A new age of thought and reason emerged from Europe and America in the 18 th century. This new age would be known as the Enlightenment, where people believed they were entering an age of reason, science, and a respect for humanity. During the Enlightenment, thinkers thought that the Roman Catholic Church had caused the human mind to be closed from reason. Instead of strictly following Christian theology, people took the form of Deism, accepting the existence of God. There were also some risks involved by taking part in the Enlightenment. A person could be imprisoned for his writings, and most were hampered by the government or attacked by the church.
The Enlightenment ended with the French Revolution of 1789. After the French and Indian War, Britain suffered from a great war debt. The solution to this was to tax the American Colonies. One example of these taxes would be the Stamp Act.
In order for marriage licenses, mortgages, diplomas, bills of sale, and newspapers to be official, a person had to pay a tax for the stamp. The Stamp Act of 1765 affected almost everyone, and the colonists hated it. Many other taxes soon came, such as the Tea Act and Sugar Act. The American Colonies became tired of these taxes brought upon them from the British. The Declaration of Independence was then written in 1776. It contained the reasons for their want to break away from British rule.
After winning the Revolutionary War, the Americans soon started to produce their own government. It was a one-house legislature that denied Congress the power to tax. It was called the Articles of Confederation. But this inability to tax proved to be a problem for the new country for they had a large war debt.
Farmers in debt soon began to rebel against the new government for they were in great debt and their land was seized. This armed rebellion was led by Daniel Shays, but it was put down by the Massachusetts militia and the rebellion ended. These events showed how the new government contained major flaws. The existing government needed to be changed in order to secure the lives and property of American citizens. The solution to this was the creation of the Constitution.
It divided the government into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The Federalists supported the Constitution, for they saw it as a strong central government. However, the anti-Federalists thought that a strong government would threaten state governments and the liberties of the individuals. The Bill of Rights was then written to please the anti-federalists.
It consisted of 10 amendments, protecting rights such as freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly. In 1787 the most distinguished men in America came together in Philadelphia to create the first draft of the future constitution. This constitution would separate and distribute the powers of the federal government among its three branches: the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. Under this new government the powers of the different states would not be as powerful as the federal powers. This meant that states could no longer issue their own money and could not collect produce in the form of a payment. State governments would not be allowed to tax any federal institutions because only the greater unit has the power to tax the lesser unit.
The Constitution was designed to prevent one group from having total power by making the three branches of government depend on one another for their authority. For instance, the President (Executive Branch) has the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices. The Senate (Legislative Branch) approves presidential appointments to the Supreme Court. This shows how the Judicial Branch is dependent on both the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branch. Much in the same way, the Executive powers are held in check by the other two branches. The Judicial Branch has the power to say that the President's acts are unconstitutional and the Legislative Branch has the power to impeach the President and to override presidential vetoes.
These Branches of government have overlapping responsibilities known as checks and balances. The Constitution had also been designed to create a stronger national government than its predecessor, the Articles of Confederation, had done. Many argued that the Articles of Confederation were weak and ineffective and that the Articles were the reasons for the early troubles of the United States. For example, a strong national government would be needed to quell rebellions and would have an easier time to protect the rights of the people. Under this new government the nation would be able to grow and become stable. The Civil War brought a lot of change to the United States as a nation.
As a result of the war many, many Americans died. 360, 000 union soldiers had died, 260, 000 confederate soldiers had died, and over 375, 000 men had been injured. After the war had come to an end in 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated. At wars end many new amendments were passed to give African-Americans their rights. The 13 th amendment was added to the constitution in 1865, and it would abolish slavery from the United States.
Next came the 14 th amendment, which was the equal protection amendment. The 14 th amendment stated that all citizens would get the same treatment from the government. The 15 th amendment that was passed in 1870, gave all citizens of the right to vote despite their race of previous condition of servitude. These new amendments gave African-Americans the power to run for office and get their voices heard.
Many people did not react well to the new freedom of colored people. The laws passed to give African-Americans equal rights still did not get rid of the southern prejudices. In the south many people tried to keep African Americans' from obtaining equality. This included the Ku Kl uk Klan, a terror organization that intimidation and violence to prevent African Americans from voting or holding positions of power. Many plantation owners hired African Americans' at low wages which kept many from getting very far even though they had their freedom. The southern states also passed laws that allowed for election boundaries.
This would involve redividing the voting districts to decrease African American representation in a particular area. Despite the reconstruction acts it would still be a long time before African Americans would have a decent life style. In 1844 James K. Polk ran for President as the "settlers' champion." Immediately after being elected to office Polk set out to gain Oregon and the Southwest.
This would be one of the first steps for the United States on its path to becoming a world power. At the time of Polk's presidency he and many Americans believed in Manifest Destiny, which was the belief that the United States was a superior nation and should extend its boundaries. In 1823 the United States issued the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that they would police the entire western hemisphere. This in other words meant that the United States no longer wanted European countries to have power in the west.
In 1864 the French leader Napoleon III installed a new leader in Mexico. In 1867, after the Civil War had ended the United States gathered troops on the border and threatened to go to war with France if it did not withdraw its armies. When the French complied it showed the world that the United States had the power to fight anyone. And so the United States had gone from a poor peasant country to an emerging world power. The country had been founded in an age of enlightenment where the people had gained a voice. After being mistreated by Britain for so long the colonies revolted and gained their freedom.
After the Constitution was ratified in 1787 the United States began to grow in strength and size. By the end of the nineteenth century the United States had become a real world "player.".