U.S. History Timeline

By mguest
  • 1492

    The Columbian Exchange

    The Columbian Exchange
    The Spanish had now made it to the Americas thanks to the voyages of Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, and Hernan Cortes. This Spanish invasion permanently altered the natural as well as the human environment. The movement of diseases and peoples across the the Atlantic was part of a lager pattern of biological transformation. Foods of the Western Hemisphere significantly increased agricultural yields and population growth in other continents.
  • The Indian War of 1622

    The Indian War of 1622
    The influx of migrants to the newly discovered America sparked an all-out conflict with the neighboring Indians. The struggle began with an assault led by Opechancanough, Powhatan's younger brother and successor. He almost succeeded but fell short and this violence led to "a perpetual war without peace or truce" that lasted for a decade. This also caused the revoking of the Virginia Company's charter that had allowed exploration of the new region.
  • The Puritan Revolution

    The Puritan Revolution
    A religious civil war engulfed England. Thousands of English Puritans joined Scots, demanding religious reform and parliamentary power. England's experiment in radical Protestant government came to an end. For the Puritans in America, the restoration of the monarchy began a new phase of their "errand into the wilderness."
  • Initiation The Navigation Acts

    Initiation The Navigation Acts
    As Charles II distributed American land, his ministers devised policies to keep colonial trade in English hands. Since the 1560s, the English crown had pursued mercantilist policies, using government subsidies and charters to stimulate English manufacturing and foreign trade. Believing they had to control trade with the colonies to reap their economic benefits, English ministers wanted agricultural goods and raw materials to be carried to English ports in English vessels.
  • Establishment of South Atlantic System

    Establishment of South Atlantic System
    Britain's focus on America reflected the growth of a new agricultural and commercial order that produced sugar, tobacco, rice, and other tropical and subtropical products for an international market. Its plantation societies were ruled by European planter-merchants and worked by hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans. This was the start of the African Slave Trade.
  • Bacon's Rebellion

    Bacon's Rebellion
    Puritans in America considered their presence to be divinely ordained. Their populations outnumbered the Indians and this led to violence between the two groups. At the same time that New England fought its war with Metacom, Virginia was wracked by a rebellion that nearly toppled its government. It, too, grew out of conflict with neighboring Indians, but this one inspired a popular uprising against the colony's royal governor.
  • The Glorious Revolution

    The Glorious Revolution
    Fortunately for the colonists, James II angered English political leaders as much as Andros alienated colonists. With their support, William of Orange led a quick and nearly bloodless coup, and King James II was overthrown. This sparked rebellions by Protestant colonies in Massachusetts, Maryland, and New York. Many rebellions relied on the philosophy of John Locke, who believed that the legitimacy of government rests on the consent of the governed and the rights of life, liberty, and property.
  • The Stono Rebellion

    The Stono Rebellion
    After the Slave Trade had taken off, African Americans had now become a staple to American plantation life. They lived in harsh conditions and started to rebel. The largest slave uprising in the mainland colonies, South Carolina's Stono Rebellion, illustrated the impossibility of success. Many slaves were able to escape and even though their numbers and organization were impressive, the rebels were soon met by the well-armed South Carolina militia.
  • Whitefield's Great Awakening

    Whitefield's Great Awakening
    The Great Awakening brought religious revival for many colonists, some turning to deism and others turning to Pietism. English minister George Whitefield transformed the local revivals of Edwards and and the Tennents into their own Great Awakening. Like most evangelical preachers, Whitefield did not read his sermons but spoke from memory.
  • The Presbyterian Revival

    The Presbyterian Revival
    Soon, a democratization of religion challenged the dominance of both the Anglican church and the planter elite. Bricklayer Samuel Morris, inspired by reading George Whitefield's sermons, led a group of Virginia Anglicans out of their congregation. Seeking a deeper religious experience, they led sermons filled with erotic devotional imagery that sparked Presbyterian revivals across the Tidewater region, threatening the social authority of the Virginia gentry.
  • The Transportation and Print Revolution

    The Transportation and Print Revolution
    The cultural movement of the Enlightenment was now taking place and encouraged new growth in America. Improved transportation networks opened Britain's colonies in news ways, and British shipping came to dominate the north Atlantic. A road network slowly took shape as well, though roadbuilding was expensive and difficult. All of these water and land routes carried people, produce, and finished merchandise. They also carried information, as letters, newspapers, and crates of books.
  • The French and Indian War

    The French and Indian War
    Overlapping French and British claims in North America came to head. The French maintained their vast claims through a network of forts and trading posts that sustained alliances with neighboring Indians. After displaced Indian populations settled the Ohio Valley where French claims were tenuous, violence occurred. This was the start of what became known as the Seven Years' War when it spread to Europe and pitted Britain and Prussia against France, Spain, and Austria.
  • The Sugar Act

    The Sugar Act
    The challenge of raising revenue from the colonies fell first to George Grenville. The earlier Molasses Act of 1733 had set a tax rate of 6 pence per gallon on French molasses. Rather than paying it, colonial merchants bribed customs officials at the going rate of 1.5 pence per gallon. Grenville settled on a duty of 3 pence per gallon, which merchants could pay and still turn a profit, and then tightened customs enforcement so that it could actually be collected.
  • The Stamp Act

    The Stamp Act
    Another new tax, sparked the first great imperial crisis. The new levy was to cover part of the cost of keeping British troops in America- which turned out to be 385,000 pounds a year, 70 percent more than the initial estimate. Grenville hoped that the Stamp Act would raise 60,000 pounds a year. The act would require a tax on all printed items, from college diplomas, court documents, land titles, and other contracts.
  • Townshend Act

    Townshend Act
    The new tax legislation had both fiscal and political goals. It imposed duties on colonial imports of paper, paint, glass, and tea that were expected to raise about 40,000 pounds a year. Though Townshend did allocate some of this revenue for American military expenses, he earmarked most of it to pay the salaries of officials who had previously been paid by colonial assemblies. Now, he hoped, royal appointees could better enforce parliamentary laws and carry out the king's instructions.
  • The Boston Massacre

