Happy 4th of July, Everyone
We’re coming up on our annual celebration of the foundation of our great country. This is the 238th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, 4 July 1776. That’s over 10 generations of Americans who have shaped and molded our Nation into the Country it is today. I like to take chronological snapshots of these periods in our history, which I’ll share:
- Boston Tea Party-- 16 December 1773--political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, on December 16, 1773. The demonstrators, some disguised as American Indians, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773.The colonists considered the tax unlawful and led to the separation from England.
- The Constitution – 4 March 1789—Replaced the Articles of Confederation as the basis for our Federal Government and became the Supreme Law of our Land.Our three branches of government are based on the Constitution.Includes the Bill of Rights, protecting our rights as citizens.
- The Louisiana Purchase—1803-- Acquisition by the United States of America in 1803 of 828,000 square miles (2,144,000 square kilometers or 529,920,000 acres) of France's claim to the territory of Louisiana, West of the Mississippi River. The U.S. paid $11,250,000 plus cancellation of debts. The purchase, more than doubled our Country’s territory and secured our borders from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans.
- War of 1812—June 18, 1812-- Americans were increasingly angry at the British violation of American ships' neutral rights in order to hurt France, the impressment (seizure) of 10,000 American sailors needed by the Royal Navy to fight Napoleon, and British support for hostile Indians attacking American settlers in the Midwest. They may also have desired to annex all or part of British North America.
- The Monroe Doctrine –1823-- Proclaimed the United States' opinion that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere in the Americas. This was a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine was adopted in response to American and British fears over Russian and French expansion into the Western Hemisphere.
- The Second Great Awakening—1790 to 1840’s-- Was a Protestant revival movement that affected the entire nation during the early 19th century and led to rapid church growth. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800, and, after 1820 membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations, whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the 1840s.
- Abolitionism—1840 onwards-- Growing abolitionist movement redefined itself as a crusade against the sin of slave ownership. It mobilized support (especially among religious women in the Northeast affected by the Second Great Awakening). William Lloyd Garrison published the most influential of the many anti-slavery newspapers, The Liberator, while Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave, began writing for that newspaper around 1840 and started his own abolitionist newspaper North Star in 1847.
- Western Expansion-- 1830s to 1869—Manifest Destiny--The Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by over 300,000 settlers. '49ers (in the California Gold Rush), ranchers, farmers, and entrepreneurs and their families headed to California, Oregon, and other points in the far west. Wagon-trains took five or six months on foot; after 1869, the trip took 6 days by rail.
- Slavery--1848 to 1865—The Nation’s issue of the anti-slavery elements that were a majority in the North gained momentum against the pro-slavery elements that overwhelmingly dominated the white South. A small number of very active Northerners were abolitionists who declared that ownership of slaves was a sin (in terms of Protestant theology) and demanded its immediate abolition. Much larger numbers were against the expansion of slavery, seeking to put it on the path to extinction so that America would be committed to free land (as in low-cost farms owned and cultivated by a family), free labor (no slaves), and free speech (as opposed to censorship).
- The Civil War-- began on April 12, 1861 and ended on April 9, 1865-- Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. In response to the attack, on April 15, Lincoln called on the states to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union", which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. The two armies had their first major clash at the First Battle of Bull Run, ending in a Union defeat, but, more importantly, proved to both the Union and Confederacy that the war would be much longer and bloodier than originally anticipated.
- Reconstruction—1865 to 1877-- Reconstruction was a significant chapter in the history of civil rights in the United States, but most historians consider it a failure because the South became a poverty-stricken backwater attached to agriculture, white Democrats re-established dominance through violence, intimidation and discrimination, forcing freedmen into second class with limited rights and excluding them from politics. Three "Reconstruction Amendments" were passed to expand civil rights for black Americans: the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery; the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed equal rights for all and citizenship for blacks; the Fifteenth Amendment prevented race from being used to disfranchise men.
- Transcontinental Railroad—1869—Interconnected the Eastern and Western United States for the first time in history.Provided continuous transportation of goods and people without having to ship them around the Isthmus of Panama.
