Until the 19th century, music in America was performed and heard mostly in church. There were popular songs, too, but they were usually old tunes with new lyrics. The music for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for instance, came from an English drinking song.
With growing prosperity came an outburst of musical activity. In the North, orchestras played classical music from Europe. They also provided the music for the cotillion, in which groups of four couples danced together with elegantly coordinated movements. Dancers swirled through ballrooms, performing lively minuets, gavottes, mazurkas, and waltzes. Sometimes female dancers lifted their floor-length petticoats to show off their footwork. Displaying their ankles was considered quite daring.
In the South, slaves combined the hymns of white churchgoers with African musical styles to create spirituals. They also entertained themselves, and sometimes their masters, with rowdy folk songs accompanied by violin, drum, and banjo (an African American invention). In the South and West, square dances became common. These were less formal versions of the popular cotillion. As the fiddles played, a “caller” told dancers which steps to perform.
As demand for popular songs grew, composers answered with a stream of patriotic anthems. The best known is “America,” written in 1832 by Samuel Francis Smith. It begins “My country, ’tis of Thee” and is sung to the tune of England’s “God Save the King.”
White composers from the South, inspired by the music of black slaves, created a type of music known as minstrel songs. The songs honored black music by mimicking it. But at the same time, the performers mocked African Americans by blackening their white faces, wearing shabby clothes, and singing in exaggerated African American dialects. In 1828 Thomas Dartmouth Rice caused a national sensation with his song “Jump Jim Crow”:
Weel about and turn about and do jis so
Ev’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow. The racist phrase “Jim Crow,” which came from Rice’s black minstrel show character, had a long life. Many years later, laws that discriminated against African Americans would be known as “Jim Crow laws.”
Minstrel shows became the most popular form of entertainment in America. They inspired composer Stephen Foster to write such famous songs as “Old Folks at Home,” “Camptown Races,” and “Oh! Susanna.” Foster earned nationwide fame, proof that a truly American musical tradition had arrived.
Some Americans relaxed with rowdy folk songs and fiddle tunes, while
others listened to classical orchestras and performed formal dances. From North to South, music was a popular form of entertainment.
spiritual a religious folk song of African American origin
13.6 Early American Literature
In 1820, a British writer sneered, “Who reads an American book, or goes to an American play, or looks at an American picture or statue?” In the eyes of Europeans, the United States was a culturally backward nation. Yet America was finding its cultural voice, especially in literature.
Like the painters of the Hudson River School, writers began to use uniquely American subjects and settings. One of the first to achieve literary fame was Washington Irving. He drew on German folklore for his colorful tales of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but set them in the wilds of upstate New York. Irving’s enchanted stories were an immediate hit.
The nation’s first novelist was James Fenimore Cooper. In books such as The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans, Cooper wrote about the adventures of rugged frontiersmen venturing into the wilderness. His descriptions of frontier life and Native Americans attracted worldwide interest. In France, 18 publishers competed to publish The Pioneers.
Davy Crockett was a real-life frontiersman who spun tall tales about his life as a hunter, scout, soldier, and explorer. His election to Congress from Tennessee horrified Alexis de Tocqueville. The Frenchman described Crockett as a man “who has no education, can read with difficulty, has no property, no fixed residence, but passes his life hunting, selling his game to live, and dwelling continuously in the woods.” But that very image captivated Americans, who saw Crockett as the fictional frontier hero come to life. Crockett’s autobiography, which was full of his plain backwoods speech and rough humor, helped give popular literature a new, distinctly American accent.
New England’s Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of the first serious American poets. He wrote America’s first epic poem, The Song of Hiawatha, based on stories of Native Americans. Other poems, like his famous “Paul Revere’s Ride,” touched on patriotic themes. In “The Building of the Ship,” Longfellow celebrated America’s growing importance to the world:
…Sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
In both subject matter and style, writers like these helped nurture the growing sense of national identity. In particular, they encouraged the myth of rugged individualism that for many people—at home and abroad—best characterized America.
In a typical humorous boast, frontiersman Davy Crockett described himself as “half-horse, half-alligator.” Crockett became a national celebrity, and books bearing his name were best-sellers in the 1830s.
