The period of the United States’ history from the times of its colonization till the end of the Civil War is very rich with the events. They had a key importance for the establishment of the country. These events should be reviewed in order to get a full understanding of the causes and consequences of actions having a long road to the Independence of the United States.
The Colonial period began in the second half of the sixteenth century. It was characterized by massive military conflicts between England, Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Native Americans. The most developed European countries supported the American colonization in pursuit of various aims, such as a search of new markets and trade routes, banishing criminals and adepts of some religious beliefs, the expansion of territories and military influence. Many initial efforts of colonization had turned out to be unsuccessful due to weather conditions, outbreaks of diseases, famine, and attacks of Native Americans or rival countries’ military forces. The settlements were abandoned or destroyed. The first permanent colonial settlement, St. Augustine, was founded by Spain in 1565, in Florida.
The first steps of English colonization in North America were made by Virginia Companies of London and Plymouth early in the seventeenth century. Due to combined efforts of these two enterprises, England managed to claim new territories. They were named as New England. In 1607, the settlers of The Virginia Company of London established Jamestown. In 1619, it became the first English town to accept African slaves in North America. Unlike Spanish colonies, where the chattel slavery had been generally accepted, New England initially considered people, brought from Africa by slave traders as indentured servants. As a consequence, they had legal rights and could be released from servitude after the expiration of their contracts. However, after a few decades, English colonies also adopted the chattel slavery, mostly as a result of the laborers’ shortage. This measure had initiated a struggle of African slaves for their freedom, which had lasted for nearly two centuries.
The Virginia Company of Plymouth was responsible for the arrival of the Pilgrims aboard on the Mayflower in 1620. Consequently, this day is celebrated as the Thanksgiving Day. Ten years later, the Puritans from Massachusetts Bay colony founded Boston. In order to defend themselves from hostile Native Americans, colonies had a few attempts of unification, such as the United Colonies of New England in 1643 and the Dominion of New England in 1686.Those attempts were unsuccessful, and the unions soon broke up. However, English colonies became the core of the future independent country.
English colonies maintained the two-way diplomatic connections with the British Empire. English monarchs were ruling the colonies through their representatives. The colonies had their official agents in London. In the eighteenth century, the colonized territories continued to expand. It caused further clashes between colonial states, namely the British Empire and France, in North America. These conflicts were also fueled by wars in Europe, such as the Seven Years' War. In the second half of the eighteenth century, the relations between Britain and the colonies deteriorated due to various reasons. Some of those causes were purely economic, such as tax disputes. Meanwhile other reasons represented some changes in the colonial self-determination and their struggle to end the monarchs’ rule in North America. The tension between the Great Britain and thirteen colonies was culminating in the American Revolution, the adoption of independence, and a subsequent war against Britain.
Though the American Revolution was a key event for the establishment of the new state, it also split the colonists’ community into independence supporters and British loyalists. Thus, it has showed that the new nation had been not solid and that many contradictions had existed. This characteristic feature would persist in the United States over the centuries and force the creation of political parties and, eventually, the Civil War. Thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and became the first United States of America. This notable event had been preceded by a series of revolts in Massachusetts, Quebec, and South Carolina. In order to defend their freedom, the Continental Army led by George Washington allied with France and Spain. The later ones sought to weaken the British power both in Europe and North America. After a series of defeats, Britain was forced to recognize the independence of its former colonies by signing the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and withdrawing its military forces.
The direct and indirect impact of the American Revolution on the global scale is difficult to overestimate. The formation of a new independent country, which managed to establish its own government, constitution, and army, had given a signal to European states about weakening of the British dominance as a world empire. The defeat of the Great Britain also inspired the struggle for the independence in English, French, and Spanish colonies as well as a revolutionary movement in Ireland in 1798.
After obtaining independence, the further development of the United States continued both in governmental and territorial dimensions. In the last decades of the eighteenth century, the United States approved a basis for the new government by ratifying the Constitution in 1788. It also elected George Washington being an only candidate, becoming the first President a year later. The first United States Congress established the Supreme Court and the National Bank and created ten amendments to the Constitution. They later would be named the Bill of Rights. As a result, fundamental rights and freedoms of American people were specified and legally protected.
The United States continued to gain new territories both in a peaceful and military fashion. In 1803, France sold its Louisiana territories to the United States. The purchase was a difficult decision for the President Jefferson, since there were no provisions in the Constitution that could allow such trade. In addition to acquiring a large area, the main benefit of this deal was the diminishing of the French influence in North America. The newly acquired territories demanded the infrastructure for an effective governing and communication. It fueled a rapid growth of science, targeted at the search for innovative ideas. The industrial Revolution encouraged many talented American scientists to develop daring concepts. It made a significant impact on the evolution of the United States. The most important American inventions and technologic accomplishments of the nineteenth century include, for example, Morse’s telegraph, the transcontinental railroad, and many others.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the disparities in the American community turned into open conflicts. They led to a full-scale civil war in 1861. The main reason, which had caused the creation of the Confederate States of America, was a debate over slavery. The Civil War in the United States had lasted for four years and resulted in the slaves’ emancipation in 1863 as well as the following abolishment of slavery. However, the war had a devastating effect on the American economy, especially in mostly agricultural southern states. Moreover, it had impacted the American sense of self-determination, proving that the ties uniting people were not as strong as they had seemed to be. Moreover, the country could readily turn on itself. The negative economic and political aftermath of the Civil War was partially eliminated during a Reconstruction Era, which had lasted till 1877. Though the time of Reconstruction established equal constitutional rights for former slaves and ensured the loyalty of the southern states brought back to the Union, it failed in alleviating the disastrous economic situation in the South.
The evolution of the United States from scattered colonies into a powerful country is an illustrative example of the people’s struggle for self-determination and their fight for freedom. The period from the Colonial times till the Reconstruction Era shows how many efforts had been devoted to uniting the nation and how close the country could be to falling apart. The Civil War was a tragic and devastating experience for the United States of America. However, it was also a very valuable lesson that must be remembered and never repeated.