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US History Overview 1: Jamestown to the Civil War

Jamestown to the Civil War. Created by Sal Khan.

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  • leaf green style avatar for user Spencer
    At Sal says Lincoln died two months before the end of the war, but Lincoln was shot five days after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the official end of the war. The last Confederate regiment to receive orders to stand down was three months later. How can this be?

    Lily, I realize it took time for troops to stand down. Like i said 3 months. It still does't explain where 2 months came from.
    (34 votes)
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    • purple pi purple style avatar for user Lily Black
      Because the war officially didn't STOP (as in soldiers were still fighting. Yes, it was agreed that the war was over, but because of transportation back then, it took while to get the news across.) Once all the battles are over, the war is over. You can't have no war with blood still being shed.
      (37 votes)
  • leafers ultimate style avatar for user yatriwehmeyer
    why did the Americans not push all the way down into Central America and Mexico?
    (19 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user charles.richardson
    Why did the election of Lincoln start the Southern states exiting the Union, since soon-to-be President Lincoln had no power to free a single slave under the Federal Constitution?
    (14 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user diana Ridenour
      The South remembered Lincoln's view of slavery in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates in 1856 when Lincoln challenged Douglas' senatorial seat for Illinois. Lincoln was very clear that he believed slavery to be a moral issue. In addition to the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lincoln only stated that he would not interfere with slavery where it existed in his first inaugural address. In his second one, he revealed that he felt that government had the right to restrict the spread of slavery to new territories. The South realized this early on and knew that if slavery were restricted in new territories, free states would eventually have enough votes to pass an amendment abolishing slavery. Since Lincoln was elected even though he was not on the ballot in 10 of the Southern states, the South knew that the abolition amendment issue would not be far behind the election. Note: Remember that the issue had to be resolved with an amendment because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Congress could not determine the issue of slavery in territories in its ruling of the Dred Scott v. Sandford Court Case.
      (6 votes)
  • starky seed style avatar for user kbdasoccer
    There were indeed 2 Treaty of Paris' one in 1763 and one in 1784 correct?
    (8 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user weissrl
      The Treaty of Paris 1763 is signed at the end of the French and Indian War (also called the Seven Years War). The treaty basically results in Britain becoming the dominate European power in America. In accordance with the treaty, France is to give up land from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River (main cause of the war is the dispute over the fertile Ohio River Valley, which the crowded colonies desperately want - how ironic that King George III passed the Proclamation Act of 1763 forbidding the colonists from moving to the newly gained territory). Twenty years later the Treaty of Paris 1783 is signed, ending the American Revolution. England is forced to recognize America's independence; give up claims on all land east of the Mississippi River; as well as grant America certain fishing rights off the coast of Newfoundland. POWs are also to be exchanged. England challenges America's independence in the War of 1812, which ends in 1815, a couple weeks after both sides signed the Treaty of Ghent (news traveled slow back then). :)
      (6 votes)
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Stephanie Hansen Cullen
    Why do they call it the Louisiana Purchase?
    (5 votes)
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    • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Alex
      They called it the Louisiana Purchase because the territory the U.S bought from France was called Louisiana. Also the Louisiana territory included much more then just Louisiana. Like at Sal explains it better.
      (19 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Asrah Rizvi
    Why are the center states called Louisiana Purchase?
    (5 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user AegonTargaryen
      Napoleon (emporer of France at the time) was worried about a possible invasion on his territory which was Louisiana (much larger than it is now). He decided to sell it to at least get money off of losing it. An industrious Thomas Jefferson decided to buy it for a cheap price. That was the Louisiana Purchase.
      (15 votes)
  • aqualine seed style avatar for user Aisha
    What would the slaves do without working for someone? How would they make money and live with their family?
    (5 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Cassandra Denise Mines
      Aisha there were free Blacks living in the South and North during slavery. Those in the South lived under extremely oppressive conditions and were segregated to small towns. Often white slave owners did not want their slaves to congregate with "Freemen". They felt free Blacks would "corrupt" their slaves. Free Blacks worked in all the trades. Many free Blacks were tailors, seamstresses, woodworkers, ship makers, metal smiths, printing pressmen, leather workers,lumberjacks, weavers, carpenters, and whalers. So if those enslaved were freed at the time, they would continue to work, only then they would have gotten fair pay for their work. Here is an article about free Blacks in colonial Virginia
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user val
    You mention the first real successful settlement of 1607. I understand St. Augustine is the nation's oldest permanently occupied European settlement, having been founded by the Spanish in 1565; then, isn't St. Augustine,Florida, the first real successful settlement?
