Ken Burns Classroom


The New Nation (1750-1820s)

Painting by Junius Brutus Stearns of the signing of the U.S. Constitution
Washington at Constitutional Convention of 1787, signing of U.S. Constitution. Junius Brutus Stearns, painter.

The United States of America grew out of a loose confederation of colonies under British colonial rule into a fledgling nation of 13 states. Its founders were influenced by documents like the Magna Charta, as well as the ideas of Thomas Paine, and Enlightenment philosophers like John Locke and Montesquieu. The nation grew westward with President Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territories from the French in 1803. Jefferson would send Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery to explore 3700 miles of unknown territory over the course of three years and map a growing nation.