Учебное пособие. Автор А.В.Кремнева
– Барнаул: Изд-во АлтГТУ, 2010.- 242 с.
Учебное пособие предназначено для использования на занятиях
по курсу «Лингвострановедение» и содержит материалы
страноведческого характера, которые знакомят студентов с
географией, историей, экономикой, государственным устройством и
культурой США. Пособие состоит из 16 разделов, каждый из которых
содержит основные тексты, снабженные заданиями для проверки
понимания прочитанного, а также развития навыков говорения и
аудирования. К учебному пособию прилагается CD, что позволяет
выполнить целый ряд заданий, направленных на развитие навыков
Пособие предназначено для студентов старших курсов языковых
специальностей, оно также может быть использовано аспирантами и
широким кругом лиц, изучающих историю и культуру США.
Структура и содержание учебного пособия соответствуют
образовательному стандарту высшего профессионального образования
по курсу «Лингвострановедение».
доктор филологических наук, профессор АлтГПА Л.А.Козлова
кандидат исторических наук, профессор АлтГТУ В.В.Дмитриев
Part II American
Part I First Explorers from
Part II Early British
Part III Puritan New England
UNIT 3 Colonial
UNIT 4 The Independence
Part I The Westward
Part II A Divided Nation
Part I The Civil
Part II American
Part I Miners, Railroads and
Part II The Age of Big
Part I The American
Part II America in World War
Part III America in the
Part I The Great Depression and the New
Part II America in World War
Part I The Cold
Part II The New Frontier and the Civil
Part III The Vietnam
Part I America in the
Part II New
America in the
Part II Political Parties and
UNIT 13 The Native
UNIT 14 Mass
Part I The System of
Part II College and
UNIT 16 Sports and
The United States of America occupies part of North America, borded
by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, and washed by the Atlantic
Ocean to the east, the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to
the west. This area contains 48 of the 50 American states, and is known as
the coterminous United States. The other two states are Alaska at the
northwestern tip of North America, and the island group of Hawaii in the
central Pacific. Other outlying territories include Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands of the United States in the Caribbean, the Guam, the American
Samoa and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.
In area, the United States is the forth-largest country in the world
(behind Russia, Canada and China). In terms of economic, political and
cultural influence it is one of the leading nations in the world. It owes its
success to its plentiful natural resources, a rich cultural mix, and a strong
sense of national identity. The dominant characteristic of the landscape of
the United States is great diversity. The diversity stems from the fact that the
country is so large and has so many kinds of land, climate and people. It
stretches 2,575 kilometers from north to south, and 4,500 kilometers from
east to west. It covers 9,372,614 square kilometers. The deep-green
mountain forests are drenched with 250 centimeters of rain each year. At the
other extreme, the deserts of the southwest receive less than 13 centimeters
annually. A traveler from almost any other country can find parts of the
United States that remind him of home. There are pine forests dotted with
lakes, and mountain peaks covered with snow. There are meadows with
brooks and trees, and sea cliffs, and wide grassy plains, and broad spreads of
grapevines, and sandy beaches. The climate is similarly diverse, ranging
from Arctic in northern Alaska to subtropical in the southeast; the warmest
areas include both the arid heat of the Arizona deserts and the everglades of
The face of the land
Much of the geography and history of the United States was
determined some 10,000 to 25,000 years ago. At that time, the great
northern ice cap flowed over the North American Continent and ground into
a number of major changes. These ice flows determined the size and
drainage of the Great Lakes. They changed the direction of the Missouri
River. They pushed soil a huge part of Canada into the United States, thus
creating the northern part of the Central Agricultural Basin – one of the
richest farming areas in the world.
On the Atlantic shore of the United States, much of the northern coast
is rocky and uninviting, but the middle and southern Atlantic coast rises
gently from the sea. It starts as low, wet ground and sandy flats, but then
becomes a rolling coastal lowland. The Appalachians, which run parallel to
the east coast, are old mountains with many coal-rich valleys between them.
West of the Appalachians is the Great Central Lowland which resembles the
plains of eastern Europe, or Manchuria, or the Great Plains of Australia.
North of the Central Lowland, extending for almost 1,600 kilometers,
are the five Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario,
Lake Huron, and Lake Erie), which the United States shares with Canada.
The lakes are estimated to contain about half of the world’s fresh water.
They are navigable by large ships via connecting canals, and are drained by
the St. Lawrence Seaway. Located near the center of the continent, the lakes
are stormier than most of the world’s oceans and seas. Commerce on the
Great Lakes has played an important role in the prosperous economic
development of the Unites States.
West of the Central Lowland are the Great Plains, which cover one-
fifth of the United States and extend from Texas in the south over 2,400
kilometers north to Canada. They are stopped by the Rocky Mountains, “the
backbone of the continent”, which stretches from northern Mexico to
Alaska. The Rockies are considered young mountains: of the same age as
the Alps in Europe, the Himalayas in Asia, and the Andes in South America.
Like these ranges they are high, rough and irregular in shape.
At first sight, the land west of the Rockies appears to be tumbled
masses of mountains. Actually, however, it is made up of quite distinct and
separate regions, shaped by different geological events. One region was
formed by material which was washed down from the Rockies and pressed
into rock. This now encompasses the high Colorado Plateau, extending with
a remarkable landscape of mesas, buttes and canyons. The Grand Canyon of
the Colorado River is just one of many national parks in this region. Another
region, the Columbia Basin lies to the north. The rocks there are still being
formed by a continuing upflow of lava that has buried old mountains and
filled valleys. Volcanoes also built the Cascade Mountains. The Cascade
Range extends from Washington through Oregon to Lassen Peak in
California, and includes a chain of high volcanoes. The Sierra Nevada
Range includes Mount Whitney (4418 m), and is cut by spectacular glacial
valleys. At the border of the Pacific Ocean lie the Coastal Ranges, relatively
low mountains, in a region where occasional earthquakes show that the
process of mountain-building has not yet stopped. The highest peak of the
USA is Mount McKinley (6193 m) which is located in Alaska.
The Unites States is also a land of rivers and lakes. The northern state
of Minnesota, for example, is known as the land of 10,000 lakes. One of the
world’s greatest continental rivers, the Mississippi river, is the main arm of
the great river system draining the area between the Appalachian and Rocky
Mountains. The Mississippi is nicknamed the Nile of America, the Father of
Waters as its waters are gathered from two-thirds of the United States.
Through its lower course it wanders along, appearing lazy and harmless. But
people who know the river are not deceived by its benign appearance, for
they have had many struggles with its floods. The Mississippi has made a
unique contribution to the history and literature of the United States. Mark
Twain celebrated the life on the great river in the books “The Life in the
Mississippi”, “Tom Sawyer”, “Huckleberry Finn”. As the central river of the
United States the Mississippi has become one of the biggest commercial
waterways in the world. Together with the Missouri (its chief western
branch) it flows some 6,700 kilometers from its northern source in the
Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico, which makes one of the world’s
The second longest river in the United States and once the most
destructive one is the Missouri. When the first explorers reached the present
city of St. Louis, they were amazed by the mighty stream of dirty water
pouring down from the west. The French priest, who was leading the
expedition, wrote: “I have seen nothing more frightful. A mass of large trees
… real floating islands, came rushing… so that we could not, without great
danger, expose ourselves to pass across”. That was the Missouri river in
flood. The Missouri rises high among the snows of the Rocky Mountains
and is really two rivers: one of water, and one of small bits of soil, washed
off the land. The people who live along the Missouri’s banks say it is “too
thin to plow and too thick to drink”. Time after time, the muddy waters of
the Missouri flooded, spreading ruin and killing people. In 1944 the US
government began a vast project called for a series of man-made lakes and
dams to control the river. The Missouri is nicknamed the Big Muddy and
where it pours into the Mississippi from the west, it colors its water deep
brown with small pieces of soil. Farther downstream, where the clear waters
of the principal eastern tributary, the Ohio, join the Mississippi, evidence of
the difference between the dry west and rainy east becomes apparent. For
kilometers the waters of the two rivers flow on side by side without mixing.
Those from the west are brown; they have robbed the soil in areas of sparse
vegetation. The waters from the east are clear and blue; they come from hills
and valleys where plentiful forest and plant cover has kept the soil from
being washed away.
Like the Mississippi, all the rivers east of the Rockies finally reach the
Atlantic; all the waters to the west of the Rockies finally arrive at the
Pacific. For this reason the crests of the Rocky Mountains are known as the
Continental Divide. There are many places in the Rockies where a visitor
may throw two snowballs in opposite directions and know that each will
feed a different ocean.
The two great rivers of the Pacific side are the Colorado in the south,
and the Columbia in the north. In the dry western country both rivers, very
different in character, are vital sources of life. The Columbia, wild in
prehistoric times, now flows with quiet dignity. But the Colorado is still a
river of enormous fury – wild, restless and angry. But even the furious
Colorado has been dammed and put to work. All the farms and cities of the
southwest corner of the country depend on its waters.
The Rio Grande, about 3,200 kilometers long, is the foremost river of
the Southwest. It flows from its sources in the southern Rocky Mountains to
the Gulf of Mexico and forms a natural boundary between Mexico and the
United States, which together have built irrigation and flood control systems
of mutual benefit.
The United States is rich in most of the metals and minerals needed to
supply its basic industries. The nation produces millions of tons of iron a
year. Steel is vital to the manufacture of some 200,000 other products. Three
quarters of the iron ore comes from the Lake Superior region of the Great
Coal is the second major natural resource found in large quantities in
the United States. There are sufficient reserves to last hundreds of years.
Most of the coal is used by steam plants to produce electricity. Much coal is
also used in chemical industries for the manufacture of plastics and other
Oil wells in the United States produce more than 2 million barrels of
petroleum a year. The production, processing and marketing of such
petroleum products as gasoline and oil make up one of America’s largest
industries. The Alaska pipeline stretches for 1,290 kilometers from the
northern oil fields to a port on the south coast. Natural gas and manufactured
gas furnish more than one-third of the nation’s power. Natural gas is carried
by huge pipelines thousands of kilometers from oil and gas fields to heat
homes and buildings and to operate industrial plants.
Other basic metals and minerals mined on a large scale in the United
States include zinc, copper, silver and phosphate rock which is used for
fertilizers. History has glamorized the gold rushes in California and Alaska
and the silver finds in Nevada.
The United States lies in a region of prevailing westerly winds, with
the landmass of Canada to the north, a warm shallow sea to the south, and
broad oceans to both east and west. In general, however, the sheer size of
the North American continent produces a continental climate throughout
most of the country, marked by cold winters, warm or hot summers and a
broad range of temperatures.
The west coast benefits from its maritime position, which brings much
milder winters than elsewhere. Cool, moist winds from the Pacific rise over
the Coast Ranges, so that Oregon and Washington have the heaviest rainfall
in the country, especially during the fall. Farther south, in California, the
summers tend to be hot and very dry. Rainfall is much lower, especially in
the Central Valley; agriculture here is dependent on irrigation. In the far
south there is little rain. Farther inland much of the remaining moisture falls
as rain or snow over the Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada.
East of the Rockies the Great Plains are semiarid, but farther east the
Central Lowlands receive more in summer from hot, humid air flowing
north from the Gulf of Mexico. Less beneficial, though, are the weather
conditions produced throughout the central United States when humid air
from the south meets colder air from the western cordillera. The result may
be anything from thunderstorms and tornadoes to hailstorms and blizzards.
Not surprisingly, this American heartland suffers the most violent extremes
of temperature from season to season and sometimes even from one hour to
the next. Spring and fall are pleasant but very short, and winters are longer
toward the north.
Areas near to the Gulf of Mexico have much shorter winters, but are
liable to hurricanes in the late summer and early fall. Equally vulnerable are
the states in the southeast, adjoining Florida, where warm, humid conditions
prevail all year round. North of here, the Appalachians receive plentiful rain
throughout the year. The Northeast, however, has a largely continental
climate, only slightly modified by the nearby ocean. This is because the
prevailing westerly winds blow offshore. Low winter temperatures
combined with unstable weather conditions lead to some spectacular
snowfalls, especially over the mountains and along the coast.
Vegetation and wildlife
The first European settlers in the eastern United States found a land
covered in rich forest, including hardwoods such as hickory, oak and
walnut. Relatively few of these trees now remain; most of the forest in the
east is secondary growth, though a few elms, maples and beeches can still be
seen. Conifers grow in the colder northern areas and on high ground.
About halfway across the Central Basin the tree cover gradually gives
way to grassland, although much of the area concerned is now agricultural
land. As rainfall decreases to the west, the long prairie grassland is replaced
by shorter, thinner steppe grasses.
Alpine vegetation covers the western mountain ranges, with desert
vegetation in the arid areas in between. Plant life here is surprisingly rich,
with a wide variety of cacti and succulents. Westward again, on the coasts of
Oregon and California, are Douglas firs and the last surviving strands of
redwood, the world’s tallest tree. Redwoods can reach as high as 90 m, and
some are thousands of years old.
Central and southern California is characterized by chaparral
vegetation that is resistant to the long summer droughts. Palm trees are
native to southern California and Florida, though they are also grown
Animal life in the United States shows the dramatic effects of human
settlement. The first European colonists brought horses, cattle, sheep and
other European species such as sparrows and starlings. Settlers moving west
in the 19th century eliminated the huge herds of buffalo that once roamed
the Great Plains. Today very few of these now protected survive, and even
the Bald eagle, symbol of the United States, is in danger of extinction.
Mammals with a wide distribution include white-tailed deer, American
black bears, bobcats, raccoons, skunks, opossums, beavers and muskrats.
Moose, red foxes, otters and wolverines inhabit the northern coniferous
forests. The forest rivers of the east and southeast support an abundance of
fish species, and there are seven different species of salamander in the
Appalachians. The deserts of southern California, Nevada and Arizona have
many reptile species. The Great Plains are the home of prairie dogs, while
the Rockies harbor marmots, Mountain goats and pikas.
Among marine mammals, seals are found on both coasts, but sea lions
only in the Pacific, and the Florida manatee only in the larger rivers of the
The landscapes of the Unites States show startling contrasts between
areas of man-made urban and rural wilderness and vast tracts of natural
wilderness carefully conserved for future generations. When the first miners
and hunters returned from the Rocky Mountains they brought back such
marvelous tales of natural beauty that a group of scientists decided to test
the truth of their stories. These skeptical scientists visited the Rockies in
1870, and their reports sounded more like fiction than fact. One night as the
members of the party rested around their campfire they discussed ways of
preserving the magnificent natural scenes. It was finally agreed that the
whole area should be set aside as a great national park for all people to
enjoy. This suggestion was accepted by the federal government and, two
years later, the Yellowstone National Park came into being. Today some
9,000 square kilometers are preserved for millions of visitors to enjoy. Since
1872 the system of national parks has grown steadily; by 1981 there were 48
such areas set aside by the national government. State and local
governments have added smaller regions. The land in the national parks
belongs to the federal government which protects the plants and animals
native to each national park area. Nobody can use its meadows, trees or
wildlife, except under strict control.
The parks are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service
whose rangers protect the areas, guide visitors through the parks and lecture
on the natural phenomena. Within the parks there are campgrounds, cabins
and motels available. Some parks are famous for their scenery, others have
special significance for students of geology or cultural anthropology. The
Sequoia National Park, which has over 300 lakes and some of the highest
peaks of the Sierra Nevada, contains a fine strand of giant sequoias. The
Yosemite National Park includes Half Dome, a peak that has been sliced in
half by a glacier. The other national parks include Mount Rainer in
Washington, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the southern
Appalachians, the Mesa Verde National Park, the Rocky Mountain National
Park, the Grand Canyon National Park.
1. What is the location of the country? What is the area of the US?
2. How many states is the country made of? Are there any outlying
territories which belong to the US?
3. What is the dominant characteristic of American landscape?
4. How did the great northern ice cap, which flowed over to the
North American continent, determine the geography and history of the US?
5. What are the Atlantic shore geographic features?
6. What divides the Atlantic Coast from the Great Central
7. Why have the Great Lakes been so important for the economic
development of the country?
8. Where are the Great Plains located?
9. What is known as “the backbone of the continent”?
10. How can the territory lying west of the Rocky Mountains be
11. What is the highest mountain peak of the US?
12. Why was the Mississippi River nicknamed the Father of Waters?
13. What is the second largest river in the US? What do Americans
mean saying “It is too thin to plow and too thick to drink”?
14. What is the Mississippi’s principal eastern tributary?
15. What is known as the Continental Divide?
16. What are the great rivers of the Pacific side?
17. What serves as the natural boundary between Mexico and the
18. Is the USA rich with mineral resources? What are the basic
resources of the country and what parts of the US do they come from?
19. What can you say about the type of climate that prevails
throughout most of the country?
20. What are the climatic conditions of the Pacific Coast?
21. Why does the central part of the US suffer the most violent
extremes of temperature?
22. What parts of the US are most vulnerable to hurricanes?
23. How can the climatic features of the Northeast be characterized?
24. The first European settlers found a land covered in rich forest.
Do these trees still remain in the eastern United States?
25. What can you say about the plant life of the western mountain
26. What species did the first European settlers bring to the New
27. Animal life of the US carries the dramatic effects of human
presence in the New World. What are these traces?
28. What mammal species are widely spread in the country?
29. Who suggested setting up the first National Park in the US?
What were the conditions?
30. What do we learn from the text about American National Parks?
Develop the following points using the words given below.
1. The US is one of the leading nations in the world.
to owe the success to smth., plentiful natural resources, a rich cultural
mix, a strong sense of national identity, a great diversity, a dominant
characteristic, to stretch from smth. to smth., varied landscapes, to range
from smth. to smth.
2. The five great lakes are vital for the country’s commerce.
to extend for , to be estimated to contain, to be navigable, to be
3. The US is a land of many rivers.
a river system, to drain, a flood, in flood, to flood, a waterway, a
branch, a tributary, to flow, a mighty stream, a man-made dam, to control
the river, to pour, to wash away, to feed the ocean, to nourish the land, to be
a vital source of life, an irrigation system, a flood control system
4. America is self-sufficient in mineral resources.
to supply basic industries, to be found in large quantities, a sufficient
reserve, to be carried by pipelines, to be mined on a large scale
5. Great diversity is a dominant characteristic of climate in
to prevail, a broad range of temperatures, to benefit from smth.,
rainfall, moisture, humid air, weather conditions, a thunderstorm, a
tornado, a hailstorm, a blizzard, a hurricane, to suffer the extremes of
temperature, from season to season, continental climate
6. The landscapes of the Unites States show startling contrasts
between areas of man-made urban and rural wilderness and vast tracts of
to be concentrated, to give way to smth., prairie, vegetation, plant life,
to be characterized by smth., to be resistant to smth., to eliminate, to be in
danger of extinction, to inhabit, species, natural beauty
On every coin issued by the government of the United States there are
three words in Latin: E plubirus unum. In English it means “out of many,
one”, and this phrase is an American motto, as the United States is one
country made up of many parts. It is a spacious country of varying terrains
and climates. To get from New York to San Francisco one must travel
almost 5 000 kilometers across regions of geographical extremes. Between
the coasts there are forested mountains, fertile plans, arid deserts, canyons,
and wide plateaus. Much of the land is uninhabited. The population is
concentrated in the Northeast, the South, around the Great Lakes, on the
Pacific Coast, and in metropolitan areas dotted over the remaining expanse
of landing the agricultural Midwest and Western Mountain and desert
regions. Americans often speak of the United States as a country of several
large regions. Each of the country’s main regions maintains a certain degree
of cultural identity. People within a region generally share common values,
economic concerns, and a certain relationship to the land, and they usually
identify themselves to some extent with the history and traditions of their
region. These regions are cultural rather than governmental units. They have
been formed out of the history, geography, economics and literature. Today
regional identities are not as clear, as they once were because the United
States has seen its regions converge gradually.
The development of culturally distinctive regions within a country is
not unique to the United States. Indeed, in some countries regionalism has
acquired political significance and has lead to domestic conflict. In the
United States, however, there are no easily demarcated borders between the
regions. For this reason, no two lists of American regions are exactly alike.
One common grouping creates six regions:
- New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New
Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont);
- The Middle Atlantic Region (New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland);
- The South (Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee,
Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia
- The Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska,
Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana);
- The Southwest (western Texas, portions of Nevada, Arizona, New
Mexico, and Oklahoma);
- The West (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, California,
Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii).
New England has a precisely defined identity. It consists of
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and
Vermont. This hilly region is the smallest in area of all those listed above. It
does not have large expanses of rich farmland or a climate, mild enough to
be an attraction in itself. Yet, New England played a dominant role in
development of modern America. The earliest European settlers of New
England were English protestants; many of them came in search of religious
liberty, arriving in large numbers between 1630 and 1830. These immigrants
shared a common language, religion and social organization. Among other
things, they gave the region its most famous political form, the town
meeting. In these meetings, most of a community’s citizens gathered in the
town hall to discuss and decide on the local issues of the day. It allowed
New Englanders a kind of participation in government that was not enjoyed
by people of other regions before 1790.
New Englanders often describe themselves as thrifty, reserved,
dedicated to hard work, shrewd and inventive, qualities they inherited from
their Puritan forefathers. These traits were tested in the first half of the 19th
century when New England became the center of America’s Industrial
Revolution. All across Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island new
factories appeared, they produced clothing, rifles, clocks and many other
goods. Most of the money to run these businesses came from Boston, then
the financial heart of the nation.
The cultural life of the region was very active as well. A sense of
cultural superiority still sets New Englanders apart from others. New
England’s colleges and universities are known all over the country for their
high academic standards. New England’s schools of higher learning, such as
Harvard University (Massachusetts), Yale University (Connecticut), Brown
University (Rhode Island) and Dartmouth College (New Hampshire), were
originally religious in their purpose and orientation, but gradually became
more secular. Harvard is widely considered the best business school in the
nation; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology surpasses all others in
economics and practical sciences.
Much of the older spirit of New England still survives today. It can be
seen in the simple, woodframe houses and white church steeple that are
features of many small towns. It can be heard in the horn blasts from fishing
boats, as they leave their harbors on icy winter mornings.
The inhabitants of this region call coffee with cream “regular” and
carbonated beverages “tonic”. Those who live in Boston, which most New
Englanders recognize as their regional capital, eat hot dogs, beans and black
bread on Saturday evening, and on Halloween they drink apple cider.
Living may be easier in some other regions, but most New Englanders
envy none of them. Whatever the future brings, there is not much doubt that
the region will face it with pride. True New Englanders do not think of their
hills and valleys merely as home but also as a center of civilization. A
woman from Boston was once asked why she rarely traveled. “Why should I
travel,” she replied, “when I am already there?”
The Middle Atlantic Region
The Middle Atlantic States, together with New England, have
traditionally been at the helm of economic and social progress. The largest
states of the region, New York and Pennsylvania, became major centers of
heavy industry. A number of the nation’s greatest cities and most of the
factories producing iron, glass and steel were here.
The Middle Atlantic region had been settled by a wide range of
people. Dutch made their homes in the woodlands along the lower Hudson
River in what is now New York. Swedes established tiny communities in
present-day Delaware. English Catholics founded Maryland, and Quakers,
an English Protestant sect, settled Pennsylvania. In time, the Dutch and
Swedish settlements fell under British control, yet the Middle Atlantic
region remained an important early gateway to America for people from
many parts of the world.
Early settlers of the region were mostly traders and farmers. In the
early years the Middle Atlantic region was often used as a bridge between
New England and the South. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the mid-point
between the northern and southern colonies, became the home of the
Continental Congress, a group that led the fight for independence. The
same city was the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and
the US Constitution in 1787.
At about the same time, some eastern Pennsylvania towns first tapped
the iron deposits around Philadelphia. Heavy industries sprang up
throughout the region because of nearby natural resources. Cities like New
York, Philadelphia and Baltimore expanded into major urban areas.
Industries needed workers and many of them came from overseas.
New York City was port of entry for most newcomers. In the 1890s and
early 1900s millions of them sailed past the Statue of Liberty in New York
harbor on the way to a fresh start in the US. Today New York ranks as the
nation’s largest city, a financial and a cultural center for the US and the
If all regions of the US differ from one another, the South could be
said to differ most. Perhaps the basic difference between the South and other
regions is geographic. This region was once described as a land of yellow
sunlight, clouded horizons and steady haze. The first Europeans to settle
this region were, as in New England, mostly English Protestants. However,
few of them came to America in search of religious freedom. Most of them
were looking for the opportunity to farm the land and live in reasonable
comfort. Their early way of life resembled that of English farmers. Most
farming was carried out on single family farms, but some settlers grew
wealthy by raising and selling tobacco and cotton. In time they established
large farms, called plantations, which required the work of many laborers.
African slaves, shipped by the Spanish, Portuguese and English, supplied
labor for these plantations. These slaves were bought and sold as property.
Even after the North began to industrialize in the 800s, the South
remained agricultural. The economic interests of the manufacturing North
became divergent from those of the agricultural South. Economic and
political tensions began to divide the nation and eventually led to the Civil
War (1861 – 1865). When the South finally surrendered in 1865 it was
forced to accept many changes during the period of Reconstruction.
In the first half of the 20th century coastal sections of Florida and
Georgia became vacation centers for Americans from other regions. In cities
such as Atlanta and Memphis the population soared. The South was
booming as never before.
Recent statistics show that the South differs from other regions in a
number of ways. Southerners are more conservative, more religious and
more violent than the rest of the country. Because fewer immigrants were
attracted to less industrialized Southern states, Southerners are the most
“native” of any region. Most black and white Southerners can trace their
ancestry in this country back to before 1800s. Southerners tend to be more
mindful of social rank and have strong ties of hometown and family.
Americans of other regions are quick to recognize a Southerner by
their dialect. Southern speech tends to be much slower and more musical;
Southerners say “you all” as the second person plural.
Flannery O’Conner, a novelist, once said: “When a southerner wants
to make a point, he tells a story; it’s actually his way of reasoning and
dealing with experience.” So the South has been one of the most outstanding
literary regions in the 20th century. Novelists such as William Faulkner,
Robert Penn Warren, Thomas Wolf and Tennessee Williams wrote stories of
southern pride and nostalgia for the rural Southern past.
The South is also known for its music. In the cotton fields and slave
quarters of the region, black Americans created a new folk music, Negro
spirituals. These songs were religious in nature and similar to a later form of
black American music, blues and jazz.
The Midwest is known as a region of small towns and huge tracts of
farmland where more than half of the nation’s wheat and oats are raised.
The key to the region is the mighty Mississippi river; in the early years it
acted as a lifeline, moving settlers to new homes and great amounts of grain
to market. In 1840s, Mark Twain spent his boyhood here. He later described
the wonders of rafting on the river in his novel “The Adventures of
As the Midwest developed, it attracted not only easterners but also
Europeans. People from Germany, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Poland and
Ukraine settled here. Gradually the Midwest became a region of small
towns, barbed-wire fences to keep in the livestock, and huge fields of wheat
and corn. A hectare of land in central Illinois could produce twice as much
corn as a hectare of fertile soil in Virginia. For these reasons, the region was
nicknamed the nation’s breadbasket. Mid-westerners are seen as “down-to-
earth”, commercially-minded, self-sufficient, friendly and straightforward.
Class divisions are felt less strongly here than in other regions. Their politics
tend to be cautious, though the caution could sometimes be peppered with
protest. The region gave birth to the Republican Party formed in 1850s to
oppose the extending of slavery into western lands.
The region’s position in the middle of the continent, far removed from
the east and west coasts, has encouraged Midwesterners to direct their
concerns to their own domestic affairs, avoiding matters of wider interest.
Today the hub of the region remains Chicago, Illinois, the nation’s third
largest city. This major Great Lakes port has long been a connecting point
for rail lines and air traffic crossing the continent.
The Southwest differs from the Midwest in three primary ways. First,
it is drier. Second, it is emptier. Third, the population of several
southwestern states comprises a different ethnic mix. In spring the rain may
be so abundant that rivers rise over their banks. In summer and autumn,
however, little rain falls in much of Arizona, New Mexico and the western
sections of Texas. Partly because this region is drier, it is much less densely
populated than the Midwest. Outside the cities the region is a land of wide
open spaces. One can travel for miles in some areas without seeing signs of
Parts of the Southwest once belonged to Mexico; the US gained this
land after the war with its southern neighbor between 1846 and 1848. Today
three southwestern states lie along the Mexican border – Texas, New
Mexico and Arizona. All have a large Spanish-speaking population.
Americans have long regarded the West as a “last frontier”. Scenic
beauty exists on a grand scale here. All eleven states are partly mountainous,
and in Washington, Oregon and northern California the mountains present
some startling contrasts. To the west of the mountains winds of the Pacific
Ocean carry enough moisture to keep the land well watered, to the east,
however, the land is very dry. In many areas the population is sparse.
Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and Idaho – the Rocky Mountains
states – occupy about 15 percent of the nation’s total land area. Yet these
states have only about 3 percent of the nation’s total population. Except for
Hawaii, the western states have been settled primarily by people from other
parts of the country. Thus, the region has an interesting mix of ethnic
regions. In southern California people of Mexican descent play a role in
nearly every part of economy. In the valleys north of San Francisco, Italian
families specialize in growing grapes, bottling and selling California wine.
Americans of Japanese descent traditionally managed truck farms in
northern California and Oregon. Chinese Americans were once mostly
known as farmers, laborers and owners of laundries and restaurants.
California is usually associated with sunshine, luxury and relaxed
lifestyle. Life is more flamboyant here. Some observers trace this quality to
the Gold Rush of 1848, which first brought many Americans west in search
of gold discovered there. Others say that the California experience is mostly
the result of sunny climate and the self-confidence that comes of success.
Today California is the most populated of the US states and one of the
largest. Many people think of California as the state that symbolizes the
Different places, different habits
What makes one region differ from another? There are many answers
to this question and the answers vary from place to place. As a case in point,
consider the role of food in American life. Most foods are quite standard
throughout the nation. That is a person can buy packages of frozen peas
bearing the same label in Idaho, Missouri or Virginia. Cereals, rise, candy
bars and many other foods appear in standard packages. The quality of fresh
fruits and vegetables generally does not vary from one state to another. A
few foods are not available on national basis. They are regional dishes,
limited to a single territory. In San Francisco, one popular dish is abalone, a
large shellfish from the Pacific Waters. Another is a pie, made of
boysenberries, a cross between raspberries and cranberries. Neither of these
dishes is likely to appear on a menu in a New York restaurant, however.
And if you ask a Boston waiter for either dish, you might discover he has
never heard of it.
Another example is the way Americans use the English language. For
many years experts have been writing rule for standard American English,
both written and spoken. With coming of radio and TV, this standard use of
the English language has become much more generalized. Both within
several regions and subregions local ways of speaking, or dialects, still
remain quite strong. In some farming areas of New England the natives are
known for being people of few words. When they speak at all they do it so
in short, rather choppy sentences and clipped words. Even in the cities of
New England there are definite styles of speech. Southern dialect tends to be
much slower and more musical. People of this region refer to their slow
speech as a “southern drawl”.
Regional differences extend beyond food and dialects. Among more
educated Americans, these differences center on attitudes and outlooks. An
example is the stress given to foreign news in various local newspapers. In
the East, where people look out across the Atlantic Ocean, papers turn to
show greatest concern with what is happening in Europe, North Africa and
Western Asia. In the towns and cities that ring the Gulf of Mexico, the press
tends to be more interested in Latin America. In California, bordering the
Pacific Ocean, news editors give more attention to events in East Asia and
1. How can we explain the presence of Latin phrase E plubirus
unum on every American coin? What do these words stand for?
2. Where is most of the nation’s population concentrated? What can
be said about the rest of the land?
The country is divided into several regions. What are they? Are
borders between them strongly demarcated?
3. In what aspects do American regions differ from one another?
4. How can describe the spirit of New England?
What was the role of the Middle Atlantic region in the development of
nation’s industry, economy and politics?
What was the basic difference between the development of the
American South and the rest of the nation?
5. What is the Mid-Western states economy based on?
6. What are the particular features of the Southwestern states?
7. How does the climate differ to the east and to the west of the
FIRST EXPLORERS FROM EUROPE
The first Europeans to arrive in North America, at least the first for
whom there is solid evidence, were Norse. They were a sea-going people
from Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The Vikings were traveling west
from Greenland, where Eric the Red had founded a settlement around the
year 985. Around the year 1000 his son Leif Ericson, a sailor from Iceland,
and a group of Vikings sailed to the eastern coast of North America and
landed at a place they called Vinland because of grape vines growing there.
They explored the eastern coast of what is now Canada and spent at least
one winter there. Remains of a Viking settlement were found in the
Canadian province of Newfoundland. The archeologists discovered the
foundations of huts built in Viking style and also iron nails and the weight,
or “whorl” from a spindle. These objects were important pieces of evidence
that the Viking had indeed reached America. Until the arrival of Europeans
none of the Amerindian tribes knew how to make iron. And the spindle
whorl was exactly like those used in Iceland.
Soon other Vikings followed Leif Ericson to Vinland, but the
settlements they made there did not last. The hostility of the local
Amerindians and the dangers of the northern seas made them give up their
attempts to colonize Vinland. The Vikings sailed away and their discovery
was forgotten except by their storytellers.
Five hundred years later the need for increased trade and an error in
navigation led to another European encounter with America. In 1492 an
Italian adventurer named Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain to find a
new way from Europe to Asia. He aim was to open up a shorter trade route
between the two continents. In Asia, he intended to load his three small
ships – the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria – with silks, spices and
gold, and sail back to Europe a rich man. He first sailed south to the Canary
Islands, then he turned west across the unknown waters of the mid-Atlantic
ocean. It was October 12, ten weeks after leaving Spain, when he stepped
ashore on the beach of a low sandy island. He named the island San
Salvador –Holy Savor. Columbus believed that he had landed in the Indies,
a group of islands close to the mainland of India. For this reason he called
the friendly, brown-skinned people who greeted him Indians. But Columbus
was not near India and it was not the edge of Asia that he had reached. In
fact he landed in the Caribbean, the islands off the shores of a new
But the continent received its name after Amerigo Vespucci, one of
several navigators who followed Columbus west. And the reason for that is
that to the end of his life Columbus believed his discoveries were part of
Asia. The man who did most to correct this mistaken idea was Amerigo
Vespucci. He was an Italian sailor from the city of Florence. During the late
1490s he wrote some letters in which he described two voyages of
exploration that he had made along the coast of South America. He was sure
that the lands beyond the Atlantic were a new continent. To honor him, they
were named America.
The first explorations of the continental United States were launched
from the Spanish possessions that Columbus helped to establish. The first of
these took place in 1513 when a group of men under Juan Ponce de Leon
landed on the Florida coast. Ponce de Leon was a Spanish conquistador who
came to the New World with Columbus on his second voyage (1498). He
became the governor of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. The natives of
Puerto Rico told de Leon that to the north lay a land rich in gold. This
northern land, they said, also had an even more precious treasure – a
fountain whose waters gave everlasting youth to all those who drank from it.
In the spring of 1513 de Leon set off in search of the magic fountain. He
landed in present day Florida and sailed all round its coast searching for the
miraculous waters. And though he never found the Fountain of Youth, he
did claim Florida for Spain. In 1565 Spanish settlers founded St. Augustine
there, the first permanent European settlement on the mainland of North
When Columbus returned to Spain he took back with him some
jewelry that he had obtained in America. This jewelry was important
because it was made of gold. In the next fifty years thousands of treasure-
hungry Spanish adventurers crossed the Atlantic Ocean to search for more
of the precious metal. It was lust for gold that in the 1520s led Hernan
Cortez to conquer the Aztecs, a wealthy, city-building Amerindian people
who lived in what is now Mexico. In the 1530s the same lust for gold caused
Francisco Pizarro to attack the equally wealthy empire of the Incas of Peru.
With the conquest of Mexico the Spanish solidified their position in the
Western Hemisphere and a stream of treasure from a new empire in Central
and South America began to flow across the Atlantic to Spain.
In the years that followed other Spanish conquistadors undertook the
search for gold in North America. Among the most significant Spanish
explorations was that of Hernando de Soto. In 1539 his expedition left Cuba
and landed in Florida. In search of riches he led his expedition westward and
explored the southeastern United States discovering the Mississippi river.
Another Spaniard, Francisco Coronado, set out from Mexico in 1540
in search of the mythical “Seven Cities of Gold” that, Amerindian legends
said, lay hidden somewhere in the desert. He never found them however
Coronado and his men journeyed as far east as Kansas and became first
Europeans to see the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. Besides,
Coronado’s expedition left the peoples of the region a remarkable gift:
enough horses escaped from his party to transform life on the Great Plains
and within a few generations the Amerindians became masters of
The growing wealth of Spain made other European nations envious.
They became eager to share the riches of the new world. And while the
Spanish were pushing up from the south, the northern portion of the present-
day United States was slowly being revealed by English and French
In 1524 the French king Francis I sent an Italian sailor name Giovanni
Verrazano to find a land rich in gold and a new sea route to Asia. Verrazano
sailed the full length of the east coast of America, but found neither.
However he anchored his ship in what is now the harbor of New York.
Ten years later another French explorer, a fisherman named Jacques
Cartier, discovered the St. Lawrence River. He returned to France and
reported that the forests lining the river’s shores were full of fur-bearing
animals and that its waters were full of fish. The next year he sailed further
up the river, reaching the site of the present-day city of Montreal. Cartier
failed to find the way to Asia but his expeditions along the St. Lawrence
River laid the foundations for the French claims to North America.
In 1497, just five years after Columbus landed in the Caribbean,
English king Henry VII hired an Italian seaman named John Cabot to
explore the new lands and to look again for a passage to Asia. Cabot sailed
to the north of the continent and eventually he reached the rocky coast of
Newfoundland. At first Cabot thought that this was China. A year later he
made a second westward crossing of the Atlantic. This time he sailed south
along the coast of North America as far as Chesapeake Bay. Though Cabot
found no gold and no passage to the East his voyages were very valuable for
the English as later they provided the basis for their claims to North
Claiming that you owned land in North America was one thing,
actually making it yours was something quite different. Europeans could
only do this by establishing settlements for their own people. Almost a
century later Sir Walter Raleigh, an English adventurer, sent his ships to
find land in the New World were English people might settle. He named the
land they visited Virginia, in honor of Elizabeth I, England’s unmarried
queen. In July 1585, 108 English settlers landed on Roanoke Island, off the
coast of the present-day state of North Carolina. They built houses and a
fort, planted crops and searched – without success – for gold. When they ran
out of food and made enemies with the local Amerindian inhabitants they
gave up and sailed back to England. In 1587 Raleigh tried again. His ships
landed 118 settlers on Roanoke Island, including fourteen family groups.
But when theBritish ship returned to Roanoke in August 1590, the
settlement was deserted. There was no sign of what had happened to its
people except a word carved on a tree – “Croaton”, the home of a friendly
Indian chief, fifty miles to the south. Some believe that the Roanoke settlers
were carried off by Spanish soldiers from Florida. Others think that they
may have decided to go to live with Indians on the mainland. But the
Roanoke settlers were never seen or heard of again.
1. What do we learn about the first Europeans who arrived in North
America? What were the pieces of evidence found by archeologists?
2. Why did Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain in 1492?
What was his objective?
3. Why did Columbus name the native inhabitants of the island
4. What do we learn about Amerigo Vespucci? Why was the new
continent named to honor this man?
5. What do we learn about the journeys made by Juan Ponce de
Leon? What was he searching for in what is now Florida?
6. What was the first European permanent settlement in North
America? Where and when was it established?
7. What made thousands of Spanish adventurers cross the Atlantic
after Columbus returned from his voyage?
8. What do we learn about the expeditions sent by English and
9. Why did Sir Walter Raleigh, an English adventurer, name the
land he visited Virginia?
10. What do we learn about the colony he established?
EARLY BRITISH SETTLEMENTS
The first of the British colonies to take hold of North America was
Jamestown. In 1607a group of about 100 men set out for the Chesapeake
Bay on the basis of a charter which king James I granted to the Virginia (or
London) Company. The aim of the Company was to set up colonies along
the Atlantic coast of North America, between 34◦ and 38◦ north latitude. It
was a joint stock company – that is, the investors paid the costs of its
expeditions and in return were given the right to divide up any profits it
made. The Company hoped that the settlers would find pearls, silver or gold,
as the Spanish conquistadors had done in Mexico.
Seeking to avoid conflict with the Spanish, the settlers chose a site
about 60 km up the James River from the bay. On the swampy banks they
began cutting down bushes and trees and building rough houses for
themselves. They named their settlement Jamestown and it became the first
lasting British settlement in America. The early years of Jamestown were
hard and it was partly the fault of the settlers themselves. The site they had
chosen was low-lying and malarial. And though their English homeland was
many miles across a dangerous ocean they failed to grow enough crops to
feed themselves. Made up of townsmen and adventurers more interested in
finding gold than farming, the colony was unequipped and unable to embark
upon the new life in the wilderness. The colonists eagerly obeyed the
Virginia Company’s orders because by doing so they hoped to grow rich
themselves. But soon they began to die – in one, in twos, finally in dozens.
By the end of the year two out of every three of them were dead. Some died
in Amerindian attacks, some of diseases, some of starvation.
Among the colonists there was a man named Captain John Smith, who
emerged as the dominant figure and was the most able of the original
Jamestown settlers. An energetic 27-year-old soldier and explorer, he had
already had a life full of action when he landed in Virginia. It was he who
organized the first Jamestown colonists and forced them to work. If he
hadn’t done that the colony would probably have collapsed. Despite
quarrels, starvation and Amerindian attacks his ability to enforce discipline
held the little colony together through the first year.
When Jamestown ran out of food supplies John Smith set out into the
forests to buy corn from Amerindians. On one of these expeditions he was
taken prisoner. According to a story that he told later, the Amerindians were
going to beat his brains out when Pocahontas, the twelve-year-old daughter
of the chief, saved his life by shielding his body with her own. Pocahontas
went on to play an important part in Virginia’s survival, bringing food to the
starving settlers. In 1614 she married John Rolfe, a tobacco planter. In 1616
she traveled to England with him and was presented at court to King James
I. Pocahontas died of smallpox in 1617 while waiting to board a ship to
carry her back home with her newborn son. When the son grew he returned
to Virginia, thus many Virginians today claim to have descended from him
and so from Pocahontas.
In 1609 John Smith was badly injured in a gunpowder explosion and
he was sent back to England. In his absence the colony descended into
anarchy. It reached its lowest point in winter 1609-1610. Of the 500
colonists living in the settlement in October 1609, only 60 were still alive in
March 1610. Stories reached England about settlers who were so desperate
for food that they dug up and ate the body of an Amerindian they had killed
during the attack.
Yet new settlers continued to arrive. The Virginia Company gathered
homeless children from the streets of London and sent them out to the
colony. Then it sent a hundred convicts from London’s prisons. Such
emigrants were often unwilling to go. The Spanish ambassador in London
told of three condemned criminals who were given the choice of being
hanged or sent to Virginia. Two agreed to go, but the third chose to hang.
However some Virginia emigrants sailed willingly. For many English
people these early years of the 17th century were a time of hunger and
suffering. Incomes were low but the prices of food and clothing climbed
higher every year. Many people were without work and if crops failed they
starved. For them Virginia had one great attraction that England lacked:
plentiful land. This seemed more important than reports of disease and
famine there. In England the land was owned by the rich, and in Virginia a
poor man could hope for a farm of his own to feed his family.
For a number of years after 1611 military governors ran Virginia like a
prison camp. They enforced strict rules to make sure that work was done.
But it was not discipline that saved Virginia, it was a plant that grew like a
weed there: tobacco. Earlier visitors to America, like Sir Walter Raleigh,
had brought the first dried leaves of tobacco to England. Its popularity had
been growing ever since. In 1612 a young settler named John Rolfe
discovered how to dry the leaves in a new way to make them milder. He
began cross-breeding imported tobacco seed from the West Indies with
native plants and produced a new variety that was pleasing to European
taste. The first shipment of this tobacco reached London in 1614. London
merchants paid high prices because of its high quality. Within a decade it
had become Virginia’s chief source of revenue. Most of the settlers were
busy growing tobacco. They cleared new lands along the rivers and
ploughed up the streets of Jamestown to plant more. They even used tobacco
as money, for example, the price of a good horse in Virginia was sixteen
pounds of top quality tobacco. The possibility of becoming rich by growing
tobacco brought wealthy men to Virginia. They obtained large stretches of
land and brought workers from England to clear trees and plant tobacco.
Most of the workers in these early days were “indentured servants”
from England. They promised to work for an employer for an agreed
number of years, usually about seven, in exchange for free passage to
America. In 1619 a small Dutch warship brought twenty captured black
Africans. The ship’s captain sold them to the settlers as indentured servants.
The blacks were set to work in the tobacco fields. But unlike the whites
working beside them they were indentured for life. In fact they were slaves,
although it was years before their masters openly admitted the fact.
Virginia’s affairs had been controlled so far by governors sent over by
the Virginia Company. Now the Company allowed a body called the House
of Burgesses to be set up. The burgesses were elected representatives from
the various small settlements along Virginia’s rivers. They met to advise the
governor on the laws the colony needed. Though few realized it at that time,
the Virginia House of Burgesses was the start of an important tradition in
American life – that people should have a say in decisions about matters that
The Virginia Company never made a profit. By 1624 it had run out of
money. The English king dissolved the Virginia Company and made
Virginia a royal colony that year. Now the English government was
responsible for colonists. There were still very few of them. Fierce
Amerindian arracks in 1622 had destroyed several settlements and killed
over 350 colonists. Out of nearly 10 000 settlers sent out since 1607, a 1624
census showed only 1,275 survivors. But the hardships had tightened the
survivors. Building a new homeland had proved harder and taken longer
than anyone had expected. But this first society of English people oversees
had put down living roots into the American soil. Other struggles lay ahead,
but by 1624 it was clear that Virginia would survive.
1. What was the first successful British colony in America? What
was its geographical position?
2. What aim did the Virginia Company pursue when it paid the cost
of the expedition?
3. Were the first years of Jamestown easy? Did colonists choose a
good site for their settlement?
4. Soon after the colony had been established many of its members
died. What were the most common causes of death in Jamestown?
5. Why is it believed that the colony would have collapsed if it had
not been for its young leader Captain John Smith?
6. Were all those people sent to Jamestown from England going
willingly? Prove your point.
7. At that time Virginia had one big attraction that England lacked.
What was it?
8. It was not strict discipline that helped Virginia to survive, but a
plant that grew there. What was it?
9. What do we learn about “indentured servants”? What was the
difference between them and black slaves who worked in tobacco fields?
10. Did the Virginia Company ever make big profits due to the
PURITAN NEW ENGLAND
“Pilgrims” are people who make a journey for religious reasons. But
for Americans the word has a special meaning. To them it means a small
group of English men and women who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in
the year 1620. They are called the Pilgrim Fathers because they came to
America to find religious freedom and are seen as the most important of the
founders of the future USA.
In the 17th century Europe was torn by religious conflicts. For more
than a thousand years Roman Catholic Christianity had been the religion of
most of its people. By the 16th century however some Europeans had begun
to doubt the teachings of the Catholic Church. They were also growing
angry at the wealth and worldly pride of its leaders.
Early in the century a German monk named Martin Luther quarreled
with these leaders. He claimed that individual human beings did not need
the Pope or the priests of the Catholic Church to enable them to speak to
God. A few years later a French lawyer named John Calvin put forward
similar ideas. Calvin claimed that each individual was directly and
personally responsible to God. Because they protested against the teachings
and customs of the Catholic Church, religious reformers like Luther and
Calvin were called “Protestants”. Their ideas spread quickly through
Few people believed in religious toleration at that time. In most
countries people were expected to have the same religion as their ruler. This
was the case in England. In the 1530s the English king Henry VIII formed a
national church with himself as its head. In the later years of the 16th
century many English people believed that this Church of England was still
too much like the Catholic Church. They disliked the power of its bishops,
its elaborate ceremonies and the rich decorations of its churches. They also
questioned many of its teachings. Such people wanted the Church of
England to become more plain and simple, or “pure”. Because of these they
were called Puritans. The ideas of John Calvin appealed most strongly to
When James I became King of England in 1603 he warned the
Puritans that he would drive them away from the land if they did not accept
his views on religion. His bishops became fining the Puritans and putting
them in prison. To escape this persecution, a small group of them left
England and went to Holland in 1607, where the Dutch granted them
asylum. Holland was the only country in Europe whose government allowed
religious freedom at that time. However the English Puritans never felt at
home there. They were restricted to mainly low-paid laboring jobs and grew
dissatisfied with this discrimination. After much thought and much prayer
they decided to move again. Some of them – the Pilgrims – decided to go to
But first they returned to England and persuaded the Virginia
Company to allow them to settle in the northern part of its American lands.