    The Boston Massacre
    Even as Parliament was debating North's repeal, events in Boston guaranteed that reconciliation between Patriots and Parliament would be hard to achieve. On the night of March 15, 1770, a group of nine British redcoats fired onto a crowd and killed five townspeople. A subsequent trial exonerated the soldiers, but Boston's Radical Whigs, convinced of a ministerial conspiracy against liberty, labeled the incident a "massacre" and used it to rally sentiment against imperial power.
  • The Boston Tea Party

    The Boston Tea Party
    Causing even more tension with the colonists, Parliament passed the Tea Act and Coercive Acts. In response to these, radical Patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians and other Bostonians, dumped the East India Company's taxed tea into the harbor. The rioters made clear their "pure" political motives by punishing those who sought personal gain: one Son of Liberty who stole some of the tea was "stripped of his booty and his clothes together, and sent home naked."
  • Lord Dunmore's War

    Lord Dunmore's War
    As British authority was waving and at least 10,000 people had traveled to where Fort Pitt had been added during the Great War for Empire. The abandonment of the fort made settler relations with neighboring Indians tenuous because it left them exposed and vulnerable. Lord Dunmore gathered men and took the land "without a king." Years of neglect left many colonists in the backcountry feeling abandoned by the crown. Dunmore's War was their declaration of independence.
  • Creation of the First Continental Congress

    Creation of the First Continental Congress
    In response to the Coercive Acts, Patriot leaders convened a new continent-wide body, the Continental Congress. Twelve mainland colonies sent representatives. Four recently acquired colonies- Florida, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland- refused to send delegates, as did Georgia, where the royal governor controlled the legislature. The congress had many agendas, several consisting of the matter of British control in the colonies.
  • Addition of the Second Continental Congress

    Addition of the Second Continental Congress
    Patriot leaders gathered in Philadelphia for the Second Continental Congress. As the Congress opened, 3,000 British troops attacked American fortifications on Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill overlooking Boston. After three assaults and 1,000 casualties, they finally dislodged the Patriot militia. Inspired by his countrymen's valor, John Adams exhorted the Congress to rise to the "defense of American liberty" by creating a continental army. He nominated George Washington to lead it.
  • Publication of Thomas Paine's Common Sense

    Publication of Thomas Paine's Common Sense
    As military conflicts escalated, Americans were divided in their opinions of King George III. John Dickinson persuaded Congress to send George III the Olive Branch Petition, which pleaded with the king to negotiate. Many did not agree with this and a single brief pamphlet helped tip the balance. In Common Sense, Paine assaulted the traditional monarchial order in stirring language. He also argued for American Independence by turning the traditional metaphor of patriarchal authority on its head.
  • Approval of the Declaration of Independence

    Approval of the Declaration of Independence
    Inspired by Paine's arguments and beset by armed Loyalists, Patriot conventions urged a break from Britain. Faced with certain defeat, staunch Loyalists and anti-independence moderates withdrew from the Congress, leaving committed Patriots to get Congress to approve the declaration. The declaration's main author, Thomas Jefferson justified independence and republicanism to Americans and the world by vilifying George III.
  • The Articles of Confederation are Approved

    The Articles of Confederation are Approved
    As Patriots embraced independence in 1776, they envisioned a central government with limited powers. The Articles provided for a loose union in which "each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence." As an an association of equals, each state had one vote regardless of its size, population, or wealth. Important laws needed the approval of nine of the thirteen states, and changes in the Articles required unanimous consent.
  • The French Alliance

    The French Alliance
    After battles at Saratoga and the suffering at Valley Forge, the Patriots' prospects improved dramatically when the Continental Congress concluded a military alliance with France, the most powerful nation in Europe. The alliance gave the Americans desperately needed money, supplies, and, eventually, troops. And it confronted Britain with an international war that challenged its domination of the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
  • Philipsburg Proclamation

    Philipsburg Proclamation
    The large number of slaves in the South made the Revolution a "triangular war," in which African Americans constituted a strategic problem for Patriots and a tempting, if dangerous, opportunity for the British. This new proclamation declared that any slave who deserted a rebel master would receive protection, freedom, and land from Great Britain. Together, these proclamations led some 30,000 African Americans to take refuge behind British lines.
  • "On the Equality of the Sexes" is Released

    "On the Equality of the Sexes"  is Released
    Judith Sargent Murray argued that men and women had equal capacities for memory and that women had superior imaginations. She conceded that most women were inferior to men in judgement and reasoning, but only from lack of training. "We can only reason from what we know," she argued, and most when had been denied "the opportunity of acquiring knowledge."
  • Passage of Manumission Act

    Passage of Manumission Act
    Thousands of African Americans supported the Patriot cause. Eager to raise their social status, free blacks volunteered for military service and some slaves took up arms for the rebels in return for the promise of freedom. Enslaved Virginians struck informal bargains with their Patriot owners, trading loyalty in wartime for the hope of liberty. Following the Virginia Legislature's passage of the Manumission Act, allowing owners to free their slaves, 10,000 slaves won their freedom.
  • Treaty of Paris

    Treaty of Paris
    The Americans negotiated secretly with the British, prepared if necessary to ignore the Treaty of Alliance and sign a separate peace. British ministers were equally eager: Parliament wanted peace, and they feared the loss of a rich sugar island. Consequently, the American diplomats secured extremely favorable terms. In the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain formally recognized American independence and relinquished its claims to lands south of the Great Lakes and east of the Mississippi River.
  • Shay's Rebellion