    (7 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Tommy Kevin
      Pensacola, FL is the first European (Spanish) settlement (1559-1561) in what is today part of the USA. It was later re-settled. St Augustine is oldest continuously occupied European (again, Spanish) settlement that is today part of the USA. Perhaps the way history is being teach in American schools should not start the narrative with Jamestown.
      (2 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user Trey Hooper
    At around , Sal hints that the main reason Northerners are opposed to slavery is on the basis of morality. I could very well be mistaken, but would a bigger reason be because of job competition and other economic issues as a result of cheap labor?
    (7 votes)
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  • old spice man green style avatar for user Deven
    Didn't the French help the american's get their independence from the british so why did they fight each other
    (3 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Heather_13
      They had fought earlier for the territory during the french and indian war, in which the british were with the colonists. It also lead to th 7 years war in which France and Great Britain fought eachother. I'm guessing that the French helped the colonists gain independence partially because they were not on good terms with Great Britain, and helping the colonists was going against Great Britain, and helping Great britain become less powerful.
      (4 votes)

Video transcript

What I thought I would attempt to do in this and the next few videos is just give a scaffold of American history. I'm clearly going to glaze over a lot of the details, but hopefully it'll give you a sense of how everything at least fits together, at least the major events in American history. So you can kind of, and when I say American history, I'm talking about United States history. And so the first real successful settlement in what's now the United States was at Jamestown. That's Jamestown, Virginia right over here. And it was 1607. It was set up as kind of a commercial settlement and then shortly after that, and we always learned this in school, you know the pilgrims on the Mayflower, sailing the oceans blue and all the rest. They were kind of the next major settlement in the New World. Or I guess we should say the next major successful English settlement. There were obviously the Spanish and the Portuguese were already settling the New World with a good bit of success at this point, but we're talking about the English settlements. And so the pilgrims settled what's now Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. And obviously from 1620 until the mid-1700s, you just had a huge influx of people migrating and cities developing. But I'm going to fast forward all the way to the mid-1700s. So this is actually a huge amount of time that I'm just not providing any details over. Because I'm really just quite focused on the major events in American history. And so this is a 130-year period where things were just getting built out more, they were getting more developed. And I'm going to fast forward to 1754, because at this period you had essentially the entire east coast of what's now the US. These were the 13 colonies of the-- well, they're not the United States yet, they're the 13 British colonies. But these are English settlements, and then if you go a little bit to the northwest from there, you have all the French settlements. And obviously still in these parts of Quebec and Canada, people speak French. But you had the French settlements up in this area over here. I'm not going to go into the details. Each of these can be a whole series of videos, and hopefully in the future I will make them whole series of videos. But you fast forward to 1754, and you start having the French and the British start getting into squabbles over territory where Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is right now. In 1754. And that starts the French and Indian War. And I want to be very clear here because this is maybe one of the biggest points of confusion when people first learn American history. Since it's called the French and Indian War, they think it's between the French and the Indians. But it's not. It was the French and the Indians against the British and the colonists. So in this war, the British and the colonists were on the same side against the French and the Indians. And obviously there were some Indians that were also on the side of the British, but it's called the French and Indian War because these were the people that the British were fighting against. Now if anyone outside of the United States talks about the French and Indian War, they will not call it the French and Indian War. They'll really just call that the American theater of the Seven Years' War because it eventually evolves into a much bigger conflict between Great Britain and France that's going on in Europe, and the French and Indian War was really just the American theater of it. So between-- the French and Indian War starts in 1754 based on these disputes over Pittsburgh. But that wasn't the only thing. You had all of these other things, all of these other tensions that were developing. The thing that starts the war is never the only factor. It's always just the tipping point. But that leads to a bigger war in Europe. And that's the Seven Years' War that starts in 1756. And they both end because they're really the same war. They both end in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris. Treaty of Paris, 1763. And the big takeaway of that is that really most of what France had in the New World now becomes essentially a part of the British Empire, now becomes British colonies or British territories. And even Louisiana goes over to Spain at this point. And we'll see it goes back to France for a little bit in 1800, and then it goes back to the United States in 1803, but we'll see that in a second. So 1763, the British-- it was this huge costly war-- but they were able to win. And at least from the point of view of the British, they felt that the main beneficiaries of this war were the Americans. They were able to get all this new territory, all this new area that they can now trade with, or they could now potentially settle. And so the British decide to start taxing the Americans to recoup some portion of the cost of the war. So in 1765 they pass the Stamp Act. And this