History of the United States
See also: Outline of United States history
History of the United States
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The first residents of what is now the United States emigrated from Asia over 15,000 years ago by crossing Beringia into what is now present-day Alaska. Archaeological evidence of these people, the ancestors of the Native Americans, dates back to 14,000 years ago, although there is evidence to support an earlier date for a human population in North America. The Viking Sagas talk of Norsemen landing in an area they called 'Vinland', and there is recent archaeological evidence to support this, found in eastern Canada but, for the moment at least, Christopher Columbus is still generally accepted as being the first European to land
in the territory of what is now North America when he arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, though he never set foot on what is now the USA. The subsequent arrival of settlers from Europe began the colonial history of the United States. The Thirteen English colonies that would become the original US states were founded along the east coast beginning in 1607. Spain, France and Russia also founded settlements in what would become US territory. The population of the Thirteen Colonies grew rapidly, reaching 50,000 by 1650, 250,000 by 1700, and 2.5 million by 1775. High birth rates and low death rates were augmented by steady flows of immigrants from Europe and slaves from the West Indies. Occasional smallscale wars involved the French and Indians to the north, and the Spanish and Indians to the south. Religion was a powerful influence on many immigrants, especially the Puritans in New England and the German sects in Pennsylvania, with boosts from the revivals of the First Great Awakening. The colonies by the 1750s had achieved a standard of living about as high as Britain, with far more self-government than anywhere else. Most free men owned their own farms and could vote in elections for the colonial legislatures, while local judges and local juries dispensed justice. Royal soldiers were rarely seen. The colonists did not have representation in the ruling British government and believed they were being denied their constitutional rights as Englishmen whenever parliament tried to tax them. For many years, the home government had permitted wide latitude to local colonial governments. Beginning in the 1760s London demanded the colonists pay taxes; the main issue was not the money (the taxes involved were quite low) but the issue of who was in control. The new taxes on stamps in 1765 and later the tax on tea ignited a firestorm of opposition. The British responded with military force in Massachusetts, and shut down the system of local self government in what the colonists called the Intolerable Acts. All 13 colonies now form the Committees of Correspondence, which in effect became a shadow government. They sent delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774, presenting a united front against the British. After fighting broke out in April 1775, the colonies ousted all royal officials and set up their own governments, which were led from Philadelphia by the Continental Congress and its commander in chief, General George Washington. The American Revolution escalated into all-out war. The new nation declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America. After Americans captured the British invasion army in 1777, France became a military ally, and the war became a major international war with evenly balanced forces. With the capture of a second British invasion army at Yorktown in 1781, the British opened peace negotiations. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 proved highly favorable to the new nation. The new national government proved too weak, so a Constitutional Convention was called in 1787 to create an alternative. The resulting Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1788, created a federal government based on the ideology of republicanism, equal rights, and civic duty. The first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights quickly followed, guaranteeing many individual rights from federal interference. The new national government under President George Washington began operation in 1789, and built a strong economic system, designed by Alexander Hamilton, that settled the wartime debts, created a national bank and sought economic growth based on cities and trade, more than farming. Hamilton formed the Federalist Party to gain wide local support for the new policies, which were opposed by Thomas Jefferson.
The Jay Treaty of 1795 opened a decade of trade with Britain, which was at war with revolutionary France. The Jeffersonians feared British influence would undermine republicanism in the United States and set up an opposition party; thus the First Party System based on voters in every state, began operation in the mid-1790s. Jefferson was elected president in 1800 and doubled the land area of the United States by the purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803 racket. In his second term, Jefferson tried to coerce the British; he demanded they recognize America's neutral rights, stop the seizure ("impressment") of sailors on American ships, and quit arming hostile Indians in the West. When that failed the U.S. declared the War of 1812 against Britain. The war was militarily indecisive but guaranteed American independence and friendly relations with the British Empire, which controlled Canada. With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 westward expansion of the United States crossed the Mississippi River. This was encouraged by the belief in Manifest Destiny, by which the United States would expand east to west, reaching the Pacific after the conquest of Mexico in 1848. A series of revivals in the Second Great Awakening made many Americans actively religious, and stimulated many reform movements, including abolition of slavery. Rapid economic and population growth created a powerful nation, but tensions escalated between the slaveholding plantation South and the industrial North, which had long since abolished slavery. The South in 1861 tried to break away and form its own country, the "Confederacy," in response to threats to its peculiar institution—slavery. The Civil War lasting four years became the deadliest war in American history. Under the leadership of Republican Abraham Lincoln the rebellion was crushed, the nation reunified, the slaves freed, and the South put under Reconstruction for a decade. Rapid economic growth, fueled by entrepreneurs who created great new industries in railroads, steel, coal, textiles, and machinery operated by millions of immigrants from Europe (and some from Asia), built new cities overnight, making the U.S. the world's leading industrial power. With Germany threatening to win World War I in part by sinking American ships, the U.S. entered the war in 1917, supplied the material, money and to a degree the soldiers needed to win. The U.S. partially dictated the peace terms, but refused to join the League of Nations, as it enjoyed unprecedented prosperity in the 1920s. The crash of 1929 started the worldwide Great Depression, which was long and severe for the entire country. A New Deal Coalition led by Franklin D. Roosevelt dominated national elections for years, and the New Deal in 1933-36 began a new era of federal regulation of the business, support for labor unions, and provision of relief for the unemployed and Social Security for the elderly. The U.S. joined the Allied Forces of World War II in December 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Postwar hopes that the new United Nations would resolve the world's problems failed, as Europe was divided and the U.S. took the lead in the Cold War with a policy of containing Soviet expansion. Containment led to wars in Korea (a stalemate) and Vietnam (lost). Economic prosperity after the war empowered families to move to the suburbs and engage in a Baby Boom that pushed the population from 140 million in 1940 to 203 million in 1970. The industrial economy based on heavy industry gave way to a service economy featuring health care and education, as America led the way to a computerized world. The end of the Cold War came in 1991 as Soviet Communism collapsed. The U.S. was the only military superpower left, but it was challenged for economic supremacy by China, which remained on good terms with the U.S. as it embraced capitalism and by 2010 was growing much more rapidly than the U.S.
The Civil Rights Movement ended Jim Crow and empowered black voters in the 1960s, which allowed blacks to move into high government offices. However, the New Deal coalition collapsed in the mid 1960s in disputes over race and the Vietnam War. The Reagan Era of conservative national policies, deregulation and tax cuts took control with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. By 2010, political scientists were debating whether the election of Barack Obama in 2008 represented an end of the Reagan Era, or was only a reaction against the bubble economy of the 2000s, which burst in 2008 and became the Late-2000s recession with prolonged unemployment.
 Pre-Columbian era
Main articles: Native Americans in the United States and Pre-Columbian era The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period. While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus' initial landing.
Main article: Colonial history of the United States
The Mayflower, which transported Pilgrims to the New World. During the first winter at Plymouth, about half of the Pilgrims died. After a period of exploration by people from various European countries, Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Swedish, and Portuguese settlements were established. Although Leif Ericson was the first European to arrive in North America, Christopher Columbus is credited as the first European to set foot on what would one day become US territory when he came to Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493, during his second voyage.
In the 16th century, Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs to the Americas and, in turn, took back to Europe maize, potatoes, tobacco, beans, squash, and slave natives, many of whom died enroute.
