The smaller states strongly opposed this idea. They wanted each state to have the same number of votes in Congress, as was the case under the Articles of Confederation. On July 16, 1787, delegates narrowly voted to accept Sherman's proposals, which came to be known as the Great Compromise. The key to the Sherman's plan was a two-house Congress. To please the large states, the lower house, called the House of Representatives, was to be based on population. Bigger states would thus have more votes. Representatives would be chosen by a vote of the people to serve two-year terms. To please the small states, each state would have two seats in the upper house, or Senate. State legislatures would choose senators, who would serve six-year terms. Most Americans at first supported the French revolutionaries. In their eyes, France was following the lead of the United States in fighting monarchy. Soon, though, the French Revolution became controversial in the United States. One reason was that it became more violent. This process peaked in mid-1793 with a period called the Reign of Terror. The French revolutionaries executed about 17,000 people, including the king and queen. The Federalists denounced the violence. But Jefferson and his supporters argued that in a fight by oppressed people to win freedom, some injustices were to be expected. Secondly, by early 1793 France and Britain were at war. In that war, said President Washington, the United States would remain neutral. The United States wanted to trade with both sides. However, each European country feared such trade would benefit the other. Both countries began stopping American ships and seizing their cargoes. Washington sent John Jay to solve the problems with Britain and they signed Jay's Treaty which angered Republicans. In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain. Unlike Spain, Mexico allowed its people to trade with the many foreign ships that landed on its shores. Mexico also permitted overland trade with the United States. Under Spanish rule, land grants, or government gifts of land, had been given only to a few peninsulares. Mexico, however, made many grants to individual rancheros, or owners of ranches. Mexico also removed the missions from church control and distributed mission lands to rancheros and a few American settlers.
Much of this land belonged to Native Americans. Indians often responded by raiding ranches, but they were soon crushed. By 1850, the Indian population in the Southwest had been drastically reduced.
The fur trade made Astor the richest man in the country. The trappers who supplied him with furs were also eager to become rich. These mountain men, or fur trappers of the Northwest, would become legendary. For most of the year, trappers led isolated, dangerous lives. They endured bitter cold, intense heat, and attacks from wild animals. Once a year, trappers would bring their furs to a rendezvous, a meeting where the trappers would trade furs for supplies. Here, the mountain men would celebrate their time together. Then, they got down to serious bargaining. Beaver fur was in great demand in the East, so trappers were able to command high prices for their furs. Polk sent a representative, Nicholas Trist, to help General Scott negotiate a treaty with the Mexican government. Despite many difficulties, Trist negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which was signed in 1848. It formally ended the Mexican-American War. Under the treaty, Mexico recognized the annexation of Texas and ceded a vast territory to the United States. This territory, known as the Mexican Cession, included present-day California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico. In return, the United States paid $18 million to Mexico. In the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, the United States paid Mexico $10 million for a narrow strip of present-day Arizona and New Mexico. Manifest Destiny had been achieved. The Mormon Church grew quickly, but some of its teachings often placed its followers in conflict with their neighbors. For example, Mormons at first believed that property should be held in common. Smith also favored polygamy, the practice of having more than one wife at a time. Hostile communities forced the Mormons to move from New York to Ohio and then to Missouri. By 1844, the Mormons had settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. There, Joseph Smith was murdered by an angry mob. Brigham Young, the new Mormon leader, realized that Nauvoo was no longer safe. In 1847, he led a party of Mormons on a long, hazardous journey to the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Over the next few years, some 15,000 Mormon men, women, and children made the trek to Utah. Although Utah was a safe refuge, the land was not hospitable. Farming was difficult in the dry desert. The Mormons then set out to make the desert bloom. Under strict church supervision, they enclosed and distributed farmland and set up an efficient system of irrigation. The act was pushed through by Senator Stephen Douglas. Douglas was eager to develop the lands west of his home state of Illinois. He wanted to see a railroad built from Illinois through the Nebraska Territory to the Pacific Coast. To win southern support, Douglas proposed that slavery in the new territories be decided by popular sovereignty. Thus, in effect, the Kansas-Nebraska Act undid the Missouri Compromise. Northerners, however, were outraged by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. They believed that Douglas had betrayed them by reopening the issue of slavery in the territories. After months of debate, southern support enabled the Kansas-Nebraska Act to pass in both houses of Congress. President Franklin Pierce, a Democrat elected in 1852, then signed the bill into law. Douglas predicted that, as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the slavery question would be forever banished, but was wrong. Dred Scott was an enslaved person who had once been owned by a U.S. Army doctor. The doctor, and Scott, lived for a time in Illinois and in the Wisconsin Territory. Slavery was illegal in both places. After leaving the army, the doctor settled with Scott in Missouri. With the help of antislavery lawyers, Scott sued for his freedom. He argued that he was free because he had lived where slavery was illegal. In time, the case reached the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the decision for the Court. Scott was not a free man, he said, for two reasons. First, according to Taney, Scott had no right to sue in federal court because African Americans were not citizens. Second, Taney said, merely living in free territory did not make an enslaved person free. Slaves were property, Taney declared, and property rights were protected by the U.S. Constitution. But the ruling went even further. Taney wrote that Congress did not have the power to prohibit slavery in any territory. Thus, the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. At emancipation, many freedmen owned little more than the clothes they wore. Poverty forced many African Americans, as well as poor whites, to become sharecroppers. The landlord supplied living quarters, tools, seeds, and food on credit. At harvest time, the landlord sold the crop and tallied up how much went to the sharecroppers. Often, especially in years of low crop prices or bad harvests, the sharecroppers' shares were not enough to cover what they owed the landlord for rent and supplies. As a result, most sharecroppers became locked into a cycle of debt. Downtown shopping areas attracted hordes of people. People came to buy the goods pouring in from American factories. To meet the needs of shoppers, merchants developed a new type of store, the department store. Cities provided a wealth of entertainment. Almost every museum, orchestra, art gallery, and theater was located in a city. Circuses, with elephants, lions, acrobats, and clowns, drew large audiences. The most popular sport to watch was baseball.