How Did The Concept Of Manifest Destiny Influence The Expansion Of The United States?

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Popular during the early nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny was the idea that Americans had the God-given right—even duty—to extend the borders of the United States from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Throughout the century, the United States acquired territory by several means. In 1803 the government bought the Louisiana Territory (present day Arkansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Louisiana, and parts of Oklahoma, Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming east of the Rocky Mountains) from France. The United States also acquired Florida and the southern strip of Alabama and Mississippi through a treaty with Spain in 1819. In 1845 the United States annexed (incorporated) Texas, which had been declared a republic by settlers who did not want the territory to remain a part of Mexico. The following year, the United States and Canada agreed that the western border between Canada and the United States would lie at 49 degrees north latitude (present-day northern boundary of Washington State). After winning the Mexican American War (1846–48), the United States added New Mexico and California to its territory through the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo. In 1853 the U.S. government bought southern Arizona from Mexico, adding the final piece of territory needed to make up the contiguous (touching along a boundary) United States of America. By the end of the 1880s, the United States also added Alaska (bought from Russia in 1867) and Hawaii (annexed in 1898).

Besides the land that now makes up the United States, the U.S. government also sought to control other areas, including the Midway Islands, the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, Wake Island, American Samoa, the Panama Canal Zone, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Invoking the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, the United States helped Cuba fight Spain in the Spanish American War of 1898. When Spain surrendered, Cuba gained its independence, though American troops occupied the island as a protective force until 1901. Nevertheless even after America was no longer a military presence, Cuba remained economically and politically dependent on the United States.

Further Information: Carter, Alden R. The Mexican War: Manifest Destiny. New York: Franklin Watts, 1993; Foote, Timothy. "1846: The Way We Were—and the Way We Went." Smithsonian. April, 1996, pp. 38–49; Jacobs, William J. War with Mexico. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook, 1993; Mills, Bronwyn. The Mexican War. New York: Facts On File, 1992; The U.S.–Mexican War: Manifest Destiny. [Online] Available, October 22, 2000.

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