and Mississippi Valleys, pushing Indians off their lands. Two Shawnee Indians—a chief named Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet—tried to fight back by uniting Native Americans up and down the Mississippi River into one great Indian nation. On November 7, 1811, Tecumseh and his warriors fought with a militia force led by Indiana governor William Henry Harrison in the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek. After the battle, Harrison’s men found British guns on the battlefield.
Americans were outraged. Several young congressmen from the South and West, including Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, were so eager for war with Britain that they were nicknamed “War Hawks.” They argued that the way to make the northwestern frontier safe for settlers was to drive the British out of Canada. Once that was done, Canada could be added to the United States.
Losses at sea, national pride, and a desire to make the frontier safe for settlement all contributed to the reasons for war. Still, Madison hesitated. Was the nation strong enough to launch the arrows of war? Or should he hold tightly to the olive branch of peace?
12.8 What Happened: Madison Launches the War of 1812
Madison chose to abandon isolationism. At his request, Congress declared war on Britain on July 17, 1812. This was a very bold step for a nation with an army of 7,000 poorly trained men and a navy of only 16 ships.
Battles on Land and Sea War Hawks were overjoyed when war was declared. They thought that conquering Canada was “a mere matter of marching.” They were wrong. In 1812, 1813, and again in 1814 American forces crossed into Canada, but each time they were turned back.
The British, too, found the going much rougher than they expected. On September 10, 1813, an American naval force under Oliver Hazard Perry defeated and captured a British fleet of six ships on Lake Erie. Perry’s victory enabled William Henry Harrison to push into upper Canada, where he defeated the British in a major battle. Chief Tecumseh, who was fighting on the side of the British, was killed in the fighting. But in December, the British drove the Americans back across the border.
By 1814, Napoleon had been defeated in Europe, and Britain was able to send 15,000 troops to Canada. American hopes of conquering Canada were at an end.
Meanwhile, in August 1814, another British army invaded Washington, D.C. The British burned several public buildings, including the Capitol and the White House. President Madison had to flee for his life.
Next the British attacked the port city of Baltimore. On September 13, an American lawyer named Francis Scott Key watched as the British bombarded Fort McHenry, which guarded the city’s harbor. The bombardment went on all night. When dawn broke, Key was thrilled to see that the American flag still waved over the fort. He captured his feelings in a poem that was later put to music as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The Shawnee leader Tecumseh, pictured above, united Native Americans in an attempt to halt the advance of white settlers onto Indian lands.
The Battle of New Orleans Two days before the unsuccessful attack on Baltimore, a British fleet had surrendered to American forces after the Battle of Lake Champlain in New York. In Britain, news of this defeat would greatly weaken the desire to continue the war. But the news took time to travel, and in the meantime British commanders in America launched another invasion. This time their target was New Orleans.
The city was defended by General Andrew Jackson and a rag-tag army of 7,000 militia, free African Americans, Indians, and pirates. On January 8, 1815, more than 7,500 British troops marched confidently into battle. Jackson’s troops met them with deadly fire, turning the field of battle into a “sea of blood.” Some 2,000 British soldiers were killed or wounded, compared with only about 20 Americans.
The Battle of New Orleans was the greatest American victory of the war. It was also totally unnecessary. Two weeks earlier, American and British diplomats meeting at Ghent, in Belgium, had signed a peace treaty ending the war. The news did not reach New Orleans until after the battle was fought.
Results of the War Although both sides claimed victory, neither Britain nor the United States really won the War of 1812. And the Treaty of Ghent settled none of the issues that had led to the fighting. Instead, the problems of impressment and ship seizures faded away as peace settled over Europe. Still, the war had important effects.
First, Indian resistance in the Northwest weakened after Tecumseh’s death. Over time, most of the Native Americans who fought with Tecumseh would be driven out of the Ohio Valley.
Second, national pride in the United States surged. Many Americans considered the War of 1812 “the second war of independence.” By standing up to the British, they felt, the United States had truly become a sovereign nation.
Third, the war had political effects. The Federalists were badly damaged by their opposition to the war, and their party never recovered. Two of the war’s heroes—William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson—would later be elected president.
The United States gained control of Lake Erie during the War of 1812 as a result of the victory of naval forces under the leadership of Oliver Hazard Perry in 1813.