In 1620 a group of 101men, women and children left the English port of
Plymouth and headed for America. Their ship was an old trading vessel, the
Mayflower. For many years it had carried wine across the narrow seas
between France and England. Now it faced a much more dangerous voyage,
for sixty-five days it battled through the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
A storm sent them far north of the land granted by the Virginia
Company and they landed in New England on Cape Code. The Pilgrims did
not have enough food and water, and many were sick. They decided to land
at the best place they could find and in December of 1620 they rowed ashore
to set up camp at a place they named Plymouth. It was a violent winter with
cruel and fierce storms and the Pilgrims’ chances of surviving were not very
high. Before spring came, half of a hundred settlers were dead. But the
Pilgrims were determined to succeed. The fifty survivors built better houses
and learnt how to fish and hunt. Friendly Amerindians gave them seed corn
and showed how to plant it.
Soon other English Puritans followed the Pilgrims to America. In 1630
a large group of almost a thousand colonists settled nearby in what became
the Boston area. These people left England to escape the rule of a new
English King, Charles I. Charles was even less tolerant than his father James
had been of people who disagreed with his policies in religion and
government. The Boston settlement prospered from the start, its population
grew quickly as more and more Puritans left England to escape persecution.
Many years later, in 1691, it combined with the Plymouth colony under the
name of Massachusetts.
The ideas of the Massachusetts Puritans had a lasting influence on the
American society. One of their first leaders, John Winthrop, said that they
should build an ideal community for the rest of mankind to learn from: “We
shall be like a city on a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” To this day
many Americans continue to see their country in this way, as a model for
other nations to copy.
The Puritans of Massachusetts believed that governments had a duty to
make people obey God’s will. They passed laws to force people to attend
church and laws to punish drunks and adulterers. Even men who let their
hair grow long could be in trouble.
Roger Williams, a Puritan minister in a settlement called Salem,
believed that it was wrong to run the affairs of Massachusetts in this way.
He objected particularly to the fact that the same men controlled both the
church and the government. Williams believed that church and state should
be separate and that neither should interfere with the other.
Williams’ repeated criticism made the Massachusetts leaders angry. In
1635 they sent men to arrest him. But Williams escaped and went south,
where he was joined by other discontented people from Massachusetts. On
the shores of Narragansett Bay Williams and his followers set up a new
colony called Rhode Island. Rhode Island promised its citizens complete
religious freedom and separation of church and state. To this day these ideas
are very important to Americans.
By the end of the 17th century a string of English colonies stretched
along the coast of North America. More or less in the middle was
Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1681 by William Penn. Under a charter of
the English king, Charles II, Penn was the proprietor, or owner, of
Pennsylvania. Penn was a wealthy man and belonged to a religious group,
the Society of Friends, commonly called Quakers. Quakers refused to swear
oaths or to take part in wars. Their customs had helped to make them very
unpopular with the English governments. When Penn promised his fellow
Quakers that in Pennsylvania they would be free to follow their own ways,
many of them emigrated there. Penn’s promise of religious freedom,
together with his reputation for dealing fairly with people, brought settlers
from other European countries to Pennsylvania. From Ireland came settlers
who made new farms in the western forests of the colony. Many Germans
came also, most were members of small religious groups who left Germany
to escape persecution. They were known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. This
was because English people at that time called most north Europeans
New York had previously been called New Amsterdam. It had first
been settled in 1626. In the 1620s settlers from Holland founded a colony
they called New Netherlands along the banks of the Hudson River. At the
mouth of the Hudson lies Manhattan Island, the present site of New York
City. An Amerindian people called the Shinnecock used the island for
hunting and fishing, although they did not live on it. In 1626 Peter Minuit,
the first Dutch governor of the New Netherlands, “bought” Manhattan from
the Amerindians. He paid them twenty-four dollars’ worth of cloth, beads
and other trade goods. But like all Amerindians, the Shinnecock believed
that land belonged to all men. They thought that what they were selling to
the Dutch was the right to share Manhattan with themselves. But the Dutch,
like other Europeans, believed that buying land made it theirs alone. These
different beliefs about land ownership were to be a major cause of conflict
between Europeans and Amerindians for many years to come. And the
bargain price that Peter Minuit paid for Manhattan Island became part of
American folklore. In 1664 the English captured it from the Dutch and re-
named it New York. A few years later, in 1670, the English founded the new
colonies of North and South Carolina. The last English colony to be founded
in North America was Georgia, settled in 1733.
1. What is a pilgrim? Why does this word have a special meaning
2. What was the religion of most Europeans in the 17th century?
Why did some people begin to doubt it?
3. What were the ideas of Martin Luther and John Calvin?
4. What kind of people were Puritans? What did they protest
5. Why did some Puritans leave England for Holland in 1607? Did
they feel at home there?
6. What do we learn about the Mayflower ship that carried Pilgrim
Fathers across the Atlantic?
7. Did all the Pilgrims survive through their first winter in the New
World? Who helped their colony to last?
8. What do we learn about the Boston settlement? What colony did
it form together with Plymouth?
9. How was the colony of Massachusetts ruled? Why did some
people criticize its government?
10. What do we learn about a Puritan minister named Roger
11. In what ways did Rhode Island differ from Massachusetts?
12. Whom was Pennsylvania established by? What do we learn
about this man?
13. Why did Pennsylvania attract people from many European
14. Whom was the city of New York founded by?
15. Why did Manhattan Island become a major cause of conflict
between the Dutch and Amerindians?
Develop the following points and use the words given below.
1. The first Europeans to arrive in North America were the Norse.
a sea-going people, to found a settlement, to land, to explore smth., a
piece of evidence
2. The geographical discovery made by Christopher Columbus was
to set sail from smth., a trade route, to step ashore, an error in
navigation, a mistaken idea
3. Columbus was followed by many Spanish adventurers searching
for gold in North America.
a conquistador, to search for smth., a significant exploration, to lead
the expedition, in search of smth.
4. Like other European nations the British also tried to colonize
territories in the New World.
to establish a settlement, off the coast, to run out of smth , to make
enemies with smb., to be deserted
5. Jamestown became the first successful British colony in North
to pay the cost of the expedition, to divide up profits, to be
unequipped, to die of starvation, to collapse, to enforce discipline
6. It was not strict discipline that saved Virginia, but a plant –
a native plant, to produce new variety of smth., a shipment, a
merchant, to become chief source of revenue
7. In the 17th century Europe was torn by religious conflicts.
to doubt/ to question the teaching, to put forward an idea, to spread an
idea, religious toleration
8. Pilgrim Fathers made quite a dangerous voyage to North
America to escape religious persecution.
to head for smth., a trading vessel, to raw ashore, a chance of
surviving, a survivor, to be determined to succeed
9. The ideals of the Massachusetts Puritans had a strong influence
on American society.
to have a lasting influence on smb./ smth., to build an ideal
community, a model to copy, to obey God’s will, to pass a law
10. Manhattan Island used to belong to Amerindians, called the
to use for hunting and fishing, the present site of smth., the right to
share smth, land ownership, to be major cause of conflict, to capture
Listen to a special program from Voice of America – an intermediate
listening comprehension course.
Fill in the blanks while you listen. Then answer the questions.
HOW A DESIRE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM OR LAND,
OR BOTH, LED TO COLONIES
This is Rich Kleinfeldt.
And this is Sarah Long with the MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA
Special English program about the history of the United States.
Today, we tell about the movement of European settlers throughout
northeastern America. And we tell how the separate colonies developed in
The Puritans were one of the largest groups from England to settle in
the northeastern area called Massachusetts. They began arriving in sixteen
thirty. The Puritans had formed the Massachusetts Bay Company in
England. The king had given the company an … … … (1) between the
Charles and Merrimack rivers.
The Puritans were Protestants who did not … … … … … (2). The
Puritans wanted to change the church to make it more holy. They were able
to live as they wanted in Massachusetts. Soon they became the largest
religious group. By sixteen ninety, fifty thousand people were living in
Puritans thought their religion was the only … … (3) and everyone
should believe in it. They also believed that church leaders should lead the
local government, and all people in the colony should pay to support the
Puritan church. The Puritans thought it was the job of government leaders to
tell people … … … (4).
Some people did not agree with the Puritans who had become leaders
of the colony. One of those who disagreed was a Puritan minister named
Roger Williams believed as all Puritans did that other European
religions were wrong. He thought the Native Indian religions were wrong
too. But he did not believe in trying to force others to agree with him. He
thought that it was a sin to punish or kill anyone … … … … … (5). And he
thought that only church members should pay to … … … (6).
Roger Williams began speaking and writing about his ideas. He wrote
a book saying it was wrong to punish people for having different beliefs.
Then he said that the European settlers were stealing the Indians' land. He
said the king of England had no right to permit people to … … … (7) that
was not his, but belonged to the Indians.
The Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony forced Roger
Williams to leave the colony in 1636. He traveled south. He bought land
from local Indians and … … … (8), Providence. The Parliament in England
gave him permission to establish a new colony, Rhode Island, with
Providence as its capital. As a colony, Rhode Island accepted people of all
religious beliefs, including Catholics, Quakers, Jews and even people who
denied the existence of God.
Roger Williams also believed that governments should have no
connection to a church. This idea of … … … … (9) was very new. Later it
became one of the most important of all America's governing ideas.
Other colonies were started by people who left Massachusetts to … …
(10). One was Connecticut. A group led by Puritan minister Thomas Hooker
left Boston in sixteen thirty-six and went west. They settled near the
Connecticut River. Others soon joined them.
Other groups from Massachusetts traveled north to … … … (11). The
king of England had given two friends a large piece of land in the north. The
friends divided it. John Mason took what later became the colony of New
Hampshire. Ferdinando Gorges took the area that later became the state of
Maine. It never became a colony, however. It remained a part of
Massachusetts until after the United States was created.
The area known today as New York State was settled by the Dutch.
They called it New Netherland. Their country was the Netherlands. It was a
… … … (12), with colonies all over the world. A business called the Dutch
West India Company owned most of the colonies.
The Dutch … … … (13) because of explorations by Henry Hudson, an
Englishman working for the Netherlands. The land the Dutch claimed was
between the Puritans in the north and the Anglican tobacco farmers in the
The Dutch were not interested in settling the territory. They wanted to
earn money. The Dutch West India Company built … … (14) on the rivers
claimed by the Netherlands. People in Europe wanted to buy goods made
from the skins of animals trapped there.
In sixteen twenty-six, the Dutch West India Company bought two
islands from the local Indians. The islands are Manhattan Island and Long
Island. Traditional stories say the Dutch paid for the islands with some trade
goods worth about twenty-four dollars.
The Dutch West India Company tried to find people to settle in
America. But few Dutch wanted to leave Europe. So the colony … … (15)
from other colonies, and other countries. These people built a town on
Manhattan Island. They called it New Amsterdam. It was soon full of people
who had arrived on ships from faraway places. It was said you could hear as
many as eighteen different languages spoken in New Amsterdam.
In sixteen fifty-five, the governor of New Netherland … … (16) of a
nearby Swedish colony on Delaware Bay. In sixteen sixty-four, the English
did the same to the Dutch. The English … … (17) of New Amsterdam and
called it New York. That ended Dutch control of the territory that now is the
states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.
Most of the Dutch in New Amsterdam did not leave. The English
permitted everyone to stay. They let the Dutch have religious freedom. The
Dutch … just not … … (18) any more.
The Duke of York owned the area now. He was the brother of King
Charles the Second of England. The king gave some of the land near New
York to two friends, Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley. They
called it New Jersey, after the English island where Carteret was born.
The two men wrote a plan of government for their colony. It created an
assembly that represented the settlers. It … … … … … (19) . Men could
vote in New Jersey whatever their religion. Soon, people from all parts of
Europe were living in New Jersey. Then King Charles took control of the
area. He sent a royal governor to rule. But the colonists were permitted to …
… … … (20) through the elected assembly.
The king of England did the same in each colony he controlled. He
collected taxes from the people who lived there, but permitted them to
One religious group that was not welcome in England was the
Quakers. Quakers call themselves Friends. They believe that each person
has an inner light that leads them to God. Quakers believe they do not need
a religious leader to tell them what is right. So, they had no clergy.
Quakers believe that all people are equal. The Quakers in England
refused to recognize the king as more important than anyone else. They also
refused to … … (21) to support the Anglican Church. Quakers believe that
it is always wrong to kill. So they would not fight even when they were
forced to … … … (22). They also refuse to promise loyalty to a king or
government or flag or anyone but God.
The English did not like the Quakers for all these reasons. Many
Quakers wanted to leave England, but they … not … (23) in most
American colonies. One Quaker changed this. His name was William Penn.
William Penn was not born a Quaker. He became one as a young man.
His father was an Anglican, and a good friend of the king.
King Charles borrowed money from William's father. When his father
died, William Penn asked that the debt be paid with land in America. In
sixteen eighty-one, the king gave William Penn land which the King's
Council named Pennsylvania, meaning Penn's woods.
The Quakers now had their own colony. It was between the Puritans in
the north and the Anglicans in the south. William Penn said the colony
should be a place where everyone could live by Quaker ideas.
That meant treating all people … … (24) and honoring all religions. It
also meant that anyone could … … (25). In most other colonies, people
could believe any religion, but they could not vote or hold office unless they
were a member of the majority church. In Pennsylvania, all religions were
This MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy
Steinbach and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Sarah Long.
1. What does the program say about English Puritans?
2. Why did they disagree with the Anglican Church? Did they
believe that church and government should be separated?
3. What were the ideas of Roger Williams? What were his views
upon relations with Amerindians? What did he do after being forced to leave
4. Who was Connecticut founded by?
5. What does the program say about John Mason and Ferdinando
6. What gave the Dutch the right to claim land in North America?
What territory did they claim? What kind of business did they develop?
7. What does the program say about the history of New Jersey?
What do we learn about the government of this territory?
8. What kind of ideas did Quakers stick to? Was this religious
group welcome in Britain and British colonies?
9. Why was William Penn given land in America by King Charles?
10. William Penn said Pennsylvania should be a place where
everyone could live by Quaker ideas. What did that mean?
THE COLONIAL PERIOD
By the year 1733 the English owned thirteen separate colonies along
the Atlantic coast of North America. The colonies stretched from New
Hampshire in the north to Georgia in the south. Most people divided them
into three main groups. Each group had its own way of life and character.
In the far north was the New England group, centered on
Massachusetts. It has generally thin, stony soil and long winters, making it
difficult to make a living from farming. Since the time of the Pilgrims the
people of New England had spread inland and along the coast. Most were
small farmers or craftsmen, working the stony soil and governing
themselves in small towns and villages.
Other New Englanders depended on the sea for a living. Good strands
of timber encouraged shipbuilding. They felled the trees to build ships and
sailed to catch cod or to trade with England and the West Indies, so it
became the source of great wealth; in Massachusetts the cod industry alone
quickly furnished a basis for prosperity. Boston and other coastal towns
grew into busy ports, their prosperity depended on trade.
The nearest colonies to the south of New England were called the
Middle Colonies. The biggest were New York and Pennsylvania. Society in
the Middle Colonies was far more varied, cosmopolitan and tolerant of
religious and other differences than in New England. Many people had
German, Dutch or Swedish ancestors rather than English ones. As in New
England, most people lived by farming. But in the cities of New York and
Philadelphia there were growing numbers of craftsmen and merchants.
Philadelphia was one of the centers of colonial America and the capital
of Pennsylvania. By 1770 it was the largest city in America, with twenty
eight thousand inhabitants representing many languages, creeds and trades.
The city had broad, tree-shaded streets, substantial brick and stone houses
and busy docks. Visitors from England marveled at the speed with which it
had grown. “It is not a hundred years since the first tree was cut where the
city now stands”, wrote one of them, “and now it has more than three
thousand six hundred houses.” But the size of the city was not the only thing
that impressed visitors. Long before most English cities, its streets were
paved with brick and street lamps were lit every night.
The next biggest cities after Philadelphia were New York and Boston,
with about twenty five thousand people each. All three cities owed much of
their prosperity to the profits of the transatlantic trade that they carried on
with England. Their ships exported furs, timber, tobacco, and cotton, and
brought back fashionable clothes, fine furniture, and other manufactured
goods. Their merchants also traded with one another. This inter-American
trade helped to produce a feeling between the cities that they all belonged to
the same American nation.
The Southern colonies of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas and
Georgia were mostly rural settlements and formed the third group. In hot
and fertile river valleys wealthy landowners farmed large plantations. The
planters of the tidewater region held most of the political power and the best
land. Southern planters adopted an aristocratic way of life and kept in touch
as best as they could with the world of culture overseas. They lived in fine
houses which had expensive furniture, imported from Europe, and wide,
cool verandahs from which they could look out over their fields of cotton
and tobacco. Close by the houses stood groups of smaller, simple buildings
– stables, washhouses, blacksmiths’ shops and little huts for black slaves.
Most of the work in the fields was done by black slaves. Slavery was rare in
other American colonies, but the prosperity of the plantation-owning
southerners was already beginning to depend upon it.
Charleston, South Carolina, became the leading port and trading center
of the South. There the settles learned quickly to combine agriculture and
commerce, and the marketplace became a major source of prosperity.
In all three groups of colonies most people still lived less then fifty
miles from the coast. This was called the tidewater period of settlement.
During the fifty years after 1733 settlers moved deeper into the continent.
They traveled west into Central Pennsylvania, cutting down forests of oak
trees to make hilly farms. They spread westward along the river valleys in
Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. They moved north along the fertile
valley of the Mohawk River of New York.
Making a new settlement always began in the same way. The settlers
cleared the land of trees and cut the trees into logs and planks. They used
these to build a house or a barn. Then they ploughed between the tree
stumps, sowed their seeds, and four months later harvested the crops of corn
and wheat. If their soil was fertile the settlers lived well. But if the soil was
rocky, or poor in plant foods, life could be hard and disappointing. Settlers
with poor soil often left their farms and moved westward to try again on
more fertile land. As they traveled inland they passed fewer and fewer farms
and villages. At last there were none at all. This area, where the European
settlement came to an end and the forest homelands of the Amerindian
began, was called the frontier.
Fresh waves of settlers pushed the frontier steadily westwards in their
search for fertile soil. They would often pass by land that seemed unsuitable
for farming. Life on the frontier was hard and rugged. Most frontier settlers
led isolated lives, because frontier farms and villages were often separated
by miles of unsettled land. A family might be a day’s journey from its
nearest neighbors. For such reasons the people of frontier communities had
to rely upon themselves for almost everything they needed. They grew their
own food and built their own houses. They made the clothing they wore and
the tools they used. They developed their own kinds of music,
entertainment, art and forms of religious worship. The men wore leather
clothes made from the skin of deer and sheep, the women wore garments of
cloth they spun at home. Their food consisted of venison, wild turkey and
fish. They had their own amusements – great barbecues, dances,
housewarmings for newly married couples, shooting matches and conquests
for making quilted blankets. There were no schools and children had little
In the 1760s land-hungry American settlers moving westwards were
stopped by a major obstacle, the Appalachian Mountains. This thickly
forested mountain range runs roughly parallel to the Atlantic Coast of North
America and stretches for hundreds of miles. When settlers reached the
foothills of the Appalachians they found waterfalls and rapids blocking the
rivers they had been following westwards. In 1775 a hunter and explorer
named Daniel Boone led a party of settlers into the mountains. With a party
of thirty axemen he cut a track called the Wilderness Road through the
forested Cumberland Gap, a natural pass in the Appalachians. Beyond it lay
rich, rolling grasslands. In the years which followed, Boon’s Wilderness
Road enabled thousands of settlers to move with horses, wagons and cattle
into these fertile lands. They now made up the American states of Kentucky
A special spirit grew out of frontier way of life. People needed to be
tough, independent and self-reliant. Yet, they also needed to work together,
helping each other with such tasks as clearing land and building houses and
barns. The combination of these two ideas – a strong belief that individuals
had to help themselves and a need for them to cooperate with one another -
strengthened the feeling that nobody should have special rights and
privileges. The frontier way of life helped democratic ideas to flourish in
America. Today Americans like to think that many of the best values and
attitudes in modern United States can be traced back to the frontier
experiences of their pioneer ancestors.
In the 18th century Britain and France fought several major wars. The
struggle between them went on in Europe, Asia and North America. Though
Britain got certain advantages from them, primarily in the islands of the
Caribbean, the struggles were generally indecisive. France remained in a
powerful position in North America in 1754 and claimed to own Canada and
Louisiana. Canada, or New France, extended north from St. Lawrence River
and south towards the frontier areas of the English colonies on the Atlantic
coast. Louisiana, named for the French king Louis XIV, stretched across the
center of the continent. It included all the lands drained by the Mississippi
River and its tributaries. It was a vast crescent-shaped empire stretching
from Quebec to New Orleans with very few people. By that time France had
also established strong relationships with a number of Amerindian tribes in
Canada and along the Great Lakes.
In the middle of the 18th century most of the forests and plains of both
of these vast areas were still unexplored by Europeans. The French claim to
own them was based upon journeys made in the previous century by two
famous explorers Samuel de Champlain and Rene La Salle. The French
claim that Louisiana belonged to them worried both the British government
and the American colonists. A glance at a map explains why. If France had
sent soldiers to occupy the Mississippi Valley they would have been able to
keep the colonists to the east of the Appalachian Mountains and stop them
from moving westwards.
After several wars earlier in the 18th century, Britain and France began
fighting the Seven Years War, known also as the French and Indian War.
The war represented a series of military engagements between Britain and
France that took place in 1754-1763. The first armed clash took place in
1754 at Fort Duquesne, the site where Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is now
located, between a band of French regulars and Virginia militiamen under
the command of 22-year-old George Washington. British Prime Minister,
William Pitt, sent soldiers and money to North America and won an empire.
British forces captured the French strong points in Louisburg (1757),
Quebec (1759) and Montreal (1760). The war was ended by the Peace of
Paris, which was signed in 1763. The dream of a French empire in North
America was over. France gave up its claims to Canada and to all of North
America east of the Mississippi River. Britain also got all of Spanish Florida
as Spain had helped France in the war.
But after the triumph over France Britain faced a problem it had
neglected before – the governance of its empire. British territories in North
America had more than doubled. A population that had been mostly
Protestant and English now included French-speaking Catholics from
Quebec and large numbers of partly Christianized Amerindians. Defense
and administration of territories in North America required huge sums of
money and increased personnel. And the old colonial system was obviously
inadequate to these tasks.
1. How many English colonies were there in the New World by
1733? How many groups were they divided into?
2. What was the geographical position of New England?
3. What did most New Englanders do for a living?
4. What were the biggest cities of New England?
5. How did attitudes of towards life of New Englanders and those
of the Middle colonies citizens change?
6. What do we learn about the capital of Pennsylvania –
7. What did merchants from Philadelphia, New York and Boston
import from Great Britain and what did they export there?
8. What colonies belonged to the Southern group?
9. What do we learn about southern planters’ way of life? What did
their prosperity depend on?
10. Why were these years called the tidewater period of settlement?
11. How did American colonists make their new settlements?
12. What was the American frontier?
13. Why did those who inhabited the frontier have to rely upon
themselves for almost everything they needed?
14. What do we learn about a person named Daniel Boone?
15. How did life in the frontier influence American values and ideas?
16. What countries took part in the Seven Years War? Was it fought
only on the territories of North America?
17. What were the territories in North America that France claimed
18. Why did the presence of France in North America anger both the
British and the American settlers?
19. What do we learn about the battle of Fort Duquesne?
20. Where were the French strong points located?
21. What were the results of that war? What territories were acquired
22. What were the problems Britain had to face after the war was
Develop the following points using the words given below.
1. The colonies in the northwest of America known as New
England had their own way of life and character.
to make a living from farming, along the coast, to depend on smth for
a living, a source of great wealth, a basis for prosperity
2. Settlers of the Middle Colonies differed from New Englanders in
tolerant, an ancestor, a merchant, a busy dock, to marvel at smth, to
impress visitors, to carry on trade with smb, manufactured goods
3. The Southern Colonies were mostly rural settlements.
a fertile valley, a landowner, a tidewater region, an aristocratic way
of life, slavery
4. Making a new settlement always began the same way.
to spread along the river valleys, to cut down forests, to clear the land,
to plough, to harvest the crops, fertile land
5. New settlers pushed the frontier westwards in search for fertile
to be separated, to be a day’s journey from smth., a community, to rely
upon smb. for smth., an entertainment
6. In 1760s American settlers moving westwards were stopped by a
major obstacle, the Appalachian Mountains.
land-hungry, thickly forested, foothills of the mountains, an explorer,
to lead a party of settlers, a natural pass
7. A special spirit grew out of Frontier way of life.
a pioneer, tough, independent, self-reliant, to clear land, a strong
belief, a need to cooperate, to have special rights and privileges, a
1. Have you ever heard the term “witch hunt”? It is used to describe
any extremely emotional investigation in which innocent people are harmed
or harassed. Read the text to learn more about it.
THE WITCHES OF SALEM
In 1692 a group of adolescent girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts,
became subject to strange fits after hearing tales told by a West Indian slave.
When they were questioned, they accused several women of being witches
who were tormenting them. The townspeople were appalled but not
surprised: belief in witchcraft was widespread throughout 17th-century
America and Europe.
What happened next – although an isolated event in American history
– provides a vivid window into the social and psychological world of
Puritan New England. Town officials convened a court to hear the charges
of witchcraft, and swiftly convicted and executed a tavern keeper, Bridget
Bishop. Within a month, five other women had been convicted and hanged.
Nevertheless, the hysteria grew, in large measure because the court
permitted witnesses to testify that they had seen the accused as spirits or in
visions. By its very nature, such "spectral evidence" was especially
dangerous, because it could be neither verified nor subject to objective
examination. By the fall of 1692, more than 20 victims, including several
men, had been executed, and more than 100 others were in jail – among
them some of the town's most prominent citizens. But now the hysteria
threatened to spread beyond Salem, and ministers throughout the colony
called for an end to the trials. The governor of the colony agreed and dis-
missed the court. Those still in jail were later acquitted or given reprieves.
The Salem witch trials have long fascinated Americans. On a psycho-
logical level, most historians agree that Salem Village in 1692 was seized by
a kind of public hysteria, fueled by a genuine belief in the existence of
witchcraft. They point out that, while some of the girls may have been act-
ing, many responsible adults became caught up in the frenzy as well.
But even more revealing is a closer analysis of the identities of the
accused and the accusers. Salem Village, like much of colonial New Eng-
land at that time, was undergoing an economic and political transition from
a largely agrarian, Puritan-dominated community to a more commercial,
secular society. Many of the accusers were representatives of a traditional
way of life tied to farming and the church, whereas a number of the accused
witches were members of the rising commercial class of small shopkeepers
and tradesmen. Salem's obscure struggle for social and political power
between older traditional groups and a newer commercial class was one
repeated in communities throughout American history. But it took a bizarre
and deadly detour when its citizens were swept up by the conviction that the
devil was loose in their homes.
The Salem witch trials also serve as a dramatic parable of the deadly
consequences of making sensational, but false, charges. Indeed, a frequent
term in political debate for making false accusations against a large number
of people is "witch hunt".
fit – приступ, припадок
to provide a vivid window into smth. – дать четкое представление о
“spectral evidence” – спектральное доказательство
reprieve – отсрочка приговора
frenzy – помешательство, безумие
secular – cветский
bizarre and deadly detour – странный и смертельно опасный путь в
the devil was loose in their homes – дьявол проник в их дома
2. Listen to a special program from Voice of America – an
intermediate listening comprehension course. Decide whether the statements
below are true or false. During listening you will hear the following proper
General Edward Braddock
Fort William Henry
Marquis de Montcalm
General Jeffery Amherst
BRITISH DEFEAT THE FRENCH IN A STRUGGLE FOR NORTH
1. During the 18th century three nations controlled land in North
America. Spain controlled Florida, France was powerful in northern and
southern areas, Britain controlled the east.
2. The powerful European nations had already been fighting each
other for land and money for more than a century.
3. British explorers had been the first Europeans in the areas around
the Great Lakes.
4. European settlers never took possession of land which belonged
5. French settlers did not have religious freedom. All settlers in
French colonies had to be Catholic.
6. The British claimed that Fort Duquesne belonged to them and
immediately forced the French out.
7. The French and Indians did not use the fighting tactics that the
8. The British had military bases in Quebec and Montreal.
9. The French built Fort Carillon at the southern end of Lake
10. The British built a fort similar to Fort Carillon at the southern
end of Lake George.
11. The British troops were treated fairly after they surrendered in
12. General Jeffery Amherst built a new military base – Fort
13. The battle for Quebec was the turning point of that war.
14. After the French and Indian War Indians controlled western
lands in Texas and New Mexico.
15. Today the two forts are tourist sites.
THE INDEPENDENCE WAR
Until the 1760s most Americans seemed quite content to be ruled by
Britain. An important reason for this was the presence of the French in
North America. So long as France held Canada and Louisiana, the colonists
felt that they needed the British navy and soldiers to protect them. Another
reason the colonists accepted British rule was that the British government
rarely interfered in colonial affairs.
A century earlier the British Parliament had passed some laws called
Navigation Acts. These listed certain products called "enumerated
commodities" that the colonies were forbidden to export to any country
except England. It was easy for the colonists to avoid obeying these laws.
The long American coastline made smuggling easy. The colonists did not
care much either about import taxes, or duties, that they were supposed to
pay on goods from abroad. The duties were light and carelessly collected.
Few merchants bothered to pay them. And again, smuggling was easy. Ships
could unload their cargoes on hundreds of lonely wharves without customs
When a British Prime Minister named Robert Walpole was asked why
he did not do more to enforce the trade laws, he replied: "Let sleeping dogs
lie." He knew the independent spirit of the British colonists in America and
wanted no trouble with them. The trouble began when later British
politicians forgot his advice and awoke the "sleeping dogs."
After the French and Indian war finished and the Peace of Paris was
signed in 1763, France gave up its claim to Canada and to all of North
America east of the Mississippi River. Britain had won an Empire, but its
victory led directly to conflict with its American colonies. Britain decided to
tighten its control over the colonies, but the colonists disagreed with the
change in policy. The war had cost a great deal of money, and the British
government faced large debts. Many leaders in Britain felt the colonies
should help pay a part of the debts.
New policies for the colonies were introduced. One idea was to have
the colonies strictly obey the Navigation Acts and to limit colonial trade
only to Britain. In addition, a new series of laws were introduced. The
Grenville Acts included several separate parts. Three of these resulted in
much disagreement between Britain and the colonies. The first was the
Proclamation of 1763. Even before the final defeat of the French, colonists
in search of better land began to move over the Appalachian Mountains into
the Ohio valley. To prevent war with the Amerindian tribes who lived in the
area, the English king, George III, issued a proclamation in 1763. It forbade
colonists to settle west of the Appalachians until proper treaties had been
made with the Amerindians.
The second was the Sugar Act of 1764. To raise more money from
colonial trade the British government told that colonists must pay new taxes
on imports of sugar, wine, coffee, textiles, and other goods. More British
navy ships were to patrol the American coast to stop smuggling. The third
major part of the Grenville Acts was the Stamp Act passed in 1765.
According to it colonists had to buy special stamps and attach them to
newspapers, licenses and legal papers such as wills and mortgages. The
government also told them that they must feed and find shelter for British
soldiers it planned to keep in the colonies (the Quartering Act of 1765).
These orders seemed perfectly fair to British politicians. It had cost British
taxpayers a lot of money to defend the colonies during the French and
Indian War. Surely, they reasoned, the colonists could not object to repaying
some of this money.
But the colonists did object. Merchants believed that the new import
taxes would make it more difficult for them to trade at a profit. Other
colonists believed that the taxes would raise their costs of living. They also
feared that if British troops stayed in America they might be used to force
them to obey the British government. Trade with Britain fell off sharply in
summer 1765, when prominent men organized themselves into the “Sons of
Liberty” – secret organization to protest the Stamp Act, often through
Ever since the early years of the Virginia settlement Americans had
claimed the right to elect representatives to decide the taxes they paid. Now
they insisted that as "freeborn Englishmen" they could be taxed only by their
own colonial assemblies. We have no representatives in the British
Parliament, they said, so what right does it have to tax us? "No taxation
without representation" became their demand. In 1765 representatives from
nine colonies met in New York. They formed the "Stamp Act Congress" and
organized opposition to the Stamp Act. All over the colonies merchants and
shopkeepers refused to sell British goods until the Act was withdrawn. In
Boston and other cities angry mobs attacked government officials selling the
stamps. Most colonists simply refused to use them.
As the conflict between the British and the colonists increased, the
American people divided into two groups. The colonists who supported a
possible break with the British were called patriots. Those who remained
loyal to the English were called loyalists. At the head of the opposition was
Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, a politician and writer who fought
tirelessly for independence. Being shrewd and able in politics, Samuel
Adams published articles in newspapers and made speeches in town
meetings as he wanted to make people aware of their own power and
All this opposition forced the British government to withdraw the
Stamp Act. But it was determined to show the colonists that it had the right
to tax them. Parliament passed another law called the Declaratory Act. This
stated that the British government had "full power and authority (over) the
colonies and people of America in all cases whatsoever."
In 1767 the British placed new taxes on tea, paper, paint, and various
other goods that the colonies imported from abroad. A special customs
office was set up in Boston to collect the new duties. Again the colonists
refused to pay. Riots broke out in Boston and the British sent soldiers to
The presence of the British troops angered colonists and caused
disorders. On March 5, 1770 antagonism between citizens and British
soldiers brought violence. A Boston mob began to shout insults at a group of
British soldiers. Angry words were exchanged. Sticks and stones began to
fly through the air at the soldiers. One of the crowd tried to take a soldier’s
gun and the soldier shot him. Without any order from the officer in charge,
more shots were fired and three more members of the crows fell dead.
Several others were wounded. Samuel Adams, who organized opposition to
British tax laws in Massachusetts, used this “Boston Massacre” to stir up
American opinion against the British. He wrote a letter which described the
happening as an unprovoked attack on a peaceful group of citizens. He sent
out copies of the letter to all the colonies. To make his account more
convincing, he asked a Boston silversmith Paul Revere to make a dramatic
picture of the “Boston Massacre”. Hundreds of copies were printed. Adam’s
letter and Revere’s picture were seen by thousands of people throughout the
colonies. Together they did a great deal to strengthen opposition to British
It was not until 1770 when the British removed all the duties except
for the one on tea. But some colonists in Massachusetts were determined to
keep the quarrel going. In December 1773, a group of them disguised
themselves as Mohawk Amerindians. Led by Samuel Adams, they boarded
British merchant ships in Boston harbor and threw 342 cases of tea into the
sea. "I hope that King George likes salt in his tea," said one of them.
The British reply to this "Boston Tea Party" was to pass a set of laws
to punish Massachusetts. Colonists soon began calling these laws the
"Intolerable Acts." Boston harbor was closed to all trade until the tea was
paid for. More soldiers were sent there to keep order. The powers of the
colonial assembly of Massachusetts were greatly reduced.
On June 1, 1774, British warships took up position at the mouth of
Boston harbor to make sure that no ships sailed in or out. A few months
later, in September 1774, a group of colonial leaders came together in
Philadelphia. They formed the First Continental Congress to oppose what
they saw as British oppression. They were deeply worried by the British
actions but were divided in their ideas for meeting the crisis. Some hoped to
ask the king for help. If George III would aid them, they would remain in
the British Empire. They believed there were still some advantages of being
tied to England and under Parliament’s rule. Others took the view that
Parliament had no authority over the colonies.
The Continental Congress claimed to be loyal to the British king. But
it called upon all Americans to support the people of Massachusetts by
refusing to buy British goods. Many colonists went further than this. They
began to organize themselves into groups of part-time soldiers, or "militias,"
and to gather together weapons and ammunition.
On the night of April 18, 1775, 700 British soldiers marched silently
out of Boston. Their orders were to seize weapons and ammunition that
rebellious colonists had stored in Concord, a nearby town. But the colonists
were warned that the soldiers were coming. Signal lights were hung from
the spire of Boston's highest church and two fast riders jumped into their
saddles and galloped off with the news.
In the village of Lexington the British found seventy American
militiamen, farmers and tradesmen, barring their way. These part-time
soldiers were known as "Minutemen." This was because they had promised
to take up arms immediately – in a minute – whenever they were needed.
The British commander ordered the Minutemen to return to their
homes. They refused. Then someone, nobody knows who, fired a shot.
Other shots came from the lines of British soldiers. Eight Minutemen fell
dead. The first shots had been fired in what was to become the American
War of Independence.
The British soldiers reached Concord a few hours later and destroyed
some of the weapons and gunpowder there. But by the time they set off to
return to Boston hundreds more Minutemen had gathered. From the thick
woods on each side of the Boston road they shot down, one by one, 273
British soldiers. The soldiers were still under attack when they arrived back
in Boston. A ring of armed Americans gathered round the city.
The next month, May 1775, the second Continental Congress met in
Philadelphia and began to act as an American national government. It set up
an army of 17,000 men under the command of George Washington.
Washington was a Virginia landowner and surveyor with experience of
fighting in the French and Indian War. The Continental Congress also sent
representatives to seek aid from friendly European nations – especially from
France, Britain's old enemy. For those still hoping for peace, the delegates
sent to George III one last appeal – the Olive Branch Petition. George turned
it down and declared that the Americans were rebels.
By the following year the fighting had spread beyond Massachusetts.
It had grown into a full-scale war. On July 2, 1776, the Continental
Congress finally took the step that many Americans believed was inevitable.
It cut all political ties with Britain and declared that "these United Colonies
are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states." Two days later,
on July 4, it issued the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence is the most important document in
American history. It was written by Thomas Jefferson, a landowner and
lawyer from Virginia. After repeating that the colonies were now "free and
independent states" it officially named them the United States of America.
The Declaration of Independence was more than a statement that the
colonies were a new nation. It also set out the ideas behind the change that
was being made. It claimed that all men had a natural right to "Life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness." It also said that governments can only justly
claim the right to rule if they have the agreement of those they govern – "the
consent of the governed." Ideas such as these were a central part of the
political traditions that the colonists' ancestors had brought with them from
England. Colonial leaders had also studied them in the writings of an
English political thinker named John Locke. Men like Jefferson combined
Locke's ideas with their own experience of life in America to produce a new
definition of democratic government. This new definition said that
governments should consist of representatives elected by the people. It also
said that the main reason that governments existed was to protect the rights
of individual citizens.
So Americans considered themselves independent, but they still had to
fight and win a war to prove it. After some early successes, they did badly
in the war against the British. Washington's army was more of an armed
mob than an effective fighting force. Few of the men had any military
training and many obeyed only those orders that suited them. Officers
quarreled constantly over their rank and authority. Washington set to work
to train his men and turn them into disciplined soldiers. But this took time,
and meanwhile the Americans suffered defeat after defeat. In September
1776, only two months after the Declaration of Independence, the British
captured New York City. Washington wrote to his brother that he feared that
the Americans were very close to losing the war.
Success began to come to the Americans in October 1777. They
trapped a British army of almost 6,000 men at Saratoga in northern New
York. The British commander was cut off from his supplies and his men
were facing starvation. He was forced to surrender. The Americans marched
their prisoners to Boston. Here, after swearing never again to fight against
the Americans, the prisoners were put on board ships and sent back to
England. The American victory at Saratoga was considered the turning point
of the war. It was important to Americans because it brought France into the
war. From this point on, the French, who had already given secret help to
Americans, began to help them openly. In 1778 French leaders signed a
treaty of alliance promising guns, ships and money to Americans. French
ships, soldiers and money were soon playing an important part in the war.
From 1778 onwards most of the fighting took place in the southern
colonies. It was here that the war came to an end. In September 1781,
George Washington, leading a combined American and French army,
surrounded 8,000 British troops under General Cornwallis at Yorktown, on
the coast of Virginia. Cornwallis was worried, but he expected British ships
to arrive and rescue or reinforce his army. When ships arrived off
Yorktown, however, they were French ones. Cornwallis was trapped. On
October 17, 1781, he surrendered his army to Washington. When the news
reached London the British Prime Minister, Lord North, threw up his hands
in despair. "It is all over!" he cried.
North was right. The British started to withdraw their forces from
America and British and American representatives began to discuss peace
terms. In the Treaty of Paris, which was signed in September 1783, Britain
officially recognized her former colonies as an independent nation. The
treaty granted the new United States all of North America from Canada in
the north to Florida in the south, and from the Atlantic coast to the
1. What were the reasons for most American colonists to be quite
content by the British rule until 1760s?
2. How did Navigation Acts passed by the British government limit
colonial trade? Did American colonists obey these acts?
3. Why did the British victory in the French and Indian war lead
directly to their conflict with colonists? What kind of proclamation did the
English king George III issue in 1763?
4. When was the Sugar Act passed? What kind of taxes did it raise?
5. What kind of proclamation did the English king George III issue
6. Why did the order to pay new taxes on imports and to give food
and shelter to British soldiers seem perfectly fair to British politicians?
7. What was the Stamp Act of 1765 intended for?
8. Americans claimed the right to elect their representatives to the
British Parliament to decide upon the taxes they paid. What was their motto?
9. What do we learn about the Stamp Act Congress of 1765?
10. What was Samuel Adams’s contribution to American
11. What occurrence is known as the Boston Tea Party? What was
the British reply to this action?
12. When did the First Continental Congress take place? What was
its appeal to colonists?
13. Were American “minutemen” professional soldiers?
14. What do we learn about the armed clash that took place in
15. When was the Declaration of Independence issued?
16. Why did Americans do badly in the beginning of the war against
17. When did Americans hold their decisive victory over the British?
How did they treat captured British soldiers?
18. Why did the French king agree to help Americans fight against
19. Why did General Cornwallis have to surrender his army to
20. When was the Treaty of Paris signed? What did the British
guarantee to their former colony?
Listen to a special program from Voice of America – an intermediate
listening comprehension course. Then read the transcript and fill in the
a) to be tried in court for murder
b) to enforce the law
c) the First Continental Congress
d) to be in rebellion
e) to approve a series of documents
f) the shot heard round the world
g) the Boston Tea Party
h) to become involved in a dispute
i) colonial troops
j) to destroy the supplies
k) the American Revolution
l) to ease the tensions
m) to seize the weapons
n) the British policy of taxing
o) to control trade
This is Sarah Long.
And this is Rich Kleinfeldt with THE MAKING OF THE NATION, a
VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.
Today, we tell about the start of the American colonies’ war for
independence from Britain in the late seventeen hundreds.
The road to revolution lasted several years. The most serious events
began in seventeen seventy. War began five years later.
Relations between Britain and its American colonists were most tense
in the colony of Massachusetts. There were protests against …(1) the
colonies without giving them representation in Parliament. To prevent
trouble, thousands of British soldiers were sent to Boston, the biggest city in
Massachusetts. On March fifth, seventeen seventy, tension led to violence.
This is what happened.
It was the end of winter, and the weather was very cold. A small group
of colonists began throwing rocks and pieces of ice at soldiers guarding a
public building. They were joined by others, and the soldiers became
frightened. They fired their guns. Five colonists were killed. The incident
became known as the Boston Massacre.
The people of Massachusetts were extremely angry. The soldiers ...
(2). Most were found innocent. The others received minor punishments.
Fearing more violence, the British Parliament cancelled most of its taxes.
Only the tax on tea remained. This … some of …(3) for a while. Imports of
British goods increased. The colonists seemed satisfied with the situation,
until a few years later. That is when the Massachusetts colony once again …
(4) with Britain.
The trouble started because the British government wanted to help
improve the business of the British East India Company. That company
organized all the trade between India and other countries ruled by Britain.
By seventeen seventy-three, the company had become weak. The British
government decided to permit it to sell tea directly to the American colonies.
The colonies would still have to pay a tea tax to Britain.
The Americans did not like the new plan. They felt they were being
forced to buy their tea from only one company.
Officials in the colonies of Pennsylvania and New York sent the East
India Company’s ships back to Britain. In Massachusetts, things were
different. The British governor there wanted to collect the tea tax and … (5).
When the ships arrived in Boston, some colonists tried to block their way.
The ships remained just outside the harbor without unloading their goods.
On the night of December sixteenth, seventeen seventy-three, a group
of colonists went out in a small boat. They got a British ship and threw all
the tea into the water. The colonists were dressed as American Indians so
the British would not recognize them, but the people of Boston knew who
they were. A crowd gathered to cheer them. That incident – the night when
British tea was thrown into Boston harbor- became known as … (6).
Destroying the tea was a serious crime. The British government was
angry. Parliament reacted to the Boston Tea Party by punishing the whole
colony of Massachusetts for the actions of a few men. It approved a series of
laws that once again changed relations between the colony and Britain.
One of these laws closed the port of Boston until the tea was paid for.
Other laws strengthened the power of the British governor and weakened the
power of local colonial officials.
In June, seventeen seventy-four, the colony of Massachusetts called
for a meeting of delegates from all the other colonies to consider joint action
This meeting of colonial delegates was called … (7). It was held in the
city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in September, seventeen seventy- four.
All the colonies except one was represented. The southern colony of
Georgia did not send a delegate.
The delegates agreed that the British Parliament had no right … (8)
with the American colonies or to make any laws that affected them. They
said the people of the colonies must have the right to take part in any
legislative group that made laws for them.
The First Continental Congress … (9) that condemned all British
actions in the American colonies after seventeen sixty-three. It approved a
Massachusetts proposal saying that the people could use weapons to defend
their rights. It also organized a Continental Association to boycott British
goods and to stop all exports to any British colony or to Britain itself. Local
committees were created to enforce the boycott. One of the delegates to this
First Continental Congress was John Adams of Massachusetts. Many years
later, he said that by the time the meeting was held, the American
Revolution had already begun.
Britain’s King George the Second announced that the New England
colonies … (10). Parliament made the decision to use troops against
Massachusetts in January seventeen seventy-five.
The people of Massachusetts made a provincial assembly and began
training men to fight. Soon, groups of armed men were doing military
exercises in towns all around Massachusetts and in other colonies, too.
British officers received their orders in April, seventeen seventy-five.
By that time, the colonists had been gathering weapons in the town of
Concord, about thirty kilometers west of Boston. The British forces were
ordered … (11). But the colonists knew they were coming and were
Years later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about what
happened. The poem tells about the actions of Paul Revere, one of three men
who helped warn the … (12) that the British were coming:
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
On the eighteenth of April in seventy-five
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town tonight
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,-
One if by land; and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”
When the British reached the town of Lexington, they found it
protected by about seventy colonial troops. These troops were called
“Minute Men” because they had been trained to fight with only a minute’s
warning. Guns were fired. Eight colonists were killed.
No one knows who fired the first shot in that first battle of the … (13).
Each side accused the other. But the meaning was very clear. It was called
From Lexington, the British marched to Concord, where they …
whatever … (15) the colonists had not been able to save. Other colonial
troops rushed to the area. A battle at Concord’s north bridge forced the
British to march back to Boston.
It was the first day of America’s war for independence. When it was
over, almost three hundred British troops had been killed. Fewer than one
hundred Americans had died.
The British troops had marched in time with their drummers and
pipers. The musicians had played a song called “Yankee Doodle”. The
British invented the song to insult the Americans. They said a Yankee
Doodle was a man who did not know how to fight. After the early battles of
the revolution, the Americans said they were glad to be Yankee Doodles.
Following the battles at Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts
government organized a group that captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake
Champlain in New York State. The other colonies began sending troops to
help. And another joint colonial meeting was called: the Second Continental
Congress. That will be our story next week.
Today’s MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy
Steinbach. This is Sarah Long.
And this is Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another
Special English program about the history of the United States.
THE WESTWARD MOVEMENT
In 1800 the western boundary of the United States was the Mississippi
River. Beyond its wide and muddy waters there were great areas of land
through which few white people had traveled. The land stretched west for
more than 600 miles to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and was known
at the time as Louisiana.
In 1800 Louisiana Territory belonged to France. Americans feared that
Napoleon, who was the ruler of France, might send French soldiers and
settlers to Louisiana and so block the further westward growth of the United
States. Then the Americans were very lucky, as in 1803 Napoleon was about
to go to war with Britain and needed money. For fifteen million dollars he
sold Louisiana to the United States. “We have lived long but this is the
noblest work of our whole lives,” said one of the American representatives
who signed the agreement. Louisiana stretched north from the Gulf of
Mexico to the Canadian border and west from the Mississippi to the Rocky
Mountains. Its purchase almost doubled the land area of the United States.
The Louisiana Purchase was authorized by President Thomas
Jefferson, who was a keen amateur scientist and sent an expedition to
explore Louisiana. Jefferson wanted to know more about the geography,
people, animals and plants of the lands to the west of the United States, he
also hoped that the explorers might find an easy way to cross North America
to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition of 1804 to 1806 was led by Meriwether
Lewis and William Clark. It gave people in the United States their first
information about the Louisiana Territory. The expedition traveled almost
4000 miles, and though they failed to find an easy overland route to the
Pacific they showed that the journey was possible.
