A History of Politicians Shredding Etiquette since John Adams

Manners – and civility – are an essential component of how things get done in government, and the Founding Fathers knew it. Ripping Off the Toupee In 1801, at the presidential inauguration ceremony of Thomas Jefferson, the outgoing president, John Adams, was nowhere to be seen – he was not even invited. For his part,[…]

Lessons on Humility and Truth-Seeking from Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin spoke and wrote in ways that, if taken up now, could begin to erode the polarization of the current era. Introduction The previous year in the United States was a turbulent one, filled with political strife, protests over racism and a devastating pandemic. Underlying all three has been a pervasive political polarization, made[…]

George Washington in 1786 on the Abolition of Slavery

Of the nine presidents who were slaveholders, only George Washington freed all his own slaves upon his death. Before the Revolution, Washington, like most white Americans, took slavery for granted. At the time of the Revolution, one-fifth of the colonies’ population lived in bondage. Although most slaves were in the South, slavery was a legal[…]

The First Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

On Inauguration Day, Lincoln’s procession to the Capitol was surrounded by heavily armed cavalry and infantry. Introduction The first inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th President of the United States was held on Monday, March 4, 1861, at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was the 19th inauguration[…]

The First Inauguration of George Washington

The executive branch of the United States government officially began operations established by the 1787 Constitution. Introduction The first inauguration of George Washington as the first President of the United States was held on Thursday, April 30, 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City, New York. The inauguration was held nearly[…]

A History of Petty Presidential Transitions

Presidents who behave badly during transitions usually share something in common – they’re viewed as the worst presidents overall. In 1797, President George Washington was determined to unambiguously hand over the nation’s reins for the first time. He attended the inauguration ceremony of John Adams, his vice president, to show his support. At its conclusion,[…]

A Founding Father in Dissent: How Elbridge Gerry Gave Us the Bill of Rights

Gerry the proposed original constitution threatened the liberties of the people and the rights of the states. During his second term as governor of Massachusetts, in 1811, Elbridge Gerry, upset with the Federalist Party’s outspoken opposition to President James Madison’s foreign policy, approved a controversial redistricting plan designed to give the Republican Party an advantage[…]

Ending the Bloodshed: The Last Surrenders of the Civil War

Not until sixteen months after Appomattox, on August 20, 1866, did the President formally declare an end to the war. Introduction Appomattox. To many Americans the word Appomattox is synonymous with the end of the Civil War. The war, however, did not officially conclude at that tiny village west of Petersburg, Virginia. But what happened[…]

Rolling the Dice on Theodore Roosevelt in American Memory

The resilience of memories of Roosevelt as a hero, champion, and friend is indicative of durable qualities in Americans’ self-image. Abstract Following scholarship that suggests that societies crave continuity in their collective memories, this article identifies recurring themes in American memories of Theodore Roosevelt as an intensely masculine leader, a champion of social justice, and[…]

Economic Development in the Early American Republic

American economic growth was halting and uneven during the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. The growth of the American economy reshaped American life in the decades before the Civil War. Americans increasingly produced goods for sale, not for consumption. With a larger exchange network connected by improved transportations, the introduction of labor-saving technology, and the[…]

Paper Money and Inflation in Colonial America

A lack of money plagued colonial America. Introduction Inflation is often thought to be the result of excessive money creation—too many dollars chasing too few goods. While in principle this is true, in practice there can be a lot of leeway, so long as trust in the monetary authority’s ability to keep things under control[…]

The Use of Wood in Early American Infrastructure

America was soon wealthy enough to start to replace its timber infrastructure with one of steel and concrete. At the end of the eighteenth century, the newly formed United States of America was a country of widely-scattered rural settlements. It’s therefore one of the miracles of history that just a century later it transformed itself[…]

The Legacy of Thomas Jefferson

Fear for his reputation and public legacy led him to beg his closest friend, James Madison, to “take care of me when dead.” Introduction Jefferson’s twilight years were spent, in part, defining and defending his legacy. During his final decade, Jefferson drafted an autobiography, created political memorandum books, became increasingly concerned about the preservation of[…]

We the People: The Legacy of the Constitution of the United States of America

Our Founders left a document open to change with the ability to adapt to new times and circumstances. “Ours is a Constitution intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently, to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.” Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, 1819 Widespread Interest in the Founding Documents Since[…]

Out of War, a New Nation: The Impact and Legacy of the Civil War

Why did Americans fight each other with a ferocity unmatched in the Western world? The Civil War had a greater impact on American society and the polity than any other event in the country’s history. It was also the most traumatic experience endured by any generation of Americans. At least 620,000 soldiers lost their lives[…]

Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s 17th-Century American Subversions

