderation and healing.

The Results of the Civil War

There is a strong and natural tendency on the part of writers to stress the dramatic and heroic aspects of war; but the long judgment of history requires us to include all other significant phases as well. Like every great armed conflict, the Civil War outran the purposes of those who took part in it. Waged over the nature of the union, it made a revolution in the union, changing public policies and constitutional principles and giving a new direction to agriculture and industry.

The Supremacy of the Union.—First and foremost, the war settled for all time the long dispute as to the nature of the federal system. The doctrine of state sovereignty was laid to rest. Men might still speak of the rights of states and think of their commonwealths with affection, but nullification and secession were destroyed. The nation was supreme.

The Destruction of the Slave Power.—Next to the vindication of national supremacy was the destruction of the planting aristocracy of the South—that great power which had furnished leadership of undoubted ability and had so long contested with the industrial and commercial interests of the North. The first paralyzing blow at the planters was struck by the abolition of slavery. The second and third came with the fourteenth (1868) and fifteenth (1870) amendments, giving the ballot to freedmen and excluding from public office the Confederate leaders—driving from the work of reconstruction the finest talents of the South. As if to add bitterness to gall and wormwood, the fourteenth amendment forbade the United States or any state to pay any debts incurred in aid of the Confederacy or in the emancipation of the slaves—plunging into utter bankruptcy the Southern financiers who had stripped their section of capital to support their cause. So the Southern planters found themselves excluded from public office and ruled over by their former bondmen under the tutelage of Republican leaders. Their labor system was wrecked and their money and bonds were as worthless as waste paper. The South was subject to the North. That which neither the Federalists nor the Whigs had been able to accomplish in the realm of statecraft was accomplished on the field of battle.

The Triumph of Industry.—The wreck of the planting system was accompanied by a mighty upswing of Northern industry which made the old Whigs of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania stare in wonderment. The demands of the federal government for manufactured goods at unrestricted prices gave a stimulus to business which more than replaced the lost markets of the South. Between 1860 and 1870 the number of manufacturing establishments increased 79.6 per cent as against 14.2 for the previous decade; while the number of persons employed almost doubled. There was no doubt about the future of American industry.

The Victory for the Protective Tariff.—Moreover, it was henceforth to be well protected. For many years before the war the friends of protection had been on the defensive. The tariff act of 1857 imposed duties so low as to presage a tariff for revenue only. The war changed all that. The extraordinary military expenditures, requiring heavy taxes on all sources, justified tariffs so high that a follower of Clay or Webster might well have gasped with astonishment. After the war was over the debt remained and both interest and principal had to be paid. Protective arguments based on economic reasoning were supported by a plain necessity for revenue which admitted no dispute.

A Liberal Immigration Policy.—Linked with industry was the labor supply. The problem of manning industries became a pressing matter, and Republican leaders grappled with it. In the platform of the Union party adopted in 1864 it was declared "that foreign immigration, which in the past has added so much to the wealth, the development of resources, and the increase of power to this nation—the asylum of the oppressed of all nations—should be fostered and encouraged by a liberal and just policy." In that very year Congress, recognizing the importance of the problem, passed a measure of high significance, creating a bureau of immigration, and authorizing a modified form of indentured labor, by making it legal for immigrants to pledge their wages in advance to pay their passage over. Though the bill was soon repealed, the practice authorized by it was long continued. The cheapness of the passage shortened the term of service; but the principle was older than the days of William Penn.

The Homestead Act of 1862.—In the immigration measure guaranteeing a continuous and adequate labor supply, the manufacturers saw an offset to the Homestead Act of 1862 granting free lands to settlers. The Homestead law they had resisted in a long and bitter congressional battle. Naturally, they had not taken kindly to a scheme which lured men away from the factories or enabled them to make unlimited demands for higher wages as the price of remaining. Southern planters likewise had feared free homesteads for the very good reason that they only promised to add to the overbalancing power of the North.

In spite of the opposition, supporters of a liberal land policy made steady gains. Free-soil Democrats,—Jacksonian farmers and mechanics,—labor reformers, and political leaders, like Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, kept up the agitation in season and out. More than once were they able to force a homestead bill through the House of Representatives only to have it blocked in the Senate where Southern interests were intrenched. Then, after the Senate was won over, a Democratic President, James Buchanan, vetoed the bill. Still the issue lived. The Republicans, strong among the farmers of the Northwest, favored it from the beginning and pressed it upon the attention of the country. Finally the manufacturers yielded; they received their compensation in the contract labor law. In 1862 Congress provided for the free distribution of land in 160-acre lots among men and women of strong arms and willing hearts ready to build their serried lines of homesteads to the Rockies and beyond.

Internal Improvements.—If farmers and manufacturers were early divided on the matter of free homesteads, the same could hardly be said of internal improvements. The Western tiller of the soil was as eager for some easy way of sending his produce to market as the manufacturer was for the same means to transport his goods to the consumer on the farm. While the Confederate leaders were writing into their constitution a clause forbidding all appropriations for internal improvements, the Republican leaders at Washington were planning such expenditures from the treasury in the form of public land grants to railways as would have dazed the authors of the national road bill half a century earlier.

Sound Finance—National Banking.—From Hamilton's day to Lincoln's, business men in the East had contended for a sound system of national currency. The experience of the states with paper money, painfully impressive in the years before the framing of the Constitution, had been convincing to those who understood the economy of business. The Constitution, as we have seen, bore the signs of this experience. States were forbidden to emit bills of credit: paper money, in short. This provision stood clear in the document; but judicial ingenuity had circumvented it in the age of Jacksonian Democracy. The states had enacted and the Supreme Court, after the death of John Marshall, had sustained laws chartering banking companies and authorizing them to issue paper money. So the country was beset by the old curse, the banks of Western and Southern states issuing reams of paper notes to help borrowers pay their debts.

In dealing with war finances, the Republicans attacked this ancient evil. By act of Congress in 1864, they authorized a series of national banks founded on the credit of government bonds and empowered to issue notes. The next year they stopped all bank paper sent forth under the authority of the states by means of a prohibitive tax. In this way, by two measures Congress restored federal control over the monetary system although it did not reëstablish the United States Bank so hated by Jacksonian Democracy.

Destruction of States' Rights by Fourteenth Amendment.—These acts and others not cited here were measures of centralization and consolidation at the expense of the powers and dignity of the states. They were all of high import, but the crowning act of nationalism was the fourteenth amendment which, among other things, forbade states to "deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law." The immediate occasion, though not the actual cause of this provision, was the need for protecting the rights of freedmen against hostile legislatures in the South. The result of the amendment, as was prophesied in protests loud and long from every quarter of the Democratic party, was the subjection of every act of state, municipal, and county authorities to possible annulment by the Supreme Court at Washington. The expected happened.

Few negroes ever brought cases under the fourteenth amendment to the attention of the courts; but thousands of state laws, municipal ordinances, and acts of local authorities were set aside as null and void under it. Laws of states regulating railway rates, fixing hours of labor in bakeshops, and taxing corporations were in due time to be annulled as conflicting with an amendment erroneously supposed to be designed solely for the protection of negroes. As centralized power over tariffs, railways, public lands, and other national concerns went to Congress, so centralized power over the acts of state and local authorities involving an infringement of personal and property rights was conferred on the federal judiciary, the apex of which was the Supreme Court at Washington. Thus the old federation of "independent states," all equal in rights and dignity, each wearing the "jewel of sovereignty" so celebrated in Southern oratory, had gone the way of all flesh under the withering blasts of Civil War.

Reconstruction in the South

Theories about the Position of the Seceded States.—On the morning of April 9, 1865, when General Lee surrendered his army to General Grant, eleven states stood in a peculiar relation to the union now declared perpetual. Lawyers and political philosophers were much perturbed and had been for some time as to what should be done with the members of the former Confederacy. Radical Republicans held that they were "conquered provinces" at the mercy of Congress, to be governed under such laws as it saw fit to enact and until in its wisdom it decided to readmit any or all of them to the union. Men of more conservative views held that, as the war had been waged by the North on the theory that no state could secede from the union, the Confederate states had merely attempted to withdraw and had failed. The corollary of this latter line of argument was simple: "The Southern states are still in the union and it is the duty of the President, as commander-in-chief, to remove the federal troops as soon as order is restored and the state governments ready to function once more as usual."

Lincoln's Proposal.—Some such simple and conservative form of reconstruction had been suggested by Lincoln in a proclamation of December 8, 1863. He proposed pardon and a restoration of property, except in slaves, to nearly all who had "directly or by implication participated in the existing rebellion," on condition that they take an oath of loyalty to the union. He then announced that when, in any of the states named, a body of voters, qualified under the law as it stood before secession and equal in number to one-tenth the votes cast in 1860, took the oath of allegiance, they should be permitted to reëstablish a state government. Such a government, he added, should be recognized as a lawful authority and entitled to protection under the federal Constitution. With reference to the status of the former slaves Lincoln made it clear that, while their freedom must be recognized, he would not object to any legislation "which may yet be consistent as a temporary arrangement with their present condition as a laboring, landless, and homeless class."

Andrew Johnson's Plan—His Impeachment.—Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, the Vice President, soon after taking office, proposed to pursue a somewhat similar course. In a number of states he appointed military governors, instructing them at the earliest possible moment to assemble conventions, chosen "by that portion of the people of the said states who are loyal to the United States," and proceed to the organization of regular civil government. Johnson, a Southern man and a Democrat, was immediately charged by the Republicans with being too ready to restore the Southern states. As the months went by, the opposition to his measures and policies in Congress grew in size and bitterness. The contest resulted in the impeachment of Johnson by the House of Representatives in March, 1868, and his acquittal by the Senate merely because his opponents lacked one vote of the two-thirds required for conviction.

Congress Enacts "Reconstruction Laws."—In fact, Congress was in a strategic position. It was the law-making body, and it could, moreover, determine the conditions under which Senators and Representatives from the South were to be readmitted. It therefore proceeded to pass a series of reconstruction acts—carrying all of them over Johnson's veto. These measures, the first of which became a law on March 2, 1867, betrayed an animus not found anywhere in Lincoln's plans or Johnson's proclamations.

They laid off the ten states—the whole Confederacy with the exception of Tennessee—still outside the pale, into five military districts, each commanded by a military officer appointed by the President. They ordered the commanding general to prepare a register of voters for the election of delegates to conventions chosen for the purpose of drafting new constitutions. Such voters, however, were not to be, as Lincoln had suggested, loyal persons duly qualified under the law existing before secession but "the male citizens of said state, twenty-one years old and upward, of whatever race, color, or previous condition, ... except such as may be disfranchised for participation in the rebellion or for felony at common law." This was the death knell to the idea that the leaders of the Confederacy and their white supporters might be permitted to share in the establishment of the new order. Power was thus arbitrarily thrust into the hands of the newly emancipated male negroes and the handful of whites who could show a record of loyalty. That was not all. Each state was, under the reconstruction acts, compelled to ratify the fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution as a price of restoration to the union.

The composition of the conventions thus authorized may be imagined. Bondmen without the asking and without preparation found themselves the governing power. An army of adventurers from the North, "carpet baggers" as they were called, poured in upon the scene to aid in "reconstruction." Undoubtedly many men of honor and fine intentions gave unstinted service, but the results of their deliberations only aggravated the open wound left by the war. Any number of political doctors offered their prescriptions; but no effective remedy could be found. Under measures admittedly open to grave objections, the Southern states were one after another restored to the union by the grace of Congress, the last one in 1870. Even this grudging concession of the formalities of statehood did not mean a full restoration of honors and privileges. The last soldier was not withdrawn from the last Southern capital until 1877, and federal control over elections long remained as a sign of congressional supremacy.

The Status of the Freedmen.—Even more intricate than the issues involved in restoring the seceded states to the union was the question of what to do with the newly emancipated slaves. That problem, often put to abolitionists before the war, had become at last a real concern. The thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery had not touched it at all. It declared bondmen free, but did nothing to provide them with work or homes and did not mention the subject of political rights. All these matters were left to the states, and the legislatures of some of them, by their famous "black codes," restored a form of servitude under the guise of vagrancy and apprentice laws. Such methods were in fact partly responsible for the reaction that led Congress to abandon Lincoln's policies and undertake its own program of reconstruction.

Still no extensive effort was made to solve by law the economic problems of the bondmen. Radical abolitionists had advocated that the slaves when emancipated should be given outright the fields of their former masters; but Congress steadily rejected the very idea of confiscation. The necessity of immediate assistance it recognized by creating in 1865 the Freedmen's Bureau to take care of refugees. It authorized the issue of food and clothing to the destitute and the renting of abandoned and certain other lands under federal control to former slaves at reasonable rates. But the larger problem of the relation of the freedmen to the land, it left to the slow working of time.

Against sharp protests from conservative men, particularly among the Democrats, Congress did insist, however, on conferring upon the freedmen certain rights by national law. These rights fell into broad divisions, civil and political. By an act passed in 1866, Congress gave to former slaves the rights of white citizens in the matter of making contracts, giving testimony in courts, and purchasing, selling, and leasing property. As it was doubtful whether Congress had the power to enact this law, there was passed and submitted to the states the fourteenth amendment which gave citizenship to the freedmen, assured them of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States, and declared that no state should deprive any person of his life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Not yet satisfied, Congress attempted to give social equality to negroes by the second civil rights bill of 1875 which promised to them, among other things, the full and equal enjoyment of inns, theaters, public conveyances, and places of amusement—a law later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The matter of political rights was even more hotly contested; but the radical Republicans, like Charles Sumner, asserted that civil rights were not secure unless supported by the suffrage. In this same fourteenth amendment they attempted to guarantee the ballot to all negro men, leaving the women to take care of themselves. The amendment declared in effect that when any state deprived adult male citizens of the right to vote, its representation in Congress should be reduced in the proportion such persons bore to the voting population.

This provision having failed to accomplish its purpose, the fifteenth amendment was passed and ratified, expressly declaring that no citizen should be deprived of the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." To make assurance doubly secure, Congress enacted in 1870, 1872, and 1873 three drastic laws, sometimes known as "force bills," providing for the use of federal authorities, civil and military, in supervising elections in all parts of the Union. So the federal government, having destroyed chattel slavery, sought by legal decree to sweep away all its signs and badges, civil, social, and political. Never, save perhaps in some of the civil conflicts of Greece or Rome, had there occurred in the affairs of a nation a social revolution so complete, so drastic, and far-reaching in its results.

Summary of the Sectional Conflict

Just as the United States, under the impetus of Western enterprise, rounded out the continental domain, its very existence as a nation was challenged by a fratricidal conflict between two sections. This storm had been long gathering upon the horizon. From the very beginning in colonial times there had been a marked difference between the South and the North. The former by climate and soil was dedicated to a planting system—the cultivation of tobacco, rice, cotton, and sugar cane—and in the course of time slave labor became the foundation of the system. The North, on the other hand, supplemented agriculture by commerce, trade, and manufacturing. Slavery, though lawful, did not flourish there. An abundant supply of free labor kept the Northern wheels turning.

This difference between the two sections, early noted by close observers, was increased with the advent of the steam engine and the factory system. Between 1815 and 1860 an industrial revolution took place in the North. Its signs were gigantic factories, huge aggregations of industrial workers, immense cities, a flourishing commerce, and prosperous banks. Finding an unfavorable reception in the South, the new industrial system was confined mainly to the North. By canals and railways New York, Boston, and Philadelphia were linked with the wheatfields of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. A steel net wove North and Northwest together. A commercial net supplemented it. Western trade was diverted from New Orleans to the East and Eastern credit sustained Western enterprise.

In time, the industrial North and the planting South evolved different ideas of political policy. The former looked with favor on protective tariffs, ship subsidies, a sound national banking system, and internal improvements. The farmers of the West demanded that the public domain be divided up into free homesteads for farmers. The South steadily swung around to the opposite view. Its spokesmen came to regard most of these policies as injurious to the planting interests.

The economic questions were all involved in a moral issue. The Northern states, in which slavery was of slight consequence, had early abolished the institution. In the course of a few years there appeared uncompromising advocates of universal emancipation. Far and wide the agitation spread. The South was thoroughly frightened. It demanded protection against the agitators, the enforcement of its rights in the case of runaway slaves, and equal privileges for slavery in the new territories.

With the passing years the conflict between the two sections increased in bitterness. It flamed up in 1820 and was allayed by the Missouri compromise. It took on the form of a tariff controversy and nullification in 1832. It appeared again after the Mexican war when the question of slavery in the new territories was raised. Again compromise—the great settlement of 1850—seemed to restore peace, only to prove an illusion. A series of startling events swept the country into war: the repeal of the Missouri compromise in 1854, the rise of the Republican party pledged to the prohibition of slavery in the territories, the Dred Scott decision of 1857, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid, the election of Lincoln, and secession.

The Civil War, lasting for four years, tested the strength of both North and South, in leadership, in finance, in diplomatic skill, in material resources, in industry, and in armed forces. By the blockade of Southern ports, by an overwhelming weight of men and materials, and by relentless hammering on the field of battle, the North was victorious.

The results of the war were revolutionary in character. Slavery was abolished and the freedmen given the ballot. The Southern planters who had been the leaders of their section were ruined financially and almost to a man excluded from taking part in political affairs. The union was declared to be perpetual and the right of a state to secede settled by the judgment of battle. Federal control over the affairs of states, counties, and cities was established by the fourteenth amendment. The power and prestige of the federal government were enhanced beyond imagination. The North was now free to pursue its economic policies: a protective tariff, a national banking system, land grants for railways, free lands for farmers. Planting had dominated the country for nearly a generation. Business enterprise was to take its place.


Northern Accounts

J.K. Hosmer, The Appeal to Arms and The Outcome of the Civil War (American Nation Series).

J. Ropes, History of the Civil War (best account of military campaigns).

J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States, Vols. III, IV, and V.

J.T. Morse, Abraham Lincoln (2 vols.).

Southern Accounts

W.E. Dodd, Jefferson Davis.

Jefferson Davis, Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

E. Pollard, The Lost Cause.

A.H. Stephens, The War between the States.


1. Contrast the reception of secession in 1860 with that given to nullification in 1832.

2. Compare the Northern and Southern views of the union.

3. What were the peculiar features of the Confederate constitution?

4. How was the Confederacy financed?

5. Compare the resources of the two sections.

6. On what foundations did Southern hopes rest?

7. Describe the attempts at a peaceful settlement.

8. Compare the raising of armies for the Civil War with the methods employed in the World War. (See below, chapter xxv.)

9. Compare the financial methods of the government in the two wars.

10. Explain why the blockade was such a deadly weapon.

11. Give the leading diplomatic events of the war.

12. Trace the growth of anti-slavery sentiment.

13. What measures were taken to restrain criticism of the government?

14. What part did Lincoln play in all phases of the war?

15. State the principal results of the war.

16. Compare Lincoln's plan of reconstruction with that adopted by Congress.

17. What rights did Congress attempt to confer upon the former slaves?

Research Topics

Was Secession Lawful?—The Southern view by Jefferson Davis in Harding, Select Orations Illustrating American History, pp. 364-369. Lincoln's view, Harding, pp. 371-381.

The Confederate Constitution.—Compare with the federal Constitution in Macdonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 424-433 and pp. 271-279.

Federal Legislative Measures.—Prepare a table and brief digest of the important laws relating to the war. Macdonald, pp. 433-482.

Economic Aspects of the War.—Coman, Industrial History of the United States, pp. 279-301. Dewey, Financial History of the United States, Chaps. XII and XIII. Tabulate the economic measures of Congress in Macdonald.

Military Campaigns.—The great battles are fully treated in Rhodes, History of the Civil War, and teachers desiring to emphasize military affairs may assign campaigns to members of the class for study and report. A briefer treatment in Elson, History of the United States, pp. 641-785.

Biographical Studies.—Lincoln, Davis, Lee, Grant, Sherman, and other leaders in civil and military affairs, with reference to local "war governors."

English and French Opinion of the War.—Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. IV, pp. 337-394.

The South during the War.—Rhodes, Vol. V, pp. 343-382.

The North during the War.—Rhodes, Vol. V, pp. 189-342.

Reconstruction Measures.—Macdonald, Source Book, pp. 500-511; 514-518; 529-530; Elson, pp. 786-799.

The Force Bills.—Macdonald, pp. 547-551; 554-564.




The outcome of the Civil War in the South was nothing short of a revolution. The ruling class, the law, and the government of the old order had been subverted. To political chaos was added the havoc wrought in agriculture, business, and transportation by military operations. And as if to fill the cup to the brim, the task of reconstruction was committed to political leaders from another section of the country, strangers to the life and traditions of the South.

