Impact of Territorial Expansion Between 1800 and 1850

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Between 1800 and 1850, the United States was a nation sprawling in all possible ways. America experienced a pronounced change in national unity. Most of which were effects of the great territorial expansion that occurred during this period. But too much of a good thing is not always good. Territorial expansion destroyed national unity. It was between 1819 and 1824 when the unified nation of America began to divide. The reason not being territorial expansion itself. Triggered by the concept of Manifest Destiny, almost everyone believed that America should extend from “sea to shining sea,” but it was the expansion of slavery into new territories that held the North against the South, and the country’s growing sectionalism that split the nation apart.

The first major debate over the issue of territorial expansion arouse when Missouri wanted to join the union as a slave state. Missouri, which was part of the Louisiana Purchase, which was part of the Northwest Ordinance. The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territories. In 1817, when Missouri applied to the Union as a slave state, the issue of anti slavery vs. pro slavery (North vs. South) came up. Not only will the ordinance be broken, but the balance between slave and free states will be gone. By Missouri’s entrance to the union, there would be more slave states than free states. In December of 1819, Maine applied to become a free state. A compromise was then reached, so that Maine would enter as a free state, while Missouri would enter as a slave state, balancing free and slave states. New territories that would enter above the 36’30’ line had to be free states.

The sectional tensions in United States continue to rise in 1849, when controversies about slavery complicated the debate of annexing new states to the union. In 1849, the number of free states and slave states were equal-fifteen states each. The annexation of territories such as California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah, might...
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