In the 1800s, the United States followed a policy of expansionism, or extending nation's boundaries. In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase nearly doubled the size of the country. More territory was soon added in the West and South Americans believed in Manifest Destiny, or the idea that their nation was destined to spread across the entire continent.
Voting, slavery, and women's rights were important issues at this time. In 1800, only white men who owned property could vote. By the 1800s most white men had the right to vote. William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and other abolitionists called for an end to slavery. Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and others began to seek equality.
Economic differences, as well as slavery, divided the country into the North and the South. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, most Southern states seceded, or withdrew, from the Union. The American Civil War soon began. Southerners fought fiercely, but the North had more people, more industry, and more resource. The South finally surrendered in 1865.
During the war, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that the slaves in the South were free. After the war, slavery was banned throughout the nation, and African Americans were granted some political rights. However, African Americans still faced restrictions, inclusing segregation, or legal separation, in public places. Some state laws prevented African Americans from voting.
After the Civil War, the United States became the world leader in industrial and agricultural production. By 1900, giant monopolies controlled whole industries. For example, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company dominated the world's petroleum industry. BIg business enjoyed huge profits, but not everyone shared in the prosperity. Reformers tried to address this problem. Unions sought better wages and working conditions for factory workers. Farmers and city workers formed the Populist Party to seek changes. Progressives sought to ban child labor, limit working hours, regulate monopolies, and give voters more power. Progressives also worked to get women the right to vote, which they did in 1920.