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Changes in America from 1760 to 1800


From 1760 to 1800, America underwent significant changes, including gaining independence from Britain, forming a new government under the Constitution, and expanding westward. Social changes included increased emphasis on individual rights and the emergence of a distinct American identity. Economically, the period saw a shift from agrarian to more diversified economic activities, laying the groundwork for future industrialization.

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How did Americans change between 1763 and 1787?

One profound way in which the 24 years had changed Americans resided in seeing their nation move from being a colony of England to its own independent nation.  Americans themselves had changed from supporting England as a colony to demanding its own notion of freedom and independence.  In 1763, the Treaty of Paris effectively ended the French and Indian War.  This was a conflict in which the Colonists willingly supported the British in their battles through money, military support, and through political unity.  From this point, the relationship between both nations deteriorated.  This entropy in relations enabled Americans to develop their own identity and their own sense of autonomy to directly challenge British rule.  In the forms of protests, writings, speeches, uprisings, and violence, the Colonists changed to Americans.  Petitions against the Stamp Act, protests in the form of the Boston Massacre, uprisings such as the Boston Tea Party, writings such as the the Declaration of Independence, and engaging in conflict such as the American Revolution all fundamentally changed Americans. They were now able to stand on their own against the British. They saw themselves as fundamentally different than the way they were before 1763.   Being able to defeat the mighty British armed forces catapulted Americans to believe that they could be their own nation and their own people.  

Another way in which Americans changed from 1763 to 1787 was in the form of political governance.  Being able to see themselves as more than mere extensions of the British Empire to actual and independent states to a nation guided by the Constitution involved significant change in self- perception.  Americans had seen the dangers in a government that was not limited by individual rights and checks and balances in the form of King George.  They had also seen the results of a political system that became "a loose confederation of states" in the Articles of Confederation.  Through debate and discourse at the Constitutional Convention, Americans formed a new government that lasts to this day.  In being able to see political change in the form of institutional evolution, the political self- identity of Americans changed in 24 years.

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What changes occurred in America between 1760 and 1800?

This is an enormously complex question, but if we narrow it down first to the political changes that took place, other factors—social and economic, for example—can be partly dealt with as well.

The defeat of France in the Seven Years' War (in its American theatre known as the French and Indian War) resulted in Canada being taken over by the British. In 1763, France thus ceased to be a power on the North American mainland, with Louisiana also taken from it and turned over to Spain. The British expected their colonists to pay part of the cost of the war, the rationale being that the war had been fought to protect the English settlers. This led to a series of taxation schemes that caused huge resentment in the colonies and led to the War of Independence from 1775 to 1783. With independence the following major political and social changes took place:

1) The states north of the Mason Dixon line enacted laws, either immediate or, in most cases, gradual, abolishing slavery and liberating the enslaved people within their borders.

2) State constitutions were written which provided for religious freedom in those states where it was not already explicitly granted. Other vestiges of British rule, for instance, inheritance laws such as primogeniture, the right of succession to a first-born male child, were abolished.

3) In 1787 the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia and planned the new government, superseding the Articles of Confederation and establishing the system we still have. It was basically unprecedented in its division of power among executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Instead of copying the English Parliamentary Constitutional system, the US founders created a new system designed to limit the power of any single entity of government.

4) In 1789 the new government was initiated with Washington as President. In the following decade, the disorders and wars in Europe started by the French Revolution had a kind of ideological spillover into the new US, creating extreme factionalism between the Federalists, who considered the War of Independence to have been a family quarrel with the British and now favored an alliance with them, and the Democratic Republicans, who favored an alliance with Revolutionary France. By the end of the century there was no real resolution to this issue and the heated partisanship it had evoked.

5) White settlement west of the Alleghenies accelerated with the independence of the US. During the war from 1775 to 1783 the Native Americans had mostly sided with the British, who had (presumably) wanted to reserve the lands west of the Appalachians for them. The British did not evacuate their forts in the Northwest Territory for several decades after independence, and the Native Americans became more dependent on the protection of the British against the settlers. But in the battles between US forces and Native Americans in the 1790s, the British did little to help the indigenous people.

The above are key points, but are basically a sketch of the changes that took place. You might wish to look into the very beginnings of industrialization in the US, and the way entrepreneurship in general was encouraged by independence. In addition, the white colonists were hardly a monolithic entity themselves. You might research what course was taken by those who had been Loyalists during the War of Independence and wished to remain under British rule. One might also ask what conflicts existed among the different ethnic groups—English, German, Dutch, French Huguenot, Scandinavian—and also the conflicts between rural and urban people and the local wars such as the Whisky Rebellion. And finally, how and why did slavery continue to expand, despite the provision in the constitution that the slave trade would be ended in 20 years (by 1808)? How significant were all these factors in the growth and changes of the new country?

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