The History of the United States

  • Oct 12, 1492

    Columbus discovers the New World

    On this day it is recorded that Christopher Columbus, a Portugese man sailing for Spain, discovered the New World. While he believed he had discovered the Indies he was actually on the present day island of Cuba. The three ships of the voyage were the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina.
  • Jun 7, 1494

    Treaty of Tordesillas

    Upon Columbus' report of the discovered lands, the Spanish rulers, Ferdinand and Isabella, wanted to keep away from claimation conflicts with their Portugese rivals. They asked the Pope Alexander VI to settle the matter for future exploration and claims of the lands. He thus divide the lands by longitude giving Portugal all to the east and Spain all to the west of that line of demarcation. Unfortunately for Portugal, Spain got the much bigger share.
  • Period: Jan 1, 1513 to Dec 31, 1540

    Spanish Exploration in the North

    Ponce de Leon, Navarez, De Soto, and Coronado were all Spanish explorers who attempted to explore North of Central and South America. Not one of these were successful and so they gave up. This is important because it leaves North America mainly for the French and the British.
  • Period: Jan 1, 1519 to Dec 31, 1522

    Cortez Conquers Aztecs

    Conquistador Cortez landed in Mexico in search of God, gold, and glory. He burned his ships to prevent his crew from leaving and he began ravaging the Aztec. Their diseases and their guns were the end of the Aztec.
  • Period: Aug 10, 1519 to Sep 6, 1522

    Magellan's Voyage

    One of the Spanish Exploration success stories. Though the captain Magellan did not survive the entire voyage himself, he is credited with the first voyage to circumnavigate the world.
  • Period: Jan 1, 1531 to Jan 1, 1533

    Fransico Pizarro Conquers Incas

    Pizarro explores Peru in search of gold. He is to have dinner with the Incan Emperor Atahualpa but instead takes him prisoner. The Incans do not attack and instead pay a heavy ransom. Pizarro collects the ransom and executes the emperor. So ended the Incan Empire of Peru.
  • Virginia House of Burgesses

    The creation of the Virginia House of Burgesse marked the first representative government in the colonies. Though strict standards prohibited all but a few individuals from participating in government, the House made some important decisions and took a crucial step in self-government in the colonies. The first meeting was in Jamestown.
  • Mayflower Compact

    The Mayflower Compact was an early example of direct democracy in the colonies. 41/102 passengers (all male) signed the compact that insured the dedication of the men to the new colony at Plymouth, that all would follow majority world, and the promise to follow the rules that would be established. It was not a constitution but mearly an adaptation to a church covenant.
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    First Winter at Plymouth

    This deadly winter was the test of the fiber and gall of the pilgrims. Of the 102 that arrived, only 40 survived. Surprisingly, all children survived.
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    The Great Migration

    In this oppressive time in England, the promises of the New World's religious freedom was tempting. 70,000 people migrated to North America. 20,000 of those to MA Bay Colony alone.
  • Trade & Navigation Acts

    The first of these acts was past on this day. Though widely ignored, it demonstrates England's desire for a merchantilistic relationship with her colonies. The series of acts restricted the colonies to trade only with England, the use of only English vessels, and to only manufacture goods not manufactured by England herself (to keep the colonies dependent on her).
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    Bacon's Rebellion

    Nathaniel Bacon lead the angry backcountryfolk in an attack against the Indians and the Eastern rich folk who they claimed did nothing to protect them. The rebellion was successful at first; they ran Governor Berkeley out of town and burned Jamestown. The rebellion puttered out with the untimely death of Bacon due to dysentary.
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    The First Great Awakening

    A large religious movement starting in New Enlgand and quickly sweeping southward, the Great Awakening stressed emotional religion more than logical. Big leaders include Jonathan Edwards, author of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and George Whitfield, a powerful speaking associate of John Wesley.
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    The French and Indian War

    The first of the Anglo-French wars to begin in the New World. It was a French success until Prime Minister William Pitt decided that the way to beat the French in Europe was to beat them in the New World and so send more troops/supplies. The French were defeated but the result of the war was high British debt and the end of salutary neglect in the colonies.
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    Chief Pontiac's Rebellion

    When the English were awarded western lands after the French defeat (French and Indian War) the Indians feared conflict with the westward expansion of colonists. Chief Pontiac of the Ottowas ravaged forts and settlements killing around 600 people. The rebellion ended with Col. Bradsheet and Col. Bouquet invasion of the Ohio Valley area though Pontiac didn't surrender until 1766,
  • The Stamp Act

