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American History: Three Essays

American History

Essay 1: The American City at the End of the XIXth – early XXth Century

At the end of the XIXth and early XXth century, the American cities experienced the benefits and pitfalls of industrialization and capitalist growth. Despite the wellbeing of the capitalist class, there were social stratification and associated inequalities in America, which underlined the uncertain nature of the American city. Many people including African Americans and the new immigrants lived in the poor city districts as Harlem and the slums. This essay illustrates to what degree the American city was the locus of substantial opportunity for the low class citizens, including the immigrants and African Americans: the urban population benefited from its scientific and technological advances; the low class people relocated to the urban areas from the poverty-stricken countryside and the Southern states, and the city allowed them to organize and improve their standard of living.

The American city witnessed how the technological advancements were applied to satisfy the demands of households for clean water. The urban areas were the place where water purification was implemented, improving the health and allowing combating different diseases. According to Cumo, in 1908, the sewage system was first chlorinated in Chicago. Soon afterwards, the chlorination was practiced in New Jersey. The water works were conducted on a large scale, allowing water access for numerous people (Cumo 62). While the outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as yellow fever still occurred, they were effectively but gradually remedied with the sewage gutters (Cumo 62).

Their urban infrastructures facilitated the movement by car. The American people could easily travel from city to city very fast by automobiles. Haley describes in the Autobiography of Malcolm X how the Muslims traveled and relocated to other cities (255). African Americans mostly settled in separate districts such as Harlem, where they were empowered to form their organizations to achieve the social aspirations and new freedoms (Cumo 44). Likewise, new immigrants settled in the city’s communities near people of the same ethnicity, as in the case of the Japanese in exile, who relocated to Nikkei (Uchida 12).

The American city became the place to become educated and informed. The urban population had access to the newspapers, which helped organize and strive for the improvements in the standard of living. Thus, the racial unrests in Harlem were featured in the city’s newspapers read by the millions of New Yorkers (Haley 267). African Americans from the Southern states could relocate to the urban areas to start a gainful employment in the manual jobs and service positions (Cumo 117). Haley writes about a woman from Louisiana, who moved to Chicago and made a living “cooking and scrubbing for white people and then in a factory” (251) — an example of how a poor female could improve her living conditions once in the city. Many persons worked as maids, chauffeurs, cooks, and house servants, which means that the urban areas offered work opportunities (Haley 254). The working class also could get better jobs so they could rent or purchase houses, reaching a much better position as compared to what they experienced outside the city (Uchida 151).

At the end of the XIXth – beginning of the XXth century, the American city was the place of substantial opportunity for people of different classes, ethnicities and nation origins. The less advantageous populations greatly benefited from relocating to the urban areas. These people included African Americans, Muslims, and the immigrants, who were not restricted to stay in the ghettoes and slums. The fast technical and scientific progress allowed the city dwellers to improve their livelihoods in many important ways. Anyone could quickly relocate to the urban area. Once in the city, the newcomers joined the community organizations, settled close to other people of their ethnic group, and utilized the media to access information and improve their condition.

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Essay 2: The Jungle as the Reflection on the Concerns and Values of the Progressives

The Progressive movement appeared in 1890 in response to the social and economic problems that originated from the rapid industrialization (“The Progressive Era”). The Progressives were the people who claimed that the social issues such as class inequality and poverty should be solved with the government’s provision of education and safe working conditions for everyone. They lived in the cities and were influenced by the American journalists of the time such as Jacob Riis and Ida Tarbel (“The Progressive Era”). This essay reflects on the Progressives’ values and concerns depicted in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and questions if it rises any issues different from those of the movement discussed. It is argued that the book adheres to the values of the Progressives while providing some radical ideas to overhaul the capitalism’s drawbacks.

The Progressives’ main concerns were to expose the negative outcomes of the American political and economic systems such as corruption, the lack of public participation in politics, and corporations’ unhampered behavior and greed (“The Progressive Era”). The movement’s values were implemented following the Wisconsin governor’s reforms providing people more control over the government (Mints). Additionally, when Theodore Roosevelt became a President in 1902, he imposed more control over the corporations. For example, the labor disputes were first settled in favor of the workers rather than the capitalists (Mints). The Progressives’ movement continued within the policies of the American Presidents, for example, Woodrow Wilson called for the global spread of liberal democracy to make the world a safe place (“The Progressive Era”).

In The Jungle, Sinclair describes the destiny of the immigrant community in Chicago’s Packingtown, which was in the hands of stingy and uncaring meat-producing capitalists. The book reflects the concerns and values of the Progressives suggesting that the capitalist system needs to be reformed as it is adverse to the working people who receive low salaries and are subjected to unsafe conditions (Sinclair 22). The novel argues that it is imperative to accord more rights to the workers. It shares the views of the Progressives about the crooked politicians and the violations of individual freedoms, on which the US was founded. For example, in The Jungle, the capitalists are shown as neglecting the working conditions and amassing large quantities of capital and wealth (91). The workers are controlled by the capitalists, who benefit from the excessive supply of immigrant labor. The book’s theme is common to the Progressive writers and journalists because the society’s condition was aggravating and the political system needed an overhaul to provide people more control over the government.

