Sixteen Most Significant Events in US History between 1789 to 1975 After a review of United States' history from 1789 to 1975, I have identified what I believe are the sixteen most significant events of that time period. The attached sheet identifies the events and places them in brackets by time period. The following discussion provides my reasoning for selecting each of the events and my opinion as to their relative importance in contrast to each other. Finally, I have concluded that of the sixteen events, the Civil War had the most significant impact on the history of the time period in which it occurred and remains the most significant event in American history. The discussion begins with bracket I covering the period from 1789-1850, and pairs the number one seed in the bracket "Mexican-American War" against the fourth seed "Louisiana Purchase." The second seed in the bracket "Marbury v Madison" is paired against the third seed "Monroe Doctrine." The purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803 was the most popular and momentous event of the Jefferson presidency.
It had several significant economic and political implications on this period in history. From an economic perspective it doubled the size of the United States at a price of only fifteen million dollars. It allowed settlement beyond the Mississippi River in a territory that was rich in minerals and natural resources. It eliminated the United States' long struggle for control of the Mississippi River and its outlet to the sea, and as Jefferson stated, it freed America from European influence at its borders. In addition to these economic implications, the purchase also had historic political implications. The acquisition took plac at a time when the government was still exploring the powers that the Constitution had granted it.
Jefferson, himself, carefully deliberated whether the Constitution granted him the right to acquire territory for the purpose of expand the Union. He reflected on the possible need for an amendment to the Constitution to justify the action. Finally, under intense pressure, he allowed the purchase and set an important precedent. His action established the power of the president to expand the borders of the United States under the existing powers of the Constitution. Despite the economic and political implications of the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) had more significant historical implications on this time period. While disagreements between the two countries had been accumulating for two decades, the war was primarily the result of American feelings of "manifest destiny" to expand their borders.
The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war, granted the United States the regions of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. However, the significant result of the war on United States' history would be the controversy over whether the territories acquired should be slave or free. The country, at this time, was divided between pro slave sentiment in the South and anti slave sentiment in the North. Various attempts at compromise to settle the controversy, such as "The Compromise of 1850 and the "Kansas Nebraska Act" failed. Finally, when the issue could not be re sol peacefully, the country was drawn into a civil war.
It is evident that the outcome of the Mexican-American War became one of the most influential, indirect causes of the Civil War. Both the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican-American War expanded United States borders and had beneficial economic impacts. However, the implications of expansion brought about by the Mexican-American War were more significant. While the Louisiana Purchase helped define the constitutional powers of the president, the Mexican-American War further exacerbated the slave issue which ultimately resulted in civil war. The Monroe Doctrine was the most important assertion to date of United States' foreign policy in history.
The doctrine was delivered by President James Monroe as part of his annual message to Congress in 1823. This statement of position would dictate the policy of the United States in international affairs for years to come. The doctrine was in reaction to continual interference of European nations in the affairs of Latin America. It provided a framework for how the United States would deal with foreign intervention in the western hemisphere. It stated that Europe was to remain out of the affairs of countries in the western hemisphere and any attempt to intervene would be viewed as a threat to the United States.
In return, the United States agreed to stay out of European affairs. Marbury v Madison is arguably one of the most important decisions by the Supreme Court in United States' history. The case, which was presided over in 1803 by Chief Justice John Marshall, concerned President Adams's appointment of William Marbury as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia. Adams's term ended before Marbury took office, and James Madison, the new Secretary of State, attempted to withhold the appointment. Marbury petitioned the Supreme Court under Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 to force Madison to grant the appointment. The court refused to rule on the appointment since Section 13 gave the Supreme Court powers not provided by the Constitution.
As a result, the court declared Section 13 unconstitutional. The decision defined the role of the Supreme Court in the government and where the court fit into the system of checks and balances. The case established power of judicial review of Congressional legislation and represented the first judicial section of its right to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. While the Constitution did not speak directly to this level of judicial authority, the case created a precedent which is still followed today.
When comparing the immediate impact Marbury v Madison and the Monroe Doctrine had on this period in history, Marbury v Madison is victorious. The Marbury v Madison decision had immediate implications. It clearly established the position and power of the court in government. It required Congress to consider potential constitutional implications of all future legislation. On the other hand, the Monroe Doctrine's implications would not be realized until beyond the 1850's when policies such as Secretary of State Seward's denunciation of French intervention in Mexico and the Roosevelt Corollary would be based on the doctrine. At the time the doctrine was put forth, the United States lacked the military strength to enforce the doctrine.
