Themes in American History: Capitalism, Slavery, Democracy

Final Blog Post

“Relation and Relief” by Ruchway details the Great Depression and how the United States managed to get itself out of it. He says the economic policies that President Roosevelt proposed help get the U.S. back on its feet after the depression. Roosevelt polices mirrored his political stance as an isolationist. He didn’t really put any focus on the world outside  of America and overseas trade but instead focused on rebuilding the country. One of the first policies he enacted was the New Deal which was an amalgamation of new policies for banks that would help restore the financial status of America. This included putting a safeguard and new constraints on the banking industry to re-inflate the economy.

Roosevelts plans to dig the country out of this hole turned out to do very well and Ruchway credits him as someone who was not only able to put an end to the depression but also put in failsafe’s to ensure that another financial crisis like the great depression would not happen again. Some of this is due to the Civilian Conservation Corps that would go on to provide many jobs to men across America.

The mot interesting thing about this is not so much the specific matters that it discusses but instead the overall picture. The fact that the Great Depression is something that actually happened in society and had to be dealt with was fascinating. And I wonder if coming out of an era where you have to cherish every cent you can find had any part in furthering the role of the U.S. being a very capitalistic country. Of course America was already capitalistic but I can imagine how much more money and people with money were valued or praised.


Blog post #3

Eric Foner’s “The Making of Radical Reconstruction” talks about the ever-expanding influence of the radical republican and reconstruction policies. Reconstruction is a period in American history from 1866-1877 after the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished. The focus of reconstruction was the reuniting of the South and North, finding compromises with citizens in the South and discussing the freed slaves status of citizenship and how it would compare to whites. In this reading Foner discusses reconstruction theory which is that white men in the south were far more concerned with salvaging as much of the past way of living, in the hopes bringing it into or recreating in the new type of civilization that the northern radical republicans. And although they never fully got everything back to the way it used to be they did everything in their power to slow it down. One of their biggest fears was the passing of the 14th amendment which was suppose to give equal rights to all citizens and give them the ability to vote. But even after the passing of the law African-Americans were still not allowed to vote. They did not like this law because they did not hand over any power to colored people who could then make even more change. I feel like this kind of stuff stills goes on to a lesser degree in our modern day. Politicians are still finding ways to keep African-Americans at a disadvantage in a more discreet way.

Blog 2

America Wasn’t a Democracy, Until Black People Made it One by Nikole Hannah-Jones discusses the supposed ideals of American democracy during its creation and its hypocrisy. Mainly white leaders constructing a nation that is suppose to be the land of the free but building off the backs of slaves who have virtually no freedom. Slaves were a huge part of the American economy. Used to pick cotton which was a huge part of the economy and also being seen property in the eyes of the government helped bolster the success of many white owners in America. Nikola Hannah discusses that Americas greatest profitable trade was manufactured by slaves. Jones also brings up that one of the main reasons colonist wanted to gain independence from Great Britain was to hopefully keep ownership of their slaves. Although it may have only been one of the many factors to lead to independence it should not be dismissed as a reason. Jones also mentions that it is because of African Americans that democracy works as well as it does. The hypocrisy of Thomas Jefferson not including black people in the declaration of independence when he penned “all men are created equal”, despite he himself being against the international slave trade.

The main thing I’ve taken away from this reading is how much history can be rewritten by the people with power. And even when there are other historians who discover that there might be more to the story than initially believed by the public there are others who will quickly dismiss it or even try to actively say its incorrect and misleading. This reading had made more aware of how relevant this problem is today in the news today as each outlet will tell their own version of the story and political parties using these stories to strengthen their own politics off the emotions of the public who blindly support them.

Blog Post #1

“Capitalism, A Very Short Introduction” by James Fulcher poses the question “What is Capitalism?” and gives an overview of the rise of capitalism and its development into the capitalistic society that we live in now. He does this by giving a brief history on three different periods in time that give a very good depiction of what he believes is the answer to his question. In his own words Fulcher says, “capitalism involves the investment of money to make more money.” (pg. 18) I tend to agree with this definition as I believe the center of capitalism is money and finding the most efficient way to procure it.

Fulcher’s first story on the English and their involvement in the spice trade really opened my eyes to the idea of how capitalism is formed. I never took the time to really understand how countries throughout history had arrived to the point of capitalism. I also did not occur to me to think of how something so common place in the world today, the stock exchange, was created. The most interesting part of this event is how familiar it feels as a story today. The aristocrats investing their money into these voyages in the hopes of profits, buying spices at a lower price and then fetching them for a higher one in Europe, it doesn’t feel to different from today.

Fulcher’s detail on the shareholders of these voyages trying to discover different methods on how to mitigate the inherent risk of losing all their capital to a potential shipwreck or whatever the danger is very interesting. Shareholders deciding the best way to spread risk is to invest in price of all multiple voyages instead putting all their eggs in one basket is the answer of what capitalism is. Investing money to make more money and finding the most effective way to do it.