United States Expansionism: 1790s- 1860s Essay, Research Paper
The major American aspiration during the
1790s through the 1860s was westward expansion. Americans looked
to the western lands as an opportunity for large amounts of free land,
for growth of industry, and manifest destiny. This hunger for more wealth
and property, led Americans conquer lands that were rightfully someone
else’s. Manifest destiny and westward expansion brought many problematic
issues to the Unites States verses the Indians that took the Americans
to the Civil War.
The first issue that arose for the Americans,
was where to put the existing Indians while they conquered their land.
The United States felt that the Indians needed to be secluded from all
other races so that they would become civilized. This Indian Territory
was where eastern Indian tribes such as the Kickapoos, Delawares, and Shawnees
lived. As the population of Americans increased in the western sector
of the United States, they also invaded that land specially allotted for
the Indians. Instead of moving the Americans out of the Indian Territory,
the government minimized the size of Indian Territory by half. Now
the Northern half was open for white settlement. As for the western
Indians, such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahos, American settlers went
around them to settle the California and Oregon. The Americans decided
to stay away from further conflict with the native Americans because they
knew they were unable to move them away from their land.
Americans continued their western movement
and put forth their domination over the Indians. The first step the United
States took in claiming this new land for them was by establishing a land
system. The Land Ordinance of 1785 established an orderly way to
divide up and sell the new lands of the Western United States. Shortly
after, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 set up a system of government for
the land north of the Ohio River. Slavery was outlawed in the five
states that made up the Northwest Territory, and no self-government was
to be set up until at least five thousand free white men were in the territory.
The next step the Americans took had to
do with forcing the Indians off their land. They managed to trick
the Indians by making treaties with them. The Indians were practically
forced to agree with the treaties. Most Americans didn’t even
keep their promises. For example, in the Treaty of Fort Stanwiz of
1784 and the Treaty of Fort McIntosh of 1785, the Iroquois and other Ohio
Indians were forced to give a portion of their land to the United States.
The U. S. then proceeded to divide up this land, but settlers could not
buy any of it until 1788. Many Americans became restless and decided
to go in and settle these lands illegally, not honoring their treaty with
These treaties were the only way the United
States was going to be allowed to legally take over the Indian lands with
the agreement of the Indians. This new recognition and use of treaties
fell under the Indian Intercourse Act of 1790. This was a form of
written documentation that allowed the ceding of land to be possible through
the treaties. Americans, however, did not honor their agreement with the
Indians, and in the future, some tribes used this against the government
in trying to regain the land that was taken from them illegally.
These treaties also led to Indian resistance
and increasing difficulties with the native peoples. As Thomas Jefferson
took over the Presidency in 1801, he was determined to civilize the Indians.
He planned to take over the land in a peaceful manner. In return, the Americans
shared with the Indians their civilized way of living. Jefferson’s goal
was to educate the Indians and convert them to Christianity. He did this
in hopes that the two cultures would be able to co-exist. However, his
planned failed and continuous problems arose between the Americans and
The United States also managed to gain
three million acres of Delaware and Potawatomi land in Indiana through
the Treaty of Fort Wayne. Because these people had established an
alliance with the Northwest Confederation tribes, Tecumseh, the leader,
proclaimed this treaty invalid because one tribe could speak for the rest.
This belief led to great resistance, by the Indians, to further expansion
and disagreement with the U. S. government. In 1822, Tecumseh gathered
Indian warriors to attack American soldiers, led by William henry Harrison.
This attack was a failure for the Indian cause and both sides suffered
casualties. However, the Indians managed to scare the United States.
The British were on the Indian’s side,
which consisted of Democratic Republicans. They resented this British interference
and wanted to continue expanding and exerting their superiority over the
Indians, and supported war as an answer to the conflicts. In June
of 1812, the U. S. Senate voted to go to war against the British. The British
had a stronger army and navy as oppose to the Americans. While the
U. S. gained terms of defining national boundaries and gaining some land,
the war of 1812 did much more in terms of creating a conflict within the
United States government. Because of the differing sectional opinions
of the war, the Mexicans’ attack on the British and Indian forces failed.
Following the War of 1812, many Indian
groups signed treaties with the US. Government that removed them from their
land onto the Indian Territory because they were unwilling to civilize
themselves. The “Five Civilized Tribes,” the Cherokees, Chickasaws,
Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, resolved to stay where they were, though
they eventually ceded most of their land. Of these groups, the Cherokees
took the greatest strides in co-existence with the white people.
Their land could even be seen at this time as one of the few frontiers
of inclusion, where racial mixing and marriage frequently occurred between
the Cherokees, whites, and African Americans. Most settlements were set
up as frontiers of exclusion where no racial sexual mixing was allowed.
Despite this obvious peaceful co-existence, the states of Georgia, Alabama,
and Mississippi stood up to the federal government and voted to invalidate
the treaties with the Indians.
Under President Jackson, who supported
the removal of the Indians, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which
would transfer Indians to reservations, by agreement or by force they.
When the Cherokees were supported when they took the issue to the Supreme
Court. However, Jackson insisted removal. After the defeat of the
Cherokees, the Seminoles decided to fight for their land, and succeeded
in maintaining it. The others tribes, however, were eventually
forced to leave their native lands as well. The most renowned of
these removals was that of the Cherokees, referred to as the “Trail of
Tears.” Many Indians died when the United States army took
the Cherokees to Oklahoma.
It is only a shame that many had to give
their lives for the greed of others. One must always keep in mind
the pain many Indian families suffered as their lands were being taken
away. While westward expansion was an accomplishment in the eyes
of many, it was a loss for others.