Westward Expansion


First Barbary Attack on American Ship


In the late 18th century piracy began to arise again. In 1783 and 1784 the Spanish bombarded Algiers to end piracy. The second time Admiral Barceló damaged the city so severely that the Algerian Dey asked Spain to negotiate a peace treaty. From then on Spanish vessels and coasts were safe for several years. Separately, the Danish attacked Tripoli in 1797.

Until the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, British treaties with the North African states protected American ships from the Barbary corsairs. Morocco, which in 1777 was the first independent nation to publicly recognize the United States, in 1784 became the first Barbary power to seize an American vessel after the nation achieved independence. The Barbary threat led directly to the United States founding the United States Navy in March 1794. While the United States did secure peace treaties with the Barbary states, it was obliged to pay tribute for protection from attack. The burden was substantial: in 1800 payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States federal government's annual expenditures. The United States conducted the First Barbary War in 1801 and the Second Barbary War in 1815 to gain more favorable peace terms; it ended the payment of tribute. But, Algiers broke the 1805 peace treaty after two years, and refused to implement the 1815 treaty until compelled to do so by Britain in 1816.

French Revolution

July 12, 1789 - December 24, 1799

A watershed event in modern European history, the French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens razed and redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Like the American Revolution before it, the French Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideals, particularly the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people.

Census of 1790


In 1790 there were almost 4 million Americans and almost 700,000 slaves. In the next 100 years, the population would double every 24 years and by the time of the Emancipation Proclamation Americans would own 4 million slaves.

Invention of the Cotton Gin


The cotton gin was a machine that removed seeds from cotton. You'd think that would discourage slavery--since slaves would no longer be needed to de-seed cotton as much--but it encouraged slavery instead. After the invention of the cotton gin, southern planters discovered they could make quick and easy money on cotton farms. The need for slaves was greater than ever. Prior to the cotton gin, slavery had been declining and many northerners thought it would naturally dissolve. After the cotton gin the need for slaves exploded.

USS Constitution "Old Ironsides"


The USS Constitution is a wooden-hulled, three-masted heavy frigate of the United States Navy, named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America. She is the world's oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat today. The Constitution was launched in 1797, one of six original frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794 and the third constructed. Joshua Humphreys designed the frigates to be the young Navy's capital ships, and so the Constitution and her sisters were larger and more heavily armed and built than standard frigates of the period. The Constitution was built in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts at Edmund Hartt's shipyard. Her first duties with the newly formed U.S. Navy were to provide protection for American merchant shipping during the Quasi-War with France and to defeat the Barbary pirates in the First Barbary War.

The Constitution is most noted for her actions during the War of 1812 against the United Kingdom, when she captured numerous merchant ships and defeated five British warships: HMS Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant. The battle with Guerriere earned her the nickname of "Old Ironsides" (because cannon balls would ricochet off of her reinforced sides and she seemed incapable of being damaged--her sides were 25 inches thick and covered in copper sheathing) and public adoration that has repeatedly saved her from scrapping. She continued to serve as flagship in the Mediterranean and African squadrons, and circled the world in the 1840s. During the American Civil War, she served as a training ship for the United States Naval Academy. She carried American artwork and industrial displays to the Paris Exposition of 1878. Today, you can visit her in Boston.

France Gets Louisiana Back

October 1, 1800

In the Treaty of Paris 1783 (after the French and Indian War), Spain acquired the Louisiana Territory in exchange for helping France in the war. They held onto it until 1800 when France traded for it back.

France traded Tuscany's kingship to Spain in exchange for Louisiana. Since Spain never found the riches in America that it had been seeking for centuries, they considered the deal fair, although most historians at the time and today say the deal was favorable to France.

The Third Treaty of San Ildefonso was a treaty between France and Spain in which Spain returned the colonial territory of Louisiana to France. The treaty was negotiated under some duress, as Spain was under pressure from Napoleon, although Spain did gain the Tuscany area.

Historians are generally of the opinion that the treaty clearly favored France. The territory of Spanish Louisiana, then inhabited by approximately 50,000 European settlers, extended from the Gulf of Mexico—the present day state of Louisiana—up to the Canada–US border, an area 100 times that of Tuscany.

However the king of Spain at the time considered it favorable to Spain as he wrote, "[about Louisiana] ...because of our lack of means to provide it [Louisiana] with an increase at the same level as the other Spanish dominions of both Americas, not yielding much to our treasury, nor to our trade, and generating sizable expenses in money and soldiers without profit, and receiving other states in exchange for it, the return of the colony can be deemed as a gain, instead of a sacrifice... Almost all is yet to be done, just a sprout of life on those unpopulated regions. In Tuscany all is done, cultivation perfect, industry flourishing, trade expanded, benign ways, civilization at high level, country rich in monuments and prodigies of art, in precious antiques, in magnificent libraries and renowned academies; a million and a half inhabitants; state revenues of about three million pesos fuertes, no debts; an extent of six thousand five hundred square miles."

Election of 1800

October 31, 1800 - December 6, 1800

Under the original procedure for the Electoral College, each elector could vote for TWO persons. This enabled each voter to vote for their favorite candidate as well as cast a vote for whom they thought could actually win. The person receiving the greatest number of votes, provided that number equaled a majority of the electors, was elected President. The one who received the second greatest number of votes was elected Vice President.

If there were more than one individual who received the same number of votes, and such number equaled a majority of the electors, the House of Representatives would choose one of them to be President. If no individual had a majority, then the House of Representatives would choose from the five individuals with the greatest number of electoral votes. In either case, a majority of state delegations in the House was necessary for a candidate to be chosen to be pesident.

Problems started with the 1796 election. In that election, John Adams, the Federalist Party presidential candidate, received a majority of the electoral votes. However, the Federalist electors scattered their second votes, resulting in the Democratic-Republican Party presidential candidate, Thomas Jefferson, receiving the second highest number of electoral votes and thus being elected vice president. Since they were from two different parties, they quickly found that this was a flaw in the Constitution. It's hard to work together if you don't share the same ideas and values.

The 1800 election exposed an additional defect in the original formula in that if each member of the Electoral College followed party tickets, there could be a tie between the two candidates from the most popular ticket.

