How were slavery and American imperialist ambitions intertwined in the 1840s and 1850s?

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Slavery and American imperialism were deeply intertwined in the 1840s and 1850s. For slave owners, territorial expansion and slavery were one and the same. Many felt that new lands would basically be useless without slaves. There were many pro-slavery Americans who, anxious over growing abolitionist sentiments at home, wanted to...

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Slavery and American imperialism were deeply intertwined in the 1840s and 1850s. For slave owners, territorial expansion and slavery were one and the same. Many felt that new lands would basically be useless without slaves. There were many pro-slavery Americans who, anxious over growing abolitionist sentiments at home, wanted to expand the territorial reach of slavery overseas. William Walker, for instance, led an invasion of Central America in the mid-1850s with the intent of establishing a slave kingdom of his own. He received a lot of his material and financial support, as well as soldiers, from slave owners in the southern United States.

The biggest imperialistic endeavor during this period was the war with Mexico. It should come as no surprise that those who supported this war were primarily those with an interest in expanding slavery. The early and mid-eighteenth century was defined by the maintenance of a delicate balance between slave interests and free interests. Those who wanted to tip the scale in favor of slave interests saw this war, and other imperialistic pursuits, as an opportunity to capture new territory into which slavery could expand. With more slave states and territories, the federal government would naturally become more pro-slavery. For this reason, most of the opposition to the Mexican-American War, and imperialism in general, came from the Northern states and those who wanted to limit the expansion of slavery.

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