History 1301

Posted: May 7th, 2021

For my mother, Liza Foner (1909–2005), an accomplished artist who lived through most of the
twentieth century and into the twenty-first

List of Maps, Tables, and Figures xii
About the Author xv
Preface xvi
Acknowledgments xxii

The First Americans 3 䧦 Indian Freedom, European Freedom 12 䧦 The Expansion of Europe
15 䧦 Contact 18 䧦 The Spanish Empire 22 䧦 The French and Dutch Empires 33 䧦Voices
of Freedom From Bartolomé de las Casas, History of the Indies (1528), and From
“Declaration of Josephe” (December 19, 1681) … 36
England and the New World 48 䧦 The Coming of the English 53 䧦 Settling the Chesapeake
57 䧦 The New England Way 64 䧦 New Englanders Divided 71 䧦Voices of Freedom From
“The Trial of Anne Hutchinson” (1637), and From John Winthrop, Speech to the
Massachusetts General Court (July 3, 1645) 76 䧦 Religion, Politics, and Freedom 82 䧦Who
Is an American? From Henry Care, English Liberties, Or, The Free-Born Subject’s
Inheritance (1680) 85
Global Competition and the Expansion of England’s Empire 90 䧦 Origins of American
Slavery 98 䧦 Voices of Freedom Maryland Act Concerning Negroes and Other Slaves
(1664), and From Letter by a Female Indentured Servant (September 22, 1756) 104 䧦
Colonies in Crisis 107 䧦 The Growth of Colonial America 113 䧦 Who Is an American?
From Benjamin Franklin, Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind (1751) 117 䧦
Social Classes in the Colonies 123
Slavery and Empire 134 䧦 Slave Cultures and Slave Resistance 144 䧦 An Empire of
Freedom 149 䧦 The Public Sphere 153 䧦 The Great Awakening 161 䧦 Imperial Rivalries
164 䧦 Battle for the Continent 169 䧦 Voices of Freedom From Scarouyady, Speech to
Pennsylvania Provincial Council (1756), and From Pontiac, Speeches (1762 and 1763) 176
The Crisis Begins 181 䧦 The Road to Revolution 190 䧦 The Coming of Independence 194
䧦 Voices of Freedom From Samuel Seabury, An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province in
New-York (1775), and From Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776) 200 䧦 Securing
Independence 204
Democratizing Freedom 218 䧦 Toward Religious Toleration 224 䧦 Defining Economic
Freedom 229 䧦 The Limits of Liberty 232 䧦 Slavery and the Revolution 237 䧦 Daughters of
Liberty 245 䧦 Voices of Freedom From Abigail Adams to John Adams, Braintree, Mass.
(March 31, 1776), and From Petitions of Slaves to the Massachusetts Legislature (1773 and
1777) 248
7䧦 FOUNDING A NATION, 1783–1791 253
America under the Confederation 255 䧦 A New Constitution 263 䧦 The Ratification Debate
and the Origin of the Bill of Rights 269 䧦 Voices of Freedom From David Ramsay, The
History of the American Revolution (1789), and From James Winthrop, Anti-Federalist Essay
Signed “Agrippa” (1787) 276 䧦 “We the People” 278 䧦 Who Is an American? From J.

Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer (1782) 281
8䧦 SECURING THE REPUBLIC, 1791–1815 289
Politics in an Age of Passion 291 䧦 The Adams Presidency 300 䧦 Voices of Freedom From
Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes” (1790), and From Address of the
Democratic-Republican Society of Pennsylvania (December 18, 1794) 302 䧦 Jefferson in
Power 309 䧦 The “Second War of Independence” 317 䧦 Who Is an American? From
Tecumseh, Speech to the Osage (1810) 319
9䧦 THE MARKET REVOLUTION, 1800–1840 326
A New Economy 328 䧦 Market Society 338 䧦 Voices of Freedom From Sarah Bagley,
Untitled Essay in Voice of Industry (1845), and Letter of Margaret McCarthy to Her Family
(1850) 346 䧦 The Free Individual 350 䧦 The Limits of Prosperity 356
10䧦 DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, 1815–1840 364
The Triumph of Democracy 366 䧦 Nationalism and its Discontents 373 䧦 Nation, Section,
and Party 378 䧦 Voices of Freedom From The Memorial of the Non-Freeholders of the City
of Richmond (1829), and From Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens Threatened with
Disfranchisement (1838) 382 䧦 The Age of Jackson 387 䧦 The Bank War and After 397
The Old South 406 䧦 Life under Slavery 417 䧦 Voices of Freedom From Letter by Joseph
Taper to Joseph Long (1840), and From “Slavery and the Bible” (1850) 420 䧦 Slave Culture
427 䧦 Resistance to Slavery 432
12䧦 AN AGE OF REFORM, 1820–1840 440
The Reform Impulse 441 䧦 The Crusade Against Slavery 450 䧦 Black and White
Abolitionism 458 䧦 The Origins of Feminism 462 䧦 Who Is an American? From
Declaration of Sentiments of the Seneca Falls Convention (1848) 466 䧦 Voices of Freedom
From Angelina Grimké, Letter in The Liberator (August 2, 1837), and From Catharine
Beecher, An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism (1837) 470
13䧦 A HOUSE DIVIDED, 1840–1861 475
Fruits of Manifest Destiny 476 䧦 A Dose of Arsenic 488 䧦 The Rise of the Republican Party
496 䧦 The Emergence of Lincoln 501 䧦 Who Is an American? From Opinion of the Court,
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the Dred Scott Decision (1857) 503 䧦 The Impending Crisis
511 䧦 Voices of Freedom From William Lyman and Others, Letter to the Middletown
Sentinel and Witness (1850), and From The Declaration of the Immediate Causes of Secession
(1860) 514
The First Modern War 519 䧦 The Coming of Emancipation 528 䧦 The Second American
Revolution 536 䧦 The Confederate Nation 546 䧦 Voices of Freedom From Letter of
Thomas F. Drayton (1861), and From Abraham Lincoln, Address at Sanitary Fair, Baltimore
(1864) 548 䧦 Turning Points 553 䧦 Rehearsals for Reconstruction and the End of the War
The Meaning of Freedom 565 䧦 Voices of Freedom From Petition of Committee in Behalf of
the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson (1865), and From A Sharecropping Contract (1866) 576 䧦
The Making of Radical Reconstruction 578 䧦 Who Is an American? From Frederick
Douglass, “The Composite Nation” (1869) 588 䧦 Radical Reconstruction in the South 591 䧦
The Overthrow of Reconstruction 595

Suggested Reading A-1
The Declaration of Independence (1776) A-15
The Constitution of the United States (1787) A-19
Glossary A-39

Credits A-75
Index A-79


The First Americans 4
Native Ways of Life, ca. 1500 8
The Old World on the Eve of American Colonization, ca. 1500 15
Voyages of Discovery 19
Early Spanish Conquests and Explorations in the New World 30
The New World—New France and New Netherland, ca. 1650 39
English Settlement in the Chesapeake, ca. 1640 57
English Settlement in New England, ca. 1640 74
Eastern North America in the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries 92
European Settlement and Ethnic Diversity on the Atlantic Coast of North America, 1760 115
Atlantic Trading Routes 136
The Slave Trade in the Atlantic World, 1460–1770 138
European Empires in North America, ca. 1750 166
Eastern North America after the Peace of Paris, 1763 173
The Revolutionary War in New England and the Middle States, 1775–1781 209
The Revolutionary War in the South, 1775–1781 212
North America, 1783 213
Loyalism in the American Revolution 235
Western Lands, 1782–1802 256
Western Ordinances, 1784–1787 259
Ratification of the Constitution 271
Indian Tribes, 1795 283
The Presidential Election of 1800 306
The Louisiana Purchase 312
The War of 1812 321
The Market Revolution: Roads and Canals, 1840 331
The Market Revolution: Western Settlement, 1800–1820 334
The Market Revolution: The Spread of Cotton Cultivation, 1820–1840 337
Major Cities, 1840 340
Cotton Mills, 1820s 341
The Missouri Compromise, 1820 377
The Americas, 1830 380
The Presidential Election of 1828 386
Indian Removals, 1830–1840 395

