The 19th century is known for the remarkable economic growth and the expansion of territories in America. This century marked the accession of Louisiana and Texas, as well as annexation of land in the Mexican War. Moreover, it is characterized with “gold rush” and migration to the West of the continent, as well as the flourishing of slavery. Therefore, this paper seeks to discuss social, economic, political, and diplomatic aspects of American expansion from 1800 to 1848, as well as defend the statement that American expansion of this period certainly benefited the country, but at a very high cost.
Social Aspects of American Expansion
The first wave of American expansion started early in the 19th century. This process was accompanied with the increase in manufacturing in New England and the general rise in mobility throughout the nation. As a matter of fact, it was the perfect way of achieving the unity of resources and using them in the most effective and efficient ways. In order to occupy the Western regions along with resources, white settlers from the eastern cost had to pass the settlements of Native Americans. Obviously, the culture of native people was quite different from that of white Americans. The social and cultural differences influenced the further tactic of the settlers. That was one of the first times when the white Americans demonstrated their gaining tactic that was hostilely acquiring lands. In fact, this resulted in cruel battles, in which the white settlers obviously succeeded more than the Native Americans. Consequently, the American government began the process of assimilation of Native Americans with an aim of uniting the Native American and the white American cultures. Nowadays, one cannot but agree that the American expansion on the continent resulted in numerous deaths of Native Americans and loss of their traditions.
The other social problem resulted by the American expansion was the problem of democracy. The American settlers were aimed to establish and spread their main democratic principles. However, as the country started to expand, it was rather challenging to implement these principles fast. The expansion trends made such weak social groups as slaves, Native Americans, and women even more powerless. In the 19th century, the weak and powerless members of society had no other choice but to tolerate their unprivileged situation. Such democratic ambiguity had a very dramatic effect on American people (Tindall & Shi, 2009).
Economic Aspects of American Expansion
Expansion of the U.S. continent influenced its becoming the world leading agricultural nation in the 19th century. The first thing that benefited the economy was the discovery of minerals, such as gold. The most famous gold strike was in California in 1848. Consequently, this resulted in the “gold rush”, when the settlers travelled to the western coast in search of gold.
Another benefit to the economy was the purchase of Louisiana. It gave Americans an access to the big trading ports, such as New Orleans. In fact, this purchase doubled the territory of the U.S. The purchase was made at a very low price and without involving into the war with France. Obtaining New Orleans solved the problem of delivery of agricultural products to different parts of the continent. Before that, natural barriers slowed down the expansion of the land, as people could not get enough products and food to sustain their living on the western occupied territories (Tindall & Shi, 2009).
Political Aspects of American Expansion
The exploration of the West influenced changes in American politics. Western areas gained large population, and they were considered as states of the union. Consequently, Easterners wanted to control economic and governmental policy on the West. This resulted in that the farmers and pioneers of the West banded together to lobby their own interests. In 1828, Andrew Jackson, the first pro-western candidate, was chosen as the President. He stood for support of the western farmers and for protecting the principles of the “common man”. Despite his democratic achievements, his economic policy had many drawbacks. This was a result of passing the bill which put high tariffs on products imported into the U.S. and the economic crisis. Therefore, his economic policy can be considered not beneficial for the USA. Moreover, he was a well-known slaveholder and an initiator of the Indian Removal Act. In fact, this contradicts the idea of modern democratic principles of the USA.
Military/Diplomatic Aspects of American Expansion
As a matter of fact, the U.S. maintained peaceful foreign relations during the Expansion Era. Nevertheless, in 1823 the Monroe doctrine was issued, which put diplomatic relations of the USA on the new level. The non-intervention and non-colonization courses were proclaimed. However, this doctrine has not provided peace on the continent for long. The Mexican War of 1848 resulted in that the U.S. received the control of California, Texas, and New Mexico territories. Consequently, the new regions of these territories started to be occupied by people from all over the country. This increased slavery in the region. Consequently, this region ended up to be the battle field in the Civil War, where the South and the North showed their visions regarding slavery (Tindall & Shi, 2009).
The following conclusion can be drawn; the process of expansion was extremely beneficial for the U.S. at that time in terms of economy. It is obvious that the rapid expansion of the American continent in the 19th century provided the U.S. with a strong economic potential and political influence. However, the flourishing of slavery, the native people removal, and assimilation has resulted in the destruction of the unique native culture of America. Many Native Americans lost their lives, and others were forced to leave their places of residence and assimilate. Democratic principles of the founders were not exactly introduced. Consequently, a lot of minority groups suffered. However, one cannot but agree that without these sacrifices the USA would not be as wealthy and powerful as it is today.