In 1800, Republican Jefferson and Republican Burr ran against Fedralist Adams and Federalist Pinckney. Jefferson and Burr both won the majority of votes, but since each elector cast two votes, the election was a tie (73 to 73). To break the tie, each House would cast a single vote. The Repulbican--controlled states favored Jefferson over Burr (there were 8). Six states were considereed Federalists and they favored Burr (he was formerly a Federalist and his ideas swung back and forth). That left two swing states to decide the race since the majority would consist of 9/16 votes. If both swing states went to Burr it would be another tie. One of them had to swing to Jefferson. Congress voted twice and in both votes, Maryland and Vermont abstained from voting--they just couldn't make up their minds. On the third vote, Delaware also abstained--they didn't want to vote for Jefferson, but they also wanted the election to end and felt that Jefferson would work with the Federalists after all (rumors of back door conferences between Delaware and Jefferson might have had some effect on this). With the vote now at 13 out of 16 states casting a ballot, Jefferson won his majority of 8 for Jefferson and 5 for Burr with 3 states abstaining from the vote.



Jefferson's Presidency

March 4, 1801 - March 4, 1809

Jefferson was a Democratic-Republican.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president, was a leading figure in America’s early development. During the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), Jefferson served in the Virginia legislature and the Continental Congress and was governor of Virginia. He later served as U.S. minister to France and U.S. secretary of state, and was vice president under John Adams (1735-1826). Jefferson, who thought the national government should have a limited role in citizens’ lives, was elected president in 1800 under the Democratic Republican Party. During his two terms in office (1801-1809), the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory and Lewis and Clark explored the vast new acquisition. Although Jefferson promoted individual liberty, he was also a slaveowner. After leaving office, he retired to his Virginia plantation, Monticello, and helped found the University of Virginia.

Jefferson wanted a government that would interfere as little as possible with people's lives. He cut taxes, reduced the size of the military, and balanced the federal budget.

First Barbary War

May 10, 1801 - June 10, 1805

The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Tripolitanian War and the Barbary Coast War, was the first of two Barbary Wars between the United States, Sweden and the four North African states known collectively as the "Barbary States". The cause of the war was pirates from the Barbary States seizing American merchant ships and holding the crews for ransom, demanding the U.S. pay tribute to the Barbary rulers. United States President Thomas Jefferson refused to pay this tribute,

Napoleonic Wars

1803 - 1815

The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, primarily led and financed by the United Kingdom. The wars resulted from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and the Revolutionary Wars, which had raged on for years before concluding with the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. The resumption of hostilities the following year paved the way for more than a decade of constant warfare. The Napoleonic Wars had profound consequences for global and European history, leading to the spread of nationalism and liberalism, the rise of the British Empire as the world's premier power, the independence movements in Latin America and the collapse of the Spanish Empire, the fundamental reorganization of German and Italian territories into larger states, and the establishment of radically new methods in warfare. When the wars ended, Britain was able to send reinforcements to fight the Americans in the War of 1812, which facilitated the end of the War of 1812 and a peace treaty.

New State: Ohio

March 1803

Ohio is the 17th state. Ohio was admitted as a FREE state.

Louisiana Purchase

April 30, 1803

With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 (for a cheap $15 million dollars), the United States purchased approximately 828,000,000 square miles of territory from France, thereby doubling the size of the young republic.

France lost Louisiana after the French and Indian War. It was given to Spain after the war in the treaty of Paris 1763. In 1800, France made a deal with Spain to get it back. Spain would gain Tuscany in exchange for the American territory and Spain's king's favored son-in-law would be king of a new French territory in Tuscany. Jefferson liked the deal for obvious reasons but also because relations with France had cooled since the Revolutionary war and France was constantly fighting with England. If France is right on our doorstep, tensions might rise and a war could ensue. Napoleon brokered the deal with Jefferson in 1803--Jefferson originally only wanted access to ocean trade ports near New Orleans, but Napoleon thought it would be better if France just got rid of all of the territory in one deal. And so it was done.

After the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson said there was "land enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation." In reality, it took less than 100 years to fill with farms and white explorers and the Indians were pushed into reservations and forgotten.

Capture of USS Philadelphia

October 31, 1803

During the First Barbary War Philadelphia cruised off Tripoli until October 31, 1803, while giving chase and firing upon a pirate ship she ran aground on an uncharted reef two miles off Tripoli Harbor. The Captain, William Bainbridge, tried to refloat her, first laying the sails back, and casting off three bow anchors and shifting the guns rear-ward. But a strong wind and rising waves drove her farther aground. Next they dumped many of her cannons, barrels of water, and other heavy articles overboard in order to make her lighter but this too failed. They then sawed off the foremast in one last desperate attempt to lighten her. All of these attempts failed and Bainbridge, in order not to resupply the pirates, ordered holes drilled in the ship's bottom, gunpowder dampened, sheets set afire and all other weapons thrown overboard before surrendering. Her officers and men were made slaves of the Pasha (those alive at the end of the war were liberated and returned home after a ransom was paid ).

Philadelphia, which had been refloated by her captors, was too great a prize to be allowed to remain in the hands of the Tripolitanians, so a decision was made by America to recapture or destroy her. The U.S. had captured the Tripolitanian ketch Mastico, renamed her Intrepid, and re-rigged the ship with short masts and triangular sails to look like a local ship. On February 16, 1804, under the cover of night and in the guise of a ship in distress that had lost all anchors in a storm and needed a place to tie up, Intrepid was sailed by a volunteer assaulting party of officers and men under Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, Jr. next to Philadelphia. The assault party boarded Philadelphia, and after making sure that she was not seaworthy, burned the ship where she lay in Tripoli Harbor. Lord Horatio Nelson, known as a man of action and bravery, is said to have called this "the most bold and daring act of the Age."

Her anchor was returned to the United States on April 7, 1871, when the Bashaw presented it to the captain of the visiting Guerriere.

Lewis and Clark Expedition

May 14, 1804 - September 23, 1806

The Lewis and Clark Expedition consisted of a select group of military men, called the Corps of Discovery and civilians, led by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark to explore the US lands obtained in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest.

An Indian guide named Sacajawea escorted them much of the way.

12th Amendment

June 15, 1804

All the foregoing structural elements of the electoral college system remain in effect currently. The original method of electing the president and vice president, however, proved unworkable, and was replaced by the 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804. Under the original system, each elector cast two votes for President (for different candidates), and no vote for vice president. The votes were counted; the candidate receiving the most, provided it was a majority of the number of electors, was elected president, and the runner-up became vice president. The 12th Amendment replaced this system with separate ballots for president and vice president, with electors casting a single vote for each office.

Hamilton/Burr Duel

July 11, 1804

The Burr–Hamilton duel was a duel between two prominent American politicians: the former secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and sitting Vice President Aaron Burr, on July 11, 1804. At Weehawken, in New Jersey, Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton. Hamilton was carried to the home of William Bayard on the Manhattan shore, where he died the next day.


