Westward expansion and the civil war
Manifest Destinies: Americas Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War by Steven E. WoodworthA sweeping history of the 1840s, Manifest Destinies captures the enormous sense of possibility that inspired America’s growth and shows how the acquisition of western territories forced the nation to come to grips with the deep fault line that would bring war in the near future.
Steven E. Woodworth gives us a portrait of America at its most vibrant and expansive. It was a decade in which the nation significantly enlarged its boundaries, taking Texas, New Mexico, California, and the Pacific Northwest; William Henry Harrison ran the first modern populist campaign, focusing on entertaining voters rather than on discussing issues; prospectors headed west to search for gold; Joseph Smith founded a new religion; railroads and telegraph lines connected the country’s disparate populations as never before.
When the 1840s dawned, Americans were feeling optimistic about the future: the population was growing, economic conditions were improving, and peace had reigned for nearly thirty years. A hopeful nation looked to the West, where vast areas of unsettled land seemed to promise prosperity to anyone resourceful enough to take advantage. And yet political tensions roiled below the surface; as the country took on new lands, slavery emerged as an irreconcilable source of disagreement between North and South, and secession reared its head for the first time.
Rich in detail and full of dramatic events and fascinating characters, Manifest Destinies is an absorbing and highly entertaining account of a crucial decade that forged a young nation’s character and destiny.
The War and Westward Movement
Slavery in the Western Territories. To many nineteenth century Americans, the expansion of slavery into Western territories caused a great deal of controversy.
malalas magic pencil read aloud
Even before the American colonies won their independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War, settlers were migrating westward into what are now the states of Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as parts of the Ohio Valley and the Deep South. The Monroe Doctrine, adopted in , was the closest America ever came to making Manifest Destiny official policy; it put European nations on notice that the U. Westward the Course of Empire. The debate over whether the U. When the Dred Scott case prevented Congress from passing laws prohibiting slavery and the Kansas-Nebraska act gave citizens of new states the right to decide for themselves whether their state would be free or slaveholding, a wave of settlers rushed to populate the Kansas-Nebraska Territory in order to make their position—pro- or anti-slavery—the dominant one when states were carved out of that territory. The slavery debate intensified after the Republic of Texas was annexed and new lands acquired as a result of the Mexican War and an agreement with Britain that gave the U. The question was only settled by the American Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery.
Jewett in his monumental painting The Promised Land—The Grayson Family , which also represents the optimism and aspirations of many Americans, Northern and Southern, who moved west in search of a better life. Sharp differences arose, however, over whether the new society created in the West would be free of slavery or not. When the United States gained more territory during the War with Mexico — , the question of how to handle slavery in those newly gained lands grew even more pressing. Southerners believed that if they were outnumbered in Congress, laws could be passed to abolish slavery in the South, even though free soilers denied that this was their intention. Many Southerners also distrusted the alternative policy of popular sovereignty, in which the people who settled the territories of the West would be allowed to decide for themselves whether their new state would or would not allow slavery. Congress attempted to establish popular sovereignty as the law of the land in the Compromise of , authored and passed through the efforts of Senators Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Stephen Douglas.
Most of these people had left their homes in the East in search of economic opportunity. Like Thomas Jefferson , many of these pioneers associated westward migration, land ownership and farming with freedom. In Europe, large numbers of factory workers formed a dependent and seemingly permanent working class; by contrast, in the United States, the western frontier offered the possibility of independence and upward mobility for all. The survival of American freedom depended on it. Meanwhile, the question of whether or not slavery would be allowed in the new western states shadowed every conversation about the frontier. In , the Missouri Compromise had attempted to resolve this question: It had admitted Missouri to the union as a slave state and Maine as a free state, preserving the fragile balance in Congress. However, the Missouri Compromise did not apply to new territories that were not part of the Louisiana Purchase, and so the issue of slavery continued to fester as the nation expanded.