The South at the Close of the War

A Ruling Class Disfranchised.—As the sovereignty of the planters had been the striking feature of the old régime, so their ruin was the outstanding fact of the new. The situation was extraordinary. The American Revolution was carried out by people experienced in the arts of self-government, and at its close they were free to follow the general course to which they had long been accustomed. The French Revolution witnessed the overthrow of the clergy and the nobility; but middle classes who took their places had been steadily rising in intelligence and wealth.

The Southern Revolution was unlike either of these cataclysms. It was not brought about by a social upheaval, but by an external crisis. It did not enfranchise a class that sought and understood power, but bondmen who had played no part in the struggle. Moreover it struck down a class equipped to rule. The leading planters were almost to a man excluded from state and federal offices, and the fourteenth amendment was a bar to their return. All civil and military places under the authority of the United States and of the states were closed to every man who had taken an oath to support the Constitution as a member of Congress, as a state legislator, or as a state or federal officer, and afterward engaged in "insurrection or rebellion," or "given aid and comfort to the enemies" of the United States. This sweeping provision, supplemented by the reconstruction acts, laid under the ban most of the talent, energy, and spirit of the South.

The Condition of the State Governments.—The legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the state governments thus passed into the control of former slaves, led principally by Northern adventurers or Southern novices, known as "Scalawags." The result was a carnival of waste, folly, and corruption. The "reconstruction" assembly of South Carolina bought clocks at $480 apiece and chandeliers at $650. To purchase land for former bondmen the sum of $800,000 was appropriated; and swamps bought at seventy-five cents an acre were sold to the state at five times the cost. In the years between 1868 and 1873, the debt of the state rose from about $5,800,000 to $24,000,000, and millions of the increase could not be accounted for by the authorities responsible for it.

Economic Ruin—Urban and Rural.—No matter where Southern men turned in 1865 they found devastation—in the towns, in the country, and along the highways. Atlanta, the city to which Sherman applied the torch, lay in ashes; Nashville and Chattanooga had been partially wrecked; Richmond and Augusta had suffered severely from fires. Charleston was described by a visitor as "a city of ruins, of desolation, of vacant houses, of rotten wharves, of deserted warehouses, of weed gardens, of miles of grass-grown streets.... How few young men there are, how generally the young women are dressed in black! The flower of their proud aristocracy is buried on scores of battle fields."

Those who journeyed through the country about the same time reported desolation equally widespread and equally pathetic. An English traveler who made his way along the course of the Tennessee River in 1870 wrote: "The trail of war is visible throughout the valley in burnt-up gin houses, ruined bridges, mills, and factories ... and large tracts of once cultivated land are stripped of every vestige of fencing. The roads, long neglected, are in disorder and, having in many places become impassable, new tracks have been made through the woods and fields without much respect to boundaries." Many a great plantation had been confiscated by the federal authorities while the owner was in Confederate service. Many more lay in waste. In the wake of the armies the homes of rich and poor alike, if spared the torch, had been despoiled of the stock and seeds necessary to renew agriculture.

Railways Dilapidated.—Transportation was still more demoralized. This is revealed in the pages of congressional reports based upon first-hand investigations. One eloquent passage illustrates all the rest. From Pocahontas to Decatur, Alabama, a distance of 114 miles, we are told, the railroad was "almost entirely destroyed, except the road bed and iron rails, and they were in a very bad condition—every bridge and trestle destroyed, cross-ties rotten, buildings burned, water tanks gone, tracks grown up in weeds and bushes, not a saw mill near the line and the labor system of the country gone. About forty miles of the track were burned, the cross-ties entirely destroyed, and the rails bent and twisted in such a manner as to require great labor to straighten and a large portion of them requiring renewal."

Capital and Credit Destroyed.—The fluid capital of the South, money and credit, was in the same prostrate condition as the material capital. The Confederate currency, inflated to the bursting point, had utterly collapsed and was as worthless as waste paper. The bonds of the Confederate government were equally valueless. Specie had nearly disappeared from circulation. The fourteenth amendment to the federal Constitution had made all "debts, obligations, and claims" incurred in aid of the Confederate cause "illegal and void." Millions of dollars owed to Northern creditors before the war were overdue and payment was pressed upon the debtors. Where such debts were secured by mortgages on land, executions against the property could be obtained in federal courts.

The Restoration of White Supremacy

Intimidation.—In both politics and economics, the process of reconstruction in the South was slow and arduous. The first battle in the political contest for white supremacy was won outside the halls of legislatures and the courts of law. It was waged, in the main, by secret organizations, among which the Ku Klux Klan and the White Camelia were the most prominent. The first of these societies appeared in Tennessee in 1866 and held its first national convention the following year. It was in origin a social club. According to its announcement, its objects were "to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenceless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal; and to succor the suffering, especially the widows and orphans of the Confederate soldiers." The whole South was called "the Empire" and was ruled by a "Grand Wizard." Each state was a realm and each county a province. In the secret orders there were enrolled over half a million men.

The methods of the Ku Klux and the White Camelia were similar. Solemn parades of masked men on horses decked in long robes were held, sometimes in the daytime and sometimes at the dead of night. Notices were sent to obnoxious persons warning them to stop certain practices. If warning failed, something more convincing was tried. Fright was the emotion most commonly stirred. A horseman, at the witching hour of midnight, would ride up to the house of some offender, lift his head gear, take off a skull, and hand it to the trembling victim with the request that he hold it for a few minutes. Frequently violence was employed either officially or unofficially by members of the Klan. Tar and feathers were freely applied; the whip was sometimes laid on unmercifully, and occasionally a brutal murder was committed. Often the members were fired upon from bushes or behind trees, and swift retaliation followed. So alarming did the clashes become that in 1870 Congress forbade interference with electors or going in disguise for the purpose of obstructing the exercise of the rights enjoyed under federal law.

In anticipation of such a step on the part of the federal government, the Ku Klux was officially dissolved by the "Grand Wizard" in 1869. Nevertheless, the local societies continued their organization and methods. The spirit survived the national association. "On the whole," says a Southern writer, "it is not easy to see what other course was open to the South.... Armed resistance was out of the question. And yet there must be some control had of the situation.... If force was denied, craft was inevitable."

The Struggle for the Ballot Box.—The effects of intimidation were soon seen at elections. The freedman, into whose inexperienced hand the ballot had been thrust, was ordinarily loath to risk his head by the exercise of his new rights. He had not attained them by a long and laborious contest of his own and he saw no urgent reason why he should battle for the privilege of using them. The mere show of force, the mere existence of a threat, deterred thousands of ex-slaves from appearing at the polls. Thus the whites steadily recovered their dominance. Nothing could prevent it. Congress enacted force bills establishing federal supervision of elections and the Northern politicians protested against the return of former Confederates to practical, if not official, power; but all such opposition was like resistance to the course of nature.

Amnesty for Southerners.—The recovery of white supremacy in this way was quickly felt in national councils. The Democratic party in the North welcomed it as a sign of its return to power. The more moderate Republicans, anxious to heal the breach in American unity, sought to encourage rather than to repress it. So it came about that amnesty for Confederates was widely advocated. Yet it must be said that the struggle for the removal of disabilities was stubborn and bitter. Lincoln, with characteristic generosity, in the midst of the war had issued a general proclamation of amnesty to nearly all who had been in arms against the Union, on condition that they take an oath of loyalty; but Johnson, vindictive toward Southern leaders and determined to make "treason infamous," had extended the list of exceptions. Congress, even more relentless in its pursuit of Confederates, pushed through the fourteenth amendment which worked the sweeping disabilities we have just described.

To appeals for comprehensive clemency, Congress was at first adamant. In vain did men like Carl Schurz exhort their colleagues to crown their victory in battle with a noble act of universal pardon and oblivion. Congress would not yield. It would grant amnesty in individual cases; for the principle of proscription it stood fast. When finally in 1872, seven years after the surrender at Appomattox, it did pass the general amnesty bill, it insisted on certain exceptions. Confederates who had been members of Congress just before the war, or had served in other high posts, civil or military, under the federal government, were still excluded from important offices. Not until the summer of 1898, when the war with Spain produced once more a union of hearts, did Congress relent and abolish the last of the disabilities imposed on the Confederates.

The Force Bills Attacked and Nullified.—The granting of amnesty encouraged the Democrats to redouble their efforts all along the line. In 1874 they captured the House of Representatives and declared war on the "force bills." As a Republican Senate blocked immediate repeal, they resorted to an ingenious parliamentary trick. To the appropriation bill for the support of the army they attached a "rider," or condition, to the effect that no troops should be used to sustain the Republican government in Louisiana. The Senate rejected the proposal. A deadlock ensued and Congress adjourned without making provision for the army. Satisfied with the technical victory, the Democrats let the army bill pass the next session, but kept up their fight on the force laws until they wrung from President Hayes a measure forbidding the use of United States troops in supervising elections. The following year they again had recourse to a rider on the army bill and carried it through, putting an end to the use of money for military control of elections. The reconstruction program was clearly going to pieces, and the Supreme Court helped along the process of dissolution by declaring parts of the laws invalid. In 1878 the Democrats even won a majority in the Senate and returned to power a large number of men once prominent in the Confederate cause.

The passions of the war by this time were evidently cooling. A new generation of men was coming on the scene. The supremacy of the whites in the South, if not yet complete, was at least assured. Federal marshals, their deputies, and supervisors of elections still possessed authority over the polls, but their strength had been shorn by the withdrawal of United States troops. The war on the remaining remnants of the "force bills" lapsed into desultory skirmishing. When in 1894 the last fragment was swept away, the country took little note of the fact. The only task that lay before the Southern leaders was to write in the constitutions of their respective states the provisions of law which would clinch the gains so far secured and establish white supremacy beyond the reach of outside intervention.

White Supremacy Sealed by New State Constitutions.—The impetus to this final step was given by the rise of the Populist movement in the South, which sharply divided the whites and in many communities threw the balance of power into the hands of the few colored voters who survived the process of intimidation. Southern leaders now devised new constitutions so constructed as to deprive negroes of the ballot by law. Mississippi took the lead in 1890; South Carolina followed five years later; Louisiana, in 1898; North Carolina, in 1900; Alabama and Maryland, in 1901; and Virginia, in 1902.

The authors of these measures made no attempt to conceal their purposes. "The intelligent white men of the South," said Governor Tillman, "intend to govern here." The fifteenth amendment to the federal Constitution, however, forbade them to deprive any citizen of the right to vote on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. This made necessary the devices of indirection. They were few, simple, and effective. The first and most easily administered was the ingenious provision requiring each prospective voter to read a section of the state constitution or "understand and explain it" when read to him by the election officers. As an alternative, the payment of taxes or the ownership of a small amount of property was accepted as a qualification for voting. Southern leaders, unwilling to disfranchise any of the poor white men who had stood side by side with them "in the dark days of reconstruction," also resorted to a famous provision known as "the grandfather clause." This plan admitted to the suffrage any man who did not have either property or educational qualifications, provided he had voted on or before 1867 or was the son or grandson of any such person.

The devices worked effectively. Of the 147,000 negroes in Mississippi above the age of twenty-one, only about 8600 registered under the constitution of 1890. Louisiana had 127,000 colored voters enrolled in 1896; under the constitution drafted two years later the registration fell to 5300. An analysis of the figures for South Carolina in 1900 indicates that only about one negro out of every hundred adult males of that race took part in elections. Thus was closed this chapter of reconstruction.

The Supreme Court Refuses to Intervene.—Numerous efforts were made to prevail upon the Supreme Court of the United States to declare such laws unconstitutional; but the Court, usually on technical grounds, avoided coming to a direct decision on the merits of the matter. In one case the Court remarked that it could not take charge of and operate the election machinery of Alabama; it concluded that "relief from a great political wrong, if done as alleged, by the people of a state and by the state itself, must be given by them, or by the legislative and executive departments of the government of the United States." Only one of the several schemes employed, namely, the "grandfather clause," was held to be a violation of the federal Constitution. This blow, effected in 1915 by the decision in the Oklahoma and Maryland cases, left, however, the main structure of disfranchisement unimpaired.

Proposals to Reduce Southern Representation in Congress.—These provisions excluding thousands of male citizens from the ballot did not, in express terms, deprive any one of the vote on account of race or color. They did not, therefore, run counter to the letter of the fifteenth amendment; but they did unquestionably make the states which adopted them liable to the operations of the fourteenth amendment. The latter very explicitly provides that whenever any state deprives adult male citizens of the right to vote (except in certain minor cases) the representation of the state in Congress shall be reduced in the proportion which such number of disfranchised citizens bears to the whole number of male citizens over twenty-one years of age.

Mindful of this provision, those who protested against disfranchisement in the South turned to the Republican party for relief, asking for action by the political branches of the federal government as the Supreme Court had suggested. The Republicans responded in their platform of 1908 by condemning all devices designed to deprive any one of the ballot for reasons of color alone; they demanded the enforcement in letter and spirit of the fourteenth as well as all other amendments. Though victorious in the election, the Republicans refrained from reopening the ancient contest; they made no attempt to reduce Southern representation in the House. Southern leaders, while protesting against the declarations of their opponents, were able to view them as idle threats in no way endangering the security of the measures by which political reconstruction had been undone.

The Solid South.—Out of the thirty-year conflict against "carpet-bag rule" there emerged what was long known as the "solid South"—a South that, except occasionally in the border states, never gave an electoral vote to a Republican candidate for President. Before the Civil War, the Southern people had been divided on political questions. Take, for example, the election of 1860. In all the fifteen slave states the variety of opinion was marked. In nine of them—Delaware, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Maryland, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, and Arkansas—the combined vote against the representative of the extreme Southern point of view, Breckinridge, constituted a safe majority. In each of the six states which were carried by Breckinridge, there was a large and powerful minority. In North Carolina Breckinridge's majority over Bell and Douglas was only 849 votes. Equally astounding to those who imagine the South united in defense of extreme views in 1860 was the vote for Bell, the Unionist candidate, who stood firmly for the Constitution and silence on slavery. In every Southern state Bell's vote was large. In Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee it was greater than that received by Breckinridge; in Georgia, it was 42,000 against 51,000; in Louisiana, 20,000 against 22,000; in Mississippi, 25,000 against 40,000.

The effect of the Civil War upon these divisions was immediate and decisive, save in the border states where thousands of men continued to adhere to the cause of Union. In the Confederacy itself nearly all dissent was silenced by war. Men who had been bitter opponents joined hands in defense of their homes; when the armed conflict was over they remained side by side working against "Republican misrule and negro domination." By 1890, after Northern supremacy was definitely broken, they boasted that there were at least twelve Southern states in which no Republican candidate for President could win a single electoral vote.

Dissent in the Solid South.—Though every one grew accustomed to speak of the South as "solid," it did not escape close observers that in a number of Southern states there appeared from time to time a fairly large body of dissenters. In 1892 the Populists made heavy inroads upon the Democratic ranks. On other occasions, the contests between factions within the Democratic party over the nomination of candidates revealed sharp differences of opinion. In some places, moreover, there grew up a Republican minority of respectable size. For example, in Georgia, Mr. Taft in 1908 polled 41,000 votes against 72,000 for Mr. Bryan; in North Carolina, 114,000 against 136,000; in Tennessee, 118,000 against 135,000; in Kentucky, 235,000 against 244,000. In 1920, Senator Harding, the Republican candidate, broke the record by carrying Tennessee as well as Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Maryland.

The Economic Advance of the South

The Break-up of the Great Estates.—In the dissolution of chattel slavery it was inevitable that the great estate should give way before the small farm. The plantation was in fact founded on slavery. It was continued and expanded by slavery. Before the war the prosperous planter, either by inclination or necessity, invested his surplus in more land to add to his original domain. As his slaves increased in number, he was forced to increase his acreage or sell them, and he usually preferred the former, especially in the Far South. Still another element favored the large estate. Slave labor quickly exhausted the soil and of its own force compelled the cutting of the forests and the extension of the area under cultivation. Finally, the planter took a natural pride in his great estate; it was a sign of his prowess and his social prestige.

In 1865 the foundations of the planting system were gone. It was difficult to get efficient labor to till the vast plantations. The planters themselves were burdened with debts and handicapped by lack of capital. Negroes commonly preferred tilling plots of their own, rented or bought under mortgage, to the more irksome wage labor under white supervision. The land hunger of the white farmer, once checked by the planting system, reasserted itself. Before these forces the plantation broke up. The small farm became the unit of cultivation in the South as in the North. Between 1870 and 1900 the number of farms doubled in every state south of the line of the Potomac and Ohio rivers, except in Arkansas and Louisiana. From year to year the process of breaking up continued, with all that it implied in the creation of land-owning farmers.

The Diversification of Crops.—No less significant was the concurrent diversification of crops. Under slavery, tobacco, rice, and sugar were staples and "cotton was king." These were standard crops. The methods of cultivation were simple and easily learned. They tested neither the skill nor the ingenuity of the slaves. As the returns were quick, they did not call for long-time investments of capital. After slavery was abolished, they still remained the staples, but far-sighted agriculturists saw the dangers of depending upon a few crops. The mild climate all the way around the coast from Virginia to Texas and the character of the alluvial soil invited the exercise of more imagination. Peaches, oranges, peanuts, and other fruits and vegetables were found to grow luxuriantly. Refrigeration for steamships and freight cars put the markets of great cities at the doors of Southern fruit and vegetable gardeners. The South, which in planting days had relied so heavily upon the Northwest for its foodstuffs, began to battle for independence. Between 1880 and the close of the century the value of its farm crops increased from $660,000,000 to $1,270,000,000.

The Industrial and Commercial Revolution.—On top of the radical changes in agriculture came an industrial and commercial revolution. The South had long been rich in natural resources, but the slave system had been unfavorable to their development. Rivers that would have turned millions of spindles tumbled unheeded to the seas. Coal and iron beds lay unopened. Timber was largely sacrificed in clearing lands for planting, or fell to earth in decay. Southern enterprise was consumed in planting. Slavery kept out the white immigrants who might have supplied the skilled labor for industry.

Steel Mills—Birmingham, Alabama
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
Steel Mills—Birmingham, Alabama

After 1865, achievement and fortune no longer lay on the land alone. As soon as the paralysis of the war was over, the South caught the industrial spirit that had conquered feudal Europe and the agricultural North. In the development of mineral wealth, enormous strides were taken. Iron ore of every quality was found, the chief beds being in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas. Five important coal basins were uncovered: in Virginia, North Carolina, the Appalachian chain from Maryland to Northern Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Texas. Oil pools were found in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. Within two decades, 1880 to 1900, the output of mineral wealth multiplied tenfold: from ten millions a year to one hundred millions. The iron industries of West Virginia and Alabama began to rival those of Pennsylvania. Birmingham became the Pittsburgh and Atlanta the Chicago of the South.

A Southern Cotton Mill in a Cotton Field
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
A Southern Cotton Mill in a Cotton Field

In other lines of industry, lumbering and cotton manufacturing took a high rank. The development of Southern timber resources was in every respect remarkable, particularly in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, primacy in lumber had passed from the Great Lakes region to the South. In 1913 eight Southern states produced nearly four times as much lumber as the Lake states and twice as much as the vast forests of Washington and Oregon.

The development of the cotton industry, in the meantime, was similarly astounding. In 1865 cotton spinning was a negligible matter in the Southern states. In 1880 they had one-fourth of the mills of the country. At the end of the century they had one-half the mills, the two Carolinas taking the lead by consuming more than one-third of their entire cotton crop. Having both the raw materials and the power at hand, they enjoyed many advantages over the New England rivals, and at the opening of the new century were outstripping the latter in the proportion of spindles annually put into operation. Moreover, the cotton planters, finding a market at the neighboring mills, began to look forward to a day when they would be somewhat emancipated from absolute dependence upon the cotton exchanges of New York, New Orleans, and Liverpool.

Transportation kept pace with industry. In 1860, the South had about ten thousand miles of railway. By 1880 the figure had doubled. During the next twenty years over thirty thousand miles were added, most of the increase being in Texas. About 1898 there opened a period of consolidation in which scores of short lines were united, mainly under the leadership of Northern capitalists, and new through service opened to the North and West. Thus Southern industries were given easy outlets to the markets of the nation and brought within the main currents of national business enterprise.

The Social Effects of the Economic Changes.—As long as the slave system lasted and planting was the major interest, the South was bound to be sectional in character. With slavery gone, crops diversified, natural resources developed, and industries promoted, the social order of the ante-bellum days inevitably dissolved; the South became more and more assimilated to the system of the North. In this process several lines of development are evident.

In the first place we see the steady rise of the small farmer. Even in the old days there had been a large class of white yeomen who owned no slaves and tilled the soil with their own hands, but they labored under severe handicaps. They found the fertile lands of the coast and river valleys nearly all monopolized by planters, and they were by the force of circumstances driven into the uplands where the soil was thin and the crops were light. Still they increased in numbers and zealously worked their freeholds.