wasn't a tax on stamps. What this was is that they essentially declared that a whole set of paper that had to be used in the New World. So the stuff for legal documents, stuff that maybe even newspaper. That that paper would have to be produced in Great Britain, and it had to have a special stamp on it in order for the contracts or whatever was on top of it, in order for them to be legitimate. So essentially it was a huge tax on paper and on documents. And essentially, this is what societies ran on. So it was just a way to extract money from the colonists in order to, I guess, help pay back some of the costs that the empire felt that they had incurred on behalf of the colonists. You could debate whether who was the main beneficiary, but regardless you could imagine this didn't make-- this whole period over here-- the colonists weren't happy. Especially because they didn't have any representation in Parliament. This was done without anybody from the colony saying, hey, wait I don't think that's fair. Or this is fair or whatever. And so you fast forward. 1773, you have the Boston Tea Party where you have a bunch of people who, for whatever reason, and there's multiple interests here. But there was three ships in Boston Harbor full of tea and the tea was owned by the East India Tea company. And they decide, in protest, and there was a whole series of acts and other taxes that went back and forth, but once again, we're not going to go into the details here. But in revolt they dumped the tea. They dressed up as Indians, as American Indians, and they dumped the tea into Boston Harbor, and then you could imagine well that was kind of a very exciting act for the colonists, but it didn't make the British very happy. And then after that, they passed the Coercive Act. They essentially did a blockade of Boston. So things started to get really, really, really tense in the early 1770s. And then you fast forward to 1775, you have essentially the first conflicts of the American Revolutionary War, and we're going to do a whole series of videos on really the whole Revolutionary War. 1776, you have the Declaration of Independence. This is them right here drafting the Declaration of Independence. And that's really just saying, hey, we've had enough of you Great Britain! We are now declaring ourselves as an independent country. No more of this colonies business. And so all the way until 1783 you have the American Revolutionary War. And once again, you can do a lot of videos on this, but I'm just going to go over it just so you have a sense of when everything happened and when everything ended. And we can later dig deeper into the scaffold. And it ends with the Treaty of Paris. The US becomes a free independent state. And then you fast forward. Until this point, the US has been governed by Congress, and the Articles of Confederation. But the Constitution that we have now, it was drafted in 1787. It was ratified-- it had to get at least nine of the states to ratify it-- that happened in 1788. And then it went into effect in 1789. So it depends what you consider the birth of the country. Well, it would definitely be the Declaration of Independence, but the country in its current form, with its current institutions, with this current constitution, started in 1789. And that was also the beginning of Washington's first of two terms as president, and those ended in 1797. And then John Adams comes into the picture. And the reason why I put this-- obviously this is actually the only president that I showed-- is that it was actually very important that he decided to step down after two terms. He was hugely popular. If he wanted to, he probably could have become one of these characters that stick around maybe a little bit longer than some people would want. So it was really good that he set this example of stepping down after two terms, and that he wasn't this kind of power hungry dude. You fast forward a little bit more. 1803, I mentioned that after the French and Indian War what's Louisiana-- I want to be clear when I say Louisiana. Louisiana isn't just what's the current state of Louisiana. It's this whole region that includes the state of Louisiana, but all the way up to roughly what the United States' current border with Canada. And after the French and Indian War, all of this business over here went to Spain. And then in 1800, it went back to France. But then in 1803, Napoleon had a bunch of stuff that he-- his Naval fleet was destroyed, he had a suffered some defeats in the West Indies, I guess we could call it. In particular in Haiti, and he said, well, you know I probably won't be able to control this territory anyway, so he sold it to the United States for what turned out to be a very, very, very cheap price. But it was kind of like, it's not like he could have protected it anyway. The United States might have been able to take it from him without him being able to do anything. So he might as well get some money for it so that he could fund his battles in Europe. So in 1803, the United States almost doubled in size. It went from these territories that it had after the American Revolution for Independence, and now it got all of this region over here in 1803. Then you fast forward a bit. And the War of 1812, it's an interesting one, because there weren't any really serious outcomes from it. But what was interesting about it, this whole time period, even after independence, the British continued to harass America. They continued to arm Native Americans who would maybe revolt or cause trouble for settlers. They would impress American seamen-- and when I say impress, it didn't mean that they were doing something special. It meant that they were-- impressment of seamen meant that they were taking over these boats, taking the sailors, and forcing them to become part of the British military. So they were doing a whole series of things that was really kind of antagonizing the United States. In 1812, the United States declares war on Great Britain. You have the War of 1812. It ends in 1815 with the Battle of New Orleans. But there wasn't any real transfer of a territory or anything like that over here. What was good, some people call it the Second War for American Independence, is it really asserted that America was here to stay, or I should say that the United States was here to stay. That the Revolution wasn't just some fluke that isn't some just fly by night country. It was able to defeat one of the