The novel also differs from some views of the Progressives. Sinclair clearly despises the working class exploitation and class inequality. For example, some characters speak in a convincing voice that the government, which means people, cannot control the capitalist wealth and resources and that the political and economic system has to be completely reassembled (Sinclair 453). In The Jungle, the individuals holding revolutionary ideas organize and attend a strike, and their views contrast the Progressives’ idea that the government can ensure safety and prosperity. These parts of the book appear to inspire a radical change.

The Progressive Era responded to the American industrialization and brought several changes to the US capitalist society such as the government defending the worker rights and the provision of safe working conditions. This theme relates to Sinclair’s The Jungle, where the author describes to what extent the American capitalist system allowed the activities of the worker-adverse factory owners and corrupt officials. The book characters’ views seem to be concerned with furthering the reform along the lines of the Progressive movement, to provide the improvement of the unfair working conditions for Chicago’s immigrant workers and to let people overhaul the worsening conditions with the reforms by the government. While some of the novel’s characters hold more radical pro-social views, they appear to merely signal the author’s abhorrence of the unhampered and exploitative capitalist system.

Essay 3: American Foreign Policy from 1877 to 1914

In the XIXth century, following the Spanish-American war, the US continued with the Monroe Doctrine, which stipulated the southward expansion to Latin America and Caribbean. Shortly afterwards, in the early XXth century, the USA also pursued an active presence in the Pacific and China. Considering that the capitalist system required the penetration into new markets, it appears that this historic epoch aimed to only promote the unconstructed economic growth. William McKinsey claimed that America needed foreign markets for its surplus products. Theodore Roosevelt also prioritized the foreign expansion for the purpose of improving the trade relations with other countries including China. Yet the struggle for new territories was also the continuation of the colonial expansionist tradition. The post-Civil War America was well-equipped to continue its imperialist policy. At the end of XIXth – early XIXth century, it added the Caribbean and Pacific islands to the list of its colonies. Thus the US foreign policy has many characteristics, but its key features are based on the overall national quest for new territories. This essay argues that the American foreign policy of the 1877-1914 period was clearly expansionist and that its key characteristics are the furthering of its economic power and repressiveness toward unfriendly regimes in order to protect its foreign markets.

The US foreign policy in 1877-1914 was largely driven by the American intention to further its economic power to the foreign countries. Despite the end of century’s depression, the US producers experienced a surplus, both in the industry and in agriculture. According to Combs, the American population grew from 39 million in 1890 to 63 million in 1890 (130). This population growth combined with the internal pressures for resources and the capitalist mode of production required further access to the previously gained and the new territories.

The end of the XIXth century was the time when the US commenced an aggressive imperialist policy. By that time, it was the world’s largest producer of oil, coal and steel which placed her in the powerful position until the invention of the nuclear power (Combs 130). In order to expand the gained empire and considering the sea territories as strategically important and as the utmost power space of that time, the country constructed the naval bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific (Combs 130). Having built a technologically advanced navy, America not only freed but also aggressively acquired new territories. Besides, it allied with other powers such as Britain to ensure the control over the global sea space (Combs 138).

The American President Roosevel’s “hard stick” policy was applied for every political situation where the nation had to protect its established territories and interests, even when this required repressing the existent regimes. In other words, it intervened as often as necessary in order to suppress the rebellions and reconfirm the liberal economic presence. Already at the beginning of the XIXth century, in 1836, the US allowed Texas to become an independent territory and freed it from the Mexican oppression (Combs 79). Later on, in 1868, it suppressed the rebellion in Cuba (Combs 177). Combs lists America’s repressive interventions which included the following: in 1895, it interfered in Cuba’s protest against Spain (140); it repressed the rebellion in Panama to protect its railroads and transit routes (182); in 1896, it served as the protector of the revolution in the Phillipines (154); and it intervened in the Boxer rebellion, a local protest against the foreign powers in China. These interventions exemplify the American foreign policy’s repressiveness toward the regimes that opposed its presence.

In conclusion, the 1877-1914 was part of the expansionist epoch that was a natural continuation of America’s colonial past. Yet this period also has its unique characteristics. During this time, the US actively built its naval bases, free trade points and strategic routes signifying its commitment to establishing its economic power. It colonized a number of Pacific and Caribbean territories, allying with Great Britain to occupy new sea territories. The country applied the harsh combat policies to protect its trade and repressing the rebellions. The end of XXth – early XXth century epoch resulted in America’s domination within its numerous territories and contributed greatly to the country’s status as a global empire.