Soon other Americans were exploring and settling lands in the West.
Moving across the Mississippi River into the huge area of the West
presented exciting challenges and new problems to Americans who moved
into the lands west of the Mississippi River for the same reason that they
had always moved west—for cheap and plentiful land. Large numbers of
settlers started farms in Iowa, Arkansas, and Missouri in the 1820s and
1830s. By the 1840s much of the Mississippi River Valley was settled, and
interest began to grow in lands farther west.
Oregon was one of the areas in the West which attracted Americans.
This territory stretched from Alaska in the north to California in the south
and inland through the Rocky Mountains to undefined borders of Louisiana.
In the early 1800s, Oregon was claimed by four different countries – Great
Britain, the United States, Russia, and Spain. Russia owned Alaska, and
Spain ruled California. But in Oregon the British and the Americans were in
the strongest position. Both already had trading posts scattered along
Oregon’s coasts and rivers. Soon American political leaders began to fear
that Britain would gain complete control of the area. To prevent this they
made great efforts to persuade more Americans to start farms in Oregon.
At first Americans traveling to Oregon went by ship. They sailed from
the east coast ports of the United States, around South America and up the
long Pacific Coast. The journey was expensive and it lasted for months.
Settlers began traveling to Oregon by land in 1832. They usually started
their journey from Independence, Missouri, a town on the Mississippi River,
to Oregon. Large wagon trains were making the 2,000-mile (3,200-
kilometer) journey. The overland route became known as the Oregon Trail.
A wagon train usually consisted of about twenty-five wagons, each wagon
could carry a load of 2 – 2,5 tons and was pulled by a team of either mules
or oxen. The journey took from four to six months. The people who made it
faced many dangers along the trail. Floods and blizzards, prairie fires and
accidents, disease and starvation – all these took many lives. Indians
sometimes attacked, trying to stop the settlers moving through their lands.
Snow was a danger once the wagon trains reached the Rocky Mountains.
Often wagon wheels broke or metal tires fell off from the changes in
temperatures. Despite the hardships, “Oregon fever” gripped many
Americans in 1840s. People left their worn-out farms in the east, packed
their possessions on wagons and set off for the west. Though all of them
settled south of the Columbia River, but they far outnumbered British
people in the area. In 1843, they set up a temporary government. These
settlers wanted the United States to stop sharing control of the area with
In 1845 a magazine editor first used the term “manifest destiny”. He
wrote that it was the manifest destiny, or certain fate, of the United States to
stretch from ocean to ocean. Many people in all parts of the country agreed
Texas interested the people in the United States chiefly because of its
rich soil. In the early 1800's southern cotton growers had begun migrating
west from Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. The soil in these states had
become worn out. The farmers looked for better land in the Gulf regions.
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama became important cotton-growing
states. In the 1820s, planters were looking to Texas as a real source of rich
land on which to grow cotton, using slave labor. By the early 1830s, there
were 30,000 settlers from the United States living in Texas. Most were from
the South, and many owned slaves. Slavery and other troubles soon led to
quarrels between the Americans in Texas and the Mexican government.
Mexico had ended slavery and objected to the holding of slaves by
Americans living in Texas. At the same time, Mexicans began to wonder
whether loyalty of the Texas settlers was to the United States or to Mexico.
They tried to stop more Americans from entering Texas.
In October 1835 the Texan Americans, or Texans, rebelled. On March
2, 1836, they declared their independence. Sam Houston was placed in
charge of the army. On April 21, 1836, Texas troops under his command
won a victory that ended the war. They attacked and defeated the larger
Mexican army near the San Jacinto River. Texans set up their own
government like that of the United States and chose Sam Houston as their
Many Americans expected that Texas would be annexed, or added, to
the United States after winning its independence. Over the next several
years, however, the American government avoided the issue. They feared
war with Mexico since Mexico had not recognized the independence of
Texas. They also did not want to stir up trouble over slavery.
In the election of 1844, James K. Polk became President of the United
States. During the campaign, he had called for the annexation of both Texas
and Oregon. Since most people living in Texas were Americans, they
wanted Texas to be a part of the United States. On March 1, 1845 Texas
became a state.
President Polk sent an agent to Mexico to talk about the border dispute
and to try to buy California and New Mexico. When Polk heard that
Mexican officials would not meet with this agent, he sent the troops to the
north bank of the Rio Grande. Mexico saw this as an invasion of its land. On
May 13, 1846, Congress declared war on Mexico. As the war went on, some
Americans began to demand more territory. A few even wanted to annex all
of Mexico. Most Americans at least wanted to get California and New
Mexico. The government also wanted Mexico to agree that Texas was part
of the United States. American soldiers invaded Mexico and defeated the
Mexican army. By September 1847 they had occupied Mexico City, the
capital of the country.
The Mexican-American War was ended by a peace treaty signed in
February 1848. The United States paid Mexico $15 million for all the land
north of the Rio Grande and the Gila River. Today these lands form the
American states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and
parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Several years later the United States found
that the best southern railroad route to the Pacific coast was south of the
Gila River. In 1853 the United States paid Mexico $10 million for the strip
of land that now forms the southern part of Arizona and New Mexico.
Including Texas, the United States had gained a huge area of over 1
million square miles. It had good soil, many natural resources, and ports on
the coast of California. The annexation of Mexican lands completed the
“manifest destiny” of the United States. It now stretched across the North
American continent from ocean to ocean. In little more than half a century it
had grown from a small nation on the shores of the Atlantic into one of the
largest countries on the world.
1. What nation did Louisiana belong to in1800? How far did this
2. Why did Americans dislike the presence of the French in North
3. How can you comment on the quotation: “We have lived long
but this is the noblest work of our whole lives”?
4. Why did American president send an expedition of Lewis and
Clark to Louisiana?
5. How far did the territory of Oregon stretch? Why did it attract
6. How did American farmers travel to Oregon? What dangers were
they exposed to during the journey?
7. What does the term “manifest destiny” mean? When did the idea
of “manifest destiny” become popular in the United States?
8. Why was Texas so attractive for Americans?
9. Why did Texans rebel against Mexican rule?
10. What territories were annexed to the United States after the
Make short reports on these topics. Use the words given below.
1. Louisiana Purchase. Lewis and Clark expedition
to stretch west, to block the growth, to sign an agreement, to double
the area, to be authorized, to send an expedition, to lead an expedition, to
find an overland route
2. “Oregon Fever”
to present an exciting challenge, to start a farm, to be claimed by
smb., a trading post, to gain complete control of the area, a wagon train, to
be pulled by a team of mules or oxen, to face many dangers, despite the
hardships, a worn-out farm, to set off for the west
3. Texas rebellion
manifest destiny, worn-out soil, a source of rich land, slave labor, to
rebel, to declare independence, to win a victory, to set up the government, to
4. The Mexican-American war
to be annexed, to avoid the issue, invasion, to declare war on smth./
smb., to occupy the capital, to sign a peace treaty
A DIVIDED NATION
By the middle of the 19th century America grew much bigger. The
country acquired many new territories. By 1850s the United States stretched
over forest, plain and mountain, but adding new territories also brought
problems. It raised the question of whether the new states would allow
slavery. Leaders in the North felt it should not be allowed, while Southern
leaders, on the other hand, supported the spread of slavery. Differences
between the North and the South did not begin or end with slavery. The two
areas had been growing apart for more than fifty years. The North and the
South developed different social, economic and political ways.
During colonial times, they shared certain social patterns. Most of the
people were of British heritage, or background. They shared the same
language, customs, and law. They also had similar political views. There
were differences even then, however. In general, planters dominated social
life in the South, while in the North, no single group set the pattern of living.
Education was more widespread in the North than in the South. In the years
before 1860, the North changed more than the South, and the two areas
became even less alike. The population of the North grew rapidly. Cities
became important. Immigration brought a great variety of people to the
northern states. The white population of the South grew slowly. Immigration
into the South was also slow, and its impact was slight. The large number of
black slaves in the South further set the two sections apart. The North and
South also moved in different directions economically. In the early days of
the United States, life in both parts of the country centered around farms and
small villages. The South remained an agricultural area and did not develop
much industry, the most important part of the southern economy was the
large plantations. On them, tobacco, rice, sugar cane, and cotton were
grown, using slave labor. Economic ideas changed slowly in the South.
Southern leaders were generally against high taxes, government spending,
and federal banks. They fought against raising import duties, as the South
imported most of its manufactured goods and relied upon foreign
manufacturers for both necessities and luxuries of many kinds.
In the North farms were smaller and farmers did not need slaves to
work the land on them. After the War of 1812, the northern states rapidly
began to build factories. Cities grew with the rise of industry. While most
people in the North also made a living by farming, industry was very
important. The building of factories required loans from banks. Northern
leaders favored federal banks and government spending. They wanted
government aid for building roads and making other transportation better.
To protect the growing American industries, they favored higher duties on
During the argument about import duties a southern politician named
John C. Calhoun raised a much more serious question. He claimed that the
state had the right to disobey any federal law if the state believed that the
law would harm its interests. As the debate over slavery became bitter,
many southern leaders came to favor the idea of states’ rights.
Northern leaders, on the other hand, supported the power of the federal
government over that of the states. This view was stated in 1830 by Senator
Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, when he argued against Calhoun's theory
of nullification. People in the North thought that the federal government
helped promote national unity and progress.
At the heart of the differences between the North and South was
slavery. Southern whites called it the "peculiar institution." The first blacks
brought to America were not slaves but indentured servants. They expected
to be free after they had finished their terms of service. Later the status of
indentured black servants was changed by law to that of slaves. The demand
for slaves in the United States grew rapidly after Eli Whitney invented the
cotton gin in 1793. Many people protested against slavery, they were called
“abolitionists”, as they wanted to abolish slavery by law. In 1808
abolitionists persuaded Congress to make it illegal for ships to bring any
new slaves from Africa into the Unites States. That year, there were about 1
million slaves in the United States. Despite the action of Congress, the
system did not die out. Some slaves were smuggled into the country in the
years after 1808, and the birthrate of slaves was very high. Between 1820
and 1850, the number of slaves rose from 1.5 million to over 3 million.
Between 1850 and 1860, the number grew from 3 million to almost 4
million. Most of the slaves brought into the United States came from the
West coast of Africa. Slaves were most often treated as property. They
could be moved around and sold as their owners wished. The sale of slaves
was done at auctions – public sales where goods or slaves are sold to the
person who offers the most money for them. Often families were broken up
when children were sold to different owners than those of their parents.
Parents were often separated as well.
Although slaves had no rights, they were still able to work against the
system of slavery. They made up songs and stories which helped them cope
with their lives. Also, some slaves slowed down their work or damaged their
tools. These things had to be done carefully and in secret for fear of
punishment. Many slaves escaped from their masters, but escape was
difficult and dangerous since travel by slaves was closely watched. The
chance of being caught was great. Slaves tried to leave the South and make
their way north across the Ohio River or into Pennsylvania. They could be
stopped by whites and asked for papers showing they could travel. Once an
owner discovered a slave missing, a hunt began for the slave's capture and
return. Escaped slaves were not really safe until they reached Canada. Slave
owners offered rewards or “bounties” for the return of runaway slaves. This
created a group of men called “bounty hunters”. They made their living by
hunting down fugitive slaves in order to collect the rewards on them.
The feelings of people in the North about slavery were mixed. Many,
perhaps the majority, were prejudiced against blacks, both free blacks in the
North and slaves in the South. Of the people who were against slavery, there
were some who simply did not want it to spread into new territories or
states. Others, the abolitionists, wanted an end to all slavery.
Before the 1840's, leaders in both the North and South had tried to
keep slavery out of politics. Neither of the major parties would take a stand
on the issue. Both the Democrats and the Whigs drew support from all areas
of the country, and they did not want to lose it. Arguments for and against
slavery were presented, for the most part, by reformers or authors.
Beginning in the 1840s, however, the slavery question came to dominate
Representatives in Congress from the slave and free states had always
looked out for the interests of their section. Slave states and free states had
been admitted in equal numbers and had equal numbers of Senators. In 1819
a bill had come up in Congress for the admission of Missouri as a state. By
that time southern and northern politicians were arguing about whether
slavery should be permitted in the new territories that were then being
settled in the west. Southerners argued that slave labor should be allowed in
Missouri and all the other lands that formed part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Both abolitionists and northerners objected strongly to this. Northern
farmers moving west did not want to find themselves competing for land
against southerners who had slaves to do their work for them. Senator James
Tallmadge of New York presented an amendment to the bill which would
outlaw slavery in Missouri. Slaves already in Missouri would be
emancipated, or set free. Southern representatives were against this idea.
They felt it would upset the balance of power in the Senate in favor of the
North. Eventually the two sides agreed on a compromise. Slavery would be
permitted in the Missouri and Arkansas territories but banned in lands to the
west and north of Missouri. The Missouri Compromise, as it was called,
settled slavery as a political question for the next 25 years.
The question of slavery in new lands came up again when the United
States went to war with Mexico and obtained new areas. This raised again
the question that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had tried to settle –
should slavery be allowed on new American territory? In 1850 Congress
voted in favor of another compromise. California was admitted to the United
States as a free state. This would balance Texas which had been added as a
slave state in 1845. The rest of the Mexican lands were formed into two
territories, New Mexico and Utah. The people of these areas were to decide
for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. The Compromise of 1850
seemed to be a success. But it did not give the country a long period of
peace. Both the North and the South were reaching the point where they
were no longer willing to compromise.
One thing which hardened northern opinion against slavery was the
new Fugitive Slave Act. This was a law to make it easier for southerners to
recapture slaves who escaped from their masters and fled for safety to free
states. The law called for “severe penalties on anyone assisting Negroes to
escape from bondage”.
The Fugitive Slave Act angered many northerners who had not so far
given thought to the rights and wrongs of slavery. Some northern judges
refused to enforce it. Other people provided food, money, and hiding places
for fugitives. They mapped out escape routes and moved runaway slaves by
night from one secret hiding place to another. The final stop on these escape
routes was Canada where fugitives could not be followed by American laws.
Because railroads were the most modern form of transport at that time,
this carefully organized system was called the “Underground Railroad”.
People providing money to pay for it were called “stockholders”. Guides
who led the fugitives to freedom were called “conductors”, and hiding
places were called “depots”. All these were terms that were used on ordinary
The brief peace which resulted from the Compromise of 1850 came to
an end in 1854 when Congress decided to end the Missouri Compromise.
West of Missouri, on land that was supposed to be closed to slavery, was a
western territory called Kansas. In 1854 Congress voted to let its people
decide for themselves whether to permit slavery there.
Kansas became the center of the battle over slavery. A race began to
win control of Kansas. Pro-slavery immigrants poured in from the South and
anti-slavery immigrants from the North, each group was determined to
outnumber the other. By 1856, there were two governments in the territory –
one pro-slavery and one anti-slavery. Soon fighting and killing began and
the state became known as "Bleeding Kansas." Neither side won the struggle
to control Kansas in 1850s. Because of the trouble there, Congress delayed
its admission to the United States.
1. Why did the issue of slavery become very acute in 1850s?
2. What were the political, social and economic differences which
developed between the North and the South?
3. Why did the population in the North grow faster than in the
4. Why did Northerners and Southerners have different views upon
5. What was the idea expressed by John C. Calhoun?
6. How were the lives of black slaves restricted?
7. What were the abolitionists’ attitudes towards slavery?
8. Who were “bounty hunters”? How did they make their living?
9. What did the agreement known as the Missouri Compromise
10. Why did the territory of Kansas become known as “Bleeding
THE CIVIL WAR
In the presidential election of 1860 the Republican Party nominated
Abraham Lincoln as its candidate. By now relations between North and
South were close to breaking point. Southerners believed that the North was
preparing to use force to end slavery in the South. In every southern state a
majority of citizens voted against Lincoln, but voters in the North supported
him and he won the election. A few weeks later, in December 1860, the state
of South Carolina voted to secede from the United States. It was soon joined
by ten more southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana,
Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. In
February 1861, these eleven states announced that they were now an
independent nation, the Confederate States of America, often known as the
On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office as
President of the United States. Less than a month had passed since the
formation of the Confederacy. In his inaugural address as President, Lincoln
appealed to the southern states to stay in the Union. He promised that he
would not interfere with slavery in any of them. But he warned that he
would not allow them to break up the United States by seceding. Quoting
from his oath of office, he told them: "You have no oath registered in
Heaven to destroy the government, while I have a most solemn one to
'preserve, protect and defend' it."
The southern states took no notice of Lincoln's appeal. On April 12
Confederate guns opened fire on Fort Sumter, a fortress in the harbor of
Charleston, South Carolina that was occupied by United States troops.
These shots marked the beginning of the American Civil War.
Lincoln called for 75,000 men to fight to save the Union. Jefferson
Davis, the newly elected President of the Confederate States, made a similar
appeal for men to fight for the Confederacy. Volunteers rushed forward in
thousands on both sides.
Some people found it difficult and painful to decide which side to
support. The decision sometimes split families. The son of the commander
of the Confederate navy was killed fighting in a Union ship. Two brothers
became generals – but on opposite sides. And three of President Lincoln's
own brothers-in-law died fighting for the Confederacy.
From the first months of the war Union warships blockaded the ports
of the South. They did this to prevent the Confederacy from selling its
cotton abroad and from obtaining foreign supplies.
In both men and material resources the North was much stronger than
the South. It had a population of twenty-two million people. The South had
only nine million people and 3.5 million of them were slaves. The North
grew more food crops than the South. It also had more than five times the
manufacturing capacity, including most of the country's weapon factories.
So the North not only had more fighting men than the South, it could also
keep them better supplied with weapons, clothing, food and everything else
However, the North faced one great difficulty. The only way it could
win the war was to invade the South and occupy its land. The South had no
such problem. It did not need to conquer the North to win independence. All
it had to do was to hold out until the people of the North grew tired of
fighting. Most southerners believed that the Confederacy could do this. It
began the war with a number of advantages. Many of the best officers in the
pre-war army of the United States were southerners. Now they returned to
the Confederacy to organize its armies. Most of the recruits led by these
officers had grown up on farms and were expert riders and marksmen. Most
important of all, the fact that almost all the war's fighting took place in the
South meant that Confederate soldiers were defending their own homes.
This often made them fight with more spirit than the Union soldiers.
Southerners denied that they were fighting mainly to preserve slavery.
Most were poor farmers who owned no slaves anyway. The South was
fighting for its independence from the North, they said, just as their
grandfathers had fought for independence from Britain almost a century
Lincoln’s two priorities were to keep the Unites States one country and
to rid the nation of slavery. Indeed, he realized that by making the war a
battle against slavery he could win support for the Union at home and
abroad. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation,
which granted freedom to all slaves in areas still controlled by the
The war was fought in two main areas – in Virginia and the other coast
states of the Confederacy, and in the Mississippi valley.
In Virginia the Union armies suffered one defeat after another in the
first year of the war. Again and again they tried to capture Richmond,
Virginia, the Confederate capital. Each time they were thrown back with
heavy losses. The Confederate forces in Virginia had two great advantages.
The first was that many rivers cut across the roads leading south to
Richmond and so made the city easier to defend. The second was their
leaders. Two Confederate generals, in particular, Robert E. Lee and Thomas
J. ("Stonewall") Jackson, showed much more skill than the generals leading
the Union army at this time. Jackson got his nickname "Stonewall" because
he stood firm against advancing Union troops. A fellow officer, encouraging
his soldiers shouted out, "Look, there is Jackson, standing like a stone wall!"
The North's early defeats in Virginia discouraged its supporters. The
flood of volunteers for the army began to dry up. Recruitment was not
helped by letters home like this one, from a lieutenant in the Union army in
"The butchery of the boys, the sufferings of the unpaid soldiers,
without tents, poor rations, a single blanket each, with no bed but the hard
damp ground – it is these things that kill me."
Fortunately for the North, Union forces in the Mississippi valley had
more success. In April 1862, a naval officer named David Farragut sailed
Union ships into the mouth of the river and captured New Orleans, the
largest city in the Confederacy. At the same time other Union forces were
fighting their way down the Mississippi from the north.
By spring 1863, the Union armies were closing in on an important
Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi called Vicksburg. On July 4, after
much bloody fighting and a siege lasting six weeks, Vicksburg surrendered
to a Union army led by General Ulysses S. Grant. Its fall was a heavy blow
to the South. Union forces now controlled the whole length of the
Mississippi. They had split the Confederacy in two. It became impossible
for western Confederate states like Texas to send any more men and
supplies to the east.
But by 1863 many northerners were tired of the war. They were
sickened by its heavy cost in lives and money. General Lee, the Confederate
commander, believed that if his army could win a decisive victory on
northern soil, popular opinion there might force the Union government to
In the last week of June 1863, Lee marched his army north into
Pennsylvania. At a small town named Gettysburg a Union army blocked his
way. The battle which followed was the biggest that has ever been fought in
the United States. In three days of fierce fighting more than 50,000 men
were killed or wounded. On the fourth day Lee broke off the battle and led
his men back into the South. The Confederate army had suffered a defeat
from which it would never recover.
By 1864 the Confederacy was running out of almost everything – men,
equipment, food, money. In autumn the Union armies moved in to end the
war. In November 1864, a Union army led by General William T. Sherman
began to march through the Confederate state of Georgia. Its soldiers
destroyed everything in their path. They tore up railroad tracks, burned
crops and buildings, drove off cattle. On December, 22 they occupied the
city of Savannah. The Confederacy was split again, this time from east to
west. After capturing Savannah, Sherman turned north. He marched through
the Carolinas, burning and destroying everything.
The Confederate capital was already in danger from another Union
army led by General Grant. By March 1865, Grant had almost encircled the
city and on April 2 Lee was forced to abandon it to save his army from
being trapped. He marched south, hoping to fight on from a strong position
in the mountains. But Grant followed close behind and other Union soldiers
blocked Lee's way forward. Lee was trapped. On April 9, 1865, he met
Grant in a house in a tiny village called Appomattox and surrendered his
Grant treated the defeated Confederate soldiers generously. After they
had given up their weapons and promised never again to fight against the
United States, he allowed them to go home. He told them they could keep
their horses "to help with the spring ploughing." As Lee rode away, Grant
stood in the doorway chewing a piece of tobacco and told his men: "The war
is over. The rebels are our countrymen again."
The Civil War gave final answers to two questions that had divided the
United States ever since it became an independent nation. It put an end to
slavery. In 1865 this was abolished everywhere in the United States by the
13th Amendment to the Constitution. And it decided finally that the United
States was one nation, whose parts could not be separated.
But the war left bitter memories. The United States fought other wars
later, but all were outside its own boundaries. The Civil War caused terrible
destruction at home. All over the South cities and farms lay in ruins. And
more Americans died in this war than in any other, before or since. By the
time Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, the dead on both sides totaled
1. Who was elected president in 1861? What appeal did the new US
president make to the southern states in the inaugural speech?
2. What was the event that marked the beginning of American Civil
3. What American states formed the Confederacy? Who was
elected president of the Confederate States?
4. Why did some Americans find it difficult to decide which side to
5. Why did the Union blockade southern ports from the first months
of the war?
6. Which part was stronger in men and material resources?
7. What were the advantages of the South when the Civil War
began? Did southerners directly accept they were fighting to preserve
8. What were the two main areas of the war?
9. What city became the capital of the Confederacy?
10. What were the great advantages of the Confederate forces in
11. What victory did the Union army win in the Mississippi Valley
12. Why was the surrender of Vicksburg a heavy blow to the South?
When did it take place?
13. Why did General Lee march his army into Pennsylvania in 1863?
14. Where did the biggest battle in the history of the US take place?
15. How did Union soldiers behave marching through the
16. Why was General Lee forced to abandon the Capital on April 2,
17. When did General Lee surrender his army?
18. How were the defeated confederate soldiers treated by General
19. What were the important changes that took place as the result of
20. What kind of memories did the Civil War leave?
Make short reports on these topics. Use the words given below.
1. Abraham Lincoln gets elected as president
to nominate as a candidate, a breaking point, to win the election, to
take the oath
2. The beginning of the Civil War
to take no notice of smth., to open fire, to make an appeal, a volunteer
3. Strengths and weaknesses of both sides
material resources, to obtain foreign supplies, manufacturing
capacity, to face a
great difficulty, to invade, to conquer, to win independence, to hold
4. Fighting for Virginia
to suffer a defeat, to capture, advancing troops, to encourage
5. Fighting for the Mississippi Valley
the mouth of the river, to capture, a stronghold, a siege, to surrender,
blow, to split smth. in two
6. The biggest battle of US history
to grow tired of the war, to win a decisive victory, to make peace, to
way, fierce fighting, to recover
7. The surrender of the Confederate army
to be in danger, to circle the city, to abandon, to be trapped, to
On the night of April 13, 1865 crowds of people moved through the
brightly lit streets of Washington to celebrate Grant’s victory at
Appomattox. A man who was there wrote in his diary: "Guns are firing,
bells ringing, flags flying, men laughing, children cheering, all, all are
The next day was Good Friday. In the evening President Lincoln and
his wife went to Ford's Theater in Washington to see a play called "Our
American Cousin." The theater was full and the audience cheered the
President as he took his seat in a box beside the stage. Once Lincoln was
safely in his seat, his bodyguards moved away to watch the play themselves
from seats in the gallery. At exactly 10:13, when the play was part way
through, a pistol shot rang through the darkened theater. As the President
slumped forward in his seat, a man in a black felt hat and high boots jumped
from the box on to the stage. He waved a gun in the air and shouted "Sic
semper tyrannis" [Thus always to tyrants] and then ran out of the theater. It
was discovered later that the gunman was an actor named John Wilkes
Booth. He was captured a few days later, hiding in a barn in the Virginia
Lincoln was carried across the street to the house of a tailor. He died
there in a downstairs bedroom the next morning. Men and women wept in
the streets when they heard the news. The poet James Russell Lowell wrote:
"Never before that startled April morning did such multitudes of men shed
tears for the death of one they had never seen, as if with him a friendly
presence had been taken from their lives."
Lincoln was succeeded as President by his Vice President, Andrew
Johnson. The biggest problem the new President faced was how to deal with
the defeated South. Lincoln had made no secret of his own ideas about this.
Only a few weeks before his death he had begun his second term of office as
President. In his inaugural address he had asked the American people to help
him to "bind up the nation's wounds" and rebuild their war-battered
Lincoln blamed individual southern leaders for the war, rather than the
people of the seceding states as a whole. He intended to punish only those
guilty individuals and to let the rest of the South's people play a full part in
the nation's life again.
Johnson had similar ideas. He began to introduce plans to reunite the
South with the rest of the nation. He said that as soon as the citizens of the
seceded states promised to be loyal to the government of the United States
they could elect new state assemblies to run their affairs. When a state voted
to accept the 13th Amendment to the Constitution (the one that completely
abolished slavery) Johnson intended that it should be accepted back into the
Union as a full and equal member.
Most southern whites accepted the defeat of the Confederacy and the
abolition of slavery. They were not willing to go much further than that,
however. They stood firmly against equal rights for black people. These
southern whites did not want black people to vote or to hold office. They
wanted blacks only to provide farm labor, under a system much like that of
slavery. Most of them opposed the new Republican governments and
anyone else seeking to help blacks. White southerners were determined to
resist any changes that threatened their power to control the life of the
South. The assembly of the state of Mississippi expressed the way it felt in
these blunt words:
"Under the pressure of federal bayonets the people of Mississippi have
abolished the institution of slavery. The negro is free whether we like it or
not. To be free, however, does not make him a citizen or entitle him to
social or political equality with the white man."
The other former Confederate states shared this attitude. All their
assemblies passed laws to keep blacks in an inferior position. Such laws
were called "Black Codes." "Federal bayonets" might have made the blacks
free, but the ruling whites intended them to remain unskilled, uneducated
and landless, with no legal protection or rights of their own.
Black Codes refused blacks the vote, said that they could not serve on
juries, forbade them to give evidence in court against a white man. In
Mississippi blacks were not allowed to buy or to rent farm land. In
Louisiana they had to agree to work for one employer for a whole year and
could be imprisoned and made to do forced labor if they refused. With no
land, no money and no protection from the law, it was almost as if blacks
were still slaves.
In 1865 the Chicago Tribune newspaper warned southerners of the
growing anger in the North about the Black Codes:
"We tell the white men of Mississippi that the men of the North will
convert the State of Mississippi into a frog pond before they will allow such
laws to disgrace one foot of soil in which the bones of our soldiers sleep and
over which the flag of freedom waves."
The feelings of the Chicago Tribune were shared by many members of
the United States Congress. A group there called Radical Republicans
believed that the most important reason for fighting the Civil War had been
to free the blacks. Having won the war, they were determined that neither
they nor the blacks were now going to be cheated. They said that President
Johnson was treating the defeated white southerners too kindly and that the
southerners were taking advantage of this.
In July 1866, despite opposition from the President, the Congress
passed the Civil Rights Act. It also set up an organization called the
Freedmen's Bureau. Both these measures were intended to ensure that blacks
in the South were not cheated of their rights. The Congress then introduced
the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The 14th Amendment gave blacks
full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote.
All the former Confederate states except Tennessee refused to accept
the 14th Amendment. In March 1867, the Congress replied by passing the
Reconstruction Act. This dismissed the white governments of the southern
states and placed them under military rule. They were told that they could
again have elected governments when they accepted the 14th Amendment
and gave all black men the vote.
People all over the country held different ideas about reconstruction.
This was especially true in the South. Opinions there were divided not only
between blacks and whites but also among people of different political
views. All of these groups had an important impact on reconstruction after
Most of the blacks living in the South had been slaves before the Civil
War. Afterwards, they were free, but most of them owned no land and had
no money. Few could read or write. They hoped that reconstruction would
bring them land and the chance for education. These freedmen wanted to be
able to vote and hold office in order to have an equal place in southern life.
Under the Reconstruction Acts, black people were allowed to vote for the
new state governments. To protect their interests, blacks generally supported
the Republicans. Blacks did more than vote, however. Many blacks were
elected to public office after the war. But they never really directed
reconstruction in the South.
By 1870 all the southern states had new "Reconstruction"
governments. Most were made up of blacks, a few white southerners who
were willing to work with them and white men from the North.
The newly arrived northerners were referred to by southerners who
opposed them as "carpetbaggers." The name came from the large, cheap
bags made of carpeting material in which some of the northerners carried
their belongings. Any white southerners who cooperated with the
carpetbaggers were referred to with contempt as "scalawags." The word
"scalawag" still means scoundrel, or rogue, in the English language today.
Most white southerners supported the Democratic political party.
These southern Democrats claimed that the Reconstruction governments
were incompetent and dishonest. There was some truth in this claim. Many
of the new black members of the state assemblies were inexperienced and
poorly educated. Some carpetbaggers were thieves. In Louisiana, for
example, one carpetbagger official was accused of stealing 100,000 dollars
from state funds in his first year of office.
But Reconstruction governments also contained honest men who tried
to improve the South. They passed laws to provide care for orphans and the
blind, to encourage new industries and the building of railroads, and to build
schools for both white and black children.
None of these improvements stopped southern whites from hating
Reconstruction. This was not because of the incompetence or dishonesty of
its governments. It was because Reconstruction aimed to give blacks the
same rights that whites had. Southern whites were determined to prevent
this. They organized terrorist groups to make white men the masters once
more. The main aim of these groups was to threaten and frighten black
people and prevent them from claiming their rights.
The largest and most feared terrorist group was a secret society called
the Ku Klux Klan. Its members dressed themselves in white sheets and wore
hoods to hide their faces. They rode by night through the southern
countryside, beating and killing any blacks who tried to improve their
position. Their sign was a burning wooden cross, which they placed outside
the homes of their intended victims.
This use of violence and fear helped white racists to win back control
of state governments all over the South. By 1876 Republican supporters of
Reconstruction held power in only three southern states. When Congress
withdrew federal troops from the South in 1877, white Democrats won
control of these, too. By the end of Reconstruction, the South was once
more a part of the Union. Blacks had lost many of their newly gained
political rights. The South had restored its economy. It had begun to
industrialize, although agriculture was still important. Blacks, though legally
free, were still workers tied to the land. Reconstruction was over.
From this time onwards southern blacks were treated more and more
as "second class citizens"-that is, they were not given equal treatment under
the law. Most serious of all, they were robbed of their right to vote. Some
southern states prevented blacks from voting by saying that only people who
paid a tax on voters - a poll tax-could do so. They then made the tax so
high that most blacks could not afford to pay it. If blacks did try to pay, the
tax collectors often refused to take their money. "Grandfather clauses" were
also widely used to prevent blacks from voting. These clauses, or rules,
allowed the vote only to people whose grandfathers had been qualified to
vote in 1865. Most blacks had only obtained the vote in 1866 so the
grandfather clauses automatically took away their voting rights.
The effects of grandfather clauses could be seen in the state of
Louisiana. Before 1898 it had 164,088 white voters and 130,344 black
voters. After Louisiana introduced a grandfather clause it still had 125,437
white voters, but only 5,320 black ones.
Once blacks lost the vote, taking away their other rights became easy.
All the southern states passed laws to enforce strict racial separation, or
"segregation". Segregation was enforced on trains, in parks, in schools, in
restaurants, in theaters and swimming pools – even in cemeteries! Any black
who dared to break these segregation laws was likely to end up either in
prison or dead. In the 1890s an average of 150 blacks a year were killed
illegally-"lynched"-by white mobs. It seemed that the improvements the
Civil War and Reconstruction had brought black people were lost for ever.
But Reconstruction had not been for nothing. It had been the boldest
attempt so far to achieve racial justice in the United States. The 14th
Amendment was especially important. It was the foundation of the Civil
Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and made it possible for Martin
Luther King to cry out eventually on behalf of all black Americans: "Free at
last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
1. How was president Lincoln assassinated?
2. Who succeeded Abraham Lincoln as president?
3. Did Lincoln blame all people of the South for the war? Whom
did he intend to punish?
4. What was the requirement that former Confederate states had to
meet to be accepted back to the Union?
5. How did white Southerners resist the changes?
6. Which political party did most white Southerners support?
7. Why did Southerners claim many Reconstruction governments to
be corrupt and dishonest?
8. How did members of the Ku-Klux-Klan fight for the supremacy
of white Southerners?
9. When was the 14th Amendment passed by the Congress? What
changes did it introduce?
10. Why did former black slaves lose most of their newly obtained
rights by the end of the Reconstruction?
MINERS, RAILROADS AND CATTLEMEN
In January, 1848
a group of workmen
was building a sawmill
beside a stream in
California for a pioneer
and landowner named
John Sutter. One day a
foreman in charge of
the workers James
Wilson Marshall found
pieces of shiny metal.
Marshall quietly brought what he found to Sutter, and the two of them
privately tested the findings. The tests showed Marshall's particles to be
gold. Sutter was dismayed by this, and wanted to keep the news quiet
because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire
if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to
By the middle of the summer a gold rush had begun. With the news of
gold, many families trying their luck at Californian farming decided to go
for the gold, becoming some of California’s first miners. Early gold-seekers,
called "forty-niners," (as a reference to 1849) traveled to California by
sailing boat and in covered wagons across the continent, often facing
substantial hardships on the trip. From the East Coast, a sailing voyage
around the tip of South America would take five to eight months, and cover
33,000 km. Many gold-seekers took the overland route across the
continental United States, particularly along the California Trail. Each of
these routes had its own deadly hazards, from shipwreck to typhoid fever
A person could work for six months in the goldfields and find the
equivalent of six years' wages back home, which attracted people of all
types and ethnicities including single men and women, families, and married
men. Some hoped to get rich quick and return home, and others wished to
start businesses in California. It is estimated that almost 90,000 people
arrived in California in 1849 – about half by land and half by sea. Of these,
perhaps 50,000 to 60,000 were Americans, and the rest were from other
countries. By 1855, it is estimated at least 300,000 gold-seekers, merchants,
and other immigrants had arrived in California from around the world.
Approximately 150,000 arrived by sea while the remaining 150,000 arrived
In the next 20 years gold discoveries attracted fortune-seekers to other
parts of the far West. By the late 1850s they were mining in the mountains
of Nevada and Colorado, by the 1860s they had moved into Montana and
Wyoming and by the 1870s they were digging in the Black Hills of the
The effects of the Gold Rush were substantial. First mining settlements
were just untidy collections of tents and huts, but later some of them grew
larger into permanent communities. San Francisco grew from a small
settlement to a boomtown, and roads, churches, schools and other towns
were built throughout California. The business of agriculture, California's
next major growth field, was started on a wide scale throughout the state. A
system of laws and a government were created, leading to the admission of
California as a free state in 1850 (as part of the Compromise of 1850).
However, the Gold Rush also had negative effects: Native Americans were
attacked and pushed off traditional lands, and gold mining caused
Thousands of miles separated
western mining settlements from the rest
of the United States. At the end of the
Civil War in 1865 settlements in the
East stopped a little to the west of the
Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Beyond
these last farms, thousands of miles of
flat land covered with tall grass
stretched west to the foothills of the
Rocky Mountains. Early travelers who
passed through this region described it
as a “sea of grass”, for hardly any trees
or bushes grew there. Geographers call
these grasslands the Great Plains, or the
Prairies, of North America. In the 1840s and 1850s thousands of settlers
crossed the Great Plains to reach the farms of Oregon and the gold fields of
California. To them this region was not somewhere to settle and make new
homes but a place to pass through as quickly as possible. They saw it as
dangerous and unwelcoming and were happy to leave it to the Amerindians.
Yet within twenty-five years of the end of the Civil War, practically all of
the Great Plans had been divided into states and territories. By 1890 the
separate areas of settlement on the Pacific Coast and along the Mississippi
River had moved together. The frontier, that moving boundary of white
settlement, had disappeared.
Settlement was stimulated by the Homestead Act of 1862 which
granted free farms of 160 acres (65 hectares) to citizens who would occupy
and improve the land. Any head of a family who was at least twenty one
years of age and an American citizen could claim a homestead. So could
immigrants who claimed to become US citizens. All that homesteaders had
to do was to pay a nominal filing fee, move onto a piece of public land, live
on it for five years and the land became theirs. If a family wanted to own its
homestead more quickly than this it could buy the land after only six months
for a very low price of $1.25 an acre. The Homestead Act led to the
distribution of 80 million acres of public land by 1900.
An important part in “closing” of the frontier was played by railroads.
During the Civil War Congress had become anxious to join the gold-rich
settlements along the Pacific Coast more closely to the rest of the United
States. In 1862 it granted land and money to the Union Pacific Railroad
Company to build a railroad west from the Mississippi towards the Pacific.
At the same time it gave a similar grant to the Central Pacific Railroad
Company to build eastwards from California. The whole country watched
with growing excitement as the two lines gradually approached one another.
Both moved forward as fast as they could, for the grants of land and money
that each company received from the government depended upon how many
miles of railroad track it built. Finally, on May 10, 1869 the Central Pacific
and the Union Pacific lines met at Promontory Point in Utah. The first
railroad across the North American Continent was completed. Soon it was
joined by others. By 1884 four more major lines had crossed the continent to
link the Mississippi Valley with the Pacific Coast. These transcontinental
railroads reduced the time that it took to travel across the United States from
weeks to days.
As the railroads pushed west, enterprising cattle ranchers in Texas saw
a way to make money. They began to drive their longhorn cattle north
across the open public land, and used the new railroads to transport them to
eastern cities where buyers were hungry for meat. Feeding as they went, the
cattle arrived at railway shipping points in Kansas larger and fatter than
when they started. Soon, this “long drive” became a regular event, the cattle
traveled along regular routes called “trails”. Cattle-raising spread into other
western territories, many cities flourished as centers for the slaughter and
dressing of meat. Very soon meat from the Great Plains was feeding people
in Europe as well as the eastern United States. By 1881 more than 110
million pounds of American beef was shipped across the Atlantic Ocean
every year. The grass of the Great Plains was earning the US as much
money as the gold mines of its western mountains.
Ranching introduced a colorful mode of existence with the picturesque
cowboy as its central figure. Although the reality of a cowboy life was far
from romantic, its mythological hold on the American imagination has
remained strong. The cowboy was hero, outlaw, gunslinger, and even poet
of the plains. The man himself, the clothes he wore, and the horse he rode
were all outgrowths of life on the range. The long days in the open, riding
alone with the cattle, gave him self-reliance. The danger of stampeding
cattle, of undependable horses, of hostile Indians, and of bitter winter
blizzards demanded endurance and courage. The whole job of driving,
roping, and handling cattle required expert horsemanship. The cowboy’s life
was one of exhausting work, poor food and low pay. But to many young
men it seemed free and exciting. Many cowboys were former Confederate
soldiers who had moved west after the Civil War. Some were black ex-
slaves from southern plantations. Others were boys from farms in the east
who wanted a life with more adventure than farming could offer them.
1. When and how was gold discovered in the USA?
2. Why did John Sutter want to keep this news secret?
3. Who are “forty-niners”? Why are they called so?
4. The first Gold Rush took place in California. What were other
territories that later attracted gold-seekers?
5. What were the effects of the Gold Rush? Did the discovery of
gold influence the development of California?
6. How did the settlement of the Great Plains begin? Was it
encouraged by the government?
7. When was the first railroad across the North American Continent
built? Why did the railroad companies try to work as fast as they could?
8. How did the development of transportation help Texas cattle
ranchers to make money?
9. Was American beef exported to Europe?
10. What do we learn about the life of American cowboys?
THE AGE OF BIG BUSINESS
In 1860 there were 31.5 million people in the United States. By 1900,
the population had grown to 76 million people. A large part of this came
from immigration. Between 1860 and 1900, 14 million immigrants entered
the country. They brought their customs, languages, and religions to the
already changing nation.
The story of the American people is a story of immigrants. More than
75 percent of all the people in history who have ever left their homelands to
live in another country have moved to the United States. In the course of its
history it has taken in more people from other lands than any other country
in the world. Since the founding of Jamestown in 1607 more than 50 million
people from other lands have made new homes there. Immigration was
encouraged when people were needed – to settle the newly annexed lands of
the Northwest Territories, to help build canals and railroads, and to serve as
soldiers in the Union armies. The new immigrants were usually poor and
found themselves on the bottom of the social and economic scale.
Between 1840 and 1880 more immigrants than ever before arrived.
Most came from northwestern Europe. Poor crops, hunger and political
unrest cause many Europeans to leave the lands of their birth at this time.
More of them went to the United States than to any other country. This
movement was known as the “old” immigration, because these people came
from the same areas as the earlier immigrants. The largest group – nearly 3.5
million came from Germany. Around 1.4 million people came from
Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Almost
2 million people arrived from Great Britain and nearly the same number
from Ireland (the Irish potato famine of 1845-1849 and death of 750,000
people contributed to mass migration of the Irish).
Beginning around 1880, patterns of immigration began to change.
More and more people entered the country from southern and eastern
Europe, they came from Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Poland, the Baltic
countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, the Balkan countries of
Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. This movement was known as the
“new” immigration, because up to that time few people from these areas had
come to the United States. Between 1880 and 1900, about 100,000 “new”
immigrants came to the United States each year. From 1900 to 1914, the
numbers generally reached 500,000 a year. Large numbers of “new”
immigrants moved into the cities of the northeastern United States. They
often sought jobs that had been advertised in Europe by American
businesses. Most of these immigrants were unskilled laborers. Some took
jobs with steel manufacturers or the railroads, others worked in the coal
mines or in the garment industry. They tended to live among people from
their own country who shared a common religion, customs, and language.
Many Jewish people came to the Unites States at this time. In 1880s
Jews were being killed all over eastern Europe in bloody massacres called
“pogroms”. Many thousands escaped by leaving for the Unites States,
between 1880 and 1925 about 2 million Jews entered the country.
The first large group of people from China entered the United States in
1849 during the California Gold Rush. In the 1860s, Chinese workers played
an important part in building the Central Pacific Railroad. More Chinese
came in the 1870s. Many moved into the mining areas of the west. Some set
up businesses in California, Nevada, and other western states.
So many immigrants wanted to enter the United States in the late
1880s that the government found it difficult to keep check on them. To
control the situation it opened a special place of entry in New York harbor.
This place was called Ellis Island and all intending immigrants were
examined there before they were allowed to enter the United States. During
its busiest times this federal immigration center dealt with almost 2,000
immigrants a day. Between 1892, when it was opened, and 1954, when it
closed its doors, more than 20 million people waited anxiously in its halls
and corridors. Immigration officers asked these people questions to find out
if they were criminals or mentally abnormal. Doctors examined them for
diseases. A letter chalked on their clothing – H for heart disease or E for eye
disease – could end their hopes of a new life in America.
Many people born in the United States became alarmed at the large
numbers of immigrants entering the country. They often looked at the new
immigrants with fear and hostility. They were disturbed because many of
the immigrants had little education and that is why could not take part in
democracy. They accused immigrants of taking jobs away from American-
born workers, of lowering standards of health and education, and of
threatening the country’s traditions by brining in “un-American” political
ideas like communism and anarchism. Some people in the East did not like
the fact that many of the newcomers were Catholic or Jewish. In the West,
there had been opposition to Asian immigrants for some time. Their
language, appearance, and customs were unfamiliar to most Americans.
Chinese workers had been brought to California to build the railroads. The
fact that Chinese laborers were willing to work for less pay caused
American workers to dislike them. Chinese communities in the West were
attacked and their buildings were burnt down. In certain areas of the West,
local laws were passed against the Chinese. They could not hold certain jobs
or marry whites. They were usually forced to live in certain parts of cities.
In 1882 the strength of anti-Chinese feeling caused Congress to ban
most Chinese immigration. Japanese and other Asian immigrants were
refused entry as well and by 1924 no Asian immigrants were permitted into
the United States.
In 1920s Congress passed laws to limit all kinds of immigration. The
one which had most effect was the Reed-Johnson Immigration Act of 1924.
This law was an answer to the fears of Americans who were descendants of
earlier north European immigrants. It said that in the future no more than
150,000 immigrants a year would be let into the United States. Each country
which sent immigrants was given a “quota” which was based on the number
of its people already living in the United States. The more it had there
already, the more new immigrants it would be allowed to send. This system
was designed mainly to reduce immigration from southern and eastern
Europe and Asian countries. The 1924 Immigration Act marked the end of
one of the most important population movements in the history of the world.
The United States entered a period of great change after the Civil War.
The years from 1860 to 1900 witnessed a dramatic industrial growth of the
country. The progress of industrialization, which had begun in the 1820s,
speeded up after the Civil War. The number and size of businesses
increased. By 1900 certain large industries were so important to the
American economy that this period became known as the “Age of Big
Business”. America became, in the quantity and value of its products, the
leading manufacturing nation in the world. Many factors contributed to this
dramatic industrial growth. The United States had an abundance of basic
raw materials and energy sources. There was a large supply of labor, the
result of two great migrations: the movement of American farmers into the
cities and the movement of European peasants across the ocean to American
industrial centers. American industry benefited as well from a remarkable
technological inventiveness – “Yankee ingenuity” – which created the
necessary machinery for industrial growth. An energetic and ambitious
group of entrepreneurs developed new financial and administrative
structures capable of organizing large-scale production and distributing
manufactured goods to a national market. And finally, the federal
government worked to promote national growth.
The United States had an abundance of natural resources. Some of
them were needed for industrial growth. Coal and iron were the most
important raw materials in the 19th century. Americans discovered vast
deposits of both in the 1880s and 1890s. Large coal deposits were found in
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and several other states. At
the western end of Lake Superior the Great Mesabi iron deposits were
discovered in 1887 and soon the Mesabi became one of the largest
producers of iron ore in the world. The ore lay close to the surface of the
ground in horizontal bands up to 500 feet thick. It was cheap, easy to mine,
and free of chemical impurities. Before long Mesabi ore was being
processed into high quality steel at only one tenth of the previous cost.
Another rich source of iron ore was discovered around Birmingham,
Alabama. By 1900 ten times more coal was produced by the United States
than in 1860 and the output of iron ore was twenty times higher. These
increases were both a cause and a result of a rapid growth of American
manufacturing industries in these years.
Another resource necessary to the growth of Big Business was labor.
Between 1860 and 1900, the population of the country grew rapidly.
Because of this, the number of people seeking jobs grew as well. Former
slaves were among those who joined the free labor market. Some southern
blacks began to seek jobs in cities. Immigrants were another source of labor
during these years. They came to work in the clothing industry, on the
railroads, and in the steel mills.
New inventions also helped business to grow. Americans have always
been proud of their ability to find practical solutions to practical problems.
During the 19th century they developed thousands of products to make life
easier, safer or more enjoyable. In the last decades of the 19th century
inventions appeared at a dizzying pace. Many of them were in the field of
communication. In 1866 Cyrus W. Field succeeded in laying a transatlantic
telegraph cable. In 1867 a typewriter was developed by Christopher Sholes.
