Civic Literacy Curriculum
Section 5 | The 1800s
The 19th century largely focused on two themes: the growth of the nation’s size and the ability of Americans to participate in its freedom. The nation continued to expand westward, particularly due to territorial gains in the Louisiana Purchase and after the Mexican-American War.
This territorial expansion heightened the stakes of slavery in a polarized nation. Most of the leading Founders had reviled slavery (even while tolerating it as a temporary necessary evil) and they expected it to die out. Instead, slavery thrived, not only growing economically but generating defenders, mostly in the South, who considered slavery a positive good to be defended and encouraged. Conversely, pressure to stop slavery’s expansion and even to abolish it entirely grew more intense in the North.
This tension over slavery eventually led to the Civil War, in which the country, under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, eventually ended slavery via the Thirteenth Amendment. The efforts to secure the civil rights of black Americans, including former slaves, also developed into the effort to secure women’s rights as well, though women’s suffrage would not be universally achieved until 1920.
Section 5.1 Purchasing the Louisiana Territory
Q90: What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
Even before the Constitution had been ratified, settlers continued to move west into the American territories east of the Mississippi River that had been ceded to the American government by the British.
Section 5.2: Wars of the 19th Century
Q91: Which was not a war fought by the US in the 1800s?
America engaged in a variety of wars in the 19th century. The most prominent of these were the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War.
Q92, 93 + 96: The Civil War
Southerners, long used to using the power of the federal government to protect slavery over the protest of anti-slavery Northern states, feared the loss of this power. Thus, they responded to the victory of Abraham Lincoln and the anti-slavery Republican Party in 1860 by seceding from the Union. This triggered the Civil War.
Section 5.3: The Civil War and the End of Slavery
Q94 + 95: Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln led the United States during the Civil War and is credited with saving or preserving the Union, while also helping end slavery.
Q97 + Q98: The Reconstruction Amendments
Who is a citizen? How does one become a citizen (or lose citizenship)? And what does it mean to be a citizen?
Section 5.4: Women’s Suffrage
Q99 + 102: Women's suffrage
During the 18th and 19th century, women, especially married women, did not have the same legal rights as men.