Political History of the United States  
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Prelude from

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures
of North America
by Colin Woodard  September 25, 2012

11 nations with distinct identities and values
formed a shaky pact in hops of 
 slowly growing into one nation.


1. The First Nations American natives worked well with French in Northern areas until broken promises and English beliefs about their own superiority soured them.

2. El Norte – These outposts of Spain's Colonial Empire consisted of independent minded Spanish frontiersman ranchers coming up from Mexico.

3. New France – Expanding the French colonies, these furs trading explorers wanted to take careof the lands they settled in Canada and upper New England. They were explorers, not terribly ideological, who wanted to trade. They integrated peacefully with Native Americans and wanted to take care of the land.

4. Yankeedom – Founders wanted to create a Puritanical fundamentalist Utopia with mandated education, justice, rights for all humans. They hated the English and most wanted freedom of Relegion as long as it was their own.

5. New Netherlands – Dutch  founders wanted to trade furs and engage in shipping from a cosmopolitan meeting place. Did not care about English politics or slavery.

6. The Midlands – Quaker William Penn wanted a tolerant isolated Quaker anti-slavery society. They loathed the Yankee religious theocracies.

7. Tidewater – English gentry created estates in Virginia using indentured servitude but they switched to slavery when the indentured servitude system degraded.

8. Deep South – English traders from Barbados where they acquired resources using violence and slavery. In Charleston they grew cotton in a society designed to benefit a wealthy few.

9. Greater Appalachia –Mostly  lowland  contrarians from Scotland and Ireland came to  escaped English domination. They settled in poorer Appalachians lands. These hearty people valued individual liberty.

10. The Left Coast – Ingenious people who moved West to preserve the land's natural beauty. Wanted a  utopian planned educated community.

The Far West – Explorers, hunters and. adventures were joined by East Coast anti-government capitalists. They  railroads and river transport to create wealth from mining, lumber and oil.


Political Eras

Important Events

Elections 1788-1824 England's Political Influence Finally Ends and the South Has Some Success in Controlling Northern Business Interests.
The causes of the American Revolution began as a disagreement over the way in which Great Britain treated the colonies versus the way the colonies felt they should be treated. Americans felt they deserved all the rights of Englishmen.

Federalists favored unity through  a strong central government, close ties to Britain, a centralized banking system, and close links between the government and the men of wealth who should run government. Republicans under Jefferson Madison and Monroe  strongly opposed Alexander Hamilton's Federalist agenda. They stressed being more of a Republic where the individual is sovereign as opposed to democracy where the sovereign is the group, the majority.




1788 1824

1) Executive privilege was used by G.W.. to keep Jay Treaty documents from Congress.
Other Presidents would claim the right, courts would sometimes have to decide legality. Think NSA data spying.

2) 1791 Whiskey Rebellion against federal taxes failed. It would be the first of many fights
concerning federal government taxes. Think The Tea Party.

3) Quasi-War with France was not escalated by Adams despite the desires of his Cabinet.
He used the Alien and Sedition Acts to limited citizen rights as  revolutionary ravaged Europe caused US.
A few went to jail . It would be the first of many attempts to have a US President and Congress
to ignore the Constitution. Think the Pentagon Papers, Syria, ISIS and Iraq.

4) The "American System" of internal improvements such as road- building, a national bank to
encourage productive Eastern enterprises and a national currency initiated by Alexander Hamilton
were financed by the  "Tariff of Abominations . The tariff caused the Nullification Crisis
as states wanted to declare federal laws unenforceable.  It resulted with Adams to be a
one- term president. The fight over tariffs hurt middle America  and helped business.
continue until post WW II Free Trade Agreements took their place.
Think 1994
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and 2015 Trans Pacific Partnership.
5) First Barbary War, the first on foreign soil, stopped payment of tribute to Mediterranean pirates. War on Terror Begins.
6) Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and 1819 and 1821 treaties brings U.S. Florida from Spain.
Later we would use military force against Mexico to expand westward.

7) War of 1812 protected freedom of the Sea and ended hostilities with Britain
Not being able to settle the fiscal problems caused by the war, in 1814 the U.S defaulted on its deb.
8) Bank of United States failed to have it's charter renewed in an attempt to limit business influence
but paying for the War of 1812 required such an institution. The battle of North/East business interest vs.
South and West rural interest continues today. Think
Bailout Prevention Act and the Tea Party.
9) 1920 Missouri Compromise admitted Maine as a fret state and Missouri as a slave state which postponed the pain.
Think long-term government liabilities being ignored to keep the present peaceful.