- Industrial Revolution—1890 onward-- American industrial production and per capita income exceeded those of all other world nations. An unprecedented wave of immigration from Europe served to both provide the labor for American industry and create diverse communities in previously undeveloped areas. From 1880 to 1914, peak years of immigration, more than 22 million people migrated to the United States.Many immigrants were craftsmen (especially from Britain and Germany) bringing human skills, and others were farmers (especially from Germany and Scandinavia) who purchased inexpensive land on the Prairies from railroads who sent agents to Europe.
- Depression of 1893—1893-- Tt was called the Panic of 1893 and impacted farmers, workers, and businessmen who saw prices, wages, and profits fall. Many railroads went bankrupt. The resultant political reaction fell on the Democratic Party, whose leader President Grover Cleveland shouldered much of the blame. Labor unrest involved numerous strikes, most notably the violent Pullman Strike of 1894, which was shut down by federal troops under Cleveland's orders.
- Progressive Era—1890 through the 1920’s-- Dissatisfaction on the part of the growing middle class with the corruption and inefficiency of politics as usual, and the failure to deal with increasingly important urban and industrial problems, led to the dynamic Progressive Movement starting in the 1890s. In every major city and state, and at the national level as well, and in education, medicine, and industry, the progressives called for the modernization and reform of decrepit institutions, the elimination of corruption in politics, and the introduction of efficiency as a criterion for change.Progressives implemented anti-trust laws and regulated such industries of meat-packing, drugs, and railroads. Four new constitutional amendments—the Sixteenth through Nineteenth—resulted from progressive activism, bringing the federal income tax, direct election of Senators, prohibition, and woman suffrage.The Progressive Movement lasted through the 1920s; the most active period was 1900–1918.
- World War I—1914 to 1918-- As World War I raged in Europe from 1914, President Woodrow Wilson took full control of foreign policy, declaring neutrality but warning Germany that resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare against American ships supplying goods to Allied nations would mean war.The US joined the war in 1917 and resulted in Allied victory in November, 1918.
- Great Depression—1929 to 1933-- During this time, the United States experienced deflation as prices fell, unemployment soared from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933, farm prices fell by half, and manufacturing output plunged by one-third.By 1932, unemployment had reached 23.6%, and it peaked in early 1933 at 25%, drought persisted in the agricultural heartland, businesses and families defaulted on record numbers of loans, and more than 5,000 banks had failed. Hundreds of thousands of Americans found themselves homeless, and began congregating in shanty towns – dubbed "Hoovervilles" – that began to appear across the country. In response, President Hoover and Congress approved the Federal Home Loan Bank Act, to spur new home construction, and reduce foreclosures. Quarter by quarter the economy went downhill, as prices, profits and employment fell, leading to the political realignment in 1932 that brought to power Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- New Deal—1932-- Democratic presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt promised "a New Deal for the American people", coining the enduring label for his domestic policies. The desperate economic situation, along with the substantial Democratic victories in the 1932 elections, gave Roosevelt unusual influence over Congress in the "First Hundred Days" of his administration. He used his leverage to win rapid passage of a series of measures to create welfare programs and regulate the banking system, stock market, industry, and agriculture, along with many other government efforts to end the Great Depression and reform the American economy. The New Deal regulated much of the economy, especially the financial sector. It provided relief to the unemployed through numerous programs, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and (for young men) the Civilian Conservation Corps. Large scale spending projects designed to provide high paying jobs and rebuild the infrastructure were under the purview of the Public Works Administration. Roosevelt liberal agenda in 1935–36, built up labor unions through the Wagner Act. Unions became a powerful element of the merging New Deal Coalition, which won reelection for Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, and 1944 by mobilizing union members, blue collar workers, relief recipients, big city machines, ethnic, and religious groups (especially Catholics and Jews) and the white South, along with blacks in the North (where they could vote). Some of the programs were dropped in the 1940s when the conservatives regained power in Congress through the Conservative Coalition. Of special importance is the Social Security program, begun in 1935.
