American Revolution and the Civil War

Political Motivations for English Imperialism

English imperialism was motivated by the British monarch, which was interested in developing the colonies for power and wealth (Wolfe, 2006). Therefore, the monarch granted charters to groups of businessmen who would establish economic operations in the New World (Marsh, 2011). The monarch was also searching for silver and gold, which was believed to be abundant in the Americas (Pate, 2007). Besides, the British monarchy expanded to the Americas to increase its political power and expand its influence beyond England. Having colonies in the Americas strengthened the British monarchy as it provided cheaper lands for its merchants and farmers.

Social Pressures That Contributed to the English Colonization of North America

            The majority of the colonists had challenging lives in Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany (Pate, 2007; Wolfe, 2006). Therefore, they came to the Americas to escape warfare, poverty, political turmoil, famine, and disease. The prospect of new opportunities in the Americas encouraged many colonialists to support the spread of English imperialism to the Americas (Wolfe, 1997). Also, the protestant groups sought to leave England for the Americas to establish their communities and worship God in their way (Davis, 2009).

Economic, Social, and Political Systems

Massachusetts Bay Colony

            John Winthrop founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony together with about 1,000 Puritans after King Charles I granted the Massachusetts Bay Company a charter to trade and colonize New England between the Merrimack and Charles rivers (Williams & Warwick, 2009). The Puritans established communities in Boston, Medford, Charlestown, Roxbury, Dorchester, Watertown, and Lynn (Pratt, 2014). These communities were governed by a theocratic government that limited the franchise to church members. Therefore, the Puritans were intolerant and banished other religious beliefs (Davis, 2009). The economy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony depended on fishing, shipbuilding, fur, and lumber trades (Pratt, 2014).

Virginia Colony

            In 1607, the Virginia Company sent John Smith, and other colonists established the Virginia Colony as a constitutional monarchy under England’s King (Norton, 2010; Williams & Warwick, 2009). Agents of the king of England named the colony Jamestown and governed it under the corporation’s charter and the kingdom (Williams & Warwick, 2009). Govern the charter allowed the Virginia Council to govern the colony in democratic terms. At first, the colony suffered the “starving time” which led to starving f hundreds of colonists, and kidnapping of an Indian Chief’s daughter (Norton, 2010). Later, the colony’s growth was supported by economic activities such as agriculture, fishing, and lumber trades (Marsh, 2011). Crops from the plantations were traded for farm tools, household goods, and shoes. Unlike the other English colonies, different religious beliefs were tolerated in Virginia.

The Carolinas

            The North and the South Carolina colonies were divided in the 1660s after their proprietors recognized the vastness of the original colony, making it challenging to govern by one governor (Williams & Warwick, 2009). The fairly warm climate supported agricultural activities throughout the year and made the colonies suitable for plantations (Pratt, 2014). Using slave labor, the colonists established the plantations to grow tobacco, rice, cotton, sugar, and other crops traded for shoes, household goods, and farm tools (Pratt, 2014).


Significant Ideas and Events That Led to the American Revolution

            The introduction of the Stamp Act in 1765 was the first significant event that soured relationships between the British and American colonists (Pate, 2007). The Act contravened the autonomy of each colonial government to decide its taxes. Two years later, the Townshend Act of 1767 introduced a tax on tea in colonies and prohibited smuggling (Pate, 2007). In March 1770, a disagreement between a British soldier and an apprentice wigmaker led to the Boston massacre (Wolfe, 1997; Pate, 2007). The heightening tension between the British and the American colonists led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773 (Wolfe, 1997). A year later, the British Parliament introduced the Coercive Acts and the Quartering Act (Wolfe, 1997). The Lexington and Concord confrontation in 1775, followed by the British attacks of coastal towns in 1776, eventually ignited the Revolutionary War (Wolfe, 1997).