The Embargo Act of 1807


Law passed by Congress and signed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1807. This law stopped all trade between America and any other country. The goal was to get Britain and France, who were fighting each other at the time, to stop restricting American trade. The Act backfired, and the American people suffered. The Act was ended in 1809.

Although it was successful in averting war, news of evasions and other such negative consequences of the Embargo forced Thomas Jefferson and Congress to consider repealing the measure. The American economy was suffering and the American public opinion was not in support of its continuation. Ultimately, the embargo failed to have a significant effect on the British. Goods still reached Great Britain through illegal shipments; British trade was not suffering as much as the framers of the embargo had intended. There was an initial effect on the price of goods in Britain, but the Britons quickly adapted to the altered prices, and supplemented their decreased North American trade with South American commerce. What they could not replace through other trading partners were goods that were not vital to the survival of the country. The other country in question, France, almost seemed to welcome the American embargo because it supported Napoleon's Continental System.

First Steamboat Voyage


The boat called the Clermont was an odd looking craft 150 fifty feet long and 13 feet wide, drawing 2 feet of water. Amidships was her engine, a steam boiler that belched flame and smoke as it powered two paddle wheels placed on either side of the hull.

At one o'clock Fulton cast off and began his journey into history. Trouble reared its head almost immediately as the ship's engine stopped shortly after leaving the dock. Fulton soon fixed the problem and the voyage resumed. The boat headed up river at a speed of about 5 miles per hour. Twenty-four hours later the intrepid adventurers arrived at Robert Livingstone's manor house 110 miles up the Hudson. The journey ended the following day after an 8-hour voyage to Albany. The following day - Thursday August 20 - Fulton took on some passengers and began his return voyage, again stopping at Livingston's manor before continuing to New York City the next day.

The invention of the steamboat and canals cut travel time from weeks to hours (32 hours from New York to Albany) and opened up cities and trade routes for commerce and recreation.

James Madison's Presidency

March 4, 1809 - March 4, 1817

James Madison was a Democratic-Republican. Although James Madison is known as the Father of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, he is most defined by the War of 1812.

James Madison (1751-1836) was a founding father of the United States and the fourth American president, serving in office from 1809 to 1817. An advocate for a strong federal government, the Virginia-born Madison composed the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and earned the nickname “Father of the Constitution.” In 1792, Madison and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) founded the Democratic-Republican Party, which has been called America’s first opposition political party. When Jefferson became the third U.S. president, Madison served as his secretary of state. In this role, he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase from the French in 1803. During his presidency, Madison led the U.S. into the controversial War of 1812 (1812-15) against Great Britain. After two terms in the White House, Madison retired to his Virginia plantation, Montpelier, with his wife Dolley (1768-1849).

South American independence

1810 - 1825

The Latin American Wars of Independence were the revolutions that took place during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and resulted in the creation of a number of independent countries in Latin America. Spain was no longer strong enough to hold them as colonies and one by one they won their independence.

Tecumseh's Rebellion

1811 - 1813

Tecumseh said of the white man, "We gave them forest-clad mountains, valleys full of game. In return they gave us..rum and trinkets and a grave."

Tecumseh's War or Tecumseh's Rebellion was a conflict between the United States Army and an American Indian confederacy led by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh in the Indiana Territory. Tecumseh was successful at uniting several Indian tribes and was known as "the Prophet."

Tecumseh had no military experience and thought his belief in God would protect him and his followers. He told them that God would cause bullets to bounce off of their chests. In a short amount of time, the Shawnee village was destroyed.

Although the war is often considered to have climaxed with William Henry Harrison's victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, Tecumseh's War essentially continued into the War of 1812, and is frequently considered a part of that larger struggle. The war lasted for two more years, until the fall of 1813, when Tecumseh, as well as second-in-command Roundhead died fighting Harrison's Army of the Northwest at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada, near present-day Chatham, Ontario, and his confederacy disintegrated. Tecumseh's War is viewed by some academic historians as being the final conflict of a longer term military struggle for control of the Great Lakes region of North America, encompassing a number of wars over several generations, referred to as the Sixty Years' War.


The National Road is built

1811 - 1838

The National Road (also known as the Cumberland Road) was the first major improved highway in the United States built by the federal government. Built between 1811 and 1837, the 620-mile (1,000 km) road connected the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and was a main transport path to the West for thousands of settlers.

Prior to the National Road, it took a traveler four weeks to go from Baltimore to St. Louis. After the National Road, it took four days.

Oregon Trail

1811 - 1840

The Oregon Trail is a 2,170-mile historic east–west, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of the future state of Kansas, and nearly all of what are now the states of Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the future states of Idaho and Oregon.

The Oregon Trail was laid by fur traders and traders from about 1811 to 1840, and was only passable on foot or by horseback. By 1836, when the first migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri, a wagon trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. Wagon trails were cleared increasingly farther west, and eventually reached all the way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, at which point what came to be called the Oregon Trail was complete, even as almost annual improvements were made in the form of bridges, cutoffs, ferries, and roads, which made the trip faster and safer. From various starting points in Iowa, Missouri, or Nebraska Territory, the routes converged along the lower Platte River Valley near Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory and led to rich farmlands west of the Rocky Mountains.

From the early to mid-1830s (and particularly through the epoch years, 1846–69) the Oregon Trail and its many offshoots were used by about 400,000 settlers, farmers, miners, ranchers, and business owners and their families. The eastern half of the trail was also used by travelers on the California Trail (from 1843), Mormon Trail (from 1847), and Bozeman Trail (from 1863), before turning off to their separate destinations. Use of the trail declined as the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, making the trip west substantially faster, cheaper, and safer. Today, modern highways, such as Interstate 80 and Interstate 84, follow parts of the same course westward and pass through towns originally established to serve those using the Oregon Trail.

A family could expect to get hundreds of acres of farmland for free in exchange for improving it (growing crops) over the course of four years. Such a trip would cost $800 which was a steep sum in that time, but the lure of free land and a better life for their children drove many families west anyway.

New State: Louisiana

April 1812

Louisiana was admitted as a SLAVE state.

The War of 1812

June 18, 1812 - March 23, 1815

In the War of 1812, the United States took on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain, in a conflict that would have an immense impact on the young country’s future. Causes of the war included British attempts to restrict U.S. trade, the Royal Navy’s impressment of American seamen and America’s desire to expand its territory. The United States suffered many costly defeats at the hands of British, Canadian and Native American troops over the course of the War of 1812, including the capture and burning of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Nonetheless, American troops were able to repulse British invasions in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans, boosting national confidence and fostering a new spirit of patriotism. The ratification of the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815, ended the war but left many of the most contentious questions unresolved. Nonetheless, many in the United States celebrated the War of 1812 as a “second war of independence,” beginning an era of partisan agreement and national pride.

