PROSPERITY. - Twelve years had now elapsed since the meeting at New York of the first Congress under the Constitution, and they had been years of great prosperity.

When Washington took the oath of office, each state regulated its trade with foreign countries and with its neighbors in its own way, and issued its own paper money, which it made legal tender. Agriculture was in a primitive stage, very little cotton was grown, mining was but little practiced, manufacture had not passed the household stage, transportation was slow and costly, and in all the states but three banks had been chartered. [1]

With the establishment of a strong and vigorous government under the new Constitution, and the passage of the much-needed laws we have mentioned, these conditions began to pass away. Now that the people had a government that could raise revenue, pay its debts, regulate trade with foreign nations and between the states, enforce its laws, and provide a uniform currency, confidence returned. Men felt safe to engage in business, and as a consequence trade and commerce revived, and money long unused was brought out and invested. Banks were incorporated and their stock quickly purchased. Manufacturing companies were organized and mills and factories started; a score of canals were planned and the building of several was begun; [2] turnpike companies were chartered; lotteries [3] were authorized to raise money for all sorts of public improvements, - schools, churches, wharves, factories, and bridges; and speculation in stock and Western land became a rage.

NEW INDUSTRIES. - It was during the decade 1790-1800 that Slater built the first mill for working cotton yarn; [4] that Eli Terry began the manufacture of clocks as a business; that sewing thread was first made in our country (at Pawtucket, R.I.); that Jacob Perkins began to make nails by machine; that the first broom was made from broom corn; that the first carpet mill and the first cotton mill were started; that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin; and that the first steamboat went up and down the Delaware.

THE COTTON GIN. - Before 1790 the products of the states south of Virginia were tar, pitch, lumber, rice, and indigo. But the destruction of the indigo plants by insects year after year suggested the cultivation of some other crop, and cotton was tried. To clean it of its seeds by hand was slow and costly, and to remove the difficulty Eli Whitney of Massachusetts, then a young man living in Georgia, invented a machine called the cotton gin. [5] Then the cultivation of cotton became most profitable, and the new industry spread rapidly in the South.

THE STEAMBOAT. - The idea of driving boats through water by machinery moved by steam was an old one. Several men had made such experiments in our country before 1790. [6] But in that year John Fitch put a steamboat on the Delaware and during four months ran it regularly from Philadelphia to Trenton. He was ahead of his time and for lack of support was forced to give up the enterprise.

THE NEW WEST. - In the western country ten years had wrought a great change. Good times in the commercial states and the Indian war in the West had done much to keep population out of the Northwest Territory from 1790 to 1795. But from the South population had moved steadily over the mountains into the region south of the Ohio River. The new state of Kentucky (admitted in 1792) grew rapidly in population.

North Carolina, after ratifying the Constitution, again ceded her Western territory, and out of this and the narrow strip ceded by South Carolina, Congress (1790) made the "Territory of the United States south of the river Ohio." But population came in such numbers that in 1796 the North Carolina cession was admitted as the state of Tennessee.

In the far South, after Spain accepted the boundary of 31°, Congress established the territory of Mississippi (1798), consisting of most of the southern half of the present states of Mississippi and Alabama. Four years later Georgia accepted her present boundaries, and the territory of Mississippi was then enlarged, so as to include all the Western lands ceded by South Carolina and Georgia (map, p. 242).

CLEVELAND. - Jay's treaty, by providing for the surrender of the forts along the Great Lakes, opened that region to settlement, and in 1796 Moses Cleveland led a New England colony across New York and on the shore of Lake Erie laid out the town which now bears his name. Others followed, and by 1800 there were thirty-two settlements in the Connecticut Reserve.

DETROIT. - The chief town of the Northwest was Detroit. Wayne, who saw it in 1796, described it as a crowded mass of one-and two-story buildings separated by streets so narrow that two wagons could scarcely pass. Around the town was a stockade of high pickets with bastions and cannon at proper distances, and within the stockade "a kind of citadel." The only entrances were through two gates defended by blockhouses at either end of a street along the river. Every night from sunset to sunrise the gates were shut, and during this time no Indian was allowed to remain in the town.

INDIANA TERRITORY. - After Wayne's treaty with the Indians, five years brought so many people into the Northwest Territory that in 1800 the western part was cut off and made the separate territory of Indiana. [7] Not 6,000 white people then lived in all its vast area.

