The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic


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Yet the delegates at Philadelphia wished to avoid protracted controversy over religious matters—which, in any case, most believed should be left to the states—and hoped to reach consensus on the Constitution as quickly as possible. More surprisingly, none of the delegates objected that the proposed Constitution did not refer to God.


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As the members of the Constitutional Convention expected, the matter of religion proved more contentious in the ratification debates, which followed. While unequivocally affirming liberty of conscience as a fundamental private right, it pronounced ambiguously on the separation of church and state and the relationship between religion and society. Could the state governments many of which still had religious establishments in continue to mandate taxpayer support for Christianity in general or for any religious denomination in particular?

And to what extent could religious ideas and observances figure in the conduct of civic life? But the founding generation could not foresee our concerns: what consumed them was answering the needs of their present and avoiding the pitfalls of the past. Those steeped in the ideals of the Enlightenment were determined to ensure that the religious wars which had wracked Europe would not engulf the new republic and that its clergy and churches would not acquire the wealth and influence which would enable them to play a prominent role in civil government.

At the same time, many Americans who cleaved to Christian orthodoxy—especially those who dissented from former or current religious establishments—were determined to ensure that no denomination would enjoy the unfair advantage of government support. In the decades after , all of the states abolished taxpayer support for religion and religious tests for office-holders, and state courts, deeming that churches were private institutions, ruled that religious bodies could not receive public funding to provide education or poor relief.

Most of the Founders believed that religion would promote public morality, which in turn would strengthen both republican society and government in the United States. That being the case, what constituted an appropriate inclusion of religious ideas and rituals in the conduct of civic life? In wrestling with that question, presidents from Washington to Madison played a delicate game of brinksmanship. All of them strove to keep religion from becoming the fodder for controversy by affirming that expressions of spirituality had a legitimate place in the public square while also upholding what they regarded as a due separation between church and state.

In their efforts to strike the right balance, George Washington and John Adams proclaimed national days of thanksgiving and fasting during their administrations and voiced no objections to the appointment of salaried Congressional chaplains, who opened legislative sessions with prayers. In their public addresses, too, they often expressed confidence in the power of divine providence to guide the new republic. He approved bills authorizing Congressional chaplains and granting financial aid to Protestant missions for Indians in the Ohio valley; he regularly attended Sabbath worship services conducted in Congress, and, in his second Inaugural Address, called upon Americans to join him in prayer.

Even James Madison, who objected to the appointment of chaplains to both Congress and the military, relented during the darkest days of War of and declared a national day of fasting. In short, while the Founders spoke with one voice in affirming religious liberty as an inalienable private right, it is hard to discern a consensus among them about how to define the appropriate separation of church and state and the proper role for religion in civic life.

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With a national agenda so crowded with pressing demands, the course of prudence dictated leaving religious matters mainly to the states. Then, too, some of the Founders expected that the passage of time would resolve the religious divisions among Americans and fulfill their vision of the new political order in which private religious convictions would play no part in determining the fitness of individuals for public office.

But in fact, the withering of religious establishments in the wake of the American Revolution proved to be the making of bible-based, evangelical Christianity. By the middle decades of the nineteenth century, only a minority of Americans adhered to Unitarianism and other rationalist religions, but hundreds of thousands had embraced evangelical Christianity.

And those revival converts of the Second Great Awakening were investing their energies in an ever-expanding number of voluntary associations promoting moral and social reform, which immeasurably strengthened the influence of evangelical Protestants on public opinion and political culture in the United States. In my experience, the best approach is to acquaint students with the broad historical context, to introduce them to a selection of sources, and then to raise probing questions as class discussion ensues about how the principal architects of the early republic envisioned both the ideal relationship between church and state and the ideal relationship between religion and society.

Christopher Clark

But in , an FBI laboratory analysis revealed what Jefferson had omitted from his first draft in the course of composing his final draft. And some conservative jurists and politicians have claimed even more, construing the FBI findings as evidence that Jefferson did not intend to erect an insurmountable barrier between church and state. And for a fresh and provocative take on the subject, check out Johann N.

Spring, , — In this case, President Jefferson chose expediency and national interest when he submitted the Louisiana Purchase Treaty to the Senate.


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  • The Senate ratified the treaty in October Navy squadron sent to battle Tripoli. Lewis will pick up Captain William Clark to serve as co-leader of the trip early in the next year. Jefferson sponsored the journey out of personal scientific curiosity and concern for the economic and political security of the western United States.


