Chapters 11 and 12: "Defending and Expanding the New Nation" and "Peoples in Motion 1832-1848"

 

Indian Removal

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 doubled the size of the United States. Thomas Jefferson commissioned Louis and Clark to explore that unknown (to Americans) and vast territory which they did during a 28-month expedition covering 8000 miles that included people of British, Irish, and African descent. While a Shoshone Indian named Sacagawea served as their interpreter and the peaceful mission produced much geographic and scientific information, ultimately the native peoples the expedition met would be removed from their lands.

Indian discontent over the US taking native land through unfair treaties was symbolized by the Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (the Prophet). The massacres of the Shawnee at Tippecanoe (1811) in Indiana and the Creek at Horseshoe Bend (1812) in Alabama, each led by future US presidents, revealed that US government forces would stop at nothing to remove Indians from their land. Under Andrew Jackson, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

When the Cherokee in western Georgia (who held their land by treaty and exhibited all of the qualities of “civilization” as defined by Anglo-Americans-- they were literate Christian farmers with American-style institutions, including slavery) took the state to court for trying to remove them, the US Supreme Court ruled for the Cherokee in 1831. The state of Georgia refused to comply and the federal government ignored the court ruling and used military force to remove the Cherokees from the state along the 1000-mile long Trail of Tears to Oklahoma that killed one-quarter of the Cherokee population. Despite the Supreme Court ruling, state and national governments formed policies that forced eastern tribes to relocate west of the Mississippi River.

The Florida Seminoles resisted the US in a different way. In the First Seminole War (1817-1818) the Seminoles were aided by fugitive slaves who had found protection among them and had been living with them for years. The presence of the fugitives enraged white planters and fueled their desire to defeat the Seminoles which would required two more wars. In the Second Seminole War (1835-1842) as in the first, fugitive slaves fought beside the Seminoles who had taken them in. Thousands of lives were lost in the war, which cost the Jackson administration approximately 40 to 60 million dollars -- ten times the amount it had allotted for Indian removal. In the end, most of the Seminoles moved to the new territory. The few who remained had to defend themselves in the Third Seminole War (1855-58), when the U.S. military attempted to drive them out. Finally, the United States paid the remaining Seminoles to move west.

By 1837, the Jackson administration had removed 46,000 Native American people from their land east of the Mississippi, and had secured treaties which led to the removal of a slightly larger number. Most members of the five southeastern nations had been relocated west, opening 25 million acres of land to white settlement and to slavery.


Westward Expansion

The rights of territories to become states had been established by the Northwest Ordinances of 1785 and 1787. In 1819, when the 22 states of the US were evenly divided between slave and free states, Missouri applied for statehood as a slave state. The heated debate that followed finally ended in the Missouri Compromise, with Maine admitted as a free state to balance Missouri, and an agreement that in the future, above a certain latitude in the Louisiana territory, slavery would be prohibited.

The lure of the west continued to draw Americans to settle new lands. Settlers from the slave states crossed the Appalachian Mountains into Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. A new planter elite arose in the area that used slaves to drain swamps, build levees, and cultivate cotton. With the extension of slavery the domestic or internal slave trade increased, along with "natural reproduction" of the existing slave population. Still some slaved would be illegally imported on the black market.

In 1821, Mexico (which had just gained its independence from Spain earlier that year) granted 200,000 acres of the Mexican state of Texas to Moses and Stephen Austin who agreed to develop the area and bring in settlers who agreed to be Mexican citizens. Mexico’s constitution prohibited slavery but permitted debt peonage, which served as a legal window for white Americans to use slave labor. During the 1820s the Austins brought 1300 settlers to Mexican Texas, followed by 4500 squatters. In 1836 the Texans declared independence and defeated Mexican forces. In 1845 the US annexed Texas although Mexico did not recognized Texas’ secession.

In the 1840s, Jacksonian Democrats began to use the term Manifest Destiny, suggesting it was divine will and destiny that the US reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific, in order to justify the annexation of western lands. (The discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the California gold rush of 1849 would reinforce this ideology.) The US, under president James Polk, provoked a war with Mexico between 1846 and 1848. The US then dictated the terms of the treaty that ended the war, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, that ceded half of Mexico’s territory to the US. This Mexican territory included what is today California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Male residents of lands formerly belonging Mexico were given one year to decide to become US citizens and retain titles to their land or go to Mexico. However, the citizenship rights of Mexicans who chose to remain and become US citizens would not be respected in the future.

 

The “Old” Immigrants

In the 1840s and 1850s, over 4.5 million poverty-stricken Irish immigrants fled the potato famine in Ireland. Most arrived in American with nothing. Political instability increased the number of German families immigrating to America. Urban mobs habitually attacked African Americans, Catholics, Irish, and abolitionists during this time. The number of Irish that arrived over the thirty-year span created extra pressure on the job market, housing, school, and local politics. Greeted with signs reading “No Irish Need Apply,” and despised for their Catholic faith, the Irish triggered urban mob violence.

The American Republican Party, labeled “Know-Nothings” by their enemies, represented the anti-immigrant (nativist) voters, a much stronger political group than the abolitionists. Found throughout the Northeast and Old Northwest, these citizens were concerned about the impact of immigrants on jobs, housing, religion, and culture. They objected to immigrants working for lower wages, participating as voters or candidates in elections, and building churches, schools, or private clubs.

 

Abolitionism

While the efforts and writings of Oluadah Equiano helped to inspire the early abolitionist movement of the late 18th century, it was not until the 19th century that abolitionist thought became a widespread force.

A radical voice energized the abolition movement when William Lloyd Garrison began publishing his newspaper, The Liberator, providing a voice for those demanding black freedom immediately. A new, well-organized society that included blacks and whites, the American Anti-Slavery Society, also vigorously campaigned against slavery amidst general indifference on the issue. Former slaves like William and Craft and Frederick Douglass joined free black leaders like Henry Garland and Charles Redmond with white former slave owners Sarah and Angelina Grimke on speaking tours that brought slavery to life for interested northern audiences.

Frederick Douglass was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America's first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he began publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star. (Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for blacks.)

The majority of Northern Congressmen joined Southern Congressmen to pass a gag rule to prevent antislavery petitions from being read or entered into the public record. Pro-slavery mobs attacked black schools, publicly threatened and humiliated Garrison, closed down presses, and harassed black workers. Immigrants continued to make the connection between blacks with jobs and whites without jobs (and between white supremacist ideology and citizenship) and supported rioting in New York City, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati.

After the US acquired a large amount of territory from Mexico, the issues that preceded the Missouri Compromise in 1820—whether or not new states should allow slavery—raised issues temporarily resolved by the Compromise of 1850. While Washington D.C. had the nation’s largest slave market, the Compromise ended the slave trade in D.C. but permitted slavery to continue. Of all the bills that made up the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was the most controversial. It required citizens to assist in the recovery of fugitive slaves and denied a fugitive's right to a jury trial. Like the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850 kept the nation and its pro- and anti-slavery advocates united, but the debates that preceded both compromises were examples of the conflict that would ignite the Civil War.