    Shay's Rebellion
    Though many national leaders were optimistic about the long-term prospects of the United States, postwar economic conditions were grim. The Revolution had crippled American shipping and cut exports of tobacco, rice, and wheat. New taxes were now being put into place to pay of these many war debts. As a revolt against taxes imposed by an unresponsive government, Shay's Rebellion resembled American resistance to the British Stamp Act.
  • The Northwest Ordinance

    The Northwest Ordinance
    More than thirty thousand settlers had already moved to Kentucky and Tennessee, despite the uncertainties of frontier warfare, and after the war their numbers grew rapidly. The Northwest Ordinance created the territories that would eventually become the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The ordinance prohibited slavery and earmarked funds from land sales for the support of schools. It also specified the administration of new territories and joining the Confederation.
  • The Philadelphia Convention

    The Philadelphia Convention
    Fifty-five delegates arrived in Philadelphia. They came from every state except Rhode Island, where the legislature opposed increasing central authority. Most were strong nationalists; forty-two had served in the Confederation Congress. The absence of experienced leaders and contrary-minded delegates allowed capable younger nationalists to set the agenda. Declaring that the convention would "decide for ever the fate of Republican Government," many insisted on increased national authority.
  • "Federalist No. 10" is Released

    "Federalist No. 10" is Released
    Madison challenged the view republican governments only worked in small polities, arguing that a large state would better protect republican liberty. It was "sown in the nature of a man," Madison wrote, for individuals to seek power and form factions. Indeed, "a landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations." A free society should welcome all factions but keep a balance of power.
  • The Bill of Rights

    The Bill of Rights
    The Federalists kept their promise to add a declaration of rights to the Constitution. James Madison submitted nineteen amendments to the First Congress; by 1791, ten had been approved by Congress and ratified by the states. These ten amendments safeguard fundamental personal rights, including freedom of speech and religion, and mandate legal procedures, such as trial by jury. By protecting individual citizens, the amendments secured the legitimacy of the Constitution.
  • Hamilton's "Report on Manufactures"

    Hamilton's "Report on Manufactures"
    Hamilton sought revenue to pay the annual interest on the national debt. At his insistence, Congress imposed excise taxes, including a duty on whiskey distilled in the United States. These taxes would yield $1 million a year. To raise another $4 million, the treasury secretary proposed higher tariffs on foreign imports. Although, Hamilton's "Report on Manufactures" urged the expansion of American manufacturing he did not support high protective tariffs that would exclude foreign products.
  • Proclamation of Neutrality

    Proclamation of Neutrality
    American merchants profited even more handsomely from the European war. President Washington issued a Proclamation of Neutrality, allowing U.S. citizens to trade with all belligerents. As neutral carriers, American merchant ships claimed a right to pass through Britain's naval blockade of French ports, and American firms quickly took over the lucrative sugar trade between France and its West Indian islands.
  • The Haitian Revolution

    The Haitian Revolution
    The Haitian Revolution profoundly impacted the United States when thousands of refugees- planters, slaves, and free blacks alike- fled the island and traveled to Charleston, Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, while newspapers detailed the horrors of the unfolding war. Many slaveholders panicked, fearful that the "contagion" of black liberation would undermine their own slave regimes. U.S. policy toward the rebellion presented a complex problem.
  • Whiskey Rebellion

    Whiskey Rebellion
    As Americans profited from Europe's struggles, they argued passionately over its ideologies. Many applauded the end of the monarchy but still feared social revolution at home. Their fears were well founded, because Hamilton's economic policies quickly sparked a domestic insurgency. To protest Hamilton's excise tax on spirits, the Whiskey Rebellion took place. Like the Sons of Liberty in 1765, the Whiskey Rebels assailed the tax collectors who sent the farmers' money to a distant government.
  • The Naturalization, Alien, and Sedition Acts

    The Naturalization, Alien, and Sedition Acts
    As Federalists became more hostile to the French Republic, they also took a harder line against their Republican critics. When Republican-minded immigrants from Ireland vehemently attacked Adam's policies, Federalists enacted three coercive laws to silence them. These acts lengthened the residency requirement for American citizenship, authorized the deportation of foreigners, and prohibited the publication of insults or malicious attacks on the President or members of Congress.
  • Marbury v. Madison

    Marbury v. Madison
    The Supreme Court claimed the authority of constitutional review when James Madison, the new secretary of state, refused to deliver the commission of William Marbury, one of Adam's midnight appointees. Marshall asserted that Marbury had the right to the appointment but the Court did not have the power to enforce it. In defining the Court's powers, Marshall voided a section of the Judiciary Act of 1789.
  • The Louisiana Purchase

    The Louisiana Purchase
    International events challenged Jefferson's vision of westward expansion. Napoleon's actions in Haiti and Louisiana prompted him to question his pro-French foreign policy. To keep the Mississippi River open to western farmers, Jefferson told Robert Livingston to negotiate the purchase of New Orleans. In a time of struggle, the French ruler offered to sell the entire territory of Louisiana for $15 million. This purchase forced Jefferson to reconsider his strict interpretation of the Constitution.
  • The Embargo Act of 1807

    The Embargo Act of 1807
    To protect American interests, Jefferson pursued a policy of peaceful coercion. This act prohibited American ships from leaving their home ports until Britain and France stopped restricting U.S. trade. A drastic maneuver, the embargo overestimated the reliance of Britain and France on American shipping and underestimated the resistance of merchants, who feared the embargo would ruin them. It cut the American gross national product by 5 percent and weakened the entire economy.
  • The Battle of Tippecanoe

    The Battle of Tippecanoe
    Republican congressmen from the West were certain that Britain was the primary offender. They pointed to its trade with Indians in the Ohio River Valley in violation of the Treaty of Paris and Jay's Treaty. Bolstered by British guns and supplies, the Shawnee war chief Tecumseh revived the western confederacy who traded heavy casualties with the governor's troops. The violence and Britain's violation of commercial rights led to the War of 1812 that lasted till 1815.
  • Treaty of Ghent is Signed

