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I.R. Essay Notes on Important Topics-Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow
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I.R. Essay Notes on Important Topics-Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow
(Largest Industrial Scientific Project of History)
Manhattan Project, the name given to the United States effort—strongly aided by the United Kingdom—to build the atomic bombs that helped end World War II (1939-1945). The Manhattan Project ranks as the largest industrial and scientific effort in the history of the world, costing more than $2 billion in 1945 dollars and involving more than 175,000 workers. All research and experiments were conducted in almost total secrecy. Only a relatively small number of people knew the exact purpose of the project, which created the most powerful weapon ever used.
The Manhattan Project ushered in a new era in human history known as the Atomic Age. It demonstrated the feasibility of atomic energy for both peaceful and military uses. It also led to an arms race that, according to many scientists, produced enough nuclear weapons to destroy human civilization and end most forms of life on Earth.
The Manhattan Project began in 1942. It officially ended in 1946 when it became part of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Originally based in Manhattan, a borough of New York City, the project eventually spread across the nation and was concentrated at three main sites located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Its director was Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves. American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was the scientific director at Los Alamos, which attracted some of the most brilliant scientists and mathematicians of the 20th century. Among the scientists and mathematicians who participated in the Manhattan Project were Philip H. Abelson, Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Sir James Chadwick, Enrico Fermi, Richard Feynman, Otto Frisch, George Kistiakowsky, Ernest Lawrence, Philip Morrison, Seth Neddermeyer, John von Neumann, Rudolf Peierls, I. I. Rabi, Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Stanislaw Ulam, Harold Urey, and Victor Weisskopf. Five of these scientists had already won Nobel Prizes when the project began, and three more would later go on to win Nobel Prizes.
The Manhattan Project produced four atomic bombs. One was tested July 16, 1945, at a bombing range site known as Trinity near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Two others were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945. A fourth was ready for use in late August, but by then Japan had surrendered and World War II had ended.
II ORIGINS OF THE MANHATTAN PROJECT
The origins of the Manhattan Project can be traced to the scientific laboratories of Britain and Europe in the early 1900s. At that time, the basic unit of matter, the atom, was viewed as solid and impossible to divide. The startling discoveries of radium, the X ray, the electron, proton, and neutron, and alpha, beta, and gamma rays, however, alerted scientists to the existence of a “subatomic” world. As British physicist Ernest Rutherford and Danish physicist Niels Bohr suggested, instead of being solid, the atom resembled a “miniature solar system.” Within the atom negatively charged electrons orbited positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons in the atom’s nucleus.
Scientists knew well that the atoms of each chemical element differed from one another. Hydrogen, which consists of one electron orbiting one proton, is the simplest. Scientists classify hydrogen with the atomic number one. Uranium, with 92 electrons orbiting a nucleus with 92 protons, is the most complex of the natural elements. It has the atomic number 92. In addition, these elements often contain variations—called isotopes—that occur because they have different numbers of neutrons bound to the protons in the nucleus. For example, the element uranium has three isotopes, known by their atomic numbers, U238, U235, and U234. The numbers are derived by adding the number of protons in the uranium nucleus, 92, with the number of neutrons in the nucleus. U238 is the most common form of uranium; the rare U235 isotope forms only about 0.7 percent of naturally occurring uranium. Because uranium appeared to be an unstable element, scientists began to bombard it with streams of neutrons, hoping to discover a new form of energy.
The 1930s saw major breakthroughs in understanding the atom. In 1933 Hungarian-born physicist Leo Szilard, who had fled Nazi Germany for England, was standing on a London street corner waiting for the light to change. Suddenly he realized that if the right material were found, splitting the nucleus of an atom could release neutrons and cause a nuclear “chain reaction” in which the released neutrons would cause more atoms to split, or fission. The result would be a self-sustaining series of fissions, causing a continuous release of nuclear energy. Such a chain reaction could be used to produce either electricity or a bomb. The next year Szilard filed a British patent on this subject, but kept it secret out of fear that German scientists might learn it was possible to make an atomic bomb.
Meanwhile, in 1933 in Paris, French scientists Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot discovered artificially created radioactivity. Shortly afterwards in Rome, Italian physicist Enrico Fermi created the first artificially created elements (beyond uranium). Fermi also split the atom, but at the time he did not realize what had occurred.
In Berlin, Germany, physical chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann repeated Fermi’s experiments, bombarding uranium with neutrons. In late 1938 they were baffled when they found traces of barium in their results. Hahn wrote to his longtime scientific partner, Lise Meitner, to ask her opinion. Meitner was probably the foremost woman scientist of her generation. She had been forced to flee Germany due to the anti-Semitic laws enacted by the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. Meitner and her nephew, physicist Otto Frisch, concluded in a December 1938 discussion that the two German scientists had split the uranium atom’s nucleus virtually in half. As a result of splitting the uranium atom, barium with the atomic number 56 and krypton with the atomic number 36 were formed. Added together they represented the 92 protons in the uranium atom’s nucleus. Frisch was the first to name this process “fission.” (See the Sidebar with this article, “The Discovery of Fission.”)
Meitner and Frisch provided a theoretical explanation for Hahn and Strassmann’s results and argued that the experiments confirmed Bohr’s model of the atom. When the uranium atom split or fissioned, it released an enormous amount of energy. How much energy could be calculated by using the famous formula of Austrian-born physicist Albert Einstein, E=mc2. In this formula E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light squared. Since the speed of light—300,000 km/sec (186,000 mi/sec)—is such a large number, very little mass is required to produce a great deal of energy. Moreover, if each fission released additional neutrons in the process, a nuclear chain reaction would be possible.
Meitner and Frisch raced to Copenhagen, Denmark, to inform Bohr, who was preparing to leave for a physicists’ conference in Washington, D.C., in January 1939. As soon as the scientists in Washington learned that uranium could be fissioned, several rushed to their laboratories to repeat the experiment. Within a year, more than 100 scientific papers had appeared on nuclear fission. When Szilard first heard the news of uranium fission, he predicted that the world was “headed for grief.” By 1939 a small group of scientists were well aware that a weapon of terrible power was possible—at least in theory.
III THE BUILDING OF THE ATOMIC BOMBA The British Effort
In early 1939 most nuclear scientists believed that from 50 to 180 tons of natural uranium, containing only a tiny percentage of U235, would be required for a chain reaction to occur and an atomic bomb to be built. However, it was not practical to build a bomb weighing 50 tons. As a result most scientific research concentrated on other possible uses of nuclear energy, such as using uranium to operate large power plants or, perhaps, as power sources for ships or submarines. Then Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, and Europe plunged into war. The scientists realized that any plans to build large-scale nuclear power plants would have to wait until the war was over.
Two weeks after the invasion of Poland, Hitler made a radio speech in which he threatened Britain with “a weapon against which there is no defense.” British intelligence officers monitored this speech and came up with four possible interpretations: (1) Hitler was bluffing, (2) the Nazis had developed a deadly poison gas, (3) Hitler was referring to the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, or (4) the Germans had developed an atomic bomb. In the fall of 1939 British intelligence could neither confirm nor deny the existence of a German atomic weapon. Thus, Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided that Britain should take no chances, and he instructed British scientists to investigate this possibility.
Because most of Britain’s scientists were already occupied with other work, the job fell to two refugee German physicists. who had fled Nazi Germany but were not yet British citizens: Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls. After intense study the two men produced the March 1940 Frisch-Peierls Memorandum. This brief scientific paper concluded that only the U235 isotope fissioned—rather than the more abundant U238. Consequently, if U235 could be separated from U238, then only a relatively small amount of U235 would be needed for a chain reaction to occur. Fifty tons of natural uranium would not be required to make a bomb. Instead, a bomb could be made by utilizing about a kilogram of U235 (later revised upward to about 10 kg [22 lb]). Although it would be difficult, scientists could separate U235 from U238 using industrial techniques.
The two scientists warned, however, that Britain might not wish to use this bomb because of the radioactive fallout that would occur. Churchill’s government immediately formed a top-level committee to further examine the report. In 1941 this committee concluded that although the bomb program might cost as much as a battleship, Britain should pursue it. “I wish I could tell you that the bomb is not going to work,” British scientist Sir James Chadwick told two American scientists, “but I am 90 percent certain that it will.”
By 1940 British scientists viewed the possibility of creating an atomic weapon with utmost seriousness. But German bombers could easily reach British targets, and Churchill knew that Britain could never build the gigantic factories necessary to produce such bombs. Any new building of that size would be quickly spotted and destroyed by the Luftwaffe. So the British effort remained largely at the theoretical level.
B The U.S. Program
The U.S. atomic bomb program moved at a somewhat slower pace. Early in 1939 various émigré scientists living in the United States steadily campaigned for increased U.S. nuclear research. They met so many obstacles, however, that they felt they were “swimming in syrup,” as the refugee Hungarian physicists Eugene Wigner and Leo Szilard put it. In July 1939 Szilard, Wigner, and another refugee Hungarian physicist, Edward Teller, conferred on the best way to gain the attention of the U.S. government. They decided on a plan to have the world’s most famous scientist, fellow refugee Albert Einstein, write a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The three men met with Einstein at his summer home on Long Island. Einstein later signed his name to a letter, dated August 2, 1939, that officially warned Roosevelt of a new type of bomb. Hidden in the hold of a ship, such a bomb could easily destroy a harbor city. At the time no one dreamed that an atomic bomb could ever be dropped from an airplane. (See the Sidebar, “Einstein’s Letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt.”)
Alexander Sachs, an acquaintance of the scientists who was on familiar terms with Roosevelt, delivered the letter on October 11, 1939, a month after the Nazi invasion of Poland. Although Roosevelt knew little about science, he immediately established an Advisory Committee on Uranium to look into the matter. In June 1940 an even more important National Defense Research Committee came into being, followed by the Office of Scientific Research and Development on June 28, 1941. Still, the Americans never displayed the same fear or sense of urgency as the British until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Suddenly the United States was at war with Japan and Germany. With this, all discussion regarding an atomic bomb shifted from abstract theory to practical application: The nation that built the atomic bomb first would surely win the war.
In the months following Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government completely reorganized its atomic bomb effort by enlisting the aid of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The project shifted from a program dominated by scientists in university laboratories to a gigantic, nationwide construction project under the Corps of Engineers’ Manhattan Engineer District (hence the name “Manhattan Project”). Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves, an able engineer who had helped build the Pentagon, assumed overall charge of the project. Groves insisted on a complete refocus for all nuclear research. All discussion of postwar power plants or individual power sources for airplanes, ships, or submarines had to cease. From then on, the project had only one goal: to create an atomic weapon to end the war in the shortest possible time.
Groves began by enlisting the aid of several large American corporations, including Chrysler, General Electric, Eastman Kodak, Westinghouse, and DuPont. He also called on numerous universities, such as the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Columbia University in New York City, the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, and the University of Rochester in New York to conduct further nuclear research. Finally, he oversaw the creation of three gigantic federal installations at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico. The race to beat the Nazis to the secret of the atomic bomb had begun in earnest.
Groves did not assume control of the project until the fall of 1942, by which time the United States had been at war with the Axis powers for almost nine months. Bold newspaper headlines followed the fortunes of the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marines on a daily basis. Americans read in detail about the fierce battles in Europe and the Pacific. But the Manhattan Project moved along a completely different track. Groves forbade any publicity about its research and insisted on the “compartmentalization” of knowledge for all project workers. This meant that a person knew only enough to do his or her task, but no more. This proved frustrating, for ordinary workers as well as for the top-level scientists. Still, a strict “culture of secrecy” blanketed the entire project.
Meanwhile, the scientists continued their research at a furious pace. Enrico Fermi moved his experiments from Columbia University to the Metallurgical Laboratory (Met Lab) at the University of Chicago, which loaned him a squash court under the unused Stagg football stadium. There Fermi and his crew assembled a gigantic pile of uranium and graphite blocks that reached almost to the ceiling. Fermi had discovered that graphite could be used to moderate, or control, a chain reaction. On the afternoon of December 2, 1942—almost four years after Bohr had brought the news of uranium fission to the United States—Fermi oversaw the world’s first controlled release of nuclear energy. The pile produced only enough energy to light a small flashlight, but all the scientists’ theories had proven correct: Humankind had created, and, for the moment controlled, the release of atomic energy. All atomic weapons and all nuclear power plants trace their ancestry to this moment.
Fermi’s successful experiment reassured the scientists that they were on the right path, but the technical problems that lay ahead were enormous. General Groves later likened the process to a “manufacturer who tried to build an automobile full of watch machinery, with the precision that was required of watchmaking, and the knowledge that the failure of a single part would mean complete failure of the whole project.” Perhaps the central hurdle lay with the fact that the most common form of uranium—U238—does not fission. The U235 isotope does fission, but only 1 in every 140 uranium atoms is the isotope U235. Thus, the scientists had to devise a means to separate several pounds of U235 from U238 on an atom-by-atom basis. The separation could not be done by chemical methods because the two isotopes are chemically the same. Instead, they had to be separated physically.
B1 Oak Ridge
American scientists had devised several possible methods to separate the isotopes, but it was not clear which one, if any, would succeed. Groves therefore decided to try all of them at once. Each method demanded gigantic buildings surrounded by a great deal of space due to safety concerns. One of the Army’s first actions was to confiscate 24,000 hectares (59,000 acres) of land in rural eastern Tennessee near the Clinch River. During the war this was called Site X, but later it became known as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Site X held everything Groves needed: a large nearby workforce, sufficient water, and a mild climate that would allow work to continue uninterrupted.
Oak Ridge contractors immediately began to build the K-25 plant, the largest building ever constructed up to that time. Drawing as much electrical power as New York City, K-25 used the gaseous diffusion method to separate the uranium isotopes. This process proved both complex and dangerous. Uranium is usually a metal, but here it was turned into a gas and forced by pumps through porous barriers with millions of submicroscopic holes. The barriers acted, in effect, as specially designed filters. Because U235 is slightly lighter than U238, it moved through the filters at a somewhat faster pace, causing the uranium gas on one side of the filter to be “enriched” by a higher rate of U235. But a single filter was not enough. Thousands of pumps pushed the gas through thousands of filters, traveling through hundreds of kilometers of interlocking pipes. Although difficult to maintain, the end result produced a gas much enriched with fissionable isotopes that could be converted back into a metal. About 12,000 workers, many of them women because so many men were serving in the military, oversaw this process. None of the workers were told the purpose of the K-25 plant for reasons of secrecy. They only knew it was something that would help win the war.
On the southern edge of Site X, construction workers erected another gigantic building called Y-12. It utilized an electromagnetic separation method, drawing on what was then the world’s largest magnet, weighing 4,900 tons. If scientists gave an electrical charge to a gaseous uranium compound, a process called ionization, the lighter U235 atoms would follow a different arc through a magnetic field than the heavier U238 atoms. The U235 atoms could be “bent” by the magnet into a separate path and collected. This equally gigantic operation employed 23,000 workers, but none of them knew the purpose of their work either. Oak Ridge turned into a Tennessee boomtown, becoming the fifth largest city in Tennessee. Wartime life at Oak Ridge seemed unreal. Gigantic factories, each costing from $400 million to $500 million to build, ran 24 hours a day to produce nothing (it seemed) that could be heard, seen, smelled, or touched. Only after the war did the Oak Ridge workers learn that the K-25 and Y-12 plants had produced the fissionable uranium for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.
Oak Ridge also housed a third plant called X-10, which drew on yet-another method to create fissionable materials. In 1941 scientists had discovered that when U238 absorbs a neutron, it eventually decays into plutonium, which, like U235, can also fission. The slightly smaller building at X-10 served as a pilot plant to produce plutonium, but this process was exceptionally dangerous. Groves feared that the city of Knoxville lay far too close to Oak Ridge, so he decided to move the full-scale plutonium production plant to a remote location in Washington State.
In early 1943 the full-scale plutonium production facility began in isolated southeastern Washington, near the Columbia River. During the war, it was called Site W, but later it became known as the Hanford Engineer Works. Within a few months, the Army confiscated thousands of hectares of land, much of it consisting of small fruit ranches. Within two years, Hanford grew from a community of several small villages to become the fourth largest city in Washington with a population of more than 50,000.
Unlike Oak Ridge, the Hanford region was so sparsely populated that it could not draw on the local area for workers. The Army had to advertise throughout the West. With the offer of high wages, thousands of male workers—and relatively few women—accepted jobs there. Soon Hanford boasted the biggest trailer park in the world, larger crowds at local baseball games than attended some major league contests, and kitchens that served around 60 tons of food per meal in seemingly endless dining rooms. Most of the men arrived without their families, and a number engaged in barroom brawls on Saturday nights in an atmosphere that resembled a 19th-century gold mining camp. When one frustrated worker asked his Army boss what the project was for, the official said, “If I told you, I would be court-martialed immediately.”
Hanford existed for one reason: to build and operate the gigantic piles (later called reactors) to produce plutonium for a second atomic bomb. Workers constructed three huge water-cooled piles—named B, D, and F—about 10 km (6 mi) apart. In these buildings, streams of neutrons bombarded concentrations of U238 known as slugs to produce plutonium. The irradiated slugs were then taken by remote-controlled railway cars to one of two gigantic chemical separation buildings—called Queen Marys—where operators sat behind thick concrete walls to separate the plutonium from the U238 via remote-controlled equipment, television monitors, and even periscopes. It was a dull and boring task.
B3 Los Alamos
The uranium from Oak Ridge and the plutonium from Hanford both ended up at the third secret Manhattan Project location—Los Alamos, New Mexico, or, as it was known during the war, Site Y. Nestled on 2,100-m-high (7,000-ft-high) mesas in north-central New Mexico, the region served as summer forage for local cattle and sheep ranchers and as home to an exclusive prep school for wealthy boys. Again the Army confiscated thousands of hectares and began construction in early 1943 of what later became the most high-profile of all the Manhattan Project locations.
The isolation of Los Alamos served many purposes. In the beginning, the top-level scientists—all of whom knew the goals of the Manhattan Project—were often as frustrated by the Manhattan Project’s compartmentalization as the lower-level workers who were unaware of the ultimate goal. The scientists urged Groves to provide a secure location where they could discuss everything, and Groves eventually agreed. The newly appointed scientific director, California physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, spent much of early 1943 trying to convince the nation’s top scientists and engineers to move to Los Alamos for the duration of the war.
Los Alamos also provided the location for British and U.S. scientists to confer. At a conference in Québec, Canada, in August 1943 between Britain and the United States, Churchill had persuaded Roosevelt to collaborate on building the bomb. Following the Québec Agreement, a team of about 20 top-level British scientists—including Chadwick, Peierls, Frisch, Bohr (who had become a consultant to the British effort), and Klaus Fuchs, along with Canadian scientist J. Carson Mark—moved to Los Alamos. The task at Los Alamos was to create a combat-ready atomic bomb using the fissionable material supplied by Oak Ridge and Hanford.
Los Alamos became the most mysterious of all the Manhattan Project installations. A wire fence surrounded the town, patrolled by armed guards on horseback. A pass was necessary to enter or leave, and Army security examined all packages and mail. The town lacked even an address. All deliveries went to “Box 1663, Sandoval County, Rural.” Many hotel staff workers and waitresses in nearby Santa Fe and Albuquerque were really U.S. Army Intelligence people in disguise. Several of the more important scientists went by false names (Fermi was “Mr. Farmer”), and a number of them had full-time bodyguards. All scientists wearing white badges met every Tuesday for a no-holds-barred discussion of the project, but others in Los Alamos knew very little. Laura Fermi, Enrico’s wife, admitted that until the bomb was dropped at Hiroshima, she did not know the purpose of Site Y.
Life moved at a feverish pitch in wartime Los Alamos. The scientists worked 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week, in a desperate effort to outthink the enemy. Because the scientists at Los Alamos had made such rapid strides toward creating a bomb, they were certain the Germans were moving with equal speed to create theirs. Eventually, the Los Alamos scientists devised a relatively simple bomb design for the U235 weapon, nicknamed Little Boy. The design resembled a gun and was known as a gun assembly system. This bomb fired one subcritical piece of U235, in which there was not enough matter to cause a chain reaction, into another subcritical piece of U235. When the two subcritical pieces met, there was enough mass—known as critical mass—for a chain reaction to occur. This became the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Research discovered, however, that the “gun method” would not work with plutonium. The two subcritical pieces detonated too quickly. Physicist Seth Neddermeyer and mathematician John von Neumann devised an alternative method that they called implosion. In this extremely complex arrangement, the scientists surrounded a grapefruit-sized sphere of plutonium with ordinary explosives, shaped into “lenses.” When the lenses detonated, the blast “squeezed,” or imploded, the plutonium to the size of a walnut, which then obtained the critical mass necessary to explode with atomic force. Scientists termed this weapon Fat Man—a reference to Winston Churchill. The implosion bomb proved so complex that the Los Alamos scientists insisted on a test before dropping it in a combat situation.
After careful consideration, the scientists chose a section of the Alamogordo Bombing Range, in the central part of New Mexico, as the test site. In a frenzy of activity, workers created the world’s largest outdoor laboratory at a spot Oppenheimer named Trinity Site. In addition to numerous buildings, they erected a 30-m (100-ft) steel tower at “ground zero” (the place where the bomb would explode), hoisted the bomb (called “the gadget”) to a platform on the top, and scheduled the test for the early morning of July 16, 1945.
At first the weather refused to cooperate. A fierce summer storm blew in from the south to drench Trinity Site with torrential rain during the night. The scientists hoped to avoid rain at all costs, fearing a downpour might wash the radioactivity out of the bomb’s exploding cloud in deadly doses. The wisdom of the day suggested that without rain, a prevailing wind would spread a small dose of radiation over a large area, causing little permanent harm to anyone. Groves consulted with the head meteorologist who predicted the storm would end by dawn, and so the test, originally scheduled for 4 AM, was rescheduled for 5:30 AM.
C The First Atomic Explosion
It is hard to imagine a more dramatic scene than the predawn hours at Trinity Site on July 16. If the gadget exploded in the relatively low range of 3,000 tons of TNT, it would be only slightly more powerful than a standard “blockbuster” weapon, hardly worth the enormous expense and effort. If the bomb were a “dud,” the Manhattan Project would rank as the most costly industrial failure of all time. On the other hand, some scientists speculated that if the blast exceeded expectations, it could conceivably ignite Earth’s atmosphere and end all life as we know it.
At the local time of 5:29:45 AM, July 16, 1945, the atomic age began at Trinity Site. The blast vaporized the steel tower, tore huge chunks out of the earth, and shattered windows 200 km (125 mi) away. A gigantic multicolored mushroom cloud rose to an altitude of 12,000 m (40,000 ft) within minutes and began to drift slowly to the northeast. Where the ball of fire touched the earth, it fused the sand into a radioactive greenish-gray glass—later named Trinitite—that resembled “a sea of green.” All living things within the radius of a kilometer—birds, plants, snakes, lizards, rodents—were instantly incinerated. Wild antelope ran terrified in all directions. The yield was estimated at around 20,000 tons of TNT.
Since the blast was visible in three states—indeed, it could have been seen from the Moon—one might expect that news about it would dominate the headlines. But U.S. Army security had instructed all regional newspapers to print only the “official” version of the events, which was that an ammunition dump had exploded accidentally.
At first the scientists who observed the blast were overjoyed. They had cracked the secret of atomic weapons. Germany had surrendered on May 7, 1945, and the war against Japan would soon be over. No nation could withstand the power of such a weapon.
But within moments, several scientists began to have second thoughts. Fermi became temporarily ill from the stress and worry. Oppenheimer at first remarked that his confidence in the human mind had been restored, but later, quoting from the epic Hindu poem, the Bhagavad-Gita, he solemnly observed, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” James Tuck of the British Mission summed up the thoughts of many who watched the cloud roil the summer sky: “What have we done?”
The news of the success at Trinity was immediately cabled to officials in Washington, D.C., who sent it on to President Harry S. Truman. Truman was in Germany meeting with Soviet and British leaders at the Potsdam Conference to discuss the best way to end the war with Japan. Truman read the report with delight, but he did not immediately inform the Soviets, who had been excluded from the Manhattan Project. Instead, he later casually mentioned to Soviet premier Joseph Stalin that the United States had developed a powerful new weapon. Stalin, just as casually, according to Truman’s memoirs, said he hoped it would be put to good use against the Japanese. Although Soviet spies had gathered some information on the Manhattan Project, scholars are still debating how much Stalin actually knew when Truman first told him about the Trinity Site explosion.
IV THE USE OF ATOMIC BOMBS
In early June 1945, a blue-ribbon committee had gathered in Washington, D.C., to decide how the bomb should be used. The committee debated dropping it on an unoccupied island in Tokyo Bay as a way of demonstrating to Japan how powerful the weapon was, but that view was rejected. Officials feared that Japan might put American prisoners of war on the island. In a worst-case scenario, some officials suggested that the bomb might not explode at all and somehow the enemy would redrop it on America. Placing an emphasis on the “shock value” of the bomb, the committee decided on an unannounced drop on one or more of four Japanese targets: Kokura, Hiroshima, Niigata, and Kyōto. Secretary of War Henry Stimson vetoed Kyōto because of its role as a revered Japanese cultural center, and Nagasaki replaced it on the list. In the meantime, another committee headed by Met Lab physicist James Franck strongly urged an announced drop on an uninhabited Japanese island. This committee argued that a surprise atomic bomb would almost certainly create a postwar nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union. But this view received little hearing.
From Germany, the Allies issued the Potsdam Declaration, which did not mention the atomic bomb but threatened Japan with “complete and utter destruction” if it did not immediately surrender without any conditions. The Allies delivered the Potsdam Declaration through official channels and also dropped millions of leaflets over Japan’s four main islands. The official Japanese response was interpreted as “ambiguous.”
On August 6, 1945, a specially prepared B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, piloted by Colonel Paul Tibbets, left the island of Tinian for the primary target of Hiroshima. At 8:15 AM the plane dropped the 4,400 kg (9,700 lb) Little Boy uranium bomb that detonated 580 m (1,900 ft) above the city. The blast, which equaled approximately 15,000 tons of TNT, destroyed virtually everything within a 13-sq-km (5-sq-mi) area. It killed about 70,000 people instantly, severely injuring another 70,000 more. By 1950 the death toll had climbed to around 200,000 because of widespread radiation illness. A new era in world history had begun.
Shortly afterwards, President Truman announced to the world that a new atomic weapon had been dropped on Hiroshima. He warned that unless Japan surrendered, more would follow. The Japanese cabinet fiercely debated the issue but could come to no agreement. On August 7 and 8, U.S. aircraft continued to drop thousands of conventional bombs on Japan. On August 9, a second specially prepared B-29 named Bock’s Car left the island of Tinian carrying the Fat Man plutonium bomb. The primary target was a weapons arsenal at Kokura, but pilot Charles Sweeney found the city covered with clouds. (Groves had insisted that the skies be clear before any drop.) After making three passes over Kokura, Sweeney headed to Nagasaki, where the cloud cover suddenly broke, and he released the bomb, which detonated about 520 m (about 1,700 ft) over the city. About 40,000 Japanese were killed instantly and another 40,000 severely injured. Eventually, the death toll climbed to about 140,000. (See the Sidebar, “Effects of the Atomic Bombs.”)
This proved to be the last atomic bomb used in combat. President Truman halted the shipping of a third atomic weapon, a plutonium bomb that was the only remaining atomic bomb in the U.S. arsenal. After negotiating a compromise that allowed Japan to retain its emperor, Japan surrendered on August 14, 1945. The final documents were signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri on September 2. Although the atomic bombs did not exactly win the war with Japan, they clearly brought it to an abrupt end.
Almost immediately, people began to debate the necessity and morality of dropping the atomic weapons. The anniversaries of the bombings raise the question anew every year. There is no agreement. Some, such as Truman, have argued that, horrible as they were, the atomic bombs actually saved lives—both Japanese and Allied—because they allowed Japan to surrender with honor. Allied troops did not have to invade the home islands of Japan, with a projected loss of life estimated in the millions. Others, such as Otto Frisch, reluctantly agreed with the decision to bomb Hiroshima but termed the Nagasaki bombing as “unnecessary.” Still others have said that the atomic bombs were not needed at all. Japan was ready to surrender, and a test drop on an uninhabited island would have given them the ideal opportunity to do so. Argument over these issues is not likely to end. (See the Sidebar “Was It Necessary to Bomb Hiroshima?”)
