War & Expansion: Crash Course US History #17

Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crash Course U.S.
history and today we’re going to discuss how the United States came to acquire two
of its largest states, Texas and…there is another one. Mr. Green! Mr. Green! I believe the answer
you’re looking for is Alaska. Oh me from the past, as you can clearly tell
from the globe, Alaskan statehood never happened.
No I am referring of course to California. Stan, are we using your computer today? Oh.
Stan! We’ve talked about westward expansion a
few times here on Crash Course, but it’s usually
about, like, Kentucky or Ohio. This time we’re going really west, I mean, not like
Hawaii west, but sea to shining sea west. [Theme Music] So you might remember that journalist John
O’Sullivan coined the phrase Manifest Destiny to describe America’s god given right to take over
all the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans,
regardless of who happened to be living there. Sorry Native Americans, Mexicans,
French fur trappers, beavers, bison, prairie dogs,
passenger pigeons. I’m not going to go so far as to give God
credit for America’s internal imperialism, but I will say that our expansion had a lot to do
with economics, especially when you consider
Jefferson’s ideas about the empire of liberty. Stan, did I just say liberty? That means technically I also have to talk about
slavery, but we’re gonna kick the slavery can down
the road until later in the show. Just like American politicians
did in the 19th century. By 1860 nearly 300,000 people had made
the trip that has been immortalized by the
classic educational video game “Oregon Trail.” Which, by the way, is inaccurate in the sense that a family of 6, even a very hungry one, cannot eat a buffalo. But is extremely accurate in that a lot of
people died of dysentery and cholera. Frickin disease. So, Oregon at the time was jointly
controlled by the U.S. and Britain. Northern Mexico at the time included
what are now Texas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada,
New Mexico, and California. But New Mexico and California were the
only two with, like, big settlements. About 30,000 Mexicans lived in New Mexico,
and about 3,500 in California, and in both places
they were outnumbered by Native Americans. OK, let’s go to the Thought Bubble. When Mexico became independent, there
were only about 2,000 Tejanos there. So to encourage economic development,
Mexico’s government granted a huge tract
of land to Moses Austin. Austin’s son Stephen made a tidy profit selling
off smaller parcels of that land until there were
7,000 American Americans there. This made Mexico nervous so, backpedalling
furiously, Mexico annulled the land contracts
and banned further emigration into Texas. Even though slavery was already abolished in Mexico,
up to now they had allowed Americans to bring slaves. Austin, joined by some Tejano elites, demanded
greater autonomy and the right to use slave labor. Thinking the better of it, Mexican General
Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana decided to assert
control over the restive territory with an army, turning the elite’s demands for autonomy
into a full-scale revolt for independence. On March 13, 1836, Santa Ana defeated the American
defenders of the Alamo, killing 187 (or 188, sources
differ) Americans including Davy Crockett. The Texas rebels would “remember the Alamo”
and come back to defeat Santa Ana at the battle
of San Jacinto. And Mexico was forced to recognize
Texas’s independence. So Texas became the Lone Star Republic and
quickly decided that it would be much better to
be a less lonely star and join the United States. So, in 1837, Texas’ Congress called for union
but all they heard back was, “not so fast, Texas.” Why? Because Texas wanted to be a slave
state, and adding another slave state would
disrupt the balance in the Senate, so Jackson and Van Buren did what good
politicians always do: they ignored Texas. And then after Martin Van Buren wrote a letter
denouncing any plan to annex Texas on the
grounds that it would probably provoke a war, Democratic convention southerners threw their
support behind slaveholding Andrew Jackson
pal, James K. Polk. Polk just managed to get a presidential victory
over perennial almost-president Henry Clay, and seeing the writing on the wall, Congress
annexed Texas in March of 1845, days before
Polk took office. Congress then forged an agreement with Britain
to divide Oregon at the 49th parallel, which restored
the slave state/free state balance in the Senate. Thanks, Thought Bubble. Hey, Stan, can I
get the foreshadowing filter? I wonder if we’re going to be able to keep that
slave state/free state balance…forever. The land-hungry James K. Polk had another goal
as president: acquire California from Mexico. He tried to purchase it from Mexico, but they
were like, “No,” which is Spanish for “No.” So Polk decided to do things the hard way. He sent troops under future president
Zachary Taylor into this disputed border region. As expected, by which I mean intended, fighting
broke out between American and Mexican forces. Polk, in calling for a declaration of war, claimed that
the Mexicans had “shed blood upon American soil.” Although the soil in question was arguably not
American, unless you think of America as being,
you know, all of this. A majority of Americans supported this war. Although to be fair, a majority of Americans
will support almost any war. I’m sorry, but it is true.
