Teacher's Resource

Westward Expansion

Manifest Destiny Outline


Q: Why did people leave their homes and move westward? What different events lead to the acquisition of new land? How did the new nation gain more territory? What obstacles did the nation have to overcome during its expansion?

Different events lead to acquisition of land for the United States.


A: Cultural and Economic Reasons:

People moved west for religious freedom, fortune, cheap land, and adventure.

Political Reasons:

Manifest Destiny: The belief in the right of the United States to expand its borders and to claim new lands.

Thomas Jefferson had a goal to continue the search for a water route to Asia. He believed the country's security depended on the attainment of all land up the natural boundaries of water.

Q: How long did it take for Manifest Destiny to be realized?

Students will use Timeliner and MapMaker to visually display the events that lead up to completion of MD.

Territories: using the map outlines from the following site:


Click onto U.S. Territorial Maps 1775-1920

Students may wish to view all fourteen Maps for the completion of their assignment. Note that the last map Overview is most helpful for locating territorial boundaries.

As students progressively learn about the different events that lead to westward expansion, have them identify and transfer the borders of the different territories onto their own outline maps on MapMaker.

1775 - 1787

Colonies gain their independence form England.

13 Colonies become United States.


The discovery of Cumberland Gap by Daniel Boone enables Kentucky and Tennessee to become developed. (There was a prerequisite that a certain number of people had to live in a territory before it became a state.)


Northwest Ordinance- this law set out a plan for new territories to become states.


Louisiana Purchase

Since Napoleon Bonaparte, ruler of France was involved in an expensive war with Great Britain and other European countries, he accepted Thomas Jefferson's offer to purchase New Orleans as well as the whole territory of Louisiana for $15 million, about 4 cents an acre.


Lesson: See attached

Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore and map the Louisiana and the Missouri River. They explore 3,000 miles of territory.



War of 1812 (No land was gained.)

In the preceding years of the war, Americans were angered with all the conflicts between the settlers and Native Americans. Native Americans began to organize a movement to force settlers to leave. Many Americans thought the British were behind this. A movement to get the Spanish out of Florida and the British out of Canada ensued. Senator Henry Clay succeeded in getting President Madison to declare war on England in 1812. The war ended in 1815. This war contributed to the Era of Good Feelings between American citizens.


Lesson: Make a cause-and-effect diagram for the War of 1812 (see attached)

Reading of the Star Spangled Banner


1819 Florida purchased from Spain.



Monroe Doctrine

President Monroe gave a speech that warned European countries from future colonization near this country. He also stated that our country would remain neutral in European conflicts. This policy lasted until 1917.



Development of the Railroad (See Attached)

1836 - 1860

The Gold Rush! Gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California in 1848.

In 1847 there were 800 people that lived in California. By 1849, the population rose to 25,000. Even though there were enough people in California to warrant statehood, option arose because of California's radical constitution. It stated that married women were allowed to own property--something completely different from the East.


Q: Which trails led to California?


Using different trails, people moved west on wagon trains. Most travelers ( more than 300,000) took the Oregon Trail. There was also the Mormon Trail, the California Trail, and the Santa Fe Trail, which crossed New Mexico and Arizona and included an old Spanish road to Los Angeles.

The Santa Fe Trail


Lessons: Scarcity

Webquests (See Attached)


Mexico wins its independence from Spain. Mexico then gave permission for American settlers to come to Texas and farm the land if they agreed to become Mexican citizens. Mexico did this because few people lived in Texas and there was a fear that the United States would settle in Texas. Since land was cheaper in Texas than the US and slavery was permitted, the plan worked. Many Americans came to Texas. They however did not change their customs of leave their heritage behind as the Mexican government had hoped. Enforcing Mexican law was difficult due to distance.

1830 American settlers outnumbered Mexican settlers by 3:1. The Mexican government panicked and decided to stop immigration from the United States. This along with the outlawing of slavery angered the American settlers. War ensued. (Famous Battle: The Alamo)

1836 Texas gained independence from Mexico.

Texas was a state that allowed slavery so it took almost ten years before it became a state

1845 Texas annexed to the United States.

1845 Border disputes between Texas and Mexico led to a war with Mexico

1847 Mexico surrenders.

1846 Oregon Territory (title established)

1848 Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo

Mexico agrees Rio Grande as border with Texas. The US pays $15 million for half of Mexico's territory: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, as well as parts of New Mexico and Colorado.