The war proved to be their opportunity. With the break-up of the plantations, they managed to buy land more worthy of their plows. By intelligent labor and intensive cultivation they were able to restore much of the worn-out soil to its original fertility. In the meantime they rose with their prosperity in the social and political scale. It became common for the sons of white farmers to enter the professions, while their daughters went away to college and prepared for teaching. Thus a more democratic tone was given to the white society of the South. Moreover the migration to the North and West, which had formerly carried thousands of energetic sons and daughters to search for new homesteads, was materially reduced. The energy of the agricultural population went into rehabilitation.

The increase in the number of independent farmers was accompanied by the rise of small towns and villages which gave diversity to the life of the South. Before 1860 it was possible to travel through endless stretches of cotton and tobacco. The social affairs of the planter's family centered in the homestead even if they were occasionally interrupted by trips to distant cities or abroad. Carpentry, bricklaying, and blacksmithing were usually done by slaves skilled in simple handicrafts. Supplies were bought wholesale. In this way there was little place in plantation economy for villages and towns with their stores and mechanics.

The abolition of slavery altered this. Small farms spread out where plantations had once stood. The skilled freedmen turned to agriculture rather than to handicrafts; white men of a business or mechanical bent found an opportunity to serve the needs of their communities. So local merchants and mechanics became an important element in the social system. In the county seats, once dominated by the planters, business and professional men assumed the leadership.

Another vital outcome of this revolution was the transference of a large part of planting enterprise to business. Mr. Bruce, a Southern historian of fine scholarship, has summed up this process in a single telling paragraph: "The higher planting class that under the old system gave so much distinction to rural life has, so far as it has survived at all, been concentrated in the cities. The families that in the time of slavery would have been found only in the country are now found, with a few exceptions, in the towns. The transplantation has been practically universal. The talent, the energy, the ambition that formerly sought expression in the management of great estates and the control of hosts of slaves, now seek a field of action in trade, in manufacturing enterprises, or in the general enterprises of development. This was for the ruling class of the South the natural outcome of the great economic revolution that followed the war."

As in all other parts of the world, the mechanical revolution was attended by the growth of a population of industrial workers dependent not upon the soil but upon wages for their livelihood. When Jefferson Davis was inaugurated President of the Southern Confederacy, there were approximately only one hundred thousand persons employed in Southern manufactures as against more than a million in Northern mills. Fifty years later, Georgia and Alabama alone had more than one hundred and fifty thousand wage-earners. Necessarily this meant also a material increase in urban population, although the wide dispersion of cotton spinning among small centers prevented the congestion that had accompanied the rise of the textile industry in New England. In 1910, New Orleans, Atlanta, Memphis, Nashville, and Houston stood in the same relation to the New South that Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit had stood to the New West fifty years before. The problems of labor and capital and municipal administration, which the earlier writers boasted would never perplex the planting South, had come in full force.

A Glimpse of Memphis, Tennessee
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
A Glimpse of Memphis, Tennessee

The Revolution in the Status of the Slaves.—No part of Southern society was so profoundly affected by the Civil War and economic reconstruction as the former slaves. On the day of emancipation, they stood free, but empty-handed, the owners of no tools or property, the masters of no trade and wholly inexperienced in the arts of self-help that characterized the whites in general. They had never been accustomed to looking out for themselves. The plantation bell had called them to labor and released them. Doles of food and clothing had been regularly made in given quantities. They did not understand wages, ownership, renting, contracts, mortgages, leases, bills, or accounts.

When they were emancipated, four courses were open to them. They could flee from the plantation to the nearest town or city, or to the distant North, to seek a livelihood. Thousands of them chose this way, overcrowding cities where disease mowed them down. They could remain where they, were in their cabins and work for daily wages instead of food, clothing, and shelter. This second course the major portion of them chose; but, as few masters had cash to dispense, the new relation was much like the old, in fact. It was still one of barter. The planter offered food, clothing, and shelter; the former slaves gave their labor in return. That was the best that many of them could do.

A third course open to freedmen was that of renting from the former master, paying him usually with a share of the produce of the land. This way a large number of them chose. It offered them a chance to become land owners in time and it afforded an easier life, the renter being, to a certain extent at least, master of his own hours of labor. The final and most difficult path was that to ownership of land. Many a master helped his former slaves to acquire small holdings by offering easy terms. The more enterprising and the more fortunate who started life as renters or wage-earners made their way upward to ownership in so many cases that by the end of the century, one-fourth of the colored laborers on the land owned the soil they tilled.

In the meantime, the South, though relatively poor, made relatively large expenditures for the education of the colored population. By the opening of the twentieth century, facilities were provided for more than one-half of the colored children of school age. While in many respects this progress was disappointing, its significance, to be appreciated, must be derived from a comparison with the total illiteracy which prevailed under slavery.

In spite of all that happened, however, the status of the negroes in the South continued to give a peculiar character to that section of the country. They were almost entirely excluded from the exercise of the suffrage, especially in the Far South. Special rooms were set aside for them at the railway stations and special cars on the railway lines. In the field of industry calling for technical skill, it appears, from the census figures, that they lost ground between 1890 and 1900—a condition which their friends ascribed to discriminations against them in law and in labor organizations and their critics ascribed to their lack of aptitude. Whatever may be the truth, the fact remained that at the opening of the twentieth century neither the hopes of the emancipators nor the fears of their opponents were realized. The marks of the "peculiar institution" were still largely impressed upon Southern society.

The situation, however, was by no means unchanging. On the contrary there was a decided drift in affairs. For one thing, the proportion of negroes in the South had slowly declined. By 1900 they were in a majority in only two states, South Carolina and Mississippi. In Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina the proportion of the white population was steadily growing. The colored migration northward increased while the westward movement of white farmers which characterized pioneer days declined. At the same time a part of the foreign immigration into the United States was diverted southward. As the years passed these tendencies gained momentum. The already huge colored quarters in some Northern cities were widely expanded, as whole counties in the South were stripped of their colored laborers. The race question, in its political and economic aspects, became less and less sectional, more and more national. The South was drawn into the main stream of national life. The separatist forces which produced the cataclysm of 1861 sank irresistibly into the background.


H.W. Grady, The New South (1890).

H.A. Herbert, Why the Solid South.

W.G. Brown, The Lower South.

E.G. Murphy, Problems of the Present South.

B.T. Washington, The Negro Problem; The Story of the Negro; The Future of the Negro.

A.B. Hart, The Southern South and R.S. Baker, Following the Color Line (two works by Northern writers).

T.N. Page, The Negro, the Southerner's Problem.


1. Give the three main subdivisions of the chapter.

2. Compare the condition of the South in 1865 with that of the North. Compare with the condition of the United States at the close of the Revolutionary War. At the close of the World War in 1918.

3. Contrast the enfranchisement of the slaves with the enfranchisement of white men fifty years earlier.

4. What was the condition of the planters as compared with that of the Northern manufacturers?

5. How does money capital contribute to prosperity? Describe the plight of Southern finance.

6. Give the chief steps in the restoration of white supremacy.

7. Do you know of any other societies to compare with the Ku Klux Klan?

8. Give Lincoln's plan for amnesty. What principles do you think should govern the granting of amnesty?

9. How were the "Force bills" overcome?

10. Compare the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments with regard to the suffrage provisions.

11. Explain how they may be circumvented.

12. Account for the Solid South. What was the situation before 1860?

13. In what ways did Southern agriculture tend to become like that of the North? What were the social results?

14. Name the chief results of an "industrial revolution" in general. In the South, in particular.

15. What courses were open to freedmen in 1865?

16. Give the main features in the economic and social status of the colored population in the South.

17. Explain why the race question is national now, rather than sectional.

Research Topics

Amnesty for Confederates.—Study carefully the provisions of the fourteenth amendment in the Appendix. Macdonald, Documentary Source Book of American History, pp. 470 and 564. A plea for amnesty in Harding, Select Orations Illustrating American History, pp. 467-488.

Political Conditions in the South in 1868.—Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic (American Nation Series), pp. 109-123; Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 445-458, 497-500; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 799-805.

Movement for White Supremacy.—Dunning, Reconstruction, pp. 266-280; Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 39-58; Beard, American Government and Politics, pp. 454-457.

The Withdrawal of Federal Troops from the South.—Sparks, National Development (American Nation Series), pp. 84-102; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 1-12.

Southern Industry.—Paxson, The New Nation, pp. 192-207; T.M. Young, The American Cotton Industry, pp. 54-99.

The Race Question.—B.T. Washington, Up From Slavery (sympathetic presentation); A.H. Stone, Studies in the American Race Problem (coldly analytical); Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 647-649, 652-654, 663-669.



If a single phrase be chosen to characterize American life during the generation that followed the age of Douglas and Lincoln, it must be "business enterprise"—the tremendous, irresistible energy of a virile people, mounting in numbers toward a hundred million and applied without let or hindrance to the developing of natural resources of unparalleled richness. The chief goal of this effort was high profits for the captains of industry, on the one hand; and high wages for the workers, on the other. Its signs, to use the language of a Republican orator in 1876, were golden harvest fields, whirling spindles, turning wheels, open furnace doors, flaming forges, and chimneys filled with eager fire. The device blazoned on its shield and written over its factory doors was "prosperity." A Republican President was its "advance agent." Released from the hampering interference of the Southern planters and the confusing issues of the slavery controversy, business enterprise sprang forward to the task of winning the entire country. Then it flung its outposts to the uttermost parts of the earth—Europe, Africa, and the Orient—where were to be found markets for American goods and natural resources for American capital to develop.

Railways and Industry

The Outward Signs of Enterprise.—It is difficult to comprehend all the multitudinous activities of American business energy or to appraise its effects upon the life and destiny of the American people; for beyond the horizon of the twentieth century lie consequences as yet undreamed of in our poor philosophy. Statisticians attempt to record its achievements in terms of miles of railways built, factories opened, men and women employed, fortunes made, wages paid, cities founded, rivers spanned, boxes, bales, and tons produced. Historians apply standards of comparison with the past. Against the slow and leisurely stagecoach, they set the swift express, rushing from New York to San Francisco in less time than Washington consumed in his triumphal tour from Mt. Vernon to New York for his first inaugural. Against the lazy sailing vessel drifting before a genial breeze, they place the turbine steamer crossing the Atlantic in five days or the still swifter airplane, in fifteen hours. For the old workshop where a master and a dozen workmen and apprentices wrought by hand, they offer the giant factory where ten thousand persons attend the whirling wheels driven by steam. They write of the "romance of invention" and the "captains of industry."

A Corner in the Bethlehem Steel Works
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
A Corner in the Bethlehem Steel Works

The Service of the Railway.—All this is fitting in its way. Figures and contrasts cannot, however, tell the whole story. Take, for example, the extension of railways. It is easy to relate that there were 30,000 miles in 1860; 166,000 in 1890; and 242,000 in 1910. It is easy to show upon the map how a few straggling lines became a perfect mesh of closely knitted railways; or how, like the tentacles of a great monster, the few roads ending in the Mississippi Valley in 1860 were extended and multiplied until they tapped every wheat field, mine, and forest beyond the valley. All this, eloquent of enterprise as it truly is, does not reveal the significance of railways for American life. It does not indicate how railways made a continental market for American goods; nor how they standardized the whole country, giving to cities on the advancing frontier the leading features of cities in the old East; nor how they carried to the pioneer the comforts of civilization; nor yet how in the West they were the forerunners of civilization, the makers of homesteads, the builders of states.

Government Aid for Railways.—Still the story is not ended. The significant relation between railways and politics must not be overlooked. The bounty of a lavish government, for example, made possible the work of railway promoters. By the year 1872 the Federal government had granted in aid of railways 155,000,000 acres of land—an area estimated as almost equal to Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The Union Pacific Company alone secured from the federal government a free right of way through the public domain, twenty sections of land with each mile of railway, and a loan up to fifty millions of dollars secured by a second mortgage on the company's property. More than half of the northern tier of states lying against Canada from Lake Michigan to the Pacific was granted to private companies in aid of railways and wagon roads. About half of New Mexico, Arizona, and California was also given outright to railway companies. These vast grants from the federal government were supplemented by gifts from the states in land and by subscriptions amounting to more than two hundred million dollars. The history of these gifts and their relation to the political leaders that engineered them would alone fill a large and interesting volume.

Railway Fortunes and Capital.—Out of this gigantic railway promotion, the first really immense American fortunes were made. Henry Adams, the grandson of John Quincy Adams, related that his grandfather on his mother's side, Peter Brooks, on his death in 1849, left a fortune of two million dollars, "supposed to be the largest estate in Boston," then one of the few centers of great riches. Compared with the opulence that sprang out of the Union Pacific, the Northern Pacific, the Southern Pacific, with their subsidiary and component lines, the estate of Peter Brooks was a poor man's heritage.

The capital invested in these railways was enormous beyond the imagination of the men of the stagecoach generation. The total debt of the United States incurred in the Revolutionary War—a debt which those of little faith thought the country could never pay—was reckoned at a figure well under $75,000,000. When the Union Pacific Railroad was completed, there were outstanding against it $27,000,000 in first mortgage bonds, $27,000,000 in second mortgage bonds held by the government, $10,000,000 in income bonds, $10,000,000 in land grant bonds, and, on top of that huge bonded indebtedness, $36,000,000 in stock—making $110,000,000 in all. If the amount due the United States government be subtracted, still there remained, in private hands, stocks and bonds exceeding in value the whole national debt of Hamilton's day—a debt that strained all the resources of the Federal government in 1790. Such was the financial significance of the railways.

Railroads of the United States in 1918
Railroads of the United States in 1918

Growth and Extension of Industry.—In the field of manufacturing, mining, and metal working, the results of business enterprise far outstripped, if measured in mere dollars, the results of railway construction. By the end of the century there were about ten billion dollars invested in factories alone and five million wage-earners employed in them; while the total value of the output, fourteen billion dollars, was fifteen times the figure for 1860. In the Eastern states industries multiplied. In the Northwest territory, the old home of Jacksonian Democracy, they overtopped agriculture. By the end of the century, Ohio had almost reached and Illinois had surpassed Massachusetts in the annual value of manufacturing output.

That was not all. Untold wealth in the form of natural resources was discovered in the South and West. Coal deposits were found in the Appalachians stretching from Pennsylvania down to Alabama, in Michigan, in the Mississippi Valley, and in the Western mountains from North Dakota to New Mexico. In nearly every coal-bearing region, iron was also discovered and the great fields of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota soon rivaled those of the Appalachian area. Copper, lead, gold, and silver in fabulous quantities were unearthed by the restless prospectors who left no plain or mountain fastness unexplored. Petroleum, first pumped from the wells of Pennsylvania in the summer of 1859, made new fortunes equaling those of trade, railways, and land speculation. It scattered its riches with an especially lavish hand through Oklahoma, Texas, and California.

John D. Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller

The Trust—an Instrument of Industrial Progress.—Business enterprise, under the direction of powerful men working single-handed, or of small groups of men pooling their capital for one or more undertakings, had not advanced far before there appeared upon the scene still mightier leaders of even greater imagination. New constructive genius now brought together and combined under one management hundreds of concerns or thousands of miles of railways, revealing the magic strength of coöperation on a national scale. Price-cutting in oil, threatening ruin to those engaged in the industry, as early as 1879, led a number of companies in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia to unite in price-fixing. Three years later a group of oil interests formed a close organization, placing all their stocks in the hands of trustees, among whom was John D. Rockefeller. The trustees, in turn, issued certificates representing the share to which each participant was entitled; and took over the management of the entire business. Such was the nature of the "trust," which was to play such an unique rôle in the progress of America.

The idea of combination was applied in time to iron and steel, copper, lead, sugar, cordage, coal, and other commodities, until in each field there loomed a giant trust or corporation, controlling, if not most of the output, at least enough to determine in a large measure the prices charged to consumers. With the passing years, the railways, mills, mines, and other business concerns were transferred from individual owners to corporations. At the end of the nineteenth century, the whole face of American business was changed. Three-fourths of the output from industries came from factories under corporate management and only one-fourth from individual and partnership undertakings.

The Banking Corporation.—Very closely related to the growth of business enterprise on a large scale was the system of banking. In the old days before banks, a person with savings either employed them in his own undertakings, lent them to a neighbor, or hid them away where they set no industry in motion. Even in the early stages of modern business, it was common for a manufacturer to rise from small beginnings by financing extensions out of his own earnings and profits. This state of affairs was profoundly altered by the growth of the huge corporations requiring millions and even billions of capital. The banks, once an adjunct to business, became the leaders in business.

Wall Street, New York City
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
Wall Street, New York City

It was the banks that undertook to sell the stocks and bonds issued by new corporations and trusts and to supply them with credit to carry on their operations. Indeed, many of the great mergers or combinations in business were initiated by magnates in the banking world with millions and billions under their control. Through their connections with one another, the banks formed a perfect network of agencies gathering up the pennies and dollars of the masses as well as the thousands of the rich and pouring them all into the channels of business and manufacturing. In this growth of banking on a national scale, it was inevitable that a few great centers, like Wall Street in New York or State Street in Boston, should rise to a position of dominance both in concentrating the savings and profits of the nation and in financing new as well as old corporations.

The Significance of the Corporation.—The corporation, in fact, became the striking feature of American business life, one of the most marvelous institutions of all time, comparable in wealth and power and the number of its servants with kingdoms and states of old. The effect of its rise and growth cannot be summarily estimated; but some special facts are obvious. It made possible gigantic enterprises once entirely beyond the reach of any individual, no matter how rich. It eliminated many of the futile and costly wastes of competition in connection with manufacture, advertising, and selling. It studied the cheapest methods of production and shut down mills that were poorly equipped or disadvantageously located. It established laboratories for research in industry, chemistry, and mechanical inventions. Through the sale of stocks and bonds, it enabled tens of thousands of people to become capitalists, if only in a small way. The corporation made it possible for one person to own, for instance, a $50 share in a million dollar business concern—a thing entirely impossible under a régime of individual owners and partnerships.

There was, of course, another side to the picture. Many of the corporations sought to become monopolies and to make profits, not by economies and good management, but by extortion from purchasers. Sometimes they mercilessly crushed small business men, their competitors, bribed members of legislatures to secure favorable laws, and contributed to the campaign funds of both leading parties. Wherever a trust approached the position of a monopoly, it acquired a dominion over the labor market which enabled it to break even the strongest trade unions. In short, the power of the trust in finance, in manufacturing, in politics, and in the field of labor control can hardly be measured.

The Corporation and Labor.—In the development of the corporation there was to be observed a distinct severing of the old ties between master and workmen, which existed in the days of small industries. For the personal bond between the owner and the employees was substituted a new relation. "In most parts of our country," as President Wilson once said, "men work, not for themselves, not as partners in the old way in which they used to work, but generally as employees—in a higher or lower grade—of great corporations." The owner disappeared from the factory and in his place came the manager, representing the usually invisible stockholders and dependent for his success upon his ability to make profits for the owners. Hence the term "soulless corporation," which was to exert such a deep influence on American thinking about industrial relations.

Cities and Immigration.—Expressed in terms of human life, this era of unprecedented enterprise meant huge industrial cities and an immense labor supply, derived mainly from European immigration. Here, too, figures tell only a part of the story. In Washington's day nine-tenths of the American people were engaged in agriculture and lived in the country; in 1890 more than one-third of the population dwelt in towns of 2500 and over; in 1920 more than half of the population lived in towns of over 2500. In forty years, between 1860 and 1900, Greater New York had grown from 1,174,000 to 3,437,000; San Francisco from 56,000 to 342,000; Chicago from 109,000 to 1,698,000. The miles of city tenements began to rival, in the number of their residents, the farm homesteads of the West. The time so dreaded by Jefferson had arrived. People were "piled upon one another in great cities" and the republic of small farmers had passed away.

To these industrial centers flowed annually an ever-increasing tide of immigration, reaching the half million point in 1880; rising to three-quarters of a million three years later; and passing the million mark in a single year at the opening of the new century. Immigration was as old as America but new elements now entered the situation. In the first place, there were radical changes in the nationality of the newcomers. The migration from Northern Europe—England, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia—diminished; that from Italy, Russia, and Austria-Hungary increased, more than three-fourths of the entire number coming from these three lands between the years 1900 and 1910. These later immigrants were Italians, Poles, Magyars, Czechs, Slovaks, Russians, and Jews, who came from countries far removed from the language and the traditions of England whence came the founders of America.

In the second place, the reception accorded the newcomers differed from that given to the immigrants in the early days. By 1890 all the free land was gone. They could not, therefore, be dispersed widely among the native Americans to assimilate quickly and unconsciously the habits and ideas of American life. On the contrary, they were diverted mainly to the industrial centers. There they crowded—nay, overcrowded—into colonies of their own where they preserved their languages, their newspapers, and their old-world customs and views.

