How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time

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Key Periods of American History
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.



Markers (Begin/End)

Major Themes

Colonial Period


Founding of Jamestown

French and Indian War

Challenges establishing and organizing colonies;

Conflicts with Native Americans;
Patterns of life and labor emerge and differ by region;
Origins of self-gov’t and political liberties;
Growing sense of American identity by 1763.

Revolutionary Era


Abandoning of Salutary Neglect after F & I War
Treaty of Paris ends the War of Independence

Revolution of “sentiments” (ideas) occurs from 1763-1775;

Growing unity among the colonies illustrated by the Stamp Act Congress; the Committees of Correspondence; the First / Second Continental Congresses;
Challenges of waging war against the British Empire, and how these were met.
Egalitarianism sparked by the war (women’s rights, questions about slavery, republican government, etc.).

The Critical Period


American independence secured in the Treaty of Paris
Ratification of the new Constitution of 1789

Despite successes (such as winning the War of Independence, negotiating the Treaty of Paris, and organizing the NW Territory) the overall weakness of the Articles of Confederation became apparent in the post-war period;

Nationalists (i.e., “the federalists”) attempt to reform the system, then move to create an entirely new form of gov’t, provoking resistance from those (i.e., “the anti-federalists”) who fear strong central power.
The “Spirit of ’76” (liberty and freedom) is replaced by the “Spirit of ’89” (stability and order).
The Constitution is framed and ratified through political compromises (3/5; slave trade; Great Compromise; Bill of Rights).

The Federalist Era


Administrations of George Washington and Adams
Jefferson elected in the “Revolution of 1800”

The new gov’t grows in strength and authority, dealing with issues including managing the national debt, navigating foreign affairs with France, Spain, and Britain, and establishing the framework of the US gov’t.

After Washington steps down, political parties (the Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans) form for the first time under Adams over disagreements about foreign affairs, the strength of the gov’t, and constitutional interpretation.
Adams administration is marred by the Alien and Sedition Acts which suppress speech in the name of national security and the appointment of the Midnight Judges as a way of entrenching the Federalist Party in the judiciary.

The Age of Jeffersonian Democracy


Election of Jefferson
End of the War of 1812 and the election of James Monroe.

Jefferson’s election marks a new direction in American democracy as he pledges to reduce the size and scope of the government and expand democracy.

The conflict between TJ’s ideals and his actions becomes apparent in the Louisiana Purchase, the Embargo Act, and the maintaining of the Hamiltonian financial system.
Expansion results in a shift in political power to the west. The Federalist Party becomes increasingly a sectional party with little power and is discredited by its opposition to the War of 1812.

Era of Good Feelings


End of the War of 1812 and the election of James Monroe.
Bitter feelings arise about the outcome of the Election of 1824.

In the wake of the War of 1812, the United States experienced a wave of nationalism, expressed in art, literature, economics, and politics.

The Marshall Court greatly expands the powers of the judiciary and upholds the power of the national gov’t.
The demise of the Federalist Party results in a period of one-party rule called the “Era of Good Feelings,” however, unity is threatened by debates over slavery in Missouri, an economic panic in 1819, disputes over internal improvements and tariffs, and a controversial election in 1824.

The Age of Jacksonian Democracy


Corrupt Bargain of 1824”

The Hard Cider Campaign of William Henry Harrison

The party system returns in the wake of the Election of 1824. Supporters of Jackson (the Democrats) v. the National Republicans (John Quincy Adams; Henry Clay).

The “Revolution of 1828” sweeps Jackson into office in a movement referred to as “Jacksonian Democracy.” Universal manhood suffrage results in an expanded electorate; the spoils system ousts long time political appointees and puts the “common man in politics;” the Bank of the US is dismantled; and Native American tribes are moved west to open lands for western settlers.
Jackson greatly expands the power of the Presidency, sees him self as the only true representative
Southerners, angered by high tariffs, raise the specter of nullification (revived from the Ky and Va Resolutions); Jackson responds forcefully.

The Antebellum Period


The Civil War and Reconstruction


The Gilded Age


The Progressive Era


The Roaring Twenties


The New Deal


The Cold War


New Frontier / Great Society


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