What caused the war? Our ships sailing in seas controlled by France and England were caught in the crosshairs of their European war. Although America tried to stay neutral, both countries captured American ships and took American sailors as prisoner, forcing them to serve in the British Royal Navy. On top of that, England had never withdrawn from the forts that it held long ago that were in the Ohio River Valley. And they were still protecting the Indians there and trying to keep American colonists from moving West. It had only been 30 years since the Revolutionary War, but Americans seemed eager to show Great Britain AGAIN that they needed to get out of our business once and for all.

A treaty was signed to end the war and territories were settled--America would stay out of Canada and England would stay out of America. However, the news of the treaty didn't reach America and the troops that were fighting the war for 2 months and in that time thousands more would die fighting a war that was already over.

The Star Spangled Banner was written during the War of 1812.


The Tariff of 1816


The Tariff of 1816 (also known as the Dallas tariff) is notable as the first tariff passed by Congress with an explicit function of protecting U.S. manufactured items from overseas competition. Prior to the War of 1812, tariffs had primarily served to raise revenues to operate the national government.

Seminole Wars

1816 - 1819

The Seminole Wars, also known as the Florida Wars, were three conflicts in Florida between the Seminole—the collective name given to the amalgamation of various groups of Native Americans and African Americans who settled in Florida in the early 18th century—and the United States Army. Taken together, the Seminole Wars were the longest and most expensive (both in human and monetary terms) Indian Wars in United States history.

Throughout history, slaves who escaped from Georgia and other states near Florida would be protected by the Seminole Indians. This is one reason why the South hated the Seminole Indians.


New State: Indiana

December 1816

Indiana was admitted as a FREE state.

Era of Good Feelings

1817 - 1825

The years following* the end of the War of 1812 have been called the “era of good feelings" because of their apparent lack of partisan political strife. In the Election of 1816, James Monroe decisively defeated the last of the Federalist candidates. Monroe was overwhelmingly reelected in the Election of 1820 with no opposition whatsoever.


James Monroe's Presidency

March 4, 1817 - March 4, 1825

James Monroe was a Democratic-Republican.

James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth U.S. president, oversaw major westward expansion of the U.S. and strengthened American foreign policy in 1823 with the Monroe Doctrine, a warning to European countries against further colonization and intervention in the Western Hemisphere. Monroe, a Virginia native, fought with the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83) then embarked on a long political career. A protégé of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Monroe was a delegate to the Continental Congress and served as a U.S. senator, governor of Virginia and minister to France and Great Britain. In 1803, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the U.S. As president, he acquired Florida, and also dealt with the contentious issue of slavery in new states joining the Union with the 1820 Missouri Compromise.

Jefferson said that Monroe was so honest that you could turn his soul inside out and "there would not be a spot on it."

The Erie Canal is built

7/4/1817 - 10/26/1825

The Erie Canal is famous in song and story. Proposed in 1808 and completed in 1825, the canal links the waters of Lake Erie in the west to the Hudson River in the east. An engineering marvel when it was built, some called it the Eighth Wonder of the World.

In order to open the country west of the Appalachian Mountains to settlers and to offer a cheap and safe way to carry produce to a market, the construction of a canal was proposed as early as 1768. However, those early proposals would connect the Hudson River with Lake Ontario near Oswego. It was not until 1808 that the state legislature funded a survey for a canal that would connect to Lake Erie. Finally, on July 4, 1817, ground was broken for the construction of the canal. In those early days, it was often sarcastically referred to as "Clinton's Big Ditch". When finally completed on October 26, 1825, it was the engineering marvel of its day. It included 18 aqueducts to carry the canal over ravines and rivers, and 83 locks, with a rise of 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. Cross-section of the original Erie Canal It was 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide, and floated boats carrying 30 tons of freight. A ten foot wide towpath was built along the bank of the canal for the horses and/or mules which pulled the boats and their driver, often a young boy (sometimes referred to by later writers as a "hoggee").

In order to keep pace with the growing demands of traffic, the Erie Canal was enlarged between 1836 and 1862. The "Enlarged Erie Canal" was 70 feet wide and 7 feet deep, and could handle boats carrying 240 tons. The number of locks was reduced to 72. Most of the remaining traces of the Old Erie Canal are from the Enlarged Erie era.

In 1903, the State again decided to enlarge the canal by the construction of what was termed the "Barge Canal", consisting of the Erie Canal and the three chief branches of the State system -- the Champlain Canal, the Oswego Canal, and the Cayuga and Seneca Canal. The resulting Erie Barge Canal was completed in 1918, and is 12 to 14 feet deep, 120 to 200 feet wide, and 338 miles long, from Waterford to Tonawanda. 36 Locks were built to handle barges carrying up to 3,000 tons of cargo, with lifts of 6 to 40 feet. This is the Erie Canal which today is utilized more often by recreational boats than cargo-carrying barges.

Prior to the Erie Canal, it cost $100 to ship a ton of grain from Buffalo to New York. By 1855, it only cost $8 on the Erie Canal. Because travel was so much cheaper, the canal not only impacted the U.S. economically, but also facilitated expansion to the west by homesteaders.

New State: Mississippi

December 10, 1817

Mississippi was admitted as a SLAVE state.

New State: Illinois

December 3, 1818

Illinois was admitted as a FREE state.

Spain Cedes Florida to America


The Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819 was a treaty between the United States and Spain in 1819 that ceded Florida to the U.S. and defined the boundary between the U.S. and New Spain. It settled a standing border dispute between the two countries and was considered a triumph of American diplomacy. It came in the midst of increasing tensions related to Spain's territorial boundaries in North America against the United States and Great Britain in the aftermath of the American Revolution; and also during the Latin American Wars of Independence. Florida had become a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send settlers or garrisons. Madrid decided to cede the territory to the United States through the Adams–Onís Treaty in exchange for settling the boundary dispute along the Sabine River in Spanish Texas. The treaty established the boundary of U.S. territory and claims through the Rocky Mountains and west to the Pacific Ocean, in exchange for the U.S. paying residents' claims against the Spanish government up to a total of $5,000,000 and relinquishing the US claims on parts of Spanish Texas west of the Sabine River and other Spanish areas, under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase.

McColloch v. Maryland


The court ruled that Maryland had no right to tax the Bank of the United States. States could not interfere with federal institutions within their borders. This decision strengthened the power of the federal government.

