Manifest Destiny and Its Legacy Chapter 17


  • US Diplomacy and Politics dominated entirely by territorial expansion disputes in 1840s
  • Provocations occur with Britain due to settlement in Oregon region
  • Annexation of Texas causes conflicts with Mexico, causing war that led to expansion of slavery in US
  • America gains several states through all of this

Key Figures

The Accession of "Tyler Too"

  • William Henry Harrison becomes president in 1841
  • Daniel Webster and Henry Clay (sec. of state and senate member respectively) lead the Whig Party, giving Harrison influence
  • 4 weeks later - Harrison dies of pneumonia
  • John Tyler, Virginian, leaves Dem. party and joins Whigs but opposed many Whig ideas, becomes president; Called Tyler "Too" because of popular campaign song titled "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too"

John Tyler: A President Without a Party

  • Bill for Fiscal Bank and Fiscal Corporation (2nd try) vetoed by Tyler on Constitutional grounds
  • Dems overjoyed by this, Whigs very angry, burning effigies and sending death threats
  • Congress debates impeaching Tyler, Tyler's cabinet, almost all resigns, and Tyler is forced from his party
  • Tariff distributing money from sale of western land to states passed by Whigs, rewritten to drop distribution and lower rate to 32%; Tyler forced to pass because gov't needed money

A War of Words With Britain

  • Americans very anti-British, with hatred towards past wars, with no more Pro-British Federalists to influence, as well as Britain looking down on and attacking Americans
  • Britain owed money by US - an unpopular concept to US citizens, debt which some states defaulted on following Panic of 1837
  • 1837 - Small, failed rebellion in Canada, to which the US sent money and weapons to help; Britain attacked US supply ships
  • 1841 - Escaped slaves in Bahamas caused South to fear that they would flee to Caribbean or Canada

Manipulating the Maine Maps

  • British wanted to build a road from Halifax to Quebec that would impede on land of disputed ownership, causing settlers of Britain and US to clash in Aroostook Valley War (1838-1839)
  • Britain sends Alexander Baring, then Lord Ashburton I, to make peace by working with Daniel Webster
  • US and Britain divided land, with Britain getting necessary land for their road and US getting Minnesota

The Lone Star of Texas Shines Alone

  • Texas facing hostilities from Mexico, who refused to recognize Texas' independent status; Threatened war if the US annexed Texas
  • Texas negotiated with France and Britain for help, signing treaties with France, Holland, and Belgium; France wants to divide America by working with Texas
  • Britain works with Texas to stop southwestern advance of US settlement, give Britain chance to challenge Monroe Doctrine, attack slavery in US south, gain free train, and import cotton from Texas

The Belated Texas Nuptials

  • Texas becomes pressing issue in presidential elections, with the US fearing British involvement; James K. Polk wins election at this time
  • John Tyler convinces Congress to annex Texas by making requirement <50% instead of 2/3, leading to annexation in 1845
  • Mexico believes US has stolen Texas, despite Texas being independent for 9 years

Oregon Fever Populates Oregon

  • From Rocky Mountains to Pacific, Northern CA to south border of Alaska considered to be "Oregon Country", a portion of which was claimed by Spain, Russia, Britain, and the US each
  • Spain gives Florida to US with Florida Treaty of 1819, Russia moves north out of Oregon Country in 1824
  • British held strong to their claim over Oregon Country; US did the same, reasoning with their strong history of involvement with the area
  • US and Britain agree to share Oregon Country (divided by Columbia River) in Treaty of 1818, after which thousands of Americans run to settle there

A Mandate (?) for Manifest Destiny

  • 1844 election sees Henry Clay as Whig nomination, and Polk as Dem nomination, the "Dark horse" candidate
  • Focus on Manifest Destiny, the belief that the US was destined to expand from Atlantic to Pacific, combining the ideas of empire and liberty; Democrats had mandate for expansionist policies, this was unclear
  • Dem campaign supports Texas annexation and painted Clay as a corrupt slave owner, despite Polk being a slave owner himself, whereas Whigs held the exact opposite positions
  • Polk wins by very small margin

