United States Expansion




Throughout the first half of the 1800s or 19th century there were many factors influencing United States expansion. From the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 the United States had tripled in size since its original thirteen colonies and only paid forty-five million dollars in doing so. The idea of Manifest Destiny spread quickly throughout the country and soon thousands were moving westward in search of a new way of life. The idea of Manifest Destiny was for the U.S. to occupy the entire continent. The only problem was that the land it was expanding on to didn’t belong to the U.S.
One such factor that influenced the expansion of the U.S. was the occupation of nearby territories by foreign countries. The largest territory and first one to be bought by the U.S. was the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. In order for the United States to expand successfully into the west they needed control of the Mississippi River, which at the time was owned by France. The port at New Orleans was extremely important to the navigation of the Mississippi and provided a good market for trade. While this purchase was very successful, others did not go as well. Prior to the Mexican Cession of 1848 the United States and Mexico were having boundary disputes over where the Texas boarder existed. President Polk reacted by sending troops into Mexico to protect the Texas boundary lines. A year and a half later Mexico surrendered and Texas was granted the Rio Grande border line in the Treaty of Guadalupe. Because of the different nations or countries that owned land on the continent, the U.S. was forced to purchase or fight for the land it wanted. This caused the newly acquired territories to have a more diverse group of people, which affected the social development of the nation as a whole.
Another huge factor that played a role in expansion was that of available resources. As the people began to move westward they would settle in areas with vast amounts of natural resources such as lakes or streams, where they could gather food. Lakes were very important to travel because they provided drinking water for the people and attracted wild animals to the area, which could be hunted for food. Also if an area were to dry or rocky it wouldn’t be settled. People looked for the best places to live, places they could profit from the most. During the gold rush everyone traveled to the western coast in hopes of becoming rich for the very same reason. This factor affected the economical and social development of the U.S. because certain areas or regions would produce specific products. Different types of people would also live in the separate areas depending on wealth or trade that the family specified in.
The third and maybe the greatest factor affecting the migration across the land was geography. Mountains, rivers, lakes, plains, and in some cases canyons were among the biggest impediments for people moving out west. At first people began to settle beyond the Appalachian Mountains and slowly moved westward towards the Mississippi River. Here they had to cross with their belongings safely without sinking them or getting them wet. Next they had to cross the Great Plains that stretched on for miles and miles without food or water. Depending on the time of year it was the weather conditions varied sometimes making it impossible to travel because of snow or heavy fog. Finally, the Rocky Mountains stood in their path. Being the only obstacle left between them and the Pacific Ocean, the Rocky Mountains were the most difficult to pass. Travelers would be lost or stranded in the mountains with no food for weeks, sometimes turning to cannibalism. Many people died from disease and starvation during their difficult trip west proving it to be virtually impossible to reach the other side of the continent. These natural barriers slowed the progress of expansion across America and isolated groups of people traveling, causing them to settle where they were. Because of this, small towns or villages formed along the routes west. The geography also contributed to the social development of America as the barriers isolated people and kept the economy the same in different sections of the