10 ) Monroe Doctrine 1823 keeps U.S out of European politics and vice versa until WWI.

1) Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced Indians westward.
2) 1933 Compromise Tariff solved the North-South fight over protectionism.
3) 1838 Mormon War ended with roughly 20,000 Mormons relocated.
4) A failed 1842 Impeachment attempt of J. Taylor occurred because he had used his
Presidential veto to over ride Northeast bank and tariff issues. Previous Presidential vetoes
had been on Constitutional grounds. It would be the first of a few politically motivated
impeachment attempts. Think 
Obama impeachment poll.
5) Mexican War settled with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which increased the U.S. by a third.
It resulted in Slave Power accusations. The  Oregon Treaty  acquired much of the Northwest territory
and what would be six states. England got British Columbia.
6) Compromise of 1850 postponed Civil War again and 1864 Kansas Nebraska Act increased tensions.
Think postponing government budget problems.


1) Panic of 1857 was caused by over-consumption of goods from Europe which lowered the money supply.
Also overbuilding by competing railroads and rampant Western land speculation caused speculative problems.
2008-9 Great Recession. 
2) Why we fought the Civil War. 3) Enforcement Acts of 1870-71 designed to protect blacks from the
Ku Klux Klan and to protect Indians failed.
4) Panic of 1873  was caused by the Coinage Act of 1873. It lowered the money supply.
Workers blamed cheap foreign labor. Called the Long Depression it was superseded by the Great Depression.
 It would not be the last time immigrants were blamed for problems. Think
Mexico, United States barrier.
5) Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 added merit and began the replacement of the spoils system
in the federal hiring equation.
6) Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 lasted until 1942.  Scott Act of 1888 expanded the restrictions on Chinese immigration.
Think current Mexican Immigration issues.
7) Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 began an attempt to regulate business trusts to harness their use of monopoly power.
8) McKinley Tariff of 1890 set record for high rates. Profits increased as did the price of consumers goods.
9) Panic of 1893 resulted in a  severe depression. Reluctantly J.P. Morgan bailed out the gold standard with $60,000,000.
The 1894 Wilson–Gorman Tariff lowered tariffs slightly & created a 2% income tax on over $4,000 ($88,100 in 2010 dollars).
It was repealed as unconstitutional by the 1895 Supreme Court.

Elections 1828-1852 Federalism vs. State's Rights and Democracy vs. Republican the Fight Begins When the Democratic-Republican Party of the Jefferson became factionalized in the 1820's Jackson's supporters began to form the modern Democratic Party. It hoped to pass political power from established elites to ordinary voters.  It supported the primacy of the Presidency over the other branches of the U.S. Federal government. They continued the Bank War by opposing renew the charter of Alexander Hamilton's Bank of the United State. Democrats also opposed Whig sponsored  modernizing programs that they felt would build up industry at the expense of the taxpayerThese battles continue today!  Democrats fought the rival Adams and Anti-Jacksonian factions which soon emerged as the Whigs. They were led by Henry Clay who advocated the primacy of Congress over the Executive Branch as well as policies economic protectionism of Northeastern industry.

Elections 1856-1896 Civil War Ends, Northeast Takes Control, The Gilded Age is Built on the Backs of the Poor, Especially Women, Immigrants, and Blacks  The civil War was followed by massive industrialization centered on rail roads, canals and steamships. Massive wealth  was created. Farm mechanism lowered the cost of food and this coupled with science made for a somewhat more prosperous middle class. Immigrants suffered.

Elections Progressives  and Populists Finally End to the Gilded Age But Business Power Would Return After WW I. The 1896 realigning election resulted in a republican forged conservative coalition consisting of businessmen, professionals, skilled factory workers, and prosperous farmers. There would be opposition which created two unsettled decades called the 
Progressive Era. It was a period of social activism and political reform that flourished from the 1890s to the early 1920s. One main goal of the Progressive movement was eliminating corruption in government by exposing political machines and their bosses in hopes of creating a more direct democracy.  This put election reform high on the agenda. Progressives also sought regulation of monopolistic trust corporations through antitrust laws which were seen as a means to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. An increase post WW I Communist and Union activities caused a fear of anarchy not seen since the French Revolution. It led to public desire for a return to more peaceful Republican led government. It would not be the last Red Scare.

Elections 1932-present  Party Control Flip Flops Like a Yoyo but Progress Is Made 

Republicans were penalized by outrage caused during the summer of 1932 by Veteran Bonus Army deaths.  It combined with the of Hoover's domestic policies. Change was demanded.

