header by Emerson Taymor, 2005

1. The Colonial Era: 1607-1763

2. The Revolutionary Era: 1763-1789

3. The Early National Period: 1789-1824

4. Jacksonian America: 1824-1848

5. Antebellum America: 1848-1860

6. The Civil War Era: 1861-1877

7. The Gilded Age: 1877-1901

8. Progressivism: 1901-1920

9. The Twenties

10. Depression and New Deal: 1929-1939

11. World War II: 1939-1945

12. Early Cold War: 1945-1963

13. Social Ferment: 1945-1960

14. The Sixties

15. The Seventies and After




William Howard Taft, Speech at Nashua, NH, March 19, 1912


When we begin to found popular government we must establish rules—fundamental rules—for the structure and the means by which the popular will is to be interpreted. We all have recognized—at least our ancestors did—that the only possible way by which that we can be safe and secure the rights of individuals and the rights of the minority and the rights of the non-voting majority, is to have a constitution which shall limit the power of the people in one election to do what they do. In other words, if the people by one election could destroy our present government and take up some other, then we should be subject to momentary passion, one that we all recognize would be dangerous to the body politic….The object of government is for the benefit of every individual, whether it be the baby at the breast, or the old man tottering to the grave, or the woman or the girl, or the old woman—all of them are citizens, and all of them are entitled to the same rights—inalienable rights—as they are called, secured in the constitution. Under those conditions, are you going to arrange it so that a single vote upon the question of constitutional interpretation you are going to let that one-fourth take away the right that secures to you liberty? Are you going to let that majority say by a momentary vote whether your property shall be taken away from you without due compensation?...In this representative government the government of the people is by selecting those to represent the people who are best fitted to do the work that people desire to be done, and it is no reflection on the people to say so. Our people have a higher degree of intelligence than any people in the world, but that is not to say that every one of them can play the violin….The man who tells the truth to the people is the real friend of the people, and not the one who is constantly flattering them into the belief that they are capable of something that they are not capable of. The American people are great. Why? They have established a government that has been enduring. Why? Because they have had the common sense in their constitution and their laws and in their structure of government to face the fact that they can not trust themselves under all circumstances and that they are going to put into that fundamental law the restrictions by which they shall secure from themselves and their representatives that deliberation and that study and that knowledge of the facts that will enable them to act wisely when they do act.