The United States of America incepted itself as a nation in the year 1783 with the phenomenal American War of Independence. What was the U.S. before the war? The United States of America was, in fact, an array of colonies that were under the rule of the British Empire. Surprisingly, it is a note worth mentioning that an indigenous group of people once occupied this piece of land. The natives, who were not white, lived in this area ever since they migrated here around 15,000 B.C. They had a long run as being “Americans” until Christopher Columbus came along.
Children, as well as men who have little need to know dark and cruel secrets, often skip this part of the rich American history. It is baffling to note that a superpower was formed in less than 300 years. An article in the Aeon says that “Between 1776 and the present, the United States seized some 1.5 billion acres from North America’s native peoples, an area 25 times the size of the United Kingdom”. After the arrival of Columbus, the existence of an enormously vast piece of land became visible to many of the existing nations of the world.
European Colonists: A competition was afoot as ships from Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain began their quest to seize the unregistered acres of land. By the end of the 16th century, Spain and Portugal established colonies in America. England was eager, but, it was not able to gratify their prospects of acquiring other nations. After the failed attempts of several English explorers like Martin Frobisher, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir Humphrey Gilbert to form colonies, it was Sir Walter Raleigh who turned the tides in favor of Britain.
Also Read: United States of America History Notes
Though his success to colonize was only frugal, it led to the actualization of what would be the present-day United States. Due to reasons that bubbled from curiosity, political gain, commercial profits, and religion, people of the English soil traveled towards the newfound land. Around the year 1600 hordes of immigrants came from England and the story unfolds into a terrible tale of murder and plunder.
The first colonies that were formed in America were Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Rather than military power or the need for colonial expansion, it was the religion that drove the English acquirement of America. King James, I granted a charter in 1606 to colonize America anywhere between 34° and 41° N or anywhere at 38° and 45°N.
The colony of Virginia is measured to have an area of 42,775 square miles of land. The colony of Maryland has 12,406 square miles of area. After the puritans (A religious sect of people) came from England and occupied themselves in most of the English colonies, acquiring land became the game of the era.
One could only imagine the restrictions that were laid in the practice of purchasing land to make out the rapidity of land acquisition. Some were prohibited not to purchase more than 50 acres of land. Landowners who could bring in colored slaves to work on their lands had more than 500 acres of land at their disposal. History states that William Penn, a landowner, received 45,000 square miles of land from the King. In Pennsylvania, every newcomer to the land was offered 50 acres worth of free land.
Lands were cheap and accessible.
In those days, after making the natives the minority or soon to be extinct group, the white man saw acres and acres of land stretched before him. They were uninhabited, for sale, and were cheap. The English had established colonies that were flourishing. They had occupied the entire East coast. The colonists were aiming to spread their occupation towards the west. The need for acquiring more land had become the prominent characteristic feature of the people. They were a population that expanded continuously as the ships from the English harbors kept arriving.
Farming was their main profession, and hence lands were the primary target for gaining a livelihood. The newly converted Americans who were originally from English lived under the Feudal rule where the acquisition of land was a challenging endeavor to accomplish. This was the same climate in all the European nations.
Feudalism made the difference in class prominent, and hence Serfs and Peasants (people who were farmers) could only work on lands, but they could never buy them. However, in the newly formed nation of America, all these Europeans were free from the Feudal system of government. Hence the purchase of land became a dream come true. Hence, farmers and their want for land ended up creating the United States for which Biden and Trump are currently fighting for the presidency.
The Colonial Deals:
The American Revolutionary war helped the English to occupy lands on the North-western parts of the country. By the beginning of the 18th century, there were thirteen colonies in America under the English rule. They were Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. By then, it was only France and England that were fighting for the lands in America.
Thomas Jefferson had a pivotal role to play in the accumulation of so many lands in the American territory. Louisiana was a prominent port. It was best suited to those who wanted to trade on the Mississippi River. A significant reason for the American or the so-called White American obsession with amassing land is the establishment of power.
Land calculated capital and power. The powerhouses of the land that established its control were the French, Spanish, and English. The best lands were aimed so that the conquerors can dominate the occupation of the newly found providence. The French tried their best not to let the English acquire the territory of Louisiana. In their attempt, they gave the territory to Spain in order to keep the English from gaining it. France surrendered the Louisiana territory to Spain at the end of the French and Indian war.
After Napoleon rose to power, the Louisiana territory was transferred back to France. The situation became heated and thus came the Louisiana Purchase. Thomas Jefferson, by teaming up with James Monroe of France, bought the lands of Louisiana and New Orleans for $15 million dollars. The purchase ensured 827,000 square miles of land.
One of the biggest deals that enabled mass consumption of lands would be the Alaskan Purchase. Russia, under the leadership of Alexander II, had some possession of land in North America. After the end of the Crimean War, Alexander II concluded that their control of Alaska would not hold when other nations tried to seize it. Hence, he sold it to the U.S., which was under Andrew Johnson. The deal is considered the largest single acquisition of land in the history of the United States. The deal ensured a purchase of 586,412 square miles of land for the price of $7.2. million dollars.
People in the colonial period came to believe that the power of a nation rested solely on the extent of its territory. An article by Victor Nuovo in Addison County Independent, says that “Expansion came to be regarded as a right because it was a “manifest destiny,” a divine right, one that is providential, by divine appointment; therefore since God provided for it, it became an imperative, a duty of white Anglo-Saxon settlers to overspread the land and possess it.”