Eisenhower and Mid-20th Century Taxes in the United States

During the war, the top “marginal rate” was 94%, but 94% of what? Recent history shows tax rates exceedingly high some 50 years ago. How do historians (and educators) accommodate the recent past when putting contexts around today’s loud events? There are only long answers to any questions about taxation in American history, no matter[…]

The American Revolution: Loudly Telling Mother Goodbye

Establishing a nation in which the people were sovereign and the aristocracy had no place. The North American Colonies and the British Empire The European countries of Spain, France and Britain all had important interests in North America, not least because these colonies promised future wealth and were strategically important to the sugar, tobacco and[…]

What a Line Deleted from the Declaration of Independence Teaches Us about Thomas Jefferson

The excised passage was not then without effect and ought not now to be without effect. In his first draft of Declaration of Independence, Jefferson listed a “long train of abuses & usurpations,” at the hand of King George III. Those, he added, are “begun at a distinguished period, & pursuing invariably the same object.” Those[…]

Celebrating the New Year in Colonial America

American colonists actually celebrated New Year on March 25th! By Eryn Dion While modern day New Year’s celebrations are all about ball drops and champagne, that’s understandably not everyone’s scene. If you’re tired of staying up until midnight and partying all night long, give some of these interesting New Year’s traditions from colonial America a[…]

American Foreign Policy and the Roots of Empire in the 19th Century

Examining the contributions of Frederick Jackson Turner and Alfred Thayer Mahan to the conscious creation of an American empire. Introduction During the time of Reconstruction, the U.S. government showed no significant initiative in foreign affairs. Western expansion and the goal of Manifest Destiny still held the country’s attention, and American missionaries proselytized as far abroad[…]

Electing Members of Congress in the Early Republic

Procedures for electing members of Congress in the early republic greatly differed from the single-district system that is in use today. By Philip LampiHistorian Until 1825, the U.S. government did not require that local election officials formally report the results of their contests to any state or federal officials. Without official sources of election returns,[…]

Political Parties in the Early American Republic

This was a period of great experimentation and change in the development of political parties. The framers of the federal Constitution had not anticipated the development of permanent political parties. Parties were considered “factions,” dangerous and illegitimate alliances that pursued their own self-interest at the expense of the common good. National leaders were expected to[…]

The Decline of Protestant Influence in the Late 19th Century

Changes caused Protestants to lose the privileges they had enjoyed in public life, and they wanted government to get them back. The Decline of Protestant Influence The late 19th century was a bad time for American Protestants. Agnosticism and atheism became popular, especially among younger intellectuals. Rising numbers of non-Protestant immigrants brought greater religious diversity.[…]

Religious Tests for Witnesses in 19th-Century America

Although Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits any religious test “as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States,” and the First Amendment prohibits Congress from adopting laws “respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” none of these provisions initially applied to the states. Remnants of[…]

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[…]