12.9 Dilemma 4: What Should President Monroe Do to Support the New Latin American Nations?
James Monroe became president in 1817. After the excitement of the War of 1812, he was happy to return the nation to its policy of isolationism. Americans began to turn their attention away from Europe to events happening in their own backyard. From Mexico to the tip of South America, colonial peoples were rising up in revolt against Spain.
Latin America’s Revolutions In Mexico, the revolt against Spanish rule was inspired by a priest named Miguel Hidalgo. On September 16, 1810, Hidalgo spoke to a crowd of poor Indians in the town of Dolores. “My children,” Hidalgo cried, “when will you recover lands stolen from your ancestors three hundred years ago by the hated Spaniards? Down with bad government! Death to the Spaniards!” Hidalgo’s speech, remembered today as the “Cry of Dolores,” inspired a revolution that lasted ten years. In 1821, Mexico finally won its independence from Spain.
Two other leaders liberated South America. In 1810, a Venezuelan named Simón Bolívar launched a revolution in the north with the cry: “Spaniards! You will receive death at our hands! Americans! You will receive life!” José de San Martín, a revolutionary from Argentina, led the struggle for independence in the south. By the end of 1825, the last Spanish troops had been driven out of South America.
The New Latin American Nations Many Americans were excited by what Congressman Clay described as the “glorious spectacle of eighteen millions of people struggling to burst their chains and be free.” The British also supported the revolutions, for their own reasons. Spain had not allowed other nations to trade with its colonies. Once freed from Spanish rule, the new Latin American nations were able to open their doors to foreign trade.
Other European leaders were not so pleased. Some even began to talk of helping Spain recover its lost colonies. In 1823, Britain asked the United States to join it in sending a message to these leaders, telling them to leave Latin America alone.
President James Monroe asked former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison for advice. Should the United States do something to support the new Latin American nations? If so, what?
A Catholic priest, Miguel Hidalgo (lower center), inspired an independence movement in Mexico. In his upraised hand, Hidalgo holds the flames of revolution that spread throughout Latin America in the early 1800s.
12.10 What Happened: The U.S. Issues the Monroe Doctrine
Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison liked the idea of joining with Britain to send a warning to the nations of Europe. Jefferson wrote to Monroe, “Our first and fundamental maxim [principle] should be, never entangle ourselves in the broils [fights] of Europe. Our second, never to suffer Europe to meddle with…America, North and South.”
President Monroe’s secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, agreed with Jefferson’s principles. But he insisted that “it would be more candid [honest], as well as more dignified,” for the United States to speak boldly for itself. Though never a bold man himself, Monroe agreed.
In 1823, President Monroe made a speech to Congress announcing a policy that became known as the Monroe Doctrine. Monroe stated that the nations of North and South America were “not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” The United States, he said, would view efforts by Europeans to take over “any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.”
Europeans denounced Monroe’s message as arrogant. “By what right,” asked a French newspaper, did the United States presume to tell other nations what they could do in “the two Americas”?
Americans, however, cheered Monroe’s message. It made them proud to see the United States stand up for the freedom-loving people of Latin America. If Europeans “attempt to control the destinies of South America,” boasted a Boston newspaper, “they will find…an eagle in their way.”
In the years ahead, the Monroe Doctrine joined isolationism as a basic principle of U.S. foreign policy. The doctrine asserted that the United States would not accept European interference in American affairs. It also contained another, hidden message. By its very boldness, the Monroe Doctrine told the world that the United States was no longer a weak collection of quarreling states. It had become a strong and confident nation, a nation to be respected by the world.
With the Monroe Doctrine by his side, Uncle Sam puts out his hands in warning to foreign powers to keep their “hands off” the Americas. Even though the Monroe Doctrine is over 180 years old, it still guides American presidents as they make foreign policy decisions.
secretary of state The head of the State Department, who oversees matters relating to foreign countries. The secretary of state is an important member of the president’s cabinet.
doctrine a statement of official government policy, especially in foreign affairs
12.11 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about the birth of foreign policy in the United States. You used a spectrum to chart the range of U.S. foreign policy from isolationism to involvement.
