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Sixteen Most Significant Events In Us History (стр. 1 из 4)

Between 1789 To 1975 Essay, Research Paper

Sixteen Most Significant Events in US History between 1789 to 1975

After a review of United States’ history from 1789 to 1975, I have

identified what I believe are the sixteen most significant events of that

time period. The attached sheet identifies the events and places them in

brackets by time period. The following discussion provides my reasoning

for selecting each of the events and my opinion as to their relative

importance in contrast to each other. Finally, I have concluded that of

the sixteen events, the Civil War had the most significant impact on the

history of the time period in which it occurred and remains the most

significant event in American history.

The discussion begins with bracket I covering the period from 1789-1850,

and pairs the number one seed in the bracket “Mexican-American War” against

the fourth seed “Louisiana Purchase”. The second seed in the bracket

“Marbury v Madison” is paired against the third seed “Monroe Doctrine”.

The purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803 was the most popular and

momentous event of the Jefferson presidency. It had several significant

economic and political implications on this period in history. From an

economic perspective it doubled the size of the United States at a price of

only fifteen million dollars. It allowed settlement beyond the Mississippi

River in a territory that was rich in minerals and natural resources. It

eliminated the United States’ long struggle for control of the Mississippi

River and its outlet to the sea, and as Jefferson stated, it freed America

from European influence at its borders. In addition to these economic

implications, the purchase also had historic political implications. The

acquisition took place at a time when the government was still exploring

the powers that the Constitution had granted it. Jefferson, himself,

carefully deliberated whether the Constitution granted him the right to

acquire territory for the purpose of expandi the Union. He reflected on

the possible need for an amendment to the Constitution to justify the

action. Finally, under intense pressure, he allowed the purchase and set

an important precedent. His action established the power of the president

to expand the borders of the United States under the existing powers of the


Despite the economic and political implications of the Louisiana

Purchase, the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) had more significant

historical implications on this time period. While disagreements between

the two countries had been accumulating for two decades, the war was

primarily the result of American feelings of “manifest destiny” to expand

their borders. The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the war,

granted the United States the regions of California, Nevada and Utah, and

parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. However, the

significant result of the war on United States’ history would be the

controversy over whether the territories acquired should be slave or free.

The country, at this time, was divided between proslave sentiment in the

South and antislave sentiment in the North. Various attempts at compromise

to settle the controversy, such as “The Compromise of 1850″ and the “Kansas

Nebraska Act” failed. Finally, when the issue could not be resol

peacefully, the country was drawn into a civil war. It is evident that the

outcome of the Mexican-American War became one of the most influential,

indirect causes of the Civil War.

Both the Louisiana Purchase and the Mexican-American War expanded

United States borders and had beneficial economic impacts. However, the

implications of expansion brought about by the Mexican-American War were

more significant. While the Louisiana Purchase helped define the

constitutional powers of the president, the Mexican-American War further

exacerbated the slave issue which ultimately resulted in civil war.

The Monroe Doctrine was the most important assertion to date of United

States’ foreign policy in history. The doctrine was delivered by President

James Monroe as part of his annual message to Congress in 1823. This

statement of position would dictate the policy of the United States in

international affairs for years to come. The doctrine was in reaction to

continual interference of European nations in the affairs of Latin America.

It provided a framework for how the United States would deal with foreign

intervention in the western hemisphere. It stated that Europe was to remain

out of the affairs of countries in the western hemisphere and any attempt

to intervene would be viewed as a threat to the United States. In return,

the United States agreed to stay out of European affairs.

Marbury v Madison is arguably one of the most important decisions by

the Supreme Court in United States’ history. The case, which was presided

over in 1803 by Chief Justice John Marshall, concerned President Adams’s

appointment of William Marbury as Justice of the Peace in the District of

Columbia. Adams’s term ended before Marbury took office, and James Madison,

the new Secretary of State, attempted to withhold the appointment. Marbury

petitioned the Supreme Court under Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789

to force Madison to grant the appointment. The court refused to rule on

the appointment since Section 13 gave the Supreme Court powers not provided

by the Constitution. As a result, the court declared Section 13

unconstitutional. The decision defined the role of the Supreme Court in

the government and where the court fit into the system of checks and

balances. The case established power of judicial review of Congressional

legislation and represented the first judicial sertion of its right to

declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. While the Constitution did

not speak directly to this level of judicial authority, the case created a

precedent which is still followed today.

