Major Turning Points in U.S. History (1492-1820) Essay

Throughout documented United States history, immense changes in social, political, and economic establishments have been brought about by perplexing people or conditions. Often, these changes mark a turning point in the progress of civilization as new ideas are formed, new governments raised, or new discoveries put to use in the interest of progress. Whether these pivotal moments in history may be triggered due to a single nonconforming individual or a vast, radical multitude, each turning point has explicit influences and outcomes which shaped America for years to follow.

Every important decision has two key dimensions. The first is the outcome in the immediate case, and the second is as a precedent for future development. When calculating the most substantial turning points of something as expansive as an entire country one must discern not merely the immediate effects, but the long-term consequences as well.

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Throughout the duration of this essay I will briefly analyze what is perceived to be the most imperative turning points in American history politically, socially, culturally, and economically on, not simply an immediate premise, but also on an enduring scale.

One of the first major turning point events in early American history was the French and Indian war. The French and Indian war was fought between the French and its American Indian allies against the British colonial forces from the year 1756 to 1763 and is considered one of the bloodiest wars in American colonial history, and the bloodiest American war in the 18th century. It took more lives than the American Revolution and involved people on three continents. The war was the product of an imperial struggle, a clash between the French and English over colonial territory and wealth. The war was fought for 7 years across territory in North America and a major cause for this war was struggle for territorial expansion between French and English forces. It is also believed that the effects of the French Indian War are the ultimate cause of American Revolution.

Before and throughout the French and Indian War, from about 1650 to 1763, Britain essentially left its American colonies to run themselves in an age of neglect. The consequences of the war successfully ended French political and cultural influence in North America. England gained massive amounts of land and vastly strengthened its hold on the continent. The war, however, also had indirect results. It severely eroded the relationship between England and Native Americans; and, though the war seemed to strengthen England’s hold on the colonies, the effects of the French and Indian War played a key role in the deteriorating relationship between England and its colonies that ultimately led into the Revolutionary War. As you proceed onward with the history of our country you reach what is undisguisedly the most significant turning point in American history; the American Revolution. After the French and Indian War, the age of neglect was finished.

Britain, wanting to replenish its drained treasury, placed a more substantial tax burden on America and tightened regulations in the colonies. Over the years, Americans were forbidden to circulate local printed currencies, ordered to house British troops, made to comply with restrictive shipping policies, and forced to pay unpopular taxes. Furthermore, many of those failing to conform to the new rules found themselves facing a British judge with no jury. Americans were shocked and offended by what they viewed as violations of their liberties. Over time, this shock turned to anger, which ultimately grew into desire for rebellion. The Treaty of Paris was signed in Paris, France on September 3, 1783. This ended the American Revolutionary War, and gave the colonies their independence from Great Britain. The 13 states were now free to join together and become the United States of America. They could now formulate their own government and conceive their own laws. This freedom was the most substantial effect of the American Revolution. New ideas like those conveyed in the Declaration of Independence were finally allowed to spread and grow in the new country.

The British gave America all of the land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River, from Canada to the north and Florida to the south. If the revolution had not taken place, it is probable we would still be under British rule today. The newly formed United States of America would need to set up a new national government. The citizens of the new country did not want a government that would inflict high taxes like England did before the revolution. However the new government would be weak unless the states were willing to compromise. The Articles of Confederation specified that all thirteen states had to ratify any new constitution for it to take effect. To avoid this obstacle, the delegates included in the new Constitution a section outlining a new plan for ratification. Once nine of the thirteen states had ratified the document (at special conventions with elected representatives), the Constitution would replace the Articles in those nine states.

The delegates figured correctly that the remaining states would be unable to survive on their own and would have to ratify the new document as well. Politically, the creation of a new constitution, led to the establishment of a new centralized democratic government. Socially, more individuals and groups fought to secure rights for themselves, especially women, slaves, and religious groups. Economically, a method for fixing the national debt, along with a strong agrarian base, would help a slow, but steady improvement to American society. Political, social, and economic aspects of the overall American society were affected so dramatically as to create a new country that is so unlike any nation created before it. Benjamin Franklin jokingly made one of the best educated guesses and assumptions of all-time when he said, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.

Neither death nor taxes have shown any sign of letting up, and the Constitution has shown plenty of longevity. Over 220 years after the ratification of the Constitution it stands almost untouched to rule and guide the citizens of the United States of America. Thousands of laws, actions, treaties, regulations, and judicial rulings have been made and decided on behalf of this document. This document not only protects and governs the lives of the people, but the businesses and foundations in which they work and own. As American Society continued to grow reaching residency in the millions another huge turning point event arose, the Louisiana Purchase. The purchase of Louisiana by the American President Thomas Jefferson was one of the greatest acquisitions America managed in history. It paved way for easy trade and doubled the total land space of the country.

The Louisiana territory encompassed all or part of 15 present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The Americans managed to acquire this immense amount of land for merely $15 million dollars. Furthermore this colossal purchase directly led to what is identified as the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806), was the first transcontinental expedition to the Pacific coast undertaken by the United States. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, it was led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. It is difficult to overstate the long-term ramifications of the Expedition. The most noticeable immediate effect was the rise in the northern plains fur trade between 1806 and 1812.

For Native Peoples, the aftermath of the Lewis and Clark was anything but a positive experience. Perhaps the most devastating was the outbreak of smallpox among the Mandan in 1837, an epidemic which all but destroyed the once-powerful group. To the Native Americans, it was the beginning of an end. Their lives were forever changed by their contact with the fur traders, soldiers, and missionaries that followed in result of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The changes were no less profound for the European Americans either. Lewis and Clark provided valuable information about the topography, the biological sciences, the ecology, and ethnic and linguistic studies of the American Indian. The mysteries of the vast area known as the Louisiana Purchase quickly disappeared after Lewis and Clark.

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