European Exploration and Colonization of America



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AP US History Review:

US History Overview


Please excuse typo, grammatical errors, and misspellings. This is a draft

European Exploration and Colonization of America: The story of American history extends thousands of years ago when migrants crossed the Bering Strait (land/ice bridge) and began the long process of settlement throughout the western hemisphere. Drawn by nomadic food sources (animals) and warmer climates suitable for foraging, civilizations expanded and became more stationary when three-sister farming was discovered. This Agricultural Revolution promulgated the growth of civilizations like the Maya, Inca, Aztec, Cahokia, etc… Spain, England, France, and Portugal spent time, energy, lives, and money exploring the world and spreading their empires. Columbus, Magellan, Cabrillo, Coronado, De Leon etc… were motivated by GOD, GLORY, GOLD, and Girls and were some of the first Europeans to have contact with these civilizations. Through curiosity, greed, and disease, they managed to conquer and/or kill a large portion of the western cultures that existed before 1492, but the seeds were planted for the European colonization of the American New World. The interactions between this Atlantic World resulted in the Columbian Exchange (named after Columbus) which is comprised of the goods, ideas, raw materials, diseases, animals etc…. that are traded and/or diffused between the old and new worlds.

The British defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 redefined the power brokers in world of exploration, and England, motivated by a popular monarchy, the desire for New World riches, primogeniture, and competition with other nations attempted to establish early colonies in America. Although the first one failed at Roanoke, Jamestown and Plimoth (Plymouth) survived overwhelming hardships to plant the English in the New World. Life in the Northern, Middle, and Southern Colonies of Early America differed dramatically.

Jamestown (King James I) developed in 1607as a joint stock colony (Virginia Company) that was solely dedicated to the making of money. Indentured servants agreed to work for the company in return for land and freedom. As the Southern colonies grew, they modeled themselves after their mother England. The economy was dictated by the policy of mercantilism (enforced by navigation laws), which allowed England to reap the benefits of the raw material market as well as the consumer market. Eventually, Tobacco would dominate the fields of the south as it filled the pipes of Europe. The House of Burgesses represented the first colonial form of government, but until the late 1700’s the House was heavily influenced by England and Virginians liked it that way.

Plimoth developed a bit differently. Founded in 1620 by a group of religious separatists (Pilgrims) who were granted a charter by James I, Plimoth combined strong Puritan values with components of a Joint Stock Company (VA Company). Bound to strict religious codes, Northern settlers were very protective of their beliefs and therefore did not grant religious freedom to newcomers. (Salem Witch Trials, Anne Hutchinson, Roger Williams) Northern governments were based upon those religious codes as well as a democratic form of consensus (Beginnings of Democracy). Like the Mayflower Compact, settlers in the North tried to use cooperative decision making (town meetings) to conduct government affairs.

Both colonies relied heavily on trade with Britain which was controlled by the Navigation Laws. Constant pressure for land and resources created growing conflict with Native Americans which progressed from curiosity and friendship to exploitation and war. (Powahtan, Massasoit, Pequot War, etc…)

After establishing the colonies, Britain tended to forget about them a bit. This salutary neglect forced both Northern and Southern colonies into a period of autonomy and self-government. While Edmund Andros was dispatched to reassert control with the Dominion of New England, his escape in women’s clothes and rampant smuggling revealed a lack of colonial support when it came to following the trade laws. When Britain (King George III and George Grenville) tried to reassert it authority by imposing new taxes geared towards raising revenue, problems arose.

By the early-mid 1700’s The Great Awakening (Edwards, Whitefield) brought a religious revival to the colonies. Schools and education flourished, newspapers spouted mass media, and new Christian denominations appeared throughout the colonies. American were taught that they were all equal in the eyes of the Lord, but apparently not equal in the eyes of their king. These new attitudes coupled with the philosophies espoused by Enlightenment writers (Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Paine, etc…) and speakers in Europe put America on the road to revolution.

French-Indian War, Great Awakening, and American Revolution,: After growing into a group of independent, successful colonies, the United States began to look past its adolescence and towards maturity as an sovereign nation. Fueled by colonial successes and gains made during the French-Indian war, a revived belief in equality under God (Great Awakening), and a series of conflicts with Britain (Old Dominion, Proclamation of 1763, Taxes, Navigation Acts, Tea Tax, mercantilism, etc..) that prompted colonists to pursue independence, all 13 colonies put aside their considerable differences to rebel against England. With the formal Declaration of Independence in 1776, Thomas Jefferson eloquently articulated the ‘causes which impel them to the separation.”