13.7 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about the growing sense of nationhood in the United States after the War of 1812. You used an illustration of the American flag to organize information about the art, music, politics, and literature that helped define the American identity.
People in the United States during this time were extremely proud of their country. Despite regional differences, it seemed that Americans were building a nation unlike any seen before. Rulers served the people, rather than the other way around. Men who started with nothing became wealthy merchants or powerful statesmen. That was what it meant to be American. It was what made you different from a European.
But was it really true?
Yes, answered Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville—but it was not the whole truth. African slaves and Native Americans, he wrote, “both occupy an equally inferior position in the country that they inhabit; both experience the effects of tyranny.” Still, de Tocqueville was impressed with the spirit of equality and national pride among white men of different classes.
The growing sense of national identity was reflected both in politics and culture. Congress and the Supreme Court took action to strengthen the national economy and the power of the federal government. Distinctly American themes and styles developed in art, music, and literature.
Yet, beneath the surface, inequalities in wealth and regional differences—especially over slavery—threatened national unity. How much longer could America remain united? Not long, concluded de Tocqueville. “Slavery, in the midst of the democratic freedom and enlightenment of our age, is not an institution that can endure…. One must expect great misfortunes.” Later on you will learn just how tragically right he was.
As a spirit of national pride swept the nation, painter George Caleb Bingham captured democracy at work on the frontier. The Verdict of the People (1855) shows a rough and lively crowd of voters, eager to hear the results of a local election.
Andrew Jackson and the Growth of American Democracy
What do you think these voters are talking about?
What type of candidate might these voters vote for?
What type of candidate might these voters vote for?
The presidential campaign of 1828 was one of the dirtiest in American history. The election pitted John Quincy Adams, the nation’s sixth president, against Andrew Jackson, the popular hero of the Battle of New Orleans.
During the campaign, both sides hurled reckless accusations at each other, a practice called mudslinging. Adams was called a “Sabbath-breaker” for traveling on Sunday. He was falsely accused of being an alcoholic. He was accused of using “public money” to purchase “gambling furniture” for the White House. In reality, he had used his own money to purchase a billiard table. Strangely, his opponents missed the one truth that might have shocked most Americans of the day. The very formal and proper Adams had a habit of swimming naked in the Potomac River.
The president’s supporters lashed back. They called Jackson a crude and ignorant man who was not fit to be president. They also raked up old scandals about his wife, Rachel. She was accused of marrying Jackson while she was still knowingly wed to her first husband (not true). One newspaper even charged Jackson’s mother with immoral behavior (not true). Jackson was called “Old Hickory” by his troops because he was as tough as “the hardest wood in creation.” But when he read these lies, he broke down and cried.
When the votes were counted, Jackson was clearly the people’s choice. But he was not the choice of the rich and well-born people who were used to running the country—the planters, merchants, bankers, and lawyers. “Nobody knows what he will do,” wrote Senator Daniel Webster gloomily. “My fear is stronger than my hope.”
Jackson proved to be a controversial president. In this chapter, you will discover how he was viewed by several groups of Americans, including not only the rich and well-born, but also the common people, Native Americans, and supporters of states’ rights.
Graphic Organizer: Character Portraits
You will draw facial expressions on the figures to record various groups’ reactions to Andrew Jackson’s presidency.
14.2 The Inauguration of Andrew Jackson
On March 4, 1829, more than 10,000 people from every state crowded into Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration of their hero. The visitors overwhelmed local hotels, sleeping five to a bed and drinking the city dry of whiskey. “I have never seen such a crowd here before,” observed Senator Webster. “Persons have come 500 miles to see General Jackson, and they really seem to think the country has been rescued from some…disaster.”
Many of the people flocking into the capital were first-time voters. Until the 1820s, the right to vote had been limited to the rich and well-born. Only white men with property, it was said, had the education and experience to vote wisely.
The new states forming west of the Appalachians challenged this argument. Along the frontier, all men—rich or poor, educated or not—shared the same opportunities and dangers. They believed they should also share the same rights, including the right to vote.
With the western states leading the way, voting laws were changed to give the “common man” the right to vote. This expansion of democracy did not yet include African Americans, Native Americans, or women. Still, over one million Americans voted in 1828, more than three times as many as voted in 1824.