Spanish exploration and colonization
See also: New Spain
Coronado Sets Out to the North (1540) by Frederic Remington, oil on canvas, 1905. Spanish explorers came to what is now the United States beginning with Christopher Columbus' second expedition, which reached Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493. The first confirmed landing in the continental US was by a Spaniard, Juan Ponce de León (1474– 1521), who landed in 1513 on a lush shore he christened La Florida.
The Catholic church built in 1733 in Santa Cruz, New Mexico Within three decades of Ponce de León's landing, the Spanish became the first Europeans to reach the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon and the Great Plains. In 1540, Hernando de Soto undertook an extensive exploration of the present US and, in the same year, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led 2,000 Spaniards and Native Mexican Americans across the modern Arizona–Mexico border and traveled as far as central Kansas.  Other Spanish explorers include Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón, Pánfilo de Narváez, Sebastián Vizcaíno, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, Gaspar de Portolà, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Tristán de Luna y Arellano and Juan de Oñate. The Spanish sent some settlers, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, but it was in such a harsh political environment that it attracted few settlers and never expanded. Much larger and more important Spanish settlements included Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most Spanish settlements were along the California coast or the Santa Fe River in New Mexico
Main article: New Netherland
New Netherland and New Sweden Nieuw-Nederland, or New Netherland, was the seventeenth century Dutch colonial province on the eastern coast of North America. The Dutch claimed territory were the lands from the Delmarva Peninsula to Buzzards Bay, while their settlements concentrated on the Hudson River Valley, where they traded furs with the Indians to the north and were a barrier to Yankee expansion from New England. Its capital, New Amsterdam, was located at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan on the Upper New York Bay and was renamed New York when the English seized the colony in 1664. Most were Calvinists and they built the Reformed Church in America. The colony left an enduring legacy on American cultural and political life, including a secular broadmindedness and mercantile pragmatism in the city, and a rural traditionalism in the countryside, as well as politicians such as Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The 22 parishes of Acadiana; the Cajun heartland of Louisiana is highlighted in darker red. New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period extending 1534 to 1763, when Britain and Spain took control. At its peak in 1712 the territory of New France extended from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. The territory was divided in five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana. After 1750 the Acadians-French settlers who had been expelled by the British from Acadia (Nova Scotia) --resettled in Louisiana, where they developed a distinctive rural Cajun culture that still exists. They became American citizens in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Other French villages along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers were absorbed when the Americans started arriving after 1770.
Main article: British colonization of the Americas
In 1607, the Virginia Company of London established the Jamestown Settlement on the James River, both named after King James I The strip of land along the eastern seacoast was settled primarily by English colonists in the 17th century, along with much smaller numbers of Dutch and Swedes. Colonial America was defined by a severe labor shortage that employed forms of unfree labor such as slavery and indentured servitude, and by a British policy of benign neglect (salutary neglect) that permitted the development of an American spirit distinct from that of its European founders.  Over half of all European migrants to Colonial America arrived as indentured servants. The first successful English colony was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. It languished for decades until a new wave of settlers arrived in the late 17th century and established commercial agriculture based on tobacco. Between the late 1610s and
the Revolution, the British shipped an estimated 50,000 convicts to their American colonies.  During the Georgian era English officials exiled 1,000 prisoners across the Atlantic every year. One example of conflict between Native Americans and English settlers was the 1622 Powhatan uprising in Virginia, in which Native Americans had killed hundreds of English settlers. The largest conflict between Native Americans and English settlers in the 17th century was King Philip's War in New England, although the Yamasee War may have been bloodier. The Plymouth Colony was established in 1620. New England was initially settled primarily by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. The Middle Colonies, consisting of the present-day states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, were characterized by a large degree of diversity. The first attempted English settlement south of Virginia was the Province of Carolina, with Georgia Colony the last of the Thirteen Colonies established in 1733. Several colonies were used as penal settlements from the 1620s until the American Revolution. Methodism became the prevalent religion among colonial citizens after the First Great Awakening, a religious revival led by preacher Jonathan Edwards in 1734.
Political integration and autonomy
Join, or Die: This 1756 political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin urged the colonies to join together during the French and Indian War. The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a watershed event in the political development of the colonies. The influence of the main rivals of the British Crown in the colonies and Canada, the French and North American Indians, was significantly reduced. Moreover, the war effort resulted in greater political integration of the colonies, as symbolized by Benjamin Franklin's call for the colonies to "Join or Die". Following Britain's acquisition of French territory in North America, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 with the goal of organizing the new North American empire and stabilizing relations with the native Indians. In ensuing years, strains developed in the relations between the colonists and the Crown. The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765, imposing a tax on the colonies to help pay for troops stationed in North America following the British victory in the Seven Years' War. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense. The colonists did not share this view. Rather, with the French and Indian threat diminished, the primary outside influence remained that of Britain. A conflict of economic interests increased with the right of the British Parliament to govern the colonies without representation being called into question.
Nathaniel Currier's 1846 depiction of the Boston Tea Party. The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a direct action by colonists in the town of Boston to protest against the taxes levied by the British government. Parliament responded the next year with the Coercive Acts, which sparked outrage and resistance in the Thirteen Colonies. Colonists convened the First Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance to the Coercive Acts. The Congress called for a boycott of British trade, published a list of rights and grievances, and petitioned the king for redress of those grievances. The Congress also called for another meeting if their petition did not halt enforcement of the Coercive Acts. Their appeal to the Crown had no effect, and so the Second Continental Congress was convened in 1775 to organize the defense of the colonies at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.
Formation of the United States of America (1776–1789)
Main article: History of the United States (1776–1789)
Washington's crossing of the Delaware River, one of the rebels' first successes in the Revolutionary War The Thirteen Colonies began a rebellion against British rule in 1775 and proclaimed their independence in 1776 as the United States of America. The United States defeated Britain with help from France especially, and also the United Provinces and indirectly from Spain in the American Revolutionary War. The colonists' 1777 capture of the British invasion army at Saratoga secured the Northeast and led the French into an open alliance with the United States. In 1781, Washington led a combined American and French army, acting with the support of a French fleet, and captured a large British army led by General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. The surrender of General Cornwallis ended serious British efforts to find a military solution to their American problem. As political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset observes, "The United States was the first major colony successfully to revolt against colonial rule. In this sense, it was the first 'new nation'."
Trumbull's Declaration of Independence Side by side with the states' efforts to gain independence through armed resistance, a political union was being developed and agreed upon by them. The first step was to formally declare independence from Great Britain. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, still meeting in Philadelphia, declared the independence of "the United States of America" in the Declaration of Independence. July 4 is celebrated as the nation's birthday. The new nation was founded on Enlightenment ideals of liberalism and dedicated to principles of republicanism, which emphasized civic duty and a fear of corruption and hereditary aristocracy. The new nation was governed by Congress, and followed the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union of 1777 (which was formally adopted in 1781). After the war finally ended in 1783, there was a period of prosperity, with the entire world at peace. The national government was able to settle the issue of the western territories, which were ceded by the states to Congress and became territories (and after 1791 started to become states). Nationalists worried that the new nation was too fragile to withstand an international war, or even internal revolts such as the Shays' Rebellion of 1786 in Massachusetts. Nationalists—most of them war veterans—organized in every state and convinced Congress to call the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The delegates from every state wrote a new Constitution that created a much more powerful and efficient central government, one with a strong president, and powers of taxation. The new government reflected the prevailing republican ideals of guarantees of individual liberty and upon constraining the power of government through a system of separation of powers. To assuage the Anti-Federalists who feared a too-powerful national government, the nation adopted the United States Bill of Rights in 1791. Comprising the first ten amendments of the Constitution, it guaranteed individual liberties such as freedom of speech and religious practice, jury trials, and stated that citizens and states had reserved rights (which were not specified).
