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Caroline Brown

Mexican-American War Essay

During the 1840’s and 1850’s the idea of Manifest Destiny – or that it was the

American’s God-given right to expand westward to spread civilization, even if that meant

pushing other people off that land – exploded. A large issue at this time was western expansion

and the stance on whether to annex Texas, Oregon Country, and California. Acquiring this land

was achieved through the Mexican-American War. Northerners were against expansion, and

Southerners supported it. The war created much tension between the North and South, increasing

sectionalism between the two.

The turning point can truly be seen when the increase in sectionalism increased. Many

northerners were very against western expansion since the disputed areas that were possibly

going to become part of the United States were below the 36°30' line. This meant they would

become slave states. Southerners were obviously for this expansion, seeing it as a possible way

to acquire more farm land, and keep the institution of slavery secured for a little while longer.

This was when the North and South had started to consider themselves separate from the other,

which can be connected to how they didn’t have a problem fighting each other in the Civil War.

It was almost as if each side didn’t consider the other “truly” American.

The biggest effect of the Mexican-American War was the amount of land gained from it,

which was one of the largest territorial expansions of the United States. While this was a positive

effect of the war, it also led to the question of how to decide if the new states would be slave or

free states. The Missouri Compromise couldn’t work in the situation of the new land because

California would be half-above, and half-below the 36°30' line. The Missouri Compromise was
ultimately replaced with the Compromise of 1850. It decided that California would be a free

state, Texas would be a slave state, and any new states could decide through popular sovereignty,

meaning that the white male population would decide.

The Compromise of 1850 didn’t solve the problem of how to decide if a state would be

slave or free completely. This conflict came up multiple times before the Mexican-American

War, as seen with the Missouri Compromise. The Compromise of 1850 was just another delayal

of the Civil War, as was the Missouri Compromise before it. Slavery also obviously still existed

after the Mexican-American war, seeing as the slave/free state debate was still happening. This

of course didn’t help with the racism towards black people in America. Along with the racism

against black people, there was also racism towards Mexican-American people living in the

newly claimed US territory.

While the Mexican-American War created more problems then it solved, it is definitely a

turning point in the debate of slavery. Expansion wouldn’t have been controversial had slavery

not existed. It also did not resolve the issue of how to balance slave and free states, and thus

created more tension between the North and South. Though more land was gained, the Mexican-

American War can be traced back to as a cause of the Civil War due to the increased

sectionalism in the United States.