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Indian Removal Policy
Many Americans were moving south and erasing and redrawing treaty lines over and over again. The Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles were trying hard to learn the ways of the whites. Most whites felt that the Indian’s attempts weren’t good enough. In 1828, Georgia Legislature declared the Cherokee tribal council illegal. It asserted its own rule over Indian affairs and lands. The Cherokees appealed this move to the Supreme Court, which said Georgia’s move was unconstitutional. President Jackson wanted to open Indian lands to white settlement, and refused to recognize the Court’s decision. He proposed a removal of the remaining eastern tribes. The removal was supposed to be voluntary, but ended up not being. The tribes would move west of the Mississippi, where they would be permanently free of whites. The removal policy led to the forced removal of more than 100,000 Indians. Countless Indians died on forced marches.
After Mexico won its independence in 1823, it gave a huge tract of land to Stephen Austin. They gave it to him with the understanding that he would bring into Texas three hundred American families who would become Roman Catholic and properly Mexicanized. These stipulations were mostly ignored. Early in 1836, Texans declared their independence.
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Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States. He was orphaned in youth, and became the first self-made and the first westerner to become president. During his two-term presidency, Jackson expanded executive powers and transformed the President's role.
The Second Great Awakening
A boiling reaction against growing liberalism in religion started in 1800. It began on the southern frontier and soon rolled into the northeast cities. The Second Great Awakening surged across the land. It affected even more people than the First Great Awakening did. It was one of the most momentous episodes in the history of American religion. The Second Great awakening converted souls, many shattered and reorganized churches, and numerous new sects. Methodists and Baptists were the most successful in harvesting souls.
Roots of Reform
Many reformers wanted a perfected society: free from cruelty, war, intoxicating drink, discrimination, and slavery. The main reformers were women, who were also struggling for their own suffrage. Most reformers were descendants of pioneer farmers. They either ignored the factory workers, or blamed their problems on bad habits. Sometimes reformers applied conventional virtue to refurbishing an older order. Most reformers were intelligent, inspired idealists. The optimistic promises of the Second Great Awakening inspired many people to fight against evils.
Women’s Roles and Rights
Starting the nineteenth century, the U.S. was still a man’s world. A wife was supposed to immerse herself in her home and subordinate herself to her husband. Women could note vote, could be legally beaten, and could not retain property titles when she was married. Even then, American women were still being treated better than European women. Gender differences were strongly emphasized in nineteenth-century America mainly due to the economy. The economy was increasingly separating women and men into sharply distinct economic roles. The home was the women’s place to be. Most of the women reformers were white and well-to-do.
Various reformers set up more than forty communities of a cooperative, communistic, or communitarian nature. Robert Owen was one of them. He founded a communal society of about a thousand people at New Harmony, Indiana, in 1825. He was seeking human betterment. Not long after, the colony sank in a morass of contradiction and confusion. Brook Farm in Massachusetts was started in 1841. The people that lived there prospered reasonably well until they lost a new communal building due to a fire. Many other various communistic experiments were attempted, but sooner or later they failed or changed their methods.
Before the war of 1812, there was basically no true American literature besides political essays. After the war of 1812, American literature received a strong boost from the wave of nationalism. By 1820, literature could finally be supported as a profession. The Knickerbocker Group in New York was among the first companies to produce American literature. Members of the Knickerbocker Group include Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, and William Cullen Bryant. Washington Irving was the first American to win international recognition as a literary figure. James Fenimore Cooper was the first American novelist. William Cullen Bryant wrote “Thanatopsis,” which was one of the first high-quality poems produced in the United States.
President Jackson was the first president from beyond the Appalachian Mountains. His rise to presidency exemplified the westward march of the American people. The people in the United States were young, restless, and energetic. By 1840, the demographic center of the American population map had crossed the Alleghenies. Frontier life was tough and crude for the settlers.
The Economy and the Environment
The westward movement also changed the physical environment. Americans in a hurry often exhausted the land in the south with tobacco and then pushed on. This resulted in barren and rain-gutted fields. In Kentucky, cane grew as high as fifteen feet and stopped the settlers from moving though it. Later, the settlers found out that the cane could be burned, and European bluegrass grew. This bluegrass made an ideal pasture for livestock. Fur trapping also became very popular. Traders would go to the Rocky Mountains, and trade with Indians and trappers for their leather. Trade in buffalo robes also flourished.
Irish and German Immigration
Many Irish and German immigrants came to the United States during the mid-1840s. Both of them came due to crop failures with Ireland’s potato famine being the worst. Both Ireland and Germany had fallen under hard times. The immigrants came to America for a better life. Most of the time, the new immigrants were treated horribly by the Americans. The Americans felt that the Irish and German immigrants would take their jobs. They were often regarded suspiciously by the old-stock Americans. The Irish and Germans greatly contributed to shaping the American life.
The Factory System and Market Economy
British inventors perfected a series of machines for the mass production of textiles in 1750. This led to a modern factory system, and the industrial revolution. The factory system gradually spread from Britain. America was much slower to embrace the machine than other countries in Europe. Although a number of small manufacturing enterprises existed in America, the value of the output of factories did not exceed that of farms until well past the middle of the nineteenth century. One of the reasons that industry did not take off was the British competition. The British factories provided very tough competition. They could make goods of high quality much cheaper and often sold them to Americans. The British also enjoyed a monopoly of textile machinery. Many families stopped raising all of their own food, and spinning their own wool. Instead, they started to buy goods from the market for cheaper.
Railroads, canals, better roads, and steamboats all played a vital role in improving transportation. Turnpikes and steamboats were first used to make traveling faster and cheaper. Canals were also being built to do this. The most significant contribution to the development of the economy was the railroad. It was fast, reliable, cheaper than canals to build, and not stopping in winter. It defied terrain and weather. The biggest problem with all of the increased transportation methods were the states’ right’s activists. They opposed federal aid to local projects. The lower cost to ship products and raw materials greatly helped the factories produce goods at a cheaper price.
Emergence of a Continental Economy
Transportation was becoming cheaper and cheaper due to the constructing of railroads, canals, improved roads, and steamboats. Because of this, many local market structures were swamped by cheaper prices coming from other areas of America. Many farmers in New England had to move west due to the cheaper prices of food coming in. This is just one of the economic and political changes following the improved methods of transportation.
Capitalists and their Workers
With the market economy, there was an increasingly acute labor problem. While many owners of factories became rich, the workers had long hours, low wages, and bad meals. The workers were forced to work in unsanitary buildings that were poorly ventilated, lighted, and heated. Many child workers also worked in the new factories. By law, it was illegal to form labor unions to raise wages. The workers tried to strike in order to increase wages, ten-hour days, and other goals. The owners of the factories would often higher different people. The new people were known as scabs because they were ruining the worker’s chances at receiving higher wages and other needed things.
Trade and Communication
The economy of America was starting to become a market economy, where Americans would buy goods from other places instead of making it themselves. Britain was one of the main countries that traded with America. They could mass produce goods so they were much cheaper than what the Americans could make themselves. Communication also increased. Cyrus Field had stretched a cable under the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland, permanently linking America and Europe. Morse Code was also invented that made communicating from distances much easier. It put distantly separated people in almost instant communication with one another. It revolutionized news gathering, diplomacy, and finance.