Early national era (1789–1848)
Main articles: History of the United States (1789–1849), First Party System, and Second Party System
Economic growth in America per capita income George Washington—a renowned hero of the American Revolutionary War, commander-inchief of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention—became the first President of the United States under the new US Constitution in 1789. The major accomplishments of the Washington Administration were creating a strong national government that was recognized without question by all Americans, and, following the plans of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, assuming the debts of the states (the debt holders received federal bonds), creating the Bank of the United States to stabilize the financial system, setting up a uniform system of tariffs (taxes on imports) and other taxes to pay off the debt and provide a financial infrastructure. To support his programs Hamilton created a new political party—the first in the world based on voters—the Federalist Party. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison led the opposition, forming an opposition Republican Party (usually called the Democratic-Republican Party by historians). Hamilton and Washington presented the country in 1794 with the Jay Treaty that reestablished good relations with Britain. The Jeffersonians vehemently protested, and the voters aligned behind one party or the other, thus setting up the First Party System. The treaty passed, but politics became very heated. The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, when settlers in the Pennsylvania counties west of the Allegheny Mountains protested against a federal tax on liquor and distilled drinks, was the first serious test of the federal government. At the end of his second presidential term, George Washington made his farewell address, which was published in the newspaper Independent Chronicle on September 26, 1796. In his address, Washington triumphed the benefits of federal government and importance of ethics and morality while warning against foreign alliances and formation of political parties. Vice-president John Adams, a Federalist, defeated Jefferson in the 1796 election. War loomed with France and the Federalists used the opportunity to try to silence the Republicans with the Alien and Sedition Acts, build up a large army with Hamilton at the head, and prepare for a French invasion. However, the Federalists became divided after Adams sent a
successful peace mission to France that ended the Quasi War of 1798. In 1800 Jefferson defeated Adams for the presidency in the 1800 election.
Territorial expansion of the United States, omitting Oregon and other claims. Although the Constitution included a Supreme Court, its functions were vague until John Marshall, the Chief Justice 1801-1835 defined them, especially the power to overturn acts of Congress that violated the Constitution, first enunciated in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison The Louisiana Purchase, in 1803, removed the French presence from the western border of the United States and provided US settlers with vast potential for expansion west of the Mississippi River. In response to multiple grievances, the Congress declared war on Britain in 1812. The grievances included humiliating the Americans in the "Chesapeake incident of 1807, continued British impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, restrictions on trade with France, and arming hostile Indians in Ohio and the western territories. The War of 1812 ended in a draw after bitter fighting that lasted until January 8, 1815, during the Battle of New Orleans. The Americans gained no territory but were cheered by a sense of victory in what they called a "second war of independence." The war was a major loss for Native American tribes in the Northwest and Southeast who had allied themselves with Britain and were defeated on the battlefield. As strong opponents of the war, the Federalists held the Hartford Convention in 1814 that hinted at disunion. National euphoria after the victory at New Orleans ruined the prestige of the Federalists and they no longer played a significant role. President Madison and most Republicans realized it had been a mistake to let the Bank of the United States close down, for its absence greatly hindered the financing of the war. So they chartered the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. The Republicans also imposed tariffs designed to protect the infant industries that had been created when Britain was blockading the U.S. With the collapse of the Federalists as a party, the adoption of many Federalist principles by the Republicans, and the systematic policy of President James Monroe in his two terms (1817– 25) to downplay partisanship, the nation entered an Era of Good Feelings, with far less partisanship than before (or after), and closed out the First Party System. The Monroe Doctrine, expressed in 1823, proclaimed the United States' opinion that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere in the Americas. This was a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine was adopted in response to American and British fears over Russian and French expansion into the Western Hemisphere.
Settlers crossing the Plains of Nebraska In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to negotiate treaties that exchanged Native American tribal lands in the eastern states for lands west of the Mississippi River. This established Andrew Jackson, a military hero and President, as a cunning tyrant in regards to native populations. The act resulted most notably in the forced migration of several native tribes to the West, with several thousand people dying en route, and the Creeks' violent opposition and eventual defeat. The Indian Removal Act also directly caused the ceding of Spanish Florida and led to the many Seminole Wars. After 1840 the abolitionist movement redefined itself, mobilized its supporters (especially among religious people in the Northeast affected by the Second Great Awakening), escalated its attacks, and proclaimed slave ownership a sin, not just an unfortunate social evil. It gained tens of thousands of followers. William Lloyd Garrison published the most influential of the many anti-slavery newspapers, The Liberator, while Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave, began writing for that newspaper around 1840 and started his own abolitionist newspaper North Star in 1847. The Republic of Texas was annexed by president John Tyler in 1845. The US army, using regulars and large numbers of volunteers, defeated Mexico in 1848 during the MexicanAmerican War. Public sentiment in the US was divided as Whigs and anti-slavery forces opposed the war. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California, New Mexico, and adjacent areas to the United States, about thirty percent of Mexico. Westward expansion was enhanced further by the California Gold Rush, the discovery of gold in that state in 1848. Numerous "forty-niners" trekked to California in pursuit of gold; land-hungry European immigrants also contributed to the rising white population in the west.  In 1849 cholera spread along the California and Oregon Trails. An estimated 150,000 Americans died during the two cholera pandemics between 1832 and 1849.
Civil War era (1849–1865)
Main article: History of the United States (1849–1865)
The Union: blue (free), yellow (slave); The Confederacy: brown *territories in light shades In the middle of the 19th century, white Americans of the North and South were to reconcile fundamental differences in their approach to government, economics, society and African American slavery. The issue of slavery in the new territories was settled by the Compromise of 1850 brokered by Whig Henry Clay and Democrat Stephen Douglas; the Compromise included admission of California as a free state and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act to make it easier for masters to reclaim runaway slaves. In 1854, the proposed KansasNebraska Act abrogated the Missouri Compromise by providing that each new state of the Union would decide its stance on slavery. By 1860, there were nearly four million slaves residing in the United States, nearly eight times as many from 1790; within the same time period, cotton production in the U.S. boomed from less than a thousand tons to nearly one million tons per year. There were some slave rebellions – including by Gabriel Prosser (1800), Denmark Vesey (1822), and Nat Turner (1831) – but they all failed and led to tighter slave oversight in the south.
Abraham Lincoln with Allan Pinkerton and Major General John Alexander McClernand at the Battle of Antietam. After Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 Election, eleven Southern states seceded from the union between late 1860 and 1861, establishing a new government, the Confederate States of America, on February 8, 1861. The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a US military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Along with the northwestern portion of
Virginia, four of the five northernmost "slave states" did not secede and became known as the Border States. In response to this, on April 15, Lincoln called on the states to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union", which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. The two armies had their first major clash at the First Battle of Bull Run, which ended in a surprising Union defeat, but, more importantly, proved to both the Union and Confederacy that the war was going be much longer and bloodier than they had originally anticipated. The war soon divided into two theaters, the Eastern and Western theaters. In the western theater, the Union was quite successful, with major battles, such as Perryville ending up being strategic Union victories, destroying major confederate operations.