American leaders met at the Second Continental Congress and appointed General George Washington as the leader of the Continental Army. He faced a well-trained, wealthy British military supported by hired mercenaries and the world’s strongest navy in the American war for independence. After the opening shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, and Boston, Washington suffered numerous defeats and was constantly on the run. In December of 1776, Washington secretly attacked across the Delaware River and caught the German mercenaries off guard. The war dragged on throughout the colonies and off the coast for almost 5 more years. By 1781, Washington, with assistance from the France, pinned down Cornwallis and his British regiments and the war came to a close. The Treaty of Paris 1783 granted independence, as well as almost all of the land east of the Mississippi, to the (soon to be) United States of America. America was free from Britain, friends with France and Spain and loosely united with the Articles of Confederation.


Constitution and the Creation of a New Government: (9) The war was over and the former colonies now controlled all the land east of the Mississippi River. The Articles of Confederation, created to unite the colonies in the war, proved to be an ineffective governing mechanism, and Shays’s Rebellion scared powerful colonists to the negotiating table to create a government that would promote prosperity, peace, order, etc… The Constitutional Convention brought members from 12 of 13 colonies (not Rhode Island) to Philadelphia to modify and ultimately rewrite the Articles of Confederation, which had been hastily created at the onset on the war. Addressing such hotbed issues as, slavery, equal vs. proportional representation in Congress, and federalism (power of state vs. national governments), the convention was one long heated debate and score of compromises. Once written, convincing the people of each state to ratify the Constitution was an uphill battle due to the fear of weakened state power, but compelling arguments made by the federalists (Federalist Papers written by Madison) helped push ratification through in 1788 (9 of 12 states ratify). The former colonies of Britain had evolved into the United States of America and their fearless leader during the Revolution was unanimously chosen as the first President of the new confederacy.
NOTE: George Washington is probably more famous for what he DID NOT DO! 1. He and his army did not get captured in New York in 1777. 2. He did not fight the British head on until his army was ready. 3. He did not accept a crown from Congress when he became President. 4. He did not stay in office too long (establishing the 2 term tradition for Presidents)
Jefferson vs. Hamilton & Jeffersonian Democracy (10-11) Washington appointed two of the most promising politicians of the time to his first cabinet and they disagreed on almost everything. Washington loved to make decisions based upon their arguments. Thomas Jefferson served as his Secretary of State and Alexander Hamilton as his Secretary of the Treasury. (See page 189) The two party system in America evolved from the differing views of these two men. Although Washington’s Farewell Address recommended staying away from entangling alliances, America’s relationship with France (supported by Jefferson) hit some hard times after Federalists signed Jay’s Treaty with Britain. France reacted with the XYZ Affair and the Quasi War which hurt Republicans (Jefferson) and bolstered Federalists (Adams, Hamilton, Washington) John Adams succeeded Washington and while he did avaiod war with France (a Federalist desire), he promptly intensified the animosity between parties with the Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson, Adam’s vice President because he received the second most votes in 1796, opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts by privately arguing in his (and Madison’s) Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions that states should have the right to nullify federal acts that they deem inappropriate. In doing so, he provided a precedent for state’s rights advocates to use (Calhoun in 1832, South in 1860, etc…) Jefferson defeated Adams in the nasty election of 1800, but surprisingly continued many of the Federalist principles to the dismay of his supporters. To some it was called the “Revolution if 1800” because it was the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another (maybe in history). He then purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, commissioned Lewis and Clark, rebuilt friendly relations with western Native Americans, and controversially cut back on America’s naval power by converting it to smaller, quicker ships (like those used in against Mediterranean pirates of the coast of Tripoli. John Marshall’s court will also hand down their version of judicial review in the Marbury vs. Madison case. (Midnight Judges). Marshall served for 34 years and in many ways, defined the Federalist agenda even though Adams was the last Federalist president and Hamilton was killed by Jefferson’s Vice President (Aaron Burr) in a duel. Needless to say, the first few years under the Constitution were rocky.

In his second term, Jefferson and his Secretary of State Madison faced international tension surrounding trade with Britain and France. Both were at war with each other (Napoleonic Wars) and wanted America to pick a side. Jefferson overreacted by passing the Embargo Act with shut down trade with all nations expecting them to come crawling to the abundant goods of America. It failed miserably and although it did help foster a surge in American manufacturing, in essence, it destroyed the American economy just in time for Madison to take over on 1809. Madison tried to soften the impact with the non-Intercourse Act and the finally Macon’s Bill #2, (amidst Napoleon’s clever maneuvering, we reopened trade with France, and not England) but much of the economic and diplomatic damage had been done.