Slave Population, 1860 409
Size of Slaveholdings, 1860 414
Distribution of Free Blacks, 1860 423
Major Crops of the South, 1860 425
Slave Resistance in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World 433
Utopian Communities, Mid-Nineteenth Century 444
The Trans-Mississippi West, 1830s–1840s 479
The Mexican War, 1846–1848 483
Gold-Rush California 486
Continental Expansion through 1853 489
The Compromise of 1850 492
The Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854 495
The Railroad Network, 1850s 497
The Presidential Election of 1856 500
The Presidential Election of 1860 510
The Secession of Southern States, 1860–1861 522
The Civil War in the East, 1861–1862 526
The Civil War in the West, 1861–1862 527
The Emancipation Proclamation 532
The Civil War in the Western Territories, 1862–1864 542
The Civil War, 1863 554
The Civil War, Late 1864–1865 559
The Barrow Plantation 569
Sharecropping in the South, 1880 573
Reconstruction in the South, 1867–1877 599
The Presidential Election of 1876 600

Tables and Figures
Table 1.1 Estimated Regional Populations: The Americas, ca. 1500 21
Table 1.2 Estimated Regional Populations: The World, ca. 1500 23
Table 3.1 Origins and Status of Migrants to British North American Colonies, 1700–1775 113
Table 4.1 Slave Population as Percentage of Total Population of Original Thirteen Colonies,
1770 143
Table 7.1 Total Population and Black Population of the United States, 1790 284
Table 9.1 Population Growth of Selected Western States, 1810–1850 335
Table 9.2 Total Number of Immigrants by Five-Year Period 344
Figure 9.1 Sources of Immigration, 1850 345
Table 11.1 Growth of the Slave Population 410
Table 11.2 Slaveholding, 1850 411
Table 11.3 Free Black Population, 1860 422
Figure 14.1 Resources for War: Union versus Confederacy 523


ERIC FONER is DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, where he
earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and scholarship, he focuses on the Civil War and
Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. Professor Foner’s publications include
Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War; Tom
Paine and Revolutionary America; Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy;

Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877; The Story of American Freedom; and
Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction. His history of Reconstruction won the
Los Angeles Times Book Award for History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Parkman Prize. He has
served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical
Association. In 2006 he received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching from Columbia
University. His most recent books are The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery,
winner of the Bancroft and Lincoln Prizes and the Pulitzer Prize for History, Gateway to Freedom:
The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, winner of the New York Historical Society Book
Prize, and The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution.

Give Me Liberty! An American History is a survey of American history from the earliest days of
European exploration and conquest of the New World to the first decades of the twenty-first century.
It offers students a clear, concise narrative whose central theme is the changing contours of
American freedom.

I am extremely gratified by the response to the first five editions of Give Me Liberty!, which have
been used in survey courses at many hundreds of two- and four-year colleges and universities
throughout the country. The comments I have received from instructors and students encourage me
to think that Give Me Liberty! has worked well in their classrooms. Their comments have also
included many valuable suggestions for revisions, which I greatly appreciate. These have ranged
from corrections of typographical and factual errors to thoughts about subjects that needed more
extensive treatment. In making revisions for this Sixth Edition, I have tried to take these suggestions
into account. I have also incorporated the findings and insights of new scholarship that has appeared
since the original edition was written.

The most significant changes in this Sixth Edition involve heightened emphasis on a question as old
as the republic and as current as today’s newspapers: Who is an American?

