General Impact and
U.S. history is
full of examples where geography directly influenced the
development of the nation. For
example, at the end of the French & Indian Wars, the
Proclamation Line of 1763 was established. It
forbade the (then) British colonists to pass beyond a
designated western borderline which roughly followed the
colonists even further because they had to pay for British
soldiers to patrol the area. Many colonist ignored the
decree, moving west and settling anyway. This led to
increased resentment of white settlers on the part of Native
Americans, and serious problems in the future..
In 1803, Thomas
Jefferson oversaw the purchase of the Louisiana Territory
from France. For only $15,000,000, America doubled its
geographic area. Unfortunately, it was difficult for settlers
to get through the Appalachian Mountains, and migrate
westward. By 1825, The Cumberland Gap (at the conjunction of
Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee) and the Erie Canal
were funneling the majority of migrants westward. By
this time, residents of the newly independent United States
felt no compulsion to obey by treaties signed between the
Indians and the British. Tensions were growing.
In 1848, gold
was discovered in California. But, in order to
get there, travelers had to sail around South America, or ride
through the desert southwest. In 1874, gold was found in
the Black Hills of South Dakota. The rush continued.
Act of 1862 gave federally owned land to anyone who
settled it. Any adult (aged
21 and older) could claim a 160-acre lot, by farming it for
only five years, and own it after paying a fee at the end of
It was during the
rush westward that Americans realized the need for a
transcontinental railroad connecting California to the rest of
the United States. The new railroad through the Great
Plains made it possible for farmers to ship their goods for
sale in the East, but it crossed lands considered inviolate by
the resettled Indians. Open warfare broke out in several
locations in across Montana, Kansas and the Dakota
territories. White settlers demanded protection from the
so-called savage Indians, which in turn led to the killing of
thousands of Native Americans.
From 1830 to 1890, the federal government
systematically pushed Native Americans from their lands onto
reservations west of the Mississippi River.
At the same time, white settlers began pushing into the Great
Plains. Soldiers tried to keep travel routes open for
the migrating settlers, and often battled the Native Americans
for control of those areas. As noted above, fighting between
U.S. Army troops and Indians continued throughout the 1860s
By 1871, Native
Americans had been made wards of the state by the federal
government. They could no longer make individual
treaties with the federal government, and most lived on
federal reservations. The Dawes Act of 1887 tried
to Americanize Indians by abolishing all tribes, and giving
former members 160-acre farms (on the reservation) that they
would own outright after 25 years.
The Dawes Act , and
others like it, were supposed to provide a road to American
citizenship, but more often destroyed native cultures.
It was not until 1924 that all Native Americans were made
legal citizens of the U.S. Clearly, natives were treated much
differently than whites.
it is often in the midst of a war, or shortly afterward, that
During the French & Indian War, British territory expanded
toward the Appalachian Mountains. The Louisiana Purchase
was made because Napoleon needed money to finance his
expansionist ambitions. Florida was gained between 1810
and 1819, years surrounding the War of 1812.
In 1846, war
against Mexico (over the Texas Annexation in 1845) yielded
Texas, California and the rest of the Mexican Cession to the
U.S. America and Great Britain agreed to terms over the
Oregon Country in 1846. Much of the Great Plains was
settled during the Civil War, and Alaska was purchased from
Russia in 1867.
In February 1898,
the American battleship Maine suffered an explosion
while in the harbor in Havana, Cuba. American newspapers
whipped up a fury, and in April 1898, war was declared against
Spain. The U.S. won the war in just a few months, and
got Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines out of it. In
1903, the U.S. signed a treaty leasing the Panama Canal Zone.