So eager were American business men to get an enormous labor supply that they asked few questions about the effect of this "alien invasion" upon the old America inherited from the fathers. They even stimulated the invasion artificially by importing huge armies of foreigners under contract to work in specified mines and mills. There seemed to be no limit to the factories, forges, refineries, and railways that could be built, to the multitudes that could be employed in conquering a continent. As for the future, that was in the hands of Providence!

Business Theories of Politics.—As the statesmen of Hamilton's school and the planters of Calhoun's had their theories of government and politics, so the leaders in business enterprise had theirs. It was simple and easily stated. "It is the duty of the government," they urged, "to protect American industry against foreign competition by means of high tariffs on imported goods, to aid railways by generous grants of land, to sell mineral and timber lands at low prices to energetic men ready to develop them, and then to leave the rest to the initiative and drive of individuals and companies." All government interference with the management, prices, rates, charges, and conduct of private business they held to be either wholly pernicious or intolerably impertinent. Judging from their speeches and writings, they conceived the nation as a great collection of individuals, companies, and labor unions all struggling for profits or high wages and held together by a government whose principal duty was to keep the peace among them and protect industry against the foreign manufacturer. Such was the political theory of business during the generation that followed the Civil War.

The Supremacy of the Republican Party (1861-85)

Business Men and Republican Policies.—Most of the leaders in industry gravitated to the Republican ranks. They worked in the North and the Republican party was essentially Northern. It was moreover—at least so far as the majority of its members were concerned—committed to protective tariffs, a sound monetary and banking system, the promotion of railways and industry by land grants, and the development of internal improvements. It was furthermore generous in its immigration policy. It proclaimed America to be an asylum for the oppressed of all countries and flung wide the doors for immigrants eager to fill the factories, man the mines, and settle upon Western lands. In a word the Republicans stood for all those specific measures which favored the enlargement and prosperity of business. At the same time they resisted government interference with private enterprise. They did not regulate railway rates, prosecute trusts for forming combinations, or prevent railway companies from giving lower rates to some shippers than to others. To sum it up, the political theories of the Republican party for three decades after the Civil War were the theories of American business—prosperous and profitable industries for the owners and "the full dinner pail" for the workmen. Naturally a large portion of those who flourished under its policies gave their support to it, voted for its candidates, and subscribed to its campaign funds.

Sources of Republican Strength in the North.—The Republican party was in fact a political organization of singular power. It originated in a wave of moral enthusiasm, having attracted to itself, if not the abolitionists, certainly all those idealists, like James Russell Lowell and George William Curtis, who had opposed slavery when opposition was neither safe nor popular. To moral principles it added practical considerations. Business men had confidence in it. Workingmen, who longed for the independence of the farmer, owed to its indulgent land policy the opportunity of securing free homesteads in the West. The immigrant, landing penniless on these shores, as a result of the same beneficent system, often found himself in a little while with an estate as large as many a baronial domain in the Old World. Under a Republican administration, the union had been saved. To it the veterans of the war could turn with confidence for those rewards of service which the government could bestow: pensions surpassing in liberality anything that the world had ever seen. Under a Republican administration also the great debt had been created in the defense of the union, and to the Republican party every investor in government bonds could look for the full and honorable discharge of the interest and principal. The spoils system, inaugurated by Jacksonian Democracy, in turn placed all the federal offices in Republican hands, furnishing an army of party workers to be counted on for loyal service in every campaign.

Of all these things Republican leaders made full and vigorous use, sometimes ascribing to the party, in accordance with ancient political usage, merits and achievements not wholly its own. Particularly was this true in the case of saving the union. "When in the economy of Providence, this land was to be purged of human slavery ... the Republican party came into power," ran a declaration in one platform. "The Republican party suppressed a gigantic rebellion, emancipated four million slaves, decreed the equal citizenship of all, and established universal suffrage," ran another. As for the aid rendered by the millions of Northern Democrats who stood by the union and the tens of thousands of them who actually fought in the union army, the Republicans in their zeal were inclined to be oblivious. They repeatedly charged the Democratic party "with being the same in character and spirit as when it sympathized with treason."

Republican Control of the South.—To the strength enjoyed in the North, the Republicans for a long time added the advantages that came from control over the former Confederate states where the newly enfranchised negroes, under white leadership, gave a grateful support to the party responsible for their freedom. In this branch of politics, motives were so mixed that no historian can hope to appraise them all at their proper values. On the one side of the ledger must be set the vigorous efforts of the honest and sincere friends of the freedmen to win for them complete civil and political equality, wiping out not only slavery but all its badges of misery and servitude. On the same side must be placed the labor of those who had valiantly fought in forum and field to save the union and who regarded continued Republican supremacy after the war as absolutely necessary to prevent the former leaders in secession from coming back to power. At the same time there were undoubtedly some men of the baser sort who looked on politics as a game and who made use of "carpet-bagging" in the South to win the spoils that might result from it. At all events, both by laws and presidential acts, the Republicans for many years kept a keen eye upon the maintenance of their dominion in the South. Their declaration that neither the law nor its administration should admit any discrimination in respect of citizens by reason of race, color, or previous condition of servitude appealed to idealists and brought results in elections. Even South Carolina, where reposed the ashes of John C. Calhoun, went Republican in 1872 by a vote of three to one!

Republican control was made easy by the force bills described in a previous chapter—measures which vested the supervision of elections in federal officers appointed by Republican Presidents. These drastic measures, departing from American tradition, the Republican authors urged, were necessary to safeguard the purity of the ballot, not merely in the South where the timid freedman might readily be frightened from using it; but also in the North, particularly in New York City, where it was claimed that fraud was regularly practiced by Democratic leaders.

The Democrats, on their side, indignantly denied the charges, replying that the force bills were nothing but devices created by the Republicans for the purpose of securing their continued rule through systematic interference with elections. Even the measures of reconstruction were deemed by Democratic leaders as thinly veiled schemes to establish Republican power throughout the country. "Nor is there the slightest doubt," exclaimed Samuel J. Tilden, spokesman of the Democrats in New York and candidate for President in 1876, "that the paramount object and motive of the Republican party is by these means to secure itself against a reaction of opinion adverse to it in our great populous Northern commonwealths.... When the Republican party resolved to establish negro supremacy in the ten states in order to gain to itself the representation of those states in Congress, it had to begin by governing the people of those states by the sword.... The next was the creation of new electoral bodies for those ten states, in which, by exclusions, by disfranchisements and proscriptions, by control over registration, by applying test oaths ... by intimidation and by every form of influence, three million negroes are made to predominate over four and a half million whites."

The War as a Campaign Issue.—Even the repeal of force bills could not allay the sectional feelings engendered by the war. The Republicans could not forgive the men who had so recently been in arms against the union and insisted on calling them "traitors" and "rebels." The Southerners, smarting under the reconstruction acts, could regard the Republicans only as political oppressors. The passions of the war had been too strong; the distress too deep to be soon forgotten. The generation that went through it all remembered it all. For twenty years, the Republicans, in their speeches and platforms, made "a straight appeal to the patriotism of the Northern voters." They maintained that their party, which had saved the union and emancipated the slaves, was alone worthy of protecting the union and uplifting the freedmen.

Though the Democrats, especially in the North, resented this policy and dubbed it with the expressive but inelegant phrase, "waving the bloody shirt," the Republicans refused to surrender a slogan which made such a ready popular appeal. As late as 1884, a leader expressed the hope that they might "wring one more President from the bloody shirt." They refused to let the country forget that the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, had escaped military service by hiring a substitute; and they made political capital out of the fact that he had "insulted the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic" by going fishing on Decoration Day.

Three Republican Presidents.—Fortified by all these elements of strength, the Republicans held the presidency from 1869 to 1885. The three Presidents elected in this period, Grant, Hayes, and Garfield, had certain striking characteristics in common. They were all of origin humble enough to please the most exacting Jacksonian Democrat. They had been generals in the union army. Grant, next to Lincoln, was regarded as the savior of the Constitution. Hayes and Garfield, though lesser lights in the military firmament, had honorable records duly appreciated by veterans of the war, now thoroughly organized into the Grand Army of the Republic. It is true that Grant was not a politician and had never voted the Republican ticket; but this was readily overlooked. Hayes and Garfield on the other hand were loyal party men. The former had served in Congress and for three terms as governor of his state. The latter had long been a member of the House of Representatives and was Senator-elect when he received the nomination for President.

All of them possessed, moreover, another important asset, which was not forgotten by the astute managers who led in selecting candidates. All of them were from Ohio—though Grant had been in Illinois when the summons to military duties came—and Ohio was a strategic state. It lay between the manufacturing East and the agrarian country to the West. Having growing industries and wool to sell it benefited from the protective tariff. Yet being mainly agricultural still, it was not without sympathy for the farmers who showed low tariff or free trade tendencies. Whatever share the East had in shaping laws and framing policies, it was clear that the West was to have the candidates. This division in privileges—not uncommon in political management—was always accompanied by a judicious selection of the candidate for Vice President. With Garfield, for example, was associated a prominent New York politician, Chester A. Arthur, who, as fate decreed, was destined to more than three years' service as chief magistrate, on the assassination of his superior in office.

The Disputed Election of 1876.—While taking note of the long years of Republican supremacy, it must be recorded that grave doubts exist in the minds of many historians as to whether one of the three Presidents, Hayes, was actually the victor in 1876 or not. His Democratic opponent, Samuel J. Tilden, received a popular plurality of a quarter of a million and had a plausible claim to a majority of the electoral vote. At all events, four states sent in double returns, one set for Tilden and another for Hayes; and a deadlock ensued. Both parties vehemently claimed the election and the passions ran so high that sober men did not shrink from speaking of civil war again. Fortunately, in the end, the counsels of peace prevailed. Congress provided for an electoral commission of fifteen men to review the contested returns. The Democrats, inspired by Tilden's moderation, accepted the judgment in favor of Hayes even though they were not convinced that he was really entitled to the office.

The Growth of Opposition to Republican Rule

Abuses in American Political Life.—During their long tenure of office, the Republicans could not escape the inevitable consequences of power; that is, evil practices and corrupt conduct on the part of some who found shelter within the party. For that matter neither did the Democrats manage to avoid such difficulties in those states and cities where they had the majority. In New York City, for instance, the local Democratic organization, known as Tammany Hall, passed under the sway of a group of politicians headed by "Boss" Tweed. He plundered the city treasury until public-spirited citizens, supported by Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic leader of the state, rose in revolt, drove the ringleader from power, and sent him to jail. In Philadelphia, the local Republican bosses were guilty of offenses as odious as those committed by New York politicians. Indeed, the decade that followed the Civil War was marred by so many scandals in public life that one acute editor was moved to inquire: "Are not all the great communities of the Western World growing more corrupt as they grow in wealth?"

In the sphere of national politics, where the opportunities were greater, betrayals of public trust were even more flagrant. One revelation after another showed officers, high and low, possessed with the spirit of peculation. Members of Congress, it was found, accepted railway stock in exchange for votes in favor of land grants and other concessions to the companies. In the administration as well as the legislature the disease was rife. Revenue officers permitted whisky distillers to evade their taxes and received heavy bribes in return. A probe into the post-office department revealed the malodorous "star route frauds"—the deliberate overpayment of certain mail carriers whose lines were indicated in the official record by asterisks or stars. Even cabinet officers did not escape suspicion, for the trail of the serpent led straight to the door of one of them.

In the lower ranges of official life, the spoils system became more virulent as the number of federal employees increased. The holders of offices and the seekers after them constituted a veritable political army. They crowded into Republican councils, for the Republicans, being in power, could alone dispense federal favors. They filled positions in the party ranging from the lowest township committee to the national convention. They helped to nominate candidates and draft platforms and elbowed to one side the busy citizen, not conversant with party intrigues, who could only give an occasional day to political matters. Even the Civil Service Act of 1883, wrung from a reluctant Congress two years after the assassination of Garfield, made little change for a long time. It took away from the spoilsmen a few thousand government positions, but it formed no check on the practice of rewarding party workers from the public treasury.

On viewing this state of affairs, many a distinguished citizen became profoundly discouraged. James Russell Lowell, for example, thought he saw a steady decline in public morals. In 1865, hearing of Lee's surrender, he had exclaimed: "There is something magnificent in having a country to love!" Ten years later, when asked to write an ode for the centennial at Philadelphia in 1876, he could think only of a biting satire on the nation:

"Show your state legislatures; show your Rings;
And challenge Europe to produce such things
As high officials sitting half in sight
To share the plunder and fix things right.
If that don't fetch her, why, you need only
To show your latest style in martyrs,—Tweed:
She'll find it hard to hide her spiteful tears
At such advance in one poor hundred years."

When his critics condemned him for this "attack upon his native land," Lowell replied in sadness: "These fellows have no notion of what love of country means. It was in my very blood and bones. If I am not an American who ever was?... What fills me with doubt and dismay is the degradation of the moral tone. Is it or is it not a result of democracy? Is ours a 'government of the people, by the people, for the people,' or a Kakistocracy [a government of the worst], rather for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?"

The Reform Movement in Republican Ranks.—The sentiments expressed by Lowell, himself a Republican and for a time American ambassador to England, were shared by many men in his party. Very soon after the close of the Civil War some of them began to protest vigorously against the policies and conduct of their leaders. In 1872, the dissenters, calling themselves Liberal Republicans, broke away altogether, nominated a candidate of their own, Horace Greeley, and put forward a platform indicting the Republican President fiercely enough to please the most uncompromising Democrat. They accused Grant of using "the powers and opportunities of his high office for the promotion of personal ends." They charged him with retaining "notoriously corrupt and unworthy men in places of power and responsibility." They alleged that the Republican party kept "alive the passions and resentments of the late civil war to use them for their own advantages," and employed the "public service of the government as a machinery of corruption and personal influence."

It was not apparent, however, from the ensuing election that any considerable number of Republicans accepted the views of the Liberals. Greeley, though indorsed by the Democrats, was utterly routed and died of a broken heart. The lesson of his discomfiture seemed to be that independent action was futile. So, at least, it was regarded by most men of the rising generation like Henry Cabot Lodge, of Massachusetts, and Theodore Roosevelt, of New York. Profiting by the experience of Greeley they insisted in season and out that reformers who desired to rid the party of abuses should remain loyal to it and do their work "on the inside."

The Mugwumps and Cleveland Democracy in 1884.—Though aided by Republican dissensions, the Democrats were slow in making headway against the political current. They were deprived of the energetic and capable leadership once afforded by the planters, like Calhoun, Davis, and Toombs; they were saddled by their opponents with responsibility for secession; and they were stripped of the support of the prostrate South. Not until the last Southern state was restored to the union, not until a general amnesty was wrung from Congress, not until white supremacy was established at the polls, and the last federal soldier withdrawn from Southern capitals did they succeed in capturing the presidency.

The opportune moment for them came in 1884 when a number of circumstances favored their aspirations. The Republicans, leaving the Ohio Valley in their search for a candidate, nominated James G. Blaine of Maine, a vigorous and popular leader but a man under fire from the reformers in his own party. The Democrats on their side were able to find at this juncture an able candidate who had no political enemies in the sphere of national politics, Grover Cleveland, then governor of New York and widely celebrated as a man of "sterling honesty." At the same time a number of dissatisfied Republicans openly espoused the Democratic cause,—among them Carl Schurz, George William Curtis, Henry Ward Beecher, and William Everett, men of fine ideals and undoubted integrity. Though the "regular" Republicans called them "Mugwumps" and laughed at them as the "men milliners, the dilettanti, and carpet knights of politics," they had a following that was not to be despised.

The campaign which took place that year was one of the most savage in American history. Issues were thrust into the background. The tariff, though mentioned, was not taken seriously. Abuse of the opposition was the favorite resource of party orators. The Democrats insisted that "the Republican party so far as principle is concerned is a reminiscence. In practice it is an organization for enriching those who control its machinery." For the Republican candidate, Blaine, they could hardly find words to express their contempt. The Republicans retaliated in kind. They praised their own good works, as of old, in saving the union, and denounced the "fraud and violence practiced by the Democracy in the Southern states." Seeing little objectionable in the public record of Cleveland as mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York, they attacked his personal character. Perhaps never in the history of political campaigns did the discussions on the platform and in the press sink to so low a level. Decent people were sickened. Even hot partisans shrank from their own words when, after the election, they had time to reflect on their heedless passions. Moreover, nothing was decided by the balloting. Cleveland was elected, but his victory was a narrow one. A change of a few hundred votes in New York would have sent his opponent to the White House instead.

Changing Political Fortunes (1888-96).—After the Democrats had settled down to the enjoyment of their hard-earned victory, President Cleveland in his message of 1887 attacked the tariff as "vicious, inequitable, and illogical"; as a system of taxation that laid a burden upon "every consumer in the land for the benefit of our manufacturers." Business enterprise was thoroughly alarmed. The Republicans characterized the tariff message as a free-trade assault upon the industries of the country. Mainly on that issue they elected in 1888 Benjamin Harrison of Indiana, a shrewd lawyer, a reticent politician, a descendant of the hero of Tippecanoe, and a son of the old Northwest. Accepting the outcome of the election as a vindication of their principles, the Republicans, under the leadership of William McKinley in the House of Representatives, enacted in 1890 a tariff law imposing the highest duties yet laid in our history. To their utter surprise, however, they were instantly informed by the country that their program was not approved. That very autumn they lost in the congressional elections, and two years later they were decisively beaten in the presidential campaign, Cleveland once more leading his party to victory.


L.H. Haney, Congressional History of Railways (2 vols.).

J.P. Davis, Union Pacific Railway.

J.M. Swank, History of the Manufacture of Iron.

M.T. Copeland, The Cotton Manufacturing Industry in the United States (Harvard Studies).

E.W. Bryce, Progress of Invention in the Nineteenth Century.

Ida Tarbell, History of the Standard Oil Company (Critical).

G.H. Montague, Rise and Progress of the Standard Oil Company (Friendly).

H.P. Fairchild, Immigration, and F.J. Warne, The Immigrant Invasion (Both works favor exclusion).

I.A. Hourwich, Immigration (Against exclusionist policies).

J.F. Rhodes, History of the United States, 1877-1896, Vol. VIII.

Edward Stanwood, A History of the Presidency, Vol. I, for the presidential elections of the period.


1. Contrast the state of industry and commerce at the close of the Civil War with its condition at the close of the Revolutionary War.

2. Enumerate the services rendered to the nation by the railways.

3. Explain the peculiar relation of railways to government.

4. What sections of the country have been industrialized?

5. How do you account for the rise and growth of the trusts? Explain some of the economic advantages of the trust.

6. Are the people in cities more or less independent than the farmers? What was Jefferson's view?

7. State some of the problems raised by unrestricted immigration.

8. What was the theory of the relation of government to business in this period? Has it changed in recent times?

9. State the leading economic policies sponsored by the Republican party.

10. Why were the Republicans especially strong immediately after the Civil War?

11. What illustrations can you give showing the influence of war in American political campaigns?

12. Account for the strength of middle-western candidates.

13. Enumerate some of the abuses that appeared in American political life after 1865.

14. Sketch the rise and growth of the reform movement.

15. How is the fluctuating state of public opinion reflected in the elections from 1880 to 1896?

Research Topics

Invention, Discovery, and Transportation.—Sparks, National Development (American Nation Series), pp. 37-67; Bogart, Economic History of the United States, Chaps. XXI, XXII, and XXIII.

Business and Politics.—Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 92-107; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VII, pp. 1-29, 64-73, 175-206; Wilson, History of the American People, Vol. IV, pp. 78-96.

Immigration.—Coman, Industrial History of the United States (2d ed.), pp. 369-374; E.L. Bogart, Economic History of the United States, pp. 420-422, 434-437; Jenks and Lauck, Immigration Problems, Commons, Races and Immigrants.

The Disputed Election of 1876.—Haworth, The United States in Our Own Time, pp. 82-94; Dunning, Reconstruction, Political and Economic (American Nation Series), pp. 294-341; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 835-841.

Abuses in Political Life.—Dunning, Reconstruction, pp. 281-293; see criticisms in party platforms in Stanwood, History of the Presidency, Vol. I; Bryce, American Commonwealth (1910 ed.), Vol. II, pp. 379-448; 136-167.

Studies of Presidential Administrations.—(a) Grant, (b) Hayes, (c) Garfield-Arthur, (d) Cleveland, and (e) Harrison, in Haworth, The United States in Our Own Time, or in Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), or still more briefly in Elson.

Cleveland Democracy.—Haworth, The United States, pp. 164-183; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 240-327; Elson, pp. 857-887.

Analysis of Modern Immigration Problems.Syllabus in History (New York State, 1919), pp. 110-112.