    The British Parliament passed this revenue tax to raise money for the protection of the colonists along the Appalachian Mtns (10,000 troops were posted in forts along there), It taxed all printed paper (legal, newspapers, playing cards, etc.). The idea of external taxation enraged the colonists more than the price of the tax. It affected all types of colonists (wealthy lawyers to poor sailors). When the Virginia H. of Burgesses passed 4 of Patrick Henry's Stamp Act Resolves, they were dissolved.
  • The Boston Massacre

    Still controversial, the massacre by the roudy British soldiers being quartered in Boston was a shocking rallying point for the colonists. 5 rioters were killed and the soldiers, defended in court by John Adams, were pardoned.
  • Intolerable/Coercive Acts

    In response to the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament locked down on Boston. Their intentions were to make Boston pay for the lost British East India Company tea. They passed 5 laws (Quartering, Boston Port, Quebec, Administration of Justice, and the Massachusetts' Government Act). This enraged the colonists and increased colonial unity (other colonies sent supplies and moral support to the oppressed Boston).
  • Concilliatory Proposition

    When news of the British defeat of Bunker Hill reached England, the people went crazy. The king attempted to make amends with the colonies but it was too little too late. His proposition was the colonies would tax themselves at the demand of Parliament.
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    Revolutionary War

    Fought between the Colonists and Britain, the American Revolution solidified American independence. The American Colonists were supported by the French and led by General George Washington. The first battle was at Lexington and Concord (shot heard round the world) and the last was the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.
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    Second Continental Congress

    When relations with the British worsened, the Second Continental Congress was called. They made George Washington the head of the Continental Army, directed strategies, and acted as the governing body during the American Revolution. Every state attended.
  • The Olive Branch Petition

    The Second Continental Congress submits the Olive Branch Petition, drafted by John Dickinson, to King George III. It was their last effort to maintain good relations with England. It asserted their rights as Englishmen yet also asserted their loyalty to the crown. King George III refused the peace offering and on Aug. 23 declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion.
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine

    This is the date of first publication for the tremendously influencial pamplet, Common Sense, by Thomas Paine. It stressed the need for independence from Britain (the first work to do so) and explained why it was needed in common terms.
  • Virginia Resolution

    Richard Henry Lee
  • Declaration of Independence

    Written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence declared independence from British rule. It discussed the ideas of natural law and the social contract inspired by John Locke and it listed grievances against King George III.
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    Battle of Saratoga

    The British attempted to capture Albany by sending three different armies from three places. General Burgoyne was trugging southward when intercepted by the American troops. The American forces pushed him back until he was forced to surrender. This battle was the turning point of the Revolution. It boosted moral and support as well as convinced the French to ally with their cause.
  • Articles of Confederation

    This nation's first form of government. It was prostates' rights and gave little power to the national government. The federal government couldn't tax, enforce laws, or regulate trade. The good things that came of the Articles were the Treaty of Paris, the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
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    Shays' Rebellion

    Daniel Shays lead a group of angry debtors and poor farmers called the Shayists in rebellion against the crushing taxes. Their situation seemed hopeless and oppressive (debtors prisons and such) and they acted as they had in the Revolution; violence can affect change. The rebellion ended when four Shayists were killed in an attempt to capture the Springfield Armory. His rebellion showed the federal leaders that the Articles were not working.
  • The Annapolis Convention

    The convention was called by Virginia in hopes of amending the Articles. Only 5 states sent delegates and it was considered a failure. The attendents thus called the Philadelphia Convention which was later named the Constitutional Convention.
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    The Constitutional Convention

    The Articles were failing and the Annapolis Convention had not been successful and so the Constitutional Convention was called. 12/13 states attended in Philadelphia. Many arguments (Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists) and compromises (Electoral College, VA vs. NJ plan, 3/5s Compromise) occured in those four secretive months. It resulted in the signing of the Constitution.
  • Washington's Inaguration

    George Washinton was the first president of the United States of America. On his journey to his inaguration in New York City he was greeted with cheers like a hero. When he left office he was much less popular. He was wise and left good advice for the nation. He set the precedent of 2 terms in office and his strict warning to avoid intangling foreign alliances helped keep American out of war for many years. Though not part of a political group, he was Federalist leaning. His vp was John Adams.
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    French Revolution

