The years after the civil war left one half of America, the north, satisfied and the other half, the south, mostly dissatisfied. Therefore the last third of the nineteenth century, 1865-1900, was a time period in which America was mending, repairing, improving, reshaping, and reconstructing its society, economy, culture, and policies. Basically it was changing everything it stood for. This continual change can be seen in the following events that took place during this time. These events are both causes and effects of why America is what it is today.
These are some examples: the reconstruction of the south, the great movement towards the west, the agricultural revolution, the rise of industrialism, the completion of the transcontinental railroad, and America's growth to gaining world power. All of these are reasons and events that characterize America as being an ever-changing nation. The south was in economic and social chaos after its defeat in the war. 1865-1877 was a time period of reconstructing the south, however, it left an everlasting impression that kept the south behind for years to come.
The political apprehension the south felt was due to the fact that there was no more authority and the new states had to deal with the northern states. The question was how the newly reelected Lincoln was going to bring these states back to the Union. His idea was known as the ten percent plan in which ten percent of a states qualified voter would take a loyalty oath to be readmitted into the Union. This would allow the south to get back into the main stream and find some solutions to its many problems. Unfortunately for Lincoln and unfortunately for America, Lincoln would be assai nated only one month after the south surrendered. This presented America with one more hurdle to overcome, and that hurdle was to initially be jumped by the newly appointed President Johnson.
As President, Johnson decided to follow Lincolns plans by granting amnesty to almost all former confederates; establishing a Provisional government; and ratifying the thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery. However, Johnson was not the same man as Lincoln for he was quite unpopular, especially with Congress. As the south was in a transitional period, its politics were changing as well. First, the Reconstruction Act allowed blacks to vote. Yet many tactics were employed to keep blacks from voting. These tactics included the grandfather clause, literacy tests, property requirements, and poll taxes.
Despite the Constitution's newly passed fifteenth Amendment that allowed anyone the right to vote regardless of "race, color, previous conditions of servitude," white supremacists did everything in their power to keep blacks out of politics. Inevitably this led to social tensions that still exist today. Not only was America trying to unify itself after the Civil War, it was also trying to expand itself to the west and overseas. With its abundant landscape full of prairies, plateaus, deserts, and mountains, the great movement westward allowed for many economic possibilities because it lead to extended farming, ranching, and mining.
However, the great movement to the west was not as great as most thought it would be. In order to acquire the land out west, they had to deal with the Native Americans, the original landowners of America. Many battles took place between the tribes and troops, and eventually the Native Americans either moved to reservations, or moved elsewhere. The Agricultural Revolution occurred during and after the great movement to the west.
It began as the people moving west realized the endless possibilities that lay waiting to be discovered. It consisted of three different waves: miners, cattle herders, and farmers. The mining boom occurred after many mines were found and soon boom cities, which centralized around the mines, were popping up rapidly. The mining boom led to the first gold strike, which was soon followed by the gold rush. Mining, especially for gold and silver, supported industrial development, investment, and speculation.
The discovery of treeless grassland was the beginning of cattle farming. Once the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, the movement of cattle and of beef in special refrigerator cars across the country helped increase this type of farming. Cattle farming led to legislation being passed on animal's health as well as the health of society. The beginning of the third wave was when the farmers moved west. The farmers moved west for the following reasons; appealing land policies such as the Homestead Act of 1862; Morrill Act of 1862; and the creation of new materials, tools, and technologies helped make the lives of farmers more convenient. However, there were many union groups, such as the Grangers, that began to organize to help out small farmers like themselves.
Soon they became politically involved and from that grew the Greenback Movement, the Silver Movement, and the Populist Party. All this shows why America was in constant social, economic and political upheaval. But America would continue to move on. After this came the rise of industrialism when the people from the farm moved to the city to work in the factory. This increase in industrialism caused people to learn new skills. This led to higher production of goods and services, which could all be transported across America by the newly laid transcontinental railroad line.
The railroad affected America in a number of ways. It created a national market because goods and services could be shipped from coast-to-coast, which also encouraged manufacturers to increase production since there transportation costs decreased. This coast-to-coast transportation also meant that farming and mining companies could ship their goods to the cities, and vice-versa. This gave way to the rise of big business.
Americas population was increasing, many citizens were employed and making money, and more eager to spend. Some of the businesses got too big and antitrust acts, such as the Sherman anti-trust act, were passed to control the powers of monopolies and their owners. Not only were there monopolistic companies in the corporate world, there were monopolies in the railroad business as well. The control of railroads became an issue in politics over the abuses and operations of the rail systems. Soon, the federal agencies Interstate Commerce Commission was formed as the first regulatory agency to control private businesses in the public's interest.
More and more control was placed upon Americas businesses and corporations and from this grew unions, as well as conflicts between management and labor, all of which exist today. America has grown to be the country it is today not by luck, but by the fact that it has struggled in trying to become an independent nation. Regardless of the hardships, turmoil, and chaos it has gone through, the events that occurred between the years 1865-1900 have caused America to be the independent nation that it is today.