V THE LEGACY OF THE MANHATTAN PROJECT
The Manhattan Project shaped the future of the world in ways that no one could have imagined. It led to an arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, helped create a culture of secrecy and fear—especially in the United States and the Soviet Union—and resulted in the spread of nuclear weapons, the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and the ongoing problem of how to store radioactive nuclear waste. The world will undoubtedly be dealing with these legacies for a long time to come.
A Nuclear Arms Race
In 1946 an American committee proposed the creation of an international authority to control “all phases of the development and use of atomic energy.” Many scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project helped formulate this plan, which was presented to the newly created United Nations (UN) by American financier and economist Bernard Baruch. Baruch warned of the dangers of nations competing to produce weapons of mass destruction. But the Soviet Union—deeply involved in building its own atomic bomb—refused to cooperate. In 1949 the Soviets detonated their first atomic weapon—virtually identical to the Trinity Site bomb—and the arms race was on. (See the Sidebar “The Baruch Plan.”)
In the early 1950s as relations between the West and the Soviet Union deteriorated into what was called the Cold War, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States also developed thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs, whose explosive power was more than 50 times greater than a standard atomic bomb. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States dared attack one another for fear of instant retaliation, a situation that was known as mutually assured destruction (MAD). This tense atmosphere evaporated with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. United States-Russian relations became much more friendly, and the Cold War was declared officially at an end. Nevertheless, the arms race produced so many nuclear weapons that many scientists still fear that any use of the stockpiles could end human civilization as we know it. See also Nuclear Weapons.
B A Culture of Secrecy and Fear
The secrecy that surrounded the Manhattan Project continued with the start of the Cold War. In 1945 the Allies discovered that the Soviet Union had extensively spied on the project. In late 1949 the British arrested physicist Klaus Fuchs, who had spent time in Los Alamos as part of the British mission. Fuchs eventually confessed to handing over secret data to the Soviets on several occasions, including an exact description of the Trinity Site bomb, as well as early research on the hydrogen bomb. Since Fuchs was then a naturalized British citizen, he was tried in Britain for espionage and in 1950 sentenced to 14 years in prison. Fear that he had assisted a Soviet H-bomb program helped push America to make the political decision to develop hydrogen weapons.
The 1950s also produced two other nuclear-related trials. The first involved Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, had worked as a machinist at Los Alamos and had passed crude drawings of atomic bombs to Julius, who gave them to a Soviet courier. When the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) helped crack the Fuchs case, they discovered the Rosenberg/Greenglass espionage, and after a controversial trial, the Rosenbergs were executed in 1953. Later disclosures, following the demise of the Soviet Union, revealed that only Julius Rosenberg had met with the Soviet courier. Opinion remains divided today over whether the Rosenbergs received a fair trial in the anti-Communist witch-hunt hysteria of the time and whether the death penalty was merited, considering that it is rarely invoked in espionage cases in Western countries and considering the questionable usefulness of the information passed to the Soviets. Also debated is the question of whether the prosecution had charged Ethel, despite scant evidence against her, merely in an attempt to gain a confession from Julius.
Shortly after the execution of the Rosenbergs, Oppenheimer faced a trial of his own when he was brought before a board of inquiry of the Atomic Energy Commission to explain his early radical political past and to justify his opposition to America’s development of the hydrogen bomb. Oppenheimer’s left-wing political links had been no secret. Groves knew of them in 1943 but appointed Oppenheimer director of Los Alamos anyway. Yet by the 1950s the fear engendered by the anti-Communist hysteria of the time had made it seem that anyone with left-wing views was a security risk. The board of inquiry voted to remove Oppenheimer’s security clearance, in effect barring him from any further work on atomic-related programs. Given his contribution to the Manhattan Project, Oppenheimer felt hurt and betrayed. The nation’s scientific community split down the middle on the justice of this decision, and the hard feelings did not fade for a generation.
C Nuclear Proliferation
Once the Manhattan Project demonstrated that an atomic bomb could be built, it was only a matter of time before other nations acquired nuclear weapons. The secrets of the physical world lie open to all trained observers, and any country with the scientific knowledge and a sufficient industrial base can manufacture its own nuclear bombs. The United States and the Soviet Union were the first to develop nuclear weapons, followed by Britain, France, and China. In 1968 the five nuclear powers signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, under which they agreed to pursue disarmament and to deny nuclear weapons technology or assistance to any nonnuclear state.
By 1995, 165 nonnuclear states had ratified the treaty. India, Israel, and Pakistan did not adopt the treaty, and today those three countries have nuclear weapons. South Africa began to develop nuclear weapons, but scrapped its program and agreed to the treaty in 1991. Following the Persian Gulf War, UN weapons inspectors discovered that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program but had not yet developed a bomb. In 2003 North Korea withdrew from the treaty and announced that it had secretly developed atomic bombs. As a result, by 2003 nine countries—Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States—were known or were believed to possess nuclear weapons. Today the governments of many nations are also concerned about the possibility that nuclear bombs or the fissile material needed to make a Hiroshima-type nuclear bomb could fall into the hands of terrorists. See also Arms Control; Terrorism.
D Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Purposes
A fourth legacy of the Manhattan Project may be seen in the emergence of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In 1953 U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower told the UN that America would share its atomic expertise with poorer countries in the Plowshare, or Atoms for Peace, program. This short-lived endeavor helped spread peaceful nuclear technology around the world, but it never achieved the hoped-for goal of providing “electricity too cheap to measure.” Nevertheless, by 2003 the United States had more than 100 nuclear power plants in operation, and there were 438 commercial nuclear generating units worldwide. Widely publicized nuclear power plant accidents, such as the one at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1979 and Chernobyl’ in Ukraine in 1986, have somewhat dampened the hopes of nuclear energy advocates. The realm of nuclear medicine remains the chief area where scientists’ dreams for the peaceful uses of the atom are still alive and well. See also Nuclear Energy.
E Storing Nuclear Waste
The fifth and last Manhattan Project legacy revolves around the dilemmas of storing nuclear waste and cleaning up polluted nuclear facilities. Plutonium remains radioactive for a long time. It has a half-life of 24,000 years, which means that only half of its radiation will disappear after 24,000 years. Once plutonium is created, it will exist virtually forever. Finding a way to safely store spent fuel rods and other nuclear waste that remains radioactive and therefore biologically harmful continues to tax the nation’s best scientific minds. Thus, the echoes of the Manhattan Project are likely to be heard as long as there are people around to hear them. It is quite a legacy.
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Einstein's Letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt
Einstein's Letter to FDR(Franklin D. Roosevelt)
Einstein was one of several concerned physicists who collaborated on this letter to President Roosevelt, informing him of the possibility of an unimaginably powerful and dangerous new weapon: the atomic bomb. In the first dark days of World War II, these physicists believed that the Germans were already at work on an atomic bomb, using the results of French and American research. Einstein's letter undoubtedly helped to convince President Roosevelt that the United States had to develop its own atomic weapons program quickly.
Einstein's Letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt
• Albert Einstein
• Old Grove Rd.
• Nassau Point
• Peconic, Long Island
August 2nd, 1939
• F.D. Roosevelt,
• President of the United States,
• White House
• Washington, D.C.
Some recent work by E.Fermi and L. Szilard, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable—through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America—that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable—though much less certain—that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.
The United States has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities. There is some good ore in Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, while the most important source of uranium is Belgian Congo.
In view of this situation you may think it desirable to have some permanent contact maintained between the Administration and the group of physicists working on chain reactions in America. One possible way of achieving this might be for you to entrust with this task a person who has your confidence and who could perhaps serve in an inofficial capacity. His task might comprise the following:
a) to approach Government Departments, keep them informed of the further development, and put forward recommendations for Government action, giving particular attention to the problem of securing a supply of uranium ore for the United States;
b) to speed up the experimental work, which is at present being carried on within the limits of the budgets of University laboratories, by providing funds, if such funds be required, through his contacts with private persons who are willing to make contributions for this cause, and perhaps also by obtaining the co-operation of industrial laboratories which have the necessary equipment.
I understand that Germany has actually stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines which she has taken over. That she should have taken such early action might perhaps be understood on the ground that the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, von Weizsäcker, is attached to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium is now being repeated.
Yours very truly,
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International Arms Control
International Arms Control WW-I WW-II
Arms Control, attempts through treaties, proclamations, convention, and tacit agreement to limit the destructiveness of war by controlling the acquisition and use of weapons and military technology.
Historically, war appears to be an integral part of human affairs. In 3,000 years of recorded history, most historians believe that not a single year has been free of armed conflict. Yet people have always recognized the folly, waste, and inhumanity of warfare and have continually attempted to limit its devastation and the spread of increasingly destructive weapons.
One of the earliest formal attempts to limit the scope of war was organized by the Amphictyonic League, a quasi-religious alliance of most of the Greek tribes, formed before the 7th century BC. League members were pledged to restrain their actions in war against other members. For example, they were barred from cutting a besieged city's water supply. The league was empowered to impose sanctions on violating members, including fines and punitive expeditions, and could require its members to provide troops and funds for this purpose.
A The Middle Ages
Because arms technology remained nearly static from the 3rd century BC to the Middle Ages, few attempts were made to control the spread of new weapons. In feudal societies, such as those of medieval Europe or Japan, laws and customs developed to keep weapons a monopoly of the military classes and to suppress arms that might democratize warfare. These customs tended to disappear as soon as some power saw a decisive advantage in the use of a new weapon.
In medieval Europe the Roman Catholic Church attempted to use its power as a supranational organization to limit both new weapons and the intensity of warfare. The Peace of God, instituted in 990, protected church-owned property, defenseless noncombatants, and the agrarian base of the economy from the ravages of war. In 1139 the Second Lateran Council prohibited the use of the crossbow against Christians, although not against those the church considered infidels (see Truce of God).
B Early Modern Period
Firearms widened the scope of war and increased the potential for violence, culminating in the devastation of central Europe in the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). Widespread revulsion against the horrors of that conflict led to attempts in many countries to lessen the brutality of warfare by limiting combat to recognized armed forces, by formulating conventions for the humane treatment of prisoners and wounded, and by organizing logistics to end supply by pillage. These rules prevailed throughout the 18th century, making war a relatively limited and civilized “game of kings.” Many utopian plans for the total abolition of war were also formulated during this period by men such as French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau and Charles Castel, Abbé de Saint Pierre. Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, commented that all these plans needed to succeed was the cooperation of all the kings of Europe.
The rise of mass armies during the American Revolution (1775-1783) and Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) again enlarged the size and devastation of war; yet throughout that period no attempts were made to reduce or limit national arsenals other than those imposed by the victors upon the defeated. The one exception was the Rush-Bagot Treaty (1817), under which Britain and the United States reduced, equalized, and eventually eliminated their naval forces on the Great Lakes.
C The Hague Conferences
In the 19th century the manufacturing capabilities created by the Industrial Revolution were applied to the production of war matériel. Technological innovation led to the development of rifled artillery, breech-loading rifles, machine guns, and other weapons that revolutionized warfare. The resources of entire nations could now be turned to war, making possible conflicts of unprecedented scale and destructiveness. Although many government leaders saw the arms buildup in Europe as potentially disastrous, nothing was done to reduce armaments until the First Hague Disarmament Conference of 1899.
The First Hague Conference was convened at the initiative of Nicholas II of Russia to control arms development and improve the conditions of warfare. Twenty-six nations attended the conference, which codified the laws and customs of land warfare, defined the status of belligerents, and drafted regulations on the treatment of prisoners, the wounded, and neutrals. It also banned aerial bombardment (by balloons), dumdum (expansion) bullets, and the use of poison gas. Most important, it established the Permanent Court of Arbitration to arbitrate international disputes (although this court had no enforcement powers).
The Second Hague Disarmament Conference of 1907 was marked more by discord than discourse, a sign of the deteriorating world situation. It did further the cause of mediation and arbitration of disputes by establishing additional courts to arbitrate cases involving ships' cargoes seized during war and resolution of international debts. A Third Hague Conference was scheduled for 1915. Ironically, World War I (1914-1918) caused its abandonment. See also Hague Conferences.
III MODERN INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS
After the carnage of World War I, the international climate was more receptive to the idea of arms control. During the years between the two world wars, many formal arms-control conferences were held and many treaties were drawn up.
The Covenant of the League of Nations established criteria for reducing world armaments. The league's Council was to establish reasonable limits on the military forces of each country and submit them for consideration to the member governments. Members of the league were also called upon to limit the private manufacture of arms and munitions and to exchange information on the size and status of their military establishments and arms industries. The league's lack of enforcement capability, however, made compliance strictly voluntary.
A Washington Conference
From 1921 to 1922 the Washington Naval Conference was held to establish stable relationships among the naval forces of the various powers. Three treaties were enacted at the conference: the Four-Power Treaty, the Five-Power Treaty, and the Nine-Power Treaty. By the terms of the first, France, Britain, Japan, and the United States agreed to respect the status quo in the fortification of Pacific possessions and promised consultation in the event of a dispute. An associated agreement was signed with The Netherlands regarding the Netherlands Indies (now Indonesia).
The second treaty focused on arms limitations. A 5-5-3-1.75-1.75 ratio was established between United States, British, Japanese, French, and Italian battleships. That is, for every 5 United States and British battleships, Japan was allowed 3 and France and Italy were allowed 1.75. Maximum total tonnage was limited, as well as specification of a maximum single-ship tonnage of 35,000 tons. A ten-year moratorium on battleship building (except to fill out the treaty) and a limit on size and armament were also included. The third treaty was an attempt to accommodate the signatories' interests in China.
B Geneva Conference and the Kellogg-Briand Pact
In 1925 a convention in Geneva, Switzerland, banned the use of toxic gas in warfare. By the time World War II began in 1939, most of the Great Powers, except Japan and the United States, were signatories. (Japan signed it in 1970 and the United States in 1974.) This accord has been observed by most of the signatories, although Italy used gas in Ethiopia in 1936.
In 1928 the Kellogg-Briand Pact, initiated by France and the United States, was signed by 63 nations. The pact renounced war as an instrument of foreign policy. It made no provisions, however, for enforcing compliance, and many nations only signed it with sweeping qualifications. It had no effect on international affairs.
C The Fate of Disarmament in the 1930s
In 1930 a naval conference was held in London to amend the Washington Conference treaties. Its most important effect was to change the U.S.-Japanese battleship ratio to 5-3.5. It also extended the battleship moratorium through 1936.
In 1932, after nearly ten years of preliminary discussions, a World Disarmament Conference was held in Geneva under the auspices of the League of Nations. The keystone of the conference was the so-called Hoover Plan, which consisted of proposals put forth by the United States based on the concept of qualitative disarmament—that is, the progressive elimination of offensive weapons. The result was to have been an increasingly unfavorable ratio between offensive and defensive power. Qualifications imposed by many of the major nations, however, diluted the Hoover Plan until little remained but a statement of principles.
A final naval conference was held in London in 1936. There the United States and Britain reaffirmed the naval limitation treaties, with an acceleration clause (that is, one providing for proportional increase in the U.S.-to-British ratio) to counteract any German or Japanese violations. The Japanese, increasingly militaristic and fearful of American and British superiority, withdrew from further negotiations. This was the last major arms-control conference before World War II (1939-1945).
IV CONTROL OF THE MEANS FOR MASS DESTRUCTION
After World War II ended in 1945, considerable support again developed for arms control and for alternatives to military conflict in international relations. The United Nations (UN) Charter was designed to permit a supranational agency to enforce peace, avoiding many of the weaknesses of the League of Nations covenant. Thus, Article 11 of the charter stated that the General Assembly could consider the general principle of disarmament and the regulation of armaments. Article 26 required the Security Council to submit plans for a system of armament regulation. Article 47 established a military staff committee to assist the Security Council in this task.
A Atomic Arms Race
The development of the atomic bomb by the United States toward the end of World War II brought with it the capability of devastating whole civilizations (see Nuclear Weapons). While the United States still maintained a monopoly on nuclear weapons, it made overtures in the UN for the control and elimination of atomic energy for military purposes. In June 1946, American representative Bernard Baruch presented a plan to the UN Atomic Energy Commission, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, international control over the processing of nuclear materials, full sharing of all scientific and technological information concerning atomic energy, and safeguards to ensure that atomic energy would be used only for civilian purposes. The government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) vetoed the Baruch Plan in the Security Council, objecting to the UN's authority over disarmament and citing the domination of that body by the United States and Western Europe.
In 1949 the USSR exploded an atomic weapon of its own, ending the U.S. monopoly. The possibility of a nuclear war was now present, because relations between the USSR and the West were tense (see Cold War). Both the United States and the USSR were engaged in a race to develop thermonuclear (hydrogen) devices, which have many times the destructive power of atomic bombs. These weapons raised the possibility of ending all life on earth in all-out war. After 1954, when the USSR exploded its first hydrogen bomb, the primary concern of arms control was to reduce nuclear arsenals and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology.
B Agreements Limiting Nuclear Weapons
In 1957 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established to oversee the development and spread of nuclear technology and materials. Two years later a treaty was negotiated to demilitarize the Antarctic and to prohibit the detonation or storage of nuclear weapons there. Both the United States and the USSR were among the signatories.
In 1961 the UN General Assembly passed the Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations. It was followed in 1963 by a treaty that bound the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union not to test nuclear weapons in space, in the atmosphere, or under water. In 1967 another treaty between the same nations limited the military use of outer space to reconnaissance only. The deployment of nuclear weapons in orbit was expressly prohibited. A second treaty in 1967 banned nuclear weapons from Latin America.
One of the most important agreements on arms control was the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968. Signatories pledged to restrict the development, deployment, and testing of nuclear weapons to ensure that weapons, materials, or technology would not be transferred outside the five countries that had nuclear weapons (Great Britain, France, China, the United States, and the USSR). In 1995 more than 170 countries agreed to permanently extend the treaty.
In the late 1960s the United States and the USSR initiated negotiations to regulate strategic weapon arsenals. These negotiations became known as the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks. The SALT I negotiations produced two important agreements in 1972: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty), which drastically limited the establishment of defensive installations designed to shoot down ballistic missiles, and the Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. That same year the two superpowers also signed a treaty barring the testing of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor. The SALT II negotiations, which began in 1972, produced another treaty in 1979 that would limit the total number of U.S. and USSR missile launchers. After the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1979, relations between the United States and the USSR rapidly deteriorated, and the U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty.
During the early 1980s controversy surrounded the placement by the United States of ballistic missiles on the territory of some of its Western European allies. Opposition to this within West Germany (which became part of the united Federal Republic of Germany in 1990) played a part in unseating Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1982. In 1983 U.S. antinuclear groups rallied to support a bilateral arms freeze, and U.S. Roman Catholic bishops approved a pastoral letter with a similar aim.
Controversy also surrounded the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. This research program for developing a defense against ballistic missiles appeared likely to undermine the ABM Treaty and challenged the assumptions of nuclear strategy since the beginning of the arms race. Since the late 1940s both deployment of nuclear arms by the superpowers and restrictions upon their use had been founded upon a theory of deterrence. According to this theory, the mutual likelihood of destruction in the event of a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the USSR preserved a delicate balance between the two superpowers. Stable relations between the nations required that they possess a roughly equal capacity to harm each other. Critics of SDI believed that efforts to construct a defense against nuclear weapons would destroy that balance and remove the conditions that prevented nuclear weapons from being used.
Despite these concerns, U.S.-Soviet arms negotiations resumed in 1985. At a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., in December 1987, President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), which eliminated many nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles that had been deployed throughout Europe and the western Soviet Union. The treaty called for the destruction of all U.S. and Soviet missiles with ranges of about 500 to 5,500 km (about 300 to 3,400 mi) and established a 13-year program to verify compliance. The INF treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate and the Soviet Presidium in May 1988.
C Non-nuclear Weapons Agreements
Agreements to restrict or eliminate the production and use of biological and chemical weapons date back to the Geneva Convention of 1925. In 1972 the United States, the USSR, and most other nations signed a convention prohibiting development, production, and stockpiling of biological and chemical weapons. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iranian soldiers and civilians during the Iran-Iraq War, and in subsequent attacks on its own Kurdish population, prompted renewed international efforts to ban the use of such weapons. In 1993 representatives from 160 nations approved the Chemical Weapons Convention. This agreement banned production, use, sale, and storage of all chemical weapons. It also mandated destruction of existing stocks of weapons by the year 2005. The United States ratified this convention in 1997, despite concerns about the proliferation of chemical weapons among nations such as Libya, Syria, Iraq, and North Korea that were not signatories to the agreement.
Conventional weapons such as booby traps and land mines also possess enormous destructive capacity. Land mines are especially troubling because they retain their destructive power for indefinite periods of time. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that nearly 2 million land mines around the world kill or maim nearly 15,000 civilians every year. Global sentiment against land mines led 125 countries to sign a treaty banning the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of the weapons. The effectiveness of the ban was called into question, however, by the refusal of major powers such as the United States, Russia, Turkey, and China to sign the agreement.
V COLD WAR AFTERMATH
As the 1990s began, the United States and the USSR continued to negotiate arms-control accords. In May 1990 Gorbachev and U.S. president George Bush approved a treaty to end production and reduce stockpiles of chemical weapons. In 1991 the United States and the USSR signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), requiring both nations to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals by about 25 percent. Both sides also moved to reduce conventional weapons and to continue phased withdrawal of their forces from Europe.
The collapse of the USSR in late 1991 raised complex new problems. The location of strategic nuclear weapons at multiple sites in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus raised concerns about the safety and security of these weapons. The U.S. Congress appropriated $1.5 billion to help these former Soviet states dismantle nuclear weapons and develop safe storage of weapons-grade nuclear materials. In 1992 these countries and the United States agreed to abide by the terms of the 1991 START I agreement.
In 1993 President Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin signed the START II treaty. This treaty called for the elimination of almost two-thirds of the nuclear warheads and all the multiple-warhead land-based missiles held by the United States and the former Soviet republics. In January 1996 the U.S. Senate ratified the START II treaty, but the Russian parliament never approved the accord. The START II treaty never went into effect, and in 2002 it was replaced by a new strategic arms reduction agreement known as the Treaty of Moscow.
In September 1996 leaders of the five major nuclear powers—the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain—and dozens of other countries signed the landmark Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which banned most types of nuclear weapons testing. In order to take effect, however, the treaty must be formally approved, or ratified, by all nations believed to be capable of producing nuclear arms. In 1999 the U.S. Senate rejected the treaty by a vote of 51 to 48. China, Israel, Pakistan, and India are among other known nuclear powers that have not ratified the treaty.
The Senate’s failure to ratify the treaty drew criticism from many U.S. allies, including Britain, Germany, and France. Senate opponents of the treaty argued that it was unenforceable, and they raised concerns that the treaty left open the possibility that rogue powers, such as Iraq or North Korea, could stockpile nuclear weapons, while at the same time it blocked the United States from upgrading its nuclear arsenal.
The Senate’s failure to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty came on the heels of another setback. In mid-1998 India conducted a series of underground tests of nuclear weapons. About two weeks later, India’s archrival, Pakistan, detonated its own nuclear devices to demonstrate that it also possessed the powerful weapons. Both nations were internationally condemned for the tests. The United States, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and individual nations imposed economic sanctions on India and Pakistan in retaliation. Roughly a year later India tested a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to any target within Pakistan, and days later Pakistan responded by testing a missile with similar capabilities. In 2002 tensions between the two nations over the disputed territory of Kashmīr raised fears of a nuclear war.
Meanwhile, the United States under the administration of President Bill Clinton reached an important arms control arrangement with North Korea in 1994. Although relations between the United States and North Korea remained tense, under the arrangement North Korea agreed to freeze all work on the infrastructure of reactors and reprocessing plants needed to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. In exchange, Japan, South Korea, and the United States agreed to provide fuel oil and other economic aid to North Korea.
In 2002, however, this arrangement began to unravel. United States intelligence agencies discovered that while being paid not to produce plutonium, North Korea was at work to enrich uranium, the other way of obtaining nuclear weapons. That triggered North Korea's inclusion in the “axis of evil” cited by U.S. president George W. Bush in his State of the Union speech in January 2002. In October 2002 North Korea openly told U.S. officials that it had a covert program to develop nuclear weapons with enriched uranium. The United States responded by halting supplies of fuel oil. In January 2003 North Korea expelled United Nations (UN) monitors and withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
In April 2003 North Korea told U.S. officials that it possessed nuclear weapons, and in October 2003 North Korean officials said they were extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods to produce nuclear weapons. In November 2003 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency repeated its belief that North Korea possesses at least one and possibly two nuclear bombs. However, other former and current U.S. intelligence officials said they were skeptical that North Korea had the technological know-how to produce nuclear weapons. In February 2004 North Korea entered talks with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States to discuss an agreement that would end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. As of early 2004 the talks were inconclusive.
VI OUTLOOK FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
As the world entered the 21st century, both progress and setbacks occurred in arms control. In 2001 the administration of U.S. president George W. Bush announced that it would unilaterally withdraw from the ABM Treaty, laying the groundwork for the deployment of defenses against long-range ballistic missiles. For the first time the U.S. government also announced a policy that under extreme circumstances it would consider using nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear state that employed biological or chemical weapons. The Bush administration, however, also pursued an arms reduction agreement with the Russian Federation, and the two nations signed a treaty in 2002 to deactivate about 75 percent of their strategic nuclear arsenals.
Under the 2002 agreement, both nations were to reduce their active inventories of strategic nuclear warheads from about 6,000 each to about 2,200 warheads each by the year 2012. The agreement, known as the Treaty of Moscow, required ratification by both the U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma (parliament) before it could go into effect. Once ratified the new treaty was to replace the previous START II treaty.
Observers noted that the new treaty contained a number of escape clauses. Either side could withdraw from the treaty with only three months’ notice, and the reductions did not have to take effect until 2012, the same year the treaty expires. The treaty also enabled both nations to place the deactivated warheads in storage or to set them aside as “operational spares” that could be quickly reactivated. Critics of the agreement argued that the deactivated warheads should be destroyed, rather than stored, because of the danger that terrorists could obtain access to stored weapons, which are presumably less well guarded than those in active service.
A Spread of Nuclear Weapons Technology
In February 2004 Pakistan’s leading nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted that he and other Pakistani scientists shared nuclear weapons technology with several other nations for more than a decade, from 1989 to 2000. The countries were identified as Iran, Libya, and North Korea. In a nationally televised address, Khan apologized for his actions. The next day Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf pardoned Khan, whose ties to Pakistan’s leading nuclear weapons laboratory had been severed in 2001 due to financial irregularities.
The initial evidence against Khan came from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and various Western intelligence agencies, including the United States. The evidence included the discovery of documents detailing designs for nuclear weapons and equipment built to enrich uranium for making nuclear weapons. Iranian and Libyan officials themselves turned over some of the evidence to the IAEA. In addition, the United States seized a ship in August 2003 that was bound for Libya with parts for making specialized gas centrifuges, the hollow metal tubes used to enrich uranium. Khan had assembled a vast network for sharing nuclear weapons technology that included intermediaries in Dubai, Germany, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and The Netherlands. Khan was reportedly motivated by his desire to see other Muslim nations obtain nuclear weapons, both to help the Islamic cause and to deflect attention from Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. He was also reportedly motivated by money and had grown enormously wealthy, despite a modest government salary.
Although the disclosure of Khan’s network added more knowledge about the extent of the secret nuclear weapons programs maintained by Iran and Libya, the IAEA concluded that neither Libya nor Iran were close to building a nuclear weapon. The IAEA did find, however, that Iran’s program was more advanced than Libya’s. Libya in 2004 renounced its program to develop weapons of mass destruction, and Iran agreed to an additional protocol with the IAEA to give its weapons experts greater authority to inspect Iran’s territory and facilities.
B New U.S. Research Program
In late 2003 the United States began funding a research program that could lead to a new type of nuclear weapon known as a mininuke. The mininuke would be the equivalent of 5 kilotons, or 5,000 tons of TNT. By comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, had an explosive power equivalent to 15 kilotons. The purpose of the mininuke is to destroy underground command-and-control bunkers, underground arms depots, and other underground facilities. The research is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon that could penetrate the layers of steel and concrete designed to protect such bunkers without exploding on impact. Some arms control advocates objected to the research, saying it would lead to a new type of nuclear weapon, which would violate the intent of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Edward N. Luttwak
Library of Congress
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42nd president of the United States (1993-2001)
Bill Clinton, born in 1946, 42nd president of the United States (1993-2001), who was one of the most popular American presidents of the 20th century and the second president to be impeached (see Impeachment). Clinton was the first president born after World War II (1939-1945) and the third youngest person to become president, after Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. He was also the first Democrat in 12 years to hold the presidency and the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be elected to two terms.
