SS7 Chapter 13 Notes: The Manifest Destiny

Section 1: The Oregon Territory (p. 348-352)

Rivalry in the Northwest

The Oregon Country covered much more land than today’s state of Oregon. But in the early 1800s, four countries (United States, Great Britain, Spain and Russia) claimed the Oregon Country.

Many Americans wanted to be able to get to the Pacific Ocean. One way to do this would be to control Oregon. In 1819, the United States and Spain signed the Adams-Onís Treaty where Spain gave up its lands in the Oregon Country. Soon after Russia would give up it’s claim of the Oregon Country as well.  For years both the United States and Great Britain jointly occupied the Oregon Country.

The first Americans to live in the Oregon Country were fur traders. Fur companies bought the skins to sell in the United States and Europe. The fur trappers were called mountain men. Mountain men often adopted Native Americans custom because they traded with them so often.

As the popularity of fur declined, mountain men had to find new ways to make a living. Some used their knowledge of the region and became guides.

Guides helped settlers who were moving west to the Oregon Country. They created new routes that led from the east to the west and the best-known route was the Oregon Trail. Guides created other important routes. One was the California Trail and another was the Santa Fe Trail.

Oregon and Manifest Destiny

Americans began to settle all over the Oregon country in the 1830s.

Settlers kept coming to Oregon as reports of fertile land attracted many of them. Others faced economic hard times and wanted a fresh start. These pioneers were called emigrants. Emigrants are people who leave their home country for another place. To reach Oregon, they had to travel about 2,000 difficult miles. They packed everything they owned in covered wagons. These wagons were called prairie schooners. Even though it was a very hard trip, thousands of people started for Oregon.

In the early 1800s, many Americans thought the nation had a special role to play in the world. Many Americans thought they should spread freedom by settling the whole country, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. In the 1840s, newspaper editor John O’Sullivan called this mission “Manifest Destiny.”

Many Americans thought the United States should take over all of Oregon. James K. Polk ran for president in 1844 and he strongly believed in Manifest Destiny. He thought the border for the Oregon Country should be 54 ̊N but the British did not agree to this. The border was finally set at 49 ̊N (49 degrees North of the Equator). James K. Polk won the election because of his support for Manifest Destiny.

Section 2: Statehood for Florida and Texas (p. 353-357)


In 1821, Spain transferred Florida to the United States. Thousands of new settlers came to Florida from the United States because of the fertile soil. Among these were planters from Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas. The soil in those states had been overused and as a result did not grow crops well. The planters settled mostly in western and northwestern Florida. They set up cotton and tobacco plantations.

The population of Florida began to grow quickly and in 1839, a constitution was submitted to the U.S. Congress for approval. This would allow Florida to become a state. The question of allowing slavery created a problem. Congress wanted to keep the number of slave states and the number of free states equal. Admitting Florida as a slave state would make the number uneven. Years later when Iowa joined the Union as a free state, Florida joined as a slave state.


In 1821, Mexico won its freedom from Spain. Mexico owned Texas. Mexican citizens who lived there were called Tejanos. Mexico wanted more people to settle in Texas and encouraged Americans to come and live there. Stephen F. Austin brought 300 American families to Texas and became their leader.

Americans did not want to follow the rules that Mexico made for those living in Texas. Mexico made a decree, or official order, that no more Americans could come to Texas. American leaders Stephen Austin and Sam Houston tried to reach an agreement with Mexico, but could not so they decided to break away from Mexico to form their own government.

In 1835, Mexican general Santa Anna led an army into Texas to stop the Americans. The Mexicans had many more soldiers. Still, the Texans captured the city of San Antonio.

Santa Anna did not give up. In 1835, his army marched to San Antonio. It found a group of American soldiers barricaded, or blocked off, in a mission building called the Alamo. Santa Anna attacked and the defenders of the Alamo fought long and hard for 13 days. In the end Santa Anna killed all the American soldiers. The general was sure the Texans were beaten. The bravery of the defenders inspired other Texans. “Remember the Alamo!,” Texans would cry.

In 1836 while fighting was going on at the Alamo, Texan leaders met. They announced that they were independent of Mexico. Sam Houston gathered an army and supplies. The Texan army made a surprise attack near San Jacinto. They beat the Mexican army and captured General Santa Anna. Santa Anna signed a treaty agreeing that Texas was independent of Mexico.

Texas was now a country. It was named the Lone Star Republic. In September 1836, voters elected Sam Houston president. He asked the United States to annex, or take control of, Texas. Again the problem of balancing slave and free states came up. Adding Texas as a slave state would upset the balance in Congress. Southerners wanted to annex Texas. Northerners were against adding another slave state.

