movement - the movement to abolish slavery. Even in colonial
America, there were people and groups who opposed slavery, and pushed
its end. But such efforts did not become a widespread movement
the American Revolution, when a number of northern states began passing
laws ending or phasing out slavery.
The strongest push for abolition came after about
1830. In Boston, William Lloyd Garrison began publishing The
in 1831. Other efforts like the Underground Railroad pulled thousands
people into the movement.
Bleeding Kansas - a common term for the bloody
erupted in Kansas Territory in the years after 1854 over whether
should be allowed or prohibited there. The Kansas-Nebraska Act,
by Congress that year, gave the slavery question to the voters of the
(This Act overturned the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had banned
slavery in the region.)
The idea of a vote on the bitterly divisive issue
by settlers themselves proved a bad mistake. Supporters and
of slavery were both determined to win, and determination soon turned
fighting, ballot box stuffing, and murder. At one point, there
actually two separate governments in the territory.
Boone, Daniel - the frontiersman who led
Appalachian Mountains and into the land that later became Kentucky and
Tennessee. Born in Pennsylvania in 1734, his family moved to
Carolina when he was a boy.
Boone and others were hired by a land company to
mark a trail through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. This became the
famous Wilderness Road, running from Virginia into Kentucky. He
Fort Boonesborough later that year on the Kentucky River, and brought
his wife and daughter.
Efforts to settle the area, however, were marked
by trouble with Indians. Boone himself was captured at one point
and adopted as a son by a Shawnee chief, but escaped in time to warn
in Boonesborough of a planned attack by the Indians and
(By this time, 1778, the American Revolution was on.)
In spite of his exploits and land claims, Boone
never became rich. He worked for a time as a surveyor, and later
moved to Missouri. By the time he died in 1823, however, his fame
as a frontiersman had spread worldwide.
Brook Farm - one
of the most famous "Utopian societies" of the 1800s, it was located
near Boston, Massachusetts. Members who joined the community -
men and women alike - agreed to share the work of the farm
equally. The idea was to create an alternative to the
competitive, capitalistic business spirit that was growing in American
society at that time. The residents would instead work together
for the good of all, and have time left, they hoped, for intellectual
pursuits such as reading and writing.
The community organized in 1841, hoping to support itself
by raising crops and operating a school. The plan did not go
well, as the hard work of running a farm was not as appealing in
practice as it was in theory. Nathaniel Hawthorne, the famous
writer, was was one the original members, but left after about a
year. He later wrote a well-known novel, The Blithedale Romance, based on
his experiences at Brook farm.
The community broke up completely in 1847. In
spite of it's failure, it remains a symbol of an idealistic spirit that
still has an appeal to many people even today.
Gold Rush - the rush of thousands of Americans to California in
after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill. Some went by wagon
the Rockies, others by ship around the tip of South America. The
region around Sacramento was rich in gold, and for early arrivals, it
fairly easy to find. But after the easy-to-reach gold was
more sophisticated mining equipment was needed, and big mining
dominated the industry.
capitalism/capitalist - Capitalism is the economic
in America and most other modern industrial countries. In the
system, individuals or groups of individuals own factories, mines,
etc. (In the systems of socialism and communism, these are owned
by the government.)
Prices are set by competition in free markets, not
by the government. For this reason, capitalism is sometimes
the free market system. Decisions about what to produce, how to
it, and how much to produce are made by the owners, usually based on
will bring the greatest profit. (In socialist and communist
these decisions are made by the government.)
The capitalist system creates great opportunity
and rapid economic growth. It is criticized by socialists,
for creating economic inequality, and under some circumstances, it
Generally, however, capitalism has actually proven to be more
than alternative systems. In part, this is because laws evolved
prevent abuses and to promote better treatment of workers.
Sometimes the term “mixed economy” is used to
the American economy today, but in this mix, capitalism is by far the
component. (The smaller component consists of government owned or
directed activities, such as welfare, Social Security, space research,
cotton gin - a machine invented by Eli Whitney in
the seeds from cotton. Before the cotton gin, the seeds had to be
removed by hand, which was very time-consuming. The machine made
cotton a valuable crop, and by doing so, increased the demand for
to plant and pick cotton.
[division of labor - the practice in factories of
taking a complex
job, like the making of a shoe, and dividing it into small, simple
By doing so, cheaper unskilled labor can be used, instead of the more
highly skilled labor needed if one person does the entire job.
