Freedom: A History of US

Webisode 2. Introduction

The American War for Independence established a nation based on a revolutionary idea: self-rule and the inalienable rights of all its citizens. It was a war for the people, establishing the rights of rich and poor, high born and low. It was a war of the people, fought by old and young, black and white, men and women. From Lexington and Concord to Yorktown, from Valley Forge to the swamps of the Carolinas, it demanded that America's citizens sacrifice and see themselves as citizens of a country, not a colony.

After the Treaty of Paris ended the war and permanently threw off the shackles of colonialism, the new nation wrote a constitution that would embody its lofty ideals. The United States struggled to distribute powers between its three branches of government, to write just laws, to collect taxes, to defend itself, and to balance a strong centralized government with individual liberty and the rights of states. Immigrants continued to stream in, and the nation expanded; with the stroke of a pen, Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase and doubled the size of the nation, ensuring "an empire for liberty."

Although America based its government on the belief that all men are created equal, another eighty years would pass before this promise of freedom extended to all America's citizens of African descent, and another one hundred and fifty years before women would gain the right to vote. The nation was a work in progress as Americans pursued the goal of freedom and justice for all.

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