A moderate Democrat and longtime governor of Arkansas, Clinton promised to change not only the direction the country had taken under the two previous Republican presidents but also the policies of his own Democratic Party. However, Clinton’s presidency was marked by unusually bitter strife with Republicans in Congress. In his second term, Clinton became the second president to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives, after admitting to an improper relationship with a White House intern. The Senate, however, defeated the impeachment articles and did not remove him from office.
During Clinton’s presidency, the country enjoyed the longest period of economic growth in its history. A graceful speaker, Clinton had a remarkable ability to connect with people, which enabled him to bounce back from defeats, scandals, and even impeachment. He left office with the highest voter approval rating of all modern presidents.
II EARLY LIFE
Bill Clinton was born on August 19, 1946, in Hope, Arkansas. His given name was William Jefferson Blythe IV. He never knew his father, William Jefferson Blythe III, a traveling salesman who died in a car accident several months before Bill was born. After Bill became president, he and his mother learned that his father had been married at least three other times and that Bill had a half brother and half sister whom he had never met. Bill took the name William Jefferson Clinton after his mother remarried.
As a small child, Bill lived with his mother, Virginia Cassidy Blythe, and her parents in Hope, Arkansas. When Bill, or Billy, as he was known, was one year old, his mother went to New Orleans, Louisiana, to study to be a nurse-anesthetist, and for the next two years he was reared mainly by his maternal grandparents.
When Bill was four years old, his mother married Roger Clinton, later the owner of a car dealership in Hope. Two years later, the family moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Life at home for Bill and his mother was not always easy. Roger was an alcoholic and a gambler, often losing the family’s money, including Virginia’s earnings as a nurse-anesthetist. He cursed and sometimes beat his wife and verbally abused Bill and Bill’s younger brother, Roger, Jr., who was born in 1956. Bill was especially close to his mother and sometimes stood up to his stepfather to protect her. As a college student, Bill reconciled with his stepfather, who died of cancer in 1967.
Clinton attended a Roman Catholic school for two years in Hot Springs before attending public schools. He was a popular student and maintained top grades. He held several student offices, played the tenor saxophone, and was a member of the all-state band. In 1963, after his junior year in high school, Clinton was elected as one of two delegates from Arkansas to Boys Nation, a government study program for young people sponsored by the American Legion, a veterans organization. There he debated in favor of civil rights legislation and met President John F. Kennedy at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
Clinton graduated from high school in 1964 and enrolled at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in international affairs. He was elected president of his class during his freshman and sophomore years. As a junior and senior he earned money for school expenses by working as an intern for the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which was chaired by Senator J. William Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat. Clinton greatly admired Fulbright, who was a leading critic of United States involvement in the Vietnam War (1959-1975). Clinton was also deeply moved by African Americans’ fight for equality in the 1960s. In April 1968, a few weeks before Clinton graduated, the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., set off rioting in several American cities, including Washington, D.C. Clinton volunteered to work with the Red Cross and took clothing and food to people whose homes had been burned in the riots.
During his senior year, Clinton won a Rhodes Scholarship to the University of Oxford in England, and he spent two years in Oxford’s graduate program after graduating from Georgetown. In 1970 Clinton enrolled at Yale University Law School, where he studied for a law degree. He paid his way with a scholarship and by working two or three jobs at the same time. At Yale he met fellow law student Hillary Diane Rodham, who was from the Chicago area (see Hillary Rodham Clinton). They began dating, and in 1972 Clinton and Rodham worked in Texas for the presidential campaign of Democrat George S. McGovern. Clinton worked as a campaign coordinator for McGovern in Texas and Arkansas, and Rodham helped organize a voter-registration drive for the Democratic National Committee.
Clinton graduated from law school in 1973 and went to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to teach at the University of Arkansas Law School. Rodham worked with a congressional team investigating Watergate, a political scandal that involved members of the administration of President Richard M. Nixon. She joined Clinton on the law school faculty in 1974, and they were married on October 11, 1975. Their daughter, Chelsea Victoria Clinton, was born on February 27, 1980.
III EARLY PUBLIC CAREER
Clinton had worked on a number of political campaigns in the late 1960s, including those of several Arkansas Democratic politicians and a U.S. Senate candidate from Connecticut. In 1974, midway through his first year of teaching at the University of Arkansas, Clinton entered his first political race, campaigning for a seat in the United States House of Representatives. The incumbent Republican congressman, John Paul Hammerschmidt, was a popular candidate and was considered unbeatable. Clinton defeated three candidates for the Democratic Party nomination and ran an energetic campaign against Hammerschmidt. Although Hammerschmidt defeated Clinton with 52 percent of the vote, the election was his closest in 26 years in Congress.
Clinton’s close race with Hammerschmidt earned him statewide attention and helped him during his campaign to be attorney general of Arkansas in 1976. He defeated two Democrats for the nomination and had no Republican opposition. Clinton took public office for the first time in January 1977. As attorney general, he fought rate increases by public utilities and opposed the construction of a large coal-burning power plant. He promoted tougher laws to protect the environment and consumers.
When Arkansas governor David Pryor ran for the U.S. Senate in 1978, Clinton ran for governor. He promised to improve the state’s schools and highways and to improve economic conditions so that more jobs would be created. At that time, the average income of people in Arkansas ranked 49th among the 50 states. Clinton won easily, receiving 60 percent of the vote against four opponents in the Democratic primary election and 63 percent against the Republican candidate, Lynn Lowe, in the general election. When he took office in January 1979 at age 32, he was one of the youngest governors in the nation’s history.
A Governor of Arkansas
A1 First Term
Clinton’s first term as governor included efforts to improve Arkansas’s economy. One of his biggest successes as governor was his highway program, but it was politically costly. Clinton thought good highways were a key to developing the state, and the state’s roads were among the worst in the country. To upgrade the highways, he asked the legislature to pass a package of tax increases. The largest increases were on licensing fees on automobiles and on large trucks that damaged the highways with heavy loads. Clinton was forced to make compromises in his plan because many businesses and the trucking industry opposed his program. The compromise plan passed but was unpopular because it levied more taxes on individual car owners. The plan was also opposed by the trucking and poultry industries because it did not raise the weight limit for trucks on Arkansas highways.
Clinton undertook other legislative initiatives that generated opposition. His criticism of the practice of clear-cutting trees in national forests alienated the lumber and paper-making companies, which were the largest employers in the state. Physicians opposed his efforts to increase health care in poor, rural areas. Bankers disliked Clinton’s proposal to withhold state funds from banks that did not lend enough money for businesses that created jobs in their communities. The state’s largest utility tangled with Clinton over the cost-sharing arrangements for distributing power from nuclear plants in Mississippi.
Another factor affecting the governor was the presence of Cuban refugees in Arkansas. In 1980 Cuba temporarily removed its exit restrictions and permitted about 120,000 people to go to the United States. In May 1980 President Jimmy Carter temporarily housed about 18,000 Cuban refugees at an old United States Army post near Fort Smith, Arkansas. By the end of May, the confined refugees were disgruntled with delays in their resettlement, and some 300 escaped from the fort. On June 1 approximately 1,000 Cuban refugees broke through the gate of the post and were met in the nearby town of Barling by about 500 armed townspeople. State officers subdued the refugees, but the incident proved disastrous for Clinton, who had previously campaigned on his friendship with Carter.
Clinton ran for reelection in 1980 against Frank D. White, a Little Rock businessman who had switched to the Republican Party to run against Clinton. White received support from many of those alienated by Clinton—including the trucking and wood-products industries, the poultry industry, banks, and utilities. In addition, White used television advertisements that showed the Cubans rioting and claimed that they would be released into Arkansas communities and would take jobs away from Arkansas workers. Clinton’s popularity plummeted further, and White won the election with about 52 percent of the vote.
A2 Second Through Fifth Terms
After his defeat, Clinton joined a large corporate law firm in Little Rock. Against the advice of most of his friends and advisers, who urged him to wait before running for office again, Clinton quickly began planning his campaign for the 1982 gubernatorial election. Clinton won the Democratic nomination, although it required a runoff election because of the closeness of the race. In the general election, Clinton faced White, who was running for reelection, and the two candidates swapped bitter charges. White repeated his accusations from the 1980 campaign, and Clinton accused White of unfairly letting utilities raise the rates people paid for electricity and telephone service. Clinton promised he would make it harder for utilities to obtain rate increases. Clinton campaigned for the votes of blacks, and he received more than 95 percent of their votes. Clinton ultimately defeated White with nearly 55 percent of the vote.
Clinton had found lessons in his 1980 defeat about how to govern. He learned to choose his fights carefully, to resist the urge to change everything at once, and to prepare people before proposing major changes. These lessons helped Clinton win reelection in 1984, 1986, and 1990, with the last reelection coming after the gubernatorial term was changed from two years to four years.
At the start of his second term, Clinton decided to spend all his energies trying to improve education, which he thought was the state’s biggest problem. Clinton believed that the state’s poor education system neither prepared children for good jobs nor made Arkansas attractive to industries that offered such jobs. He appointed his wife as the head of a committee charged with proposing higher standards for Arkansas schools. She conducted hearings in each of the state’s 75 counties, and she and her husband made numerous speeches across the state, saying more should be demanded from schools and students.
In the fall of 1983, Clinton called the legislature into a special session to approve many changes in the school system. Clinton won approval of most parts of his sweeping reform program: Taxes were increased to pay teachers more money, offer more courses in the high schools, and provide college scholarships. State money for education was distributed differently to help the poorest schools. Eighth graders were required to pass a test of basic knowledge before going to high school, and all school teachers and administrators had to take a basic-knowledge test to keep their jobs. The Clinton administration also adopted tough new standards proposed by Hillary Clinton’s committee. These standards raised the requirements for graduation from high school and forced high schools to offer more science, mathematics, foreign language, art, and music classes. They also reduced the size of kindergarten and elementary school classes. School districts that did not meet these requirements within three years would be merged into districts that did meet the standards.
The requirement that called for the testing of teachers angered many schoolteachers and generated a national debate. But the program, along with the taxes, proved popular with Arkansas voters. During this time, Arkansas students improved their scores on college-entrance tests. In the early 1980s a high percentage of Arkansas students dropped out of school before graduating, and fewer high school graduates went to college than in any other state. But by 1990, the dropout rate had fallen well below the national average, and the percentage of young people who went to college matched the national average.
Clinton also concentrated on economic development, promoting new businesses and job growth. He introduced an economic package to change banking laws, provide money to start new technology-oriented businesses, arrange loans for people to start new businesses, and reduce the taxes of large Arkansas companies that expanded their production and created new jobs. The legislature approved nearly the entire package. Although the rate at which new jobs were created in Arkansas in the late 1980s was among the highest in the nation, most of these jobs did not pay high wages, and the average family income remained low.
Clinton had difficulty trying to persuade the legislature to raise more taxes to carry out further reforms in education. The business groups he had once angered—the state’s largest electric utility, the wood-products industry, trucking companies, the poultry industry, and other farm groups—combined to block Clinton’s proposed tax hike. They also defeated legislation that would have imposed higher ethical standards on public officials and lobbyists.
After his election to a fifth term in 1990, Clinton was more successful in getting his legislative program enacted. Based on his overall success at the legislative session in 1991, Clinton announced that, despite a campaign promise in 1990 to complete a four-year term, he intended to run for president because he had accomplished his goals for the state more quickly than he had imagined.
Clinton had assumed national leadership roles during his years as governor. In 1985 and 1986 he served as chairman of the Southern Growth Policies Board, a group that planned strategies for economic development in 12 Southern states and Puerto Rico. He became vice chairman of the National Governors Association in 1985 and was the organization’s chairman in 1986 and 1987. As chairman, Clinton became a spokesman for the nation’s governors. In 1988 he led a movement to change the nation’s system of providing welfare to poor people. In 1990 and 1991 Clinton headed the Democratic Leadership Council, a group of moderate Democrats and businesspeople who work to influence national policies.
B The Presidential Campaign of 1992
Clinton had prepared to run for president in 1988, but he backed out at the last minute, saying the campaign and the presidency would be too hard on his family, especially his eight-year-old daughter, Chelsea. He was then asked to give the presidential nomination speech at the Democratic National Convention for Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, who eventually lost the election to Republican George H. W. Bush.
In October 1991 Clinton announced that he would run for president in the 1992 election. Although President Bush was very popular at the time, Clinton thought Bush was vulnerable because the economy had been depressed for much of his presidency. Moreover, Clinton had established nationwide connections from his education crusade and the National Governors Association, and this network enabled him to raise campaign money more easily than other Democratic candidates. In early 1992, Clinton faced five Democratic contenders: former Massachusetts senator Paul Tsongas; former California governor Jerry Brown; Governor L. Douglas Wilder of Virginia; Senator Robert Kerrey of Nebraska; and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.
Clinton’s campaign focused on domestic issues, particularly the economy. He ran as a “New Democrat,” a term coined by the Democratic Leadership Council to describe a new type of moderate Democrat. Clinton believed that the big-government, high-spending policies of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party did not appeal to most voters. He thought that the party should find other ways to solve social and economic problems. For example, he proposed reforming the existing welfare system and finding additional ways to aid the poor, such as a special form of tax credits for low-income families. Clinton also wanted to expand trade with the rest of the world through trade agreements and lower tariffs.
During the campaign, Clinton promised to reform the health-care system, enact a tax cut for the middle class, institute a national service program, reduce the federal budget deficit, and make major investments in the nation’s infrastructure (highways, bridges, airports, libraries, and hospitals). Internationally, he pledged to use American military power to stop the advance of Serbs against Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina (often referred to simply as Bosnia). His campaign encountered some trouble when allegations of Clinton’s marital infidelity surfaced. Clinton also came under attack for not serving in the U.S. military during the Vietnam War (1954-1975) and for protesting the war. However, he was able to overcome these obstacles and win the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention, held in New York City in mid-July. Clinton picked Senator Al Gore of Tennessee as his vice-presidential running mate. Gore’s military service in the Vietnam War made the ticket more appealing to conservative voters.
During the presidential campaign, Clinton ran against the incumbent Bush and Ross Perot, who ran as an independent candidate. Clinton blamed Bush for the downturn in the nation’s economy and accused him of not caring about working people. He promised to reduce the taxes of middle-class families and to follow policies that would improve the economy. Bush said that Clinton would raise taxes if he became president and that Clinton lacked foreign-policy experience. He portrayed Clinton as a traditional big-spending liberal in the guise of a “New Democrat.” But Bush was hurt in the campaign because as president he had signed legislation raising taxes despite promising not to do so during the 1988 campaign.
Clinton won the election with 43 percent of the popular vote compared with 37 percent for Bush and 19 percent for Perot. In the electoral college, in which each state has a certain number of electoral votes depending on the size of its population, Clinton won 370 votes to Bush’s 168. In the congressional elections, the Democrats—who held a majority in both houses of Congress—gained one seat in the Senate, lost nine seats in the House of Representatives, but ultimately maintained their majority in both houses. On January 20, 1993, Clinton was sworn in as president.
IV PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Throughout most of his presidency, Clinton maintained a strong core of support from those who had elected him, principally African Americans, women, and blue-collar workers in the Northeast and Midwest. Among all American presidents, he was one of the most forceful champions of civil rights for minorities and equality for women. He appointed record numbers of minorities and women as federal court judges, Cabinet members, and other government officials.
During his first year in office, Clinton quickly focused on improving the economy. He believed that the key was reducing government spending and the huge deficits that occurred in the federal budget each year because government spending exceeded its revenues. Because the government borrowed money to offset its deficit spending, it reduced the amount of money available for private investment. Therefore businesses could obtain capital only at high rates of interest, which discouraged investment and expansion.
In 1993 Clinton submitted to Congress a budget that reduced federal spending and increased taxes. With every Republican in Congress voting against it, the budget passed in both houses without one vote to spare. Clinton’s budget victory reversed the trend of rising deficits, and it stimulated the economy. However, Clinton’s major policy initiative of his first term—providing health care insurance for all Americans—collapsed after a bitter fight in 1994. This failure, along with the tax increase and budget battles with Republicans, hurt Clinton and the Democrats in the congressional elections of 1994. In those elections the Republicans won a majority in both houses of Congress. It was one of the most dramatic upheavals in Congress in the 20th century.
After the 1994 election, a conservative Republican majority took control of Congress. The new makeup of Congress dramatically changed Clinton’s strategy. Unable to push his own programs, he turned his attention to preventing the Republicans’ conservative agenda from becoming law by vetoing Republican budgets that cut spending on programs he supported. In 1995 the Republican-controlled Congress twice shut down the federal government for short periods because it had not approved a budget.
In his first term, Clinton was able to reach a compromise with the Republicans on one major initiative, welfare reform. Angering many in his own party, he signed a bill in 1996 reforming the old system of welfare payments and instituting a welfare-to-work program.
In 1996 Clinton ran for reelection against Republican senator Robert Dole, the majority leader of the Senate, and Ross Perot, who ran as the candidate of the newly formed Reform Party. During the campaign, Clinton stressed his desire to control the federal budget deficit and to work for campaign-finance reform. At the nominating convention, held in Chicago in August, Clinton announced more plans, including additional funding for environmental programs and tax credits for college tuition. Voters were happy with the robust economy, and Clinton claimed credit for decreased numbers of people on welfare rolls. He also pointed to dwindling crime as a result of legislation he helped pass that included gun-control measures.
In November Clinton defeated Dole with 49 percent of the popular vote, compared with Dole’s 41 percent. Perot was not as successful as he had been in 1992; he won only 8 percent of the vote. Clinton soundly defeated Dole in the electoral college, receiving 379 votes to Dole’s 159. But the election did not alter Clinton’s problems with Congress. While Democrats gained seats in the House of Representatives, they lost more seats in the Senate, and Republicans continued their control of both houses of Congress.
After Clinton’s resounding victory, the Congress was at first less confrontational. In 1997 Clinton and Congress worked out compromises on reductions in taxes paid by most Americans and on spending cuts and other reforms aimed at producing a balanced budget.
From his first months in office until his last day, Clinton’s presidency was plagued by charges of wrongdoing. The longest-running investigation began with Whitewater, a small real-estate project in Arkansas in which Clinton and his wife had invested during the late 1970s. The independent counsel investigating Whitewater learned in 1997 that Clinton had had a sexual affair with a young female intern at the White House. In 1998 the House impeached the president. The House charged him with perjury, for not being truthful before a federal grand jury, and obstruction of justice, for trying to influence the testimony of others. In 1999 the Senate tried Clinton but defeated the articles of impeachment and did not remove him from office.
Although the affair and impeachment sullied Clinton’s presidency, he was able to turn the investigation against the Republicans. Many voters thought the Republicans were being unfair and hypocritical in pressing the investigation and impeachment. Republicans made the president’s conduct a central issue in the congressional elections in the fall of 1998, but voters defeated major critics of the president in the Senate and left the Republicans with a razor-thin margin in the House.
Because the Cold War had ended in the late 1980s, Clinton faced no threat to the nation’s security like those of preceding presidents. Still, he had to make difficult decisions about whether to intervene in bloody conflicts in places such as Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. He twice deployed American military forces to halt fighting between ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia and negotiated peace between the warring factions in Bosnia. Clinton also played a critical role in making both peace and war in the Middle East and in fashioning peace in Northern Ireland.
But Clinton’s real emphasis in foreign policy was on what could be called economic globalism. He believed that the country’s security and prosperity depended upon removing barriers to trade with other nations and upon stabilizing nations with economic troubles. Despite opposition from members of his own party, Clinton pushed two major trade agreements through Congress in his first term: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in 1993, and, the following year, a global trade agreement that created the World Trade Organization.
In the end, Clinton’s most significant achievement as president was eliminating the federal budget deficit. When he left office, the nation was running a surplus instead of a deficit. Clinton claimed the lower interest rates that came from reducing the deficit and the low inflation produced by free trade amounted to a tax cut of hundreds of billions of dollars for Americans. His economic policies helped produce the longest period of sustained economic growth in the nation’s history.
Clinton changed the nation’s politics by moving the Democratic Party more to the center of the political spectrum. At the same time, his tawdry conduct and his tendency to evade the truth cost him the personal respect of the American people, even when they approved of his leadership. In addition, he never fulfilled his campaign promises to overhaul the country’s health-care system and reform campaign-finance laws. While Clinton was considered one of the nation’s most brilliant political leaders, the inexperience he showed in his early presidency and the scandals, investigations, and impeachment kept him from fulfilling his vision for the country.
A Domestic Affairs
In his first term, Clinton appointed more women and minorities to Cabinet positions—the heads of major departments of the federal government—than any previous president. He said he wanted a Cabinet that “looks like America.” The Cabinet appointees included women such as Attorney General Janet Reno, the first woman to hold that office; Secretary of Energy Hazel R. O’Leary; and Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. Other appointees included African Americans such as Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy and Hispanics such as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros. In addition, in his first two years in office, Clinton appointed two new justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. Stephen Breyer replaced Harry Andrew Blackmun, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman on the Supreme Court when she replaced Byron Raymond White. The appointments strengthened the liberal faction on the Supreme Court.
At the beginning of his second term, Clinton reaffirmed his commitment to appointing women to Cabinet positions by nominating Madeleine Albright the first female secretary of state. In addition, he worked to make his Cabinet bipartisan, appointing Republican senator William Cohen secretary of defense. Other second-term Clinton appointees included Secretary of Commerce William Daley, Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Andrew Cuomo, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, and Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson. Herman and Slater were the first African Americans to hold their respective positions.
A2 Economic Policy
A2a Federal Budgets:-
During his first term, Clinton focused on the country’s domestic issues, especially the economy. Before taking office in 1993, he received a report that the federal budget deficit would be $290 billion that year and more in succeeding years, much greater than had been forecast. His economic advisers and Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, persuaded him that reducing the deficit should be the highest priority. Clinton prepared a budget that called for reducing the deficit by $500 billion over five years, about $255 billion by cutting spending and $241 billion by raising taxes. The suggested tax raise would mostly affect very wealthy people.
Republican leaders said the tax increase would wreck the economy, and every Republican in both houses of Congress voted against the budget. In the most critical vote of Clinton’s presidency, Vice President Gore broke a tie to pass the bill in the Senate, 51 to 50. Clinton persuaded enough Democrats in the House to vote for the bill that it was approved without a vote to spare, 218 to 216. Although Clinton was criticized for abandoning his middle-class tax cut, the budget package did expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which aided low-income families by reducing the amount of federal income tax they owed and by offsetting some of their social security payroll taxes. The EITC put $21 billion into the pockets of 15 million low-income families over the next five years. The deficit-reduction package reassured investors in the bond markets, and long-term interest rates began to go down. The budget deficit declined sharply in the years afterward.
Clinton worked out another deficit-reduction package in 1997 aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2002, this time with the help of Republicans in Congress. In the 1998 fiscal year, the treasury experienced a surplus of $70 billion, the first surplus since 1969. The surplus was achieved well ahead of expectations because of strong growth in the U.S. economy. The country began to use surplus revenues to pay down the national debt, which had risen to $5.4 trillion by 1997. The U.S. economy continued to grow, and in February 2000 it broke the record for the longest uninterrupted economic expansion in U.S. history, lasting ten years.
Many people credited Clinton’s fiscal policies with the economic turnaround, while others credited the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve Board and its chairman. An important factor of the economic success during the Clinton years was the great growth of technology, especially in computers and telecommunications. Technology improved the rate of productivity—the average amount of work done by one worker. Rising productivity prevented inflation from occurring as the economy grew. Unlike growth periods in the previous two decades, low- and middle-income workers experienced improved living standards.
For most of his eight years, Clinton battled Republicans over tax cuts. After winning control of both houses of Congress in 1994, Republicans, led by the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, proposed tax cuts in every session of Congress. Clinton opposed the Republican tax reductions, saying they favored the very rich and would return the country to rising budget deficits.
In August 1997, however, Clinton struck a compromise with Republicans on a tax-relief act that reduced taxes on capital gains and estates and gave taxpayers a credit of $500 per child and tax credits for college tuition and expenses. The law also created a new type of individual retirement account (IRA) called the Roth IRA, which allowed people to invest taxed income for retirement without having to pay taxes on this money upon withdrawal. In addition, the law raised taxes on cigarettes. The next year, Congress approved Clinton’s proposal to make college more affordable by expanding the financial-aid program known as Pell grants and lowering interest rates on student loans.
Clinton also fought Congress every year on the federal budget, most often on how much money would be spent on education, government health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the environment, and AmeriCorps, the national service program that Clinton had pushed through Congress while Democrats were still in control. In late 1995 the fight over the budget reached a bitter stalemate over cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment. When Clinton vetoed spending bills, Congress twice refused to pass temporary spending authorizations and forced the federal government to partially shut down because agencies had no authority to spend money. The Republicans wanted to emphasize their dispute with the president on spending, but the strategy backfired. The shutdowns proved unpopular with voters, who blamed the Republicans.
In April 1996 Clinton and Congress finally agreed on a budget that provided money for government agencies until the end of the fiscal year in October. The budget included spending cuts that the Republicans wanted, decreasing the cost of cultural, labor, and housing programs, but it also preserved many programs that Clinton wanted, particularly educational and environmental ones.
A2b Trade Legislation:-
Another one of Clinton’s goals was to pass trade legislation that lowered the barriers to trade with other nations. He broke with many of his supporters, including labor unions, over free-trade legislation. Many feared that cutting tariffs (taxes on exports or imports) and relaxing rules on what could be imported would cost American jobs because people would buy cheaper products from other countries. But Clinton argued that the country would be helped, not harmed, by free trade because the country could boost its exports and grow the economy. Clinton also thought that foreign nations could be moved to economic and political reform through free trade.
Clinton’s first trade effort was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which would gradually reduce tariffs and create a free-trading bloc of the North American countries—the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Opponents of NAFTA, led by Ross Perot, said it would drive American companies to Mexico, where they could produce goods with cheaper labor and ship them back to the United States. Clinton argued that NAFTA would expand U.S. exports and create new jobs. He persuaded many Democrats to join most Republicans in voting for the measure. In 1993 the Congress voted on the treaty and passed it.
Clinton also met with leaders of the Pacific Rim nations to discuss lowering trade barriers. In November 1993 he hosted a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Seattle, Washington, attended by the leaders of 12 Pacific Rim nations. In 1994 he orchestrated an agreement in Indonesia with Pacific Rim nations to gradually remove trade barriers and open their markets.
Members of Clinton’s administration also participated in the final round of trade negotiations sponsored by members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an international trade organization. This round of negotiations had been going on since 1986. In a rare lame-duck session, after the 1994 elections but before the new Congress began, Clinton summoned Congress to ratify the trade agreement, which it did. As part of the GATT agreement, a new international trade body, the World Trade Organization (WTO), replaced GATT in 1995. The WTO had stronger authority to enforce trade agreements, and it covered a wider range of trade than GATT did.
During his second term, Clinton had a notable defeat regarding trade legislation. In November 1997 Congress postponed voting on a bill to restore a presidential trade authority that had lapsed in 1994. The bill would have given the president the authority to negotiate trade agreements that Congress would not have been able to change but only approve or reject. This presidential authority is known as fast-track negotiating because it streamlines the treaty process. Clinton was unable to generate sufficient support for the legislation, even among members of the Democratic Party.
Clinton also faced a trade setback in December 1999, when the WTO met in Seattle, Washington, to initiate a new round of trade negotiations. Clinton hoped new agreements on issues such as agriculture and intellectual property could be introduced at the meeting, but the talks failed. Anti-WTO protesters in the streets of Seattle disrupted the meetings, and the international delegates inside the meetings could not reach a consensus. Among other contentious issues, delegates from smaller, poorer countries resisted Clinton’s efforts to discuss labor and environmental standards.
That same year, Clinton signed a landmark trade agreement with China, after more than a decade of negotiations. The agreement would lower many trade barriers between the countries, making it easier to export U.S. products such as automobiles, banking services, and motion pictures. However, the agreement could not take effect until China was accepted into the WTO and was granted permanent “normal trade relations” status by the U.S. Congress. Under the pact, the United States would support China’s membership in the WTO. However, many Democrats as well as Republicans resisted granting permanent status to China because they were concerned about human rights in the country and the impact of Chinese imports on U.S. industries and jobs. But in 2000 Congress voted to grant permanent normal trade relations with China.
In all, the Clinton administration negotiated about 300 trade agreements with other countries. Clinton’s last treasury secretary, Lawrence Summers, said the lowered tariffs, which reduced prices to consumers and kept inflation low, amounted to “the largest tax cut in the history of the world.”
