School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic B. Emergence, Expansion and Changes in Nations and Empires

Indicator 3. Evaluate westward movement in the United States before 1877

Objective b. Describe the government strategies used to acquire territory

Clarification

The United States government encouraged westward expansion by acquiring land through purchase, treaty, annexation, or war. The first step in acquiring land was the movement of settlers into an area even before the U.S. government officially possessed it. Although such activity was not organized by the federal government, the government certainly approved of such settlement, and it was a critical foundation for later, more formal steps in territorial acquisition. Initially, the government acquired land through peaceful means, but as the thirst for land and the belief in Manifest Destiny increased, U.S. tactics for territorial expansion became more aggressive. In 1803, the U.S. purchased Louisiana from France at a bargain price, taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself unexpectedly. Oregon was acquired peacefully when, after almost 30 years of joint occupation, the U.S. signed a treaty with Great Britain that divided the territory along the 49th parallel. Although the United States threatened military action in this instance, the overwhelming nature of American settlement in Oregon persuaded Great Britain to compromise without hostilities. Despite two failed attempts to purchase Texas from Mexico, the U.S. government acquired Texas through annexation in 1845, after American settlers in the territory had won independence from Mexico through war. When Mexico refused to sell New Mexico and California to the United States, the U.S. provoked Mexico into an outright war to acquire those territories. The government also used aggressive methods to acquire land from Native Americans. The U.S. compelled many Indian nations to accept payment for their lands and pushed or tricked them into signing treaties, and when the native peoples resisted, as the Cherokee did, the government used the military to force them to move. As a result of the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, in which the U.S. purchased a small slice of land in the Southwest from Mexico, the United States mainland reached its present size.

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