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America's History

America is not a country like England or Germany that have long histories but a land that has witnessed many chances in its short history since the first immigrants landed five hundred years ago. They all came from different places and had different opinions about how their lives should be but after having solved many problems over nearly four centuries the Americans have what they wanted, a state where all people are free and equal and have the opportunity to make a success of their lives. The first big problem which they solved was the issue of independence from England. . The Americans always wanted to be independent while England wanted them as a colony, and the struggle for independence took a very long time (1774 -1783). In 1776 during the war of independence the representatives of the 13 separate colonies came together to sign ' The Declaration of Independence ', which says ,that all men are equal , free and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights , amongst which are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. For the first time in history a group of revolutionaries carefully explained to the world why they had the right to use force to change their government. They won the war and became later one of the most powerful countries, which was the second big problem. The leading role America played in the world economy was in complete contrast to its isolationist policy. When in 1917 the United States entered World War 1 President Wilson wanted a League of Nations , which would solve political problems between different countries. He went to France when the war was over, to help to work out the Versailles Treaty but in 1920 the American Senate rejected the Versailles Treaty, and the United States didn't become a member of the League of Nations because they were simply not yet ready to take on this international responsibility. When World War 1 was over America became a leading member in the United Nations, after finally having given up its political isolation. The Americans have always had a sense of mission , the mission to export their own ideals of democracy and equality to other parts of the world. For the first time in the Vietnam War the Americans learnt , that it is not always good to get involved in other countries affairs.

The third big issue was slavery. It was a lot easier for the planters to buy slaves than to bring free people with them to work on their land ,when the free people could easily get land for themselves. Especially on the large plantations in the South slaves were used to do the hard work and by 1680 about 60,000 slaves were brought to America every year. The slaves were caught or bought in Africa and then transported to America. They were treated like cattle and the slaves owners had complete control over their slaves' lives. In 1690 slavery was permitted in al1 13 colonies and it was not until the 19th century that people started to try and stop it. While the whites in the South thought that slavery was absolutely necessary for their economy, the whites in the North were against it. While the North was developing its industries, 'King Cotton' ruled in the agricultural South. The North argued that it was economically backward , that it divided the nation and that it did not agree at all with the American ideals of freedom and equality. North and South moved further and further apart and every time a new state joined the Union, there was the problem of whether to permit slavery in these states. There were bitter quarrels and when Abraham Lincoln , an opponent of slavery became president in 1860 ,eleven states left the Union to form the 'Confederate States of America'. In 1860 a Civil War began which was caused by the slavery question, but was not fought to abolish slavery. The South fought for its freedom, its style of life and the right to decide what form of government its people wanted while the North fought to save the Union. After four years the South gave up and the Union was saved. Between 1865- 1868 the 13th and 14th Amendments were added to the Constitution which said that all slaves are free and citizens of the United States. That they were still second- class citizens who have their own restaurants, busses, hotels, trains and schools was not important for most whites because in 1896 the Supreme Court permitted segregation. In the time before Supreme Court stopped segregation in 1954 a lot of people were protesting against racial prejudice of all sorts. The most important leader of the Civil Rights movement , was Martin Luther King. His idea was to protest peacefully against laws and customs that made black Americans second-class citizens. In 1963 he led the 'March to Washington'. 200000 people black and white marched to the capital to support Civil Rights. As a result of the Civil Rights movement discriminating laws were changed , public places became open to black and white and opportunities for blacks were improved. In 1986, 18 years after he was shot, a new public holiday was introduced in the USA, the Martin Luther King Day. It was a long struggle until the blacks became the same rights as the whites, but now there are many different races living, to a certain extent, harmoniously in America. The non - white Americans can often be as successful as the white Americans although they usually have to work harder to achieve it ; for example, the Asian -Americans. They make up only 2.1% of the population but you wouldn't know that from looking at the nation 's best colleges. Nearly a quarter of all students at the University of California in Berkeley are Asian -Americans and that is only because they work so hard. They believe more in the efficacy of hard work than other Americans because they always heard from their parents 'Work works' and that anyone can do well if he studies hard . Sometimes parents spend all their money so that their child could study in America and the children promised them to do well and to uphold their family honour.

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