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American Government and Constitution Development

The construction and development of the United States of America Constitution began as early as the 13th century. With the development of the American Constitution, the American government went through a series of changes in terms of independence and creation of states. Being a colony of the British, USA received its independence from the British with will and was helped by the British to create a government which would be govern independently and construct its own laws. The periods and the events that took place before 1871 and those that occurred later than 1890 are irrelevant to deal with in this research paper as the purpose of the paper is to investigate the happenings that took place between the 1871 and 1890. Besides the development of the Constitution, the government of the United States of America was faced with challenges like disputed presidential elections, assassination of a president; fear that the Chinese were economically draining America’s resources, and introduction of the regulatory procedures in corporate businesses that were directed on unfair business practices resulting in reduced competition. In relation to the Constitution development, the US government did not rely on the provisions of the Constitution alone as many areas of governance were unaddressed in the Constitution during the period of 1871 and 1890; therefore, a number of Acts were drafted to unify and coordinate the courses of action of the US government related to American Civil War and economic challenges.

The Treaty of Washington (1871)

In the year 1871, the government of the United States of America and the Great Britain signed a treaty, purpose and role of which was to maintain friendly ties between the two nations. The treaty was signed as a result of the Alabama Claims, where the US government accused the Great Britain government of damages to the US during the American Civil War. The American Civil War was fought in the US by US citizens, but the involvement of the British government was the provision of warships that inflicted great damage on the American merchant marine. As a government, the US pursued the British with the Alabama Claims and the treaty was signed with compensation of $15.5 million US Dollars.

The significance of the Treaty of Washington was to unite the Great Britain and the United States and to reduce the tension between the two nations. Due to the fact that the British were the colonizers of the United States, chances that the US government would not make it without the help and assistance of the Great Britain were high. The kind of help that the US government could use from the Great Britain was to organize the United States in terms of economy as well as gaining stability in political leadership. Great Britain is smaller than the US but managed to colonize the US and several other nations across the world. The high level of organization of the British made this possible. Being a colony, the US government was looking forward to attaining a similar level of governance proficiency from the British. However, as a colonizer, the Great Britain was accused of interfering with internal affairs of the United States by manufacturing warships to be used in the American Civil War. The damage that was caused by the warships was likely to dent the relationship between the US and Great Britain thus putting a stumbling block to the economic and political ambitions of the United States.

Amnesty Act (1872)

The civil war of United States of America was fought by military soldiers, volunteer citizens, and slaves captured as prisoners of war (POW). The number of men who were involved in the fighting could not be determined by government and non-governmental agencies as many documents were destroyed. The Confederate States Army was the army of the confederacy which existed during the American Civil War. Following a background check on the unity of the United States, delegates from 7 southern states of America formed a Constitution of their own and called it the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America. The president of Confederacy States was Jefferson Davis who was captured later in 1865 that coincided with the dissolution of the confederacy states.

In the year 1872, the Amnesty Act was put to effect as a means of lifting the restriction that was imposed on the secessionists of the American Civil War. As a federal law, the Amnesty Act sought to remove the voting restrictions that were created after the secessionists rebelled during the American Civil War. As a rebel, one was disqualified from holding office in government setting. The Amnesty Act, however, did not give immunity to 500 individuals who were part of the Confederacy – meaning that they could neither hold office and nor vote.

Presidential Election (1872)

The presidential election of 1872 was the first one which came after the 1870 Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights which is another name of this amendment gave every US citizen the right to vote without being discriminated in terms of color, race, or previous state of servitude. Following this amendment, the 1872 election had more voters than the rest of elections which had been conducted, because the population of the US had grown remarkably and more people who were previously banned from voting got the right to vote. With the Bill of Rights lifting the restrictions of blacks and slaves and the Amnesty Act lifting a ban of more than 150,000 individuals, the number of voters almost doubled in 1872 as compared to the presidential election of 1868.

The candidates of the presidential elections were Ulysses S. Grant and Horace Greeley contesting within Republican Party and Liberal Republican Party respectively. The Liberal Republican Party was more of an initiative urging government officials and interstate officials fighting with hatreds of American Civil War in order to unite the nation and work towards a commonwealth of the United States of America. The Liberal Republican Party claimed that to have a just government it is necessary to remove all restrictions imposed on individuals, namely the rebellions of American Civil War, to be more precise, the restrictions that were retained for 500 members of the Confederacy after the Amnesty Act. After the popular vote prior to Electoral College casted its votes, Horace Greeley died making the 1872 presidential elections the first to have a presidential candidate die during an election process.