            The European Enlightenment and traditional British legal values are the key ideas that led to the American Revolutionary War. The Enlightenment perspective promoted individual liberties and deductive logic (Marsh, 2011; Wolfe, 2006; Wolfe, 1997). That is, besides challenging the divine right of kings to rule over other people, humanity can good character and intelligence to decide what is right and wrong (Marsh, 2011).

Political and Social Impact of the American Revolution

The American Revolution marked the opening of Western settlements and the creation of governments that were hostile to Native Americans’ territorial claims (Wolfe, 2006). The Native Americans had supported the British against the colonial settlers as they hoped they would restrain the expansion of the colonialists beyond the Appalachian Mountains (Pratt, 2014; Wolfe, 2006). Therefore, Americans’ victory and the Native American’s support for the British provided valid reasons for brutal expansion into the Western territories. Consequently, the Native Americans were displaced and pushed further West throughout the 19th Century (Wolfe, 2006).

Besides, the Revolution disrupted slavery, where African Americans were manumitted, resisted slavery, or fled. The British recruited African Americans in the war and promised them to abolish slavery (Wolfe, 1997). Also, the war created opportunities for hundreds of thousands of slaves to run away and secure their freedom rather than wait for the British (Wolfe, 1997). The overall participation in the Revolution prompted debates about the morality of slavery and its compatibility, which progressively and over along time brought about the Civil Rights movements.

The formation of the United States had adverse impacts on women’s rights (Miller, 2008). While women were allowed to vote in some colonies before the Revolution, they lost their right to vote until 1807 (Miller, 2008). The American Revolution did not result in civic equality for women. During the post-war period, some policy adjustments were made to incorporate women as “republican mothers” (Miller, 2008). They were responsible for raising and educating future citizens. This created women’s opportunity to access quality education (Miller, 2008).

The Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries

Rise of Partisan Politics in the Early Republic

Political parties emerged during the struggle over the ratification of the federal Constitution of 1787 (Stathis, 2009). Friction between the emerging political factions increased as attention shifted from creating a new federal government to the federal government (Wolfe, 1997). The federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, wanted a strong federal government, a vehement proposition opposed by anti-federalists led by Thomas Jefferson, who advocated for state power over centralized power (Wolfe, 1997).  Anti-federalists favored a decentralized government because they drew their strength from an agrarian society instead of the federalists whose economies were centered on the commercial sector (Wolfe, 1997).         

Development of the Second Party System

The Second Party System is a phrase coined by political scientists and historians to describe the political party system prevalent in the United States during the 1800s (Stathis, 2009). The Democratic and Whig party were the two main political parties during this political era. Andrew Jackson led the Democratic Party while Henry Clay led the Whig party (Murrin et al., n.d.). The consistent opposition between the two parties led to the Second Party System, which America uses today. The Democratic Party wanted a weak federal government that had no involvement in the states’ economic and social affairs, while the Whigs advocated for a robust federal government through Congress’s power (Murrin et al., n.d.). 

Andrew Jackson and the Democrats worked hard to eliminate the protective tariff and abolish the National Bank of the United States, while the Whigs supported both (Murrin et al., n.d.). The striking differences in the policies were determined by whom the political parties favored. The Jacksonians identified with the lower-class population, who made their living through farming (Murrin et al., n.d.). They also supported the idea that anyone could hold a government position. On the other hand, the Whigs comprised of nationalists and industrialists, who proposed policies that benefited these groups of people (Murrin et al., n.d.; Stathis, 2009). They proposed a tariff that would assist big businesses and manufacturing enterprises while hurting the lower-class people, particularly farmers. They also tried to cater to the lower-class’s needs by introducing internal transportation and public schools (Murrin et al., n.d.). The two parties also differed on the need to expand to the West to gain more farming land, with the Whigs deeming the idea unnecessary (Liang & Hofmeister, 2011; Stathis, 2009;).