Dartmouth College v. Woodward


Key Supreme Court Cases

Dartmouth College v. Woodward

Contract Clause, Limitations on the Powers of the States

The Issue
Under the Constitution, can a state legislature change the charter of a college?

What's at Stake?
Whether Dartmouth College would remain private or become a state school. More broadly, what is protected by the Constitution's "contract" clause?

Facts and Background
In 1769 the King of England granted a charter to Dartmouth College. This document spelled out the purpose of the school, set up the structure to govern it, and gave land to the college. In 1816, the state legislature of New Hampshire passed laws that revised the charter. These laws changed the school from private to public. They changed the duties of the trustees. They changed how the trustees were selected.

The existing trustees filed suit. They claimed that the legislature violated the Constitution. They said that Article 1, Section 10, of the Constitution prevented a state from "impairing" (that is, weakening or canceling) a contract.

The Decision
By a 5-1 margin, the Court agreed with Dartmouth. The Court struck down the law, so Dartmouth continued as a private college. Chief Justice Marshall wrote the majority opinion. He said that the charter was, in essence, a contract between the King and the trustees. Even though we were no longer a royal colony, the contract is still valid because the Constitution says that a state cannot pass laws to impair a contract.

The Impact of the Decision
Historians believe that the decision greatly encouraged business investment and growth. Corporations are also chartered by states. It states can't pass laws to impair those charters, then businesses are more secure. They are also more apt to attract investors, employ workers, and to add to the national prosperity

New State: Alabama

December 4, 1819

Alabama was admitted as a SLAVE state.

Revolutions in Spain, Italy, Greece & Russia

1820 - 1825

Missouri Compromise

March 3, 1820

Controversy over whether Missouri should be admitted as a slave state, resulted in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which specified that Louisiana Purchase territory north of latitude 36° 30', which described most of Missouri's southern boundary, would be organized as free states and territory south of that line would be reserved for organization as slave states. As part of the compromise, the admission of Maine (1820) as a free state was secured to balance Missouri's admission as a slave state (1820).

New State: Maine

March 15, 1820

Maine was admitted as a FREE state.

Mexico Achieves Independence


On September 16, 1810, a progressive priest named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla became the father of Mexican independence with a historic proclamation urging his fellow Mexicans to take up arms against the Spanish government. Known as the “Grito de Dolores,” Hidalgo’s declaration launched a decade-long struggle that ended 300 years of colonial rule, established an independent Mexico and helped cultivate a unique Mexican identity. Its anniversary is now celebrated as the country’s birthday. Eleven years later, in 1821, Mexico officially achieves independence.


New State: Missouri

August 10, 1821

Missouri was admitted as a SLAVE state. Missouri was a border state during the Civil War.

The border states of Maryland, Missouri (one of the Confederate states), Tennessee, and the new state of West Virginia, abolished slavery just prior to the end of the Civil War.

The Monroe Doctrine


President James Monroe’s 1823 annual message to Congress contained the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European powers not to interfere in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere since America would not interfere with them. It was a statement of neutrality in the affairs of Europe and a veiled threat that Europe should no longer try to colonize parts of the Americas.

Understandably, the United States has always taken a particular interest in its closest neighbors – the nations of the Western Hemisphere. Equally understandably, expressions of this concern have not always been favorably regarded by other American nations.

The Monroe Doctrine is the best known U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. Buried in a routine annual message delivered to Congress by President James Monroe in December 1823, the doctrine warns European nations that the United States would not tolerate further colonization or puppet monarchs. The doctrine was conceived to meet major concerns of the moment, but it soon became a watchword of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere.

Gibbons vs Ogden


The supreme court decided that New York could not control steamboat travel between its borders and New Jersey. Only the federal government had the power to regulate commerce between states. .This strengthened the power of the federal government.

John Quincy Adams' Presidency

March 4, 1825 - March 4, 1829

John Quincy Adams was the last Democratic Republican. In the next election, the party would shift to "Democrats."

JQC was the most brilliant president we've ever had. He was an ambassador to Russia at the age of 14, knew several languages, could write in English in one hand while translating Greek in the other, and was an honest man of good moral character. But he was too serious and was not popular with the people.

John Quincy Adams began his diplomatic career as the U.S. minister to the Netherlands in 1794, and served as minister to Prussia during the presidential administration of his father, the formidable patriot John Adams. After serving in the Massachusetts State Senate and the U.S. Senate, the younger Adams rejoined diplomatic service under President James Madison, helping to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent (1814), which ended the War of 1812. As secretary of state under James Monroe, Adams played a key role in determining the president’s foreign policy, including the famous Monroe Doctrine. John Quincy Adams went on to win the presidency in a highly contentious election in 1824, and served only one term. Outspoken in his opposition to slavery and in support of freedom of speech, Adams was elected to the House of Representatives in 1830; he would serve until his death in 1848.

Andrew Jackson's Presidency

March 4, 1829 - March 4, 1837

Andrew Jackson was a Democrat.

Born in poverty (every former president had been born to aristocracy), Jackson was "the people's president." He was not well educated and had terrible spelling. But when people made fun of him for his poor spelling, he would say, "It's a poor mind indeed that can think of only one way to spell a word." For what he lacked in education, he made up for in confidence and action. When he died, a servant asked another if he would go to heaven and the maid replied, "If General Jackson wants to go to heave, who's gonna stop him?"

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) had become a wealthy Tennessee lawyer and rising young politician by 1812, when war broke out between the United States and Britain. His leadership in that conflict earned Jackson national fame as a military hero, and he would become America’s most influential–and polarizing–political figure during the 1820s and 1830s. After narrowly losing to John Quincy Adams in the contentious 1824 presidential election, Jackson returned four years later to win redemption, soundly defeating Adams and becoming the nation’s seventh president (1829-1837). As America’s political party system developed, Jackson became the leader of the new Democratic Party. A supporter of states’ rights and slavery’s extension into the new western territories, he opposed the Whig Party and Congress on polarizing issues such as the Bank of the United States. For some, his legacy is tarnished by his role in the forced relocation of Native American tribes living east of the Mississippi ("The Trail of Tears").

Jackson's enemies said that he trampled on the constitution and did whatever he wanted (think about the Indian Removal Act and the Supreme Court decision). They called him King Andrew I.

Revolutions in France & Poland

1830 - 1831

Lynching Laws in the South


In 1830, a Virginia Justice of the Peace named John Lynch set up his own trials and executed people without due process of law. Between 1840-1860, 300 people were "lynched"--killed without trial--all were white. After the abolition of slavery, white southerners would use this tradition to justify the murder of African Americans and 4,700 more lynchings would take place in the South (73% lynched were black).