In 1876 the telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell, was introduced
in Philadelphia; and by the 1890s the American Telephone and Telegraph
Company had installed nearly half a million telephones in American cities.
Thomas Edison made some major improvements on the telegraph. Soon
telegraph lines reached every part of the country and were used by business
to carry out widespread operations. Thomas Edison also made other
contributions. In 1879 he introduced the first practical light bulb. A short
time later, he invented a dynamo to generate electricity. Then, in 1882,
Edison set up the first central power plant in New York City. Electricity
soon became an important source of power for homes, offices, and industry.
Another important technological breakthrough was the development of steel.
In the late 1850s Henry Bessemer of England and William Kelly of the
United States separately discovered a new way to make steel from iron ore.
This process made it possible to make more steel at less cost, and the steel
industry grew rapidly.
Meanwhile, in the United States, inventors such as Charles and Frank
Duryea, Elwood Haynes, and Henry Ford were designing their own
automobiles. The Duryeas built and operated the first gasoline-driven motor
vehicle in America in 1903. Three years later, Ford produced the first of the
famous cars that would bear his name. His idea was to start assembling
automobiles from exactly the same parts and he tried it out with an
automobile called Model T. The use of identical parts in manufacturing is
called standardization. Ford added it to the idea of a moving assembly line.
In 1913 Ford started to use assembly line methods to make the complete
Model T. As the cars moved along on a conveyer, dozens of workmen each
carried out a single operation. By the time a car reached the end of the line it
was complete. Making a car in this new way took 1 hour and 33 minutes.
Previously it had taken 12 hours and 28 minutes. By 1900 automobile
companies were turning out more than 4,000 cars a year. A decade later –
when manufacturers were finally able to streamline operations so as to bring
the cost down, and when American roads began to be improved – the
industry had become a major force in the economy, and the automobile
began to reshape American social and cultural life. In 1895 there had been
only four automobiles on the American highways. By 1917 there were
nearly 5 million. By combining standardization and assembly line Ford
showed manufacturers how to produce goods cheaply and in large
quantities. Because of this he is seen as the father of the 20th century mass
The first American companies to grow to a large size were the
railroads. They served as a model for the development and organization of
Big Business. The railroads were the first to develop ways of raising the
money needed to run a large scale business and ways to manage large
companies. From 1860 to 1900 the railroad network grew rapidly.
Railroads were built in every area of the United States. They linked together
buyers and sellers all over the country.
Oil refining was one industry that developed the same kind of large-
scale operations as the railroads. At the end of the Civil War, John D.
Rockefeller set up a refinery in Cleveland, Ohio. As a result of the oil boom
in Pennsylvania, many people were building refineries and his company was
one of 30 in Cleveland. In 1867 he formed the Standard Oil Company.
Within a few years Standard Oil owned most of the other refineries in
Cleveland as well as some in other cities. To cut costs, Standard Oil made
its own barrels, built its own warehouses, and had its own network of
pipelines. To save even more money, Rockefeller made deals with the
railroads that shipped oil products to market and asked for lower rates.
Because Standard Oil made and shipped its products for less, it was able to
sell them for less. Smaller companies could not compete, and most of them
sold out to Rockefeller. Others were driven out of business. Before long,
Rockefeller controlled 90 per cent of the oil refining business in the United
States and served as the leading symbol of monopoly.
The steel industry also grew to become part of Big Business. One of
the most important leaders in this industry was Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie
was a Scottish immigrant who came to America at the age of thirteen and
began his life working for one dollar twenty cents a week in a Pittsburgh
cotton mill. From there he moved to a job in a telegraph office, then to the
one on the Pennsylvania Railroad. By the time he was thirty he already had
an income of over forty thousand dollars a year from far-sighted
investments. Carnegie concentrated his investments in the iron and steel
business. By the 1860s he controlled companies making bridges, rails, and
locomotives for the railroads. In the 1870s he built the biggest steel mill in
America on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. He also bought coal
and iron ore mines, a fleet of steamships to carry ore across the Great Lakes
from Mesabi to a port he owned on Lake Erie, and a railroad to connect the
port to his steel works in Pennsylvania. Because of these actions, Carnegie’s
costs were low, and he could sell his steel for less. Other companies could
not compete, and Carnegie soon controlled the industry.
The meat-parking industry, too, was changing. Before the 1860s, cattle
had been shipped by rail to cities around the country. There they were
slaughtered and sold. Some business leaders felt that costs could be cut if
the animals were slaughtered near where they were raised. Then the meat,
rather than the whole animal, could be shipped to the cities. To do this,
however, a way of preserving the meat during shipment had to be found.
This problem was solved in the 1870s when the refrigerator railroad car was
introduced. Gustavus Swift owned a meat-packing company in Chicago. He
built a large slaughter house and storage centers in some eastern cities.
Animals were shipped to Chicago to be slaughtered. The meat was then
moved east in the refrigerator cars. Before long, other companies followed
Swift. The leading meat-packing companies soon controlled the industry.
The growth of Big Business led to the further development of certain
forms of business organization. Most small businesses were started with
money from one person’s savings. However, large business needed millions
of dollars. To solve this problem, corporations (groups of investors who buy
shares of stock in a company) were formed. As they grew bigger and more
powerful, they often became “trusts”. By the early 20th century, trusts
controlled large parts of American industry. The biggest trusts were richer
than most nations. By their wealth and power they controlled the lives of
millions of people.
By 1900 the United States was the richest and the most productive
industrial country in the world. About 20 million of its 74 million people
earned their living from jobs in industry. And although the economy was
booming and prosperity was spreading, up to a half of all industrial workers
still lived in poverty. New York, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco could
now boast of impressive museums, universities, public libraries – and
crowded slums. Industrial workers labored from dawn till dusk in factories,
mines and workshops. Wages were often low. In 1900 the average industrial
worker was paid 9 dollars for working 59 hours a week. In cotton spinning
mills the usual working week was 62 hours for wages of 10 cents an hour.
Often the work was unhealthy and dangerous. In one plant belonging to the
United States Steel Corporation 46 men were killed in 1906 – by burns,
explosions, electric shocks, suffocation, falling objects or by being crushed.
If workers were killed or injured like this, neither they nor their families
received compensation. When the owner of a coal mine was challenged
about the dangers and hardships that his workers faced, his reply was short
and cruel: “They don’t suffer,” he said. “Why, they can’t even speak
Workers tried to form trade, or labor, unions to improve the conditions
of their lives. These attempts often failed. Employers dismissed union
members and put their names on a “blacklist”. Employers were determined
to allow neither their workers nor anyone else to interfere in the way they
ran their businesses. Sometimes they persuaded politicians to send soldiers
to break up strikes or hired their own private armies of “detectives” to
control their workers.
The late 19th century was a difficult period for American farmers.
Food prices were falling, and the farmer had to bear the cost of high railroad
shipping rates, expensive mortgages, high taxes and tariffs on consumer
goods. Several national organizations were formed to defend the interests of
small farmers – the Grange in 1867, the National Farming Alliance in 1877
and the Populist Party in the 1890s. The Populists demanded the
nationalization of the railroads, a progressive income tax and monetary
But Americans were not complacent about conditions. In the early
years of the 20th century popular magazines published sensational articles
by “muckrakers” – investigative journalists who exposed shady business
practices, corruption in government and poverty in cities. In 1906 Upton
Sinclair attacked the meatpacking industry in his novel “The Jungle”. It
gave a horrifying description of life among immigrant workers in the
slaughter houses of Chicago. Middle class readers were shocked to learn
what went into their breakfast sausages. They were even more shocked
when government investigators said that what Sinclair had written was true.
The meat companies begged the government to inspect their premises in
order to convict people that their products were fit to eat. The Congress
quickly passed a new federal law meat inspection law.
People began to demand that the nation’s leaders should deal with
other scandals exposed by muckrakers. Their pressure brought about an
important change in American economic and political life. Before 1900
most Americans had believed in “laissez-faire” – the idea that governments
should interfere with business as little as possible. After 1900 many
Americans became “Progressives”, they believed that, where necessary, the
government should take action to deal with the problems of society. The
Progressive movement found a leader in the Republican Theodore
Roosevelt, who became president in 1901. One of his main beliefs was that
it was the duty of the president to use the power of the federal government
to improve conditions of life for the people – to see that the ordinary man
and woman got what he called “a square deal”. Roosevelt was particularly
concerned about the power of the trusts. He wanted to force the big railroad
companies to charge all their customers fair rates, instead of allowing large
customers like oil and meat-packing trusts to pay less than farmers and
small businessmen, so he strengthened federal regulation of the railroads
and enforced the Sherman Antitrust Act against several large corporations,
including the Standard Oil Company. In 1902, Roosevelt ended a coal strike
in Pennsylvania by threatening to send in troops – not against the workers
but against noncooperative mine owners. This was a turning point in
American industrial policy: no longer would the government automatically
side with management in labor disputes. The Roosevelt administration also
promoted conservation. Vast reserves of forest land, coal, oil, minerals and
water were served for future generations.
In 1908 Theodore Roosevelt supported William Howard Taft, his
Secretary of War, for the presidency and retired as president in 1909.
Roosevelt tried to regain the position in 1912 but was defeated in the
presidential election by Woodrow Wilson, the candidate of the Democratic
Party. Although Roosevelt and Wilson belonged to different political
parties, some of their ideas were very similar. Woodrow, too, supported the
Progressive movement. As Governor of New Jersey he had fought
successfully to make sure that the state was run for the benefit of its people.
He had reduced bribery and corruption there, and he had introduced reforms
such as laws to give workers compensation for injuries at work. President
Wilson believed that the federal government had a responsibility to protect
small businesses against large corporations. As part of his “New Freedom”
program (1913-1917) he reduced customs duties to encourage trade between
the USA and other countries, reformed the banking system and introduced a
system of federal taxes on high incomes. He toughened antitrust laws
against huge corporate mergers and created the Federal Trade Commission
to police unfair business competition. Wilson also passed laws restricting
child labor, granting low-cost loans to farmers, and setting a maximum
eight-hour working day for rail-road workers. Although not all of Wilson’s
plans of reform were accepted, the Progressive movement changed and
improved American life in many ways.
1. Why is it said that the story of American people is a story of
2. What is the “old” immigration?
3. How did the patterns of immigration change in 1880s?
4. What industries gave jobs to newcomers?
5. What was done by the US government to keep the situation
under control in the 1880s when too many people wanted to move to
6. Why did American-born people often look at the new immigrants
with fear and hostility?
7. What actions were taken by the Congress to limit immigration?
8. What were the factors that contributed to the dramatic industrial
growth of the US?
9. What were the most important raw materials of the 19th century?
Speak about the Mesabi iron deposits.
10. What were the sources of labor force in the late 19th century?
11. What are the examples of “Yankee ingenuity”?
12. What do we learn about John D. Rockefeller and the Standard
13. What do we learn about Andrew Carnegie?
14. What do we learn about Gustavus Swift?
15. What were the new forms of business organization that appeared
in the US at that period of time?
16. Speak about life and work conditions of American industry
workers in the early 1900s. What was the attitude of “captains of industry”
17. What problems did American farmers face?
18. How did muckrakers’ articles change American society?
19. Why does the coalmine strike in Pennsylvania serve as the
turning point in American industrial policy?
20. What were the changes introduced by Theodore Roosevelt and
Develop the following points using the words given below.
1. The story of the American people is a story of immigrants.
to leave one’s homeland, to make new homes, to find oneself on the
the social and economic scale
2. The late 19th century was the period of heavy influx of
immigrants to the United States.
poor crops, political unrest, famine, to leave the land of one’s birth,
the “old” immigration, the “new” immigration, unskilled laborers
3. The Government opened a special place of entry for the
to keep check on smb., to be examined, immigration officer, to be
mentally abnormal, to examine for disease
4. Many Americans were alarmed at the large number of
to look at smb. with fear and hostility, to be disturbed, to accuse smb.
of smth., to threaten the country’s traditions, unfamiliar, to be willing to
work for less pay
5. The strength of anti-immigration feeling caused Congress to
limit the number of immigrants.
to ban, to laws against smth., to be let into the country, to give a
quota, to reduce immigration, to mark the end of smth.
6. Many factors contributed to the dramatic industrial growth of the
nation. abundance of raw materials, energy sources, supply of labor,
technological inventiveness, large-scale production, new forms of business
organization, to promote national growth
7. The abundance of natural resources encouraged the growth of
vast deposits of smth., to discover, iron ore, one of the largest
producers of smth., rich source of smth.
8. “Yankee ingenuity” also helped business to grow.
to find practical solutions to practical problems, to appear at a
dizzying pace, to be introduced, to make major improvements on smth., to
make a contribution, important source of power
9. John D. Rockefeller was the king of the growing oil industry.
to set up a refinery, to cut costs, to make deals with smb., lower rates,
to compete, to drive out of business, the leading symbol of monopoly
10. Andrew Carnegie and Gustavus Swift were some of the best
known “captains of industry”.
far-sighted investments, to control the industry, to sell smth. for less, to
compete, to cut the costs, to ship, meat-packing company, slaughter house,
storage center, refrigerator car
THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
Until the 1880's and 1890's the American people paid attention mostly
to what was going on at home and showed little interest in other lands. With
the exception of the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, American
territorial expansion had come to a virtual standstill in 1848, when the USA
gained control of California and the Southwest in the Mexican War. But by
the end of the 1800's Americans were looking overseas. As many European
nations were expanding their colonial empires, a new spirit entered
American foreign policy. Some Americans were eager to build an empire to
sell their goods around the world. Others had money they wanted to invest
in factories, railroads, mines, and farms in other lands. Others believed it
was their duty to bring Christianity to the people of other parts of the world.
Politicians, businessmen, newspapers and missionaries joined together to
claim that “the Anglo-Saxon race” – by which they meant Americans and
North Europeans – had a right and duty to bring western civilization to the
peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
American and European interests turned to the islands of the Pacific.
The United States and European countries hoped to set up bases there for
their warships. The Americans also wanted to use certain islands as
stopovers where steamships would take on coal for the long voyage from the
United States to Asia and Australia. From 1895 onwards, much of
Americans’ attention was focused upon Cuba, which lay only 90 miles from
the American coast. By the late 1800's, Cuba and Puerto Rico were all that
was left of the Spanish empire in the Western Hemisphere. Many Americans
had investments in Cuba and followed events there closely. The Cubans,
eager to be independent, had revolted in 1868. The war went on for ten
years before the Spaniards won it. In 1895 the Cubans revolted again. The
rebels raided and burned villages, sugar plantations and railroad depots. The
Spanish in Cuba made all Cubans who lived in the countryside move to
certain towns, which they could not leave. Conditions in these towns were
terrible. As many as 200,000 Cubans died from disease and starvation. Most
Americans sympathized with the Cuban rebels. The newspaper reports about
such conditions shocked many Americans and turned them more against the
The United States had by now built a modern navy, and in January
1898 the battleship Maine was sent to Havana as demonstration of American
power. On February 15, a mysterious explosion sank the Maine in Havana
harbor. More than 250 crew members died. It is not clear who or what
caused the disaster, but American newspaper headlines and many American
politicians blamed the Spaniards. The cry "Remember the Maine" was heard
everywhere. The US demanded that Spain withdraw from Cuba and started
mobilizing volunteer troops. On April 24, 1898 Spain responded by
declaring war on the United States.
The Spanish-American War was fought in two parts of the world. One
was Cuba, the other was the Philippines. The Philippines was another big
Spanish colony near the coast of Southeast Asia. It was said that President
McKinley had to search a globe to find out exactly where it was. But he saw
that the island would be useful for the United States to control. From bases
in the Philippines American soldiers and sailors would be able to protect the
growing number of American traders in China.
The first battle of the Spanish-American War was fought in the
Philippines. American warships sank a Spanish fleet that was anchored
there. A few weeks later American soldiers occupied Manila, the chief city
in the Philippines, and Spanish resistance came to an end.
American soldiers also landed in Cuba. In less than two weeks of
fighting, the Spanish were again defeated. Other American soldiers occupied
Puerto Rico, another Spanish-owned island close to Cuba. In July the
Spanish government saw it was beaten. When peace was signed, Spain gave
most of its overseas empire to the United States – Cuba, the Philippines,
Puerto Rico and a small Pacific island called Guam. At the same time the
US also annexed Hawaii, a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific
Ocean. Before this, it had been independent, but Americans owned
profitable sugar and pineapple plantations there.
The Spanish-American War greatly changed the position of the United
States in foreign affairs. In less than a year, the United States had become a
colonial power with millions of non-Americans under its rule. Some
Americans were worried by this. After all, they too had once been a colonial
people. In rebelling against British rule they claimed that colonial peoples
should be free to rule themselves. The principle of self-determination was
written in the Declaration of Independence. Filipinos who had fought for
independence from Spain were soon fighting against American occupation
troops. How could Americans fight against such people without being
unfaithful to the most important traditions and values of their own country?
Most Americans answered this question by claiming that they were
preparing undeveloped nations for civilization and democracy. They built
schools and hospitals, constructed roads, provided pure water supplies and
put an end to killer diseases like malaria and yellow fever in the lands they
now ruled. They continued to rule most of them until the middle years of the
century. The Philippines became independent in 1946. In 1953 Puerto Rico
became a self-governing commonwealth within the United States. In 1959
Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state of the Union.
Cuba was treated differently. American troops left it in 1902, but the
new republic was required to grant naval bases to the United States. The
Cubans also had to accept a condition called the Platt Amendment, this said
that the USA could sent troops to take control of Cuba any time it believed
that American interest were in danger. And it happened many times. In
1906, for example, President Roosevelt set up an American military
government in Cuba to stop the revolution. In 1912, 1917 and 1921
American marines were again sent to stop revolution in Cuba. So for years
Cuba’s independence was just a pretense.
During the Spanish-American War, the Americans found out how
useful it would be to have a canal that cut across Central America, joining
the Caribbean with the Pacific Ocean. Such a canal would allow navy ships
to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific without going all the way around
South America. With naval bases in Cuba and other Caribbean islands, the
United States felt it could protect a canal in Central America. At the time,
Panama was part of Colombia. The United States wanted a treaty with
Colombia to build the canal. They also wanted Colombia to give it a strip of
land along both sides of the canal. The US offered Colombia $10 million.
But the Colombian government thought the price was too low, they also
feared that if they gave up a strip of land along the canal route, they might
lose control over Panama. In November 1903, a group of people in Panama
who wanted the United States to build the canal staged a revolt. American
warships were sent to the area by President Roosevelt. They kept Colombian
soldiers from landing in Panama and stopping the revolt. The Republic of
Panama was declared and was recognized by the United States. Panama and
the United States signed the treaty that gave the United States the right to
build a canal for $10 million. It also gave the United States a lease on a strip
of land ten miles (16 kilometers) wide along the canal route. The treaty gave
the United States sole control of the canal area "forever." The way was clear
for the Americans to build their canal and in 1904 they began digging. The
canal opened in 1914. Although it was under the control of the United
States, ships of all countries were allowed to use it.
Getting the right to build the Panama Canal was part of President
Roosevelt's big stick diplomacy. Roosevelt liked to quote a West African
saying: "Speak softly, and carry a big stick, you will go far." The saying was
applied to his foreign policy. Roosevelt believed that the United States
should be willing to use force (a "big stick") to protect American interests.
In March 1909, William Howard Taft took office as President. He
went along with Roosevelt's policy of bringing the United States into the
affairs of other countries to protect American interests. He did, however,
change the policy in some ways. He encouraged American business people
to invest more in areas that were strategically important to the United States,
such as Latin America. To prevent European control in Latin America,
President Taft wanted American banks to guarantee the debts of Latin
American countries. Taft's foreign policy was called dollar diplomacy. He
tried to use it both in Latin America and in China. It also put Americans in
key economic positions in other countries. In this way, Americans would
have a say in other countries without using force.
American firms which established themselves in other countries often
received a mixed welcome. Their critics accused them of using their
economic power to influence foreign governments to follow policies that
serve the interests of the US rather than those of the country in which they
are working. But foreign leaders often welcomed American investment as a
way of obtaining new jobs and technology, and so of improving their
country’s living standards.
1. Why did many Americans think that they should build an empire
in the late 19th century?
2. Why did both American and European interests turn to the
3. How did Spanish rulers treat Cubans?
4. What happened to the Maine warship?
5. When did Spain declare war on the US? What was the reason for
6. How did Spanish rule in the Pacific come to an end?
7. What were the provisions of Peace treaty between Spain and the
8. Why did many Americans see the rule of their country over other
as the betrayal of American values?
9. How did the US gain control of the area for building the Panama
10. What is “Dollar diplomacy”?
AMERICA IN WORLD WAR I
In August 1914 World War
I started in Europe. It was the
beginning of a struggle that
lasted for more than 4 years,
brought death to millions of
people and changed the history
of the world. The main countries
fighting in World War I were, on
one side, France, Great Britain
and Russia, known as the Allies.
On the other side the main
countries were Germany and
Austria, who were called the
At first the war was fought
only in Europe, but it soon
spread all over the world. The
United States found it had to
decide whether or not to join the
fighting. When President Wilson
said that they should be A poster recruiting soldiers to fight
“impartial in thought as well as for "Uncle Sam."
in action”, that was hard for
many people to do. In the first days of the war the German government sent
its armies marching into neutral Belgium. Americans were shocked when
newspapers printed reports (often false or exaggerated) of German cruelty
towards Belgian civilians. There was much support in the United States for
the Allies. Many Americans of British background sided with Great Britain.
Other Americans reminded the people of the close ties between the United
States and France since the American Revolution. At the same time, many
Americans of German heritage sided with Germany. They felt it had been
forced into the war by Russia and France. Still other Americans of Irish
background did not like the British and were against American aid to Great
Britain. And those Americans who had come from Austria-Hungary and the
Balkan countries most often supported their former homelands.
As the war went on, the countries fighting in it found they needed
more food and clothing than they could make. They turned to the United
States for these and other goods. This led to a sharp rise in American
production of wheat, cotton, minerals, food, and munitions, or war
materials. Because the United States was neutral, it had the right under
international law to trade everything but weapons and other munitions with
whomever it wanted. But the British navy blockaded the Central Powers,
which cut off much of the American trade with them. As a result, most of
the American trade was with the Allies. War loans were another link
between the United States and the Allies. In September 1915 President
Wilson agreed to allow Americans to make private loans to the countries at
war. By April 1917 $2.3 billion had been loaned to the Allies and only $20
million to the Central Powers.
German leaders were determined to stop the flow of armaments to
their enemies. They announced in February 1915, that the water around the
British Isles was a war zone. All enemy ships that entered the area would be
sunk on sight. On May 7, 1915, a big British passenger ship called the
Lusitania was hit by a torpedo from a German submarine. As the ship sank,
nearly 1,200 people died, 128 of them were Americans. People in the United
States were shocked and angered by the sinking. They paid no attention to
the German charge that the Lusitania was carrying arms and munitions.
President Wilson reacted by sending a strong protest. For a time the
Germans stopped the submarine attacks.
In autumn 1916 American voters reelected Wilson as president,
mainly because he had kept them out of the war. After the election, Wilson
tried to get the Allied Powers and the Central Powers to talk about peace. He
appealed to the fighting nations to settle their differences and to make “a
peace without victory”. But his efforts failed because each side was sure it
was going to win the war before long.
As pressure in the United States grew, Wilson and the Congress tried
to keep the country neutral. Then in March 1917, the Germans sank five
American merchant ships. This again violated international law. On April 2,
1917, President Wilson asked the Congress for a declaration of war on
Germany. On December 7, 1917 the United States also declared a war on
Austria-Hungary. Wilson’s aim was not simply to defeat the enemies. He
saw the war as a great crusade to ensure the future peace of the world.
The war that the US entered in 1917 was different from any war in
which Americans had fought in the past. Such weapons as machine guns,
huge cannons, poison gas, and airplanes that carried bombs were being used
in greater numbers than ever before. Battles were fought by thousands of
soldiers at one time. People and industries had to organize to supply
American soldiers fighting in Europe.
Thousands of Americans left their jobs to join the military. Large
numbers of people began to leave their homes in one part of the country to
seek better jobs. When the war was declared, the American army was a
small force of 200,000 soldiers. Millions of men had to be drafted, trained,
equipped and shipped across the ocean to Europe. In June 1917, the first
American soldiers arrived in France. Called the American Expeditionary
Force, they were led by General John Pershing. At first, Americans were
used only in small units and as replacements for some French and British
soldiers. In the spring of 1918, the Germans launched a last desperate
offensive, hoping to reach Paris before the American army was ready to
fight. But a few American divisions were available to assist the French and
the British in repelling the attack. By autumn, Germany’s position was
hopeless. The German armies were driven back towards their own frontiers.
In October the German government asked for peace. On November 11,
1918, Germans and Allied leaders signed an armistice, an agreement to stop
President Wilson always insisted that the United States was fighting
World War I not against the German people but against their warlike
leaders. In January 1918, long before the war was over, he outlined his ideas
for a just and lasting peace in a speech to the US Senate. These ideas were
called the Fourteen Points. Among other things, the Fourteen Points called
for open diplomacy, freedom of the seas, free international trade,
disarmament and a just settlement of colonial disputes. The map of Europe
would be redrawn to establish independent states for every national group,
and the League of Nations would be organized to protect the peace. A great
many Americans believed Wilson's plan was a good one. The German
government agreed with them. The Germans thought the Fourteen Points
would serve as the base for the final peace treaty.
On November 18, 1918, President Wilson announced that he and his
advisors planned to go to Paris. There they would take part in the conference
that would prepare the treaty ending the war. In Paris, Wilson met the
leaders of the three major Allied powers. They made it clear that they had
come to punish Germany. They refused to accept Wilson's Fourteen Points
as the base for peace. Despite Wilson’s protests, the Allies imposed crushing
reparations on Germany and divided its colonies among themselves. After
much talk, however, they agreed to make Wilson's League of Nations a part
of the final treaty. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.
Though Wilson succeeded in establishing the League of Nations,
many Americans feared that such a world organization might drag the US
into another foreign war. They thought this would upset American foreign
policy. Many Senators were angry because President Wilson had not talked
to Senate leaders before the treaty was drawn up. They wanted some
changes made in the treaty. President Wilson refused. After another trip to
Europe he returned to America, tired and ill. But he boarded a special train
and set off on a speaking tour of the western US to plead for the League.
The tour was never completed. On September 25, 1919, the exhausted
Wilson suffered a severe stroke from which he never fully recovered. In
March 1920 the Senate voted against the United States joining the League of
Nations, and the idea was dropped. As a result, the League of Nations,
without the presence of the United States or Russia, remained a weak
World War I marked the end of the United States staying out of affairs
in Europe. But the final results of the war upset many Americans. They had
gone to war with high ideals, hoping to make the world a better place in
which to live. But the peace treaty showed them that the warring nations had
not changed their ways. Because of this, Americans wanted to turn again
toward a policy of noninvolvement.
1. What were the main countries fighting in World War I?
2. Why was it difficult for Americans to remain neutral during the
3. What helped the US increase its production of wheat, cotton,
food, etc. during the war period?
4. Why did the US enter World War I on the side of the Allies?
5. How did World War I differ from all the wars Americans had
6. When did first American troops arrive in Europe?
7. When was the armistice between Germany and the Allies signed?
8. What were the ideas expressed by President Wilson in the
9. Why did the leaders of the Allied powers refuse to take Wilson’s
Fourteen points as the base for the Treaty of Versailles?
10. Did Americans support Wilson’s idea of establishing the League
AMERICA IN THE 1920-S
World War I brought about many changes in American ways of
thinking and ways of life. The majority of Americans did not mourn the
defeated treaty as they had grown disillusioned with the results of the war.
After 1920, the US turned inward and withdrew from European affairs. It
also made some Americans suspicious of and hostile toward foreigners. Part
of the intolerance of the 1920s grew out of a fear of communism. In 1919, a
series of terrorist bombing produced what became known as the “Red
Scare”. People who criticized the way American society was organized
risked being accused of disloyalty. Under the authority of Attorney General
A. Mitchell Palmer, raids of political meetings were conducted, arrests were
made and about 500 foreign-born political radicals – anarchists, socialists
and communists – were deported, although most of them were innocent of
any crime. Other groups such as Jews, Catholics and blacks also were the
targets of prejudice in the 1920s. The Ku Klux Klan, revived in 1915,
attracted millions of followers.
The growth of intolerance and fear led to a new immigration policy. In
1921, the Congress passed a law which set up a quota for people who
wanted to move to the United States. It limited the number of new
immigrants from any country to 3 percent of the number from that country
who had been living in the United States in 1910. These restrictions favored
immigrants from Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia, and Germany. Small quotas
were reserved for eastern and southern Europeans, none at all for Asians.
For many Americans, the 1920s became years of prosperity. The end
of the war brought an end to government restrictions on business. It also
brought a move away from regulations such as those of the Progressive Era.
Business people pushed hard for free enterprise. They worked mostly
through the Republican Party. All three Presidents who held office in the
1920s were Republicans and supported the ideas of the business leaders.
In the election of 1920, the Republican Party nominated Warren G.
Harding for president. He promised the voters a return to “normalcy” and
won a landslide victory. After years of reform, high taxes and war the
majority of Americans voted for a candidate who seemed to embody old-
fashioned American values. This election was also the first in which women
throughout the nation voted for a presidential candidate. In 1920 the
Congress passed and the states ratified the Nineteenth Amendment which
gave women that right.
Harding stated that there should be “less government in business, and
more business in government”. He was a well-liked president, but on August
2, 1923 while returning from the trip Harding died in San Francisco. Upon
his death, Vice-President Calvin Coolidge became President. Coolidge was
liked by business people and the Republican Party. When he ran for
presidency in 1924, he won the election. Coolidge believed in thrift, hard
work and honesty and was known as a man of few words. Business did well
under Coolidge and the newspapers spoke of “Coolidge Prosperity”. He
believed that “the chief business of the American people is business” and
government should not interfere with private enterprise. Although Coolidge
was an immensely popular president he decided not to run for the 1928
election, so Americans voted for another Republican Herbert Hoover who
promised them “a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage”.
The United States was very rich in the 1920s. More goods were
produced than in any other time before in the country’s history. A major fact
in the boom was the growth of new industries. One of the most important of
these was the automobile industry. By 1930 3 million Americans were
making or selling automobiles. There were 23 million cars and 4 million
trucks and buses in the USA. Another industry that grew in the 1920s was
aviation, or air transportation.
Other factors also helped bring about a boom economy. The United
States was now a consumer society with a booming market for electric
appliances (radios, washing machines, refrigerators, ovens, vacuum
cleaners, etc.), synthetic textiles and plastics. To make enough electricity to
meet the needs of all these new goods, the electric power industry grew
The United States became the first nation in history to build its way of
life in selling vast quantities of goods that gave ordinary people easier and
more enjoyable lives. Many Americans bought cars, radios and other new
products, often they obtained these goods by paying a small deposit and
agreeing to pay the rest of the cost through an “installment plan”. Their
motto was “Live now, pay tomorrow”. Business leaders wanted more people
to buy more goods and advertising became another factor in the growth of
industry in the 1920s.
The businessman became a popular hero. One of the most admired
men of the decade was Henry Ford, who had introduced the assembly line
into automobile production. Ford was able to pay high wages and still earn
enormous profits by manufacturing the Model T – a simple basic car that
millions of buyers could afford. “The man who builds a factory builds a
temple,” said Calvin Coolidge. “The man who works there worships there.”
To help businessmen the Congress placed high import taxes on goods
from abroad. The aim was to make imported goods more expensive, so that
American manufacturer would have less competition from foreign rivals. At
the same time the Congress reduced taxes on high incomes and company
profits. This gave rich men more money to invest.
Some parts of the economy did not do as well as other however.
Farmers had produced large quantities of food during World War I. By
1921, however, the countries of Europe no longer needed so much American
food. This caused problems for farmers who found themselves growing
products they could not sell. By 1924 600, 000 of them were bankrupt.
Business fared well in the 1920s but the labor unions did not. Because
workers were badly needed for the war effort during World War I, the
government had backed their efforts to organize. Wages rose, and the
number of workers in the AFL (the American Federation of Labor) grew
from 2 million to 4 million. Once the war was over, businesses wanted to
hold costs down. But 1919 there was serious trouble between business and
labor. That year nearly 4 million workers took part in strikes or work-
The 1920s was a time of sharp contrasts. This could be seen in the
different life styles of the American people. Many Americans did not accept
the new ideas, and their lives went on much as before. Other welcomed the
chance for a change to a less-ordered life. Many women worked outside the
home, went to college, and entered professions. More Americans seemed to
be doing things for fun. Stunts performed in automobiles and airplanes drew
a lot of attention. Hollywood movies filled the cinema screens of the world.
They showed people a world that was more exciting than their own. A new
kind of music called jazz became popular. It had syncopated rhythms and
developed from ragtime and blues music. However many Americans did not
follow the new styles of living. People who lived in rural areas still felt that
hard work, thrift and religion were the best American values. Many were
shocked by the changes in the manners, morals and fashion of American
youth, especially on college campuses.
Both the excitement and the problems of the changing times could be
seen in the literature of the 1920s. Many authors such as Ernest Hemingway,
F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sinclair Lewis who wrote about the sadness of
modern life, the carefree lives of the young and the wealthy, criticized
people’s dullness and their narrow views. Many intellectuals of that time
were dissatisfied with the materialism and the spiritual emptiness of life.
The 1920s also brought a change in attitudes and laws about drinking
alcohol. The Eighteenth Amendment (1919) prohibited the manufacture,
transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages. People who supported
Prohibition claimed that it would stop alcoholism and drunkenness and
make the US a healthier and happier country. But many Americans were not
willing to give up alcoholic drinks. Millions began to break the prohibition
law, making beer and liquor at home or smuggling it into the United States
from Canada and Mexico. Disregard of Prohibition was universal, even
President Harding drank in the White House. Illegal drinking places called
“speakeasies” opened in basements and backrooms all over the country.
Speakeasies obtained their alcohol drinks from bootleggers. Bootleggers
worked together in gangs, the best known gang was one in Chicago led by
the gangster Al Capone. Gangsters fought with one another for control.
Much of the profit they made was used to help them take over other kinds of
businesses. Gangsters used their wealth to bribe police and other public
officials. Al Capone became the real ruler of Chicago. He had a private
army of nearly a thousand thugs equipped with machine guns. His income
was over 100 million dollars a year.
By the end of the 1920s, most Americans regarded Prohibition as half
scandal, half joke. The dishonesty and corruption made them lose their
respect both for the law and for the people who were supposed to enforce it.
Prohibition was finally given up in 1933, but it had done the United States
The 1920s in the United States are called the Jazz Age because of the
popularity of jazz music or the Roaring Twenties because of the exuberant,
freewheeling culture of the decade. It is no exaggeration to say that the
1920s formed modern America in many ways, particularly in the field of
1. How did the attitude towards foreigners change after World War
I? Did it influence American immigration policy?
2. What is the “Red Scare”?
3. Which of the political parties did all the 1920s Presidents
4. What branches industry got rapid development in the 1920s?
5. What was the motto of many consumers in the 1920s?
6. How did the situation in American farming industry change after
World War I?
7. Did all Americans accept the new ideas and the new life styles of
the Roaring Twenties?
8. What is the Prohibition?
9. Did it bring more good or harm to American Society?
10. Why is this decade often referred to as the Jazz Age or the
THE GREAT DEPRESSION AND THE NEW DEAL
The economic boom in the United
States came to an end in 1929. That
year a depression set in, which lasted
through the 1930s. The worst economic
collapse in American history, it hurt a
great many Americans. For this reason,
it caused many people to change their
ideas about the government and the
economy. Long after the 1930s, the
changes which took place during the
depression still were influencing the
American people and the government.
Because it affected the country so
much, the depression which started in
1929 is called the “Great Depression”.
At first Americans hoped that the
depression would last only a short time.
But they found they were wrong, as millions of people lost their jobs. The
confidence and hope of the 1920s were replaced by worry and despair.
The Great Depression did not happen overnight. The problems which
led to it began in the early 1920s. One problem had to do with American
farmers. In the years after World War I farmers did not do well. They were
producing more crops and other farm products than could be sold at high
prices. So prices were low and farmers made little profit. Since they made
little money, they could not afford to buy new farm machinery or other
Another problem was that the greatest prosperity of the 1920s went to
a small number of Americans who already were wealthy. The pay of
industrial workers did not grow as much as they hoped. Like the farmers,
these workers could not buy many new goods. Finally, low wages resulted
in underconsumption. Factories were making more than could be sold. Some
industries, like coal, railroads, construction, and textiles, were in distress
long before 1929.
Because many people did not have enough cash to buy the big things
they needed or wanted, they began to use the installment plan. They bought
goods on credit and made payments each month. This helped to keep the
economy going. At the same time, however, it helped hide some problems.
People sometimes bought things only to find later that they could not afford
to make the monthly payments.
Because they were so sure of the economy during the 1920s, many
people bought stocks of different companies. Some of the buyers were
speculators. Stockbrokers – people who sell stocks – encouraged this kind of
buying by allowing people to buy stocks “on margin”. This meant that
people could buy stocks without paying the full amount of the purchase
price. They paid 10 percent of the price and thought of the rest as a loan to
be paid off later. If the company did well, the price of the stock went up, and
then the buyer could sell it at a profit and pay off the loan. More and more
Americans were eager to get some of this easy money. By 1929 buying and
selling stocks – “playing the market” – had become almost a national hobby,
prices went up and up. Yet some people began to have doubts. By the
autumn of 1929 the profits of many American companies had been
decreasing for some time. If profits were falling, thought more cautious
investors, then stock prices, too, would soon fall. Slowly people began to
sell their stocks. Day by day their numbers grew and soon so many people
were selling stocks that prices did start to fall. On Thursday, October 24,
1929 – Black Thursday – 13 million stocks were sold. On the following
Tuesday, October, 29 – Terrifying Tuesday – 16.5 million were sold. The
stock market had “crashed”. This collapse of American stock prices was
known as the Wall Street Crash that marked the end of the prosperity of the
What happened in the stock market had an effect on other areas of the
economy. Banks that had invested in the stock market lost a great deal of
money. With limited funds many banks could not make loans, which led to
less available credit. Since most people no longer could get credit, they
bought less than before. Because fewer goods were sold, industries began to
produce less. It was also because Americans lost their foreign markets. In
the 1920s American goods had sold well overseas, especially in Europe. But
countries such as Britain and Germany had not prospered after the war and
they had often paid for their purchases with money borrowed from
American banks. After the Crash the banks wanted their money back.
European buyers became short of cash and American overseas sales dried up
almost completely. Goods piled up unsold in factory ware houses and
companies reduced production. Before long fewer workers were needed, and
people began to lose their jobs.
By the early 1930s the depression had become unlike anything
Americans had ever known before. About 85 thousands of businesses and
banks failed. In 1932 almost 13 million Americans – nearly 25 percent of
the workforce – were without jobs. Thousands of others worked only a few
hours each week. Millions of people found themselves facing debt and ruin.
Unlike unemployed people in Europe, they received no government
unemployment pay. Many were soon without homes or food and had to live
on charity. Farmers who could not make their mortgage payments lost their
By 1932 people were demanding that President Hoover take stronger
action to deal with the Depression. President Hoover believed that he could
do two things to end the Depression. The first was to “balance the budget” –
that is, to make sure that the government’s spending did not exceed its
income, the second was to make business stronger. Hoover held a meeting
with business leaders to ask them not to cut workers’ pay and to keep people
working. He also helped start private relief agencies and asked city and state
governments to do the same.
But these measures were inadequate. Although President Hoover told
people that recovery from the Depression was “just around the corner”, the
factories remained closed and the breadlines grew longer. To masses of
unemployed workers, Hoover seemed uncaring and unable to help them. In
the election of 1932 he was defeated by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt,
the governor of New York. Years earlier he had been stricken with polio and
not longer could walk without braces or canes. Yet he remained very active
in politics, and was able to inspire public confidence. “The only thing we
have to fear is fear itself”, Roosevelt stated in his inauguration and he took
prompt action to deal with the emergency. The program Roosevelt and his
advisors finally decided upon is called the New Deal. Two of its chief aims
were relief and recovery. Within three months – the historic “Hundred
Days” – Roosevelt rushed through Congress a great number of laws to aid
the recovery of the economy.
Many of the new laws set up government agencies to help the nation
recover from the Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) put
young men from 18 to 25 years old to work. Run in semi-military style, the
CCC enrolled jobless young men in work camps across the country for
about $30 a month. These people participated in different conservation
projects, replanted forests, built dams and roads, etc. The Public Works
Administration (PWA) gave work to people without jobs so they would be
able to buy the products of farms and industries. It gave the money to state
and local governments to hire workers to build highways, public buildings,
and dams. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) paid farmers
to reduce production, thus raising crop prices. The money used to pay them
came from a tax levied on industries that processed crops. The Tennessee
Valley Authority (TVA) built a network of dams in the Tennessee River
area, which took in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia,
Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia, to generate electricity, control
floods and make the land fertile again. TVA was the government’s first and
largest attempt at regional planning. The National Recovery Administration
(NRA) regulated “fair competition” among businesses and ensured
bargaining rights and minimum wages for workers.
In its early years, the New Deal achieved significant increases in
production and prices, but it did not bring an end to the Depression. So
President Roosevelt backed the second New Deal − a new set of economic
and social measures to fight poverty and unemployment and to provide a
social safety net. The Work Progress Administration (WPA) was one the
most effective measures, as it was an attempt to provide work rather than
welfare. It created millions of jobs by undertaking the construction of roads,
bridges, airports, hospitals, parks, and public buildings. It also set up
projects for actors, writers and artists, who gave plays and concerts,
produced guidebooks to states and cities, created sculptures, as well as
pictures and murals on public buildings.
Another major New Deal reform was put into action in 1935, when the
Social Security Act was passed. Social Security created a system of
insurance for the aged, unemployed and disabled. The money to pay for
these benefits came from special taxes paid by both workers and employers.
From the beginning not all Americans supported Roosevelt’s New
Deal policies. Some liked them and felt they were doing a lot of good.
Others thought the New Deal went against American principles. The
strongest opposition came from business leaders who attacked the New Deal
as socialism. Businessmen also complained bitterly of governmental
overregulation and support of the unions. Some Americans said that the
country could not afford the money Roosevelt was spending. Others said
that much of the money was being wasted anyway. They feared that
Roosevelt’s policies would make people idle and stop them from standing
on their own feet. But such criticism made little difference to Roosevelt’s
popularity with the voters. In 1936 he was reelected by the largest majority
of votes in the country’s history. As one wit put it, “Everyone was against
the New Deal but the voters.”
The New Deal did not end the Depression, but it gave millions of
Americans some relief and hope. Some of the New Deal reforms such as
social security worked so well that they are still a part of the American
system. The New Deal also helped to change the role of labor unions in the
American economic system. Most important of all is that for the first time
millions of Americans began to look to the federal government for their
well-being. The New Deal altered Americans’ ideas about the rightful work
of their national government. Before the New Deal most thought of the
government as a kind of policeman that was there just to keep order, while
businessmen got on to make the country richer. The Depression weakened
this belief. Because of this the government began to play a larger part than
ever before in the economy.
1. What is the Great Depression? When did it start?
2. What were the difficulties American farmers faced after World
War I? Why were they not able to buy new machinery and goods?
3. Did all American industries prosper when the Depression set in?
4. What problems in the operation of the stock market led to its
crash in 1929?
5. How did the situation in Europe influence American industry and
6. Were many Americans affected by the Depression during the
7. What actions did President Hoover undertake to help the country
8. Who won the presidential election of 1932?
9. What were the chief aims of Roosevelt’s New Deal policy?
10. What government agencies were established in the 1930s to help
recover from the Depression?
11. Were the activities of the Work Progress Administration
12. Who was helped by the Social Security Act?
13. Did all American people support Roosevelt’s New Deal policy?
14. Was Franklin D. Roosevelt popular as president?
15. How did the Great Depression and the New Deal change
American values and beliefs?
AMERICA IN WORLD WAR II
During the Great Depression, most Americans were too busy with the
troubles facing the United States to worry about what was going on
elsewhere. But the depression did not hurt the United States alone.
Conditions in Europe rapidly deteriorated in the 1930s, every year seemed
to bring a new war or a threat of war somewhere in the world. Nations built
more tanks, warships and military aircraft.
Leaders in the United States knew what was happening in Europe and
Asia but did not want to get involved. Americans had very strong feelings
against being drawn into another war. During the 1930s they passed three
neutrality acts. Their objective was to prevent, at almost any cost, the
involvement of the United States in a non-American war. The first act,
passed in 1935, said that the President, after announcing that there was a
state of war, had the power to stop shipments of arms to countries at war. It
also warned Americans that if they traveled on ships belonging to countries
at war, they did so at their own risk. The second act, passed in 1936, made it
illegal to make loans or to extend credit to countries at war. The third act
that came in 1937 gave the President the power to name goods other than
arms that could not be shipped to countries at war. It also made it illegal to
travel on ships of countries at war.
While the United States was trying to avoid war, Japan, Italy, and
Germany went ahead with their plans to take over more territory. As early as
1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. Then in 1937, Japan began a major war
against China. The Japanese army took over large areas of land and many
major Chinese cities.
Germany began its aggression in 1938 when the German army
occupied Austria, which then became a part of Germany. Hitler's goal was
to unite all German-speaking people into one nation. The same year, Hitler
demanded that the Sudetenland, the part of Czechoslovakia which had a
German-speaking population, be made part of Germany.
In 1939, Germany signed a treaty with the Soviet Union in which they
agreed not to attack each other. This left Germany free to attack Poland. On
September 1, 1939, the Germans launched a blitzkrieg, or lightning war,
against Poland. By the summer of 1940 Hitler’s armies had overrun most of
Western Europe. Denmark and Norway were invaded in April, the
Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg fell in May, France sued for peace in
June. Only Britain – exhausted and short of weapons – still defied them.
By 1939 Americans had become alarmed at the German, Italian, and
Japanese victories. With Hitler the master of Europe, and his ally, Japan
becoming ever stronger in Asia, Americans saw the dangerous position of
the United States, sandwiched between the two. On September 8, President
Roosevelt asked Congress to allow the United States to ship arms to
countries at war. Two months later, the Neutrality Act of 1939 was passed,
repealing part of the 1935 act. It allowed the United States to supply arms to
countries at war. The United States and Great Britain worked out an
agreement the following year. In it the United States agreed to give Great
Britain 50 destroyers. In return, Great Britain gave the United States the
right to lease certain British-controlled naval and air bases in the Caribbean.
The United States also began to build up its own armed forces.
President Roosevelt and the Congress wanted the country to be ready in case
of enemy attack. To make sure there were enough soldiers, the Congress
passed a bill in September 1940 creating the first peacetime draft in the
history of the United States. The American army which had only 170,000
soldiers in 1939 soon grew in over 1 million.
In the election of 1940 the Democrats nominated Roosevelt to run for
presidency, and he easily won the election. For the first time in American
history a president was elected to a third term. In his speech after the
election Roosevelt called on Americans to become the “arsenal of
democracy” – remaining out of the war but giving the British what they
needed to fight. To implement this idea he suggested a policy he called
Lend-Lease. It allowed the President to transfer, lease, exchange, or sell
arms or other war supplies to any country he felt was important to the
American security. In March 1941, the Lend-Lease Act was passed, and
American food and aircraft crossed the Atlantic in large quantities. They
played a vital part in helping Britain to continue to fight against Hitler. Not
long after the unexpected German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941,
lend-lease aid scheme was used to send aid to the Russians, too.
While the United States was trying to help Great Britain, the Japanese
were on the move in Asia and the Pacific. At about the same time, Japan
formed a military and economic alliance with Germany and Italy. The three
countries became known as the Axis Powers.
Americans had long been alarmed by the growing power of
Japan.They saw it as a threat to both peace in Asia and to American trading
interests. Ever since the 1937 attack on China the US had been reducing its
exports to Japan of goods that were useful in war. In July 1941, when Japan
occupied the French colony of Indochina, the US stopped all shipments of
oil to Japan. Japan faced disaster, as it imported 80 percent of its oil from
On December 7, 1941, Japanese naval and air forces attacked the large
American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. They caught the American
forces there completely by surprise. Japanese planes sank or damaged 19
warships at Pearl Harbor and destroyed some 175 planes. More than 2,000
sailors and soldiers were killed, and over 1,000 people were wounded. The
Congress declared war on Japan the next day. Three days later, when
Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, the Congress
recognized a state of war with those nations as well.
