Gateway to the Classics: A First Book in American History by Edward Eggleston
 
A First Book in American History by  Edward Eggleston

How the United States Became Larger

An Object Lesson in Historic Geography

When Washington was a young man, the French claimed all the land west of the Alleghany Mountains. If the French had succeeded in holding all this western country the United States would always have been only a little strip of thirteen States along the Atlantic coast, reaching from Maine to Georgia. But by conquering Canada the English got possession of all the territory east of the Mississippi River. This was given up to England by the French in the treaty made twelve years before the Revolutionary War. Daniel Boone and other settlers soon afterwards crossed the mountains and began to take possession of the great West.

During the first year of the Revolution no care was taken to drive the British from the forts in the West. But in 1778 George Rogers Clark led a little band of Kentucky settlers through the wilderness to the Mississippi River, where he captured the British fort at Kaskaskia, in what is now Illinois. He then marched eastward and captured Vincennes, in the present State of Indiana. These and other victories of Clark gave the United States, at the close of the war, a claim to all the country lying east of the Mississippi. In the map, page 191, you will see what was the size of our country when the war closed.


[Illustration]

In 1803, twenty-one years after the close of the Revolutionary War, President Jefferson bought from France all that large region beyond the Mississippi River known then as Louisiana. It has since been cut up into many States and Territories. You will see by the section of the map on page 193 just how large it was. If you cut off the white part of page 191 and lay the leaf down on page 193, you will see just how much the United States was increased in size when Jefferson bought the old province of Louisiana. The size of the country was more than doubled when Louisiana was added to it.


[Illustration]

The province of Louisiana did not reach to the westward of the Rocky Mountains. But in 1791, before Louisiana was bought, Robert Gray, the first sea captain that ever carried the American flag around the world, discovered the river Oregon, which he called the Columbia, after the name of his ship. After Jefferson had bought Louisiana for the United States, he sent the explorers Lewis and Clark with a party to examine the western part of the new territory, and to push on to the Pacific. These men were two years and four months making the trip from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back. They reached the ocean in 1805, and spent the winter at the mouth of the Columbia River. The "Oregon country," as it was called, was then an unclaimed wilderness, and the discovery of the river by Captain Gray, with the exploration of the country by Lewis and Clark, gave the United States a claim to it. The region which was added to the United states by these explorations is shown on page 195. By cutting off the white part of page 193 and laying it down upon 195, you will see how the "Oregon country" extended the United States to the Pacific Ocean.


[Illustration]

On this same page 195 you will also find a map of Florida. The peninsula of Florida was occupied by the Spaniards more than forty years before the first colony of English people landed at Jamestown. From the time the colonies were settled, there were many quarrels between the people of this country and the Spanish inhabitants of Florida. But in 1821 Florida was bough from Spain, and became a part of the United States.


[Illustration]

Mexico, which was at first a Spanish colony, rebelled against Spain, and secured its independence. One of the States of the Mexican Republic was Texas. Americans who had settled in Texas got into a dispute with the government of Mexico. This took the form of a revolution, and Texas became an independent republic, under a president of its own. In 1845 this republic of Texas was annexed to the United States by its own consent, and has been from that time the largest State in the Union. By removing the blank part of page 195, you will connect the map of Texas, on page 197, with the rest, and this will show what our country was in 1845.


[Illustration]

The Mexicans, though driven out of Texas, were quite unwilling to lose so large a territory. The annexation of Texas to the United States led to a war with Mexico, which lasted two years. During this war the United States troops took from Mexico California, on the Pacific coast, and a large region known as New Mexico, in the interior. At the close of the war, in 1847, this territory was retained by the United States, which paid to Mexico fifteen million dollars for it. Another small tract was bought from Mexico in 1851, which we may account part of the addition from Mexico in consequence of the war, and consider the two together. You will see, on this page, how large a region was added to the country by these annexations from Mexico. Cut out the blank space from page 197, and you will see how the country has been built up by additions of territory to its present size.


[Illustration]

The only part of our continent governed by the United States which lies separate from the rest is Alaska. This was bought from Russia in 1867. You will get some notion of its position with reference to the rest of the country by looking at the map on page 190, in its relation to the sections on pages 191, 193, 195, 197, and 199. Our country also owns some outlying islands : the Hawaiian Islands, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which were annexed in 1898; and the islands taken from Spain at the close of the Spanish War. The territory of the United States is thus made up of ten parts. There is, first, the country as it was at the close of the Revolutionary War, and then nine additions made at different times.


 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: Something about the Spanish War 
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2019   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.