While this practice lowers costs and increases
it tends to reduce the worker to little more than a cog in the
Dorothea - a social reformer who led efforts to improve conditions
for the mentally ill and insane in the 1840s. Dix began her
after visiting a jail in Massachusetts in 1841 to teach a Sunday
school class. She was shocked by the fact that mentally ill
were locked up in jail alongside dangerous criminals.
As she examined the situation statewide, she
a report on the terrible conditions she found, and delivered it to the
state legislature in 1843. Her main goal was the creation of
hospitals for the mentally ill. Her work led to the creation of
facilities in more than 15 states.
Frederick - a slave who escaped to freedom in the North and became
a famous public speaker in the abolition movement in the decades before
the Civil War. Douglass was born in Maryland, the son of a slave
mother and white father. The wife of one of his masters taught
how to read, although this was against state law at the time.
Douglass worked as a field hand, and later, as a
caulker in Baltimore, sealing the seams of ships. He made his
in 1838, landing eventually in Massachusetts. There, he worked
the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
Douglass later started the North Star, an
newspaper, in Rochester, New York. As the Civil War began, he
Lincoln to make slavery the central issue of the war. He also
that blacks be allowed to join the fight as soldiers, a move that he
would pave the way for acceptance of political equality for blacks.
After the war, Douglass was appointed to a number
of government posts, including U.S. minister to Haiti. He died in
Dred Scott Decision - a Supreme Court decision in
declared that slavery was legal in all the territories. The
helped push the country toward Civil War, because it undercut previous
efforts to maintain a political balance between “free” territories and
“slave” territories. (The decision did say that states could
slavery, but the question of slavery in the territories was a key
issue at the time.)
The case was brought after Dred Scott, a slave in
Missouri, was taken by his master to the Wisconsin Territory, which was
free territory under the Missouri Compromise. Later, the slave
master returned to Missouri, which was a slave state.
With the help of lawyers in the abolition movement,
Scott sued in 1846 to win his freedom, with the argument that living in
a free territory made him a free man.
The case moved up through the Missouri court system,
then to the Supreme Court. The decision was devastating to
of slavery. It held that Scott was not entitled to his
It also declared that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the
territories, because doing so would deprive citizens of their right to
own property. The decision thus overturned the Missouri
Anger in northern states over the decision
boost the new Republican Party, which strongly opposed the spread of
Abraham Lincoln was that party’s candidate in the election of 1860.
egalitarian - the belief that all men and women
equal, and that society should break down barriers that tend to create
inequality. (Also, someone who holds such beliefs.)
Egalitarian beliefs can be traced back to the
story of the Bible, where mankind is described as made in the image of
God. For most of human history, of course, this concept was
in political systems that elevated some to “nobility” and declared all
others commoners or even slaves. In the late Middle Ages a few
dared to declare the principle, but it was not until about 1700 that
views made a serious challenge to the existing social patterns.
The words of people like Thomas Jefferson and
Adams capture the egalitarian thinking that was bubbling up as the
Revolution began. The Declaration of Independence makes the idea
explicit in the words stating “all men are created equal.” This
marks the Revolution as a critical turning point in world history.
The success of the Revolution helped advance
ideas around the world. In America, evidence of the power of
ideas in the early 1800s can be seen in the Seneca Falls Convention,
unions, Utopian societies, and the abolition movement. The
success of Andrew Jackson was more evidence of egalitarian democratic
at work. In modern times, the civil rights movement is a good
Socialist and communist systems are attempts to
extend egalitarian principles to their far limits, but have proven to
Canal - the famous canal built in the early 1800s to connect the
River to Lake Erie. The waterway runs from Albany to Buffalo, and
when completed in 1825, led to a tremendous traffic in people and goods
across New York State. One result was that New York City, at the
mouth of the Hudson River, became the greatest trading city in America.
system - the system of producing goods under one roof in an
large-scale manner. Starting around 1800 in America, the factory
system began replacing the earlier pattern of production, in which
craftsmen worked at home or a small shop. The factory commonly
the principle of "division of labor" to increase efficiency by dividing
the work into small steps. Each small step would be done over and
over by a worker, so unskilled labor could be hired. The factory
system, combined with the Industrial Revolution, created an entirely
pattern of social life in American towns and cities, and gave rise to a
large new class: the factory laborers.