James Madison, War of 1812, and Jacksonian Democracy (12-15) Madison (the father of the Constitution), came to office facing “encroaching” Indian in the west (Tecumseh), British anger over Macon’s Bill that resulted in impressment of American sailors and naval conflict (Chesapeake Affair), discussions over invading Canada, and a war hawk Congress that was angry at Britain. Madison rode the wave of frustration into the War of 1812. American dissention over the war, military disarray, and poor planning allowed Britain to gain early victories in the North including the burning of Washington D.C. Naval victories on the Canadian border (Great Lakes) and a brilliant military victory on the outskirts of New Orleans (after treaty was signed) would eventually decimate the will of the British and the result was a second American victory over England and the Treaty of Ghent finally the Second War for Independence and for the most part, England and America would become allies to this day..

James Monroe continued the Democratic –Republican ideals of Jefferson and Madison. The poorly named “Era of good Feelings,” encompassed a period of one-party rule (1817-1819) after the Fedewralist party disappeared amidst question of their loyalty that arose from the Hartford Convention during the war. Economic woes will hit America by 1819 and Monroe grappled with rapid American expansion (westward), growing questions over slavery, the rise of John Marshall’s court, and national security issues that prompted the creation of the Monroe Doctrine (1823), which basically made the United States the protectors of the western hemisphere.

As America expanded into the rugged western frontier, a new group of Americans were beginning to enjoy the fruits of political power. Andrew Jackson was the victorious general at New Orleans and his rugged, plainspoken, courageous, Indian-fighting demeanor was a perfect fit for new western voters. He first ran for President in 1824 in an election that pitted educated vs. common folk, east vs. west, banker vs. farmer, snobby vs. rugged, and although Jackson won the popular vote, he failed to take a 50% majority of the electoral votes (due to multiple candidates taking votes from top two). In this case, the House of Representatives decided the election and in what some called a “Corrupt Bargain,” Speaker of the House Henry Clay swayed the House to select the well-educated, eastern son of the second President, John Quincy Adams over Jackson in return for what appeared to be the position of Secretary of State in Adams cabinet. Jackson cried foul, but he would have to wait until 1828 to assume control of the country.

In the meantime, Adams struggled with his cool, aloof demeanor, desire to spend national funds on questionable projects, the perception of his corrupt ascension to the Presidency, and the fact that nearly 1/3 of Americans did not vote for him! Tricky tariff (Tariff of 1828) issues and a persistent Jackson also complicated his presidency and led to his demise in the election of 1828.

Jackson brought a new image to the Presidency. A common man was now President. Self-educated, a great shot with a rifle, outspoken, a friend to the farmers, and a war hero, Jackson came to office with a sense of individuality, opportunism, and a jack of all trade versatility. His education left something to be desired and he once quipped, “Never trust the man who is not creative enough to spell a word more than one way!” He was the people’s President.

Jackson loved the veto and he used it twelve times during his Presidency. (Predecessors used it a total of 10 times) He strengthened the executive branch of the federal government and his desire to open political jobs to citizens and his political supporters would solidify the controversial Spoils System in American politics. Jackson’s VP Calhoun resigned after the Peggy Eaton Affair and in his following years transitioned from the National government towards a state-rights stance. In short, Calhoun became Jackson’s enemy and even tried to lead South Carolina out of the Union in 1832 in a dispute over high tariffs (South Carolina Exposition). Jackson flexed the National Muscles of the country until a compromise was finally reached. (It isn’t far-fetched to say that the Civil War almost began in 1832 over tariffs.)

The end of Jackson’s Presidency saw a significant rise in sectional disagreements. These culminated in the Webster–Hayne debate in Senate 1829. Jackson stood strongly behind the supreme power of the federal government and disappointed many southerners who thought his Tennessee roots would give them a States rights advocate in the White House

Sectional (East-west AND North-South) differences were once again highlighted by the tariff issues, the re-charter of the Bank of the United States (rich vs. poor), the removal of the civilized tribes in the South (Trail of Tears – Indian Removal Act), the Americanization of Mexican Texas, and the birth of the Whig party. After passing the Presidency onto his VP Martin Van Buren who was plagued by the recession of 1837 (caused by Jackson’s dismantling of the BUS), the Whigs began their ascent to the presidency with their nominee, William Henry Harrison, who like Jackson made a name for himself as a military commander and Indian fighter at the battle of Tippecanoe.


