The Early Republic (1787-1825)
The Revolution is over. The Constitution is ratified. Now the hard work of building the nation begins--and it's more difficult than anyone expected.
The nation quickly became divided in the 1790s over Alexander Hamilton's financial program, eventually splitting the government into two parties: The Federalists (led by Hamilton)--who believed that a strong central government would unleash America's potential--and the Republicans (Led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison), who believed in states' rights. Disputes over finances spread to other issues: the reach of Federal power, the French Revolution, and even the basic rights of American citizens All of this climaxed in 1800, when Thomas Jefferson unseated his one-time friend John Adams from the presidency. Dubbing it "The Revolution of 1800", Jefferson believed that his victory rescued the country from the Federalists, preserving the "Spirit of '76". After 1800, the Federalists faded into irrelevance, ceasing to exist by 1820.
In the West, people spilled over the Appalachian mountains, settling Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, which would each gain statehood by 1803. Also, in that year, the nation doubled in size with the Louisiana purchase, pushing America's frontier to the Continental Divide. The explorations of Lewis and Clark in 1804--1806 mapped out the region for the United States.
The United States went to war with Britain again in 1812, and emerged two years later with a new found unity and nationalism that carried over into the "era of good feelings". The good feelings did not last, however, as new pressures erupted over party and the issue of slavery in Missouri.
When Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on July 4th 1826 (the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence), it symbolized the passing of an era, and the beginning of a new. The man who embodied that new era was Andrew Jackson: Congressman, general, frontiersman, and later president.
Essays and Videos
Ordinary Americans and the Constitution by Gary Nash
The Anti-Federalists: The Other Founders of the American Constitutional Tradition by Saul Cornell
The Navy vs.The Barbary Pirates by Christopher Miller