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Conservapedia:American History Lecture Four

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Here are additional tips on answer multiple-choice history questions:

Determine the period in time.
Who was president? Who is fighting with whom? Between 1600 and 1650, what are some events? What else? Consider other periods.
Need to find mental landmarks for each time period: something that you know very well, so that you find your perspective on that period of time.

Once we reach 1788, the easiest “landmark” for each period is the president. That doesn’t mean he is the most important person. Not by a long shot. But who was president provides a way to organize the events. By the end of this course, I should be able to name any date and you should be able to say who was president.

Let’s try it now: 1798. Who was president? 1793? 1790?

Now we are up to 1800. The federal or national government has been in operation for a dozen years. How did it pay for its operations? George Washington was president. Did he serve for free? Who paid for his buildings? Where was his office?

Tariffs on imports supported the federal government all the way until World War I in 1916. What is a tariff?

A tariff is a tax imposed on imported goods, which are goods brought into our country from another country. When a foreign country sent goods to the United States, we would slap a “tariff” or surcharge on those goods as a condition for them to be sold in this country. The more goods we import, the more the revenue from the tariffs. Tariffs were ultimately replaced by the income tax on individuals as the primary means for supporting our government, because President Woodrow Wilson thought tariffs caused wars. In a sense, he was right. The tariffs were even a cause of our Civil War. But more about that later. Some tariffs still exist today.

Our nation’s capital was located in marshy land now known as the District of Columbia as a compromise. Our capital was initially in New York City but then Hamilton brokered a compromise with Jefferson whereby the capital would move to Philadelphia in 1791 for ten years, and then in D.C. starting in 1800. In exchange Hamilton was able to have the federal government assume the war debt. So Washington suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion by riding from Philadelphia, as a student suggested last week.

Much of history is a combination of wars and compromises.

Election (peaceful “revolution”) of 1800.

Jefferson learned the art of politics by first serving in the House of Burgesses in Virginia (an early Virginia legislative system similar to what became Congress.) Jefferson was a brilliant writer but a terrible speaker. In fact, he avoided public speaking.

Political parties formed because politics is a team sport. Jefferson ran against the Federalists, and even started a new political party to defeat the Federalists: “Democratic-Republican Party.” Today both the Democrats and the Republicans can claim roots in Jefferson’s party.

President Adams was badly beaten in a bitter election, called the “Revolution of 1800”

Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, won the same number of votes and thus tied for president. This reflected a mistake in the Constitution in how presidents and vice presidents were chosen, which had to be fixed by the 12th amendment.

Burr was a bad guy. As the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, Burr had access and wealth, and a good deal of charm. But even Washington banished him during the Revolution. Now Congress then needed to choose between him and Jefferson as to which would be president.

Hamilton had fought Jefferson for over a decade. But Hamilton knew Burr was a bad guy. So Hamilton persuaded Congress to make Jefferson president. Some suspect that Jefferson cut a deal with the Federalist Hamilton to act like a Federalist as president. Regardless of whether a deal was cut, Jefferson did govern like a Federalist.

He purchased from France a vast territory of land known as the Louisiana Purchase, all the territory northwest of Louisiana. But the Constitution does not give the President the power to buy new territory. As a strict constructionist, Jefferson was violating his own principles.

Debate: Was the Louisiana Purchase an improper exercise of power?

Meanwhile, Burr runs for governor of New York, one of the most powerful states, in 1804. By then, Hamilton had a newspaper in New York named the New York Post, which still exists. Hamilton ran stories to defeat Burr. After Burr lost, he challenged Hamilton to a duel. In those days, one man could challenge anyone to a duel to fight to the death, and the other man had to accept the challenge and fight. Many of our presidents had been in duels for this reason. Burr and Hamilton then met at dawn in Weehawkin, New Jersey, walked twenty or so paces, turned, and only one man fired. Hamilton purposely did not try to kill Burr. Burr shot and killed Hamilton. Burr then fled.

There was continued conflict with England. Jefferson follows Washington’s example and resigns after two terms, or eight years, in 1809.

