Post Civil War times in American history are often marked as a Reconstruction Era. This era presupposed serious changes in both the political and economic spheres of the country. The focus of changes was primarily made on improving the situation in the Southern United States, where society had undergone certain transformations and was forced to leave a slave-owning system behind. As Janney (2013) stresses, “Lincoln was asking Americans, northerners and southerners both, to love their enemies” (p. 38).
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However, not only the south of the USA was subjected to the new government policy. The attempts to assimilate Native Americans with the rest of the citizens found their implementation in the Dawes Act, regulating land property rights. By this act, lands that earlier belonged to Indians had to be divided into individual plots. That period of history is known as the Gilded Age, an era of serious economic trials, accompanied by significant changes in social and political values.
According to the Dawes Act of 1887, only those Native Americans who accepted the individual allotments were given the right to become US citizens (Wagner, 2015). The main objective of the act was to eliminate the social and cultural traditions of native residents and make them a part of an established system. It is known that its occurrence provoked noticeable disconcertment in the rows of Native Americans and turned to be the background for mass confrontations between the two nationalities.
Mentioning these events becomes reasonable since the following years of conflict forced citizens of the country to fight for the tribal lands and wish for retaking more territories. Thus, raising the economy appeared to be a much harder task than one could imagine, for basically, the country was drawn into a new war during the entire Gilded Age.
In the meantime, regular citizens of Post Civil War America had found inspiration in the theories of Charles Darwin and works of other known figures, such as Immanuel Kant and Ralph Waldo Emerson (the bright representatives of transcendentalism). The values had changed: creative and ambitious individuals became tempted by the new opportunities and, thus, invested their funds in the country’s industrial growth. As Gordon (2016) states in his book, “progress occurs much more rapidly in some times than in others” (p. 2).
During the Gilded Age, it was streaming. Factories and mines across the country operated at their full capacity to provide the raw materials needed for a railway system expansion. After the discovery of gold and silver deposits and building a transcontinental railroad, the new horizons were breached, which formed a supportive environment for the rise of capitalism.
A fast continental expansion corresponded to the very principles of Manifest Destiny. The people of America believed it was their mission to exploit the country’s territory and use its resources according to their needs. Thus, the manifest served as an additional impact on changing society’s values and forcing people to gain capital. Its political concept was tracked in a strict policy regarding residents of non-European origin (Native Americans), who were perceived as being incapable of self-government (Wagner, 2015). The tribal lands were primarily viewed as sources of potential income. Although further conquering of the western frontiers promised a conflict escalation, it created formidable backgrounds for self-advancement and, thus, was considered as the only available option.
The research data point out that, although people who lived in Post Civil War America were forced to work hard to raise the economy, they also received unique opportunities to gain income. The principles stated in Manifest Destiny have found their implementation in the society’s strivings to extend boundaries. Despite the fact, these goals had initially met severe resistance from Native Americans; a further concept fulfillment led to successful exploiting of the western frontiers and significant improvement of both the political and economic situation.
Gordon, R. J. (2016). The rise and fall of American growth: The US standard of living since the civil war. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Janney, C. E. (2013). Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the limits of reconciliation. North Carolina, NC: UNC Press Books.
Wagner, D. (2015). Ordinary people: In and out of poverty in the Gilded Age. New York, NY: Routledge.