Sunday, July 31, 2005

Putting all that Study of History Stuff to Work: How America Rose

When the United States of America finally ensured its independence by ending the Revolutionary war in 1783, the country was anything but a power. True it held huge tracts of land and countless rivers and possible mineral deposits, but for the most part the country was just starting to gear up. It was mostly made up of farms, and industrial and commercial activities were concentrated in a few coastal cities. The national government it had chosen was barely able to do anything. Each state considered itself an autonomous unit, banding together with the other states for protection. Still disputes flared between states and people. Barely able to manage foreign policy, the United States had little if any influence on the rest of the world. Yet in the decades to come the upstart, politically radical nation would prove itself to be able to create an effective government (Constitutional Convention of 1787), deploy its military in foreign lands (wars with the Barbary pirates of North Africa), defend it’s rights against foreign powers (War of 1812), adapt to changing economies (1st Industrial Revolution), expand it’s borders and become an emerging power of the Western Hemisphere (Louisiana Purchase and Mexican-American War), and overcome the toughest of crises (American Civil War), and the list goes on.

So how did it do it? well certainly it had gifted men and a spirit to move forward, but more of an answer could be found by looking farther in the past.

As far back as circa 500 B.C., in the Italian peninsula. According to legend, it was about this time that the city of Rome gained complete autonomy from the Etruscans and establish the Republic. Yet about 600 years later the Roman nation would be the power of the Mediterranean. Again, how did it do it? The answer is that it went through an almost perpetual series of war, uprisings, economic slump, and political revolutions, and for the first half-millennia, usually came out stronger. The Romans chose to adapt, or make the situation adapt to them. Instead of just swallowing every setback and continue they sought for ways to prevent the setback from happening again.

It is possible that the same happened in this country. The country is not the same as it was 100, 50, 25, or even 10 years ago. It has gone through perpetual change, to meet the perpetual challenges. It has grown in every direction it has been attacked on. Everything at every level, from multi-national alliances to the individual goes through a constant barrage of difficulties, hurdles, crises, and disasters, big and small. That is the source of change.

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