On the same day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they also
attacked the Philippines, Guam, Midway Island, and Hong Kong. On
December 8, they invaded Malaya and Thailand. While the Japanese were
pushing forward in the Far East, other Axis forces were making gains in
Europe and Africa. In late June, the Germans broke their 1939 treaty with
the Soviet Union and invaded that country. By the middle of November, the
Germans were outside the Soviet capital of Moscow.
Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government
had been taking steps to ready the American economy for war. Success on
the battlefield hinged on the rapid conversion of American industry from
producing consumer goods to making planes, ships and tanks. The war
brought an end to the Great Depression. The labor problem in the war years
was too few workers, not too few jobs. Three years after the United States
entered the war, American factories were making more products than those
of all the Axis countries. American-built airplanes, ships, tanks, helmets,
rifles, and munitions went to all the Allies. In the factories across the
country millions of women replaced men who were in the service.
Once the country was in the war, agencies were set up to order the
economy and to see that war materials were produced. One of them was
Office of Price Administration (OPA), which established rent ceiling and
maximum prices on thousands of commodities, as the government became
concerned about the inflation. The OPA also began rationing, or setting
limits on the amount of certain goods people could buy. The rationing
program began in 1941 with tires and eventually expanded to include
gasoline, shoes, and foodstuffs.
The success of the Axis countries did more than make Americans
prepare for war. It also led many Americans to fear and hate people from
Japan who were living in the United States. More than 100,000 Japanese
Americans lived on the West Coast of the United States. Many people there,
some of them public officials, were afraid that the Japanese Americans
would help Japan if it attacked the United States. These people began to
demand that people of Japanese background be moved from the West Coast.
In February 1942, President Roosevelt ordered the army to move some
110,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes to relocation centers
(camps) in California, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, and Idaho. They
had to sell their homes and belongings, often at a loss. A great many of
those relocated were American citizens.
In November 1942, the Soviet army made one of their most important
moves on the eastern front. The Soviet city of Stalingrad had been under
attack by the Germans since the summer. No matter what the Germans did,
they could not drive the Soviet forces out of the city. Instead, the Soviet
troops attacked the Germans and surrounded the entire German Sixth Army.
It surrendered in February 1943. This greatly weakened the position of the
German forces on the eastern front. The Soviet Union pressed the United
States and Great Britain to open a second front, hoping it would force the
Germans to redistribute their troops that were currently fighting against the
USSR in the east. This would take some of the pressure off the Soviet army.
But the British, remembering the heavy casualties in France during World
War I, were reluctant to send their troops into Europe, and an invasion
across the English Channel was postponed several times until June 1944. In
the interim, British and American forces drove the Germans out of North
Africa and invaded Sicily and Italy while Soviet troops pushed westwards
into Eastern Europe.
Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin known as the Big Three, met for the
first time at the Teheran Conference in November 1943. They agreed that
the cross-Channel invasion would take place in the following spring along
with the Russian offensive in the east. This decision meant that while the
British and American forces controled Western Europe, Soviet troops would
liberate Eastern Europe and would probably remain in control there when
the war ended. The three leaders also discussed postwar Germany and the
formation of a new international organization to replace the League of
Nations but made no final decisions.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the second front was finally opened when
American, British, Canadian, and free French forces stormed the beaches of
Normandy in Operation Overlord. The invasion, led by General Eisenhower,
involved 176,000 troops and was the largest amphibious, or water to land,
operation of the war. The US had stored tons of supplies for the Normandy
invasion. It was the main attack against Germany in the west and caught the
Germans somewhat by surprise. After a short period, the Allied forces broke
though German defenses and began moving inland toward Paris, which was
liberated in August. At the same time, the Allies launched another invasion
of southern France. By September, the German army was driven out of
France end Belgium, but the Allied advance stalled late in the year because
of lack of supplies.
Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met again in February 1945 in the
Soviet town of Yalta. There they agreed to divide Germany into four zones
of occupation, with France, Great Britain and the US in the west and the
USSR in the east. Although entirely within the Russian zone, Berlin would
be administered by all four powers. The leaders also agreed that eastern
European countries that had been held by the Germans should hold elections
to form new governments.
In 1944, presidential elections were held in the United States and
Franklin Roosevelt was elected President for a fourth term. But the
pressures of the office took their toll. Two months after his return from
Yalta Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing in Georgia
(April 12, 1945). Few figures in US history have been so deeply mourned,
and for a time the American people suffered from a sense of irreparable loss.
It was left to Vice-President Harry Truman to bring the US to victory in
Europe and against Japan.
The German defeat in the Battle of the Bulge (December 16 – January
16) allowed the Americans to cross the Rhine into Germany. At the same
time the Soviet troops advanced from the east. By the end of April, Soviet
and American troops met at the Elbe River. Most of Germany was in Allied
hands, and Soviets had entered Berlin. Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his
bunker under the city on April 30, and the German military unconditionally
surrendered on May 8, 1945.
The war against Japan was still being fought in the Pacific and the Far
East. Americans there were joined by Allied soldiers from Australia, New
Zealand, and Great Britain. Through late 1943 and into 1944, the American
and Allied forces advanced to Japan by “island hopping” – that is, they
captured islands that were strategically important. The islands that were
heavily defended often were not attacked, instead, American and Allied
warships and planes kept them from getting supplies. In June, an enormous
American task force won control of the important Mariana Islands. In
October American troops returned to the Philippines and cut off Japan from
its conquests in Southeast Asia. But Americans faced a difficult fight as the
war moved closer to the Japanese islands. The battle of Iwo Jima (February
– jMarch 1945) cost U.S. marines more than 20,000 casualties. During the
three-month battle for Okinawa (April – June 1945) only 350 miles from
Japan, 12,000 Americans were killed and 36, 000 wounded. Attacks by
Japanese suicide planes, the kamikaze, caused the heaviest damage ever to
the U.S. Navy. The invasion of Japan itself, which was being planned for
1945, would mean even greater losses, perhaps as many as a million men,
according to some estimates. These circumstances were the context in which
the decision to use the atomic bomb was made. The result of a scientific,
technical, and industrial program known as the Manhattan Project, the first
atomic bomb was successfully tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in July
1945. The decision to use an atomic bomb has long been and continues to be
controversial. Historians argue that by the summer of 1945, Japan was on
the verge of collapse, and the continued air attacks would have led to
surrender. Some claim that the real reason the bombs were used was as a
show of American strength for the Soviet Union. Others maintain that
racism was a factor, insisting that a bomb would never have been used
In July 1945, President Truman called upon the Japanese government
to surrender or face “prompt and utter destruction.” The Japanese turned
down the offer to surrender. President Truman then gave the order to drop
an atomic bomb. The bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, on the
Japanese city of Hiroshima. This city was an important center for army
supplies, shipbuilding, and railroad yards. The Japanese government,
however still would not surrender. Three days later, another atomic bomb
was dropped, this time on the city of Nagasaki, an important industrial
center. Both cities were devastated and nearly 200,000 civilians were killed.
On August 14, 1945, the government of Japan agreed to surrender thus
ending World War II. On September 2, known as V-J Day, the formal
surrender was signed on board the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Previously the heads of the U.S., British and Soviet governments had
met at Potsdam, a suburb outside Berlin, from July 17 to August 2, 1945, to
discuss operations against Japan, the peace settlement in Europe and a
policy for the future Germany. The conference agreed on the need to assist
in the reeducation of a German generation reared under Nazism and in the
restoration of democratic political life in the country. The conference also
discussed reparation claims against Germany, agreed to the trial of Nazi
leaders accused of crimes against humanity, and provided for the removal of
industrial plants and property by the Soviet Union.
In November 1945 at Nuremberg, Germany, the criminal trials of Nazi
leaders took place. Before a group of distinguished jurists from Britain,
France, the Soviet Union, and the United States the Nazis were accused not
only of plotting and waging an aggressive war but also of violating the laws
of war and of humanity in the systematic genocide of different peoples,
known as the Holocaust. The trials lasted more than 10 months and resulted
in the conviction of all but three of the accused.
One of the most far-reaching decisions concerning the shape of the
post-war world took place on April 25, 1945, with the war in Europe in its
final days. Delegates from 50 countries met in San Francisco to create the
United Nations. The structure of the new international organization, whose
charter was signed in June 1945, included the General Assembly, in which
each member had a vote. Responsibility for maintaining peace fell to the
Security Council, in which the five permanent members – China, France,
Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States – have veto power. In
addition, the charter provided for a number of agencies and the U.N.
umbrella, such as the International Court of Justice and the United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In contrast to its rejection of U.S. membership in the League of
Nations after World War II, The American Senate promptly ratified the
U.N. Charter. This action confirmed the end of the spirit of isolationism as a
dominating element in American foreign policy. It signaled to the world that
the United States intended to play a major role in international affairs.
1. How can you describe the situation in Europe in the 1930s?
2. What did most Americans think of being involved into another
European war? What was the objective of the neutrality acts passed in the
3. What conflicts was Japan involved into in the 1930s?
4. What actions did Germany undertake in order to unite all
German-speaking people into one nation? How did the situation in Europe
develop in 1938-1939?
5. When did Americans become alarmed by the situation in
6. What was the agreement between Great Britain and the United
States signed in 1939?
7. When was the first American peacetime draft started?
8. What was the objective of the Lend-Lease policy suggested by
9. What countries formed the Axis Powers?
10. Speak about American-Japanese relations before Pearl Harbor.
When did the Pearl Harbor attack take place?
11. When did the Germans attack the Soviet Union?
12. How did entering the war effect American economy?
13. What were the functions of OPA?
14. What was the attitude to Japanese Americans in the USA during
World War II?
15. When did the battle of Stalingrad take place?
16. Why were the British reluctant to open the second front?
17. What decisions were made by the Big Three in Teheran in
18. When was the second front opened? Speak about Operation
19. What were the agreements achieved in Yalta in 1945?
20. How many times was Franklin Roosevelt elected President?
21. Who took the presidency after Roosevelt’s death?
22. When did American and Soviet troops meet at the Elbe River?
23. When did Germany surrender?
24. What was the tactics of the Allies in the Pacific?
25. How did Americans explain their decision to use the atomic
26. Why did they pick up the cities of Heroshima and Nagasaki?
27. When did Japan surrender?
28. When did the Potsdam conference take place?
29. What do we learn from the text about the Nuremberg criminal
30. When was the United Nations Organization established? Speak
about its structure.
MATCH THE TERMS WITH THEIR DEFINITIONS
2) Axis powers
8) Manhattan project
9) United Nations (UN)
a) in World War II, the material aid in the form of munitions, tools,
food, etc., granted under specific conditions to foreign countries whose
defense was deemed vital to the defense of the USA
b) the US Army project begun in 1942 to research and develop an
atomic bomb to be used in warfare
c) the countries aligned against the Allies in the World War II,
originally Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and later including Japan
d) the deliberate and systematic extermination of a group of people
e) sudden, swift, large-scale offensive warfare intended to win a
f) the nations associated against the Axis in World War II,
especially Great Britain, Soviet Union and the United States
g) an international organization, formed in San-Francisco in 1945,
pledged to promote world peace and security, maintain treaty obligations
and the observance of international law
h) a Japanese suicide pilot who crashed bomb-laden planes into
American ships in World War II
i) a system of government characterized by a rigid one-party
dictatorship, the forcible suppression of opposition, private enterprise under
centralized government control, a belligerent nationalism, racism,
THE COLD WAR
After World War II, tensions quickly developed between the United
States and the Soviet Union. The Western powers feared Soviet expansion
and the spread of communism. Growing conflicts between the Western
powers and the Soviet Union soon led to a cold war. This is a war in which
there is no fighting, but where each side uses means short of military action
to expand its influences. As a result of the cold war an “iron curtain” was
put up between the Eastern Europe and the West.
In June 1947, Secretary of State George Marshall set forth a plan to
help restore Europe's economy and stop the spread of communism. It was
known as the Marshall Plan, or European Recovery Program. It offered aid
to all European countries, including the Soviet Union. Under the plan, $17
billion would be spent over four years. The plan went into effect in 1948.
The Soviet Union refused to take part in the Marshall Plan declaring this
scheme as “a plan for interference in the home affairs of other countries”.
They formed their own plan to help the Eastern European countries.
The chief struggle between the Western powers and the Soviet Union
came over Germany. Matters came to a head on June 7, 1948. The Western
powers stated that they were going to set up a new government in West
Germany, but the Soviet Union said that this went against the 1945
agreement made at Potsdam. On June 24, they began a tight blockade of all
land and water routes into Berlin. To avoid this blockade, the Western
powers organized an airlift—a system of bringing in supplies by airplane. In
May 1949, the Soviet Union lifted the blockade. In the same year, two
separate governments were set up in Germany. West Germany became the
German Federal Republic with its capital in Bonn. East Germany became
the German Democratic Republic.
The Berlin blockade alarmed Western leaders. In April 1949, the
United States and 11 other countries signed a treaty setting up the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). NATO's first members, besides the
United States, were Canada, Great Britain, France, Norway, Denmark,
Iceland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, and Portugal.
Greece, Turkey, and West Germany joined later.
East-West relations grew even worse over events in Korea. Before
World War II Korea had been ruled by Japan. When Japan surrendered in
1945, the north of Korea was occupied by Soviet forces and the south by
Americans. The boundary between the two areas was the 38 th parallel of
latitude. In 1948 the occupation ended, the Soviet army left behind a
communist government in the north and the Americans set up a government
friendly to themselves in the south. Both these governments claimed the
right to rule all of the country. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean army
attacked South Korea. President Truman ordered American naval and air
forces to support South Korea. He also persuaded the UN to support his
action. The Soviet Union which could have vetoed any action was
boycotting the UN to protest a decision not to admit the People’s Republic
of China. About 15 countries, along with the United States and the Republic
of Korea, sent soldiers. However, Americans made up about 48 percent and
South Koreans about 43 percent of the fighting force. It was led by General
Douglas MacArthur. For a time, it seemed that the North Koreans would
overrun the South. By September they had conquered most of South Korea
and took its capital Seoul. The UN forces were confined to a small area
around Pusan on the southeastern coast. But then General MacArthur
launched an amphibious landing at Inchon in central Korea. Seoul was
quickly recaptured, and UN forces drove the North Koreans back across the
Victory seemed at hand when 250,000 Chinese troops entered the
fighting on the side of North Korea. Korea has a long border with China,
where only a year earlier communists led by Mao Zedong had won a long
struggle to rule China. They quickly drove the advancing UN forces back
south of the 38th parallel. A new and fiercer war began in Korea. It was
between the US and China although neither country officially admitted it.
The Korean War dragged for another two and a half years and ended in July
1953 with neither side having a prospect of victory. The final settlement left
Korea still divided.
Cold War struggles also occurred in the Middle East. Much of the
Middle East was controlled by Great Britain and France until after World
War II. Weakened by the war, both countries gave up most of their power
there. The United States and the Soviet Union took great interest in the area.
Both needed the area's oil. The Soviet Union also hoped to gain a naval base
on the Mediterranean Sea.
The struggle against communism lasted through the Eisenhower years.
When Dwight D. Eisenhower won the election of 1952, it marked the return
of the Republican Party to the White House after twenty years. The United
States was prosperous. Eisenhower was a popular figure, and the American
mood was positive. At the same time, there was much tension about the
Cold War. Americans feared communism not only abroad but also at home.
They saw the communist victory in China and the testing of the Soviet
Union’s first atomic bomb. President Eisenhower believed that it was
necessary to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Following
the Geneva talks, the United States supported the idea of an alliance like
NATO for Southeast Asia. In September 1954, the United States, Great
Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, and the
Philippines formed the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). These
countries promised to aid each other in case of attack.
The United States was also interested in Latin America in the 1950's.
When a government favoring communism came to power in Guatemala, the
American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) took action and backed an
anti-Communist group which gained control of Guatemala in 1954.
In the late 1950's fighting also broke out in Cuba over control of the
government. In January 1959 Fidel Castro seized power to set up a
Communist government and began building close ties with the Soviet
Union. In February 1960 Castro signed a trade agreement with the Soviet
Union that allowed them to get Cuban sugar at a low price. The United
States then said that it would no longer import Cuban sugar. Many Cuban
businesses owned by American companies were taken over by the Cuban
government. Relations grew worse, and the United States became more
alarmed at the Communist-controlled government in the Western
Hemisphere. As one of his last acts before leaving office, Eisenhower ended
diplomatic relations with Cuba.
By the late 1950s tensions eased between the United States and the
Soviet Union. This change came about after the death of Joseph Stalin in
1953. Soviet leaders who took over after him were more willing to work
with Western leaders. In 1959, the new Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev,
visited the United States. He believed that the two nations had to try to live
peacefully and suggested “peaceful co-existence.” Shortly after this visit,
plans were made for a second summit conference in Paris in May 1960.
On May 1, 1960, a special American spy plane, called a U-2, was shot
down by a Soviet missile. It had flown 1,200 miles (1,880 kilometers) inside
the Soviet Union. The plane had been photographing Soviet military bases.
At the Paris meeting on May 16, 1960, Khrushchev spoke out against the
spying. He demanded that the United States stop such flights. He angrily
accused Eisenhower of planning for war while talking peace. Khrushchev
also called for an apology from Eisenhower and a postponement of the
meeting, which then broke up. The end of the summit meeting showed that
tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were not over.
1. What is a cold war?
2. What did the “iron curtain” separate?
3. What was the objective of the Marshall Plan?
4. What was the result of struggle over Germany?
5. When was NATO established?
6. What countries became its members?
7. Why did the war in Korea break out?
8. How did China influence the result of the war?
9. Which side won the war between South and North Korea in
10. Why were both the United States and the Soviet Union interested
in the Middle East?
11. Was Eisenhower popular as president? Which political party did
12. What is SEATO?
13. Why did Americans end diplomatic relations with Cuba?
14. How did American-Soviet relations change after the death of
15. When did Nikita Khrushchev visit the USA?
THE NEW FRONTIER AND THE CIVIL CONFLICT
John F. Kennedy, Democratic candidate in the election of 1960,
became the first Catholic and at 43 the youngest person ever to win the
presidency. On television, in a series of debates with his opponent Richard
Nixon, he appeared able, articulate and energetic. In his campaign, he spoke
of moving into the new decade, toward a “New Frontier”. Throughout his
brief presidency, Kennedy’s special combination of grace, wit and style
sustained his popularity and influenced generations of politicians to come.
Once he took office, Kennedy made clear his feelings about a President's
role. Unlike Eisenhower, he felt a President should play an active part in
meeting the country's needs. In his inaugural address, Kennedy told the
American people: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what
you can do for your country.”
Kennedy offered a program for government action which he called the
New Frontier. Only a few of his plans were passed by the Congress while he
was in office, however. The minimum wage was raised from $1.00 to $1.25
an hour over two years. More people were covered by social security.
Kennedy also established Peace Corps to send men and women overseas to
assist developing countries in meeting their needs.
One area in which Congress was very interested was the space
program. Americans began to think more about outer space in 1957. That
year the Soviet Union launched the first successful satellite – a small object
circling a planet – to orbit the earth. It was called Sputnik I. This was a blow
to the United States. It led many Americans to fear that the Soviet Union
had more scientific knowledge than the United States. Because of this, the
National Defense Education Act was passed in 1958. It gave colleges
federal money for studies in science and languages. That same year, the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was set up to
direct the American space program. When President Kennedy took office,
he announced that he wanted Americans to land a person on the moon
before 1970. That goal was reached by Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin in
1969. On July 20, Armstrong became the first human to step on the moon.
As he did so, he said “That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for
mankind.” Millions of people around the world watched the event on live
In the 1960s and 1970s, the US remained locked in bitter conflict with
communist countries. Cuba became the battlefield in the Kennedy years.
When Fidel Castro took over the government of Cuba in 1959, many
Cubans fled to the United States. Some wanted to return to overthrow
Castro. In March 1960, President Eisenhower told the CIA it could train and
supply them for such an invasion. Later President Kennedy decided to go
ahead with the plan. In April 1961, Cuban refugees began making air strikes
against airfields in Cuba. On April 17, more than 1,000 of them landed at
the Bay of Pigs, about 90 miles (144 kilometers) from Havana. They hoped
the people of Cuba would rise up against Castro. When this did not happen,
the invasion failed. This greatly embarrassed the United States and at the
same time helped Castro. Some Latin Americans felt the United States had
no right to interfere in Cuba's affairs. They spoke out against the United
After the Bay of Pigs, Cuba developed closer ties with the Soviet
Union. The Soviet Union sent military advisors and supplies to the island
and began to set up guided missile sites there. This alarmed President
Kennedy and the American military. They felt that to have offensive
missiles so close was a threat to the security of the United States. Kennedy
warned that if Cuba became a military base for the Soviet Union, the United
States would do "whatever must be done" to protect its security. After
considering different options, Kennedy imposed a blockade on Cuba to
prevent Soviet ships from bringing additional missiles. After several days of
tension, during which the world was closer than ever before to nuclear war,
the Soviet Union backed down. The two sides finally came to terms. The
Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles in return for the American
promise not to invade Cuba.
In addition to the problems over Cuba, the United States and the
Soviet Union still did not agree about postwar Germany. A month after the
invasion at the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev
met in Vienna. Khrushchev told Kennedy that they should come to terms
that year on a new government for Berlin. If not, the Soviet Union would
sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany. Kennedy believed that the
Soviet Union wanted to drive the Western powers out of Berlin. So he asked
Congress for more money to buy weapons and equipment. In August, the
East Germans, with Soviet support, built a fence to seal off the border
between East and West Berlin. Then they replaced the fence with a concrete
wall topped with barbed wire. President Kennedy's answer to this was to
send more American troops to Berlin. When President Kennedy visited
Berlin in 1963, he stood near the wall and told the people of West Berlin
gathered there that the United States was prepared to defend their freedom.
The Berlin Wall and the Cuban missile crisis made it clear how far
apart the United States and the Soviet Union were on many issues. This led
many people to fear that the two powers might be heading for war. Such a
war would most likely be a nuclear war. These people were strongly
opposed to the A-bomb. They were worried about what nuclear testing was
doing to the atmosphere. Many Americans began to favor efforts to stop the
nuclear arms race.
On November 22, 1963, an event in Dallas, Texas, captured American
attention and shocked the nation. President Kennedy was assassinated while
riding in an open car during a visit to Dallas, Texas. Later, Lee Harvey
Oswald was caught and accused of killing Kennedy. Before Oswald could
be brought to trial, he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub
owner. There was much debate about whether Oswald had acted alone or
had been part of a conspiracy, or group plot, to kill the President. A special
commission investigated the case and after much study it decided that
Oswald had acted on his own. Over the years, doubts still remained,
During this period the USA was dominated by continued struggles for
civil rights and justice. Black leaders felt that the people themselves would
have to take action to end discrimination and denial of civil rights. An
important turning point came in 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled on the
case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. The Court declared that
segregation in the public schools denied black students equal protection
under the Fourteenth Amendment and ordered that blacks should be allowed
to attend any school. This order upset many whites, especially in the South
where most public schools were segregated by law. Southern leaders tried
many ways to prevent desegregation of the schools. In 1957, the Governor
of Arkansas used the National Guard to keep black students from entering
Central High School in Little Rock. President Eisenhower acted to back up
the Court's order by sending federal troops to Little Rock.
Another turning point was the arrest of a woman named Rosa Parks in
Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her
seat in the front of a bus in a section reserved by law and custom for whites.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
helped to persuade a judge to release Mrs. Parks and planned a course of
action to end segregation on buses. Led by a young clergyman Martin
Luther King, Jr., blacks in Montgomery began to boycott the city's buses.
This was costly for the bus company since most of their riders were blacks.
The boycott went on for a year. Finally, in November 1956, the Supreme
Court declared that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional. The
Montgomery bus boycott showed that nonviolent direct action could
produce results. It brought blacks from all walks of life together in an almost
religious fellowship. And it produced a black leader – Martin Luther King,
Jr., who could move millions to action and touch the conscience of the
Moving on from Montgomery, King led direct nonviolent actions for
civil rights in all parts of the country. In the spring of 1963, King went to
Birmingham, Alabama, a city with a bad record of discrimination. Parks,
eating places, drinking fountains and restrooms were segregated. King
organized local blacks to march quietly and nonviolently through downtown
areas of Birmingham. At first, the police arrested thousands of marchers.
When that failed to stop the marches, the police attacked the demonstrators
with clubs, dogs and firehoses. This caused such a public outcry against the
white authorities of Birmingham that they had to back down and
desegregate their public facilities.
A high point of the civil rights movement occurred on August 28,
1963 when 250,000 people of all races marched in Washington, DC, to
demand that the nation keep its pledge of "justice for all". In a moving and
dramatic speech, Martin Luther King said "I have a dream that one day on
the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former
slaveholders will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I
have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where
they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their
character." In 1964 Martin Luther King, Jr., received the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed and many Americans hoped
that it would mark the beginning of a new age of racial harmony and
friendship in the US. But soon they were disappointed as racial difficulties
were too deep-rooted to be solved by simple alternations of the law, or by
demonstrations and marches. Most black Americans were still worse
housed, worse educated, and worse paid than other Americans. Some
rejected with contempt the ideas of leaders like Martin Luther King that
blacks and whites should learn to live in equality and friendship.
In August 1965, the streets of Watts, a black ghetto in Los Angeles,
became a battlefield. For six days police and rioters fought among burning
cars and buildings. Thirty four people were killed and over a thousand were
injured. The Watts riot was followed by others – in Chicago, Detroit, New
York and Washington. By the autumn of 1966 the civil right movement was
divided and in disarray.
In April 1968, Martin Luther King was murdered. He was shot dead in
Memphis, Tennessee, by a white sniper. Many blacks now turned to the
Black Power movement which taught that the only way for blacks to get
justice was to fight for it.
The 1960s was a time of troubles and struggles. Between 1960 and
1970 the number of Americans aged 15 to 24 grew by 50 percent – from 24
million to 36 million. They were the product of the "baby boom" – born
during and soon after World War II. This new generation was different.
They were the first generation to have lived all their lives under the shadow
of nuclear weapons. They were the first TV generation and had enjoyed
almost continuous prosperity since their childhood. But at the same time
they could see that all the wonderful things in American life still did not
solve the ancient problems of justice and equality. And on TV they would
see their young President assassinated, their cities smoldering in riots, their
generation dying on the distant battlefield of Vietnam, and people starving
in Africa and Asia. The world seemed confusing and frustrating as never
Different young people reacted in different ways. Some of them joined
in the so-called "counterculture", which was opposed to the culture accepted
by most Americans. They used drugs, they let their hair grow long, wore
beads, fringe jackets, and long dresses. They wanted to look as different as
possible from other Americans. They called themselves "hippies" (from the
slang expression "hip", meaning knowledgeable, worldly-wise). Hippies
often reacted to American life by "dropping out" – by refusing to be a part
of it. Other young people organized in a New Left to transform America.
Students organized many activities, especially sit-ins, to fight for civil
The university became the center of opposition. Its members thought
that by attacking the universities – their rules and regulations, their research
contracts to help with the war in Vietnam, and their support of American
society – they could make students radical, but their revolutionary aims
were vague and negative. Soon colleges and universities were in disarray.
Students were picketing, occupying buildings, shouting obscenities, and
stopping all classes. They demanded “Student Power”. Across the country,
people outside universities wondered what had happened to the American
love of learning and the Jeffersonian tradition of free debate. Still, most
students seemed less concerned with “revolution” than with the war in
Vietnam. The New Left became more and more frustrated as the 1960s wore
1. Who won the presidential election of 1960?
2. What was the program for government John Kennedy initiated?
3. Was the US interested in development of space programs? What
4. Who does the quotation “That's one small step for a man, one
giant leap for mankind” belong to?
5. What do we learn from the text about American military
operation at the Bay of Pigs in 1961?
6. Why did Cuban-Soviet relations worry Americans? Speak about
the American blockade on Cuba.
7. Speak about the construction of the Berlin Wall.
8. How was President Kennedy assassinated?
9. Why is the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
considered as the turning point in the civil rights movement?
10. What happened in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957? Why did the
President send federal troops there?
11. Speak about the boycott of public transport in Montgomery,
Alabama, in 1955.
12. What was Dr. Martin Luther King awarded the Nobel Peace
13. When was the Civil Rights Act passed?
14. How did Baby Boomers differ from the previous generation?
15. How did American university life change in the 1960s?
THE VIETNAM WAR
When President Johnson took office, American foreign policy was still
aimed at keeping communism from spreading. Because of this, the US
became involved in many different parts of the world during the Johnson
years. This put a great strain on American relations with other countries and
on the unity of the American people.
American leaders believed it was necessary to stop the spread of
communism in Southeast Asia and put forth the domino theory. It went like
this: Asia had a lot of unsettled countries, if one of them fell to communism,
the countries next to it would soon do the same. They were mostly interested
in Vietnam which had been part of French Indochina. American
involvement in Vietnam did not begin with President Johnson. When
Communist and nationalist rebels fought French colonialism in Indochina
after World War II, President Truman sent military aid to France. In 1954
the French were driven out by the soldiers of the communist leader Ho Chi
Minh. Like Korea, Vietnam was then divided into two, Communists ruled
the North and non-communists the South. The next step was supposed to be
the election of one government for the whole country. But the election never
took place, mainly because the government of South Vietnam feared that
communists would win. Ho Chi Ming set out to unite Vietnam by war.
Americans were especially afraid that communist China might try to take
control in Southeast Asia as the Soviet Union had done in Eastern Europe.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, the US poured money and weapons into South
Vietnam. In 1955, the first American advisors were sent to South Vietnam
to train their army.
In the early 1960s it was clear that the government of South Vietnam
was losing the war. By that time, a group of Vietnamese Communists called
the Vietcong were well established in South Vietnam. They fought as
guerrillas – bands who make war by harassment and sabotage. In August
1964, after an attack on American warships by North Vietnamese gunboats,
President Johnson asked the Congress to allow him to take steps to prevent
any future attacks. The Congress replied by passing the Gulf of Tonkin
Resolution which allowed the President to use any measures necessary to
halt an attack on American forces and to prevent further aggression.
President Johnson launched air strikes against North Vietnamese naval
bases. The first American combat soldiers were sent to Vietnam in March
1965. By 1968 500,000
American troops had arrived.
Meanwhile, the Air Force
gradually stepped up raided
against North Vietnam, first
bombing military bases and
routes, later hitting factories and
power stations near Hanoi. The
war was thought to be costing
the US about $25 billion a year.
The Vietnam War was one
of ambushes and sudden attacks.
After an attack the Vietcong
would melt away in the jungle,
or turn into peaceful villagers. A
guerilla war like this meant the
Americans often had no enemy
to strike back at. As one soldier
put it, to find the Vietcong was
“like trying to identify tears in a
bucket of water”. American
fighting men grew angry and
frustrated. They spread vast areas
of countryside with deadly
chemicals to destroy the Protesting against the Vietnam War
Vietcong’s supply trails and in Washington D.C.
burned down villages which
were suspected of sheltering Vietcong soldiers.
As the number of Americans wounded and killed in Vietnam grew, so
did the number of Americans against the war. College students especially
were against it. All over the country demonstrations took place. In 1967,
more than 100,000 people took part in an antiwar parade in New York City.
That same year, more than 50,000 paraded in San Francisco, and some
55,000 marched from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon in Washington,
D.C. The Vietnam War caused a split among the American people. Many
felt the war was necessary to stop communism. Others felt that it was a civil
war which should be settled by the Vietnamese. The Congress also divided
between “hawks”, who favored greater military effort, and “doves”, who
wanted the war effort to be lessened.
President Johnson saw that by sending American soldiers to fight in
Vietnam he had led the US into a trap. The war was destroying his
country’s good name in the world and setting its people against one another.
In 1968 he stopped the bombing of North Vietnam and started to look for
ways of making peace.
In 1969 Richard Nixon was elected to replace Johnson as President.
He wanted to end the war in Vietnam without the Americans looking as if
they had been beaten. Nixon worked out a plan he called “Vietnamization”.
This was a program in which American troops would equip and train the
South Vietnamese to take over the fighting so that Americans could
The peace talks dragged on, and so did the war. In March 1970,
matters grew worse, as a new leader of Cambodia asked President Nixon for
aid against Communists in his country. Soon American forces went into
Cambodia to attack Communist strongholds. This angered many Americans
who were against the war. Huge demonstrations to protest the Cambodian
invasion broke out at many American colleges.
Almost three years passed before the agreement was reached on the
war. In January 1973 the US, South Vietnam, and North Vietnam and
Vietcong finally came to terms. The North Vietnamese and Vietcong agreed
to return all American prisoners of War. By March 1973 the last American
troops had left Vietnam. But the real end of Vietnam War came in May
1975, when victorious communist tanks rolled into Saigon, the capital city
of South Vietnam. The Communists marked their victory by giving Saigon a
new name – Ho Chi Minh City.
In Korea, twenty years earlier, the Americans had claimed they had
containment work. In Vietnam they knew, and so did everyone else, that
they had failed.
1. Why did the US become involved in many different parts of the
world during the Johnson years?
2. What is the domino theory?
3. When did American involvement in Vietnam begin?
4. After France was driven out of the country, Vietnam was divided
into two, wasn’t it?
5. Why did Americans fear the Chinese involvement in Vietnam?
6. When were first American advisors sent to South Vietnam?
7. What was the tactics of Vietcong?
8. What actions did President Johnson take after the Gulf Tonkin
9. What was the approximate number of American troops in
Vietnam in 1968?
10. Why did one American soldier say the fighting the Vietcong was
“like trying to identify tears in a bucket of water”?
11. Did the Vietnam War split American society?
12. What was the objective of the program called Vietnamization?
13. How did many American people react to the news that American
troops entered Cambodia?
14. When did the last American troops leave Vietnam?
15. Why did the Vietnamese give their capital a new name – Ho Chi
MATCH THE TERMS WITH THEIR DEFINITIONS
1) New Frontier
3) human rights
4) cold war
5) antiwar movement
6) Berlin blockade
7) domino theory
8) Marshall Plan
9) guerilla warfare
10) Brown v. Board of Education
a) the political protest against US policy in Vietnam during the war
b) the Russian blockade of the western- occupied section of Berlin
c) Supreme court decision that separate schools for black and white
students were unconstitutional (1954)
d) hostility and sharp conflict between states, such as in diplomacy
and economics, without actual warfare
e) the theory that a certain result will follow a certain cause like a
row of dominoes falling if the first is pushed; specifically, the theory that if
a nation becomes a communist state, the nations nearby will too
f) a type of combat in which rebels who specialize in sudden, hit-
and-run attacks make surprise raids on their enemies
g) the rights and privileges of all human beings, including those
stated in the Declaration of Independence and those guaranteed and
protected by the Bill of Rights
h) the policies adopted by John F. Kennedy that included Madicare,
federal aid to education, creation of a Department of Urban Affairs, a
lowing of tariffs between the US and the European Common Market, and
programs to help fight unemployment and pollution
i) the post-World War II plan for aid to European countries
formulated by General George Marshall in 1947
j) an international organization, founded in 1949 as an alliance
between the USA, Canada, and ten western European countries
1. Read the text about Abraham Lincoln and John Kennedy? Were there many
similarities in the lives of two American presidents?
DOES HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF?
THE LINCOLN AND KENNEDY COINCIDENCES
This strange story is about a series of uncanny coincidences which link
two of America's most popular presidents: Abraham Lincoln and John F.
Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846, Kennedy was elected 100
years later, almost to the day in fact. After their deaths from assassination,
both of these presidents were succeeded by Southerners with the surname
Johnson. Lincoln was succeeded by Andrew Johnson, who was born in
1808, and Kennedy was succeeded by Lyndon Johnson, who was born in
1908. Both Johnsons have 13 letters in their names and both of them served
in the US Senate.
Mary Lincoln and Jackie Kennedy both had children who died while
their husbands were in the White House. Both Lincoln and Kennedy studied
law. John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald both had fifteen letters in
their names, and were both Southerners, were both in their 20s, and of
course, both assassins were shot before they could stand trial. Kennedy had
a secretary named Miss Lincoln, and Lincoln had a secretary named John
John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre and ran to a warehouse,
and Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and ran to a theatre. Stranger
still, the car Kennedy was traveling in when he was shot was a Ford
Lincoln. Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theatre.
Both assassinations took place on a Friday, and the two presidents
were shot in the back of the head while their wives were at their side.
Kennedy and Lincoln were both historic civil rights campaigners who
were heavily criticized while in office but were glorified after they died.
On the day of the assassinations Kennedy and Lincoln made strange
prophetic statements. Hours before Lincoln was shot, he said to his personal
guard, "If somebody wants to take my life, there is nothing I can do prevent
And hours before Kennedy went to Dallas in 1963, he said to his wife
Jackie, "If somebody wants to shoot me from a window with a rifle, nobody
can stop it, so why worry about it?"
And finally, both presidents were said to have been victims of a
conspiracy. When Lincoln was shot, the telegraph lines out of Washington,
D.C., remained silent for three hours on the orders of a high ranking official
who has never been identified. It is thought this information blackout was
arranged to give John Wilkes Booth – who was fleeing from the scene of the
crime – a head start.
2. On August 28, 1963 Dr King helped lead a famous civil-rights march on
Washington, D.C. that brought more than a quarter of a million people to the nation’s
capital. Thousands of blacks and whites marched behind the black leaders. The march
ended in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr King was the last speaker. It was here that
he made his famous “I have a dream” speech, in which he told about the dream he had
for his four children and all children. Read one of the most important speeches in
I HAVE A DREAM
I am happy
to join with you
today in what will
go down in
history as the
freedom in the
history of our
years ago, a great
shadow we stand
Martin Luther King at the Lincoln today, signed the
Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon
light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames
of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred
years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of
segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the
Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of
material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in
the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
So we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a
sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects
of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the
Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which
every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes,
black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable
Rights" of "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note,
insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred
obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which
has come back marked “insufficient funds”. We refuse to believe that the
bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient
funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to
cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom
and the security of justice.
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the
fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off
or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real
the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and
desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the
time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid
rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of
God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of
the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent
will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who
hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will
have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is
granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to
shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the
warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: in the process of gain-
ing our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.
Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the
cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the
high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest
to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the
majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro
community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of
our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to
realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and they have come to
realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. This offense
we share mounted to storm the battlements of injustice must be carried forth
by a biracial army. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march
ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of
civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long
as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue
of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of
the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is
from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their
self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating "for whites only." We
cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a
Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No. We are
not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters,
and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials
and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And
some of you have come from areas where your quest – quest for freedom
left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of
police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue
to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi; go back to Alabama; go back to South
Carolina; go back to Georgia; go back to Louisiana; go back to the slums
and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can
and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
So I say to you today, my friends that even though we must face the
difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply
rooted in the American dream that one day this nation will rise up and live
out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the
true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all
men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of for-
mer slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down
together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state swel-
tering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will
be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of
their character. I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists,
with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition
and nullification, that one day, right there in Alabama, little black boys and
black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as
sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every
hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain,
and the crooked places will be made straight; and the glory of the Lord shall
be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a
stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling dis-
cords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to
struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together,
knowing that we will be free one day. This will be the day - this will be the
day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, -"My
country 'tis of thee; sweet land of liberty; of thee I sing; land where my
fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride; from every mountainside, let
freedom ring" - and if America is to be a great nation, this must become
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill molehill o0f Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring when we let it
ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city,
we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men
and white men Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to
join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free
at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
AMERICA IN THE 1970S
Political activism did not disappear in the 1970s, however it was
rechanneled into other causes. Some young people worked for the
enforcement of anti-pollution laws or joint consumer-protection groups or
campaigned against the nuclear power industry. Following the example of
blacks, other minorities – Hispanics, Asians, American Indians,
homosexuals – demanded a broadening of their rights.
A cartoon that appeared in the British press during the Watergate affair. President Nixon
has been stabbed by the quill pen of the Washington Post's investigative journalists .
President Richard Nixon (1969-1974) was a Republican, who took
office after eight years of Democratic rule. He was much less interested than
Kennedy and Johnson in helping the poor. He believed that people should
overcome hardship by their own efforts. As President, Richard Nixon was
faced with many problems in foreign affairs. The war was still going on in
Vietnam, and trouble was brewing again in the Middle East. Nixon worked
to do something about these problems. He achieved two major diplomatic
goals: reestablishing formal relations with the People’s Republic of China
and negotiating the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) with the
Even as the United States was fighting the Vietnam War, relations
with the Soviet Union had begun to improve. In 1969, the United States and
the Soviet Union were among some 60 countries that signed the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty. In it, countries with nuclear weapons promised not
to help other countries to build them. That same year, the two powers began
talks on limiting defensive nuclear weapons. Out of these talks came the
Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT). In it, the United States and the
Soviet Union agreed to limit production of certain missiles.
In June 1969, President Nixon came to Moscow to sign the SALT
agreement. He was the first American President to visit here. Nixon said that
the United States and the Soviet Union should have closer economic and
business ties. A few months later, the United States agreed to sell American
wheat and other grains to the Soviet Union. It was the largest export grain
order the United States had ever received. All of this was part of a new
policy toward the Soviet Union formed by President Nixon and Secretary of
State Henry Kissinger. Called detente, it meant a relaxation of cold war
tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1973 Soviet
Premier Leonid Brezhnev visited Washington, D.C. He met there with
President Nixon, members of Congress, and some American business
leaders. During the visit, it was agreed that both the United States and the
Soviet Union would work on another SALT agreement. In addition, both
leaders agreed that their nations should avoid actions which might lead to
nuclear war. There was also agreement for the two countries to work
together in the areas of business, science, and culture.
At the same time, President Nixon was also trying to improve relations
with the People's Republic of China. On February 21, 1972, he became the
first American President to visit the People's Republic of China. Nixon
signed a declaration that said Taiwan was legally part of mainland China. It
also said that in time American forces would leave there, and that Taiwan's
future would be decided by the Chinese themselves. This, more than
anything, showed how much United States policy toward China had
changed under President Nixon. This policy was continued in the 1970s. In
January 1979, the United States formally recognized the People's Republic
But the 1970s was a time of discontent and disillusion for many
American people. President Nixon had promised in his 1968 campaign to
bring the people together – to unify the country. Nixon said he would follow
policies that would heal the wounds of war abroad and violence at home.
This represented a search for consensus, or general agreement.
One of the most important problems facing the country in the late
1960s was inflation. Prices rose higher and higher each year, mostly because
of the cost of the Vietnam War. To stop inflation, Nixon first called for a
tight money policy. In August 1971, he announced his New Economic
Policy but it did little to bring about consensus.
The subject of women's rights became more and more an issue in the
1970's. During Nixon's years in office, American women stepped up a long-
time struggle against discrimination against them. By 1970 women made up
nearly 40 percent of the workforce. Yet they faced discrimination both in the
kinds of jobs they could get and in the amount of money they were paid. For
example, in 1970 women earned only 60 percent as much as men. Women
often were not only limited to lower-paying jobs but were paid less for the
same job. To end such discrimination, the National Organization for Women
(NOW) was formed in 1966. There were also other groups formed to work
for women's rights.
Another area of conflict in the 1970's was the space program. In 1969
the United States had reached Kennedy's goal of landing on the moon. By
the end of 1972 the United States had made five more moon landings.
Although most people admired such feats, some thought that the money
could be better used elsewhere. They felt that greater efforts should be made
to solve the problems on the earth. In spite of this, Nixon was able to get
support for Skylab, which was launched in 1973. This was an orbiting
laboratory to test the ability of humans to live and work in outer space. In
1975 the United States and the Soviet Union carried out a joint space
mission. An American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft docked
together while orbiting the earth. This docking symbolized the spirit of
detente between the two powers.
In 1972 Nixon was reelected as President, soon Americans learned of
a scandal involving the President and members of his staff. In June 1972
five people had been arrested for breaking into the headquarters of the
Democratic National Committee in Washington, D.C. The office was in the
Watergate Hotel, and the scandal that followed was called Watergate.
Journalists investigating the incident discovered that the burglars were
connected to the White House and the Committee to reelect the President. In
February 1973 the Senate set up a committee to look into charges of
corruption in the 1972 election. In July 1973, it was revealed that President
Nixon had recorded his office conversations concerning the Watergate
affair. Nixon repeatedly had said that he had not known about the break-in
nor had he used his powers to cover it up. The Senate committee hoped that
his tapes would bring out the truth. Nixon, however, refused to give up the
tapes, claiming executive privilege. After long resistance he finally made
them public. The tapes revealed that Nixon was directly involved in the
cover up. More and more Americans lost faith in the President, and by the
summer of 1974 it was clear that Congress was likely to impeach and to
convict the President. On August 9, 1974 Richard Nixon became the only
American President to resign his office.
In the middle of Watergate, the American people had received another
blow to their faith in government leaders. In October 1973 Vice-President
Spiro Agnew resigned from office. He had been charged with accepting
bribes both before and during his term as Vice-President. After Agnew left
office, Nixon named Republican Gerald Ford as Vice-President. Twenty
months later, upon Nixon’s resignation Ford became President. He was the
first person to serve as President who had not been elected to either the
Presidency or the Vice-Presidency.
Ford became President in a time of crisis. His priority was to restore
trust in the government which had been shaken by the Watergate scandal.
Besides, economic problems remained serious as inflation and
unemployment continued to rise and gross national product fell. At first,
Americans greeted Ford favorably. Shortly after taking office, however,
President Ford lost some of those good feelings as he pardoned Nixon for
any crimes which he might have committed while in office. This meant that
Nixon would not have to face criminal charges for his part in Watergate.
Ford hoped it would help heal the wounds of Watergate, but most
Americans were angered by the pardon.
In public policy, Ford followed the course Nixon had set. He carried
on detente with the Soviet Union and worked toward closer relations with
China. He also went on working for nuclear arms control and visited the
Soviet Union in December 1974.
Under Ford, there was much disagreement over how to make America
self-sufficient in energy. Ford favored deregulation. This meant removing
price controls on gas and oil. Prices would then rise, and because of this,
people would use less fuel. Higher profits from higher prices would aid
companies in developing new forms of energy. Ford was not able to get the
Congress to pass this measure. However, the Congress did pass the Energy
Policy and Conservation Act. This act dealt with saving fuel and finding
new forms of energy.
In 1976 the election was won by Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter,
former governor of Georgia. Carter had limited political experience, but
many voters now preferred an “outsider” – someone who was not part of the
Washington establishment. During the campaign Carter made a number of
promises. He said that he would balance the budget and cut military
spending, create jobs to lower unemployment, "clean up" the government
and make certain changes in foreign policy.
He could not control the chief economic problem of the 1970s –
inflation. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) had
been increasing the cost since 1973, and those increases fueled a general rise
Once in office, however, Carter had difficulty working with the
Congress. One area of conflict was Carter's new foreign policy. He wanted
the United States to use its power to uphold human rights all over the world.
One way to do it was to cut off military and economic aid to governments
which violated these rights. Carter, for example, favored withdrawing aid
from Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Ethiopia. These were countries ruled
by dictators who jailed people opposing them. Carter also urged the white-
minority governments of South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to share
power with their black-majority populations. President Carter also supported
Soviet dissidents, people who spoke out against their government, and the
Soviet Union was angered by Carter's policy. Relations between the two
countries grew worse after the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in December
1979. In protest, Carter asked the United States Olympic team to boycott the
1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.
1. How did political activism change in the 1970s?
2. Being a Republican, did President Nixon share Kennedy’s
attitudes to social issues?
3. What were the two major tasks that Nixon accomplished in
4. Speak about the development of US-Soviet relations.
5. What is SALT?
6. What economic challenges did the US face in the 1960s?
7. What were the objectives of NOW?
8. How did American space program develop in the 1970s?
9. What is Watergate? Was it a blow to people’s faith in
10. Why did Spiro Agnew resign from office?
11. What were the priorities of the Ford administration?
12. What was the reaction of most Americans to pardoning of
13. Speak about the disagreement over energy issues.
14. Why, do you think, Americans voted for Carter in 1976?
15. Speak about Carter’s foreign policy.
Shifts in the structure of American
society, begun years earlier, had become
apparent by the 1980s. The composition
of the population and the most important
jobs and skills in American society had
undergone major changes. The
dominance of service jobs in the
economy became undeniable. By the mid
1980s three-fourths of all employees
worked in the service sector as retail
clerks, office workers, teachers,
physicians, government employees,
lawyers, legal and financial specialists.
Service sector activity benefited from the
availability and increased use of the
computer. This was the information age, with hardware and software
processing huge amounts of data about economic and social trends.
Meanwhile, American “smokestack” industries, such as steel and textiles,
were in decline. The US automobile industry reeled under competition from
Japanese carmakers such as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, many of which
opened their own factories in the United States. By 1980 Japanese
automobile manufacturers controlled a quarter of the American market.
Population patterns shifted as well. After the end of the postwar “baby
boom”, which lasted from 1946 to 1964, the overall rate of population
growth declined and the population grew older. Household composition also
changed. In 1980 the percentage of family households dropped, a quarter of
all groups were now classified as “nonfamily households”, in which two or
more unrelated persons lived together.
