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Changes in National Government from 1865 to the End of World War I

Since the end of the Civil War, American society has witnessed progressive growth and expansion as well as contraction of the government and its responsibilities. Starting with the efforts to restore the Southern states to the Union – the U.S. government authority and responsibilities grew profoundly setting the course to protect all states in the Union. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln set the country’s mood towards the redefinition of African Americans and their role in American society (Locke & Wright, Chapter 15). The government expanded in responsibilities to protect all citizens. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the reconstruction era committed the United States to the abolition of slavery. This set course for the Thirteenth Amendment on January 31, 1865 (Edwards, 64).

However, the government expansion was curtailed following the ascension of Vice President, Andrew Johnson, an unapologetic racist from Tennessee to presidency. Johnson undermined the progress made by Lincoln in expanding the government’s role in championing the end of slavery. In 1866, the Civil Rights Act was passed that made the first attempt to define all American-born residents as citizens of the United States (Edwards, 64). Also, the act promoted the government’s responsibility on fundamental rights. In 1868, the states ratified the Fourteenth Amendments, which propagated for guaranteed birthright citizenship and equal protection of the law.

The American Empire era saw the expansion of foreign policy and an increase in international trade. For example, in 1899, the foreign policy was expanded to support free trade in China. The policy was intended to protect the U.S. interests, prompting the secretary of state John Hay to articulate for an Open Door Policy, which left China open for free trade (LaFeber, 1). The American empire era was characterized by a massive increase in the international relations and dominance of the United States in the world. The changes were essential for the long-term expansion of the U.S. government’s role in international relations.

The Gilded Age saw the United States experience unprecedented fortunes and, at the same time, extensive poverty. Increased controversies of imperialism questioned the government’s responsibility in promoting the American people, values, and agenda in international relations (Harris, 160). Despite the profound growth in the American government and responsibility to protect all citizens in the Progressive era – the rise of Jim Crow into power caused a tragic loss for the racial history. In the period between 1895 and 1908 – the Southern states saw the approval of new constitutions to allow the governments to expand and cater to the needs of the growing society. The aspect of voting and exclusion of the black community was rampant in the period. The blacks experienced the strict measures of the government in the period with systemic racial and economic discrimination being prevalent.

In the prelude to World War I, the United States saw enormous expansion in its economic capacity and international alliances. The government’s expansion was mainly focused on the military to build the American capacity. The Davis Act of 1908 and the National Defense Act of 1916 paved the way for the rise of modern versions of the military reserves and the National Guard (Johnson, 452). The American forces’ interaction with the outside world prompted the U.S. government to expand accordingly and sustain the modern world aggression and American power.

The key groups to suffer under the reconstruction period comprised of the African-Americans as they were subjected to continued slavery and racism over the years. In the regions that African Americans were freed, they were the main beneficiary of the government’s expanded responsibilities and needed to protect all citizens. In the American Empire era, the Philippines were among the key groups of people to suffer under the intensified American imperialism (Harris, 284). In the World War I era, all Americans both at home and on the battlefronts suffered immensely. The economic demands and depression affected those in the home fronts. Therefore, it proved the extensive costs of such high magnitude war.

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