Map Exercise 15: Nineteenth Century America (This exercise includes 2 maps)
During the Seven Years' War, Great Britain obtained vast amounts of territory in North America. But when they asked that the American colonists help pay for the war that brought them the new land, the colonists decided that such a request was senseless since they had no voice in Parliament or in British affairs. On July 4, 1776, the thirteen American colonies rebelled against the government of George III and declared themselves to be independent of British rule. In the summer of 1787, delegates met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation and decided to devise a new democratic constitution, which was approved by a slim margin the following year. General George Washington became the nation's first president.
During the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) it became part of the nation's destiny to expand the boundaries of the United States. The Jeffersonian ideal became synonymous with the idea of a nation of small and independent shopkeepers and yeoman farmers whose prosperity depended on the availability of new lands. So, territorial expansion became central to the United States in the early nineteenth century. Expansion, however, added a whole new suite of problems, the most important of which were what to do with native American populations and what to do about that "peculiar institution," slavery on the Southern plantation.
As the first nation in the modern world to claim its independence from a greater foreign power, the United States seemed to carry the ideals of the Enlightenment on its shoulder. European observers carefully watched developments across the Atlantic, curious to see whether or not this great experiment in government would actually succeed.
You should consider the following points in this exercise:
• How influential was the Jeffersonian vision in the early National period?
• In what ways might the independence and security of the United States have been threatened in the early nineteenth century?
• How did Manifest Destiny turn into an American crusade?