A3 Social Policy
With the Democratic Party’s sizable majority in both houses of Congress when Clinton took office in 1993, he promised in his inaugural speech “an end to the era of deadlock and drift.” In little more than two weeks, he signed his first major piece of legislation, the Family and Medical Leave Act. This act required companies with more than 50 workers to allow workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to cope with family concerns such as childbirth and illness. Also during his first year, Congress passed Clinton’s national service program known as AmeriCorps. Under the program, participants perform community service in return for money to finance college or to pay back student loans. Congress also passed the so-called Brady bill, which imposed a waiting period on prospective gun owners buying handguns. In 1994 Clinton also supported a successful anticrime bill that banned the sale of assault weapons and gave states money to hire police officers and fund crime-prevention programs.
Clinton was the first president to advocate equal rights for homosexuals. During his first campaign, he promised to lift the ban against homosexuals serving in the armed forces. He moved ahead on his plan as he took office, but the proposal ignited protests from military leaders and members of Congress. It also made conservatives more suspicious and resentful of the president. Clinton and military leaders reached a compromise: Homosexuals would be allowed to serve if they did not reveal their sexual orientation and refrained from homosexual conduct. It was known as the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. It remained controversial, and late in his second term Clinton expressed dissatisfaction with the policy because it had not prevented harassment of gays in the military.
Clinton also openly championed the right of women to have abortions. One of his first acts as president was to sign orders overturning restrictions on abortions that had been put in place under the two previous Republican presidents. He vetoed bills passed by Congress that placed restrictions on abortions.
One of Clinton’s most popular promises during his first campaign was to guarantee lifelong health insurance for every American. At that time, 44 million Americans were not covered by private health insurance or government health programs. Clinton promised that the health-care system would be reformed in his first year in office. He appointed his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to head a task force to write a bill that would guarantee health insurance and hold down the rapidly rising cost of health care. The task force proposed a plan under which employers would be required to provide health insurance for their workers. Under the plan, people would join a regional health-care alliance that would contract with insurance organizations and others to offer health insurance to its members.
Many businesses, health insurance companies, and Republicans in Congress opposed the plan. They criticized it for being too complicated and for giving the federal government too large a role in medical care. The administration was unable to reach a compromise with Republicans, and a universal health care bill never made it through Congress.
In August 1996, however, Clinton and the Republican majority in Congress compromised on several health-care issues. Congress passed and Clinton signed a bill making it easier for workers to transfer their health insurance between employers without being denied coverage for preexisting conditions. In 1997, as part of a budget deal, Congress approved another health-care initiative. It created the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which extended the medical coverage of Medicaid to children of low-income families who did not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.
Clinton also signed his most important domestic legislation in August 1996. He approved a bill overhauling the federal welfare system, in part to fulfill a 1992 campaign promise to “end the welfare system as we know it.” Clinton had vetoed two previous welfare bills, saying that the cutbacks were too severe. The welfare-to-work bill that he signed limited lifetime benefits to five years, denied some welfare programs and food stamps to illegal immigrants, and required that adult recipients work after two years. The federal government gave states annual block grants to pay for programs and allowed them to set some of their own guidelines for deciding which potential recipients were eligible to receive benefits. Clinton signed the bill despite objections from many members of his party and administration. They thought eliminating benefits would be cruel to many poor women and children. But criticism waned in succeeding years as welfare rolls declined dramatically and women found work in the booming economy.
Clinton built a significant environmental record as president. During his tenure he designated a total of 18 new national monuments, encompassing 8 million acres. He also added more than 2.2 million acres of land to national parks and ordered nearly one-third of the nation’s existing national forests, or 58 million acres, protected from logging and development. Clinton’s other environmental achievements included preventing mining in Yellowstone National Park and helping restore the Florida Everglades. In addition, he strengthened the Clean Water Act in 1996 by signing the Safe Drinking Water Act amendments, which protected the quality of drinking water. Clinton was also involved with the negotiations of an international treaty to reduce the threat of global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, Congress refused to ratify the treaty.
A4 Investigations and Impeachment
Clinton was plagued during almost his entire presidency by accusations of wrongdoing. In the fall of 1993, Clinton’s first year as president, questions were raised about the Clintons’ investment in the Whitewater Development Corporation, a land-development venture. In January 1994 Attorney General Janet Reno named Robert Fiske as independent counsel to probe the Whitewater allegations. In August 1994 a three-judge panel empowered to appoint special prosecutors removed Fiske and appointed Kenneth Starr to direct the Whitewater investigations.
In January 1998 Starr asked Attorney General Janet Reno to expand his Whitewater investigation. He wanted to determine if the president had had a sexual affair with a 24-year-old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, had lied about it under oath, and had tried to influence others’ testimony about it. Although the Lewinsky affair was unrelated to the Whitewater issues, Starr justified the investigation by saying that it constituted a pattern of obstructing justice at the White House. The attorney general and a panel of three federal judges in the District of Columbia enlarged Starr’s mandate to include the Lewinsky matter.
The Lewinsky affair came to Starr’s attention through a civil lawsuit against Clinton filed in 1994 by a woman in Arkansas, Paula Corbin Jones, a former state government secretary. Jones alleged in the suit that Clinton had violated her civil rights by making a sexual proposition to her in a Little Rock hotel room when he was governor. In 1998—after Starr began to investigate the Lewinsky affair—a U.S. District Court judge dismissed Jones’s suit, stating that “there are no genuine issues for trial in this case.” While Jones was appealing the dismissal, her lawyers negotiated a settlement with the president in which she agreed to drop her suit in exchange for a payment of $850,000.
Before her suit was dismissed, however, Jones had tried to show that Clinton had a pattern of sexual misconduct with women. Her lawyers received a rumor that Lewinsky had had an affair with the president, and they subpoenaed her as a witness. Although Lewinsky denied the affair, Starr acquired tape recordings of Lewinsky discussing the affair with a friend. After the recordings emerged, Lewinsky talked extensively to Starr’s investigators and to a federal Whitewater grand jury in Washington, D.C., in July and August 1998.
In August Clinton testified by closed-circuit television for the grand jury, becoming the first president to testify before a grand jury in his own defense. Afterward, Clinton acknowledged to a national television audience that he had “inappropriate intimate contact” with Lewinsky. He apologized for misleading his family, his aides, and the country.
In September 1998 Starr delivered a report to the House of Representatives recounting graphic details of sexual incidents involving Clinton and Lewinsky. The debate in the House was bitter, with Democrats accusing Republicans of a vendetta to destroy a popular president. In December the House approved two articles of impeachment—perjury before the grand jury and obstruction of justice. Throughout the controversy, polls showed that a large majority of Americans thought the president was doing a good job and that he should not be impeached or removed from office.
The House vote moved the case to the Senate, which had the power to remove an impeached president by a vote of conviction by two thirds of its members. Senators sensed public unhappiness with the partisanship that surrounded the impeachment and set out to calm the congressional debate during its trial of the president. In February 1999 the Senate defeated both articles of impeachment. Afterward, Clinton addressed the nation by television from the White House Rose Garden and said he was “profoundly sorry” for his actions and “the great burden they have imposed on the Congress and on the American people.”
B Foreign Affairs
Although the United States was no longer engaged in the Cold War, Clinton had to decide whether the United States, as a superpower, had a role to play in the conflicts and violence occurring in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti. These were all places where suffering was intense but the interests of the United States were not clear. Clinton was at first hesitant to commit American military forces and risk lives in regions torn by ethnic and religious strife, but gradually he expanded his view of the nation’s strategic interests. Because the interests of people all over the world had become so interconnected, Clinton thought the United States had a stake in protecting human rights and promoting the political and economic stability of remote countries. He sent armed forces to end fighting, maintain peace, and protect civilians in those countries, and few American lives were lost in military action. He also took a hand personally in trying to end conflict in Northern Ireland and the Middle East.
Only weeks before Clinton took office, President Bush had sent American soldiers to Somalia, on the eastern coast of Africa, where people were dying from starvation and civil war. The soldiers were sent to prevent food and other relief supplies for starving people from being stolen by warring clans. When the soldiers came under fire from armed clans and 18 soldiers were killed in 1993, the mission became unpopular with the American people. Clinton doubled troops in the country to help the Americans defend themselves and to prevent anarchy and starvation, but calls for withdrawal grew louder. The U.S. soldiers were withdrawn in March 1994.
In April 1994 a civil war erupted in Rwanda between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. Over the next few months, an estimated 500,000 to 1 million Rwandans, mainly Tutsi, were massacred. Within a few weeks after the war began, millions of people had fled the massacres and repression in the country. With thousands more dying of disease and starvation in refugee camps in neighboring countries, the Clinton administration was under pressure to provide relief. Clinton ordered airdrops of food and supplies for refugees, and in July he sent 200 troops to the Rwanda capital of Kigali to operate the airport and safeguard relief supplies. These troops were withdrawn by October 1994. When Clinton traveled to Africa in 1998, he apologized for the international community’s failure to respond to the massacres.
In August 1998 terrorists exploded bombs outside the United States embassies in the capitals of two East African countries, Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. About 250 people, including Americans, were killed, and more than 5,500 were injured. In succeeding months several people were arrested and brought to the United States to stand trial. The Clinton administration linked the bombings to Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi Arabian living in Afghanistan who was suspected of terrorist activity. That same month Clinton ordered missile attacks on sites in Afghanistan and Sudan to retaliate for the bombings at the U.S. embassies and to deter future terrorist attacks. Clinton maintained that the sites—a chemical factory at Khartoum (the capital of Sudan) and several alleged terrorist encampments in Afghanistan—were involved in imminent terrorist plots.
B2 The Balkans
A major foreign policy issue for Clinton during his first term was the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (often referred to simply as Bosnia), a nation in southeastern Europe that declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1992 (see Wars of Yugoslav Succession). This declaration sparked a war between Bosnian Serbs, who wanted Bosnia to remain in the Yugoslav federation, and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Croats. The Bosnian Serbs, who were supported by Serbia, were better armed than the Bosniaks and the Croats and controlled much of the countryside. They besieged cities, including the capital Sarajevo, and caused massive suffering. Clinton suggested bombing Serb supply lines and lifting an embargo that prevented the shipment of military arms to the former Yugoslavia but could not get European nations to join him on either strategy. In 1994 he found himself opposing Republicans in Congress who wanted to lift the arms embargo because the U.S. allies in Western Europe were still resistant to that policy.
Throughout 1994 Clinton pressured Western European countries to take strong measures against the Serbs. But in November, after the Serbs seemed on the verge of overwhelming the Bosniaks and Croats in several strongholds, he changed course and pushed for conciliation with the Serbs. In November 1995 the Clinton administration hosted peace talks between the warring parties in Bosnia. A peace agreement known as the Dayton peace accord was reached that left Bosnia as a single state made up of two separate entities with a central government.
In the spring of 1998, ethnic strife in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)—the state formed from the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia and Montenegro—flared when Serb forces moved into the southern province of Kosovo. More than 90 percent of the people of Kosovo were ethnic Albanians, many of whom wanted independence from the FRY. The Serbs, however, had considered the area sacred territory for six centuries. Serb forces moved into the province to put down Albanian rebels, but reports of Serb atrocities against civilians sent hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing across the border into neighboring countries.
After attempting to reach a peace settlement, Clinton warned the Serbs of possible military strikes. In March, military forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including the United States, began dropping missiles and bombs on military installations in Kosovo and Serbia. It was the first time in NATO’s history that its forces had attacked a European country. In June 1999 NATO and FRY military leaders approved an international peace plan for Kosovo, and NATO suspended its bombing.
Clinton had more success in Haiti, an impoverished country in the Caribbean Sea southeast of Cuba. In September 1991 military leaders, led by Lieutenant General Raoul Cédras, had ousted the country’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide escaped to the United States. In 1993 thousands of Haitians tried to flee to the United States, but more than half were sent back to Haiti by the United States Coast Guard. Although Clinton had criticized former president George Bush for returning Haitian refugees to their country, he continued Bush’s policy on the grounds that accepting refugees might encourage many more to flee to the United States.
In 1994 Clinton demanded repeatedly that the Haitian government step down and restore democratic rule. Members of both parties in Congress opposed American intervention, but Clinton sent a large military force to the country in September 1994. At the last minute, before the troops reached Haiti, he sent a delegation led by former President Jimmy Carter to urge Cédras to step down and leave the country. Cédras agreed to leave and surrender the government to Aristide. Cédras and his top lieutenants left the country in October, and a few days later, American forces escorted Aristide into the capital. The democratic government was restored.
B4 The Middle East
Clinton also worked in the Middle East to negotiate peace agreements between Arabs, including Palestinians, and Israelis. Secret negotiations between the nation of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) led to a historic declaration of peace in September 1993. Clinton arranged for the peace accord to be signed at the White House. This agreement paved the way for limited Palestinian self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. In July 1994 Clinton helped orchestrate a historic agreement between longtime enemies Israel and Jordan to end their state of war. The leaders of the countries also signed their pact at the White House.
However, the 1993 peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization and a second one in 1995 did not end the strife. After the peace process stalled, Clinton brought Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, together for talks in October 1998 at a resort on the Wye River in Maryland. The leaders signed an agreement under which Israel would transfer more territory in the West Bank to the Palestinian National Authority, the Palestinian administrative body in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in exchange for Palestinian steps to curb terrorism. They also adopted a timetable to negotiate a final resolution of the Palestinian fight for an independent state.
After an outbreak of violence, however, Netanyahu refused to give up the West Bank territory and placed new demands upon the Palestinians. This led to the collapse of Netanyahu’s government. In May 1999 elections Ehud Barak, the leader of a political coalition that favored resuming the peace process, defeated Netanyahu to become prime minister. Clinton continued to support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Throughout his last year in office, Clinton sought to arrange a final peace settlement but failed.
Clinton frequently faced trouble with Iraq. In 1991, before Clinton became president, the United States participated in the Persian Gulf War to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. In 1991 a cease-fire agreement was signed that required Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and allow inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to monitor the country’s compliance.
From the beginning of the inspections, the UNSCOM team encountered resistance from Iraq, which blocked inspections and hid deadly germ agents and warheads. Clinton threatened military action several times when Iraqi president Saddam Hussein seemed to be thwarting the UNSCOM inspections. In December 1998 Clinton ordered four days of intense air bombardments against military installations in Iraq. After the bombing, Saddam Hussein refused to allow any further UN inspections. For months afterward, U.S. airplanes continued to target defense installations in Iraq, in response to what the Clinton administration said were provocations by the Iraqi military, including antiaircraft fire and radar locks on American planes.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula increased in 1994 when North Korea, a signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, refused to allow international inspectors to look at two nuclear waste sites. The inspectors wanted to see if North Korea was reprocessing spent fuel into plutonium, which could be used to manufacture nuclear weapons in violation of the treaty. Despite international concerns and repeated warnings by Clinton, North Korea refused to allow the inspections and raised the prospect of war with South Korea, an ally of the United States.
After private diplomacy by former president Jimmy Carter, the Clinton administration reached an agreement with North Korea in October 1994. North Korea would shut down the nuclear plants that could produce the bomb material, and the United States would help North Korea build plants that generated electricity with light-water nuclear reactors. These reactors would be more efficient, and the waste they produced could not be easily extracted for use in nuclear weapons. The United States promised to supply fuel oil to operate electric plants until the new plants were built, and North Korea agreed to allow inspection of the old waste sites when construction started on the new plants.
Another foreign crisis occurred in early 1995, when the value of the peso, the currency of Mexico, began to fall sharply, threatening the collapse of the Mexican economy. Clinton said the collapse of Mexico’s economy would have a harsh effect on the United States because of the economic ties between the two countries. He submitted a plan to Congress to help Mexico ease its financial crisis. Fearing that voters would not favor giving money to Mexico, Congress refused to approve the plan. Clinton then devised a $20 billion loan package for Mexico to restore confidence of investors around the world in the Mexican economy. In January 1997 Mexico announced that it had completed its loan payments to the United States, three years ahead of schedule. However, issues such as drug smuggling and U.S. immigration policies strained relations between the United States and Mexico.
Following talks with representatives of the Cuban government, Clinton announced in May 1995 a controversial decision to reverse a decades-old policy of automatically granting asylum to Cuban refugees. Some 20,000 refugees detained at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba were to be admitted to the United States over a period of about three months; to prevent a mass exodus of refugees to the United States, all future refugees would be returned to Cuba. While some political figures praised the decision, such as the governor of Florida (where refugees were expected to settle), others in the Clinton administration voiced their opposition.
Relations between the United States and Cuba worsened in February 1996 when Cuba shot down two American civilian planes without warning. Cuba claimed that the planes had been in Cuban airspace. Clinton tightened sanctions against Cuba, including the suspension of charter flights from the United States to Cuba. The president hoped this suspension would hurt Cuba’s tourist industry.
Also in response to the incident, the U.S. Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act in March 1996. Parts of the bill strengthened an embargo against imports of Cuban products. However, another part, Title III, allowed American citizens whose property was seized during and after the 1959 Cuban Revolution to file suit in U.S. courts against foreign companies that later invested in those properties. Title III produced an immediate uproar from countries such as Mexico, Canada, and members of the European Union (EU) because they believed that the United States could not penalize them for doing business with Cuba. In response, Clinton repeatedly suspended Title III of the legislation (the Helms-Burton Act gave the president the right to exercise this option every six months).
Clinton softened U.S. policy toward Cuba in 1998 and 1999. In March 1998, at the urging of Pope John Paul II, Clinton eased restrictions and allowed humanitarian charter flights to resume. He also took steps to increase educational, religious, and humanitarian contacts with the country. The U.S. government decided to allow Cuban citizens to receive more money from American friends and family members and to buy more American food and medicine.
B8 Northern Ireland
Clinton worked for much of his presidency to end the conflict in Northern Ireland by arranging a peace agreement between the Catholic and Protestant factions. In 1998 George Mitchell, a former United States senator, brokered an accord that became known as the Good Friday agreement. It called for the British Parliament to relinquish administration of the province to a new Northern Ireland assembly that would include members of both religious communities. But months of stalemate followed, partly over the refusal of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a largely Catholic paramilitary group, to surrender its weapons. Mitchell returned and worked out the blueprint for a further agreement that resulted in December 1999 in the formation of a power-sharing government, which was to be followed by steps toward the IRA’s disarmament. That agreement faltered as well, although Clinton continued to talk to leaders of the factions and British leaders to keep the peace process from collapsing.
B9 Other Issues
In 1996 Clinton signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a landmark international agreement that would have prohibited nuclear weapons testing by all signatory nations. The next year he sent the treaty to the Senate for ratification. In October 1999 the Senate finally voted on the treaty and rejected it. International reaction to the Senate’s action was uniformly negative, and the rejection was a political setback for Clinton, who had lobbied actively for its approval. Despite the rejection of the treaty, Clinton promised that the United States would continue to abide by a policy of not testing nuclear weapons, which had been in place since 1992.
Throughout the 1990s the United States did not pay its dues to the United Nations (UN). By 1999 the United States owed the UN at least $1 billion in back dues. That same year Clinton reached a compromise with Republicans in Congress to submit more than $800 million in back dues. Republicans in the House of Representatives had insisted that UN debt repayments be accompanied by restrictions on U.S. funding for international groups that lobbied for abortion rights in foreign countries. Clinton had vetoed similar measures in the past, but he agreed to the restrictions when faced with the possibility that the United States would lose its vote in the UN General Assembly for nonpayment of dues.
V LIFE AFTER THE PRESIDENCY
In 1999 Clinton and his wife moved their legal residency to Chappaqua, New York, a suburb of New York City, to enable Mrs. Clinton to run for a U.S. Senate seat from New York. Clinton campaigned for her, and she was elected in November 2000. When his successor, George W. Bush, was sworn in as president, Clinton moved to Chappaqua. He said he had no plans except to write a book and to oversee the construction of his presidential library along the Arkansas River in Little Rock.
But controversy followed Clinton after he left the presidency. Before leaving office, Clinton granted presidential pardons to 140 people. Among them was Marc Rich, a billionaire commodities trader who had fled to Switzerland in the early 1980s to avoid prosecution for income tax evasion, racketeering, and illegal oil trading with enemies of the United States. That pardon and several others were widely criticized. Some people argued that Clinton granted certain pardons because friends and family of those pardoned had given money to the Democratic Party or the foundation that was commissioned to build and operate Clinton’s presidential library. The U.S. attorney in New York began a criminal inquiry into Rich’s pardon, and congressional committees conducted hearings. The controversy surrounding the pardons greatly reduced Clinton’s popularity after he left the White House.
Ernest C. Dumas
US Encarta Encyclopedia 2006
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American Revolution (1775-1783), conflict between 13 British colonies in North America and their parent country, Great Britain. It was made up of two related events: the American War of Independence (1775-1783) and the formation of the American government as laid out by the Constitution of the United States in 1787. First, the war achieved independence from Great Britain by the colonies. Second, the newly created United States of America established a republican form of government, in which power resided with the people.
The revolution had many causes. Long-term social, economic, and political changes in the colonies before 1750 provided the basis for an independent nation with representative political institutions. More immediately, the French and Indian War (1754-1763) changed the relationship between the colonies and their mother country. Finally, a decade of conflicts between the British government and the colonists, beginning with the Stamp Act crisis in 1765, led to the outbreak of war in 1775 and the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Once independent, the new state governments implemented republican constitutions, and a Continental Congress directed the American war effort. Then in 1781 the rebellious states created a loose union under the Articles of Confederation. At the end of the war in 1783, Britain recognized its former colonies as an independent nation. In 1789 the people of the several states ratified the Constitution that created a stronger central government.
II THE BRITISH COLONIES IN 1750
A The American People
Britain’s 13 North American colonies experienced an extraordinary rate of population growth. In 1700 the population was about 250,000; seven decades later there were about 2,500,000 inhabitants, a tenfold increase. This phenomenal growth was a prerequisite for a successful independence movement. In 1700 there were 20 people in Britain for every American colonist; by 1775 this ratio had fallen to 3 to 1.
The American population also changed in composition. The proportion of the colonists who were of English culture and ancestry steadily declined during the 1700s as the result of the arrival, by forced or voluntary migration, of new racial and ethnic groups. Among the 80 percent of Americans who were of European descent, there were important cultural divisions. Migrants from Germany, Scotland, and Ireland made up at least 30 percent of the white population. Members of these groups often settled in their own communities, especially in the mid-Atlantic colonies of Delaware, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Others migrated into the backcountry regions of the Southern colonies (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia), thus adding ethnic diversity to a region already divided along racial lines. Only the New England colonies of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire remained predominantly English in composition and culture.
In 1775 about one-fifth of the people of the mainland colonies were of African ancestry. Unlike Latin America and the West Indies, North American slaves had a high rate of natural increase. About 250,000 Africans were brought to the mainland colonies before 1775, but the total black population numbered 567,000 on the eve of independence. Most lived as slaves working on tobacco and rice plantations in the Southern colonies. Slaves and some free blacks also lived in the Northern colonies, working on small farms or in cities.
Diversity existed not only in the population but also in religious life. Many of the American colonists were not members of any church. Of those who had a religious affiliation, the vast majority were Protestant Christians. There were significant numbers of Roman Catholics in Maryland and Delaware, and a small number of Jews, mostly in Rhode Island. Among the Protestants, there were significant regional variations. In New England, the Congregational Church was legally established; all residents had to contribute to its support. In the South, the Church of England likewise received state support. However, Scots-Irish migrants created Presbyterian churches in the Southern backcountry. In addition, many Baptist congregations were formed during the Great Awakening, an important religious revival that swept through all the colonies during the 1740s. In the mid-Atlantic colonies, there were many different faiths, including Quakers, Dutch Reformed, Mennonites, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans, so that it was difficult to enforce support for a single established church.
This growth in population and diversity made the American colonies more difficult for Britain to rule. It was therefore an important precondition for the rise of an independence movement and the subsequent emergence of a unique American nationality.
B The Political System
In 1750 there was little political basis for a national consciousness in the colonies of British North America. Each of the 13 colonies was a separate entity, with its own governor and legislative assembly. The inhabitants’ first political allegiance was to their own colony. The lower house of each legislature was elected by the adult white men who were property owners. However, the upper houses, or councils, and the governors were chosen in different ways depending on the type of colony.
There were three kinds of colonies: corporate, proprietary, and royal. Rhode Island and Connecticut were corporate colonies, so called because they had been founded under charters granted by the king of England that bestowed corporate rights. In these two colonies, the corporation of property owners elected the council and governor as well as the assembly. Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware were proprietary colonies, ruled by descendants of their founders. Their governors and councils were chosen by their British proprietors, or owners. Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were royal provinces. Their governors were appointed by the king on the advice of the Board of Trade, the British administrative agency that supervised colonial affairs. Their councils, except in Massachusetts, were nominated by the governor and approved by the Board of Trade.
In 1750 there were no governmental bodies or political parties that could formulate policy for the colonists as a whole. Such intercolony ties were created only in response to political events that affected all the colonies—first the French and Indian War and then the struggle for independence.
Nevertheless, the colonies shared one important political institution. Each colony had a representative assembly with authority to make laws covering most aspects of local life. The assemblies had the right to tax; to appropriate money for public works and public officials; and to regulate internal trade, religion, and social behavior. Although the British government was responsible for external matters, such as foreign affairs and trade, the American colonists had a great deal of self-government during the colonial period. The capable leaders of the assemblies took the lead in the independence struggle. These well-functioning representative institutions would form the basis for the new state governments.
C Economy and Society
In addition to the rapid growth and diversity of the population and the experience in representative government, the emergence of a prosperous agricultural and commercial economy in the colonies during the 18th century helped pave the way for the independence movement. This economic system was based on the production of wheat, cattle, corn, tobacco, and rice in America for export to the West Indies, Britain, and Europe.
C1 The South
Southern agriculture was founded on the cultivation of tobacco, wheat, and corn in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, and of rice and indigo (a blue dye) in South Carolina and Georgia. There was a large demand for these crops in Europe. These crops were cultivated with the help of black slaves imported from Africa. The white planter class in the South was the most powerful, both politically and economically.
C2 The North
Wheat was the main cash crop of the mid-Atlantic colonies of Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. These colonies, along with those in New England, exported wheat—along with corn, cattle, horses, fish, and wood—primarily to the West Indies. The British and French planters of the Caribbean, exploiting a mainly African labor force, specialized in the production of sugar for export to Europe and imported many of their foodstuffs. The Northern mainland prospered from this vast transatlantic division of labor. In payment for supplies shipped to the West Indies, their merchants received bills of exchange (essentially credit slips) from merchant houses in Great Britain. These credits were then used to purchase British manufactured goods.
C3 Trade Patterns and Urban Growth
The two most important trade routes in terms of volume and financial return were controlled by British merchants: the tobacco and the sugar trades. American merchants dominated two small trades routes: the export of rice to Europe and the export of supplies from the Northern mainland to the West Indies. However, American control of these subsidiary trade routes undermined the British policy of mercantilism, which depended on raw materials from the colonies that were shipped to Great Britain and then exported as finished products. This policy discouraged any colonial trade except with Great Britain.
The colonists’ participation in transatlantic trade accounted for the rise of the American port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Newport, and Charleston. These shipping centers gradually came to provide the commercial services, such as insurance and wholesale trade, and the small-scale industries, such as rope and sail manufacture and shipbuilding, that were necessary to sustain a merchant fleet. The independence movement began in these cities.
C4 Social Divisions
The contrast between the rich and the poor was stark in the colonial cities. In 1774 about 29 percent of the adult men in Boston possessed no taxable property at all. These men were wage earners, working for others. They lived in the back of shops, taverns, or rented rooms. Since they had little or no property, they could not vote, and thus lacked direct political power.
Next in social rank were the artisans and small shopkeepers. Constituting almost half of a town’s population, they owned about one-third of the total wealth. Shopkeepers had once dominated town life, but their political and social influence had waned with the rise of wealthy merchants. Artisans feared a similar decline in their position; the influx of British manufactures might destroy their small businesses, reducing them to the status of propertyless wage laborers. As threatened social groups, artisans and shopkeepers were vital to the revolutionary upheaval. They took the strongest stand against the new British measures of taxation and control. They also challenged the political domination of the merchants and lawyers.
Urban merchants also played key leadership roles in American resistance. By 1770 these men, about 10 percent of the taxpayers, owned from 50 to 60 percent of the total wealth of these towns. Their wealth also gave them much prestige and enabled them, and their lawyer allies who handled complex commercial transactions, to dominate political life.