Indian Removal Act

May 28, 1830

The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy.

Worcester v Georgia


Worcester is pronounced Wuss-ter

A preacher sued the state of Georgia because Georgia said he needed a license to preach to the Indians. Georgia made this law because they felt that white preachers were siding with the Indians and they wanted to prevent the Indians from having extra support.

The case went to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court not only ruled that Worcester had a right to preach to the Indians, but that also STATES DID NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO INFRINGE ON PAST TREATIES OF THE INDIANS. in other words, the Indian Removal Act was basically unconstitutional and the Indians had authority over the lands granted them by past treaties. Sadly, this had no effect on the Removal Act. President Jackson and congress still forced Indians to move to reservations and the supreme court ruling was entirely ignored.

The Nullification Crisis

November 1832

In November 1832 the Nullification Convention met. The convention declared that the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and unenforceable within the state of South Carolina after February 1, 1833. They said that attempts to use force to collect the taxes would lead to the state's secession.

Whig Party

1833 - 1854

The Whig Party was a political party active in the middle of the 19th century in the United States. Four US presidents belonged to the party while in office. It emerged in the 1830s as the immediate successor to the National Republican and Anti-Masonic Parties, and was also rooted in the tradition of the Federalist Party. Along with the rival Democratic Party, it was central to the Second Party System from the early 1830s to the mid-1850s. It originally formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson (in office 1829–37) and his Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of the US Congress over the Presidency and favored a program of modernization, banking and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing. It appealed to entrepreneurs, planters, reformers and the emerging urban middle class, but had little appeal to farmers or unskilled workers. It included many active Protestants, and voiced a moralistic opposition to the Jacksonian Indian removal. Party founders chose the "Whig" name to echo the American Whigs of the 18th century who fought for independence. The underlying political philosophy of the American Whig Party was not directly related to the British Whig party. Historian Frank Towers has specified a deep ideological divide:
Democrats stood for the 'sovereignty of the people' as expressed in popular demonstrations, constitutional conventions, and majority rule as a general principle of governing, whereas Whigs advocated the rule of law, written and unchanging constitutions, and protections for minority interests against majority tyranny.

The Whig Party nominated several presidential candidates in 1836. General William Henry Harrison of Ohio was nominated in 1840, former Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky in 1844, and General Zachary Taylor of Louisiana in 1848. Another war hero, General Winfield Scott of New Jersey was the Whig Party's last presidential nominee, in 1852. In its two decades of existence, the Whig Party had two of its candidates, Harrison and Taylor, elected president. Both died in office. John Tyler succeeded to the presidency after Harrison's death in 1841, but was expelled from the party later that year. Millard Fillmore, who became president after Taylor's death in 1850, was the last Whig president.

The party fell apart because of the internal tension over the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction prevented the nomination for a full term of its own incumbent, President Fillmore, in the 1852 presidential election; instead, the party nominated General Scott. Most Whig Party leaders eventually quit politics (as Abraham Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The northern voter base mostly gravitated to the new Republican Party. In the South, most joined the Know Nothing Party, which unsuccessfully ran Fillmore in the 1856 presidential election, by which time the Whig Party had become virtually defunct. Some former Whigs became Democrats. The Constitutional Union Party experienced significant success from conservative former Whigs in the Upper South during the 1860 presidential election. Whig ideology as a policy orientation persisted for decades and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction.

The Trail of Tears

1835 - 1838

In 1838 and 1839, as part of Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policy, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee people called this journey the "Trail of Tears," because of its devastating effects.

At the beginning of the 1830s, nearly 125,000 Native Americans lived on millions of acres of land in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida–land their ancestors had occupied and cultivated for generations. By the end of the decade, very few natives remained anywhere in the southeastern United States. Working on behalf of white settlers who wanted to grow cotton on the Indians’ land, the federal government forced them to leave their homelands and walk 1,250 miles to a specially designated “Indian territory” across the Mississippi River. This difficult and sometimes deadly journey is known as the Trail of Tears. It is estimated that of the 15,000 who participated in the journey, 4,000 died along the road and were buried quickly in shallow graves.


February 1836 - March 1836

In December 1835, during Texas’ war for independence from Mexico, a group of Texan volunteer soldiers occupied the Alamo, a former Franciscan mission located near the present-day city of San Antonio. On February 23, 1836, a Mexican force numbering in the thousands and led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna began a siege of the fort. Though vastly outnumbered, the Alamo’s 200 defenders–commanded by James Bowie and William Travis and including the famed frontiersman Davy Crockett–held out courageously for 13 days before the Mexican invaders finally overpowered them. For Texans, the Battle of the Alamo became an enduring symbol of their heroic resistance to oppression and their struggle for independence, which they won later that year.

Martin Van Buren's Presidency

March 4, 1836 - March 4, 1840

Martin Van Buren was a Democrat.

Unlike the seven men who preceded him in the White House, Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) was the first president to be born a citizen of the United States and not a British subject. He rose quickly in New York politics, winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1821 and presiding over a sophisticated state political organization. Van Buren helped form the new Democratic Party from a coalition of Jeffersonian Republicans who backed the military hero and president Andrew Jackson. A favorite of Jackson’s, Van Buren won the White House himself in 1836 but was plagued by a financial panic that gripped the nation the following year. After losing his bid for reelection in 1840, Van Buren ran again unsuccessfully in 1844 (when he lost the Democratic nomination to the pro-southern candidate James K. Polk) and 1848 (as a member of the antislavery Free Soil Party).

New State: Arkansas

June 15, 1836

Arkansas was admitted as a SLAVE state.

Canadian Rebellion against Great Britain


Rebellions of 1837–38
Upper and Lower Canada were thrown into turmoil from 1837–38, when insurgents mounted rebellions in each colony against the Crown and the political status quo. The revolt in Lower Canada was the more serious and violent of the two. However, both events inspired the pivotal Durham Report, which in turn led to the union of the two colonies (see Act of Union) and the arrival of responsible government — critical events on the road to Canadian nationhood.


New State: Michigan

January 26, 1837

Michigan was admitted as a FREE state.

Manifest Destiny

1840 - 1850

Manifest Destiny is a term for the attitude prevalent during the 19th century period of American expansion that the United States not only could, but was DESTINED TO, stretch from coast to coast. This attitude helped fuel western settlement, Native American removal and war with Mexico. The phrase was first employed by John L. O’Sullivan in an article on the annexation of Texas published in the July-August 1845 edition of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, which he edited.