Polk the Purposeful

  • Polk was a sturdy president, but not bright, developed 4 point program that emphasized lowering tariffs, restoring the independent treasury, settling the Oregon problem, and acquiring California
  • Polk able to succeed in first 3 points rather quickly

Misunderstanding With Mexico

  • Expansionists wanted the fertile land and accessible San Francisco Bay in CA, which had a very mixed populations with Americans in the minority
  • Polk attempts to buy CA, but Mexico instead defaults $3 million owed to US, cuts off diplomatic ties, and disputes south border of Texas
  • Rumors spread saying Britain is close to taking California, which would violate Monroe Doctrine
  • Polk sends John Slidell to buy California for $25 million, but Mexico does not allow this

American Blood on American (?) Soil

  • 1846 - Polk pushes for war, sending 4000 soldiers to Texas under General Taylor's command, declaring war entirely 4 months later due to unpaid debts, but his Cabinet did not support his reasoning
  • That night - Washington receives news of Mexico crossing Rio Grande and attacking Taylor's soldiers - The reasoning Polk's cabinet needed
  • Mexico has shed "American blood upon American soil," after which Congress votes overwhelmingly for war, but Polk's claims seen as false after he could not specify where on "American soil" the attack had happened, the soil belonged to Mexico
  • War went on anyway, with each side blaming the other for causing the war

The Mastering of Mexico

  • Antonio López de Santa Anna exiled by Cuba, allowed to come to US but Santa Anna betrayed and led Mexico in fight against US
  • 1846 - August - General Kearny resides at Santa Fe, and marched to California; June - Captain Fremont works with US Navy in California to overthrow Mexico, establishing independent Bear Flag Republic
  • General Taylor invades Mexico in 1846, driving back Santa Anna's 20,000 troops with his 5,000
  • 1847 - General Winfield Scott arrives at Vera Cruz and heads north to Mexico City, where he led the US to victory in this city in September

Fighting Mexico for Peace

  • Scott brings Nicholas P. Trist to negotiate peace with Mexico, in which he nearly fails by attempting to bribe Santa Anna; Polk tries to get him back but Trist will not leave
  • Feb. 2, 1848 - Trist and Mexico negotiate Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which gives US official ownership of Texas, grants US California, and ~1/2 of Mexico, for which the US would pay $15 million, as well as cover the $3.25 million that Mexico was debted to US citizens
  • Polk submits this treaty to Senate, which the anti-expansionist Whigs opposed, who had actually threatened to cut off funding for the war in 1847
  • Radical Expansionists wanted ALL of Mexico; Congress comes to agreement and approves Trist's treaty

Profit and Loss In Mexico

Territory in the US following the Mexican-American War
  • The war was small, with around 13,000 US casualties (most from disease), but resulted in the US increasing its land by 1/3 and giving experience to future Civil War generals, such as Grant and Lee
  • US military served with success, no defeats or mistakes, establishing US as superpower to Britain
  • Mexico suffered from poor leadership, but fought valiantly regardless, gaining US respect; however, Mexico came to see US as greedy bully whereas they were previously a friend
  • Northern states argued that the war was to expand slavery in South; Daniel Wilmot from PA would ban slavery in any territory acquired from Mexico; Did not make it past Senate - Slavery issues brought to light by this war would go unsettled until Civil War


Caucus - an unofficial organization/consultation of like-minded people to to plan/advance their cause

Royalty - payments to an inventor/author/composer for the profits from the profits of using their work

Default - To fail to pay a loan or interest due

Repudiate - Refuse responsibility for a bill/debt

Protectorate - Relation of a strong nation to a weaker one

Colossus - (political) figure of extraordinary power

Resolution - A formal statement of policy/judgement by legislature requiring no legal statute

Dark Horse - (political) a candidate with little support who unexpectedly wins the election

Mandate - (political) the belief that an official has been issued a clear charge by the electorate to pursue some particular policy goal

Platform - The campaign document stating a candidate’s position on issues, where they stand

Created By
Dustin Sullivan

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