Despite European recognition of the intent of the doctrine, it is doubtful they were intimidated by it until the United States could assert itself as a military power. The finalists in bracket I are the Mexican-American War and Marbury v Madison. In a comparison of the two, the war emerges as the event that had the most impact on this time period in history. Despite the importance of Marbury v Madison as a landmark decision establishing the role of the Supreme Court to rule on constitutional issues, its impact on the country during this time period was less dramatic than that of the Mexican-American War. Although it caused Congress to be aware that future legislation would be reviewed by court, it would be several years before the court would be required to rule again on the constitutionality of a Congressional Act. Not until the late 1800's, when the Supreme Court ruled on certain civil rights' issues, would the full implications of the Marbury decision become evident.
Conversely, the Mexican-American War had a direct impact on many people. First, the acquisition of new territory in the west allowed settlers to expand beyond the Missis sip opening a vast frontier which was rich with natural resources. Second, and most important, the war brought the lingering debate over slavery to the forefront. The slavery question would soon become the issue of the decade, directly impacting the entire country.
The acquisition of new territory stirred abolitionists in the North who viewed it as an opportunity to weaken the stronghold slavery had on the country. Southerners realized that the territory must be admitted as slave if they were going to maintain their "peculiar institution" and a balance of power. As a result, the war became a much more significant event to the vast majority of Americans than the implications of Marbury v Madison. It would drive sectionalism to the breaking point and turn Americans against each other. The discussion continues with bracket II which covers the time period from 1850-1900 and pairs the number one seed in the bracket "Civil War" against the fourth seed "Sherman Antitrust Act." The second seed in the bracket "Plessy v Furgeson" is paired against the third seed "Passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments." The Sherman Antitrust Act passed in 1890 outlawed any contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade. It also forbid any attempt to create a monopoly.
The law was aimed at combating trusts which were being formed in the late 1800's such as U. S. Steel and Standard Oil. It was believed that the formation of these trusts was eliminating competition and leaving the consumer at the mercy of the large corporations which controlled the prices of their commodities. While the act was the first significant piece of legislation aimed at regulating the economy and placing controls over big business, its wording was vague, enforcement was not very vigorous, and lawyers for the corporations found loopholes in the law and various ways of avoiding its provisions. However, by the end of the century, the law had been strengthened and it would become an effective tool in "trust busting", returning competition to the marketplace and gaining advantage for the worker and the consumer.
The Civil War fought between the Northern states of the Union and the Southern states of the Confederacy from 1861-1865 turned out to be the most bitter fight in the nation's history. The war divided Americans, took more lives than any other war, and was the ugliest event in American history. Slavery was the critical issue behind the war, but the economic rivalry between the industrial North and the agricultural South contributed significantly to the conflict. The results of the war in which the North prevailed were many. About one million men were killed or wounded, destroying almost an entire generation. The Union was saved and slavery was eliminated.
The South was practically destroyed by battles which ravaged farmlands, homes, and entire cities. The impact of the war was so vast that an entire Reconstruction period in American history was devoted to the political and economic rebuilding of the South. Finally, the scars of hatred between the North and South would have a ting effect. Southerners grew bitter in defeat, while Northerners continued their hostility toward the South. In a comparison of these two events, the Civil War clearly had a greater influence on the time period. This conclusion is based not only on the catastrophic and long term implications of the war, but on the failure of the Sherman Antitrust Act to have any significant impact on the formation of trusts during this period.
The act brought no anti-monopoly millennium. The legislation itself left too many unanswered questions, including what in fact constituted a monopoly and how the government was to proceed in breaking up monopolies. In addition, the Cleveland and McKinley administrations in the 1890's showed little interest in enforcing the legislation. The attack against big business had failed and the opponents of monopolies would have to wait until next century to renew the effort. Conversely, the war had the immediate impact of preserving the Union and dealing a death blow to slavery. In addition, the aftermath of the war would continue to be felt throughout the remainder the century.
The postwar period marked a change from a primarily agrarian society to a mechanized society with rapidly expanding technology. The impetus for the change came primarily from the necessity to meet wartime demand for arms and supplies, which led to new technology. This technology in the postwar period would change society dramatically. In addition, the postwar period would usher in the Reconstruction Era, which became one of the most complex and controversial periods in American history. During this period, the country would have to deal with issues which included whether punishment should be imposed on Southern whites who supported the Confederacy, how to guarantee the freedom of emancipated slaves, and under what conditions should Southern states be readmitted to the Union. These and other issues led to changes which were little short of revolutionary.
The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution were monumental steps in gaining civil rights for all Americans. The amendments, which were passed between 1865 and 1870, were intended to guarantee social equality for all races. The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment defined American citizenship as "all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof." It prohibited any law which would deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
The Fifteenth Amendment forbade states to deny the right to vote on account of race. Although these amendments were momentous events in guaranteeing civil rights, their effect during this time period in history would be short lived. Blacks would only enjoy equality for a few years until a series of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the amendments would weaken them to the point that the civil rights of bla were again denied. It would not be until the 1950's that blacks would achieve the rights and freedoms guaranteed by these amendments. Despite this, the passage of these amendments was a major step toward recognition of racial equality in America in this time period and beyond. Plessy v Furgeson was the most influential in a series of Supreme Court decisions which led to the rapid spread of segregation laws in the South.