- World War II—7 December 1941 to 8 May 1945 (VE Day) and 15 August 1945 (VJ Day)—The USA entered the European War after the Japanese crippled American naval power with the attack on Pearl Harbor, knocking out all the battleships. In the Depression years, the United States remained focused on domestic concerns while democracy declined across the world and many countries fell under the control of dictators. Imperial Japan asserted dominance in East Asia and in the Pacific. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy militarized to and threatened conquests, while Britain and France attempted appeasement to avert another war in Europe. Roosevelt positioned the US as the "Arsenal of Democracy", pledging full-scale financial and munitions support for the Allies—but no military personnel. Japan tried to neutralize America's power in the Pacific by attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which catalyzed American support to enter the war and seek revenge.European front was opened on D-Day, June 6, 1944, in which American and Allied forces invaded Nazi-occupied France from Britain.
- The Cold War—1947 to 1991-- The Cold War was a sustained state of political and military tension between powers in the Western Bloc (the United States, its NATO allies and others such as Japan) and powers in the Eastern Bloc (the Soviet Union and its allies in Warsaw Pact). China was originally close to the USSR but became distanced over the question of fidelity to Marxism.The Iron Curtain began its collapse during Reagan’s Administration and Gorbachev’s Perestroika.
- Liberalism—1963 to 1969-- The climax of liberalism came in the mid-1960s with the success of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–69) in securing congressional passage of his Great Society programs. They included civil rights, the end of segregation, Medicare, extension of welfare, federal aid to education at all levels, subsidies for the arts and humanities, environmental activism, and a series of programs designed to wipe out poverty.
- Civil Rights Movement—1955 to 1968-- Starting in the late 1950s, institutionalized racism across the United States, but especially in the South, was increasingly challenged by the growing Civil Rights movement. The activism of African-American leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched the movement. For years African Americans would struggle with violence against them but would achieve great steps toward equality with Supreme Court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended the Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation between whites and minorities.
- Women’s Moment—1963 to present--Consciousness of the inequality of American women began sweeping the nation, assaulted American culture for its creation of the notion that women could only find fulfillment through their roles as wives, mothers, and keepers of the home, and argued that women were just as able as men to do every type of job.
- Vietnam War—1964 to 1975—The USA was pulled in the South Vietnam conflict in 1964, with advisors being sent to the region to support the military forces there.Lyndon Johnson was succeeded in 1969 by Richard Nixon, who attempted to gradually turn the war over to the South Vietnamese forces; He negotiated the peace treaty in 1973 which secured the release of POWs and lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The war had cost the lives of 58,000 American troops. Nixon manipulated the fierce distrust between the Soviet Union and China to the advantage of the United States, achieving détente with both parties.
- Apollo 11-- 20 July, 1969-- Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC. Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface six hours later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC. Armstrong spent about two and a half hours outside the spacecraft, Aldrin slightly less, and together they collected 47.5 pounds (21.5 kg) of lunar material for return to Earth. A third member of the mission, Michael Collins, piloted the command spacecraft alone in lunar orbit until Armstrong and Aldrin returned to it just under a day later for the trip back to Earth.
- OPEC Oil Embargo—October, 1973-- The 1973 oil crisis started, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC (consisting of the Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia) proclaimed an oil embargo. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen from US$3 per barrel to nearly $12.OAPEC initiated the embargo in response to US involvement in the Oct 6, 1973 Yom Kippur War. Six days after Egypt and Syria launched the surprise military campaign against Israel in order to regain Arab territories lost to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, the United States chose to re-supply Israel with arms. OAPEC decided to retaliate, announcing an oil embargo against Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- 9/11 Attack on the World Trade Center—11 September 2001-- The United States was struck by a terrorist attack when 19 al-Qaeda hijackers commandeered four airliners and intentionally crashed into both twin towers of the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people, mostly civilians. In response on September 20, President George W. Bush announced a "War on Terror". On October 7, 2001, the United States and NATO then invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime, which had provided safe haven to al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden.
I’ve excluded a lot of events in our early history and I have not included the majority of recent events after 1991,that have led us to today, since most of us have lived through the Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama Administrations. But there are a myriad of historical events that continue to shape us from those administrations. Take time to read about our Nation’s history. It’s fascinating.
Through our 238 years of existence, we remain the United States of America, and God Bless Her. Have a Happy 4th.
Erin Ford, Houston County Judge