Manifest Destiny: Oregon and Texas (1820-48)


Figure 1.--

The Revolutionary War and Amerivan diplomacy created an American Republic with the Mississippi as the Westrn border (1783), The Emperor Napoleon provided a huge tract to the west of the Mississippi--the Louisian Purchase (1803). The subsequent expansion of the United States hingened on two territories--Oregin and Texas. After the War of 1812 and the increasing realization that Canadians did not want to be part of America, th idea of Manifest Destiny began to take hold, the expasion west to the Pacific Coast. This involved confrontation with foreign powers. The most serious was with Britain which claimed the Oregon Territory. Britain had the military power to prevent further American expansion, but the cost would be high of fighting the United States in such aemote location. In the end the issue woukld be settled by demographics. Large numbers of Americans settled the southern Oregon Territory, tavelling over the Oregon Trail. The path to the south was more complicated. Spain as a colonial power was replaced by the new Mexican Republic. Mexico was not as great a military power as Britain, but the power differential between Mexico and the United States in the pre-0industrial era was not as great as it would later become after America's industrial expansion. There were, however, serious domestic political considerations. After the War of 1812 slavery began to develop as a serious devisive issue. This was temporarily resolved by the Missouri Compromise (1820), but Mexican Territory was outside the area of the territory coverd by that compromise. Thus adding Mexican territory would mean undoing the compromise. As in Oregon, the issue would eventually be partially resolved by demographics, but ultimately a war. American began settling in the norther Mexican territory of Texas which even before the arrival of the Americans resisted control by the Mexican centrl govrnment. American settlement would lead to the war of independemce (1835-36). Resistnce by anti-slave forces meant that Texas fior a decade existed as an independent republic which legalized slavery. The Mexicans did not try to retake slavery, but made it clear that it would not accept annexation by the United States. President Polk (1845-49), a strong Jacksonian, moved forward on both Oregon and Texas. A compromise was reached with Britain over Oregon, but the issue of Texas and the southeast would be settled by war.

Canada

The Continental Congress at first assumed that the Canadians would join them. It is one reason the Cintinental Congress got its name. It was not the American Congress. From the beginning even before the Revolution, Americans had a coninntal vission. The British were aware of it and sought to pin the Americans east of the Apalachins. British regulations prohibited Americns from specifically settling beyond the Apalanchins--the Quebec Act (1774). And they extended Canada's borders south to the Ohio. This helped create a barrier to American expansion west. And the British exercized a greater degree of control in Canada than in the 13 Atantic-coast colonies. This would prove one of the causes of the revolution--becoming one of the Intolerable Acts. It is no accident that the first unified colonial legislature was called the Continntal Congress and the army crafted by Washington, the Continental Army. American revolutionroes pointed out the absurity of an island governing a continent. [Payne] This idea of joining with Canada died hard, and again in the War of 1812, Americans thought that Canada might finally join thm. Again they did not. After the War of 1812 and the increasing realization that Canadians did not want to be part of United States, the idea of Manifest Destiny with an exclusively westward orientation began to take hold. And as expansion north was effectively prevented by the British and Canadian objections--except of course for Russian Alaska. Here Britain without meaning to be was crucial. The Russians believed that the British were going to seize Alaska. Given British determination to hold Canada, American expansion would have to be west to the Pacific Ocean.

Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny is the idea that the fledgling United States not only could, but was destined to encompass a continent. British power prevented expansion north and the Hispanic populstion to the south mant that it was the West that became emodied in the american consciouness--that america should stretch from coast to coast. It became the fuel behind western settlement. The concept of Manifest Destiny existed more than a century before the term came to be used by Americans. From a very early point Americans began thinking about westard expansion. The 13 colonies thay develpped made claims west far beyond the Apalachins into theOhio Valley toward the all important Mississippi River. The southern colonies made similar claims. A major opstavle became the British who could read a map as well as the Americans. The British could not govern an entire continent. Only if the colonists were pinned to the Atantic sabord could they be governed and divbided up like Europe into small territories. This was not the vision the Colonists had. They had visions of land beyond the Apalachins. which is why a Col. Washington leading the Virginia militia would up fighting the French in the Ohio Valley and in the process setting off the French and Indian/Seven Years War. It is also why the Quebec Act moving Canbada;s borders into the Ohio Valley and poromoting the American Colonists from settling west of the aplachins so shocked the amerucans. It was one of the causes of the Revolution--a cause commonly not given its true importance. And it is no accident that the term 'continental was used for both the Continental Congress and Continental Army. It shows the vision of the men who declared independence from Britain and British restrictions on westward expansion. The term Manifest Destiny did not appear until the mid-19th century when the issue of Oregon and Texas arose. It was the idea that Anglo-Saxon Americans’ had a providential mission to expand their civilization and institutions across North America. This expansion was not just territorial expansion, but the progress of individual liberty--political (democracy) and economic (capitalism) freedom. The term was pinned by journalist qnd editor John L. O’Sullivan (1845). He wrote, "... our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." [O'Sullivan] The term was popularized by those desiring to add Texas and Oregon Territory to the Union. Oregon was settled peacefully with the British by spliting it. Texas led to war with Mexico and the acquisition of the Southwest, pipulated primarily by Native Americans. Manifest Destiny was originally a partisan Democratic issue, largely because southrners wanted new slave states. After the Civil War it became a widely held national consensus ;eading to the cquisition of alaska from the Russianswhich ar first reduculed in the press. There was interest in expansion south to the Caribbean and Central America, but there was no natiinal consensus on this, primarily because of the Hispanic population. Racial attitudes were no dominant among the early proponents of Manifest Destiny. It was at first more of a cultural concept. This gradually evolved and by the turn-of-the 20th century, racial superiority becme an importnt part of the concept. Eventually the idea expnded beyond the Pacific coast. The concept included the idea that America's Anglo-Saxon heritage’ made the United States supremely fit to extend its influence beyond its continental boundaries into the Pacific. The inerest in the Pacific leading to acquisition of the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippin Islands (1898). This proved to be a brief infatuation with empire. After only three decades, th United States in the 1930s began the process of independence for the Philippines. It prove to be the beginning of Decolonization. This would be a process the Europeans with their massive empires would not even contemplate until after World War II.