Resumption Act (1875)

Back in the year 1861, the Federal Government of the United Stated banned specie payments as a means of raising funds for the American Civil War. As a result of this, the federal government printed and issued greenbacks worth of $431 million in order to preserve the silver and gold reserves from exhausting. By the year 1874, after agrarian and labour interests formed a coalition to curb inflation by drafting anti-inflation policies, there was a total of $384 million of greenback notes in circulation. On January 14 1875, the Resumption Act was enacted into law to replace the Civil War fractional currency with silver coins.

Economically, the American Civil War affected the nation negatively as the prices of commodities went up because of the valuation of the greenback compared to gold and silver. Inflation hit a vast majority of Americans hence there was a need for imposing anti-inflationary policies. By the time the Resumption Act was effected into law, the nation was almost entering into an economic crisis following the cost of the American Civil War and the economic aftershocks brought by the circulation of the greenback currency. With the replacement of $84 million of the greenback currency with silver coins, the Resumption Act did not seem to appeal to a number of legislators raising a fierce debate in Congress during the 1880 presidential election. President Rutherford B. Hayes reinstated the specie payments and with the aid of the Secretary of the Treasury, John Sherman, attempted to accumulate gold to accomplish the purpose of Resumption Act.

Civil Rights Act (1875)

The Civil Rights Act was the United States Federal Law passed by Congress in February 1875 and signed by Grant into law on March 1, 1875. Senators Charles Summer and Butler proposed the law the purpose of which was to bring equity in places of accommodation. Following discrimination that was highly witnessed in 1870 in the public and private sectors, the senator and the representative proposed the Civil Rights Act in accordance to the Fifteenth Amendment. However, as the Bill of Rights focused on treatment of citizens and their rights, the law of 1875 aimed at abolishing discrimination at places of accommodation like the restaurants, hotels, theaters or places of public amusement.

The importance of this act was to reduce the effects of discrimination in terms of servitude positions previously held or racial differences especially between the blacks, whites and Asians. During the colonial periods, the British used to ship Africans into the US to work as slaves in the industries and plantations. This way, as the Unites States gained independence, the social lives of the American Africans were deteriorated as compared to those of the whites that kept improving through trade and other opportunities. In this case, interaction of the whites and the blacks was minimal and individuals of a certain social class could not be checked in some areas of accommodation. However, no matter  how effective the Civil Rights Act seemed to be, it was rarely enforced especially after 1876 presidential elections and the removal of federal troops from the southern parts of the US.

Disputed Presidential Election (1876)

The 1876 presidential election was one of the most disputed in the history of the United States of America when Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes faced each other on the ballot box. The dispute of the election was revolving around the popular votes and the Electoral College votes. Tilden had the popular vote winning with a majority of 184 votes against Hayes who had 165 therefore making him a winner in the popular vote. However, 20 votes of the Electoral College were disputed and after a fierce legal undertaking, the 20 votes were unanimously awarded to the Hayes and hence he won the presidential election.

With the presidential election disputed and concerned about how Hayes got to office, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party struck a rather informal deal where federal troops were to be removed from the South and hence making states on the southern part of the US democratic in terms of representation. This move coincided with the previously signed Civil Rights Act disregarding its enforcement after the new president was elected into office and the federal troops were withdrawn from the South. Controversy surrounded the event that was stuck as well as the election itself in that it was the first time since 1858 that a democratic candidate had secured a majority of the popular vote of more that 50 percent and failed to be elected as a president by the Electoral College.

Bland-Alisson Act 1878

Following the depression of 1873 that was caused by the economic aftershocks of the 1861 funding for the American Civil War and the actual damage that was caused by the war itself, the Bland-Allison Act was proposed by Richard P. Allison alongside other representatives to replace gold coinage with silver coins. The act was highly disputed with President Hayes vetoing the act only for Congress to pass it because of the  majority of votes in favor of the Act. The reason for Hayes to veto the Act was that major banks and owners of private organizations, investors, and business shareholders were pressuring him to reject the Act.

After the passing of the Act in 1878, the economic turmoil that was predicted by banks and business owners dawned as the value of silver dropped following a discovery of silver deposits in Nevada and several other places in the West. Following the stability of gold coins, the bimetallism in terms of currency devalued the silver coins leading to an economic imbalance. The silver and the gold traded at a ratio of 30:1 respectively following the devaluation of the silver as a monetary currency. In this case, businesses preferred the gold coins for they had value security and did not change value following their rarity unlike the silver coins that were in abundance. The requirement of the Bland-Alisson Act of the U.S Treasury was to buy a certain amount of silver and put it into circulation that proved to be reliable before the discovery of the silver deposit which lowered the general price of silver.