Supreme Court gradually expands its power under Chief Justice John Marshall, a Federalist appointee (by Adams) who served for 35 years. Virtually every important decision rendered by his Court, starting with Marbury v. Madison, reflected an expansion in federal power, until President Jackson blew the whistle and indicated he would ignore Marshall’s decision on an Indian issue.

Madison and War of 1812. Madison was beyond his depth as a president. Madison was a thinker, not a commander-in-chief. England was still the most powerful country in the world, and not someone to pick a fight with. England stayed in Canada and some “War Hawks” in Congress (particularly Henry Clay) accused it of inciting Indian attacks against us. England was also harassing our sailors and impressing them. We were humiliated by England invading D.C. and burning down the Capitol and the White House. Madison’s wife Dolly had to save the portrait of George Washington when they fled the White House.

But England didn’t want to continue fighting with the United States. So on Christmas Eve, England agreed to end the war with the Treaty of Ghent, and the U.S. did not have to give back any land. Sometimes this is called the Second Revolutionary War to finish off disputes lingering from the first war.

But news of the treaty traveled slowly in those days, and on Jan. 8, 1815, the British assaulted General Andrew Jackson’s troops down in New Orleans. Jackson hated the British ever since he was a teenager. Then Jackson was ordered by a British soldier to shine the soldier’s shoes in a humiliation to Jackson. Jackson refused and the soldier took out his sword and smacked Jackson across his face, leaving a scar.

Jackson had settled in Tennessee where there were many woodsmen and hunters. The Americans in Tennessee and Kentucky had rifles and were very good with them. They were expert marksmen. Jackson called up these marksmen to help him in New Orleans against the British. Those marksmen with their rifles just mowed the British down in the Battle of New Orleans. Jackson became an overnight hero to the entire country for destroying the British there.

Hartford Convention: meeting of Federalists in Hartford, Connecticut near the end of the war of 1812, in which they drew up plans to oppose the war and perhaps even secede from the United States, out of friendship to England. We won the war and the Federalists looked like traitors. This ended the Federalist Party.

The next president after Madison was James Monroe. He was the most conservative of the early presidents. He had even opposed the ratification of the Constitution. He promulgated the “Monroe Doctrine” which said that the European and American systems were fundamentally different, and thus Europe should not colonize America anymore or even interfere in our Hemisphere. To this day presidents continue to cite the Monroe Doctrine whenever a European country tries to do something over here.

The “Era of Good Feelings” overtook our country under Monroe’s conservative leadership. Roads and canals were built. The economy prospered. He vetoed the Cumberland Road Bill and the House rejected most spending bills on internal projects. The U.S. Senate was split evenly: 11 free states and 11 slave states (Delaware and Kentucky were slave states). A dispute over slavery in new states was peacefully resolved by the Missouri Compromise: admit one free state (Maine) to balance one new slave state (Missouri), and ban slavery above a certain latitude (36 degrees, 30 minutes) in the new Louisiana Territory.

After Monroe served two terms and retired just like Washington, a bitter race for president developed. Jackson started his own Democratic Party and ran against John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, the son of John Adams. Other candidates, such as Henry Clay of Kentucky, also ran. Jackson won more votes than Adams but not enough to become president, so the election went into the House of Representatives. There Clay struck a bargain with Adams, whereby Clay persuaded Congressmen to vote for Adams and Adams made Clay his Secretary of State. Jackson (“Old Hickory”) supporters criticized this as the “corrupt bargain” and Jackson crushed Adams four years later.

The national government kept passing tariffs to increase its funding, such as the Tariff of 1824. Henry Clay adopted a term, the “American System,” to justify a protective tariff plus internal improvements nationwide as a way of expanding our domestic economy and decreasing our dependence on foreign sources.

Canals were being built and the steamboat (invented in 1807, big impact by the 1820s) developed so that goods could be transported quickly and cheaply over water. The most important canal was the Erie Canal, finished in 1825, to connect the Hudson River and New York City with the Great Lakes. It was spectacular economy success and enabled our nation’s economy to grow immensely. Because of it New York City would become our financial center and biggest city. The canal cost $7 million but was soon generating profits of $3 million per year.

