A proud spirit of nationalism swept across the
United States during the early 1800’s, as the Louisiana Purchase, the
Barbary pirates tussle (America's first stand against international
terrorism), and the War of 1812 helped shape the geographical and
political identity of the newly created nation. Meanwhile, the
Industrial Revolution advanced the art of coin making.
|The Louisiana Purchase|
When Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office on
March 4, 1801, the
first presidential inauguration ever held in the new capitol city of
Washington, D.C., it marked the beginning of many years of Republican
control of the federal government (recall that Jefferson's Republican
party was not the modern day party known by the same name, but was
actually the forerunner of today's Democratic Party). Many of the
outgoing Federalists feared Jefferson would reverse all their policies,
but Jefferson's harmonious inaugural address allayed those fears and
provided a fresh start to his administration.
As fate would have it, an incredible opportunity
fell into Jefferson's
lap. In May, 1801, The United States discovered that Spain had quietly
turned over the Louisiana Territory, a vast area between the
Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, to Napoleon, the dictator of
France. Concerned that Napoleon was planning to re-assert French power
in North America, Jefferson considered forming an alliance with Great
Britain, who shared in the desire to curtail Napoleon's ambition. At
the same time, he dispatched James Monroe to Paris to join with the
American ambassador Robert Livingston to negotiate the purchase of New
Orleans and western Florida, a move Jefferson hoped would diffuse a
Imagine the amazement of Monroe and Livingston
when Napoleon made his
unexpected offer. For 15 million dollars (in other words, about three
cents an acre), they could double the size of the United States and
secure a permanent outlet to the Gulf of Mexico and easier access to
world markets. With no time to consult with Jefferson, the American
diplomats quickly closed the deal on April 30, 1803.
Along the way, the expedition hired a young
Shoshone Indian woman named
Sacagawea to be their guide and interpreter. Sacagawea helped them
build a friendly relationship with the Shoshone tribe, who in turn
provided horses for Lewis and Clark and their men. The horses were
critical assets to the explorers, helping them cross rugged mountain
ranges and finally, to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
In celebration of the bicentennial of Lewis and
Clark's epic journey,
the folks over at National Geographic have compiled a magnificent
DVD-book combo (also available in VHS). Relive their incredible story
of exploration and discovery of the raw American frontier. Lewis
and Clark: Great Journey West provides breathtaking imagery of the
unknown, filled with beauty and danger, much in the same way it must
have appeared to Lewis and Clark. A fantastic visual treat, the same
footage was shot for IMAX theatre viewing.
|Foreign Entanglements Build an American Identity|
As Thomas Jefferson squeaked into office
following the election of
1800, he stressed the importance of avoiding foreign entanglements. But
when American rights were challenged internationally, Jefferson had
little choice but to respond with military action. In defending the
honor of the youthful United States in the face of the Old World
aggression, American heroes were born, building pride and a sense of
national identity throughout all sections of the growing nation.
For several hundred years, pirates of the
Barbary States of Morocco,
Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli on the northern African coast preyed upon
merchant ships sailing the Mediterranean Sea. Instead of confronting
the pirates (perhaps best described as the 19th century's version of
terrorists), the European governments simply paid tributes (i.e.
extortion money) to them in exchange for "protection".
Equally daring was the mission of American
diplomat William Eaton.
Leading a small contingent of United States marines and mercenaries
across the Egyptian desert to the shores of Tripoli, Eaton and a few
good men took out a major pirate fortification at Derna in 1805. Faced
these setbacks, the Tripoli rulers agreed to peace terms with the
Americans, dropping their demand for tribute payments.
Another source of irritation between the United
States and Great
Britain was impressment, or the kidnapping, of American sailors
on the high seas, for induction into the British navy. Ostensibly, the
British were trying to hunt down deserters from their navy, but that
was mostly just an excuse to condone their actions.
Bowing to the rising spirit of national pride,
Madison asked for a
congressional declaration of war against Great Britain, and got it on
June 18, 1812. Most historians concur the war was fought principally
over freedom of the seas and retaliation for the impressment of
American seamen, with the less mentioned, but very important, desire to
expand the boundaries of the United States. Probably because the
reasons underlying it were so varied, the conflict was simply named
after the year it began: The War of 1812.
In September 1813, US forces regained Detroit
and took control of the
Great Lakes following a crucial naval victory on Lake Erie. The
commander of the American fleet, Commodore Oliver H. Perry, famously
reported to his superior officer, future president General William H.
Harrison, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours". These words are
held in high esteem to this very day as an honored chapter in American
As planned, a large British force sailed into
Chesapeake Bay, and after
casting aside token resistance, their landing parties entered
Washington D.C. on August 24. President Madison and other government
officials had already safely escaped into the countryside. Before
evacuating the White House, First Lady Dolley Madison removed the
Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, to prevent it from
falling into enemy hands.
A young lawyer and poet named Francis Scott Key
witnessed the entire
spectacle as a prisoner aboard a nearby British warship. The rockets'
red glare reassured Key during the nighttime hours the U.S. flag was
still there. While still dark, the bombing suddenly stopped, followed
by an uncertain silence.
Shielded behind a water-filled trench and cotton
bales, the Americans
patiently waited as the British made their charge across
a barren field, finally opening fire at point blank range. Wave after
wave of Redcoats were mowed down as they tried unsuccessfully to
penetrate Jackson's defenses.
As we look back at the War of 1812 from the
perspective of the 21st
century, we realize that even though the conflict essentially ended in
a draw, it marked a turning point in American history. Prior to 1815,
it was events in Europe that largely dictated United States policies,
especially with foreign affair dealings.
The Monroe Doctrine, as it came to be called,
was a direct warning to
the Europeans to stay out of the Western Hemisphere. Any incursions
into North, Central, or South America would be regarded by the American
government as a hostile action against the United States, and would be
dealt with accordingly.
|The Industrial Revolution Advances the Art of Coin Making|
The Industrial Revolution can be described as
the modernization of
manufacturing and industry, beginning in the 1700's in England, with
the invention of water-powered driven machinery. Water-powered mills
were first used for grinding grain, sawing wood, making cloth, and
producing iron. By the 1790's, steam-powered engines had mostly
replaced water power in English mills. As the revolution built
momentum, more and more manufacturing was done in larger factories and
less done in homes and small shops.
The Industrial Revolution finally arrived at the
Mint in 1816, when a
steam engine roller was purchased to replace horse-driven equipment,
destroyed in a fire in January of that year.
|U.S. Coins and History Chapters|
|The American Revolution|
|We the People|
|The Mint Survives Political Strife|
|A Rising Spirit of Nationalism|
|The Mint Branches Out|
|The Nation Drifts Toward War|
|The Money of the Civil War|
|The Reconstruction Era|
|More Chapters to Come ....|
|1||Allen, Jack, and John L. Betts. History:
New York, NY: American Book Company, 1967.
|2||Brinkley, Douglas. History
of the United States.
New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc., 1998.
|3||Schwarz, Ted. A
History of United States Coinage.
London, England: A.S. Barnes & Company, Inc. 1980.
|4||Taxay, Don. The
U.S. Mint and Coinage.
New York, NY: Arco Publishing Company, 1966.
|5||Jordan, Winthrop D., Miriam
Greenblatt, & John S. Bowes. The Americans.
Evanstan, IL: McDougall, Littell & Company, 1988.