James Garfield Inaugurated as President and Assassinated (1881)

Having been a military commander for two years from 1861 to 1863, Garfield ventured into politics and was nominated and elected into Congress in 1864. For the next sixteen years, Garfield was re-elected into the Congress seven times with the last being in 1880, when he was nominated and elected as the president of the United States. As the president of the United States of America, Garfield pushed for the equality of Black Americans claiming that they represented the same image as the rest of the Americans. Using the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, he proposed universal form of education for everyone to enable people vote effectively as well as make decisions that would affect the political scene. The universal formal education was to use the bimetallism approach proposed in the Bland-Allison Act where silver would be bought by the U.S treasury for making silver coins, which would be used as the currency. This would help the Black Americans to be able to pay for the formal education. Following the discrimination experienced in places of admission and accommodation, the application of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 would have enabled this move. However, the U.S. Supreme court ruled against it claiming that the US government could not impose such a law on private investors who may not wish to end with such discriminations in their businesses.

The way Garfield was elected from the House of Representatives to the president had enraged many of the office-seeker who lost. Therefore the attempts on his life came underway. Barely half a year after he was inaugurated into the office, an office adherent, Charles J. Guiteau, shot Garfield alleging that Chester A. Arthur, then vice president, was the legitimate candidate supposed to be the president. Controversially, Garfield had several opponents of his own party in a number of policies and government undertakings prior to his becoming a president; opposition of Church was based on polygamy upon which the actual intentions of his assassination could not be determined.

Chinese Exclusion Act 1882

The Chinese Exclusion Act came after the US government through some congressional representatives discovered that the US was being flocked by the Chinese whose main objective was to mine gold that was in plenty. As time eloped after the 1870’s the gold deposits started to diminish, therefore, inflicting fear throughout the US and threatening to exhaust the gold deposits that were available. In this case, the uncontrolled Chinese immigration into the US was the issue that was posing the danger to the economy of the US. From early 1860s the US depended on gold for economic reasons, such as engagement in businesses as well as usage of the golden coins as currency.

Chester A. Arthur passed the Chinese Exclusion Act into a law on May 8 1882. The significance of the Chinese exclusion was to deter the large numbers of Chinese immigrants pursuing the Gold Rush in the California state. With the beginning of the exclusion of the Chinese dating back to 1864, later it was cancelled as enough money had accumulated to keep the US government from economic danger. When the cancelation of the exclusion was effected, large groups of Chinese continued to come to the US establishing a fierce competition over the gold with the natives. This competition drove the Congress to implement the Chinese Exclusion Act upon which the Chinese were met with hostility and discrimination in the state of California as well as other states. Regarding the provisions of the Fifteenth Amendment of 1870, the law did not cover the Chinese because they were not citizens.

Dawes Act and Hatch Act (1887)

The land in the USA during the 1880s was on high demand as the population of the United States continued to grow with various people occupying small areas as exhausting the lands and wasting other productive land. Following this, The Dawes Act was passed to allocate land to Indians who needed areas to settle upon being discriminated by the hostile natives. The natives occupied specific areas and those areas if they allowed the Indians to settle in the same places, it would threaten its productivity. For this reason, the Dawes Act sought to allocate the Indians whereby an adult male with family would be granted 165 acres of land, 80 acres of land would be granted to a single man, and 40 acres would be given to an orphan. The distribution of land came in accordance with the Amnesty Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the initial Fifth Amendment where human rights were considered and minority groups seeking citizenship allowed to do so in order to enjoy the same privileges as the Natives.

The Hatch Act of 1887 was an act that was signed into law where the colleges were required to have agricultural research laboratories that would determine soils, vegetation suitable for various areas, and the types of plants suitable for a specific type of soil and climate. The Hatch Act followed the Dawes Act in that the land was given to the Indians and that it retained that the government and the Natives had to be cultivated argiculturally, because agriculture was an economic undertaking for the US.  Agriculture in the US provided job opportunities to the industries as well as good source of raw materials for businesses.

Sherman Antitrust Act 1890

Following the investments and starting of businesses by European settlers in pursuit of opportunities and the take on the agricultural sector that was picking pace and affecting industries as well, the Sherman Antitrust Act was enacted into law. The significance of this Act was in ensuring that businesspersons ventured into fair practices and making sure that small businesses that could fall victims of bigger ones were protected. Protection for the small businesses and organizations from the larger ones ensured that the economic sector was governed by ethics and fairness. 

Governance Government The Pendulum of Politics
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