Many of these new voters did believe that they had rescued the country from disaster. In their view, the national government had been taken over by corrupt “monied interests”—that is, the rich. Jackson had promised to throw these rascals out and return the government to “the people.” His election reflected a shift in power to the West and to the farmers, shopkeepers, and small business owners who supported him.
After Jackson was sworn in as president, a huge crowd followed him to the White House. As the crowd surged in, the celebration turned into a near riot. “Ladies fainted, men were seen with bloody noses, and such a scene of confusion took place as is impossible to describe,” wrote an eyewitness, Margaret Bayard Smith. Jackson was nearly “pressed to death” before escaping out a back door. “But it was the people’s day, and the people’s president,” Smith concluded. “And the people would rule.”
People of every color, age, and class mobbed the White House to see Andrew Jackson take his oath of office. One observer claimed that the scene was like the invasion of barbarians into Rome.
14.3 From the Frontier to the White House
The “people’s president” was the first “self-made man” to occupy the White House. Jackson was born in 1767, on the South Carolina frontier. His father died before he was born, leaving Jackson, his mother, and two brothers in poverty. Young Andrew loved sports more than schoolwork. He also had a hot temper. He would pick a fight at the drop of a hat, a friend recalled, and “he’d drop the hat himself.”
The American Revolution ended Jackson’s childhood. When he was just 13, Jackson joined the local militia and was captured by the British. One day, a British officer ordered Jackson to polish his boots. “Sir,” he replied boldly, “I am a prisoner of war and demand to be treated as such.” The outraged officer lashed out with his sword, slicing the boy’s head and hand. Jackson carried the scars to his grave.
The Frontier Lawyer After the war, Jackson decided to become a lawyer. He went to work in a law office in Salisbury, North Carolina. He quickly became known as “the most roaring, rollicking, game-cocking, horse-racing, card-playing, mischievous fellow” in town. The wonder is that he learned any law at all.
In 1788, Jackson headed west to Nashville, Tennessee, to practice law. At that time, Nashville was a tiny clump of rough cabins and tents beside the Cumberland River. But the town grew quickly, and Jackson’s practice grew with it. He soon earned enough money to buy land and slaves and set himself up as a gentleman planter.
Despite his success, Jackson never outgrew his hot temper. A slave trader named Charles Dickinson found this out when he called Jackson “a worthless scoundrel” and insulted his wife, Rachel. Enraged, Jackson
Andrew Jackson was born in this cabin in a small, rural South Carolina town. He received little formal education, but in his teens he studied law to become a lawyer.
self-made achieving wealth or influence through one’s own effort rather than being born to a privileged family
challenged Dickinson to a duel (fight) with pistols, even though the slave trader was said to be the best shot in Tennessee. At that time, duels were accepted as a way of settling disputes between gentlemen.
Dickinson shot first, hitting Jackson in the chest. Jackson stiffened, raised his pistol, and fired a single shot. Dickinson fell dead to the ground.
“My God,” a friend exclaimed on spotting Jackson’s wound. “He missed your heart only by an inch.” In fact, Dickinson’s bullet was lodged so close to Jackson’s heart that doctors were not able to remove it. “I would have hit him,” replied Jackson, “if he’d shot me through the brain!”
The People’s Choice Jackson entered politics in Tennessee, serving in both the House and Senate. But he did not become widely known until the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. His glorious defense of the city made “Old Hickory” a national hero.
In 1824, the hero of New Orleans ran for president against three other candidates—Henry Clay, William Crawford, and John Quincy Adams. Jackson won the most popular votes, and the most electoral votes as well. But he did not have enough electoral votes for a majority. When no candidate has an electoral majority, the House of Representatives chooses a president from the three leading candidates.
Clay, who had come in fourth, urged his supporters in the House to back Adams. That support gave Adams enough votes to become president. Adams then chose Clay to be his secretary of state.
It made sense for Adams to bring Clay into his cabinet, because the two men shared many of the same goals. Jackson’s supporters, however, accused Adams and Clay of making a “corrupt bargain” to rob their hero of his rightful election. And they promised revenge in 1828.