At the close of the Civil War, Kansas and Texas were sentinel states on the middle border. Beyond the Rockies, California, Oregon, and Nevada stood guard, the last of them having been just admitted to furnish another vote for the fifteenth amendment abolishing slavery. Between the near and far frontiers lay a vast reach of plain, desert, plateau, and mountain, almost wholly undeveloped. A broad domain, extending from Canada to Mexico, and embracing the regions now included in Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, the Dakotas, and Oklahoma, had fewer than half a million inhabitants. It was laid out into territories, each administered under a governor appointed by the President and Senate and, as soon as there was the requisite number of inhabitants, a legislature elected by the voters. No railway line stretched across the desert. St. Joseph on the Missouri was the terminus of the Eastern lines. It required twenty-five days for a passenger to make the overland journey to California by the stagecoach system, established in 1858, and more than ten days for the swift pony express, organized in 1860, to carry a letter to San Francisco. Indians still roamed the plain and desert and more than one powerful tribe disputed the white man's title to the soil.

The Railways As Trail Blazers

Opening Railways to the Pacific.—A decade before the Civil War the importance of rail connection between the East and the Pacific Coast had been recognized. Pressure had already been brought to bear on Congress to authorize the construction of a line and to grant land and money in its aid. Both the Democrats and Republicans approved the idea, but it was involved in the slavery controversy. Indeed it was submerged in it. Southern statesmen wanted connections between the Gulf and the Pacific through Texas, while Northerners stood out for a central route.

The North had its way during the war. Congress, by legislation initiated in 1862, provided for the immediate organization of companies to build a line from the Missouri River to California and made grants of land and loans of money to aid in the enterprise. The Western end, the Central Pacific, was laid out under the supervision of Leland Stanford. It was heavily financed by the Mormons of Utah and also by the state government, the ranchmen, miners, and business men of California; and it was built principally by Chinese labor. The Eastern end, the Union Pacific, starting at Omaha, was constructed mainly by veterans of the Civil War and immigrants from Ireland and Germany. In 1869 the two companies met near Ogden in Utah and the driving of the last spike, uniting the Atlantic and the Pacific, was the occasion of a great demonstration.

Other lines to the Pacific were projected at the same time; but the panic of 1873 checked railway enterprise for a while. With the revival of prosperity at the end of that decade, construction was renewed with vigor and the year 1883 marked a series of railway triumphs. In February trains were running from New Orleans through Houston, San Antonio, and Yuma to San Francisco, as a result of a union of the Texas Pacific with the Southern Pacific and its subsidiary corporations. In September the last spike was driven in the Northern Pacific at Helena, Montana. Lake Superior was connected with Puget Sound. The waters explored by Joliet and Marquette were joined to the waters plowed by Sir Francis Drake while he was searching for a route around the world. That same year also a third line was opened to the Pacific by way of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fé, making connections through Albuquerque and Needles with San Francisco. The fondest hopes of railway promoters seemed to be realized.

United States in 1870
United States in 1870

Western Railways Precede Settlement.—In the Old World and on our Atlantic seaboard, railways followed population and markets. In the Far West, railways usually preceded the people. Railway builders planned cities on paper before they laid tracks connecting them. They sent missionaries to spread the gospel of "Western opportunity" to people in the Middle West, in the Eastern cities, and in Southern states. Then they carried their enthusiastic converts bag and baggage in long trains to the distant Dakotas and still farther afield. So the development of the Far West was not left to the tedious processes of time. It was pushed by men of imagination—adventurers who made a romance of money-making and who had dreams of empire unequaled by many kings of the past.

These empire builders bought railway lands in huge tracts; they got more from the government; they overcame every obstacle of cañon, mountain, and stream with the aid of science; they built cities according to the plans made by the engineers. Having the towns ready and railway and steamboat connections formed with the rest of the world, they carried out the people to use the railways, the steamships, the houses, and the land. It was in this way that "the frontier speculator paved the way for the frontier agriculturalist who had to be near a market before he could farm." The spirit of this imaginative enterprise, which laid out railways and towns in advance of the people, is seen in an advertisement of that day: "This extension will run 42 miles from York, northeast through the Island Lake country, and will have five good North Dakota towns. The stations on the line will be well equipped with elevators and will be constructed and ready for operation at the commencement of the grain season. Prospective merchants have been active in securing desirable locations at the different towns on the line. There are still opportunities for hotels, general merchandise, hardware, furniture, and drug stores, etc."

A Town on the Prairie
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
A Town on the Prairie

Among the railway promoters and builders in the West, James J. Hill, of the Great Northern and allied lines, was one of the most forceful figures. He knew that tracks and trains were useless without passengers and freight; without a population of farmers and town dwellers. He therefore organized publicity in the Virginias, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska especially. He sent out agents to tell the story of Western opportunity in this vein: "You see your children come out of school with no chance to get farms of their own because the cost of land in your older part of the country is so high that you can't afford to buy land to start your sons out in life around you. They have to go to the cities to make a living or become laborers in the mills or hire out as farm hands. There is no future for them there. If you are doing well where you are and can safeguard the future of your children and see them prosper around you, don't leave here. But if you want independence, if you are renting your land, if the money-lender is carrying you along and you are running behind year after year, you can do no worse by moving.... You farmers talk of free trade and protection and what this or that political party will do for you. Why don't you vote a homestead for yourself? That is the only thing Uncle Sam will ever give you. Jim Hill hasn't an acre of land to sell you. We are not in the real estate business. We don't want you to go out West and make a failure of it because the rates at which we haul you and your goods make the first transaction a loss.... We must have landless men for a manless land."

Unlike steamship companies stimulating immigration to get the fares, Hill was seeking permanent settlers who would produce, manufacture, and use the railways as the means of exchange. Consequently he fixed low rates and let his passengers take a good deal of live stock and household furniture free. By doing this he made an appeal that was answered by eager families. In 1894 the vanguard of home seekers left Indiana in fourteen passenger coaches, filled with men, women, and children, and forty-eight freight cars carrying their household goods and live stock. In the ten years that followed, 100,000 people from the Middle West and the South, responding to his call, went to the Western country where they brought eight million acres of prairie land under cultivation.

When Hill got his people on the land, he took an interest in everything that increased the productivity of their labor. Was the output of food for his freight cars limited by bad drainage on the farms? Hill then interested himself in practical ways of ditching and tiling. Were farmers hampered in hauling their goods to his trains by bad roads? In that case, he urged upon the states the improvement of highways. Did the traffic slacken because the food shipped was not of the best quality? Then live stock must be improved and scientific farming promoted. Did the farmers need credit? Banks must be established close at hand to advance it. In all conferences on scientific farm management, conservation of natural resources, banking and credit in relation to agriculture and industry, Hill was an active participant. His was the long vision, seeing in conservation and permanent improvements the foundation of prosperity for the railways and the people.

Indeed, he neglected no opportunity to increase the traffic on the lines. He wanted no empty cars running in either direction and no wheat stored in warehouses for the lack of markets. So he looked to the Orient as well as to Europe as an outlet for the surplus of the farms. He sent agents to China and Japan to discover what American goods and produce those countries would consume and what manufactures they had to offer to Americans in exchange. To open the Pacific trade he bought two ocean monsters, the Minnesota and the Dakota, thus preparing for emergencies West as well as East. When some Japanese came to the United States on their way to Europe to buy steel rails, Hill showed them how easy it was for them to make their purchase in this country and ship by way of American railways and American vessels. So the railway builder and promoter, who helped to break the virgin soil of the prairies, lived through the pioneer epoch and into the age of great finance. Before he died he saw the wheat fields of North Dakota linked with the spinning jennies of Manchester and the docks of Yokohama.

The Evolution of Grazing and Agriculture

The Removal of the Indians.—Unlike the frontier of New England in colonial days or that of Kentucky later, the advancing lines of home builders in the Far West had little difficulty with warlike natives. Indian attacks were made on the railway construction gangs; General Custer had his fatal battle with the Sioux in 1876 and there were minor brushes; but they were all of relatively slight consequence. The former practice of treating with the Indians as independent nations was abandoned in 1871 and most of them were concentrated in reservations where they were mainly supported by the government. The supervision of their affairs was vested in a board of commissioners created in 1869 and instructed to treat them as wards of the nation—a trust which unfortunately was often betrayed. A further step in Indian policy was taken in 1887 when provision was made for issuing lands to individual Indians, thus permitting them to become citizens and settle down among their white neighbors as farmers or cattle raisers. The disappearance of the buffalo, the main food supply of the wild Indians, had made them more tractable and more willing to surrender the freedom of the hunter for the routine of the reservation, ranch, or wheat field.

The Cowboy and Cattle Ranger.—Between the frontier of farms and the mountains were plains and semi-arid regions in vast reaches suitable for grazing. As soon as the railways were open into the Missouri Valley, affording an outlet for stock, there sprang up to the westward cattle and sheep raising on an immense scale. The far-famed American cowboy was the hero in this scene. Great herds of cattle were bred in Texas; with the advancing spring and summer seasons, they were driven northward across the plains and over the buffalo trails. In a single year, 1884, it is estimated that nearly one million head of cattle were moved out of Texas to the North by four thousand cowboys, supplied with 30,000 horses and ponies.

During the two decades from 1870 to 1890 both the cattle men and the sheep raisers had an almost free run of the plains, using public lands without paying for the privilege and waging war on one another over the possession of ranges. At length, however, both had to go, as the homesteaders and land companies came and fenced in the plain and desert with endless lines of barbed wire. Already in 1893 a writer familiar with the frontier lamented the passing of the picturesque days: "The unique position of the cowboys among the Americans is jeopardized in a thousand ways. Towns are growing up on their pasture lands; irrigation schemes of a dozen sorts threaten to turn bunch-grass scenery into farm-land views; farmers are pre-empting valleys and the sides of waterways; and the day is not far distant when stock-raising must be done mainly in small herds, with winter corrals, and then the cowboy's days will end. Even now his condition disappoints those who knew him only half a dozen years ago. His breed seems to have deteriorated and his ranks are filling with men who work for wages rather than for the love of the free life and bold companionship that once tempted men into that calling. Splendid Cheyenne saddles are less and less numerous in the outfits; the distinctive hat that made its way up from Mexico may or may not be worn; all the civil authorities in nearly all towns in the grazing country forbid the wearing of side arms; nobody shoots up these towns any more. The fact is the old simon-pure cowboy days are gone already."

Settlement under the Homestead Act of 1862.—Two factors gave a special stimulus to the rapid settlement of Western lands which swept away the Indians and the cattle rangers. The first was the policy of the railway companies in selling large blocks of land received from the government at low prices to induce immigration. The second was the operation of the Homestead law passed in 1862. This measure practically closed the long controversy over the disposition of the public domain that was suitable for agriculture. It provided for granting, without any cost save a small registration fee, public lands in lots of 160 acres each to citizens and aliens who declared their intention of becoming citizens. The one important condition attached was that the settler should occupy the farm for five years before his title was finally confirmed. Even this stipulation was waived in the case of the Civil War veterans who were allowed to count their term of military service as a part of the five years' occupancy required. As the soldiers of the Revolutionary and Mexican wars had advanced in great numbers to the frontier in earlier days, so now veterans led in the settlement of the middle border. Along with them went thousands of German, Irish, and Scandinavian immigrants, fresh from the Old World. Between 1867 and 1874, 27,000,000 acres were staked out in quarter-section farms. In twenty years (1860-80), the population of Nebraska leaped from 28,000 to almost half a million; Kansas from 100,000 to a million; Iowa from 600,000 to 1,600,000; and the Dakotas from 5000 to 140,000.

The Diversity of Western Agriculture.—In soil, produce, and management, Western agriculture presented many contrasts to that of the East and South. In the region of arable and watered lands the typical American unit—the small farm tilled by the owner—appeared as usual; but by the side of it many a huge domain owned by foreign or Eastern companies and tilled by hired labor. Sometimes the great estate took the shape of the "bonanza farm" devoted mainly to wheat and corn and cultivated on a large scale by machinery. Again it assumed the form of the cattle ranch embracing tens of thousands of acres. Again it was a vast holding of diversified interest, such as the Santa Anita ranch near Los Angeles, a domain of 60,000 acres "cultivated in a glorious sweep of vineyards and orange and olive orchards, rich sheep and cattle pastures and horse ranches, their life and customs handed down from the Spanish owners of the various ranches which were swept into one estate."

Irrigation.—In one respect agriculture in the Far West was unique. In a large area spreading through eight states, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of adjoining states, the rainfall was so slight that the ordinary crops to which the American farmer was accustomed could not be grown at all. The Mormons were the first Anglo-Saxons to encounter aridity, and they were baffled at first; but they studied it and mastered it by magnificent irrigation systems. As other settlers poured into the West the problem of the desert was attacked with a will, some of them replying to the commiseration of Eastern farmers by saying that it was easier to scoop out an irrigation ditch than to cut forests and wrestle with stumps and stones. Private companies bought immense areas at low prices, built irrigation works, and disposed of their lands in small plots. Some ranchers with an instinct for water, like that of the miner for metal, sank wells into the dry sand and were rewarded with gushers that "soused the thirsty desert and turned its good-for-nothing sand into good-for-anything loam." The federal government came to the aid of the arid regions in 1894 by granting lands to the states to be used for irrigation purposes. In this work Wyoming took the lead with a law which induced capitalists to invest in irrigation and at the same time provided for the sale of the redeemed lands to actual settlers. Finally in 1902 the federal government by its liberal Reclamation Act added its strength to that of individuals, companies, and states in conquering "arid America."

"Nowhere," writes Powell, a historian of the West, in his picturesque End of the Trail, "has the white man fought a more courageous fight or won a more brilliant victory than in Arizona. His weapons have been the transit and the level, the drill and the dredge, the pick and the spade; and the enemy which he has conquered has been the most stubborn of all foes—the hostile forces of Nature.... The story of how the white man within the space of less than thirty years penetrated, explored, and mapped this almost unknown region; of how he carried law, order, and justice into a section which had never had so much as a speaking acquaintance with any one of the three before; of how, realizing the necessity for means of communication, he built highways of steel across this territory from east to west and from north to south; of how, undismayed by the savageness of the countenance which the desert turned upon him, he laughed and rolled up his sleeves, and spat upon his hands, and slashed the face of the desert with canals and irrigating ditches, and filled those ditches with water brought from deep in the earth or high in the mountains; and of how, in the conquered and submissive soil, he replaced the aloe with alfalfa, the mesquite with maize, the cactus with cotton, forms one of the most inspiring chapters in our history. It is one of the epics of civilization, this reclamation of the Southwest, and its heroes, thank God, are Americans.

"Other desert regions have been redeemed by irrigation—Egypt, for example, and Mesopotamia and parts of the Sudan—but the people of all those regions lay stretched out in the shade of a convenient palm, metaphorically speaking, and waited for some one with more energy than themselves to come along and do the work. But the Arizonians, mindful of the fact that God, the government, and Carnegie help those who help themselves, spent their days wielding the pick and shovel, and their evenings in writing letters to Washington with toil-hardened hands. After a time the government was prodded into action and the great dams at Laguna and Roosevelt are the result. Then the people, organizing themselves into coöperative leagues and water-users' associations, took up the work of reclamation where the government left off; it is to these energetic, persevering men who have drilled wells, plowed fields, and dug ditches through the length and breadth of that great region which stretches from Yuma to Tucson, that the metamorphosis of Arizona is due."

The effect of irrigation wherever introduced was amazing. Stretches of sand and sagebrush gave way to fertile fields bearing crops of wheat, corn, fruits, vegetables, and grass. Huge ranches grazed by browsing sheep were broken up into small plots. The cowboy and ranchman vanished. In their place rose the prosperous community—a community unlike the township of Iowa or the industrial center of the East. Its intensive tillage left little room for hired labor. Its small holdings drew families together in village life rather than dispersing them on the lonely plain. Often the development of water power in connection with irrigation afforded electricity for labor-saving devices and lifted many a burden that in other days fell heavily upon the shoulders of the farmer and his family.

Mining and Manufacturing in the West

Mineral Resources.—In another important particular the Far West differed from the Mississippi Valley states. That was in the predominance of mining over agriculture throughout a vast section. Indeed it was the minerals rather than the land that attracted the pioneers who first opened the country. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 was the signal for the great rush of prospectors, miners, and promoters who explored the valleys, climbed the hills, washed the sands, and dug up the soil in their feverish search for gold, silver, copper, coal, and other minerals. In Nevada and Montana the development of mineral resources went on all during the Civil War. Alder Gulch became Virginia City in 1863; Last Chance Gulch was named Helena in 1864; and Confederate Gulch was christened Diamond City in 1865. At Butte the miners began operations in 1864 and within five years had washed out eight million dollars' worth of gold. Under the gold they found silver; under silver they found copper.

Even at the end of the nineteenth century, after agriculture was well advanced and stock and sheep raising introduced on a large scale, minerals continued to be the chief source of wealth in a number of states. This was revealed by the figures for 1910. The gold, silver, iron, and copper of Colorado were worth more than the wheat, corn, and oats combined; the copper of Montana sold for more than all the cereals and four times the price of the wheat. The interest of Nevada was also mainly mining, the receipts from the mineral output being $43,000,000 or more than one-half the national debt of Hamilton's day. The yield of the mines of Utah was worth four or five times the wheat crop; the coal of Wyoming brought twice as much as the great wool clip; the minerals of Arizona were totaled at $43,000,000 as against a wool clip reckoned at $1,200,000; while in Idaho alone of this group of states did the wheat crop exceed in value the output of the mines.

Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.

Timber Resources.—The forests of the great West, unlike those of the Ohio Valley, proved a boon to the pioneers rather than a foe to be attacked. In Ohio and Indiana, for example, the frontier line of homemakers had to cut, roll, and burn thousands of trees before they could put out a crop of any size. Beyond the Mississippi, however, there were all ready for the breaking plow great reaches of almost treeless prairie, where every stick of timber was precious. In the other parts, often rough and mountainous, where stood primeval forests of the finest woods, the railroads made good use of the timber. They consumed acres of forests themselves in making ties, bridge timbers, and telegraph poles, and they laid a heavy tribute upon the forests for their annual upkeep. The surplus trees, such as had burdened the pioneers of the Northwest Territory a hundred years before, they carried off to markets on the east and west coasts.

Western Industries.—The peculiar conditions of the Far West stimulated a rise of industries more rapid than is usual in new country. The mining activities which in many sections preceded agriculture called for sawmills to furnish timber for the mines and smelters to reduce and refine ores. The ranches supplied sheep and cattle for the packing houses of Kansas City as well as Chicago. The waters of the Northwest afforded salmon for 4000 cases in 1866 and for 1,400,000 cases in 1916. The fruits and vegetables of California brought into existence innumerable canneries. The lumber industry, starting with crude sawmills to furnish rough timbers for railways and mines, ended in specialized factories for paper, boxes, and furniture. As the railways preceded settlement and furnished a ready outlet for local manufactures, so they encouraged the early establishment of varied industries, thus creating a state of affairs quite unlike that which obtained in the Ohio Valley in the early days before the opening of the Erie Canal.

Social Effects of Economic Activities.—In many respects the social life of the Far West also differed from that of the Ohio Valley. The treeless prairies, though open to homesteads, favored the great estate tilled in part by tenant labor and in part by migratory seasonal labor, summoned from all sections of the country for the harvests. The mineral resources created hundreds of huge fortunes which made the accumulations of eastern mercantile families look trivial by comparison. Other millionaires won their fortunes in the railway business and still more from the cattle and sheep ranges. In many sections the "cattle king," as he was called, was as dominant as the planter had been in the old South. Everywhere in the grazing country he was a conspicuous and important person. He "sometimes invested money in banks, in railroad stocks, or in city property.... He had his rating in the commercial reviews and could hobnob with bankers, railroad presidents, and metropolitan merchants.... He attended party caucuses and conventions, ran for the state legislature, and sometimes defeated a lawyer or metropolitan 'business man' in the race for a seat in Congress. In proportion to their numbers, the ranchers ... have constituted a highly impressive class."

Although many of the early capitalists of the great West, especially from Nevada, spent their money principally in the East, others took leadership in promoting the sections in which they had made their fortunes. A railroad pioneer, General Palmer, built his home at Colorado Springs, founded the town, and encouraged local improvements. Denver owed its first impressive buildings to the civic patriotism of Horace Tabor, a wealthy mine owner. Leland Stanford paid his tribute to California in the endowment of a large university. Colonel W.F. Cody, better known as "Buffalo Bill," started his career by building a "boom town" which collapsed, and made a large sum of money supplying buffalo meat to construction hands (hence his popular name). By his famous Wild West Show, he increased it to a fortune which he devoted mainly to the promotion of a western reclamation scheme.

