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United States (1783-1898). page 2


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The name of James Monroe, a man of distinguished prudence, honesty, and patriotism, who was President for two terms (1817-1825), in a period of general progress and prosperity, at once suggests the famous "Monroe Doctrine," so much referred to, so little understood. In December, 1823, this President, in his annual "message to Congress," declared that "the American continents [i.e. including South America, much of whose territory had recently become free from the domination of Spain], by the free and independent position which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonisation by any European Power," and that the extension of the system of the "Holy Alliance" to America would not be viewed "in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States." The "Holy Alliance" was a league formed by the sovereigns of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, after the fall of Napoleon, and formally announced in a manifesto dated from St. Petersburg, on Christmas-day, 1815, by Alexander I. This remarkable document stated that the three monarchs bound themselves to govern their own peoples, and to deal with foreign states, by "taking for their sole guide the precepts of the holy religion of our Saviour, namely, the precepts of justice, Christian charity, and peace." The duke of Wellington, when he was asked to sign this as the representative of Great Britain, dryly remarked that the English Parliament would require something more precise. All the European sovereigns, except the Pope, became members of the league, which was, in spite of its pious declaration, a conspiracy against constitutional freedom, a scheme for maintaining absolutism, and for repressing aspirations for liberty and reform. Its true spirit was clearly shown in 1821 when the above three sovereigns, assembled at Laibach, in Carniola, to regulate the affairs of Italy, sent a dispatch to their ministers at foreign courts, proclaiming the doctrine that "useful or necessary changes in legislation, and in the administration of states, ought only to emanate from those whom God has rendered responsible for power." Despotic rule thus declared open war against constitutional government. The monarchs of Austria and Prussia had already denied to their own subjects the representative government which they had once promised. The autocrat of Russia was aiding them in the suppression of freedom throughout Italy. Under George Canning's control as Foreign Secretary, the influence of Great Britain was flung into the scale against these "Holy Alliance" principles, and the cause of freedom was supported in the case of Spain and Portugal, and in that of the Spanish colonies in South America. The "Monroe Doctrine" was, in fact no "doctrine" at all, but a protest against any application of the detestable principles of the "Holy Alliance" in the way of intervention, by despotic European Powers, in the struggle for freedom made by the Spanish colonies in South America. During his terms of office Mississippi and Illinois were admitted, in 1817 and 1818, as the 20th and 21st States of the Union, and in 1819 a treaty with Spain caused the cession of Florida. In the same year and 1820 Alabama and Maine became the 22nd and 23rd States, the population of the country being then over 9,500,000. In 1821 Missouri joined the Union as a slave-state, after the "Missouri compromise" had settled that henceforth slavery was prohibited in the United States to the west of the Mississippi, and north of 36½ north latitude, the southern boundary of the new State. The country continued to prosper under President John Quincy Adams (1825-1829), son of the second President, the first railroad being made, the Erie canal completed, and the debt greatly diminished, with a good surplus over expenditure.

It was under Andrew Jackson, President for two terms (1829-1837), that the pernicious system of "rotation in office" was established, by which officials in every department of the civil service were removed to make room for political supporters of the new President. In 1830 the population had reached nearly 13,000,000. In the following year the slavery-question, destined to assume so vast an importance, came prominently forward when the famous William Lloyd Garrison established in Boston the newspaper styled the Liberator, advocating the immediate and unconditional freeing of the negroes. Henceforth there was an abolitionist or anti-slavery party in the politics of the Union, and much hostility was aroused in the Southern States, where slave-labour was made highly profitable in the cultivation of cotton, sugar, and tobacco. In 1836 and 1837 Arkansas and Michigan became the 25th and 26th States of the Union. We pass quickly over political conflicts concerning tariffs and "protective" duties on imports, and a great financial crisis, due to over-speculation in land and other causes, with a temporary check to the country's prosperity, during the presidency of Martin van Buren (1837-1841), and the rise of the Mormon sect, during the term of John Tyler (1841-1845), noting also the admission of Florida, in 1845, as the 27th State, and the annexation, in the same year, after revolt from Mexico, of the great territory called Texas. This event was followed by the admission of Texas and Iowa, in 1845 and 1846, as the 28th and 29th States.