Jackson’s supporters used the time between elections to build a new political organization that came to be called the Democratic Party, the name it still wears today. This new party, they promised, would represent ordinary farmers, workers, and the poor, not the rich and well-born who had taken control of the Republican Party.
Jackson’s supporters worked feverishly to reach the nation’s new voters. Besides hurling insults at Adams, they organized huge parades, picnics, and rallies. At these events, supporters sang “The Hunters of Kentucky”—the nation’s first campaign song—and cheered for Old Hickory. They wore Jackson badges, carried hickory sticks, and chanted catchy campaign slogans like “Adams can write, but Jackson can fight.”
The result was a great victory for Jackson. But it was also a victory for the idea that the common people should control their government. This idea became known as Jacksonian Democracy.
Jackson is shown here at the Battle of New Orleans, where he became a national hero after defeating the British.
This campaign poster shows the theme of Jackson’s presidential campaign. His supporters claimed that if Jackson were elected, government would finally be in the hands of ordinary people, not just the rich and well-born.
14.4 Jackson’s Approach to Governing
Jackson approached governing much as he had approached leading an army. He listened to others, but then he did exactly what he thought was right.
The Kitchen Cabinet Unlike earlier presidents, Jackson did not rely on his cabinet for advice. He made most of his decisions with the help of trusted friends and political supporters. These advisors were said to meet with him in the White House kitchen. For this reason, they were known as the “kitchen cabinet.”
The rich and well-born looked at the “kitchen cabinet” with deep suspicion. In their eyes, the men around the president were not the proper sort to be running the country. One congressman accused Amos Kendall, Jackson’s closest advisor, of being “the President’s…lying machine!” Jackson ignored such charges and continued to turn for advice to men he trusted.
The Spoils System Jackson’s critics were even more upset by his decision to replace many Republican officeholders with loyal Democrats. Most of these civil servants viewed their posts as lifetime jobs. Jackson disagreed. Rotating people in office was more democratic than lifetime service, he said, because it gave more people a chance to serve their government. After a few years in office, civil servants should “go back to making a living as other people do.”
Jackson’s opponents called the practice of rewarding political sup-porters with jobs the spoils system. This term came from the saying that “to the victor belong the spoils [prizes] of war.” They also exaggerated the number of Republicans removed from office. Only about 10 percent of all civil servants were replaced, and many who were dismissed from their jobs deserved to be. One was an official who had stolen $10,000 from the Treasury. When he begged Jackson to let him stay in office, the president replied, “Sir, I would turn out my own father under the same circumstances.”
But Jackson could put patriotism above party loyalty. One dismissed postmaster started to undress to show the president his wounds from the Revolutionary War. Jackson snapped, “Put your coat on at once, sir!” The next day, the postmaster got his job back.
In this cartoon, titled “Office Hunters for the Year 1834,” Andrew Jackson is a puppet master. He is pulling strings attached to people who want to be appointed to public offices. What is the cartoonist’s opinion of Jackson?
civil servants employees of the government
spoils system the practice of rewarding political supporters with government jobs
14.5 The Nullification Crisis
Jackson’s approach to governing was tested by an issue that threatened to break up the United States. In 1828, Congress passed a law raising tariffs, or taxes, on imported goods such as cloth and glass. The idea was to encourage the growth of manufacturing. Higher tariffs meant higher prices for imported factory goods. American manufacturers could then outsell their foreign competitors.
Northern states, humming with new factories, favored the new tariff law. But southerners opposed tariffs for several reasons. Tariffs raised the prices they paid for factory goods. High tariffs also discouraged trade among nations, and planters in the South worried that tariffs would hurt cotton sales to other countries. In addition, many southerners believed that a law favoring one region—in this case, the North—was unconstitutional. Based on this belief, John C. Calhoun, Jackson’s vice president, called on southern states to declare the tariff “null and void,” or illegal and not to be honored.
Jackson understood southerners’ concerns. In 1832, he signed a new law that lowered tariffs—but not enough to satisfy the most extreme supporters of states’ rights in South Carolina. Led by Calhoun, they boldly proclaimed South Carolina’s right to nullify, or reject, both the 1828 and 1832 tariff laws. Such an action was called nullification.