    Treaty of Ghent is Signed
    Fortunately for the young American republic, by 1815 Britain wanted peace. The twenty-year war with France had sapped its wealth and energy, so it began negotiations with the United States in Ghent, Belgium. At first, the American commissioners demanded territory in Canada and Florida, while British diplomats sought an Indian buffer state between the United States and Canada. Both sides quickly realized that these objectives were not worth the cost of prolonged warfare.
  • American Colonization Society is Founded

    American Colonization Society is Founded
    Heartened by the end of the Atlantic slave trade, black abolitionists spoke out. For inspiration, they looked to the Haitian Revolution and joined in secret societies for support. Initially, black antislavery advocates hoped that slavery would die out naturally as the tobacco economy declined, but the opposite happened when there was a boom in cotton planting. A group of prominent citizens founded the society when slavery was redefined as a problem rather than a centuries-old social condition.
  • Panic of 1819

    Panic of 1819
    Federalists in Congress chartered the Bank of the United States to issue notes and make loans. Jeffersonians attacked the bank as an unconstitutional expansion of federal power. Dubious banking policies helped bring on the Panic of 1819, but broader forces were equally important. As the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1815, Americans sharply increased their consumption of English woolen and cotton goods. In 1818, farmers and planters faced an abrupt 30 percent drop in world agricultural prices.
  • The Missouri Compromise

    The Missouri Compromise
    When Missouri applied for admission to the Union in 1819, Congressmen would only support it if its constitution banned the entry of new slaves and provided the emancipation of existing slaves. In the ensuing debate, southerners argued "equal rights," state sovereignty, and property rights of individual slave holders. The Missouri Compromise drew a line from east to west along the 36th parallel, dividing the nation into competing halves—half free, half slave, allowing Missouri to become a state.
  • The Election of 1824

    The Election of 1824
    The advance of political democracy in the states undermined the traditional notable-dominated system of national politics. After the War of 1812, the aristocratic Federalist Party virtually disappeared, and the Republican Party splintered into competing factions. As the election of 1824 approached, five Republican candidates campaigned for the presidency. In the end, John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson by garnering more electoral votes through the House of Representatives.
  • Indian Removal Act of 1830

    Indian Removal Act of 1830
    The status of Native American peoples posed an equally complex political problem. By the late 1820s, white voices throughout the South and Midwest demanded the resettlement of Indian peoples west of the Mississippi River. Many whites who were sympathetic to Native Americans also favored resettlement. Removal to the West seemed the only way to protect Indians from alcoholism, financial exploitation, and cultural decline. Jackson pushed the Indian Removal Act that led to the Trail of Tears.
  • American Temperance Society

    American Temperance Society
    Revivalism and reform were taking over America and the temperance movement was the most successful social reform. Evangelical Protestants who took over the American Temperance Society set out to curb the consumption of alcoholic beverages. The society grew quickly to two thousand chapters and more than 200,000 members. Its nationwide campaign employed revivalist methods- group confession and prayer, using women as spiritual guides, and sudden emotional conversion- and was a stunning success.
  • Battle at the Alamo

    Battle at the Alamo
    After winning independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican government pursued an activist settlement policy. To encourage migration to the refigured state of Coahuila y Tejas, it offered sizeable land grants to its citizens and to American emigrants. When Mexico in 1835 adopted a new constitution creating a stronger central government and dissolving state legislatures, the Americans split into two groups. Rebellion broke out and to put it down, President Santa Anna led an army to the Alamo.
  • Creation of "Manifest Destiny"

    Creation of "Manifest Destiny"
    As expansionists developed continental ambitions, the term Manifest Destiny captured those dreams. Land-hungry farmers of the Ohio River Valley had already cast their eyes toward the fertile lands of the Oregon Country, a region that stretched along the Pacific coast between the Mexican province of California and Russia settlements in Alaska. By 1860, about 250,000 Americans had braved the Oregon Trail, with 65,000 heading for Oregon, 185,000 to California, and others staying in other areas.
  • Seneca Falls Convention

    Seneca Falls Convention
    Women's rights activists devised a pragmatic program of reform. Unlike radical utopians, they did not challenge the institution of marriage or the conventional division of labor. Instead, they tried to strengthen the legal rights of women by seeking legislation that permitted them to own property. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the Seneca Falls Convention which issued a rousing manifesto extending to women the egalitarian republican ideology of the Declaration of Independence
  • Compromise of 1850

    Compromise of 1850
    Standing on the brink of disaster, senior Whig and Democratic politicians worked desperately to preserve the Union. Aided by Millard Fillmore, who became president in 1850 after Zachary Taylor's sudden death, Whig leaders Henry Clay and Daniel Webster and Democrat Stephen A. Douglas won the passage of five separate laws known as the Compromise of 1850. This included a new Fugitive Slave Act and admitted California as a free state.
  • The Young Men's Christian Association

    The Young Men's Christian Association
    While industrialization spawned public domesticity- a consumer culture that courted affluent women and families- it also changed expectations for men in the workplace. The YMCA was one of the earliest and most successful promoters of athletic fitness. The group promoted muscular Christianity, combining evangelism with gyms and athletic facilities where men could make themselves "clean and strong."
  • Treaty of Kanagawa

    Treaty of Kanagawa
    Even before the Civil War, commercial aims had prompted the U.S. government to force Japan to open trade. For centuries, since unpleasant encounters with Portuguese traders in the 1600s, Japanese leaders had adhered to a policy of strict isolation. Commodore Matthew Perry succeeded in getting Japanese officials to sign the Treaty of Kanagawa, allowing U.S. ships to refuel at two ports. By 1858, America and Japan had commenced trade, and a U.S. consul had took up residence in Japan's capital.
  • Dred Scott v. Stanford