James Polk was President from 1845 to 1849, and during this period we have the only instance of increase of territory for the United States by a war of conquest. In 1846-47 a contest was carried on with Mexico, in which the United States troops took the field under Generals Zachary Taylor, Kearney, and Winfield Scott. Some brilliant victories were first due to the army under Taylor, invading Mexico from the north. In May, 1846, he won the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca. In September he took Monterey, and in February, 1847, he gained over the Mexican general, Santa Anna, the great victory of Buena Vista. In 1846 Kearney and other leaders subdued New Mexico and California.

In the spring of 1847 Scott landed with an army near Vera Cruz, and received the surrender of that city on March 29th. Advancing then on Mexico, the capital, he defeated Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo in April; at Churubusco, in August; and, after storming strong positions before the capital, he entered the city on September 14th, and planted the "stars and stripes" over the palace of the Montezumas. In February, 1848, the war ended with a treaty by which Mexico gave up all claim to Texas, with the Rio Grande as boundary, and ceded the provinces of New Mexico and Upper California, or over 500,000 square miles, receiving a payment of $15,000,000 or about 3,000,000 pounds sterling. This great accession of territory carried the United States border westwards to the Pacific. In 1848 Wisconsin became the 30th State, and the same year saw a remarkable event in the discovery of gold in California, by a workman digging in the valley of the Sacramento. A "rush" to the scene of potential wealth at once set in from all parts of the States and from Europe. The track across the prairie was strewn with the bones of men and animals that perished on the way. A great and disorderly population swarmed in the new gold-fields, and "vigilance committees" dealt out lynch-law to rogues and ruffians who preyed on honest miners. San Francisco, a mere log-village at the outset, soon grew into a large and flourishing town, and California, in 1850, became the 31st State. General Taylor, the hero of the Mexican war, died soon after his entry on office as President in 1849, and was succeeded, as usual in such cases, by the Vice-President, Millard Fillmore. Under this government, the subject of slavery caused much agitation, and violent debates occurred in Congress. At this time, when the peace of the country was imperilled, the eloquent speeches of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were of great service in effecting a compromise between the anti-slavery party, including the "Free-soilers" (advocates of freedom for negroes in all fresh States) who had arisen in 1848, and those who upheld what was delicately styled the "domestic institution." California was admitted as a free State. Utah and New Mexico were organised as "Territories" without any mention of slavery; and in 1850 the important Fugitive Slave Law conciliated the slave-party by providing for the surrender, to their owners, of negroes who had escaped to any free State. The abolitionists were greatly irritated by this, and constant evasions of the new law occurred. Under President Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) the slavery-question was still the main subject before the country. In 1854, when the "Territories" of Nebraska and Kansas were organised, an unwise law was passed which left the question of slavery in those regions to the decision of the inhabitants. This arrangement, styled "squatter sovereignty," at once caused a rush, on the part of the abolitionists and the slave-party, for priority of colonisation in the new territory, and a kind of civil war was waged in Kansas for some years, ending in the success of the "Republicans," or anti-slavery party, against the " Democrats," or pro-slavery people.

