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History of the United States (1776-1865)


The United States of America was founded in 1776 from British colonies along the Atlantic Coast of North America. In 1775 frustration with various British crown practices had led to revolt by colonists in Massachusetts. The next year, representatives of thirteen of the British colonies in North America met in Philadelphia and declared their independence in a remarkable document, the Declaration of Independence, primarily authored by Thomas Jefferson. With the help of their French allies they were eventually able to win the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain, settled by the Treaty of Paris (1783). Until 1789, the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation.

In 1789 the Constitution of the United States was adopted, and George Washington was elected the first President. Congress passed the first of many laws organizing the government. Despite a desire on the part of Washington to remain isolationist, (as detailed in his farewell address[?]), the United States has a rich diplomatic history.

War of 1812

In 1812, the United states entered a second war with the British Empire, known as the War of 1812. It was caused in large part by the British policy of Impressment[?] (the forcible seizure of American seamen for service in the British Royal Navy)and the British blocking of French seaports where Americans desired to carry on trade. Though the British held the upper hand in most engagements, several of the battles entered the American mythos -- including the Battle of New Orleans (1815), when General Andrew Jackson handed the British one of the worst defeats in their history. Ironically, the battle was fought two weeks after the peace Treaty of Ghent, which ended the hostilities, and restored pre-war conditions.

Westward Expansion

During the 19th century the country expanded its territory greatly through two major acquisitions. In 1802, the size of the country doubled with the Louisiana Purchase, when France sold all of its territories west of the Mississippi River to the United States. The Lewis and Clark expedition quickly explored the north western territories from the Mississippi to the Pacific. The nation's territory continued to expand by the annexation of Texas, which led to the Mexican-American War, where the United States obtained territory in the southwest from Mexico. The Oregon territory was purchased from Great Britain, Alaska from Russia, and the kingdom of Hawaii was annexed at the end of the century, completing the present territory of the United States. In summary, the following contributed to the present-day territory of the United States:


Westward expansion by official acts of the United States Government was accompanied by the western (and northern in the case of New England) movement of settlers on and beyond The Frontier. Daniel Boone was one frontiersman who pioneered the settlement of Kentucky. This pattern was followed throughout the West as men traded with the Indians, trapped fur[?], and explored. Skilled fighters and hunters, these Mountain Men in small groups trapped beaver throughout the Rocky Mountains. After the demise of the Fur Trade[?] they established trading posts throughout the west, continuing trade with the Indians, and serving the western migration of settlers to Utah, Oregon and California.

Major events in the western movement of the American people were The Homestead Act, a law by which, for a nominal price, a settler was given title to land to farm; the opening of the Northwest Territory to settlement; The Texas Revolution; the opening of the Oregon Trail; the Mormon Emigration[?] to Utah in 1846-7; The California gold rush of 1849; the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859; and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad May 10, 1869.

The western movie, one of the classic American film genres, is situated in this era.

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