Bentley, chapter 30 The Americas in the Age of Independence

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Bentley, chapter 30

The Americas in the Age of Independence

  1. The United States and Capitalism: Economic expansion was cyclic in nature, marked by periodic panics and depressions, during which times industrialists protected themselves through wage cuts and layoffs. Older paths to economic independence disappeared and many Americans fell victims to "wage slavery." An increasing concentration of wealth in fewer hands characterized both urban and rural life. Workers failed to organize because of ethnic, racial, religious, and gender divisions. Environmental consequences of industrialization included deforestation, destruction of wildlife, and pollution of air and water. In summary: Wealth highly concentrated at the top; wide class distinctions, social stratification; urban poverty; frequent unemployment; low wages for the working class; women and child labor required for survival of the family.

  1. North America and Natural Resources: The United States had abundant natural resources, an expanding population, government policies designed to foster economic growth, and a pervasive entrepreneurial spirit. Public schools provided a more educated workforce and production was reorganized along industrial lines. An influx of European laborers, capital, and technological ideas also helped shape American development. Most importantly, improved transportation provided cheap and reliable access to distant markets and goods.

  1. Thomas Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty: Jefferson believed that western expansion and settlement would allow the United States to avoid the urbanization and congestion that was increasingly evident in Europe. He believed a nation of free-holding small farmers would be good for democracy because such citizens would be truly independent and would therefore vote out of a sense of duty and public virtue.

    1. The Louisiana Purchase: The Louisiana Purchase both a great opportunity and a significant problem for Thomas Jefferson? Opportunity: doubled the size of the United States; assured control of the Mississippi River and port of New Orleans; ended the threat of a powerful French presence on U.S. borders. Problem: costly purchase, there was no constitutional provision for purchase of foreign territory (it required use of implied powers).

    1. Lewis and Clark:

    1. Mountain Men:

  1. War of 1812: This war represented Britain’s attempt to regain her North American colonies. The war took place during a lull in the fighting between Britain and France. The British formed an alliance with several interior Native American tribes in an attempt to create a pincer strategy that would roll up American resistance. The campaigns failed. Renewed fighting with Napoleon was the impetus for the British suing for peace terms. American independence was secured.

  1. Market Revolution: The impact of industrialization and urbanization on American agriculture was substantial. A massive population movement to the West was set in motion as Americans, seeking economic opportunity, sought cheaper land prices in the west. This material reality inspired the construction of more roads, canals, and railroads. The economy continued the mechanization of production - the countryside transitioned from self-sufficient family farms to commercial (specialized cash crop) farming. Urban markets in the industrializing East provided incentives to expand commercial agricultural production. This led to dislocation and more rural small farmers were forced to move to eastern cities (urbanization).

    1. Transportation revolution

    2. Communications revolution

    3. Railroads (throughout the hemisphere)

    4. The “frontier”

      1. Agriculture

      2. Herding

      3. Mining

  1. The United States and “Manifest Destiny”: The phrase "Manifest Destiny," coined by journalist John L. O'Sullivan in 1845, signified the conviction that the superior institutions and culture of the United States gave Americans a God-given right, even an obligation, to spread their civilization across the entire continent. This sense of uniqueness and mission was a legacy of early Puritan utopianism, the republicanism of the Revolutionary Era, and seemingly evidenced by our economic and political success. Americans felt westward expansion would extend opportunities and stability to more peoples across a wider domain. The basic proposition is, Americans (a chosen people) had a special (divinely ordained) mission to spread across the North American continent. This concept was influential in at least justifying America's conquest of Native Americans and of Mexico to acquire new territory.

  1. Slavery: Slavery as an institution served social as well as economic purposes. Slaveholding represented a path for some and a hope for many of upward economic mobility, social prestige, and political influence. The institution also offered poor whites a sense of superiority over at least one group and a sense of kinship, if not quite equality, with wealthier whites.