Anger at military conscription during the American Civil War led to the New York Draft Riots of 1863, one of the worst incidents of civil unrest in American history. The city's Irish and Excelsior brigades were among the five Union brigades with the most combat dead. In the Eastern theater, things didn't start out well for the Union. In the summer of 1861, General Irvin McDowell was given the task of destroying the Confederacy in one quick battle with the newly created Army of Northeastern Virginia. Union and Confederate forces engaged in combat at Manassas junction, which resulted in a surprising Union defeat due in part to arrogant Confederate defense. Following McDowell's failure, Major General George B. McClellan was put in charge of the task at hand. After reorganizing the new Army of the Potomac, McClellan too failed to do so in his Peninsula Campaign and retreated after attacks from newly appointed Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Feeling confident in his army after the Union defeat at the Second Bull Run, Lee decided to embark on an invasion of the north. However, his special order 191 was discovered by two Union soldiers, and thus, McClellan could intercept and strategically stop Lee at the bloody Battle of Antietam. Despite this, McClellan was relieved from command for refusing to pursue Lee's crippled army. General Ambrose Burnside was put in command of the Army of the Potomac. After receiving pressure from Lincoln, Burnside decided to cross the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg, Virginia. However, Burnside's failure to cross the river in time resulted in Lee building strong defenses to oppose the Union. The humiliating Battle of Fredericksburg resulted in the Union retreat.
After Burnside's failed mud march, General "Fighting Joe" Hooker was placed in command of the Army. On the following day in the west, Union forces under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. At the beginning of 1864, Lincoln made General Grant commander of all Union armies. The following two years of the war ended up being bloody for both sides, with Grant launching a war of attrition against Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. This war of attrition was divided into three main campaigns. The first of these, the Overland Campaign forced Lee to retreat into the city of Petersburg where Grant launched his second major offensive, the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign in which he sieged the city of Petersburg. After a near ten-month siege, the city of Petersburg surrendered. However, the defense of Fort Gregg allowed Lee to move his army out of Petersburg. Grant pursued and launched the final, Appomattox Campaign which resulted in Lee surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House. When word of Lee's surrender spread across the country, many Confederate armies also surrendered, with Stand Watie being the last of the generals. Based on 1860 census figures, 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including 6% in the North and an extraordinary 18% in the South, establishing the American Civil War as the deadliest war in American history. Its legacy includes ending slavery in the United States, restoring the Union, and strengthening the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era, which lasted through 1877, and brought about changes that would eventually help make the country a united superpower.
Reconstruction and the Gilded Age (1865–1890)
Main article: History of the United States (1865–1918)
Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (1869) at First Transcontinental Railroad, by Andrew J. Russell Reconstruction took place for most of the decade following the Civil War. During this era, the "Reconstruction Amendments" were passed to expand civil rights for black Americans. Those amendments included the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment that guaranteed citizenship for all people born or naturalized within U.S. territory, and the Fifteenth Amendment that granted the vote for all men regardless of race. While the Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbade discrimination in the service of public facilities, the Black Codes denied blacks privileges readily available to whites.
In response to Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) emerged around the late 1860s as a white-supremacist organization opposed to black civil rights. Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1870 and vigorous enforcement closed down the Klan and classified the KKK as a terrorist group. However, an 1883 Supreme Court decision nullified the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and ended federal efforts to stop private acts of violence designed to suppress legal rights. During the era, many regions of the southern U.S. were military-governed and often corrupt; Reconstruction ended after the disputed 1876 election between Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes and Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden. Hayes won the election, and the South soon re-entered the national political scene. The "Gilded Age" was a term that Mark Twain used to describe the period of the late nineteenth century when there had been a dramatic expansion of American wealth and prosperity. Reform of the Age included the Civil Service Act, which mandated a competitive examination for applicants for government jobs. Other important legislation included the Interstate Commerce Act, which ended railroads' discrimination against small shippers, and the Sherman Antitrust Act, which outlawed monopolies in business. Twain believed that this age was corrupted by such elements as land speculators, scandalous politics, and unethical business practices. By century's end, American industrial production and per capita income exceeded those of all other world nations and ranked only behind Great Britain. In response to heavy debts and decreasing farm prices, wheat and cotton farmers joined the Populist Party. Later, an unprecedented wave of immigration served both to provide the labor for American industry and create diverse communities in previously undeveloped areas. From 1880 to 1914, peak years of immigration, more than 22 million people migrated to the United States. Abusive industrial practices led to the often violent rise of the labor movement in the United States. Influential figures of the period included John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.
Progressivism, imperialism, and World War I (1890–1918)
Main article: Progressive Era
Mulberry Street, along which Manhattan's Little Italy is centered. Lower East Side, circa 1900. Almost 97% of residents of the 10 largest American cities of 1900 were non-Hispanic whites. Dissatisfaction on the part of the growing middle class with politics as usual, and the failure to deal with increasingly important urban and industrial problems, led to the emergence of the Progressive Movement in the 1890s. In every major city and state, and at the national level as
well, and in education, medicine, and industry, the progressives called for the modernization and reform of decrepit institutions, the elimination of corruption in politics, and the introduction of efficiency as a criteria for change. Leading politicians from both parties, most notably Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes, and Robert LaFollette on the Republican side, and William Jennings Bryan on the Democratic side, took up the cause of progressive reform. Women became especially involved in demands for woman suffrage, prohibition, and better schools; their most prominent leader was Jane Addams of Chicago. Progressives implemented anti-trust laws and regulated such industries of meat-packing, drugs, and railroads. Four new constitutional amendments—the Sixteenth through Nineteenth —resulted from progressive activism, bringing the federal income tax, direct election of Senators, prohibition, and woman suffrage. The Progressive Movement began in the 1890s and lasted through the 1920s; the most active period was 1900-1918
The United States emerged as a world economic and military power after 1890. The main episode was the Spanish-American War, which began when Spain refused American demands to reform its oppressive policies in Cuba. The "splendid little war," as one official called it involved a series of quick American victories on land and at sea. At the peace conference the United States acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Cuba became an independent country, under close American tutelage. Although the war itself was widely popular, the peace terms proved controversial. William Jennings Bryan led his Democratic Party in opposition to control of the Philippines, which he denounced as imperialism unbecoming to American democracy. McKinley defended the acquisition, and was riding high as the nation had returned to prosperity and felt triumphant in the war. McKinley easily defeated Brian in a rematch in the 1900 presidential election. After defeating an insurrection by Filipino nationalists, the United States engaged in a large scale program to modernize the economy of the Philippines, and dramatically upgrade the public health facilities.  By 1908, however, Americans lost interest in an empire, and turned their international attention to the Caribbean, and especially the building of the Panama Canal. The canal opened in 1914, and increased trade with Japan and the rest of the Far East. A key policy innovation was the Open Door Policy, whereby the imperial powers were given equal access to Chinese business, with no one of them allowed to take control of China. President Woodrow Wilson declared U.S. entry into World War I in April 1917 following a yearlong neutrality policy; the U.S. had previously shown interest in world peace by participating in the Hague Conferences. American participation in the war proved essential to the Allied victory. Wilson also implemented a set of propositions titled the Fourteen Points to ensure peace, but they were denied at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Isolationist sentiment following the war also blocked the U.S. from participating in the League of Nations, an important part of the Treaty of Versailles.