Section 3: War with Mexico (p. 360-364)

The New Mexico Territory

The New Mexico Territory included all of present-day New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Mexico and the United States fought a war over this land.

In 1821, when Mexico won its independence, New Mexico became a part of it.

The Spanish did not want Americans to live in Santa Fe. They were afraid the Americans would take the land away from them. However, the new government of Mexico welcomed Americans. They hoped more trade would help the economy.

William Becknell was the first American trader to reach Santa Fe in New Mexico. He arrived in 1821. He brought many goods to sell. The route he took became known as the Santa Fe Trail. It began near Independence, Missouri. That was the western edge of the United States. The trail was mostly flat, so Becknell could use wagons to transport his goods. It eventually became a busy route.

California’s Spanish Culture

The Spanish were the first Europeans to reach California. In the 1700s, Spanish explorers and Mexican missionaries settled there. Missions were built to convert Native Americans to Christianity and to teach them the Spanish way of life.

When California became a part of Mexico in 1821, Mexicans bought mission lands. They set up ranchos, or large estates. The estates were owned by wealthy rancheros. Native Americans worked on ranchos and in exchange, they received food and shelter. However, rancheros treated them almost like slaves.

Americans began to talk about adding California to the United States. If California became a state, the nation’s western border would be the Pacific Ocean. Shippers also wanted to build seaports on the coast. From there, they could trade with countries in Asia.

Conflict Begins

President Polk wanted to get both New Mexico and California from Mexico. He offered to buy the land, but Mexico would not sell it so instead he planned to get the land by going to war with Mexico. He hoped to get Mexico to start the fighting.

Mexico and the United States disagreed about where the border was between Texas and Mexico. The United States said it was the Rio Grande, the river to the south. Mexico said the border was the Nueces River. It was 150 miles farther north. Polk sent General Zachary Taylor to march his army into the area between the two rivers. Mexican soldiers opened fire first and Congress voted to go for the United States to war with Mexico.

Polk had three goals to win the war:

  • Push Mexican forces out of Texas
  • Take control of New Mexico and California
  • Capture Mexico City

Through careful military planning, all three goals were eventually met.

In 1848, the Mexicans stopped fighting. The treaty, or agreement, that ended the war was called the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexico gave up California and the New Mexico Territory. It also agreed that the Rio Grande was the border between Mexico and Texas. Mexico gave more than 500,000 square of land to the United States. The United States paid Mexico $15 million dollars for the land. They also took on $3.25 million in debts that Mexico owed to American citizens. The dream of Manifest Destiny had become a reality.

Section 4: California and Utah (p. 365-369)

California Gold Rush

Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1848. The news traveled fast. Soon many people came to California to see if they could get rich.

Where did they come from? About 80 percent of these people were American. Others were from:

  • Mexico
  • South America
  • Europe
  • Australia
  • China

Taken together, all these groups made up the forty-niners. That is because most got there in 1849.

The people already living in California were called Californios. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had ended the Mexican War. It said that the Californios were now citizens of the United States. The treaty said they had the right to keep their land. Then, the Land Law of 1851 passed which said that if a new settler claimed the land of a Californio, he had to go to court to prove the land belonged to him. Many Californios lost their land to newcomers because of this law.

When miners rushed to new areas to look for gold, they built new villages. These grew quickly into cities. Such places were called boomtowns. Cities like San Francisco grew quickly.

Much gold was found. The California Gold Rush doubled the amount of gold in the world. Very few individuals got rich from gold mining, though. Most people did not find gold. Some found gold and spent it foolishly.

The Gold Rush had many lasting effects:

  • Agriculture, shipping, and trade grew
  • Many people who came to look for gold stayed
  • Those who stayed went into farming or business
  • In 1849 California asked to become a state

Californians wrote a new constitution. The new constitution banned slavery. Southern states did not want California to join the Union. Congress wanted an equal number of slave states and free states. In 1850 a compromise was reached. California became a state.

A Religious Refuge in Utah

Change was also taking place in Utah where Mormons were building a new community there.

Joseph Smith founded the Mormon religion. Smith said he had visions that led him to build a church. He called it the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The religion is also known as the Mormon religion. He published The Book of Mormon as well.

Mormons believed in hard work. They also believed that a man could have more than one wife (polygamy). This belief made them unpopular wherever they went. Then, in 1844, Joseph Smith was killed by an angry mob.

Brigham Young took over as leader of the Mormons and led them westward to the Great Salt Lake. The territory was in present-day Utah. It was part of Mexico at the time. However, no Mexicans lived there. The land was dry and harsh.

In 1850 Congress set up the Utah Territory. Brigham Young was named governor.

The Mormons often had conflicts with the U.S. government. Utah did not become a state until 1896.