greatest empires in the world again. So it's kind of here to stay. Now you fast forward a little bit more. This part of what we would call Texas, this area right over here. It was, before 1836, it was part of Mexico. But the Mexicans actually encouraged English-speaking settlers-- these would be American English-speaking settlers into the area-- just because it was very sparsely settled. But these English-speaking settlers, a lot of them were slave owners, and then as we kind of go up to 1836, the state of Mexico that this was all governed by, they were thinking about abolishing slavery. So you can imagine that the settlers there, they didn't like this idea. So in 1836, you had the War for Texas Independence, and that's where you remember the Alamo, and all of that. And then the first president of Texas is Sam Houston. That's why Houston is named Houston. And then you fast forward all the way to 1845. And in this time period, you have this whole talk in the United States of Manifest Destiny, that it's part of our God-given destiny as Americans, to one day extend our territory all the way to the Pacific Ocean. So people were already eyeing a lot of the territory. Remember all of this territory, this was Texas. And Mexico still viewed it as their territory, even though it was being governed independently by the people who called themselves the Republic of Texas. And you had all of this territory that was Mexican territory. So people were starting to eye this and say, wouldn't it be nice to get a little bit of that? So in 1845, and this was in agreement with the settlers in Texas, with the Republic of Texas, the United States annexed Texas. The settlers there wanted this to happen, so wasn't a forced annexation of Texas. But Mexico was not so happy about this because Mexico still viewed Texas as part of their territory. And America, to some degree, depends on how you view it, it seems like they kind of wanted to goad Mexico into war, so they sent military really close to the border of Mexico, even into some territory where Mexico might have had better claims to it or-- I'm not going to take sides on this, but it seemed like there was some instigation going on. And there's some debate about the actual course of events. But in 1846 you have war actually breaking out between Mexico and the United States. And by 1848, the United States essentially trounces Mexico, and most of the war actually does go on on Mexican land. And because of that, Mexico cedes over all of this area. So, California and all of the rest of Nevada, Arizona, what the part of New Mexico the didn't come along, that the United States didn't already have. And along that same amount of time, you both had the British and the Americans that were eyeing this territory, the Oregon Territory up here and it even included part of Canada. And eventually they were able to resolve it relatively peacefully, and what they agreed is, is that the Americans would get all of this territory. And the British would get everything north of this line right over here. And that's why Vancouver and British Columbia and all of that, is Canada now. It stayed as part of the British Empire for a little bit longer. So by 1848, the Manifest Destiny essentially had happened. The United States had gotten everything from California all the way from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast. And clearly I'm really just covering the high levels, 30,000 level foot view of American history here. This whole time you had this tension developing. From the birth of the country through the election of Abraham Lincoln, you have this tension over slavery. A lot of people in the North didn't like it on moral grounds. A lot of people in the South didn't like it-- well, they wanted slavery regardless of what they thought of it morally-- the South's economy, to a large degree, was based on slavery. And so all of this, the tipping point happened in 1860. Where Abraham Lincoln, who was pretty vocal about the fact that he did not like slavery, that he wanted to curb the spread of slave states. And up to this point, you had all of these compromises every time a state came into the Union. The slave states wanted it to be another slave state. The free states wanted it to be another free state. So you always had this people kind of jocking for whoever could have the most states on their side of the camp. But all of this pro-slavery and anti-slavery hit a tipping point in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln, who was fairly vocal about not extending slavery, he was elected. Then a bunch of what we now consider southern states seceded from the Union. And then in 1861 in South Carolina. South Carolina said, hey, we are not part of the United States anymore, but there was still a United States military garrison there, so they attacked it. That started the Civil War. And so during the Civil War-- it lasts until 1865-- Abraham Lincoln makes the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which essentially proclaims all the slaves should be free. This lays the groundwork for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. And then unfortunately, he dies two months before the end of the Civil War. But in 1865, the South surrenders and so they're not able to secede. And essentially, we no longer have slavery in the United States. So I'm going to leave-- and it's fascinating, and just to give you a sense of things, here's the map. The navy blue are the Union states, the northern states, the light blue are the territory controlled by the northern states. This orange color are the states that seceded from the Union, the Confederacy. And this light orange, these are territories that they controlled, but they were disputed. These yellow states right here were members of the Union. They didn't secede from the Union. They didn't join the Confederacy, but they were slave states. But probably the most fascinating thing about the Civil War, other than the fact that it ended slavery in the United States, that was probably its biggest thing, but it was also the bloodiest war that ever happened in the United States history. During the Civil War-- and these are unbelievable numbers-- 18% of white males in the South died. 18%, almost one out of every five white males in the South, died during the Civil War. And for the North, it was slightly better. It was 6%. But still, a huge percentage of the men in the United States died fighting the Civil War.