The constitutional issue of nullification had been raised by the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions 30 years before. But now South Carolinians took the idea of states’ rights even farther. They threatened to secede if the national government tried to enforce the tariff laws.
Jackson was outraged. “If one drop of blood be shed there in defiance of the laws of the United States,” he raged, “I will hang the first man of them I can get my hands on from the first tree I can find.” He called on Congress to pass the Force Bill, which allowed him to use the federal army to collect tariffs if needed. At the same time, Congress passed a compromise bill that lowered tariffs still further.
Faced with such firm opposition, South Carolina backed down and the nullification crisis ended. However, the tensions between the North and the South would increase in the years ahead.
In this cartoon, John C. Calhoun is the figure at the top of the staircase. Calhoun, who believed that states have the right to nullify, or reject, federal laws, is reaching toward a crown. The crown is a symbol of his desire for power. Andrew Jackson is pulling on the coattails of a Calhoun supporter. He wants to prevent Calhoun from trampling on the Constitution and destroying the Union.
tariff a tax imposed by the government on goods imported from another country
secede to withdraw from an organization or alliance; in this case, to withdraw from the United States
14.6 Jackson Battles the Bank of the United States
Jackson saw himself as the champion of the people, and never more so than in his war with the Bank of the United States. As you learned in Chapter 13, the Bank was partly owned by the federal government, and it had a monopoly on federal deposits. Jackson thought that the Bank benefited rich Eastern investors at the expense of farmers and workers as well as smaller state banks. He felt that the powerful Bank stood in the way of opportunity for hopeful capitalists in the West and other regions. He also distrusted the Bank’s president, Nicholas Biddle, who was everything Jackson was not—wealthy, well-born, highly educated, and widely traveled.
The Bank’s charter was due to come up for renewal in 1836, and Jackson might have waited until then to “slay the monster,” as he called it. But Henry Clay, who planned to run for president against Jackson in 1832, decided to force the issue. Clay pushed a bill through Congress that renewed the Bank’s charter four years early. He thought that if Jackson signed the bill, the president would lose votes from farmers who shared his dislike of banks. But if Jackson vetoed the bill, he would lose votes from businesspeople who depended on the Bank for loans. What Clay had forgotten was that there were many more poor farmers to cast votes than there were rich bankers and businesspeople.
Jackson vetoed the recharter bill. Even though the Supreme Court had ruled that the Bank was constitutional, Jackson called the Bank an unconstitutional monopoly that existed mainly to make the rich richer. The voters seemed to agree. Jackson was reelected by a large majority.
Rather than wait for the Bank to die when its charter ran out, Jackson decided to starve it to death. In 1833, he ordered the secretary of the treasury to remove all federal deposits from the Bank and put the money in state banks. Jackson’s enemies called these banks “pet banks” because they were run by the president’s supporters.
Delegations of business owners begged Jackson not to kill the Bank. Jackson refused. Slaying the Bank, he believed, was a victory for economic democracy.
Andrew Jackson, on the left, is attacking the many-headed Bank of the United States with a veto stick. Nicholas Biddle is in the center wearing a top hat. The many heads represent the 24 state directors of the Bank. Vice President Van Buren is choking Massachusetts and Delaware.
14.7 Jackson’s Indian Policy
As a frontier settler and famous Indian fighter—Native Americans called him “Sharp Knife”—Jackson had little sympathy for Indians. During his presidency, it became national policy to remove Native Americans from the East by force.
White settlers had come into conflict with Native Americans ever since colonial days. After independence, the new national government tried to settle these conflicts through treaties. Typically, the treaties drew boundaries between areas claimed for settlers and areas that the government promised to let the Indians have forever. In exchange for giving up their old lands, Indians were promised food, supplies, and money.
Despite the treaties, Native Americans continued to be pushed off their land. By the time Jackson became president, only 125,000 Indians still lived east of the Mississippi River. Warfare and disease had greatly reduced the number of Indians in the East. Others had sold their lands for pennies an acre and moved across the Mississippi. Jackson was determined to remove the remaining Indians to a new Indian Territory in the West.