While the Far West was developing this vigorous, aggressive leadership in business, a considerable industrial population was springing up. Even the cattle ranges and hundreds of farms were conducted like factories in that they were managed through overseers who hired plowmen, harvesters, and cattlemen at regular wages. At the same time there appeared other peculiar features which made a lasting impression on western economic life. Mining, lumbering, and fruit growing, for instance, employed thousands of workers during the rush months and turned them out at other times. The inevitable result was an army of migratory laborers wandering from camp to camp, from town to town, and from ranch to ranch, without fixed homes or established habits of life. From this extraordinary condition there issued many a long and lawless conflict between capital and labor, giving a distinct color to the labor movement in whole sections of the mountain and coast states.

The Admission of New States

The Spirit of Self-Government.—The instinct of self-government was strong in the western communities. In the very beginning, it led to the organization of volunteer committees, known as "vigilantes," to suppress crime and punish criminals. As soon as enough people were settled permanently in a region, they took care to form a more stable kind of government. An illustration of this process is found in the Oregon compact made by the pioneers in 1843, the spirit of which is reflected in an editorial in an old copy of the Rocky Mountain News: "We claim that any body or community of American citizens which from any cause or under any circumstances is cut off from or from isolation is so situated as not to be under any active and protecting branch of the central government, have a right, if on American soil, to frame a government and enact such laws and regulations as may be necessary for their own safety, protection, and happiness, always with the condition precedent, that they shall, at the earliest moment when the central government shall extend an effective organization and laws over them, give it their unqualified support and obedience."

People who turned so naturally to the organization of local administration were equally eager for admission to the union as soon as any shadow of a claim to statehood could be advanced. As long as a region was merely one of the territories of the United States, the appointment of the governor and other officers was controlled by politics at Washington. Moreover the disposition of land, mineral rights, forests, and water power was also in the hands of national leaders. Thus practical considerations were united with the spirit of independence in the quest for local autonomy.

Nebraska and Colorado.—Two states, Nebraska and Colorado, had little difficulty in securing admission to the union. The first, Nebraska, had been organized as a territory by the famous Kansas-Nebraska bill which did so much to precipitate the Civil War. Lying to the north of Kansas, which had been admitted in 1861, it escaped the invasion of slave owners from Missouri and was settled mainly by farmers from the North. Though it claimed a population of only 67,000, it was regarded with kindly interest by the Republican Congress at Washington and, reduced to its present boundaries, it received the coveted statehood in 1867.

This was hardly accomplished before the people of Colorado to the southwest began to make known their demands. They had been organized under territorial government in 1861 when they numbered only a handful; but within ten years the aspect of their affairs had completely changed. The silver and gold deposits of the Leadville and Cripple Creek regions had attracted an army of miners and prospectors. The city of Denver, founded in 1858 and named after the governor of Kansas whence came many of the early settlers, had grown from a straggling camp of log huts into a prosperous center of trade. By 1875 it was reckoned that the population of the territory was not less than one hundred thousand; the following year Congress, yielding to the popular appeal, made Colorado a member of the American union.

Six New States (1889-1890).—For many years there was a deadlock in Congress over the admission of new states. The spell was broken in 1889 under the leadership of the Dakotas. For a long time the Dakota territory, organized in 1861, had been looked upon as the home of the powerful Sioux Indians whose enormous reservation blocked the advance of the frontier. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills, however, marked their doom. Even before Congress could open their lands to prospectors, pioneers were swarming over the country. Farmers from the adjoining Minnesota and the Eastern states, Scandinavians, Germans, and Canadians, came in swelling waves to occupy the fertile Dakota lands, now famous even as far away as the fjords of Norway. Seldom had the plow of man cut through richer soil than was found in the bottoms of the Red River Valley, and it became all the more precious when the opening of the Northern Pacific in 1883 afforded a means of transportation east and west. The population, which had numbered 135,000 in 1880, passed the half million mark before ten years had elapsed.

Remembering that Nebraska had been admitted with only 67,000 inhabitants, the Dakotans could not see why they should be kept under federal tutelage. At the same time Washington, far away on the Pacific Coast, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, boasting of their populations and their riches, put in their own eloquent pleas. But the members of Congress were busy with politics. The Democrats saw no good reason for admitting new Republican states until after their defeat in 1888. Near the end of their term the next year they opened the door for North and South Dakota, Washington, and Montana. In 1890, a Republican Congress brought Idaho and Wyoming into the union, the latter with woman suffrage, which had been granted twenty-one years before.

Utah.—Although Utah had long presented all the elements of a well-settled and industrious community, its admission to the union was delayed on account of popular hostility to the practice of polygamy. The custom, it is true, had been prohibited by act of Congress in 1862; but the law had been systematically evaded. In 1882 Congress made another and more effective effort to stamp out polygamy. Five years later it even went so far as to authorize the confiscation of the property of the Mormon Church in case the practice of plural marriages was not stopped. Meanwhile the Gentile or non-Mormon population was steadily increasing and the leaders in the Church became convinced that the battle against the sentiment of the country was futile. At last in 1896 Utah was admitted as a state under a constitution which forbade plural marriages absolutely and forever. Horace Greeley, who visited Utah in 1859, had prophesied that the Pacific Railroad would work a revolution in the land of Brigham Young. His prophecy had come true.

The United States in 1912
The United States in 1912

Rounding out the Continent.—Three more territories now remained out of the Union. Oklahoma, long an Indian reservation, had been opened for settlement to white men in 1889. The rush upon the fertile lands of this region, the last in the history of America, was marked by all the frenzy of the final, desperate chance. At a signal from a bugle an army of men with families in wagons, men and women on horseback and on foot, burst into the territory. During the first night a city of tents was raised at Guthrie and Oklahoma City. In ten days wooden houses rose on the plains. In a single year there were schools, churches, business blocks, and newspapers. Within fifteen years there was a population of more than half a million. To the west, Arizona with a population of about 125,000 and New Mexico with 200,000 inhabitants joined Oklahoma in asking for statehood. Congress, then Republican, looked with reluctance upon the addition of more Democratic states; but in 1907 it was literally compelled by public sentiment and a sense of justice to admit Oklahoma. In 1910 the House of Representatives went to the Democrats and within two years Arizona and New Mexico were "under the roof." So the continental domain was rounded out.

The Influence of the Far West on National Life

The Last of the Frontier.—When Horace Greeley made his trip west in 1859 he thus recorded the progress of civilization in his journal:

"May 12th, Chicago.—Chocolate and morning journals last seen on the hotel breakfast table.

23rd, Leavenworth (Kansas).—Room bells and bath tubs make their final appearance.

26th, Manhattan.—Potatoes and eggs last recognized among the blessings that 'brighten as they take their flight.'

27th, Junction City.—Last visitation of a boot-black, with dissolving views of a board bedroom. Beds bid us good-by."

The Canadian Building at the Panama-California International Exposition, San Diego, 1915
Copyright by Panama-California Exposition
The Canadian Building at the Panama-California International Exposition, San Diego, 1915

Within thirty years travelers were riding across that country in Pullman cars and enjoying at the hotels all the comforts of a standardized civilization. The "wild west" was gone, and with it that frontier of pioneers and settlers who had long given such a bent and tone to American life and had "poured in upon the floor of Congress" such a long line of "backwoods politicians," as they were scornfully styled.

Free Land and Eastern Labor.—It was not only the picturesque features of the frontier that were gone. Of far more consequence was the disappearance of free lands with all that meant for American labor. For more than a hundred years, any man of even moderate means had been able to secure a homestead of his own and an independent livelihood. For a hundred years America had been able to supply farms to as many immigrants as cared to till the soil. Every new pair of strong arms meant more farms and more wealth. Workmen in Eastern factories, mines, or mills who did not like their hours, wages, or conditions of labor, could readily find an outlet to the land. Now all that was over. By about 1890 most of the desirable land available under the Homestead act had disappeared. American industrial workers confronted a new situation.

Grain Supplants King Cotton.—In the meantime a revolution was taking place in agriculture. Until 1860 the chief staples sold by America were cotton and tobacco. With the advance of the frontier, corn and wheat supplanted them both in agrarian economy. The West became the granary of the East and of Western Europe. The scoop shovel once used to handle grain was superseded by the towering elevator, loading and unloading thousands of bushels every hour. The refrigerator car and ship made the packing industry as stable as the production of cotton or corn, and gave an immense impetus to cattle raising and sheep farming. So the meat of the West took its place on the English dinner table by the side of bread baked from Dakotan wheat.

Aid in American Economic Independence.—The effects of this economic movement were manifold and striking. Billions of dollars' worth of American grain, dairy produce, and meat were poured into European markets where they paid off debts due money lenders and acquired capital to develop American resources. Thus they accelerated the progress of American financiers toward national independence. The country, which had timidly turned to the Old World for capital in Hamilton's day and had borrowed at high rates of interest in London in Lincoln's day, moved swiftly toward the time when it would be among the world's first bankers and money lenders itself. Every grain of wheat and corn pulled the balance down on the American side of the scale.

Eastern Agriculture Affected.—In the East as well as abroad the opening of the western granary produced momentous results. The agricultural economy of that part of the country was changed in many respects. Whole sections of the poorest land went almost out of cultivation, the abandoned farms of the New England hills bearing solemn witness to the competing power of western wheat fields. Sheep and cattle raising, as well as wheat and corn production, suffered at least a relative decline. Thousands of farmers cultivating land of the lower grade were forced to go West or were driven to the margin of subsistence. Even the herds that supplied Eastern cities with milk were fed upon grain brought halfway across the continent.

The Expansion of the American Market.—Upon industry as well as agriculture, the opening of vast food-producing regions told in a thousand ways. The demand for farm machinery, clothing, boots, shoes, and other manufactures gave to American industries such a market as even Hamilton had never foreseen. Moreover it helped to expand far into the Mississippi Valley the industrial area once confined to the Northern seaboard states and to transform the region of the Great Lakes into an industrial empire. Herein lies the explanation of the growth of mid-western cities after 1865. Chicago, with its thirty-five railways, tapped every locality of the West and South. To the railways were added the water routes of the Lakes, thus creating a strategic center for industries. Long foresight carried the McCormick reaper works to Chicago before 1860. From Troy, New York, went a large stove plant. That was followed by a shoe factory from Massachusetts. The packing industry rose as a matter of course at a point so advantageous for cattle raisers and shippers and so well connected with Eastern markets.

To the opening of the Far West also the Lake region was indebted for a large part of that water-borne traffic which made it "the Mediterranean basin of North America." The produce of the West and the manufactures of the East poured through it in an endless stream. The swift growth of shipbuilding on the Great Lakes helped to compensate for the decline of the American marine on the high seas. In response to this stimulus Detroit could boast that her shipwrights were able to turn out a ten thousand ton Leviathan for ore or grain about "as quickly as carpenters could put up an eight-room house." Thus in relation to the Far West the old Northwest territory—the wilderness of Jefferson's time—had taken the position formerly occupied by New England alone. It was supplying capital and manufactures for a vast agricultural empire West and South.

America on the Pacific.—It has been said that the Mediterranean Sea was the center of ancient civilization; that modern civilization has developed on the shores of the Atlantic; and that the future belongs to the Pacific. At any rate, the sweep of the United States to the shores of the Pacific quickly exercised a powerful influence on world affairs and it undoubtedly has a still greater significance for the future.

Very early regular traffic sprang up between the Pacific ports and the Hawaiian Islands, China, and Japan. Two years before the adjustment of the Oregon controversy with England, namely in 1844, the United States had established official and trading relations with China. Ten years later, four years after the admission of California to the union, the barred door of Japan was forced open by Commodore Perry. The commerce which had long before developed between the Pacific ports and Hawaii, China, and Japan now flourished under official care. In 1865 a ship from Honolulu carried sugar, molasses, and fruits from Hawaii to the Oregon port of Astoria. The next year a vessel from Hongkong brought rice, mats, and tea from China. An era of lucrative trade was opened. The annexation of Hawaii in 1898, the addition of the Philippines at the same time, and the participation of American troops in the suppression of the Boxer rebellion in Peking in 1900, were but signs and symbols of American power on the Pacific.

Commodore Perry's Men Making Presents to the Japanese
From an old print
Commodore Perry's Men Making Presents to the Japanese

Conservation and the Land Problem.—The disappearance of the frontier also brought new and serious problems to the governments of the states and the nation. The people of the whole United States suddenly were forced to realize that there was a limit to the rich, new land to exploit and to the forests and minerals awaiting the ax and the pick. Then arose in America the questions which had long perplexed the countries of the Old World—the scientific use of the soils and conservation of natural resources. Hitherto the government had followed the easy path of giving away arable land and selling forest and mineral lands at low prices. Now it had to face far more difficult and complex problems. It also had to consider questions of land tenure again, especially if the ideal of a nation of home-owning farmers was to be maintained. While there was plenty of land for every man or woman who wanted a home on the soil, it made little difference if single landlords or companies got possession of millions of acres, if a hundred men in one western river valley owned 17,000,000 acres; but when the good land for small homesteads was all gone, then was raised the real issue. At the opening of the twentieth century the nation, which a hundred years before had land and natural resources apparently without limit, was compelled to enact law after law conserving its forests and minerals. Then it was that the great state of California, on the very border of the continent, felt constrained to enact a land settlement measure providing government assistance in an effort to break up large holdings into small lots and to make it easy for actual settlers to acquire small farms. America was passing into a new epoch.


Henry Inman, The Old Santa Fé Trail.

R.I. Dodge, The Plains of the Great West (1877).

C.H. Shinn, The Story of the Mine.

Cy Warman, The Story of the Railroad.

Emerson Hough, The Story of the Cowboy.

H.H. Bancroft is the author of many works on the West but his writings will be found only in the larger libraries.

Joseph Schafer, History of the Pacific Northwest (ed. 1918).

T.H. Hittel, History of California (4 vols.).

W.H. Olin, American Irrigation Farming.

W.E. Smythe, The Conquest of Arid America.

H.A. Millis, The American-Japanese Problem.

E.S. Meany, History of the State of Washington.

H.K. Norton, The Story of California.


1. Name the states west of the Mississippi in 1865.

2. In what manner was the rest of the western region governed?

3. How far had settlement been carried?

4. What were the striking physical features of the West?

5. How was settlement promoted after 1865?

6. Why was admission to the union so eagerly sought?

7. Explain how politics became involved in the creation of new states.

8. Did the West rapidly become like the older sections of the country?

9. What economic peculiarities did it retain or develop?

10. How did the federal government aid in western agriculture?

11. How did the development of the West affect the East? The South?

12. What relation did the opening of the great grain areas of the West bear to the growth of America's commercial and financial power?

13. State some of the new problems of the West.

14. Discuss the significance of American expansion to the Pacific Ocean.

Research Topics

The Passing of the Wild West.—Haworth, The United States in Our Own Times, pp. 100-124.

The Indian Question.—Sparks, National Development (American Nation Series), pp. 265-281.

The Chinese Question.—Sparks, National Development, pp. 229-250; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 180-196.

The Railway Age.—Schafer, History of the Pacific Northwest, pp. 230-245; E.V. Smalley, The Northern Pacific Railroad; Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 20-26, especially the map on p. 23, and pp. 142-148.

Agriculture and Business.—Schafer, Pacific Northwest, pp. 246-289.

Ranching in the Northwest.—Theodore Roosevelt, Ranch Life, and Autobiography, pp. 103-143.

The Conquest of the Desert.—W.E. Smythe, The Conquest of Arid America.

Studies of Individual Western States.—Consult any good encyclopedia.



For thirty years after the Civil War the leading political parties, although they engaged in heated presidential campaigns, were not sharply and clearly opposed on many matters of vital significance. During none of that time was there a clash of opinion over specific issues such as rent the country in 1800 when Jefferson rode a popular wave to victory, or again in 1828 when Jackson's western hordes came sweeping into power. The Democrats, who before 1860 definitely opposed protective tariffs, federal banking, internal improvements, and heavy taxes, now spoke cautiously on all these points. The Republicans, conscious of the fact that they had been a minority of the voters in 1860 and warned by the early loss of the House of Representatives in 1874, also moved with considerable prudence among the perplexing problems of the day. Again and again the votes in Congress showed that no clear line separated all the Democrats from all the Republicans. There were Republicans who favored tariff reductions and "cheap money." There were Democrats who looked with partiality upon high protection or with indulgence upon the contraction of the currency. Only on matters relating to the coercion of the South was the division between the parties fairly definite; this could be readily accounted for on practical as well as sentimental grounds.

After all, the vague criticisms and proposals that found their way into the political platforms did but reflect the confusion of mind prevailing in the country. The fact that, out of the eighteen years between 1875 and 1893, the Democrats held the House of Representatives for fourteen years while the Republicans had every President but one showed that the voters, like the politicians, were in a state of indecision. Hayes had a Democratic House during his entire term and a Democratic Senate for two years of the four. Cleveland was confronted by a belligerent Republican majority in the Senate during his first administration; and at the same time was supported by a Democratic majority in the House. Harrison was sustained by continuous Republican successes in Senatorial elections; but in the House he had the barest majority from 1889 to 1891 and lost that altogether at the election held in the middle of his term. The opinion of the country was evidently unsettled and fluctuating. It was still distracted by memories of the dead past and uncertain as to the trend of the future.

The Currency Question

Nevertheless these years of muddled politics and nebulous issues proved to be a period in which social forces were gathering for the great campaign of 1896. Except for three new features—the railways, the trusts, and the trade unions—the subjects of debate among the people were the same as those that had engaged their attention since the foundation of the republic: the currency, the national debt, banking, the tariff, and taxation.

Debtors and the Fall in Prices.—For many reasons the currency question occupied the center of interest. As of old, the farmers and planters of the West and South were heavily in debt to the East for borrowed money secured by farm mortgages; and they counted upon the sale of cotton, corn, wheat, and hogs to meet interest and principal when due. During the war, the Western farmers had been able to dispose of their produce at high prices and thus discharge their debts with comparative ease; but after the war prices declined. Wheat that sold at two dollars a bushel in 1865 brought sixty-four cents twenty years later. The meaning of this for the farmers in debt—and nearly three-fourths of them were in that class—can be shown by a single illustration. A thousand-dollar mortgage on a Western farm could be paid off by five hundred bushels of wheat when prices were high; whereas it took about fifteen hundred bushels to pay the same debt when wheat was at the bottom of the scale. For the farmer, it must be remembered, wheat was the measure of his labor, the product of his toil under the summer sun; and in its price he found the test of his prosperity.

Creditors and Falling Prices.—To the bondholders or creditors, on the other hand, falling prices were clear gain. If a fifty-dollar coupon on a bond bought seventy or eighty bushels of wheat instead of twenty or thirty, the advantage to the owner of the coupon was obvious. Moreover the advantage seemed to him entirely just. Creditors had suffered heavy losses when the Civil War carried prices skyward while the interest rates on their old bonds remained stationary. For example, if a man had a $1000 bond issued before 1860 and paying interest at five per cent, he received fifty dollars a year from it. Before the war each dollar would buy a bushel of wheat; in 1865 it would only buy half a bushel. When prices—that is, the cost of living—began to go down, creditors therefore generally regarded the change with satisfaction as a return to normal conditions.

The Cause of Falling Prices.—The fall in prices was due, no doubt, to many factors. Among them must be reckoned the discontinuance of government buying for war purposes, labor-saving farm machinery, immigration, and the opening of new wheat-growing regions. The currency, too, was an element in the situation. Whatever the cause, the discontented farmers believed that the way to raise prices was to issue more money. They viewed it as a case of supply and demand. If there was a small volume of currency in circulation, prices would be low; if there was a large volume, prices would be high. Hence they looked with favor upon all plans to increase the amount of money in circulation. First they advocated more paper notes—greenbacks—and then they turned to silver as the remedy. The creditors, on the other hand, naturally approved the reduction of the volume of currency. They wished to see the greenbacks withdrawn from circulation and gold—a metal more limited in volume than silver—made the sole basis of the national monetary system.

The Battle over the Greenbacks.—The contest between these factions began as early as 1866. In that year, Congress enacted a law authorizing the Treasury to withdraw the greenbacks from circulation. The paper money party set up a shrill cry of protest, and kept up the fight until, in 1878, it forced Congress to provide for the continuous re-issue of the legal tender notes as they came into the Treasury in payment of taxes and other dues. Then could the friends of easy money rejoice:

"Thou, Greenback, 'tis of thee
Fair money of the free,
Of thee we sing."