The gap between rich and poor was much narrower in the farming regions of the Northern colonies. However, even in rural communities, where most Americans lived, social differences were increasing. Inequality was especially apparent in areas where crops were raised for sale, rather than just for subsistence. For example, in the Southern colonies, great disparity existed between plantation farmers who grew rice and tobacco on a large scale and family farmers who grew food to feed themselves. In both the North and the South these differences divided farming communities.
In 1775 it was not clear whether the many divisions within American society—among racial and ethnic groups, religious denominations, and social classes—and the fragmented character of colonial political institutions would prevent a unified movement for independence. But it was increasingly apparent that the battle with Britain for American home rule would also involve a struggle among Americans over which people would rule in the new country.
III THE GREAT WAR FOR EMPIRE
The warfare between Britain and France that began in 1754 with skirmishes in North America has several different names. In America it is known as the French and Indian War (1754-1763). In Europe it is called the Seven Years’ War because the fighting there lasted from 1756 to 1763. The war in North America was fought mostly throughout the Northern colonies, and in the end Great Britain defeated France. During the peace negotiations, Britain acquired French holdings in Canada and Florida from France’s ally, Spain. However, Britain also accumulated a large debt over the course of the war. To help pay off the debt, Britain turned to the colonies to generate revenue.
The war changed the relationship between Great Britain and the colonies. Prior to the war, Great Britain had practiced a policy of salutary neglect, not insisting on strict enforcement of laws, such as the Molasses Act, which in 1733 imposed a tax on molasses, because trade with the American colonies was making Britain very wealthy and powerful. During this period, the colonists developed a nearly independent political and economic system.
After the war, however, British leaders reevaluated their relationship with the colonies, ending the policy of salutary neglect and proposing reforms and new taxes. This reevaluation was caused by conflicts between Great Britain and the colonies during the war, such as the colonial assemblies’ insistence on controlling the militia units raised to fight the French, the increased colonial independence, and colonial smuggling of French goods into the country during the war. In addition, the war had left Great Britain deeply in debt. British leaders viewed American prosperity as a resource and taxing the colonies as a means to relieve British debt. Conflicts arose as Great Britain attempted to reassert its power over the colonies; they viewed Great Britain’s attempts to tax them as interference into internal matters. The colonies believed that Great Britain had jurisdiction only over external issues.
IV THE COMING OF THE REVOLUTION
A The New Imperial System
After the war the British government undertook a concerted effort to bring the colonies more firmly under its control. Prompted by an uprising of Native Americans led by the Ottawa chief Pontiac, the British king issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763. This edict restricted European settlement to the area east of the Appalachian Mountains in order to prevent new wars with the Native American peoples of the interior. It was followed by the Currency Act of 1764, which prohibited the colonial assemblies from using paper money as legal tender for payment of debts. Another revenue measure, the Sugar Act of 1764, lowered the duties imposed by the much-evaded Molasses Act of 1733, but sought to insure that the new tariffs would be diligently collected (see Sugar and Molasses Acts). The law placed tighter administrative controls on coastal shipping. More important, it provided that violations of the Sugar Act would be prosecuted in the vice-admiralty courts, in which cases were heard by British-appointed judges with no local juries. Another innovation was the Quartering Act of 1765, which obliged the colonial assemblies to provide housing and supplies for British troops. In addition, well-publicized discussions were taking place in London about taxing the colonies for the support of British troops in Canada and in frontier outposts. Reform of the empire was clearly underway.
Coming after more than 50 years of salutary neglect, the new regulations alarmed the colonists. Then, in 1765 the British government headed by George Grenville acted to raise revenue by levying, for the first time, a direct tax on the colonists. The Stamp Act required them to buy and place revenue stamps on all official legal documents, deeds, newspapers, pamphlets, dice, and playing cards. Colonists strongly opposed the Stamp Act. In part, the colonists were alarmed by the economic costs imposed on them by the reforms. Ordinary people had always been lightly taxed in America and did not want their money to be used to support British officials.
B The Ideological Sources of Resistance
Educated colonists mounted an ideological attack on the new British policies. They drew inspiration from three intellectual traditions. The first tradition was English common law, the centuries-old body of legal rules and procedures that protected the king’s subjects against arbitrary acts by other subjects or by the government.
A second major intellectual resource was the Age of Enlightenment in Europe during the 18th century. Unlike common-law attorneys, who valued precedent, Enlightenment philosophers questioned the past and appealed to reason. Many of them followed 17th-century English philosopher John Locke in believing that all individuals possessed certain “natural rights”—such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of property—and that it was the responsibility of government to protect those rights.
The English political tradition provided a third ideological basis for the American resistance. Early English Whigs had resisted the arbitrary power exercised by the Stuart kings before 1689 and had sought to limit the authority of the Crown and to increase the power of Parliament. Their ideas had appealed to many members of the colonial assemblies, who faced powerful governors appointed by the king.
Then, in the decades after 1720, many educated Americans followed arguments in England that attacked the power of government financiers, condemned the idea of standing armies, and accused the king and his ministers of manipulating Parliament through patronage and bribes. To these Americans, the Stamp Act was not simply an economic measure to defray the cost of the American garrisons. The colonists believed that Britain was responsible for external matters but the colonial assemblies legislated internal affairs. Therefore, the Stamp Act represented a cunning attempt by Britain to seize control of taxation from the representative colonial assemblies and to tax the colonists without giving them representation in government.
C The Stamp Act Crisis
American opposition to the Stamp Act began shortly after its passage in March 1765. Patrick Henry of Virginia urged the House of Burgesses to condemn the Stamp Act. The Massachusetts assembly called for an intercolonial meeting, and a Stamp Act Congress met in New York City in October 1765. Delegates from nine colonies attended, and petitioned the king for repeal of the act, denouncing it as taxation without representation. Many British merchants joined in this appeal. Their exports of manufactures to the colonies had increased markedly since 1750 and they feared the effects of American refusal to pay commercial debts amounting to millions of pounds.
However, the broader issues at stake were temporarily obscured by the drama of immediate events. Some Americans responded with violence to the new British measures of taxation and control. On October 31, the day before the Stamp Act was to go into effect, 200 merchants in New York City vowed to stop importing British goods, beginning the First Nonimportation Movement. Then they joined storekeepers, artisans, sailors, and laborers in a mass protest meeting. On the next night, 2,000 residents surrounded the fort where the stamps were being guarded and then plundered the house of a British officer. These mob actions prompted the lieutenant governor to ask General Thomas Gage, the British military commander in North America, to rout the protesters by force.
Similar situations occurred in Philadelphia, Albany, and Charleston. Local merchants joined in nonimportation agreements. Groups of artisans, calling themselves Sons of Liberty, forcibly prevented the distribution of stamps and forced the resignation of the stamp collectors. In Boston, a mob destroyed the house of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson. The colonial elite—merchants, planters, assembly leaders—did not condemn this resort to violence; some even encouraged it. Nearly everywhere, British authority was challenged, and the imperial forces lacked the power or the determination to prevail.
Pressure from the British merchants, who feared the nonimportation movement, persuaded a new British ministry, led by Prime Minister Charles Wentworth, Marquess of Rockingham, to repeal the Stamp Act in 1766. However, Parliament enacted a Declaratory Act that restated its traditional claim to legislate for and to tax the colonists. As Chief Justice William Murray, later 1st earl of Mansfield, stated: “The British legislature ... has the authority to bind every part and every subject without the least distinction, whether such subjects have the right to vote or not.”
D The Townshend Acts
Mansfield’s argument was directed against the colonial position of no taxation without representation. Colonists who protested the taxes distinguished between taxes designed to raise money, which they opposed, and duties intended primarily to regulate trade, which the colonists had accepted, at least in principle, since the Molasses Act of 1733.
This distinction between revenue and regulation was subtle and somewhat artificial. And it was misinterpreted by Charles Townshend, longtime critic of the American assemblies and now chancellor of the Exchequer in the government headed by William Pitt. Townshend believed that the colonists were objecting to internal taxes, such as the Stamp Act, but not to external taxes on trade. Consequently, he assumed that the colonists would accept external taxes. The Townshend Acts, which were passed in 1767, placed duties on colonial imports of lead, glass, paint, paper, and tea. This act also specified that the revenue was to be used not only to support British troops in America but also to provide salaries for royal officials who would collect taxes. Such funding would make these officials financially independent of the colonial assemblies.
This attempt to raise revenue through trade duties and to circumvent American control of imperial officials angered many colonial leaders. John Dickinson argued in his influential Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767) that the Townshend duties were “not for the regulation of trade ... but for the single purpose of levying money upon us.” Bolstered by such arguments, the colonists opposed the taxes, not with the violence of 1765, which ended with the repeal of the Stamp Act, but with a new boycott of British goods, the Second Nonimportation Movement.
E Economic and Moral Upheaval
The Americans’ determined resistance to the Townshend Acts resulted, in part, from a profound transition in the colonial economy. Before 1754 the colonists had earned enough from their exports to pay for their imports from Great Britain. Then, British military expenditures in America during the French and Indian War bolstered the incomes of many colonists and unleashed a wave of spending for consumer items: equipment for their farms and all kinds of household goods—including cloth, blankets, china, and cooking utensils. British merchant houses aided this spree of consumption by extending to American traders a full year’s credit, instead of the traditional six months. The mainland colonists soon accounted for 20 percent of all British exports and had gone deeply into debt.
At the end of the war in 1763, the boom came to an abrupt end. The postwar recession brought bankruptcy and disgrace to those Americans who had overextended their commitments and brought hard economic times to nearly everyone else. This financial hardship generated opposition to the Stamp Act in 1765, especially among urban artisans. They had suffered from the competition of low-priced British manufactures and now feared higher taxes. Similar economic pressures fueled resistance to the Townshend Acts in 1767.
Americans also had moralistic reasons for calling a halt to the mass importation of European goods. Extravagant expenditures on luxury items—fancy carpets and carriages, elegant clothes and furniture—produced calls for a return to more frugal living standards. In New England, where Puritan influence was strongest, excessive consumption and debt was seen as a moral failing that inevitably led to a weakening of character.
American women, especially religious women, added their support to the nonimportation movement. Ordinarily women were excluded from prominent roles in political affairs, but the boycotts prompted a more sustained involvement by women in the public world. In Providence, Rhode Island, during the Stamp Act crisis, 18 “Daughters of Liberty” met to spin yarn for cloth, to avoid purchasing any cloth from British manufacturers. To protest the Townshend Acts, a much larger group of religious women in New England organized dozens of spinning matches, bees, and demonstrations at the homes of their ministers. Some gatherings were openly patriotic, such as that at Berwick, Maine, where the spinners “as true Daughters of Liberty” celebrated American goods, “drinking rye coffee and dining on bear venison.” But many more women combined support for nonimportation with charitable work by coming together to spin flax and wool, which they donated to their ministers and needy members of the community.
F Constitutional Conflict
While confrontations over taxes and reforms were serious, the bonds uniting the colonies and Britain were still strong. Peace and unity were still possible. American diplomat Benjamin Franklin declared in 1769 that the British ministry should “Repeal the laws, Renounce the Right, Recall the troops, Refund the money, and Return to the old method of requisition.” Late in that year the British government, now directed by Lord Frederick North, the new prime minister and ally of King George III, went part way toward meeting these demands. Under the pressure of the American economic boycott, and a sharp drop in British exports, Parliament agreed to the repeal of most of the Townshend Acts. However, the ministry did not recall the British troops from any of the colonies and showed no disposition to return to the pre-1763 imperial system. Indeed, Parliament reasserted its authority to legislate for and to tax the colonies, retaining the tax on tea as a symbol of its supremacy.
The long debate over taxes clarified the fundamental constitutional questions at stake and posed the political issue in stark terms. “I know of no line that can be drawn between the supreme authority of Parliament and the total independence of the colonies,” declared Thomas Hutchinson, the American-born governor of Massachusetts, early in the 1770s. A committee of the Massachusetts assembly accepted Hutchinson’s challenge and drew the obvious, if nearly unthinkable, conclusion: “If there be so such line,” then the colonies would have to be “independent.” But the committee proposed a solution: If Britain and its American colonies were united by the king as their “one head and common sovereign,” then they could “live happily in that connection,” retaining their own semiautonomous assemblies.
This solution would have required Parliament to renounce its claims to sovereign power in America and was almost unthinkable given its quest for authority. Moreover, two violent incidents showed how difficult it would be to achieve any peaceful constitutional compromise. In Boston in 1770 British troops fired on an unruly mob, killing five people, an event known as the Boston Massacre. Two years later, a Rhode Island mob destroyed a British customs ship, the Gaspée, wounding its captain in the process. In both cases, the British ministry declined to take a strong stand, hoping that time and patience would resolve the imperial crisis. Many members of Parliament demanded a more aggressive stance: American violence, they said, should be met with British force.
These incidents also played into the hands of those Americans who favored independence. Following the Stamp Act crisis, the Sons of Liberty in the various colonial towns were in contact with each other. More assertive leaders of the colonial assemblies also corresponded, and gradually an organized Patriot movement developed. Following the Gaspée incident, Boston patriot Samuel Adams persuaded the Massachusetts assembly to establish a formal Committee of Correspondence, and Patriot leaders in the assemblies of Virginia and the other colonies soon followed suit. These committees exchanged information and fostered a new sense of American interdependence and identity. In any new imperial crisis, American Patriots would for the first time be able to formulate a coherent and unified policy of resistance.
G The Tea Act and the Outbreak of Fighting
As Patriots warned fellow colonists of the dangers of imperial domination, Lord North lent substance to their predictions. He wanted to assist the East India Company, which had incurred great military expenses in expanding British trade in India. To do so, he secured the Tea Act in 1773, which eliminated the customs duty on the company’s tea and permitted its direct export to America. The company’s tea, although still subject to the Townshend duty, would be cheaper than the smuggled Dutch tea most Americans drank. If the colonists bought it, however, they would be accepting the duty. Beyond that, American merchants would lose a valuable trade, because the company planned to sell its tea through its own agents.
Lord North knew that the Tea Act would be unpopular in America, but he was determined to uphold parliamentary supremacy. When a shipment of tea arrived in Boston, radical Patriots led by Samuel Adams prevented its unloading. When Governor Hutchinson refused to permit the tea to be reexported, the Patriots, many disguised as Native Americans, threw the cargo overboard in the so-called Boston Tea Party in December 1773.
G1 Britain Stands Firm
Events now swiftly moved toward the outbreak of war. An outraged Parliament demanded compensation for the tea. The Boston town meeting, now under the influence of the radical Caucus Club led by Adams and Joseph Warren, rejected this demand. The North ministry replied with a series of stern edicts in March 1774. These edicts, along with the Québec Act, a measure passed by the British Parliament at the same time, were known among the colonists as the Intolerable Acts. The port of Boston was declared closed; the powers of the Massachusetts assembly and local town meetings were curtailed; and two acts provided for the quartering of troops in private houses and the exemption of imperial officials from trial in Massachusetts. The ministry’s strategy was to use the destruction of tea to isolate what the British saw as the radical Massachusetts Patriots from more moderate Americans in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic colonies.
The British strategy of dividing the Americans nearly succeeded. Colonial leaders met in the First Continental Congress, held in Philadelphia in September and October 1774. In a pamphlet titled A Summary View of the Rights of British America, intended to influence the Virginia delegates to the Congress, Thomas Jefferson denounced all parliamentary legislation as acts “of arbitrary power ... over these states.” A much more conciliatory attitude was reflected in a plan presented by Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania. Galloway proposed the creation of an American parliament that would have significant powers of taxation and legislation, but whose acts would need the approval of a governor-general appointed by the Crown. Galloway’s plan was rejected by a narrow vote. The delegates then adopted policies favored by more radical Patriots, including a petition to the king called the Declaration of Rights and Grievances. The Congress declared the British reform program “unconstitutional, dangerous, and destructive to the freedom” of America. More important, it voted to establish a Third Nonimportation Movement. To implement this boycott, which included pledges against exportation and consumption as well as importation, the Congress created a Continental Association—a system of local committees to mobilize patriotic fervor. Among these local committees were the Committees of Correspondence and the Committees of Safety. These measures were to remain in effect until all colonial grievances had been addressed.
G2 Lexington and Concord
The British government remained firm in the face of American resistance. Early in 1775 orders were sent to General Gage, who at the time was governor and military commander of Massachusetts. He was ordered to close the Massachusetts assembly, which was then meeting illegally outside Boston; to arrest its leading members; and to capture the arms being stockpiled by the colonial militia. On April 19 Gage ordered his troops to Concord. They were opposed first at Lexington and then at Concord by colonial militia, who had been warned by Patriots, including Paul Revere. At Lexington, shots were fired, but the British continued on to Concord. There they were harassed by American militia shooting from behind trees, hedges, and buildings. The British were forced to retreat, and they headed back to Boston in disorganized flight. The battle was a strong American victory. As the British retreated to Boston, they suffered more than 270 casualties. The colonists lost fewer than 100 people.
Too much blood had been spilled to allow a peaceful compromise. A final “Olive Branch Petition” approved by the Second Continental Congress in July 1775 was rejected by the king. In December, Parliament passed the Prohibitory Act, which outlawed trade with the rebellious colonies and set up a naval blockade. Consequently, when Anglo-American philosopher Thomas Paine asked in the pamphlet Common Sense (published in January 1776) whether “a continent should continue to be ruled by an Island,” only a minority of Loyalist Americans were willing to defend the connection with Great Britain. As a series of military skirmishes fostered the growth of American patriotism, the Continental Congress took the final steps. In June 1775 it had commissioned George Washington to organize and lead a Continental Army. In addition, the Congress ordered publication on July 4, 1776, of a Declaration of Independence, which recounted the grievances against Britain and declared the colonies free and independent as the United States of America.
V THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE
A War Aims and Military Forces
In the fall of 1775 the British government decided to use overwhelming military force to crush the American revolt. The task looked easy. England, Wales, and Scotland had a combined population of about 9 million, compared with 2.5 million in the 13 rebel colonies, nearly 20 percent of whom were black slaves. Militarily, Britain was clearly superior, with a large standing army and the financial resources to hire additional troops, and the most powerful navy in the world. The British government also counted on mobilizing thousands of Loyalists in America and Native Americans who were hostile to white expansion.
Nonetheless, the Americans had a number of important advantages. They were fighting on their own territory, close to the sources of supply and amid a mostly friendly population. In addition, the Patriots had some resourceful military leaders, who had been tested in the French and Indian War. Finally, later in the war, the rebellious colonies received crucial aid from France and Spain. This assistance offset British superiority in wealth and military power, and made possible a clear-cut American victory. However, few of these American advantages were obvious when the war began.
Throughout the war, one of the main challenges facing the Americans was maintaining a credible army. Washington’s main Continental Army never had more than 24,000 active-duty troops, although Congress promised to raise a force at least three times that size. In addition, the army was poorly supplied and short on weapons and food. Early in the war General Philip Schuyler of New York complained that his men were “weak in numbers, dispirited, naked, destitute of provisions, without camp equipage, with little ammunition, and not a single piece of cannon.” The situation did not improve during the course of the war. Because of the meager financial support provided by Congress and the American people, the Continental Army almost perished from hunger and cold during the winters of 1777 and 1778. Inadequate pay prompted mutinies in the ranks and in the officer corps as late as 1783. The Continental Army had to struggle to survive during the entire war.
If inadequate support was one weakness of the Continental Army, its composition was another. The army was a new creation, without tradition or even military experience. Trained militiamen wanted to serve in local units near their farms and families, so raw recruits formed the basis of the Continental forces. Muster rolls for troops commanded by General William Smallwood of Maryland show that they were either poor American-born youths or older foreign-born men, often former indentured servants. Some of these men enlisted out of patriotic fervor; many more signed up to receive a cash bonus and the promise of a future land grant.
It took time to turn such men into loyal soldiers. Many panicked in the heat of battle. Others deserted, unwilling to accept the discipline of military life. Given this weak army, Washington worried constantly that he would suffer an overwhelming defeat.
In total, the war lasted for eight years and had four phases, each with a distinct strategy and character. During the first phase, from April 1775 to July 1776, the Patriots’ goal was to turn the revolt into an organized rebellion, while British governors and armed Loyalists tried to suppress the uprising. The second phase of the war began with a major British invasion of New York in July 1776 and ended with the American victory at Saratoga in October 1777. The British strategy was to confront and defeat the Continental Army and to isolate the radical Patriots of New England. Washington’s goal was to protect his weak forces by retreat and, when he held the advantage, to counterattack. During the third phase of the war Britain tried to subdue the South. Beginning in early 1778 it used regular troops to take territory and local Loyalists to hold it. Patriots used guerrilla warfare to weaken British forces, and then used French assistance to win a major victory at Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781. Then came the final phase of the war when astute Patriot diplomacy won a treaty recognizing the independence of the United States in September 1783.
B Phase One: The Opening Campaigns
Following the outbreak of fighting at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the Americans held the strategic advantage. They had numerical superiority and quickly brought it to bear against the main British force in Boston. Nearly 20,000 New England militiamen surrounded the town and placed it under siege. On June 17 General Gage responded by attacking American positions on Breed’s and Bunker hills (see Battle of Bunker Hill). The British dislodged the Patriot forces, but they suffered more than 1,000 casualties. American losses were much lower, with about 140 men killed and about 270 wounded.
The stalemate at Boston continued until March 1776, when the Americans, now under the command of Washington, erected a battery of cannon on Dorchester Heights, overlooking the city. Rather than engage the entrenched Americans, General William Howe, who had succeeded Gage as the British commander because Gage was criticized for heavy British casualties at Bunker Hill, evacuated his troops from Boston. The British departed for Nova Scotia accompanied by more than 1,000 Loyalist refugees.
B1 Civil War in the South
In the meantime, the fighting in Massachusetts had sparked skirmishes between Patriots and Loyalists in Virginia and the Carolinas. In June 1775 the Virginia House of Burgesses forced the royal governor, Lord John Dunmore, to take refuge on a British warship in Chesapeake Bay. From there, Dunmore organized two military forces: one of whites, the Queen’s Own Loyal Virginians, and one of blacks, the Ethiopian Regiment. In November he issued a controversial proclamation offering freedom to slaves and indentured servants who joined the Loyalist cause.
In North Carolina, Governor Josiah Martin tried to maintain his authority by raising a force of about 1,500 Loyalist migrants from the highlands of Scotland. However, in February 1776 the Patriot militia defeated Martin’s army in the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, capturing more than 800 of his troops. In Charleston, South Carolina, in June 1776 General Charles Lee and Patriot John Rutledge, who later became governor of South Carolina, mobilized armed artisans and three Continental regiments and repelled a British assault by about 3,000 troops commanded by General Henry Clinton.
B2 The Americans Invade Canada
Yet another series of battles took place in Canada, which had not joined the American colonies in their independence movement. In May 1775 Fort Ticonderoga, an undermanned fortress on the inland route to Montréal, fell to colonial forces led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, who later became a British spy. The British garrison at Crown Point on Lake Champlain surrendered almost immediately afterward. In September an American army under General Richard Montgomery moved farther north, laying siege to Saint Johns, a British fort. Following the capture of this post in November, Montgomery’s troops quickly advanced on Montréal, capturing the city without serious resistance.
While Montgomery’s army was pushing toward Montréal along the Lake Champlain route, another American force of about 1,000 men, commanded by Arnold, was slowly proceeding up the Kennebec River in Maine to attack the British at Québec. Despite harsh weather, inadequate supplies, and the desertion of one-third of his force, Arnold reached Québec late in November. He joined forces with Montgomery, who had brought a small detachment down the St. Lawrence River from Montréal. In late December the combined American forces attacked the well-fortified city. British fire inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans, wounding Arnold and killing Montgomery. Unable to take Québec by storm, the remaining Americans besieged the city until the spring of 1776. Then, a British relief convoy raised the siege and recaptured Montréal from the disease-ridden and poorly supplied American force.
The Americans’ failure to capture Québec revealed their weak offensive capabilities. The local militiamen who comprised the bulk of the Patriot forces during the first phase of the war were prepared to fight only for short periods and within a few hundred miles of their homes. They could oust the British army from Boston and British governors from the South, but they could not carry the war into enemy territory. Still, the American Patriots had achieved a great deal in 15 months. They had asserted control over most of the mainland and upheld the authority of their rebel governments. Indeed, it was these victories that emboldened the new American state governments and the Continental Congress to move toward independence during the spring of 1776.
C Phase Two: The British Northern Offensive
Just as the Congress was issuing the official Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia in July 1776, a British army of more than 30,000 men was landing on Staten Island near New York City. Lord North, who was still the prime minister, had ordered General Howe to capture New York City and seize control of the Hudson River valley, thus isolating the radical Patriots in New England from the rest of the colonies. Expecting this show of force to dissolve Patriots’ resolve, North gave Howe the authority to negotiate an end to the rebellion.
When initial negotiations failed, Howe launched an attack on August 27 against the 10,000 American troops entrenched on Brooklyn Heights. His experienced men outflanked the American positions and captured two generals and about 1,000 soldiers. The British general then directed a deliberate, tactically correct pursuit of the retreating American forces, defeating them in pitched battles in October on Harlem Heights and at White Plains.
As Howe aimed for a decisive victory, Washington’s goal was simple survival. Outnumbered, outgunned, and outmaneuvered, the American general retreated into New Jersey in a desperate effort to keep his battered army intact. In a major mistake, he failed to order the evacuation of Fort Washington on the northern end of Manhattan Island. This fortress fell easily to the British in November, with the loss of 3,000 troops and scores of cannon. Abandoning Fort Lee, across the Hudson from Manhattan, Washington withdrew to the south.
The American position was bad in 1776, but it would have been even worse had it not been for the determined resistance offered by American forces commanded by Benedict Arnold. His skillful defense on Lake Champlain forced the withdrawal to Canada of a strong British force under General Guy Carleton. Carleton’s army had been moving south toward Albany and New York City, as part of North’s plan of isolating New England from the rest of the colonies and falling on Washington’s army from the rear.
Even without Carleton’s assistance, General Howe’s forces might have decisively defeated the main Continental Army. However, Howe was a naturally cautious man, and he employed the relatively static tactics standard in 18th-century Europe. Moreover, he did not want to take military risks that might result in heavy casualties because it would take at least six months to get reinforcements from Britain. Finally, Howe was personally sympathetic to many American demands and hoped to negotiate a settlement of the conflict. Consequently, the British commander did not undertake a pursuit of Washington’s disorganized forces, giving the Americans much-needed time to regroup.
C1 The American Counterattack
Howe’s caution prevented the British from crushing the rebellion in 1776. Washington withdrew his shattered army across New Jersey and over the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, advising the Continental Congress that “on our Side the war should be defensive.” The American general’s strategy was to draw the British away from the seacoast to extend their lines of supply and spread out their forces. As the British went into the winter quarters, Washington led a surprise attack across the Delaware River into New Jersey on Christmas night, December 25, 1776. His forces won victories against German troops, called Hessians, at the Battle of Trenton, and then against British regulars at the Battle of Princeton. These were minor triumphs but they had a startling effect on American morale, which improved dramatically.
Despite the setbacks the British had suffered in New Jersey, they still held the military advantage. General Howe’s troops continued to occupy New York City and to control most of northern New Jersey. Another British army, under General Clinton, captured the important port of Newport, Rhode Island, on December 1, 1776. And General John Burgoyne, who had replaced Carleton, was massing a third force in Canada. The events of the last half of 1776 had shown that the American forces were no match for British regulars in a fixed battle. Each time the opposing armies had faced each other, the Americans had been forced to retreat, sometimes in orderly fashion, more often in disarray.
C2 Britain’s Strategic Mistakes
The year 1777 was crucial to the contest. It tested the ability of the British to overpower the Continental Army and the will of the Americans to endure a series of military defeats. Lord North’s strategy remained the isolation of New England. To achieve this goal a strong army under General Burgoyne was to move down the Lake Champlain route to Albany, where it would join up with Howe’s force from New York City. But Howe had decided upon a different plan. He left 3,000 troops under General Clinton in New York City and personally led the main British force in an attack on Philadelphia, the home of the Continental Congress.