Another tariff was passed in 1828, partly supported by a political attempt to support Jackson. The free traders in the South were outraged and called this the Tariff of Abominations. The South Carolina legislature adopted 8 resolutions declaring the tariff to be unconstitutional, oppressive and unjust. Georgia and Mississippi followed suit. John Calhoun, as Jackson’s running mate, anonymously wrote the South Carolina Exposition and Protest.

Jackson’s win of the presidency in 1828 was a defining moment in our history. His inauguration was the triumph of the “common man,” who proceeded to trash the White House in a huge party opened to the public. Jackson vetoed renewal of the national bank. He continued to treat the Indians very harshly. Jackson also created the “spoils system,” whereby “to the victor goes the spoils” (giving jobs to supporters). Jackson vetoed road projects because he was a strict constitutionalist: if the power is not expressly in the Constitution, then it did not exist, under this view.

But conflict over preservation of the Union despite the North-South division continued. At an April 13, 1830 party, Jackson’s toast: “Our Union: It must be preserved.” Calhoun’s toast: “The Union, next to our liberty, most dear.”

Dispute boiled over in late 1832. South Carolina legislature passed the Ordinance of Nullification prohibiting the collection of federal duties and declaring that the use of force by the federal government would be justification for S.C. to secede from the Union. Jackson issued a proclamation that “disunion by armed force is treason.” S.C. remained defiant. Jackson replaced Calhoun with Martin Van Buren as his Vice President.

Jackson in early 1833 asked for the Force Bill to use federal troops to enforce the revenue laws, but also lowered the tariff. S.C. suspended its ordinance of nullification and the conflict was diffused.

Debate: Can a State nullify an act of Congress? Can a State secede (withdraw) from the United States?

Jackson was disliked and thought to be a tyrant by bankers and pro-British (basically, the former Federalists) that a new political party arose just to defeat Jacksonian Democrats: the Whig Party. In the first post-Jackson presidential election, his popularity remained too strong to beat his political party. President Van Buren, the only American president not of British (including Irish) descent, was elected in 1836 by riding Jackson’s “coattails” (i.e., his popularity). But Van Buren was hurt by the financial Panic of 1837. Some felt that the financial panic was due to a lack of a national bank to prevent many local bank failures. Also during Van Buren’s presidency: Gag rule barring petitions on slavery in Congress. Elijah Lovejoy was brutally murdered in 1837 across the river from Missouri for criticizing slavery.

Van Buren was defeated for reelection in 1840 by clever slogans by the Whig Party such as “Van, van the used up man” and “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!” (Harrison was a military hero for defeating the Indians at Tippecanoe.)

Annexation of Texas – 1845. Slavery issue resurfaces with new territories and balance of free versus slave power in the Senate. War with Mexico in 1846-48, which many northerners opposed on moral grounds and also opposed based on a suspicion that the South sought more slave territories. Wilmot Proviso: no territory acquired from Mexico may have slavery. Never passed the Senate but inspired the abolitionists.

Compromise of 1850 confronted these problems: California had gold (gold rush of 1849) and wanted to join the Union as a free state, but that would upset the slave-free state balance. Texas wanted all the territory between it and Santa Fe (now in New Mexico). Washington, D.C. allowed slavery and had the biggest slave market in North America.

The aging senators Clay (Kentucky), Webster (Massachusetts) and Calhoun (S.C.) worked together to keep the Union intact. Clay, the ultimate compromiser, led the way. Here was the deal:

Texas got $10 million in exchange for relinquishing its claim to the land, money that Texas used to pay off its debt to Mexico. New territories of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and Utah would be organized based on the views of their inhabitants whether to allow slavery. The slave trade would be abolished in D.C. California would be admitted as a free state.

But slavery would continue to be allowed in D.C., and the dreadful Fugitive Slave Act was passed.

The Fugitive Slave Act required Americans to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves and denied them the right to a jury trial. This caused 20,000 blacks to flee to Canada. Even free blacks were reportedly captured and sent to be slaves in the South. The abolitionists redoubled their efforts, through use of the Underground Railroad, the resolution of the Compromise of 1850 proved to be only temporary.