The Second Party System contributed to increased democratization of American politics by encouraging more people to vote. Starting in 1828, more people became interested in voting, as evidenced by the high turnout in political rallies and Election Day (Liang & Hofmeister, 2011). It also contributed to establishing partisan newspapers, which supported the ideas proposed by certain political parties (Liang & Hofmeister, 2011). People become very loyal to their political parties.

Major Movements and Events That Led to the Civil War

In the first half of the 19th Century, white and black abolitionists engaged in a biracial attack against slavery (Tucker et al., 2013). They called for an end to slavery, indefinite bondage of captives, and separation of enslaved family members through the sale to different masters (Tucker et al., 2013). Meanwhile, pro-slavery arguments suggested a class-sensitive view of the American antebellum society (Tucker et al., 2013). Some of the abolitionist arguments concerning the antebellum included the British industry not depend on the slave trade, the Biblical teachings insisted on loving one another with kindness, and slavery denied people their freedom and human rights (Norton, 2010).

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The westward expansion increased sectional tension because the abolitionists and pro-slavery groups wanted to see their ideals extended to the West (Tucker et al., 2013). Several abolitionists dominated the North, while the South was a stronghold of pro-slavery activists (Tucker et al., 2013). They were keen to extend its influence as well as its social-cultural ideals to the West. This created tension between the two groups.

The enactment of The Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 was one of the critical events that led to the Civil War (Stathis, 2009). The Act obligated every federal official not to arrest freedom seekers. It caused many black activists in the North to increase their efforts to end enslavement (Tucker et al., 2013).

Also, the Underground Railroad that many freedom seekers used to get away to Canada became populated (Tucker et al., 2013). Other events include the Supreme Court ruling that Dred Scott could not have any property in a free state (Tucker et al., 2013). Also, the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 at South Carolina and six other states that seceded from the Union (Tucker et al., 2013).

The Late 19th Century

Major Changes in Race Relations

            One of the three significant changes in race relations that resulted from the Reconstruction was an attempt to integrate the Confederate States into the Union by recognizing African Americans’ political and civil equality in Southern states (Davis, 2009).

            The era of Reconstruction also saw the rectification of three constitutional amendments. The 13th Amendment was ratified to abolish slavery, the 14th Amendment addressed the right of citizenship and equal protection under the law, while the 15th Amendment eliminated discrimination in voting rights based on a person’s race, color, or previous condition of servitude (Davis, 2009; Williams & Warwick, 2009).

Throughout the South, former slaves reunited with their families separated during the war of dislocation (Wolfe, 1997). It was a momentous time for wives and husbands to reunite with their children. The reunion also encouraged many blacks to establish black settlements in remote areas to minimize contact with whites.

Consequences of Industrialization on American Politics and Society

One of the major consequences of American industrialization was the drastic changes experienced by the American industry. There was a significant improvement in productivity because work was performed by machines rather than hand labor (Marsh, 2011). The development of the national railway network accelerated the distribution of goods and services across the country.

Industrialization also led to the creation of several inventions and products tailored to meet consumer needs (Marsh, 2011). Additionally, several banks were willing to extend credit to investors to support different business ventures. Industrialization also caused a massive migration from rural to urban areas.

Rise of the Progressive Movement

Role of Religion and Social Morality

            Religion and social morality promote progressive reforms by establishing a widely accepted standard by everyone in society (Tucker et al., 2013). Protestant ministers used scriptures emphasize the need to do good because people will be rewarded or punished based on their afterlife actions, which strengthened fight slavely and discrimination. For instance, Norton (2010) explains that Protestant ministers spread the “social gospel” to counter competitive capitalism and industrialization. The also strenthned access to educational, economic, and cultural opportunities (Norton, 2010). Also, the government became more obliged to protect the social welfare of people by restricting behaviors. For instance, labor laws, compensations, minimum wage, child labor laws, among others, were enacted (Norton, 2010). The idea was to sponser socialist gaols, which resulted in policies such as citty commissions plan, and federal control of water resources.

