Moments of interest in American history
DISCOVERY AND COLONIZATION
The first European explorers of America were the Vikings. The first European contact with the ‘New World’ began in 1492. Columbus' four voyages to the New World were important in establing the Spanish presence in America. It was a navigation error to the Caribbean Sea instead to Asia. There were about 1,500,000 American Indians at that time in the territory known today as U.S.A.
John Cabot's voyage to New Foundland in 1497 marked England’s first contact with America.
Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement. Captain John Smith became the first leader of the colony.
The early 17th century was marked by a flood of immigration from Europe.
In 1620 a group of about 100 separatists, also known as Pilgrims, aboard the Mayflower arrived west of Cape Cod at Plymouth. In 1630 a new group of immigrants began a settlement called Boston. They came to be known as Puritans. The leader was John Winthrop. Catholics were not free to practise their faith in England. Sir George Calvert started a colony where he and other Catholics could freely worship their religion. Calvert called the colony Maryland. The original 13 colonies fell into 3 groups:
1) the New England colonies: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire
2) the middle colonies: Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
3) the southern colonies: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia.
The first Africans arrived in 1619. The main rival of the English were French who had 2 colonies:
1) New France (Canada)
In the 18th century there were continual wars between the English and French. France's powerful position threatened the British Empire in America and led to the Seven Years' War (known to Americans as the French and Indian War in 1754). France has defeated and when the Seven Years' War ended in 1763 with the Peace of Paris, the English kept the territories they had conquered in America.
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION - THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE 1775-1783
Many of the British colonies were self-governed and prospered economically and culturally. The trade and wealth of the colonies was utilized for the exclusive benefit of the British ruling class. After the French and Indian War, in 1763, the 13 colonies were demanding more independence from Britain. The British government imposed duties on tea, paper, glass and other articles of general consumption. The anti-English feeling gave rise to a popular organization called the ‘Sons of Liberty’, who raised the slogan: ‘No taxation without representation’. It caused the boycott of English goods.
THE BOSTON TEA-PARTY, December 16th 1773
In this day began American fight for independence with England. Colonists from Boston threw tea from England to sea and they cased entry of British army. The revolutionary war began in Lexington, Mass. on the night of April 18th 1775. In June 1775, the 2nd Continental Congress, acting as the National Government met in Philadelphia and appointed George Washington Commander in Chief of the Colonial Army. Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, was approved by continental Congress on July 4th 1776. In 1778 Benjamin Franklin persuaded the French government to sign a Treaty of Alliance. French ships and troops played the main role in a war. The King George III. refused to unknowledge for another 2 years. The Peace Treaty was finally signed in 1783. Britain recognized the independence of the U.S. the former 13 colonies now became states. The constitution was adopted in 1789. It was the first time the most democratic constitution in the world.
FROM THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE TO THE CIVIL WAR, 1783-1861
This period in American history can be characterized as the period of territorial expansion.
The U.S. expanded westwards and the colonization of the whole American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific was completed.
Louisiana, the vast territory stretching from the Middle West to the Gulf of Mexico, was bought by the U.S. from the French under Napoleon for about 15 millions dollars. This transaction was called the ‘LOUISIANA PURCHASE’ in 1803.
Florida was bought from Spain, it was the purchase by force of arms in 1819. Texas was annexed by the U.S. in 1845. In 1846 the Americans in this war entered Oregon Territory and the whole Pacific coast to the north of California was joined to the U.S..
In the Mexican War (1846-48) the Americans conquered over a half of Mexico's territory (the present states of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico).
THE CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865
The Civil War was caused by the face that there existed two antagonistic economic and the social systems in the U.S.: the capitalistic system in the North and the slave system in the South. For capitalism to develop freely and to expand rapidly it was necessary to abolish slavery and break the political power of the southern planters. Disputes between the North and the South arose with the territorial expansion of the U.S. westwards the northerners wanted all the new territories to be free, while the southerners wanted to introduce slavery into them.
In 1854 the northern capitalists founded a new political party, the Republican Party.
The Republicans won the presidential election in 1860 and Lincoln became President. But before he took the office, 11 southern states secluded from the Union and formed the confederate states of America. Jefferson Davis was elected President of the southern Confederacy. The North was stronger in population and industrial resources. 23 states had 23 millions Inhabitants. 11 states in the South had 9 millions people, including 4 millions slaves. The South enjoyed the support of the British ruling class because American cotton was needed in the U.S.. Lincoln Abolished Slavery on Jan. 1st 1863. (The Emancipation Proclamation) It meant freedom to all slaves. End of the Civil War was on April 9th 1865 - 215,000 people died. On April 14th Lincoln was assassinated by an agent of the South.
FROM THE CIVIL WAR TO THE END OF THE 19TH CENT., 1865-1900
In the next period there was a big economic growth, which led U.S. to be the most powerful nation in the world. 12 years after the Civil War were followed by the period of Reconstruction. Urbanization was the major trend, especially in the north. Then the South was occupied by northern troops, the democracy grew. The blacks were given the right to vote and many were elected to the Congress. In 1866 the defeated southern planers found the Ku-Klux Klan against black people. In 1867 U.S. bought Alaska from Russia. Between 1870 and 1910 there were 20 millions immigrants in the U.S. Hawaii became a U.S. state in 1894.
In the period which followed, the war damage in the South was slowly repaired and industrialization began. The West was open for mining, cattle ranching and grain production. The building of railways across the continent started, and new settlements were established. The prosperity of the country rapidly increased. There were new immigrants from European countries coming to the U.S.A. (A Nation Of Immigrants)
The first American military mobilization on foreign soil was not until 1917 when the U.S. entered World War I. against Germany and helped France and England. U.S. president Woodrow Wilson helped negotiate a peace treaty in 1918.
The ‘Roaring Twenties’ brought large economic growth until The Great Depression started after the stock market crash in 1929. In the next decade unemployment was high and poverty widespread. The Depression lasted till the beginning of the World War II. The U.S.A. remained neutral and did not enter the War till the Japanese attacked on Pearl Harbor. The war was declared against Japan in 1941 and president Harry Truman ordered the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Cold War period after WWII saw increasing mistrust between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. There were several war conflicts e.g. Korean War. The post war period was a time of economic expansion. The U.S. continued as a world leader in scientific, medical and technological achievements. The Soviet Union was the first to put a man in space, the U.S. had the first man to walk on the Moon (Neil Armstrong, 1969)
The 60s saw tremendous social change and unrest. American blacks demanded an end to racial discrimination through The Civil Rights Movement - civil rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. The assassinations of president John F. Kennedy in 1963 (he save the world population before nuclear war between USA and Soviet Union) and Robert Kennedy in 1968 shocked the world. The Vietnam War brought further internal unrest. This continued till the 70s with the political corruption - the Watergate Scandal and the resulting resignation of president Richard Nixon (he was the first U.S. president who was forced to resign). U.S. troops were finally withdrawn from Vietnam in 1975.
Economic issues dominated the 80s which began with high unemployment, high inflation and slow economic growth. In last years U.S.A joined to fight with terrorism (Desert storm in Iraq, war in Afghanistan and once more fight in Iraq). By the middle of this decade this recession had ended and the U.S. continues to have one of the highest standards of living in the world.