U.S. Presidents For Dummies with Online Practice
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Over the last 231 years, 44 men have dominated U.S. politics and history. Although almost every American can name the current president, less than half can tell you the name of the vice president or the Senate majority leader. No other office within the U.S. government has received as much attention as the presidency.

The successes and failures of the chief executive have become a staple of U.S. culture. Every year, the media spends thousands of hours disseminating information on their virtues and shortcomings. Their biographies become best sellers. The public marvels at their childhood plights and adult accomplishments. Stories about their personal lives and office conduct have become ingrained in American culture and literature. The public revels in the presidents’ personal shortcomings and failures, and eagerly laps up scandals involving them.

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Key Dates in U.S. Presidential History

In the following table, find important dates and key events that occurred to U.S. presidents throughout history.

Key Dates in U.S. Presidential History
April 19, 1775 The Revolutionary War breaks out after Colonial militia and British soldiers exchange fire at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.
July 4, 1776 The Continental Congress ratifies the Declaration of Independence.
March 1, 1781 The Constitutional Congress adopts the Articles of Confederation, creating the first form of government for the United States.
September 3, 1783 Great Britain and the United States sign the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War.
September 17, 1787 The Constitutional Convention meets in Philadelphia and approves the new U.S. Constitution.
June 21, 1788 The Constitution goes into effect after New Hampshire becomes the ninth state to approve the document.
February 4, 1789 George Washington is unanimously elected the first president of the United States.
April 30, 1789 George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the United States.
December 15, 1791 The Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments to the Constitution, goes into effect.
September 17, 1796 Newspapers publish Washington’s farewell address in which he urges the country to stay out of European affairs and instead become isolationist.
February 24, 1803 The U.S. Supreme Court, in Marbury v. Madison, establishes the principle of judicial review, meaning that the Supreme Court has the power to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional.
May 2, 1803 President Jefferson buys 828,000 square miles from France for $15 million, or 3 cents an acre. The acquisition, known as the Louisiana Purchase, almost doubles the size of the country overnight.
June 18, 1812 The War of 1812, against Great Britain, breaks out during President Madison’s administration. The conflict lasts until 1814, with neither side gaining anything tangible.
February 22, 1819 President Monroe buys Florida from Spain for $5 million.
February 17, 1820 Congress, during the Monroe administration, passes the Missouri Compromise, which outlaws slavery in the territory of the Louisiana Purchase north of the 36°30′ parallel.
May 13, 1846 The Mexican-American War, during which the United States conquers most of the American Southwest, including California, begins during the Polk administration.
May 26, 1854 The Kansas-Nebraska Act passes the Senate, formally repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and setting the foundation for the Civil War. President Pierce signs the act into law.
November 6, 1860 Abraham Lincoln is elected president of the United States.
December 20, 1860 South Carolina secedes from the Union, with President Buchanan sitting by idly.
February 4, 1861 Six Southern states create the Confederate States of America. Five more Southern states join the Confederacy before the year is over.
April 12, 1861 The Civil War begins when Confederate troops attack Fort Sumter in South Carolina.
January 1, 1863 President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves in the Confederacy to be free, takes effect.
July 1–3, 1863 The battle of Gettysburg turns the war to the North’s favor.
April 8, 1865 General Lee surrenders to General Grant, signaling an end to the Civil War.
April 14, 1865 Actor John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer, assassinates President Lincoln.
May 16, 1868 The Senate votes to impeach President Johnson, 35 to 19. Impeachment fails by one vote.
November 7, 1876 Republican Rutherford Hayes loses the popular vote and the electoral vote in the presidential election, but a special Electoral Commission overturns the election and makes him president in March 1877.
May 18, 1896 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that segregation is legal if equal access and accommodation are provided for African Americans.
April 25, 1898 At President McKinley’s urging, Congress declares war on Spain, resulting in the Spanish-American War and allowing the United States to take over Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
