Analyze to what extent U.S. expansion during the period 1820 – 1860 was motivated by southern desires to spread the institution of slavery.



Source:  Emanuel Leutze,  Westward the Course of Empire Takes Its Way.



The present policy of the Government is but a continuation of the same progressive change by a milder process.  The tribes which occupied the countries now constituting the Eastern States were annihilated or have melted away to make room for the whites.  The waves of population and civilization are rolling to the westward, and we now propose to acquire the countries occupied by the red men of the South and West by a fair exchange, and, at the expense of the United States, to send them to a land where their existence may be prolonged and perhaps made perpetual.

Source:  Andrew Jackson, 2nd Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1830. 



Source:  Lansford Hastings Emigrant Guidebook, 1845. 



      But, sir, the issue now presented is not whether slavery shall exist unmolested where it now is, but whether it shall be carried to new and distant regions, now free, where the footprint of a slave cannot be found.  This, sir, is the issue.  Upon it I take my stand, and from it I cannot be frightened or driven by idle charges of abolitionism. . .

      Now, sir, we are told that California is ours, that New Mexico is ours – won by the valor of our arms.  They are free.  Shall they remain free?  . . . Slavery follows in the rear of our armies.  Shall the war power of our government be exerted to produce such a result?  Shall this government depart from its neutrality on this question, and lend its power and influence to plant slavery in these territories?

. . . Shall the South be permitted by aggression, by invasion of the right, by subduing free territory and planting slavery upon it, to wrest these provinces from Northern freemen, and turn them to the accomplishment of their own sectional purposes and schemes?

Source:  Representative David Wilmot (PA), speech to Congress, February 8, 1847. 



It can no longer be doubted that this is a war of conquest . . .

     A war of conquest is bad; but the present war has darker shadows.  It is a war for the extension of slavery over a territory which has already been purged, by Mexican authority, from this stain and curse.  Fresh markets of human beings are to be established; further opportunities for this hateful traffic are to be opened; the lash of the overseer is to be quickened in new regions; and the wretched slave is to be hurried to unaccustomed fields of toil.

     It has already been shown that the annexation of Texas was consummated for this purpose.  The Mexican war is a continuance, a prolongation, of the same efforts; and the success which crowned the first emboldens the partisans of the latter, who now, as before, profess to extend the area of freedom, while they are establishing a new sphere for slavery .  .  .  . But it is not merely proposed to open new markets for slavery: it is also designed to confirm and fortify the “Slave Power."

Source:  Charles Sumner, “Report on the War with Mexico,” April, 1847. 



. . . All this land, no matter whence it was derived, belongs to all the states jointly .  .  .  .[N]o citizen of the United States can be debarred from moving thither with his property, and enjoying the liberties guaranteed by the constitution .  .  .  . Any law or regulation which interrupts, limits, delays or postpones the rights of the owner to the immediate command of his service or labor, operates a discharge of the slave from service, and is a violation of the constitution .  .  .  . To set up therefore a pretence that if they adhere to the property they possess, they shall be deprived of their rights in the states to be formed in any acquired territory, is an unprincipled violation of a solemn treaty, an attack upon the constitution, and a gross injustice to the rights of neighboring states.

Source:  Editorial, The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, October, 1847.



     Early in January, 1849 we first thought of emigrating to California.  It was a period of national hard times, and we being financially involved in our business interests near Clinton, Iowa, longed to go to the new El Dorado and “pick up” gold enough with which to return and pay off our debts .  .  .  .

     Full of energy and enthusiasm of youth, the prospects of so hazardous an undertaking had no terror for us.  Indeed, as we had been married but a few months, it appealed to us as a romantic wedding tour.  .  .  . At that time “gold fever” was contagious and few, old or young, escaped the malady.  On the streets, in the fields, in the workshops, and by the fireside, golden California was the chief topic of conversation.

Source:  Catherine Haun, “Across the Plains in a Prairie Schooner,” 1849. 




House of Representatives
(# of seats)

Senate (# of seats)

Year Congress Free States Slave States Free States Slave States
1821 17th 105   82 22 24
1825 19th 123   90 24 24
1829 21st 123   90 24 24
1833 23rd 141   99 24 24
1837 25th 142 100 26 26
1841 27th 142 100 26 26
1845 29th 137   91 28 30
1849 31st 141   91 32 30
1852 33rd 144   90 32 30
1857 35th 146   90 34 30

Source:  Historical Congressional Apportionment, 1821 – 1859.



After we shall have offered Spain a price for Cuba far beyond its present value, and this shall have been refused, it will then be time to consider the question, does Cuba, in the possession of Spain, seriously endanger our internal peace and the existence of our cherished Union? 

Should this question be answered in the affirmative, then, by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain .  .  .  . We should, however, be recreant to our duty, be unworthy of our gallant forefathers, and commit base treason against our posterity, should we permit Cuba to be Africanized and become a second

St. Domingo, with all its attendant horrors to the white race, and suffer the flames to extend to our own neighboring shores, seriously to endanger or actually to consume the fair fabric of the Union.

Source:  The Ostend Manifesto, October 18, 1854. 



I want Cuba, and I know that sooner or later we must have it.  I want Tamaulipas, Potosi, and one or two other Mexican States: and I want them all for the same reason – for the planting and spreading of slavery.

Source: Senator Albert G. Brown (Mississippi), 1858.


DBQ Question created by:

Mr. Bob McHugh
Saucon Valley H. S.
Hellertown, PA
created in:  April, 2002