Period 3 Overview
A New Nation
Period 3 look at the evolution of the British North American into their own, sovereign nation. From the French and Indian War, to the Glorious Revolution of 1800, Period 3 focuses on the emergence of a new nation, founded upon political equality and accessibility. Yet this new nation would face obstacles at every turn. How does a small colony of a world superpower proclaim independence? Find out in Period 3.
American expansion west of the Appalachian Mountains and British salutary neglect (pre-occupation with European and domestic affairs) combined to radically alter the relationship between Great Britain and its North American colonies between 1754 and 1776. Colonial expansion into the Ohio River Valley brought the colonists into conflict with the French which ultimately led to the French and Indian War. The British won the war convincingly, which led to British dominance in Europe and the expulsion of the French from North America.
However, the war exposed to the British the fact that they had largely lost control of the colonies who were not behaving in a very mercantilist manner and the war also left the British saddled with an exceptionally large debt. Those two factors led the British to impose certain restraints on the colonies and to begin to use the colonies as a source of revenue. These restrictions were designed to limit colonial expansion westward and to force the colonists to comply with the trade and Navigation Acts. Revenue measures were designed to impose direct internal taxes on the colonists and to levy tariffs whose primary purpose was not to restrict trade but to raise revenue. The colonists chaffed under these new restraints and demands and relations between the colonies and the mother country deteriorated, which eventually led to a colonial declaration of independence in 1776.
The Declaration of Independence left the colonists with the duel problem of waging war with the greatest military power in the world while simultaneously wrestling with establishing a government conducive to the protection of the revolutionary ideals of individual liberty, freedom, and the consent of the governed. Against great odds and with foreign assistance the colonists succeeded in securing a military victory and in negotiating the very favorable Treaty of Paris in 1783. The establishment of a viable government proved just as problematic as had military victory.
The Second Continental Congress proposed the Articles of Confederation in 1777 but it took another four years for the colonies to ratify them. The Articles reflected an almost paranoiac fear of the perceived tyranny the colonists had suffered under British rule. That fear left the federal government exceptionally weak and dependent on the states for its very existence. The Confederation Congress’ inability to resolve diplomatic challenges, economic problems, and social unrest during the 1780s convinced many that it was time to balance the fear of tyranny with the fear of anarchy by strengthening the central government.
Delegates met in Philadelphia and proposed a federal system which balanced governing power between the states and the central government and which included limitations on the power of the three branches of the federal government. However, differing philosophies on the division of power between the state and national governments remained and lasted well beyond the ratification fight, in reality, all the way up to the Civil War.
Between 1787 and 1800 the new national government of the United States wrestled with foreign affairs issues, domestic policy, and westward expansion. The new government under the Constitution was able to resolve several diplomatic issues left unsettled by the Confederation Congress such as British occupation of the Northwest forts and Spanish possession of New Orleans. The outbreak of war in Europe as an aftermath of the French Revolution placed U.S. neutral shipping in danger from attacks by both Britain and France and led to continual confrontation between the U.S. and the two leading European powers.
As well, westward expansion meant the federal government constantly was confronted with the problem of encroachment of American settlers onto lands claimed by American Indians, a problem that had to be resolved either peaceably or by force. Domestically differences concerning the correct constitutional interpretation of the division of power between the state and national government ultimately led to the development of the First American Party System. None of these issues were totally resolved prior to 1800 as the United States would go to war with Britain in 1812, American Indian resistance to expansion would not be resolved until the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890, and the issue of the division of power between the states and the national government would require a Civil War before closure could be achieved.
About the Author: Warren Hierl taught Advanced Placement U.S. History for twenty-eight years. He has conducted 250+ AP US History workshops for teachers. He was a member of the committee that wrote the original Advanced Placement Social Studies Vertical Teams Guide and the Advanced Placement U.S. History Teachers Guide. He has been a reader, a table leader, and, for the past eight years, the question leader on the DBQ at the AP U.S. History reading.
In other words- Mr. Hierl grades the essays you will write for the APUSH exam.