Fugitive Slave Law - a law passed by Congress in
to compel people in the northern states to assist in the capture and
of runaway slaves. Southerners were angry that many people in
states were helping escaped slaves avoid capture. The law was
as part of a compromise that, among other things, abolished the slave
but not slavery itself, in Washington, D.C.
Revolution - the rapid change from production by hand to production
by machines. The Industrial Revolution began in England around
as new inventions made it possible to mechanize the production of
(cloth). An early textile mill was built in America in 1790, and
the technology spread rapidly in the early 1800s. Factories to
clocks, carriages, shoes, and many other products soon adopted machine
techniques as well.
The Industrial Revolution was concentrated in the
North, in part because water power was widely available there, as well
as investors and a supply of people willing to work in the
It had an enormous impact on the social life of the region by creating
a new class of factory laborers, as well as a class of factory owners.
Brown’s raid - the raid by the fiery abolitionist John Brown on the
federal arsenal (gun factory) at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West
Brown had sworn to dedicate his life to the destruction of slavery, and
had earlier taken part in the murder of five pro-slavery settlers in
His raid at Harpers Ferry was apparently designed to encourage slaves
rise up in rebellion, and flee into the nearby Appalachian mountain
His raid was financed by Boston abolitionists, and
included 17 whites and free blacks. In October, 1859, the raid
but no slaves revolted, and federal troops quickly surrounded Brown and
his group. After two days of fighting, with more than half his
dead, Brown surrendered. He was put on trial, and sentenced to
His remarks as the trial ended are famous for their
powerful defense of his cause, although he denied he intended to cause
a slave rebellion. His execution inflamed passions in the North,
where he was seen by many as a martyr in the cause of freedom.
Southerners were outraged that Northerners looked upon a convicted
as a hero. The incident was another wedge pushing the two
Andrew - the president elected in 1828 who came to represent the
shift to a more broad-based democracy in America. The years of
presidency are often called “The Age of Jackson.”
He was the first president born west of the
Mountains, and had fought in the Revolution as a 15 year old. He
studied law, then worked in Nashville, Tennessee, during its frontier
Throughout his life, his experience and connection with ordinary people
and their concerns would prove to be a valuable political asset.
In the War of 1812, Jackson became a hero for
the Creek Indians, who were allied with the British. He fame rose
even higher when his troops defeated a British attack on New Orleans.
Jackson made an unsuccessful run for president in
1824, then won the contest four years later. His victory is
because it was based on his appeal to the masses of voters, rather on a
connection to older political parties and their leaders. In
he appointed friends and supporters to government jobs, a practice
the “spoils” system.
Among the biggest issues Jackson dealt with was
the threatened secession of South Carolina over the tariff issue in
Jackson rejected the idea that a state could practice nullification of
federal law, and helped work out a compromise on the issue that lowered
In another action, Jackson supported the removal
of Indians from the East to reservation land in the West. He
that Indians and their culture would never survive if they were not
Perhaps the most controversial event in his
was his successful effort to abolish the Bank of the United
The Bank was a symbol to him, and many voters, of the unfair influence
of the wealthy in American life. He vetoed the bill that would
renewed the Bank charter in 1832.
Jackson set for generations to come a new pattern
for anyone seeking the presidency. The old pattern - upper class,
educated, well-connected in traditional political circles - was
Now, voters looked for candidates who had “the common touch,” who were
men of action, and who relished the push and shove of a real democracy.
Thomas - the Revolutionary era leader from Virginia who was the
author of the Declaration of Independence. He was born near
and later built his famous hilltop home, Monticello, nearby.
attended the College of William and Mary at a young age after his
died. There, he became well known for his intense interest in
and knowledge of all kinds.
By the 1770s, he was involved in Virginia political
life, and was sent as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in
Philadelphia. While not a powerful speaker, his written language
in the Declaration has often been declared “immortal.”
Back in Virginia, Jefferson was for a time governor
of Virginia during the Revolution, but could do little to stop British
attacks on the state. After peace was established, he went to
to represent the United States, and was there as the Constitution was
debated in Philadelphia in 1787. He wrote to friends, arguing
for the adoption of the Bill of Rights.
A common theme in Jefferson’s writings is a faith
in democracy, the value of rebellion as a liberating force, and
of government power. He argued repeatedly for ending slavery,
he owned more than a hundred slaves himself.
His views brought him into conflict with Alexander
Hamilton when both served in the administration of George
Hamilton favored policies that helped promote business interests,
and a strong national government. Jefferson felt the power of
groups would slowly undermine the ideals of liberty and equality that
been expressed in the Revolution. His vision of America was a
spread with small independent farmers, all filled with civic virtue and
eager to protect their liberties.
Jefferson emerged as the leader of the Republican
political party, and won the presidential election of 1800. As
he arranged the purchase of the Louisiana territory from France, which
doubled the size of the country, and arranged the Lewis and Clark
to explore the region. He retired home to Monticello, and
the University of Virginia in 1819. Jefferson died on July 4,
exactly 50 years after the Declaration was signed.
Know-Nothings - a secret society formed in 1849 to
reduction in the number of immigrants entering America. The high
immigration rates at the time raised fear that the American culture
be swamped by foreign influences. Anti-Catholic prejudice was
strong, and it was common to see signs in shops and factories stating,
“No Irish Need Apply.”
The Know-Nothings were pledged to secrecy, and if
asked about the organization, were supposed to say, “I know
Members swore to support only native-born Protestant candidates for
By the 1850s, the organization enjoyed wide support,
and helped elect several dozen of members of Congress. In 1856,
Know-Nothings became the American Party, but it fell apart soon
in disputes over whether to support or oppose slavery.
unions - organizations of workers who band together to try to
wages and working conditions. These began appearing in America in
the early 1800s, in response to the spread of the factory system and
Industrial Revolution. Members sought to improve their condition
by “collective bargaining” with business owners, that is, by
for pay and conditions as a group. Union members could threaten
strike and walk off the job to try to force improvements.
In practice, however, unions had a tough,
battle. In the 1800s, labor unions and organized job actions were
sometimes considered illegal. In addition, factory and business
often hired “strike breakers” to defeat union attempts to win better
By the late 1800s, however, organizations like the
American Federation of Labor were starting to turn the tide.
were in the forefront of the movement to create the eight hour work
abolish child labor, and pass workers’ compensation laws. In the
1910s, passage of the Clayton Act gave unions for the first time a
legal foundation for their activities.
laissez-faire policy - the belief that the
generally not interfere with the economic activity of businesses or
The term comes from French words meaning “allow to do.”
This theory holds that everyone will prosper best
if each person and firm simply pursues their own best interest.
by the government, the theory holds, will only damage the prosperity of
This vision of economic freedom spread from England
to its colonies around the time of the American Revolution. It
growing through the 1800s. But by the late 1880s, many
were questioning whether it was a realistic policy in the age of giant
Today, of course, the government has considerable
power to regulate many aspects of business, and laws designed to
workers’ interests are common. But many people believe that the
idea of laissez-faire still has some validity even today, and argue
government interference in the nation’s economic life should be held to
Lewis and Clark Expedition - the expedition
Thomas Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Purchase and other western
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the expedition, which set out in
1804. They traveled in a group of about 40, including an Indian
Sacajawea, who served as a guide and interpreter.
The expedition generally followed the Missouri River
west, then went across the Rocky Mountains, then down the Columbia
to the Pacific coast. Along the way, the explorers kept detailed
notes and maps, including descriptions of Indian groups they
along the way. The group made it back to St. Louis in 1806.
The trip helped establish an American claim to the area that is now
Liberator, The - The newspaper that began
Boston in 1831, dedicated to ending slavery. It was started by
Lloyd Garrison. The paper played a big role in moving the
movement into high gear and highlighting the condition of slaves.
Garrison favored an immediate end to slavery. He announced at one
point that the northern states should simply leave and start a new
declaring, “No Union with slaveholders.”
Abraham - president of the U.S. during the Civil War years.
election in the four-way race in 1860 led to the secession of South
from the Union.
Lincoln is famous as a "self-made man" who grew up
a log cabin in Indiana. He later became a lawyer in Illinois and
served one term in Congress in the 1840s.
Lincoln was nominated for president
in 1860 by the Republican Party. It had only recently been
formed, and took a “middle of the
position on slavery. Lincoln and the party itself called for
stopping the spread of slavery
into new territories, but did not call for the general abolition of
The Democratic Party split into a Northern wing
and a Southern wing over the slavery issue, with each nominating
A fourth party, called the Constitutional Union Party, basically tried
to avoid talking about slavery at all.
Lincoln won the contest with votes from northern
and western states solidly in his column, while the other three
split the votes from the southern and “border” states. In fact,
had so little support in the South that his name was not on the ballot
in many southern states.
The results, drawn so clearly along sectional lines,
were a reflection of the deep division that had grown between the North
and South, which soon after exploded in the Civil War.
Lincoln was ridiculed by some newspapers when first
but over time his unusual dignity and humanity won many to his
The Gettysburg Address captures this aspect of Lincoln well.
Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, just after
the end of the Civil War.
Louisiana Purchase - the vast territory west of
that was purchased from France in 1803. The deal, promoted by
Thomas Jefferson, worked out to about three cents an acre, and roughly
doubled the size of the U.S.
France, under Napoleon, sold the land because its
prospects of holding the territory appeared slim, and a war between
and England appeared likely. The sale was approved by the Senate
in spite of the fact that there is no specific authority in the
for such a purchase. It is often called the best real estate in
Destiny - the belief common in America in the early 1800s that it
the destiny or fate of the U.S. to expand west to the Pacific
For many Americans, the belief had an almost religious intensity, and
often considered an obvious part of God’s plan for America’s
It was with this feeling that settlers pushed west into Indian and
controlled lands, confident that they were justified in doing whatever
was necessary to spread the American flag and system of government.
Mann, Horace - the leader of the movement in the
1820 to improve public education. Mann was an elected official in
Massachusetts, where he helped create the first state board of
in the U.S. His efforts had a nationwide impact on thinking about
schools and teacher training.
As the spirit of popular democracy spread in these
many Americans began sensing that all children needed better access to
basic education. Without such access, wealthier families that
afford school fees and tutors would always hold a great advantage.
In many areas, however, schools were not
Where they were available, they were often poorly run and too expensive
for the working class to afford. The efforts of Horace Mann and
led to a greatly expanded system of free public schools in many
Mexican War/Mexican Cession - The Mexican War
as a border
dispute just after Texas joined the U.S. in 1845. When it ended
1848, Mexico was not only forced to accept the Rio Grande as the
it was also forced to sell the vast area west of Texas, called the
Cession, to the U.S.
As the conflict began, Texas had been an independent
country since it broke away from Mexico in 1836. The Mexican
resented the decision by the U.S. to accept Texas as a state, and was
that Americans set the Rio Grande as the southern border of
Mexicans wanted the border at the Nueces River, and sent troops to the
Rio Grande. Many Mexicans hoped that a war might even win
President James Polk asked for declaration of war
as Mexican troops launched raids across the Rio Grande in 1846.
and many other Americans hoped a war might even bring even greater
to the U.S. American troops pushed into Mexico, defeated its
and occupied Mexico City in 1847.
Meanwhile, Americans living in California revolted
against the Mexican government there as the war began, and actually
an independent government for a short time.
There was talk in Washington in 1848 of making all
of Mexico part of the U.S. But the final treaty left Mexico with
about half its territory, and a $15 million dollar payment from the
for California and the rest of the area called the Mexican
(While the area lost by Mexico was quite large, only about one percent
of the Mexican population lived in the area.)
Missouri Compromise - a compromise plan developed
in 1820 to keep a political balance between slave states and free
as new states were formed from territories. Missouri and Maine
both seeking admission as states. The compromise plan allowed
to enter as a slave state, and Maine as a free state. This
act for new states remained the pattern for the next three decades.
The law also prohibited slavery from a large area
of the Louisiana Purchase to the west and north of Missouri.
The Missouri Compromise is important because it
kept the slavery issue from boiling over and possibly splitting the
in the early 1800s. But by 1850, the divisive issue was forced on
the table again as California sought admission as a state. A new
plan, the Compromise of 1850, patched up the trouble for a time, and
came in as a free state by itself.
But that compromise had provisions like a tough
new Fugitive Slave Law that fueled more anger over the slave
It was becoming clear that political compromises would not be enough to
resolve the issue of slavery forever.
Monroe Doctrine - a famous declaration by
in 1823 warning the European countries to keep their hands off the
Hemisphere (North and South America).
Starting in 1810, a number of South American
inspired by the American Revolution, began revolts against Spanish
(Simon Bolivar, who helped free Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, Ecuador,
and Peru, is known as the “George Washington of South America.”)
But most European countries, still ruled by kings,
were worried by the spread of democratic rebellions. Spain wanted
to reclaim her lost colonies, and had a promise of help from Austria,
and other countries hostile to democracy.
The United States did not want to see the new
crushed or re-colonized. Most Americans admired the heroic
for liberty by Simon Bolivar and others.
The Monroe Doctrine declared that the Western
was closed to further colonization. It said that attempts by
countries to interfere with existing governments in the Americas would
be taken as unfriendly acts toward the U.S. It also said the U.S.
would not interfere in European affairs.
President Monroe knew that America could not enforce
the policy by itself. But England supported the policy also,
to protect its trade with the new republics. As a result, Spain
plans to reconquer its former colonies, and Russia abandoned its claims
to the Oregon territory.
Mormons - a common name for members of the Church
of Latter Day Saints. The religion was started by Joseph Smith in
New York State in 1830. Smith said he received golden tablets
an angel, Moroni, and translated these into the Book of Mormon.
Smith and his followers moved to Ohio, then
and later, Illinois, where they established a town. But
of the Mormons led to trouble, and Smith himself was killed in Illinois
in 1844. (It was Smith who began the practice of plural marriage,
or polygamy, which was adopted by Mormons but later officially rejected
Brigham Young was chosen to lead the religion, and
he oversaw the migration of Mormons to Utah and the establishment of
While accepting Jesus Christ and some aspects of
Christianity, Mormonism has a number of beliefs that differ
from other Christian religions. The faith is noted in modern
for the emphasis it places on strong families, and the missionary work
young Mormons perform.
Road - one of the most famous roads in the early 1800s, it was
by the federal government to link Cumberland, Maryland to Wheeling (now
in West Virginia) on the Ohio River. The first section was
in 1818. Over time, the National Road was extended into Ohio,
and Illinois. It greatly improved transportation into the Old
and helped speed settlement there.
The federal government planned and financed the
project, but as each section was finished, it was turned over to the
The states charged users of the road a small toll. In modern
the road became route 40 in Maryland, and one of the original toll
can still be seen in Cumberland.
Northwest Ordinances - a name that is often
three different laws passed by Congress in the 1780s to promote
of the Old Northwest.
The most important of these laws is the Northwest
Ordinance of 1787. It provided for clear procedures by which the
territory could be broken into smaller territories, and government
established. As these territories grew in population, the law
for them to be admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the
states. A key part of the law prohibited slavery in the region.
An earlier law, the Land Ordinance of 1785, is also
famous for creating a survey of the region. In the survey, the
was marked and divided into a regular grid pattern. Settlers were
thus assured that their land purchases were valid, and could not be
nullification - the doctrine or theory that
have the right to nullify, or declare void, federal laws within their
that they believe violate the Constitution. The theory has been
forth from time to time in American history when disputes erupted
states’ rights and the powers of the federal government. The
of nullification has virtually no support today.
Trail - the trail that thousands of settlers took from Missouri to
the Oregon territory in the decades before the Civil War.
had been sent to the area in the 1830s to convert the Indians to
and their letters home told of rich farmland in the Willamette River
By the mid-1840s, hundreds of families in Conestoga wagons were making
the 2,000 mile long trip each year. The journey typically started
in Independence, Missouri, and took about five months.
As the population grew, many settlers began calling
for the United States government to take possession of the
Eventually, the area was divided between England and the U.S.
secede/secession - To secede means to leave or
an organization or nation. Secession is the act of
In the Civil War, the Southern states seceded from the United States
formed the Confederate States of America.
Second Great Awakening - a revival of religious
belief in the early 1800s. In many areas, “camp meeting” style
preaching drew thousands of people in highly emotional displays of
belief. The movement also saw the building of thousands of new
and the founding by many churches of colleges and universities, many of
which survive to this day. The Awakening also contributed to the
rising reform movements of the era, as citizens sought to put their
principles in action to change society for the better.
Seneca Falls Convention - the meeting in Seneca
in 1848 to push for greater recognition of women’s rights. The
was called by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who were also
in the abolition movement.
Delegates wrote a “Declaration of Sentiments and
Resolutions” that announced, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men and women are created equal.”
The document went on to accuse men of holding women in
a second-class status, and demanded increased rights for women,
the right to vote. The meeting did not lead immediately to great
changes for women, but some legal reforms were started. Many
for example, wrote laws to allow women to manage their own property.
Shakers - a religious group that organized
that attracted thousands of Americans in the early 1800s. The
were an offshoot of the Quakers, and were so named for their religious
dance movements. In Shaker villages, men and women lived apart in
separate quarters, and did not marry. But all participated in
the Shaker villages and farms running.