Main article: History of women's suffrage in the United States
Alice Paul stands before the Woman Suffrage Amendment's ratification banner. She immediately went on to write the Equal Right Amendment, whose passage would become an important goal of the Women's Liberation Movement half a century later. These years of the early 20th century also saw the strengthening of the Woman Suffrage Movement. The movement had begun with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and the Declaration of Sentiments demanding equal rights for women. The women's rights campaign during "first-wave feminism" was led by Mott, Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, and Julia Ward Howe, among others. By the end of the 19th century only several states had granted women full voting rights, though women had made significant legal victories, gaining rights in areas such as property and child custody. In 1875 the Supreme Court ruled women, too, were American citizens (but this did not give them the right to vote). Around 1912 the Feminist Movement, which had grown sluggish, began to reawaken. Protests became increasingly common as suffragette Alice Paul led parades through the capital and major cities. Paul split from the large National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which favored a more moderate approach and supported the Democratic Party and Woodrow Wilson, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, and formed the more militant National Woman's Party. Suffragists were arrested during their "Silent Sentinels" pickets at the White House, the first time such a tactic was used, and were taken as political prisoners. In prison they were tortured and force-fed while on hunger strikes led by Alice Paul. Finally, the suffragette were ordered released from prison, and Wilson addressed the Congress on woman suffrage, urging them to pass a Constitutional amendment enfranchising women, which they did in 1919. It became constitutional law on August 26, 1920, after ratification by the 36th required state. NAWSA became the League of Women Voters and the National Woman's Party began lobbying for full equality and the Equal Rights Amendment which would pass Congress during the second wave of the women's movement in 1972. Following ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, a U.S. Court ruled the arrests of the over two hundred suffragists as unconstitutional, and the amendment was upheld by the Supreme Court after a legal challenge.
Post-World War I and the Great Depression (1918–1940)
Main article: History of the United States (1918–1945)
Following World War I, the U.S. grew steadily in stature as an economic and military world power. The United States Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles imposed by its Allies on the defeated Central Powers; instead, the United States chose to pursue unilateralism, if not isolationism. The aftershock of Russia's October Revolution resulted in real fears of communism in the United States, leading to a three-year Red Scare. In 1918 the U.S. lost 675,000 people to the Spanish flu pandemic.
Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol in Chicago, 1921 In 1920, the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol was prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Prohibition encouraged illegal breweries and dealers to make substantial amounts of money selling alcohol illegally. The Prohibition ended in 1933, a failure. Additionally, the KKK re-formed during that decade and gathered nearly 4.5 million members by 1924, and the U.S. government passed the Immigration Act of 1924 restricting foreign immigration. The 1920s were also known as the Roaring Twenties, due to the great economic prosperity during this period. Jazz became popular among the younger generation, and thus was also called the Jazz Age.
Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother, depicts destitute pea pickers in California, centering on a mother of seven children, age thirty-two, in Nipomo, California, March 1936. During most of the 1920s, the United States enjoyed a period of unbalanced prosperity: farm prices and wages fell, while new industries and industrial profits grew. The boom was fueled by an inflated stock market, which later led to a crash on October 29, 1929. This, along with many other economic factors, triggered a worldwide depression known as the Great Depression. During this time, the United States experienced deflation, unemployment increased from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933, and manufacturing output collapsed by one-third. In 1932, Democratic presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt promised "a new deal for the American people", a phrase that has endured as a label for his administration and its many domestic achievements. The desperate economic situation, along with the substantial
Democratic victories in the 1932 elections, gave Roosevelt unusual influence over Congress in the "First Hundred Days" of his administration. He used his leverage to win rapid passage of a series of measures to create welfare programs and regulate the banking system, stock market, industry and agriculture, along with many other government efforts to end the Great Depression and reform the American economy. Some programs that were a part of Roosevelt's New Deal include the Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief program, the Social Security Act, the Emergency Banking Act, and the Economy Act. The recovery was rapid in all areas except unemployment, which remained fairly high until 1940.
World War II (1941–1945)
Main articles: World War II and United States home front during World War II As with World War I, the United States did not enter World War II until after the rest of the active Allied countries had done so. The United States first contribution to the war was simultaneously to cut off the oil and raw material supplies needed by Japan to maintain its offensive in China, and to increase military and financial aid to China. Contribution came to the Allies in September 1940 in the form of the Lend-Lease program with Britain. On December 7, 1941 Japan launched a surprise attack on the American naval base in Pearl Harbor, citing America's recent trade embargo as justification. The following day, Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully urged a joint session of Congress to declare war on Japan, calling December 7, 1941 "a date which will live in infamy". Four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on December 11, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, drawing the country into a two-theater war.
Battle against Germany
Further information: Europe first Upon entering the war, the United States and its allies decided to concentrate the bulk of their efforts on fighting Hitler in Europe, while maintaining a defensive position in the Pacific until Hitler was defeated. The United States's first step was to set up a large airforce in Britain to concentrate on bombing raids into Germany. The American Air force relied on the B-17 Flying Fortress as its primary heavy bomber. Britain had ceased its daylight bombing raids, due to heavy casualties inflicted by the Luftwaffe. The USAAF suffered similar high losses until the introduction of the P-51 Mustang as a long range escort fighter for the bombers.
Landing at Normandy at Battle of Normandy, by Robert F. Sargent, United States Army. Total U. S. military deaths in battle and from other causes were 416,837. The American army's first ground action was fighting alongside the British, Australian and New Zealand armies in North Africa. By May 1943, the British 8th Army had expelled the Germans from North Africa and the Allies controlled this vital link until the end of the war. The American navy also played an active role in the Atlantic protecting the convoys bringing vital American war material to Britain. By midway through 1943, the Allies were fighting the war from Britain with unbroken supply lines, while at the same time Hitler's armies were very much on the back foot, with heavy bombing taking its toll on production. By early 1944, a planned invasion of Western Europe was underway. What followed on June 6, 1944, was Operation Overlord, or D-Day. The largest war armada ever assembled landed on the beaches of Normandy and began the penetration of Western Europe that eventually overthrew Hitler and Nazi Germany. Following the landing at Normandy, the Americans contributed greatly to the outcome of the war, with dogged fighting in the Battle of the Bulge resulting in Allied victories against the Germans. The battles took a heavy toll on the Americans, who lost 19,000 men during the Battle of the Bulge alone. The allied bombing raids on Germany increased to unprecedented levels after the D-Day invasion, with over 70% of all bombs dropped on Germany occurring after this date. On April 30, 1945, with Berlin completely overrun with Russian forces and his country in tatters, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. On May 8, 1945, the war with Germany was over, following its unconditional surrender to the Allied forces.
Battle against Japan
Main article: Pacific War Due to the United States commitment to defeating Hitler in Europe, the first years of the war against Japan was largely a defensive battle with the United States Navy attempting to prevent the Japanese Navy from asserting dominance of the Pacific region. Initially, Japan won most of its battles in a short time. Japan quickly defeated and created military bases in Guam, Thailand, Malaya, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Burma. This was done virtually unopposed and with quicker speed than that of the German Blitzkrieg during the early stages of the war. This was important for Japan, as it had only 10% of the homeland industrial production capacity of the United States.
