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[Detail] Millions of acres, Iowa and Nebraska, 1872

Growing Pains of the New Nation

The new nation's early years were not without controversy. Foreign policy issues aroused some bitterness.  The negotiation of the Jay Treaty with Britain in 1794 was bitterly opposed by Democratic Republicans who denounced the Federalists for making concessions to Britain.  When the House of Representatives sought presidential papers regarding the negotiation of the treaty, George Washington refused and sent a message to the House rejecting their demands.

During the John Adams administration, Federalists in Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts over protests from Democratic Republicans.  These four acts included "An Act Concerning Aliens," which authorized the president to imprison or deport citizens of other nations who were deemed dangerous. The Sedition Act provided penalties for resisting federal laws or criticizing the government. In opposition to these acts, James Madison penned the Virginia Resolutions; Thomas Jefferson is believed to have written the Kentucky Resolutions expressing opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Some residents of New England, referred to as the "High Federalists," opposed the War of 1812. At a convention in Hartford in 1815, several constitutional amendments were proposed and  submitted to states for review.  An American Time Capsule includes the rejection of the amendments by the states of North Carolina and Louisiana. Read the proposed amendments and choose one that is especially interesting to you. Find out more about why the amendment's backers thought it was needed. Write a broadside in which you explain the arguments for and against the amendment.

As the population of white Americans grew, there was increasing pressure to take the lands of Native Americans. In 1790, the population of Georgia was 82,500; by 1830, it had grown to 516,800. The legislature of Georgia passed a number of laws designed to gain the lands of Native Americans; the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830. In 1832 a New York Committee seeking aid for the Cherokee nation issued a circular expressing support for the Cherokee nation and criticizing the efforts taken by Georgia in violation of treaties signed between the Cherokee and the United States government.  Read this circular and consider the following:

  • What arguments did the New York Committee make in the petition to the Senate and House of Representatives?
  • Why, according to the committee, was the Federal government obligated to provide for the defense of the Cherokee nation?
  • What course of action did the New York Committee wish to see the government take in response to Georgia's opposition to the Cherokee?

After a long legal struggle, the Cherokee were eventually removed from their lands in Georgia in the winter of 1838-1839. Their journey to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) has become known as the Trail of Tears.

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