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Ap American History Essay

1. “The opponents of the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War attacked slavery as the root cause of expansion, but in fact it was no more important than other causes.” Assess the validity of this statement, using the documents and your knowledge of U.S. history from 1820-1860 to support your answer.

During the early-mid part of the 19th century (mainly 1820-1860) Americans objected many things they didn’t like. Taxes, the government, even presidents were some of the rejections of the people. But the one thing the people did not like during this time period was the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War. “The opponents of the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War attacked slavery as the root cause for expansion.” However, slavery was not the only reason America sought for expansion.

Other than slavery, people wanted to expand America because they believed in Manifest Destiny (an idea during the 19th century in which people believed that America should expand over the entirety of North America) or because they feared that Texas was an independent state, even the Gold Rush in California (1848-1855) contributed to the expansion of America. Even though “the opponents of the annexation of Texas and the Mexican War attacked slavery as the root cause of expansion” the idea of Manifest Destiny, fear, and the Gold Rush were other important causes for expansion.

As you may know, slavery was the key reason as to why people wanted to expand America, especially southerners. Abolitionists (people who were against slavery) did not like the idea that the expansion of America was based on slavery, but it was. In Document B it states, “Texas…will strengthen ‘the peculiar institution’ of the South, and open a new and vast field for slavery.” Many southerners wanted Texas to be annexed to America because it would allow the south to have more slave states (states that allowed slavery). However, people feared that if Texas was annexed, slavery would expand everywhere in America, and they did not want that. Document C also talks about slavery. It states that, “The slave population of America…must be increased.” Texas is annexed; it will benefit the South in moving some slaves out of the “superabundant slave population” and will ultimately improve the living conditions of slaves because they wouldn’t be as crowded. You see, slavery was an important cause for expansion, but the idea of manifest destiny was just as important.

The idea of manifest destiny came about the early part of the 19th century. People who believed in manifest destiny believed that America should be able to expand to the entirety of North America. In Document A, Thomas Hart Benson says, “…the American population has begun to extend itself to the Oregon [Territory]…I say to them all, Go on!” People like Mr. Benson want America to expand because they want the world to show the world how prosperous America is. In Document D, John L. O’Sullivan said, “A population will soon be in actual occupation of California.” In this document, Sullivan was talking about the California Gold Rush (1848- 1855). Since many people on the eastern side of America have been hearing about the sightings of gold in California, many people decided to venture out to California to collect some of it.

Thousands of people rushed to California that it was given the term “gold rush”. The gold rush allowed America to expand itself into California, which was supported by the manifest destiny believers. Document E also talks about the ideas of manifest destiny. It states, “We ought to have the Bay of San Francisco! Why? Because…I think…our people [should move there]!” The author of Document E obviously believed in the idea of manifest destiny because he wants to see people in San Francisco, which is in California. The manifest destiny idea helped encourage people to have more pride in their nation, which allowed them to expand from the East coast of America to the West.

However, not every idea of expansionism was happy. Others people wanted to expand America because of fear. In Document F it states, “None can fail to see the danger to our safety and future peace if Texas remains an independent state, or becomes an ally or dependency of some foreign nation more powerful than herself.” After Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1835, Texas could not cede the American Union because it needed to enter America with a free state (a state with no slavery) because of the Missouri Compromise (the Missouri Compromise was passed in 1820 in which stated that there would be no slavery in the Louisiana Territory above the 36th parallel). Since there were no other states to enter with Texas, Texas had to remain as an independent state for about ten years (1835- 1845). During that time, people urged for a state to enter as a free state with Texas because, since Texas was not a part of America, it could do whatever it wanted. Things like joining a different nation or starting a war with America were options that were available for Texas. That is why many people wanted Texas to join as quickly as possible. Thankfully, Texas joined with Iowa in 1845.

You see, slavery was not the only cause for expansion in America. The idea of Manifest Destiny and fear allowed the expansion of America, even the Gold Rush encouraged people to settle in California, allowing America to expand from the east coast to the west.

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