Expansion and Early America (Unit 2)

Early Years, Westward Expansion, and Regional Differences

George Washington became the first president of the United States on April 30, 1789. He had been in charge of the army. As president, his job was to create a working government.

With Congress, he created the Treasury, Justice, and War departments. Together, the leaders of these departments and the others that werefounded in later years are called the cabinet.

One chief justice and five (today eight) associate justices made up the Supreme Court. Three circuit courts and 13 district courts were created. Policies were developed for governing the western territories and bringing them into the Union as new states.

George Washington served two four-year terms as president before leaving office. (Only one U.S. president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, has served more than two terms. Today, the Constitution says that no one may be elected president more than twice.) The next two presidents—John Adams and Thomas Jefferson —had different ideas about the role of government. This led to the creation of political parties.

John Adams and Alexander Hamilton led the Federalists. Their supporters included people in trade and manufacturing. They believed in a strong central government. Most of their support was in the North.

Jefferson led the Republicans. Their supporters included many farmers. They did not want a strong central government. They believed in states having more power. They had strong support in the South.

For about 20 years, the United States was friendly to other countries and neutral toward their dis- putes, but France and Britain again were at war. The British navy seized American ships going to France. The French navy seized American ships going to Britain.

After years of unsuccessful diplomacy, the United States went to war with Britain in 1812. The battles took place mostly in the Northeastern states and along the East Coast. One part of the British army reached Washington, D.C., the new U.S. capital. Soldiers set fire to the president’s mansion. President James Madison fled as the White House burned.

The Americans won important battles on land and sea. Weakened and in debt from its recent war with France, Britain signed a peace treaty with the U.S. in 1815. The U.S. victory made sure that Britain wouldn’t establish colonies south of the Canadian border.

By 1815, many of the new nation’s problems had eased. Under the Constitution, the United States had a balance between liberty and order. The country had a low national debt. Much of the continent was left to explore. The country had peace, prosperity,and social progress.

An important addition to foreign policy was the Monroe Doctrine. President James Monroe’s announcement of solidarity with newly independent nations in Central and South America was a warning to Europe not to seek colonies in Latin America.

The U.S. doubled in size when it bought the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803 and Florida from Spain in 1819. From 1816 to 1821, six new states were created. Between 1812 and 1852, the population tripled.

As the country grew, differences among the states became more obvious. The United States was a country of civilized cities and lawless frontiers. The United States loved freedom but also tolerated slavery. The differences began to create problems.


1. Who was the third president of the United States?

A. John Adams
B. Alexander Hamilton
C. Thomas Jefferson

2. What did the British set on fire during the War of 1812?

A. Executive mansion
B. American ships
C. Supreme Court

3. What territories did the United States buy in the 1800s?

A. Louisiana
B. Florida
C. All of the above

U.S.A. History in Brief, U.S. Department of State, 2010