Reform Movements

            One of the significant reform movements that helped define the progressive era was its suffrage movement. Women emphasized that they could offer more than their traditional roles as housekeepers (Murrin et al., n.d.). They demanded equal rights to men regarding social matters such as obtaining jobs, voting, and accessing higher education (Murrin et al., n.d.).

            The Prohibition movement is the second major reform that helped to shape the Progressive era. The Progressive-era was characterized by abstinence from alcohol consumption after numerous advocacy efforts by women and other groups (Tucker et al., 2013; Miller, 2008). The Anti-Saloon League was one of the advocacy groups that joined forces with women to get alcohol banned.

Impact on American Politics

            One of the major impacts of the Progressive movement on American politics was furthering political and social reform to curb political corruption and limit large corporations’ political influence (Liang & Hofmeister, 2011). The focus of the Progressives was to establish a more accountable and transparent government that was oriented towards improving the welfare of American society. 

The Role of American Imperialism

Hawaiian Annexation

During the height of American imperialism, America perceived itself as different from other countries because of its specific world mission to spread democracy and liberty (Wolfe, 1997). This perception resulted in Hawaii’s annexation in 1898 to allow the United States to gain possession and control of all its harbors, buildings, ports, military equipment, and public property.

Spanish-American War

American imperialism enabled the United States to establish its dominance in the Caribbean region and pursue its economic and strategic interests in Asia. Engagement in the Spanish-American War of 1898 resulted in the Spanish colonial empire’s end in the Western Hemisphere (Wolfe, 1997). This enabled the United States to secure its strategic Pacific power by forcing the Spanish to relinquish Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines (Wolfe, 1997).

The 20th Century

The Major Causes of the Great Depression

The Great Depression’s major causes were bank failures, the stock market crash, America’s policy concerning Europe, and drought (Eichengreen, 2014). Between 1930 and 1932, people experienced a financial panic, which led to massive simultaneous withdrawals from banks, causing the latter to close (Eichengreen, 2014). The panic spread throughout the banking sector, causing more banks to shut down. In 1933, the U.S. banking system had failed, with nearly half of the banks closed (Eichengreen, 2014).

In the 1920s, the U.S. stock market expanded massively due to speculations that investors could buy stocks on margin (Eichengreen, 2014). The speculation caused an unprecedented increase in stock price, and many people were willing to invest even by mortgaging homes or using borrowed money (Eichengreen, 2014). Unfortunately, the stocks began to falter months later, and it was apparent that investors would not make their margin calls. Nevertheless, there was a massive sell-off due to fear (Eichengreen, 2014). People lost the value of their money and assets in the stock market. Those who had used debts to buy stocks mostly went bankrupt.

Due to the stock market crash, the consumption of imports reduced significantly. Counties that exported to the U.S. stopped their activities, which in turn aggravated the Depression. The government also tried saving the economy by reducing trade with Europe (the Tariff Act of 1930), which led to near-record taxes (Eichengreen, 2014). That led to the fall of inter-regional trade. Besides, environmental destruction led to drought and massive deaths due to climate change.

How the New Deal Addressed the Great Depression

First, the New Deal established critical economic safeguards. For instance, social security measures would ensure that financial institutions were cautious of previous mistakes (Kennedy, 2009). The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures the savings of Americans to combat any economic catastrophes in the future. New jobs were also created by undertaking construction projects for people rendered jobless through the Depression (Kennedy, 2009). Farmers benefited from economic reliefs from The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) to boost their productivity and increase income.

Secondly, the New Deal led to the establishment of the labor movement. It has ensured the fixation of the wage policies and pricing to ensure fair competition through the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (Kennedy, 2009). Additionally, it protected workers’ rights by facilitating the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (Kennedy, 2009).

Thirdly, the New Deal established a fiscal policy through the Economic Act (Kennedy, 2009). This would help avoid inflation and maintain maximum employment opportunities for smooth economic growth (Fishback, 2017). It also proposed cutting a percentage of salaries for government employees into a federal budget, to benefit to millions of veterans.

