The USA is the most powerful country in the world and possibly the entire history. Never before in the recorded history, a country wielded so much influence over the rest of the world. Almost everybody in the world is affected by the decisions made by its policymakers. But why the USA? Why not any other country? Why it continues to be the most powerful country in the world? To understand all of these we need to know about its past.
In the year 1779, the US got independence from the British Empire after a bitter fight. After gaining independence, it had no major regional rivals except the European colonial powers. But, the European countries were fighting among themselves, giving the US the time it needed to improve its military and economy. Still, it could not improve its military as much as needed, as was evident in the War of 1812, and the subsequent Burning of Washington, in which the White House was burned by the British forces. This incident is may be the most humiliating defeat ever for the US.
Containing a potential rival
In Europe, France invaded Spain in 1808. This gave the people in Mexico who were fighting for independence from the Spanish Crown a new life. They fought and won in their struggle in 1821. This resulted in a vast but short-lived Mexican Empire. In 1823, Mexico became a federal republic. The newly found republic did not have sufficient funds to be able to govern an area of size 4.4 million sq. km. The economic situation further deteriorated because Mexico had to continuously fight the Spanish empire’s efforts to reconquer Mexico.
Spain ultimately recognized Mexico’s independence in 1836, but the damage has already been done. Mexican economy and its military was in a bad shape and was dealt a final blow in the Mexican-America War in which it lost over half of its territory to the US which included Texas and California. This series of events made sure that the US would be the most powerful country in the region, and no other country would be able to challenge it in the region, Now, the US had become a middle power country.
Secession and Re-uniting the Nation
American Civil War started in the year 1861 on a range of issues revolving around slavery. Several southern states seceded from the union (of the states which forms the USA) to form the Confederate States of America (CSA). Rest of the states were against any secession. The CSA started the war by attacking Fort Sumter which soon fell into the Confederate hands. The Civil War lasted till 1865 and ended with the surrender by the Confederate General Robert E. Lee to the Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. This resulted in the collapse of the Confederacy, abolition of slavery and millions of slaves were eventually freed. However, it would take another century to completely secure the Right to Vote for the blacks.
An Era of Growth
The War of 1812 with the British Empire made clear that the US was very behind the British in terms of industrial capacity. The US soon understood this and many entrepreneurs started using British technologies to increase industrial capacity (many times these technologies were smuggled out of the UK as the UK prohibited technology exports). This period is also known as the First Industrial Revolution, after which the US became a major industrial powerhouse. The large population of the US represented a large market, which meant heavy profits for the businesses and soon entrepreneurs with enormous fortunes started popping up. These entrepreneurs had the necessary capital to undertake major projects and acquire competitors to form very large companies. These companies developed major railroad and telegram networks. This was the time of the Second Industrial Revolution. Soon, electric power and telephone networks emerged. These combined propelled the US to the forefront of the world in terms of technological innovation.
Conclusion of Part 1
The US was now a great power, a force to be reckoned with. Lack of any other real or potential regional power after the Mexican-American war meant that it did not have to deal with a major threat near its own borders. This peace helped in the economic and technological growth of the US and created a very skilled workforce which would be later needed as US switched from being anti-imperialist to an aggressive nation outside its own borders.
That’s the end of first part of this series focusing on the USA.