November 18, 1903 During President Theodore Roosevelt’s first term, the United States receives permanent rights to build and own a canal in Panama.
August 5, 1912 Former president Theodore Roosevelt becomes the presidential nominee for the Bull Moose Party and receives 27 percent of the vote, the best third-party showing in United States history.
February 25, 1913 The 16th Amendment to the Constitution allows the federal government to impose an income tax.
April 6, 1917 During President Wilson’s second term, the United States enters World War I on the side of the Allies in Europe.
November 19, 1919 The U.S. Senate refuses to ratify the Versailles Treaty, which established the League of Nations, despite the fact that the League of Nations was President Wilson’s idea.
August 26, 1920 President’s Wilson’s final accomplishment, the 19th Amendment, which gives women the right to vote, goes into effect.
October 29, 1929 Black Tuesday — a crash of the stock market — signals the start the Great Depression.
March 4, 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt is inaugurated and starts his New Deal programs.
August 14, 1935 President Franklin Roosevelt signs social security legislation establishing a pension plan in the United States.
December 7, 1941 Japan attacks the U.S. military installation in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At President Franklin Roosevelt’s urging, the United States declares war on Japan and enters World War II.
November 7, 1944 President Franklin Roosevelt wins an unprecedented fourth term in office.
August 6, 1945 President Truman orders the first atomic bomb be dropped on Japan.
September 2, 1945 Japan surrenders, ending World War II.
June 25, 1950 North Korea invades South Korea, forcing President Truman to react, and in turn starting the Korean War.
February 26, 1951 During President Truman’s administration, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution passes, limiting U.S. presidents to two terms.
May 17, 1954 The U.S. Supreme Court, in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, rules that the segregation of public schools is unconstitutional. President Eisenhower enforces the ruling.
November 22, 1963 President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
July 2, 1964 President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of color, gender, or religion.
June 18, 1970 President Nixon signs legislation giving 18-year-olds the right to vote.
January 22, 1973 The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Roe v. Wade that abortions are legal in the United States.
January 27, 1973 The Treaty of Paris ends U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
August 8, 1974 President Nixon resigns because of his involvement in the Watergate scandal, becoming the first president to resign from office.
March 30, 1981 President Reagan is injured in an assassination attempt.
January 16, 1991 President George H. W. Bush launches Operation Desert Storm and expels Iraq from Kuwait.
February 12, 1999 The U.S. Senate refuses to convict President Clinton, after the House of Representatives impeached him.
November 7, 2000 The results of the U.S. presidential elections are disputed, resulting in a prolonged legal battle.
December 12, 2000 The U.S. Supreme Court orders a halt to all vote recounts in Florida — the decisive state in the presidential election — making George W. Bush the president of the United States.
September 11, 2001 Terrorists attack the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City with hijacked airplanes, killing close to 3,000 people. Almost 200 people die when a hijacked plane crashes into the Pentagon, and a fourth hijacked plane crashes in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard.
October 7, 2001 The United States attacks Afghanistan and topples the ruling Taliban regime to punish it for supporting terrorism.
March 19, 2003 The United States invades Iraq.
December 12, 2003 U.S. forces capture the leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein.
August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf Coast, devastating New Orleans.
November 4, 2008  Barak Obama is the first African-American elected president.
August 31, 2010 The U.S. military operation in Iraq ends.
May 1, 2011 Osama bin Laden is killed by U.S. Special Forces in Pakistan.
June 26, 2015 The U.S Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage is legal.
November 8, 2016 Donald Trump is elected the 45th president of the United States.
February 5, 2020 The U.S. Senate refuses to convict President Trump, after the House of Representatives impeached him.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Marcus A. Stadelmann, PhD, is a professor of political science and chair of the Department of Political Science and History at the University of Texas at Tyler. Along with teaching at universities in California, Utah, and Texas, Dr. Stadelmann has published and given presentations in the fields of American politics and international relations.

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