Key Terms

Manifest Destiny: An idea that stated that the United States was destined and intended by God to expand its territory and influence. Many Americans defended Manifest Destiny by saying that they were the “dominant race” and that they were helping to spread American liberty to others. These ideas led to westward and southern expansion.
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Stephen Austin: Austin was an immigrant from Missouri that established the first American settlement in Texas in 1822. He created a system of power in Texas that competed with the Mexican government and he drew in immigrants from America. He died from disease in December 1836.

General Santa Anna: Antonio Lopes de Santa Anna was a Mexican general that seized power in the 1830s during a time of Mexican political instability. He became dictator and created a new law that increased the power of the Mexican national government. Santa Anna led armies into Texas and destroyed Texan troops because the Texans were not unified or organized. Santa Anna was eventually taken Prisoner by General Sam Houston and was forced to sign a treaty giving Texas it’s independence from Mexico. Santa Anna died in 1876 after leading the Mexican government for 22 years. (picture right)

The Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto: In the effort to suppress revolts in Texas, the Mexican government sent troops to fight the Americans in Texas. One of these battles was the Alamo. Davy Crockett was a leading Texas patriot that fought in this battle, in which the Mexican government won by completely destroying the Texas army. In the Battle of San Jacinto, General Sam Houston’s small force beat the Mexican army and he took Santa Anna prisoner. Houston killed many of the Mexican soldiers and forced Santa Anna to declare Texas independent from Mexico.

Texas Annexation: Texas annexation was very controversial. Many northerners were concerned that it would enter the US as a slave state and give the south more power, but eventually Texas became the 28th state in 1845 under the presidency of Polk.

Oregon Trail: Many Americans in search of riches in the west and a new life followed the Oregon Trail, a 2,000 mile long route, to reach the northern California coast. Many traveled for over 6 months on the trail and many died on the way to their destinations, either of disease or from rare conflicts with Native American tribes. Click here for more information about the trail.
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James K. Polk: Polk ran for president in the 1844 election against Henry Clay. He was a strong supporter of Annexation and wanted Americans to occupy Oregon, which were the two leading issues in the election. He won the election and became America’s 11th president. He created the border between America and Canada on the 49th parallel, which is still where the border is today. Polk also led America in the Mexican War. He was only president for one term. (picture left)

The Mexican War: President Polk had his sights set on New Mexico and California and eventually went to war with Mexico over these territories when the Mexican government would not sell him the land peacefully. This war was also centered on what the southern border for Texas should be recognized as. The war began in 1846 and lasted until 1848. There was a lot of opponents to the war and Polk as president at this time, and opposition increased as the war went on and the cost and casualties increased. When a new government was established in Mexico, they agreed to a peaceful settlement and the secession of lands to the United States, which was done in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Click here for more information about the war.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: Nicholas Trist reached this agreement with the Mexican Government in which Mexico agreed to give California and Mexico to the United States. This treaty also made Mexico acknowledge the Rio Grande as the Southern border of Texas. The United States had to pay $15 million to Mexico in return. Polk was not completely satisfied because he wanted more of the Mexican territory, but he had to sign the treaty nevertheless.

Wilmot Proviso: Representative David Wilmot created an amendment to a bill (which called for $2 million dollars to buy territory from Mexico) that prohibited slavery in any of the territory won from Mexico in the Mexican war. The amendment failed, but caused an increase of slavery debate focused on the newly acquired Mexican territories

Popular Sovereignty: A phrase that meant that people in each new territory admitted to the United States could decide for themselves whether to legalize slavery or not.

Election of 1848: General Zachary Taylor ran for the Whig Party. The Free-Soil Party (anti slavery and endorsed the Wilmot Proviso) nominated Martin Van Buren. Taylor won but the Free-Soils elected 10 members to congress.
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California Gold Rush: in 1848, James Marshall found traces of gold in the Sierra Nevada. Soon hundreds of thousands of people came to California in search of fortune and opportunity. Click here to learn more about the California Gold Rush. (picture right)

Henry Clay: Clay proposed a compromise in 1850 where California would be a free state, new governments in the new lands from Mexico wouldn’t have any restrictions on slavery, the end of slave trade (not slavery) in D.C., and fugitive slave laws.

John C. Calhoun: He argued with Clay, believing that the North should grant the South equal rights in new territories and that it should not attack slavery. He also proposed that the Constitution should be amended to have two presidents; one in the north and one in the south and each would have a presidential veto. His radical demands had no chance of passing.

Daniel Webster: He wanted to become president and gave speeches supporting Clay’s compromise. He was appointed secretary of state and then was removed from the sectional debate of slavery in the newly acquired territories from Mexico.
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Stephen Douglas: A Democratic senator who spoke for the economic needs of the west. Douglas broke up Clay’s bill so that each section could be voted on individually. All of the new parts passed and became known as the Compromise of 1850. (picture left)

Free-Soil Party: In the 1848 elections, this party supported Van Buren as its presidential nominee. They were opponents of slavery that didn’t support any of the other running candidates. They were formed from the already existing Liberty Party and anti-slavery supporters from the Democrat and Whig parties. They did not win the presidential election but did win 10 seats in Congress and showed that the existing parties were not working and would lead to the collapse of the second party system in the 1850s. Click here for more information about the Free-Soil Party.