Oregon

Manifest Destiny involved confrontation with foreign powers. The most serious was with Britain which claimed the Oregon Territory. Both Britain and America had their sites set on Oregon. And the Btitish had a head start. The British and Canadians had a substantial advantage over the Americans. They had access to Britain's merchant fleet, the world's largest and the protection of the world's most powerful navy. This is more important that it may sound tday. At the time there was no real overland connection between eithr eastern Canada or the United States and the Pacifc coast. The Canadians also had conndections with native American peoples that the French had helped establish. There was a cultural tradition of both familial and commercial ties with Native Americans. The French connections merged with the trading networks of the Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company. A Canadian overland expedition reached the Pacific (1793). As is often the case in history, unrelated events convrge to determine the outcome of history. A slave revolt in Santo Domingo (Haiti) indid Napoleon's plans to reestablish a French North American empire. And in the end he decided to sell Louisiana to America (1803). The Louisian Paurchase brought America close, but not all the way to the final objective the Pacific Ocean. The Lewis and Clarke Corps of Discovery brought the first Americans to the Oregon Territory and overland to the Pacific Ocean (1804-05). The next step ws taken by fur magnate John Jacob Astor, the first merican catain of industry. Astor not only wanted to sell furs in Europe, but China as well. America for a small country had a substantial merchant fleet of its own, but to make the China enterpise really profitable a trading post and colony was needed in Oregon. To make sure that a colony s establied, Astor dispatched two expeditins were dsparched, one overland and one by sea (1810). Astor chose the mouth of the Colombia River where trappers and Native Americans could bring theit furs, primarily beaver pelts, down from the Sierra Madre. And sea oters could be hunted along the coast. Astor's vision was that his Pacific Fur Company would 'one day, a wealthy trading empire would exist on the West Coast of North America' and Astoria would be its capital. The furs would pay for the silks, tea, porcelain and other Chinse luxury goods in demand both in the United States and Europe. The two expeditions were a disaster. The rambunctious Scottish trappers and traders recruited fro the Brtish Northwest Fur Ciompany on the tonquin had trouble with the stern captain who tried to leve manby on the Falkland Islands. And once approaching the Colombia, a thrcerous sand bar almost sank the vessel. For the overland expediion, bith French and Scttish, also reqcruited from the British hd to contend with the Native Anericans, The hostile Blclfeet required wde detour. The British seized Astoria (1813). Half of Astor's men were dead and many of the survivors had gone mad. [Stark] Britain had the military power to prevent further American expansion, but the cost would be high of fighting the United States in such a remote location. In the end the issue woukld be settled by demographics. Large numbers of Americans settled the southern Oregon Territory, tavelling over the Oregon Trail, one of the iconic routes of Westward expansion. .

Texas

The path to the south was more complicated, but did nt involve war with th British. Spain as a colonial power was replaced by the new Mexican Republic. Mexico was not as great a military power as Britain, but the power differential between Mexico and the United States in the pre-0industrial era was not as great as it would later become after America's industrial expansion. There were, however, serious domestic political considerations. After the War of 1812 slavery began to develp as a serious devisive issue. This was temporarily resolved by the Missouri Compromise (1820), but Mexican Territory was outside the area of the territory coverd by that compromise. Thus adding Mexican territory would mean undoing the compromise. As in Oregon, the issue would eventually be partially resolved by demographics, but ultimately a war. American began settling in the norther Mexican territory of Texas which even before the arrival of the Americans resisted control by the Mexican centrl govrnment. American settlement would lead to the war of independence (1835-36). Resistnce by anti-slave forces meant that Texas fior a decade existed as an independent republic which legalized slavery. The Mexicans did not try to retake slavery, but made it clear that it would not accept annexation by the United States. President Polk (1845-49), a strong Jaksonian, moved forward on both Oregon and Texas. A compromise was reached with Britain over Oregon, but the issue of Texas and the southeast would be settled by war.

Sources

O'Sullivan, John L. United States Magazine and Democratic Review (July-August 1845). O'Sullican's article was about the annexation of Texas.

Payne, Thomas. "Common sense," (1775-76).

Stark, Peter. Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire (2014), 256p.







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Created: 4:32 AM 3/8/2014
Last updated: 7:00 PM 9/3/2016