1. The period of reconstruction was the time from 1865 till 1877, characterized by readjustment which came after the Civil War. The Civil War resulted in ruining the South. The economics and social order of the country was based on slavery, and after it was ruined, there were no variants of another order to replace it. The 11 Confederate states still needed their governments in order to get their positions in the Union. The restoration was begun by President Lincoln before the end of the war. His task was to create a strong Republican party in the South, the first steps were to issue “a proclamation of amnesty and reconstruction for those areas of the Confederacy occupied by Union armies” (3). With the help of these documents all Confederates got the right to swear to support the Constitution and the Union. Lincoln received little support from congress in this matter and he put veto on their Wade-Davis Bill and wanted to fulfill his own plan. However at the end of the war, the representatives from Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Virginia were not accepted by Congress and didn’t get the places of Senators.
Andrew Johnson supported at the beginning the punishment of rebellious regions. He “disenfranchised all former military and civil officers of the Confederacy and all those who owned property worth $20,000 or more and made their estates liable to confiscation.” (3). The main goal was to take the political control from aristocrats in South and give it to the smaller farmers. In the year 1965 Johnson started to fulfil his plan. The Thirteenth Amendment was supposed to provide complete freedom for black people, but in reality the control of white over them was not destroyed. In the year 1867, Congress issued the Reconstruction Act, which was followed by three more acts, The South was divided into five military regions with army commanders.
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The end of Reconstruction is considered to be the time when all federal troops left the South. The results of the period were not positive as black people were still deprived of their political and economic rights and the racial bitterness only increased.
2. The years 1865 – 1890 were the part of the period called – the Gilded Age. This time was marked by intense economical development in the United States. It followed the Reconstruction and sometimes is considered to be the second Industrial Revolution, as during this time the commerce and industry were at their height time, supported by new technical developments and steel production, use of electricity and the development of the West part of America. It is clear that certain social changes were connected with economic development, a lot of wealthy businessmen appeared. Another important characteristic of Gilded Age is the wave of immigration which certainly increased the racial diversity of the USA.
The period of industrialization brought construction of railroads and expansion of the West. There are theories that this expansion was based on some individual exploration of the territory by frontiersmen, but in reality this was mostly the fulfilling of the governmental plan. But it presented as a free expansion as it better passed to the idea of strong development of democracy as a result of opened frontier. The Homestead Act of the government promised to provide 160 acre of land for each family that moved to the West. The need of workers for building railroads and trade with the West arose. The only great problem was the resistance of natives. After several conflicts the government claimed that Natives should state in some fixed areas giving the coming Americans bring the progress to the lands. As more and more people were coming to the West the Native Americans were moved deeper and deeper into the reservation of Indian Territory. The were a lot of conflicts and the Americans coming to the west had to stay under the protection of the Army. The most well-known battles were: Sand Creek Massacre, Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the Massacre of Wounded Knee.
It is certain that the settlement of the West territories played an important role in the economical development of the country and widened in a way the perspectives, but on the other hand the military conflicts with natives contributed negatively to the people’s migration to the new lands.
3. As it was already mentioned when talking about the Gilded Age, this was the time of economic transformation of America. This transformation brought two new notions to the country: new businessmen and new ways of making business. These new businessmen are usually referred to in two different ways. Some historians call them “captains of industry”, industrious and inventive people they became real heroes of their time and other historians call them “Robber Barons” and consider them to be immoral and corrupt industrialists. The most well known names are: Daniel Drew, Jay Gould, Jim Fisk and others.
The new ways of doing business were as well mentioned, they appeared as the capitalists’ main goal was to increase their profits and thus they were trying to use different methods. The most characteristic economic institutions of Gilded Age were the so-called corporations, which were made of several individuals working together. The main feature characterizing these institutions was the concentration of the main power in large entities. As soon as government helped the businessmen with building railroads it became more involved in the economic welfare of the country.
So, corporation consisted of a group of people, which received from the state legislature a set of legal rights and responsibilities. For the state laws these corporations were the same as individuals. The important feature of corporations was limited liability. Limited ability meant that the investors were legally liable only for their part of investment. If to compare the corporations with partnerships, where if one of the partners died or disappeared all the other partners were responsible for his debts, in corporations no other investor was responsible in such a situation. The number of rich people was growing and besides now they could invest their money without fear for common liability. Besides no matter how many investors came to a corporation or left it the corporation itself stayed immortal.
Later on the corporations were combined together. In order to get better profits and to increase efficiency the smaller corporations started to unite with each other. The new mega corporations that appeared were later called trusts. The trusts were efficient and profitable enough, but they contributed negatively to the healthy competition that is so important for capitalism as an economic model.
4. The first attempts for workers organization were made in the 1820s and 1830s years already. Such organizations strongly believed that workers had the power to change the society. When American industrialization undermined the skilled workers, this meant the owners didn’t need skilled workers any more, by the year 1970 “skilled labor became an ever smaller part of the overall labor force” (2).