When comparing the immediate impact Marbury v Madison and the Monroe

Doctrine had on this period in history, Marbury v Madison is victorious.

The Marbury v Madison decision had immediate implications. It clearly

established the position and power of the court in government. It required

Congress to consider potential constitutional implications of all future

legislation. On the other hand, the Monroe Doctrine’s implications would

not be realized until beyond the 1850’s when policies such as Secretary of

State Seward’s denunciation of French intervention in Mexico and the

Roosevelt Corollary would be based on the doctrine. At the time the

doctrine was put forth, the United States lacked the military strength to

enforce the doctrine. Despite European recognition of the intent of the

doctrine, it is doubtful they were intimidated by it until the United

States could assert itself as a military power.

The finalists in bracket I are the Mexican-American War and Marbury v

Madison. In a comparison of the two, the war emerges as the event that had

the most impact on this time period in history. Despite the importance of

Marbury v Madison as a landmark decision establishing the role of the

Supreme Court to rule on constitutional issues, its impact on the country

during this time period was less dramatic than that of the Mexican-American

War. Although it caused Congress to be aware that future legislation would

be reviewed by court, it would be several years before the court would be

required to rule again on the constitutionality of a Congressional Act. Not

until the late 1800’s, when the Supreme Court ruled on certain civil

rights’ issues, would the full implications of the Marbury decision become

evident. Conversely, the Mexican-American War had a direct impact on many

people. First, the acquisition of new territory in the west allowed

settlers to expand beyond the Mississip opening a vast frontier which was

rich with natural resources. Second, and most important, the war brought

the lingering debate over slavery to the forefront. The slavery question

would soon become the issue of the decade, directly impacting the entire

country. The acquisition of new territory stirred abolitionists in the

North who viewed it as an opportunity to weaken the stronghold slavery had

on the country. Southerners realized that the territory must be admitted as

slave if they were going to maintain their “peculiar institution” and a

balance of power. As a result, the war became a much more significant

event to the vast majority of Americans than the implications of Marbury v

Madison. It would drive sectionalism to the breaking point and turn

Americans against each other.

The discussion continues with bracket II which covers the time period

from 1850-1900 and pairs the number one seed in the bracket “Civil War”

against the fourth seed “Sherman Antitrust Act.” The second seed in the

bracket “Plessy v Furgeson” is paired against the third seed “Passage of

the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments”.

The Sherman Antitrust Act passed in 1890 outlawed any contract,

combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade. It also forbid any

attempt to create a monopoly. The law was aimed at combating trusts which

were being formed in the late 1800’s such as U.S. Steel and Standard Oil.

It was believed that the formation of these trusts was eliminating

competition and leaving the consumer at the mercy of the large corporations

which controlled the prices of their commodities. While the act was the

first significant piece of legislation aimed at regulating the economy and

placing controls over big business, its wording was vague, enforcement was

not very vigorous, and lawyers for the corporations found loopholes in the

law and various ways of avoiding its provisions. However, by the end of

the century, the law had been strengthened and it would become an effective

tool in “trust busting”, returning competition to the marketplace and

gaining advantage for the worker and the consumer.

The Civil War fought between the Northern states of the Union and the

Southern states of the Confederacy from 1861-1865 turned out to be the most

bitter fight in the nation’s history. The war divided Americans, took more

lives than any other war, and was the ugliest event in American history.

Slavery was the critical issue behind the war, but the economic rivalry

between the industrial North and the agricultural South contributed

significantly to the conflict. The results of the war in which the North

prevailed were many. About one million men were killed or wounded,

destroying almost an entire generation. The Union was saved and slavery

was eliminated. The South was practically destroyed by battles which

ravaged farmlands, homes, and entire cities. The impact of the war was so

vast that an entire Reconstruction period in American history was devoted

to the political and economic rebuilding of the South. Finally, the scars

of hatred between the North and South would have a ting effect. Southerners

grew bitter in defeat, while Northerners continued their hostility toward

the South.