Exploring the early colony’s brief existence and the alternate vision of America it represents. This article, Lord of Misrule: Thomas Morton’s American Subversions, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ When we think of early New England, we tend to picture[…]

The People, Voyage, and Arrival of the Mayflower

The pilgrims in the Atlantic crossing on the Mayflower were religious separatists inspired by the Protestant Reformation. Introduction The Mayflower is the name of the cargo ship that brought the Puritan separatists (known as pilgrims) to North America in 1620 CE. It was a type of sailing ship known as a carrack with three masts[…]

Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington’s Cabinet

Washington had to deal with the personal nature of the differences between two of his cabinet members – Jefferson and Hamilton. Originally published as “Jefferson and Hamilton, Political Rivals in Washington’s Cabinet”, by Dr. Joanne Freeman, at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, republished for educational, non-commercial purposes. Differences of opinion didn’t concern President Washington. They could[…]

The Presidential Cabinet: An Invention of America’s First President

How George Washington shaped the group of advisors as an institution to meet his own needs. The President’s cabinet, the heads of the executive branch departments, is one of the most constant and durable parts of the United States government. From George Washington to Donald Trump, the chief executive has used the institution to collect[…]

A History of New York City from the Precolonial Era to the Present

Inhabited by Algonquian Native Americans in the precolonial era, the city was named in honor of the Duke of York in 1664. Introduction New York City (NYC), often called simply New York, is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2019 population of 8,336,817 distributed over about 302.6 square miles (784 km2),[…]

New York from the First Arrival of Humans 12,000 Years Ago to Today

The history of New York begins around 10,000 BCE when the first people arrived. Introduction The history of New York begins around 10,000 B.C. when the first people arrived. By 1100 A.D. two main cultures had become dominant as the Iroquoian and Algonquian developed. European discovery of New York was led by the Italian Giovanni[…]

How to Lose: A Brief History of the Presidential Concession Speech

Over the past 120 years, there have been 32 concession speeches. By Joe Richman and Nellie Gilles Presidential campaigns are essentially dramas, and for the past century, the moment of closure has come in the form of one simple act: the public concession. There is no legal or constitutional requirement that the loser of a[…]

John Adams, America’s Second President and First One-Term President

Adams’s legacy is one of reason, virtuous leadership, compassion, and a cautious but vigorous foreign policy. Life in Brief Overview Before becoming President in 1797, John Adams built his reputation as a blunt-speaking man of independent mind. A fervent patriot and brilliant intellectual, Adams served as a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress between[…]

America Comes of Age, 1876–1900

The United States solidified its place as an industrial and agricultural power in the late nineteenth century. In the three decades following the Civil War, a nation once predominantly agricultural became the world’s preeminent economic power. Between 1869 and 1899, the nation’s population nearly tripled, farm production more than doubled, and the value of manufacturing[…]

Alexander Jackson Davis and Architecture in Mid-19th Century America

Alexander J. Davis was America’s greatest architect of the mid-nineteenth century. America’s greatest architect of the mid-nineteenth century, a designer of picturesque buildings in myriad styles, Alexander J. Davis was born in New York City on July 24, 1803. The son of a relatively poor bookseller and publisher of religious tracts who moved around the[…]

The First Commercial Radio Broadcast of Election Results in 1920

With the advent of radio, the ability of politicians to engage and entertain became crucial components of their candidacies. Introduction Only 100 people were listening, but the first broadcast from a licensed radio station occurred at 8 p.m. on Nov. 2, 1920. It was Pittsburgh’s KDKA, and the station was broadcasting the results of that[…]

Election Night as a Big Media Event since Electric Lights in 1892

Journalists have always wanted to be first to tell the public who won. Introduction As election night approaches, Americans will turn to their televisions, computers and smartphones to watch results come in for local, state and national races. Over the years, news coverage of winners and losers has become must-watch programming – even if it[…]

Contested Presidential Elections since Samuel Tilden in 1876

The elections of 1876, 1888, 1960 and 2000 were among the most contentious in American history. Introduction As states continue to count their ballots in the 2020 election, it seems possible that Democrats and Republicans will end up in court over whether President Trump will win a second term in the White House. President Trump[…]

Looking at the Origins of the Electoral College

Three approaches were debated at the Constitutional Convention: election by Congress, by state legislatures, or a popular vote. Introduction The delegates in Philadelphia agreed, in the summer of 1787, that the new country they were creating would not have a king but rather an elected executive. But they did not agree on how to choose[…]

Patriots and Loyalists: Differing Opinions and Sides in the American Revolution

Loyalists comprised 15-20% of the colonial population during the Revolutionary War. The Patriots “Patriots,” as they came to be known, were members of the 13 British colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution, supporting instead the U.S. Continental Congress. These Patriots rejected the lack of representation of colonists in the British Parliament[…]