Difference and commonality are both intrinsic parts of the American experience. Our national creed
emphasizes democracy and freedom as universal rights, but these rights have frequently been limited
to particular groups of people. The United States has long prided itself on being an “asylum for
mankind,” as Thomas Paine put it in Common Sense, his great pamphlet calling for American
independence. Yet we as a people have long been divided by clashing definitions of “Americanness.”
The first Naturalization Act, adopted in 1790, limited the right to become a citizen when immigrating
from abroad to white persons. And the right to vote was long denied to many Americans because of
race, gender, property holding, a criminal record, or other reasons. Today, in debates over
immigration and voting rights, the question of “Who is an American?” continues to roil our society.

In a nation resting, rhetorically at least, on the ideal of equality, the boundaries of inclusion and
exclusion take on extreme significance. The greater the rights of American citizenship, the more
important the definition of belonging. Groups like African-Americans and women, shut out from full
equality from the beginning of the nation’s history, have struggled to gain recognition as full and
equal members of the society. The definition of citizenship itself and the rights that come with it
have been subject to intense debate throughout American history. And the cry of “second-class
citizenship” has provided a powerful language of social protest for those who feel themselves
excluded. To be sure, not all groups have made demands for inclusion. In the colonial era and for
much of the history of the American nation, many Native Americans have demanded recognition of
their own national sovereignty.

There is stronger coverage of this theme throughout the book, and it is reinforced by a new primary-
source feature, “Who Is an American?” The sixteen such features, distributed fairly evenly through
the text, address the nature of American identity, the definition of citizenship, and controversies over
inclusion and exclusion. These documents range from J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur’s reflections
on Americanness toward the end of the War of Independence and the Declaration of Sentiments of
the Seneca Falls Convention to Frederick Douglass’s great speech of 1869 in defense of Chinese
immigration, “The Composite Nation,” and Mary Church Terrell’s poignant complaint about being

treated as a stranger in her own country.

In the body of the text itself, the major additions that illuminate the history of this theme are as

Chapter 3 contains a new discussion of the formation in colonial America of a British identity linked
to a sense of difference from “others”—French and Spanish Catholics, Africans, and Native
Americans. Chapter 4 discusses the development of a pan-Indian identity transcending the traditional
rivalries between separate Native American nations. In Chapter 7, I have added an examination of
how the U.S. Constitution deals with citizenship and how the lack of a clear definition made
disagreement about its boundaries inevitable. A new subsection in Chapter 12 deals with claims by
African-Americans before the Civil War to “birthright citizenship,” the principle that anyone born in
the country, regardless of race, national origin, or other characteristics, is entitled to full and equal
citizenship. Chapter 15 expands the existing discussion of the constitutional amendments of the
Reconstruction era to examine how they redrew the definition and boundaries of American

In Chapter 17, I have expanded the section on the movement to restrict immigration. Chapter 18
contains a new discussion of Theodore Roosevelt’s understanding of “Americanism” and whom it
excluded. Chapter 19 examines the “science” of eugenics, which proposed various ways to
“improve” the quality of the American population. Chapter 23 contains a new subsection on how the
Cold War and the effort to root out “subversion” affected definitions of loyalty, disloyalty, and
American identity. Immigration reform during the administration of Ronald Reagan receives
additional attention in Chapter 26. Finally, Chapter 28 discusses the heated debates over immigration
that helped elect Donald Trump in 2016, and how his administration in its first two years addressed
the issue.

Other revisions, not directly related to the “Who Is an American?” theme, include a reorganization of
the chapter on the Gilded Age (16) to give it greater clarity, a new subsection in Chapter 17
discussing the political and philosophical school known as pragmatism, and significant changes in
Chapter 26 to take advantage of recent scholarship on modern conservatism. The final chapter (28)
has been updated to discuss the election of 2016 and the first two years of the administration of
Donald Trump. I have also added a number of new selections to Voices of Freedom to sharpen the
juxtaposition of divergent concepts of freedom at particular moments in American history. And this
edition contains many new images—paintings, photographs, broadsides, lithographs, and others.

