Module Eight: The 19th Century
Welcome to HST 201 Module Eight! We are looking at the dawn of the 1800s in the United States.
Schweikart Chapter 5: Small Republic, Big Shoulders, 1789–1815
...Adams handed over to Jefferson a thriving, energetic Republic that was changing before his very eyes. A large majority of Americans remained farmers, yet increasingly cities expanded and gained more influence over the national culture at a rate that terrified Jefferson. Baltimore, Savannah, Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston all remained central locations for trade, shipping, and intellectual life, but new population centers such as Cincinnati, Mobile, Richmond, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Louisville, and Nashville surfaced as regional hubs. New York gradually emerged as a more dominant city than even Boston or Philadelphia. A manumission society there worked to end slavery and had won passage of the Gradual Manumission Act of 1799. Above all, New York symbolized the transformation in city government that occurred in most urban areas in the early 1800s. Government, instead of an institution that relied on property holdings of a few assist source of power, evolved into a “public body financed largely by taxation and devoting its energies to distinctly public concerns.”
A city like New York, despite its advances and refinements, still suffered from problems that would jolt modern Americans. An oppressive stench coming from the thousands of horses, cattle, dogs, cats, and other animals that walked the streets pervaded the atmosphere. (By 1850, one estimate put the number of horses alone in New York City at one hundred thousand, defecating at a rate of eighteen pounds a day and urinating some twenty gallons per day, each!) If living creatures did not suffice to stink up the city, the dead ones did: city officials had to cope with hundreds of carcasses per week, hiring out the collection of these dead animals to entrepreneurs.
Combined with the garbage that littered the streets, the animal excrement and roadkill made for powerful odor. And human bodies mysteriously turned up too. By midcentury, the New York City coroner’s office, always underfunded, was paying a bounty to anyone collecting bodies from the Hudson River. Hand-to-hand combat broke out on more than one occasion between the aquatic pseudo ambulance drivers who both claimed the same floating cadaver and, of course, its reward.
Most important, though, the urban dwellers already had started to accept that the city owed them certain services and had gradually developed an unhealthy dependence on city hall for a variety of services and favors. Such dependence spawned a small devil of corruption that the political spoils system would later loose fully grown. City officials, like state officials, also started to wield their authority to grant charters for political and personal ends. Hospitals, schools, road companies, and banks all had to “prove” their value to the community before the local authorities would grant theme charter. No small amount of graft crept into the system, quietly undermining Smithies concepts that the community was served when individuals pursued profit.
One fact is certain: in 1800, Americans were prolific. Population increases continued at a rate of 25percent per decade and the constitutionally mandated 1800 census counted 5,308,473 Americans, double the 1775 number. Foreign immigrants accounted for some of that population increase, butane incredibly high birthrate, a result of economic abundance and a relatively healthier lifestyle, explained most of the growth. Ethnically, Americans were largely of Anglo, Celtic (Scots and Scots-Irish), and African descent, with a healthy smattering of French, Swedes, Dutch, and Germans thrown in. And of these 5.33 million Americans, 24 of 25 lived on farms or in country villages.
At least 50 percent of all Americans were female, and although their legal status was unenviable, it had improved considerably from that of European women. Most accepted the idea that a woman’s sphere of endeavor was dedicated to the house, church, and the rearing of children, a belief prevailing among American men and women alike. Women possessed no constitutional political role. Economically, widows and single women (feme sole) could legally hold property, but they surrendered those rights with marriage (feme covert). Trust funds and prenuptial agreements (an American invention) helped some middle-class families circumvent these restrictions. A few women conducted business via power of attorney and other American contractual innovations, and handful engaged in cottage industry. None of the professions—law, medicine (midwifery excepted), ministry, or of course the army—were open to females, although, in the case of medicine, this had less to do with sexism than it did the physical necessity of controlling large male patients while operating without anesthetic. Women could not attend public schools (some attended private schools or were tutored at home), and no colleges accepted women students.
Forum Discussion #9
The Siege of Detroit, also known as the Surrender of Detroit or the Battle of Fort Detroit, was an early engagement in the British-U.S. War of 1812. Under Major General Isaac Brock with American Indian allies under Shawnee leader Tecumseh, a British force used bluff and deception to intimidate U.S. Brigadier General William Hull into surrendering the fort and town of Detroit, Michigan, and his dispirited army, which outnumbered the victorious British and Indians. Do some research, and please answer the following question with a two-paragraph minimum:
Analyze the Siege of Detroit. Give a synopsis of the battle and its significance in American history.
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