Matters ripened fast for civil war under the presidency, from 1857 to 1861, of James Buchanan, a Democrat. In the former year the Supreme Court, in the famous Dred-Scott case - in which a negro of that name and his wife claimed their freedom on the ground that their master had taken them for a time into Illinois, a "free" State, and had thereby emancipated them - gave a decision that, under the constitution, no negro-slave nor his or her descendant, slave or free, could become a citizen of the United States; and also that a slave did not become free by being carried into a territory where slavery was prohibited under the "Missouri compromise" of 1821, an arrangement which the Court held to be "unconstitutional." The abolitionists were enraged by a judgment which appeared to them to make slavery a national instead of a merely local institution; the slave-owners, on their side, exulted in the declaration that they could, in any State, retain their hold on their property in human beings. In 1858 and 1859 Minnesota and Oregon became the 32nd and 33rd States. In the latter year came the famous incident of "John Brown's Raid" at Harper's Ferry, in Virginia. A Kansas anti-slavery man, known as "Captain John Brown," a brave, simple, fanatical soul, had planned an attack on slavery by the formation, in the Virginia mountains, of a stronghold for escaped negroes. Defying man's law in behalf of what he held to be the sacred right of freedom for all human beings, Brown, with only a score of men, seized the government-arsenal at Harper's Ferry, in order to provide means of defence for fugitive and revolted slaves. His generous project could not but fail against the government-forces, and a desperate fight ended in his capture and hanging as a traitor. This hero long lived in the memories of the haters of slavery. A stirring song was written and set to music, and, at the close of the civil war, the streets of Charleston, capital of South Carolina, rang with its strains as a victorious regiment of freed negroes made their entry, singing "John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching along." We may here note, on the eve of a momentous struggle, that in 1860 the population of the United States was nearly 31,500,000.

The great civil war of 1861 to 1865 was due not merely to the contest on slavery, but to the question of "State-rights." John Caldwell Calhoun, a native of South Carolina, after success as a lawyer, entered Congress in 1811 as representative of that State, and soon gained a prominent position. As Secretary of War in Monroe's cabinet, he rendered most valuable service in reorganisation, and served as Vice-President under Adams and General Jackson. He next became distinguished as inventor and upholder of the theory that any State can set aside laws which it holds to be unconstitutional, his aim being chiefly at tariff-laws which might benefit one part of the country and be highly detrimental to the interests of another section. In this way he became a champion of the slave-holding States, for which free, trade was advantageous, as they were almost destitute of home-manufactures, while a "protective" tariff was preferred in the Northern States as a defence of manufacturers against foreign goods. He clearly understood the radical differences existing between the social and industrial systems of the Northern and Southern States, and foresaw the struggle which would one day arise. This remarkable man seriously held slavery to be a blessing to all parties concerned in it, and his doctrine on this and on the "State-rights" question was warmly cherished in the Southern or "slave" States. The last revision of customs-duties, called the Morrill Tariff, excluded many articles altogether from the Southern ports, and so pressed heavily on the South, compelling the planters to pay a higher price for articles of prime necessity, and preventing them from exchanging their products with those of Europe, and especially of Great Britain, on terms so advantageous as under free-trade. This was a real grievance. The election for a new President, held in; the autumn of 1860, largely turned upon the slavery-question. The retiring ruler, Buchanan, was a Democrat; the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, was successful. Not a single Southern State voted for him; no Northern State voted against him. Enraged by this defeat, suffering from the tariff, maddened by the insulting and exulting language of the Abolitionists, feeling that political equality was gone, convinced that the Union could no longer be to them a blessing, but a curse, and cleaving to the doctrine that any State could lawfully secede, the Southern States, assuming the title of the "Confederate States of America," under the presidency of Jefferson Davis, withdrew from the Union, and in the spring of 1861 South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas, were ranked in hostility against the rest of the Union, except Missouri and Kentucky, which remained neutral. The "Southerners" or "Confederates" believed that their forces, led by officers trained at West Point Military Academy, and actuated by feelings of the strongest patriotism, would win an easy triumph over mercenary troops from the Northern (Federal) States, and they also looked for help to Great Britain and France when the manufacturers of those countries should find their mills running short of raw cotton from the blockade of Southern ports. The Northerners, at the outset, believed that their foes would soon collapse from inferiority of numbers and from revolts among the slave-population, at that time amounting to 4,000,000. Both sides were deceived. The Northerners or Federals put forth their whole strength, and produced generals of great ability. France and Great Britain remained neutral. The Southerners fought ably, bravely, and with the utmost pertinacity, maintaining the struggle to the point of utter exhaustion, and not seriously troubled by their negroes.

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