The Major Motives of U.S. Territorial Expansion, 1800-1850, and the Major Episodes in This Process
In 1776, only thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain. The spirit of nationalism that seized the nation afterward demanded more territory. The acquisition of new territories begun immediately, and by 1850, the U.S. had control of vast lands. This essay seeks to discuss the major motives behind U.S. territorial expansion in 1800-1850, and the major episodes in this process.
The expansion of America was highly revered, and it seemed absolutely natural. Many Americans believed that it was a divine obligation to expand the boundaries of their republic. Religious fervor was a great motivation for American settlers. Most of them were adamant that God Himself blessed the growth of the American nation. American missionaries were, therefore, determined to save souls of Native Americans who were considered heathens. They became the first to cross the Mississippi River setting a precedent for the annexation of this region. Economic motives were significant for others. Fur trade that was dominated by European trading companies attracted many Americans to California. American entrepreneur John Jacob Astor challenged the Europeans in this business and minted millions made more Americans join him. Other settlers desired to acquire more land, and they believed the only way was annexing California. Migrants streamed from other American states to the latter. In addition, the belief that the American culture and race were superior to the ones of Native Americans and Hispanics motivated the expansion of the U.S. Americans felt that there was a dire need to “civilize” these groups. Therefore, they occupied Texas and California to replace ignorance with civilization.
In pursuit of expansive and prosperous America, Americans acquired new territories through treaties, conquests, purchases, or free will to join the growing republic. In 1803, negotiations between France and the USA culminated in the Louisiana Purchase where Americans paid $15 million to acquire the territory. In addition to this new land, their appetite to acquire more grew. The USA declared West Florida its territory immediately after the one had declared independence from Spain. President James Madison ordered the U.S. Army to take control of it in 1810. Spain had controlled this territory until 1821 when the Adams-Onis Treaty was ratified.
Another notable episode in American expansion was the annexation of Texas. Mexico equated the acquisition of Texas by the U.S. with a declaration of war against the Mexican Republic. Regardless of this stand by Mexico, the USA went ahead to acquire Texas, and in December 1845, Texas became the twenty-eighth state. Finally, the Mexican -American war in 1846-48 ended with the latter gaining more territories than the former. Mexican Cession lands were captured and ceded by Mexico in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
In conclusion, the period from 1800 to 1850 characterizes the American history of expansion. It set a precedent for the acquisition of more territories. Within this period, the U.S grew from the original thirteen colonies to the limits of today’s continental America. A mix of motives, including religious, patriotic, economic, and superiority complex among others, fueled this expansion. Conquests, treaties, purchases and free will ensured the implementation of the Louisiana Purchase, acquisition of West and East Florida and Texas, as well as the capture of the Mexican Cession during the Mexican-American War.
The Importance of Slavery – or the Debate over Slavery – as a Major “Cause” of the Civil War
Lasting from 1861 to 1865, the American Civil War is an indelible mark in American history. It was ignited by some issues, including states’ rights, the role of the federal government, preservation of the Union, as well as the economy and the institution of slavery. Most slaves and proponents of slavery fought because they felt their way of life and prosperity were at peril. To counter this, antislavery crusaders retaliated to abort the struggle. A violent conflict ensued and grew into a civil war. This essay emphasizes the importance of slavery as a major cause of the Civil War.
The Dutch introduced slavery in America in 1689 resulting in the enslavement of many African Americans. During the American Revolution, many slaves engaged in the war alongside the British army to emancipate themselves as promised by the British colonists. After the Revolution, Republicans, mostly from the Northern states, ideated an anti-slavery strategy, but it was treated as an infringement upon the constitutional rights of the Southern states, which dependent on slaves for labor. They believed that the emancipation of slaves would destroy their economy. These differing stands on the institution of slavery ignited the Civil War. Confederates fought to protect southern society and slavery as its integral part. African Americans who participated in this war had emancipation as their primary goal, while North’s aim was the preservation of the Union.
Furthermore, loopholes in the U.S. Constitution written in 1787 created causes for disputes. Counting slaves as 3/5 of a person to satisfy the interests of slaveholders and those who benefited from slavery was a precedent for the War. With great representation because of this, the South was opposed to the Constitution aiming to end slavery twenty years after its ratification. The bone of contention was not the existence of slavery, but its extension. It created disputes, and it is believed that the war began because of a compromise regarding the institution of slavery had not been reached.
In addition, the superiority complex of the federal government and the states, which had powers to allow or disallow slavery in the territories, was a time bomb for the Civil War. For example, in 1854, the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act invoked the concept of popular sovereignty that gave the people of each territory the right to decide whether to allow slavery or not. Pro- and anti-slavery factions turned the Kansas territory into a bloody battleground. North settlers were determined to make Kansas a free state, while those from the South were equally determined to make it a slavery one. Slaves from the South fled to the North (Union lines) after President Lincoln became lenient towards slaves and insisted on freedom for all.