After the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, blacks were granted equal rights. However, Supreme Court decisions interpreting the amendments began to limit the extension of these rights to blacks. In Plessy, which was decided in 1896, the court supported the constitutionality of a Louisiana law requiring separate but equal facilities for blacks in railroad cars. The decision helped strengthen racial segregation in American until the next century. Many states would rely on the "separate but equal" rule to segregate public schools, the use of transportation and recreation, and sleeping and eating facilities. The comparison of these two events is an interesting one.
The passage of the three amendments guaranteed civil rights for blacks, while Plessy v Furgeson was the most influential decision in all but nullifying the impact of the amendments until the 1950's. As a result, it is evident that the Plessy v Furgeson decision had a greater impact on the civil rights of Americans during this time period that did passage of the amendments. While the amendments guaranteed blacks their most basic civil rights, the court decisions on the heels of these amendments effectively retracted those rights and resulted in much greater social implications for blacks at the time. While eventually the guarantees of the amendments to provide equality and freedom to all Americans would come to fruition, in this time period, they continued to be denied to blacks. The finalists in bracket II are the Civil War and Plessy v Furgeson. Comparing the impact of the two events, the Civil War emerges victorious.
While the Plessy decision adversely impacted the rights that blacks had been guaranteed under the Constitution, its effects were restricted primarily to black Americans. The Constitutional rights of the white majority were not affected by the decision and their way of life was not impacted. On the other hand, the implications of the Civil War and the post war period effected all Americans. The results of the war were catastrophic to Northerners and Southerners, black or white, whether measured in lives or loss of property.
Slavery, which was critical to the economy of the South, was eliminated. The Confederate states were reunited with the North and the Union preserved. The transition from an agrarian, rural society to an urban, mechanized society began. Finally, the postwar Reconstruction period dramatically changed the social and nomic structure of the country. Moving to bracket III, which covers the time period from 1900-1940, the number one seed in the bracket "World War I" is paired against the fourth seed "The Progressive Movement." The second seed in the bracket "The Great Depression" is paired against the third seed "The New Deal." World War I involved the major European nations and the United States from 1914-1918. The primary causes of the war were powerful feelings of nationalism throughout Europe and the formation of protective alliances that divided Europe into two main power groups.
The United States remained completely neutral from 1914-1917. However, continued interruption of trade and travel on the seas by both the allies and central powers, especially attacks by German submarines, caused the United States to enter the war in 1917. The U. S. involvement in the war helped turn the tide and played a major role in the eventual defeat of Germany. Despite the fact the war was fought in Europe and U.
S. casualties and property loss were far less than that of the allies, the war had a significant impact economically, politically, and socially on the United States. While the mobilization effort brought great economic prosperity to the country from the production of wartime goods, postwar demobilization ought about widespread unemployment, increased labor strife, racial hatred, and poverty. Propaganda campaigns, designed to create support for the war effort, resulted in strong anti-foreign and anti-Communist feelings, which led to violence and the violation of civil rights for many Americans.
Politically, the postwar period saw a repudiation of Progressivism and a return to the political philosophy of the late nineteenth century. Progressivism was a political movement in the United States form 1900- 1917 which attempted to attract support from both political parties for economic, political, and social reform. The movement marked the initial recognition that change was necessary if all Americans were to enjoy the national promise of equality and opportunity. The movement was aimed at allowing all people to enjoy the rewards of industrialism, improving city life, ending political corruption, and strengthening labor laws.
It was a rejection of the laissez-faire policy of the government which seemed to support big business at the expense of the worker. Progressivism was one of the most important reform movements in America and had a tremendous impact on this period in history. Economically, the Progressives were successful in gaining regulation of monopolies through stricter enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act, while the imposition of an income tax and an excess profit's tax helped create a more equal d ri bution of wealth. Politically, Progressives aimed at restoring democracy through the establishment of referendum and recall which gave the voter a more active role in the affairs of government. The establishment of city managers and city councils helped weaken the control of political bosses and curb corruption. Socially, the Progressives were successful in improving the living conditions of the city.
They were responsible for legislation governing minimum wages for workers, limiting the hours in the work day, and controlling child labor. However, many of the reforms brought about by the Progressive movement were reversed by the social and economic attitudes that grew out of World War I and the postwar years. Demobilization and the resulting change in the economy led to a resurgence of laissez-faire policies. Government, which had supported labor during the war, now began to side with big business, and labor strife was again common. Gains attained by the Progressives for workers were reversed by the Supreme Court. Child labor was reinstituted and minimum wages for women were declared unconstitutional.
