The establishment of the United States, from pre-colonial times up until the present day, has seen inexorable progress towards the goal of building a nation that is preeminent on the global stage. Today’s America has its fair share of problems, and yet it is leagues beyond the many dark chapters from the times of the pilgrims, civil wars, slavery, as the country has moved on from being primarily agrarian, to a complete, modern, industrialized nation. How was the progress made? By the constant political and social reform, which has adapted to many sweeping changes, such as mass immigration. As such, the government has evolved from providing a basic oversight, to the law providing democracy we see today.
When the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, now in Massachusetts, the pilgrims that set forth did so with a new nation, free and separate from the confines of European democracy. The few links to Europe were the religious influence of Protestantism, and the puritan stance of John Winthrop, whose ideas became the benchmark for a new political society. What the May Flower proved was that while these pilgrims were only normal people, none with any accomplishments or fame to mention, their ability to run themselves without any external influence or oversight made them worthy of high commendation. This free notion was to be the staple of the maiden nation.
In the years following this pilgrimage, the political and social structure of what we now call America steadily progressed from basic feudalism to a comprehensive democratic nation. The planters at first used white servants, who were gradually replaced by Africans for better productivity. The change from and agrarian nation to an industrial one was first sighted by Alexander Hamilton in his revolutionary text ‘On Manufactures’ which may be the first detailed evaluation of the industrial potential that the new nation could garner. Details included how the labor would be differentiated, and how machinery would be used, and also made clear the potential for increased employment, better opportunities, and capacity for free and highly profitable enterprise.
While the slavery legislation from 1630 to 1691 confused the ideologies of the free nation, it was the beliefs of Hamilton, Munro, Marshall and Henry that served as the preamble in which Abraham Lincoln could call out to the people for equality.
Aside from the development of personal freedom, the progress of the nation was primarily the result of the growth of commerce and enterprise, and the role of government and what it should provide. The government evolved from being simply the provider of law, to the provider of protection for the American people, especially in regards to those who were most vulnerable. This is highlighted in ‘That Class of Americans Called Africans’ by Lydia Child. The Munro Doctrine is a concrete step forward in the government’s obligation to serve and protect its people, providing a bastion against Russian and European involvement and expansion in South America. This protectionist stance has been crucial in the development of the US as a global player.
Geographically, the US expanded from the Eastern seaboard with time, eventually finding the pivotal pass through the Rockies to what is now California, where the infamous Gold rush brought new found hope and prosperity. The west was new, with a good climate and fertile land, and provided the economy and trade between the East and West, uniting different strands of Republic America, which led to the famous Second Inaugural Address by Abraham Lincoln. America around this point has become mostly what the first pilgrims dreamed of; a land of freedom, human rights, equality and democracy.
Boller, Paul F., and Story, Ronald, A More Perfect Union, Houghton Muffin Co., Boston.