Market Revolution and the Forging a National Economy and the Second Great Awakening As America grew westward settlers brought their ideas, culture, inventions, and prejudices with them (Page 304). Immigrants flooded to America from Germany and Ireland filling eastern cities with cheap labor, religious and language barriers, and the resulting nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment. Technology (Cotton gin, sewing machine, telegraph) allowed production to improve dramatically and the beginning of the factory system in America was born. Transportation changed too. Road systems, streetcars, canals, steamboats, and early railroads tied America together and allowed information and goods to travel quicker and more efficiently. Americans debated who should pay for these internal improvements and while Henry Clay eloquently pushed for national financing of these projects under the American System, some states felt that projects should be paid for the people who benefitted from them, not all taxpayers. Some of these projects included the Eerie Canal, Marysville Road, Cumberland Road.

The early 19th century also saw the Second Great Awakening spread the belief that predetermination was not relevant. People could work hard, live a good life, be a good person and God would accept them into heaven. Mormon’s, Baptists, Methodists, Adventists, Episcopalians, Unitarians, etc... gave rise to a renewed focus of good deeds and positive living. Reform movements evolved directly from this Awakening and could be seen everywhere: Temperance highlighted the evils of alcohol, Women wrote a Declaration of Sentiments (equality) at Seneca Falls in 1848, Abolitionists exposed the horrors of slavery; Horace Mann, Noah Webster, and McGuffey standardized Education; and Dorthea Dix fought to help the mentally ill in her Asylum movement. All of these were directly connected the Second Great Awakening.

Transcendentalism: Every person possesses an inner light that can illuminate the highest truth and put him in direct touch with God, or the “Oversoul.” Emerson and Whitman among other like Thoreau, Longfellow, and Melville ignited one of the first major literary movements in American history.
Manifest Destiny, Texas, and the Mexican-American War. As America’s physical borders and its political influence moved westward, many Americans began to believe that the United States was “destined” to control the lands between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The purchase of the Louisiana territory, and the growth of American influence in Texas contributed to these ideas. In 1823, Stephen Austin obtained a sizable tract of land from the Mexican government. He and his settlers were bound to pay Mexican taxes, abide by Mexican laws, convert to Roman Catholicism, and outlaw the use slaves. The town of Austin grew rapidly many of the conditions that were agreed upon were not followed. Angered, Mexico sent Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to Austin and after negotiations failed. Santa Ana closed Mexican Texas to American settlers. The resulting conflict would pit the Texan rebels against the Mexican army. At the Alamo, the valiant Texans all died and if it weren’t for the cunning of Samuel Houston’s capturing of Santa Anna at San Jacinto in 1836, the Texans would have lost the war. Santa Ana was forced to sign a treaty that ceded Texas to the Texans (not America, yet!) He begrudgingly did so and the Texans controlled their own country.

The Texas story was not over. An attractive gem to Britain and France, America feared that Texas might fall into foreign hands. In return, Texans began to fear the return of Santa Anna and his bigger, better, angrier army. Houston went to Washington to discuss annexation. The debate was fierce and the biggest questions of all surrounded military actions in the disputed territory between the Nueces River (Mexican claim) and Rio Grande (US claim). Clashes between the two countries would spark the Mexican American war. Led by Zachary Taylor, the United States would defeat Mexico and in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo granted the United States much of the Southwest. With the drawing of the 49th Parallel (treaty with Britain), the Gadsden purchase in 1853, and the dramatic growth of California territory following the discovery of gold in 1849, America was on its way towards dominating the land between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Manifest destiny was coming to fruition! (See US expansion map from earlier in the year).



Slavery, Sectional Struggle, the Civil War and Reconstruction. America’s growth also prompted numerous questions. Most of those question revolved around the “peculiar institution” of slavery. The first American slaves arrived in 1619, but the rapid growth of American slavery would correspond with the growth of the tobacco and cotton industries in the South. Although treatment of slaves varied, Harriett Beecher Stowe would solidify the northern view of slavery in her book, Uncle Toms Cabin (1852). Slavery were rarely educated, often worked 6 days a week, separated from families, bred for future commodity, and beaten or killed when they tried to protest or escape. When captured in Africa, fears abounded that their captors would eat them. Language barriers, cultural differences, and introduction of new diseases made the transition into slave life a treacherous endeavor. Within the context of history, slaves should be looked upon more as property than people!