In addition, the reduction of the income tax, elimination of the excess profits' tax, and an increase in the protective tariff once again created an unequal distribution of wealth. As a result of the impact the war had on the economy, society, and the Progressive Movement, it was the more influential event of the period. The Great Depression was the American economic crisis of the 1930's. It was the longest and most severe period of unemployment, low business activity, and poverty in American history. It began in October 1929 when stock values dropped rapidly. This created a string of bank, factory, and store closings leaving millions of Americans jobless.
The depression soon spread to other nations. It caused a large decrease in world trade because of increases in tariff rates. The depression finally ended after the United States increased the production of war materials at the start of World War II. The depression impacted political and social philosophies in the United States dramatically. Policies, such as the New Deal extended the government's authority to provide for the needy. New American attitudes toward business and government took hold.
Before the depression, many regarded business executives and bankers as the nation's leaders. However, when these leaders could not relieve th depression, Americans lost faith in them. Many people changed their basic attitude toward life because of the suffering they experienced during the depression. They had believed that if they worked hard, they could provide for their families and have a good life. The depression, however, shattered that belief. The situation was especially hard to understand because there appeared to the average worker to be no reason for the things that happened.
The New Deal was the economic policy established by President Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression. He believed that the federal government had the primary responsibility to fight the depression by stimulating the economy. The New Deal had three main purposes. First, it provided relief for the needy. Second, it aided nationwide recovery by establishing jobs and encouraging business, and third, it tried to reform business and government so a severe depression would never happen in the United States again. Some New Deal policies, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the Public Works Administration (PWA) provided jobs in the construction of bridges, dams, and parks.
To deal with agriculture, Roosevelt set up the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), which helped regulate farm production and drive prices up. The National Recovery Administration (NRA) set up and enforced rules of fair practice in business an ndustry. The New Deal relieved much economic distress and brought about some recovery. In doing so, it increased the government's debt dramatically.
Some of the results of the New Deal were important and long lasting. Even after the depression, reforms such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Social Security Act continued to exist. After the New Deal, the government's role in banking and welfare would continue to grow steadily. Both the Great Depression and programs of the New Deal were unprecedented in United States' history. The country had never experienced a business downturn that lasted as long as the Great Depression with as many business failures and as much widespread unemployment. Likewise, the New Deal, which was established to relieve the economic impact of the depression was the first time the government asserted itself to provide public welfare during an economic crisis.
A comparison of these two events must concentrate on which of these unprecedented occurrences had a greater impact on the American public. Despite the attempts of the New Deal programs to relieve some of the economic pressures, it was not a cure for the depression. The programs of the New Deal were successful in providing jobs for many Americans and providing some economic relief. However, millions remained unemployed and never reaped the benefits of the New Deal programs.
In fact, it would not be until the beginning o orld War II that the United States' economy would completely recover. On the other hand, there was no segment of the population that escaped the economic crisis brought about by the depression. Fortunes were lost, jobs were eliminated, and survival became an issue for most Americans. The Great Depression clearly had more of an impact on this period than the New Deal. Of the two finalists, World War I and the Great Depression, the war stands out as the event that had the greatest impact on the nation.
The depression had tremendous economic, political, and social implications for the period. Millions lost their jobs and were forced into poverty. The attitudes of people towards political and business leaders was forever changed. Those leaders, who the public had admired were now viewed with skepticism.
Americans, who prior to the depression felt their economy was indestructible, became fearful of their future in an economy that could fluctuate wildly without warning or apparent cause. The depression also led to a dramatic change in government policy. The government became far more involved in public welfare than it had been in the past as demonstrated by the New Deal. Policies, such as Welfare and Social Security, which are still in practice today, grew out of this new political consciousness. However, the political, social, and economic locations World War I would have on the nation were even more far reaching. Politically, the country turned inward, refusing to participate in the League of Nations.
This left postwar affairs in Europe unsettled and would ultimately lead the country into another World War. While the depression had an enormous effect on the attitudes of Americans, World War I had an even greater impact. The entire American culture would experience a revolution in the postwar celebration. Americans were filled with optimism during the postwar years. The growth of advertising and entertainment, combined with technological advances, such as the television and radio, would bring about the emergence of a materialistic society. Economically, the return to a peace time economy and the laissez-faire policies of the late 1800's, set the stage for economic disaster.
