4-3: Expansion and Crisis in the United States

Expansion and Crisis in the United States

KEY IDEA: The United States expanded across North America and fought a bloody civil war.

The United States had troubles of its own. In the early 1800’s, the nation grew in size. It bought a huge piece of land from France in the Louisiana Purchase. It won a war with Mexico in the 1840s and thus gained even more land. Many said it was “manifest destiny”—the right of the United States to rule the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. As white settlers moved farther and farther west, Native Americans suffered. In the 1830’s, many thousands were forced to move from their homes in the eastern states to the present state of Oklahoma. This growth raised serious questions. The southern states used slave labor to grow crops such as cotton. People in the South hoped to extend slavery to the new western lands. Many in the North, however, believed that slavery was wrong and should be ended.

Conflict over slavery eventually led to the Civil War. The southern states seceded, or pulled out of, the Union. When southern forces fired on a Union fort in 1861, war broke out. The fighting lasted four long and bloody years. The North won the war.  During the fighting, President Abraham Lincoln declared that slavery was ended in the United States. Later, the Constitution was changed to make this the law of the land and to say that African Americans were citizens.

In the first few years after the war, newly freed African Americans enjoyed equal rights. Later, whites regained control of the governments of the southern states. They passed laws that took away the rights of blacks and treated them unfairly. It would be many years before African Americans could enjoy equality. The economy of the South was destroyed by the Civil War. Elsewhere, though, the nation saw a surge of industrial growth. Helping achieve this great growth was a sharp rise in immigration from Europe and Asia. By 1914, more than 20 million people had come to the United States.


  1. How did the United States change during the 1800’s?