There were two flaws in Howe’s plan, one strategic and the other tactical. The strategic flaw was the division of his force and the failure to dispatch any troops to the north. If Burgoyne’s army encountered heavy American resistance, it would have no help. This basic mistake was then compounded by a tactical error. Instead of quickly marching overland through New Jersey to Philadelphia, Howe decided to move his force by water, a much longer and slower route. Embarking about 20,000 men on some 250 ships, the British general sailed down the coast and then up the Chesapeake Bay toward Philadelphia. Although Congress had fled the city, General Washington had no choice but to meet Howe’s forces in fixed battle, whatever the danger to his outnumbered army. First at the Battle of the Brandywine on September 11 and again at the Battle of Germantown on October 4, the British outflanked the entrenched Continental Army, forcing it to retreat. Having easily occupied Philadelphia, Howe set up headquarters in the city.
Washington withdrew his battered forces to nearby Valley Forge, where 11,000 soldiers spent a harsh and trying winter. Perhaps more than 2,500 soldiers died from exposure or disease in the winter encampment, while desertions and an extreme lack of provisions further reduced the army to about half its former size. Only the efforts of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Prussian officer who volunteered his services to the American cause, restored discipline and morale to the rebel forces by training and teaching many military tactics.
C3 Saratoga: The Turning Point of the War
The British victories in Pennsylvania were won at a high price: the loss of an entire army at Saratoga, New York. Because of Howe’s water route and Washington’s determined, if futile, resistance, the British captured Philadelphia late in the campaigning season—too late for them to send aid to General Burgoyne’s forces in the north. Early in July 1777, Burgoyne’s army of almost 9,000 troops took Fort Ticonderoga, and began to move south toward Albany. Simultaneously, a mixed force of about 2,000 British regulars and Native Americans under Colonel Barry St. Leger marched to launch a coordinated attack on Albany. St. Leger proceeded along the St. Lawrence to Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario and began to descend the Mohawk River valley. His mission was to reduce the American stronghold of Fort Stanwix and then to continue east and link up with Burgoyne at Albany.
The first British setback came on the Mohawk. St. Leger’s forces placed Fort Stanwix under siege early in August and ambushed a relief column led by General Nicholas Herkimer near Oriskany. However, they failed to capture the American fortress. In late August, following the departure of some of his Native American allies and threatened by the approach of an American force under Benedict Arnold, St. Leger was compelled to lift the siege and retreat to Montréal. The Americans could now concentrate their forces against Burgoyne’s army.
At first, the progress of Burgoyne’s invasion force was impeded by troops commanded by General Philip Schuyler. Then, New England militias dealt a staggering blow to a contingent sent out to secure supplies for the underprovisioned British army, killing or capturing most of the 800-man force in the Battle of Bennington, in present-day Vermont, on August 16. Nevertheless, Burgoyne decided to push south toward Albany. He hoped for help from St. Leger and from General Clinton, who was now leading a relief expedition north from New York City.
By mid-September Burgoyne’s army had advanced south of Saratoga and was within striking distance of Albany. But American forces, commanded by General Horatio Gates, were well entrenched at Bemis Heights and repelled a British assault. Because of the slow movement of British regulars and their supply wagons over the rough terrain, the Americans had been able to bring up substantial reinforcements, primarily militia from western New England. On October 7, these forces resisted a second British attack. Burgoyne’s reduced army withdrew to Saratoga, where it was surrounded by the ever increasing American force, now numbering up to 17,000. On October 17, 1777, they forced Burgoyne to surrender his remaining 5,800 troops. This capitulation gave the Patriots their first major military victory and brought to an end the second, and pivotal, phase of the war of independence.
D Phase Three: The War in the South
A new phase of the war began in 1778. The American triumph at Saratoga completely disrupted Britain’s military strategy, and General Howe was forced to resign in disgrace. The Americans had demonstrated their capacity to resist, even following the loss of their chief cities.
D1 European Diplomacy
These events were observed closely in the capitals of Europe, especially in Paris. France, still seeking revenge for the loss of Canada in 1763, had watched the development of the American resistance movement with great interest. The French government had sent observers to America at the time of the Stamp Act Congress in 1765 and was ready to offer positive assistance when fighting broke out a decade later.
The policy of Charles Gravier, Comte de Vergennes, the French foreign minister, was to offer covert aid to the rebels, but to keep France out of the war until an opportune moment. An American emissary, Silas Deane, was welcomed in Paris as a “commercial agent” in 1776. In May of that year a fictitious company was set up under the direction of the author Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais to funnel military supplies to the rebellious colonists. These much-needed munitions were paid for by a secret loan from the French and Spanish governments. However, in December, when the American representatives, who now included Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee as well as Deane, attempted to secure additional military aid, they were firmly rebuffed by Vergennes. Knowing of Howe’s initial military victories in New York and fearing the imminent collapse of the American rebellion, the French leader had no desire to commit his nation to a losing cause.
The American victory at Saratoga profoundly altered French thinking. When news of Burgoyne’s capture reached Paris in December 1777, Vergennes immediately offered the Americans a commercial and military alliance. His haste was justified. In Britain, Lord North was deeply troubled by the inability of his generals to defeat the Patriot armies and had decided to seek a negotiated settlement of the rebellion. He secured repeal of the Tea Act and the Intolerable Acts and sent a commission headed by Frederick Howard, 5th earl of Carlisle to negotiate directly with the Continental Congress, offering a return to the pre-1763 imperial relationship.
North’s offer of peace came too late and promised too little. The Patriot leaders now wanted complete independence and they had another diplomatic option. In February 1778 the Continental Congress entered into a formal alliance with France. The French agreed to give up their claim to Canada and regions east of the Mississippi River and promised to fight until American independence had been achieved. In return, the United States opened up their trade to French merchants and agreed to support French territorial gains in the West Indies. Because of this treaty, war soon broke out between France and Britain. For the first time during the war of independence, American success seemed possible.
D2 The New British Strategy
Defeated at Saratoga and now vulnerable to French attack in the West Indies and on the high seas, the British devised a new military strategy. The new British plan had two objectives. The first was to concentrate their forces in the North in two seaports, New York City and Newport, Rhode Island. General Clinton, who had replaced Howe as commander in chief of British forces, evacuated Philadelphia and moved the main British army overland to New York. On the way he fought an indecisive engagement with General Washington’s army near Monmouth Courthouse (now Freehold), New Jersey, on June 28, 1778. In 1778 British forces also repelled a joint French-American attack against Newport. During the following year the Americans were only able to capture a few outlying fortresses, at Stony Point, New York, and Paulus Hook, New Jersey.
Secure in their Northern bases, the British focused their efforts on a second objective: the conquest of the South. The South, with its export crops of tobacco, rice, and indigo, was the most valuable region of the mainland. Moreover, the British believed that more Loyalists lived in the South. They hoped that these Southern Loyalists could be mobilized both to provide support and supplies to the advancing British armies and to hold captured territory after the armies had moved on.
At first, this new strategy met with considerable success. An army of 3,500 British troops captured Savannah, Georgia, at the end of December 1778, and seized Augusta one month later. An American attempt to dislodge the British from Savannah in October 1779 failed, despite the assistance of French naval forces. At the end of 1779 most of Georgia was firmly under Loyalist control, and the British army shifted its attention to South Carolina. In May 1780 an expedition commanded by General Clinton took Charleston, capturing more than 5,000 American troops. Aided by local Loyalists, the invaders gradually occupied most of South Carolina. At the Battle of Camden in August, the British, now commanded in the South by Lord Charles Cornwallis, routed an American army under General Horatio Gates.
D3 The War at Sea
As British and American troops battled in the Southern backcountry, the small Patriot navy won a few spectacular victories at sea. On two occasions a small American squadron captured the port of Nassau in the Bahamas. Captain John Paul Jones twice carried the naval war into British waters. In 1778 Jones raided the port of Whitehaven, in England, and then captured the British sloop Drake. In the North Sea on September 23, 1779, Jones’s Bonhomme Richard forced the surrender of the British warship Serapis.
More important than these isolated triumphs was the steady war of attrition waged by American privateers against the British commercial fleet. By 1781 more than 450 privately owned vessels had received commissions from the states or the Congress to attack British shipping. During the war, these vessels captured or destroyed nearly 2,000 British merchant ships. The privateers did not seriously impede the movement of British armies and military supplies, which were usually transported in well-protected convoys. But they raised the cost of the war to Britain and, in combination with the French fleet, formed a serious threat to Britain’s commercial supremacy.
D4 The Road to Yorktown
Ultimately, the outcome of the American War of Independence was determined on land, not at sea. Following Cornwallis’s victory at Camden in the summer of 1780, the British controlled most of Georgia and South Carolina. Then Britain’s Southern strategy began to collapse. Clinton never had enough troops and supplies to crush the Patriot armies. Some much-needed British forces were tied down by French threats to the West Indies and to the British garrisons in Newport and New York City. Moreover, Parliament was unwilling to make an unlimited commitment of men and supplies to the reconquest of its mainland colonies. Equally important, the British and Loyalist troops in the South were unable to hold captured territory in the face of rebel guerrilla attacks.
Patriot bands led by Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens engaged in guerrilla warfare against the British. They gradually cut the British lines of supply, forcing the garrisons to withdraw toward Charleston and Savannah. At the same time, American troops and militia under the command of Nathanael Greene, “Light Horse Harry” Lee, and Daniel Morgan inflicted heavy casualties on the main British army under Cornwallis. Following significant American victories at Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, and Cowpens on January 17, 1781, in South Carolina and a costly battle at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, on March 15, 1781, Cornwallis moved his army northward to Virginia.
After Cornwallis’s departure, General Greene’s army engaged the remaining British forces in South Carolina in battles at Hobkirk’s Hill in April, at Ninety Six in May and June, and at Eutaw Springs in September. Each time the combined force of British regulars and Loyalists emerged victorious on the battlefield, but each time they were then forced to retreat because of American strength in the surrounding countryside. By the fall of 1781, the British had been forced back to their coastal enclaves at Charleston and Savannah.
By 1781 the British attempt to conquer the Southern states, which had begun so successfully in 1778, was failing. The British strategy finally collapsed in Virginia. After leaving the Carolinas, Lord Cornwallis moved his forces through Virginia without serious resistance. At Yorktown, near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, they began building a fortified base from which to launch a new campaign against American forces in Virginia. At this point, the American alliance with France allowed the Patriots to administer a crushing defeat to Cornwallis’s army.
Before 1780, the French had focused their attention on the rich British sugar islands and had provided the Americans with little assistance. Then, in July 1780, a French army of about 5,000 men, commanded by General Jean Baptiste de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, dislodged the British from Newport and threatened their garrison in New York City. The presence of this French army gave Washington enough military force to launch a surprise attack on Cornwallis. In the summer of 1781, a large French fleet under Admiral François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse sailed from the West Indies to Chesapeake Bay, where it was joined by a French squadron from Newport. This strong naval force prevented the resupply or evacuation of Cornwallis’s army. Meanwhile, Washington secretly moved Rochambeau’s troops to Virginia, where they joined an American army commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette, a French volunteer, and 3,000 French troops carried by de Grasse’s ships. By September 1781 the 7,000 men under Cornwallis faced a combined French and American force of more than 16,000. As at Saratoga, British immobility had permitted the Americans to gather reinforcements for the Siege of Yorktown. Once more the British were greatly outnumbered, and they were again forced to surrender an entire army. Cornwallis capitulated on October 19, 1781.
E Phase Four: Peace Negotiations
The French and American victory at Yorktown was even more devastating to the British cause than the earlier American triumph at Saratoga. After six futile years of warfare, the British Parliament was not willing to support a new military campaign. The British public would not accept new taxes, and many people were demanding reform of the political system. The British ministry gave up hope of suppressing the rebellion. Sporadic fighting continued for two years, especially at sea, but the major events of the fourth and last phase of the war took place at the negotiations in Europe.
The stakes were not limited to the issue of American independence. When France joined the war in 1778, the American conflict became a key element in European diplomacy. In 1779 Spain offered to remain neutral if the British would return Gibraltar. When this demand was refused, Spain allied with France and declared war on Britain. In the short run, Spain’s entry into the war assisted the American cause by adding to French naval strength. However, its ultimate implications were less favorable. Spain wanted the war to continue until the British could be ousted from Gibraltar. Similarly, France wanted to delay a peace treaty until it had captured some British sugar islands in the West Indies.
These diplomatic and military questions came to the fore after the British surrender at Yorktown. In March 1782 Charles Wentworth, Marquess of Rockingham, once again took power as the chief British minister. As in 1766, when he resolved the Stamp Act crisis, Rockingham sought compromise. He secured from Parliament a resolution declaring that Britain would no longer prosecute “an offensive war in America.” His ministry then opened negotiations with French and American diplomats in Paris.
Britain’s negotiating strategy was to play its enemies against one another. Thus, the ministry offered independence to the Americans, but refused to return Gibraltar to Spain or to meet any French demands for territory. When the French negotiators continued to press their demands and those of their Spanish ally, the four American diplomats in Paris—John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens—acted to protect American interests. Although instructed by Congress to act in concert with their French allies, the Americans entered into secret and separate talks with the British.
The American initiative succeeded. After hard bargaining, the British and American negotiators signed preliminary articles of peace on November 30, 1782. Following an unsuccessful Spanish assault on Gibraltar, the Spanish government finally joined the peace negotiation. Under the provisions of the Treaty of Paris, signed by all parties on September 3, 1783, Britain retained Canada, won legal protection for its merchants who held debts in America, and secured promises concerning the property and rights of Loyalists. In return, Britain acknowledged the independence of the United States of America and accepted the claim of Congress to the lands inhabited by Native American peoples between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. In part, this concession was made because of the capture of Kaskaskia and Vincennes in the Illinois country by Virginian George Rogers Clark in 1778 and 1779. Britain also granted the Americans fishing rights off Newfoundland. Finally, to reconcile the Spanish to the loss of Gibraltar, Britain returned Florida to Spain, which also gained control of Louisiana from France. The peace agreements were an American triumph, extending at the negotiating table the victories gained on the battlefield.
F The Social Impact of the War
The struggle for independence exposed civilians as well as soldiers to deprivation and death. The residents of New Jersey and the Carolinas were particularly hard hit by the fighting, as British and American armies marched back and forth across their lands. Patriot militias and Loyalist partisans looted farms, seeking political revenge or mere booty. Troops harassed or raped women and girls. Wherever the armies went, families lived in fear. Neighbors came to fear one another as well. Patriot mobs in New England tarred-and-feathered suspected Loyalists and seized their property. Local Committees of Safety often imposed fines or jail sentences on those who failed to support the Patriot cause.
F1 The Plight of Soldiers
Initially Patriots hoped that a local institution, the militia, would form the core of the American military effort. They feared that a permanent, or “standing,” army constituted a danger to political liberty, and therefore were not eager to supply the Continental Army with money and supplies. As a result, the Continental Army suffered through hardships, such as hunger and deprivation, during the war.
Soldiers had many grievances, for they were subject to harsh discipline and received inadequate rations and pay. During the winters of 1779 and 1780, Continental troops stationed at Morristown, New Jersey, rose up in mutiny to protest the harsh conditions. To restore authority, Washington ordered the execution of several leaders of the mutiny, and persuaded the Continental Congress to find monetary incentives—in the form of back pay and new clothing—to pacify the rest of the recruits. Unrest among higher-ranking military men continued; in 1783 Washington had to use his personal authority to prevent a group of disgruntled officers from leading an armed revolt against Congress. In the end, the officers won a half-pension for seven years, and soldiers received small grants of western lands. These were meager rewards, given the hardships of military life.
F2 Civilian Hardships
The war also demanded personal sacrifices and hard work from the civilian population. Faced with a scarcity of imported goods and skyrocketing prices, Patriot governments requisitioned needed goods directly from the people. Thus in 1776 Connecticut officials asked for shirts and shoes for state troops. Patriot women met this need by increasing their production of homespun cloth. Women also assumed new responsibilities, challenging traditional gender roles. With their husbands and sons away in the army, women assumed the burden of farm production. Some worked the family farm themselves, plowing fields or cutting and loading grain. Others supervised hired laborers or slaves.
It was not physical danger or hard work that dealt the most devastating blow to ordinary Americans, but rather the financial costs of the war of independence. Most families suffered because of a dramatic rise in prices. Their money bought less and less as the war went on. The hyperinflation of the Continental dollar was the result of the financial policies of the Patriot governments. Because of their fragile authority, American political leaders were afraid to levy heavy taxes to pay for the cost of the war. Instead they printed money, and used it to pay the troops and to buy food, equipment, and munitions for them. By 1779 the Continental Congress had issued $242 million worth of Continental currency, and the state governments had printed another $210 million. The currency constantly declined in purchasing power because people feared that it could not be redeemed in gold or silver; if a $10 bill was worth $3 when it came into their hands, it would be worth only $2.90 or less when they spent it. Although individual losses were small, collectively these “currency taxes” paid the huge cost of the war.
This soaring inflation forced nearly every family to become more calculating and to look out for its own interests. Unwilling to accept worthless currency, hard-pressed farmers refused to sell their crops to the Continental Army. In towns, women led mobs that seized overpriced sugar, tea, and bread from storekeepers. Among the civilian population, the war lowered the standard of living and increased conflict among social groups.
F3 The Loyalists Depart
The group that lost the most during the war were the Loyalists. The number of Loyalists who fled the United States is unknown but estimates range from 80,000 to 100,000 people. They emigrated mostly to Canada but also to the West Indies and Britain. Their departure affected the character of American society, for a significant minority of Loyalists were wealthy and politically powerful merchants, lawyers, and landowners. In many cities, upwardly mobile Patriot merchants replaced Loyalists at the top of the economic ladder.
The houses and lands left behind by the Loyalists raised the issue of their property rights. Some Patriots demanded confiscation of the property of the so-called traitors, but most public officials thought this would be contrary to republican principles. The new state constitutions declared that every citizen should be secure “in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property,” and this protection was usually extended to Loyalists.
Consequently, the state governments did not foster a social revolution by transferring Loyalist property to their Patriot supporters. In some cases yeoman farmers and former tenants purchased small sections of large Loyalist estates. But the general structure of rural society did not change as a result of the American Revolution, making it different from the French Revolution of 1789 and the Communist revolutions in Russia in 1917 and China in 1949.
F4 Black Americans Seek Freedom
The War of Independence did make a significant change in the lives of thousands of enslaved black Americans. Thousands of slaves in the South sought freedom by taking refuge behind British lines. When the British army evacuated Charleston and Savannah, more than 10,000 former slaves went with them. Some blacks settled in Nova Scotia; others moved to Sierra Leone in West Africa. Just as many blacks sought to improve their situation by enrolling in the Patriot cause. Free New England blacks served in the First Rhode Island Company, while slaves in Maryland won their freedom by serving in the army. Elsewhere in the South, slaves bargained with their owners, trading wartime loyalty for eventual liberty. Between 1782 and 1790, Virginia planters freed almost 10,000 slaves.
In the North, where there were relatively few slaves, the war brought an end to the institution in Massachusetts and the enactment of gradual emancipation laws in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. By 1800 every state north of Delaware had enacted similar laws, and blacks were taking advantage of their freedom to create their own social organizations such as black churches.
In the South, slavery continued. Enslaved people represented a huge financial investment. Most political leaders were slaveholders, and they resisted the pleas of various religious groups—primarily Quakers, Baptists, and Methodists—to move toward emancipation. Adopting the position of Thomas Jefferson, planters maintained that slavery was a “necessary evil” required to ensure the supremacy of whites and the elaborate lifestyles of the planter elite.
Nonetheless, the War of Independence formed a major turning point in black history. It changed slavery from a national to a regional institution and created new opportunities for thousands of freed blacks in the Northern states.
G The War in Retrospect
The War of Independence was the central event in the lives of a generation of Americans. For nearly a decade it entangled them in experiences of a remarkable intensity, shaping their thoughts about themselves, their society, and their government. Of the approximately 400,000 adult white men who lived in the colonies in 1775, probably about 175,000 fought in the war—120,000 as Patriot soldiers or militia, 55,000 as Loyalists. Thus, husbands or sons from nearly half of all white families were part of the “shooting” war. Many others—black as well as white, women and children as well as men—were shot at or suffered personal harm. Thousands of homes were looted or burned, and tens of thousands of people were detained, molested, or forced to flee from the cities occupied by British or Patriot troops and the intensely contested battle zones around New York City, throughout central New Jersey, and nearly everywhere in Georgia and the Carolinas.
For all these families the war was a political education. They learned, first, that one had to choose sides; it was more dangerous to remain neutral, without friends, than to join the Patriot militia or declare for the British cause. In the end, this process of wartime politicization led to mass emigration among Loyalists and intense patriotism among rebels. The war itself created loyalty to the new state governments and to the United States.
Second, they learned to question social and political authority. Once ordinary people had sensed the power of their united strength—whether in mobs, or militia, or armies, or popular conventions—they were less willing to defer to men of wealth and high status. In this sense, the war was a democratizing experience that solidified support for republicanism and began to overturn the deeply ingrained deferential habits of the colonial era.
Finally, some of the American people learned that success in war, and presumably in peace, required not only a loyal and purposeful population but also direction by a strong central government. The economic trials of the war, especially the difficulty of raising money without the power of taxation, encouraged them to enhance the powers of Congress at the expense of those of the states. Thus, the war developed sentiment for national political institutions.
The legacy of the war was a volatile mix of forces: patriotic fervor, democratic energy, republican values, and nationalist sentiment. Their interaction would determine the fate of the new nation.
VI THE NEW NATION: 1775-1789
While Americans struggled to win the independence of the United States, they were also creating new republican institutions of government to replace royal authority. In the process they had to work out the full implications—political, social, and intellectual—of life in a republican nation.
A New Political Institutions
The collapse of royal authority in America in 1775 did not lead to a breakdown of public order. Instead, the provincial assemblies, local county courts, and town meetings simply added the tasks previously performed by the imperial government to their traditional functions. The transfer of power was given legitimacy by state constitutions, which were written and ratified by the assemblies between 1776 and 1780.
The new constitutions were republican because they derived their legitimacy from the consent of the people—also known as the doctrine of popular sovereignty—and created representative political institutions. However, in structure, the new governments closely resembled those of the colonial period. Most states had an elected governor, a legislature of two houses, and property qualifications for voting.
There were, however, several significant variations. The most democratic of the new constitutions was that of Pennsylvania, ratified in 1776. It bestowed the vote on all adult white taxpayers and, to encourage majority rule, provided for only one house in the legislature and curtailed the powers of the governor. In sharp contrast, the aristocratic constitution of South Carolina imposed high property qualifications for voting and even higher restrictions for officeholding. These political differences reflected the contrasting societies of the two states. Pennsylvania’s democratic institutions resulted from the coming to power, during the revolution, of a coalition of social groups from the middling ranks: independent farmers, established artisans, and Scots-Irish Presbyterians. South Carolina’s elitist government was designed to protect the interests of a relatively small group of rich, slaveowning white planters.
Other constitutional provisions had historical or ideological origins. Some state charters included a bill of individual rights while most of the others had specific clauses that guaranteed traditional English legal rights, such as freedom from arbitrary searches, trial by jury, and protection of property. The documents also reflected Enlightenment values, such as guaranteeing religious toleration.
In some states, such as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, the new constitutions were approved only after fierce political battles. In other states, primarily those in the South, the governmental institutions given legitimacy in the new documents excluded the majority of the people—white as well as black—from a role in the political process. But everywhere the new charters were generally accepted, allowing a stable transition to republican government.
B Toward a New Religious Order
Before 1776 most Americans lived in colonies with established churches. All members of the community were assumed to be members of that church (the Church of England in the South, the Congregational Church in New England) and they were required by law to contribute to the support of the minister. Only Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, founded by Quakers and Baptists respectively, had no established church and allowed religious freedom.
Independence brought significant changes in American religious institutions, particularly in the South. Patriots who were members of the Church of England repudiated their allegiance to the king, the head of that church, and formed the Protestant Episcopal Church of America. Most of the leading planters in Virginia were Episcopalians and, to win support for the war effort from Presbyterians and Baptists, they had the Virginia Convention of 1776 issue a Declaration of Rights that guaranteed religious toleration. Then in 1786 the Virginia legislature passed Thomas Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. It declared that all churches had the same legal rights and that no church should receive direct financial support from the state. New York and New Jersey adopted similar legislation.
Even as the Southern and mid-Atlantic states were moving toward a separation of church and state, some citizens wanted to maintain the traditional European system of established churches. They felt that state support for religion would promote morality and respect for authority. These sentiments were particularly strong in New England, where there were close links between state government and the established Congregational Church. There were relatively few members of other religious faiths, and most New England ministers had enthusiastically supported the Patriot cause. For these reasons, Massachusetts and Connecticut maintained an established church until the 1830s. However they allowed Baptists and Methodists to support their own ministers. Thus, following the American Revolution, there was a general movement toward religious freedom.
C Economic Problems
In many respects the creation of a new political order was much easier than forging a new financial and economic system. During the War of Independence, British warships temporarily destroyed the New England fishing industry and seized many American merchant ships. Both the tobacco and the rice exporting states of the South and the grain-marketing regions of the North suffered from the disruption of Atlantic trade. The port cities had the greatest difficulty. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, and Newport were occupied for a time by British troops and suffered drastic declines in population as trade virtually ceased.
Peace did not bring a return to prewar prosperity. The United States was now outside the British Empire and could no longer count on special preferences and subsidies. Angry over unpaid debts, some British merchants refused to handle Chesapeake tobacco exports, cutting American sales. Without a financial subsidy from the British government, South Carolina’s once-lucrative indigo industry nearly vanished. Because of the British Navigation Acts, American-owned ships could no longer trade with the sugar islands in the British West Indies.
The result was a commercial recession that lasted for nearly two decades. In 1790 the value of American exports per capita was only two-thirds of what it had been in 1774. Nevertheless, low-priced British goods flooded into the United States, driving many artisans out of business. Responding to artisan protests, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts imposed tariffs on imported manufactures. The American standard of living declined, increasing the potential for conflict among competing economic groups.
D Political and Social Conflicts
The process of creating a democratic government during the American Revolution increased the prospect of social conflict. During the colonial era, most political offices had been occupied by wealthy men, and less wealthy Americans deferred to them. However, as early as 1770 Philadelphia workers protested against high-powered men who sought to control the political process with little regard for their involvement. By 1776 the backcountry farmers of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, were instructing their representatives to the state’s constitutional convention to “oppose everything that leans to aristocracy or power in the hands of the rich and chief men exercised to the oppression of the poor.”
At first, influential Patriots refused to cede power to the lower orders. They insisted that voting and officeholding be restricted to propertied white men. Conservative Patriots wanted to deny political rights to men who owned only a little property.
Nevertheless, the American Revolution did undermine the control of the state legislatures by an oligarchy of wealthy planters and merchants. In 1774 fewer than one in five members of the assemblies had been artisans or yeoman farmers. After the war, men from these social groups formed a majority in some Northern legislatures and a powerful minority in the Southern assemblies. Claiming a “right to speak and think for themselves,” artisans formed Mechanics Associations and elected representatives from their own ranks. Yeoman farmers benefited from the increased representation of backcountry regions under the new state constitutions. Overall, the increased political activity of farmers and artisans was significant.
E Gender Inequalities
The democratic reforms generated by the revolution were not fully extended to women. Women had not taken an active role in politics during the colonial era. However, during the revolution, educated upper-class women entered into political debate in private conversations and, less frequently, in public letters to newspapers. These women did not seek voting rights but some of them asked for a republican legal order that would give women greater individual rights. Under English and American common law, a woman was subject to the legal control of her father until age 21 and to the legal control of her husband upon her marriage. This meant that a married woman could not own property or make legal contracts for herself and was virtually subject to her husband’s will. Despite the pleas of Patriot women, including Abigail Adams, neither Congress nor the state governments took significant steps to enhance the legal rights of their female citizens.
Women continued to be excluded from politics as well. The state constitutions either restricted suffrage to men or imposed property qualifications for voting that effectively excluded married women. The New Jersey Constitution of 1776 did allow the vote to all free adult inhabitants worth £50, but when widows and unmarried women began to exercise this right after 1800, new legislation in 1807 excluded women from the polls.
F The Nature of the Revolution
The republican freedoms won in the war against Great Britain and incorporated into the new state constitutions made the United States a more democratic and a more equal polity. However, the Patriot leaders who led the independence movement did not want a political or a social revolution. The governments they founded did not attempt to alter the existing unequal distribution of wealth or eliminate the barriers of class, race, or gender status. Most of the benefits of political independence went to men who were white and property owners.