In a comparison of these two events, the Civil War clearly had a

greater influence on the time period. This conclusion is based not only on

the catastrophic and long term implications of the war, but on the failure

of the Sherman Antitrust Act to have any significant impact on the

formation of trusts during this period. The act brought no anti-monopoly

millennium. The legislation itself left too many unanswered questions,

including what in fact constituted a monopoly and how the government was to

proceed in breaking up monopolies. In addition, the Cleveland and McKinley

administrations in the 1890’s showed little interest in enforcing the

legislation. The attack against big business had failed and the opponents

of monopolies would have to wait until next century to renew the effort.

Conversely, the war had the immediate impact of preserving the Union and

dealing a death blow to slavery. In addition, the aftermath of the war

would continue to be felt throughout the remainder the century. The

postwar period marked a change from a primarily agrarian society to a

mechanized society with rapidly expanding technology. The impetus for the

change came primarily from the necessity to meet wartime demand for arms

and supplies, which led to new technology. This technology in the postwar

period would change society dramatically. In addition, the postwar period

would usher in the Reconstruction Era, which became one of the most complex

and controversial periods in American history. During this period, the

country would have to deal with issues which included whether punishment

should be imposed on Southern whites who supported the Confederacy, how to

guarantee the freedom of emancipated slaves, and under what conditions

should Southern states be readmitted to the Union. These and other issues

led to changes which were little short of revolutionary.

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the

Constitution were monumental steps in gaining civil rights for all

Americans. The amendments, which were passed between 1865 and 1870, were

intended to guarantee social equality for all races. The Thirteenth

Amendment ended slavery in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment

defined American citizenship as “all persons born or naturalized in the

United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof”. It prohibited any

law which would deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without

due process of law. The Fifteenth Amendment forbade states to deny the

right to vote on account of race. Although these amendments were momentous

events in guaranteeing civil rights, their effect during this time period

in history would be short lived. Blacks would only enjoy equality for a

few years until a series of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the

amendments would weaken them to the point that the civil rights of bla were

again denied. It would not be until the 1950’s that blacks would achieve

the rights and freedoms guaranteed by these amendments. Despite this, the

passage of these amendments was a major step toward recognition of racial

equality in America in this time period and beyond.

Plessy v Furgeson was the most influential in a series of Supreme Court

decisions which led to the rapid spread of segregation laws in the South.

After the Civil War and the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and

Fifteenth Amendments, blacks were granted equal rights. However, Supreme

Court decisions interpreting the amendments began to limit the extension of

these rights to blacks. In Plessy, which was decided in 1896, the court

supported the constitutionality of a Louisiana law requiring separate but

equal facilities for blacks in railroad cars. The decision helped

strengthen racial segregation in American until the next century. Many

states would rely on the “separate but equal” rule to segregate public

schools, the use of transportation and recreation, and sleeping and eating


The comparison of these two events is an interesting one. The passage

of the three amendments guaranteed civil rights for blacks, while Plessy v

Furgeson was the most influential decision in all but nullifying the

impact of the amendments until the 1950’s. As a result, it is evident that

the Plessy v Furgeson decision had a greater impact on the civil rights of

Americans during this time period that did passage of the amendments. While

the amendments guaranteed blacks their most basic civil rights, the court

decisions on the heels of these amendments effectively retracted those

rights and resulted in much greater social implications for blacks at the

time. While eventually the guarantees of the amendments to provide

equality and freedom to all Americans would come to fruition, in this time

period, they continued to be denied to blacks.

The finalists in bracket II are the Civil War and Plessy v Furgeson.

Comparing the impact of the two events, the Civil War emerges victorious.

While the Plessy decision adversely impacted the rights that blacks had

been guaranteed under the Constitution, its effects were restricted

primarily to black Americans. The Constitutional rights of the white

majority were not affected by the decision and their way of life was not

impacted. On the other hand, the implications of the Civil War and the