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rotating gif.gifGo to United States History I.26 for material on the topic of Manifest Destiny

Topics on the Page

Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way. Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1860
Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way. Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1860

  • Purchase of Florida
  • The War of 1812
  • Trail of Tears
  • Annexation of Texas
  • Acquisition of Oregon Territory
  • Mexican War
  • Gadsden Purchase

primary_sources.PNGManifest Destiny = the pervasive belief in American cultural and racial superiority- the idea that Americans could "civilize" inferior people.

Purchase of Florida

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-Spain, who had lost Havana to Britain during the French and Indian War, traded its Florida territory to the British to reacquire Cuba in 1763.

-Colonists in the Florida territory were loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War in 1776.
Most of the war took place far north of Florida, but Florida suffered occasional raids.

-In 1779, Spain took advantage of Britain's preoccupation with the colonies and invaded West Florida. By 1781, Britain had lost West Florida to Spain. At the end of the American Revolution, Spain regained the rest of Florida.
-primary_sources.PNG The Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution in 1783 and returned control of Florida to Spain.

-Spain's control of Florida was short lived after the United States were recognized. Failed attempts at Spanish colonization created a disconnect with the Spanish mainland. American immigrants gradually moved to the Florida territory and demanded indenpendence from Spain in 1810.
-In 1821, the United States was successful in purchasing Florida from Spain. Florida became a territory of the United States.

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War of 1812

-The War of 1812 created a thriving new nationalism in the United States despite its inconclusive outcome.

-Three decades after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Britain began heavily interfering with American international trade. As an expansionist country, the United States had no choice but to declare war on Great Britain.

-The early stages of the war were defined by several American naval victories.The war was not the main priority of Britain originally, but gained full focus after the defeat of Napolean by the British in 1814.

-The American advantage had turned when the British captured Washington D.C.and set fire to the Capitol building.

-Francis Scott Key witnessed the attempted siege of Baltimore by the British. After the British ships retreated, Key was influenced to write the "Star Spangled Banner."

- The war ended in stalemate in 1814 when both countries signed the Treaty of Ghent.

The Smithsonian's "The War of 1812, 200 Years Later" has many great resources to use with students.

Trail of Tears

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-One of the many repercussions of President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Trail of Tears was supposed to be a voluntary movement of Native American tribes to designated areas of the United States. Instead, the Trail of Tears became a forced and often violent process.

-The removal included members of the Cherokee, Muskogee or Creek, Seminole and Choctaw nations as well as many other smaller tribes. The tribes were sent from their homelands to a territory in present day Oklahoma.

-Many Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while on route to their new location. 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokees died in the process.

Annexation of Texas

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-In the 1820s and 1830s a significant American population was forming in the region just north of the Rio Grande thanks to Stephen Austin, who won the approval of the Mexican government.
  • In theory, the settlers were required to swear allegiance to the Mexican government, learn the Spanish language, and adopt Roman Catholicism.
-Americans in the Texas territory successfully pushed for independence from Mexico in 1836 despite vacant threats by Mexico to declare war. In 1837 Texas was recognized as a republic.
-The northern U.S. States were cautious about adopting Mexico, for it would surely benefit slavery in the South.
-It was not until 1844 that the Annexation of Texas was passed by President John Tyler, just three days before leaving office. The move had relieved a huge burden from James Polk who was elected in 1844. Instead, Polk was instead left to face the Mexican War in 1846.

The Annexation of Hawaii: A collection of documents

Acquisition of Oregon Territory
The Oregon trail at the eastern side of the Oregon-Washington border.
The Oregon trail at the eastern side of the Oregon-Washington border.

-The United States and several other countries competed for ownership of Oregon during the 1800s. In 1818, Britain and the United States would agree to joint ownership of the territory, an agreement that would last until 1846.

-In the 1830s, rumors of fertile soil spurred a westward migration of thousands of Americans to the Oregon territory. These settlers differed from the British fur traders that occupied the area. As the fur trade declined and the American population expanded, negotiations to solve the Oregon issue were reopened.

-The famous phrase: " "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!" referred to President Polk's campaign to take an aggressive stance and assert the 54"40' line into negotiation with Britain.
-In 1846, Congress approved the Oregon Treaty, which established the boundary between Canada and the United States at the 49th parallel and ceded the Oregon Territory to the US from Britain. The 286,000 square miles of land includes the present-day states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and portions of Montana and Wyoming.


Play the Settler's Trail game to experience what life might be like traveling to the new frontiers of the early-mid 19th century.

Mexican War 1846-1848

The Virginia regiment and Webster's battalion in Saltillo, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War.
The Virginia regiment and Webster's battalion in Saltillo, Mexico, during the Mexican-American War.

-Fueled by Manifest Destiny, the United States pressured for further expansion during the Mexican-American War.

primary_sources.PNGOpposition to the Mexican War of 1846

-Although agreeing to its independence as suggested by Great Britain, Mexico refused to recognize the annexation of Texas into the United States, thereby preparing for war.

-General Zachary Taylor led an army to the northern bank of the Rio Grande to meet the Mexican advance at the southern bank. Taylor refused to retreat to the Nueces, thus provoking a Mexican advance across the Rio Gande which ambushed the Americans, killing or wounding 16.

-War was then declared on Mexico in 1846.

  • "We have tried every effort at reconciliation...But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States [the Rio Grande], has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are at war. As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country." (President James K. Polk)

-Under General Taylor, the United States crossed the Rio Grande and captured territory in present day New Mexico and California. Taylor, with an army one-fourth the size of Mexican dictator Santa Anna's (at 20,000), drove the Mexicans back in the Battle of Buena Vista in 1847, securing the Californian and New Mexican conquests.

-After several peace offerings from the United States, Santa Anna and the already-beaten Mexico were determined to regain land lost in California and New Mexico. After failed negotiations, General Winfield Scott led an army to take Vera Cruz and Mexico City.

-By not accepting earlier terms, Mexico accepted heavy losses when signing the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo in 1848, ceding both New Mexico and California to the United States and accepting the Rio Grande as the unconditional border.
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Gadsden Purchase

-The last purchase adding to the United States' mainland.
-James Gadsden was a ambassador to Mexico during the purchase in 1853, a time when the United States had plans to build a transcontinental railroad.
-The $10,000,000 purchase also put to rest the border disagreements between Mexico and the United States that were a product of the Treaty of Guadeloupe-Hidalgo.