Resumption of Specie Payment.—There was, however, another side to this victory. The opponents of the greenbacks, unable to stop the circulation of paper, induced Congress to pass a law in 1875 providing that on and after January 1, 1879, "the Secretary of the Treasury shall redeem in coin the United States legal tender notes then outstanding on their presentation at the office of the Assistant Treasurer of the United States in the City of New York in sums of not less than fifty dollars." "The way to resume," John Sherman had said, "is to resume." When the hour for redemption arrived, the Treasury was prepared with a large hoard of gold. "On the appointed day," wrote the assistant secretary, "anxiety reigned in the office of the Treasury. Hour after hour passed; no news from New York. Inquiry by wire showed that all was quiet. At the close of the day this message came: '$135,000 of notes presented for coin—$400,000 of gold for notes.' That was all. Resumption was accomplished with no disturbance. By five o'clock the news was all over the land, and the New York bankers were sipping their tea in absolute safety."

The Specie Problem—the Parity of Gold and Silver.—Defeated in their efforts to stop "the present suicidal and destructive policy of contraction," the advocates of an abundant currency demanded an increase in the volume of silver in circulation. This precipitated one of the sharpest political battles in American history. The issue turned on legal as well as economic points. The Constitution gave Congress the power to coin money and it forbade the states to make anything but gold and silver legal tender in the payment of debts. It evidently contemplated the use of both metals in the currency system. Such, at least, was the view of many eminent statesmen, including no less a personage than James G. Blaine. The difficulty, however, lay in maintaining gold and silver coins on a level which would permit them to circulate with equal facility. Obviously, if the gold in a gold dollar exceeds the value of the silver in a silver dollar on the open market, men will hoard gold money and leave silver money in circulation. When, for example, Congress in 1792 fixed the ratio of the two metals at one to fifteen—one ounce of gold declared worth fifteen of silver—it was soon found that gold had been undervalued. When again in 1834 the ratio was put at one to sixteen, it was found that silver was undervalued. Consequently the latter metal was not brought in for coinage and silver almost dropped out of circulation. Many a silver dollar was melted down by silverware factories.

Silver Demonetized in 1873.—So things stood in 1873. At that time, Congress, in enacting a mintage law, discontinued the coinage of the standard silver dollar, then practically out of circulation. This act was denounced later by the friends of silver as "the crime of '73," a conspiracy devised by the money power and secretly carried out. This contention the debates in Congress do not seem to sustain. In the course of the argument on the mint law it was distinctly said by one speaker at least: "This bill provides for the making of changes in the legal tender coin of the country and for substituting as legal tender, coin of only one metal instead of two as heretofore."

The Decline in the Value of Silver.—Absorbed in the greenback controversy, the people apparently did not appreciate, at the time, the significance of the "demonetization" of silver; but within a few years several events united in making it the center of a political storm. Germany, having abandoned silver in 1871, steadily increased her demand for gold. Three years later, the countries of the Latin Union followed this example, thus helping to enhance the price of the yellow metal. All the while, new silver lodes, discovered in the Far West, were pouring into the market great streams of the white metal, bearing down the price. Then came the resumption of specie payment, which, in effect, placed the paper money on a gold basis. Within twenty years silver was worth in gold only about half the price of 1870.

That there had been a real decline in silver was denied by the friends of that metal. They alleged that gold had gone up because it had been given a monopoly in the coinage markets of civilized governments. This monopoly, they continued, was the fruit of a conspiracy against the people conceived by the bankers of the world. Moreover, they went on, the placing of the greenbacks on a gold basis had itself worked a contraction of the currency; it lowered the prices of labor and produce to the advantage of the holders of long-term investments bearing a fixed rate of interest. When wheat sold at sixty-four cents a bushel, their search for relief became desperate, and they at last concentrated their efforts on opening the mints of the government for the free coinage of silver at the ratio of sixteen to one.

Republicans and Democrats Divided.—On this question both Republicans and Democrats were divided, the line being drawn between the East on the one hand and the South and West on the other, rather than between the two leading parties. So trusted a leader as James G. Blaine avowed, in a speech delivered in the Senate in 1878, that, as the Constitution required Congress to make both gold and silver the money of the land, the only question left was that of fixing the ratio between them. He affirmed, moreover, the main contention of the silver faction that a reopening of the government mints of the world to silver would bring it up to its old relation with gold. He admitted also that their most ominous warnings were well founded, saying: "I believe the struggle now going on in this country and in other countries for a single gold standard would, if successful, produce widespread disaster throughout the commercial world. The destruction of silver as money and the establishment of gold as the sole unit of value must have a ruinous effect on all forms of property, except those investments which yield a fixed return."

This was exactly the concession that the silver party wanted. "Three-fourths of the business enterprises of this country are conducted on borrowed capital," said Senator Jones, of Nevada. "Three-fourths of the homes and farms that stand in the names of the actual occupants have been bought on time and a very large proportion of them are mortgaged for the payment of some part of the purchase money. Under the operation of a shrinkage in the volume of money, this enormous mass of borrowers, at the maturity of their respective debts, though nominally paying no more than the amount borrowed, with interest, are in reality, in the amount of the principal alone, returning a percentage of value greater than they received—more in equity than they contracted to pay.... In all discussions of the subject the creditors attempt to brush aside the equities involved by sneering at the debtors."

The Silver Purchase Act (1878).—Even before the actual resumption of specie payment, the advocates of free silver were a power to be reckoned with, particularly in the Democratic party. They had a majority in the House of Representatives in 1878 and they carried a silver bill through that chamber. Blocked by the Republican Senate they accepted a compromise in the Bland-Allison bill, which provided for huge monthly purchases of silver by the government for coinage into dollars. So strong was the sentiment that a two-thirds majority was mustered after President Hayes vetoed the measure.

The effect of this act, as some had anticipated, was disappointing. It did not stay silver on its downward course. Thereupon the silver faction pressed through Congress in 1886 a bill providing for the issue of paper certificates based on the silver accumulated in the Treasury. Still silver continued to fall. Then the advocates of inflation declared that they would be content with nothing short of free coinage at the ratio of sixteen to one. If the issue had been squarely presented in 1890, there is good reason for believing that free silver would have received a majority in both houses of Congress; but it was not presented.

The Sherman Silver Purchase Act and the Bond Sales.—Republican leaders, particularly from the East, stemmed the silver tide by a diversion of forces. They passed the Sherman Act of 1890 providing for large monthly purchases of silver and for the issue of notes redeemable in gold or silver at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. In a clause of superb ambiguity they announced that it was "the established policy of the United States to maintain the two metals on a parity with each other upon the present legal ratio or such other ratio as may be provided by law." For a while silver was buoyed up. Then it turned once more on its downward course. In the meantime the Treasury was in a sad plight. To maintain the gold reserve, President Cleveland felt compelled to sell government bonds; and to his dismay he found that as soon as the gold was brought in at the front door of the Treasury, notes were presented for redemption and the gold was quickly carried out at the back door. Alarmed at the vicious circle thus created, he urged upon Congress the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. For this he was roundly condemned by many of his own followers who branded his conduct as "treason to the party"; but the Republicans, especially from the East, came to his rescue and in 1893 swept the troublesome sections of the law from the statute book. The anger of the silver faction knew no bounds, and the leaders made ready for the approaching presidential campaign.

The Protective Tariff and Taxation

Fluctuation in Tariff Policy.—As each of the old parties was divided on the currency question, it is not surprising that there was some confusion in their ranks over the tariff. Like the silver issue, the tariff tended to align the manufacturing East against the agricultural West and South rather than to cut directly between the two parties. Still the Republicans on the whole stood firmly by the rates imposed during the Civil War. If we except the reductions of 1872 which were soon offset by increases, we may say that those rates were substantially unchanged for nearly twenty years. When a revision was brought about, however, it was initiated by Republican leaders. Seeing a huge surplus of revenue in the Treasury in 1883, they anticipated popular clamor by revising the tariff on the theory that it ought to be reformed by its friends rather than by its enemies. On the other hand, it was the Republicans also who enacted the McKinley tariff bill of 1890, which carried protection to its highest point up to that time.

The Democrats on their part were not all confirmed free traders or even advocates of tariff for revenue only. In Cleveland's first administration they did attack the protective system in the House, where they had a majority, and in this they were vigorously supported by the President. The assault, however, proved to be a futile gesture for it was blocked by the Republicans in the Senate. When, after the sweeping victory of 1892, the Democrats in the House again attempted to bring down the tariff by the Wilson bill of 1894, they were checkmated by their own party colleagues in the upper chamber. In the end they were driven into a compromise that looked more like a McKinley than a Calhoun tariff. The Republicans taunted them with being "babes in the woods." President Cleveland was so dissatisfied with the bill that he refused to sign it, allowing it to become a law, on the lapse of ten days, without his approval.

The Income Tax of 1894.—The advocates of tariff reduction usually associated with their proposal a tax on incomes. The argument which they advanced in support of their program was simple. Most of the industries, they said, are in the East and the protective tariff which taxes consumers for the benefit of manufacturers is, in effect, a tribute laid upon the rest of the country. As an offset they offered a tax on large incomes; this owing to the heavy concentration of rich people in the East, would fall mainly upon the beneficiaries of protection. "We propose," said one of them, "to place a part of the burden upon the accumulated wealth of the country instead of placing it all upon the consumption of the people." In this spirit the sponsors of the Wilson tariff bill laid a tax upon all incomes of $4000 a year or more.

In taking this step, the Democrats encountered opposition in their own party. Senator Hill, of New York, turned fiercely upon them, exclaiming: "The professors with their books, the socialists with their schemes, the anarchists with their bombs are all instructing the people in the ... principles of taxation." Even the Eastern Republicans were hardly as savage in their denunciation of the tax. But all this labor was wasted. The next year the Supreme Court of the United States declared the income tax to be a direct tax, and therefore null and void because it was laid on incomes wherever found and not apportioned among the states according to population. The fact that four of the nine judges dissented from this decision was also an index to the diversity of opinion that divided both parties.

The Railways and Trusts

The Grangers and State Regulation.—The same uncertainty about the railways and trusts pervaded the ranks of the Republicans and Democrats. As to the railways, the first firm and consistent demand for their regulation came from the West. There the farmers, in the early seventies, having got control in state legislatures, particularly in Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, enacted drastic laws prescribing the maximum charges which companies could make for carrying freight and passengers. The application of these measures, however, was limited because the state could not fix the rates for transporting goods and passengers beyond its own borders. The power of regulating interstate commerce, under the Constitution, belonged to Congress.

The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.—Within a few years, the movement which had been so effective in western legislatures appeared at Washington in the form of demands for the federal regulation of interstate rates. In 1887, the pressure became so strong that Congress created the interstate commerce commission and forbade many abuses on the part of railways; such as discriminating in charges between one shipper and another and granting secret rebates to favored persons. This law was a significant beginning; but it left the main question of rate-fixing untouched, much to the discontent of farmers and shippers.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Law of 1890.—As in the case of the railways, attacks upon the trusts were first made in state legislatures, where it became the fashion to provide severe penalties for those who formed monopolies and "conspired to enhance prices." Republicans and Democrats united in the promotion of measures of this kind. As in the case of the railways also, the movement to curb the trusts soon had spokesmen at Washington. Though Blaine had declared that "trusts were largely a private affair with which neither the President nor any private citizen had any particular right to interfere," it was a Republican Congress that enacted in 1890 the first measure—the Sherman Anti-Trust Law—directed against great combinations in business. This act declared illegal "every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy in restraint of trade and commerce among the several states or with foreign nations."

The Futility of the Anti-Trust Law.—Whether the Sherman law was directed against all combinations or merely those which placed an "unreasonable restraint" on trade and competition was not apparent. Senator Platt of Connecticut, a careful statesman of the old school, averred: "The questions of whether the bill would be operative, of how it would operate, or whether it was within the power of Congress to enact it, have been whistled down the wind in this Senate as idle talk and the whole effort has been to get some bill headed: 'A bill to punish trusts,' with which to go to the country." Whatever its purpose, its effect upon existing trusts and upon the formation of new combinations was negligible. It was practically unenforced by President Harrison and President Cleveland, in spite of the constant demand for harsh action against "monopolies." It was patent that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats were prepared for a war on the trusts to the bitter end.

The Minor Parties and Unrest

The Demands of Dissenting Parties.—From the election of 1872, when Horace Greeley made his ill-fated excursion into politics, onward, there appeared in each presidential campaign one, and sometimes two or more parties, stressing issues that appealed mainly to wage-earners and farmers. Whether they chose to call themselves Labor Reformers, Greenbackers, or Anti-monopolists, their slogans and their platforms all pointed in one direction. Even the Prohibitionists, who in 1872 started on their career with a single issue, the abolition of the liquor traffic, found themselves making declarations of faith on other matters and hopelessly split over the money question in 1896.

A composite view of the platforms put forth by the dissenting parties from the administration of Grant to the close of Cleveland's second term reveals certain notions common to them all. These included among many others: the earliest possible payment of the national debt; regulation of the rates of railways and telegraph companies; repeal of the specie resumption act of 1875; the issue of legal tender notes by the government convertible into interest-bearing obligations on demand; unlimited coinage of silver as well as gold; a graduated inheritance tax; legislation to take from "land, railroad, money, and other gigantic corporate monopolies ... the powers they have so corruptly and unjustly usurped"; popular or direct election of United States Senators; woman suffrage; and a graduated income tax, "placing the burden of government on those who can best afford to pay instead of laying it on the farmers and producers."

Criticism of the Old Parties.—To this long program of measures the reformers added harsh and acrid criticism of the old parties and sometimes, it must be said, of established institutions of government. "We denounce," exclaimed the Labor party in 1888, "the Democratic and Republican parties as hopelessly and shamelessly corrupt and by reason of their affiliation with monopolies equally unworthy of the suffrages of those who do not live upon public plunder." "The United States Senate," insisted the Greenbackers, "is a body composed largely of aristocratic millionaires who according to their own party papers generally purchased their elections in order to protect the great monopolies which they represent." Indeed, if their platforms are to be accepted at face value, the Greenbackers believed that the entire government had passed out of the hands of the people.

The Grangers.—This unsparing, not to say revolutionary, criticism of American political life, appealed, it seems, mainly to farmers in the Middle West. Always active in politics, they had, before the Civil War, cast their lot as a rule with one or the other of the leading parties. In 1867, however, there grew up among them an association known as the "Patrons of Husbandry," which was destined to play a large rôle in the partisan contests of the succeeding decades. This society, which organized local lodges or "granges" on principles of secrecy and fraternity, was originally designed to promote in a general way the interests of the farmers. Its political bearings were apparently not grasped at first by its promoters. Yet, appealing as it did to the most active and independent spirits among the farmers and gathering to itself the strength that always comes from organization, it soon found itself in the hands of leaders more or less involved in politics. Where a few votes are marshaled together in a democracy, there is power.

The Greenback Party.—The first extensive activity of the Grangers was connected with the attack on the railways in the Middle West which forced several state legislatures to reduce freight and passenger rates by law. At the same time, some leaders in the movement, no doubt emboldened by this success, launched in 1876 a new political party, popularly known as the Greenbackers, favoring a continued re-issue of the legal tenders. The beginnings were disappointing; but two years later, in the congressional elections, the Greenbackers swept whole sections of the country. Their candidates polled more than a million votes and fourteen of them were returned to the House of Representatives. To all outward signs a new and formidable party had entered the lists.

The sanguine hopes of the leaders proved to be illusory. The quiet operations of the resumption act the following year, a revival of industry from a severe panic which had set in during 1873, the Silver Purchase Act, and the re-issue of Greenbacks cut away some of the grounds of agitation. There was also a diversion of forces to the silver faction which had a substantial support in the silver mine owners of the West. At all events the Greenback vote fell to about 300,000 in the election of 1880. A still greater drop came four years later and the party gave up the ghost, its sponsors returning to their former allegiance or sulking in their tents.

The Rise of the Populist Party.—Those leaders of the old parties who now looked for a happy future unvexed by new factions were doomed to disappointment. The funeral of the Greenback party was hardly over before there arose two other political specters in the agrarian sections: the National Farmers' Alliance and Industrial Union, particularly strong in the South and West; and the Farmers' Alliance, operating in the North. By 1890 the two orders claimed over three million members. As in the case of the Grangers many years before, the leaders among them found an easy way into politics. In 1892 they held a convention, nominated a candidate for President, and adopted the name of "People's Party," from which they were known as Populists. Their platform, in every line, breathed a spirit of radicalism. They declared that "the newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion silenced; business prostrate; our homes covered with mortgages; and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists.... The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few." Having delivered this sweeping indictment, the Populists put forward their remedies: the free coinage of silver, a graduated income tax, postal savings banks, and government ownership of railways and telegraphs. At the same time they approved the initiative, referendum, and popular election of Senators, and condemned the use of federal troops in labor disputes. On this platform, the Populists polled over a million votes, captured twenty-two presidential electors, and sent a powerful delegation to Congress.

Industrial Distress Augments Unrest.—The four years intervening between the campaign of 1892 and the next presidential election brought forth many events which aggravated the ill-feeling expressed in the portentous platform of Populism. Cleveland, a consistent enemy of free silver, gave his powerful support to the gold standard and insisted on the repeal of the Silver Purchase Act, thus alienating an increasing number of his own party. In 1893 a grave industrial crisis fell upon the land: banks and business houses went into bankruptcy with startling rapidity; factories were closed; idle men thronged the streets hunting for work; and the prices of wheat and corn dropped to a ruinous level. Labor disputes also filled the crowded record. A strike at the Pullman car works in Chicago spread to the railways. Disorders ensued. President Cleveland, against the protests of the governor of Illinois, John P. Altgeld, dispatched troops to the scene of action. The United States district court at Chicago issued an injunction forbidding the president of the Railway Union, Eugene V. Debs, or his assistants to interfere with the transmission of the mails or interstate commerce in any form. For refusing to obey the order, Debs was arrested and imprisoned. With federal troops in possession of the field, with their leader in jail, the strikers gave up the battle, defeated but not subdued. To cap the climax the Supreme Court of the United States, the following year (1895) declared null and void the income tax law just enacted by Congress, thus fanning the flames of Populist discontent all over the West and South.

The Sound Money Battle of 1896

Conservative Men Alarmed.—Men of conservative thought and leaning in both parties were by this time thoroughly disturbed. They looked upon the rise of Populism and the growth of labor disputes as the signs of a revolutionary spirit, indeed nothing short of a menace to American institutions and ideals. The income tax law of 1894, exclaimed the distinguished New York advocate, Joseph H. Choate, in an impassioned speech before the Supreme Court, "is communistic in its purposes and tendencies and is defended here upon principles as communistic, socialistic—what shall I call them—populistic as ever have been addressed to any political assembly in the world." Mr. Justice Field in the name of the Court replied: "The present assault upon capital is but the beginning. It will be but the stepping stone to others larger and more sweeping till our political conditions will become a war of the poor against the rich." In declaring the income tax unconstitutional, he believed that he was but averting greater evils lurking under its guise. As for free silver, nearly all conservative men were united in calling it a measure of confiscation and repudiation; an effort of the debtors to pay their obligations with money worth fifty cents on the dollar; the climax of villainies openly defended; a challenge to law, order, and honor.

The Republicans Come Out for the Gold Standard.—It was among the Republicans that this opinion was most widely shared and firmly held. It was they who picked up the gauge thrown down by the Populists, though a host of Democrats, like Cleveland and Hill of New York, also battled against the growing Populist defection in Democratic ranks. When the Republican national convention assembled in 1896, the die was soon cast; a declaration of opposition to free silver save by international agreement was carried by a vote of eight to one. The Republican party, to use the vigorous language of Mr. Lodge, arrayed itself against "not only that organized failure, the Democratic party, but all the wandering forces of political chaos and social disorder ... in these bitter times when the forces of disorder are loose and the wreckers with their false lights gather at the shore to lure the ship of state upon the rocks." Yet it is due to historic truth to state that McKinley, whom the Republicans nominated, had voted in Congress for the free coinage of silver, was widely known as a bimetallist, and was only with difficulty persuaded to accept the unequivocal indorsement of the gold standard which was pressed upon him by his counselors. Having accepted it, however, he proved to be a valiant champion, though his major interest was undoubtedly in the protective tariff. To him nothing was more reprehensible than attempts "to array class against class, 'the classes against the masses,' section against section, labor against capital, 'the poor against the rich,' or interest against interest." Such was the language of his acceptance speech. The whole program of Populism he now viewed as a "sudden, dangerous, and revolutionary assault upon law and order."

The Democratic Convention at Chicago.—Never, save at the great disruption on the eve of the Civil War, did a Democratic national convention display more feeling than at Chicago in 1896. From the opening prayer to the last motion before the house, every act, every speech, every scene, every resolution evoked passions and sowed dissensions. Departing from long party custom, it voted down in anger a proposal to praise the administration of the Democratic President, Cleveland. When the platform with its radical planks, including free silver, was reported, a veritable storm broke. Senator Hill, trembling with emotion, protested against the departure from old tests of Democratic allegiance; against principles that must drive out of the party men who had grown gray in its service; against revolutionary, unwise, and unprecedented steps in the history of the party. Senator Vilas of Wisconsin, in great fervor, avowed that there was no difference in principle between the free coinage of silver—"the confiscation of one-half of the credits of the nation for the benefit of debtors"—and communism itself—"a universal distribution of property." In the triumph of that cause he saw the beginning of "the overthrow of all law, all justice, all security and repose in the social order."

William J. Bryan in 1898
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
William J. Bryan in 1898

The Crown of Thorns Speech.—The champions of free silver replied in strident tones. They accused the gold advocates of being the aggressors who had assailed the labor and the homes of the people. William Jennings Bryan, of Nebraska, voiced their sentiments in a memorable oration. He declared that their cause "was as holy as the cause of liberty—the cause of humanity." He exclaimed that the contest was between the idle holders of idle capital and the toiling millions. Then he named those for whom he spoke—the wage-earner, the country lawyer, the small merchant, the farmer, and the miner. "The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the cross roads store is as much a business man as the merchant of New York. The farmer ... is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the board of trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners who go a thousand feet into the earth or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs ... are as much business men as the few financial magnates who in a back room corner the money of the world.... It is for these that we speak. We do not come as aggressors. Ours is not a war of conquest. We are fighting in defense of our homes, our families, and our posterity. We have petitioned and our petitions have been scorned. We have entreated and our entreaties have been disregarded. We have begged and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them.... We shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, 'You shall not press upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.'"

Bryan Nominated.—In all the history of national conventions never had an orator so completely swayed a multitude; not even Yancey in his memorable plea in the Charleston convention of 1860 when, with grave and moving eloquence, he espoused the Southern cause against the impending fates. The delegates, after cheering Mr. Bryan until they could cheer no more, tore the standards from the floor and gathered around the Nebraska delegation to renew the deafening applause. The platform as reported was carried by a vote of two to one and the young orator from the West, hailed as America's Tiberius Gracchus, was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President. The South and West had triumphed over the East. The division was sectional, admittedly sectional—the old combination of power which Calhoun had so anxiously labored to build up a century earlier. The Gold Democrats were repudiated in terms which were clear to all. A few, unable to endure the thought of voting the Republican ticket, held a convention at Indianapolis where, with the sanction of Cleveland, they nominated candidates of their own and endorsed the gold standard in a forlorn hope.

The Democratic Platform.—It was to the call from Chicago that the Democrats gave heed and the Republicans made answer. The platform on which Mr. Bryan stood, unlike most party manifestoes, was explicit in its language and its appeal. It denounced the practice of allowing national banks to issue notes intended to circulate as money on the ground that it was "in derogation of the Constitution," recalling Jackson's famous attack on the Bank in 1832. It declared that tariff duties should be laid "for the purpose of revenue"—Calhoun's doctrine. In demanding the free coinage of silver, it recurred to the practice abandoned in 1873. The income tax came next on the program. The platform alleged that the law of 1894, passed by a Democratic Congress, was "in strict pursuance of the uniform decisions of the Supreme Court for nearly a hundred years," and then hinted that the decision annulling the law might be reversed by the same body "as it may hereafter be constituted."

The appeal to labor voiced by Mr. Bryan in his "crown of thorns" speech was reinforced in the platform. "As labor creates the wealth of the country," ran one plank, "we demand the passage of such laws as may be necessary to protect it in all its rights." Referring to the recent Pullman strike, the passions of which had not yet died away, the platform denounced "arbitrary interference by federal authorities in local affairs as a violation of the Constitution of the United States and a crime against free institutions." A special objection was lodged against "government by injunction as a new and highly dangerous form of oppression by which federal judges, in contempt of the laws of states and rights of citizens, become at once legislators, judges, and executioners." The remedy advanced was a federal law assuring trial by jury in all cases of contempt in labor disputes. Having made this declaration of faith, the Democrats, with Mr. Bryan at the head, raised their standard of battle.

The Heated Campaign.—The campaign which ensued outrivaled in the range of its educational activities and the bitterness of its tone all other political conflicts in American history, not excepting the fateful struggle of 1860. Immense sums of money were contributed to the funds of both parties. Railway, banking, and other corporations gave generously to the Republicans; the silver miners, less lavishly but with the same anxiety, supported the Democrats. The country was flooded with pamphlets, posters, and handbills. Every public forum, from the great auditoriums of the cities to the "red schoolhouses" on the countryside, was occupied by the opposing forces.

Mr. Bryan took the stump himself, visiting all parts of the country in special trains and addressing literally millions of people in the open air. Mr. McKinley chose the older and more formal plan. He received delegations at his home in Canton and discussed the issues of the campaign from his front porch, leaving to an army of well-organized orators the task of reaching the people in their home towns. Parades, processions, and monster demonstrations filled the land with politics. Whole states were polled in advance by the Republicans and the doubtful voters personally visited by men equipped with arguments and literature. Manufacturers, frightened at the possibility of disordered public credit, announced that they would close their doors if the Democrats won the election. Men were dismissed from public and private places on account of their political views, one eminent college president being forced out for advocating free silver. The language employed by impassioned and embittered speakers on both sides roused the public to a state of frenzy, once more showing the lengths to which men could go in personal and political abuse.

The Republican Victory.—The verdict of the nation was decisive. McKinley received 271 of the 447 electoral votes, and 7,111,000 popular votes as against Bryan's 6,509,000. The congressional elections were equally positive although, on account of the composition of the Senate, the "hold-over" Democrats and Populists still enjoyed a power out of proportion to their strength as measured at the polls. Even as it was, the Republicans got full control of both houses—a dominion of the entire government which they were to hold for fourteen years—until the second half of Mr. Taft's administration, when they lost possession of the House of Representatives. The yoke of indecision was broken. The party of sound finance and protective tariffs set out upon its lease of power with untroubled assurance.

Republican Measures and Results

The Gold Standard and the Tariff.—Yet strange as it may seem, the Republicans did not at once enact legislation making the gold dollar the standard for the national currency. Not until 1900 did they take that positive step. In his first inaugural President McKinley, as if still uncertain in his own mind or fearing a revival of the contest just closed, placed the tariff, not the money question, in the forefront. "The people have decided," he said, "that such legislation should be had as will give ample protection and encouragement to the industries and development of our country." Protection for American industries, therefore, he urged, is the task before Congress. "With adequate revenue secured, but not until then, we can enter upon changes in our fiscal laws." As the Republicans had only forty-six of the ninety Senators, and at least four of them were known advocates of free silver, the discretion exercised by the President in selecting the tariff for congressional debate was the better part of valor.

Congress gave heed to the warning. Under the direction of Nelson P. Dingley, whose name was given to the bill, a tariff measure levying the highest rates yet laid in the history of American imposts was prepared and driven through the House of Representatives. The opposition encountered in the Senate, especially from the West, was overcome by concessions in favor of that section; but the duties on sugar, tin, steel, lumber, hemp, and in fact all of the essential commodities handled by combinations and trusts, were materially raised.

President McKinley and His Cabinet
Copyright by Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
President McKinley and His Cabinet

Growth of Combinations.—The years that followed the enactment of the Dingley law were, whatever the cause, the most prosperous the country had witnessed for many a decade. Industries of every kind were soon running full blast; labor was employed; commerce spread more swiftly than ever to the markets of the world. Coincident with this progress was the organization of the greatest combinations and trusts the world had yet seen. In 1899 the smelters formed a trust with a capital of $65,000,000; in the same year the Standard Oil Company with a capital of over one hundred millions took the place of the old trust; and the Copper Trust was incorporated under the laws of New Jersey, its par value capital being fixed shortly afterward at $175,000,000. A year later the National Sugar Refining Company, of New Jersey, started with a capital of $90,000,000, adopting the policy of issuing to the stockholders no public statement of its earnings or financial condition. Before another twelvemonth had elapsed all previous corporate financing was reduced to small proportions by the flotation of the United States Steel Corporation with a capital of more than a billion dollars, an enterprise set in motion by the famous Morgan banking house of New York.

In nearly all these gigantic undertakings, the same great leaders in finance were more or less intimately associated. To use the language of an eminent authority: "They are all allied and intertwined by their various mutual interests. For instance, the Pennsylvania Railroad interests are on the one hand allied with the Vanderbilts and on the other with the Rockefellers. The Vanderbilts are closely allied with the Morgan group.... Viewed as a whole we find the dominating influences in the trusts to be made up of a network of large and small capitalists, many allied to one another by ties of more or less importance, but all being appendages to or parts of the greater groups which are themselves dependent on and allied with the two mammoth or Rockefeller and Morgan groups. These two mammoth groups jointly ... constitute the heart of the business and commercial life of the nation." Such was the picture of triumphant business enterprise drawn by a financier within a few years after the memorable campaign of 1896.

America had become one of the first workshops of the world. It was, by virtue of the closely knit organization of its business and finance, one of the most powerful and energetic leaders in the struggle of the giants for the business of the earth. The capital of the Steel Corporation alone was more than ten times the total national debt which the apostles of calamity in the days of Washington and Hamilton declared the nation could never pay. American industry, filling domestic markets to overflowing, was ready for new worlds to conquer.


F.W. Taussig, Tariff History of the United States.

J.L. Laughlin, Bimetallism in the United States.

A.B. Hepburn, History of Coinage and Currency in the United States.

E.R.A. Seligman, The Income Tax.

S.J. Buck, The Granger Movement (Harvard Studies).

F.H. Dixon, State Railroad Control.

H.R. Meyer, Government Regulation of Railway Rates.

W.Z. Ripley (editor), Trusts, Pools, and Corporations.

R.T. Ely, Monopolies and Trusts.

J.B. Clark, The Control of Trusts.


1. What proof have we that the political parties were not clearly divided over issues between 1865 and 1896?

2. Why is a fall in prices a loss to farmers and a gain to holders of fixed investments?

3. Explain the theory that the quantity of money determines the prices of commodities.

4. Why was it difficult, if not impossible, to keep gold and silver at a parity?

5. What special conditions favored a fall in silver between 1870 and 1896?

6. Describe some of the measures taken to raise the value of silver.

7. Explain the relation between the tariff and the income tax in 1894.

8. How did it happen that the farmers led in regulating railway rates?

9. Give the terms of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. What was its immediate effect?

10. Name some of the minor parties. Enumerate the reforms they advocated.

11. Describe briefly the experiments of the farmers in politics.

12. How did industrial conditions increase unrest?

13. Why were conservative men disturbed in the early nineties?

14. Explain the Republican position in 1896.

15. Give Mr. Bryan's doctrines in 1896. Enumerate the chief features of the Democratic platform.

16. What were the leading measures adopted by the Republicans after their victory in 1896?

Research Topics

Greenbacks and Resumption.—Dewey, Financial History of the United States (6th ed.), Sections 122-125, 154, and 378; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book of American History, pp. 446, 566; Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 531-533; Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. VIII, pp. 97-101.

Demonetization and Coinage of Silver.—Dewey, Financial History, Sections 170-173, 186, 189, 194; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 174, 573, 593, 595; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 529-531; Rhodes, History, Vol. VIII, pp. 93-97.

Free Silver and the Campaign of 1896.—Dewey, National Problems (American Nation Series), pp. 220-237, 314-328; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 533-538.

Tariff Revision.—Dewey, Financial History, Sections 167, 180, 181, 187, 192, 196; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 518-525; Rhodes, History, Vol. VIII, pp. 168-179, 346-351, 418-422.

Federal Regulation of Railways.—Dewey, National Problems, pp. 91-111; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 581-590; Hart, Contemporaries, Vol. IV, pp. 521-523; Rhodes, History, Vol. VIII, pp. 288-292.

The Rise and Regulation of Trusts.—Dewey, National Problems, pp. 188-202; MacDonald, Documentary Source Book, pp. 591-593.

The Grangers and Populism.—Paxson, The New Nation (Riverside Series), pp. 20-37, 177-191, 208-223.

General Analysis of Domestic Problems.Syllabus in History (New York State, 1920), pp. 137-142.



It has now become a fashion, sanctioned by wide usage and by eminent historians, to speak of America, triumphant over Spain and possessed of new colonies, as entering the twentieth century in the rôle of "a world power," for the first time. Perhaps at this late day, it is useless to protest against the currency of the idea. Nevertheless, the truth is that from the fateful moment in March, 1775, when Edmund Burke unfolded to his colleagues in the British Parliament the resources of an invincible America, down to the settlement at Versailles in 1919 closing the drama of the World War, this nation has been a world power, influencing by its example, by its institutions, by its wealth, trade, and arms the course of international affairs. And it should be said also that neither in the field of commercial enterprise nor in that of diplomacy has it been wanting in spirit or ingenuity.

When John Hay, Secretary of State, heard that an American citizen, Perdicaris, had been seized by Raisuli, a Moroccan bandit, in 1904, he wired his brusque message: "We want Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead." This was but an echo of Commodore Decatur's equally characteristic answer, "Not a minute," given nearly a hundred years before to the pirates of Algiers begging for time to consider whether they would cease preying upon American merchantmen. Was it not as early as 1844 that the American commissioner, Caleb Cushing, taking advantage of the British Opium War on China, negotiated with the Celestial Empire a successful commercial treaty? Did he not then exultantly exclaim: "The laws of the Union follow its citizens and its banner protects them even within the domain of the Chinese Empire"? Was it not almost half a century before the battle of Manila Bay in 1898, that Commodore Perry with an adequate naval force "gently coerced Japan into friendship with us," leading all the nations of the earth in the opening of that empire to the trade of the Occident? Nor is it inappropriate in this connection to recall the fact that the Monroe Doctrine celebrates in 1923 its hundredth anniversary.

American Foreign Relations (1865-98)

French Intrigues in Mexico Blocked.—Between the war for the union and the war with Spain, the Department of State had many an occasion to present the rights of America among the powers of the world. Only a little while after the civil conflict came to a close, it was called upon to deal with a dangerous situation created in Mexico by the ambitions of Napoleon III. During the administration of Buchanan, Mexico had fallen into disorder through the strife of the Liberal and the Clerical parties; the President asked for authority to use American troops to bring to a peaceful haven "a wreck upon the ocean, drifting about as she is impelled by different factions." Our own domestic crisis then intervened.

Observing the United States heavily involved in its own problems, the great powers, England, France, and Spain, decided in the autumn of 1861 to take a hand themselves in restoring order in Mexico. They entered into an agreement to enforce the claims of their citizens against Mexico and to protect their subjects residing in that republic. They invited the United States to join them, and, on meeting a polite refusal, they prepared for a combined military and naval demonstration on their own account. In the midst of this action England and Spain, discovering the sinister purposes of Napoleon, withdrew their troops and left the field to him.

The French Emperor, it was well known, looked with jealousy upon the growth of the United States and dreamed of establishing in the Western hemisphere an imperial power to offset the American republic. Intervention to collect debts was only a cloak for his deeper designs. Throwing off that guise in due time, he made the Archduke Maximilian, a brother of the ruler of Austria, emperor in Mexico, and surrounded his throne by French soldiers, in spite of all protests.

This insolent attack upon the Mexican republic, deeply resented in the United States, was allowed to drift in its course until 1865. At that juncture General Sheridan was dispatched to the Mexican border with a large armed force; General Grant urged the use of the American army to expel the French from this continent. The Secretary of State, Seward, counseled negotiation first, and, applying the Monroe Doctrine, was able to prevail upon Napoleon III to withdraw his troops. Without the support of French arms, the sham empire in Mexico collapsed like a house of cards and the unhappy Maximilian, the victim of French ambition and intrigue, met his death at the hands of a Mexican firing squad.

Alaska Purchased.—The Mexican affair had not been brought to a close before the Department of State was busy with negotiations which resulted in the purchase of Alaska from Russia. The treaty of cession, signed on March 30, 1867, added to the United States a domain of nearly six hundred thousand square miles, a territory larger than Texas and nearly three-fourths the size of the Louisiana purchase. Though it was a distant colony separated from our continental domain by a thousand miles of water, no question of "imperialism" or "colonization foreign to American doctrines" seems to have been raised at the time. The treaty was ratified promptly by the Senate. The purchase price, $7,200,000, was voted by the House of Representatives after the display of some resentment against a system that compelled it to appropriate money to fulfill an obligation which it had no part in making. Seward, who formulated the treaty, rejoiced, as he afterwards said, that he had kept Alaska out of the hands of England.

American Interest in the Caribbean.—Having achieved this diplomatic triumph, Seward turned to the increase of American power in another direction. He negotiated, with Denmark, a treaty providing for the purchase of the islands of St. John and St. Thomas in the West Indies, strategic points in the Caribbean for sea power. This project, long afterward brought to fruition by other men, was defeated on this occasion by the refusal of the Senate to ratify the treaty. Evidently it was not yet prepared to exercise colonial dominion over other races.

Undaunted by the misadventure in Caribbean policies, President Grant warmly advocated the acquisition of Santo Domingo. This little republic had long been in a state of general disorder. In 1869 a treaty of annexation was concluded with its president. The document Grant transmitted to the Senate with his cordial approval, only to have it rejected. Not at all changed in his opinion by the outcome of his effort, he continued to urge the subject of annexation. Even in his last message to Congress he referred to it, saying that time had only proved the wisdom of his early course. The addition of Santo Domingo to the American sphere of protection was the work of a later generation. The State Department, temporarily checked, had to bide its time.

The Alabama Claims Arbitrated.—Indeed, it had in hand a far more serious matter, a vexing issue that grew out of Civil War diplomacy. The British government, as already pointed out in other connections, had permitted Confederate cruisers, including the famous Alabama, built in British ports, to escape and prey upon the commerce of the Northern states. This action, denounced at the time by our government as a grave breach of neutrality as well as a grievous injury to American citizens, led first to remonstrances and finally to repeated claims for damages done to American ships and goods. For a long time Great Britain was firm. Her foreign secretary denied all obligations in the premises, adding somewhat curtly that "he wished to say once for all that Her Majesty's government disclaimed any responsibility for the losses and hoped that they had made their position perfectly clear." Still President Grant was not persuaded that the door of diplomacy, though closed, was barred. Hamilton Fish, his Secretary of State, renewed the demand. Finally he secured from the British government in 1871 the treaty of Washington providing for the arbitration not merely of the Alabama and other claims but also all points of serious controversy between the two countries.

The tribunal of arbitration thus authorized sat at Geneva in Switzerland, and after a long and careful review of the arguments on both sides awarded to the United States the lump sum of $15,500,000 to be distributed among the American claimants. The damages thus allowed were large, unquestionably larger than strict justice required and it is not surprising that the decision excited much adverse comment in England. Nevertheless, the prompt payment by the British government swept away at once a great cloud of ill-feeling in America. Moreover, the spectacle of two powerful nations choosing the way of peaceful arbitration to settle an angry dispute seemed a happy, if illusory, omen of a modern method for avoiding the arbitrament of war.

Samoa.—If the Senate had its doubts at first about the wisdom of acquiring strategic points for naval power in distant seas, the same could not be said of the State Department or naval officers. In 1872 Commander Meade, of the United States navy, alive to the importance of coaling stations even in mid-ocean, made a commercial agreement with the chief of Tutuila, one of the Samoan Islands, far below the equator, in the southern Pacific, nearer to Australia than to California. This agreement, providing among other things for our use of the harbor of Pago Pago as a naval base, was six years later changed into a formal treaty ratified by the Senate.

Such enterprise could not escape the vigilant eyes of England and Germany, both mindful of the course of the sea power in history. The German emperor, seizing as a pretext a quarrel between his consul in the islands and a native king, laid claim to an interest in the Samoan group. England, aware of the dangers arising from German outposts in the southern seas so near to Australia, was not content to stand aside. So it happened that all three countries sent battleships to the Samoan waters, threatening a crisis that was fortunately averted by friendly settlement. If, as is alleged, Germany entertained a notion of challenging American sea power then and there, the presence of British ships must have dispelled that dream.

The result of the affair was a tripartite agreement by which the three powers in 1889 undertook a protectorate over the islands. But joint control proved unsatisfactory. There was constant friction between the Germans and the English. The spheres of authority being vague and open to dispute, the plan had to be abandoned at the end of ten years. England withdrew altogether, leaving to Germany all the islands except Tutuila, which was ceded outright to the United States. Thus one of the finest harbors in the Pacific, to the intense delight of the American navy, passed permanently under American dominion. Another triumph in diplomacy was set down to the credit of the State Department.

Cleveland and the Venezuela Affair.—In the relations with South America, as well as in those with the distant Pacific, the diplomacy of the government at Washington was put to the test. For some time it had been watching a dispute between England and Venezuela over the western boundary of British Guiana and, on an appeal from Venezuela, it had taken a lively interest in the