Our first president, George Washington, knew that the young United States was not prepared for war. He established a policy of isolationism that stated America would avoid alliances with other countries. Each president following Washington faced new dilemmas that required decisions about what was best for America.
During the presidency of John Adams, the dilemma involved French attacks on American ships. Adams followed Washington’s policy of isolationism and kept America at peace.
President Thomas Jefferson also faced threats at sea. When peace talks failed, he declared an embargo on American ports. It, too, was unsuccessful. President James Madison then tried offering a trade deal to both France and Britain. But the attacks at sea continued. Madison finally abandoned isolationism and declared war on Britain in 1812. The War of 1812 resulted in a peace treaty with Britain.
President Monroe’s dilemma was whether or not to support the new Latin American states. Monroe issued a policy called the Monroe Doctrine. In it, he warned the nations of Europe to leave the Americas alone. The Monroe Doctrine established the United States as a strong and confident nation, willing to stand up for its own freedom and that of others. In the next chapter, you will learn how the United States developed a stronger national identity in the first half of the 19th century.
The American eagle holds the olive branch of peace in one talon and the arrows of war in the other. Both are necessary to protect the “liberty” (at the top) that Americans hold so dear.
A Growing Sense of Nationhood
How is the flag above different from the one we use today?
How old do you think it might be?
Can you guess why this flag is so famous?
From a distance on that rainy night of September 13, 1814, you might have mistaken the bombardment for thunder, because sometimes the fuses burned too fast and the bombs burst in air. But Maryland lawyer Francis Scott Key knew better. He huddled in a boat in Baltimore harbor and watched as British warships fired on Fort McHenry.
Fort McHenry had a flag so big “that the British would have no trouble seeing it from a distance,” boasted the fort’s commander. It was 30 feet high and 42 feet long. Key knew that if the flag came down, it meant that both the fort and Baltimore had been lost. But when the sun came up, the flag was still there, and the British were retreating.
Key celebrated by writing a poem called “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Six days later it was published in the Baltimore Patriot. Before long, Key’s poem had been reprinted across the country. In October 1814 it was set to music and sung as “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This song stirred the pride of Americans for generations. In 1931 it was proclaimed the national anthem.
Inspirational moments like these during the War of 1812 helped give Americans a feeling of national identity. But what did being American mean? How was it different from being European? Alexis de Tocqueville, a French nobleman who toured the United States in 1831 and 1832, had an answer. “I do not know a country where the love of money holds a larger place in the heart of man,” he wrote in his book Democracy in America. The pursuit of wealth was an important element of the emerging American identity. But there were other elements as well. And not all Americans wanted to be alike. In this chapter you will learn how a growing sense of nationhood developed during the early 19th century in spite of significant regional differences.
Graphic Organizer: Illustration
You will use an illustration of the American flag to organize information about Americans’ growing sense of national identity.
13.2 Developing a Nation in a Land of Differences
The United States of the early 1800s was a very young country. Older adults could still remember when they were British subjects—and proud of it. (George Washington had once yearned to be a British officer.) Even after the Revolution, America seemed less a single nation than a collection of states.
A surge of patriotism following the War of 1812 helped forge a new national identity. The opposition of many Federalists to the war—a stance which their opponents denounced as disloyal—all but killed off the Federalist party. Leaders like James Monroe hoped that partisan strife (bitter fighting between political parties) was a thing of the past. Most Americans looked with pride on a rapidly growing country whose brightest days, they believed, lay ahead.
The American Landscape in the Early 1800s Americans’ image of their country in 1800 was very different from what it is today. Two out of every three Americans still lived within 50 miles of the Atlantic coast. Fewer than one in ten lived west of the Appalachians. These round-topped, forested mountains stretched like a bumpy spine from Maine through Georgia. They made travel between east and west very difficult.
Beyond the mountains the land flattened out, but was covered by dense woods. More and more settlers crossed the Appalachians in the early 1800s, felling trees and starting farms and mills. For Americans of the day, this land between the eastern mountains and the Mississippi River was “the West.” Across the Mississippi lay a vast, unexplored wilderness.
Everywhere, travel was difficult and slow. Nothing moved faster than a horse could run —not people, not goods, not messages. News could take weeks to travel from one city to another, as the post office labored to deliver letters and newspapers over rutted, muddy roads.
