Peopling the Expanding Nation, 1776–1900
The inhabitants of the new nation were diverse and they would become more so with westward expansion, importation of enslaved Africans, incorporation and conquest of land and peoples, and increasing migration and immigration. With few restrictions on U.S. immigration until the late 1800s, peoples from Europe, the Americas, and Asia arrived seeking land and economic opportunity. The Civil War tested the strength of the Union and resulted in a renewed commitment to the ideal of one nation.
This section tells stories of people who came to the United States and those who were already here, illustrating the challenges they faced in negotiating their place in the expanding nation.
Establishing the United States
Thirteen British colonies fought to establish an independent nation. After the Revolution, the former colonists worked to create a political system and a sense of national identity expressed through symbols and images on everyday objects.
In a desire to unify the colonies, the first U.S. Congress chose the motto E Pluribus Unum—Out of Many, One. It took generations for those ineligible for citizenship in the new nation—including Native Americans, people of African descent, and women—to negotiate their place as part of the “One.”
The Great Seal of the United States
The Great Seal helped establish the nation’s sovereignty. In 1776 Pierre Du Simitière proposed a national seal that included an English rose, Irish harp, Scottish thistle, French fleur-de-lis, Dutch lion, and German eagle. Instead the Continental Congress chose an American eagle but kept Du Simitière’s motto E Pluribus Unum—Out of Many, One.