At the heart of manifest destiny was the pervasive belief in American cultural and racial superiority. Native Americans had long been perceived as inferior, and efforts to "civilize" them had been widespread since the days of John Smith and Miles Standish. The Hispanics who ruled Texas and the lucrative ports of California were also seen as "backward."

William Henry Harrison's Presidency

March 4, 1840 - April 6, 1841

William Henry Harrison was a Whig. This is the first election where the Whigs won.

William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), America’s ninth president, served just one month in office before dying of pneumonia. His tenure, from March 4, 1841, to April 4, 1841, is the shortest of any U.S. president. Harrison, who was born into a prominent Virginia family, joined the Army as a young man and fought American Indians on the U.S. frontier. He then became the first congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory, a region encompassing much of the present-day Midwest. In the early 1800s, Harrison served as governor of the Indiana Territory and worked to open American Indian lands to white settlers. He became a war hero after fighting Indian forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Harrison went on to serve as a U.S. congressman and senator from Ohio. He was elected to the White House in 1840, but passed away a month after his inauguration, the first U.S. president to die in office. (His death is attributed to giving a two hour inaugural speech in the cold outdoors--without a coat or hat--which caused pneumonia).

Frederick Douglass


Frederick Douglass, a runaway slave, becomes a powerful speaker and writer for the abolitionist movement.

John Tyler's Presidency

April 6, 1841 - March 4, 1845

John Tyler was a Whig.

John Tyler (1790-1862) served as America’s 10th president from 1841 to 1845. He assumed office after the death of President William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), who passed away from pneumonia after just a month in the White House. Nicknamed “His Accidency,” Tyler was the first vice president to become chief executive due to the death of his predecessor. A Virginian, he was elected to the state legislature at age 21 and went on to serve in the U.S. Congress and as governor of Virginia. A strong supporter of states’ rights, Tyler was a Democratic-Republican; however, in 1840 he ran for the vice presidency on the Whig ticket. As president, Tyler clashed with the Whigs, who later tried, unsuccessfully, to impeach him. Among his administration’s accomplishments was the 1845 annexation of Texas. Before he died, Tyler voted for Virginia’s secession from the Union and was elected to the Confederate Congress.

New State: Florida

March 3, 1845

Florida is the 27th state. Florida was admitted as a SLAVE state.

James Polk's Presidency

March 4, 1845 - March 4, 1849

James Polk was a Democrat.

James Polk (1795-1849) served as the 11th U.S. president from 1845 to 1849. During his tenure, America’s territory grew by more than one-third and extended across the continent for the first time. Before his presidency, Polk served in the Tennessee legislature and the U.S. Congress; in 1839 he became governor of Tennessee. A Democrat who was relatively unknown outside of political circles, Polk won the 1844 presidential election as the dark horse candidate. As president, he reduced tariffs, reformed the national banking system and settled a boundary dispute with the British that secured the Oregon Territory for the United States. Polk also led the nation into the Mexican-American War (1846-48), in which the United States acquired California and much of the present-day Southwest. Polk kept his campaign promise to be a one-term president and did not seek reelection. Soon after leaving the White House, he died at age 53.

Polk thought having fun meant wasting time and he did not like to waste time. No refreshments were served in the White House while he was president. He said, "I am the hardest working man in the country," and he may have been right because he died of exhaustion only three months after leaving the presidency.

New State: Texas

December 29, 1845

Texas is the 28th state. Texas was admitted as a SLAVE state.

Mexican American War

1846 - 1848

When war broke out against Mexico in May 1846, the United States Army numbered a mere 8,000, but soon 60,000 volunteers joined their ranks. The AMERICAN NAVY dominated the sea. The American government provided stable, capable leadership. The economy of the expanding United States far surpassed that of the fledgling Mexican state. Morale was on the American side.

Polk directed the war from Washington, D.C. He sent a 4-prong attack into the Mexican heartland. JOHN FREMONT and STEPHEN KEARNY were sent to control the coveted lands of CALIFORNIA and NEW MEXICO. Fremont led a group of zealous Californians to declare independence even before word of hostilities reached the West.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Meanwhile, Kearny led his troops into Santa Fe in August of 1846 causing the governor of New Mexico to flee. The city was captured without a single casualty. Soon he marched his army westward across the desert to join Fremont in California.

The attack on Mexico proper was left to two other commanders. Zachary Taylor crossed the Rio Grande with his troops upon Polk's order. He fought Santa Anna's troops successfully on his advance toward the heart of Mexico. WINFIELD SCOTT delivered the knockout punch. After invading Mexico at Vera Cruz, Scott's troops marched to the capital, Mexico City. All that remained was negotiating the terms of peace.

At home, the Whigs of the north complained bitterly about the war. Many questioned Polk's methods as misleading and unconstitutional. Abolitionists rightly feared that southerners would try to use newly acquired lands to expand slavery. Antiwar sentiment emerged in New England much as it had in the War of 1812. Writer Henry David Thoreau was sentenced to prison for refusing to pay the taxes he knew were used to fund the war effort. His essay, Civil Disobedience, became a standard of peaceful resistance for future activists.

The MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR was formally concluded by the TREATY OF GUADALUPE-HIDALGO. The United States received the disputed Texan territory, as well as NEW MEXICO territory and CALIFORNIA. The Mexican government was paid $15 million — the same sum issued to France for the Louisiana Territory. The United States Army won a grand victory. Although suffering 13,000 killed, the military won every engagement of the war. Mexico was stripped of half of its territory and was not consoled by the monetary settlement.

New State: Iowa

December 28, 1846

Iowa was admitted as a FREE state.

The Gold Rush

1848 - 1855

The discovery of gold nuggets in the Sacramento Valley in early 1848 sparked the Gold Rush, arguably one of the most significant events to shape American history during the first half of the 19th century. As news spread of the discovery, thousands of prospective gold miners traveled by sea or over land to San Francisco and the surrounding area; by the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000). A total of $2 billion worth of precious metal was extracted from the area during the Gold Rush, which peaked in 1852.

Revolutions in France, Germany, Austria & Italy


New State: Wisconsin

May 26, 1848

Wisconsin was admitted as a FREE state.

Zachary Taylor's Presidency

March 4, 1849 - July 9, 1850

Zachary Taylor was a Whg.

