Manifest Destiny and . . .

Manifest Destiny seemed to be our right. Sounds good, doesn't it?  We have the right to settle all the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Manifest destiny was not so great for the people who already owned that land.  Take for instance Texas. The land belonged to Mexico, but they sold land grants to many settlers to cultivate the land and live there.  Americans moved west and took root in the land, but soon so many Americans were living there that the United States wanted the land for itself.  Santa Anna did not want to let Texas go.

At the Battle of the Alamo, Santa Anna devastated the Americans, killing over 200 men and then executing over 300 prisoners. The American general - Sam Houston later defeated Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto.  The Treaties of Velasco was signed and Santa Anna was sent back to Mexico.  Unfortunately for Santa Anna, he was deposed as president and the treaty was declared null and void.

The United States tried to purchase the land to the Rio Grande River, but Mexico did not want to part with it. In 1846, war was declared against Mexico and Zachary Taylor (who would later become president) brought his troops to fight for the land.  General Winfield Scott (later a major general in the Civil War) entered Mexico City.  When it was all over, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed and the land was purchased for $15 million.

So what was the problem?  We now had the land.  Remember at this time in our history, any land entering the new country had to declare itself as free or slave.  The new territories were no different.  A delicate balance of power was tipping back and forth for both sides.  Both sides were eager to win.  Both sides would do whatever necessary to swing the balance in their favor.

The Wakarusa War erupted in 1855.  Have you ever heard of it it?  I hadn't either until I saw it on a documentary about the Civil War.  We have all heard about Bleeding Kansas though.  The Wakarusa War started when a man wanting Kansas to be free was shot by a man wanting Kansas to be a slave state.  The violence escalated until people for both sides poured into Kansas to settle this fight for free versus slave.  John Brown and his free-staters were part of this group battling over the new territory.  A treaty was signed and the first hint of trouble was quelled.  At least for the moment.

Not long after this, Charles Sumner, a senator from Massachusetts was attacked on the Senate floor by Preston Brooks, a senator from South Carolina.  Brooks was so incensed by what Sumner had said in his speech on May 19th and 20th, that he took his cane and beat Sumner so severely that the man lost consciousness.  Northerners were clearly upset by Brooks' behavior and yet Southerners cheered Brooks for standing up for slavery.  Sumner did not return to the Senate for two years due to the stress and severe headaches he suffered from afterwards. When he did return, he continued to fight against slavery, taking every opportunity to declare the evilness of holding men and women against their will.

Emotions continued to run high throughout the country.  John Brown did not let up.  Two of his sons were responsible for attacking two men who were pro-slavery.  They dragged the men from their homes and beat them to death.  John Brown continued to travel around the country, gathering funds and speaking out against slavery.  He managed to garner the help of six wealthy men from the North.  He even met with Frederick Douglass to gain the man's support.  He hoped Douglass would get the slaves to rise up against their masters in a grand insurrection.

On July 3, 1859, John Brown thought he had managed to garner enough support to stage a major stand and headed for Harper's Ferry.  He arrived at the armory, waiting for more men to arrive.  He expected 4,500 men to arrive, but only 21 men including his three sons were there.  Finally on October 16th, with only those few men, he decided to go ahead and take over the armory.  He changed his plan to move south, striking one county after another.  His plan would never see light.

John Brown and his men were holed up at the armory with their prisoners, but the United States army had been alerted and was on their way.  In the meantime, a train arrived at Harper's Ferry carrying passengers.  The train was attacked and one man was killed.  The local men joined the militia to go against John Brown, not wanting to wait for the army to arrive.

Brown's men were trapped.  By October 18th, the marines arrived and surrounded them.  Robert E. Lee and JEB Stuart were in charge of the attack.  Brown and his men were captured.  Two of his sons were killed.  Brown was questioned and then tried in Virginia.  He was charged with the murder of five men.  A Charlestown jury found him guilty.  On December 2nd, 1859, John Brown was hanged.

The South re-organized their militia, fearful that more uprisings would occur like John Brown's.  They wanted to be sure to not let what happened in Kansas and at Harper's Ferry happen to them.  This militarization helped prepare the South for the upcoming Civil War.

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