Manifest Destiny

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Study Guide for Western Expansion with answers


  1. What was “Manifest Destiny”, and how did it impact America in the 19th century?

    • Manifest Destiny was the belief by people in the U.S. that it was their God given right to spread from shore to shore.

    • America doubled in size during 19th century – driven in large part to this belief

    • America used this philosophy to justify taking Native American land, annexing Texas, and fighting a war with Mexico,

  1. How did the fur trade help with Western Expansion?

    • It played a HUGE Role - remember what happened during the fur trading exercise in class.

    • 1st an American Fur Trading Company would open in an area often with a US fort there.

    • Native Americans (NA) could immediately see the benefits of the manufactured goods (like guns and pots). These goods made their lives so much easier. So the gladly exchanged animal pelts for manufactured goods.

    • Eventually the Native Americans would overhunt an area, and drive out their food source.

    • The price of manufactured goods steadily (often drastically) increased year to year.

    • Because the NA became “dependent” on manufactured goods the fur traders were often free to raise the prices charged for goods. As fewer furs were being caught, and the prices continued to increase this often led to conflicts between tribes.

    • Eventually the NA had to sell their land to pay off their debts - moving further west and leaving the land for white development.

    • If any NA tribes fought back the US army was there to “deal” with them.

  1. How did the Industrial Revolution (I/R) help America to grow from coast to coast?

    • I/R resulted in a huge growth in population through immigration, this increased the demand for land, and it convinced Americans that they were “doing things right”.

    • America became a much more powerful nation, their technology and increased population allowed them to conquer the land, and other people

    • America shifted from an agricultural nation to an industrial one, which increased the standard of living for many people – so why shouldn’t we “help” other people to live better lives

  1. Why did the Mexican Government invite North Americans to settle in Texas?

    • To develop the land and push the Native Americans out,

    • To provide tax revenue to Mexico City

    • To keep the Americans from taking the land from Mexico (they saw the wave of Americans coming towards them).

  1. Why did Tejas decide to rebel against the Mexican government?

    • Tejas rebelled after General Santa Anna took over and tried to bring all the “power” back to Mexico City. Previously the remote states (like Tejas) were allowed to essentially make their own laws and govern themselves. Santa Anna did not like this arrangement and sent in an army to enforce his will.

    • He also outlawed slavery, a system that was prospering in Tejas.

    • Approximately 30, 000 of the 34,000 people living in Tejas were Americans who were there illegally. They objected to learning Spanish, being forced to become Catholics, and following Spanish law. These were very independent minded people who were not about to answer to a dictator over 1,000 miles away. Many of the settlers were also prejudice and looked down on the darker skinned Mexicans.

    • When Steve Austin went to Mexico City to tell Santa Anna about the concerns his colony had with the new system Santa Anna threw him in prison for a year. This kind of action did not sit well with an independent population – Mexican and American.

    • When news was received that Santa Anna was bringing an army to take away all the guns in Tejas the population rise up in revolt. They needed the guns for protection from the Native Americans they were trying to push out and to supply food for their families. They could not survive in the wilderness without their guns, and they were willing to die to protect themselves and their families.

  1. What were some of the concerns about annexing Texas?

    • It would lead to a war with Mexico - Mexico had informed the U.S. that it considered Texas a part of Mexico and that any attempt to annex Texas would be considered an act of war. Many nations thought that Mexico would defeat the United States in a war and many Americans did not want o fight a war with Mexico.

    • Slavery would be revived - Many people (mostly in the North) thought that slavery would soon die out if no additional slave states were added. The North, because of its population, controlled Congress. The Senate was (at the time) balanced between slave states and free states. However, most of the Louisiana territory was located in the North so all new states would be “free” states. Thus slavery could soon be outlawed.

    • Slave states would gain control of the U.S. Government - If Texas joined the United States then the Texas territories would produce several slave states, thus possibly tilting the balance to the South. Would the South then make slavery legal throughout the United States???

  1. What are some important reasons why the Mexican-American war happened?

    • The U.S. belief in Manifest Destiny played a key role in the war.

    • The Industrial Revolution brought more immigrants to America, thus increasing the demands for more land; it also helped America defeat the Native Americans, and it made America feel powerful.

    • Mexico was an agricultural nation and few people wanted to leave Spain to settle in the remote areas of Mexico. Mexicans of Spanish heritage felt they were superior to Native Americans and thus encouraged people from the U.S. to settle in Tejas and push out the Natives. They also thought that if Tejas was settled with “whites” (who were loyal to Mexico) then it would keep the U.S. out of the land.

    • The annexation of Texas

    • President Polk also believed in Manifest Destiny and this played a key role in starting the Mexican War.

