A History of Free Speech during Wartime in America

Freedom of speech often suffers during times of war. Introduction Patriotism at times devolves into jingoism and civil liberties take a backseat to security and order. The pattern has been consistent in American history from the Revolutionary War to the modern-day War on Terror after the infamous terrorist strikes on U.S. soil on Sept. 11,[…]

Thanksgiving and the Puritan Separatists Who Arrived Aboard the Mayflower

The overcrowded vessel’s crossing took more than two harrowing months. In 1620, the Mayflower plowed across the Atlantic through headwinds and ocean currents at an incredibly slow two miles per hour. The overcrowded vessel’s crossing took more than two harrowing months. On the way, its 102 passengers witnessed an astonishing scene. During a fierce storm, an indentured[…]

Voting in Early America

The first representative assembly in English America convened in Jamestown’s church July 30, 1619. By Ed Crews Among the first things the Jamestown voyagers did when they set up English America’s first permanent settlement was conduct an election. Nearly as soon as they landed—April 26, 1607, by their calendar—the commanders of the 105 colonists unsealed[…]

Reconstruction after the Civil War

Reconstruction-era governments did make genuine gains in rebuilding Southern states devastated by the war. By Tina Ulrich, Joelle Hannert, Tom Gordon, Michelle Schneider, Michele Howard, Ryan Bernstein, and Justin Guillard Lincoln’s Plan for Reconstruction Overview The first great task confronting the victorious North — now under the leadership of Lincoln’s vice president, Andrew Johnson, a[…]

An Overview of the Civil War

While the Southern army dwindled, the Union simply mustered new armies and tried again. By Tina Ulrich, Tom Gordon, Sherry Trier, Michelle Schneider, Ryan Bernstein, and Justin Guillard Western Advance, Eastern Stalemate Having been turned down by Robert E. Lee, Lincoln turned to George McClellan to lead the Union Army. In McClellan, Lincoln found one[…]

A History of Political Parties in the United States

The winning supporters of ratification of the Constitution were called Federalists and the opponents were called Anti-Federalists. The First Political Parties: Federalists and Anti-Federalists Overview The winning supporters of ratification of the Constitution were called Federalists, the opponents were called Anti-Federalists. The Federalist Era was a period in American history from roughly 1789-1801 when the[…]

The First Party System in the Early American Republic

By 1796 politics in every state was nearly monopolized by two parties, with party newspapers and caucuses becoming especially effective tools to mobilize voters. Introduction The First Party System is a model of American politics used in history and political science to periodize the political party system that existed in the United States between roughly[…]

Article II, Section 4: A Brief History of Impeachment

The sparse history has given Congress relatively few opportunities to flesh out the bare bones of the constitutional text. The final section of Article II, which generally describes the executive branch, specifies that the “President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States” shall be removed from office if convicted in an impeachment[…]

The Violent Language of Andrew Johnson

The 10th article of impeachment against Andrew Johnson in 1868 was about his language and conduct over the course of his term. By Jamelle Bouie There’s precedent for making transgressive presidential speech a “high crime or misdemeanor.” The 10th article of impeachment against Andrew Johnson in 1868 was about his language and conduct over the[…]

The Role of French Algeria in American Expansion during the Early Republic

The year 1830 was important for a distant event: the bombardment by French forces of the Barbary Power, Algiers. Aside from the significance of Alexis de Tocqueville and other famous French observers of early American democracy, historians of French-American relations in the first part of the nineteenth century have tended to focus more on the[…]

The Civil War’s Unforgiving Final Year and How It Changed the War’s Legacy

What happened in the first few years seems almost innocent compared to what happened in the last year. A few years ago, I wrote a biography of Stonewall Jackson called Rebel Yell, which, in addition to tracking his life, chronicled the first two years of the American Civil War. Jackson fought in the war’s earliest battles, and[…]

Honoring Forgotten Revolutionary War Hero Dr. Joseph Warren

Warren was an eloquent, persuasive polemicist who died a martyr at Bunker Hill. By Michael McQuillan “I’m going to get right into it because there’s so much to tell!”  Christian Di Spigna is a man on a mission.  Most public speakers start with pleasantries.  They thank sponsors, greet friends in the audience, ease into substance.  Not this one! Di[…]

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Opponents Unified in Founding Principles

They asked voters to sort through mounds of partisan propaganda and do whatever necessary to understand the issues. By Georgiann Baldino Political insults and conspiracy theories are nothing new in American history. One election in particular set a standard for nasty charges and countercharges. In the 1858 Illinois senatorial contest, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas hurled insults and[…]

The Founders’ Furious Impeachment Debate – and Benjamin Franklin’s Modest Proposal

Bitter political partisanship marked eleven previous presidential impeachment inquiries and the 1787 debate in Philadelphia. By Harlow Giles Unger The current clash in Congress over whether to impeach the President has extended to more than two centuries the bitter political partisanship that marked eleven previous presidential impeachment inquiries and the 1787 debate in Philadelphia over how to impeach the[…]