Most of the eastern Indians lived in the South. They belonged to five groups, called tribes by whites: the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole. Hoping to remain in their homelands, these Indians had adopted many white ways. Most had given up hunting to become farmers. Many had learned to read and write. The Cherokee even had their own written language, a newspaper, and a constitution modeled on the U.S. Constitution. Whites called these Indians the “Five Civilized Tribes.”
While the Five Civilized Tribes may have hoped to live in peace with their neighbors, whites did not share this goal. As the cotton kingdom spread westward, wealthy planters and poor settlers alike looked greedily at Indian homelands. The Indians, they decided, had to go.
The Indian Removal Act In 1830, urged on by President Jackson, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. This law allowed the president to make treaties in which Native Americans in the East traded their lands for new territory on the Great Plains. The law did not say that the Indians should be removed by force, and in 1831 the Supreme Court ruled that Indians had a right to their lands. An angry Jackson disagreed. Groups that refused to move west voluntarily were met with military force, usually with tragic results.
This was true of the Sac and Fox of Illinois. Led by a chief named Black Hawk, the Sac and Fox fought removal for two years. Black Hawk’s War ended in 1832 with the slaughter of most of his warriors. As he was taken off in chains, the chief told his captors:
Sequoyah, pictured above, was a Cherokee Indian who developed an 86-letter alphabet for the Cherokee language. The alphabet contained both Roman letters and symbols that Sequoyah created. Even though these Native Americans developed what many whites considered an advanced civilization, wealthy planters and poor settlers were determined to force them out and seize their lands.
Black Hawk is an Indian. He has done nothing for which an Indian ought to be ashamed. He has fought for his countrymen, the squaws [women] and papooses [young children], against white men who came, year after year, to cheat them of and take away their land. You know the cause of our making war. It is known to all white men. They ought to be ashamed of it. The Trail of Tears Many whites were ashamed. Washington was flooded with protests over the treatment of Indians. Still the work of removal continued. In 1836 thousands of Creeks who refused to leave Alabama were rounded up and marched west in handcuffs. Two years later, under President Martin Van Buren, more than 17,000 Cherokee were dragged from their homes in Georgia and herded west by federal troops. Four thousand died during their long walk to Indian Territory. Those who survived remembered that terrible journey as their “Trail of Tears.” A soldier who took part in the Cherokee removal called it “the cruelest work I ever knew.”
Led by a young chief named Osceola, the Seminoles of Florida resisted removal for ten years. Their long struggle was the most costly Indian war ever fought in the United States. A number of Seminoles were finally sent to Indian Territory. But others found refuge (safety) in the Florida swamps. Their descendants still live in the state today.
When Jackson left office, he was proud of having “solved” the Indian problem for good. But as you will learn in the next two chapters, Jackson had simply moved the conflict between Indians and whites across the mighty Mississippi.
This artist painted an unrealistic picture of the Trail of Tears. Most of the Cherokees had no horses or warm blankets. They were dragged from their homes and allowed to take only the clothes they had on. Many died as they walked barefoot for hundreds of miles.
The Indian Removals
1. From which states were Indians removed?
2. To what future state were they moved?
3. How does the size of Indian Territory compare to the size of their homelands?
4. How far were Indians forced to travel to reach Indian Territory?
5. Which Native American tribe was involved in the Trail of Tears?
6. How many other tribes were forced into Indian Territory?
7. In what direction were Indians pushed? Why were they pushed in this direction?
14.8 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you read about the presidency of Andrew Jackson. You used character portraits to evaluate Jackson’s presidency from the perspective of different groups.
First-time voters, many of them farmers and frontiersmen, flocked to the polls to help elect Andrew Jackson in 1828. Jackson’s supporters celebrated his election as a victory for the “common man” over the rich, well-born, and powerful. Jackson, after all, was a self-made man who rose from poverty to become president of the United States.
As president, Jackson fought a number of battles for “the people”—and rewarded his friends and supporters at the same time. For advice, he relied on his “kitchen cabinet,” rather than the official cabinet. He replaced a number of Republican civil servants with Democrats. And he waged war on the powerful Bank of the United States.
A controversy over higher tariffs led to the nullification crisis, in which South Carolinians threatened to separate from the United States. Although Jackson forced them to back down, the crisis was an early sign of developing tensions between northern and southern states.