  1. King Cotton: Leaving worn-out eastern lands, Southerners extended cotton cultivation and slavery westward. Cotton remained "king" in the South due to a steady growth in world demand, availability of new lands, a self-reproducing supply of cheap slave labor, and low-cost steamboat transportation on the Mississippi River. The economy was healthy but undiversified and wealth was concentrated in the hands of large planters. Slaves were used as workers in all types of economic enterprises, but overwhelmingly in cash crop agriculture. A slave generally proved to be a profitable investment for a slaveholder in terms of profit and cost calculations. Most Southerners, however, were not slaveholders. The heavy capital investment in land and labor blocked the diversification of agriculture, the development of industry, and improvements in the transportation system, thus limiting overall economic opportunities.

  1. Southern Justifications for Slavery: Prior to the 1830s, Southerners accepted slavery as a "necessary evil" and even made limited moves to eradicate the problem, primarily through manumission and colonization efforts. After the abolitionists stepped up their attacks, however, southern justification shifted toward defending slavery as a "positive good," using biblical, historical, constitutional, scientific, and sociological grounds for argument. Such justifications emphasized racism to avoid potential class antagonisms among whites.

  1. Radical Abolitionsism: Radical abolitionaists argued that slavery was illegal, a violation of natural rights, unjust and sinful. They argued further that the institution betrayed America’s core founding principles because it placed an individual's fate in the hands of another individual. Slavery was also immoral because it encouraged sexual exploitation. Slavery was economically backward because it inhibited the economic development of the South and encouraged the inefficiency of labor. Indeed, while slavery was profitable; it impeded industry, urbanization, technological innovation; it created high personal debt, high illiteracy rate; it undergirded a highly stratified society with wealth concentrated at the top; it allowed little open debate and few social reforms (fear of instability).

  1. The Missouri Crisis and Compromise (1820): Northerners learned that the South intended to expand slavery (and maintain its hold on national political power); Southerners learned that they would have to present slavery as a positive good to justify its expansion

  1. Indigenous Cultures and Responses to White Expansion: Features: 300,000 Indians in over 200 tribes; both nomadic and sedentary; diverse in cultures and social organization; Plains Indians horse culture; Pueblo Indians agriculture; Great Basin and California Indians meager existence; Northwestern Indians elaborate social system based on abundance. Impact: lost land; conflict; reduced numbers.

    1. “Indianess”

    2. Assimilation and Accommodation

    3. Revitalization and Resistance

  1. Trail of Tears: This represented the uprooting of an innocent people under the presidency of Andrew Jackson; "stealth" of land by means of fraudulent treaties; people poorly cared for on the Trail of Tears. Those who supported Indian Removal argued that removal was the only way to protect Indian lives and preserve Native-American culture. Thousands of Native peoples perished on the forced marches out of their native homelands. The Cherokee suffered 25% of their population to die along the Trail of Tears march from Georgia to Oklahoma.

  1. Texas: Americans were allowed into Mexico to create a buffer against illegal United States settlers and Indians, and to develop the land and resources of Texas to increase tax revenues. Mexico adopted a new policy because of the rush of large numbers of immigrants, illegal entry of some settlers, the "anglicization" of Texas, and the fact that, against Mexico's wishes, Americans brought their slaves.

  1. Sectional Tensions and Texas Annexation: Pro: Antislavery Britain would grab Texas if the United States didn't, then use it as a haven for runaway slaves from the United States. Also, Texas could be a new slave state (or states) to maintain southern power in the Union. Anti: A proslavery Texas would upset the balance of power in the Senate and open the door to the further expansion of slavery.

  1. War with Mexico

    1. “Mr. Polk’s War”: Polk was elected on an expansionist pledge. Mexico was weak. Polk feared Britain was planning to seize Texas and/or California. Polk saw war with Mexico as a chance to expand the area of slavery. Success in war with Mexico would win the prize of California.

    1. Resistance to the war

    1. The Spot Resolution

    1. The Wilmot Proviso: The Wilmot Proviso was a key to the coming of the Civil War. It generated a divisive debate over the expansion of slavery into the western territories. Southerners insisted slavery must expand or die, antislavery northerners insisted that containing slavery would kill it. The future of the Union seemed at stake--the land of the slave, or the home of the free.

  1. California and Crisis

    1. The Compromise of 1850: Terms: Fugitive Slave Law, California as a free state, Texas-New Mexico boundary settlement, slave trade banned in the District of Columbia, no restrictions against slavery in the cession territory.