Douglas MacArthur lands at the Battle of Leyte, by U.S. Army Signal Corps
The turning point of the war was the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Following this, the Americans began fighting towards China where they could build an airbase suitable to commence bombing of mainland Japan with its B-29 Superfortress fleet. The Americans began by selecting smaller, lesser defended islands as targets as opposed to attacking the major Japanese strongholds. During this period, they inadvertently triggered what would become their most comprehensive victory in the entire war. The Pacific war became the largest naval conflict in history. The American Navy emerged victorious, after at one point being stretched near to the breaking point, with almost complete destruction of the Japanese Navy. The American forces were then poised for an invasion of the Japanese mainland, to force the Japanese into unconditional surrender. On April 12, 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died and Vice President Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States. The use of atomic weapons against Japan was subsequently authorized. The decision to use nuclear weapons to end the conflict has been one of the most controversial decisions of the war. Supporters of the use of the bombs argue that an invasion would have cost an enormous numbers of lives, while opponents argue that the large number of civilian casualties resulting from the bombings was unjustified. The first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. On August 15, 1945, the Japanese surrendered unconditionally, ending World War II. The Pacific war claimed the lives of more than 100,000 US soldiers.
The Cold War begins (1945–1964)
Main article: History of the United States (1945–1964)
President Kennedy's address on Civil Rights, June 11, 1963. Following World War II, the United States emerged as one of the two dominant superpowers. The U.S. Senate, on December 4, 1945, approved U.S. participation in the United Nations (UN), which marked a turn away from the traditional isolationism of the U.S. and toward more international involvement. The post-war era in the United States was defined internationally by the beginning of the Cold War, in which the United States and the Soviet Union attempted to expand their influence at the expense of the other, checked by each side's massive nuclear arsenal and the doctrine of mutual assured destruction. The result was a series of conflicts during this period including the Korean War and the tense nuclear showdown of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Within the United States, the Cold War prompted concerns about Communist influence, and also resulted in government efforts to focus mathematics and science toward efforts such as the space race. In the decades after World War II, the United States became a global influence in economic, political, military, cultural, and technological affairs. Beginning in the 1950s, middle-class culture had a growing obsession with consumer goods. White Americans made up nearly 90% of the population in 1950. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected President. Known for his charisma, he was the first and -thus far - only Roman Catholic to have been elected President. The Kennedy family had brought a new life and vigor to the atmosphere of the White House. His time in office was marked by such notable events as the acceleration of the United States' role in the space race; escalation of the American role in the Vietnam War; the Cuban missile crisis; the Bay of Pigs Invasion; the jailing of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Birmingham campaign; and the appointment of his brother Robert F. Kennedy to his Cabinet as Attorney General. He was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, leaving the nation in profound shock.
Climax of liberalism
The climax of liberalism came in the mid-1960s with the success of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–69) in securing congressional passage of his Great Society programs, including civil rights, the end of segregation, Medicare, extension of welfare, federal aid to education at all levels, subsidies for the arts and humanities, environmental activism, and a series of programs designed to wipe out poverty. As recent historians have explained: "Gradually, liberal intellectuals crafted a new vision for achieving economic and social justice. The liberalism of the early 1960s contained no hint of radicalism, little disposition to revive new deal era crusades against concentrated economic power, and no intention to fast and class passions or redistribute wealth or restructure existing institutions. Internationally it was strongly anti-Communist. It aimed to defend the free world, to encourage economic growth at home, and to ensure that the resulting plenty was fairly distributed. Their agenda-much influenced by Keynesian economic theory-envisioned massive public expenditure that would speed economic growth, thus providing the public resources to fund larger welfare, housing, health, and educational programs." Johnson was rewarded with an electoral landslide in 1964 against conservative Barry Goldwater, which broke the decades-long control of Congress by the Conservative coalition. But the Republicans bounced back in 1966, and is the debit credit party splintered five ways, Republicans elected Richard Nixon in 1968. Nixon largely continued the New Deal and Great Society programs he inherited; conservative reaction would come with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
The Civil Rights Movement (1955–1970)
Main article: African American Civil Rights Movement
Martin Luther King gives his I Have a Dream speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Meanwhile, the American people completed a great migration from farms into the cities and experienced a period of sustained economic expansion. At the same time, institutionalized racism across the United States, but especially in the American South, was increasingly challenged by the growing Civil Rights movement. The activism of African American leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched the movement. For years African Americans would struggle with violence against them, but would achieve great steps towards equality with Supreme Court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended the Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation between Whites and Blacks.
Martin Luther King, Jr., who had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve equality of the races, was assassinated in 1968. Following his death other leaders led the movement, most notably King's widow, Coretta Scott King, who was also active, like her husband, in the Opposition to the Vietnam War, and in the Women's Liberation Movement. Over the first nine months of 1967, 128 American cities suffered 164 riots. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the strengthening of Black Power, however the decade would ultimately bring about positive strides toward integration.
The Women's Movement (1963–1982)
Main article: Feminist Movement in the United States
Gloria Steinem at a meeting of the Women's Action Alliance, 1972. A new consciousness of the inequality of American women began sweeping the nation, starting with the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan's best-seller, The Feminine Mystique, which explained how many housewives felt trapped and unfulfilled, assaulted American culture for its creation of the notion that women could only find fulfillment through their roles as wives, mothers, and keepers of the home, and argued that women were just as able as men to do every type of job. In 1966 Friedan and others established the National Organization for Women, or NOW, to act as an NAACP for women. Protests began, and the new "Women's Liberation Movement" grew in size and power, gained much media attention, and, by 1968, had replaced the Civil Rights Movement as the U.S.'s main social revolution. Marches, parades, rallies, boycotts, and pickets brought out thousands, sometimes millions; Friedan's Women's Strike for Equality (1970) was a nationwide success. The Movement was split into factions by political ideology early on, however (NOW on the left, the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL) on the right, the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC) in the center, and more radical groups formed by younger women on the far left). Along with Friedan, Gloria Steinem was an important feminist leader, co-founding the NWPC, the Women's Action Alliance, and editing the Movement's magazine, Ms. The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress in 1972 and favored by about seventy percent of the American public, failed to be ratified in 1982, with only three more states needed to make it law. The nation's conservative women, led by activist Phyllis Schlafly, defeated the ERA by arguing that it degraded the position of the housewife, and made young women susceptible to the military draft.
However, many federal laws (i.e. those equalizing pay, employment, education, employment opportunites, credit, ending pregnancy discrimination, and requiring NASA, the Military Academies, and other organizations to admit women), state laws (i.e. those ending spousal abuse and marital rape), Supreme Court rulings (i.e. ruling the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied to women), and state ERAs established women's equal status under the law, and social custom and consciousness began to change, accepting women's equality. The controversial issue of abortion, legalized in 1973 is still a point of debate today.
The Counterculture Revolution and Cold War Détente (1964–1980)
Main article: History of the United States (1964–1980) Amid the Cold War, the United States entered the Vietnam War, whose growing unpopularity fed already existing social movements, including those among women, minorities and young people. President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society social programs and the judicial activism of the Warren Court added to the wide range of social reform during the 1960s and 1970s. Feminism and the environmental movement became political forces, and progress continued toward civil rights for all Americans. The Counterculture Revolution swept through the nation and much of the western world in the late sixties and early seventies, dividing the already hostile environment but also bringing forth more liberated social views.
