Americas Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nations Character

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Sitting Bull would eventually return to the United States, but he died in at the hands of the Indian police during the Wounded Knee crisis. The defeat of the Lakotas and the utterly unnecessary Nez Perce War of ended the long era of Indian wars. There would be other small-scale conflicts in the West such as the Bannock War and the subjugation of the Apaches, which culminated with the surrender of Geronimo in , but these were largely police actions. The slaughter of Lakota Ghost Dancers at Wounded Knee in did bring a major mobilization of American troops, but it was a kind of coda to the American conquest since the federal government had already effectively extended its power from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The treaty system had officially ended in , but Americans continued to negotiate agreements with the Indians. The goal of these agreements, and American land policy in general, was to create millions of new farms and ranches across the West. Not satisfied with already ceded lands, reformers—the so-called "Friends of the Indians" whose champion in Congress was Senator Henry Dawes—sought to divide reservations into individual farms for Indians and then open up most or all of the remaining land to whites.

The Dawes Act of became their major tool, but the work of the Dawes Commission in extended allotment to the Creeks, Cherokees, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws in Indian Territory, which became the core of the state of Oklahoma.

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Land allotment joined with the establishment of Indian schools and the suppression of native religions in a sweeping attempt to individualize Indians and integrate them one by one into American society. The policy would fail miserably. Indian population declined precipitously; the tribes lost much of their remaining land, and Indians became the poorest group in American society.

Between and immigrants prompted much more concern among native-born white Americans than did either black people or Indian peoples. During these years there was a net immigration of approximately 7,, people into the United States. During roughly the same period, the population of the country increased by about 27 million people, from about 49 million in to 76 million in Before the immigrants came largely from Western Europe and China. Taking the period between and as a whole, Germans comprised 28 percent of American immigrants; the British comprised 18 percent, the Irish 15 percent, and Scandinavians 11 percent.

Together they made up 72 percent of the total immigration. At the end of the century, the so-called "New Immigration" signaled the rise of southern and eastern Europe as the source of most immigrants to America. The influx worried many native-born Americans who still thought of the United States as a white Protestant republic. Many of the new immigrants did not, in the racial classifications of the day, count as white.

As the century wore on, they were increasingly Catholic and Jewish. Immigrants entered every section of the country in large numbers except for the South. They settled in northeastern and midwestern cities and on western and midwestern farms. The Pacific and mountain West contained the highest percentage of immigrants of any region in and The immigrants forged networks that shaped how and where they migrated and the kinds of communities they established.

Chain migrations linked migrants to prior migrants. Early arrivals wrote home to bring family, friends, and neighbors to the United States. Over large swaths of Minnesota, the Dakotas, and elsewhere German was the primary language of daily life. Tensions between immigrants and the native born over the language to be spoken in public schools, Sunday closures of businesses sabbatarianism , and temperance reform often put cultural issues and practices at the center of local and state politics.

Taken together, immigration and the end of Reconstruction triggered an anti-democratic movement to restrict access to the ballot box. They advocated restrictions on voting as a way to check corruption, elevate political culture, and marginalize those—they had in mind immigrants and blacks—whom they thought incapable of meeting the obligations of republican politics. They sought political changes that would make it far more difficult for the poor and immigrants to vote.

Over time, through poll taxes, residence requirements, literacy requirements, and more, they would succeed. The mass politics and high voting rates characteristic of late nineteenth-century America would not outlive the era. Attempts to restrict suffrage were part of a strong political and social backlash against immigrants that developed over the course of the century.

The United States welcomed immigrants because they were essential to its growing economy, but nativists opposed immigrants as antithetical to American culture and society. They thought of immigrants as exotic and inassimilable. In certain situations, however, nativists had allies who were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Workers, both immigrant and native born, often feared that corporations were using contract labor—workers recruited abroad at lower wages than those paid American workers—to undermine American working conditions and the American family, which they defined as a working man whose wife maintained the home.

