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The issue of territorial expansion sparked considerable debate in the period 1800-1855. Analyze this debate and evaluate the influence of both supporters and opponents of territorial expansion in shaping federal government policy. The idea of Manifest destiny emerged in the 1840’s and said that the people of America were chosen by God to control the North American continent. But as Americans pushed West in hopes of territorial expansion, they encountered many problems. The North and South became increasingly belligerent towards each other specifically over the controversies of slavery. Due the nation annexing new lands, the status of slavery was on everyone’s minds. The Missouri Compromise which was supposed to settle this debate failed to prevent the conflict. So a dangerous crisis occurred. Although territorial expansion reflected the hopeful wishes of God, it only sparked a huge debate over slavery. Those who opposed Manifest destiny feared it would bring up the controversial issue of slavery and threaten the Union.
Specifically, the North was synonymous for its abolitionist movement and thus would not compromise until slavery was eliminated. On the other hand, the South defended the institutions of slavery by saying it was “a positive system for white southerners who needed a labor force”. However on the positive side of Manifest Destiny, many saw this expansion as a symbol of nationalism. The proponents agreed with its idea but there were mixed opinions on if they should use force and how far should the nation expand. The Democrats favored the use of force to extend the border while the Whigs favored extension through diplomacy. Henry Clay, a Whig and solid opponents of territorial expansion, feared like the people of its potential to aggravate the issue of slavery. The Missouri Compromise had divided up the Louisiana Purchase and said all the territory north would not permit slavery while those in the south would. Yet this only fueled more debate when settlers were trying to spread from “sea to shining sea,” thus overstepping the boundaries of the compromise.
So with Americans in Texas, Oregon county, New Mexico and California, the debate became even more heated. In Texas, after declaring its independence from Dictator Santa Anna, the debate was to annex it or not. Still everyone was questioning the issue of slavery. When Calhoun presented the annexation treaty to congress it was rejected and thus became the issue during the election of 1844. But before leaving office, John Tyler was able to accomplish one of Polk’s goals: the annexation of Texas. Additionally there were disputed claims in Oregon. With many countries claiming their rights to the land, the United States ended up compromising to the 49th parallel in order to stay clear of a war. But when the government was pushed into a The Mexican War, they were ultimately victorious.
Therefore, through the constant debate over territorial expansion many aspects of the government were changed. To avoid war, the United States settled on a series of compromises throughout the era of Manifest destiny. But also it shaped the issues of the presidential elections. With the people disagreeing on slavery, it was ultimately up to the President to decide what to do. With the number of slave states equaling that of the free states, the admission of new states such as California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah would upset the balance. Thus the controversy continued while Americans were acquiring new lands. Now it was up to the power holders, specifically the government to decide the fate of the territories and the issue of slavery.