New immigrants changed the character of American society in other
ways. In 1965 the character of American immigration policy changed, and
the number of immigrants from Asia and Latin America increased
dramatically. Vietnamese refugees poured into the US after the war. In 1980
808,000 immigrants arrived, the highest number in 60 years, as the country
once more became a heaven for people from around the world.
In the presidential race of 1980 American voters rejected Carter’s bid
for a second term, and elected Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican
and former governor of California. By giving Ronald Reagan an
overwhelming election victory, the American public expressed a desire for
change in the style and substance of the nation’s leadership. He benefited
from the accumulated frustrations of more than a decade of domestic and
international disappointments. The 69-year-old Republican became the
nation's 40th, and oldest, President.
He had reached the presidency by an unusual route. Born in a small
town in Illinois, he spent most of his career in entertainment business – first
as a radio sportscaster, then as a successful film actor, and later as a
television show host and corporate spokesman for General Electric. In that
last capacity he began to speak widely on political issues. In 1964 Reagan
appeared on national television to deliver an eloquent endorsement of Barry
Goldwater (Senator from Arizona and Republican nominee for president);
his speech established him almost overnight as the new leader of American
conservatives. Two years later Reagan won governorship of California and
served two four-year terms.
Reagan seemed to be a man fully in tune with his times. Throughout
his presidency he demonstrated the ability to instill in Americans pride in
their country, and a sense of optimism about the future. He assumed the
presidency promising a change in government more fundamental than any
since the New Deal of 50 years before. Reagan succeeded brilliantly in
making his own engaging personality the central fact of American politics in
the 1980s. Even people who disagreed with his policies found themselves
drawn to his attractive image. Known as the “Great Communicator”, Reagan
was a master of television and a gifted public speaker.
If there was a central theme to Reagan’s national agenda, it was his
belief that the federal government had become too big. He believed that
government intruded too deeply into American life. He also wanted his New
Federalism to go into effect. First proposed by President Nixon, the plan
was to cut the federal government's role in the economy by turning over
many of its tasks to state and local governments. By strengthening state
governments, he hoped to reduce federal spending and build up national
Reagan’s domestic program was rooted in his belief that the nation
would prosper if the power of private economic sector was unleashed.
Reagan was a proponent of Supply-side economics, a theory which
advocates large tax cuts in order to increase private investments and thus
increase the nation’s supply of goods and services. Calling upon Americans
to "begin an era of national renewal" in his inaugural address, President
Reagan outlined his economic program as "a new beginning." In the weeks
that followed he urged Congress to support this program. It called for
decreases in taxes, reduced federal regulations, and sharp cuts in federal
spending – all designed to stimulate the economy and to curb "double-digit"
inflation. Democratic leaders strongly opposed Reagan's economic program.
They called it Reaganomics ─ policy designed to increase production or
favor supply. They pointed out that less money would be taken in by the
federal treasury because of the tax cuts, and complained that most of the
budget cuts would have to be made in social programs since Reagan
proposed to increase spending on national defense. The Reagan
administration, supported by conservative members in Congress, sought to
make cuts in the amount of federal money being spent for public health,
education, and welfare.
Despite the severe cuts in the federal budget, the Reagan
administration was unable to achieve all of the results it sought. By the early
1982 the Reagan economic program was beset with difficulties. The nation
continued to face rising unemployment, high interest rates, serious economic
recession, and record budget deficits. The US entered the most severe
recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
However, the economy recovered more rapidly and impressively than
almost anyone had expected. Despite a growing federal budget deficit and
the prediction of many economists that the recovery was weak, the economy
continued to flourish through 1984 and 1985. The US entered into one of the
longest periods of sustained economic growth since World War II.
Presiding, like Eisenhower, over a period of relative peace and prosperity,
President Reagan and his Vice President George Bush overwhelmingly won
reelection of 1984.
In foreign policy, Reagan encountered a combination of triumphs and
difficulties. Determined to restore American pride and prestige in the world,
he attacked what he claimed as the weakness and “defeatism” of previous
administrations which had allowed Vietnam, Watergate, and other crises to
paralyze their will to act. The United States, he argued, should again become
active and assertive in opposing communism throughout the world. The
most conspicuous examples of the new activism came in Latin America. In
El Salvador, where the regime was engaged in struggle with communist
revolutionaries, the president committed himself to increased military and
economic assistance. In neighboring Nicaragua, a pro-American dictatorship
had fallen to the revolutionary “Sandinistas” in 1970. The new government
had grown increasingly anti-American throughout the early 1980s. Despite
substantial domestic opposition, the US administration gave more and more
support, both rhetorical and material, to the “contras” – a guerrilla
movement recruited and trained largely by the American CIA, drawn from
several antigovernment groups and fighting to topple the Sandinista regime.
The administration's greatest foreign policy success, Reagan believed,
came in October 1983, when American soldiers and marines invaded the
tiny Caribbean island of Grenada to safeguard American lives and to oust an
anti-American Marxist regime that took power after the assassination of the
country’s elected prime-minister. The invasion was brief, successful, and
not particularly costly. It was highly popular with the American public.
In June 1982, the Israeli army launched an invasion of Lebanon in an
effort to drive guerrillas of the Palestinian Liberation Organization from the
country. The United States supported the Israelis rhetorically, but it also
worked to reduce the violence and to permit the PLO forces to depart
Lebanon peacefully. An American peacekeeping force entered Beirut to
supervise the evacuation. Later, American marines remained in the city,
apparently to protect the fragile Lebanese government. But military efforts
in Lebanon ended tragically when over 200 Marines were killed in a
terrorist bombing in October, 1983. In the face of this difficult situation,
Reagan chose to withdraw American forces rather than become more deeply
involved in the Lebanese struggle. For a time the administration showed
similar restraint in response to a series of terrorist incidents directed against
American citizens in Europe and the Middle East. The president made
bellicose remarks about several Arab leaders but took no visible action
against them. In spring of 1986, however, the administration ordered
American naval forces to stage exercises in the Mediterranean, off the cost
of Libya (whose radical leader, Muammar Qaddafi, was generally believed
to be a principal sponsor of terrorism). Qaddafi claimed the American ships
were operating in his territorial waters, a claim the United States denied. In
the course of the exercises, Libyan forces harassed the Americans; US
bombers then launched a series of retaliatory attacks on Libyan military
Several weeks later, after additional terrorist attacks on Americans and
others in which Qaddafi had evidently been involved, American planes
staged an extensive bombing raid on the Libyan capital. Several important
military targets were destroyed. But the raid also damaged some nonmilitary
sites and killed a number of civilians. The bombing was highly popular with
the American people, but it evoked strong denunciations throughout the
Arab Middle East and from many of America's allies in Europe.
Additionally, the United States and other Western European nations kept the
vital Persian Gulf oil-shipping lanes open during the Iran-Iraq conflict, by
escorting tankers through the war zone.
Relations with the Soviet Union during the Reagan years fluctuated
between political confrontation and far-reaching arms control agreements.
The president spoke harshly of the Soviet regime, accusing it of sponsoring
world terrorism and declaring that any armaments negotiations must be
linked to negotiations about Soviet behavior in other areas. The Soviet
Union, he once claimed, was the "focus of evil in the world." Relations with
the USSR deteriorated further after the government of Poland (under strong
pressure from Moscow) imposed martial law on the country in the winter of
1981 to crush a growing challenge from an independent labor organization,
Solidarity. Another event that increased US-Soviet tension was the
destruction of an off-course Korean passenger airliner by a Soviet jet fighter
on September 1, 1983.
The Reagan years in the White House saw unprecedented military
spending. The President called for a massive defense buildup, including the
placement of intermediate-range nuclear missiles to match and exceed the
Soviet arsenal. He also proposed the most ambitious new military program
in many years: the so-called Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), widely
known as "Star Wars" (after a popular movie of that name). Reagan claimed
that SDI, through the use of lasers and satellites, could provide an
impenetrable shield against incoming missiles and thus make nuclear war
obsolete – a claim that produced considerable skepticism in the scientific
However, Reagan soon found himself contending for the world's
attention with Mikhail Gorbachev, installed as chairman of the Soviet
Communist party in March 1985. Gorbachev was personable, energetic,
imaginative, and committed to radical reforms in the Soviet Union. He
announced two policies with sweeping, even revolutionary, implications -
Glasnost and Perestroika. Both Glasnost and Perestroika required that the
Soviet Union shrink the size of its enormous military machine and redirect
its energies to the civilian economy. That requirement, in turn, necessitated
an end to the Cold War. Gorbachev accordingly made warm overtures to the
West, including an announcement in April 1985 that the Soviet Union
would cease to deploy intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) targeted on
Western Europe, pending an agreement on their complete elimination. He
pushed this goal when he met with Ronald Reagan at their first of four
summit meetings, in Geneva in November 1985. The two leaders met again
in October 1986, this time in Reykjavik, Iceland, but they could reach no
agreement on arms reduction because of basic differences over SDI. But at a
third summit, in Washington, D.C, in December 1987, Reagan and
Gorbachev at last signed the INF treaty, banning all intermediate-range
nuclear missiles from Europe. This was a result long sought by both sides;
it marked a victory for American policy, for Gorbachev's reform program,
and for the peoples of Europe and indeed all the world, who now had at least
one less nuclear weapon system to worry about.
In June 1987, Reagan called for the removal of the Berlin Wall,
appealing directly to Mikhail Gorbachev to remove the physical and
symbolic barrier between the two Germanys and the Eastern and Western
blocs of Europe. In the year Reagan left office, the Berlin Wall was
demolished, followed by the unraveling of the Soviet Union itself.
Two foreign-policy problems seemed insoluble to Reagan: the
continuing captivity of a number of American hostages, seized by Muslim
extremist groups in Lebanon; and the continuing grip on power of the left-
wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The most serious issue
confronting the Reagan’s administration at that time was the revelation that
the US had secretly sold arms to Iran in an attempt to win freedom for
American hostages held in Lebanon (Irangate), and to finance the
Nicaraguan contras during a period when Congress had prohibited such aid.
The Iran-contra affair cast a dark shadow over the Reagan record in
foreign policy, tending to obscure the president's real achievement in
establishing a new relationship with the Soviets. Out of the several Iran-
contra investigations a picture emerged of Reagan as a lazy, perhaps even
senile, president who napped through meetings and paid little or no attention
to the details of policy. Reagan's critics pounced on this portrait as proof that
the former-movie-star-turned-politician was a mental lightweight who had
merely acted his way through the role of the presidency without really
understanding the script. But despite these damaging revelations, Reagan
remained among the most popular and beloved presidents in modern
1. What were the major shifts in American society and economy in
2. Did American immigration policy change at that period? How
did it affect the population structure of the country?
3. Who became the 40th US President?
4. Speak about Reagan’s career.
5. Speak about Reagan’s personality.
6. What was the central theme to Reagan’s national agenda?
7. What is Supply-side economics?
8. Did Reagan administration manage to achieve all the economic
results it sought?
9. Speak about the US involvement in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and
10. Why did American troops enter Beirut in 1982?
11. Speak about Muammar Qaddafi and the conflict with Libya.
12. Speak about Reagan’s attitude towards the Soviet Union. What
incidents deteriorated American-Soviet relations in the early 1980s?
13. What is SDI?
14. How did the relations with the Soviet Union change after 1985?
15. Speak about the Iran-contra affair.
AMERICA IN THE 1990S
The last decade of the 20th century is often called one of the best
periods in US history. During almost all that time America was in peace.
The frightening and costly military competition with the Soviet Union had
ended, the threat of nuclear attack seemed greatly reduced, if not gone. The
economy improved from poor to very good. American scientists and
engineers made major progress in medicine and technology. The internet
computer system created a new world of communications.
America grew by almost 33 million people during the 1990s. Some
minority groups grew faster than the white population, one in ten Americans
was born in another country. During this decade there was a huge increase
in immigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. More than 280
million people lived in the United States by the end of the 20 th century. The
population was getting older, however, and needing more costly healthcare.
American families changed, more people ended their marriages. The divorce
rate increased, so did the percentage of children living with only one parent.
In 1988 Americans elected George Herbert Walker Bush as their
President. He benefited greatly from the popularity of the former President.
George Bush was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father had
served as a US senator from Connecticut, and young George had enjoyed a
first-rate education at Yale. After service in World War II, he made a
modest fortune of his own in the oil business in Texas. His deepest
commitment, however, was the public service, he left the business world to
serve briefly as a congressman and then held various posts in several
Republican administrations, including emissary to China, ambassador to the
United Nations, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and vice
president. He capped this long political career when he was inaugurated as
president in January 1989, promising to work for “a kinder, gentler
America.” During his campaign Bush promised to continue the economic
policies of the Reagan administration. He echoed some of Reagan’s
positions in social issues and stressed a commitment to be the “education
The US-Soviet dialogue continued to broaden and deepen during the
first year of the Bush administration. At that time a remarkable political
change took place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, symbolized by
the opening of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. In the two years
following that event, the world witnessed the dissolution of the Soviet
Union and the end of its dominating influence in Eastern Europe. The Bush
administration promoted the concept of a “new world order”, based on a
new set of international realities, priorities, and moral principles.
The idea of a “new world order” was challenged when Saddam
Hussein, the leader of Iraq, invaded oil-rich Kuwait in August 1990.
Financially exhausted by its eight-year war with Iran that had ended in
stalemate in 1988, Iraq needed Kuwait’s oil to pay its huge war bills.
Ironically, the United States and its allies had helped supply Saddam
with the tools of aggression. Assuming that "the enemy of my enemy is my
friend," American policymakers aided Iraq's war against Iran. In the process
they helped build Saddam's military machine into one of the world's largest
and most dangerous.
On January 16, 1991, the United States and its U.N. allies unleashed a
hellish air war against Iraq. For thirty-seven days, warplanes pummeled
targets in occupied Kuwait and in Iraq itself. Overwhelmed by the air
attacks, Iraq offered almost no resistance, and even sneaked some of its own
aircraft out of the country to avoid destruction. The air campaign constituted
an awesome display of high-technology, precision-targeting modern
warfare. Yet the Iraqis claimed, probably rightly, that civilians were
nevertheless killed. On February 23, the dreaded and long-awaited land war
began. Dubbed “Operation Desert Storm,” it lasted only four days – the
“hundred-hour war.” On February 27, Saddam accepted a cease-fire, and
Kuwait was liberated. The US and its allies achieved its military goal, but
the victory was incomplete. Saddam Hussein remained in power, repressing
the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the south, both of whom had risen a
rebellion after the war.
Despite popularity from his military and diplomatic triumph, when the
election was held in 1992, Bush lost. In trying to explain his defeat most
analysts agreed that the main factor was a loss of faith in the American
Dream. It was evident that millions
of Americans had lost confidence in
their government, as Presidents had
lied to them about Vietnam,
Watergate, and Iran-contra. Many
members of Congress ignored the
needs of citizens and paid attention
only to the special interests that
contributed money to their election
campaigns. And the campaigns
themselves often had degenerated
into “mudslinging” theatricals
instead of a discussion of issues.
William J. Clinton,
Democratic candidate, became the
42nd President of the United States.
Clinton was born in Hope, Arkansas
in 1945. He rose from poverty to
graduate from Georgetown University, and later from Yale Law School
where he met Hillary Rodham, whom he married in 1975. After returning to
Arkansas, he became the nation's youngest governor in 1978. While
governor of Arkansas, Clinton tried to move the Democratic Party away
from left towards a more moderate mainstream position. Clinton also
favored a national government that would be more active in meeting
people's needs and bringing about social changes. He won the 1992 election
largely on a platform focusing on domestic issues, notably the economic
recession of the pre-election period. Clinton was the first Democrat to serve
two full terms as President since Franklin D. Roosevelt. That election also
brought the Democrats full control of the political branches of the federal
government, including both houses of Congress as well as the Presidency.
Throughout the 1990s, Clinton presided over continuous economic
expansion, reductions in unemployment, and growing wealth through a
massive rise in the stock market.
During the presidential campaign, Clinton was criticized for not
having any experience in foreign policy. Yet his first two years in office saw
several accomplishments in this area. The first accomplishment was passage
of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. This pact
between the United States, Canada, and Mexico was designed to eliminate
trade and investment barriers among the three nations. Also Clinton sent US
troops to Bosnia and pursued efforts in the Middle East, where he was
involved in confrontations with Saddam Hussein.
As the first Baby Boomer President, Bill Clinton was seen as quite a
break from the presidents of previous generations. He was discussed as a
remarkably informal president in a “common man” kind of way. With his
sound-bite rhetoric and use of pop-culture in his campaigning, Clinton was
declared, often negatively, as the “MTV president”.
Much of Clinton’s presidency was overshadowed by numerous
scandals, including his sexual encounters with White House intern Monica
Lewinsky. On December 19, 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached by the House
of Representatives on grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice,
becoming the first elected US President to be impeached (and the second
ever, the previous one being Andrew Johnson). The Senate, however, voted
not to convict Clinton allowing him to stay in office for the remainder of his
second term. The trial and the events leading to it caused deep concern
among some Americans.
1. How did life in America change in the 1990s?
2. In 1988, Americans voted for George H. W. Bush as President.
Speak about his career.
3. How did opening of the Berlin Wall and dissolution of the Soviet
Union affect the US foreign policy?
4. Speak about American military campaign in Iraq in 1991.What is
“Operation Desert Storm”?
5. How did analysts explain the defeat of George Bush in the 1992
6. Speak about Bill Clinton’s career.
7. What were Clinton administration’s accomplishments in foreign
8. What is NAFTA?
9. Speak about Clinton’s personality. Why was he sometimes
referred to as the “MTV president”?
10. What were the reasons for Bill Clinton’s impeachment?
''Americans are a
nation born of an idea; not
the place, but [the] idea,
created the United States
Government." (Theodore H.
The Constitution and
the Bill of Rights
The Constitution of
the United States is the
central instrument of
American government and the supreme law of the land. For over 200 years
it has guided the evolution of governmental institutions and has provided the
basis for political stability, individual freedom, economic growth and social
progress. The American Constitution is the world’s oldest written
constitution in force, one that has served as the model for a number of other
constitutions around the world.
The path of the American Constitution was neither straight nor easy.
The former colonies, now "the United States of America," first operated
under an agreement called the Articles of Confederation (1781). It was soon
clear that this loose agreement among the states was not working well. The
central, federal government was too weak, with too few powers for defense,
trade, and taxation. In 1787, therefore, delegates from the states met in Phil-
adelphia. They wanted to revise the Articles, but they did much more than
that. They wrote a completely new document, the Constitution, which after
much argument, debate, and compromise was finished in the same year and
officially adopted on March 4, 1789. The 55 delegates who drafted the
Constitution included most of the outstanding leaders, or Founding Fathers,
of the new nation. They represented a wide range of interests and
backgrounds. All agreed, however, on the central objectives expressed in the
preamble to the Constitution:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common
defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to
ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the
United States of America.”
The primary aim of the Constitution was to create a strong elected
government, directly responsive to the will of the people. The Constitution
departed sharply from the Articles of Confederation in that it established a
strong central, or federal, government with broad powers to regulate
relations between the states, and with sole responsibility in such areas as
foreign affairs and defense.
The Constitution sets the basic form of government: three separate
branches, each one having powers ("checks and balances") over the others.
It specifies the powers and duties of each federal branch of government,
with all other powers and duties belonging to the states. The Constitution
has been repeatedly amended to meet the changing needs of the nation, but
it is still the "supreme law of the land." All governments and governmental
groups, federal, state, and local, must operate within its guidelines. The
ultimate power under the Constitution is not given to the President (the
executive branch), or to the Congress (the legislative branch), or to the
Supreme Court (the judicial branch). Nor does it rest, as in many other coun-
tries, with a political group or party. It belongs to "We the People," in fact
and in spirit.
The authors of the Constitution were aware that changes would be
needed from time to time if the Constitution were to endure and to keep
pace with the growth of the nation. Hence, they included in the Constitution
a provision for amending the document when social, economic or political
conditions demanded it. Since 1789 it has been amended 27 times, but and
it is likely to be further revised in the future. The most sweeping changes
were made within two years of its adoption. In that period the first 10
amendments, known as The Bill of Rights, were added. In the first ten
Constitutional Amendments Americans stated what they considered to be
the fundamental rights of any American. Among these rights are the
freedom of religion, speech, and the press, the right of peaceful assembly,
and the right to petition the government to correct wrongs. Other rights
guarded the citizens against unreasonable searches, arrests, and seizures of
property, and established a system of justice guaranteeing orderly legal
procedures. This included the right of trial by jury, that is, being judged by
one's fellow citizens.
The great pride Americans have in their Constitution, their almost
religious respect for it, comes from the knowledge that these ideals, free-
doms, and rights were not given to them by a small ruling class. Rather, they
are seen as the natural "unalienable" rights of every American, which had
been fought for and won. They cannot be taken away by any government,
court, official, or law.
The federal and state governments formed under the Constitution,
therefore, were designed to serve the people and to carry out their majority
wishes (and not the other way around). One thing they did not want their
government to do is to rule them. Americans expect their governments to
serve them and tend to think of politicians and governmental officials as
their servants. This attitude remains very strong among Americans today.
Over the past two centuries, the Constitution has also had considerable
influence outside the United States. Several other nations have based their
own forms of government on it. It is interesting to note that Lafayette, a hero
of the American Revolution, drafted the French declaration of rights when
he returned to France. And the United Nations Charter also has clear echoes
of what once was considered a revolutionary document.
The Legislative Branch
Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government, is made up
of the Senate and the House of Representatives. There are 100 Senators, two
from each state. One third of the Senators are elected every two years for
six-year terms of office. The Senators represent all of the people in a state
and their interests. The House has 435 members. They are elected every two
years for two-year terms. They represent the population of "congressional
districts" into which each state is divided. The number of Representatives
from each state is based upon its population. For instance, California, the
state with the largest population, has 45 Representatives, while Delaware
has only one. The Constitution provides for a national census each 10 years
and a redistribution of House seats according to population shifts. There is
no limit to the number of terms a Senator or a Representative may serve.
Almost all elections in the United States follow the "winner-take-all"
principle: the candidate who wins the largest number of votes in a Con-
gressional district is the winner. The Constitution requires that US senators
must be at least 30 years of age, citizens of the United States for at least 9
years, and residents of the states from which they are elected. Members of
the House of Representatives must be at least 25, citizens for 7 years, and
residents of the states which send them to the Congress.
The main duty of the Congress is to make laws, and each house of
Congress has the power to introduce legislation. A law begins as a proposal
called a “bill”. Once a bill is introduced, it is sent to the appropriate
committee. Each house of the Congress has committees which specialize in
a particular of legislation, such as foreign affairs, defense, banking, and
agriculture. Every bill introduces in either house is referred to a committee
for study and recommendation. It is nearly impossible for a bill to reach the
House or Senate floor without first winning committee approval. After the
committee approval the proposed legislation goes to the Senate or House
chamber where it was first introduced. After a debate, the bill is voted on. If
it passes, it is to the other house where it goes through a similar process.
Because legislation only becomes law if both houses agree, compromise
between them is necessary. The Senate may reject a bill proposed in the
House of Representatives or add amendments. If it happens, a “conference
committee” made up of members from both houses tries to work out a
compromise. If both sides agree on the new version, the bill is sent to the
president for his signature. The president may sign the bill (in such case it
becomes a law) or veto it. A bill vetoed by the president must be reapproved
by two-thirds of both houses to become a law. The president may also refuse
either to sign or veto a bill. In that case the bill becomes a law without his
signature in 10 days. The single exception to this rule is when Congress
adjourns after sending a bill to the president and before the 10-day period
has expired; his refusal to take any action then negates the bill – a process
known as the “pocket veto”.
The Executive Branch
The executive branch of government is responsible for administering
the laws passed by Congress. The president of the Unites States presides
over the executive branch of the federal government – a vast organization
numbering several million people- and in addition has important legislative
and judicial powers. The President of the United States is elected every four
years to a four-year term of office, with no more than two full terms
allowed. The Constitution requires the president to be a native-born
American citizen at least 35 years of age. Candidates for the presidency are
chosen by political parties several months before the presidential election,
which is held every four years. The vice-president, who is elected with the
president, is assigned only two constitutional duties. The first is to preside
over the Senate. However, the vice-president may vote only in the event of a
tie. The second duty is to assume the presidency if the president dies,
becomes disabled, or is removed from office.
The president, as the chief formulator of public policy, has a major
legislative role. He can veto any bill passed by Congress and, unless two-
thirds of each house vote to override the veto, the bill does not become law.
In annual and special messages to the Congress, the president may propose
legislation. However, the President's policies must be approved by the
House of Representatives and the Senate before they can become law. In
domestic as well as in foreign policy, the President can seldom count upon
the automatic support of the Congress, even when his own party has a
majority in both the Senate and the House. Therefore he must be able to
convince Congressmen, the Representatives and Senators, of his point of
view. He must bargain and compromise. This is a major difference between
the American system and those in which the nation's leader represents the
majority party or parties, that is, parliamentary systems.
The Constitution gives the president many important powers. The
president can issue rules, regulations and instructions, called executive
orders, which have the binding force of law upon federal agencies. As head
of state, the president represents the country abroad, meets foreign leaders
and addresses the public. He appoints foreign ambassadors and makes
treaties with other nations. The president also serves as commander-in-chief
of the armed forces and as head of his political party. As chief executive, the
president appoints secretaries/heads of the major departments that make up
the president’s cabinet. Today there are 13 major departments in the
executive branch. Currently these are the departments of State, Treasury,
Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and
Human Resources, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation,
Energy, and Education. Each department is established by law, and, as their
names indicate, each is responsible for a specific area. President’s
appointments of department heads, however, must be approved by the
Senate. None of these Secretaries, as the department heads are usually
called, can also be serving in Congress or in another part of the government.
Each is directly responsible to the President and only serves as long as the
President wants him or her to. They can best be seen, therefore, as
Presidential assistants and advisers. Some Presidents have relied quite a lot
on their Cabinets for advice, and some very little. Each department has
thousands of employees, with offices throughout the country as well as in
Washington. The departments are divided into divisions, bureaus, offices
and services, each with specific duties.
The Judicial Branch
The third branch of government, in addition to the legislative
(Congress) and executive (President) branches, is the federal judiciary. It
consists of a system of courts spread throughout the country. Within the
judicial branch, authority is divided between state and federal (national)
courts. The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, the final
interpreter of the Constitution, which watches over the other two branches.
The Constitution recognizes that the states have certain rights and
authorities beyond the power of the federal government. States have the
power to establish their own systems of criminal and civil laws, with the
result that each state has its own laws, prisons, police force, and state court.
Within each state there are also county and city courts. Generally state laws
are quite similar, but in some areas there is great diversity (e.g. the
minimum age for marriage and the sentences for murder vary from state to
The separate system of federal courts, which operates alongside the
state courts, handles cases which arise under the US Constitution or under
any law or treaty, as well as any controversy to which the federal
government is itself a party. Federal courts also hear disputes involving
governments or citizens of different states.
The Supreme Court determines whether or not the laws and acts are in
accordance with the Constitution. The Congress has the power to fix the
number of judges sitting on the Court, but it cannot change the powers given
to the Supreme Court by the Constitution itself. The Supreme Court consists
of a chief justice and eight associate justices. They are nominated by the
President but must be approved by the Senate. Once approved, they hold
office as Supreme Court justices for life. A decision of the Supreme Court
cannot be appealed to any other court. Neither the President nor Congress
can change their decisions.
The Supreme Court has direct jurisdiction in only two kinds of cases:
those involving foreign diplomats and those in which a state is a party. All
other cases which reach the Court are appeals from lower courts. In such
cases someone claims that a lower court ruling is unjust, or that
Constitutional law has been violated. The Supreme Court chooses which
cases it will hear. Most of the cases involve the interpretation of the
Constitution. The Supreme Court also has the "power of judicial review,"
that is, it has the right to declare laws and actions of the federal, state, and
local governments unconstitutional. While not stated in the Constitution, this
power was established over time. It is in this function that the Supreme
Court has the potential to influence decisively the political, social, and
economic life of the country. In the past, Supreme Court rulings have given
new protection and freedom to blacks and other minorities. The Supreme
Court has nullified certain laws of Congress and has declared actions of
American presidents unconstitutional.
Checks and Balances
The Constitution provides for three main branches of government
which are separate and distinct from one another. The powers given to each
are carefully balanced by the powers of the other two.
Each branch serves as a check on the others. This is to keep any
branch from gaining too much power or from misusing its powers. The chart
below illustrates how the equal branches of government are connected and
how each is dependent on the other two.
The Separation of Powers
The Congress has the power to make laws, but the President may veto
any act of the Congress. The Congress, in its turn, can override a veto by a
two-thirds vote in each house. The Congress can also refuse to provide
funds requested by the President. The President can appoint important
officials of his administration, but they must be approved by the Senate. The
President also has the power to name all federal judges; they, too, must be
approved by the Senate. The courts have the power to determine the
constitutionality of all acts of the Congress and of presidential actions, and
to strike down those they find unconstitutional.
The system of checks and balances makes compromise and consensus
necessary. Compromise is also a vital aspect of other levels of government
in the United States. This system protects against extremes. It means, for
example, that new presidents cannot radically change governmental policies
just as they wish. In the U.S., therefore, when people think of "the
government," they usually mean the entire system, that is, the Executive
Branch and the President, the Congress, and the courts. In fact and in
practice, therefore, the President (i.e. "the Administration") is not as
powerful as many people outside the U.S. seem to think he is. In comparison
with other leaders in systems where the majority party forms "the govern-
ment," he is much less so.
Federalism: State and Local Governments
The fifty states are quite diverse in size, population, climate, economy,
history, and interests. The fifty state governments often differ from one
another, too. Because they often approach political, social, or economic
questions differently, the states have been called "laboratories of democ-
racy." However, they do share certain basic structures. The individual states
all have republican forms of government with a senate and a house. (There
is one exception, Nebraska, which has only one legislative body of
"senators.") All have executive branches headed by state governors and
independent court systems. Each state also has its own constitution. But all
must respect the federal laws and not make laws that interfere with those of
the other states (e.g., someone who is divorced under the laws of one state is
legally divorced in all). Likewise, cities and local authorities must make
their laws and regulations so that they fit their own state's constitution.
The Constitution limits the federal government to specific powers, but
modern judicial interpretations of the Constitution have expanded federal
responsibilities. All others automatically belong to the states and to the local
communities. This has meant that there has always been a battle between
federal and states' rights. The traditional American distrust of a too powerful
central government has kept the battle fairly even over the years. The states
and local communities in the US have rights that in other countries generally
belong to the central government.
All education at any level, for example, is the concern of the states.
The local communities have the real control at the public school level. They
control administration of the schools. They elect the school board officials,
and their local community taxes largely support the schools. Each individual
school system, therefore, hires and fires and pays its own teachers. It sets its
own policies within broad state guidelines. Similarly, there is no national
police force, the FBI being limited to a very few federal crimes, such as
kidnapping. Each state has its own state police and its own criminal laws.
The same is true with, for example, marriage and divorce laws, driving laws
and licenses, drinking laws, and voting procedures. In turn, each city has its
own police force that it hires, trains, controls, and organizes. Neither the
President nor the governor of a state has direct power over it.
There are many other areas which are also the concern of cities, towns,
and villages. Among these are the opening and closing hours for stores,
street and road repair, or architectural laws and other regulations. Also, one
local community might decide that a certain magazine is pornographic and
forbid its sale, or a local school board might determine that a certain novel
should not be in their school library. (A court, however, may later tell the
community or school board that they have unfairly attempted to exercise
censorship.) But another village, a few miles down the road, might accept
Most states and some cities have their own income taxes. Many cities
and counties also have their own laws saying who may and may not own a
gun. Many airports, some of them international, are owned and controlled
by cities or counties and have their own airport police. Finally, a great many
of the most hotly debated questions, which in other countries are decided at
the national level, are settled by the individual states and communities.
Among these are, for example, laws about drug use, capital punishment,
abortion, and homosexuality.
A connecting thread that runs all the way through governments in the
U.S. is the "accountability" of politicians, officials, agencies, and gov-
ernmental groups. This means that information and records on crimes, fires,
marriages and divorces, court cases, property taxes, etc. are public
information. It means, for example, that when a small town needs to build a
school or buy a new police car, how much it will cost (and which company
offered what at what cost) will be in the local newspaper. In some cities,
meetings of the city council are carried live on radio. As a rule, politicians in
the U.S. at any level pay considerable attention to public opinion.
Adding this up, America has an enormous variety in its governmental
bodies. Its system tries to satisfy the needs and wishes of people at the local
level, while at the same time the Constitution guarantees basic rights to
anyone, anywhere in America. This has been very important, for instance, to
the Civil Rights Movement and its struggle to secure equal rights for all
Americans, regardless of race, place of residence, or state voting laws.
Therefore, although the states control their own elections as well as the
registration procedures for national elections, they cannot make laws that
would go against an individual's constitutional rights.
1. What document is the American government based on?
2. What were the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?
3. What was the primary aim of the Constitution?
4. How many times has the US Constitution been amended?
5. What kind of guarantees do the first 10 Amendments provide?
6. What is the structure of American Congress?
7. How does a bill become a law?
8. What are the powers of the US president?
9. What is the presidential term of office? How many terms can US
10. What is the judicial branch of power headed by?
11. What are the functions of the Supreme Court?
12. What powers belong to the states?
13. What is the principle of the system of checks and balances?
14. How many governments are there in the US?
15. Why are American states sometimes referred to as “laboratories
Develop the following points using the words below.
1. The US Constitution is the central instrument of American
the supreme law, to serve as the model, to operate under an
agreement, a loose agreement, Founding Fathers
2. The US Constitution sets three separate branches of power.
the system of “checks and balances”, to meet the needs of the nation,
to operate within the guidelines, the ultimate power, the executive branch,
the judicial branch, the legislative branch, to misuse the power
3. The legislative branch is represented by the Congress.
to be elected, to be based upon the population, national census, a
number of terms, to introduce legislation
4. A law begins as a proposal called a “bill”.
to introduce legislation, a committee, to win the committee approval,
to vote, to work out a compromise, to sign a bill, to veto a bill
5. The US president is the head of the executive branch.
to preside over smth., to be elected, a candidate for presidency, to be
approved by smb., to issue, to appoint
6. The Supreme Court is the final interpreter of the Constitution.
judiciary, authority, to be headed by, in accordance with the
Constitution, chief justice, associate justice, to be approved by, direct
jurisdiction, a court ruling, to violate the Constitution, to declare
7. The Constitution recognizes that states have certain authorities
beyond the power of the federal government.
to establish a system of smth., great diversity, “laboratories of
democracy”, to limit, distrust, to be the concern of the state
1. Listen to a special program from Voice of America – an
intermediate listening comprehension course. During listening you will hear
the following proper names:
the Federalist Papers
Decide whether the statements below are true or false.
1. The delegates needed 10 out of the 13 states to approve the
2. The statements, supporting the Constitution that appeared in
newspapers were written by a man, named Publius.
3. The debate over the proposed Constitution divided the society
into two groups.
4. The anti-federalists liked the idea of a strong central government.
5. The Continental Congress had few powers however it was the
only central government at that time.
6. Delaware ratified the Constitution in December, 1787.
7. It was very important for the nation whether Virginia would
ratify the Constitution
8. Virginia was #9 to ratify the Constitution.
9. If New York refused to ratify the Constitution it would divide the
nation into two.
10. The Constitution came into effect in 1789.
2. This is a tapescript of a special program from Voice of America –
an intermediate listening comprehension course. Fill in the blanks, then
listen to the text to check.
a) national government
b) go into effect
c) wise decision
d) put on trial
e) political reality
f) national money system
g) separate colonies
j) cruel and unusual punishments
k) highest law of the land
l) machinery of government
m) great natural resources
n) protect people’s rights
o) Bill of Rights
THE HEART AND SPIRIT OF THE CONSTIUTION
Welcome to THE MAKING OF A
NATION – American history in VOA Special
Last week in our series, we described how
the Constitution became law once nine of
America’s first thirteen states ratified it. The
Continental Congress set a date for the new plan
of government to take effect. The first
Wednesday in March, seventeen eighty-nine.
Now, here are Richard Rael and Shep O’Neal to
continue our story.
George Washington In seventeen eighty-nine, the population of
the United States was about four million. The
thirteen states had been loosely united for a short time, only about ten years.
Before that, they were (1) … … of Britain.
Because the colonies were separate, their people developed different
ways of life. Their economies and traditions were different. As a result,
Americans were fiercely independent. An emergency – the crisis of the
revolution – brought them together.
Together, they celebrated the Fourth of July, the day America declared
its independence from Britain. Together, they fought British troops to make
that declaration a (2) … …. Together, they joined under the Latin phrase ‘E
Pluribus Unum’ – one out of many.
Yet when the war ended, the soldiers returned to their home states.
They still thought of themselves as New Yorkers, or Virginians, or
Marylanders. They did not consider themselves a national people.
Americans of seventeen eighty-nine were sharply divided on the need
for a (3) … …. Many were afraid the new government would not survive.
They feared the anarchy that would result if it failed. Others hoped it would
fail. They wanted strong state governments, not a strong central government.
For those who supported the national government, there were good
reasons to hope for success. The country had (4) … … …. And its people
were honest and hard-working.
Also, in seventeen eighty-nine, the American economy was improving
after the destruction of the Revolutionary War. Agriculture, trade, and
shipbuilding were coming back to life. Roads, bridges, and canals were
being built to improve travel and communication.
The country’s economy had many problems, however. Two major
issues had to be settled. One was repayment of loans made to support the
Revolutionary Army. The other was creation of a (5) … … …. Both issues
needed quick action.
But before the new government could act, the old government had
work to do. It had to decide where the capital city of the new nation would
be. It also had to hold (6) … for president and Congress. First, the question
of a capital. At the time the states ratified the new Constitution the
Continental Congress was meeting in New York City. And that is where it
decided to place the new government. Later, the capital would be moved to
Philadelphia for a while. Finally, it would be established at Washington,
Next, the Continental Congress had to decide when the states would
choose a president. It agreed on March fourth, seventeen eighty-nine. That
was when the new Constitution would (7) … … ….
The eleven states that ratified the Constitution chose electors to vote
for a president. The result was not a surprise. They chose the hero of the
Revolutionary War: George Washington. No one opposed the choice.
Washington learned of his election while at his home in Virginia,
Mount Vernon. He left for New York and was inaugurated there on April
Members of the new Congress also were elected on March fourth.
Now, for the first time, Americans had something many of them had
talked about for years – a working national government. There was much
work to be done. The (8) … … … was new, untested. Quick decisions were
needed to keep the new nation alive and healthy.
One of the first things the Congress did was to re-open debate on the
Constitution itself. Several states had set a condition for approving the
document. They said a (9) … … … must be added to the Constitution,
listing the rights of all citizens.
When the Constitution was written, a majority of the states already had
their own bills of rights. So some delegates to the convention said a national
bill was unnecessary. Others argued that the Constitution would be the (10)
… … … … …, higher than state laws. So a national bill of rights was
needed to guarantee the rights of the citizens of the new nation.
Time proved this to be a (11) … … . The Bill of Rights gave the
Constitution a special strength. Many Americans consider the Bill of Rights
to be the heart and spirit of the Constitution.
What is this Bill of Rights that is so important to the citizens of the
United States? It is contained in the first ten (12) … to the Constitution.
The First Amendment is the basic statement of American freedoms. It
protects freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
The First Amendment guarantees that religion and government will be
separate in America. It says Congress will make no law establishing an
official religion. Nor will Congress interfere in the peoples’ right to worship
as they choose. The First Amendment also says Congress will not make
laws restricting the peoples’ right to gather peacefully and to make demands
on the government.
The Second Amendment guarantees the peoples’ right to keep
weapons as part of an organized militia. The Third Amendment says people
may not be forced to let soldiers stay in their homes during peacetime.
The Fourth through the Eighth Amendments all (13) … … … in the
criminal justice system.
The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches
and seizures. If police want to search a suspect’s house or papers, they must
get special permission from a judge. The document from the judge must say
exactly what police are looking for. And it must describe the place to be
The Fifth Amendment says no one can be (14) … … … for a serious
crime unless a grand jury has first examined the evidence and agreed that a
trial is needed. No one can be put on trial more than once on the same
criminal charge. And no one can be forced to give evidence against himself
The Fifth Amendment also says no one can lose their freedom,
property, or life except by the rules of law. And the government cannot take
people’s property for public use without paying them a fair price.
The Sixth Amendment says all persons accused of crimes have the
right to a fair and speedy public trial by a jury. This guarantees that people
cannot be kept in prison for a long time unless a jury has found them guilty
of a crime.
The Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right of accused persons to
be defended by a lawyer. It says they must be informed of the nature and
cause of the charges against them. And it says they have the right to face
and question their accusers.
The Seventh Amendment guarantees a person’s right to have a jury
decide his legal dispute with another person. The Eighth Amendment bars
all (15) … … … ….
The Ninth Amendment provides protection for other rights not stated
directly in the Constitution. And the Tenth Amendment says any powers
which the Constitution does not give to the national government belong to
the states or to the people themselves.
A majority of the states approved the Bill of Rights by the end of
seventeen ninety-one. As we have seen, these amendments limited the
powers of the national government. As a result, many anti-Federalists ended
their opposition. They accepted the new government. Many agreed to help
with the job of building the new nation.
President Washington wanted the best men – Federalist or anti-
Federalist – to be in his administration. The new nation needed strong
leadership. George Washington provided it. General Washington’s work as
the first president will be our story next week.
Our program was written by Christine Johnson and Carolyn Weaver.
The narrators were Richard Rael and Shep O’Neal. Transcripts, MP3s and
podcasts of our programs are at voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next
week for THE MAKING OF A NATION, an American history series in
VOA Special English.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND ELECTIONS
to vote – голосовать
voter – избиратель, участник голосования
to be bound to vote / to be pledged to vote – взять на себя
(за определенного кандидата)
popular vote – голоса избирателей
electoral vote – голоса членов коллегии выборщиков
to cast votes – голосовать, участвовать в голосовании
Electoral College – коллегия выборщиков
elector – член коллегии выборщиков
a slate of electors – список членов коллегии выборщиков
national convention – национальный партийный съезд для
выдвижения кандидата на выборы
nominating convention – собрание по выдвижению кандидатур на
primary (election) – праймериз; первичные, предварительные
caucus – предвыборное партийное совещание
a nominee – кандидат; лицо, выдвинутое на должность
to run for presidency – участвовать в президентской гонке
ticket – список кандидатов на выборах
to vote a straight ticket – голосовать за список всех кандидатов от
fraudulent voting – фальсификация результатов выборов
voter turnout – количество избирателей в день выборов, явка
poll – 1) избирательный пункт; 2) опрос мнений
to go to the polls – идти на выборы (голосовать)
ballot – избирательный бюллетень
plurality – относительное большинство голосов
majority – абсолютное большинство голосов
constituency – избирательный округ
Historically, three features have characterized the party system of the
United States: 1) two major parties alternating in power; 2) lack of ideology;
3) lack of unity and party discipline.
The Constitution says nothing about political parties, but over time the
U.S. has in fact developed a two-party system. When the nation was
founded, the political groupings emerged – the Federalists and Anti-
federalists. Since then, the two major parties − the Democratic and
Republican parties have altered in power. Minor parties, generally referred
to as “third parties”, occasionally form in the United States, and foreign
observers are often surprised to learn that among these are also a
Communist party and several Socialist parties. Third parties have won of-
fices at lower levels of government but do not play a role in national
politics. However, minor parties often serve to call attention to an issue that
is of concern to voters, but has been neglected in the political dialogue.
When it happens, one or both of the major parties may address the matter,
and the third party disappears.
The Democratic party arose in 1828 and its stronghold since the Civil
War has traditionally been industrial urban centers and the southern states.
The Republican party was formed in 1854 and originally it was composed
mainly of northerners opposing slavery from both major parties of that time,
the Democrats and the Whigs, with some former Know-Nothings as well. So
the Democrats are associated with labor, and the Republicans with business
and industry. Republicans also tend to oppose the greater involvement of the
federal government in some areas of public life which they consider to be
the responsibility of the states and communities. Democrats, on the other
hand, tend to favor a more active role of the central government in social
matters. The Democrats’ party symbol is the donkey, the Republicans have
the elephant as their symbol.
To distinguish between the parties is often difficult. Furthermore, the
traditional European terms of "right" and "left," or "conservative" and
"liberal" do not quite fit the American system. Someone from the
"conservative right," for instance, would be against a strong central
government. Or a Democrat from one part of the country could be very
"liberal," and one from another part quite "conservative." Even if they have
been elected as Democrats or Republicans, Representatives or Senators are
not bound to a party program, nor are they subject to any discipline when
they disagree with their party.
While some voters will vote a "straight ticket," in other words, for all
of the Republican or Democratic candidates in an election, many do not.
They vote for one party's candidate for one office, and another's for another.
As a result, the political parties have much less actual power than they do in
In the U.S., the parties cannot win seats which they are then free to fill
with party members they have chosen. Rather, both Representatives and
Senators are elected to serve the interests of the people and the areas they
represent, that is, their "constituencies." In about 70 percent of legislative
decisions, Congressmen will vote with the specific wishes of their
constituencies in mind, even if this goes against what their own parties
might want as national policy. It is quite common, in fact, to find Democrats
in Congress voting for a Republican President's legislation, quite a few
Republicans voting against it, and so on.
Elections for President and Vice President of the United States are
indirect elections in which voters cast ballots for a slate of electors of the
U.S. Electoral College, who in turn directly elect the President and Vice
President. The most recent election occurred on November 4, 2008, with the
next one scheduled for November 6, 2012.
The national presidential elections really consist of two separate
campaigns: one is for the nomination of candidates at national party con-
ventions. The other is to win the actual election. The process of elections is
regulated by a combination of both federal and state laws.
The modern nominating process of U.S. presidential elections
currently consists of two major parts: a series of presidential primary
elections and caucuses held in each state, and the presidential nominating
conventions held by each political party. This process was never included in
the Constitution, and thus evolved over time by the political parties to clear
the field of candidates.
The primary elections and caucuses are run by state and local
governments. Some states only hold primary elections, some only hold
caucuses, and others use a combination of both. These primaries and
caucuses are staggered between January and June before the federal
election, with Iowa and New Hampshire traditionally holding the first
presidential state caucus and primary, respectively.
Like the general election, presidential caucuses and primaries are
indirect elections. The major political parties officially vote for their
presidential candidate at their respective nominating conventions, usually all
held in the summer before the federal election. Depending on each state's
law, when voters cast ballots for a candidate in a presidential caucus or
primary, they may actually be voting to award delegates "bound" to vote for
a candidate at the presidential nominating conventions, or they may simply
be expressing an opinion that the state party is not bound to follow in
selecting delegates to their respective national convention. Each party's
presidential candidate also chooses a vice presidential nominee to run with
him on the same ticket, and this choice is basically rubber-stamped
(утверждается автоматически) by the convention.
The formal requirements for voting in the United States are simple.
Anyone who is a citizen of the United States of America and at least
eighteen years of age is eligible to vote. Additionally, every state but one
(North Dakota) requires voters to register to vote a reasonable number of
days before the election (usually thirty days). The primary objective of the
registration requirement is to prevent fraudulent voting. A secondary effect
of requiring voters to register, however, is that only those who are interested
and attentive are likely to vote. A month or more before the election day, a
voter must find out where to register and then go there and register or he or
she will not be able to vote on the election day. Registering to vote,
however, was made much easier with the passage of the "Motor Voter" Act
of 1993, which allows citizens to register to vote when they renew their
driver's licenses or visit local, state or national government offices for other
On the election day – the first Tuesday following the first Monday in
November of the election year (years divisible by four, e.g. 2000, 2004,
2008, etc.), the voters across the nation go to the polls. If the majority of the
popular votes in a state go to the Presidential (and Vice-Presidential)
candidate of one party, then that person is supposed to get all of that state's
"electoral votes." The candidate with the largest number of these electoral
votes wins the election. Each state's electoral votes are formally reported by
the "Electoral College." In January of the following year, in a joint 45
session of Congress, the new President and Vice-President are officially
Although the nationwide popular vote does not directly determine the
winner of a presidential election, it does strongly correlate with who is the
victor. In 52 of the 56 total elections held so far (about 93 percent), the
winner of the Electoral College vote has also carried the national popular
The election campaign is a time-honored American tradition. Major
national, state, and even local elections are elaborate, with multi-million
dollar advertising budgets, televised debates, rallies, political conventions,
and campaign posters.
