History Essay, Research Paper
Territorial expansion is most likely one of the most important steps that America took in becoming a self-sufficient nation. During the first half of the nineteenth century America blossomed in all directions. Through this growth there were risks America took and sacrifices that it made. Manifest destiny was the catalyst to territorial expansion and did bring around problems. Sectionalism emerged within the nation but nationalism still held strong. Throughout the first half of the 19th century the idea of manifest destiny and territorial expansion is what kept America growing, but simultaneously jeopardized the unity of the nation through conflicts dealing with slavery, the Indians, and sectionalism.
The far west was the land of high mountains and vast desserts. Fur trade with Europe had now become a lucrative business and the fur traders became the pathfinders for the settlers. Migration was now possible by the discovery of paths over which ox-driven carts could be driven through seeking mountains and across the western desert. People wanted to move away from the overcrowded cities and this led to the migration into the uninhabited lands. Increased transportation like roads, railroads and canals and their construction created a demand for cheap labor making it easier for people to get jobs now, in contrast with the cities where there was unemployment.
By the 1840s, the expansionist policy, typified by the Manifest Destiny doctrine, became very strong with many sections willing to go to war to acquire more land. Slavery became a source of contention between the Northern and southern states with the control of the senate in question. The South wanted expansion to increase slave states, the North to keep the balance with free states and the West wanting expansion to increase their land. The antagonism between the North and the South sees the beginnings of sectionalism leading to the civil war later. The spirit of equality becomes a banner with which the expansionist policy was proclaimed. The idea of conflict dealing with slavery brings about one of the main problems that the nation faced while expanding its borders especially in the Texas and California direction.
It can be assumed that the northern parts of Mexico would have eventually come under the control of the United States as the Mexicans did not colonize them, there was no effective sovereignty and American settlers would have resulted in American annexation. That the annexation occurred by force that can be seen as the augmentation of an aggressive American nationalism and the Mexicans refusal to sell the land and inability to develop it.
The earliest of the northern parts of Mexico to come under the control of Americans was Texas. In 1823, Stephen Austin secured authorization from the Mexican government to colonize the area. The Mexican government was hoping for the quick settlement of the area. By 1830, around 30,000 Americans were settled in Texas with local self-government. At the same time, the Mexican government barred any more Americans from settling in Texas. The dictatorial government meant negotiation was impossible and in March 1836, a convention of Texans issued a formal declaration of independence, drafted a constitution and chose Sam Houston as commander-in-chief of their army. The Texans were hoping for annexation by the Americans but the question of slavery meant the Lone Star Republic remained a republic. In 1844, a motion to make Texas a part of the United States failed but it became the main platform for the next presidential elections. James Polk won on the party platform of reannexation of Texas and reoccupation of Oregon. In 1845, a joint resolution was passed by Congress and Texas finally became a part of the United States.
Polk now had to get Mexican consent to the annexation of Mexico and fix the boundary line, which the Texans said was Rio Grande while the Mexicans insisted on Nueces. Mexico had also defaulted on the repayment of the debt of 2 million dollars. This made Polk order the American army to occupy the disputed boundary region. Mexican troops were also ordered to hold the same region and when a clash between the two armies occurred in 1846, Congress declared war. The Northeast, under the leadership of Emerson, Thoreau and James Russell opposed war, as they feared slavery. The planters of the South wanted Texas but knew that New Mexico and California were not supporting for slavery and so wanted limited expansion while the people of the West wanted war for expansion.
Texas was soon conquered and with California being taken in 1847, the American annexation of the Far West was complete. A treaty was signed in 1848 whereby Mexico ceded Texas with the Rio Grande boundary, New Mexico, California and the rest of the western territories.
The new land that America had acquired meant that problems like transportation had to be tackled. A canal across Panama was planned but this didn t materialize for many years. The building of a transcontinental railroad with the financial assistance of the government was debated upon. Also the question of slavery in the newly acquired territories was a more troubling issue and this decided the fate of the United States for the next few years. The slavery issue in California and Texas was balanced by the addition of California to the nation. The region of California was considered a free state and the region of Texas was ruled a slave state. These rulings canceled each other and were accepted, with dismay by some of the people.
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