Thus, the American uprising against Britain was less a total revolution than a movement for home rule that was led and ultimately controlled by a privileged minority. And yet the American War of Independence shook up the existing society in profound ways. The long war created a huge price inflation that made many people more calculating, forcing some of them to embrace the market economy and others to retreat into subsistence farming. It also caused the departure of thousands of wealthy Loyalists, an event that altered the social structure. Moreover, the Patriot doctrines of republican liberty led to the end of slavery in the North and challenged its legitimacy in the South; prompted the political mobilization of ordinary farmers and artisans; and raised fundamental questions about gender roles.
Beyond these immediate social changes, the upheaval brought a revolution in American political thought. The people of the United States repudiated social hierarchy and hereditary monarchy in favor of individual liberty and representative republican government. Jefferson used Enlightenment natural law principles, such as the right to life and liberty, as the foundation of the Patriots’ doctrine of popular sovereignty. Thus, he argued in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” These principles—of individual rights and popular sovereignty—were truly revolutionary and were among the Patriots’ most important legacies to future generations.
VII THE CREATION OF A NATIONAL GOVERNMENT
The revolutionary generation of Americans also bequeathed to posterity a workable system of national government. No national political institutions existed in America before the war. To fight the war against Britain, the states in 1781 agreed to Articles of Confederation, which created a weak but workable national government. Then in 1787 nationalist-minded Patriots devised a constitution, creating a “national republic” whose powers were drawn from the people at large and which established a much stronger central government.
A The First Congresses
The movement toward centralized government began slowly and sporadically. The Albany Congress of 1754 and the Stamp Act Congress of 1765 addressed specific issues and were attended by representatives from only some of the colonies. However, beginning in 1772 the Patriot Committees of Correspondence expanded these contacts among colonial leaders. Consequently, the First and Second Continental Congresses, held at Philadelphia in 1774 and 1775, were attended by delegates from most colonies and claimed to speak for the entire American population.
Following the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the states voluntarily joined together in a legislative assembly, the Continental Congress, in which each state had one vote. The Congress mediated disputes among the states, raised and maintained the Continental Army, secured loans from European bankers, and made military and commercial alliances with France. Its success laid the basis for more permanent national political institutions.
B The Articles of Confederation
The Continental Congress was a temporary government without clearly defined powers. To establish its authority, the Congress in November 1777 enacted the Articles of Confederation, drafted by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, and declared they would go into effect when ratified by all of the states. The Articles proposed a loose confederation in which each state kept its sovereign independence and control over all of its internal affairs. However, certain powers, primarily relating to diplomacy and defense, were delegated to the Confederation Congress. It was given the power to declare war, make treaties, borrow and print money, and requisition funds from the states.
At first, a number of states refused to ratify the Articles. Some state governments hesitated to create a central political authority that might restrict their autonomy like the British Parliament had done. Other states demanded recognition of their colonial-era land claims that, in some cases, stretched to the Pacific Ocean. Gradually, the pressures of war overcame this reluctance. “Unless Congress are vested with powers, by the separate states, competent to the great purposes of war ...,” General George Washington warned the country in 1780, “our cause is lost.” Congress did its part, persuading the states to give up their western land claims and to allow creation of a national domain. Finally, in 1781, under the threat of British invasion, Maryland became the final state to ratify the Articles.
The central government created by the Articles was simple in structure and limited in authority. There was no governor or chief executive and no system of courts. The legislature was a one-house Congress in which each state had one vote, regardless of population or wealth. The Congress had military and diplomatic powers, but no authority to regulate commerce or to levy taxes. It could ask the states for needed funds, but it could not force them to comply. Furthermore, the powers of the Confederation could be changed only by the unanimous consent of the states.
Although the Confederation was created primarily to fight the war against Britain, its structure and powers had deeper roots in American history. Indeed, they represented a fragile compromise between two contradictory aspects of the colonial experience. On the one hand, there was the tradition of local political control. For decades the colonial assemblies had sought to expand their powers and to diminish those of the central government in London. Now that they were independent states, they had no wish to subject themselves to external control. On the other hand, the individual colonies had prospered because they were part of a larger political and economic entity. Under the British imperial system, goods had moved freely between one colony and another without being subject to local tariffs, and people were free to migrate as well. Now that the Americans were independent, some sort of national authority was necessary to ensure unrestricted travel and trade among the independent republican states and to resolve other common peacetime problems.
Even as the Articles of Confederation were ratified, some Patriots were campaigning for a stronger central government. One group that wanted a more powerful Confederation was composed of nationalists. These men—military officers, diplomats, delegates to Congress, and federal financiers and bureaucrats—had served the Confederation during the war and had acquired a national perspective and outlook. In their thinking, there was a self-evident need for central control over the disposition of western lands, tariff and commercial policies, and dealings with foreign states.
The first success of the nationalists came with respect to western lands. By 1781 the Congress had acquired title to most of the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River and began to develop policies for the coherent settlement of this vast national domain. Congress decided that the revenues from the sale of this national domain would go to the national government, not the states.
C1 Tariffs and the Annapolis Convention
Even as the Confederation government was devising this program for the settlement of the West, nationalists won Congress’s approval for a 5 percent tariff on foreign imports. Until the western lands could be sold, Congress needed this revenue to pay its war-related debts. Moreover, three states had enacted tariffs to protect their artisans. So a uniform levy seemed imperative to prevent smuggling of foreign manufactures between states and to ensure the free flow of American farm goods and manufactures.
However, before this tariff could go into effect, it had to be approved by all the states because it increased the powers of the Confederation. The refusal of Rhode Island and New York to approve the tariff prompted the nationalists to call a commercial convention at Annapolis, Maryland, in 1786. When only five states sent delegates to the Annapolis meeting, the nationalists planned a new, and broader, meeting. They asked Congress and the states to approve a convention at Philadelphia in 1787. Its task would be to devise a stronger national government.
C2 Creditors and Shays’ Rebellion
Nationalists were not the only group seeking the creation of a stronger central government. In most states there were creditors—men who had lent money to governments or private individuals—who had a similar goal. They wanted high taxes so that they could redeem their loans quickly and at face value. In order to do this, they wanted to diminish the power of state legislatures, which were often influenced by hard-pressed farmers and other debtors. Farmers, and many wealthier planters, wanted low taxes. The recession of the 1780s had cut their income, and many farmers and planters owed private debts to merchants or landlords.
To protect their economic interests, debtors elected men to the state legislature who favored low taxes and debt-relief measures. The South Carolina legislature enacted a law that prevented creditors from legally seizing the land of debtors and selling it. Instead, creditors were required to accept installment payments over a three-year period. Pro-debtor state legislatures also printed large amounts of paper money and, when it depreciated in value, enacted “legal tender” laws requiring creditors to accept it in payment for private debts. Such laws angered creditors, but they eased the financial pressures on debtors and prevented major social upheavals.
In Massachusetts, the refusal of the legislature to enact pro-debtor measures sparked Shays’ Rebellion, the first armed uprising in the new nation. During the 1780s wealthy creditors used their influence to defeat legislation regulating legal fees and lowering taxes. Hard-pressed by economic recession, high taxes, and private debts, many farmers were unable to pay their debts. Creditors sued them in court and won legal judgments against their land and homes. To protect their property, mobs of farmers closed the courts in 1786 and organized extralegal conventions to discuss their grievances. Led by Daniel Shays, a former captain in the Continental Army, they set up a military force and prepared to seize the arsenal at Springfield. The Massachusetts legislature quickly passed a Riot Act and, with financial support from eastern merchants, Governor James Bowdoin mobilized an army, which put down the rebellion in early 1787.
Shays’ Rebellion stemmed from economic grievances but derived much of its force from the doctrine of popular sovereignty enshrined by the American Revolution. Coming on the eve of the Constitutional Convention, Shays’ Rebellion reinforced the determination of nationalists—and their creditor allies—to create a stronger central government. They wanted a government that could raise a powerful army both to put down domestic insurrections and to confront foreign threats. Britain continued to hold military forts in western lands belonging to the United States, and Spain was fomenting secessionist movements among western settlers and threatening to close the Mississippi River to American commerce.
D The Constitutional Convention of 1787
The 55 delegates who gathered in Philadelphia in May 1787 were mostly merchants, slaveowning planters, and landlords. There were no artisans and only a few farmers. The delegates included some of the most prestigious men in the United States—among them George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. Other leading Patriots were absent: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were in Europe on diplomatic missions; Patrick Henry refused to attend because he favored the limited central government of the Confederation.
The strong nationalist bias of most delegates quickly emerged. William Paterson of New Jersey proposed a limited reform of the existing Articles of Confederation. Paterson’s New Jersey Plan would have given the Confederation government authority to regulate trade and commerce and to levy taxes. It would also have insured that acts of Congress would be the “supreme law of the respective states.” However, the convention rejected the New Jersey Plan. Some members objected that it discriminated against states with large populations by leaving all states with a single vote in the one-house Confederation legislature. Many other delegates were convinced that it left too many powers to the states.
The convention turned its attention to the plan for a national republic presented by James Madison of Virginia. Madison was determined to create a powerful central government. His Virginia Plan would limit the sovereignty of the individual states and ensure “the supremacy of national authority.” The new government would draw its authority not from the states but from the people as a whole; it would be a national republic with the power to act directly on individuals within the various states. Finally, the Virginia Plan proposed a three-part national government, with a lower house elected by the voters, an upper house selected by the lower body, and an executive and judiciary chosen by the entire legislature.
D1 Compromises over Representation and Slavery
The delegates endorsed the basic principles of Madison’s plan in June. During the following month, they addressed the complex and controversial issue of representation and fashioned two compromises. The first compromise, suggested by the delegation from Connecticut, sought to balance the political power of states with large and small populations. Under the terms of the compromise, the states would be represented in the lower house on the basis of population. In the upper house, each state would have an equal number of votes.
Although the main conflict over representation was between the large and the small states, a second compromise was necessary to address an important regional issue. The Southern states contained a large number of black slaves. Since these slaves were not allowed to vote, Northern delegates argued that they should not be counted for purposes of representation. They maintained that the number of seats held by Southern states in the lower house of the national legislature should be based on their white population. Southerners replied that this method of apportioning seats did not recognize the wealth and importance of their states; they wanted slaves to be counted equally with free people. The delegates compromised. Three-fifths of a state’s enslaved population would be counted for purposes of representation and taxation.
There were other regional arguments over slavery. Although moral arguments against slavery shaped the debates in the convention, most delegates treated slavery primarily as a political issue. That is, they sought compromises between the North and the South that would preserve national unity. Thus, the Constitution permitted the importation of slaves until 1808 but then gave Congress the power to ban the trade. And Northern delegates reluctantly accepted a fugitive clause that allowed owners to reclaim slaves who fled to other states.
D2 Limiting Popular and State Power
After reaching these compromises over representation and slavery, the delegates spent two months working out the details of the new plan of government. They defined the judicial power of the central government in broad terms and created a Supreme Court. However, because they did not want to raise opposition to the new Constitution, the delegates left it to the first Congress to work out a politically acceptable way of establishing national courts within the states. For the same reason, they decided not to impose a property qualification for voting in national elections, although many of the delegates wished to diminish the power of the people. To limit popular power, the convention used other means: for example, both the Senate and the president of the United States would be chosen by indirect means. Voters would not have the power to elect senators; rather, they would be selected by the state legislatures (a provision that was changed only by the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913). Likewise, voters would not choose the president; instead, they would select members of a small Electoral College who would choose a president (a system that still prevails today in theory though not in practice).
During these months, the delegates also agreed to create a strong, pro-creditor national state. The Constitution declared that the new government would honor the existing national debt and would have broad powers of taxation as well as control over commerce. Moreover, the new document restricted the power of pro-debtor state legislatures. Like the British government before it, it took away from the states the power to issue money, thus protecting creditors from inflation caused by paper currency. And it prohibited the states from enacting any law that impaired “the obligation of contracts,” thereby preventing debt-relief legislation.
In the middle of September, 38 of the delegates still in Philadelphia signed the Constitution of the United States (3 refused to sign) and submitted it to the Confederation Congress. The document stipulated that it would go into effect upon ratification by special conventions in 9 of the 13 states.
E The Ratification Struggle
The new constitution produced exciting debates and bitter political battles both in the state conventions and among the public at large. Supporters of the new document called themselves Federalists. Merchants, commercial-minded farmers, and creditors were the most vocal advocates of the Constitution, hoping it would spur business activity. The Federalists’ ranks also included many urban artisans, who wanted protective tariffs and praised the constitutional provisions regarding commerce.
The Antifederalists, who opposed ratification of the Constitution, were drawn from all sections and classes and included political leaders in many states. However, their arguments appealed primarily to small-scale farmers, who would have little voice in the new government and feared its power. Antifederalist leaders argued that republican institutions—governments truly “of” and “for” the people—were possible only in cities or small states. They contended that the new central government would be far removed from the people; that the relatively small number of representatives would lead to the election primarily of the wealthy and well-known; and that the lack of a bill of rights would expose citizens to arbitrary national power.
Some Federalists saw merit in this last criticism and, in order to win ratification in the crucial states of Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York, promised that a bill of rights would be added by the first Congress. The other Antifederalist contentions were answered by Madison, Hamilton, and John Jay in a series of newspaper articles known as The Federalist (1788). They stressed that the state governments, which were closer to the people, would retain substantial powers. The authors also asserted that the three branches of the new government would “check and balance” one another, thus preventing an arbitrary exercise of power. Madison went even further, arguing that republican liberty would be better preserved in a large rather than in a small state. He pointed out that in a large state there would be a great number of economic interests and social groups, thus making it impossible for any one of them to dominate the rest.
These arguments of The Federalist, the promise of a bill of rights, and superb political tactics secured the ratification of the Constitution. The conventions in most small and less populous states quickly voted in favor, for the delegates hoped that a strong national government would offset the power of their larger neighbors. Elsewhere the debates were vigorous, and the outcome was close. The Federalists’ margin of victory was only 89 to 79 in Virginia and 30 to 27 in New York. By 1789 the Constitution had been ratified in 11 states and was put into effect with the election of the first Congress of the United States and a first president, George Washington.
F The Nature of the Constitution
To some Americans at the time, the Constitution of 1789 appeared to be a reactionary document, almost a throwback to British imperial rule. The strong central government removed power from the responsive state governments created by the revolution and seemed to protect the interests of men of wealth. But other Americans observed that the new government could protect the nation from external threats and that the Constitution provided a flexible and potentially democratic political framework.
There was considerable truth in both views. The new Constitution did solidify the control of national affairs by a diverse yet definable group of wealthy white men. Many of them had helped to lead the Patriot independence movement and then found their new-found power threatened from below. The American Revolution—the triumph of republicanism—unleashed democratic political forces that challenged traditional elite power. The Constitution incorporated this new republicanism in its representative institutions, thereby providing the means by which later generations of Americans would attempt legally to fashion a more democratic and equal society.
James A. Henretta
US Encarta Encyclopedia 2006
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French Revolution (Part I)
French Revolution, major transformation of the society and political system of France, lasting from 1789 to 1799. During the course of the Revolution, France was temporarily transformed from an absolute monarchy, where the king monopolized power, to a republic of theoretically free and equal citizens. The effects of the French Revolution were widespread, both inside and outside of France, and the Revolution ranks as one of the most important events in the history of Europe.
During the ten years of the Revolution, France first transformed and then dismantled the Old Regime, the political and social system that existed in France before 1789, and replaced it with a series of different governments. Although none of these governments lasted more than four years, the many initiatives they enacted permanently altered France’s political system. These initiatives included the drafting of several bills of rights and constitutions, the establishment of legal equality among all citizens, experiments with representative democracy, the incorporation of the church into the state, and the reconstruction of state administration and the law code.
Many of these changes were adopted elsewhere in Europe as well. Change was a matter of choice in some places, but in others it was imposed by the French army during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1797) and the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). To later generations of Europeans and non-Europeans who sought to overturn their political and social systems, the French Revolution provided the most influential model of popular insurrection until the Russian Revolution of 1917.
II CAUSES OF THE REVOLUTION
From the beginning of the 20th century until the 1970s, the French Revolution was most commonly described as the result of the growing economic and social importance of the bourgeoisie, or middle class. The bourgeoisie, it was believed, overthrew the Old Regime because that regime had given power and privilege to other classes—the nobility and the clergy—who prevented the bourgeoisie from advancing socially and politically. Recently this interpretation has been replaced by one that relies less on social and economic factors and more on political ones. Economic recession in the 1770s may have frustrated some bourgeois in their rise to power and wealth, and rising bread prices just before the Revolution certainly increased discontent among workers and peasants. Yet it is now commonly believed that the revolutionary process started with a crisis in the French state.
By 1789 many French people had become critical of the monarchy, even though it had been largely successful in militarily defending France and in quelling domestic religious and political violence. They resented the rising and unequal taxes, the persecution of religious minorities, and government interference in their private lives. These resentments, coupled with an inefficient government and an antiquated legal system, made the government seem increasingly illegitimate to the French people. The royal court at Versailles, which had been developed to impress the French people and Europe generally, came to symbolize the waste and corruption of the entire Old Regime.
A Parlements and Philosophes
During the 18th century, criticism of the French monarchy also came from people who worked for the Old Regime. Some of the king’s own ministers criticized past practices and proposed reforms, but a more influential source of dissent was the parlements, 13 regional royal courts led by the Parlement of Paris. The parlements were empowered to register royal decrees, and all decrees had to be registered by the parlements before becoming law. In this capacity, the parlements frequently protested royal initiatives that they believed to threaten the traditional rights and liberties of the people. In widely distributed publications, they held up the image of a historically free France and denounced the absolute rule of the crown that in their view threatened traditional liberties by imposing religious orthodoxy and new taxes.
These protests blended with those of others, most notably an influential group of professional intellectuals called the philosophes. Like those who supported the parlements, the philosophes did not advocate violent revolution. Yet, they claimed to speak on behalf of the public, arguing that people had certain natural rights and that governments existed to guarantee these rights. In a stream of pamphlets and treatises—many of them printed and circulated illegally—they ridiculed the Old Regime’s inefficiencies and its abuses of power.
During this time, the parlementaires and the philosophes together crafted a vocabulary that would be used later to define and debate political issues during the Revolution. They redefined such terms as despotism, or the oppression of a people by an arbitrary ruler; liberty and rights; and the nation.
B Fiscal Crisis
The discontent of the French people might not have brought about a political revolution if there had not been a fiscal crisis in the late 1780s. Like so much else in the Old Regime, the monarchy’s financial system was inefficient and antiquated. France had neither a national bank nor a centralized national treasury. The nobility and clergy—many of them very wealthy—paid substantially less in taxes than other groups, notably the much poorer peasantry. Similarly, the amount of tax charged varied widely from one region to another.
Furthermore, the monarchy almost always spent more each year than it collected in taxes; consequently, it was forced to borrow, which it did increasingly during the 18th century. Debt grew in part because France participated in a series of costly wars—the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), and the American Revolution (1775-1783). Large existing debts and a history of renouncing earlier ones meant that the country was forced to borrow at higher interest rates than some other countries, further adding to the already massive debt. By 1789 the state was forced to spend nearly half its yearly revenues paying the interest it owed.
B1 Attempts at Reform
Financial reform was attempted before 1789. Upon his accession to the throne in 1774, Louis XVI appointed the reform-minded Anne Robert Jacques Turgot as chief finance minister. Between 1774 and 1776 Turgot sought to cut government expenses and to increase revenues. He removed government restrictions on the sale and distribution of grain in order to increase grain sales and, in turn, government revenue. Jacques Necker, director of government finance between 1777 and 1781, reformed the treasury system and published an analysis of the state of government finance in 1781 as a means to restore confidence in its soundness. But most of these reforms were soon undone as the result of pressure from a variety of financial groups, and the government continued to borrow at high rates of interest through the 1780s.
Charles Alexandre de Calonne was appointed minister of finance in 1783, and three years later he proposed a new general plan resembling Turgot’s. He wanted to float new loans to cover immediate expenses, revoke some tax exemptions, replace older taxes with a new universal land tax and a stamp tax, convene regional assemblies to oversee the new taxes, and remove more restrictions from the grain trade.
B2 Assembly of Notables and Estates-General
To pressure the parlements into accepting the plan, Calonne decided to gain prior approval of it from an Assembly of Notables—a group of hand-picked dignitaries he thought would sympathize with his views. But Calonne had badly miscalculated. Meeting in January 1787, the assembly refused to believe that a financial crisis really existed. They had been influenced by Necker’s argument that state finances were sound and suspected that the monarchy was only trying to squeeze more money from the people. They insisted on examining state accounts. Despite a public appeal for support, Calonne was fired and replaced by Loménie de Brienne in April 1787.
Brienne was also unable to win the support of the assembly, and in May 1787 it was dismissed. Over the summer and early fall, Brienne repeatedly tried to strike a compromise with the Parlement of Paris. But the compromise fell through when the king prevented the Parlement from voting on proposed loans, an act that was seen as yet more evidence of despotism. In May 1788 the government abolished all the parlements in a general restructuring of the judiciary.
Public response to the actions of the king was strong and even violent. People began to ignore royal edicts and assault royal officials, and pamphlets denouncing despotism inundated the country. At the same time, people began to call for an immediate meeting of the Estates-General to deal with the crisis. The Estates-General was a consultative assembly composed of representatives from the three French estates, or legally defined social classes: clergy, nobility, and commoners. It had last been convened in 1614. Under increasing political pressure and faced with the total collapse of its finances in August 1788, the Old Regime began to unravel. Brienne was dismissed, Necker reinstated, and the Estates-General was called to meet on May 1, 1789.
III BEGINNING OF REVOLUTION
Almost immediately contention arose regarding voting procedures in the upcoming Estates-General. In its last meeting, voting had been organized by estate, with each of the three estates meeting separately and each having one vote. In this way the privileged classes had combined to outvote the third estate, which constituted more than 90 percent of the population. In registering the edict to convene the Estates-General, the Parlement of Paris, which had been reinstated by the monarchy on September 23, 1788, ruled in favor of keeping this form of voting. The Parlement probably did this more to prevent the monarchy from potentially exploiting any new voting system to its advantage than to preserve noble privilege. However, many observers read this decision as a betrayal of the third estate. As a result, a flood of pamphlets appeared demanding a vote by head at the Estates-General—that is, a procedure whereby each deputy was to cast one vote in a single chamber composed of all three estates. This method would give each estate a number of votes that more accurately represented its population and would make it more difficult for the first two estates to routinely outvote the third. Now two battles were being waged at the same time: one to protect the nation’s liberty against royal despotism, and the other over how the nation would be represented in the Estates-General.
During the early months of 1789, the three estates prepared for the coming meeting by selecting deputies and drawing up cahiers des doléances (lists of grievances). These lists reflected overwhelming agreement in favor of limiting the power of the king and his administrators and establishing a permanent legislative assembly. In an effort to satisfy the third estate, the monarchy had agreed to double the number of their representatives but then took no firm stand on whether the voting would proceed by estate or by head.
When the Estates-General assembled at Versailles in May 1789, the monarchy proposed no specific financial plan for debate and left the voting issue unsettled. As a result, the estates spent their time engaged in debate of the voting procedure, and little was accomplished.
A National Assembly
Five wasted weeks later, the third estate finally took the initiative by inviting the clergy and nobility to join them in a single-chambered legislature where the voting would be by head. Some individual members of the other estates did so, and on June 17, 1789, they together proclaimed themselves to be the National Assembly (also later called the Constituent Assembly).
When officials locked their regular meeting place to prepare it for a royal address, members of the National Assembly concluded their initiative was about to be crushed. Regrouping at a nearby indoor tennis court on June 20, they swore not to disband until France had a constitution. This pledge became known as the Tennis Court Oath.
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French Revolution (Part II)
French Revolution (Part II)
B Storming of the Bastille
On June 23, 1789, Louis XVI belatedly proposed a major overhaul of the financial system, agreed to seek the consent of the deputies for all new loans and taxes, and proposed other important reforms. But he spoiled the effect by refusing to recognize the transformation of the Estates-General into the National Assembly and by insisting upon voting by estate—already a dying cause. Moreover, he inspired new fears by surrounding the meeting hall of the deputies with a large number of soldiers. Faced with stiffening resistance by the third estate and increasing willingness of deputies from the clergy and nobility to join the third estate in the National Assembly, the king suddenly changed course and agreed to a vote by head on June 27.
Despite much rejoicing, suspicions of the king’s intentions ran high. Royal troops began to thicken near Paris, and on July 11 the still-popular Necker was dismissed. To people at the time and to many later on, these developments were clear signs that the king sought to undo the events of the previous weeks.
Crowds began to roam Paris looking for arms to fight off a royal attack. On July 14 these crowds assaulted the Bastille, a large fortress on the eastern edge of the city. They believed that it contained munitions and many prisoners of despotism, but in fact, the fortress housed only seven inmates at the time. The storming of the Bastille marked a turning point—attempts at reform had become a full-scale revolution. Faced with this insurrection, the monarchy backed down. The troops were withdrawn, and Necker was recalled.
IV THE MODERATE REVOLUTION
In the year leading up to the storming of the Bastille, the economic problems of many common people had become steadily worse, largely because poor weather conditions had ruined the harvest. As a result, the price of bread—the most important food of the poorer classes—increased. Tensions and violence grew in both the cities and the countryside during the spring and summer of 1789. While hungry artisans revolted in urban areas, starved peasants scoured the provinces in search of food and work. These vagrants were rumored to be armed agents of landlords hired to destroy crops and harass the common people. Many rural peasants were gripped by a panic, known as the Great Fear. They attacked the residences of their landlords in hopes of protecting local grain supplies and reducing rents on their land.
Both afraid of and politically benefiting from this wave of popular violence, leaders of the revolutionary movement in Paris began to massively restructure the state. On the night of August 4, 1789, one nobleman after another renounced his personal privileges. Before the night was over, the National Assembly declared an end to the feudal system, the traditional system of rights and obligations that had reinforced inherited inequality under the Old Regime. The exact meaning of this resolution as it applied to specific privileges, especially economic ones, took years to sort out. But it provided the legal foundation for gradually scaling back the feudal dues peasants owed to landlords and for eliminating the last vestiges of serfdom, the system that legally bound the peasants to live and work on the landlords’ estates.
At the end of August, the National Assembly promulgated the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Conceived as the prologue to a new constitution that was not yet drafted, the declaration was a short, concise document ensuring such basic personal rights as those of property, free speech, and personal security. It left unresolved the rights of women and the limits of individual rights in relation to the power of the newly emerging state. But by recognizing the source of sovereignty in the people, it undermined the idea that the king ruled by divine right (see Divine Right of Kings).
A Restructuring the State
As these developments unfolded, Louis XVI once again failed to act decisively. The queen, Marie-Antoinette, feared catastrophe if events continued on their current course and advocated a hard line. But power was quickly slipping away from the king, as revolutionaries began to organize political clubs and an influential periodical press. Having lost control of events, Louis was forced to yield to them. He gave in so reluctantly—for example, taking months to approve the August 4, 1789, decrees and the Declaration of Rights—that hostility to the crown only increased.
When rumors circulated that guests at a royal banquet had trampled on revolutionary insignia, a crowd of many thousands, most of them women who were also protesting the high cost of bread, marched to Versailles on October 5. They were accompanied by National Guards, commanded by the Marquis de Lafayette. The Guards were barely able to prevent wholesale massacre, and the crowd forced the royal family to leave Versailles for Paris, never to return. The king and his family were now, in effect, prisoners, forced to inhabit the Tuilerie Palace along with the National Assembly, which moved there as well. Paris had replaced Versailles as the center of power, and the government was now more vulnerable than ever to the will of the restless, and occasionally violent, people of the city.
A1 Political Change: Constitutional Monarchy
The National Assembly next focused on writing a new constitution, a process that took more than two years. Although it was agreed that France would remain a monarchy, the Assembly decided almost immediately that the constitution would not simply reform the old order, as the more moderate deputies wanted. Instead, it transformed the political system of the Old Regime, but preserved the monarchy.
The new constitution was designed to prevent the return of despotism by making all government officials subject to the rule of law. It proclaimed France as a united, sovereign kingdom, dissolved the entire system of royal administration, and adopted a system of federalism that shifted authority from Paris to the localities. France was divided into 83 districts called departments, each of which would elect administrators to execute laws, maintain public order, levy taxes, and oversee education and poor relief.
The powers of the national government were divided among separate, independent branches. The chief executive was to be the king, who would continue to inherit his office, but his powers were to be limited, particularly in legislative matters. The king was allowed only a suspensive veto, whereby he could at most delay the laws passed by the assembly. As the only law-making body, the single-chambered Legislative Assembly was the heart of the state, enjoying wide powers. Although the right to vote was extended to more than half the adult male population—called active citizens—election to the assembly was made a complex process. Very restrictive qualifications made only about 50,000 men (out of about 26 million French people) eligible to serve as deputies. Like the administration of the departments, the judiciary was also decentralized. Legal procedure was streamlined, and torture banned.
