A New Nation
Trends and Themes of the Era
- The U.S. government began to build and define
itself under George Washington’s leadership.
- The debates over ratification of the Constitution spawned
the development of two separate political parties. New England Federalists
supported a loose interpretation of the Constitution and a strong
central government. Southern Republicans supported a strict interpretation
of the Constitution and a more limited central government. Enmity
between the two parties deepened, until the events of the War of
1812 finally eliminated the Federalists as a significant political
- The U.S. made a concerted effort to stay out of European
entanglements and maintain neutrality during its effort to build
its national infrastructure. Often, though, the U.S. was caught
in a tug-of-war between Britain and France. Eventually, British
aggression and America’s desire to increase its territory and prove
itself as an international force led to the War of 1812.
- After the war, the U.S. enjoyed a period of optimism and
general cooperation under a single political party: the Republicans.
In this period, the U.S. asserted its dominance in the Western Hemisphere
through the Monroe Doctrine.
- Westward expansion began in earnest after the Louisiana
Purchase. The sectional tensions created by expansion, made apparent
in the Missouri Compromise, illustrated the increasing role slavery
and regionalism would play in the politics of the nineteenth century.
- Through various rulings, the Supreme Court established
itself as a body able to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional
and supportive of Federalist policies.