Zachary Taylor (1784-1850) served in the army for some four decades, commanding troops in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War (1832) and the second of the Seminole Wars (1835-1842). He became a full-fledged war hero through his service in the Mexican War, which broke out in 1846 after the U.S. annexation of Texas. Elected president in 1848, Taylor entered the White House at a time when the issue of slavery and its extension into the new western territories (including Texas) had caused a major rift between the North and South. Though a slaveholder, Taylor sought to hold the nation together–a goal he was ready to accomplish by force if necessary–and he clashed with Congress over his desire to admit California to the Union as a free state. In early July 1850, Taylor suddenly fell ill and died; his successor, Millard Fillmore, would prove more sympathetic to the interests of southern slaveholders.

Train Travel Expands

1850 - 1860

By 1850 there were almost 9,000 miles of track in America. By 1860 there were 30,000 miles of track laid for trains. Travel was getting faster and faster and cheaper and cheaper. Now goods and people could be transported from New York to Chicago in only 2 days (at 30 miles per hour)--lightning speed at the time.

Millard Fillmore's Presidency

July 19, 1850 - March 4, 1853

Millard Filmore was the last Whig president.

Born of humble origins in New York State, Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) became a lawyer and won election to the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 1833. He served four terms in Congress but left in 1843 to mount an unsuccessful run for the governorship of New York. In 1848, he emerged as the Whig Party candidate for vice president under Zachary Taylor, and after Taylor’s victory he presided over months of early debate in Congress over the controversial Compromise of 1850. Taylor died suddenly in mid-1850 and Fillmore succeeded him, becoming the nation’s 13th president (1850-1853). Though Fillmore personally opposed slavery, he saw the Compromise as necessary to preserving the Union and enforced its strong Fugitive Slave Act during his presidency. This stance alienated Fillmore from voters in the North, and in 1852 he failed to gain the Whig nomination.

New State: California

September 9, 1850

California was admitted as a FREE state and shifted the balance of power from an equal number of slave and free states to a majority of free states.

Franklin Pierce's Presidency

March 4, 1853 - March 4, 1857

Franklin Pierce was a Democrat.

Franklin Pierce (1804-1869), the son of a onetime governor of New Hampshire, entered politics at a young age. He served as speaker of the state legislature before winning election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1833. After two terms in the House and one in the Senate, Pierce returned to practicing law, only to emerge in 1852 as the Democratic presidential candidate. During Pierce’s administration (1853-1857), settlement was encouraged in the northwest region of the country, even as sectional tensions increased over the issue of slavery and its extension into new territories. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which Pierce signed in 1854, enraged antislavery northerners and brought about the emergence of the new Republican Party. Pierce’s inability to handle the upheaval in Kansas led to repudiation by many Democrats, who denied him the party’s nomination in 1856.

Franklin Pierce's opponents made fun of his military record by distributing a miniature book--an inch high by half an inch wide--titled The Military Services of General Pierce."

Republican Party is Born


The Republican Party, commonly referred to as the GOP (abbreviation for Grand Old Party), is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, the other being its historic rival, the Democratic Party. The party is named after republicanism, the dominant value during the American Revolution. It was founded by anti-slavery activists, modernists, ex-Whigs, and ex-Free Soilers in 1854. The Republicans dominated politics nationally and in the majority of northern States for most of the period between 1860 and 1932.
The Republicans' initial base was in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. With the realignment of parties and voters in the Third Party System, the strong run of John C. Fremont in the 1856 United States presidential election demonstrated it dominated most northern states.

Early Republican ideology was reflected in the 1856 slogan "free labor, free land, free men", which had been coined by Salmon P. Chase, a Senator from Ohio (and future Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the United States). "Free labor" referred to the Republican opposition to slave labor and belief in independent artisans and businessmen. "Free land" referred to Republican opposition to the plantation system whereby slaveowners could buy up all the good farm land, leaving the yeoman independent farmers the leftovers. The Party strove to contain the expansion of slavery, which would cause the collapse of the slave power and the expansion of freedom.

There have been 19 Republican presidents, the first being Abraham Lincoln, who served from 1861 to 1865.

Kansas-Nebraska Act

May 30, 1854

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by the U.S. Congress on May 30, 1854. It allowed people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery within their borders. The Act served to repeal the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery north of latitude 36°30´

James Buchanan's Presidency

March 4, 1857 - March 4, 1861

James Buchanan was a Democrat.

James Buchanan (1791-1868), America’s 15th president, was in office from 1857 to 1861. During his tenure, seven Southern states seceded from the Union and the nation teetered on the brink of civil war. A Pennsylvania native, Buchanan began his political career in his home state’s legislature and went on to serve in both houses of the U.S. Congress; he later became a foreign diplomat and U.S. secretary of state. Buchanan, a Democrat who was morally opposed to slavery but believed it was protected by the U.S. Constitution, was elected to the White House in 1856. As president, he tried to maintain peace between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the government, but tensions only escalated. In 1860, after Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was elected to succeed Buchanan, South Carolina seceded and the Confederacy was soon established. In April 1861, a month after Buchanan left office, the American Civil War (1861-1865) began.

Buchanan's presidency was marked by inaction. He could have helped quell the slavery debates, but instead he ignored it. When Congress passed a bill for more colleges, he vetoed it and said the country didn't need more education. Things were a mess when Buchanan stepped down. Good thing Lincoln was about to step up.

New State: Minnesota

May 11, 1858

Minnesota was admitted as a FREE state and further shifted the balance of power to free states.

New State: Oregon

February 14, 1859

Oregon was admitted as a FREE state.

New State: Kansas

January 29, 1861

Kansas was admitted as a FREE state.

Abraham Lincoln's Presidency

March 4, 1861 - April 15, 1865

Abraham Lincoln was a Republican.

Abraham Lincoln, a self-taught Illinois lawyer and legislator with a reputation as an eloquent opponent of slavery, shocked many when he overcame several more prominent contenders to win the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1860. His election that November pushed several Southern states to secede by the time of his inauguration in March 1861, and the Civil War began barely a month later. Contrary to expectations, Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader during what became the costliest conflict ever fought on American soil. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states and paved the way for slavery’s eventual abolition, while his Gettysburg Address later that year stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history. In April 1865, with the Union on the brink of victory, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by the Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth; his untimely death made him a martyr to the cause of liberty and Union. Over the years Lincoln’s mythic stature has only grown, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest presidents in the nation’s history.

Lincoln shook so many hands on his second inauguration (15,000) that his hands were raw and blistered.

New State: West Virginia

June 30, 1863

West Virginia was the last SLAVE state admitted to the union. West Virginia was a border state during the Civil War.

The border states of Maryland, Missouri (one of the Confederate states), Tennessee, and the new state of West Virginia, abolished slavery just prior to the end of the Civil War.

New State: Nevada

October 31, 1864

Nevada is the 36th State. Nevada was admitted as a FREE state.