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Western Territories of the United States
The expansion of the United States into the territory west of the Mississippi River began with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The westward expansion of the United States is one of the defining themes of 19th-century American history.
In the mid-to-late 19th century, Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States had the divine right to expand westward—meaning that U.S. expansion was the will of God. The purpose of the philosophy was to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent. Manifest Destiny was used to validate the Indian Removal Acts. Manifest Destiny continued as a key American philosophy until after World War I.
After the United States annexed Texas in 1845, during the administration of President John Tyler, border disputes led to war with Mexico in 1846. Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott led armies to a series of military successes that culminated in the capture of Mexico City in 1847. In 1848, American victory in the Mexican–American war yielded huge acquisition of land and increased domestic tensions over slavery.
The Compromise of 1850 was made up of five bills made by the United States Congress in 1850 that defused a political confrontation over slavery in new territories added to the United States acquired in the Mexican–American War. In result, California entered the Union as a free state and a new Texas-New Mexico boundary was defined.
The California Gold Rush was sparked by the discovery of gold in the Sacramento Valley, on January 24, 1848 by James W. Marshall. Soon, gold was discovered in the Feather and Trinity Rivers, that located northeast of Sacramento. Approximately 300,000 of prospective gold miners traveled to San Francisco and the surrounding area.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act on May 20, 1862. The Homestead Act was intended to make lands opening up in the west available to a wide variety of settlers. Most of the homesteads were west of the Mississippi River. In total, about 10 percent of the U.S. was settled because of the Homestead Act.
Westward Expansion in the 19th century profound affected American Indians and contributed to tensions over slavery, between the North and South that ultimately led to the collapse of American democracy and a brutal civil war.