The census of 1800 showed that more than 5,000,000 people then dwelt in our country; of these, nearly 400,000 were in the five Western states and territories - Kentucky, Tennessee, Northwest, Indiana, Mississippi.

PUBLIC LAND ON CREDIT. - The same year (1800) in which Congress created the territory of Indiana, it changed the manner of selling the public lands. Hitherto the buyer had been obliged to pay cash. After 1800 he might buy on credit, paying one quarter annually. The effect of this was to bring settlers into the West in such numbers that the state of Ohio was admitted in 1803, and the territory of Michigan formed in 1805. [8]

FRANCE ACQUIRES LOUISIANA. - For yet another reason the year 1800 is a memorable one in our history. When the French Minister of Foreign Affairs heard that Spain (in 1795) had agreed that 31° north latitude should be the dividing line between us and West Florida, he became alarmed. He feared that our next step would be to acquire West Florida, and perhaps the country west of the Mississippi. To prevent this he asked Spain to give Louisiana back to France as France had given it to Spain in 1762 (see page 143); France would then occupy and hold it forever. Spain refused; but soon after Napoleon came into power the request was renewed in so tempting a form that Spain yielded, and by a secret treaty returned Louisiana to France in 1800.

THE MISSISSIPPI CLOSED TO OUR COMMERCE. - The treaty for a while was kept secret; but when it became known that Napoleon was about to send an army to take possession of Louisiana, a Spanish official at New Orleans took away the "right of deposit" at that city and so prevented our citizens from sending their produce out of the Mississippi River. This was a violation of the treaty with Spain, and the settlers in the valley from Pittsburg to Natchez demanded the instant seizure of New Orleans. Indeed, an attempt was made in Congress to authorize the formation of an army of fifty thousand men for this very purpose.

LOUISIANA PURCHASED, 1803. - But President Jefferson did not want war; instead, he obtained the consent of Congress to offer $2,000,000 for West Florida and New Orleans. Monroe was then sent to Paris to aid Livingston, our minister, in making the purchase, and much to their surprise Napoleon offered to sell all Louisiana. [9] After some hesitation the offer was accepted. The price was $15,000,000, of which $11,250,000 was paid to France and $3,750,000 to citizens of our country who had claims against France. [10]

THE BOUNDARIES OF LOUISIANA. - The splendid territory thus acquired had never been given definite bounds. But resting on the discoveries and explorations of Marquette, Joliet, and La Salle, Louisiana was understood to extend westward to the Rio Grande and the Rocky Mountains, and northward to the sources of the rivers that flowed into the Mississippi. Whether the purchase included West Florida was doubtful, but we claimed it, so that our claim extended eastward to the Perdido River.

THE TERRITORY OF ORLEANS. - The country having been acquired, it had to be governed. So much of it as lay west of the Mississippi and south of 33° north latitude, with the city of New Orleans and the region round about it, was made the new territory of Orleans. The rest of the purchase west of the Mississippi was called the territory of Louisiana (map, p. 242).

LOUISIANA EXPLORED. - When the Louisiana purchase was made in 1803, most of the country was an unknown land. But in 1804 an exploring party under Meriwether Lewis and William Clark [11] went up the Missouri River from St. Louis, spent the winter of 1804-5 in what is now North Dakota, crossed the Rocky Mountains in the summer of 1805, and went down the Columbia to the Pacific. After passing a winter (1805-6) near the coast, the party started eastward in the spring, recrossed the mountains, and in the autumn reached St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS was then a little frontier hamlet of maybe a thousand people of all sorts - French, Spanish, American, negro slaves, and Indians. The houses were built on a bottom or terrace at the foot of a limestone cliff and arranged along a few streets with French names. The chief occupation of the people was the fur trade, and to them the reports brought back by Lewis and Clark were so exciting that the St. Louis Fur Company was organized to hunt and trap on the upper Missouri.

