How and why did the westward movement entangled the United States in the affairs of foreign powers?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The United States began pushing westward from the moment it gained independence from Britain in 1783. Foreign powers were involved in North America during this period, too, before American hegemony became firmly established. The American push westward was known as Manifest Destiny.

The earliest area of contention was the Northwest...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The United States began pushing westward from the moment it gained independence from Britain in 1783. Foreign powers were involved in North America during this period, too, before American hegemony became firmly established. The American push westward was known as Manifest Destiny.

The earliest area of contention was the Northwest Territory. Although this region had been ceded to the US in 1783, the British continued to maintain a presence there. They also sometimes encouraged Indians in the region to resist the United States. The US finally solidified its grasp on the region by the end of the War of 1812.

In 1803, the US was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to buy the Louisiana Purchase from France. Napoleon needed the money, and he knew he could not defend it against the British. Therefore, it was a bargain for America, and the country doubled in size.

The most egregious American involvement in the affairs of a foreign power concerned Mexico. Mexico controlled Texas until 1936; American expansionists were eager to allow Texas to enter as a state. American pressure helped cause the Mexican War (1846–1848). After the American victory, Mexico lost half of its territory.

Another disputed area was the Oregon Territory. This was claimed by both America and Britain. War was avoided because the two countries agreed to divide the territory between them.

In summary, the Northwest Territory, the Louisiana Purchase, Texas, and the Oregon Territory all were acquired after disputes or negotiations with foreign powers.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

From its beginnings, even as a British colony, what would become the United States was ever moving westward, pushing the boundaries of the country. The French and Indian war began as British colonists tried to settle on the other side of the Appalachian mountains, bumping elbows with French colonists. One of the colonists many grievances after the war was the British attempt, due to treaties with Indian tribes, to restrict them from expanding westward.

After gaining independence, the US continued to want to expand west, and continued to bump into people already settled in western territories. The Mexicans, for example, had sovereignty over the large territory that became Texas, so the US got entangled in war with the Mexicans to wrest the area from their hands.

Indian tribes, while not "powers" by the time the United States was formed, were still forces to contend with that contested US excursions into their territories and sometimes reacted with violence to being displaced and abused.

There is very little land that is actually "empty" in the world—by the time the US was formed, the human race had expanded across the globe. To gain the territory it felt was its due, the United States therefore often had to take it by force.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John O'Sullivan a New York journalist coined the phrase "Manifest Destiny". His article suggested that it was a "divine mission' that the U.S. would spread democracy from sea to shining sea. However, U.S. westward expansion was entangled with the policies of foreign nations.  The U.S. domestic agenda was propagated on how well it dealt with its foreign relationships. The following were to the benefit of the U.S.

1. 1803 Louisana Purchase- from France

2. 1818 Northern Border- at the 49th parallel in exchange for the Great Lakes w/ Great Britain

3. 1819 Flordia- Adams Oris Treaty/ acquired Texas at the 42th parallel w/Spain

4. 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty w/ Great Britain

5. 1845- Independent since 1836 Congress agreed to Texas being annexed

6. 1846- U.S.treaty with Great Britain to extend the 49th parallel from the Rockies to the Pacific

1848- The Mexican Cessian- U.S. paid 15 million dollars for much of the southwest

1853- The Gadsden Purchase- to complete the Transcontinental Railroad.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First of all, we weren't the only ones who claimed the land.  The Spaniards and then the Mexicans were in the Southwest, with longtime settlements there.  The British were in Canada, with designs to keep claims on the Oregon Country, so as we moved westward as a nation, this put us into political and sometimes military conflict with other nations and empires.

Also, because of the move west, we added a lot of agricultural territory, some of which became cotton producing and which had legal slavery.  Britain needed to cotton for its factories, but would rather we did not have slavery.  When the Civil War came around, they would be torn as to whether or not they should enter the war on the Southern side.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team