The changes of the labor status were supported by two main factors:
- Industrialization – at American factories more and more machines were used and thus the need for workers decreased. It was better for the owners to hire just low qualified workers to cope with the machines.
- Urbanization – rural Americans were coming to cities in search for work and new life, thus the sizes of the cities were rapidly growing.
The wages of the workers were never big, as they were not supposed to hurt profits of the owners and because owners believed that if the wages become too high the workers will have the temptation to spend the money for gambling and alcohol. The result of it was that by the year 1890 most of working Americans could not reach the subsistence level of life because of low incomes. In 1869 Knights of Labor was founded as an organization where the secret meetings of tailors were held. They had the open membership for all workers, except for lawyers, bankers, gamblers and liquor dealers. “The Knights of Labor “Tried to be all things to all people…” Perhaps this was the cause of its decline. It was too inclusive and its goals were too broad for the organization’s resources” (4).
In 1886 Samuel Compers founded a national organization of trade unions. The organization was promoting independence and autonomy for trade groups and thus was a serious competent of the Knights of Labor and their centrally controlled unionism. The American Federation of Labor managed to become one of the most important voices of labor till the year 1955. This organization was aiming for better wages for workers, shorter work days, workers safety, and not for changing the society.
Industrial Workers of the World was more radical and aimed to organize unskilled workers but it was not a success.
5. The Republican Party was one of the two main parties in the US. The other one was Democratic Party. It was established in 1854 by former Whigs, Northern Democrats and Free Soilers, who were against the expansion of slavery. “In the modern political era, the Republican Party is usually considered the more socially conservative and economically neoliberal of the two major parties. Eighteen of the twenty-seven US Presidents since 1861 have been Republicans” (4).
The first Republican president elected in America was Abraham Lincoln in the years 1861-1865. There appeared Radical Republicans, who were demanding harsher measures. In their turn, most Democrats were War Democrats, they turned into peace ones only when Lincoln added another war goal as abolition of slavery.
By 1864 The Congress was under the control of Radical Republicans ands they were demanding more aggressive actions against slavery. During the election of 1866, the victory was after Radicals. They gained even more control over army, Congress and the party when Ulysses S. Grant came to power in 1868. The Republicans managed to form local clubs, they called Union Leagues, mobilized the voters for discussing issues and for fighting with Ku Klux Klan.
The depression of 1873 was a new energetic wave for Democrats. They got the control of the House and created “Redeemer” coalitions that had control over each South state, using such methods like threatening and violence.
During the elections of 1876, the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes promised “through the unofficial Compromise of 1877 to withdraw federal troops from control of the last three southern states. The region then became the Solid South, giving overwhelming majorities of its electoral votes and Congressional seats to the Democrats until 1964” (1).
By the year 1890 the Republicans agreed to the Sherman-Anti-Trust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission after the numerous complaints from the owners of small business. During the years 1880-1890 the struggle between Republicans and Democrats at the elections was rather strong.
When William McKinley won at the elections of 1896 this was called a realigning election, as he relied a lot upon the middle class for support and he made the Republicans the party of business. His partners helped him to develop the plan for getting found from the business world. This was actually the first president who claimed the idea of pluralism, stating that all ethnic and religious groups could get a good level of prosperity.
6. The foreign affairs of the US during the period of 1865-1920 could be divided into three parts. The first one from 1865 till 1898 was the time when foreign policy was determined by the actions of foreign governments. The US policy at this time was strongly nationalistic. After the Spanish- American War America got the possessions outside its continental area.
When the First World War started the period of diplomatic conflict between the US and Great Britain and between the US and Germany started, and in the year 1917 the US were finally involved into the war with Germany. Not the last role was played by America in signing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. “Woodrow Wilson campaigned for the U.S. to join the new League of Nations, which he had been instrumental in creating, but the United States Senate voted on January 19, 1919 not to join the League” (1).
The time from 1918 till 1919 was called the Red Scare, it came from the anger of Americans that dissidents were trying to sabotage the war efforts. The Sedition Act of Congress (1918) made it illegal “to impede the war effort by encouraging draft resistance” (1). After the war, there were a number of massive strikes at many industrial enterprises. But by the year 1920 the mass scare dispersed as there appeared other spheres of public interest.
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- W. R. Brock, An American Crisis (1963) pp. 178-195
- LaWanda and J. H. Cox, Reconstruction, the Negro, and the New South (1973), pp. 13-85
- Fine, Sidney. Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State: A Study of Conflict in American Thought, 1865–1901. University of Michigan Press, 1956. pp.47-198
- Jensen, Richard. “Democracy, Republicanism and Efficiency: The Values of American Politics, 1885-1930, pp. 113-152
- Byron Shafer and Anthony Badger, eds, Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775-2000 (U of Kansas Press, 2001) pp 149-180