REFORMS IN THE STATES. - During the years which had passed since the adoption of the Federal Constitution, great political reforms had been made. The doctrine that all men are born politically equal was being put into practice, and the states had begun to reform their old constitutions or to adopt new ones, abolishing religious qualifications for officeholders or voters, [12] and doing away with the property qualifications formerly required of voters. [13] Some states had reformed their laws for punishing crime, had reduced the number of crimes punishable with death from fifteen or twenty to one or two, and had abolished whipping, branding, cutting off the ears, and other cruel punishments of colonial times. The right of man to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was more fully recognized than ever before.

REFORMS IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. - When the Republican party came into power in 1801, it was pledged to make reforms "to put the ship of state," as Jefferson said, "on the Republican tack." About a third of the important Federalist office-holders were accordingly removed from office, the annual speech at the opening of Congress was abolished, and the written message introduced - a custom followed ever since by our Presidents. Internal taxes were repealed, the army was reduced, [14] the cost of government lessened, and millions of dollars set aside annually for the payment of the national debt.

That there might never again be such a contested election as that of 1800, Congress submitted to the states an amendment to the Constitution providing that the electors should vote for President and Vice President on separate ballots, and not as theretofore on the same ballot. The states promptly ratified, and as the Twelfth Amendment it went into force in 1804 in time for the election of that year.

JEFFERSON REËLECTED. - The Federalist candidates for President and Vice President in 1804 were Charles C. Pinckney and Rufus King; but the Republican candidates, Thomas Jefferson and George Clinton, [15] were elected by a very large majority.

BURR KILLS HAMILTON. - Vice-President Burr, who had consented to be a candidate for the presidency in 1801 (p. 235) against Jefferson, had never been forgiven by his party, and had ever since been a political outcast. His friends in New York, however, nominated him for governor and tried to get the support of the Federalists, but Hamilton sought to prevent this. After Burr was defeated he challenged Hamilton to a duel (July, 1804) and killed him.

BURR'S CONSPIRACY. - Fearing arrest for murder, Burr fled to Philadelphia and applied to the British minister for British help in effecting "a separation of the western part of the United States from that which lies between the Atlantic and the mountains"; for he believed the people in Orleans territory were eager to throw off American rule. After the end of his term as Vice President (March 4, 1805) Burr went west and came back with a scheme for conquering a region in the southwest, enlisted a few men in his enterprise, assembled them at Blennerhassets Island in the Ohio River (a few miles below Marietta), and (in December, 1806) started for New Orleans. The boats with men and arms floated down the Ohio, entered the Mississippi, and were going down that river when General James Wilkinson, a fellow-conspirator, betrayed the scheme to Jefferson. Burr was arrested and sent to Virginia, charged with levying war against the United States, which was treason, and with setting on foot a military expedition against the dominions of the king of Spain, which was a "high misdemeanor." Of the charge of treason Burr was acquitted; that of high misdemeanor was sent to a court in Ohio for trial, and came to naught. [16]


1. With the establishment of government under the Constitution, confidence was restored and prosperity began.

2. Banks were chartered by the states, some roads and canals were constructed, and money was gathered by lotteries for all sorts of public improvements.

3. New industries were started, and the cotton gin and other machines were invented.

4. The defeat of the Indians, the removal of the British and Spanish from our Western country, and the sale of public land on credit encouraged a stream of emigrants into the West.

5. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio entered the Union, and the territories of Mississippi, Indiana, and Michigan were organized.

6. The cession of Louisiana to France in 1800, and the closing of the Mississippi River to Americans, led to the purchase of Louisiana in 1803.

7. This great region was organized into the territories of Orleans and Louisiana; and the width of the continent from St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia was explored by Lewis and Clark.

8. Many reforms were made in the state and national governments tending to make them more democratic.

9. In 1804 Jefferson was reelected President, but Burr was not again chosen Vice President. Having engaged in a plan for conquering a region in the southwest (1806), Burr was arrested for treason, but was not condemned.


[1] Read "Town and Country Life in 1800," Chap. xii in McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. II.

[2] The Middlesex from Boston to Lowell; the Dismal Swamp in Virginia; the Santee in South Carolina.

[3] In those days lotteries for public purposes were not thought wrong. The Continental Congress and many state legislatures used them to raise revenue. Congress authorized one to secure money with which to improve Washington city. Faneuil Hall in Boston and Independence Hall in Philadelphia were aided by lotteries. Private lotteries had been forbidden by many of the colonies. But the states continued to authorize lotteries for public purposes till after 1830, when one by one they forbade all lotteries.