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    This ends the tradition of the runner up in a presidential race becoming vice president and prevents chances for a deadlock tie. Stephen Decatur burns the captured U. Tripolitan gunboats had captured the frigate during the previous October. No one is killed. Hamilton had opposed Burr's bid for the presidency in He further opposed Burr's bid for the governorship of New York, exposing an alleged subversive attempt to establish a separate northern confederacy amongst disgruntled states of New England.

    Vowing to avenge these dishonors, Burr had challenged Hamilton to the duel. The Burr-Hamilton duel stands as a vivid example that in the early republic partisan politics were also highly personal politics. Hamilton and Burr had been political adversaries long before their famous duel. Hamilton, an arch-Federalist and President George Washington's secretary of the Treasury strongly distrusted his fellow New Yorker, and he worked against Federalist efforts to elect Burr over Thomas Jefferson, both Republicans, when they tied in the presidential election of Burr had served various positions in New York politics and then became Jefferson's vice president in Republicans felt he was unreliable, however, and dropped him in the next election.

    In , Burr was running for governor of New York, and Hamilton was leading the opposition to Burr's candidacy; he spoke out against him and questioned his integrity in public. For these slights, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel.

    Big Bottom Massacre

    Perceiving that not responding to the challenge would destroy his own honor and render him useless in future political service, Hamilton answered Burr. Although in this era duels were usually avoided by a series of negotiations through which both parties could restore their reputations, Burr took further offense at Hamilton's response.

    Hamilton had declared the previous evening his intention to fire into the air; whether or not he shot at Burr remained a point of contention for years to follow, but Burr nonetheless escaped unscathed after fatally wounding Hamilton, who died the next day. After New York and New Jersey both issued warrants for his arrest, Burr went back to the District of Columbia and resumed his position as vice president, presiding over the Senate. As public outrage grew, Burr fled to the west, where from to he participated in a vague but ambitious plan to separate the southwest from the United States.

    The Supreme Court found him not guilty of treason in , and after five years in Europe, Burr returned to New York, where he practiced law in New York until his death in Constitution is officially ratified, allowing for the presidential election of to be conducted under new rules. George Clinton officially succeeds Aaron Burr as vice president. In his inaugural address, Jefferson proposes that Federalist-inspired internal taxes be completely eliminated.

    Marines and Arab mercenaries capture the Tripolitan port city of Derna, achieving a major victory for the United States in the Tripolitan War. Eaton's ultimate plan, approved by President Jefferson, entailed replacing the ruling pasha of Tripoli with the rightful ruler. This is aborted with the forthcoming peace treaty in June. These include plans to establish a separate country with New Orleans as its capital and a plot to invade Mexico.

    In the public address, Jefferson cites the need to prepare for war with Spain. Privately, Jefferson informs Congress of secret negotiations with France in order to buy the territory from them and asks for five million dollars to be appropriated. The request receives a controversial response from Congress.

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    On November 15, Pike explores the famous 18,foot peak that still retains his name in what is now Colorado. Louis two-and-a-half years after they began their expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory and the Pacific Northwest.

    Historical Peoples of the Ohio Country

    President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition, which is often considered one of the greatest exploratory quests in U. Well before President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, Americans had been curious about the lands west of the Mississippi River. Jefferson saw the West as a great collection of scientific specimens and a vast expanse that enhanced American security, but he also shared the commercial interest of American traders looking for a viable route to the Pacific Ocean.

    Even before negotiations to purchase New Orleans had commenced, Jefferson planned an expedition to the Pacific Northwest. He was commissioned an Army officer and given joint command with William Clark, also an Army officer. Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to find a path to the Pacific Ocean, preferably via water, learn the geography of the territory, explore trade with Native Americans, and return with samples of unknown species of flora and fauna. His instructions, drafted in June before the purchase of Louisiana but with knowledge the transaction would likely occur, were implemented the following year.

    Lewis and Clark left St. Louis on the Missouri River in May with a company of nearly fifty men. When they returned to St. Louis in September , they brought samples of plant and animal species Jefferson had requested and reports that Jefferson's purchase had been well worth the price.

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    Jefferson issues this warning after having been told of Aaron Burr's subversive activities with respect to annexing Spanish territory. The British ship Leopard fires upon the United States frigate Chesapeake in Chesapeake Bay after the latter's commander, James Barron, refuses to surrender four British deserters on board. Many on the U. The act serves as a retaliatory measure to the increasingly coercive trade policies of the British and the French. Napoleon conveniently argues that his action helps the United States enforce its new policy prohibiting trade with other nations.

    Jefferson signs the Non-Intercourse Act the same day, closing U.

    The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic
    The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic
    The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic
    The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic
    The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic
    The Center of a Great Empire: The Ohio Country in the Early Republic

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