The 1787 convention in Philadelphia created a document (the Constitution) which would radically reshape the United States. Establishing a “federal” system in which the central government held a great deal more authority than under the Articles of Confederation. Divided into executive (embodied in the President), legislative (Congress), and judicial (the federal courts), the new system gave what its authors asserted were clearly defined and limited powers to the federal government.
The Articles of Confederation, adopted during the War for Independence, established a system in which most power was held by the individual states rather than in a strong central government. By the mid-1780s, rebellions in several states–including one led by Daniel Shays in Massachusetts–illustrated the drawbacks of such limited government. This account of the Rebellion is from a dozen years after the fact.
After the outbreak of armed conflict between British soldiers and American colonial troops, the Second Continental Congress struggled to agree on how best to proceed. While most of the delegates were not leaning toward independence (though they would be within a year), there were delegates who saw the colonists’ military action as justified, paving the way toward a wider war and, eventually, independence. However there were also delegates who were eager to reconcile with Britain and put the fighting behind them.
An increase in crime committed by teenagers during the late 1940s and into the 1950s spawned a number of educational resources aimed at young people (and their parents).
Excerpts from a 1955 Senate report on Comic Books and Juvenile Delinquency.
Throughout the Cold War, Harding College (now University) produced a number of films which promoted “American” values in the face of perceived pressure from “un-American” ideologies. This short animated film, “Make Mine Freedom” is an early example of these films. As you watch it, think about the goals the filmmakers had in creating this cartoon and who the cartoon’s audience might have been.
Source: The Prelinger Collection (direct link to video)
Questions to consider:
- The film makes reference to “isms”–given the year of production, to what “isms” might the filmmakers have been referring?
- What do the filmmakers promote as an alternative to ‘isms”?
- What are the specific dangers of these “isms”?
- What makes the American way better than the foreign “isms,” according to the filmmakers?
During the Second World War, the Roosevelt administration issued executive orders to inter Japanese-Americans (many of them US citizens) in prison camps to lessen the perceived risk of Japanese sabotage. These two films are examples of the ways in which the US government attempted to justify these actions.
The Ocala Demands were issued by a coalition of southern populist organizations including the Southern Farmers’ Alliance, the Colored Farmers’ Alliance, and the Farmers’ Mutual Benefit Association. It was one of the foundational documents of American populist economics and politics in the 1890s.
The Omaha Platform of 1892 was the foundational statement of the People’s Party (also known as the Populist Party). It was written by Ignatius L. Donnelly, a Minnesota politician and author. The Omaha Platform combined the goals and concerns of western farmers and urban industrial workers and the Populists would be a significant political force in the 1890s.
During the 1950s, some American thinkers expressed concern that deviation from accepted behavior, would contribute to a weakening of American society. This educational film from 1958 addresses some of the perceived consequences of premarital sex. While premarital sex was certainly not invented in the 1950s, concerns about “proper” behavior were enhanced by the tensions of the Cold War.