    The French Revolution created many problems in the US. At first the Americans were flattered and enthused by the movement, remembering their pasts struggles for liberty. With the start of the Reign of Terror, though, most feelings changed. As Britain got envolved, the US was divided on who to side with. Federalists supported Britain & Republicans the French. Only Washington's firm belief in isolationism kept the young, weak US out of foreign war. The Revolution ended with Napoleon's coup d'etat.
  • First National Bank

    Part of the emense economic plan of Alexander Hamilton to draw the new nation out of debt was to establish a national bank. The bank would be supported by bonds purchased by the wealthy and would have a starting capital of $10 million. There was a great debate between Jefferson and Hamilton over the bank. Jefferson heavily questioned the constitutionality of the bank. Hamilton supported a very strong central government but his plans were genius and affective.
  • Whiskey Rebellion

    On this day President George Washington mobilized nearly 13,000 militiamen to march to western Pennsylvania to end the Whiskey Rebellion. The rebellion was in response to the excise tax on the whiskey that was so prominent in the south and backcountry. Washington and Hamilton's use of such extreme force demonstrated to all that the central government was strong and in control (unlike it was in the days of Shays' Rebellion)
  • Jay's Treaty

    England was capturing American ships, even while the US remained neutral. John Jay was sent to England to compromise. The treaty that resulted said that the US would pay-off preRevolutionary debts if the British would evacuate forts and leave the American ships alone. Americans were furious and the Federalists lost support. The British better respected America and war was avoided. This treaty lead to Pinckney's Treaty.
  • Pinckney's Treaty

    Pinckney was sent to Spain to obtain the Right of Deposit (the right to use the Mississippi River and the crucial port of New Orleans). Spain knew of the recent Jay's Treaty and feared an alliance between Britain and the US and thus retaliation is the US was refused. Pinckney's Treaty was successful.
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    Alien & Sedition Acts

    These two Federalist acts were issued under Adams' term. Though they were unconstitutional in violation of freedom of speech and press, some people still approved of them. Both acts were political. The Alien act lengthened the naturalization requirements from 5 to 14yrs in the US prior to citizenship to keep the immigrants (normally Republicans) from voting in next election. The Sedition act was to get the anti-Federalist headlines out of the papers. Protests were the KY and VA Resolutions.
  • Convention of 1800

    When the US didn't come to France's aid in the French Rev. relationships became strained. Envoys were sent to talk with Talleyrand but he sent "XYZ" to greet them & demand $250,000 to speak with him. Americans were furious. The two nations went into an undeclared naval war (Navy department est.). This convention brought peace, a trade agreement, and it nullyfied the alliance.
  • Judiciary Act

    The Federalist Congress passed this act as one of their last improtant laws under Adams. It appointed 16 new federal judges to the court; sixteen previously nonexistant positions. Disagreements around the "midnight judges" commissions signed on Adams' last night in office led to the landmark Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison which established the power of judicial review and set a precedent that the executive branch didn't have the authority to create court positions.
  • Jefferson's Inauguration

    Described as the "Revolution of 1800," the party switch of the Republicans in place of the Federalists was the first election with two opposing parties. Jefferson's was the first inaugural address was the first to be given in the Washington DC capital.
  • Louisiana Purchase

    In a secret treaty Spain ceded Louisiana to France. Later Spain withdrew the US' right of deposit for New Orleans and the Mississippi. American envoys went to Paris to purchase New Orleans with a budget of 10 million and Napoleon offered the entire Louisiana Territory for 15 million. The deal was made. The US was doubled at 3 cents an acre. The deal would be greater appreciated later. At the time the land was almost more than the government could handle.
  • Orders in Council

    When the French proved themselves supreme in land warfare, the British issued the Orders of Council to cripple their French enemy. The edicts closed the ports under French control to foreign shipping. France then responded with the Continental System.
  • Continental System

    French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte hoped to cripple the sea-mighty rival, England, through trade. This System was
  • Attack on the USS Chesapeake

    The Chesapeake was nearly on American soil when a British ship demanded four "deserters" be impressed. The Chesapeake captian refused to release the men and so the ship was fired upon. The four were impressed anyways and three other Americans were killed. Though London contrited, the nation was furious. Jefferson still didn't declare war.
  • Embargo Act is Repealed

    To avoid war and remain neutral as France and England battled in the seas and est. the Orders in Council and the Continental System, Jefferson pushed for a national embargo; no foreign trade. It was only in place about 15 months and was hated by the Americans and laughed at by the British & French. The Embargo Act hurt everyone but helped develope manufacturing in New England. It was repealed on this day, 3 days before Jefferson's retirement.