United States Navy F-4 Phantom II intercepts a Soviet Tu-95 Bear D aircraft in the early 1970s Johnson was succeeded by President Richard Nixon in 1969, who initially escalated the Vietnam War but soon negotiated a peace treaty in 1973, effectively ending American involvement in the war. The war had cost the lives of 58,000 American troops and millions of Vietnamese. Nixon used a conflict in the Eastern Bloc between the Soviet Union and China to the advantage of the United States, bolstering relations with the People's Republic of China. A new era of Cold War relations known as détente (cooperation) was begun. The OPEC oil embargo led to a period of slow economic growth in 1973. The U.S. was afflicted with a recession, an energy crisis, slow economic growth, high unemployment, and high inflation coupled with high interest rates (the term stagflation was coined). The Watergate scandal, resulting from the break-in into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. ultimately led to Nixon's resignation on August 9, 1974, as well as the indictment and conviction of several Nixon administration officials. During the years of his successor, Gerald Ford, the American-backed South Vietnamese government collapsed.
Jimmy Carter, running as someone who was not a part of the Washington political establishment, was elected president in 1976. On the world stage, Carter brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. In 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage, resulting in the Iran hostage crisis. As a result of the hostage crisis and continuing stagflation, Carter lost the 1980 election to Republican Ronald Reagan, whose campaign message advertised that his presidency would bring "Morning in America". On January 20, 1981, minutes after Carter's term in office ended, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released, ending the 444day Iran hostage crisis.
The end of the Cold War (1980–1991)
Main article: History of the United States (1980–1991)
Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate challenges Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1987, shortly before the end of the Cold War Ronald Reagan produced a major realignment with his 1980 and 1984 landslides. Reagan's economic policies (dubbed "Reaganomics") and the implementation of the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 lowered income taxes from 70% to 28% over the course of seven years. Reagan continued to downsize government taxation and regulation. The U.S. experienced a recession in 1982; unemployment and business failures soon entered rates close to Depression-era levels. These negative trends reversed the following year, when the inflation rate decreased from 11% to 2%, the unemployment rate decreased from 10.8% in December 1982 to 7.5% in November 1984, and the economic growth rate increased from 4.5 to 7.2%. Reagan ordered a massive buildup of the U.S. military, incurring a costly budget deficit. Reagan introduced a complicated missile defense system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed "Star Wars" by opponents) in which the U.S. could, in theory, shoot down missiles with laser systems in space. Though it was never fully developed or deployed, the Soviets were genuinely concerned about the possible effects of the program and the research and technologies of SDI paved the way for the anti-ballistic missile systems of today. The Reagan administration also provided covert funding and assistance to anti-Communist resistance movements worldwide. Reagan's interventions against Grenada and Libya were popular in the U.S., though his backing of the Contra rebels was mired in controversy. The arms-for-hostages scandal led to the convictions of such figures as Oliver North and John Poindexter.
Reagan met four times with Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who ascended to power in 1985, and their summit conferences led to the signing of the INF Treaty. Gorbachev tried to save Communism in the Soviet Union first by ending the expensive arms race with America,  then by shedding the East European empire in 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ending the US-Soviet Cold War.
The World Superpower (1991–present)
Main article: History of the United States (1991–present) This section includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations.
Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations where appropriate. (March 2010)
USAF aircraft fly over Kuwaiti oil fires during the Gulf War After the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States emerged as the world's sole remaining superpower and continued to involve itself in military action overseas, including the 1991 Gulf War. Following his election in 1992, President Bill Clinton oversaw unprecedented gains in securities values, a side effect of the digital revolution and new business opportunities created by the Internet (see Internet bubble). The 1990s saw one of the longest periods of economic expansion. Under Clinton an attempt to universalize health care, led by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton failed after almost two years of work on the controversial plan, however Hillary Rodham Clinton did succeed, along with a bipartisan coalition of members of congress, in establishing the Children's Health Insurance Program. The regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq proved a continuing problem for the UN and Iraq's neighbors in its refusal to account for previously known stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, its violations of UN resolutions, and its support for terrorism against Israel and other countries. After the 1991 Gulf War, the US, French, and British military's began patrolling the Iraqi no-fly zones to protect Iraq's Kurdish minority and Shi’ite Arab population – both of which suffered attacks from the Hussein regime before and after the 1991 Gulf War – in Iraq's northern and southern regions, respectively.  In the aftermath of Operation Desert Fox during December 1998, Iraq announced that it would no longer respect the no-fly zones and resumed its efforts in shooting down Allied aircraft. During the 1990s the al-Qaeda terrorist network and other Islamic fundamentalist groups attempted terrorist attacks against the United States and other nations. In 1993, Ramzi Yousef, a Kuwaiti national, and suspected al-Qaeda operative, planted explosives in the underground garage of One World Trade Center and detonated them, killing six people and
injuring thousands. Later that year in the Battle of Mogadishu, US Army Rangers engaged Somali militias supported by al-Qaeda in an extended firefight that cost the lives of 19 American soldiers. President Clinton subsequently withdrew US combat forces from Somalia (there originally to support UN relief efforts). Terrorist attacks occurred in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. There was an attempted bombing at Los Angeles International Airport and other attempts of acts of terrorism during the 2000 millennium attack plots. In Yemen the USS Cole was bombed in October 2000, which the government associated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network. US responses to terrorist attacks included limited cruise missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan (August 1998), which failed to stop al-Qaeda's leaders and their Taliban supporters. Also in 1998, President Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act which called for regime change in Iraq because Saddam Hussein had possessed weapons of mass destruction, oppressed Iraqi citizens and attacked other Middle Eastern countries. Al-Qaeda and other Islamic fundamentalist groups were not the only groups responsible for terrorism during this time. In 1995, a domestic terrorist bombing took place at a federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, and was then the biggest terrorist attack on US soil since World War II. The perpetrators, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, objected to the federal government and sought revenge for the sieges at Ruby Ridge (1992) and Waco (1993). In 1998, Clinton was impeached for charges of perjury and obstruction of justice that arose from lying about a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He was the second president to have been impeached. The House of Representatives voted 228 to 206 on December 19 to impeach Clinton, but on February 12, 1999, the Senate voted 55 to 45 to acquit Clinton of the charges. 2000 Election The presidential election in 2000 between George W. Bush (R) and Al Gore (D) was one of the closest in the U.S. history, and helped lay the seeds for political polarization to come. Although Bush won the majority of electoral votes, Gore won the majority of the popular vote. In the days following Election Day, the state of Florida entered dispute over the counting of votes due to technical issues over certain Democratic votes in some counties. The Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore was decided on December 12, 2000, ending the recount with a 5–4 vote and certifying Bush as president.