Fugitive Slave Act: Stated that all slaves that escaped to the north had to be returned to their owners in the south. There was a lot of opposition to this act and mobs formed and many northern states passed laws prohibiting the deportation of fugitive slaves.

Gadsden Purchase: Jefferson David sent James Gadsden to Mexico where he bought part of Arizona and New Mexico for $10 million. This was to remove an obstacle for creating a southern route for the Transcontinental Railroad.

Kansas-Nebraska Act: This act enacted popular sovereignty for the area known as Nebraska to decide where or not to be admitted as a slave state. This also repealed the Missouri Compromise and divided the Nebraska territory into two parts, known as Nebraska and Kansas. Kansas became a slave state and Nebraska became a free state. It passed in 1854. Click here to view a map of what new territories were added to the United States.

Election of 1856: James Buchanan ran for the Democratic Party and the Republicans nominated John C. Fremont. The Republicans denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the expansion of slavery. The Know nothing Party (in favor of keeping whites as the dominant race) began to break apart, but nominated Millard Fillmore. external image DredScott.jpg

Dred Scott Decision: Dred Scott was a slave whose owner had died and he had sued his owner’s wife for freedom. He believed that, because he had lived in free territory, that he should be free. Missouri law declared him free, but the case was repealed and the earlier decision was reversed in the state supreme court. It went to the Supreme Court, where there was no single ruling. Taney stated that Scott could not appeal because he was not a citizen and he had no rights under the constitution. He also said that slaves were property and under the 5th amendment, Congress couldn’t take away property without due process, so Scott remained a slave. (This meant that the Missouri Compromise had always been unconstitutional.) (picture right)

Election of 1860: Democratic Party was torn. Stephen Douglas and John C. Breckinridge were both nominated. The conservative ex-Whigs nominated John Bell. The Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln, who supported high tariffs, internal improvements, a Transcontinental Railroad, and a homestead bill. Lincoln won but there was not a Republican majority in Congress.






Document 1 with APPARTS

Speech by James K Polk

Author: James K. Polk made this speech in an attempt to convince Congress to declare war on Mexico. Polk wanted to gain new territory from Mexico and establish the border between Mexico and Texas at the Rio Grande.

Place and Time: This speech was given on May 11, 1846. This speech was given right after minor conflicts with Mexico over the Texas border and after Polk sent men down to try and negotiate peaceful agreements with Mexico.

Prior Knowledge: I know that Polk was a big supporter of Texas annexation. He believed in Manifest Destiny and wanted to claim all of New Mexico, California, and start taking more of Mexico’s northern territory. He sent men to negotiate peacefully and tried to purchase the land from Mexico, but then he declared war on Mexico. The Mexican War was fought until 1848 when Mexico seeded California and New Mexico to the United States and recognized the Rio Grande as Texas’s southern border in exchange for $15 million dollars.

Audience: Congress and the American people. Polk wanted to persuade Congress to declare war on Mexico and make everyone believe that it was the right thing to do and that he had done everything he could to gain the territory peacefully. This speech is pretty reliable because it states many facts and events that led to Polk’s final decision, but he was trying to use this speech to be persuasive so it is biased.

Reason: This speech was given to persuade Congress to declare war on Mexico. Because Polk had tried many means to gain the territory he wanted peacefully, it was now necessary, in his beliefs, to fight for that territory.

The Main Idea: Polk believed that the only way to gain California and New Mexico was through war. He wanted Congress to declare war on Mexico to gain new territory.

Significance: This speech shows Polk’s beliefs and his ambition towards gaining new territory for the United States. He was so convinced about gaining California and New Mexico, that he knew war was the only way to achieve his goals. This speech led to the Mexican war and the United States acquiring California and New Mexico as well as the Mexican government acknowledging the Rio Grande as the Texas border.


Document 2 and APPARTS

Diary of Harriet Palmer

Author: Harriet Palmer was 11 when she traveled the Oregon Trail with her family and others who were seeking a better life on the west coast. She thought that the trip was very difficult and full of hard times, but that she found good things by the end of it.

Place and Time: It is not stated when the document was written, but Palmer made her trip in 1852. She traveled from Illinois to Oregon over a 6 month period during that year during the California Gold Rush.

Prior Knowledge: I know that the Oregon Trail led to Northern California and Oregon during the California Gold Rush. Many people left their homes and jobs in a rush to find riches and new life in the West. The Trail was very difficult to travel. Those who followed it had to travel through deserts and over mountains, enduring harsh weather, disease, and rare conflicts with Indians. Many died on their way to the west and many trips took almost a year to make.

Audience: This was written as a reflection of her past journeys and for those who had not made a trip on the Oregon Trail. She described her experiences, her life, and the hardships she went through to those who did not experience the same things that she did. She meant for the diary to be for herself, and for other’s to read later as well.

Reason: Palmer wrote this so that she could recount all of her experiences on the Oregon Trail. She also wrote it to inform others of the hardships that she faced.

The Main Idea: Palmer explained through her story how difficult the trip to the west was for her and her family. She lost her mother, suffered hunger and many other difficult situations, all so that her family could live a better life.

Significance: This diary entry helps to give a different view of the Oregon Trail. It shows the struggles and sacrifices that the people who were in search of opportunity in the west had to make in order to get there.