The reversal of many of the gains achieved by workers combined with the reduction of taxes on the rich, created a problem in the economy that would go unnoticed. In addition, the availability of credit led to reckless spending which would further endanger the economy. This unequal distribution of wealth combined with a free spending attitude weakened the economy and led to the Great Depression. The discussion continues with bracket IV, which covers the time period 1940-1975 and pairs the number one seed in the bracket "The Vietnam War" against fourth seed "World War II." The second seed in the bracket "The Cuban Missile Crisis" is paired against the third seed "The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Vietnam War, which began in 1957 and lasted until 1975, was the longest war in which the United States took part. Vietnam was divided into Communist ruled North Vietnam and non-Communist South Vietnam. North Vietnam and Communist trained South Vietnamese rebels attempted to take over South Vietnam. The United States and the South Vietnamese army tried to stop the takeover but failed. U.
S. aid to Vietnam was based on the policy of President Truman that the United States must help any nation threatened by Communists. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy adopted the policy fearing a "domino effect" if even one southeast Asian country fell to the Communists. After Kennedy's death, Johnson came to office in 1963 with a long standing, firm commitment to containment and increased America's involvement into a major war. The Vietnam War had several periods. From 1857- 1965, it was mainly a struggle between the South Vietnamese army and the Communist trained South Vietnamese rebels.
rom 1965-1969, North Vietnam and the United States did most of the fighting. By 1969, the United States had 540, 000 troops in Vietnam. The United States' plan, as outlined by President Johnson, was to increase the punishment until the price of continuing the war became too high and the enemy would quit. The Vietnamese did not respond according to plan. The war appeared endless, and finally a frustrated Johnson announced an end to escalation of the war and a willingness to negotiate. In January of 1973, a cease fire was arranged and American ground troops left Vietnam two months later.
The war soon started again without the United States' involvement and on April 30, 1975 South Vietnam surrendered. The war had far-reaching effects on the United States. About 58, 000 Americans died in the war and 365, 000 were wounded. The United States spent over $150 billion on the war.
Of the 2, 700, 000 men and women who fought in the war, many returned with deep psychological problems and suffered form a high rate of divorce, drug abuse, suicide, and joblessness. Many Americans opposed the U. S. role in Vietnam and criticized returning veterans, leaving them with a feeling that the nation did not appreciate their sacrifices. Also as a result of the war, Congress and the pubic became more willing to challenge the president on subsequent U. S.
military and foreign policy issues. The war also became a standard for comparison in future situations that might involve U. S. troops abroad. On the home front, the war began a social revolution. New clothing, music, and gender roles cast off the social structure of the 1950's.
World War II resulted in more deaths, cost more money, damaged more property, effected more people, and globally had the most far-reaching effects of any war in history. The three main causes of the war were the problems left unsolved by World War I, the rise of dictators in Europe, and the desire of Italy, Germany, and Japan for territory. The policy of isolationism was broken in the United States when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, dragging America into the war. The war was fought on two fronts, Europe and the Pacific. The allies, which included the United States, England, France, and Russia were successful in defeating the axis powers which included Italy, Germany, and Japan. World War II played a major role in United States' history.
From an economic perspective, it brought the United States out of the depression of the 1930's. The government converted industries from civilian to war production to produce strategic war materials and instituted rationing and price cont s to support the war effort. Socially, the war played a major part in changing the role of women in America. As men went off to fight, the women assumed many of the roles previously filled by men in the war plants.
Politically, the war led to the United States' participation in the newly formed United Nations, organized to oversee international affairs. The major impact of the war, however, resulted from the United States' decision to utilize the atomic bomb. The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 were the major factors contributing to Japan's surrender. The bomb represented a huge scientific advance in modern warfare. It opened up the possibility for vast destruction of human life. The United States' decision to use the bomb precipitated a postwar race to produce nuclear weapons in many countries, especially the Soviet Union and eliminated the opportunity of reaching an international agreement to control production and testing of such weapons for many years.
The significance of World War II in United States' history cannot be overstated. World War II had a greater economic impact on the United States than any other war of the twentieth century. Despite Roosevelt's efforts to end the depression with the New Deal policies, it was not until World War II and conversion to a wartime economy that the United States emerged form its long economic downturn. World War II was also responsible for the emergence of nuclear weapons which forever changed the concept of conventional warfare, led to an arms race, and indirectly contributed to the Cold War.
It was the first demonstration of the capability for destruction that nuclear weapons possessed. Internationally, the Soviet Union emerged with one of the mightiest armies in the world, replacing the axis forces as the future threat to world peace. Tensions between the United States and Russia, sparked by Russia's attempt to control eastern European nations after the war, led to the Cold War. postwar period also saw the formation of the United Nations. Contrary to the position taken after World War I, the United States joined with the allies to create the United Nations, an international organization created to maintain peace and deal with agricultural, monetary, health, and other matters. However, in many respects World War II was not a unique war from the United States' perspective.