    Dred Scott v. Stanford
    There was a controversial issue of Congress's constitutional authority over slavery. Dred Scott was an enslaved African American who had lived for a time with his owner in the free state of Illinois and at Fort Snelling in the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase, where the Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery. Scott claimed that residence in a free state and a free territory had made him free. Scott's appeal was opposed and it was said that he was not free.
  • The Battle of Pea Ridge

    The Battle of Pea Ridge
    With the Union and Confederate soldiers against one another, Pea Ridge was the biggest battle of the Civil War fought west of the Mississippi and was of considerable strategic significance. By routing one Confederate army and holding another to a draw, outnumbered Union forces maintained their control of Missouri for the duration of the war.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation

    The Emancipation Proclamation
    Initially, Lincoln rejected emancipation as a war aim, but faced with thousands of refugees and Radical Republican pressure, he moved cautiously toward that goal. The president drafted a general proclamation of emancipation and then publicly linked black freedom with the preservation of the Union. The Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave, but worked for slave freedom.
  • Sand Creek Massacre

    Sand Creek Massacre
    The attention of most Unionists and Confederates was riveted on General George McClellan's failing campaign in Virginia. But in Minnesota, the Dakota Sioux were increasingly frustrated. Cheyenne chief Black Kettle, fearing his band would be attacked, consulted with U.S. agents, who instructed him to settle along Sand Creek in eastern Colorado until a treaty could be signed. The U.S. Army then went against them and there was a massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho people.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866

    Civil Rights Act of 1866
    Congressional Republicans concluded that the federal government had to intervene. Back in March 1865, Congress had established the Freedmen's Bureau to aid displaced blacks and other war refugees. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 declared formerly enslaved people to be citizens and granted them equal protection and rights of contract, with full access to the courts.
  • Burlingame Treaty

    Burlingame Treaty
    A new model emerged for asserting U.S. power in Latin America and Asia: not by direct conquest, but through trade. Exhausted by civil war, Americans had little enthusiasm for further military exploits. The Burlingame Treaty with China guaranteed the rights of U.S. missionaries in China and set official terms for the emigration of Chinese laborers, same of whom were already clearing farmland and building railroads in the West.
  • Addition of the Fourteenth Amendement

    Addition of the Fourteenth Amendement
    Anxious to protect freedpeople and reassert Republican power in the South, Congress took further measures to sustain civil rights. It declared that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" were citizens. No state could abridge "the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;" deprive "any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;" or deny anyone "equal protection."
  • Creation of the Knights of Labor

    Creation of the Knights of Labor
    In 1878, as the Greenback movement reached its height, some knights served as delegates to Greenback-labor conventions. Like Grangers, Knights believed that ordinary people needed control over the enterprises in which they worked. They proposed to set up shops owned by employees, transforming America into what they called a cooperative commonwealth. In keeping with this broad-based vision, the order practiced open membership, irrespective of race, gender, or field of employment.
  • Recognization of Yellowstone National Park

    Recognization of Yellowstone National Park
    Powell was not the only one rethinking land use. The West's incorporation into the national marketplace occurred with such speed that some Americans began to fear rampant overdevelopment. The federal government decided to set aside 2 million acres of Wyoming's Yellowstone Valley as the world's first national park: preserved as a public holding, it would serve as "a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people."
  • Comstock Act

    Comstock Act
    Reluctance to talk about contraceptives was understandable, since information about them was stigmatized and, after 1873, illegal to distribute. During Reconstruction, Anthony Comstock, crusading secretary of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, secured a federal law banning "obscene materials" from the U.S. mail. The Comstock Act prohibited circulation of almost any information about sex and birth control.
  • Woman's Christian Temperance Union

    Woman's Christian Temperance Union
    One maternalist goal was to curb alcohol abuse by prohibiting liquor sales. The Women's Christian Temperance Union spread rapidly after 1879, when charismatic Frances Willard became its leader. More than any other group of the late nineteenth century, the WCTU launched women into reform. Willard knew how to frame political demands in the language of feminine self-sacrifice.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1875

    Civil Rights Act of 1875
    At the national level, congressmen wrestled with similar issues as they debated an ambitious civil rights bill championed by Radical Republican senator Charles Sumner. Sumner first introduced his bill in 1870, seeking to enforce, among other things, equal access to schools, public transportation, hotels, and churches. When the act was passed the law required "full and equal" access to jury service and to transportation and public accommodations, irrespective of race.
  • Great Railroad Strike of 1877

    Great Railroad Strike of 1877
    The problem of industrial labor entered Americans' consciousness dramatically with the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. Protesting steep wage cuts amid the depression that had begun in 1873, thousands of railroad workers walked off the job. Broader issues were at stake. Thousands of people poured into the streets of Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Chicago to protest the economic injustice wrought by railroads.
  • Chinese Exclusion Act

    Chinese Exclusion Act
    Immigration was growing in America and compared with Europeans, newcomers from Asia faced even harsher treatment. Despite the discrimination, some Chinese managed to build profitable businesses and farms. Facing intense political pressure, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, specifically barring Chinese laborers from entering the United States. Each decade thereafter, Congress renewed the law and tightened its provisions; it was not replaced until 1943.
  • Pendleton Act

    Pendleton Act
    In the wake of Garfield's death, Congress passed the Pendleton Act, establishing a nonpartisan Civil Service Commission to fill federal jobs by examination. Initially, civil service applied to only 10 percent of such jobs, but the act laid the groundwork for a sweeping transformation of public employment. By the 1910s, Congress extended the act to cover most federal positions; cities and states across the country enacted similar laws.
  • American Federation of Labor

    American Federation of Labor
    In the early 1880s, many trade unionists joined the Knights of Labor coalition. But the aftermath of the Haymarket violence persuaded them to leave and create the separate American Federation of Labor. The man who led them was Samuel Gompers who believed the Knights relied too much on electoral politics, where victories were likely to be limited, and he did not share their sweeping critique of capitalism.
  • American Protective Association

