Evolution of American democracy from 1865 to date

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20 October 2015

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Evolution of American democracy from 1865 to date


            United States is the first country to experience liberal democracy. Democracy in this country is considered to have begun in 1788 with the introduction of a democratic constitution. Its democracy is constantly evolving. Here, we shall discuss how the American democracy has evolved over time from 1865 to present and the pressure that endures between liberty and equality. It is imperative to mention that America is a country made of many different races like the Native Americans, Indians, and some blacks. There have ever been ideas of racism between these races over time.

            To begin with, the 13th amendment passed in 1865 abolished any form of slave trade or servitude except with a court order for such treatment. Before the the blacks had been subjects of slavery and would go through torture. Clauses like the amendment of three-fifths and the emancipation proclamation had previously protected slavery fully. During this time, there was anxiety for freedom and equality with many natives being jailed for slavery.

            In 1866 and 1867, there was the reconstruction period in which the government tried to help black Americans who had been victims of slavery gain their political, social and economic freedom. Many whites were against this, but the government was strict about its stand. This shows the gap that had existed between the blacks and whites their masters.

            In 1868, the congress enacted the bill which allowed federal employees to work for 8 hours only per day but industrial workers would proceed with 10-12 hours’ work days. In the same year, the majority of the members of Legislature were men with a number of 87 seats of the 117 available (Carol 234). This was a step in the equality and the freedom all American citizens.

            As if that is not enough, in 1869 the first transcontinental railway line enabled the Africans to enjoy train services which had been a privilege of the whites before then. In the same year, the 5th amendment was enacted which stated that the voting right would not be denied on a racial basis but only men were allowed to vote. In the same year, the association of women’s suffrage was formed to fight for the rights of women. This was a major improvement in the freedom of the general American citizens since only whites would vote before then.

            There were no main changes in the democracy of America between 1870 and 1874. However, in 1875, the act of Civil Rights was passed which guaranteed equal rights to blacks to go visit any public facility like hotels and hospitals. The whites protested against this, and many were sentenced for discrimination. In the same year, the separation of roads between blacks and whites also came to an end. It is thus clear that the whites were not contented with how the government was acting, but the Africans pressed for more equality and freedom.

            In 1877, an organization to prevent cruelty of adults to children was passed. The rising cases of child labor and torture forced the locals to form this society. In the same year, Rutherford became president, and he put to an end radical republican program which led to discrimination of the blacks in the south. He also called for policies which would improve the wellbeing of blacks who had just been freed from slavery.

            Between 1800 and 1900, the number of American immigrants rose dramatically and the Chinese exclusion act was formed. Americans did not take that lightly, and racism cases came to a rise until the government outlawed the import of Chinese workforce for ten years. The immigrants held to their religion, and the government protected them fully assuring them of their freedom and equality.

            In 1881, James Garfield took over as the president after the death of his successor but he was also shot due to his strict policy ensuring fairness and equality. Chest Arthur succeeded him, and the congress passed the Pendleton Act, which made all government positions obtainable only through written exam. This denied the citizens their voting rights. It also protected workers from getting fired due to their political stands. Arthur also fought for the reduction of traffic levies through the Traffic Act enacted in 1883. This aimed at improving the economic freedom of the citizens.

            In 1885, Grover took over as the president following Arthur’s death. He was against the favoring of any economic group and the distribution of seeds to farmers who had experienced drought in Texas and fought for the reduction of high tariffs on the poor. In 1888’s elections, he received fewer votes due to his draconian bills and policies. This demonstrates the dissatisfaction of the majority of American citizens to have a fair and just political and social system.

            In 1886, there was more industrial workers unrest with many of them taking to the streets to protest against dangerous working conditions and long working hours. The American Federation of labor was formed to oversee fair treatment of striking employees. Surprisingly, the police exploded a bomb in a meeting of labor leaders killing many. This showed the denial of the freedom to hold a meeting and the right to have a peaceful demonstration.

            In 1886, France awarded U.S a statue of liberty which read, “Give to me your poor and tired masses trying to breathe free, the refuse of your hands. “Send these homeless tosts to me”. This shows the pressure by other countries to U.S to change its stand against abolition of slavery. In 1865, the Sherman Anti-trust Act which protected trade and commerce against illegal monopolies was also enacted. It demonstrated the zeal by the government to have its citizens gain financial freedom especially the poor.

            Between 1890 and 1930, many Americans living in villages began moving to towns leading to urbanization and industrialization. This led to poor pay. As a result, different groups fighting for women, labor and blacks rights were formed. Social protests, on the other hand, became rampant. This shows the denial of freedom and equality amongst some American citizens and a fight for revolution.