[4] Parliament in 1774 forbade any one to take away from England any drawing or model of any machine used in the manufacture of cotton goods. No such machines were allowed in our country in colonial times. In 1787, however, the Massachusetts legislature voted six tickets in the State Land Lottery to two Scotchmen named Burr to help them build a spinning jenny. About the same time £200 was given to a man named Somers to help him construct a machine. The models thus built were put in the Statehouse at Boston for anybody to copy who wished, and mills were soon started at Worcester, Beverly, and Providence. But it was not till 1790, when Samuel Slater came to America, that the great English machines were introduced. Slater was familiar with them and made his from memory.

[5] Eli Whitney was born in 1765, and while still a lad showed great skill in making and handling tools. After graduating from Yale College, he went to reside in the family of General Greene, who had been given a plantation by Georgia. While he was making the first cotton gin, planters came long distances to see it, and before it was finished and patented some one broke into the building where it was and stole it. In 1794 he received a patent, but he was unable to enforce his rights. After a few years, South Carolina bought his right for that state, and North Carolina levied a tax on cotton gins for his benefit. But the sum he received was very small.

[6] James Rumsey, as early as 1785, had experimented with a steamboat on the Potomac, and about the same time John Fitch built one in Pennsylvania, and succeeded so well that in 1786 and in 1787 one of his boats made trial trips on the Delaware. Later in 1787 Rumsey ran a steamboat on the Potomac at the rate of four miles an hour.

[7] Not the Indiana of to-day, but the great region including what is now Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and half of Michigan and Minnesota. The settlements were Mackinaw, Green Bay, Prairie du Chien, Cahokia, Belle Fontaine, L'Aigle, Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, Fort Massac, and Vincennes. Notice that most of these names are of French origin. The governor was William H. Harrison, afterward a President.

[8] In 1809 Illinois territory was created from the western part of Indiana territory. When the census was taken in 1810, nearly 1,000,000 people were living west of the Appalachians.

[9] Read the scene between Napoleon and his brothers over the sale of Louisiana, as told in Adams's History of the U. S., Vol. II, pp. 33-39.

[10] The transfer of Louisiana to France took place on November 30, 1803, and the delivery to us on December 20. Our commissioners William C. C. Claiborne and James Wilkinson met the French commissioner Laussat (lo- sah') in the hall of the Cabildo (a building still in existence, p. 243), presented their credentials, received the keys of the city, and listened to Laussat as he proclaimed Louisiana the property of the United States. This ceremony over, the commissioners stepped out on a balcony to witness the transfer of flags. The tricolor which floated from the top of a staff in the Place d'Armes (now Jackson Square) was drawn slowly down and the stars and stripes as slowly raised till the two met midway, when both were saluted by cannon. Our flag was then raised to the top of the pole, and that of France lowered and placed in the hands of Laussat. One hundred years later the anniversary was celebrated by repeating the same ceremony. The Federalists bitterly opposed the purchase of Louisiana. Read McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. II, pp. 629-631. For descriptions of life in Louisiana, read Cable's Creoles of Louisiana, The Grandissimes, and Strange True Stories of Louisiana.

[11] Both Lewis and Clark were Virginians and experienced Indian fighters. On their return Lewis was made governor of the upper Louisiana territory, later called Missouri territory; and died near Nashville in 1809. Clark was likewise a governor of Missouri territory and later a Superintendent of Indian Affairs; he died at St. Louis in 1838. He was a younger brother of George Rogers Clark.

[12] Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, Georgia.

[13] In Pennsylvania all free male taxpayers could vote. Georgia and Delaware gave the suffrage to all free white male taxpayers. In Vermont and Kentucky there had never been a property qualification.

[14] In 1802, however, there was founded the United States Military Academy at West Point.

[15] Clinton was born in 1739, took an active part in Revolutionary affairs, was chosen governor of New York in 1777, and was reflected every election for eighteen years. He was the leader of the popular party in that state, was twice chosen Vice President of the United States, and died in that office in 1812.

[16] Burr's trial was conducted (in a circuit court) with rigid impartiality by Chief-Justice John Marshall, one of the greatest judges our country has known. As head of the Supreme Court for thirty-four years (1801-35), he rendered many decisions of lasting influence.