They opposed certain kinds of immigration. One of the forgotten reforms of the period, the Foran Act of , outlawed contract labor, but the law proved difficult to enforce. Alliances of some native-born Americans with some immigrants against other immigrants proved most effective in the case of the Chinese. Roughly , Chinese immigrated to the United States between and , and they became the personification of both the inassimilable immigrant and the contract worker. Although the Chinese came as free laborers, they were often branded as coolies: abject semi-slaves, whose low standard of living allowed them to thrive on wages that could not support white families.

Racists had previously claimed that superior Anglo-Saxons would inevitably replace "inferior" races. But in the West, while Sinophobes saw the Chinese as exotic and inferior, they also thought the Chinese would triumph over the supposedly superior white men because they were efficient workers. Immigrants and the native born formed mobs that attacked the Chinese at Rock Springs, Wyoming, in and expelled them from Tacoma, Washington, in and Seattle in Congress passed ten-year restrictions on Chinese immigration in and and a permanent exclusion act in Late in the nineteenth century, those who opposed immigration from Italy, Hungary, and elsewhere compared those groups to the Chinese.

Some immigrants could wrap themselves in the mantle of Americanism if they were "white" and Protestant. Protestant immigrants, particularly Scandinavians and Scots-Irish, joined the American Protective Association in to restrict Catholic immigration as it rode a larger wave of anti-Catholicism that swept over the country. Aimed initially at Irish and Catholic schools, anti-Catholicism increased its range as new Catholic immigrants began to arrive.

Although not all of them intended to stay, most immigrants came to the United States for economic opportunity. Cheap land and relatively high wages, compared to their home countries, were available regardless of citizenship. The Homestead Act did not require that settlers filing for land be American citizens, and the railroads not only sold their land grants cheaply, they advertised widely in Europe.

The results of this distribution of fertile and largely accessible land were astonishing. Everything in the late nineteenth century seemed to move faster than ever before. Americans brought more land under cultivation between and million acres than they had since the English first appeared at Jamestown in million acres. Farmers abandoned small, worn-out farms in the East and developed new, larger, and more fertile farms in the Midwest and West.

They developed so much land because they farmed extensively, not intensively. In terms of yields per acre, American farmers ranked far below Europe.

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Maintaining fertility demanded labor, which was precisely what American farmers were bent on reducing. They invested not in labor but in technology, particularly improved plows, reapers, and threshers.


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With westward expansion onto the prairies, a single family with a reaper could increase acreage and thus production without large amounts of hired labor. Arable free lands grew scarcer during the s, forcing more and more land seekers west into arid lands beyond the 98th meridian. In many years these lands lacked adequate rainfall to produce crops. During the same period, the percentage of workers employed in agriculture fell. Such statistics seemed to reflect a decline in the importance of farming, but in fact, they reflected its significance and efficiency. Farmers produced more than the country could consume with smaller and smaller percentages of its available labor.

They exported the excess, and the children of farmers migrated to cities and towns. Where at the beginning of the century exports composed about 10 percent of farm income, they amounted to between 20 and 25 percent by the end of the century. Migration from rural to urban areas dwarfed both foreign migration and westward migration. The rise of industrial America, the dominance of wage labor, and the growth of cities represented perhaps the greatest changes of the period.

Few Americans at the end of the Civil War had anticipated the rapid rise of American industry. As the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics and Labor declared in , wage labor was universal: "a system more widely diffused than any form of religion, or of government, or indeed, of any language. Skilled workers proved remarkably successful at maintaining their position through the s, but they had to fight to do so. The relatively high wages for skilled workers led employers to seek ways to replace skilled with unskilled or semi-skilled workers.

Mechanization provided the best tactic for deskilling work and lowering wages. Many of the bitterest strikes of the period were attempts to control working rules and to maintain rather than raise wages. Beginning with the Great Railroad Strike of , through the Great Upheaval of that culminated in the slaughter at Haymarket Square, then through the Homestead Strike , Pullman Strike , and more, the largest confrontations often involved violence and the intervention by state or federal governments to repress the strikes.