            In 1893, a major labor boycott took place in America due to cutting of wages by the Pullman Railway Company. Many workers supported this and president Clevend sent his troops to deal with them. Debs, an author was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for criticizing capitalism. It shows the reluctance of the government in delivering to the public the right for a fair hearing and expression.

            In 1896, the high court gave a ruling that facilities were favoring segregation were constitutional. This led to a rise in differences in education, economic and living styles. In the same year, the National Association of women was formed to push for better reforms favoring the rights and freedom of women. It demonstrates the anxiety to have freedom by women. Sexual judgment declaring African women immoral and sexual were also put to an end.

            Oppression and segregation continued leading to the formation of African Niagara society in 1917 which fought against all forms of discrimination especially against the blacks. To their surprise, the industrial workers of the world were founded which was highly radical was formed. The food and meat acts were also passed to safeguard the consumer rights who are the American citizens.

            No important reforms took place took place not until 1920 when the 19th Amendment of suffrage of women was passed which gave all women the right to vote. The act stated that the right of American citizens to vote would not be denied by any state on gender basis. To add to that, there were red scare raids this aimed at arresting everyone who was a communist or mistreated the blacks. It was a clear move demonstrating the government’s stand in matters of segregation. The immigration act was also enacted restricting entry of immigrants to the United States.

            In 1928, the Supreme Court gave a ruling that all schools were not allowed to segregate Mexican-American children. This was in a bid to protect the innocent children from torture. At this time, the World War 1 had just come to a stop and many people lived under the poverty line. To see the ending of that, the social security Act was formulated in 1935 to fund for pensions and unemployment compensation providing some economic security to American citizens.

            To add to that, between 1941 and 1945 there was a major recruitment of women to the workforce after men went to fight in world war two. There was also civil rights protest in the same year to advocate equality between the blacks and whites. Fortunately, in 1954 the Supreme Court ruled against racial segregation and declared that separate but equal facilities were constitutional (Julian 107). This means that there was an improvement in there was an improvement in the constitutional rights of the blacks. The birth control pill for women was also introduced in the same year rewriting the future of women, family and national life.

            In 1963, John Kennedy introduced a new civil rights bill and a tax cut which proposed equal treatment and taxation of all citizens and it was passed. It was however amended in 1965 leading to massive protests in the black streets who demanded equal representation in the congress and job opportunities.

            A major improvement was in 1966 when the Civil Rights Act was passed. It prohibited any form of discrimination in recruitment, job opportunities, wages and living standards. Malcolm X who tried to argue for black pride through black separatism was murdered. People demanded to know the cause of his death through demonstrations and unrest. The national organization of women was also founded in the same year to fight for the rights of women.

            The preceding years were faced with economic instability and people were working hard to improve on their living standards. In 1989, however, President Bush declared that no new taxes would be levied on the American citizens. Together with the congress, they did away with the tax exemptions on high income earners. He also introduced a health insurance tax for poor families and tax reduction for each family that bought new homes. This raised taxes on the wealthy and they benefited less from it leading to their protests.

            In 1991, bush nominated Clarance Thomas to the Supreme Court. He was a black American having idea of a normal conservative and civil rights organizations were against this. Bush seemed to be against racism and any other form of inequality. In 1993, Bill Clinton took over as the president and tried to lift the economy through increasing public and private investments. He introduced the GOALS bill of 2000 which introduced a new health care policy and increased strictness on crime and violence (Jill 124). This was all in a bid to secure the right to a better health care for all American citizens.

            Another significant improvement in democracy was in 2007 when the first woman was sworn to be the speaker in House of Representatives. In spite of all that, Barack Obama was elected the first black American defeating his Republican opponent McCain. In 2009, Hillary Clinton was sworn as secretary of state becoming the first lady to serve in the position. Obama has brought many changes in the health sector and the taxation of Americans. He is however keen to maintain equality among all American citizens.

            Currently, United States is a fully democratic and economically stable. There are few cases of racial discrimination and no single law is in favor of that. The president is a black American and the rights of all Americans are fully safeguarded. The industrial and health care act passed in 2013 helps ensure better healthcare and protection of all workers against any form of mistreatment by their employers.

            In conclusion, America has gone through many eras and under different presidents who either promoted democracy or fought against it. Democracy was highly never achieved due to racism and some acts which favored it. However, one can appreciate the steps taken by the American government to oversee democracy.


Julian, Zeliar. The American Congress: the builing of democracy.New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcout:2004: Print

Jilll, Lepore . Evolution of American democracy. New York: Princeton Univ. press.2008.Print.

Carol Berkin. History of the United States since 1865. New York: Cengage Learning.2014.Print

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