    American Protective Association
    Chauvinism abroad reflected attitudes that also surfaced at home. Starting in Iowa in 1887, militant Protestants created a powerful political organization, the APA, which for a brief period in the 1890s counted for more than two million members. This virulently nativist group expressed outrage at the existence of separate Catholic schools while demanding, at the same time, that all public school teachers be Protestants. The APA prefigured the revived Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s.
  • The Interstate Commerce Act

    The Interstate Commerce Act
    The Interstate Commerce Act counteracted a Supreme Court decision of the previous year, Wabash v. Illinois, that had struck down states' authority to regulate railroads. The act created the Interstate Commerce Commission, charged with investigating interstate shipping, forcing railroads to make their rates public, and suing in court when necessary to make companies reduce "unjust or unreasonable" rates.
  • Sherman Antitrust Act

    Sherman Antitrust Act
    In 1888, after a decade of divided government, Republicans gained control of both congress and the White House. They pursued an ambitious agenda they believed would meet the needs of a modernizing nation. In 1890, Congress extended pensions to all Union veterans and yielded to growing public outrage over trusts by passing a law to regulate interstate corporations. The Sherman Antitrust Act was the first federal attempt to forbid any "combination, in the form of trust or otherwise, conspiracy."
  • Lodge Bill

    Lodge Bill
    President Benjamin Harrison sought to protect black voting rights in the south. Warned during his campaign that the issue was politically risky, Harrison vowed that he would not "purchase the presidency by a compact of silence upon this question." This new bill proposed that whenever one hundred citizens in any district appealed for intervention, a bipartisan federal board could investigate and seat the rightful winner. Southern Democrats warned "Negro supremacy," but it was passed.
  • Omaha Platform

    Omaha Platform
    In recognizing an "irresponsible conflict between capital and labor," Populists split from the mainstream parties, calling for stronger government to protect ordinary Americans. "We believe," declared their Omaha Platform, "that the power of government-in other words, of the people- should be expanded as rapidly and as far as the good sense of an intelligent people and the teachings of experience shall justify, to the end that oppression, injustice and poverty should eventually cease."
  • Atlanta Compromise

    Atlanta Compromise
    Booker T. Washington gained national fame with his Atlanta Compromise address, delivered at the Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia. For the exposition's white organizers, the racial "compromise" was inviting Washington to speak at all. It was a move intended to show racial progress in the South. Washington, in turn, delivered an address that many interpreted as approving racial segregation. Stating that African Americans had, in slavery days, "proved our loyalty to you."
  • R.F. Outcault's "The Yellow Kid" comic

    R.F. Outcault's "The Yellow Kid" comic
    Patrons of Carnegie's libraries could read, in addition to books, an increasing array of mass-market newspapers. Joseph Pulitzer led the way in building his sales base with a sensational investigations, human-interest stories, and targeted sections covering sports and high society. The arrival of the "Yellow Kid" gave such publications the name yellow journalism, a derogatory term for mass-market newspapers. The goal of the papers was to challenge the powerful by speaking to and for Americans.
  • National Consumer's League

    National Consumer's League
    The impact of The Jungle showed how urban reformers could affect national politics. Even more significant was the work of Josephine Shaw Lowell who helped found the New York Consumers' League to improve wages and working conditions for female store clerks. The league encouraged shoppers to patronize only stores where wages and working conditions where wages and working conditions were known to be fair. The NCL became one of the most powerful progressive organizations advocating worker's rights.
  • Newlands Reclamation Act

    Newlands Reclamation Act
    Some of Roosevelt's conservation policies had a probusiness bent. He increased the amount of land held in federal forest reserves and turned their management over the the new, independent U.S. Forest Service, created in 1905. The Newlands Reclamation Act had much in common with earlier Republican policies to promote economic development in the West. Under the act, the federal government sold public lands to raise money and fulfilled one of the demands of the unemployed men from Coxey's Army.
  • Platt Amendment

    Platt Amendment
    The next year after the Insular Cases, as a condition for withdrawing from Cuba, the United States forced the newly independent island to accept a proviso in its constitution called the Platt Amendment. This blocked Cuba from making a treaty with any country except the United States and gave the United States the right to intervene in Cuban affairs if it saw fit. Cuba also granted the United States a lease on Guantanamo Bay.
  • Women's Trade Union League

    Women's Trade Union League
    Many labor organizations also began in a single city and then grew to national stature. Financed by wealthy women who supported its work, the league trained working-class leaders like Rose Schneiderman, who organized unions among garment workers. Although often frustrated by the patronizing attitude of elite sponsors, trade-union women joined together in the broader struggle for women's rights.
  • Publication of The Shame of the Cities

    Publication of The Shame of the Cities
    One of the most famous muckrakers was Lincoln Steffens, whose book The Shame of the Cities, denounced the corruption afflicting American's urban governments. Steffens used dramatic language to expose "swindling" politicians. Historians now believe that Steffens took a rather extreme view of urban politics; the reality was more complex. But charges of corruption could barely be denied. As industrial cities grew with breathtaking speed, they posed a serious problem to governance.
  • Industrial Workers of the World

    Industrial Workers of the World
    The nation confronted a daring wave of radical labor militancy. The Western Federation of Miners helped create a new movement, the Industrial Workers of the World. The Wobblies fervently supported the Marxist class struggle. As syndicalists, they believed that by resisting in the workplace and ultimately launching a general strike, workers could overthrow capitalism. A new society would emerge, run directly by workers. Although they had good intentions, there were many negative consequences.
  • Lochner v. New York

    Lochner v. New York
    Labor organizations suffered in the new political regime, as federal courts invalidated many regulatory laws passed to protect workers. In Lochner v. New York, the U.S. Supreme Court told New York state that it could not limit bakers' workday to ten hours because that violated bakers' right to make contracts. Judges found support for such rulings in the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibited states from depriving "any person of life, liberty, or property."
  • The Jungle is Published