Americans have always had a divided attitude toward history. On the one hand, they tend to be
remarkably future-oriented, dismissing events of even the recent past as “ancient history” and
sometimes seeing history as a burden to be overcome, a prison from which to escape. On the other
hand, like many other peoples, Americans have always looked to history for a sense of personal or
group identity and of national cohesiveness. This is why so many Americans devote time and energy
to tracing their family trees and why they visit historical museums and National Park Service
historical sites in ever-increasing numbers. My hope is that this book will convince readers with all
degrees of interest that history does matter to them.

The novelist and essayist James Baldwin once observed that history “does not refer merely, or even
principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it
within us, . . . [that] history is literally present in all that we do.” As Baldwin recognized, the force of
history is evident in our own world. Especially in a political democracy like the United States, whose
government is designed to rest on the consent of informed citizens, knowledge of the past is essential

—not only for those of us whose profession is the teaching and writing of history, but for everyone.
History, to be sure, does not offer simple lessons or immediate answers to current questions.
Knowing the history of immigration to the United States, and all of the tensions, turmoil, and
aspirations associated with it, for example, does not tell us what current immigration policy ought to
be. But without that knowledge, we have no way of understanding which approaches have worked
and which have not—essential information for the formulation of future public policy.

History, it has been said, is what the present chooses to remember about the past. Rather than a fixed
collection of facts, or a group of interpretations that cannot be challenged, our understanding of
history is constantly changing. There is nothing unusual in the fact that each generation rewrites
history to meet its own needs, or that scholars disagree among themselves on basic questions like the
causes of the Civil War or the reasons for the Great Depression. Precisely because each generation
asks different questions of the past, each generation formulates different answers. The past thirty
years have witnessed a remarkable expansion of the scope of historical study. The experiences of
groups neglected by earlier scholars, including women, African-Americans, working people, and
others, have received unprecedented attention from historians. New subfields—social history,
cultural history, and family history among them—have taken their place alongside traditional
political and diplomatic history.

Give Me Liberty! draws on this voluminous historical literature to present an up-to-date and inclusive
account of the American past, paying due attention to the experience of diverse groups of Americans
while in no way neglecting the events and processes Americans have experienced in common. It
devotes serious attention to political, social, cultural, and economic history, and to their
interconnections. The narrative brings together major events and prominent leaders with the many
groups of ordinary people who make up American society. Give Me Liberty! has a rich cast of
characters, from Thomas Jefferson to campaigners for woman suffrage, from Franklin D. Roosevelt
to former slaves seeking to breathe meaning into emancipation during and after the Civil War.

Aimed at an audience of undergraduate students with little or no detailed knowledge of American
history, Give Me Liberty! guides readers through the complexities of the subject without
overwhelming them with excessive detail. The unifying theme of freedom that runs through the text
gives shape to the narrative and integrates the numerous strands that make up the American
experience. This approach builds on that of my earlier book, The Story of American Freedom (1998),
although Give Me Liberty! places events and personalities in the foreground and is more geared to
the structure of the introductory survey course.

Freedom, and the battles to define its meaning, have long been central to my own scholarship and
undergraduate teaching, which focuses on the nineteenth century and especially the era of the Civil
War and Reconstruction (1850–1877). This was a time when the future of slavery tore the nation
apart and emancipation produced a national debate over what rights the former slaves, and all
Americans, should enjoy as free citizens. I have found that attention to clashing definitions of
freedom and the struggles of different groups to achieve freedom as they understood it offers a way
of making sense of the bitter battles and vast transformations of that pivotal era. I believe that the
same is true for American history as a whole.

No idea is more fundamental to Americans’ sense of themselves as individuals and as a nation than
freedom. The central term in our political language, freedom—or liberty, with which it is almost
always used interchangeably—is deeply embedded in the record of our history and the language of
everyday life. The Declaration of Independence lists liberty among mankind’s inalienable rights; the
Constitution announces its purpose as securing liberty’s blessings. The United States fought the Civil