    • Slave states wanted to expand their land to increase their profits and to feed the industrial North. They also saw the Mexican war as a chance to regain control over the U.S. Government.

  1. Besides the deaths of its soldiers and money spent, how costly was the Mexican-American War to Mexico, and to the United States? BIG PICTURE!!! ?

    • To Mexico

      1. Mexico lost ½ her land – and it was the best farming land

      2. Mexico lost the best farming land

      3. Numerous Civil Wars within Mexico would be fought afterward, many of them because the people were desperate and struggling to survive

      4. Mexico lost its future – America got the best land, and many natural resources (oil in Texas, gold in California, silver in New Mexico, etc.). Mexico could never industrialize without surplus food, so they were essentially condemned to remain a poor nation.

    • To U.S.A.

      1. Led to US Civil War - where more than 600,000 American soldiers died

      2. Hurt the prestige of the U.S. in the eyes of many people – “land of the free”, an aggressive conquering nation.

  1. Define and explain the significance of:

    • Tejas – Mexican state that would eventually become Texas, and help bring about the Mexican War.

    • Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna – Mexican dictator whose actions led to Tejas fighting for, and obtaining, its freedom from Mexico. He ordered the assault on the Alamo and Goliad during the Texas Revolution. He was captured by Sam Houston and forced to grand Texas its independence. He also led Mexican troops during the Mexican-American War.

    • Alamo – A former Spanish mission in Texas where 183 men (Tejans and Americans) held off Santa Anna’s army for almost 2 weeks before being overrun and killed. Wounded and captured troops were executed on Santa Anna’s orders. (See The Texas Revolution handout for more details)

    • Goliad – Americans and Tejanos fled from this town before Santa Anna’s troops arrived. They were captured and over 300 were executed.

    • James Polk – American president who annexed Texas and is often accused of starting the Mexican War. He sent John Slidell to “negotiate” for the purchase of California and New Mexico. He also sent General Zachary Taylor’s army into disputed territory along the Rio Grande – thus lighting the final spark to start the Mexican war.

    • Sam Houston – He was the commander of Texan troops during the Texas Revolution. He defeated and captured Santa Anna, and forced him to give Texas its independence.

    • John Slidell – American congressman sent by President Polk to force Mexico to sell California and New Mexico. He encouraged President Polk to declare war on Mexico.

    • Nueces River – Southern/Western boundary of the Mexican state of Tejas.

    • Rio Grande – Southern/Western boundary claimed by the Republic of Texas – about 150 miles south of the Nueces River. It was in this area where General Taylor marched his troops and built a fort, across the river from a large Mexican town.

  1. Describe the major differences between Mexico and the United States in 1850.

    • Mexico was primarily an agricultural country

    • United States was primarily an industrial nation

  1. How did the war with Mexico help to bring about the Civil War?

    • The Mexican war increased the amount of slave land available.

    • Set the north and south on a collision course – should the United States leave its traditional agricultural roots and become an industrial nation?

    • Breathed new life into slavery

    • It trained many of the generals who would eventually fight in the Civil War

The above is a map of the United States in 1860. The key steps the United States took to acquire its territory up to that point are:

      1. 13 Colonies gain their independence from England

      2. Colonies expand across the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi – taking and/or buying land from Native American Nations

      3. Buy Louisiana Territory from France

      4. Get Florida, southern Alabama, and southern Mississippi from Spain in exchange for promising not to touch New Spain’s territory in what is now Mexico

      5. Annex Texas – after it received its independence from Mexico

      6. Received California, Utah Territory, and New Mexico territory from Mexico after the War with Mexico

      7. Gadsden Purchase

      8. Obtained Northern Maine from England

      9. Obtained Oregon Territory from England

  1. You need to be able to put the major events of the Texas Revolution and the War with Mexico in correct chronological order, including:

    • Steve Austin establishes colony in Texas

    • Santa Anna comes to power and starts to centralize power in Mexico City

    • Steve Austin goes to meet with Santa Anna to discuss the concerns of the people in Tejas - he is thrown in jail.

    • Santa Anna leads an army into Tejas to remove the guns and eliminate the threat of rebellion

    • Alamo

    • Goliad

    • Santa Anna captured by Sam Houston

    • Texas Independence

    • US Annex’s Texas

    • John Slidell sent by President Polk to try to settle the border dispute (wants the of Rio Grande) and to buy California and New Mexico Territory

    • General Taylor crosses the Nueces River and builds a fort on Rio Grande

    • Mexican troops cross Rio Grande and attack American troops

    • General Taylor invades Mexico and sends American troops into California and New Mexico

    • Mexico City is captured and Mexico is forced to sign treaty “solving” the border dispute and selling California and New Mexico to the USA

    • US annexes California

    • US buys additional Mexican land to build a rail road - Gadsden Purchase.

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