Ancient history

United States in the 19th century

During the 19th century, American territory grew during the westward march. In addition, the nation was divided in the greatest civil war in American history.

Shortly after securing its independence, the United States consolidate its political institutions and form a feeling of patriotism in all citizens. Throughout the 19th century, this country went through different events that led to the growth and development of its territory. The great highlight of this period was the territorial growth experienced with the well-known “march to the west ”.

March to the west

During the entire 19th century, the United States went through a process of territorial expansion that made the nation emerge from a small strip of land in eastern North America – known as thirteen colonies – intensively and aggressively occupied the regions of the central plains and reached the west coast bathed by the Pacific Ocean.

This territorial expansion became known as the “Westward March” and began as soon as the thirteen colonies gained their independence from England in the 18th century. On that occasion, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris In 1783, American colonists were granted an extensive swath of land to the west from England, stretching from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River.

This extensive swath of land had been conquered by England from the French with the Seven Years' War , and its occupation had long been desired by American colonists. The metropolitan ban on colonizing this region was one of the factors that worsened relations between settlers and English. After independence, this entire region was occupied by the Americans, and the natives who lived there were forced to move.

The expansion of the Americans to the west took place in two ways:first, through diplomacy and the purchase of territories; second, by war. Over the course of the 19th century, the United States purchased vast territories from other European nations, so specifically Louisiana was purchased from the French in 1803, Florida was purchased from the Spaniards in 1819 and Alaska was acquired from Russia in 1867.

The French were forced to sell Louisiana to the Americans because of the need for resources to continue the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century. The Spaniards, because of all the turmoil of the Napoleonic period, had their positions in Florida weakened and, to avoid a war, they sold that region. Finally, the Russians sold Alaska because of the risk that this region would be invaded by the British and the financial difficulties they were facing at the time.

The occupation of the western territories by the Americans was driven by an ideology developed at the time known as Manifest Destiny . This ideology officially emerged from an article written by a journalist in the year 1845 and basically defended the idea that the possession of the West by the Americans was part of divine providence. With this idea of ​​divine predestination, the Americans justified all the violence committed in the course of conquering these territories.

Furthermore, during this territorial expansion, the US government encouraged citizens to move and settle in the west through the Homestead Act ). This law, enacted in 1862, sold plots of land in the west at ridiculously low prices to interested citizens, provided they pledged to live on that land for five years.

The big losers of the American westward march were the indigenous . Original inhabitants of the lands occupied by the Americans, these peoples suffered different types of violence during the 19th century and were repeatedly forced to abandon their lands to make room for the white man. In addition, the way of life of many indigenous nations has been destroyed as a result of the shrinking of indigenous territories and the near extinction of the bison.

Mexican-American War

Not only through diplomacy did the Americans expand during the 19th century, but also through war. The rivalry with Mexico arose with the occupation of Texas by American settlers, still in the 1820s. Until then, the Mexican authorities had allowed the settlement and colonization of this region by these settlers.

Later, conflicts of interest emerged between American settlers and the Mexican authorities. This led to a revolt by these settlers that led to the “Texas Revolution ” and resulted in Texas' independence from Mexico and its annexation to the United States in 1836. This event led Mexico to sever ties with the United States.

A decade later, US ambitions for new Mexican territories (corresponding to those from the Rockies to the Pacific) drove these two nations to war. The Mexican-American War began in 1846 and ended in 1848, after the signing of the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty , in which Mexico – defeated – ceded a large part of its territory, and the Rio Grande was established as a new border between the two countries.

Secession War

During the 19th century, great tension existed between the southern states and the northern states because of the relationship involving the use of slaves of African origin in the newly conquered territories. The northerners defended the maintenance of slave labor only and exclusively in the southern states, without its expansion to new territories. The southerners defended the expansion of slavery to these lands as well.

This discussion provoked small clashes between militias of the two groups in certain places, such as Kansas during the 1850s. With the presidential elections and the victory of Abraham Lincoln , the rivalry turned into war. The southerners, unhappy with Lincoln's victory, declared secession, that is, they separated from the Union and formed the Confederated States of America .

The separation of the Southerners started the conflict in 1861, when the Union responded to a Southern attack by sending some 80,000 troops. The well-known Civil War – also called the American Civil War – lasted until 1865 and ended with the defeat of the South and a death toll of 600,000.

The southern states that had declared secession were reintegrated into the Union and, as a consequence of their defeat, were forced to accept the abolition of slavery throughout the American territory as of the 13th Amendment. Constitutional. After that war, these states underwent a major reconstruction because of all the destruction caused by the war.

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