The Shakers are one example of the Utopian societies
that flourished in the 1800s. They became famous for their clean
and sparse style of living, and elegantly simple wood furniture.
One of their songs, “Simple Gifts,” is among the most well known old
socialism - an economic system in which factories,
mines are owned by the government, rather than by individuals.
and wages are typically controlled by the government, which also makes
decisions about what should be produced.
Socialism in its modern form developed as a reaction
to the harsh conditions endured by workers in the 1800s.
that century, the Industrial Revolution and the growth of large-scale
were transforming the nature of the workplace. Socialists argued
that low pay and shocking working conditions common at the time were a
result of the system of capitalism, which they said encouraged a
competition for wealth. They wanted to replace capitalism with a
more cooperative system that removed the incentive for individuals to
up vast wealth at the expense of others.
An early form of the cooperative approach was seen
in the Utopian societies that formed in America. By the late
however, other socialist thinkers had emerged with a far larger
that of moving America itself toward socialism. The Socialist
ran candidates for public office
in the early 1900s, with one candidate for president, Eugene Debs,
almost a million votes in one election.
Socialists proved to be talented dreamers and
and some of their ideas for reforms were adopted later by other
parties. But they were never able to convince large numbers of
to abandon their hope of finding wealth in the system of capitalism.
The radical form of socialism known as communism,
which seeks a violent overthrow of the capitalist system, never
more than a very small number of Americans. In the 1980s, the
of communism in Russia and elsewhere seemed to many Americans proof
socialist systems are simply incompatible with human nature.
states’ rights - the rights held by the states,
federal government, under the Constitution, such as power over marriage
laws, education matters, etc.
The question of just what is included in states’
rights has a long and often controversial history. In the 1820s
1830s, for example, the debate over nullification of tariff laws was
on the issue of states’ rights. In this debate, some South
leaders claimed a right to nullify federal tariffs within their
But president Andrew Jackson and many other national leaders argued
that there was no such right to reject laws adopted by Congress.
His arguments were bolstered by a threat to send in troops to settle
In modern times, the involvement of the federal
government in education policy making and civil rights laws sometimes
discussion of states’ rights.
- a tax on imports collected at the time the goods are brought into the
country. In early America, the federal government got its
money mainly with a so-called “revenue tariff.” It was low, and
little criticism. But in the 1810s and 1820s, Congress passed
higher “protective tariffs.” These were aimed at helping
own industry by making imported goods more expensive.
telegraph - an electrical device that sends
Morse code of dots and dashes. It was invented by Samuel Morse,
demonstrated its usefulness in 1844 on a line he set up from Washington
to Baltimore. Originally, the device marked dots and dashes on a
paper strip. But later, telegraph operators came to prefer
to the clicks made by a telegraph receiver. The telegraph had a
impact on the speed of communications, and was quickly adopted by the
and the news business.
temperance - the moderate use of, or
beverages. The temperance movement grew in the early 1800s along
with other reform movements of the era. Women were at the head of
the effort, because excessive drinking by men often caused abusive
By 1856, 13 states either restricted or prohibited the sale of liquor.
- originally a district of Mexico, but after a brief period as
country, it joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.
Mexican leaders first invited Americans to settle
the region after Mexico broke away from Spain in 1821. (The
area had only a handful of Mexican settlements, and the new government
wanted to see it grow.) Stephen Austin took the first group of
to Texas. Some 30,000 Americans were there by 1830.
But friction grew between the settlers and the
government. The settlers were not converting to the Catholic
as Mexico expected, and some brought slaves, which Mexico
On their side, the settlers were frustrated by the ways of the Mexican
government, which often seemed crooked to the American settlers.
Rebellion by the settlers broke out, and in 1835,
the Mexican leader Santa Anna marched into Texas to restore Mexican
A famous battle at a mission called the Alamo in 1836 saw 188 Texans
off a large Mexican army for two weeks. (This gave the Texans
battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!”)
About two months later, Texans under Sam Houston
defeated Santa Anna, and he was forced to sign a treaty recognizing the
independence of Texas. The new country called itself the Lone
Republic, and sought admission to the U.S. Resistance from
who opposed slavery delayed admission for some years, but Texas was
made a state in 1845.
As Texas joined the U.S., a fight over the placement
of the border with Mexico led to the Mexican War.