    The Jungle is Published
    Journalist Upton Sinclair exposed some of the most extreme forms of labor exploitation in his novel The Jungle, which described appalling conditions in Chicago meat-packing plants. What caught the nation's attention was not Sinclair's account of workers' plight, but his descriptions of rotten meat and filthy packing conditions. Congress then passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and created the Food and Drug Administration to oversee compliance with the new law.
  • National Child Labor Committee

    National Child Labor Committee
    By the early twentieth century, reformers placed particular emphasis on the labor conditions for women and children. The National Child Labor Committee hired photographer Lewis Hine to record brutal conditions in mines and mills where children worked. Impressed by the committee's investigations, Theodore Roosevelt sponsored the first White House Conference on Dependent Children in 1909, bringing national attention to child welfare issues.
  • Muller v. Oregon

    Muller v. Oregon
    Those seeking to protect working-class women scored a major triumph in 1908 with the Supreme Court's decision in Muller v. Oregon, which upheld an Oregon law limiting women's workday to ten hours. Sanctioning a more expansive role for state governments, the Muller decision encouraged Women's organizations to lobby for further reforms.
  • Root-Takahira Agreement

    Root-Takahira Agreement
    Though he was contemptuous of other Asians, Roosevelt respected the Japanese, whom he called "a wonderful and civilized people." More important, he understood Japan's rising military might and aligned himself with the mighty. With Japan asserting harsh authority over Manchuria, the United States and Japan signed the Root-Takahira Agreement, confirming principles of free oceanic commerce and reorganizing Japan's authority over Manchuria.
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
    In 1908, a bloody race riot broke out in Springfield, Illinois. Appalled by the white mob's violence in the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, New York settlement worker Mary White Ovington called together a group of sympathetic progressives to formulate a response. Their meeting led to the creation of the NAACP which led to progressive reformers coming forward with solutions to racial injustice.
  • New Nationalism

    New Nationalism
    Retirement did not sit comfortably with Theodore Roosevelt. Returning from a yearlong Safari in Africa in 1910 and finding Taft wrangling with the Insurgents, Roosevelt itched to jump in. In a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas he called for a New Nationalism. In modern America, he argued, private property had to be controlled "to whatever degree the public welfare may require it. This led to the endorsement of women's suffrage and more federal labor laws.
  • Federal Reserve Act

    Federal Reserve Act
    Wilson reorganized the financial system to address the absence of a central bank. At the time, the main function of national central banks was to back up commercial banks in case they could not meet their obligations. The Federal Reserve Act gave the nation a banking system more resistant to such crisis where needs could not be met. It created twelve district reserve bank where the Federal Reserve could issue currency and set the interest rate.
  • Clayton Antitrust Act

    Clayton Antitrust Act
    After the banking system, Wilson and the Democratic Congress turned to trusts. Wilson relied heavily on Louis D. Brandeis, the celebrated people's lawyer. Brandeis denied that monopolies were efficient. On the contrary, he believed the best source of efficiency was vigorous competition in a free market. In the Clayton Antitrust Act, the definition of illegal practices was left flexible, subject to the test of whether an action "substantially lessened competition."
  • Premiere of Birth of a Nation

    Premiere of Birth of a Nation
    The 1920s brought a nationwide resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist group formed in the post-Civil War South. Soon after the premiere of Birth of a Nation, a popular film glorifying the Reconstruction-era Klan, a group of southerners gathered on Georgia's Stone Mountain to receive the group. KKK members did not limit their harassment to blacks but targeted immigrants, Catholics, and Jews with physical intimidation, arson, and economic boycotts.
  • War Industries Board

    War Industries Board
    American businesses made big bucks from World War I. As grains, weapons, and manufactured goods flowed to Britain and France, the United States became a creditor nation. The War Industries Board directed military production. As Bernard Baruch as the head, the WIB allocated scarce resources among industries, ordered factories to convert to war production, set prices, and standardized procedures. Despite higher taxes, corporate profits soared, as military production boomed.
  • Committee on Public Information

    Committee on Public Information
    Professing lofty goals- educating citizens about democracy, assimilating immigrants, and ending the isolation of rural life- the committee set out to mold Americans into "one white-hot mass" of war patriotism. It distributed seventy-five million pieces of literature and enlisted thousands of volunteers- Four-Minute Men- to deliver short postwar speeches at movie theaters. This inspired more immigrants to want to become citizens.
  • Sedition Act of 1918

    Sedition Act of 1918
    Congress also passed new laws to curb dissent. This new act prohibited any words of behavior that might "incite, provoke, or encourage resistance to the United States, or promote the cause of its enemies." Because this and the earlier Espionage Act defined treason loosely, they led to the conviction of more than a thousand people. The Justice Department prosecuted members of the Industrial Workers of the World, whose opposition to militarism threatened to disrupt war production.
  • Fourteen Points

    Fourteen Points
    Wilson scored a diplomatic victory at the peace conference, held at Versailles, near Paris, in 1919, when the Allies chose to base the talks on his Fourteen Points, a blueprint for peace that he had presented a year earlier in a speech to Congress. Wilson's points embodied an important strand in progressivism. They called for diplomacy; "absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas"; arms reduction; removal of trade barriers; and national self-determination. These led to the League of Nations.
  • Palmer raids

    Palmer raids
    Many well-off Americans sided with management in the upheavals of the postwar years. The socialist views of some recent immigrants frightened native born citizens; communism terrified them. The Red Scare began to take over society and the Palmer raids peaked when federal agents invaded homes and meeting halls, arrested six thousand citizens and aliens, and denied the prisoners access to legal counsel. This led to even more hostility and fear for people in society.
  • Sheppard-Towner Federal Maternity and Infancy Act

