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History of the United States

 This article at the top of the
History of the United States series.
 Pre-Colonial America
 Colonial America  (1493-1776)
 History of the United States (1776-1865)
 The coming of the Civil War
 The Civil War
 History of the United States (1865-1918)
 History of the United States (1918-1945)
 History of the United States (1945-1964)
 History of the United States (1964-1980)
 History of the United States (1980-present)
 Demographic history of the United States
 Military history of the United States

Table of contents
1 Pre-Colonial America
2 Colonial America (1493-1776)
3 History of the United States (1776-1865)
4 History of the United States (1865-1918)
5 Interwar America and World War II
6 History of the United States (1945-1964)
7 History of the United States (1964-1980)
8 Contemporary United States History (1980-present)
9 See also

Pre-Colonial America

See Pre-colonial America

Colonial America (1493-1776)

For details, see the main Colonial America article.

History of the United States (1776-1865)

For details, see the main
History of the United States (1776-1865) article.

The United States of America was founded in 1776 from British colonies along the Atlantic Coast of North America. In 1775 frustration with various British crown practices had led to revolt by colonists in Massachusetts. The next year, representatives of thirteen of the British colonies in North America met in Philadelphia and declared their independence in a remarkable document, the Declaration of Independence, primarily authored by Thomas Jefferson. With the help of their French allies they were eventually able to win the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain, settled by the Treaty of Paris. Until 1789, the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation.

In 1789, the Constitution of the United States was adopted, and George Washington was elected the first President of the United States. Congress passed the first of many laws organizing the government. Despite a desire on the part of Washington to remain isolationist, (as detailed in his farewell address), the United States has a rich diplomatic history.

In 1812, the United states entered a second war with the British Empire, known as the War of 1812. It was caused in large part by the British policy of Impressment (the forcible seizure of American seamen for service in the British Royal Navy) and the British blockade of French seaports where Americans desired to carry on trade. Other parties supported the war due to the desire to add Canadian lands to the United States, but all of the invasions of Canada failed. The burning of Fort York, now Toronto, was one reason that Washington D.C. was burned in retaliation by the British. Though the British held the upper hand in most engagements, several of the battles entered the American mythos -- including the Battle of New Orleans (1815), when General Andrew Jackson handed the British one of the worst defeats in their history. Ironically, the battle was fought two weeks after the peace Treaty of Ghent, which ended the hostilities, and restored pre-war conditions.

During the 19th century the country expanded its territory greatly through two major acquisitions. In 1802, the size of the country doubled with the Louisiana Purchase, when France sold all of its territories west of the Mississippi River to the United States. The Lewis and Clark expedition quickly explored the north western territories from the Mississippi to the Pacific. The nation's territory continued to expand by the annexation of Texas, which led to the Mexican-American War, where the United States obtained territory in the southwest from Mexico. The Oregon territory was purchased from Great Britain, Alaska from Russia, and the kingdom of Hawaii was annexed at the end of the century, completing the present territory of the United States.

Westward expansion by official acts of the United States Government was accompanied by the western (and northern in the case of New England) movement of settlers into the trans-Appalachia region and beyond The Frontier. Daniel Boone was one frontiersman who pioneered the settlement of Kentucky. This pattern was followed throughout the West as men traded with the Indians, trapped fur, and explored. Skilled fighters and hunters, these Mountain Men in small groups trapped beaver throughout the Rocky Mountains. After the demise of the Fur Trade they established trading posts throughout the west, continuing trade with the Indians, and serving the western migration of settlers to Utah, Oregon and California.

Major events in the western movement of the American people were The Homestead Act, a law by which, for a nominal price, a settler was given title to land to farm; the opening of the Northwest Territory to settlement; The Texas Revolution; the opening of the Oregon Trail; the Mormon Emigration to Utah in 1846-7; The California gold rush of 1849; the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859; and the completion of the US Transcontinental Railroad May 10, 1869.

In response to the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860, most of the Southern states seceded from the Union, forming the Confederate States of America. The American Civil War ensued. U. S. military leadership was mediocre, at first, compared to that of Confederate generals, particularly Robert E. Lee. But the Union government managed to invade the Southern states, and defeat the Confederate army, by means of an overwhelming advantage in materials and number of soldiers, and the gradual appearance of skilled generals like Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.

The destructiveness of the Union invasion and defeat of the South, followed by exploitive economic policies in the defeated region after the war, caused lasting bitterness among white Southerners toward the U.S. government. This failure of the Federal government to effectively reunite the country contributed to the government's failure for many decades to enforce the Civil Rights of the formerly enslaved African-Americans in the South.

