American democracy has a lineage of written records that we can trace to show the development of our nation, and how each document builds on those before it to make our foundation of freedom stronger. This video, looks at the documents conceived in a period when the civil rights of women and Native Americans were in question, and slavery was driving a wedge between slaveholders and abolitionists. Educators from noted American universities share their insights on:
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments (1848) -- Women’s rights activists met in Seneca Falls, New York, and demanded equal rights for women. Their declaration quotes from the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal...." The Seneca Falls document laid the groundwork for future women’s rights movements.
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->Married Women’s Property Act (1848) -- This act granted women one small step toward equality. New York state passed a law allowing married women to own property, file lawsuits, and retain their earnings. Other states followed, but equality on a national level was slow in coming.
The Compromise of 1850 (1850) -- New states were being admitted to the union. Would they be slave states or free states? This compromise temporarily defused the controversial issue but also created the Fugitive Slave Act, which proved to be very divisive.
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--><!--[endif]--> Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851) -- Representatives of the Great Plains Indian tribes and the U.S. government met in Laramie, Wyoming, and signed this treaty, which required each Indian tribe to remain in a defined territory, not attack westward-moving settlers, and allow the U.S. to build roads and forts in Indian territory.
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--><!--[endif]-->Gadsden Purchase (1853) -- In a transaction that facilitated building of the southern transcontinental railroad, the U.S. paid Mexico $10 million for land lying in the southwestern corner of New Mexico, which defined the final boundaries of the continental United States.
<!--[if !supportEmptyParas]--> <!--[endif]-->Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) -- In this U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Dred Scott, a slave, was denied his freedom.
The high court ruled that slaves were non-citizens who had no rights. The hostilities between pro-slavery and abolition forces were escalating over this volatile issue.