    Sheppard-Towner Federal Maternity and Infancy Act
    At the start of the 1920s, many progressives hoped the attainment of women's voting rights would offer new leverage to tackle poverty. They created organizations like the Women's Joint Congressional Committee, a Washington-based advocacy group. Sheppard-Towner provided federal funds for medical clinics, prenatal education programs, and visiting nurses. Though opponents warned the act would lead to socialized medicine, it improved health care for the poor and lowered infant mortality rates.
  • Publication of Mein Kampf

    Publication of Mein Kampf
    World War II had its roots in the settlement of World War I. Germany struggled under the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and Japan and Italy had their desire for overseas empires thwarted by the treaty makers. The League of Nations was struggling and Hitler's goal was nothing short of European domination and world power, as outlined in his book. Once in power, he began a sustained and brutal persecution of Jews, which expanded into a campaign of extermination in the early 1940s.
  • Public Works Administration

    Public Works Administration
    Roosevelt and Hopkins had strong reservations about the "dole," nickname for government welfare payments. To support the traditional values of individualism, the New Deal put people to work. Congress established the PWA, a construction program, and several months later, Roosevelt created the Civil Works Administration and named Hopkins its head. Within thirty days, Hopkins had put 2.6 million men and women to work; and the CWA provided jobs for 4 million Americans.
  • Rural Electrification Administration

    Rural Electrification Administration
    After the Dust Bowl, the TVA was an integral part of the Roosevelt administration's effort to keep farmers on the land by enhancing the quality of rural life. The REA was also central to that goal. Fewer than one-tenth of the nation's 6.8 million farms had electricity. The REA addressed this problem by promoting nonprofit farm cooperatives that offered loans to farmers to install power lines. By 1940, 40 percent of the nation's farms had power; a decade later 90 percent did.
  • Works Progress Administration

    Works Progress Administration
    FDR was never enthusiastic about public relief programs. But with the election of 1936 on the horizon and 10 million Americans still out of work, he won funding for the WPA. The WPA employed 8.5 million Americans between 1935, when it was established, and 1943. The agency's workers constructed or repaired 651,087 miles of road, 124,087 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, 4,192 parks, and 853 airports. The WPA did only reach about one-third of the nation's unemployed.
  • Neutrality Act of 1935

    Neutrality Act of 1935
    Although Nye's committee failed to prove its charge against weapon makers, its factual findings prompted an isolationist-minded Congress to pass a series of acts to prevent the nation from being drawn into another overseas war. The Neutrality Act of 1935 imposed an embargo on selling arms to warring countries and declared that Americans traveling on the ships of belligerent nations did so at their own risk. This separated the United States from other countries at war.
  • War Powers Act

    War Powers Act
    The task of fighting on a global scale dramatically increased the power of the federal government. Shifting from civilian to military production, raising an army, and assembling the necessary workforce required a massive expansion in government authority. The War Powers Act gave President Roosevelt unprecedented control over all aspects of the war effort. This act marked the beginning of what historians call the imperial presidency: the use of executive authority during the end of 20th century.
  • "Four Freedoms" Speech

    "Four Freedoms" Speech
    Having been reelected, Roosevelt now undertook to persuade Congress to increase aid to Britain, whose survival he viewed as key to American security. He delivered one of the most important speeches of his career: defining "four essential human freedoms"- freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear- Roosevelt cast the war as a noble defense of democratic societies. He then linked the fate of democracy in Western Europe with the new welfare state at home.
  • Executive Order 9066

    Executive Order 9066
    President Roosevelt responded to anti-Japanese fears by issuing Executive Order 9066, which authorized the War Department to force Japanese Americans from their West Coast homes and hold them in relocation camps for the rest of the war. The relocation plan shocked Japanese Americans, more than two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. Cracks soon appeared in the relocation policy. An agricultural labor shortage led the government to furlough seasonal farmworkers from the camps.
  • Congress of Racial Equality

    Congress of Racial Equality
    Despite and because of such incidents of racism, a generation was spurred into action during the war years. In New York City employment discrimination on the city's transit lines prompted one of the first bus boycotts in the nation's history, led in 1941 by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. CORE adopted the philosophy of nonviolent direct action espoused by Mahatma Gandhi of India. It inspired people to stand up for change peacefully.
  • D-Day

    The long promised invasion of France came on D-Day, June 6, 1944. That morning, the largest armada ever assembled moved across the English Channel under the command of General Eisenhower. When American, British, and Canadian soldiers hit the beaches of Normandy, they suffered terrible casualties but secured the beachhead. Over the next few days, more than 1.5 million soldiers and thousand of tons of military supplies and equipment flowed into France. This led to victory against the Germans.
  • Yalta Conference

    Yalta Conference
    At the Yalta Conference Wilsonian principles yielded to U.S.-Soviet power realities. As Allied forces neared victory in Europe and advanced toward Japan in the Pacific, Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met in Yalta to discuss the future. This is where the three agreed to create the United Nations in which all nations would be represented, and a Security Council composed of the five major Allied powers.
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization

    North Atlantic Treaty Organization
    The crisis in Berlin persuaded Western European nations to forge a collective security pact with the United States. For the first time since the American Revolution, the Untied States entered into a peacetime alliance. Under the NATO pact, twelve nations agreed that "an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.
  • Launch of Sputnik

    Launch of Sputnik
    As permanent mobilization took hold, science, industry, and government became intertwined. When the Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite, Sputnik, the startled United States went into high gear to catch up in the Cold War space competition. Alarmed that the United States was falling behind in science and technology, Eisenhower persuaded Congress to appropriate additional money for college scholarships and university research.
  • March on Washington

    March on Washington
    The Montgomery Bus Boycott and many others like it inspired an even bigger event. Under the leadership of Randolph and Bayard Rustin, thousands of volunteers across the country coordinated car pools, "freedom buses," and "freedom trains," to deliver a quarter of a million people to the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King Jr gave his "I Have A Dream" speech to inspire change.