History of the United States (1865-1918)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1865-1918) article.

The end of the 19th century ushered in a period of imperialist expansion, pushing the USA on to the World stage:

During the 20th century the U.S. was involved in two World Wars. Firmly maintaining neutrality when World War I began in 1914, the United States entered the war after the RMS Lusitania, a British ship carrying many American passengers, was sunk by German submarines.

Interwar America and World War II

For details, see the main History of the United States (1918-1945) article.

With American help, Great Britain, France and Italy won the war, and imposed severe economic penalties on Germany in the Treaty of Versailles. Despite President Woodrow Wilson's calls for agreeable terms, the economic impact of the reparations mandated by the Treaty were severe. The misery they helped produce in Germany helped Adolf Hitler to seize power in Germany in 1933. The United States Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles; instead, the United States signed separate peace treaties with Germany and her allies.

Disillusioned by the failure of the war to achieve the high ideals promised by President Woodrow Wilson, the American people chose isolationism: they turned their attention inward, away from international relations and solely toward domestic affairs.

During most of the 1920s the United States enjoyed a period of unbalanced prosperity: prices for agricultural commodities and wages fell at the end of the war while new industries (radio, movies, automobiles, and chemicals) flourished. The unevenness was also geographic: the standard of living in rural areas fell increasingly behind that of urban and suburban areas which saw dramatic improvements in housing and urban planning. The boom was reflected by the extension of credit to a dangerous degree, including in the Stock Market, which rose to dangerously inflated levels.

In 1920, the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol was prohibited by an amendment to the constitution in order to alleviate various social problems. It was enacted through the Volstead Act. Prohibition ended in 1933 by another change to the constitution; it is considered to have been a failure by most: consumption of alcohol did not decrease markedly while organized crime was strengthened. But it did represent the first instance of a constitutional amendment that directly regulated social activity. The 18th Amendment, then, represented the growing strength of the state in the early 20th century.

The Stock Market crash in 1929 and the ensuing economic depression have been endlessly debated, often along ideological lines. The limited amount of reliable economic information suggests that construction and housing stagnated after 1926, joining declines in the agriculture, mining, and petroleum industries. In all of these overproduction dragged down prices and profits. Wages did not rise fast enough to enable consumers to purchase all the new homes and home products available. Foreign trade was constrained by growing protectionism in the industrialized world. The Stock Market Crash drained away remaining consumer confidence and, more importantly, the confidence of financial institutions. They were extremely reluctant to invest. Thus, the economy sank into a severe depression, referred to by Americans as the "Great Depression", marked by punishing levels of unemployment, negligible investment, and falling prices and wages.

In response to the depression, Congress and the Hoover administration enacted a somewhat isolationist Smoot-Hawley tariff and, with its public works acts, tried to fix prices for farmers, and enacted a public works program based on the belief that the federal government was obliged to maintain high employment levels. These efforts were unprecedented, but the Depression overwhelmed them: indices of prices, profits, production, and unemployment worsened.

With millions unemployed, political ferment and discontent greatly increased among the working classes. An unsympathetic or repressive response from the U.S. government might well have sparked a Socialist uprising, but President Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected in 1932, implemented a number of programs to aid the poor and unemployed. He also contributed to the future stability of the economy by instituting new regulations in business, particularly banking. Over the past twenty years, historians have de-emphasized the "revolutionary" legislation of the Roosevelt administration, seeing instead a logical, and even conservative, outgrowth of Hoover administration policies.

The recovery, however, was very slow. The nadir of the Great Depression was in 1933, but the economy showed very little improvement through the end of the decade, and remained grim until it was dramatically reshaped through America's involvement in World War II.

Isolationist sentiment in America had ebbed, but the United States at first declined to enter the war, limiting itself to giving supplies and weapons to Great Britain, China, and the Soviet Union. American feeling changed drastically with the sudden Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the United States quickly joined the British-Soviet alliance against Japan, Fascist Italy, and Nazi Germany, known as the "Axis Alliance". Even with American participation, it took nearly four more years to defeat Germany and Japan. Though the Soviet Union suffered far more casualties than its allies, America's active involvement in the war was vital to preventing an eventual Axis victory.

After the second world war, America experienced a period of great economic growth characterized by the growth of suburban housing, etc. The United States financed the reconstruction of Germany and Japan and eventually turned the former foes into allies.

History of the United States (1945-1964)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1945-1964) article.

History of the United States (1964-1980)

For details, see the main History of the United States (1964-1980) article.

Contemporary United States History (1980-present)

For details, see the main
History of the United States (1980-present) article.

See also