Americans are free to determine how much or how little they become
involved in the political process. Many citizens actively participate by
working as volunteers for a candidate, by promoting a particular cause, or
by running for office themselves. Others restrict their participation to voting
on the election day, confident that their freedoms are protected. Voter
turnout in the 2004 and 2008 elections showed a noticeable increase over
the turnout in 1996 and 2000. After having hovered between 50 % and 60%
since 1968 and even dipping under 50% in 1996, in 2008 the turnout came
above 60% for the first time in 40 years.
Americans have more opportunities to vote than the citizens of any
other nation. In addition to congressional elections every two years and
presidential elections every four years, Americans have the opportunity to
vote for state governors, state legislators, mayors, city counselors, state and
local judges and a wide variety of other officials. Certainly, Americans are
much more interested in local politics than in those at the federal level.
Many of the most important decisions, such as those concerning education,
housing, taxes, and so on, are made close to home, in the state or county.
Article Two of the United States Constitution originally established
the method of presidential elections, including the Electoral Сollege. This
was a result of a compromise between those constitutional framers
(создатели) who wanted the Congress to choose the president, and those
who preferred a national popular vote.
The Electoral Сollege is composed of presidential electors from each
state. The number of electors representing a state is equal to the number of
its Senators and Representatives in the U.S. Congress. Additionally,
Washington, D.C. is given a number of electors equal to the number held by
the smallest state. U.S. territories are not represented in the Electoral
College. Altogether there are 538 electors. These electors, rather than the
public, actually elect the president and vice-president. Under the terms of
the Constitution, the Electoral College never meets as a body. Instead, the
electors gather in the state capitals shortly after the election (on the first
Monday after the second Wednesday in December) and cast their votes for
the candidate with the largest number of popular votes in their respective
states (except for Maine and Nebraska). To be successful, a candidate for
the presidency must receive 270 votes.
Under the original system established by Article Two of the
Constitution, electors could cast two votes to two different candidates for
president. The candidate with the highest number of votes became the
president, and the second-place candidate became the vice president. This
presented a problem during the presidential election of 1800 when Aaron
Burr received the same number of electoral votes as Thomas Jefferson and
challenged Jefferson's election to the office. In the end, Jefferson was
chosen as the president due to Alexander Hamilton's influence in the House
In respond to the election of 1800 the 12th Amendment was passed,
requiring electors to cast two distinct votes: one for President and another
for Vice President. The Amendment also established rules when no
candidate wins a majority vote in the Electoral College. If no candidate
receives a majority, the selection of President is decided by a ballot of the
House of Representatives.
It may be so that candidates, who fail to get the most votes in the
nationwide popular vote in a presidential election, still win that election. In
1876, 1888 and 2000, the winner of electoral vote actually lost the popular
vote outright. Numerous constitutional amendments were submitted seeking
to replace the Electoral College with a direct popular vote, but none had
ever successfully passed both Houses of Congress. In the presidential
election of 1824, Andrew Jackson received a plurality, but not a majority, of
electoral votes cast. The election was thrown to the House of
Representatives, and John Quincy Adams was elected to the presidency.
Constitutionally, the manner for choosing electors is determined
within each state by its legislature. During the first presidential election in
1789, only 6 of the 13 original states chose electors by any form of popular
vote. Gradually throughout the years, the states began conducting popular
elections to help choose their slate of electors, resulting in the overall,
nationwide indirect election system that it is today.
It's often been said and does seem to be true: Americans seem almost
instinctively to dislike government and politicians. They especially tend to
dislike "those fools in Washington" who spend their tax money and are
always trying to "interfere" in their local and private concerns. Many would
no doubt agree with the statement that the best government is the one that
governs least. In the 1984 poll, for example, only a fourth of those asked
wanted the federal government to do more to solve the country's problems.
Neighborhoods, communities, and states have a strong pride in their ability
to deal with their problems themselves, and this feeling is especially strong
in the West.
Americans are seldom impressed by government officials (they do like
royalty, as long as it's not theirs). They distrust people who call themselves
experts. They don't like being ordered to do anything. For example, in the
Revolutionary War (1776-1783) and in the Civil War (1861-1865),
American soldiers often elected their own officers. In their films and fiction
as well as in television series, Americans often portray corrupt politicians
and incompetent officials. Anyone who wants to be President, they say with
a smile, isn't qualified. Their newsmen and journalists and television
reporters are known all over the world for "not showing proper respect" to
governmental leaders, whether their own or others. As thousands of foreign
observers have remarked, Americans simply do not like authority.
The First Amendment to the Constitution, by asserting the rights of
free speech, free assembly and peaceful petition for redress of grievances,
provides the legal basis for so-called “special interests” or “lobbies”. Any
group can demand that its views be heard – by the public, by the legislature,
by the executive branch and (through selective lawsuits) by the courts.
Americans, always concerned that their politicians represent their interests,
often form "pressure" groups, political lobbies, public action committees
(PACs), or special interest groups (SIGs). Such groups seek to influence
politicians on almost any imaginable subject. One group might campaign for
a nationwide, federal gun-control law, while another group opposes it. To-
bacco companies in North Carolina are not too happy about the strong
health warnings that must be put on their products. Some religious groups
call for pupils being allowed to pray, if they wish, in school, or they
campaign against state and federal money being given for abortions. Ethnic
groups often want certain foreign policies put into effect with their friends
or foes. Tax payers in a number of states have protested against rising taxes
and initiated legislation setting limits to taxation. Some labor unions want
illegal immigration controlled. And, not surprisingly, some pressure groups
want pressure groups stopped and lobby against lobbyists. Such groups of
citizens have also helped to weaken the political parties. Each individual
politician must pay close attention to the special concerns and causes of his
voters. What is amazing is how well so many different governmental
groups, with their many ethnic and cultural and business and geographical
interests, do seem to manage the affairs of those they were chosen to
represent. But then, the great variety of local, regional, and state
governments does help to fulfil the wishes of the many different constituen-
cies. If New Yorkers want their city-owned university to be free to any city
resident, that is their business. If a small town in the mountains of Colorado
decides that snowmobiles have the right-of-way on city streets, that's theirs.
And if a county in Arkansas decides that fireworks or hard liquor will not be
sold within its limits, well, that's its right, too.
1. What are the characteristic features of American party system?
2. The U.S. is a two-party system, isn’t it? Do third parties exist in
the country? What are their functions?
3. When was the Democratic Party formed? What is it associated
with? What is its symbol?
4. When was the Republican Party formed? What is it associated
with? What is its symbol?
5. Are there many differences between the platforms of U.S. major
6. What do you think is the main difference between American and
Russian presidential elections? Do Americans directly elect their presidents?
7. What is the process that precedes the actual presidential election?
8. When do primaries and caucuses take place?
9. Who is eligible to vote in the United States? Is voting in the U.S.
based on permanent registration of citizens like in many European
10. When does popular vote take place?
11. How has voter turnout changed over the past 40 years?
12. How many electors are there in the Electoral College? How are
13. What are the requirements introduced by the 12th Amendment?
14. What is the electoral vote based on?
15. Can a candidate who hasn’t won the popular election still
16. What is the general attitude of Americans towards the
17. How are politicians and officials often portrayed in American
films and fiction?
18. Is lobbying illegal in the U.S.?
19. What purposes can lobbyists have? Find examples in the text.
20. How do groups of citizens help to weaken the political parties?
CHOOSE THE CORRECT ANSWER
1. When was the Constitution adopted?
a) March 4, 1787
b) March 4, 1788
c)March 4, 1789
2. What is the Preamble to the Constitution?
a) Declaration of Independence
b) Bill of Rights
c) An Introduction
3. What are the three branches of the federal government?
a) the President, the Supreme Court, the Congress
b) the executive, the legitimate, the judiciary
c) the executive, the legislative, the judicial
4. What is the legislative branch?
c) House of Representatives
5. What is Congress?
b) House of Representatives
6. How many representatives are there in the House of
7. What qualifications must a person meet to be a representative?
a) He must be at least 21 years of age, have been a citizen of the US
for at least 7 years.
b) He must be at least 25 years of age, have been a citizen of the US
for at least 7 years.
c) He must live in the district of the state he presents.
8. What requirements must a person meet to be a voter?
a) He must be registered for vote and must be at least 21 years of age.
b) He must be registered for vote and must be at least 18 years of age
c) He has to have been a citizen for at least 1 year.
9. How do we know the number of voters in each state?
a) from the Files of the Tax Services
b) with the help of census taken every 10 years
c) by counting the voting papers after the elections
10. How long is a representative’s term of office?
a) 2 years
b) 4 years
c) 6 years
11. How many senators are there in the Senate?
12. What qualifications must a person meet to be a senator?
a) He must be at least 30 years of age, a U.S. citizen for at least 9
years, and live in the state he represents.
b) He must be at least 21 years of age, and live in the state he
c) He has to have been a citizen of the U.S. for at least 7 years.
13. How long is a senator’s term of office?
a) 2 years
b) 4 years
c) 6 years
14. What is a bill?
b) a proposed law
c) an adopted law
15. Who elects the president and vice-president?
a) The Electoral College
b) The people of the U.S.
c) The Congress
16. What is the Electoral College?
a) All electors of the U.S.
b) The people of the U.S.
c) The Congress
17. Who is an elector?
a) a person who has a right to vote
b) a person who runs for election
c) a person who casts a vote for president and vice-president
18. Which of the following can not the president do?
a) propose legislation
b) declare a war
c) make laws
19. Which of the following cannot the Supreme Court do?
a) say whether a person is guilty or innocent
b) declare legislation unconstitutional
c) declare presidential acts unconstitutional
20. How many Constitutions are there in the U.S.?
THE NATIVE AMERICAN
The story of the
Native American – or
American Indian – is one
that is unique, tragic and
ultimately inspiring. It is
unique because the Indians
were the original
inhabitants of the
American continent and
experienced every phase of
its European settlement,
from the earliest 17th
century colonies to the
closing of the western
frontier at the end of the
19th century. It is tragic
because the conflict
between the Indians and
whites paralleled the
experience of traditional
peoples throughout the world who have come in contact with expanding,
industrialized societies. It is an inspiring story because the Native
Americans although dispossessed of much of their land in the 19th century,
have survived, asserted their political and economic rights, and succeeded in
retaining their identity and culture. Today, Native Americans are full
citizens of the United States who are proud to be Americans. However, they
are equally proud of their own cultural heritage, and, though it is difficult in
the modern world, they are trying to protect and maintain it. Marks of that
heritage can be found all over the United States. Many of the names on
United States maps – Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Idaho and
more – are Indian words. The Indians taught the Europeans how to cultivate
crops such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco. Canoes, snowshoes and
moccasins are all Indian inventions. Indian handcrafted artifacts such as
pottery, silver jewelry, paintings and woven rugs are highly prized.
About 62 percent of the Indians in the United States live in large cities
and rural areas scattered throughout the country. The rest of them live on
about 300 federal reservations (land set aside for their use). Together, the
reservations comprise 52.4 million acres (21 million hectares) of land, or
about 2.5 percent of the land area in the United States. Most reservations are
located west of the Mississippi River.
In recent decades, the Native American population has been increasing
steadily. Today, there are about 4 million Native Americans. The largest
Amerindian tribes today are: Cherokee, Navajo, Chippewa, Sioux, Choctaw,
Pueblo, Apache, Iroquois, Lumbee, and Creek.
In 1492, an Italian navigator named Christopher Columbus set sail
from Spain in search of a sea route to Asia. Columbus hoped to obtain
access to the wealth of spices, silks and gold for which the Asian continent
was famous. Six weeks later, his men sighted land. Thinking he had landed
in the Indies, a group of islands east of the coast of Asia, he called the
people on the first island on which he landed "los Indios," or, in English,
Though Columbus had one name for them, the Indians comprised
many groups of people. The Indians north of Mexico in what is now the
United States and Canada spoke over 300 languages, some of which were as
different from one another as English is from Chinese. (Some 50 to 100 of
these languages are still spoken today.) They lived scattered across the
continent in small bands or groups of bands called tribes. To them, the
continent was hardly new. Their ancestors had been living there for perhaps
Scientists speculate that people first came to North America during the
last ice age. At that time, much of the earth's water was frozen in the glaciers
that covered large parts of the globe. As sea levels dropped, a strip of land
was exposed in the area that is now the Bering Strait. Man probably
followed the big game he was hunting across this land bridge from Siberia
into Alaska. Over time, these people increased in number, adapted to
different environments and spread from the far northern reaches of Alaska
and Canada to the tip of South America.
Some groups, such as the peaceful Pueblo of the American Southwest
(the present day states of Arizona and New Mexico), lived in busy towns.
The Pueblo people were the best organized of the Amerindian farming
peoples. They shared many-storied buildings made of adobe (mud and
straw) bricks, dried in the sun. Some of these buildings contained as many
as 800 rooms, crowded together on top of one another. Their towns were
built for safety on the sides and tops of cliffs. The Spanish explorers named
both the people and their villages pueblos (Spanish for “town”).The Pueblo
made clothing and blankets from cotton which grew wild in the surrounding
deserts. On their feet they wore boot-shaped leather moccasins to protect
their legs against the sharp rocks and cactus plants of the desert. Long
before Europeans came to America the Pueblo were building networks of
canals across the deserts to bring water to their fields. They grew corn,
squash and beans.
Their neighbors, the Apache, lived in small bands and never became
settled farmers. They hunted wildlife and gathered plants, nuts and roots.
After acquiring horses from the Spanish, they made their living by raiding
food and goods from their more settled white and Indian neighbors. The
Apache were fierce and warlike, and they were much feared by the Pueblo.
In the northeastern woods of the North American continent, the
Iroquois hunted, fished and farmed. They grew beans, squash and 12
varieties of corn. The people lived in permanent villages, their long houses,
covered with elm bark, held as many as 20 families. Each family had its
own apartment, on either side of a central hall. The Iroquois were fierce
warriors. They surrounded their villages with wooden stockades to protect
them from attack by their neighbors. They fought for the glory of their tribe
and for the glory of individual warriors. From boyhood on, male Iroquois
were taught to fear neither pain, nor death. Bravery in battle was the surest
way for a warrior to win respect and high position in his tribe.
Many miles to the west, on the vast plains of grass that stretched from
the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, there was another warrior
nation. This group called themselves Dakota, which means “allies”. But they
were better known by the name which other Amerindians gave to them –
Sioux, which means “enemies”. The Sioux grew no crops and built no
houses. For food, for shelter and for clothing they depended upon the
buffalo. Millions of these large, slow-moving animals wandered across the
western grasslands in vast herds. When the buffalo moved, the Sioux
moved. The buffalo never remained on the pasture for long, so everything
the Sioux owned was designed to be carried easily. Within hours they could
take down their tepees, pack their belongings, and move off after the
buffalo. They even carried fire from one camp to the next. A hot ember
would be sealed inside a buffalo horn with rotten wood. There it would
smolder for days, ready to bring warmth from the old village to the new.
The lifestyle of the people of North America’s northwest coast was
different again. They gathered nuts and berries from the forests, but their
main food was fish, especially the salmon of the rivers and the ocean. Each
spring hundreds of thousands of salmon swam in from the Pacific and
fought their way up the fast-flowing rivers to spawn. A few months’ work
during this season provided the people of the Pacific coast with enough food
to last a whole year.
This abundance of food gave the tribes of the Pacific coast time for
feasting, for carving and for building. Tribes like the Haida lived in large
plank houses with elaborately carved doorposts. The most important
carvings were on totem poles, these were specially decorated tree trunks
which some tribes placed in front of their houses, but which the Haida made
part of the house itself. The carvings on the totem pole were a record of the
history of the family which lived in the house.
Some wealthy Pacific coast tribes, like the Haida, had a special
ceremony called “potlatch” (the word means “gift giving”). A modern
potlatch is a kind of party at which guests are given gifts, but the original
potlatch ceremonies went much further. A chief or head of a family might
give away everything that he owned to show how wealthy he was and gain
respect. To avoid disgrace, the person receiving the gifts had to give back
even more. If he failed to do so his entire family was disgraced.
The Amerindian peoples of North America developed widely varied
ways of life. Many Indians were fine craftsmen, they made pottery, baskets,
carvings and wove cotton and plant-fiber cloth. They traveled in small boats
and on foot, never having developed the wheel. Some, such as the Plains
Indians, used dogs to pull a load-carrying frame called a travois. Others,
such as the Winnebagoes of the Midwest developed a sophisticated calendar
that took the motions of both the sun and the moon into account.
Different as they were, all tribes were greatly affected by the coming
of the white man, with his firearms, iron cooking pots, horses, wheeled
vehicles and with his diseases, to which the Indians had no immunities. The
European arrival changed the Indian way of life forever.
Spanish settlers arrived in North America in the early 1500s. They
settled in what are now Florida and California and in the southwest section
of the continent. They sent missionaries to bring Christianity and
"civilization" – farming, crafts and so on – to the "Indians," and they forced
the Indians to labor in their fields, mines and houses.
Other Europeans, such as the French and the Dutch, came to the New
World in search of profit. Some came to fish the rich waters off of the
Atlantic coast, many came to trade with the Indians. They exchanged guns,
iron tools, whiskey and trinkets for beaver and otter pelts.
Most often, though, the Europeans came to establish new homes and to
farm. And for that they needed land. Much of the Indians' land appeared
vacant to white settlers. The Indians didn't “improve the land” with fences,
wells, buildings or permanent towns. Many settlers thought the Indians were
savages and that their way of life had little value. They felt they had every
right to farm the Indian lands.
On Manhattan Island, the present site of New York City, beaver, deer,
fox, wild turkey and other game were plentiful. The Shinnecock Indians
used the island for fishing and hunting, but they didn't live there. In 1626,
the Dutch "bought" the island from them. The Shinnecock did not
understand that once the land was sold, the Dutch felt it was their right to
keep the Indians off. Like most Indians, they had no concept of private
The Indians believed that the land was there to be shared by all men.
They worshipped the earth that provided them with food, clothing and
shelter and they took from it only what they needed. They didn't understand
when the settlers slaughtered animals to make the woods around their towns
safer. They didn't like the roads and towns that to them, scarred the natural
beauty of the earth.
Small Indian bands and tribes could do little against the well-armed
and determined colonists, but united, they were often a more powerful force.
King Philip, a Wampanoag chief, rallied neighboring tribes against the
Pilgrims in 1675. For a year, they fought bloody battles. But even his 20,000
allies could do little against the numerous colonists and their guns.
The Iroquois, who inhabited the area below Lakes Ontario and Erie in
northern New York and Pennsylvania, were more successful in resisting the
whites. In 1570, five tribes joined to form the League of the Iroquois. The
League was run by a council made up of 50 representatives from each of
five member tribes. The council dealt with matters common to all of the
tribes, but it had no say in how the free and equal tribes ran their day-to-day
affairs. No tribe was allowed to make war by itself. The council passed laws
to deal with crimes such as murder.
The League was a strong power in the 1600s and 1700s. It traded furs
with the British. It sided with the British against the French in a war for the
dominance of America from 1754 to 1763. The British might not have won
that war without the support of the League of the Iroquois. In that case,
North America might have had a very different history.
The League stayed strong until the American Revolution. Then, for the
first time, the council could not reach a unanimous decision on whom to
support. Member tribes made their own decisions, some fighting with the
British, some with the colonists, some remaining neutral. As a result,
everyone fought against the Iroquois. Their losses were great and the
League never recovered.
At the time of the American Revolution, the western boundary of the
United States was the Appalachian Mountains. Land had become scarce and
expensive in the colonies and many people were eager to settle the
wilderness that lay beyond those mountains. Armed with only an axe, a rifle
and their own self-confidence, these people journeyed across the mountains
to make new farms and settlements out of the wilderness. Many of the new
settlers moved to lands north of the Ohio River. Amerindians who already
lived on these lands saw the settlers as thieves who had come to steal their
hunting grounds and fought these invaders with vengeance. Encouraged by
the French or the British, who were trying to retain control of the lands west
of the United States, Amerindians attacked frontier settlements. The white
settlers struck back, sometimes destroying entire Amerindian villages.
President James Monroe thought that the Indians' only chance for
survival was to be removed to an area where they would not be disturbed by
the settlers. There they would be free either to continue their old ways of life
or to adopt those of white Americans. And so, in 1830, the United States
passed the Indian Removal Act to put this policy into practice. The law said
that all Indians living east of the Mississippi River would be removed west
to a place called Indian Territory. This was an area beyond the Mississippi
that was thought to be unusable for white farmers. Some people claimed that
the Indian Removal Act was a way of saving the Amerindians but most saw
it simply as a way to get rid of them and seize their land.
One of the tribes that suffered greatly from the Indian Removal policy
was the Cherokee people. Their lands lay between the state of Georgia and
the Mississippi River. Ironically, the Cherokee had already adopted many of
the white man's ways. By the early 19th century the Cherokees were a
civilized community. Many owned large farms and lived in European-style
brick houses. Their towns had stores, sawmills, blacksmith shops, spinning
wheels and wagons. They had become Christians and attended church, and
sent their children to school. They had a written language and published
their own newspaper in both Cherokee and English. But none of this saved
the Cherokees. In the 1830s the Congress declared that their lands belonged
to the state of Georgia and they were divided up for sale to white settlers.
When gold was discovered on Cherokee land, pressure for removal
A few Cherokees were willing to move to the new lands. Though they
did not represent the Cherokee nation, they signed a treaty with the
American government agreeing to the removal of the Cherokees. The
peaceful Cherokees were removed by force from their homes and forced to
march overland to Indian Territory (in what is now the state of Oklahoma).
The difficult journey took three to five months. The worst year was 1838. In
bitterly cold winter weather American soldiers gathered thousands of
Cherokee men, women and children, and drove them west. In all, some
4,000 – one quarter of the Cherokee nation – lost their lives in the course of
this removal. This shameful moment in American history has come to be
called "The Trail of Tears ".
On the Great Plains, tribes such as the Sioux roamed on horseback,
hunting the buffalo that ranged there. In the early 19th century an estimated
twelve million of these gentle, heavy animals wandered the Great Plains.
The buffalo gave them everything they needed to live. They ate its meat,
used its skin and fur to make clothing. They stretched its hides over a frame
of poles to make the tepees, or tents, they lived in. They carved buffalo
bones into knives and tools. The clothing of the Plains Indians was
decorated with bead work, and their hair with eagle feathers. These were the
proud Indians depicted in television dramas and films about the American
In the 1840s wagon trains heading for Oregon and California began to
cross the Great Plains. The Sioux allowed them to pass through their lands
without trouble. Then railroads began to push across the grasslands. The
railroad carried white people who stayed on the prairies and began to plough
them. Amerindians made treaties with the government, giving up large
pieces of their land. In 1851 the Pawnee people signed away an area that
today forms most of the state of Nebraska. In 1858 the Sioux gave up an
area almost as big in South Dakota. In the 1860s the Comanche and the
Kiowa gave up lands in Kansas, Colorado and Texas. In return, the
government promised them peace, food, schools, supplies and the fair
arbitration of all conflicts.
One of such treaties was the Fort Laramie treaty of 1868. It declared
the vast lands between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains to be
Sioux territory, on which whites were prohibited from passing or settling.
The government promised that these lands would remain Sioux property “as
long as the grass should grow and the water flow.” However, six years later,
gold was discovered in the Black Hills of South Dakota, a land the Sioux
considered sacred. The United States government tried to buy the Black
Hills from the Sioux but they refused to sell. Crazy Horse, a great Sioux
chief, said: "One does not sell the Earth upon which the people walk ". A
gold rush was on, and the treaty of Fort Laramie was ignored. In the winter
of 1875 thousands of white men poured into the area.
By this time the Amerindian peoples of the Great Plains were facing
another serious problem. The buffalo that they depended on had begun to
disappear. More and more land that the big animals needed to graze upon
was being taken and fenced by farmers and ranchers. And whites began to
hunt the buffalo for sport and for its hide. They were shooting the buffalo in
thousands and left their flesh to rot. In just two years between 1872 and
1874 the hunters almost completely destroyed the great herds. The
Amerindians could not understand this behavior. “Has the white man
become a child that he should recklessly kill and not eat?” they asked. But
the American army encouraged the slaughter, they saw the extermination of
the buffalo as the way to end Amerindian resistance.
As more settlers claimed homestead in the West the American
government needed more land for them. By 1871, the government had
determined that the treaty was no longer an appropriate means of regulating
Indian-white relations and that no Indian nation or tribe should be
recognized as an independent nation. They pressured the Indians to give up
their traditional way of life and to live only on reservations. These
reservations were areas of land that were usually so dry and rocky that the
government thought white settlers were never likely to want them.
The Amerindians resisted. And though they were outnumbered and
outgunned, they inflicted some surprising defeats on the American soldiers.
They won their best known victory at the battle of the Little Big Horn in
June 1876. On a hill beside the Little Big Horn River 3000 Sioux and
Cheyenne warriors led by Crazy Horse surrounded and killed all 225 men of
the company of United States cavalry. The American government and
people were angry at the defeat of their soldiers and felt humiliated. More
soldiers were sent west, and the Sioux were too weak to fight back. With the
buffalo gone, more of their people were dying every day of starvation and
disease. So the Sioux surrendered and the soldiers marched them away to
In 1890 a religious prophet told the Sioux to dance a special dance
called the Ghost Dance. They believed that if they did so a great miracle
would take place – their dead warriors would come back to life, the buffalo
would return, all the white men would be swept away by a great flood. The
Ghost Dance movement was peaceful, but the Dancers’ beliefs worried the
government. So did the fact that some of them waved rifles above their
heads as they danced. It ordered the army to arrest the movement leaders.
On a cold December day in 1890 a group of 350 Sioux left their
reservation. Led by a chief named Big Foot, they set off to join another
group nearby for safety. But a party of soldiers stopped them on the way and
marched them to an army post at Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Next
morning the soldiers ordered the Sioux to give up their guns, but one young
warrior refused. A shot ran out, followed by many more. The soldiers began
shooting down the Sioux men, women and children, within minutes most of
the Amerindians were dead or badly wounded. Later many of the wounded
died in a blizzard that swept over the camp. This bloody confrontation
between the Sioux and the American cavalry regiment resulted in over 300
deaths – mostly Indian – and marked the end of all hope for a return to the
Indians' traditional way of life on the Plains.
By 1890 almost all the American West, from the prairies to the
Pacific, had been settled by cattle ranchers, farmers and townspeople. There
was no more frontier, no mountains beyond which the Indians could live
undisturbed. Most were confined to reservations. The government had
promised to protect the remaining Indian lands, it also promised them food,
materials to build homes, tools to cultivate the land, but the promises were
often broken. There was great suffering on the reservations, epidemic
diseases swept through them, killing a lot of people, and for a while it
seemed as though the Indians really were a vanishing race.
Some people were aware of the poor conditions on the reservations.
To survive, many believed, the Indians would have to adopt white ways. On
the reservations, Indians were forbidden to practice their religion. Children
were sent to boarding schools away from their families.
By the General Allotment Act of 1887, each Indian was allotted 160
acres to farm. But many Indians had no desire to farm. Moreover, the land
given to them was often unfertile. After each Indian was given his plot, the
government sold the remaining lands to white settlers. The result was
disastrous. By 1934, Indian land holdings had been reduced from 138
million acres (56 million hectares) to 48 million (19 million hectares).
In the 20th century the United States became proud of its diverse
population. And that included a desire to recognize its Native Americans
and to try to compensate them for the unfair treatment they had received. In
1924, the Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act, which declared all
Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States to be citizens.
The origin of this act can be attributed to the increased respect of white
legislators for the Indians which resulted from their exemplary contribution
during World War I. The Act was passed after a period of agitation by pan
Indian groups who demanded enlarged political rights for American Indians.
In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act encouraged the Indians to set
up their own governments and ended allotment on the reservations. It halted
the policy of trying to persuade Indians to give up their traditional culture
and religion. In 1946, the government set up the Indian Claims Commission
to deal with claims of unfair treatment or fraud. In the 30 years the
Commission operated, it awarded $818 million in damages.
At a time when blacks were protesting violations of their civil rights,
Indians, too, took their protests to the American public. In the mid-1960s,
they called for an "Indian Power" movement to parallel the "Black Power"
movement. In 1972, the American Indian Movement (AIM) and other
Indian rights groups staged a protest march on Washington called the "Trail
of Broken Treaties". In 1973, national attention once again focused on
Wounded Knee, South Dakota. A group of Amerindians armed with rifles
occupied this place and stayed there for 71 days. They demanded the return
of lands taken in violation of treaty agreements.
Recently, many tribes have earned on the battle for Indian rights in
court. They have sued for the return of lands taken from their ancestors. In
1972, two tribes, the Penobscot and the Passamaquoddy of Maine, sued for
the return of 125 million acres of land (five million hectares) – 58 percent of
the state of Maine – and $25 thousand million in damages. The tribes settled
for $815 million dollars from the federal government in 1980 and invested
the money in a variety of profitable business enterprises operated by
members of the tribe. The Sioux in South Dakota sued for the return of the
Black Hills, seized from them in 1877. They were awarded $122.5 million.
Many of the attempts by individual Indians and by tribes to respond to
white society have been highly successful. Two examples are the prosperous
Crow and Blackfoot reservations in Montana, on which these two tribes
have established and manage a profitable complex of industrial and service
oriented enterprises. However, in spite of many gains made by the Indians,
they still lag far behind most Americans in health, wealth and education.
Many Native Americans live below the poverty line. Diabetes, pneumonia,
influenza and alcoholism claim twice as many Indian lives as other
Life on the reservations varies greatly. The Navajo reservation, located
in the Southwest, is the nation's largest. It is also one of the poorest. Its 16
million acres (6,667,000 hectares) are home for 160,000 Indians.
Government housing stands side by side with mobile homes and hogans
(eight-sided, one roomed traditional Navajo homes are made from logs and
have an earthen roof). Many reservation homes lack electricity and
plumbing. The reservation has few towns and few jobs.
In contrast, the Mescalero Apache reservation nearby in New Mexico
is one of the nation's wealthiest. It sits on 460,384 acres (186,390 hectares)
in some of the highest mountains in the area. The tribe owns and operates a
logging company and a cattle ranch. Both are multimillion dollar businesses.
They recently built a $22 million luxury resort offering everything from
skiing to horseback riding. Most of the reservation's inhabitants live in new
two-story houses built on large plots of land.
In all, the Indians signed 370 treaties with the United States. In return
for Indian land, the government promised to protect their remaining lands
and resources. Government funds support many reservation programs. Since
1824, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has been responsible for Indian
lands, resources and programs. But slowly, Indians are gaining a stronger
voice in determining how the reservations are operated. Today most
reservations are governed by a tribal council, and any run their own police
forces, schools and courts that try minor offenses. The aim of most Indian
tribes is to become self-supporting. They are trying to attract businesses to
the reservations and hope that the natural resources on their reservations will
provide much needed income. The Navajo, for example, possess oil, coal
and uranium reserves. Other reservations are rich in timber, gas, minerals
1. Why is the story of the Native American unique, tragic and
inspiring at the same time?
2. How many Amerindians live in the USA today? Are they mostly
country or city dwellers?
3. How can the Amerindian cultural heritage be seen today in the
4. What are the most numerous Amerindian tribes today?
5. How long had native Indian tribes been living on the continent
when Columbus discovered it? How did they arrive there?
6. What was the Pueblo way of living like?
7. When first Europeans came to America the Apache acquired
some horses from them. How did it influence the Apache’s style of living?
8. What part of the continent did the Iroquois inhabit? What were
their dwellings like?
9. Why did the Sioux way of living require the ability to move their
belongings from one place to another? Were they a peaceful tribe?
10. How did the life of the Pacific coast tribes differ from that of
other Amerindians? Can you describe the ceremony called “potlatch”?
11. How did the arrival of the Spanish influence Amerindian life?
12. Why did the Indians’ land seem to be vacant to the Europeans?
13. How did Indian and European attitudes to land differ?
14. Did Indian tribes unite to fight against the Europeans?
15. Which of the parties did the League of the Iroquois support in the
Seven Years’ War?
16. What did the government do to keep peace between the
Amerindian tribes and white settlers of the frontier?
17. What was the Amerindians’ only chance to survive according to
the idea of President James Monroe? When was the Indian Removal Act
passed and what did it state?
18. What territory did the Cherokee inhabit? Were they a civilized or
a savage tribe? Why do they call the history of their removal to the
reservation “The Trail of Tears”?
19. What did the government promise to Amerindians in exchange
for their land?
20. What did the Fort Laramie treaty of 1868 declare? How was it
violated six years later?
21. How did the extermination of the buffalo help white settlers to
fight against Amerindians?
22. What do we learn from the text about the Big Little Horn battle
23. What was the meaning of the Ghost Dance?
24. What was the result of the bloody confrontation between the
Sioux and the American cavalry regiment in 1890?
25. What actions did the government take to make Indians adopt
white ways? Why were many Indians unwilling to farm?
26. How did Amerindian life change due the New Deal policy
27. What action was undertaken by Amerindians in South Dakota in
1973? What did they demand?
28. How does life in different Amerindian reservations vary today?
USE THE TEXT TO PROVE THE FOLLOWING
1. In recent decades the Native American population has been
2. The Pueblo were the best organized of the Amerindian farming
3. The abundance of food gave the tribes of the Pacific coast time
for feasting, carving and building.
4. The Native tribes of North America developed widely varied
ways of life.
5. Many Amerindians had no concept of private property.
6. By the time of the American Revolution land in the colonies had
become scarce and expensive.
7. In several years buffalo hunters did more to suppress Amerindian
resistance than the whole American army in three decades.
8. Recently Amerindians have won some battles in court.
9. Many Amerindian attempts to adopt white society ways have
been very successful.
10. Despite many gains made by Amerindians, they still fall behind
Mass communication has revolutionized the modern world. In the
United States it has given a rise to what is sometimes called a media state, a
society in which access to power is through the media. The public's right to
know is one of the central principles of American society. The men who
wrote the Constitution of the United States determined that the power of
knowledge should be placed in the hands of the people. To assure a healthy
and uninhibited flow of information, the framers of the new government
included press freedom among the basic human rights protected in the new
nation's Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution). The
First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the press ....” That protection from control by the
federal government meant that anyone – rich or poor, regardless of his
political or religious belief – could generally publish what he wished. Ever
since, the First Amendment has served as the conscience and shield of all
Americans who reported the news, who wished to make their opinions
public, or who desired to influence public opinion. Over the past two
centuries the means of communication – what we now call the "media" –
have grown immensely more complex. In the past, the media, created by
printing presses, were few and simple – newspapers, pamphlets and books.
Today, the media also include television radio, films, cable TV and the
This media explosion has created an intricate a system shaping the
values and culture of American society. News and entertainment are beamed
from one end of the American continent to another. The result is that the
United States has been tied together more tightly, and the media have helped
to reduce regional differences and customs. People all over the country
watch the same shows often at the same time. The media bring the
American people a common and shared experience – the same news, the
same entertainment, the same advertising.
History of the media
America's earliest media audiences were the colonies' upper class and
community leaders – the people who could read and who could afford to
buy newspapers. The first regular newspaper was the Boston News-letter, a
weekly started in 1704 by the city's postmaster John Campbell. It published
shipping information and news from England. Most Americans, out in the
fields, rarely saw a newspaper and depended on travelers or passing
townsmen for news.
When rebellious feelings against Britain began to spread in the 1700s,
the first battles were fought on the pages of newspapers and pamphlets.
Perhaps one of America's greatest political journalists was one of its first,
Thomas Paine. Paine's stirring writings urging independence made him the
most persuasive "media" figure of the American Revolution against Britain
in 1776. His pamphlets sold thousands of copies and helped mobilize the
By the early 1800s the United States had entered a period of swift
technological progress that would mark the real beginning of "modern
media". The inventions of the steamship, the railroad and the telegraph
brought communications out of the age of windpower and horses. The high-
speed printing press was developed, driving down the cost of printing.
Expansion of the educational system taught more Americans to read and
sparked their interest in the world.
Publishers realized that a profitable future belonged to cheap
newspapers with large readerships and increased advertising. In 1833 a
young printer named Benjamin Day launched the New York Sun, the first
American paper to sell for a penny (until then, most papers had cost six
cents). Day's paper paid special attention to lively human interest stories and
crime. Following Day's lead, the press went from a small upper class
readership to mass readership in just a few years.
Competition for circulation and profits was fierce. The rivalry of two
publishers dominated American journalism at the end of the 19 century. The
first was Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911), a Hungarian immigrant whose
Pulitzer prizes have become America's highest newspaper and book honors.
His papers, the St Louis Post-Dispatch and the New York World, fought
corporate greed and government corruption, introduced sports coverage and
comics, and entertained the public with an endless series of promotional
The second publisher was William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951), who
took Pulitzer's formula to new highs – and new lows – in the San Francisco
Examiner and the New York Journal. Hearst's brand of outrageous
sensationalism was dubbed "yellow journalism" after the paper's popular
comic strip, "The Yellow Kid ". Modern media critics would be horrified at
Hearst's coverage of the Spanish-American War over Cuba in 1898. For
months before the United States declared war, the Journal stirred public
opinion to near hysteria with exaggerations and outright lies. When Hearst's
artist in Cuba found no horrors to illustrate, Hearst sent back the message
“Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war”.
Pulitzer and Hearst symbolized an era of highly personal journalism
that faded early in this century. The pressure for large circulation created
one of today's most important press standards objective, or unbiased,
reporting. Newspapers wanted to attract readers of all views, not drive them
away with one-sided stories. That meant editors began to make sure all sides
of a story were represented. Wider access to the telephone helped shape
another journalistic tradition the race to be first with the latest news.
The swing to objective reporting was the key to the emergence of The
New York Times. Most journalists consider it the nation's most prestigious
newspaper. Under Adolph S. Ochs, who bought the paper in 1896 this paper
established itself as a serious alternative to sensationalist journalism. The
paper stressed coverage of important national and international events – a
tradition which still continues. Today the New York Times is used as a major
reference tool by American libraries, and is standard reading for diplomats,
scholars and government officials.
The first American magazines appeared half a century after the first
newspapers and took longer to conquer widespread readership. Andrew
Bradford, a London-born printer, published the first U.S. magazine in
Philadelphia on February 13, 1741, but it lasted only three months. In 1893,
the first mass-circulation magazines, which cost ten cents at the time, began
to appear. In 1923, Henry Luce invented the concept of the weekly news
magazine, creating Time. Time and its major competitor, Newsweek,
gradually carved out important niches with their in-depth analyses of
national and international developments.
Newspapers and magazines
Newspapers and magazines have long been major lines of
communication and have always reached large audiences. Today more than
11,000 different periodicals are published as either weekly, monthly,
bimonthly, quarterly, or semiannual editions. More than 62 million copies of
daily newspapers are printed every day and over 58 million copies of
Sunday newspapers are published every week. More than two-thirds of
American adults read a daily newspaper on an average weekday. Most of the
daily newspapers are published rain or shine, on Christmas, Thanksgiving,
or the Fourth of July. The top five daily newspapers by circulation are: The
Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
and The Washington Post. Most daily newspapers are of the “quality” rather
than the “popular” variety. Sunday papers are usually much larger than the
regular editions. Reading the Sunday paper is an American tradition, for
some people an alternative to going to church. Getting through all of the
sections can take most of the day, leaving just enough time for the leisurely
It is often said that there is no “national press” in the US as there is in
Great Britain, for instance, where five popular followed by three quality
newspapers dominate the circulation figures and are read nationwide. In one
sense this is true. Most daily newspapers are distributed locally, or
regionally, people buying one of the big city newspapers in addition to the
smaller local ones. A few of the best known newspapers such as the Wall
Street Journal can be found throughout the country, yet one wouldn’t expect
The Boston Globe to be read in Huston. There has been an attempt to
publish a truly national newspaper, USA Today, but it can only offer news of
general interest, which is not enough in a country where state, city, and local
news and political developments most deeply affect the readers and are
especially interesting to them.
In another sense, however, there is a national press, one that comes
from influence and the sharing of news. Some of the largest newspapers are
at the same time newsgathering businesses selling news and photographs to
hundreds of other papers in the USA and abroad. Three of the better-known
of these are The New York Times’, The Washington Post’s and The Los
Angeles Times’ news services. Because so many newspapers print news
stories from the major American newspapers and magazines, they have great
national and international influence.
American newspapers get much of their news from the same sources
which serve about half of the people in the world, that is, the two US news
agencies AP (Associated Press) and UPI (United Press International). These
two international agencies are the world’s largest and neither of them is
owned, controlled or operated by the government.
American magazines cover all topics and interests, from art and
architecture to tennis, from aviation and gardening to computers and literary
criticism. Quite a few have international editions, are translated into other
languages, have “daughter” editions in other countries. Among the many
international are National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Cosmopolitan,
Vogue, Time, Newsweek, Scientific American, and Psychology Today.
The weekly magazines – the best known are Time and U.S. News and
World Report – serve as a type of national press. They also have
considerable international impact, above all Time; no other single news
publication is read so widely by so many people internationally.
The news magazines are all aimed at the average, educated reader.
There are also many periodicals which treat serious educational, political,
and cultural topics at length. The best known of these include The Atlantic
Monthly, Harvard Educational Review, Saturday Review, National Review,
Foreign Affairs, Smithsonian and, of course, The New Yorker. These widely
read periodicals provide a broad and substantial forum for serious
A basic characteristic of the American press is that almost all editors
and journalists agree that news should be very clearly separated from
opinion about the news. Following tradition of journalistic ethics, young
newspaper editors and reporters are taught that opinion and political
viewpoints belong on the editorial and opinion pages. Therefore, when a
news story appears with a reporter’s name, it means that the editors consider
it to be a mixture of fact and opinion. There is also a very good economic
reason for this policy of separating news and opinion. It was discovered in
the late 19th century that greater numbers of readers trusted, and bought,
newspapers when the news wasn’t slanted in one direction or another.
Today, it’s often difficult to decide whether a paper is Republican or
Democrat, liberal or conservative. Most newspapers are careful to give
equal and balanced news coverage to opposing candidates in elections. They
may support one candidate or the other on their editorial pages, but one year
this might be a Republican, and the next a Democrat.
A typical daily paper contains more than 40 pages of news, editorials,
interviews, cartoons, information about sports, art, music, books, and
general entertainment, including radio and TV schedule. There is a business
section, a family page, comics, general advertising, real estate and
employment ads (classified ads). Newspapers and magazines carry a lot of
advertisements. They subsist mainly on the revenue generated by the
advertising that they sell. Ads usually take up a large part of newspaper
space. A cleverly planned newspaper advertisement will cause the reader to
stop and read it.
Just as there are no official or government owned news agency in the
USA, there are no official or government-owned newspapers. There is no
censorship, no “official secret acts”, nor any law that says, for example, that
that government records must be kept secret until so many years have
passed. The Government attempts to keep former intelligence agents from
publishing secrets they once promised to keep – from “telling it all” – have
been notoriously unsuccessful. One of the best known examples was when
The New York Times and The Washington Post published the so called
“Pentagon Papers”. These were secret documents concerning US military
policy in Vietnam. The newspapers won the Supreme Court case that
followed. The Court wrote (1971): “The government’s power to censor the
press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure
The tradition of “muckraking” – digging out the dirt and exposing it
for all to see – is still extremely strong, and investigative reporting is still a
large part of journalists’ work. This is one reason why so many young
Americans are attracted to careers in journalism as a way of effecting
change in society. Even small-town newspapers employ reporters who are
kept busy searching for examples of political corruption, business
malpractice, or industrial pollution.
Needless to say, some Americans are not happy with this strong
tradition of investigative reporting. They say this has gone too far, that it
gives a false impression of the country, that it makes it almost impossible to
keep one’s private life private. The American press responds by quoting
their constitutional rights. They perform a public service that is necessary
for a healthy democracy, they claim. Less nobly, they also know, of course,
that when something which has been hidden behind closed doors is moved
to the front pages, it can sell a lot of newspapers.
Radio and television
The 1920s saw the birth of a new mass medium – radio. Although
mostly listened to for entertainment, radio’s instant on-the-spot reports of
dramatic events drew huge audiences throughout the 1930s and World War
II. Radio also introduces government regulation into the media. Early radio
stations went on and off the air and wandered across different frequencies,
often blocking other stations and annoying listeners. To resolve the problem
American Congress gave the government power to regulate and license
Radio flourishes in the US and has a growing audience, despite the
competition from TV, cinema and the Internet. The US has more than
10,000 local radio stations. Many are affiliated to national networks such as
ABC (American Broadcasting Company), CBS (Columbia Broadcasting
Service), and NBC (the National Broadcasting Company). There are also
over 100 regional radio networks. Although most stations are commercial,
advertising on radio is a lot less obtrusive than on TV. There are many
“special audience” radio stations, including a variety of foreign-language
stations, and non-commercial stations operated by colleges, universities and
US mainstream commercial radio is excellent if you are into music,
sports or religion. As a rule, news and talk stations broadcast on AM and
music stations on FM. Music stations are highly specialized, the most
common of which are categorized as adult contemporary, country,
contemporary hits, easy listening or middle of the road. In addition to
these, there are stations specializing on top 40 hits, golden oldies or classic
rock, black music, light rock, jazz, blues, R&B, progressive, gospel reggae
and classical. If you are looking for serious radio, then you must turn into
NPR (National Public Radio) which is non-commercial and specializes in
news and public affairs. APA (American Public Radio) is also non-
commercial and specialized in entertainment. NPR and APR survive on
grants and sponsorship
from large corporations.
After World War II,
American homes were
invaded by a powerful new
force – television. The idea
of seeing “live” shows in
the living room was
immediately attractive. TV
was developed at a time
when Americans were
becoming more affluent
and more mobile.
Watching TV soon became
a social ritual.
Today television is
an essential part of
American life and in many homes it rivals family and religion as the
dispenser of values. TV is often referred to as the “boob tube”, the “plug-in
drug” or the “idiot box”. Some 98 % of US households have at least one TV
and around 70 per cent have two or more. The average American watches
three hours of TV a day and a good twenty per cent of the public admit to
more than four hours a day. Some “coach potatoes” (people who spend all
their time passively watching TV) leave their TVs on all day and even
overnight, though in recent years, computer use, particularly surfing the
Internet, has cut into television time. Prime time viewing is from 7 pm to 11
pm and attracts an average 85 million viewers.
US television is the most competitive in the world, with national
networks, local stations, cable and satellite TV stations all competing
vigorously for the attention of the audience. There are largest national
networks ABC, CBS, NBC, known as the big three. In 1986, however, the
Fox Broadcasting Company launched a challenge to the big three networks
(thanks largely to the success of shows like The Simpsons, as well as the
network's acquisition of rights to show National Football League games). In
addition to the national networks, there are more than 800 licensed
commercial TV stations and some 400 non-commercial public and
educational stations. Major cities have up to 20 local broadcast stations and
viewers in many areas can receive well over 100 stations when national and
cable stations are included. Spanish language channels are becoming
increasingly common throughout the country and there are several national
Spanish language networks developing, such as Univision or Telemundo.
The major networks buy programs from independent TV production
companies (mostly located in Hollywood) and distribute them to local
stations across the country (local TV stations may be affiliated or owned and
operated by a TV network). Programs aimed at mass entertainment are
preferred over educational and news programs. Most stations’ output
consists of a profusion of game shows, sit-coms, reality programs, violent or
old films and “public access” programming.
Major-network affiliates run very similar schedules. Typically, they
begin weekdays with an early-morning locally produced news show,
followed by a network morning show, such as NBC's Today, which mixes
news, weather, interviews and music. Syndicated programming, especially
talk shows, fill the late morning, followed often by local news at noon.
Network run Soap operas dominate the early afternoon, while syndicated
talk shows such as The Oprah Winfrey Show appear in the late afternoon.
Local news comes on again in the early evening, followed by the national
network's news program at 6:30 or 5:30 p.m., followed by more news.
Family-oriented comedy programs are shown in the early part of prime time,
although in recent years, reality television like Dancing with the Stars has
largely replaced them. Later in the evening, dramas like CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation, House, M.D., and Grey's Anatomy air. At 10 or 11 p.m.,
another local news program comes on, usually followed by late-night
interview shows, such as Late Show with David Letterman or The Tonight
Show. Saturday mornings usually feature network programming aimed at
children (including animated cartoons), while Sunday mornings include
public-affairs programs that help fulfil stations' legal obligations to provide
public-service programming. Sports and infomercials (30-minute
advertisements) can be found on weekend afternoons, followed again by the
same type of prime-time shows aired during the week.
Local stations also show their own local news, sports and other
broadcasts, which vary from amateurish to reasonably competent programs.
Local news generally consists of a catalogue of soaring crime, flavored with
showbiz gossip. TV companies compete to bring instant pictures of disasters
and on-the-spot reports from helicopter crews.
