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Essay: “American Expansion from 1800 to 1848. Certainly Benefited the Nation, but Came at a Very High Cost…”

Nineteenth century was a time of remarkable growth and expansion in America. It was the century when America had grown with the addition of Texas, Louisiana and the land added through the war with Mexico. It was the century marked by the migration of settlers to the West of the continent because of the gold rush and desire for novelties. The century was also marked by the controversy surrounding the flourishing of slavery. Without a shadow of doubt, rapid American expansion in the century had a strong impact on the American nation. In my paper I would like to discuss whether the expansion from 1800 to 1848 was an overall beneficial process or it had been achieved at an unreasonably high cost for the American nation. In order to agree or disagree with the above argument I find it useful to mention the examples of American expansion activities. Then I would like to analyze these examples and see their positive and negative effect. All this would make it possible for a relevant conclusion to be drawn.

To begin with I choose to talk about the Western expansion of America at that period of time. The first wave of expansion started early in the nineteenth century. It was accompanied by the rise of manufacturing in New England and general increase in mobility throughout the nation. Such expansion was the perfect way to achieve the unity/grouping of natural resources and use them in the most efficient and effective way. In order to get to the Western regions of the country the white settlers from the East, specifically New England, had to pass Native American settlements that occupied the Centre and West of the country. It is obvious that when passing the Native American tribes and facing with the fact that their culture was completely different, white Americans were eager to have them change their traditions and the „odd” way of life. This was one of the first times America showed its gaining tactic that is hostilely acquiring lands, claiming that this is done to help the latter.

As a result of such a clash bloody battles surged, in which, of course, the white settlers were more successful. Upon that the American government had restricted the lands of Native Americans to small portions. In the light of those happenings, it even started the program aimed at the assimilation of Native Americans, in order to unite white American and Native American cultures.

A second point I would like to mention is the problem of democracy. The founding fathers have established the principles of democracy that had to be applied in the country very well. However, as the country began to expand, it started to struggle with implementing these democratic principles into living. Moreover, the trend towards expansion made the weak groups of society, such as women, slaves and Native Americans even more powerless. This is so because nineteenth century was also the time when the theories about the survival of the fittest had firstly appeared. Thus, it was considered that weak members of the society were doomed for unprivileged existence. Such ambiguity of democracy, as well as the geographical expansion, had also had a very dramatic effect on the American people, making them harsher and individual. Purchase of Louisiana – the acquisition of the formerly French lands was another factor that had a great effect on the America as a whole and on the society in particular. This purchase has increased the economic wellbeing of the United States greatly. Furthermore, it played a very important role in uniting Americans who lived in the East and in the West. Additionally, this acquisition was so remarkable, because it was achieved by peaceful means. The positive effects were obvious at first, whereas some years later the newly acquired land became a war field for the federalists and their opponents. Thus, once again, the people who lived in the stated mattered to the officials only as voters at the upcoming elections.

A figure that played a very important role in the purchase of Louisiana was James Monroe who was appointed by Thomas Jefferson to negotiate with the European nations for obtaining New Orleans. Though, Monroe managed to purchase the Louisiana lands for a ridiculous price, instead of purchasing the port for two million dollars authorized by Congress. Such luck can be explained by two main factors: first of all, the time Louisiana was purchased was exactly the time when Napoleon could not expand the French empire and maintain control of the colonies already under French rule. This was because thousands of his troops were killed in Haiti trying to put down a slave revolt led by Toussaint L’Ouverture. The second factor, is that at that time France renewed its tensions with Britain.

The last fact I would like to mention is the conclusion of the Mexican War that occurred in 1848. This war, obviously won by the United Stated, helped the country receive control of the Texas, California and New Mexico territories. These newly acquired regions rapidly started to be populated by settlers from various parts of the country. At that time it was clear that the Western expansion would be linked to the future of slavery. Thus, once again that region became the battle field where North and South focused their significant effort on pursuing their political desires in regards to slavery. It is apparent that a conclusion on such a controversial matter could not be reached easily, thus it was slowly dragged into the Civil War several years later.

As a final point I would like to say that surely the process of expansion was very beneficial for America at that time. In fact, maybe because of the rapid expansion in the nineteenth century America today is one of the greatest world powers. However, the benefits and advancement of the expansion being advantageous factors for the humanity, came at such a cost that they affected people’s lives in a very negative way. Many Native Americans were killed, and others were forced to assimilate or leave their places of residence. Principles of democracy proposed by the founding fathers were not fully introduced and many groups suffered. Finally, the politicians started to used people and not work for their wellbeing. Thus, it has to be realized that progress is a great thing to achieve, however, achieving this progress takes a lot of stepping over people’s lives.

June 17, 2012Tags: