American History Timeline: 1820-1829

The Decade of the Erie Canal, Andrew Jackson, and Daniel O'Connell

The decade of the 1820s in American history brought technological advances in transportation such as the Erie Canal and the Santa Fe Trail, early computing and hurricane studies, and a distinct souring of the way people in the United States saw their government. 

1820

January 29: George IV became the King of England upon the death of George III; the widely unpopular king had been regent to his father since 1811 and died in 1830.

March: The Missouri Compromise became law in the United States. The landmark legislation effectively avoided dealing with the issue of enslavement for the next few decades.

March 22: American naval hero Stephen Decatur was fatally wounded in a duel fought near Washington, D.C. with a former friend, the disgraced Navy Commodore James Barron.

September 26: American frontiersman Daniel Boone died in Missouri at the age of 85. He had pioneered the Wilderness Road, which led many settlers westward to Kentucky.

November: James Monroe faced virtually no opposition and was reelected the 5th president of the United States.

1821

February 22: The Adams-Onis Treaty between the U.S. and Spain went into effect. This treaty established the southern border of the Louisiana Purchase, including the cession of Florida to the U.S., making the peninsula no longer a safe haven for freedom seekers.

March 4: James Monroe was sworn in for his second term as president of the United States.

May 5: Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile on the island of St. Helena.

September 3: A devastating hurricane struck New York City, and the study of its path would lead to the understanding of rotating storms.

A children's book published in New York City referred to a character named "Santeclaus," which may have been the first printed reference to Santa Claus in the English language.

The Santa Fe Trail opened as a two-way international commercial highway connecting Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

1822

May 30: Arrests in Charleston, South Carolina, prevented a sophisticated and complex uprising by enslaved people, which had been planned by Denmark Vesey, a formerly enslaved person. Vesey and 34 conspirators were tried and executed, and the church where he was leader and congregate was burned to the ground.

In England, Charles Babbage designed the “difference engine,” an early computing machine. He was unable to complete a prototype, but it was just the first of his experiments in computing.

Inscriptions on the Rosetta Stone, a block of basalt discovered in Egypt by Napoleon, were deciphered, and the stone became a critical key to enabling reading the ancient Egyptian language to the modern era.

The first group of formerly enslaved people being resettled in Africa by the American Colonization Society arrived in Liberia and founded the town of Monrovia, named for President James Monroe.

1823

December 23: The poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore was published in a newspaper in Troy, New York.

December: President James Monroe introduced the Monroe Doctrine as part of his annual message to Congress. It opposed further European colonization in the Americas, and promised to not interfere with the internal affairs of European countries or their existing colonies, what would become a long-standing tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

1824

March 2: The landmark Supreme Court decision Gibbons v. Ogden ended a monopoly of steamboats in the waters around New York City. The case opened up the steamboat business to competition, which made great fortunes possible for entrepreneurs such as Cornelius Vanderbilt. But the case also established principles regarding interstate commerce which apply to the present day.

August 14: The Marquis de Lafayette, French hero of the American Revolution, returned to America for a grand tour. He had been invited by the federal government, which wanted to show off all the progress the nation had made in the 50 years since its founding. Over the course of a year Lafayette visited all 24 states as an honored guest.

November: The U.S. presidential election of 1824 was deadlocked with no clear winner, and the political machinations of the controversial election ended the period of American politics known as The Era of Good Feelings.

1825

February 9: The election of 1824 was settled by a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, which elected John Quincy Adams as president. Supporters of Andrew Jackson claimed a "Corrupt Bargain" had been struck between Adams and Henry Clay.

March 4: John Quincy Adams was inaugurated as president of the United States.

October 26: The entire length of the Erie Canal was officially opened across New York, from Albany to Buffalo. The engineering feat had been the brainchild of DeWitt Clinton; and, although the canal project was overwhelmingly successful in facilitating the movement of goods, that success encouraged the development of its competitor: the railroad.

1826

January 30: In Wales, the 1,300 foot Menai Suspension Bridge over the Menai Strait opened. Still in use today, the structure ushered in an age of great bridges.

July 4: John Adams died in Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson died in Virginia, on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Their deaths left Charles Carroll of Carrollton as the last surviving singer of the nation's founding document.

Josiah Holbrook founded the American Lyceum Movement in Massachusetts, a bulwark of continuing education supporting lectures for adults, and the betterment of local libraries and schools.

1827

March 26: Composer Ludwig van Beethoven died in Vienna, Austria, at the age of 56.

August 12: English poet and artist William Blake died in London, England at the age of 69.

Artist John James Audubon published the first volume of Birds of America, which would eventually contain 435 life-size water colors of North American birds and become the archetype of wildlife illustration.

1828

Summer–Fall: The election of 1828 was preceded by perhaps the dirtiest campaign ever, with supporters of Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams hurling shocking accusations—such as murder and prostitution—at one another.

November: Andrew Jackson was elected president of the United States.

1829

March 4: Andrew Jackson was inaugurated as president of the United States, and raucous supporters nearly wreck the White House.

Cornelius Vanderbilt began operating his own fleet of steamboats in New York Harbor.

Religious freedom increased in Ireland, thanks to the Catholic Emancipation movement of Daniel O’Connell.

September 29: The Metropolitan Police Service was founded in London, England, with its headquarters at Scotland Yard, superseding the old system of night watchmen. Albeit flawed, The Met would become a model for police systems the world round.