War to bring about a new birth of freedom, World War Ⅱ for the Four Freedoms, and the Cold War
to defend the Free World. Americans’ love of liberty has been represented by liberty poles, liberty
caps, and statues of liberty, and acted out by burning stamps and burning draft cards, by running
away from slavery, and by demonstrating for the right to vote. “Every man in the street, white, black,
red, or yellow,” wrote the educator and statesman Ralph Bunche in 1940, “knows that this is ‘the
land of the free’ . . . ‘the cradle of liberty.’ ”

The very universality of the idea of freedom, however, can be misleading. Freedom is not a fixed,
timeless category with a single unchanging definition. Indeed, the history of the United States is, in
part, a story of debates, disagreements, and struggles over freedom. Crises like the American
Revolution, the Civil War, and the Cold War have permanently transformed the idea of freedom. So
too have demands by various groups of Americans to enjoy greater freedom. The meaning of
freedom has been constructed not only in congressional debates and political treatises, but on
plantations and picket lines, in parlors and even bedrooms.

Over the course of our history, American freedom has been both a reality and a mythic ideal—a
living truth for millions of Americans, a cruel mockery for others. For some, freedom has been what
some scholars call a “habit of the heart,” an ideal so taken for granted that it is lived out but rarely
analyzed. For others, freedom is not a birthright but a distant goal that has inspired great sacrifice.

Give Me Liberty! draws attention to three dimensions of freedom that have been critical in American
history: (1) the meanings of freedom; (2) the social conditions that make freedom possible; and (3)
the boundaries of freedom that determine who is entitled to enjoy freedom and who is not. All have
changed over time.

In the era of the American Revolution, for example, freedom was primarily a set of rights enjoyed in
public activity—the right of a community to be governed by laws to which its representatives had
consented and of individuals to engage in religious worship without governmental interference. In
the nineteenth century, freedom came to be closely identified with each person’s opportunity to
develop to the fullest his or her innate talents. In the twentieth, the “ability to choose,” in both public
and private life, became perhaps the dominant understanding of freedom. This development was
encouraged by the explosive growth of the consumer marketplace (a development that receives
considerable attention in Give Me Liberty!), which offered Americans an unprecedented array of
goods with which to satisfy their needs and desires. During the 1960s, a crucial chapter in the history
of American freedom, the idea of personal freedom was extended into virtually every realm, from
attire and “lifestyle” to relations between the sexes. Thus, over time, more and more areas of life
have been drawn into Americans’ debates about the meaning of freedom.

A second important dimension of freedom focuses on the social conditions necessary to allow
freedom to flourish. What kinds of economic institutions and relationships best encourage individual
freedom? In the colonial era and for more than a century after independence, the answer centered on
economic autonomy, enshrined in the glorification of the independent small producer—the farmer,
skilled craftsman, or shopkeeper—who did not have to depend on another person for his livelihood.
As the industrial economy matured, new conceptions of economic freedom came to the fore: “liberty
of contract” in the Gilded Age, “industrial freedom” (a say in corporate decision-making) in the
Progressive era, economic security during the New Deal, and, more recently, the ability to enjoy
mass consumption within a market economy.

The boundaries of freedom, the third dimension of this theme, have inspired some of the most
intense struggles in American history. Although founded on the premise that liberty is an entitlement

of all humanity, the United States for much of its history deprived many of its own people of
freedom. Non-whites have rarely enjoyed the same access to freedom as white Americans. The belief
in equal opportunity as the birthright of all Americans has coexisted with persistent efforts to limit
freedom by race, gender, and class and in other ways.

Less obvious, perhaps, is the fact that one person’s freedom has frequently been linked to another’s
servitude. In the colonial era and nineteenth century, expanding freedom for many Americans rested
on the lack of freedom—slavery, indentured servitude, the subordinate position of women—for
others. By the same token, it has been through battles at the boundaries—the efforts of racial
minorities, women, and others to secure greater freedom—that the meaning and experience of
freedom have been deepened and the concept extended into new realms.

Time and again in American history, freedom has been transformed by the demands of excluded
groups for inclusion. The idea of freedom as a universal birthright owes much both to abolitionists
who sought to extend the blessings of liberty to blacks and to immigrant groups who insisted on full
recognition as American citizens. The …

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