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Madison Gilbert

Ms. Forner

AP U.S. History

1 December 2016

Texan Growth

The years 1846 to 1848 marked a two year stretch that entailed the physical territorial

dispute known as the Mexican-American War. ​This conflict, between Americans and their (soon

to be) southernmost neighbors, was justified due to the increasingly popular ideal that growth

and movement were interconnected. The social concept of manifest destiny, as well as the

economic benefits of foreign trade, spurred Americans to enlarge their western territory.​ By

gaining the state of Texas, and additional land, U.S. citizens were able to fulfill both their

spiritual and economic goals.

Beginning in 1810, one of the most influential trends of antebellum America was the

proposal of western expansion. This proposal was mainly backed by the belief in manifest

destiny. It declared that seeking out and claiming new lands, especially in the west, was simply a

God-given right placed upon Americans. The idea of manifest destiny is significant because,

although it wouldn’t be legally justifiable in 2016, it was perfectly acceptable in 1846. Several

countries, in addition to the U.S., were attempting to establish their claim on the land to the west

of America. Mexico had affirmed land stretching across modern-day California, New Mexico,

Arizona, etc. as their own. British forces were also imposing on the 49th parallel. Since most of

this land was claimed according to a first come, first served basis, the concept of manifest

destiny was not only tolerated, but expressively used by countries worldwide to explain their
drive to expand their territory. Therefore, America successfully used manifest destiny to justify

the Mexican-American War.

As aforementioned, the country of Mexico had claimed a substantial amount of land

located west of the U.S. by 1830. Many Americans, motivated by manifest destiny, migrated

westward into Mexican territory. Unfortunately, these Americans refused to follow the

designated rules established by Mexico. So much so that Americans, such as Sam Houston and

Steven Austin, stepped forward and fought for a Texan Republic. In 1836, Texans declared their

independence from the Republic of Mexico. Even though they were residing on previously

Mexican land, they were able to occupy and claim it under the regulations of manifest destiny. In

1845, Texas was annexed into the U.S. Shortly after, Texans decided to move their state

boundary 100 miles south into Mexican territory once again. However, in accordance to manifest

destiny, they could justifiably do so. And since Texas was now officially a state, the American

government was not only justified in contributing to the war, but encouraged in order to maintain

a sense of nationalism throughout the country - including its newest addition.

During this period, westward expansion was not only restricted to Texas, Americans were

migrating as far west as the Pacific coast. This was mainly due to the economic opportunities

that presented themselves along the coast. Along with being home to the gold rush, California

was an important place to be if Americans wanted to profit from trade with Asian countries.

Since the U.S. economy was still undergoing growth (as the territory of the country expanded),

foreign trade would be necessary in order to sustain and promote economic success. However,

Americans didn’t travel across the country overnight; migratory groups settled consecutively

farther and farther west. This migration reiterated the idea that movement and growth were
interconnected. Therefore, the Mexican-American War would be justified simply because growth

equals success; Texans were enlarging their territorial claims in order to aid the U.S. economy

and fulfill manifest destiny.

In 1620, when the Mayflower reached the New World, the Europeans on board

essentially “took” the lands of the Native Americans who were formerly occupying them.

Though this is regarded as a controversial topic, the Europeans were justified in taking and living

off the land they chose due to several reasons. There was an absence of an organized government

in the New World, as well as no formal territorial lines. Therefore, no one had the authority to

inform them that they were living on inhabited land, and no formal regulations or rules to follow

in order to obtain the land “legally”. In comparison to the Mexican-American War, both the 1846

Americans and the 1620 European colonists were justified in taking the controversial land they

procured due to the circumstances surrounding their territorial acquisitions.