The United States ' Territorial Expansion Essay

The United States ' Territorial Expansion Essay

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In order to organize and understand the factors that drove U.S territorial expansion, it is imperative to first briefly review two key territorial acquisitions and one doctrine chronologically; beginning with the Louisiana Purchase, continuing to the Monroe Doctrine, and concluding with the acquisition of Oregon Country and Mexican Cession. After exploring these time periods, it becomes apparent that the factors most responsible for westward expansion are internal momentum and the pull of empty land with relation to Manifest Destiny.



Following the American Revolution, the United States saw its first largest territorial expansion during Thomas Jefferson’s term. Jefferson envisioned “freehold farmers as a sort of chosen people of God, calling no one master and redeeming humanity by their example of unfettered liberty even as they tilled the soil”.In essence, Jefferson desired a United States that was self-sufficient and not reliant on foreign help. Furthermore, he believed “their virtue would be sustained and their nation’s uniqueness [would be] assured”. In order to accomplish this, however, the need for territory was absolute. Jefferson looked to purchase the territory from France; it was able to do so because France had lost its Caribbean colonies during the Haitian War and Napoleon found little use for the Louisiana territory. As a result, the Louisiana Purchase occurred in 1803, nearly doubling the size of the United States.


Next, the emergence of the Monroe Doctrine is key because it is official documentation claiming the Western Hemisphere as “rightfully” belonging to the United States. Created under President James Monroe and his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1823, the Monroe Doctrine ultimat...


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...n of the pull of empty land. The U.S had just acquired Oregon Country at this time and was no longer in need of resources or land to provide homes for their population, but rather they figured why not, it was available.
By reviewing key decisions such as the Louisiana Purchase, the Monroe Doctrine, and the territorial acquisitions under Polk, the United States’ motive to expand westward was better understood. While there are multiple reasons why the United States took initiative to move westward, the most prominent factors include internal momentum due to economic interests and population growth, but more importantly the allure of open land and the idea of Manifest Destiny. More importantly, however, the fact that the United States nearly triples in size within one hundred years, forebodes the upcoming threat of the U.S to international stages in years to follow.

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