Many of these strikes involved the railroads; the whole economy seemed to revolve around the railroads. At the end of the s the railroads renewed their expansion. With a brief break in the s, expansion continued at a reckless pace until At the end of more than 20 percent of the , miles of railroad in the United States had been constructed in the previous four years.

By the end of the century the railroad corporations rivaled the United States government in size.

America's Beginnings: The Dramatic Events that Shaped a Nation's Character - Ashbrook

In the Pennsylvania Railroad had , employees, almost three times the number of men in all the armed forces of the United States. Nationally, , people worked for railroads in and nearly , in about 3 percent of the entire work force of the nation. By roughly one-sixth of all capital investments in United States were in the railroads.

The railroads powered the industrial economy. They consumed the majority of iron and steel produced in the United States before As late as , steel rails accounted for 90 percent of the steel production in the United States. They also distributed these commodities across the country. At times, however, railroads threatened to haul the American economy into the abyss.

Rail corporations overbuilt, borrowed recklessly, and were often atrociously managed. They ricocheted wildly between rate wars and the creation of pools to fix prices, and they encouraged other industries to follow. Wheat, silver, timber, cattle, and other commodities flooded the market, sent prices tumbling, and dragged many producers into bankruptcy.

The signal of every economic collapse in the late nineteenth century was the descent of railroads and the banks associated with them into receivership. The railroads were typical of the economic contradictions of the era. Over the period as a whole, American industry advanced rapidly. At the end of the century, it had overtaken Great Britain both in iron and steel production and in coal production.

The United States made such great gains because it was the fastest runner in a relatively slow race. In these polls, a majority of Americans consistently reported that for their family, the American Dream is more about spiritual happiness than material goods.

The South and the West

Majorities state that working hard is the most important element for getting ahead. However, an increasing minority stated that hard work and determination does not guarantee success. Most Americans predict that achieving the Dream with fair means will become increasingly difficult for future generations. They are increasingly pessimistic about the opportunity for the working class to get ahead; on the other hand, they are increasingly optimistic about the opportunities available to poor people and to new immigrants.

Furthermore, most support programs make special efforts to help minorities get ahead.

America's Beginnings: The Dramatic Events That Shaped a Nation's Character (Unabridged)

Research published in shows that the US provides, alongside the United Kingdom and Spain, the least economic mobility of any of 13 rich, democratic countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Research in found that among high-income countries for which comparable estimates are available, only the United Kingdom had a lower rate of mobility than the United States. Wilkinson , have noted that the American dream is better realized in Denmark, which is ranked as having the highest social mobility in the OECD.

In the United States, home ownership is sometimes used as a proxy for achieving the promised prosperity; ownership has been a status symbol separating the middle classes from the poor. Sometimes the Dream is identified with success in sports or how working class immigrants seek to join the American way of life. Ownby identifies four American Dreams that the new consumer culture addressed. The first was the "Dream of Abundance" offering a cornucopia of material goods to all Americans, making them proud to be the richest society on earth.

The second was the "Dream of a Democracy of Goods" whereby everyone had access to the same products regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or class, thereby challenging the aristocratic norms of the rest of the world whereby only the rich or well-connected are granted access to luxury. The "Dream of Freedom of Choice" with its ever-expanding variety of good allowed people to fashion their own particular lifestyle.

Finally, the "Dream of Novelty", in which ever-changing fashions, new models, and unexpected new products broadened the consumer experience in terms of purchasing skills and awareness of the market, and challenged the conservatism of traditional society and culture, and even politics. Ownby acknowledges that the dreams of the new consumer culture radiated out from the major cities, but notes that they quickly penetrated the most rural and most isolated areas, such as rural Mississippi. Ownby demonstrates that poor black Mississippians shared in the new consumer culture, both inside Mississippi, and it motivated the more ambitious to move to Memphis or Chicago.

The aspirations of the "American Dream" in the broad sense of upward mobility has been systematically spread to other nations since the s as American missionaries and businessmen consciously sought to spread the Dream, says Rosenberg. Looking at American business, religious missionaries, philanthropies, Hollywood , labor unions and Washington agencies, she says they saw their mission not in catering to foreign elites but instead reaching the world's masses in democratic fashion.