Democrats promoted American Liberalism. It anchored in a coalition of specific liberal groups, especially ethno-religious constituencies (Catholics, Jews, African Americans). White Southerners, well-organized labor unions, urban political machines, progressive intellectuals, and populist farm groups were also courted.


1) The 1898 Spanish–American War victory resulted from our desires for a colonial empire and business interests. Business  also had pushed for the 1897 Dingley Tariff Act which  promoted industry at the expense of consumers as the tariff was added to the price paid by consumers. The Gold Standard protected savers but its inflexible money supply caused hard times.
2) The Panama Canal acquisition of 1903 eventually resulted in improved transportation.
3) Progressive Republican FDR successfully fought party Trusts. First with the 1906 Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food & Drug Act. The Hepburn Act increased Interstate Commerce Commission  regulation of Rail Road Trusts which still managed to control rates and competitors.
4) American Antiquities Act of 1906 created National Monuments and was one of many conservation activities.
5) Panic of 1907 needed help from both J.P.  Morgan and the Treasury as more liquidity was needed than his wealth could provide. The 1913 the Federal Reserve System resulted and it became the Lender of Last Resort. Designed by Wall Street bankers the FED would continue under Wall Street's thumb until ... 2015 and counting! Think Great Recession.
6) Democrat Woodrow Wilson would continue progressive the  agenda.  The Revenue Act of 1913 substituted income taxes for lower tariffs and this lowered the price of consumer goods. The Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914 was a major effort to control business trusts. The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 outlawed specific conduct putting teeth into Sherman Antitrust Act. The Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 increased credit to rural family farmers and the Keating–Owen Act of 1916 temporally lowered child labor abuses..
7) Segregated government continued as
Wilson was like progressives  T Roosevelt and T Jefferson in  that he felt Americans were not ready for integration.
8) Revenue Act of 1921 and Revenue Acts of 1924,1926,1928 reduced  taxes so only richest 2% paid  income taxes. Think 2 Bush tax cuts. The Fordney McCumber Tariff Act was one of many  protectionist measures during the decade. Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 to protect US industries failed to help as Canada, France and others retaliated. A Mexican Repatriation program help unemployed Mexican citizens return home. It represented  forced migration. Think current immigration problems.
9)  Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 resulted in the Flood Control Act of 1928. It created the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to watch over public infrastructure..
10) The 16th, 17th, and 19th amendments made some progressive policies permanent.


1930s Government Safety Net Deficits, Like War Deficits, Prove Attractive to voters

1973 Finally Brings_ Fast Track Civil Rights

US Economic Normality 1945-2015

Post WW2 International Economic Competitive Adjustment

Five Recurring Political Discussion Themes

Three Continuing Questions Developed



The Good  
1. Health Problems Solved
1902 Scarlet Fever deaths peaked at close to 5,000 and then slowly dropped thanks to penicillin.  
1905 Last Yellow Fever epidemic killed 20 in US as misquote control eliminated cause. 1936 vaccine ended disease.
1916 Measles 12,000 mostly children died. Vaccine finally eliminated most cases by early 1980's.
1918 Spanish Flu 500,000 died in US. This could have been the cause of the post WW 1 recession.
1921 Diphtheria 206,000 cases, 15,520 deaths, mostly children died.
1953 Polio 57,628 cases with 21,000 paralyzed Vaccine followed and Polio is now about gone. 
1957-58 Asian Flu  70,000 died in US.
1968-69 Hong Kong Flu 34,000 died in US.
1985-95+ AIDS killed ten to twenty thousand per year in 1970's.  Annual  deaths peaked at 41,699 in mid 1990's 
and then they quickly dropped due to super drug development and availability. Total US deaths were  658,507. 
By the 1960's
Measles, Mumps,  Rubella and a 1995 Chicken Pox vaccines made childhood safer and more enjoyable as did seat belts, infant safety seats, bicycle safety helmets, and 1962 began the era of government sponsored child protective services.
2. Long-lasting Great Depression Legislation
TVA employed people to build dams, controlled floods, improved irrigation and eventually generated electricity. 
Emergency Banking Act establish the first federal bank regulations and set up SEC to police Wall Street.  Social Security Act created Old-Age pensions, unemployment insurance and disability Insurance. Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 set maximum hours and minimum wages. It also prohibited Discriminatory Employment related to federal employment.
3. Post WW II Activity Included Reorganization of Israel resulted in a strong pro-American Middle East democracy.  
Marshall Plan prevented a repeat of the post WW I problems that led to WW II. Germany, Japan and England prospered.  
officially ended Monroe Doctrine isolationism. 
Federal Aid Highway Act created interstate highway system for national defense and allowed the development of suburbia.
4. A return to Progressivism Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 provided benefits for poor people, education,
unemployed and the elderly. 
Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally began the process of moving toward minority equality. It continued with the
Voting Rights Act of 1965  designed to assured minority registration and voting and  the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which banned housing discrimination. Social Security Amendments of 1965 created Medicare and Medicaid. 
Environmental Protection Agency was created by presidential executive order.
 It along with the Clean Air Act Amendment of 1990 increased federal regulatory authority. 26th Amendment of 1971 lowered voting age to18 Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990...
5. Taxes dropped benefits increased Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 cut most taxes. 
Tax Reform Act of 1986 lowered taxes on wealthy. 
Tax Cuts of 2001 lowered rates for many. 2003 tax cut was the first in a time of high war.
 2003 Medicare Part D increase drug benefits.
2010 PPACA resulted in more people being insured.

