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Turning Points in American History
Terms in this set (22)
The Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War. The British won control of all land west to the Mississippi River, including Florida. This British victory left the colonists with no foreign enemies on their immediate borders. It was at this moment that the British, in need of money to pay for past wars and the costs of administering their newly expanded empire, chose to impose new taxes on the colonies. The colonists saw no reason to pay taxes for protection they felt they did not need. Thus began the clash that ended in the American Revolution.
The Declaration of Independence marked the first time in history that a colony had boldly asserted independence from a mother country. Winning the war was necessary, however, to make independence a reality. The Declaration of Independence, as a document, justified the separation on the grounds of violations of the colonists' natural rights and asserted that "all men are created equal." This statement, also not reality at the time, has served as a standard by which we judge how far we have come and how far we have to go to achieve real equality in America.
Ratification of the Constitution of 1787 gave the United States a "more perfect union" than had been possible under the state-dominated Articles of Confederation. The Constitution, based on the principles of federalism, separation of powers, checks and balances, representation, and flexibility, created a firm foundation for the growth and development of the United States.
In the "Revolution of 1800," the Democratic-Republicans, after a heated struggle, won the presidency and control of Congress. The new nation survived this critical change of power from the business-oriented, aristocratic, central-government friendly Federalists to the more agrarian, democratic, and state-friendly party of Jefferson without violence.
Both the Louisiana Purchase and the Supreme Court decision in Marbury v.Madison had major importance for the future. Acquisition of Louisiana gave the United States control of the Mississippi River, which it needed for commercial reasons. More important, it doubled the size of the country, assured the downfall of the Federalists (their power base was back east, so as the country grew away from them, power slipped away from them), foreshadowed the sea-to-sea expansion of the USA, and required Jefferson, who had previously opposed the use of the elastic clause (first national bank) to take a step toward a loose interpretation of the Constitution. The Marbury case set the precedent for judicial review and raised the Supreme Court to a position of equality with the President and Congress.
The Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, resulted in a return to the status quo antebellum. While it did not represent a victory for the United States, it did have important consequences, among them an increase in nationalism, a chance to pursue westward expansion relatively unhampered by Indian resistance, encouragement of American manufacturing, disappearance of the Federalist party, and a strengthening of isolationism (with pursuit of American interests, such as Monroe Doctrine) that kept us out of major foreign wars for a century.
The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War, gave the United States control of the vast Mexican Cession (half of pre-war Mexico!). Acquisition of this territory revived the slavery issue that seemed to have been put to rest by the Missouri Compromise but would soon play an important role in leading us into the Civil War. The Treaty also created lasting resentment of the powerful United States among Latin American countries.
The outbreak of the Civil War ended any chance to settle the slavery issue peacefully. In dividing the Union, it also threatened to destroy our experiment in republican government: had the odds finally caught up to us? (Historically, republics had only worked in small, homogeneous places, and even then they generally didn't last very long.) In forcing a showdown between the northern and southern interpretations of the Constitution (Who created it? What kind of union did it create?) it set the stage for the resolution of a long-simmering constitutional controversy.
The end of the Civil War and the death of Lincoln had major consequences. Among them was the battle between Johnson and the Radical Republicans over the direction of Reconstruction and the fate of ex-slaves in American society. Tensions between North and South increased rather than abated.
After Hayes "won" the disputed election of 1876, he agreed to withdraw the last remaining troops from the former Confederacy (the Compromise of 1877). This ended Reconstruction and left the freedmen at the mercy of vengeful, white, Democrat "redeemers."
The outbreak of World War I in Europe brought to an end almost a century of peace on the Continent. AT home, promising steps toward Progressive reform in the United States soon came to a halt as Woodrow Wilson focused his attention on foreign affairs and how best to influence the course of war and the eventual peace. American involvement in the war finished off any remaining American commitment to George Washington's advice that we avoid getting sucked into the madness of European politics, and sucked most of the life out of the Progressive movement.
The Treaty of Versailles, based in part on Wilson's Fourteen Points, included plans for a League of Nations. This controversial organization proved to be the sticking point that prevented the Senate from ratifying the treaty. The United States never joined the League, thus reducing its potential impact, and instead following an interwar foreign policy mixing elements of isolationism, unilateral internationalism, and collective internationalism.
The Stock Market Crash brought to an end a long period of prosperity for American business and American people, starting the worst depression in American history. In the course of dealing with the Depression, the United States, under FDR ("that man in the White House"), introduced a welfare state with government taking increasing responsibility for the interests of the less fortunate groups in American society.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into active and formal participation in World War II.
The end of WWII ushered in the Atomic Age, the creation of the United Nations, the Cold War, and the beginning of the end of colonialism.
This year was significant both for this country's first involvement in the war in Vietnam and for the historic Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned the 1896 case of Plessy v. Fergusson ("separate but equal" is constitutionally ok) and is an important milestone in the embarrassingly slow change in our treatment of African Americans.
The first sit-ins in Greensbore, NC, exemplifies the new activism of African Americans in protest against segregation. The election of JFK later in the year, in a close election in which African Americans played a key role, led to a "revolution of rising expectations" among African Americans and ultimately to new support for civil rights legislation within the federal executive branch.
Passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation in public accommodations and public facilities and banned discrimination in hiring, voting, and education.
The assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy effectively brought the civil rights movement of the 1960s to an end.
The Paris Peace Agreement marking the end of the longest war in American history forced Americans to realize that they were not invincible and could not solve all the problems in the world. Congress took steps to limit presidential war-making powers in the War Powers Resolution so as not to be drawn into another undeclared war.
The Reagan Revolution and the resurgence of conservatism. In response to the malaise of the 1970s, Americans voted for 12 years of Reagan and Bush I. The Democrats regained the Presidency in 1992 with Bill Clinton, but in 1994 conservatism reasserted itself as the Republican landslide in the November elections gave the party its first control of both houses of Congress since 1954. The election brought into question the public's self-satisfaction with long-standing welfare legislation and suggested a return of significant authority to state governments (Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the House and brought us the Contract with America). While Clinton was re-elected in 1996, it was in part because he moved to the right, calling for a balanced budget and declaring the age of big government over. Clinton's movement to the right reflected the strength of conservatism in America as we approached the end of the 20th century. Election of Bush II in 2000 suggests the continuing strength of conservatism in the U.S.
The dismantling of the Berlin Wall, the election of Solidarity in Poland, and the fall of the Eastern European economies in Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania signaled the impending collapse of the Soviet Union (1991), the end of the Cold War (1991), and the beginning of a new era in U.S. diplomatic relations.
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