Jackson’s Indian policy was simple: move the eastern Indians across the Mississippi to make room for whites. The Indian Removal Act caused great suffering for thousands of Native Americans. Furthermore, Jackson had only moved the conflict between whites and Indians to the West, not solved it. For, as you will read in the next chapter, the West was just where many white Americans were looking for new opportunities and the chance to expand their way of life across the continent.
Andrew Jackson was America’s first frontier president. He came to office with great popular support. His supporters viewed him as a president of the people. His enemies saw him as a president hoping to become a king.
Manifest Destiny and the Growing Nation
How do these people feel about settlers moving west?
Why is this man going west?
A century and a half ago, the words “Manifest Destiny” inspired vast hopes and dreams among Americans. They led to a war with Mexico. And they changed the map of the United States.
The phrase manifest destiny means “obvious fate.” It was coined in 1845 by John O’Sullivan, a New York newspaperman. O’Sullivan wrote that it was America’s “manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent.” Looking at the land beyond the Rocky Mountains, he argued that “the God of nature and nations has marked it for our own.”
The fact that Great Britain claimed part of this land—a huge territory known as Oregon—made no difference to O’Sullivan. After all, the United States had stood up to Britain in the War of 1812 and survived.
Nor was O’Sullivan impressed by Mexico’s claims to much of the West. Like many Americans, he believed that America had a duty to extend the blessings of democracy to new lands and peoples. It was God’s plan, he wrote, for Americans to expand their “great experiment with liberty.”
When Americans began their “great experiment” in 1776, the idea that the United States might one day spread across the continent seemed an impossible dream. By 1848, however, the dream was a reality. In this chapter, you will learn how the United States tripled its size in a little more than a single lifetime.
As America grew, it became far more diverse. Its new territories were home to many native peoples, as well as settlers from France, Spain, Mexico, and other countries. America’s growth would have a major impact on the people who were already living in the West.
Manifest Destiny took many forms. America grew through treaties, through settlement, and through war. As you read this chapter, think about the way each new territory was acquired. Was O’Sullivan right that this expansion was a matter of destiny? Or was it a matter of diplomacy and sometimes dishonorable dealings? Could Americans have made different decisions along the way?
Graphic Organizer: Map of Territorial Acquisitions
You will use this map of America’s acquisitions to study how and why the United States expanded across the continent.
15.2 The Louisiana Purchase
America’s first opportunity for expansion during the early nineteenth century involved the vast territory to the west of the Mississippi River, then known as Louisiana. The United States wanted the port city of New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. By 1800, thousands of farmers were settling the land to the west of the Appalachian Mountains. To get their crops to market, they floated them down the Mississippi to New Orleans. There they loaded the crops onto ships bound for Europe or for cities on the East Coast.
The farmers depended on being able to move their crops freely along this route. “The Mississippi,” wrote James Madison, “is to them everything. It is the Hudson, the Delaware, the Potomac, and all the navigable rivers of the Atlantic States formed into one stream.”
Louisiana Across the Mississippi lay the unexplored territory of Louisiana. This immense region stretched from Canada south to Texas. From the Mississippi, it reached west all the way to the Rocky Mountains. First claimed by France, Louisiana was given to Spain after the French and Indian War. In 1800, the French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte convinced Spain to return Louisiana to France.
Napoleon had plans for Louisiana. He hoped to settle the territory with thousands of French farmers. These farmers would raise food for slaves who toiled on France’s sugar plantations in the Caribbean.
Napoleon’s plans alarmed frontier farmers. New Orleans was part of Louisiana. If Napoleon closed the port to American goods, farmers would have no way to get their crops to market.
“A Noble Bargain” President Thomas Jefferson understood the concerns of American farmers. So, in 1803, he sent James Monroe to France with an offer to buy New Orleans for $7.5 million. By the time Monroe
American diplomats (standing) work out the final details of the Louisiana Purchase with Tallyrand, the French foreign minister.
reached France, Napoleon had changed his plans. A few years earlier, a slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture had led a slave revolt in the French Caribbean colony known today as Haiti. The former slaves defeated the French troops who tried to take back the colony. As a result, Napoleon no longer needed Louisiana.
