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America is widely regarded as one of the most powerful and developed nations in the world. Its vast borders and ample military have no rival. But as with everything, it was not always as grand as today. America’s formative years were rough, characterized by skirmishes and conflict as a group of people pioneered a brand-new concept for a nation. America’s poorly handled attempts to shape a nation in its youth continues to have an impact today.
The first of many mishaps began in the wane years of America’s birth. The Whiskey Rebellion was a rebellion staged by farmers in Pennsylvania to oppose the Whiskey Tax: a systematic tax on liquor enacted by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in order to decrease the nation’s sizable debt incurred after the American Revolution (Locke and Wright). At this point in history, the power, in regards to legislation and jurisdiction, had been solely delegated to the states making them each their own individual “country” so to speak. In response to the farmers’ boycott of liquor to avoid paying the so called “exuberant” tax, President Washington authorized the national military to intervene instead of leaving the break up and resolution to local authorities (such as state militias and policemen). The military force took charge and raised their arms against the protestors, diffusing the conflict (Locke and Wright).
While this may not seem very significant today, this event exerted the influence that the federal government had in controlling and maintaining peace as well as suppressing any potentially violent forms of aggression against legislation. At the time, the government was more seen as an observer to what was bustling in the states rather than an actually, active government.
In regards to domestic policy, it was the basis. It was the first notable time in history that the government had showed the American public that they were capable of creating legislation and following through and enforcing them (Locke and Wright). It was a radical move on the behalf of the government, and the start of a future in which an active government that had the reigns on the states took control in the United States.
The next mistake could be considered nothing short of a genocide. The Indian Removal Act, an act passed under the Jackson administration, gave the federal government the authority to relocate any Native American tribe in the eastern United States to territory that was west of the Mississippi River (Locke and Wright). This act was the direct cause of the Trail of Tears, a national hate crime that sent thousands of Native Americans away from their homes and across thousands of miles of rugged terrain. This relocation caused thousands of preventable deaths of these indigenous people by famine, disease, and scrimmages between white settlers.
This event, which was generally seen in a positive light by the White population that dominated the country at the time (who were very against the Native people because of their mindset that they were entitled to any land they desired, and no one was going to stand in their way) and a success for President Jackson. Overall, however, it is met with disdain by the American people, who are in hindsight ashamed by the blatant discrimination of Americans by the government who treated them coldly with no remorse what so ever.
As a major domestic policy enacted in America’s past, the Indian Removal Act and its relationship to the Trail of Tears is mixed. The U.S. at the time was successful in clearing desirable land for its ever-expanding population at the expense of Native Americans being ousted from their homelands (Locke and Wright). It was considered a win for President Jackson, but a loss in the moral value of America as it became associated with this dreadful attack on Native Americans.
And lastly, the banning of a mistake that plagued our nation throughout history and has the most impact today. The abolishment of slavery was a controversial topic that rocked the American society at the time of the Civil War, and played a major role in influencing policies and actions done during its duration. Slavery was a main reason for the South’s economic success, and to have the South’s success threatened by the dissolution of it enraged the Southern states. This led to the war of the century between Southern and Northern forces (the Union and the Confederacy) that consisted of bloody battles, impowering speeches, and radical legislation. The abolition of slavery was ultimately instigated under President Lincoln with the thirteen amendment (Locke and Wright).
The abolition of slavery was met with mixed feelings, but considered one of the most powerful peace legislations ever passed by the United States government. It was detested by wealthy, White southerners who had benefitted for so long from the free labor provided by the slave industry. However, for abolitionists and the President, it was a major victory and a big step forward toward a new America.
As a domestic policy, the abolition of slavery’s success was negligible. While it was a win for the African American people and a success in the sense of liberating an entire race of people, it did not stop local legislation from oppressing the newly freed people with laws. While legally slaves were free, they still had an uphill battle to fight in order to fully exercise their rights. However, the abolition is still widely regarded as the beginning to an end of a horrible practice, and is generally applauded.
America’s poorly handled attempts to shape a nation in its youth continues to have an impact today. The Whiskey Rebellion, Trail of Tears, and slavery continue to have a marked impact on our nation’s domestic policy today. These legislative decisions showed Americans, for better or for worse, the power that their government could exercise. America would be wise to learn from its mistakes and continue forward in building a formidable superpower.
- Edited by Joseph Locke and Ben Wright, The American Yawp, Stanford University Press, 2018, www.americanyawp.com/
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