In fact, the causes of the war were to a large extent a result of the unfinished business of World War I. Further, as was the case with World War I, the United States was victorious in a relatively short war and the postwar mood of Americans was upbeat and optimistic. The Vietnam War, on the other hand, was the most unique war in American history and had more of an impact on U. S.
history of the period than did World War II. Vietnam was the only unsuccessful war in United States' history. The geography and the style of war put the United States at a disadvantage and made it an impossible war to win. As a result, unlike previous wars, it seemed to drag on with no apparent progress. The lack of success, combined with a general feeling that the U.
S. security was not at risk, divided the country into those who supported the fight against Communism and those who opposed the war. This was contrary to the attitude toward previous wars, which were strongly supported by Americans. The division over the war initiated a political and social revolution. Americans became willing to openly criticize the government and elected officials. Public protests were staged, calling for an end to U.
S. involvement. This public outcry against the government's po ion ultimately led to President Johnson's decision not to seek reelection. The cultural changes which took place as a result of the Vietnam War were unprecedented. The pride of many Americans who supported the war was hurt by the defeat, and they were left bitter and with painful memories. Other Americans would adopt new styles of dress and music as a demonstration of their opposition to the war and the government.
The changes in the United States brought about by the war ended the social and cultural traditions of the pre- Vietnam era and set the stage for the current social and political environment. The Cuban Missile Crisis ranks as one of the most significant events of the Cold War period. For several days, the United States appeared to be on the verge of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. In 1962, Cuba was convinced that the United States was planning an attack and asked the Soviets for additional military aid. The Soviet Union responded with missiles and materials for construction of launch sites. The United States Intelligence Agency advised President Kennedy of this nuclear missile build-up in Cuba.
The president demanded that Khrushchev remove the missiles immediately, which Kennedy viewed as a violation of the American sphere of influence. On October 22 nd, Kennedy announced his course of action which included establishing a naval blockade to prevent further shipment of supplies, a demand that the bases be dismantled, and a warning that any attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union, requiring retaliation from the United States. The con ct rose in suspense until finally the Soviet ships were directed not to challenge the blockade and turn back. In a letter to Kennedy, Khrushchev expressed his concern over the horrors of nuclear war and agreed to remove the missiles if the United States would end the naval blockade and agree not to invade Cuba.
The United States accepted these terms and the crisis, which had the world on the brink of nuclear war, was over. The Cold War would not have another event in which tensions on both sides were so high. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of the strongest and most important pieces of legislation in support of civil rights in the United States. The law banned discrimination because of a person's color, race, national origin, religion, or sex.
The rights protected by the act are freedom to seek employment, vote and use parks, restaurants, and other places. The act also forbid discrimination by any program that received funds from the government. In addition, the act authorized the Office of Education to direct school desegregation in areas specified by the government. The act was proposed in 1963 by President Kennedy. After his death, it was supported by President Johnson and passed after a lengthy debate in the Senate. The act reinforced the rights guaranteed by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments and reversed the Supreme Court decisions of the late 1800's which limited these rights and plagued minorities for a century.
In a comparison of these two events, the Cuban Missile Crisis emerges as the event which had the most impact on the period. In reaching this conclusion, however, the importance of the Civil Rights Act cannot be ignored. In many ways the act concluded unfinished business of the Civil War and Reconstruction Period in defining civil rights for all Americans. Previous Supreme Court decisions, such as Plessy v Furgeson, had attempted to deny many Americans the full measure of rights that had been guaranteed by the Constitution. The act was the defining statement on civil rights in the United States, reversing previous Supreme Court cases and providing equal rights for all Americans. Despite its significance in providing equal opportunity to all Americans, its impact primarily effected black Americans, who had been the subject of continued discrimination.
As a result, it cannot be considered to have had as universal an impact on the American public as the Missile Crisis. The Cuban smile Crisis brought tensions in the Cold War to the breaking point. The concern of all Americans about the threat of nuclear war seemed to be materializing with this crisis. The country was frozen in anticipation of the outcome. Finally, the compromise reached between Russia and the United States to end the crisis not only relieved the immediate concern of a nuclear war, but marked a turning point in the Cold War. Both sides, faced with the reality of nuclear destruction, realized the need to avoid a conflict.
Although tensions would remain high on both sides for years to come, agreements were reached to limit the production and testing of nuclear weapons, and the threat of a nuclear war began to decline. The finalists in Bracket IV are the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. They represent two of the most controversial events of the time period. In considering the lasting effects the Vietnam War would have on the United States, it emerges as the major event of the time period.
The Cold War with the Soviet Union was the dominating international issue during the first twenty-five years of this time period. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the United States came to entering a nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cold War period. It represented the defining moment of the Cold War when anti-Communist tension would nearly reach the breaking point. The world stood on edge during the crisis.