    1. The Fugitive Slave Law: The Fugitive Slave Law compelled northerners to abandon their general indifference to the South's "peculiar institution," and directly involved them in some of the more sordid aspects of capturing runaways and returning them to slavery. Also, enforcement of the law violated their sensibilities of civil liberties.

  1. Plains Indians

    1. Destruction of the buffalo

    2. Sitting Bull

    3. Crazy Horse

    4. Custer and gold

    5. Little Big Horn

    6. Ghost Dance

    7. Wounded Knee

  1. The Nation in Crisis: As a political issue, slavery was absent from debate after 1820 until its expansion became an issue during the Mexican War. The key debate was over the authority of the federal government to ban slavery from the territories versus its obligation to protect slavery in the territories.

    1. Slavery: Southerners were eager to establish in principle their right to expand slavery into the territories in the event more hospitable environs were annexed (Central America, Cuba). They needed to counter the precedent of the Northwest Ordinance and Missouri Compromise's ban on slavery. Historically, slave states entered the Union only from territories where slavery had been allowed before statehood.

    2. Free Labor

    1. Free Soil: Free Soilers were not racial egalitarians, they were primarily motivated by a desire to keep blacks out of the west--ban slavery from the west, and their goal was accomplished

    1. Political Power

    1. Popular Sovereignty: The concept of popular sovereignty was an attempt to offer a feasible alternative solution to the problem of slavery in the territories.

    1. Bleeding Kansas: Popular sovereignty had been tried in the Kansas Territory and had been found wanting as a peaceful way to solve the question of slavery in the territories. It had instead led to violent personal conflict, a local civil war, and a corruption of democratic procedures

    1. Harriet Beecher Stowe: Uncle Tom's Cabin portrayed slaves as sympathetic characters trapped in an atrocious slave system. Its popularity was closely tied to its timing--during the northern outrage over the Fugitive Slave Law.

    1. Radical abolitionism

    1. John Brown: John Brown was a fanatical abolitionist, willing to commit murder in Kansas and treason in Virginia to further his cause. To his critics, he was not unlike modern terrorists, deciding upon violence as a means of political expression. To his admirers, he was a man of action, willing to risk his life for the poor and the despised.

    1. Dred Scott

    1. Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Similarities: Both Lincoln and Douglas expressed the view that blacks were inferior. Both also believed that restricting the expansion of slavery was desirable. Differences: They disagreed on how restricting the expansion of slavery should be accomplished (federal ban versus popular sovereignty). Lincoln wanted to restrict slavery's expansion because he believed slavery was wrong, Douglas believed in decision-making by local majorities. Lincoln believed blacks deserved respect for their natural rights, Douglas dismissed the moral content of the slavery question.

    1. Harper’s Ferry: John Brown, who was executed in December 1859 for leading a mixed group of black and white men in the seizure of a federal armory building at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia with the aim of freeing local slaves.

    1. Election of 1860: The success of the Republican Party in the North stemmed from its ability to make free labor rather than racism or even slavery the central issue. Lincoln personified this approach. It was on this basis that he won 54 percent of the vote in the Northern states and 40 percent of the vote throughout the country. He was able to take office because of a split between the Northern and Southern wings of the Democratic Party over the question of Kansas. However moderate Lincoln’s stance, the plantation owners saw his election as a threat to which they had to respond. As far as they were concerned their whole society was at stake. If it did not expand it was doomed—and Lincoln’s presidency doomed expansion. Some also feared that unless they raised a storm their hold on the South as a whole might be undermined, since two thirds of the whites owned no slaves and might be attracted to the ideas gaining support in the North.

  1. Civil War

    1. Secession: The seven southernmost cotton-producing states—where slaves accounted for almost half the population --- announced their secession from the United States and began to arm. In April they took the initiative and attacked Fort Sumter. They believed, correctly, that the outbreak of hostilities would lead other slave-owning states to join them (which four of the seven did). But they also thought, incorrectly, that Lincoln’s government—with only 16,000 troops at its disposal—would cave in to their demands.

