Chapter 11

Age of the "Common Man"

In the 1820s Native Americans, African Americas, and Anglo American women comprised 70% of the US population. Thus, universal white male suffrage provided increased political power to only 1/3 of the nation. As political decisions increasingly aimed to dehumanize Indians and rejected the idea that Native Americans had rights that must be respected, tribes east of the Mississippi, like the Cherokee in the south, publicized the existence of schools, newspapers, domesticated animals, farms and plantations, and craft and trade skilled that showed their degree of “civilization.” In the Old Northwest, tribes like the Peorias moved in response to white pressure on their land, while Winnebagos, Sauks, and Fox fought unsuccessfully to keep their lands.

The decade of the 1820s saw a natural increase in the slave population of 25% or 500,000 people. The free black population in the north had a similar percentage of increase largely because of manumissions. The number of free blacks in the south increased more slowly. Although the number of free blacks in the south was small relative to whites, white southerners feared that free blacks would inspire slave rebellions. The reaction to rumors about the actions of Denmark Vessey in 1822 demonstrated the depth of this white fear. The rumor of his intended rebellion led to arrests, tortures, and the hanging of 35 black men and the exile of 18 others. Witness testimony was contradictory, and historical evidence suggests that no reliable proof ever existed that any kind of rebellion was planned. The Nat Turner Rebellion of 1831 that resulted in the deaths of 60 whites prompted similar reactions and served to reinforce white fears. Slave owners subsequently implemented policies meant to fully control the slave and free black populations. The number of slave patrols, for example, greatly increased during this time. Northern free blacks also dealt with white suspicions and restrictions on their freedom. Some became active in advocating the end of slavery, a few suggested leaning the county to settle in Africa (American Colonization Society), some advocated separation from whites, while others urged integration as the best means of protecting themselves and building a future.

White women had no legal control over property, wages, her children, or herself. They could not make contracts, vote, or serve on a jury.


Key Issues:

Westward Expansion

Missouri Compromise

Monroe Doctrine