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US North and South and Expansion to 1850

Indiana joined the union as the 19th state in 1816, Mississippi in 1817, Illinois 1818, and Alabama in December 1819, the 22nd state. The total population for the United States in 1820 is described as 9.6 million, surpassing New Spain (soon to be Mexico) at around 6 million, and Britain's Canadian territory had a population of less than 500,000. The US was the most populous power on the continent.

Styles were changing. James Madison (president from 1809 to 1817) was the last United States president to wear his hair in a pony tail. His successor, James Monroe (in office until 1825), was the last president to be seen in knee breeches.

In the United States transportation was improving. In 1800 it took thirty days to reach New York from New Orleans; in 1830 it took only fifteen days. In the North, water-powered flour milling and textile manufacturing were changing to steam power. They were employing women and children from the age of seven — a leftover from farming culture, which used child labor extensively. The North's middle-class clung to their belief in education, thrift, sobriety and hard work. And they were consuming more. The party of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe — the Democratic-Republican Party — were becoming as interested in commercial enterprise and manufacturing as Alexander Hamilton and the Federalists had been.

Rather south, in Kentucky (a state since 1792) tobacco farming and horse breeding had developed, and tobacco farming spread to Tennessee. Sugar was grown in Louisiana, but in Mississippi and Alabama, with their rich soils and warm climate, cotton growing dominated — cotton needing a growing season of 200 frost-free days. Arkansas Territory was having a boom in cotton growing.

The South was sending its cotton north to factories and was importing food. Northerners were investing their profits in machinery of various kinds, including better tools for farming. (Slavery was not so suitable for small family farms or manufacturing, and 1820 half of the northern states had outlawed slavery.) In the South meanwhile, planters were investing in more land and more slaves. The producton of cotton doubled between 1820 and 1830, and the economies of Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee were becoming tied to the boom in cotton growing. Plantation owners had less money to invest and were usually in debt to northern bankers. Many who were not plantation owners dreamed of buying a little land and retiring on a small plantation.

In the US House of Representatives, Southerners wanted to maximize their political strength and were counting their slaves for representation. Southern politicians had wanted Missouri to join as a slave state and Northern politicians had wanted it to join the Union as a free state. What was called the Missouri Compromise followed: In 1821, Maine was admitted to the union as a free state (no slavery), the 23rd, and Missouri became the 24th state, done with one piece of legislation.

Arkansas became a state in 1836, followed by Michigan in 1837. Florida, where many spoke Spanish, became the 27th state in 1845. Spain had ceded Florida to the US as a territory in 1821 after having found it difficult to maintain and defend following sizeable migrations from English-speaking peoples, mainly from the US South.

The 28th state was to be Texas, which had also been Spanish territory, until Mexico became independent from Spain (Mexico's wars of independence from 1810 to 1821, its independence recognized in 1836). People in places today called New Mexico and Arizona had to raise militias to protect themselves from hostile local Apache and Comanche Indians. Wanting to stabilize and develop its northern frontier, Mexico encouraged immigration, including into Texas. Soon in Texas, Anglos from the US outnumbered Mexico's citizens.

During Mexico's civil war from 1824, Texans fought for independence declared in March 1836. That month the Battle at the Alamo occurred, an unsound operation for the Anglos that Sam Houston had advised against. The Anglos there were slaughtered, but Sam Houston went on to military victories. In 1837, the United States officially recognized Texas as independent. Mexico refused such recognition. France established a trade agreement with Texas and recognized it as independent in 1839. Trade agreements and recognition by Great Britain, Holland and Belgium followed months later. Britain and France were looking to Texas as a source of cotton, sugar and tobacco.


By 1844, Democratic Party politicians were calling for aggrandizement in the form of the annexation of Texas. Legislators in Texas favored annexation. On December 29, 1845, the US Congress accepted Texas as the 28th state. Mexico responded with a burst of hostility toward the United States and a clamor for war. In California in June 1846, a coup occurred against Mexican rule, joined by a Mexican general, Mariano Vallejo, a man who believed that Mexico's hold on California was hopeless. In September, US troops led by General Zachery Taylor were moving into to Monterrey, 50 miles south of the border. In February, a little farther into Mexico, the Battle of Buena Vista [image] occurred, the Mexicans using muskets with an effective range no better than 100 yards and Taylor's using artillery with a range of 400 yards. The US forces lost 267 killed, the Mexicans 1037, and both sides claimed victory. In March 1847, US troops hit the beaches at [image] Vera Cruz, and after a 20-day siege they began fighting their way to Mexico City, arriving there in September.

A new Mexican government negotiated a settlement, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in Febraary 1848. From Mexico the United States won recognition as having gained what today is California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Mexico was given a guarantee of rights for the Mexican people living in these areas who had remained loyal to Mexico.

Iowa had become a state during the war, in 1846, and Wisconsin in 1848. California became the 31st state in 1850. Nevada and Utah were together what was called Utah Territory, Nevada to become a state in 1864 and Utah in 1896. New Mexico and Arizona were to remain US territories until 1912.

CONTINUE READING: Maritime Trade and Imperialism, 1801-60

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