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Conservapedia:American History Lecture Fourteen

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This is the last lecture before the final exam, which will consist of 45 questions in 30 minutes. This closed-book exam covers the entire course, and not just the second half. The questions can be answered from both the textbook and the event list. One question will be identical to a question on the midterm. Two questions will require you to place presidents in certain periods. I won’t ask for the number of a president, however. No points will be deducted for wrong answers. The make-up of the exam will be:

  • Political history: 35% (politicians, legislation, court decisions)
  • Foreign policy: 15% (Wars, dealings with foreign countries)
  • Economic history: 20% (money, jobs, business, trade)
  • Social history: 20% (reform movements, religion, racism, immigrat.)
  • Intellectual and cultural history: 10% (books, media, etc.)

How to prepare? I know what I would do. I’d memorize the information in the book and event lists. Then I’d take the first practice exam in the book, and score my answers. Then I’d spend a few days memorizing the book and event lists further. I’d take the book or event lists with me when I’m riding in the car, waiting in line, IM’ing on the internet, etc. Each day I’d learn a little more. Then I’d try to improve my score by taking the second practice exam. By the day of the exam, I’d be able to say this: there is almost nothing they can ask me about American history that I don’t know.

Ultimately, the score is yours. Sure, it helps having taken this class. The textbook helps. The event list helps. The discussions help. The lectures help. But ultimately your success is up to you. Try your best.

There are two parts to the final event list:

  • First half (through Reconstruction): 364 terms.
  • Second half (after Reconstruction): 370 terms.

Total number of terms: 734 terms. That amount can be memorized in two weeks. Some students memorize the entire dictionary in order to compete in the spelling bee. Quiz yourself while you’re in the car. Quiz yourself while you’re waiting to be picked up. Quiz yourself instead of watching television.

The human capacity for memorization is very high. Just memorize facts. Ask your parents to quiz you. They will be amazed. Walk into the final exam or SAT II confident that you know the material.

Ted Williams became the best hitter ever in baseball (excluding those who use steroids!) by devoting all his attention to it. He appreciated the art of hitting a baseball. He loved every aspect of it. Find a way to motivate yourself in a similar manner about American history, and you will do remarkably well.

At this point in our course, can you say what’s special about America? What is our role in the history of the world? Is our role to be a Christian nation? A democracy? A creator of wealth? Opportunity? The “American Dream”? Yankee ingenuity? Are we a country of volunteers?

Alexis de Tocqueville was an aristocratic Frenchman who was homeschooled. He came to America when he was 25 years old, in 1831, and wrote a two-volume study of what he saw, called Democracy in America. His work continues to be cited to this day. His two fundamental insights were that in America (1) the majority is always right and (2) every individual is the “only lawful judge” of his own interests. Those two principles conflict with each other to this day. Which matters most in America, the majority or the individual? De Tocqueville also had other insights: our high level of faith in American, our reliance on family, and our way of life on the frontier. At the time the United States was the world’s greatest democratic form of government. We still are.

How would you describe America today? Prosperous. Land of opportunity. We still have among the highest level of faith of any country in the world. We are also among the highest in prayer and church attendance. We have been the most powerful country in the world for nearly 100 years, and we are getting stronger. But we are also facing “the enemy within” more than outside enemies.

Understand that history is a series of struggles. For example, consider the Federalist Party versus the Democratic-Republican Party. What happened to the Federalist Party? It collapsed near the end of the War of 1812, because the Federalist Party was pro-British. What happened to the Democratic-Republican Party? It collapsed because it had no reason to exist after the Federalist Party collapsed!

Appreciate the economic cycles of our nation. Every 20 years or so there is an economic crisis: 1773. 1797. 1819. 1837. 1857. 1873. 1893. 1907. 1929-1941. 1979. 1991. 2001. How would you know those years without memorizing them? Note that the crisis occurs about every 20 years, and usually the president at the time does not win reelection.

Understand the natural expansion of our nation. There were 13 colonies when we won our independence in 1783, plus the “northwest” territories of the Ohio River Valley and Michigan. Vermont was added as a state in 1791. Kentucky joined in 1792; Tennessee in 1796; and Ohio in 1803. Then what happened? The Louisiana Purchase added massive new territory. Louisiana was added as a state in 1812. The population expanded westward.

More territory acquired in 1848. Why? The Mexican War (Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). Was California added as a state immediately? No, it took the Compromise of 1850. It was state number 31.

Kansas was the 24th state to join the Union when it was admitted in 1861. Remember all the controversy about that? What was the next state to be added? West Virginia in 1863, as it split from Virginia due to the Civil War. By 1896, Utah was the 45th state to join, after it gave up its practice of allowing a man to marry more than one wife.

Only 5 states joined in the 1900s. Who can name them? Oklahoma (which has many large Indian settlements from the Trail of Tears) was added in 1907. New Mexico and Arizona were added in 1912. And then Alaska and Hawaii joined the United States in 1959.

