In the recent years, United States has been observed to have expanded at a constant and tremendous rate due to various factors which have come to favor the continent (Blotevogel, et al., 1997). Such factors can be traced back to the Westward Expansion period and slavery trade, which have worked towards its achieving economical and political superpower (Calomiris, et al., 1994). In this discussion, therefore, we will focus on how these factors have influenced the expansion and continued growth of the United States and how the expansion exacerbated regional tensions, which eventually led to the Civil War (Calomiris, et al., 1994).
Westward expansion refers to the massive number of people who moved enmasse towards the west or the westward migration of settlers to the American frontiers. This movement was effected by two factors; one the slaves that were taken to the west and secondly the search for better living (Martinez, 1994). A majority of people moved to the west to look for lucrative jobs (Blotevogel, et al., 1997).
Thomas Jefferson expanded the US territory by buying a huge track of land from Louisiana territory (Calomiris, et al., 1994). This annexed the American territory land. The vast land was used to settle the new immigrants and for production purposes (Blotevogel, et al., 1997). For this reason, a lot of people got employed in these farms. This led to increased population in the United States. The increased population enhanced great productivity with cheaply available labour (Calomiris, et al., 1994). This resulted to an increase in economic growth (Blotevogel, et al., 1997).
The efficiency in production was brought about also by the new skills and expertise the immigrant came with. Such skills included clearing of land, ploughing methods, irrigation, draining of wet land for reclamation, fencing of land (Calomiris, et al., 1994). The growing of cotton in the south was boosted by the available slaves in the south and the fact that the south was more or less a rural area made it possible for much of the attention to be focused on agriculture. This resulted in a boom in cotton production and the south controlled the cotton market (Calomiris, et al., 1994).
The cheap transport provided by the steamboats and rail roads tracks revolutionalized transport industry (Blotevogel, et al., 1997). This made it cheaper to transport the farm output some of which were perishable faster to the market.
However, regional disparities in terms of urbanization resulted in sectionalism (Calomiris, et al., 1994). With the south being agriculture-oriented, a vast majority chose to work in the farms and industries rather than pursuing education (Martinez, 1994). The north on the other hand had only about 40% Agrarian and most people pursued education (Blotevogel, et al., 1997).
The increased industrialization and urbanization required that specific skills needed had to be developed. Specialization therefore arose with people pursuing different careers (Blotevogel, et al., 1997). Some become supervisors, clerks, storekeeper, office workers and of course the manual workers (Calomiris, et al., 1994). With the different remunerations associated with these levels social stratification emerged with the high earners becoming the rich and low earners the poor (Martinez, 1994).
With the increased population and complex activities that were on progress the political class had to come up and formulate laws and policies to govern. Such laws were meant to control immigrants and check on their stay, coming up with code of ethics (Blotevogel, et al., 1997).
Manifest destiny is historical general notion that held the belief that United States was meant to expand transversing from Atlantic Sea board to Pacific Ocean (Martinez, 1994). This was meant to justify the ‘obvious’ need for expansion of the territory. The term can be traced back to 1840s when it was used by Jacksonian Democrats in their attempt to promote expansion of the current western United States (Calomiris, et al., 1994). It was later revived by Republican in 1890s as a theoretical justification for the need for the US to expand outside North America (Blotevogel, et al., 1997).
The current American ideology of promoting defending democracy through the world is believed to have its origin in manifest destiny (Calomiris, et al., 1994).
Manifest destiny first manifested itself in continentalism, a belief that United States would cover all of North America (Martinez, 1994). This was an idea held by John Quincy Adams a leading figure during Louisiana Purchase of 1813 and Polk administration of 1840s (Blotevogel, et al., 1997). He did much to propagate the idea of continentalism. Firstly in the signing of 1818 treaty that resulted in the establishment of United States-Canada border which encompasses the region referred to as the Oregon country (Calomiris, et al., 1994). He was also involved in transcontinental agreement of 1819 (Martinez, 1994). This led to purchasing of Florida from Spain, Mexico up to Pacific Ocean and he also formulated Monroe Doctrine that closed western Hemisphere from European colonization (Calomiris, et al., 1994).
Racism as a policy was also used to promote manifest destiny. This was evident with the racist notion that Mexicans were lesser race and could not be considered as Americans due to the fact that they were non-white (Martinez, 1994). It was therefore made as a policy mission to regenerate them by including them in the American democracies. This however, was halted by Mexican cession that brought in the states of Alta, California and Nuevo Mexico states.
Manifest Destiny also led to the purchase of Cuba from Spain as promoted by John L.O. Sullivan in 1848, since the United States feared that Cuba could have been overtaken by Britain (Martinez, 1994).
Manifest Destiny acquired a new meaning during Woodrow Wilson tenure as the President in 1920s (Blotevogel, et al., 1997). This happened after the territorial annexation had ceased. President Wilson went into World War I with the new argument that Americans stood for safe democracies of the world (Calomiris, et al., 1994). Wilson’s version was an overhaul of the former territorial expansionary policy that would take a new twist this time in defining a new American culture that it had a mission of propagating the cause of democracy in the world.
Manifest Destiny brought a lot of rivalries and wars between United States and adjacent territories the Taxas revolution an idealistic approach of Jefferson to O’Sullivan in an attempt to join the US as independent territory (Blotevogel, et al., 1997). It has also led to Oregon dispute with Great Britain in an attempt to divide the northern part. This led to the signing of Oregon Treaty of 1846 (Calomiris, et al., 1994).
The Mexican American War of 1846 was also as a result of Manifest Destiny which led to the annexation of Mexico into the US (Martinez, 1994).
The US also intervened in the Spanish-Cuba War which led to Spanish American War of 1898. This resulted to the capture of the Cuban territory (Martinez, 1994).
President Wilson later led Americans into World War I with a new version of Manifest Destiny of ensuring safe world democracy (Calomiris, et al., 1994).
In conclusion it can be noted that the growth and expansion of the United States resulted from Westward migration of settlers to the American frontier and the slave trade. Initially, the American authorities accessed land for expansion but later used Manifest Destiny as a mission to annex the US territory either through diplomacy or force. It later took a new dimension with the US holding a mission of fighting for safe world democracies.
Blotevogel, Hans H., and Fleming, Anthony J., eds. (1997). People, Jobs, and Mobility in the New Europe. New York: Wiley.
Calomiris, Charles W. and Christopher Hanes. (1994). Consistent Output Series for the Antebellum and Post-Bellum Periods: Issues and Preliminary Results. Journal of Economic History 54, 409–22.
Martínez, Oscar J. (1994). Border People: Life and Society in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.