Modern history

Conclusion: The Nation Faces New Challenges

From the 1810s through the early 1830s, the United States was buffeted by a series of crises. The War of 1812 threatened the stability of the nation, not only due to attacks on its recently constructed capital city but also because New Englanders so deeply opposed the conflict that some considered seceding from the Union. The panic of 1819 then threw the nation into economic turmoil and led to demands for expanded voting rights for white men. It also heightened disputes over banks and tariffs as residents of various regions and classes sought to ensure their own financial security. The admission of Missouri similarly intensified debates over slavery as white southerners saw themselves losing out in population growth and political representation to the North. At the same time, the western expansion that allowed territories like Missouri to claim statehood also escalated struggles over Indian rights. By the 1820s, those struggles involved a diverse array of Indian nations as well as deep differences among white Americans over the future of native peoples who had embraced Christianity and other forms of “civilization.” In navigating these difficult issues, some Americans sought to find a middle ground. Dolley Madison worked to overcome partisan divisions through social networking. After the death of her husband, James, in 1836, she returned to Washington, where her house on Lafayette Street became a center of social activity for politicians, ambassadors, and their wives. Although her son’s mismanagement of Montpelier forced her to sell the beloved estate, Dolley secured her old age when Congress purchased President James Madison’s papers from her. Similarly, John Ross wielded his biracial heritage to seek rights for Indians within a white-dominated world. He served as both a lobbyist for Cherokee interests in Washington and an advocate of acculturation to Anglo-American ways among the Cherokee. Still, congressional passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830 challenged Ross’s efforts to maintain his tribe’s sovereignty and homeland. When Henry Clay was reelected to the U.S. Senate in November 1831, he spoke out against Cherokee removal. But Clay was more widely known for helping to forge key compromises on the admission of Missouri and on tariffs. In each case, he hoped to bring a deeply divided Congress together and provide time for the nation’s political leaders to develop more permanent solutions.

Yet despite the efforts of Madison, Ross, Clay, and others, differences often led to division in the 1820s and 1830s. Indeed, Henry Clay provided the final push that ensured John Quincy Adams’s selection as president in 1824. In the aftermath of that election, two distinct political parties emerged out of the once-united Democratic- Republicans: the Democrats and the National Republicans. In the context of the political, military, and economic upheaval that marked the early Republic, it is not surprising that a charismatic but divisive figure like Andrew Jackson emerged to lead the new Democratic Party. Transforming the process of political campaigning, he gave voice to the “common man,” but he also introduced the spoils system to government, smashed the Second Bank of the United States, and forced thousands of Indians off their lands. The extermination and removal of Indians then fostered the geographical expansion of American settlements southward and westward, ensuring the growth of slavery.

Dolley Madison, who lived into the late 1840s, and John Ross, who survived the Civil War, observed the continuing conflicts created by geographical expansion and partisan agendas. Madison remained a beloved figure in Washington, escorted through the Executive Mansion by President James K. Polk in February 1849, just months before her death. Ross, however, faced much more difficult circumstances as the Cherokee nation divided over whether to accept removal. Ross fought to delay removal as long as possible but eventually oversaw the forced march west of thousands of Cherokees. In their new homes, Cherokees continued to fight each other and the U.S. government. Indeed, Ross died in 1866 in Washington, D.C., while trying to negotiate a new treaty with the federal government.

Despite the dramatically different backgrounds and careers of Madison and Ross, both worked to bridge differences in the young nation, and both defended it against attack. Both harbored democratic ideals of a nation that could incorporate women as well as men, Indians as well as whites. Ultimately, however, neither had the power to overcome the partisan rivalries and economic crises that shaped the young nation or to halt the rising tensions over Indian lands and slave labor that would continue to plague Americans in the decades to come.

Chapter Review


Identify and explain the significance of each term below.

Non-Intercourse Act (p. 219)

Hartford Convention (p. 222)

American System (p. 223)

Erie Canal (p. 224)

Monroe Doctrine (p. 226)

panic of 1819 (p. 228)

Missouri Compromise (p. 231)

Democrats and National Republicans (p. 233)

Petticoat Affair (p. 237)

spoils system (p. 237)

nullification (p. 238)

Indian Removal Act (p. 240)


Answer the focus questions from each section of the chapter.

1. How were conflicts with indians in the west connected to ongoing tensions between the United states and Great Britain on land and at sea?

2. what were the long-term consequences of the war of 1812?

3. what role did government play in early-nineteenth-century economic development?

4. How and why did economic development contribute to regional differences and shape regional ties?

5. what were the political consequences of the panic of 1819?

6. what regional divisions did the conflict over slavery in Missouri reveal?

7. How and why did the composition of the electorate change in the 1820s?

8. How did Jackson's 1828 campaign represent a significant departure from earlier patterns in American politics?

9. what did president Jackson's response to the Eaton affair and indian removal reveal about his vision of democracy?

10. To what extent did Jackson's policies favor the south? which policies benefited or antagonized which groups of southerners?



• Non-Intercourse Act passed


• First steamboat travels down the Mississippi to New Orleans

• William Henry Harrison defeats Shawnees at Prophet Town

June 1812

• War of 1812 begins


• Hartford Convention

March 1814

• Battle of Horseshoe Bend

August 1814

• British burn Washington City



• Treaty of Ghent


• Battle of New Orleans


• Andrew Jackson fights Spanish and Seminole forces in Florida


• Great Britain and U.S. agree to joint occupation of Oregon Territory


• Spain cedes Florida to U.S.; establishes boundary between U.S. and Spanish territory through the Adams-Onis Treaty

• Panic of 1819 sparks severe recession that lasts until 1823


• Missouri Compromise


• White traders begin using Santa Fe Trail


• Denmark Vesey accused of organizing a slave uprising


• Monroe Doctrine articulated


• Erie Canal completed


• Tariff of 1828 passed

• John Ross elected principal chief of the Cherokee nation


• Petticoat Affair


• Indian Removal Act passed


• South Carolina passes Ordinance of Nullification


• Force Bill passed

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