9-11 attack in 2001
New York under attack in the September 11 attacks At the beginning of the new millennium, the United States found itself attacked by Islamic terrorism, with the September 11, 2001 attacks in which 19 Islamists hijacked four transcontinental airliners and intentionally crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. The passengers on the fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, revolted causing the plane to crash into a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. 2,976 people and the 19 hijackers perished in the attacks. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, that plane was intended to hit the US Capitol Building in Washington. The twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed, destroying the entire complex. The United States soon found large amounts of evidence that suggested that the terrorist group al-Qaeda, spearheaded by Osama bin Laden, was responsible for the attacks. War in Afghanistan and Iraq
George W. Bush in a televised address from the USS Abraham Lincoln. In response to the attacks, under the administration of President George W. Bush, the United States (with the military support of NATO and the political support of some of the international community) launched Operation Enduring Freedom which overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan which had protected and harbored bin Laden and al-Qaeda. With the support of large bipartisan majorities, the US Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. With a coalition of other countries including Britain, Spain, Australia, Japan and Poland, in March 2003 President Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom which led to the overthrow and capture of Saddam Hussein. Using the language of 1998 Iraq Liberation Act and the Clinton Administration, the reasons cited by the Bush administration for the invasion included the spreading of democracy, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction (a key demand of the UN as well, though later investigations found parts of the
intelligence reports to be inaccurate) and the liberation of the Iraqi people. This second invasion fueled protest marches in many parts of the world. Immigration Despite tougher border scrutiny after 9/11, nearly 8 million immigrants came to the United States from 2000 to 2005 – more than in any other five-year period in the nation's history.  Almost half entered illegally. Oil By 2006, rising prices saw Americans become increasingly conscious of the nation's dependence on supplies of petroleum for energy, with President Bush admitting a U.S. "addiction" to oil. The possibility of serious economic disruption, should conflict overseas or declining production interrupt the flow, could not be ignored, given the instability in the Middle East and other oil-producing regions of the world. Many proposals and pilot projects for replacement energy sources, from ethanol to wind power and solar power, received more capital funding and were pursued more seriously in the 2000s than in previous decades. The 2006 midterm elections saw Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi become Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. Counter-terrorism In addition to military efforts abroad, in the aftermath of 9/11 the Bush Administration increased domestic efforts to prevent future attacks, a new cabinet level agency called the United States Department of Homeland Security was created to lead and coordinate federal counter-terrorism activities. The USA PATRIOT Act removed legal restrictions on information sharing between federal law enforcement and intelligence services and allowed for the investigation of suspected terrorists using means similar to those in place for other types of criminals. A new Terrorist Finance Tracking Program monitored the movements of terrorists' financial resources but was discontinued after being revealed by The New York Times. Telecommunication usage by known and suspected terrorists was studied through the NSA electronic surveillance program. Since 9/11, Islamic extremists made various attempts to attack the US homeland, with varying levels of organization and skill. For example, in 2001 vigilant passengers aboard a transatlantic flight to Miami prevented Richard Reid from detonating an explosive device. After months of brutal violence against Iraqi civilians by Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist groups and militias—including al-Qaeda in Iraq—in January 2007 President Bush presented a new strategy for Operation Iraqi Freedom based upon counter-insurgency theories and tactics developed by General David Petraeus. The Iraq War troop surge of 2007 was part of this "new way forward". The George W. Bush administration also increased allegations implicating Iran and Syria, in the development of weapons of mass destruction. Late 2000s Recession In December 2007, the United States entered the longest post-World War II recession, which included a housing market correction, a subprime mortgage crisis, soaring oil prices,
and a declining dollar value. In February 2008, 63,000 jobs were lost, a 5-year record for a single month. In September 2008, the crisis became much worse beginning with the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac followed by the collapse of Lehman Brothers. This economic crisis was considered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  In November 2008, over 500,000 jobs were lost, which marked the largest loss of jobs in the United States in 34 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the last four months of 2008, 1.9 million jobs were lost. By the end of 2008, the U.S. had lost a total of 2.6 million jobs, and the unemployment rate rose to 7.2%. 2008 election In the presidential election of 2008, Senator Barack Obama, having narrowly defeated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nomination, ran on a platform of "Hope and Change". The ticket of Obama and Senator Joe Biden was victorious against the Republican ticket of Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. On November 4, Obama became the first African American to be elected President of the United States; he was sworn into office as the 44th President on January 20, 2009. During his first 100 days in office, Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a $787 billion economic stimulus package aimed at helping the economy recover from the deepening worldwide recession. The act included increased federal spending for health care, infrastructure, education, various tax breaks and incentives, and direct assistance to individuals, which is being distributed over the course of several years, with about 25% due by the end of 2009. The Obama administration also enacted additional economic programs designed to stimulate the economy, such as the Car Allowance Rebate System, the Public-Private Investment Program, and the Automobile Industry Bailout. In the third quarter of 2009, the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.2% annual pace,  after contracting for four consecutive quarters. However, the unemployment rate continued to rise to 10.1%, the highest level since 1983, and the underemployment rate continued to rise to 17.5%, the highest since records began being kept in 1994. Early in his presidency, Obama also moved to change the U.S. war strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. In February 2009, Obama announced his plan to decrease troop levels in Iraq, stating that all combat troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by August 31, 2010, and that as many as 50,000 would remain in Iraq to train, equip and advise Iraqi forces, help protect withdrawing forces and work on counterterrorism until December 31, 2011. He also announced that same month that the amount of troops in Afghanistan would be boosted by 17,000. In December 2009, Obama announced that an additional 30,000 troops would be deployed to Afghanistan over a period of six months, and also proposed to begin troop withdrawals 18 months from that date. As of 2010, debates continue over abortion, gun control, medical marijuana, same-sex marriage, immigration reform, climate change, health care reform, and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In foreign policy, the U.S. maintains ongoing talks, led by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, as well as with Israel and the Palestinian Authority over a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the Palestinian-Israeli talks began in 2007, an effort spearheaded
by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. China, holding an estimated $1.6 trillion of U.S. securities, is the largest foreign financier of the record U.S. public debt.
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 References and further reading
Agnew, Jean-Christophe, and Roy Rosenzweig, eds. A Companion to Post1945 America (2006) • Anderson, Fred, ed. The Oxford Companion to American Military History (2000) • Barney, William. A Companion to 19th-Century America (2006) • Bender, Thomas. A Nation Among Nations : America’s place in world history, New York : Hill and Wang, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8090-9527-8 • Carnes, Mark C., and John A. Garraty, The American Nation: A History of the United States: AP Edition (2008); university textbook • Diner, Hasia, ed. Encyclopedia of American Women's History (2010) • Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History (2nd ed. 2008), university textbook • Gilbert, Martin. The Routledge Atlas of American History (2010) • Hornsby Jr., Alton. A Companion to African American History (2008) excerpt and text search • Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas Bailey. The American Pageant (2 vol 2008), university textbook study guide
Lancaster, Bruce, Bruce Catton, and Thomas Fleming. The American Heritage History of the American Revolution (2004) • Milner, Clyde A., Carol A. O'Connor, and Martha A. Sandweiss, eds. The Oxford History of the American West (1996) excerpt and text search • Perry, Elisabeth Israels, and Karen Manners Smith, eds. The Gilded Age & Progressive Era: A Student Companion (2006) • Pole, Jack P. and J.R. Pole. A Companion to the American Revolution (2003) excerpt and text search • Resch, John, ed. Americans at War: Society, Culture, and the Homefront (4 vol 2004) • Schweikart, Larry, and Michael Allen. A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror (2007), view from the right excerpt and text search • Tindall, George Brown, and David E. Shi. America: A Narrative History (8th ed. 2009), university textbook • Vickers, Daniel, ed. A Companion to Colonial America (2006) • Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present (2005), view from the left excerpt and text search • Zophy, Angela Howard, ed. Handbook of American Women's History. (2nd ed. 2000). 763 pp. articles by experts