1. The most important historical event that occurred between 1492 and 1865 was the American Civil War. Sparked by issues such as states’ rights and the many aspects of slavery, it was a four-year war in which the country split in two and fought against each other for principles each side strongly believed in.
The importance of this particular war in American history cannot be emphasized enough. Had this war not occurred, there is a great likelihood that slavery would have continued, in turn allowing slaveholders to make increasingly high profits in the cotton industry. Had this been the case, events such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the recent election of the first African-American president may not have occurred. Therefore, for America to be the nation it is today, it was essential that the Civil War occurred.
2. The most important historical figure that lived between 1492 and 1865 was Andrew Jackson. This may seem to be an odd choice, but nonetheless, a good one. Jackson’s importance lay in the fact that he was the first president of the United States that was not from the planter aristocracy.
Rather than being a representative of wealth and prestige, Jackson was representative of the common man, and he was the embodiment of the concept that hard work and diligence can and do ultimately pay off. Although there are aspects of his presidency that can be considered terrible, overall, his place in history is solidified as the first ‘average joe’ to reach for and attain the highest position in the country. His accomplishments in office, particularly that of clearing away the national debt, have yet to be achieved since his term as president.
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3. During the summer of 1787, fifty-five delegates met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and held one of the most pivotal conventions in American history. These men were responsible for creating the Constitution of the United States, the document that serves as the basis of the American government.
Their goal was to devise a document that would be based on certain fundamental principles that all of them agreed on: “that government derives its just powers from the consent of the people but that society must be protected from the tyranny of the majority; that the people at large must have a voice in their government but that checks and balances must be provided to keep any one group from dominating; that a stronger central authority was essential but that all power was subject to abuse” (Shi & Tindall, 180).
There were two types of plans presented to the convention. The first plan was the Virginia Plan, devised by James Madison. His plan called for three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judicial; a Congress made up of two houses – a lower house whose members would be chosen through popular vote and an upper house of senators that would be elected by state legislatures; and Congress would have the power to define the extent of its own power and the power held by the individual states (Shi & Tindall, 180)
The second plan was the New Jersey Plan, devised by William Paterson. This plan would maintain the existing unicameral Congress, in which all the states had equal representation. In addition to this, Congress would have the power to impose taxes, regulate commerce, and name a plural executive that had no veto power, as well as name the members of a supreme court (Shi & Tindall, 180).
Both plans presented the convention with two big issues: whether to simply amend the Articles of Confederation, which was currently the law of the land, or to create a whole new document, and whether to decide congressional representation by population or by state. In the end, a new document was drafted, and a compromise on the issue of congressional representation was reached.
... exclusive power. Another set of powers stated in the Constitution are concurrent powers. Concurrent powers are powers that are shared by both the federal and state governments. The ... shifted power from the states to federal government. The power shift can be seen through grants given to the state governments by the federal government The federal government ...
The compromise, known as the Connecticut Compromise, presented the following solution: in the lower house, representation would be based on population; in the upper house, there would be equal representation of every state (Shi & Tindall, 180-81).
Thus, it was a combination of aspects from the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey that led to the creation of the current Constitution.
The Constitutional Convention was extremely necessary, as it created a government that was strong, yet flexible at the same time. Had it not been created, all the hard work that had been done to win the American Revolution would have been destroyed. With various countries that were still ruled by monarchy expecting the new republic of America to fail, it was crucial that America develop a solid government that would allow for the success of the democratic experiment.
4. The single greatest controversy between 1492 and 1865 was the controversy over slavery. Initially begun as a way to replace the lost labor of indentured servants in the early 1700s, slavery grew into a permanent institution that was more dominant in the southern colonies. Following the American Revolution, many northern states abolished slavery, but it remained in the southern states. Had it not been for the invention of the cotton gin, slavery may have died out on its own in the South. This was the hope of men such as Thomas Jefferson.
However, the opposite happened. Slavery flourished, causing a great deal of difficulty politically, particularly when a new state was to be admitted to the Union. Despite various acts such as the Missouri Compromise and the Compromise of 1850, both of which were meant to check the spread of slavery, controversy raged on until it was finally solved through war. After the war, three amendments were passed that abolished slavery and guaranteed the civil rights of the newly free. In this way, the controversy over slavery came to a definitive end.
Shi, David Emory, and George Brown Tindall. America: A Narrative History. 7th ed.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.