    2. A White Man’s War for Union

    3. The crisis and slavery

    4. Emancipation Proclamation: The sense that the war was going nowhere also created a new audience for the abolitionists. They pointed out that the South had four million slaves to do its manual work and so could mobilize much of the free male population for the war. By contrast, the North was having increasing difficulties in filling the ranks of its army. They argued Lincoln should undercut the economy of the South by a declaration of freedom for the slaves, and strengthen the North’s forces by enrolling black soldiers. Lincoln did this with the Emancipation Proclamation in January, 1863. Although it did not technically free any slaves at the time, it gave the war a moral purpose and laid to rest any possibility of foreign support for the Confederacy. It encouraged slaves to flee the South, subverting the southern war effort. Perhaps its most radical provision allowed for the arming of Black troops.

    5. Blacks in Blue

    6. Union Victory

    7. Losing the Peace: White Democrats used violence, economic intimidation, and appeals to white supremacy to defeat Republican control of southern state governments between 1865 and 1876. These tactics were generally known as the Mississippi Plan.

  1. Latin America

    1. Creole elites: Led by creole elites represented by military leaders; exception was early revolution in Mexico under Father Miguel de Hidalgo; generally excluded participation by Indians and mestizos; resulted in creation of conservative republics incorporating much of colonial social hierarchy; all revolutions accomplished between 1810 and 1825. These same creole elites dominated Latin American politics. They splintered into two dominant factions: liberals and conservatives.

      1. Conservatism: Defended established order, export agriculture, mining sector, various forms of unfree and or semi-free labor relations, racial hierarchy, order, privilege and institutions such as the Catholic Church.

      2. Liberalism: Inspired by Enlightenment principles and revolutions in both the United States and France. Supported electoral politics, legal reform, free labor, industrialization and capital investment.

    2. Caudillismo: Strong-man politics – usually dominated by military men/charismatic figures at the national level. Local warlords/hacienda/mining interests at the regional level.

  2. Mexican Revolution

    1. Porfirio Diaz: During his 33 year reign, the Diaz dictatorship increasingly dictatorial presidency managed the growing domination of the Mexican economy by foreign capital, mostly from the US. The rate of economic growth was high enough by the first years of the 20th century to make some people talk of a Mexican “miracle,” even though great numbers of Indians were driven off their traditional communal lands and workers (who numbered 800,000 in 1910, out of a total workforce of 5.2 million) suffered a deterioration in living standards. Mexican capitalists prospered in these years as junior, and sometimes resentful, partners of the foreigners. But then world financial crisis hit Mexico in 1907 and devastated its dreams of joining the club of advanced countries.

      1. Dictatorship and liberalism

      2. Scientificos/Social Darwinism

    2. Election of 1910

    3. Emiliano Zapata

    4. Pancho Villa

    5. Venustiano Carranza

    6. Constitution of 1917

  3. Immigration: The "trickle" of European immigrants in the 1820s become a "torrent" by the 1850s and continued right through the turn of the 20th century. A population explosion in Europe and the disruption of industrialization caused many to seek a new life in the Americas.

    1. Out of Ireland: The Irish became the most numerous group early on, escaping the potato blight and resultant famine at home. Although providing cheap labor, immigrants contributed to problems of urban congestion, racial tensions, and labor disunity in the United States.

    1. Chinese immigration: Chinese immigration began with the Gold Rush. When the economy soured, discrimination increased and harsh laws were enacted limiting further immigration. In response, most Chinese Americans clustered in closed ghettoes called Chinatowns. Chinese also immigrated to the Caribbean and Latin America as laborers.

    2. Indian immigration: Immigrated to Caribbean and British Guyana as laborers. Some also migrated to the Southern United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, particularly Louisiana, to work in sugar cane fields

    3. The New Immigrants: Southern and Eastern Europeans who came, mostly to the United States, but also parts of Latin America, especially Argentina, to work in industry. Most came for economic reasons but some, such as Russian Jews, also came as a result of persecution.

    4. Hawaii: A classic example of colonialism and economic exploitation. The indigenous Hawaiians were basically shunted aside (after suffering terrible population decline resulting from European diseases). The American and European investors, especially in the sugar cane industry, imported desperate peasant laborers from East and Southeast Asia, including China, Japan, Korea and the Philippines. European peasants, especially Portuguese, were also imported. The workers were divided by ethnicity and paid a differential wage scale according to Western notions of racial hierarchy.

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