Some challenges that the American people have experienced over the centuries had a profound effect that completely changed the course of history. The second half of the nineteenth century presented many obstacles that defined the United States as the country today. Many notable communities have participated in developing the liberties Americans have today, but the role of Indians and African Americans during that time requires an in-depth analysis. Without the violent conflicts between these two communities and the citizens of the United States, it would have been impossible for the country to become the leader of the modern world. This essay will discuss the impact of these internal conflicts within the United States on its future development direction.
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The first community that had a significant role during the late nineteenth century were Indians. The natives of the continent were met with extreme prejudice and were forced to become the lowest class of people for the time being until their patience ran out. Hahn writes that Americans considered Indian people “hopelessly backward and barbaric” (280). The history of their conflict began with attempts at peaceful resolution that have gone wrong.
Indians became a prominent issue for the government that was pushing forward into the continent for settlement and expansion. The initial reaction from the government can be only described as dismissive, as officials have requested immediate relocation of an entire nation of people, despite being divided, into special “reservations” (Hahn 282). There was a clear duality in the approach towards these communities.
While they had been given a portion of land, it was far from an ideal trade. People in reservations have been forced to submit to the laws imposed on them by the new local population via threats of violence and actual armed conflicts (Hahn 282). The dismissive nature of these interactions steadily grew into a full-fledged conflict between the U.S. citizens and Indians, who were driven to the point where resistance began to thwart the local networks and facilities (Hahn 283).
As more people were cornered to a particular piece of land via excessive force and violence, rebellions sparked among many tribes (Hahn 283). However, encounters such as the Sand Creek Massacre led to an eventual establishment of a proper governing system. Realizing the need to secure the safety of both U.S. citizens and Indian tribes, the government eventually took action to resolve these differences by reforming the entire Indian system (Hahn 284). Although issues remained, such a drastic move has forced the U.S. to admit the wrongful approach.
The second event that was truly disruptive for the course of U.S. history during the nineteenth century was the abolition of slavery. The government has been reviewing ideas about a thorough process of integrating freed people into society, and these measures for a transition led to the creation of the Freedmen’s Bureau (Hahn 277). Despite these changes, the chaos ensured throughout the oncoming years, causing many freed people to find themselves on the edge of poverty and despair. Even after becoming freedmen, these people were forced to endure living conditions that put them at a severe disadvantage.
The government had to come up with a plan to solidify the idea of equality between freedmen and U.S. citizens. The proposed idea for the redistribution of land was met with severe disagreement from the original landowners, as they feared that competition would bring their businesses at risk of bankruptcy (Hahn 308). Worrying that these policies would not be accepted, ex-slaves have promised to rebel against the government if the promises were not kept (Hahn 305).
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These threats made the government more decisive, although they led to many localized conflicts between freedmen and locals. In return, any Black people’s assemblies were met with violent threats, which were sometimes brought into reality (Hahn 307). The impact of this event cannot be underestimated, as the multitude of deeply seated societal issues were swiftly brought to light with multiple volatile consequences. The Joint Committee on Reconstruction was created to assist states with the peaceful resolution of the issue. (Hahn 309). These threats of rebellion were necessary to force people to take a stance and act upon their promises.
In conclusion, these two distinct events that occurred during the second half of the nineteenth century changed the course of the history of the United States forever by giving the spotlight to the misrepresented communities. Both Indians and Blacks suffered greatly at the hands of American citizens of that time, and their violent rebellions have forced the government to review its approach to managing entire populations with a dismissive approach. While the loss of life is undoubtedly an unfavorable outcome, the way out of the situation these people were forced into required many sacrifices. As their voices have been heard, the American government has changed its ways to become more inclusive and open to opinions outside the privileged few.
Hahn, Steven. A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-1910. Penguin, 2016.