A2 Social Change: Equal Rights
In addition to reconstituting the state, the National Assembly made many changes to the existing social order. Among the most notable changes were the elimination of the nobility as a legally defined class and the granting of the same civil rights to all citizens; the elimination of guilds and other organizations that monopolized production, controlled prices and wages, or obstructed economic activity through strikes; the extension of rights to blacks in France and to mulattoes in France’s Caribbean colonies, though not the outright abolition of slavery; and the granting of full civil rights to religious minorities, including Protestants and Jews.
A3 Religious Change: Civil Constitution of the Clergy
Political and social restructuring on this scale raised complicated issues regarding the Catholic Church. The clergy had enjoyed extensive property rights and special privileges under the Old Regime and had long been a target of criticism. The National Assembly incorporated the church within the state, stripping clerics of their property and special rights. In return, the state assumed the large debts of the church and paid the clergy a salary. Dioceses were redrawn to correspond to departments. A presiding bishop would administer each diocese, with local priests beneath him. Since active citizens would elect the bishops and the priests, a Protestant, Jew, or atheist might be chosen to fill these positions. Finally, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 1790 required all priests and bishops to swear an oath of loyalty to the new order or face dismissal.
Almost half the parish priests and bishops (called the refractory clergy) refused to take the oath. This marked an important turn of events. Before the Civil Constitution, opposition to the Revolution had remained a scattered affair. It had been led by an ineffective group of high nobles called the émigrés, who had fled the country beginning in July 1789 and had been conspiring from abroad ever since. More than anything else, the Civil Constitution and the oath solidified resistance to the Revolution by giving the resistance a religious justification and publicly designating a group of influential individuals—the refractory clergy—as enemies of the new state.
Although there were many reasons for the Civil Constitution, financial considerations were some of the most important. The government’s fiscal problems continued well past 1789. The assembly had assumed the Old Regime’s debts, but tax collections had been interrupted by administrative disorders and simple refusals to pay. To cover expenditures, the assembly issued bonds, called assignats; then to repay the assignats, it confiscated and sold the church’s considerable property holdings. The government justified this practice by saying that church property belonged to the nation.
B Growing Factionalism
All these measures were vigorously debated inside and outside the assembly. The assembly had been divided from the start into a conservative right that wanted to limit change and a radical left that wanted major social and political reforms. The assembly therefore lacked a unified voice. As head of state, the king was expected to provide this unifying influence, even if his power was formally limited. However, hopes that the king would step in and fill this role were dashed in June 1791 when the royal family fled Paris in disguise, leaving behind a manifesto denouncing nearly all the Revolution had accomplished since 1789. Poorly planned and executed, the effort ended with the royal family’s arrest at the border town of Varennes. From there they were returned to Paris under heavy guard, now more prisoners than ever.
Because so much had been expected of the king, the Varennes fiasco proved more of a shock than could be absorbed all at once. In an attempt to recover, assembly leaders announced that the incident had been a case of kidnapping, not an escape, and in mid-July the assembly voted to clear the king of all responsibility for what had happened. But these fictions were hardly convincing, and once they collapsed, so did the likelihood of ending the Revolution and establishing a stable government. On the left, moderate revolutionaries who sought to keep the monarchy, called Feuillants, split from the more radical revolutionaries, known as the Cordeliers and the Jacobins, who now began to talk openly about replacing the monarchy with a republic.
The king reluctantly approved the new constitution on September 14, 1791. Alarmed by the radical direction the Revolution was taking, more nobles began to cross the border to become émigrés. Pressured by these émigrés and concerned about the potential effects of the Revolution on their own kingdoms, the Austrian emperor and Prussian king issued the Declaration of Pillnitz on August 27. In this declaration they announced a rather vague willingness to intervene militarily on behalf of the French monarchy. Unclear as it was, the declaration provoked fears of an invasion.
It was under these threatening circumstances that the new constitution took effect and the Legislative Assembly first met on October 1, 1791. At first, the assembly got along remarkably well with the king, but this situation changed when the assembly proposed retaliatory actions against the émigrés and the refractory clergy. On November 9 it passed legislation requiring that the émigrés return to France or face death and the loss of their estates. On November 29 it required the refractory clergy to take the oath to the constitution or fall under state surveillance and lose their pension rights.
V RADICAL REVOLUTION
The émigrés and their efforts to mobilize foreign powers against France created the pretext for France’s entry into war in April 1792. In reality, Austria and Prussia had shown little interest in intervention on behalf of the French king. However, radical political figures, most notably Jacques Pierre Brissot, persistently exaggerated the threat of an Austrian invasion of France and the subversion of the revolutionary government by a conspiracy of Austrian sympathizers called the Austrian Committee. Expecting that a conflict with Austria would weaken the king to their political advantage, Brissot and his colleagues pressed for a declaration of war. Many of the king’s advisors, though at first not the king himself, also advocated the war option. They believed a victory would strengthen royal power and a defeat would crush the Revolution. Persuaded, the king appointed a ministry dominated by Brissot’s associates on March 10, 1792, and on April 20 the assembly declared war on Austria, which was soon joined by Prussia. Thus began the series of conflicts known as the French Revolutionary Wars.
A End of the Monarchy
The wars profoundly altered the course of the Revolution, leading to the end of the monarchy and raising fears of reprisals against the revolutionaries in the event of a defeat. The French had few successes on the battlefield. The French army was in the middle of a major reorganization and was not prepared for war. In addition, Brissot’s ministry proved incompetent and disorganized. During the spring of 1792, the French army lurched from defeat to defeat. Someone, it seemed, was to blame; and the Brissot faction (called Brissotins) blamed the king, who in turn fired the Brissotin ministers on June 13.
On June 20 a mob, alarmed at the worsening military situation and rising bread prices caused by the declining value of the assignats, stormed the Tuilerie Palace. Coached by the Brissotins, the mob demanded that the king reinstate the Brissotin ministers. Louis courageously refused to do so. But military disasters continued during the summer, and the political situation deteriorated further when a Prussian commander, the duke of Brunswick, issued a manifesto in which he threatened to execute anyone who harmed the royal family.
On August 10 a crowd again stormed the Tuilerie Palace in the Revolution’s bloodiest eruption to date. This time, however, the mob was not allied with the Brissotins, who still favored a monarchy. Instead it supported the more radical Jacobins who, under the leadership of the lawyer Maximilien Robespierre, now demanded the creation of a republic. While the royal family hid in the Assembly hall, the mob hacked to death some 600 Swiss guards, while itself suffering heavy losses. More than lives were lost; so was the monarchy. The Legislative Assembly immediately suspended the king from his duties and voted to hold a convention. The convention, to be elected by nearly universal manhood suffrage, was to write a new, republican constitution.
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French Revolution (Part III)
French Revolution (Part III)
B First French Republic
Between August 10, 1792, and the meeting of the convention on September 20, revolutionary furor grew. Power shifted from the Legislative Assembly, now a lame duck, to the Paris Commune. The Commune was a city assembly made up of representatives elected from 48 neighborhood districts called sections. Because nearly universal male suffrage had taken effect on August 10, the sections and the Commune became increasingly dominated by the sans-culottes, a group composed mostly of artisans and shopkeepers fiercely devoted to the Revolution and direct democracy.
In this unstable period, Georges Jacques Danton, who had probably helped organize the massacre of August 10, became a dominating political figure. Danton, who was appointed minister of justice by the assembly, encouraged fears that counter-revolutionary forces loyal to the king were undermining the Revolution. He used these fears to promote further measures against counter-revolutionaries. On August 17 a special court was created to try political suspects, but it did not convict enough defendants to satisfy the sans-culottes.
Fearing military defeat and believing that counter-revolutionary prisoners were about to break out and attack patriots like themselves, sans-culotte mobs attacked Parisian jails from September 2 to 7. They murdered and mutilated more than 1000 inmates—most of whom were guilty of nothing more than having enjoyed some privilege or committing ordinary crimes. These September Massacres were so gruesome that no revolutionary leader, not even those with bloody agendas of their own, claimed responsibility for them.
B1 The National Convention
The National Convention first met on September 20, 1792, the same day the French army won a major victory against Prussian forces at Valmy in northeastern France. The convention was composed of three major political groups: the Jacobins, a fairly well disciplined radical minority; the former Brissotins, now called Girondins, a less disciplined group of moderates; and a large group of individuals called the Plain who were not associated with either party. On September 21 the convention voted to establish a republic in place of the monarchy. The founding of the first French Republic represented so important a milestone that, when the convention adopted a new revolutionary calendar, it made September 22, 1792, the first day of Year I (see French Republican Calendar).
The convention took much longer to decide the fate of the king, who was now imprisoned with the royal family in an old fort just outside Paris. The more moderate Girondins maneuvered to keep Louis a prisoner. The Jacobins, who were allied with the sans-culottes, argued that the people had already judged Louis guilty of treason when they had stormed the palace on August 10. The convention compromised, deciding that it would try the king.
On January 15 the convention overwhelmingly found Louis guilty, and then voted (by a margin of one vote) for immediate execution. Louis was executed on the new invention for beheading called the guillotine on January 21, 1793, protesting his innocence. If ever there was a point of no return in the Revolution, this was it, for enemies of the Revolution now sought to avenge the king’s death more vigorously than they had tried to preserve his life.
Executing the king did little to solve the convention’s other problems, the main one being the war. The convention declared war on Britain and the Netherlands in early February and on Spain in March, thus adding to France’s military burdens. The French forces were on the defensive through most of 1793, and in April France was stunned by the desertion of one of its chief commanders, General Dumouriez, to the Austrians. Facing loss after loss, the convention voted to raise an army of 300,000 men. It sought volunteers, but instituted a draft to provide additional soldiers. The draft touched off rebellion in western rural areas, notably Brittany and the Vendée. Many people in these areas already opposed the Revolution because of the church reorganization and the clerical oath. Pacifying them would take years and cost an estimated 100,000 lives.
Revolts also occurred in other areas, particularly the large cities. These revolts protested the domination of the local affairs by Paris and the Jacobins. Local elites favored federalism, a policy that would have allowed them to maintain power over their own regions. Meanwhile, prices rose because of a poor harvest and the declining value of the assignats, which fell to half their stated value in January and then fell further. Higher bread prices led the sans-culottes and associated women’s groups to demand state-imposed price controls, a demand that the Jacobins could not refuse because they depended on the political support of the sans-culottes. In May the convention fixed maximum prices for grain and bread.
B2 Reign of Terror
In this general crisis, revolutionary leaders began to turn on each other. The Girondins, who favored federalism, fought a battle to the death with the Jacobins, who denounced the Girondins for lacking revolutionary zeal and for aiding, intentionally or not, counter-revolutionary forces. The Jacobins already dominated the convention, but on June 2, pressured by the sans-culottes, they consolidated their power by arresting 22 Girondin leaders.
During the following months, the government put down the federalist revolts, sometimes with great severity. A new democratic constitution was drawn up but never implemented: In Robespierre’s view, constitutional government would have to wait until fear and repression had eliminated the enemies of the Revolution. The Jacobins operated through the existing convention and agencies responsible to it. They used the Committee of Public Safety, composed of 12 men led by Robespierre, to provide executive oversight; the Committee of General Security, to oversee the police; and the Revolutionary Tribunal to try political cases. Additionally, the Jacobins sent representatives from the convention with wide-ranging powers to particular areas to enforce Jacobin policies.
The most urgent government business was the war. On August 17, 1793, the convention voted the levée en masse (mass conscription), which mobilized all citizens to serve as soldiers or suppliers in the war effort. To further that effort, the convention quickly enacted more legislation. On September 5 it approved the Reign of Terror, a policy through which the state used violence to crush resistance to the government. On September 9 the convention established sans-culotte paramilitary forces, the so-called revolutionary armies, to force farmers to surrender grain demanded by the government. On September 17 the Law of Suspects was passed, which authorized the charging of counter-revolutionaries with vaguely defined “crimes against liberty.” On September 29 the convention extended price-fixing from grain and bread to other essential goods and fixed wages. On December 4 the national government resumed oversight of local administration. On February 4, 1794, it abolished slavery in the colonies.
Beyond these measures, the convention and sympathetic groups like the sans-culottes began to create and spread a revolutionary and republican culture. These groups sponsored the use of revolutionary and republican propaganda in the arts, public festivals, and modes of dress. In this way, they gradually began to spread and gain acceptance for their ideals among the common people.
The most notable achievement of the Reign of Terror was to save the revolutionary government from military defeat. The government feared invasion, which might have allowed counter-revolutionary forces to undertake a terror of their own. To preserve the Revolution, it reorganized and strengthened the army. The Jacobins expanded the size of the army and replaced many aristocratic officers, who had deserted and fled abroad, with younger soldiers who had demonstrated their ability and patriotism. The revolutionary army threw back the Austrians, Prussians, English, and Spanish during the fall of 1793 and expelled the Austrians from Belgium by the summer of 1794.
The military success of the Jacobin-led government was undeniable. However, the repressive policies of the Reign of Terror that enabled the government to form and equip its large army did so at the expense of many French citizens’ security: about 250,000 people were arrested; 17,000 were tried and guillotined, many with little if any means to defend themselves; another 12,000 were executed without trial; and thousands more died in jail. Clergy and nobles composed only 15 percent of the Reign of Terror’s approximately 40,000 victims. The rest were peasants and bourgeois who had fought against the Revolution or had said or done something to offend the new order. The Reign of Terror executed not only figures from the Old Regime, like the former queen Marie-Antoinette, but also many revolutionary leaders. Some victims of the Reign of Terror, like Georges Danton, seemed too moderate to Robespierre and his colleagues, while others, like the sans-culotte leader Jacques René Hébert, seemed too extreme.
The Reign of Terror was the most radical phase of the Revolution, and it remains the most controversial. Some have seen the Reign of Terror as a major advance toward modern democracy, while others call it a step toward modern dictatorship. Certain defenders of the Revolution have argued that the Reign of Terror was, under the circumstances, a reasonable response to the military crisis of 1793. Others have rejected this idea, pointing out that the military victories of early 1794, far from diminishing the intensity of the Reign of Terror, were followed by the Great Terror of June and July 1794, in which more than 1300 people were executed in Paris alone. The Reign of Terror, they have argued, resulted from an ideology already in place by 1789 that put national good above personal rights. To this argument, others have replied that in 1789 no revolutionary leader seriously imagined establishing anything like the Reign of Terror.
VI SEARCH FOR BALANCE
The Jacobin government lasted barely a year. Although effective in the short term, in the long run it destroyed itself—in part because no one really controlled it. Victory on the battlefield had removed the pretext for maintaining the Reign of Terror. At the same time, the killing frenzy of the Great Terror convinced people—even allies of the Jacobins—they might be next on the guillotine. Furthermore, by killing off the likes of Danton and Hébert, Robespierre’s faction had narrowed its base of support and had no one to lean on when challenged. Thus the end was simply a matter of time.
A The Thermidorean Reaction
As it happened, the coup against Robespierre and his associates was led by a group of dissident Jacobins, including members of the Committee of Public Safety. They had supported the Reign of Terror but feared Robespierre would turn on them next. On July 27, 1794 (9 Thermidor, Year II, in the revolutionary calendar), Robespierre and his close followers were arrested on the convention floor. During the next two days, Robespierre and 82 of his associates were guillotined.
Although the conspirators of 9 Thermidor, who came to be known as Thermidoreans, could hardly have known it, the removal of the 83 Robespierrists represented a major turning point in the Revolution. Ever since 1789, counter-revolutionaries, who enjoyed support from many peasants, had tried to reverse the Revolution. But it had continued to become more and more extreme in nature, due to the increasing participation of urban radicals with whom the Jacobins had formed political alliances. Only after 9 Thermidor did the Revolution reverse its radical direction, and more moderate politicians came to dominate the government.
While these moderates wanted to preserve the Revolution’s achievements and tried to repress counter-revolutionaries, they also feared and repressed the radical groups on whose backs the Jacobins had ridden to power. In order to maintain control over both the radical left and the counter-revolutionary right, the Thermidoreans consolidated their power and began to limit democracy. These limitations led eventually to the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte (see Napoleon I).
Immediately after 9 Thermidor an assortment of political groups began to use their influence to dismantle all vestiges of the Reign of Terror. Although the convention continued in power until October 1795, the teeth of the Reign of Terror were pulled one by one. To limit their power, the committees of Public Safety and General Security were restructured; the operations of the Revolutionary Tribunal were curtailed; thousands of prisoners were released; and in November 1794 the Paris Jacobin club was closed. People associated with the Reign of Terror were harassed in Paris by reactionary youth groups known as the jeunesse d’orée (French for “the gilded youth”) and even killed in strongly counter-revolutionary regions.
The last major popular rising of the Revolution occurred in the spring of 1795, when the near-total devaluation of the assignats produced a price rise that devastated the poor. But this rising was put down so effectively that the counter-revolutionaries imagined the monarchy might soon be restored, and their activities escalated. In response, the Thermidoreans now struck against the counter-revolutionaries, defeating and executing a group of émigré soldiers landed by the English at Quiberon Bay in Brittany during the summer of 1795.
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French Revolution (Last Part)
French Revolution (Last Part)
B The Directory
To avoid a revival of either democracy or dictatorship, the Thermidoreans put together and ratified a new constitution that limited the right to vote to the wealthiest 30,000 male citizens and dispersed power among three main bodies. Legislative authority was vested in two legislative assemblies, the Council of Ancients and the Council of Five Hundred. Executive power was lodged in a five-man Directory to be chosen by the Council of Ancients from a list of candidates presented by the Council of Five Hundred.
Fearing the results of a true referendum, moderate republicans decreed that two-thirds of the first legislature had to be made up of members of the former convention. As it turned out, the constitution, which was ratified by popular vote and took effect in late October 1795, neither protected the government from unfriendly popular forces nor prevented the concentration of power.
Did the Directory have good reason to fear that open elections would bring down the republic? Historians have disagreed on this matter. Some argue that the Directory eventually failed because it could not generate loyalty from either the left or the right. Other historians believe the Directory failed because it distrusted democracy and did not develop a strong centrist party.
Whatever the reason, for the next four years the Directory lurched from making concessions to the right and intimidating the left to making concessions to the left and intimidating the right. In May 1796 the Directory easily crushed a conspiracy of former Jacobins and agrarian radicals who intended to seize power and redistribute property. The right triumphed at the elections in 1797 and was slowly preparing to take power. Then in September, three members of the Directory, the triumvirate, eliminated the two other members who had counter-revolutionary sympathies and purged the legislature of nearly 200 opposition deputies. They did all this with the backing of the army. The triumvirate was then joined by two new associates. This new Directory proceeded to close down counter-revolutionary publications, exile returning émigrés and uncooperative clergy, and execute many political opponents.
This coup of Fructidor (the month of the revolutionary calendar in which it occurred) allowed the Directory to consolidate its power. As a result, it was able to take some bold new financial initiatives, such as establishing a new metal-based currency and imposing a new system of taxes on luxury goods and real estate. The coup also destroyed whatever hopes counter-revolutionaries had to gain power through legal means.
But Fructidor also unleashed the radical left, which won an important electoral victory in May 1798. To neutralize this threat, the Directory once again tampered with polling results by eliminating more than 100 elected left-wing deputies in what became known as the coup of Floréal. Whatever the short-term gains for the Directory, its continuing rejection of election results stripped it of its last remaining shreds of authority, as few could respect a regime that so routinely violated its own constitution.
C Foundations of Dictatorship
The end came in 1799. Military reverses, a domestic political crisis, and the ambitions of a military hero, Napoleon Bonaparte, combined to give rise to the Revolution’s last major coup and the creation of a dictatorship.
The military reverses occurred after French armies had enjoyed five years of considerable success. Following the victories of the Reign of Terror, the first coalition of European powers fighting revolutionary France crumbled in 1795 and 1796. Prussia, Spain, the Dutch Netherlands, and Tuscany (Toscana) signed peace treaties with France, leaving England and Austria to fight alone. In October 1795 France annexed the Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium). The Dutch Netherlands became the first of many so-called French sister republics. France fitted it with a new, relatively democratic constitution closely patterned on the Directory. France also forced the Dutch Netherlands to pay it a large indemnity. In 1796 and 1797 French armies swept into Italy and western Germany.
It was in the course of the Italian campaign that Napoleon Bonaparte first made himself known to the general public. Born in 1769 to a poor but noble Corsican family, Bonaparte was trained as an artillery officer and quickly advanced through the ranks during the early years of the Revolution. A Jacobin associate during the Reign of Terror, Bonaparte was briefly imprisoned after Thermidor, but once released, he made himself useful to the new Directory by crushing a counter-revolutionary uprising in October 1795. As commander of French forces in Italy, he won a series of brilliant victories, established a new north Italian sister republic called the Cisalpine Republic, and in October 1797 negotiated a treaty with Austria of his own design.
With a number of important secret provisions that ceded almost two-thirds of Austrian territory along the Rhine River to France, this Treaty of Campo Formio so expanded the French sphere of influence that it did less to create peace than to provoke a new war. Imagining themselves to be liberating Europe, French forces proceeded to impose new political arrangements in western Germany; to establish additional sister republics in Switzerland and Italy; to assist, unsuccessfully, an Irish revolt against England; and to send an army under Bonaparte to Egypt to attack the Ottoman Empire. Successful at first in Egypt, the French army was isolated after the English navy won a victory at Abū Qīr Bay in August 1798, whereupon Bonaparte left his troops and returned to France. He was welcomed as a great hero despite his failure to capture Egypt and his loss to the English.
C2 End of the Directory
Perceiving in the French position both weakness and a continuing threat, England, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and Austria formed a new anti-French coalition. By the spring of 1799 the armies of this second coalition forced France to retreat on all fronts, most dramatically in Italy where they dislodged the French altogether and dismantled the sister republics. Although the coalition was pushed back in September and began to disintegrate, the French military position remained uncertain. Suddenly on the defensive and rudely reminded of their vulnerability, the French nation lost still more respect for the Directory. Gradually during 1799 the Directory lost its political grip.
As the military situation darkened and Austria threatened France, opponents of the Directory won an election and, for once, were able to purge the Directory, rather than vice versa. The purge enabled newly elected deputies to take radical measures to advance the war effort. They imposed forced loans on the wealthy and persecuted the relatives of émigrés, recalling the Reign of Terror. The primary beneficiary of the purge, however, was Emmanuel Sieyès, who was appointed director. He began plotting to radically revise the constitution to protect the regime from any further threats from the radical left or the counter-revolutionary right. Needing a charismatic, popular figure to lead the charge, Sieyès joined forces with Bonaparte.
At this point, fresh counter-revolutionary uprisings occurred in the provinces and a radical movement to take over the republic became apparent. The plotters then persuaded members of the Directory to resign. On November 9 (18 Brumaire) they asked the legislature to vest power in a provisional government made up of Sieyès, Bonaparte, and Roger Ducos. When the legislature resisted, soldiers loyal to Bonaparte chased resistors from the legislature and persuaded the remaining deputies to approve the plan.
The Directory was dead, and with it went the last revolutionary regime that could make any pretense to embody the liberal parliamentary government intended by the revolutionaries of 1789. Under Bonaparte, the Revolution, if it could be said to have remained alive at all, did so in the form of a military dictatorship that had far more power than any French king had ever possessed.
D The Ambiguous Legacy of the Revolution
At its core, the French Revolution was a political movement devoted to liberty. But what that liberty actually was and what was required to realize it remained open questions during the Revolution, as they have ever since. Some historians have suggested that what the revolutionaries’ liberty meant in practice was violence and a loss of personal security that pointed to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. This negative view had its roots in the ideas of many counter-revolutionaries, who criticized the Revolution from its beginning. These ideas gained new popularity during the period of reaction that set in after Napoleon’s final defeat in 1815, when the monarchy and its counter-revolutionary allies were restored to power.
However, the majority of Europeans and non-Europeans came to see the Revolution as much more than a bloody tragedy. These people were more impressed by what the Revolution accomplished than by what it failed to do. They recalled the Revolution’s abolition of serfdom, slavery, inherited privilege, and judicial torture; its experiments with democracy; and its opening of opportunities to those who, for reasons of social status or religion, had been traditionally excluded.
One of the most important contributions of the French Revolution was to make revolution part of the world’s political tradition. The French Revolution continued to provide instruction for revolutionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries, as peoples in Europe and around the world sought to realize their different versions of freedom. Karl Marx would, at least at the outset, pattern his notion of a proletarian revolution on the French Revolution of 1789. And 200 years later Chinese students, who weeks before had fought their government in Tiananmen Square, confirmed the contemporary relevance of the French Revolution when they led the revolutionary bicentennial parade in Paris on July 14, 1989.
Along with offering lessons about liberty and democracy, the Revolution also promoted nationalism. Napoleon’s occupation provoked nationalist groups to organize in Italy and Germany. Also influential was the revolutionaries’ belief that a nation was not a group of royal subjects but a society of equal citizens. The fact that most European countries are or are becoming parliamentary democracies, along the lines set out by the French Revolution, suggests its enduring influence.
Socially, the Revolution was also important. Clearly, society in France and to a lesser extent in other parts of Europe would never be the same. Once the ancient structure of privilege was smashed, it could not be pieced together again. The Revolution did not fundamentally alter the distribution of wealth, but that had not been the intention of most of the revolutionaries. Insofar as legal equality gradually became the norm in France and Europe, the revolutionaries succeeded.
The cultural impact is harder to assess. The Revolution did not succeed in establishing the national school system it envisioned, but it did found some of France’s elite educational institutions that have produced some of that nation’s greatest leaders. Its attack on the church had profound repercussions, making the status of the church a central political issue, which even today divides France politically and culturally.
As for economic development, the Revolution probably hurt more than it helped. In the long term, the liberation of the economy from royal controls, the standardization of weights and measures, and the development of a uniform civil law code helped pave the way for the Industrial Revolution. But the disruptive effects of war on the French economy offset the positive effects of these changes. In terms of total output, the economy was probably set back a generation.
Thomas E. Kaiser
US Encarta Encyclopedia ® 2008
Library of Congress Catalog
:- I posted it in 4 separate posts this essay because when I try to Post it as a whole there is no text in the output post left.... perhaps there is a maximum no of characters limit for posting a message or some other problem I'm not sure about. regards. thnx)
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International Relations [Part-I: Introduction]
International Relations, the study and practice of political relationships among the world’s nations, especially their governments. International relations may also refer to the interactions between nongovernmental groups, such as multinational corporations (companies that operate in more than one country) or international organizations such as the Red Cross or the United Nations (UN).
International relations is a broad and complex topic both for countries engaged in relationships with other nations, and for observers trying to understand those interactions. These relationships are influenced by many variables. They are shaped by the primary participants in international relations, including national leaders, other politicians, and nongovernment participants, such as private citizens, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations. They are also affected by domestic political events and nonpolitical influences, including economics, geography, and culture. Despite all of these other influences, the primary focus of international relations is on the interactions between nations.
To understand these interactions, scholars look at the world as a system of nations whose actions are guided by a well-defined set of rules. Scholars call this system the interstate system. The interstate system has existed for less than 500 years and is based on a common understanding of what a nation is and how it should treat other nations. But recent changes in technology and international norms have caused some scholars to question whether this system will continue in the future, or be replaced by some other system of relationships that is not yet known.
Until the 1970s the study of international relations centered mainly on international security studies—that is, questions of war and peace. Scholars believed a nation’s military power was the most important characteristic in determining how that nation would relate to others. As a result, scholars focused on the relative military strength of one nation compared to others, alliances and diplomacy between nations, and the strategies nations used to protect their territories and further their own interests. See Warfare.
Since the 1970s the importance of economics in international relations has grown and the study of international political economy has received increased attention. Scholars in this field believe that the primary force driving the interaction between nations is economic, not military. They focus on trade and economic relations among nations, especially the political cooperation between nations to create and maintain international organizations which benefit all nations involved, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. See Foreign Trade; Free Trade.
In both security studies and international political economy, scholars strive to explain patterns of conflict and cooperation among nations. Conflicts among nations are inevitable since their political and economic aims and interests often diverge. Cooperation does not refer to the absence of conflict but to the ability of nations to peacefully resolve their differences in a way that is acceptable to all parties involved. When cooperation fails, conflicts often escalate into coercion and ultimately war.
US Encarta Encyclopedia ® 2008
Library of Congress Catalog
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