What follows is Dudeboy's first term paper. He has written many other shorter papers, but this is his first expanded work on a subject area of study. While Dr. J and I prodded him with questions and helped him expound in revisions, these are his words and ideas (however, Dr. J did type out most of it for him from his hand written pages). While some might argue some of his points, I think he should be very proud of his effort.
American Growth and Progress: 1820-1860
The changes that took place between the years 1820 and 1860 in the United States included acquiring and settling new lands, transportation, technology and social reforms. During this period the United States acquired new land through wars and treaties. As the United States territory grew, the population also expanded through immigration from Europe and Asia which contributed to western expansion into these recently acquired lands. New technologies helped shrink the time needed to communicate and travel between east and west. The time of this expansion was also the time of numerous social reforms. All these changes contributed to making the United States a world power.
In the early nineteenth century, the United States of America acquired land through the Texas Annexation, the Mexican-American War, the Gadsden Purchase, and the Oregon Treaty. The annexation of Texas was in 1846 which was ten years after the Texas war for independence. Between the years 1836 and 1846 Texas was a separate country from the United States and was called the Republic of Texas. After the Annexation of Texas there was still a border dispute between the United States and Mexico which brought about the Mexican-American War. Some people at the time thought the war was a tactic for expansion. One of these people was Frederick Douglass who said: “In our judgment, those who have all along been loudly in favor of the war, and heralding its bloody triumphs with apparent rapture, have succeeded in robbing Mexico of her territory. We are not the people to rejoice; we ought rather to blush and hang our heads for shame.” 1 The Gadsden Purchase expanded the United States after the Mexican War by buying from Mexico what is now part of Arizona and New Mexico. The Oregon Treaty was a deal between the United States of America and England that decided the northern border of the United States of America. This treaty gave land to the United States because the new border was on the 49th parallel which was higher than the original border. Acquiring all of this land greatly increased the size of the country allowing immigrants and settlers to fill it.
Difficult times led immigrants and settlers from Europe and Asia to the American west to mine for gold and work on the railroad. A potato famine in Ireland caused starvation. New factories in Germany and wars in China produced unemployment. These factors led people to seek a better life elsewhere. Tales of gold like this one published in a Norwegian newspaper drew people to the United States: “The gold we find is almost completely pure. The size of the nugget varies. In some places pieces have been found that weighed up to seven pounds.”2 Not everyone mined for gold. Some people did other jobs like working on the railroad.
Advances in communication and transportation including the Pony Express, telegraphs, clipper ships, and trains helped convey messages and people more quickly and more cheaply. The Pony Express was a fast way to transport news from east to west. But 18 months after the Pony Express started the telegraph put it out of business. The telegraph was an even faster way of communication; started in 1844, it sent news instantaneously. Clipper ships could take people and letters from Boston to San Francisco in about 89 days. The transcontinental railroad was even faster at moving news and people than the clipper ships. It took about two weeks to travel cross country by train. The painting American Progress (1872)3 depicts the importance of trains, telegraphs, stage coaches, wagon trains, and the Pony Express in the expansion of the United States of America.
During this time of expansion and technological advances there were also many great social changes including abolition, temperance, women's rights, and educational reforms. Many of these movements were intertwined. The abolitionist movement sought to end slavery through newspapers like William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator and speeches by Fredrick Douglass and others. The temperance movement tried to end the drinking of alcohol. One key figure was Lyman Beecher (the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe) who founded the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance in 1826. Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan Brownell Anthony worked towards the rights of women, like the vote. The Seneca Falls Declaration (1848) said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”4 Educators like Horace Mann improved education by starting schools to train teachers, raising teachers' wages, improving the curriculum, and extending the school year.
The acquisition of this land greatly increased the size of the United States. The diversity of this country was also greatly increased due to immigration. Technological advances made travel and communication faster, easier, and cheaper. Educational improvements made it possible for more people to go to school. However, controversial issues like abolition, temperance, and women's rights were left unanswered at the end of this period. One of these conflicts led to the largest war in American history: the Civil War.
1Joy Hakim, A History of US, vol. 5, Liberty for All?, rev. 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 64.