The destructive capability of nuclear weapons could have resulted in one of the most disastrous events in history. However, as a result of the recognition by both major powers of the potential for disaster, the crisis was defused through negotiations rather than confrontation. The crisis represented the beginning of the end of the Cold War. The major world powers would begin negotiations, limiting the development, production, and testing of nuclear weapons. While the Cuban Missile Crisis had significant international implications, the Vietnam War had a greater impact on America society and culture. It was the first foreign war in which U.
S. forces would fail to achieve victory, leaving Americans angry and disillusioned. It appeared to be a war without a defined cause, other than the obscure premise of containing Communism in an insignificant part of the world. The attitudes in America, which resulted from the war, led to dramatic changes in American society and politics, making it the most significant event of the period.
Besides the death, injury, and psychological problems of those who fought the war, many other Americans were profoundly effected by the war. They became increasingly critical of the government's motivation for involving the country in the war and began to take a more active role in criticizing foreign policy. This rebellion would extend itself into American culture. Those who opposed the war and American in vol ent also rejected much of America's culture and tradition for unquestioned support of the government. As a result, much of the American tradition for unquestioned patriotism and loyalty that existed before the war would be drastically changed, leaving a lasting effect on American history.
The competition has been reduced to the finalist from each of the four brackets. In the semifinals, representing bracket I is the "Mexican- American War", which is paired against the finalist from bracket II the "Civil War." The other semifinal pairing matches the winner of bracket III "World War I" against the winner of bracket IV the "Vietnam War." In the first semifinal match-up, the Civil War emerges as the event that not only had the most significant impact on the time period in which it occurred, but also on the future of the United States. Both the Civil War and the Mexican-American War had significant economic, political, and social implications. However, an examination of the impact each had in these areas clearly establishes the Civil War as the landmark event of the time period that brought closure to many of the issues precipitated by the Mexican-American War. Politically, the Mexican-American War widened the division between Democrats and Republicans over the slavery issue. Although several attempts at compromise were made, none were successful.
This political division left the country on the brink of dissolution with no apparent solution to the issue. The Civil War, on the other hand, preserved the Union by settling the slavery issue once and for all and readmitting the states that had succeeded from the Uni The war also established the Republican Party as the dominant political power in the United States for the next several decades. The influence of the Democrats immediately after the war was weakened to the point that politically the country appeared to have a one party system. Economically, the Mexican- American War extended the boundaries of the United States to the Pacific, gaining territories which were rich in natural resources. This extension of the boundaries would allow settlement beyond the Mississippi, increase agricultural production, and play a major role in American economic growth. The impact of the Civil War on the U.
S. economy was even more dramatic. The war devastated the economy of the South. Not only were agricultural resources of the region destroyed, but slave labor, on which the economy was based, was eliminated. The Civil War also marked the transformation of the U. S.
from what had been mainly an agrarian society into an industrial society. This shift in the economy resulted from rapidly changing technology which came as a direct response to wartime needs. The emergence of the U. S. as an industrial society also resulted in the North replacing the South as the economic center of the country. Socially, the Mexican- American War heightened the debate over the issue of slavery.
on which the social structure of the South was based. Northern Abolitionists seized the opportunity to challenge admission of the new territories as slave states and disrupt the balance of free and slave states in Congress. Southerners realized that as slavery grew more unpopular in the North, its survival depended on its expansion into new territories. None of the compromises offered after the Mexican-American War would lead to resolution of the issue. The Civil War, however, provided a permanent solution to the issue. As a result of the Emancipation Proclamation and passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, slavery was eliminated and t he United States began the process of assuring civil rights for all Americans and forcing a complete reordering of the South's social structure.
In the second semifinal pairing, World War I emerges as the event that had the most significant impact on the United States. Both World War I and the Vietnam War ended without resolving many issues that precipitated the conflicts. In the case of World War I, although the allies were victorious, the United States' refusal to participate in the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations left unsettled many issues that would ultimately lead to another World War. These events signaled the end of Wilsonian idealism and began a reactionary period in the U.
S. that would spark significant economic, political, and social change. With respect to the Vietnam War, the inability of the U. S. forces to weaken the North Vietnamese opposition, combined with the government's inability to maintain popular support for the war, led to the eventual withdrawal of American troops without victory. The popular outcry against this war, combined with the failure of the effort to attain any tangible r lts, brought about another reactionary period.
In my opinion, however, the impact of events of the post Vietnam War period were less significant and far reaching than those that followed World War I. The post World War I period in the U. S. resulted in a rejection of the idealistic philosophy of President Wilson. The opposition to Wilson's policies and the politics of the period prevented the United States from participating in the treaty to settle the war. They also prevented U.