Maps and the Beginnings of Colonial North America

Exploring maps and mapmaking influenced the development of colonial North America. Introduction Thousands of surviving maps allow scholars to trace how European and indigenous understandings of North America developed between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. These maps convey information about the continent’s physical features, practical details ranging from the contours of rivers and coastlines to[…]

Impacts and Consequences of the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Impeachment carried with it grave risks for the Republicans. Andrew Johnson, the 17th president of the United States, became the first to be impeached when the House of Representatives on February 24, 1868, overwhelmingly passed an impeachment resolution and in the next few days approved 11 articles of impeachment for the Senate to consider. Following[…]

Life and Political Career of Andrew Johnson, the First Impeached President in 1868

Johnson was the seventeenth President of the United States, succeeding to the presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Introduction Johnson was a United States Senator from Tennessee at the time of the secession of the southern states. He was the only Southern Senator not to quit his post upon secession. Though a slave owner[…]

Jewish Immigration to America: Three Waves

Sephardic, German, and Eastern European immigrants each contributed to the formation of American Jewry. By Dr. Joellyn ZollmanJewish Historian Introduction America’s Jewish community is largely c, meaning it is made up of Jews who trace their ancestry to Germany and Eastern Europe. However, the first Jews to arrive in what would become the United States[…]

The History and Mythology of the Mayflower Arrival in 1620

Today that potent myth is enshrined (literally) on the sea shore under its classically-inspired canopy. By Martyn Whittock The Mayflower and its ‘Pilgrims’ reminds us of an event which has entered into the cultural DNA of the United States. This is so, despite the fact that those who sailed and settled did so as English[…]

Jacob Riis and “How the Other Half Lives”: Poverty in 19th-Century America

Riis as a writer, photographer, lecturer, advocate, and ally for reform to address the poverty many ignored. Biography Overview Jacob A. Riis (1849–1914) was born in Ribe, Denmark. He immigrated to America at age twenty with hopes of one day marrying his teenage love, Elisabeth Nielsen [Gjørtz]. Riis wandered through Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New[…]

Social Class in the American Colonies

Social class was prevalent and largely property-based in the colonies. The Colonial Elite Overview In New England and the mid-Atlantic colonies, the elite were wealthy farmers or urban merchants; in the South, they were wealthy planters. British Americans’ reliance on indentured servitude and slavery to meet the demand for colonial labor helped give rise to[…]

The Marquis de Lafayette’s Great American Love Affair

Why a 19-year-old Frenchman traded Versailles for Valley Forge. The 19-year-old Marquis de Lafayette had met only a handful of Americans when he signed up to join General George Washington’s army, but he felt certain that the people of the United States were as honorable as the cause of freedom for which they fought. Their[…]

Early Moments in American Printing

Beginning with a small psalm book that filled a basic need in the devotional lives of colonists, landmark printings across the colonies captured moments in American thought. Introduction With a bit of verve, luck, and ingenuity, printing was brought to British North America in 1638. Stephen Daye, a locksmith by trade, was under contract to[…]

Franklin, the American State that Wasn’t

Franklin was the 14th state of America. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s because it only lasted for four years. By Matthew Wills In 1784, white settlers in what was nominally western North Carolina (and is now eastern Tennessee) organized the State of Franklin. As historian Jason Farr writes, the separatist state, named after Ben Franklin,[…]

1936, When FDR Was Bent on Creating a ‘New Political Order’

True or False? Franklin Delano Roosevelt claimed to be a conservative defender of the nation’s founding ideals. True or False? Franklin Delano Roosevelt claimed to be a conservative defender of the nation’s founding ideals. If you answered “both,” you’d be correct. We don’t tend to think of FDR as a conservative today, and at certain[…]

A Short History of the Idea of ‘Main Street’ in America

From Nathaniel Hawthorne to Disneyland, the concept has represented both the experimental and the conventional. In the United States, Main Street has always been two things—a place and an idea. As both, Main Street has embodied the contradictions of the country itself. It is the self-consciousness of the idea of Main Street—from its origins in[…]

How Vain, Stubborn, Thin-Skinned George Washington Grew Up

Through the trauma of war, and by learning from his mistakes, the first president gained empathy and gravitas. At 21 years of age, George Washington was a very different man than the one we know and hold sacred, different from the stately commander, the selfless first president, the unblemished father of our country staring off[…]

George Washington’s Deep Self-Doubt

The first president was indispensable to our early republic, precisely because he didn’t see himself as indispensable. By Dr. Robert L. MiddlekauffHotchkis Professor Emeritus of American HistoryUniversity of California, Berkeley Revolutions tend to get hijacked, going from being about the people to being about the triumphant revolutionary leaders. And so the French Revolution begat Napoleon,[…]