In addition, France and Britain were on the brink of war. Napoleon knew that he might lose Louisiana to the British. Rather than lose Louisiana, it made sense to sell it to the United States.
Napoleon’s offer to sell all of Louisiana stunned James Monroe. Instead of a city, suddenly the United States had the opportunity to buy an area as big as itself!
It didn’t take long for Monroe to agree. On April 30, 1803, he signed a treaty giving Louisiana to the United States in exchange for $15 million. Said the French foreign minister, “You have made a noble bargain for yourselves, and I suppose you will make the most of it.”
The Purchase Debate To most Americans, the Louisiana Purchase looked like the greatest land deal in history. The new territory would double the country’s size at a bargain price of just 2 to 3 cents an acre!
Still, not everyone approved. Some people worried that such a large country would be impossible to govern. Politicians in the East fretted that they would lose power. Sooner or later, they warned, Louisiana would be carved into enough new states to outvote the eastern states in Congress.
Others fussed about the $15 million price tag. “We are to give money of which we have too little,” wrote a Boston critic, “for land of which we already have too much.”
Opponents also accused Jefferson of “tearing the Constitution to tatters.” They said that the Constitution made no provision for purchasing foreign territory.
Jefferson was troubled by the argument that the purchase was unconstitutional. Still, he believed that it was better to stretch the Constitution than to lose a historic opportunity.
Late in 1803, the Senate voted to ratify the Louisiana Purchase treaty. Frontier farmers cheered the news. “You have secured to us the free navigation of the Mississippi,” a grateful westerner wrote Jefferson. “You have procured an immense and fertile country: and all these great blessings are obtained without war and bloodshed.”
In this painting, the American flag is raised in New Orleans as the French flag is taken down. The ceremony marked the official transfer of the Louisiana Territory in 1803.
Having acquired Louisiana through diplomacy, President Jefferson turned next to Florida. Spain had colonized this sunny peninsula in the late 1500s. By the 1800s, Florida had a diverse population of Seminole Indians, Spanish colonists, English traders, and runaway slaves. In 1804, Jefferson sent two diplomats to Spain to buy Florida. Spain’s answer was “no deal.”
Many white Americans in the Southeast wanted the United States to take over Florida. Slave owners in Georgia were angry because slaves sometimes ran away to Florida. (Some of the runaways were accepted and welcomed by the Seminole Indians.) In addition, white landowners in Georgia were upset by Seminole raids on their lands.
Over the next few years, Spain’s control of Florida weakened. The Spanish government could do nothing to stop the raids on farms in Georgia by Seminoles and ex-slaves.
Andrew Jackson Invades Florida In 1818, President James Monroe sent Andrew Jackson—the hero of the Battle of New Orleans—to Georgia with orders to end the raids. Jackson was told that he could chase raiding Seminoles into Florida. But he did not have authority to invade the Spanish colony.
Despite his orders, Jackson marched into Florida with a force of 1,700 troops. Over the next few weeks, he captured nearly every military post in the colony. He arrested, tried, and executed two British subjects for stirring up Indian attacks. He also replaced the Spanish governor with an American. Later Jackson said that he was sorry that he didn’t execute the governor as well. Spain demanded that Jackson be called back to Washington and punished for his illegal invasion.
“Govern or Get Out” Fearing war, Monroe asked his cabinet for advice. All but one of his cabinet members advised him to remove Jackson and apologize to Spain. The exception was Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Rather than apologize, Adams convinced Monroe to send a blunt message to Spain. The message was, either govern Florida properly or get out.
Equally fearful of war, Spain decided to get out. In 1819, the Spanish government agreed to yield Florida to the United States. In exchange, the United States agreed to pay off $5 million in settlers’ claims against Spain. The United States also agreed to honor Spain’s longtime claim to Texas.
Not all Americans were happy about leaving Spain in charge of Texas. One newspaper declared that Texas was “worth ten Floridas.” Even so, the Senate ratified the Florida treaty two days after it was signed.
Escaped slaves were accepted into Seminole Indian communities, and often intermarried. Here we see Chief Abraham, a Seminole leader of both African and Seminole heritage.