AP US HISTORY PRESENTATION From the Constitution to Antebellum America BEFORE THE PRESIDENCY The United States were bound under the Articles of Confederation, a makeshift union at best, with an inept Congress, no executive branch, and a judicial arm delegated entirely to the states. Despite these limitations, Congress passed important laws, most prominently the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which provided for how new states would join the United States, in addition to forbidding slavery in the Northwest. Anarchy occurred with such weak government, including Shay’s Rebellion. 55 delegates met to create a new document, the Constitution, to replace the Articles of Confederation. It was a bundle of compromises, creating a bicameral Congress and registering slaves as 3/5 of a person so that the bill would pass. GEORGE WASHINGTON • The first US President, elected unanimously; led by strength of character. • Congress passed under him the Bill of Rights, which guaranteed freedoms of religion, speech, and press. • His Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, worked to correct the new country’s economic problems by having the government assume state debts and pay at par. He imposed tariffs and created the Federal Bank of America. • The French Revolution nearly led to war, but Washington declared a Neutrality Proclamation. • An unpopular treaty, Jay’s Treaty, was signed with Britain, which gave them the stronger hand in dealing with the USA. • Washington left office warning of foreign entanglements. JOHN ADAMS • Elected by the conservative Federalist political party, over Jefferson’s smallgovernment Democratic-Republicans. • Reigned over unofficial fighting with France, which he ultimately avoided with diplomacy in the Convention of 1800. • Under his term, the Federalists passed the restrictive Alien Laws to restrict immigrants, and the Sedition Act, against the First Amendment. • Jeffersonians passed resolutions against it in Kentucky and Virginia, in a show of state rights. THOMAS JEFFERSON • Elected in 1800 over Adams; a socially liberal man who longed for small government, and buried the Federalists forever. • Peaceful transfer of power is noteworthy. • Forced to go against his personal beliefs for the greater good of politics. • Expanded the military to fight the Barbary Pirates. • Harried by Federalist Chief Justice Marshall, who gave the Supreme Court more power. • Acquired the Louisiana Purchase from France, doubling America’s size. • Kept America neutral in war between Britain and France, but passed a highly unpopular Embargo Act that hurt the economy. JAMES MADISON AND JAMES MONROE • • • • • • Madison was friend and successor to Jefferson, and was eventually forced to fight against Britain in the War of 1812. The War of 1812 faltered in its early days, but finally ended with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. War heroes emerged and American independence was affirmed. Famed negotiator Henry Clay worked to improve American transportation. Monroe was Republican President and presided over westward expansion and the economic panic of 1819. Henry Clay created the Missouri Compromise to keep the balance of free and slave states; Missouri a slave state, but no slavery in the rest of the Purchase. Oregon and Florida were acquired, and in response to European inroads, Monroe declared the Monroe Doctrine, a policy of keeping the Europeans out that would endure for centuries. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, ANDREW JOHNSON, AND MARTIN VAN BUREN • Adams won a contested election by compromising with the Henry Clay. Honorable and nationalistic. • Jackson soon won in 1828; bold and aggressive. • Jackson created the Tariff of 1828, enraging Southerners, and increased the power of the executive branch with shows of force. He also evicted the Cherokee Indians. • Vetoed the Bank of America, feeling it was too monopolistic. • Won again in 1832, and in response, the Whigs formed, a party opposed to Jackson and the Democrats. • Buren won for the Democrats in 1836; a president who did little, and was forced to deal with turmoil and economic depression. WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON • Beat Buren in a triumph of populace and democracy, demonstrating the power of the common man. • Presided over a Westward movement and an aggressive two-party system, in addition to flare-ups of antiforeignism in the Nativists, and increasing mechanization. • Presided over the Erie Canal and the beginnings of railroads, in addition to the Second Great Awakening of religion and reform in culture. • Him and those before him were forced to deal with the slavery question in the South; conflicts between free and slave states magnified after his term. Abolitionist movements rose, some radical and some peaceful. JOHN TYLER AND JAMES K. POLK • Became President when Harrison died after four weeks; high-minded and not particularly a member of the Democrats. Fought against centralized banks, and dealt with rising anti-British sentiment. • Presided over the explosive Maine affair, and helped bring Texas in to the union., in addition to dealing with the acquisition of Oregon from Britain. • Democratic Polk won out over the Whigs, and fought to lower tariffs and settle the Oregon dispute. • Polk was forced to wage war against Mexico, and easily won the short-lived Mexican-American War. • The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war and gave the US Texas, Oregon, California, and other parts of Mexico. • The Wilmot Proviso flatly blocked slavery in the acquired territories, but slavery supporters argued for popular sovereignty. ZACHARY TAYLOR, MILLARD FILLMORE AND FRANKLIN PIERCE • • • • • • • War hero Taylor became President for the Whigs, and annexed California. Webster, Clay, and Calhoun worked for compromise, amongst fires of disagreement over slave states and Southern compromise. Taylor’s death gave weak leader Fillmore the reigns, and the Compromise of 1850 was hammered out, creating a new Fugitive Slave Law and giving both sides concessions, including slave states based on popular sovereignty. Pierce was elected shortly afterwards by the Democrats, and the Whigs faded soon afterwards. Pierce displayed expansionist tendencies and expanded US affairs in to Nicaragua and the rest of Central America, in addition to Cuba, where debates over slavery enraged the North and South. The Gadsen Purchase gave the United States even larger area, and provided railroads for the South. The Kansas-Nebraska Act sounded the beginning of the Civil War, as slave supporters and abolitionists both sought to take advantage of popular sovereignty to get what they wanted. Kansas convulsed bloodily with such radicals as John Brown. JAMES BUCHANAN AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN • • • • • • James Buchanan won for the Democrats over Fremont for the new Republican party, which was dedicated to end slavery. The Dred Scott decision in the Supreme Court declares slaves private property and ruled they could be brought in to any territory, declaring the Compromise of 1820 unconstitutional. 1857 brought a financial crash and economic distress. Republican candidate Lincoln debated with Senator Douglas, architect of KansasNebraska, thrusting Lincoln in to the limelight and showing the power of debate. John Brown’s execution enraged Northerners, and his attempts to incite rebellion at Harper’s Ferry enraged Southerners. Deeply divided Democrats ran with three candidates, one for the main party, one for the South, and one middle-of-the-road group. Lincoln won a curious race against Douglas. After Lincoln’s election, Southern states began to secede, leading to what would be the Civil War.