The Abolition movement was not new, but after resurgence in the 1830’s, led by Charles Finney, William Lloyd Garrison created his Abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, and escaped slave Frederick Douglass rose into prominence among Republicans (the party of Abolition). The American Colonization Society looked to purchase land in Africa (Liberia) for freed slaves and Sojourner Truth spoke passionately to Northern audiences about the horrors of slavery. Abolition had its place, but by no means were Americans ready to war over slavery alone. The Sectional struggle was the result of over 70 years of disagreement. (See Civil War Causes Lecture and PowerPoint)

In 1787, America was writing its Constitution and the differences between North and South were abundant. The south feared a loss of State power (popular sovereignty) with the strengthening of the National government. In Congress, the South demanded that Slaves be counted when determining representative of the House and the North refused. The Three-Fifths Compromise would put a band-aid on the situation. Even pieces of the Article of Confederation showed a desire by the North to slow the spread of slavery. (Northwest Ordinance). America would compromise its way through the slavery issue until the mid 1800’s.

The Missouri Compromise would admit Missouri and Maine as well as, create the Mason Dixon line, which would delineate a slave/no slave line across America at 36˚30˚. Southern frustration over pro-northern tariffs in 1828 and 1832 sparked talk of secession and nullification in economically affected southern states. And an unsuccessful attempt by northerners to block slavery in the lands acquired from Mexico (Wilmot-Proviso 1848) put the South on the defensive.



The Compromise of 1850 brought California into the union as a free state and the South was granted the Fugitive Slave law. Southern anger boiled when the fugitive slave law fizzled under apathetic northerners. The stage was being set for the first bloodshed of the sectional struggle. In 1854, Stephen Douglas (southern Democrat) proposed way to deal with the admission of Nebraska territory. The Kansas-Nebraska act proposed that Nebraska be admitted as a free state (north of line) and in Kansas, the voters would decide if slavery should be allowed. This drew a swarm of pro-slave and anti-slave supporters to Kansas and passionate views evolved into fighting in the streets. “Bleeding Kansas,” seemed to foreshadow the national conflict that would engulf the entire country in 1860. (Wyatt Earpp would make a name for himself as a peacemaker in Kansas at this time!)

The fiasco in Kansas would help create the Republican Party out of numerous smaller parties, most with anti-slave tendencies. Southern fortitude began to build with the pro-southern ruling in the Dred Scott case in 1857, the limited affect that the economic crash of 1857 had on the South, and frustration over John Brown’s raid on a Southern armory (Harper’s Ferry).

The political picture was bringing slavery to forefront in 1858. Senatorial candidates in Illinois stood as symbols of the two sides. Abraham Lincoln represented the New Republicans and Stephen Douglas carried Democratic hopes. In 1858, Lincoln would give his “House Divided Speech,” in which he contended that America could not function half slave and half free. “It must be all one thing or all the other… because a house divided cannot stand!” Douglas would win the Senatorial seat, but their debates would ring throughout the country for the next two-years when they would meet again. Nominated by their respective parties for the Presidential election of 1860, Lincoln and Douglas held a political duel that pitted North vs. South, Free vs. Slave, and most of all, strong central government vs. strong state government.

Following the election of Lincoln, the South did as they promised. Led by South Carolina, seven states would immediately secede from the Union and four more would eventually follow. The Confederacy created their own government (based on Popular Sovereignty), army, currency, and they elected Jefferson Davis as their President. Before Lincoln had even taken office, America was physically, politically, socially, and economically divided.

Declaring that the South could not physically separate, Lincoln maintained that the South was simply having a disagreement with the North and that after the conflict, we would all live happily ever after (It’s not that simple, but you get the idea!) The South demanded that all previously held military installations in the South were under Confederate control and they demanded that all union soldiers in the South leave immediately. Fort Sumter would see the first shots of the war. The Civil War had begun!

The North clearly outmatched the South in men, money, arms, Railroads, and production capabilities. The Union would develop the Anaconda Plan, which detailed a three-prong strategy to defeat the South: 1. Blockade Atlantic Coast, 2. Seize Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and push into major cities and demoralize enemy. The South used their home field advantage, strong generals, belief in a passionate cause and the hope of British Support to achieve early successes in the war.

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