Viewers also have the option of watching non-commercial public
television. Public television in the US has a far smaller role than in most
other countries. The best programs for discerning viewers (that commercial
stations do not offer) are usually shown on the Public Broadcasting system
(PBS) or public-service channels. PBS channels show some of the high-
quality programs, including comedy, children’s programs (e.g. Sesame
Street and Teletubbies), drama, documentaries, discussion programs,
excellent science and nature features, live music and theater. PBS TV used
to be strictly uncommercial and survived on fund-raising drives, donations
from government, foundations, viewer contributions, corporate sponsorship.
Nowadays PBS stations accept some advertising, however advertisements
are currently limited to the breaks between programs.
Cable TV is available in around 60 % of US households and cable
networks collectively have greater viewership than broadcast networks.
Most cable stations broadcast 24 hours a day and in the larger cities there
are dozens of cable channels in addition to the national networks and PBS
stations; many cable subscribers can receive more than 100 stations.
Although there are some general entertainment cable TV channels, most are
dedicated to a particular topic, including films, sports, religion, comics,
game shows, local events, news, financial news, shopping, children’s
programs, weather, health, music and foreign-language programs, e.g.
Spanish. Top cable networks include USA Network (general entertainment),
ESPN and Versus (sports), MTV (music), CNN and MSNBC (news), Syfy
(science fiction), Disney Channel (family), Discovery Channel and Animal
Planet (documentaries), TBS (comedy) and TNT (drama).Cable TV isn’t
subject to the same federal laws as broadcast television and therefore
channels may show programs, such as pornographic films, which aren’t
permitted on network TV.
Satellite television was originally designed to offer a greater selection
of programs to people in rural areas that could not easily be connected to the
cable system. Now there are around 20 TV satellites in North America
serving the US and Canada. However many people are buying small satellite
dishes to install them in the backyards. DBS (Direct broadcast satellite
television services), which became available in the U.S. in the 1990s, offers
programming similar to cable TV. Dish Network and DirecTV are the major
DBS providers in the country.
American television is focused on popular entertainment to provide
large audiences to advertisers. Over-the-air commercial stations and
networks generate the vast majority of their revenue from advertisements.
Many Americans, who pay no fee for either commercial or public TV,
simply accept TV ads as the price they have to pay if they choose to watch
certain programs. Advertisements range from those that are witty, well-
made and clever to those that are boring and dull. According to a 2001
survey, broadcast stations allocated 16 to 21 minutes per hour to
commercials. Most cable networks also generate income from
advertisements, although most basic cable networks also receive
subscription fees. However, premium cable networks, such as the movie
network HBO, do not air commercials. Instead, cable-TV subscribers must
pay extra to receive the premium networks (about 35 million Americans pay
a monthly fee of approximately $17 for greater selection).
Broadcast television is regulated by the Federal Communications
Commission. The FCC awards licenses to local stations, which stipulate
stations' commitments to educational and public-interest programming. The
FCC also prohibits the airing of "indecent" material over the air between 6
a.m. and 10 p.m. Although broadcast stations can legally air almost anything
they want late at night – and cable networks at all hours—nudity and
graphic profanity are very rare on American television, though they are
common on pay television services that are free from FCC regulations and
pressure from advertisers to tone down content, and often require a
subscription to view. Broadcasters fear that airing such material will turn off
advertisers and encourage the federal government to strengthen its
regulation of television content.
The American media is troubled by rising public dissatisfaction.
Critics complain that journalists are unfair, irresponsible or just plain
arrogant. They complain that journalists are always emphasizing the
negative, the sensational, and the abnormal rather than the normal.
Reporters are sometimes seen as heroes who expose wrongdoing on
the part of the government or big business. In the early 1970s, for example,
two young reporters for the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl
Bernstein, investigated a break in at the headquarters of the Democratic
Party in a Washington building known as "the Watergate ". Their reporting,
along with an investigation by a Congressional committee and a court trial,
helped implicate high White House officials in the break-in. Woodward and
Bernstein became popular heroes, especially after a film was made about
them, and helped restore some glamour to the profession of journalism.
Enrollments in journalism schools soared, with most students aspiring to be
investigative reporters. But there is a feeling that the press sometimes goes
too far, crossing the fine line between the public's right to know, on the one
hand, and the right of individuals to privacy and the right of the government
to protect the national security.
One growing pressure on reporters and editors is the risk of being
sued. Even though the First Amendment protects the press from government
interference, the press does not have complete freedom. There are laws
against libel and invasion of privacy, as well as limits on what reporters may
do in order to get a story. The right of privacy is meant to protect individual
Americans' peace of mind and security. Journalists cannot barge into
people's homes or offices to seek out news and expose their private lives to
the public. Even when the facts are true, most news organizations have their
own rules and guidelines on such matters.
1. Why is the USA sometimes called a “media state”?
2. What does the First Amendment stipulate for?
3. How did media explosion influence American society?
4. What was the first American regular newspaper?
5. What do we learn from the text about Thomas Paine?
6. How did American mass media change in the early 1800s?
7. What do we learn about the rivalry of Joseph Pulitzer and
William Randolph Hearst?
8. When did first American magazine appear?
9. What is the number of periodicals published in the USA today?
10. What are the top five daily newspapers? Are they popular or
11. Why is it often said that there is no “national press” in the USA?
12. What are the most popular American magazines published
13. What are the reasons for separating news and opinion in
14. Why are many young Americans attracted to careers in
15. How can a typical American daily newspaper be described?
16. When did radio appear in the USA?
17. What are three largest national networks which many radio
stations are affiliated to?
18. Do American radio stations specialize in certain types of
19. What nicknames did Americans give to television?
20. Why do many people believe that TV rivals family and religion
as disperser of values?
21. What are the largest TV networks? What is a typical day
schedule of a major-network channel?
22. What is PBS? What kind of programming does it offer to
23. Is cable TV widely available in the US today?
24. What are the most popular cable channels?
25. What was the original purpose of developing satellite TV?
26. What is the main source of revenue for American TV?
27. What is FCC? What are its functions?
28. Why is the audience often dissatisfied with American mass
29. What did the Watergate scandal prove?
30. Are American mass media completely free to publish whatever
Develop the following points using the words below.
1. The public’s right to know is one of the basic principles of
American society. To revolutionize, media state, to determine, framer, basic
human rights, freedom of speech, to serve as smth., to influence public
2. By 1800s publishers realized that a profitable future belonged to
cheep newspapers with large circulation. Modern media, swift technological
progress, cost of printing, expansion of educational system, mass readership
3. William Randolph Hearst took journalism to new heights and
new lows. Yellow journalism, sensationalism, coverage of smth., to stir
public opinion, exaggeration, to symbolize an era of smth.
4. The New York Times is a highly reputable paper. Objective
reporting, alternative to smth., coverage of smth., important event, to
establish oneself as smth., to be standard reading for smb.
5. American newspapers and magazines attract large audiences. To
print, to publish, circulation, “quality” and “popular” varieties, American
6. In one sense, there is no “national” press in the USA. To
dominate circulation, to be read nationwide, to be distributed locally, to be
found throughout the country, news of general interest, to affect the readers
7. American editors and journalists agree that news should be very
clearly separated from opinion about the news. Journalistic ethics, political
viewpoints, editorial page, mixture of fact and opinion, to be slanted, to be
careful to give equal news coverage
8. American TV is a dispenser of values. Powerful force, an
essential part of life, “plug-in drug”, an average American, “coach
potato”, overnight, to surf the Internet, prime-time viewing, to compete
9. Major-network affiliates run similar programming. Weekday,
news show, talk show, soap opera, family-oriented program, to aim at smb.,
public-affairs program, infomercial
10. Cable TV is widely available in the US today. Greater selection
of programs, to have greater viewership, subscriber, to be dedicated to a
particular topic, to be permitted on network TV, to be connected to the cable
THE SYSTEM OF EDUCATION
Most historians agree that a great deal of the economic, political,
scientific, and cultural progress America has made in its relatively short his-
tory is due to its commitment to the ideal of equal opportunity. This is the
ideal of educating as many Americans as possible, to the best of their
abilities. From the early times on, especially in the northern and western
states, the public policy was to produce educated people. In these states, the
large majority of adults were literate at a time when education was still
denied to most Europeans. There can be little doubt that American education
in its aim to provide equality of opportunity as well as excellence has raised
the overall level of education of Americans. It has encouraged more
Americans than ever before to study for advanced degrees and to become
involved in specialized research. The belief that the future of society
depends on the quantity and quality of its educated citizens is widely held. It
explains why a great many Americans are still willing to give more money
to education, even during times of economic difficulties. Besides there is a
widespread belief that the more schooling a person has, the more money he
or she will earn on college graduation.
The US has the most diversified education system in the world, with
public and private schools (“school” usually refers to everything from
kindergarten to university) at all levels flourishing alongside each other.
Americans of all ages have an insatiable appetite for education and self-
improvement, and no society in history has educated its young more
persistently or at greater expense than the US.
There is no federal education system in the US, where education is the
responsibility of individual states and districts. Consequently, education
standards and requirements vary considerably from state to state and district
to district. School attendance is compulsory and comprises three levels:
elementary, secondary and high. At these levels, school curricula, funding,
teaching, and other policies are set through locally elected school boards
with jurisdiction over school districts. School districts are usually separate
from other local jurisdictions, with independent officials and budgets.
Educational standards and standardized testing decisions are usually made
by state governments.
The age for beginning school is mandated by state law and therefore
varies slightly from state to state, but in general children are required to
begin school with a one-year Kindergarten class when they are 4 or 5. They
are required to continue attending school until the age of 16 to 18,
depending on the state, with a growing number of states now requiring
school attendance until the age of 18.
Students may attend public schools, private schools, or homeschool. In
most public and private schools, education is divided into three levels:
elementary school, junior high school (also often called middle school), and
senior high school. In almost all schools at these levels, children are divided
by age groups into grades, ranging from Kindergarten (followed by first
grade) for the youngest children in elementary school, up to twelfth grade,
which is the final year of high school. The exact age range of students in
these grade levels varies slightly from area to area.
Vocational training, adult education, and special schools or classes
also form a part of education program in most states. Many states and
communities provide schools or special classes for children with special
educational needs, including those with emotional and behavioural
problems, moderate and severe learning difficulties, communication
problems, or physical disabilities.
A unique aspect of the US education system is the high degree of
parental involvement. “Parent power” isn’t only accepted but is welcomed
and encouraged through local Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and
Home and School Associations (HSAs) attached to every school. They meet
regularly and concern themselves with many aspects of a school’s affairs
including the curriculum, facilities, school hours, and after-school activities
and programs. Parents are encouraged to attend meetings and show an
interest in the school and their children’s education. Schools organize parent
days and parent-teacher conferences, where parents can meet teachers and
examine their child’s school time-table.
Pre-school education embraces all formal and informal education
before the age of six. It includes tots and toddler programs, play school,
nursery school, and kindergarten. Attendance at school for children under
six is not compulsory, and the provision of these schools varies according to
the finances and circumstances of local communities. Most public
elementary schools provide a pre-school kindergarten (K) year for five-year-
olds, which is usually the first year of elementary school.
There are various types of pre-schools, including non-profit co-
operative schools, church affiliated schools, local community schools,
private schools and Montessori schools. A co-operative school is usually the
least expensive, as parents work voluntarily as teachers’ aides alongside
professional teachers. Church-affiliated schools are usually attached to
religious centers and may include religious education.
A number of private nursery schools use the Montessori method of
teaching, developed by Dr Maria Montessori in the early 1900s. Montessori
is more a philosophy of life than a teaching method and is based on the
belief that is a child is an individual with unique needs, interests and
patterns of growth.
Many areas also have what are termed “toddler” or “tot” programs,
which usually accept children from two to four years of age. Activities
generally include arts and crafts, music, educational games, perceptual
motor activities and listening skills. Most communities also have informal
community schools or learning centers, playgroups, morning programs and
other inexpensive alternatives to private schools.
Many children attend private nursery schools for two to six-year-olds.
Fees for private nursery schools range from $5000 to $15000 per year for
full-time schooling, depending on the school and area. School hours vary,
but children usually attend for a few hours in the morning, or in the
afternoon. Many day care centers are designed for working parents and
combine nursery school and extended day care, with centers open from
6.30am to 6pm.
Pre-school education programs are intended to introduce children to
the social environment and concentrate on their basic skills of co-ordination.
Research in a number of countries has shown that children who attend pre-
school usually progress at a faster rate than those who don’t. In some areas
(e.g. New York City), nursery schools are in short supply and it’s necessary
to put your child’s name on a waiting list as soon as possible.
Elementary and secondary education
Most parents send their children to public schools. Public education is
tax-supported, no tuition is required (tax burdens by school districts vary
from area to area). Approximately 85% of American students attend public
schools, the other 15 percent choose to pay tuition to attend private schools.
Most private schools are run by religious organizations and generally
include religious instruction along with a general curriculum similar to that
of the public schools, presented from the religious group's perspective. In
2000 there were about 27,000 private elementary and secondary schools in
the United States, enrolling more than 5 million students.
Students go to school five to seven hours a day, five days a week for
nine months each year, from September to June. Most schools have a
summer break period for about two and half months from June through
Private schools are the most expensive and vary considerably from
small home-run set-ups to large custom-built schools. Private schools
include single-sex schools, schools sponsored by religious groups, schools
for students with learning and physical disabilities, schools for gifted
children. Some private schools place an emphasis on sports, art, drama,
dance or music.
isn’t permitted in
public schools so
many private schools
are based on religious
schools are usually
collectively referred to
are organized like
although the curricular
and approach differ
considerably, and are
usually aimed at
securing admission to
a top university. School work in private schools is usually rigorous and
demanding, and students often have a great deal of homework and pressure.
Parents may also choose to educate their own children at home; 1.7%
of children are educated in this manner. Most homeschooling advocates are
wary of the established educational institutions for various reasons. Some
are religious conservatives who see nonreligious education as contrary to
their moral or religious systems. Others feel that they can more effectively
tailor a curriculum to suit an individual student's academic strengths and
weaknesses, especially those with singular needs or disabilities. Still others
feel that the negative social pressures of schools (such as bullying, drugs,
crime, and other school-related problems) are detrimental to a child's proper
development. Parents often form groups to help each other in the
homeschooling process, and may even assign classes to different parents,
similar to public and private schools.
Another alternative to traditional public schools are charter schools,
which were conceived as a way to inspire educators to develop new and
more successful methods of teaching and running schools. These tuition-
free, publicly funded schools pledge to deliver better student academic
performance in exchange for freedom from many of the regulations
governing other public schools. They are so named because their operators
sign a contract, or charter, with a local school board or other public agency
specifying the conditions under which the schools will be run and the
standards of achievement they are to meet. The first charter school law was
passed in Minnesota in 1991. By some 10 years later, most states had passed
charter laws, and the United States had some 2,500 charter schools, serving
more than 500,000 students.
The first years of compulsory schooling are called elementary or
primary school. Elementary school starts at the age of five or six and is
usually attended until eleven (grades K to six), when students go on to a
middle or junior high school. In some districts, students attend elementary
school until 13 (up to grade 8) before attending a senior high school.
Elementary schools provide instruction on the fundamental skills of
reading, writing and maths, as well as history and geography (taught
together as social studies), crafts, music, science, art and physical education
(P.E. or gym). Elementary students are usually given regular home work,
though in many schools few children complete it. Students do not choose a
course structure and often remain in one or two classrooms throughout the
school day, with the exceptions of physical education, music, and/or art
The elementary school curriculum varies with the organization and
educational aims of individual schools and local communities. Typically, the
curriculum within public elementary education is determined by individual
school districts. The school district selects curriculum guides and textbooks
that are reflective of a state's learning standards and benchmarks for a given
Secondary education is for children aged 12 to 18 (grades 7 to 12). It
generally takes place in a high school, which is often divided into junior and
senior high (housed in separate buildings or even separate locations). Junior
high school (or middle school) is for those aged 12 to 14 (grades 7 to 9) and
senior high is for students aged 15 to 17 (grades 10 to 12).
Junior high school is intermediate between elementary school and
senior high school. It usually includes grades seven and eight, and
sometimes six or nine. In some locations, junior high school includes grade
nine only, allowing students to adjust to a high school environment. In some
districts, students attend a combined junior/senior high school or attend a
middle school until 13 (grade 8) before transferring to a four-year senior
high school. Like elementary education, secondary education is co-
educational. American high schools are often much larger than secondary
schools in other countries, and regional high schools with over 2,000
students are common in some rural areas and city suburbs.
Secondary school students must take certain 'core' curriculum courses
for a prescribed number of years or terms, as determined by each state.
These generally include English, maths, general science, health, physical
education and social studies (which may include American history and
government, geography, world history and social problems). Students are
streamed (tracked) in some high schools for academic subjects, where the
brightest students are put on a 'fast track'. In addition to mandatory subjects,
students choose “electives” (optional subjects), which supplement their
future education and career plans. Electives usually comprise around half of
a student's work in grades 9 to 12. Students concentrate on four subjects
each quarter and are seldom “pushed” beyond their capability.
High schools offer a wide range of subjects from which students can
choose a program leading to college/university entrance or a career in
business or industry. The courses offered vary from school to school and are
listed in school curriculum guides. Around the ninth grade, students receive
counseling as they begin to plan their careers and select subjects that are
useful in their chosen fields. Counseling continues throughout the senior
high school years and into college, particularly in junior college or the first
two years of a four-year college program. Larger schools may offer a
selection of elective courses aimed at three or more tracks: academic,
vocational and general. Students planning to go on to college or university
elect courses with an emphasis on academic sciences (biology, chemistry,
physics), higher mathematics (algebra, geometry, trigonometry and
calculus), advanced English literature, composition, social sciences and
The vocational program may provide training in four fields:
agricultural education, which prepares students for farm management and
operation; business education, which trains students for the commercial
field; home economics, which prepares students for home management,
child care and care of the sick; and trade and industrial education, which
provides training for jobs in mechanical, manufacturing, building and other
trades. Students interested in entering business from high school may take
typing, shorthand, book-keeping or “business” English.
The third program is a general or comprehensive program providing
features of the academic and vocational programs. Those who don't want to
go to college or enter a particular trade immediately but want the benefits of
schooling and a high school diploma often follow the general program.
Upon satisfactory completion of 12th grade, a student graduates and
receives a high school diploma. (In the US, students graduate from high
school, junior high school, elementary school and even nursery school.) At
high schools (as at colleges and universities) there are ceremonies to
celebrate graduation complete with caps, gowns, diplomas, and speeches by
staff and students.
With the exception of physical education classes, school sport is
usually extra-curricular, i.e. takes place outside school hours. Team sports
have a high profile at many high schools and being 'on the school team' is
more important to many students than being top of the class. In addition to
sports, many other school-sponsored activities take place outside school
hours, including science and nature clubs, musical organizations, art and
drama groups, language clubs and student-run newspapers. Colleges and
universities place considerable value in the achievements of students in high
school extra-curricular activities. High schools are also important social
centers, and participation in school-organized social events such as
homecoming parades (with homecoming queens) and school dances is
In the last decades, there has been extensive debate over the declining
standards and low achievements of American students, particularly when
compared with students in other leading industrialized countries. American
high school students score particularly badly in mathematics and science,
many can barely read or write, and most know virtually nothing of the wider
world or even their own history.
1. What are the goals of American education?
2. How can you characterize the system of education in the USA?
3. What is the attitude of most Americans towards education?
4. Education standards and requirements are the same all over the
country, aren’t they?
5. How many levels does school comprise?
6. What decisions do school district authorities take?
7. At what age do American children start school?
8. What is the school leaving age? Can it vary from state to state?
9. What is PTA? HSA?
10. What is the degree of parental involvement in school life in
11. What does pre-school education include? What types of pre-
schools exist in the USA?
12. What age groups are accepted by toddler programs? What kind
of activities do these programs offer to children?
13. Can every American family afford sending their children to a
private nursery school?
14. Do parents whose children attend public schools have to pay
15. What types of private schools are there in the USA?
16. Is religion taught in American public schools?
17. Why do some parents prefer to educate their children at home?
What reasons are given by homeschooling advocates?
18. How do charter schools differ from public and private schools?
19. What is American elementary education like?
20. What factors determine the school curriculum?
21. What grades does secondary education comprise?
22. What is junior high (middle) school?
23. What subjects do secondary school students take?
24. Why do some high schools stream (track) their students for
25. Do American high school students only take mandatory
26. What is counseling aimed for?
27. What courses are usually taken by college-bound students?
28. What types of vocational programs are provided for high school
29. What types of extra-curricular activities are available for high
30. What is American education criticized for?
Speak on the following topics using the words given below.
1. Goals of education
equal opportunity, to the best of one’s abilities, to be literate, to raise
the overall level education
2. Education standards
federal education system, standards and requirements, school
attendance, to be compulsory, school curriculum, school district, school
3. Types of schools
public schools, homeschooling, special schools, special educational
needs, learning difficulties, physical disabilities, private schools, charter
4. Pre-school education
toddler programs, play schools, nursery schools, kindergarten, pre-
schools, teaching methods, full-time schooling, working parents, day care
center, social environment, basic skills, to be in short supply
5. Private schools
to pay tuition, single-sex schools, church-run schools, learning and
physical disabilities, gifted children, curriculum, to be rigorous, to be
parental responsibility, personal freedom, to tailor a curriculum to
suit smth., strengths and weaknesses, negative social pressure, school-
related problems, proper development, lack of socialization
7. Elementary education
to be compulsory, to provide instruction, basic (fundamental) skills, to
give regular homework, school curriculum, local community, school district,
8. Secondary education
junior /senior high school, intermediate, grade, to adjust to the
environment, to attend, “core” curriculum course, to be streamed (tracked),
academic subject, mandatory subject, elective subject, capacity for learning
9. High school
to be located in a separate building, to offer a wide range of subjects,
college entrance, to receive counseling, to offer a selection of elective
courses, to be aimed at, academic science, vocational program, to provide
training, general (comprehensive) program, high school diploma ,ceremony
to celebrate graduation
10. extra-curricular activities
to take place outside school hours, team sports, science and nature
clubs, student-run newspaper, to place considerable value in smth., social
center, participation in school-organized events, to be widespread
COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY
Higher education refers to study beyond secondary school level and
usually assumes that a student has undertaken 13 years of study and has a
high school diploma. There are three main levels of higher education:
undergraduate studies (bachelor's degree), graduate studies (master's degree)
and postgraduate studies (doctor's degree). The four years of undergraduate
study for a bachelor’s degree are referred to as freshman, sophomore,
junior, and senior years (also used in high schools ).
Every state has its own university, and some states operate large
networks of colleges and universities: The State University of New York,
for instance, has more than 60 campuses in New York State. Some cities
also have their own public universities. In many areas, junior or community
colleges provide a bridge between high school and four-year colleges for
some students. In junior colleges, students can generally complete their first
two years of college courses at low cost and remain close to home. Degree
level courses are offered by around 3,500 accredited colleges and
universities, with a wide variety of admission requirements and programs.
Of the total college population of 15 million students (12 million in public
colleges and 3 million in private), around 500,000 are overseas students,
half of which are working on graduate level degrees.
Although the terms “college” and “university” are often used
interchangeably, a college may be independent or part of a university (both
colleges and universities are also referred to simply as schools). An
American college typically offers a blend of natural and social sciences and
humanistic studies. Students are usually 18 to 22 and attend college for
around four years to earn a bachelor's degree in arts or science. On the other
hand, a university is usually composed of an undergraduate college of arts
and sciences, plus graduate and professional schools and facilities.
A high school diploma is not a ticket that allows someone to
automatically enter a university. Standardized examinations play a decisive
role at almost every level of education, especially in the admission to
colleges and universities. Students who wish to go to a good university but
only took high school courses that were a "snap," or who spent too much
time on extracurricular activities, will have to compete with those who
worked hard and took demanding courses. There are two widely used and
nationally-administered standardized tests for high school students who
wish to attend a college or university. One is the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude
Test), which attempts to measure aptitudes in verbal and mathematical fields
necessary for college work. The other is the ACT (American College Test),
which attempts to measure skills in English, mathematics, and the social and
natural sciences. Both tests are given at specific dates and locations
throughout the U.S. by non-profit, nongovernmental organizations. The tests
are used by universities as standards for comparison, but are not in any way
Each year, the SAT is taken by some two million high school students.
One million of these students are in their last year of high school. Another
million are in their next-to-last year. The ACT, more commonly used in the
western part of the U.S., is taken each year by another million high school
students. With so many different types of high schools and programs, with
so many differences in subjects and standards, these tests provide common,
nationwide measuring sticks. Many universities publish the average scores
achieved on these tests by the students they admit. This indicates the
"quality" or level of ability expected of those who apply. Most colleges also
consider more subjective factors such as a commitment to extracurricular
activities, a personal essay, and an interview. Each college usually has a
rough threshold below which admission is unlikely.
Once admitted, students engage in undergraduate study, which
consists of satisfying university and class requirements to achieve a
bachelor's degree in a field of concentration known as a major. (Some
students enroll in double majors or "minor" in another field of study.) It has
been estimated that American colleges and universities offer more than
1,000 majors. The most common method consists of four years of study
leading to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), or
sometimes another bachelor's degree such as Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.),
Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.), Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng.,) or
Bachelor of Philosophy (B.Phil.) Five-Year Professional Architecture
programs offer the Bachelor of Architecture Degree (B.Arch.) Unlike in the
British model, degrees in law and medicine are not offered at the
undergraduate level and are completed as graduate study after earning a
Some students choose to attend a community college for two years
prior to further study at another college or university. In most states,
community colleges are operated either by a division of the state university
or by local special districts subject to guidance from a state agency.
Community colleges may award Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of
Science (AS) degree after two years. Those seeking to continue their
education may transfer to a four-year college or university. Some
community colleges have automatic enrollment agreements with a local
four-year college, where the community college provides the first two years
of study and the university provides the remaining years of study,
sometimes all on one campus. The community college awards the associate's
degree, and the university awards the bachelor's and master's degrees.
Graduate study, conducted after obtaining an initial degree and
sometimes after several years of professional work, leads to a more
advanced degree such as a master's degree, which could be a Master of Arts
(MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA),
or other less common master's degrees such as Master of Education (MEd),
and Master of Fine Arts (MFA). After additional years of study and
sometimes in conjunction with the completion of a master's degree, students
may earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or other doctoral degree, such as
Doctor of Arts, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Theology, Doctor of
Medicine, Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Physical Therapy, or Doctor of
Jurisprudence. Some programs, such as medicine, have formal
apprenticeship procedures which must be completed after graduation and
before one is considered to be fully trained. Other professional programs
like law and business have no formal apprenticeship requirements after
graduation (although law school graduates must take the bar exam in order
to legally practice law in nearly all states).
Entrance into graduate programs usually depends upon a student's
undergraduate academic performance or professional experience as well as
their score on a standardized entrance exam. Many graduate and law schools
do not require experience after earning a bachelor's degree to enter their
programs; however, business school candidates are usually required to gain
a few years of professional work experience before applying. Only 8.9
percent of students ever receive postgraduate degrees, and most, after
obtaining their bachelor's degree, proceed directly into the workforce.
One of the most surprising and unique aspects of the US education
system is that many of the most prestigious universities are private
foundations and receive no federal or state funds (their main source of
income in addition to fees is endowments). The most famous universities
include the Ivy League universities (so called because they've been
sufficiently long established for ivy to have grown on the walls): Brown,
Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale.
The Ivy League, together with the 'heavenly seven' or 'seven sisters'
(Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and
Wellesley) of once all-female colleges, are the most prestigious American
universities. Although some people claim their fame rests more upon their
social standing than their academic excellence, attending one of these
colleges usually pays off in the job market, particularly at executive level.
Other world-renowned American higher education institutions include the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge
(Massachusetts), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and
Stanford University in California, all of which have earned distinguished
international reputations for their research and academic excellence.
The academic standards of American colleges and universities vary
greatly, and some institutions are better known for the quality of their social
life or sports teams than for their academic achievements. Establishments
range from vast educational 'plants' (with as many as 50,000 students)
offering the most advanced training available, to small private academies
emphasizing personal instruction and a preference for the humanities or
experimentation. Major universities are like small cities with their own
shops, banks, police and fire departments, and are usually renowned for the
excellence of their teaching, research facilities, libraries and sports facilities.
The main difference between higher education in the US and that in
many other countries is that in the US, the system is designed to keep people
in education rather than screen them out. Some 55 per cent of American
high school graduates go on to some sort of higher education. Many
Americans look upon a bachelor's or master's degree, rather than high school
graduation, as the natural completion of school life. With the exception of
the top dozen or so, American colleges and universities are geared to the
average rather than the brighter student. The academic standards required to
earn a bachelor's degree in the US are lower than in many other countries.
Some colleges accept almost any high school graduate and are negatively
referred to as “diploma mills” or “degree factories” (which has diminished
the value of degrees). Admission requirements are rigorous in some colleges
and lax in others; the most prestigious schools are private, rather than
public. Highly reputable colleges such as Harvard and Yale accept only
students of exceptional ability.
Most universities have excellent professors, due in large part to paying
vast salaries which enable them to attract the best brains (many from
abroad). Professors have a much higher social standing than school teachers
and are permitted a high degree of autonomy in their teaching methods
(associate and assistant professors are fancy names for readers or lecturers).
Terms and Grades
Most colleges and universities have two terms (semesters) or sessions
a year of around 14 weeks each: fall, from September to late December, and
spring, which extends from late January to late May. Some divide the
academic year into three sessions: fall, spring and summer. Those who miss
or fail a course can catch up by attending summer school, an intensive eight-
week course offered between terms. Most students complete ten courses per
academic year and usually take four years to complete a bachelor’s degree
requirement of around 120 credits. Those who achieve the highest grade
point averages (GPAs) graduate as Summa cum Laude (excellent), Magna
cum Laude (very good) and Cum Laude (good). All other successful
students are awarded ungraded degrees.
Fees, Grants and Scholarships
Unlike public elementary and secondary schools, public colleges and
universities usually charge tuition. However, the amount often is much
lower than that charged by comparable private institutions, which do not
receive the same level of public support. Many students attend college -
whether public or private - with the benefit of federal loans that must be
repaid after graduation.
About 25 percent of colleges and universities are privately operated by
religious groups. Most of these are open to students of all faiths. There are
also many private institutions with no religious ties. Whether public or
private, colleges depend on three sources of income: student tuition,
endowments (gifts made by benefactors), and government funding.
Tuition fees vary widely among colleges and universities and no two
institutions charge the same fees. Public state colleges and universities
charge significantly lower fees for in-state residents and higher fees for non-
residents. Average tuition fees for public four-year colleges and universities
are around $3,500 per year and for private institutions around $15,000 per
year, although you can pay twice as much for tuition at an Ivy League
college. In addition to tuition fees, there are also fees for registration, health
center, sports center, and parking (all of which must be paid at the start of
each semester). Room and board, books and supplies, transportation and
other expenses cost on average $8,000 to $15,000 per year, depending on
the area, and whether you attend a public or private institution. All in all,
paying for a child’s college education is a major investment for parents,
most of whom can expect to spend $50,000 to $100,000 to put a child
through college. Most families participate in savings and investment
schemes to finance their children’s college education. Many students obtain
part-time jobs during term-time and summer breaks, while others receive
grants, scholarships and loans.
Scholarships are awarded directly by universities as well as by
fraternal, civil, labor and management organizations (around a third of
students at Harvard receive a scholarship). Foreign students don’t usually
receive financial aid at the undergraduate level from public universities, but
it is possible for them to obtain a scholarship for their tuition fees from a
1. What levels does higher education comprise?
2. How many years does it take to get a bachelor’s degree?
Master’s degree? Doctor’s degree?
3. What is the difference between a college and a university?
4. What does SAT stand for? What does ACT stand for? What are
these tests used for?
5. Are the results of standardized tests the only criterion for
admission to college?
6. What kinds of scientific degrees (bachelor’s and master’s) are
available for American students?
7. How long does it take to obtain a degree of a Bachelor of
8. How are community colleges operated? What kind of degrees
can community colleges award?
9. What does admission to graduate programs depend on? Is
professional experience always required?
10. Do many Americans continue their education after obtaining a
11. What is the major source of income for private universities?
12. What are the most prestigious universities in the USA today?
13. How do American universities differ? Do all of them have
similar academic standards?
14. What is the main difference between higher education in the
USA and other countries?
15. Why are some American colleges negatively referred to as
“diploma mills” or “degree factories”?
16. Are the most prestigious of American higher education
institutions usually public or private?
17. What helps American universities to attract the best professors?
18. How many terms is an academic year divided into?
19. What is the number of credits a student is usually required to
take for obtaining a bachelor’s degree?
20. What is an average college tuition fee in the US?
Read this interview with an American student who talks about his high
school. Does he have to work hard? What does he like and dislike about his
Quincy, Illinois, is a typical mid-western town of about 80,000
inhabitants. It is situated 120 miles north of St. Louis, the nearest big city.
Quincy Senior High with a student population of 1,900 is the only public
senior high school in the town and it also draws students from the
Q: Alan, which high school do you attend?
A: I attend Quincy Senior High School in Quincy, Illinois. I've been
there for four years, and I'm in the twelfth grade.
Q: What are the subjects required in your four years of high school?
A: Well, in my four years of high school I have to complete twenty
credits, one in math, three in history, three in English, three and a half in
P.E., a half in health and one year of science. And that adds up to twelve
credits. The other eight were optional and I could take more of any one
subject such as math, history or I could take other subjects such as psy-
chology or computers, or so on.
Q: And what are your subjects now?
A: My present subjects now are math, English, German, computers,
business law and one study hour which normally would be P.E. But I run
track after school and so therefore I take a study hall instead of P.E. Besides
sports there are also several other activities after school such as band, drama
club, theater, chess club, many other clubs such as German club and Spanish
club and so forth.
Q: What does your schedule look like?
A: Well, I attend school between 7.30 and 2.20 every day and in that
time period I have six hour-classes and a thirty-minute break for lunch. And
between each class I've five-minute breaks.
Q: Can you tell me anything about the tests and examinations at your
A: Well, we have many different kinds of tests. Usually we have essay
tests, multiple choice tests. Then there are other tests such as quizzes and
oral examinations such as book reports and speeches and such.
Q: What about homework?
A: It's different with every teacher. Some teachers like to give lots of
homework and others don't give that much. It just depends upon their
Q: How do teachers evaluate the performance of students?
A: Well, usually a teacher evaluates the performance by written tests
equalling fifty per cent of the grade, oral tests and quizzes as forty per cent
and homework as ten per cent. And then usually we write a large paper
twice a year called the term paper and that also adds into the grade.
Q: Is there a strict code of conduct at your school?
A: Each student receives a detailed student handbook which therein
has the rights and responsibilities governing smoking, lavatory use,
language – obscene or vulgar - what may and may not be brought to school,
such as radios or weapons or drugs. There are also rules concerning
absenteeism and tardiness to class and the penalties such as detention, m-
school suspension, out-of-school suspension and expulsion.
I know these rules sound really strict, and they are a bit, but for the
most part they're common sense. And the atmosphere isn't as bad as it
sounds. It is not a prison. It's actually quite relaxed and quite friendly.
Q: What part of the school life at Quincy would you be critical of?
A: Well, as a whole I like Quincy High a lot and if I could change one
thing, it would probably be the breaks between class. I think they are too
short. Five minutes isn't enough time to get from one class to the other.
Q: What do you like best about your school?
A: Well, I like Quincy High a lot. I like the teachers the best. They're
good teachers and they're easy to get along with. I also like the fact that
Quincy is a bigger school because that gives me more opportunities in sports
and in the variety of classes that I can take.
SPORTS AND GAMES
In the USA people take their sport extremely seriously as participants
and spectators, so sport is a huge industry in their country. Few countries are
are fans or
in sports are
is more to
to the home
A real fan not
only can recite
batting average, but also competes with other fans to prove who knows the
answers to the most obscure and trivial questions about the sport.
Many Americans' idea of relaxation is some form of energetic
exercise, such as a vigorous game of tennis or racquetball. It's estimated that
some 95 per cent of Americans take part in sports at least once a month, as
participants or spectators. The most popular participant sports are
swimming, cycling, jogging, hiking and callisthenics. The top spectator
sports are baseball, American football and basketball, all of which
originated in the US. Other popular sports include aerial sports, boxing, golf,
handball, ice hockey, hunting, motor racing, racquetball, skiing and other
winter sports, softball, tennis, tenpin bowling, athletics, watersports and
wrestling. Many sports that are primarily amateur sports or played purely for
fun in other countries are played professionally in the US, often for big
money prizes (e.g. tenpin bowling and volleyball).
Exercise and amateur sport is often taken as part of the latest fashion
craze, rather than for enjoyment or health. Americans pursue the latest
fitness fads with a passion and are convinced that staying fit requires more
than regular exercise and a balanced diet. For anyone who claims a real
desire to stay healthy, fitness has become a science of quantification
involving weighing, measuring, monitoring, graph charting, and computer
printouts. These are the tools for knowing all about pulse and heart rates,
calorie intake, fat cell per muscle cell ratios, and almost anything else that
shows the results of a workout.
Opportunities for keeping fit and playing sports are numerous. Jogging
is extremely popular throughout the country, perhaps because it is the
cheapest and most accessible sport. Most cities and towns have official
jogging circuits in parks and along beaches. Aerobic exercise and training
with weigh-lifting machines are two activities which more and more men
and women are pursuing. Books, videos, and fitness-conscious movie-stars
have promoted the muscular, healthy body as the American beauty ideal.
Most communities have recreational parks with tennis and basketball courts,
a football or soccer field, and outdoor grills for picnics. These parks
generally charge no fees for the use of these facilities. Some large
corporations, hospitals, and churches have indoor gymnasiums and organize
informal team sports. For those who can afford membership fees there are
exclusive country clubs and health and fitness centers. Their members have
access to all kinds of indoor and outdoor sports: swimming, volleyball, golf,
racquetball, handball, tennis, and basketball. Most clubs provide
professional coaching and training programs. The latest fashion is to have
your own personal trainer, i.e. someone to coach and train you in your daily
fitness regime. Many wealthy Americans have home gyms, and executives
often have the use of a gym at their office.
Football, baseball and basketball, the most popular sports in America,
originated in the United States and are largely unknown or only minor
pastimes outside North America. The football season starts in early autumn
and is followed by basketball, played in spring and summer. Besides these
top three sports, ice hockey, boxing, golf, car racing, horse racing and tennis
have been popular for decades and attract large audiences.
Professional sport is a large and profitable branch of show business.
Professional teams are owned and run purely as businesses and are
occasionally sold or even moved to another location when business is bad
(the most famous example is the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, which
moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1957). Professional athletes are
paid huge amounts, particularly in top sports such as baseball, basketball
and American football, where the average player earns over $1 million a
year and star players earn astronomical salaries.
The commercial aspects of American professional sports can make or
break an athlete’s career. Young, talented athletes make it to the top because
they are exceptionally talented, but not in every case because they are the
best. Without agents who line up sponsors and publicity, a player has a very
difficult time moving from amateur to professional sports. To get the
endorsement of corporate advertising sponsors, talented young players have
a much better chance for success if they are also attractive. Many top
players earn more money a year in product endorsement fees than in prize
The major US TV networks each broadcast an average of around 500
hours of sports programs a year, and cable stations such as the
Entertainment Sports Programming Network (ESPN) broadcast 24 hours a
day. The TV networks compete vigorously for the TV rights to top sporting
events. Many sports get half of their revenues from the networks (e.g.,
National Football League teams get about 65 per cent of their revenues from
television). The guaranteed mass viewing means advertisers will pay
networks a lot of money to sponsor the program with announcements for
their products. Advertisers for beer, cars, and men’s products are glad of the
opportunity to push their products to the predominantly male audience of the
big professional sports. Professional sport is dominated by TV, which often
determines the venue and timing of events and even influences the rules of
some sports; many sports have “official time-outs” (in addition to normal
time-outs), which are simply breaks to allow TV advertisements to be
One of the unique show business aspects of American sport is the use
of “cheerleaders”. These are usually scantily-dressed, athletic, young
women (but also men) who dance and perform acrobatic feats to incite the
crowd to support their team. Other stimuli are marching bands (before and
during matches). American sports fans, many of whom paint their faces and
dress up as “clowns”, are notably better behaved and less violent than their
counterparts in many other countries.
School and college sport is extremely important, as it's the training
ground for the nation's professionals. In most sports, playing for a college
team precedes becoming a professional player and without the inter-
collegiate sports system many professional sports would cease to exist.
College sports are organized by the National College Athletic Association
(NCAA). Rivalry between colleges and universities for top athletes is
intense, and most offer scholarships to promising athletes irrespective of
their academic abilities (a joke says that a football player's IQ is usually
measured in pounds and inches). High schools and colleges employ
professional coaches and usually have teams for athletics, baseball,
basketball, football, gymnastics, tennis and wrestling. Many also have
fencing, hockey, golf, soccer, swimming, volleyball and various other
teams. Teams and events are institutionalized and contribute to college
publicity and revenue. Sports bring in money to colleges from ticket sales
and television rights, so colleges like to have winning teams. Football and
basketball are the most lucrative college sports because they attract the most
Increasing commercialization of college sports is part of a larger trend.
American sports are becoming more competitive and more profit-oriented.
As a result, playing to win is emphasized more than playing for fun. This is
true from the professional level all the way down to the level of children’s
Little League sports teams, where young players are encouraged by such
slogans as “A quitter never wins, a winner never quits” and “Never be
willing to be second best”.
American football, which in the US is called simply football, is an
almost exclusively American sport (Canadian football is similar), but it is
gaining popularity in Europe. Professional football is played by teams in the
National Football League (NFL), divided into the National Football
Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC), each of
which comprises an Eastern, a Central and a Western division. Each division
contains five or six teams, a total of 31.
Foreigners may initially find American football complicated, slow and
boring. Nevertheless, once you learn the rules and strategy, you may join the
millions of Americans who find it fascinating and exciting.
A football field is 100 yards (91.4m) long and 40 yards (36.6m) wide,
plus a 10-yard (9.14m) end-zone at each end, painted with the home team's
name. The field has parallel lines painted across it at 5-yard (4.57m)
intervals and shorter lines every yard; 10-yard (9.14m) intervals are
indicated by huge numbers. Like rugby, American football is played with an
oval ball and the basic aims are the same, although that's where the
similarity ends. A team can have 11 players on the field at any one time.
Professional teams have entirely separate offensive and defensive teams,
depending on whether they're in possession of the ball (and attacking) or
without the ball (and defending). Because of the highly specialized nature of
the game, a defender such as a right tackle may play for ten years and never
touch the ball in play, except by accident. Players are huge, averaging
around six feet six inches (1.98m) and weighing around 240 pounds
(109kg), and look even bigger in battle dress, which includes copious
amounts of padding and protective gear.
A game lasts for one hour of playing time. This is divided into four
quarters of 15 minutes each, with a 12 minute break at half-time. If the score
is tied at the end of the fourth quarter, the game goes into overtime, the
winner being the first team to score.
football season runs
from August to
culminates in the
Super Bowl in January
on “Super Bowl
champions of the
game is watched by
over 40 per cent of US households and throughout the world and to
Americans is the “most important sporting event in the universe.”
Baseball is the US's national sport and was first played in its modern
form in 1839 at Cooperstown, New York. There are two major baseball
leagues with a total of 30 teams: the American League, and the National
League. Both are divided into East (five teams), Central (five or six teams)
and West (four or five teams) divisions. The season runs from April to early
October, with games (a total of 162 per team in each league) being played
almost every day during this period, many at night under floodlights. In
October, the top two teams in the American and National leagues compete
against each other in the “playoffs” to decide who will contest the World
Series, played over seven games.
In addition to the major league clubs, there are also numerous minor
league clubs in small towns known as “farm” teams, so called because they
supply the top clubs with players. College, high school and little league
baseball (played by children from the age of seven to their teens) are also
Baseball is a peculiarly American sport, although it has been
successfully exported to a few countries, including Canada, Japan and
Taiwan. It usually takes a foreigner some time to understand it. Games
usually last two or three hours and are normally played in the evening. In a
baseball game there are two teams of nine players. Players must hit a ball
with a bat and then run around four bases. A player who goes around all the
bases scores a run for its team. The team that finishes with more runs wins
the game. Baseball has a language all its own and many baseball terms have
found their way into everyday speech, the most common of which is to
“strike out”, i.e. to fail.
Basketball was invented in the US in 1891 and was exported during
World War I by American servicemen. The National Basketball Association
(NBA) was formed in 1949 and has two leagues: the Eastern Conference
with 15 teams (divided between the Atlantic and Central divisions) and the
Western Conference with 15 teams (divided between the Midwest and
Pacific divisions). Teams play over 80 games during the main season,
running from September or October to April. The top teams are involved in
the playoffs in late May and June, to determine the NBA playoff teams and
The skills demonstrated by professional basketball players (often black
and seven feet tall) are worlds apart from the amateur game played in many
countries. Games last for 48 minutes, which is a long time considering the
speed of the game.
College basketball teams rival professional teams in popularity and
skills, and it's a major spectator sport in its own right, with tickets for the
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament
sold out a year in advance. As with all professional sports, high school and
college teams are the training grounds for would-be pros, although the rules
of professional and collegiate basketball differ slightly. There's also a strong
women's collegiate league. Unlike football and baseball, in addition to being
a major professional sport, basketball is played for fun by many Americans,
particularly in poor inner-city neighborhoods.
Ice hockey (called simply hockey in North America, where hockey
played on grass is called field hockey and isn't a major sport) was invented
in Canada in around 1879 and is a major sport in the US. Canada produces
most ice hockey players, with most of the rest coming from Europe. The
National Hockey League (NHL) is divided into two conferences, Eastern
and Western, each with three divisions. Each division has five teams, most
of those in the Northwest and Northeast divisions being Canadian. The NHL
competition runs from October to May, during this period teams play around
80 games, culminating in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup (played over a
seven game series). Inaugurated in 1892, the Stanley Cup was originally
contested between Canada and the US, but is now competed for by all 30
Hockey is a violent sport and striking opponents often appears to be
more popular then hitting the puck (hence the joke “I went to a fight and a
hockey game broke out”). It's the only sport where violence is an integral
and accepted part of the game, for which there are usually no penalties,
other than a few minutes in the “sin bin”.
1. Are Americans considered a sports conscious nation? What does
it mean to be a real fan in the USA?
2. What are the most popular participant sports in America? What
are the top spectator sports?
3. Are there good opportunities for keeping fit and playing sports in
4. Professional sport is a profitable business, isn’t it? What are the
top sports which bring professional athletes huge sums of money?
5. What makes young athletes to make it to the top in their career?
6. Why do advertisers pay huge sums of money to sponsor sports
7. Today American professional sport is dominated by TV, isn’t it?
How does it influence sports rules?
8. What do we learn about cheerleaders from the text?
9. Is school and college sport considered important in the US?
10. Why are promising young American athletes often offered
scholarships irrespective of their academic abilities?
11. What kind of sports teams do American high schools and
colleges usually have?
12. Sports events generate revenue for American colleges, don’t
they? What are the most lucrative college sports today?
13. In America playing to win is often emphasized more than
playing for fun even with kids. Can your prove it?
14. What are the divisions of the National Football League?
15. Why do foreigners may find American football boring?
16. What is the culmination of a professional football season?
17. Where did baseball originate from?
18. What are the two major baseball leagues?
19. How long does the baseball season run?
20. Why are minor baseball clubs sometimes called “farm” teams?
21. Baseball is only played in the US, isn’t it?
22. What are baseball rules?
23. What do we lean about playing basketball in the USA? What
does NBA stand for?
24. Is Basketball only played at the professional level?
25. Is ice-hockey a dangerous sport? Is it popular in the USA? How
many games are usually played by the NHL teams from October to May?
Listen to a special program from Voice of America – an intermediate
listening comprehension course. This program speaks about the
development of soccer in America.
Listen to the first part of the report and answer the following
1. What game will be played in Yokohama, Japan?
2. Why is this game very important?
3. Do American soccer teams often win international competitions?
4. Is soccer a popular game in the USA?
Listen to the second part of the report and decide whether the
following statements are true, false, or irrelevant.
1. According to the US Soccer Federation, today more than
15000000 people play soccer in the United States.
2. People of all ages play soccer in the USA today.
3. It is children who are making soccer popular in the United States.
4. Experts say that almost anyone can play soccer: boys and girls,
young children and adults.
5. Every city and town in the USA has at least one soccer team.
6. A “Soccer Mom” is a rich woman who gives money for the
development of soccer in the USA.
7. Soccer is becoming popular among many Americans because
their children play this game.
8. The US Soccer Federation creates special training camps for
young soccer players where they practice in spring, summer, fall and winter.
9. The American government provides $ 100,000,0000 a year for
the development of soccer.
10. Americans are planning to win World Cup very soon.
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