Trail of Tears - the name the Cherokee gave the
forced to travel to the West in the 1830s as a result of the Indian
Act. The law was passed by Congress as an attempt to deal with
that persisted between white settlers and the Indians in the
It required Indians to exchange their land in the East for reservation
land west of the Mississippi.
Government leaders like Andrew Jackson argued that
Indians themselves would be safer if they were removed. Some
went peacefully, but others, including many of the Cherokee living in
resisted. When they were finally forced off their land, many died
on the journey to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi, mainly
from disease and the cold weather.
Revolution - a term often used by historians to describe the
improvement in transportation in America that took place in the early
The Transportation Revolution included greatly
roads, the development of canals, and the invention of the steamboat
railroad. The Erie Canal, opened in 1825, is often cited as an
of these changes. Shipping costs were lowered as much as 90
in this era, which gave a big boost to trade and the settlement of new
areas of land.
Harriet - a black woman who escaped from slavery on a Maryland
in 1849, then became famous for her trips back into the South to help
slaves flee to the North.
Her work with the Underground Railroad in the 1850s
was so successful she was called the “Black Moses.” Tubman helped
free more than 300 slaves, including her own parents. She settled
with her parents near Auburn, New York.
During the Civil War she helped lead raids by
Union soldiers into South Carolina. Tubman married a soldier she met
the war, and lived with him after the war in Auburn. She remained
active in social causes, including the women's rights movement.
Tom’s Cabin - a book published in 1852, it sold hundreds of
of copies and added a powerful emotional fuel to the abolition
It was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a Northerner who had actually
spent very little time in the South. But the heart-rending
with a cruel master who abused a kind and decent slave, seemed to be
proof of the worst claims about slave owners.
Southerners claimed the book was an
They pointed to it as more evidence that Northerners were unfair in
with the issue of slavery.
Railroad - the network of people, routes, and safe houses that
escaped slaves find their way to freedom in the decades before the
War. Whites and blacks in northern and southern states were
in the effort, often at great risk. "Conductors” used wagons with
false bottoms and other tricks to avoid detection. The final
for the escaped slaves was usually a town or city in a free state, or
Utopian societies/Utopian socialism - Utopian
the groups that formed in the early and mid 1800s to establish
societies. (The name comes from the title of a book written in
about a perfect society called Utopia.) More than a hundred
groups formed, motivated in part by a desire to escape from the changes
brought about by the Industrial Revolution and the spread of the
impersonal and harsh spirit of capitalism in American life.
Most Utopian societies mixed Christian ideas of
brotherhood with egalitarian ideas inspired by the American
Many held property in common, and developed rules to ensure equality of
conditions among the members. Some sought to maintain an equality
between the sexes.
The Shakers are among the best known of the Utopian
societies. Communities started at Oneida, New York, and New
Indiana, are also well known. Most Utopian societies failed
a few years, although some lasted for several decades or longer before
Utopian socialism is the term used to describe the
system of shared work and common ownership typical in such
Some writers at the time referred to them as communistic societies.
War of 1812 - a war with Great Britain that is
for inspiring Francis Scott Key to write a poem that later became the
The war had its roots in a war involving France
and Great Britain that began in 1803. Both nations passed laws
attempted to stop American ships from trading with the other.
worse, British ship captains would stop American ships on the high
and kidnap sailors who they suspected had deserted from the British
These outrages were one part of the story.
On the American side, a group of Congressmen usually called the “war
were eager for a fight that might allow America to claim Canada
and Florida (Spanish). With anger growing over British seizure of
American sailors and ships, Congress voted for war.
The American army was badly unprepared for war,
however. Attacks into Canada were launched, and in 1813 American
troops burned public buildings in the town of York (now Toronto).
But Canada did not fall into American hands.
The following year, the British retaliated by
Washington, D.C., and setting fire to the White House and Capitol.
The British moved on to Baltimore, where they were
turned away by American forces. It was during this stage of the
that Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It
the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the night, and tells that at
the American flag was still there.
The British moved their army next against New
Andrew Jackson led the American forces there, and defeated the British
attack in early 1815.
As it turned out, a peace treaty had actually been
signed in Europe two weeks earlier. The treaty is famous in part
because it really did not address any of the issues that caused the
Neither side won nor lost. But the treaty did end the fighting,
in another interesting twist of history, Britain and the U.S. have been
the closest of allies ever since.