The Bad

1. Interned American Citizens in 1942 consisted of 150,000 mostly Japanese men, women and children.
2. Cuban Missile Crisis continued a long Cold War.
3. Bailouts began 1975 New York City $1.3b paid back +interest 1979 Chrysler Motors $1.5b paid back +interest
1982 Oklahoma-based Penn Square Bank $65m 1984 Continental Illinois Bank bailout $14b 1980's
Savings and Loan $124.6b [2]
2009-10 Great Recession TARP $24b, Detroit $16b
4. Less Regulation Causes Trouble
Financial deregulation began in early 1970's and culminated with Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999
repealing the Glass–Steagall Act enacted after  the Great Depression.  
Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000  minimized regulation of financial derivatives 
5. War on Terror1 was named by George Bush II and it finally stuck after six months of constant marketing.
Attacks against the U.S. had been going on for many years and while an attack on American soil was terribl

The Ugly  U.S. Cost of War
1. Nineteen-month World War 1 killed 116,516 from all causes with 204,002 wounded in action.
The resulting  peace treaty severely penalized Germany and divided the Ottoman Empire among the winners. T
hese winners continued their 19th Century Western Colonialism, which planted the seeds for Arab Unrest.
2. Four year World War 2 killed 405,399  from all causes with 670,660 wounded in action.
Losers were not punished.  Russian Bear having suffered
26.6 military and civilian deaths u
sed their newly occupied eastern European territory to provide a protective buffer.

3. Three year Korean War killed 36,574 with 103,284 wounded in action. South Korea remained free.
Japan felt safe and used a small defense budget to build industrial capital and rejoined the developed world.
4. The very long Vietnam War2 killed 58,220 with over 153,303 wounded with few important positive results.
As of 12/31/14 Afghanistan War killed 2,312 with 20,026 wounded with few important positive results.
As of 5/29/12 Iraq War killed 4,425 with 32,223  wounded with few important positive results.

Concise Studies  Recent Decades Ranked by Problems   U S Banking Problems   
20th Century American Education   American Unions




Author's Ramblings

1 The idea that Muslims Extremism is behind all military confrontations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia reminds me of the Cold War. Then regime change in Egypt and Syria and Para military confrontations in Central and South American were all said to be inspired by Communist. Looking back, neither Egypt or Syria became Communistic and few of these conflicts resulted in communist governments. Oligarch looking to control lesser developed countries needed money and the USSR would contribute to one side and the U.S. to the other side. Today, conservative Muslims have the money! 2According to Henry Kissinger's biographer Walter Isaacson, President Johnson's reason for U.S. involvement in Vietnam was called the Domino Theory. The idea that Nation A falling to Communism would make it easier for Nation B to fall and then C would fall quickly. This idea was already being questioned when Nixon took offices. Henry's reason for taking six years and not the promised six months to withdraw from Vietnam was the importance of maintaining U.S. foreign policy  creditability. No attempt was made to compare the importance of credibility in South-East Asia with that related to Central Europe, the Middle East, Korea/Japan, Central America and at home.
About half of the U.S. Vietnam causalities occurred during the Nixon-Kissinger watch even though both men entered office thinking the Vietnam War was not winnable. How many lives should we spend today so that credibility save future lives? Statements that something will hurt the U.S. should always be followed by how, how much, in relation to what, at what cost ...