The United States won its independence from Great Britain with the help from France in the American Revolutionary War. The thirteen former colonies established themselves as the United States of America under the Articles of Confederation on July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, declared the Independence of the United States which was authored by Thomas Jefferson (Barraclough, 1998). George Washington, a renowned hero of the Revolutionary War and President of the Constitutional Convention became the First president of the United States under their new constitution.
After the American Revolution, the Ordinance of 1787, called the Northwest Ordinance, forbade slavery in the Northwest. The United States government paid revolutionary war veterans by giving them the right to take land for free in the Northwest. Some took up the offer but many sold their right to land speculators, who in turn did all they could to encourage westward migration. The expansion of the American in the westward movement maybe viewed as “domestic imperialism”, with the same motives as the imperialist movement in Europe; however, yielded different results.
The native culture of North America was not merely conquered but destroyed; an integrated capital democracy developed in its place. The westward movement resulted with the rapid growth of American territory in the west despite fierce resistance from Native Americans, Mexicans, and the British. Eventually, the American government claimed the entire region west of Mississippi. In 1783 the United States had an area of approximately 800,000 square miles, much of it are rich arable land.
The Louisiana Purchase (827,000 square miles) purchased for 60 million francs or about 15 million dollars of which 11, 250, 000 dollars was to be paid directly the balance to be covered by the United States in the assumption of French debts to United States citizens. The purchase came about as a result of concern to secure free navigation of the Mississippi River. West Florida was taken by force during James Madison’s administration and East Florida by purchase with the threat of force, during the presidency of James Monroe. A second set of acquisition in the period 1843-1853 completed the contiguous area of the continental United States.
Protracted negotiations for the territory of Oregon ended in a compromise agreement in 1846. The Texas Republic was annexed in 1845. In 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California, New Mexico and adjacent areas of the United States. The treaty provided for the Mexican cession, in which Mexico ceded 525,000 square miles to the United States in exchange for 15 million U. S dollars. The cession included parts of the modern day United States of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming, as well as the whole of California, Nevada, and Utah.
The huge Mexican cession was a spoil of war in 1849. Then the Gadson Purchase in 1853, bought from Mexico to control a promising railroad system. Manifest Destiny The most important factor which fuelled the Westward Expansion was the popular belief that it was America’s “manifest destiny” to expand across Texas, toward the Pacific Coast. Manifest destiny tapped into America’s nationalist spirit, which had been growing since the war of 1812, and echoed Protestant beliefs that America was a “called nation” meaning, chosen by God as a haven where Protestants could spread their faith.
A central aspect of the opening of the West was the removal of the Native Americans who already occupied the land. The removal started during Andrew Jackson’s presidency with the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which authorized the President to force the removal of Midwestern tribes to reservations in Oklahoma and elsewhere. By the early 1860’s the U. S. government had systematized this “Indian territory” into small reservations. In 1867 set aside two large tracts of land, one in the north of Nebraska and one in the south of Kansas—for tribal resettlement.
Moreover, the government assured Native American tribes that their rights and interests would be protected. Another factor which contributed significantly to the Westward Expansion was the compromise of 1850 that resolved the territorial and slavery issues arising from the Mexican-American War. California was admitted as a free state. Texas received financial compensation for relinquishing claim lands. The process of Westward Movement was inevitable because of the Manifest Destiny doctrine has influenced politically the government and laws/development of states and territory.
As a result economic growth and industrial revolution had come up with new inventions especially in the transportation advancement. Consequently, the population grows because of immigration of foreigners/emigration of people to territories. The most important consequence of expansion is the reopening of controversy that had been temporarily settled by the 1821 Missouri Compromise: the balance of slave holding versus free lands. Regional passions flared as the nation debated the extension of slavery into the new territories.
In 1854, Congress repealed the 1836 gag rule, which had suppressed all debates on slavery and disputed the status of the newly acquired territories. Texas entered the Union as a slave state in 1845 because the territory was already slave-holding when it sought admission. But California and New Mexico were undecided if they are going to join. The slavery trade was abolished and the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, requiring all United States citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves.
Therefore the slavery issue is the most important consequence of the westward expansion. In addition, the Westward Expansion galvanized the United States position as a world superpower. Thus it is United States’ opinion that no European powers, especially Great Britain, would no longer colonize and not to interfere with the affairs of America.
Barraclough, Geoffrey (1998) ed. United States Westward Expansion. Retrieved from> www. globalpolicy. org/empire/history <on December 9, 2006