Historians Now: The Fiery Trial by Eric Foner

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To what extent did the Declaration of Independence establish the foundation of American government?

The Declaration of Independence shook the world when it declared the United States of America free and independent from England in 1776. The ideas put forth in the Declaration of Independence were radical for the time, stating that all men are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Did the Declaration of Independence establish the foundation for American government? Below, Pauline Maier discusses the creation of the Declaration of Independence. 

Madison and Monroe

The War of 1812

The war was fought to protect American freedom of the seas and primarily caused by British “impressment” of American sailors and seizure of goods on American trade ships as well as British support of Native American raids on American settlements in the Northwest.  Although some Americans hoped that this War would pr

Intolerable Acts

Seeing the colonists as rebels declining to help pay the national debt, the English passed further legislation punishing colonists for acts of resistance, such as the Boston Tea Party.

Post-war Debt

Following the Proclamation of 1763, England raised taxes on goods imported to the colonies, such as tea and sugar, in order to repay war debts.

Immigration: 1830-1860

(a) The surge in immigration from 1830 to 1860 resulted from three factors: (1) improvements and lower cost of ocean transportation; (2) famines and political revolutions in Europe countries which drove people from their homelands; and (3) the growing reputation of the United States as a nation which offered numerous economic opportunities for employment and cheap farmland and the exercise of political and religious freedom.

Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican-American War

Territorial Expansion --- Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican-American War: (a) Annexation of Texas[k1]  (1845): During the 1830s, land-hungry Americans from southern states moved into Texas, and conflicts soon developed with the Mexican government, which had prohibited slavery.

“Manifest Destiny” and Territorial Expansion

a) As feelings of nationalism grew, the American people believed that the country had a manifest destiny,” a divine mission to expand westward and spread freedom and democracy across the continent to the Pacific Ocean and possibly southward into Mexico, Cuba, and Central America.  In 1845, newspaper editor, John L.