The Cold War

The nuclear test by the USSR in 1948 created a notion that one country could be more powerful than others (Leffler, 1999). Thus, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an arms race to determine the dominant superpower, increasing Cold War tensions. Since both the United States and the Soviet Union were fairly powerful, it seemed that they would eventually destroy each other (Leffler, 1999). This caused widespread anxiety throughout both countries, as anyone of them could launch missiles at any moment. Nevertheless, some speculations held that that would not happen as the war doctrine did not allow such destruction (Leffler, 1999). Thus, the arms race continued, intensifying the Cold War tensions.

The Soviet Union advocated and sought to expand communism throughout Europe and other regions. Under communism, economic resources and property belong to the state, while democracy grants citizens economic powers and the right to own property (Leffler, 1999; Hassan & Ralph, 2011). The United States endorsed democracy in its foreign policy (Hassan & Ralph, 2011). Thus, the U.S. opposed the Soviet Union’s doctrine and established containment measures to stop the Soviet Union. The different ideologies increased Cold War tensions (Leffler, 1999).

Concerning domestic policies, the Cold War affected people both socially and economically. Socially, there was intensive indoctrination of people to cause social reforms (Leffler, 1999). There was also increased business growth in the war-related industry, causing an economic boost. However, the U.S. spent a significant amount of money in billion dollars through containment measures (Leffler, 1999).  Culture led to a schism between those representing capitalism and democracy, and communism and authoritarianism as some political and religious groups held different views (Leffler, 1999). There were increased themes if nuclear war and espionage in the American culture propagated through films and fashion.

The Civil Rights and Other Movements’ Influence

The Civil Rights Movement led to the banning of discrimination and segregation, and as a result, schools could now admit both black and white students. Ending segregation is considered to be one of the crowning legislative achievements (Hall, 2005). Before the Civil Rights Movement, black and whites were not to use similar facilities or transport (Hall, 2005). However, African Americans had helped through the previous wars considerably and deserved social justice. The resultant Civil Rights Act also required schools to make bold decisions in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Educationcase (Hall, 2005).

The feminist movement led to women’s suffrage, more equitable pay, and greater access to education. The women’s suffrage would grant women the right to vote in national elections as men did. While it was a long period of struggle, the feminist movement would eventually back up the women’s suffrage and win the voting rights (Hall, 2005). Consequently, more women gained access to education and closed the gender wage gap.

The gay rights movement led to a change of homosexuality’s status from mental illness to sexual orientation and the legalization of same-sex marriages (Hall, 2005). Along with the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement sensitized the normalcy around homosexuality. It was controversial as religious influence had stigmatized homosexuality, and there were no legal codes to guide society (Hall, 2005). However, psychology experts later backed the movement with evidence to show that gays were not ill but sexually oriented to homosexuality (Morris, 2009). Since then, and after a decades-long legal pursuit, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages on June 26, 2015.

The religious rights movement led to the enactment of religious rights and influenced feminist movements. Religious rights include choosing or not choosing which religion to follow and when to convert, and that one’s belief in their chosen religion be respected (Hall, 2005). Before these rights were granted through the religious rights movement, religiosity was guided by socioeconomic powers. For instance, slaves would not attend church or, in some cases, pray (Raboteau, 2020). Additionally, due to advocating for social justice, the religious rights movement backed up the feminist movement.


Davis, K. (2009). Don’t Know Much About History. HarperCollins.

Eichengreen, B. (2014). Hall of mirrors (2nd ed.). Oxford UP.

Fishback, P. (2017). How successful was the New Deal? The microeconomic impact of New Deal spending and lending policies in the 1930s. Journal of Economic Literature, 55(4), 1435-1485. DOI: 10.1257/jel.20161054

Hall, J. (2005). The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past. Journal Of American History91(4), 1233.