Between 1800 and 1850, the United States was a nation sprawling in all possible ways. America experienced a pronounced change in national unity.
Most of which were effects of the great territorial expansion that occurred during this period. But too much of a good thing is not always good. Territorial expansion destroyed national unity. It was between 1819 and 1824 when the unified nation of America began to divide. The reason not being territorial expansion itself.Triggered by the concept of Manifest Destiny, almost everyone believed that America should extend from “sea to shining sea,” but it was the expansion of slavery into new territories that held the North against the South, and the country’s growing sectionalism that split the nation apart. The first major debate over the issue of territorial expansion arouse when Missouri wanted to join the union as a slave state. Missouri, which was part of the Louisiana Purchase, which was part of the Northwest Ordinance.
The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territories.In 1817, when Missouri applied to the Union as a slave state, the issue of anti slavery vs. pro slavery (North vs. South) came up. Not only will the ordinance be broken, but the balance between slave and free states will be gone. By Missouri’s entrance to the union, there would be more slave states than free states.
In December of 1819, Maine applied to become a free state. A compromise was then reached, so that Maine would enter as a free state, while Missouri would enter as a slave state, balancing free and slave states. New territories that would enter above the 36’30’ line had to be free states.
The sectional tensions in United States continue to rise in 1849, when controversies about slavery complicated the debate of annexing new states to the union. In 1849, the number of free states and slave states were equal-fifteen states each. The annexation of territories such as California, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah, might raise the tension to greater heights. With Congress trying to find a resolution to this problem, some southern leaders began to think about seceding the Union. In the wither of 1849-1850, moderates and unionists created the Compromise of 1850.The goal of creating the Compromise of 1850 was to deal with the spread of slavery to territories in order to keep northern and southern interests in balance. Within the Compromise of 1850, California entered as a free state.
New Mexico and Utah were allowed to use popular sovereignty to decide the issue of slavery. The Republic of Texas gave up lands to create the present day New Mexico, and in return, received $10 million to pay off its debts. Another bill in the Compromise of 1850, was the abolition of the slave trade in Washington DC.Douglass knew that the South would oppose his bill because it would prepare the way for a new free state; the proposed territory was in the area of the Louisiana Purchase north of the Missouri Compromise line and thus closed to slavery.
In an effort to make the measure acceptable to southerners, Douglas inserted a provision that the status of slavery in the territory would be determined by territorial legislature- that is , according to “popular sovereignty. ” In theory, the region could choose to open itself to slavery. For these reasons, territorial expansion greatly influenced the national unity of the United States from 1800-1850.