First, many Americans believed that the strength of American values and institutions justified moral claims to hemispheric leadership. Second, the lands on the North American continent west of the Mississippi River (and later into the Caribbean) were destined for American-led political and agricultural improvement.
Third, God and the Constitution ordained an irrepressible destiny to accomplish redemption and democratization throughout the world.
All three of these claims pushed many Americans, whether they uttered the words manifest destiny or not, to actively seek the expansion of democracy.
The new religion of American democracy spread on the feet and in the wagons of those who moved west, imbued with the hope that their success would be the nation’s success.
westward expansion did not come without a cost. It exacerbated the slavery question, pushed Americans toward civil war, and, ultimately, threatened the very mission of American democracy it was designed to aid.
Missouri’s admission as a slave state presented the first major crisis over westward migration and American expansion in the antebellum period. Farther north, lead and iron ore mining spurred development in Wisconsin.7
There is room and health in the country, away from the crowds of idlers and imbeciles. Go west, before you are fitted for no life but that of the factory.”9
The political and legal processes of expansion always hinged on the belief that white Americans could best use new lands and opportunities.
This belief rested on the idea that only Americans embodied the democratic ideals of yeoman agriculturalism extolled by Thomas Jefferson and expanded under Jacksonian democracy.
The most important factors that led to the annexation of Florida included anxieties over runaway enslaved people, Spanish neglect of the region, and the desired defeat of Native American tribes who controlled large portions of lucrative farm territory.
Western settlers usually migrated as families and settled along navigable and potable rivers.
Improvements in travel and exchange fueled economic growth in the 1820s and 1830s. Canal improvements expanded in the East, while road building prevailed in the West. Congress continued to allocate funds for internal improvements.
The use of steamboats grew quickly throughout the 1810s and into the 1820s. As water trade and travel grew in popularity, local, state, and federal funds helped connect rivers and streams.
rail lines promise to move commerce faster, but the rails also encouraged the spreading of towns farther away from traditional waterway locations.
The debate over slavery became one of the prime forces behind the Texas Revolution and the resulting republic’s annexation to the United States.
American politicians feared that adding Texas to the Union would provoke a war with Mexico and reignite sectional tensions by throwing off the balance between free and slave states.
The United States gained lands that would become the future states of California, Utah, and Nevada; most of Arizona; and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.
By the end of the 1850s, Chinese and Mexican immigrants made up one fifth of the mining population in California.
The competition for land, resources, and riches furthered individual and collective abuses, particularly against Native Americans and older Mexican communities. California’s towns, as well as those dotting the landscape throughout the West, struggled to balance security with economic development and the protection of civil rights and liberties.
The U.S. government sought to keep European countries out of the Western Hemisphere and applied the principles of manifest destiny to the rest of the hemisphere. As secretary of state for President James Monroe, John Quincy Adams held the responsibility for the satisfactory resolution of ongoing border disputes between the United States, England, Spain, and Russia.
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