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The end of the civil war marked the emergence of a new America, the one known today. Major transformations took place, beginning from urbanization to industrialization, the need for equal rights for all citizens, and the two great world wars, which shaped the USA. Some events stand as change markers in the American history and include the Reconstruction period, the American West, the Chinese migration, the Age of Enterprise, the period of an emerging world power, and the Progressive Era.
After the civil war, the Reconstruction Era started and lasted from1865 to 1876. It was a period characterized by a great upheaval, due to the nation tried to merge with the southern states, which were a part of the union, in order to become one nation. The Reconstruction Era was motivated by the need of the government to pardon the confederate states and restore the union quickly. The country was making an attempt to reorganize itself. Most slaves in America found themselves free with no system of control, to which they had been used before. They needed to find a way to become a part of the society, which had some bias against them. During the Reconstruction period, there was little social and political agreement, mainly on such issues as who would be permitted to vote. The question was whether confederates, ex-slaves, or the ones, who served in the war, would be allowed to vote. The social issue was how the South was going to rebuild itself following the massive destruction of many centers and the loss of the slave labor.
Lincoln’s and Johnson’s administrations faced the Reconstruction Era. Both governments wanted to adopt an approach that would best serve the nation by ensuring that civil war brutality had been left behind. The difference between Lincoln’s and Johnson’s reconstruction plans and those of the Republicans was that the latter wanted the Congress to declare whether the states created could be represented, while Lincoln’s plans advocated for the representation for all states. The Republicans’ Reconstruction plans also proposed that the southern states should be punished for starting the war, while Lincoln and Johnson provided amnesty and political rights and properties in the South. With Abraham Lincoln’s death and Andrew Johnson’s administration, the Reconstruction process was multifaceted for the blacks in the South. The legislative process named the Black Codes hindered the attempt of freeing slaves to start a new life. The fourteenth amendment was eventually made at the end of the Reconstruction period and ensured that the civil rights of the blacks were to some degree pragmatic, although the right to vote was left out until the civil rights movement. The end of this eriod is also characterized by the fact that the South had no other choice but to integrate itself with the North in the process of changes.
The period after Reconstruction ensured that major cities in the today United States, such as Chicago, registered a huge increase in their population. It was encouraged by the development of railroads. Many African Americans moved to urban cities to work at processing plants and factories. This period was refereed to as the Industrial Era and was characterized by class subrogation. It was the Age of the Enterprise with economic prosperity. A large gap between the rich belonging to the upper class and the working poor from the middle class was quickly growing. Americans left their homes and farms in search for a better life in cities, contributing to the urbanization process. The period had lasted for a long time in the eastern states. The economy was characterized by the great migration of settlers from the West, who transformed the Great Plains. Farmers planted wheat and other crops. It marked a rise in the cattle industry, since railroads provided ample transportation means.
In 1869, the first transcontinental railroad linked the far west region, where mining and ranching were business activities. The American West now started receiving emigrants, who were lured by advertisements that promised lands at low prices and with huge discounts. Farming in the West was more difficult as compared to the East, due to the area had extreme weather conditions with unpredictable rainfall, more prevalent lightening fires, and water that was a critical issue. Even under these harsh conditions, emigrants were willing to move to the West, being motivated by cheaper fertile and large tracts of lands. These would ensure farmers a better economic life as compared to what they had. Traders and merchants sought new clients and leadership opportunities. By the 1880s, settlements along railroads in the West had been completed with the Homestead Act ensuring that citizens had access to free land at cheaper prices. The Chinese migration after 1865 experienced many challenges. Asian immigrants were not welcomed. Many of them had been brought to construct west coast railroads, constantly working overtime due to being viewed as alien cultures. After continuous intense anti-Chinese campaigns, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed and stopped migration. Some immigrants were shipped back home, while others stayed temporarily. The latter had hope of a better life in the new land. It was later developed into the American dream that became a famous term.
The period from 1880 to 1920 saw the rise of the Progressive Era. After 1900, presidential elections in the United States resulted in the possibilityy to pass a judgment on the issue of foreign policy conducted by the McKinley administration. The Republicans wanted the restoration of prosperity after the Spaniard war and the obtaining of new markets via the open-door policy. After the assassination of President McKinley and the rise of his vice-president, Theodore, to power, political corruption became a vital issue. The reformist hoped to solve this through civil peace reforms at the local, state and national levels by replacing political corrupts with credible people. In 1883, the Pendleton Act ensured that federal employees were subjected to the merit system that allowed for the rationalization and professionalization of the federal administration. However, local and municipal governments were controlled by corrupt leaders. After crusading on the part of article writers and journalists against the corrupt government at these levels, certain people were caught, and many states enacted laws that saw the living and working conditions of people improve. Child labor laws were strengthened, and most states introduced regulations that made employers legally responsible for their employees’ wellbeing. The federal income tax through new revenue laws provided revenue from taxed inheritances.
The 1889 Spanish-American war showed the first marks of the international power balance. The United States started emerging as a world power in the early twentieth century. The country adopted new foreign and diplomatic policies. The American army stretched from Latin America to China and all around the globe eventually. It gained power in the economic world, where the dollar was held by major American multinational organizations. America introduced the open-door policy that allowed all other superpowers open access to trade with China. The American secretary of state called for all superpowers to respect the Chinese territorial integrity, and even went ahead to improve the national navy to protect these multiplying interests.
In conclusion, not all reconstruction attempts ended in failures. Amendments made by the Republicans helped to cope with the failures of the Lincoln’s and Johnson’s reconstruction plans. For example, the Fifteenth Amendment declared that the right to vote would not be denied on the basis of color, race, or previous servant position. The Reconstruction Era provided the basis for America known today with the amendments to The Bill of Rights that would ensure that citizens were treated as equals through equal protection of laws. They also made sure that citizens were not denied the rights to life and property without law being implemented, and that anybody born or naturalized in America was to be its citizen. These American laws have been used up till nowadays.
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