Category: History Essay
American History

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.

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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.

Finally, the secession of seven Southern states was caused primarily by concerns over the future of slavery. After failed attempts of compromising over the continuity of slavery, these states opted for secession to remain slave ones. The Northern States, who were adamant to the United Republic, were determined to block any attempt of secession through the War.

In conclusion, the American Civil War was unprecedented largely because the U.S had gained independence a few years ago. Patriotism and prosperity of the new republic were expected to remain unabated. However, slave issues threatened this trend. Differing stands on the continuity or end of slavery between the North and South settlers were the main reasons for the beginning of the Civil War. Slaves fought to emancipate themselves, while settlers of the South and North fought to protect their slavery-ridden states and maintain the union respectively. A great conflict ensued, which finally ended up as a civil war. It illustrates the significance of debates over slavery for the beginning of the American Civil War.

Key Developments of the 1850s Which Contributed to the Onset of the Civil War

The American Civil War was a culmination of a precarious period of the 1850s. Many unresolved issues dating back to the American Revolution gained momentum, and no effort could abate them. In this period, slavery fueled the escalation of political tension. Abolitionists took advantage of differing viewpoints of the Republican Party and the Southern states on slavery. Coupled with other central issues, such as territorial crisis, protectionism, sectionalism, nationalism as well as Lincoln’s elections, these disputes contributed to the onset of the Civil War. This essay seeks to discuss the key developments in the 1850s that preceded the Civil War.

To begin with, sectionalism that refers to different economies, social structure, customs and political values of the North and South was paramount to the onset of the Civil War. The North was majorly dependent on industries and had mechanized farms. They, therefore, saw no value to enslave African Americans. On the contrary, the South concentrated on plantation agriculture based on slave labor, together with subsistence farming for poor whites. It made them supporting the continuity of slavery. In the 1850s, the issue of accepting slavery took a religious angle. Bishops and missionaries owning slaves were rejected in the North splitting the nation’s largest religious denominations into separate Northern and Southern groups. It exacerbated animosity between the North and the South.

In addition, a territorial crisis was a result of the conquest; negotiations and purchases became an imminent problem for the Americans. The emergence of the Slave States and the Free States was unavoidable. Hunger on the territories between these two parts resulted in a collision between proslavery and antislavery states. The former with slaveholding interests looked forward to expanding already conquered regions of northern Mexico and west California. Their efforts were curtailed by the Northern free soil interests. This struggle for the right to expand either slave or free States without objection invoked the creation of the sovereignty doctrine. This contentious issue caused a violent conflict in successive years.

Another significant development in the 1850s was the emergence of protectionism. It entailed economic tariffs that caused varying viewpoints in the North and South states. The Southern slaveholding states dependent on low-cost manual labor supported the right to sell cotton and purchase manufactured goods from any nation. Northern states, infant industries of which could not compete with the full-fledged industries of Europe in offering high prices for cotton imported from the South and low prices for manufactured exports, were opposed to free trade. Each part felt that its source of livelihood was threatened by the interest of the rival group. It cemented the widening gap between the North and South states.

Finally, the rise of the divided sense of nationalism was a critical development in the 1850s. The north strongly held the nationalism strategy supporting the formation of the Union. On the contrary, Southerners were split between those loyal to the Southern region and the then Confederacy and those loyal to the entire Union (the United States). The South ignored warnings of intolerance to any attempt of disunion and went ahead to further their course oblivious of how ardently the North would fight to hold the Union.


In conclusion, developments in the 1850s were paramount to the onset of the Civil War. Territorial expansion that was met with divided nationalism put the new republic at loggerheads. The North pledged allegiance to the Union, while the South demanded sovereignty. The unwillingness to cede coupled with varied economic interests of the South and the North entrenched setting the ground for a Civil War in America.

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