In the emerging litany of the American dream what historian Daniel Boorstin later termed a "democracy of things" would disprove both Malthus 's predictions of scarcity and Marx 's of class conflict. Knights and McCabe argued American management gurus have taken the lead in exporting the ideas: "By the latter half of the twentieth century they were truly global and through them the American Dream continues to be transmitted, repackaged and sold by an infantry of consultants and academics backed up by an artillery of books and videos".

In West Germany after World War II , says Pommerin, "the most intense motive was the longing for a better life, more or less identical with the American dream, which also became a German dream". Italian women saw a model for their own emancipation from second class status in their patriarchal society. The American dream regarding home ownership had little resonance before the s.

We should like in time to improve on existing legislation with a realistic grants scheme to assist first-time buyers of cheaper homes. The newly independent Russian media idealized America and endorsed shock therapy for the economy. In his administration announced a plan for widespread home ownership: "Call it the Russian dream", said Alexander Braverman, the Director of the Federal Fund for the Promotion of Housing Construction Development. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin , worried about his nation's very low birth rate , said he hoped home ownership will inspire Russians "to have more babies".

It is used by journalists, government officials and activists to describe the aspiration of individual self-improvement in Chinese society. Although the phrase has been used previously by Western journalists and scholars, [83] [84] a translation of a New York Times article written by the American journalist Thomas Friedman , "China Needs Its Own Dream", has been credited with popularizing the concept in China.

The concept of Chinese Dream is very similar to the idea of "American Dream". It stresses entrepreneurship and glorifies a generation of self-made men and women in post- reform China, such as rural immigrants who moved to the urban centers and achieve magnificent improvement in terms of their living standards, and social life.

Chinese Dream can be interpreted as the collective consciousness of Chinese people during the era of social transformation and economic progress. The government hoped to create a revitalized China, while promoting innovation and technology to restore the international prestige of China. In this light, Chinese Dream, like American exceptionalism , is a nationalistic concept as well.

China is the world's fastest-growing consumer market. Ehrlich , "If everyone consumed resources at the US level, you will need another four or five Earths. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see American Dream disambiguation. This study using medians instead of averages that underestimate the range and show less stark distinctions between the top and bottom tiers makes it abundantly clear that we have less.

Your circumstances at birth—specifically, what your parents do for a living—are an even bigger factor in how far you get in life than we had previously realized. Generations of Americans considered the United States to be a land of opportunity. This research raises some sobering questions about that image. Main article: Chinese Dream. American Memory. Vanity Fair.

Archived from the original on May 30, Retrieved June 20, The Frontier in American History. Kloppenberg, The Virtues of Liberalism June 4, Consumption on the Environment". Scientific American. September 14, Leo Lemay and P. Zall, eds. Miller, Jr. Braschi's novel is a scathing critique Temple University Press. Retrieved November 27, Teaching American Ideals through Literature. Washington: Government Printing Office, Boston: Boston U Law School, The Nation , May 6, In the contemporary United States, the structure of wealth systematically transmits race and class inequalities through generations despite deep-rooted belief otherwise.

Ambrose, Douglas Brinkley, Witness to America p. Sandy Maisel, Jeffrey M. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. Nation Books. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, The Road Movie Book Samuel Syracuse UP. American Dream and Power Wealth. Oxford U. Congressional Budget Office. August 18, Retrieved August 8, Barlett; James B. Steele The Betrayal of the American Dream. In Rycroft RS ed. The Sutton Trust. Archived from the original PDF on January 20, The American Dream moves to Denmark.

The Week. Retrieved December 12, How economic inequality harms societies transcript. Quote featured on his personal profile on the TED website. Retrieved December 13, Want to get ahead? Move to Denmark. The Guardian. Looking for the American Dream? Try Denmark. The Huffington Post. This country has figured out the only way to save the American Dream. The Washington Post.

Retrieved September 18, CNN Money.


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