Our nation’s population has grown enormously also. 1790 which state had the largest population? Virginia (including West Virginia): 748,000 people. Second? Massachusetts: 475,000 (including Maine). Third? Pennsylvania: 434,000. Fourth? North Carolina: 394,000. Biggest city? Philadelphia (42,000 people). But by 1820 New York had surpassed Philadelphia in population.

Here is how the entire U.S. population has grown:
1790: 4M (M=million)
1850: 23M
1900: 75M
1950: 151M
1990: 250M
2006: 300M

Transportation improved over time. In 1817, how long do you think it took for freight to travel from Cincinnati to New York City? 52 days. How would you do it? Take the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, then by wagon to Philadelphia, and then by wagon and river to New York City. Now, how about the same trip in 1845? Only 28 days. By canal across Ohio to Lake Erie, then the Erie Canal to the Hudson River, which flows to New York City.

Then how long would that shipment take in 1860? 6-8 days, using the Erie Railroad and connecting lines. How long would it take today? Only one day by truck over superhighways.

But the addition of new states to the United States does not tell the whole story of American territory. What else needs to be told? Imperialism is a controversial part of our history from the late 1893 (when we installed American to run Hawaii) through 1914 (when we completed the Panama Canal). The presidents most responsible for imperialism were William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt (who also established the national park system and engaged in “trust-busting” actions to break up large business monopolies).

Our imperialism included our invasion of Cuba to liberate it and retain some control, and our acquisition of the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam from Spain at the end of the Spanish-American War. The U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Paris in a close vote at the end of the war to allow this. Arguments for imperialism: U.S. has a civilizing mission and the Philippines gave us important strategic advantage. If we withdrew, foreign powers would acquire it. Arguments against imperialism: Democrats and populists said it was contrary to American principles of self-government, the Monroe Doctrine, and traditional U.S. isolationism.

Part of imperialism was the building of the Panama Canal based on the Jay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty in 1903. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter pushed through the Senate a treaty to return the Canal territory to the ownership of Panama. A Republican senator from New Jersey, Clifford Chase, supported the return of the Canal to Panama, and he was then remarkably defeated by an obscure conservative opponent in the Republican primary in 1978. Now the Canal is operated by Communist China!

After Jimmy Carter’s one term as president (1976-80), Ronald Reagan served as president for two very successful terms (1980-88). His successor in office was his Vice President, George H.W. Bush (the father of the current President Bush), who served from 1988-92. This was just as the previously popular presidents of George Washington and Andrew Jackson were followed in office for only one term by their Vice President. In all three cases, economic problems plagued the term of service of the former Vice President. John Adams, Martin Van Buren and George H.W. Bush all were unpopular partly due to a downturn in the economy during their presidency, and none were reelected.

Clinton served as president from 1992 through 2000. He was a master politician. He attempted to increase government control of the national health care system, however, and conservative resistance defeated his proposals. Then, in the election of 1994, Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives and Senate. This was the first time Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives in nearly 50 years.

From 1994 to 2000 the economy expanded enormously. This was an unprecedented economic boom, thanks partly to the discovery and growth of the internet. Clinton would have become a hero due to the economic good times, but his arrogance of power led him to have a secret girlfriend named Monica Lewinsky. Clinton lied about this under oath, which is a crime, and a newspaper story was written to inform the public about the scandal.

But by 1998 the internet provided an alternative means of communication. Matt Drudge, who operates a popular website called drudgereport.com, publicized the story on his website and it became a national sensation. The House then impeached Clinton, just as President Andrew Johnson had been impeached after the Civil War, but the Senate did not vote to remove Clinton from office (just as President Andrew Johnson was not removed). However, the scandal had the effect of hurting the Democrats just enough in 2000 to prevent Vice President Al Gore from winning the presidency as so many prior vice presidents had done.

President George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 in the closest presidential election in our history, by a margin of just a few hundred votes in Florida. Many were reminded of the Tilden-Hayes election in 1876, in which (like Gore) the Democrat Sam Tilden won the popular vote but there were disputes about the Electoral College results. The Compromise of 1877 gave the Republicans the White House on the promise that they end Reconstruction and remove all federal troops from the South. No known deal was cut by President Bush in 2000, and Gore fought the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court until it decided in favor of Bush (by a 5-4 vote).

Democracy started in Ancient Greece hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. By 1776 many countries were already implementing the principles of democracy. Britian had an elected parliament, and so did France. The American Revolution was motivated partly by economics, partly by religion, and partly by philosophical principle, and its result was the Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) that protected individual freedom, private property and a republican form of government.

James Madison, in advocating ratification of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, admitted that democracies were short-lived and that a single faction or special interest could obtain tyrannical control in a democracy. But he observed that the Constitution established a republic rather than a democracy, and the large size of our republic would protect us against any single issue or individual obtaining control of our country.

For over 200 years the Constitution has worked splendidly in preventing tyranny and preserving liberty. Injustices and flaws have arisen, but the Constitution has provided the means to address and attempt to correct them. Will our nation last another 200 years?

God bless America.

THE END.