In part because of the geographical differences, distinct regional lifestyles developed. This led to stereotypes, or exaggerated and sometimes scornful images of different groups. The “Yankees” of the Northeast, with its growing cities and bustling trade, were seen as enterprising, thrifty, and (in the eyes of southerners) quick to chase a dollar. The rich plantation owners of the South were seen as gracious, cultured, and (in the eyes of Yankees) lazy. The frontiersmen
America in 1820
who sought their fortunes in the West were deemed rugged, hardy, and (in the eyes of easterners) crude. Many of America’s leaders knew they would have to overcome geographical obstacles in order to truly unite the country. Among other ideas, they favored an ambitious program of building roads and canals to make transportation easier and faster.
Symbols and Values Uniting America required more than roads and waterways. It required citizens to feel American. One way to accomplish that was to build on Americans’ pride in their government. After the British burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812, Congress hired architects to rebuild the White House and the Capitol in a style that would rival the grand, stately buildings of Europe. Congress complained about the cost, but not about the result. These magnificent buildings are revered to this day as national symbols.
Another national symbol was born during this period—Uncle Sam. Legend has it that the name came from Sam Wilson, a New York butcher. “Uncle Sam,” it was said, had provided the army with meat during the War of 1812. More likely the name was made up to match the initials U.S., for United States. After the war, Uncle Sam became a popular nickname for the federal government. (The cartoon figure of Uncle Sam came later.)
A national identity required more than symbols. There had to be shared values as well. White American men saw themselves as devoted to individualism and equality. Their commitment to these values may not have extended to slaves, Native Americans, or women. Still, they were united in the belief that they were different—and better—than Europeans.
Alexis de Tocqueville sensed this feeling just four days into his visit. “The Americans carry national pride to an altogether excessive length,” he noted with irritation. By the end of his trip, however, he had come to admire this distinctly American spirit. That spirit was reflected in every aspect of life, from politics to art, music, and literature.
Along with the White House, the rebuilt Capitol building, shown here in an 1824 painting, became a powerful symbol of national unity.
13.3 Politics: The Era of Good Feelings
After being elected president in 1816, James Monroe went on a “goodwill tour.” Huge crowds greeted him so warmly that a newspaper proclaimed an Era of Good Feelings. Monroe’s eight years as president are still known by this name today. To many Americans at the time, it seemed that a new period of national unity had dawned.
Economic Nationalism The swelling of nationalist spirit was reflected in proposals that the federal government take a more active role in building the national economy. One of the leading supporters of such measures in Congress was Henry Clay of Kentucky.
Clay was a tall, slender man and an eloquent speaker, full of charm and intelligence. Driven by ambition, Clay longed to be president. He campaigned for the office five times, but never succeeded. A man of principle, Clay once stated proudly, “I would rather be right than be president.”
Clay believed that America’s future lay in capitalism, an economic system in which individuals and companies produce and distribute goods for profit. But he also believed that the national government had a role to play in encouraging economic growth. His “American System” called for high tariffs to protect industry, as well as federal spending on transportation projects like roads and canals.
A third part of Clay’s plan was a new national bank to standardize currency and provide credit. Congress adopted this idea in 1816 when it created the second Bank of the United States. (The first national bank had been allowed to lapse in 1811.) The bank was a private business, but the federal government owned one fifth of it and deposited government funds there.
Another early champion of economic nationalism was South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun. At six feet two inches, Calhoun was extremely tall for his time. He looked even taller because his thick black hair stood up as if he had seen a ghost. In Congress, Calhoun supported the national bank, a permanent road system, and a protective tariff. Yet in other ways he resisted federal power. By the 1830s, he would become the leading spokesman for states’ rights, largely to protect slavery in the South. His career illustrates the tensions between nationalism and the pull of regional differences.
A third proponent of nationalism was Daniel Webster of Massachusetts. Nicknamed “Black Dan” for his dark hair and eyebrows, Webster served several terms in both the House and Senate. Unlike Clay, who was a War Hawk, Webster bitterly opposed the War of 1812. After the war, however, he voiced strong support for Clay’s American System. “Let us act under a settled conviction, and an habitual feeling, that these 24 states are one country,” he urged in 1825. Later, Webster would strongly debate Calhoun’s claim that states had the right to defy the federal government.
