Westward Expansion

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Anthony Jones

J. King

History 171A

October 31, 1997


The movement of people that has resulted in the settlement of America is one of the most fascinating and significant topics in the history of the United States. Nowhere else has an area of equal size been settled as a result of the initiative of small groups and individuals. Westward expansion helped stimulate the American economy.

The first organized migration to California originated in Platte County, on the far western frontier of Missouri. Reports described California as "a perfect paradise, a perpetual spring." The people of Platte County formed the Western Emigration Society, which sent out information about California throughout the Mississippi Valley (Wexler,139). Several merchant and landowners were concerned about the number of prospective emigrants that they launched a campaign disparaging California. This act proved to be effective, in 1842 and 1843 relatively few emigrants followed the first migration to California. The first wagon train was led by John Bidwell, the organizer of the Western Emigration Society. Bidwell let the pioneers across the Rockies, a party of 69 adults and children who divided into two groups after crossing. One group headed north into Oregon, while the other, led by Bidwell continued west to California.

By 1842, the currency system of the Republic of Texas was in such dire straits that even the government would not accept redbacks for payment of taxes. Other plans were attempted to get the republic fiscal house in order, but these plans achieved only slightly better results. However, as the economy in the United States improved and the Texas annexation movement gained momentum, currency in Texas slowly recovered some of its values before Texas was annexed in 1845(thewest@pbs.org).

Slavery was a big issue, many anti-slavery leaders came out strong against adding another potential slave state to the Union. The basic concerns were - war with Mexico and the division over slavery(Remini). Clay argued against incorporating Texas into the Union when he was almost assured of the Whig Party's nomination for president. In the election Clay, who hedged on his annexation position, was narrowly defeated by James Polk, a former Tennessee senator who ran on a strong expansionist platform( Bender212).

The Senate rejected the Texas annexation treaty submitted by John Tyler in 1844. Tyler resubmitted the issue for congressional vote again in 1845, he proposed that the two houses of Congress pass a joint resolution that Texas be annexed. Such a resolution required only a majority vote in both houses of Congress, which avoided the necessity for the two-thirds Senate majority vote required for treaty ratification (Bender214). The strategy worked, on March 1, 1845 Lame-duck President John Tyler signed the joint Resolution inviting Texas to join the Union. This was the first of this procedure to acquire a territory. The issue of whether to admit Texas remained divisive, with opponents of slavery condemning the admissions of Texas as a territorial grab intended to create a new slave state.

Following the ratification of the treaty, some politicians felt the manifest destiny of the United States was to annex all of Mexico. The territory gains between 1845 and 1848 were enough to satisfy all but the most zealous advocates of manifest destiny. John O'Sullivan criticized the opponents of Texas annexation. He went beyond the immediate issue of Texas to argue that it is the fate of America to grow to encompass much, if not all of the North American continent. O'Sullivan is credited with inventing the term "manifest destiny" to describe his expansionist views for America. This phrase was coined in a New York Morning News editorial. (Wexler,153).

The added territories gained from the war with Mexico caused the controversy over the question of slavery between the North and the South....
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