S. participation in the League of Nations, an organization whose purpose was to prevent further conflicts. As a result, many issues important to a lasting peace were left unaddressed and this would eventually lead to World War II. The period also marked the end of the Progressive philosophy of the prewar period. America's postwar optimism led to a resurgence of laissez-faire economic policies and a return to the political philosophy of the nineteenth century. This change in economic policy and political philosophy began to set the stage for the Great Depression.
American society became very materialistic. The availability of credit led to free spending. Many of the advantages gained by workers d ng the Progressive era were reversed, while taxes on the rich were reduced. This combination of events would result in the unequal distribution of wealth which would spark the depression.
Socially, the postwar period witnessed wide-scale discrimination. The propaganda campaigns of the war had resulted in strong anti-foreign, anti-Communist feelings. Immigrants were often falsely accused of being Communists, Socialists, or radicals, conspiring against the United States. Members of labor unions were often targeted as being anti-American. This climate frequently led to violence and the violation of the civil rights of many Americans.
The Vietnam War and postwar period also resulted in a period of significant social and political change. The division in the country between those who supported the war and those who opposed it led to a political and social revolution. Americans began, as never in the past, to question and publicly protest decisions made by the government and elected officials. Congress and the public challenged the president on U.
S. military and foreign policy issues. The war became a standard for comparison in future situations that might involve U. S. troops abroad. The American culture and tradition for unquestioning support of the government ended and the perception of what constituted patriotism and loyalty changed dramatically.
However, none of these changes led to a major economic downturn, precipitated a war, or denied the civil rights of Americans as did the events following World War I. The two finalists in the competition are from bracket II, the "Civil War", and from bracket III, "World War I." Despite the significant implications of World War I and the fact that the Civil War occurred over one hundred years ago, the Civil War remains as the most important event in American history. Unlike the Civil War, World War I was not fought on U. S.
soil, the fate of the Union was not in jeopardy, and the political, economic, and social implications were not nearly as significant or long lasting as those of the Civil War. From a political perspective, an examination of World War I reveals two major results. First, after the failure to negotiate a post war treaty acceptable to the U. S. Congress followed by the United States' refusal to participate in the League of Nations, the U.
S. entered a period of isolationism. Affairs in Europe remained unsettled. The lack of involvement by the United States in the settlement of the postwar issues contributed to the causes of World War II. Also, the failure of Wilson's political theory of idealism would result in a return to the laissez-faire political philosophy of the late 1800's and the reversal of many of the positive achievements of the Progressive Era. The political results of the Civil War, however, were more significant.
The preservation of the Union, the most significant political result of the Civil War, was also one of the most significant events in the history of the United States. Had the Southern states been allowed to succeed from the Un, the history of the United States, as we know it today, would not exist. In addition, the emergence of the Republicans as the dominant party for nearly the next one hundred years had a major influence on the economic and social philosophy of the country. It was not until Roosevelt and the New Deal that the laissez-faire policies of the Republicans would be repudiated.
World War I had a significant impact on the economy. During the mobilization period, the conversion to a wartime economy resulted in increased employment. However, at the end of the war, the failure of the government to regulate the demobilization period resulted in high unemployment and inflation. This combined with the fact that labor lost many concessions won during the Progressive Era, such as the rights of labor unions to strike, resulted in worse conditions for workers than in the prewar era.
At the same time, credit became readily available and economic speculation was rampant. The cumulative effect of these conditions would lead to an unequal distribution of wealth and set the stage for the Great Depression. The economic implications of the Civil War and postwar period, however, contributed to a radical change in the overall economic structure of the United States. The Southern economy, based on slavery and agriculture, was destroyed by the Civil War.
The elimination f slavery, combined with improvements in technology to meet wartime demands, changed the United States' economy from what had previously been agrarian based to an industrial, mercantile economy. Coinciding with this economic shift, the North would gain dominance over the South as the economic center of the nation. For years after the Civil War, the South would struggle to rebuild its economy and begin the slow process of industrialization. Finally, from a social perspective, the effect of World War I was marked by discrimination towards blacks and immigrants. Americans became distrustful of foreigners as a result of propaganda campaigns designed to gain support for the war. Blacks, who relocated to the North to fill jobs of enlisted men, were blamed for the problems of unemployment during the demobilization period.
Many Americans who were innocent of any wrong doing were accused of being anti-American or Communist sympathizers. The civil rights of many of these people were often violated. The social implications of the Civil War, however, are the most important in the history of the United States. The war provided the foundation for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, which guaranteed civil rights to all Americans. While blacks would continue to be discriminated against, the end of slavery and passage of the amendments was the first recognition of equality for all Americans. In conclusion, each of the sixteen events discussed has had a significant impact on American history.
Each event has played a role in shaping the political, economic, and social structure of the United States. Not only were these events significant to the time period in which they occured, but they also had a lasting effect on the future of the country.