Judicial Nationalism Both nationalism and commerce had a friend in the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice, John Marshall. Appointed by John Adams in 1801, Marshall wrote some of the most important court decisions in American history.
James Monroe was the last president to have fought in the Revolutionary War and the last to dress in the fashions of the 18th century. When he ran for reelection, no one opposed him. He won the Electoral College vote, 231 to 1.
capitalism an economic system based on the private ownership of farms and businesses
Marshall’s decisions had two major impacts. First, they strengthened the role of the Court itself, as well as federal power over the states. Second, his rulings encouraged the growth of capitalism. Several specific cases show how. In McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the Court confirmed Congress’s power to create a national bank that was free from state interference. This strengthened the federal government’s position. In another case, Marshall’s Court ruled that business contracts were inviolable—they could not be broken, even by state legislatures. This ruling gave contracts a fundamental place in constitutional law. And in Gibbons v. Ogden (1824), the Court further reduced state powers. This case struck down a monopoly that New York State had granted to a steamboat company operating between New York and New Jersey. Only Congress, the Court said, had the authority to regulate interstate commerce. Besides strengthening the power of the federal government, this decision promoted business growth by limiting the ability of states to regulate transportation.
The End of the Era of Good Feelings In 1824, four candidates (including Clay) competed to succeed Monroe as president. As you will learn in the next chapter, none of the candidates won a majority in the Electoral College. As a result, the election ended up in the House of Representatives. The House elected John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams.
The House’s action enraged the candidate who had received the most votes on election day, war hero and Indian fighter Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Jackson vowed to renew the fight in the next election. The voters who rallied around him in 1828 would become the heart of a new political party, the Democrats. The Era of Good Feelings was over. “Partisan strife” was here to stay.
Americans were on the move in the 1800s, many of them bound for the frontier. Henry Clay envisioned a government-built system of roads and canals, linking the nation’s far-flung regions.
13.4 Early American Art
Americans had brought European art traditions with them to the colonies, but by the 1800s they were developing styles all their own. Not all artists were professionals. Ordinary people produced many kinds of folk art. Men carved weathervanes and hunting decoys. Women sewed spare bits of cloth into quilts. Untrained artists created signs, murals, and images of national symbols like the flag. Such folk art was simple, direct, and often very colorful.
Most professional artists made a living doing portraits. The best-known portrait artist was Gilbert Stuart. The picture of George Washington on a dollar bill is adapted from a Stuart painting. When the British attacked Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812, President Madison’s wife, Dolly, saved Stuart’s painting of Washington from the burning White House.
Strangely enough, it was an Englishman whose work led to a uniquely American brand of fine art. When Thomas Cole arrived from England in 1818, he fell in love with America’s immense and varied landscape. His most famous works feature both storm clouds and sunny skies over broad stretches of unspoiled land. The glowing light made a striking contrast to the stormy darkness. Fellow artists followed Cole’s example and started what became known as the Hudson River School of painting. These painters focused on nature rather than people, often choosing to paint broad, scenic vistas. The gorgeous light in their paintings had an almost religious quality, as if God were smiling on America.
Other artists portrayed more particular aspects of nature. John James Audubon painted 435 finely detailed portraits of birds. In some respects, Audubon was more a naturalist than an artist. He made accurate, realistic studies of the species he observed in the fields and woods. No one in America would print his four-volume book, so he found a publisher in England. The Birds of America made him America’s first internationally famous artist.
Philadelphia’s George Catlin turned his eye on the natives of the American West. He saw that Native Americans’ traditional ways were disappearing. For years Catlin crisscrossed the West, drawing the native people. He captured in rich colors their villages, their hunts, and their rituals.
By choosing as their subject the wondrous features of their new country, Americans gave their art a distinct identity. At times they may have presented dangerous landscapes in deceptively warm tones. Still, the vividness and optimism of their work accurately reflected the national outlook.
In The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge (1829), painter Thomas Cole bathed his scene in a soft, glowing light. Like other painters of the Hudson River School, Cole favored grand vistas that celebrated America’s natural beauty.