At least at first. It was the first war fought by American
troops primarily on foreign soil, as most of
the fighting was done in Mexico. Among the dissenters was a Massachusetts
Transcendentalist who is probably better known
than the war itself. Henry David Thoreau was in fact thrown in jail
for refusing to pay taxes in protest of the war, and wrote “On Civil Disobedience” in his defence,
which many American high-schoolers are assigned
to read and expected not to understand, lest they take the message to heart and
stop doing assignments like reading “On
Civil Disobedience.” Another critic was concerned about the increase in
executive power that Polk seemed to show, saying: “Allow the president to invade a neighboring
country whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel
an invasion and you allow him to make war at pleasure” That critic was none other than noted peacenik Abraham Lincoln, who would go on to do more to expand executive power than any president in the 19th century except maybe Andrew Jackson. Right so Santa Ana’s army was defeated in
February 1847 but Mexico refused to give up. So Winfield Scott, who had the unfortunate
nickname “old fuss and feathers,” captured
Mexico City itself in September. A final peace treaty, the Treaty of
Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848, under which Mexico confirmed the annexation
of Texas and further ceded California as well as
several other places that would later become
states, but we couldn’t fit on the map. In return, the U.S. paid Mexico $15 million and
agreed to a no-backsies deal in re: Texas, thereby
freeing Mexico from the shackles of Amarillo. I’m sorry Amarillians. No I’m
not. I am. I am. I’m not. I am. This is great, Stan. The people of Amarillo
hate me, also the people of New Jersey, Alaska
is in the green-parts-of-not-America. We don’t even have Arizona and New
Mexico on the chalkboard. Pretty soon I will have alienated everyone. Anyway, thanks to the land from Mexico,
our dream of expanding from the Atlantic to
the Pacific was finally complete. And as always happens when dreams
come true, trouble started. After the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, between 75,000 and 100,000 Spanish-speaking Mexicans and 150,000 Native Americans were under the jurisdiction of the United States. Despite the fact that the treaty granted
Spanish descended Mexican “male citizens”
legal and property rights, the Mexicans were still seen as inferior to
Anglo-Saxons whose manifest destiny it was,
of course, to overspread the continent. And the fact that these Mexicans were
Catholic didn’t help either, especially because in the eastern part of the
United States, there was a rising tide of anti-Catholic,
anti-immigrant sentiment known as nativism. And there was a new political party, The American
Party, dedicated entirely to such sentiment. They were referred to as the “Know-nothings”
because when you asked them about their politics
they would answer that they didn’t know anything. And indeed, they didn’t. This was not an expert branding strategy, although they did manage to win an
unexpected number of local offices in a state
heralded for its ignorance … Massachusetts. You thought I was going to say New Jersey,
but I’m trying to make nice with the New Jersey
people because they take it pretty personally. Meanwhile, in California, there weren’t enough
white, English speaking American residents to
apply for statehood – Until gold was discovered in 1848, leading of course
to San Francisco’s NFL team, the San Francisco 48ers. By 1852, the non-Indian population in
California had risen from 15,000 to 200,000 and
it was 360,000 on the eve of the Civil War. Now not all of those migrants – mainly young
men seeking their fortunes – were white. Nearly 25,000 Chinese people migrated to
California, most as contract workers working
for mining and railroad companies. And there were women, too, who ran restaurants, and worked as cooks, and laundresses, and prostitutes. But the ratio of men to women in
California in 1860 was 3:1. Aw shmerg. It’s time for the Mystery Document? The rules here are simple. I read the Mystery Document and I’m either shocked
by electricity or by the fact that I got it right. “We would beg to remind you that when your
nation was a wilderness, and the nation from
which you sprung barbarous, we exercised most
of the arts and virtues of civilized life; that we are possessed of a language and
a literature, and that men skilled in science
and the arts are numerous among us; that the productions of our manufactories,
our sail, and workshops, form no small share of commerce of the world; and that for centuries, colleges, schools,
charitable institutions, asylums, and hospitals
have been as common as in your own land. And we beg to remark, that so far as the history of our race in California goes, it stamps with the test of truth that we are not the degraded race you would make us.” So it’s someone who said that “we” had a
great civilization when “you” were a wilderness. Plus they called us “barbarous,” so it’s
either ancient Rome or China. I’m gonna lean toward China. That only gets me halfway there. Now I
have to think of the name of the person. And I don’t know any famous people from
mid-19th century China who lived in the U.S. People say I can’t sing. [buzzing] Norman Asing? Who the hell is
Norman Asing? This doesn’t- AAHHHH!! So these days California is known for its groovy, laid
back, “oh your back hurts?” here’s some pot” attitude,
but that was not the case in the 19th century. The California constitution of 1850 limited civil participation to whites – no Asians, no Black people or Native Americans
could vote or testify in court. Indians were kicked off their land if it had
any mineral value, and thousands of their
orphaned children were sold as slaves. And all of this led to the Indian population
of California dropping from 150,000 to about
30,000 between 1848 and 1860. So it wasn’t at all clear whether California
was the kind of place to be admitted to the
U.S. as a free state or as a slave state. The Missouri Compromise was of no help
here because half of California is below the
36 30 line, and half is above it. So, a new “Free Soil” party formed in 1848 calling for
the limiting of slavery’s expansion in the west so that
it could be open for white people to live and work. I just want to be clear that most of the people
who were for limiting slavery were not, like, un-racist. So, they nominated the admirably-whiskered
Martin Van Buren for the presidency, and Van Buren and Democratic nominee
Lewis Cass then split the northern vote, allowing
the aforementioned Zachary Taylor, to win. So in 1850, when California finally did ask to be
admitted into the Union, it was as a free state. Southerners freaked out because they saw it as
the beginning of the end of slavery, but then, to the rescue came Henry Clay, for his last hurrah. He said, “We can kick this problem down
the road once more” and brokered a four-part plan that became known
rather anticlimactically as the Compromise of 1850. Historians, can you name nothing?!
The four points were: 1. California would be admitted as a free
state 2. The slave trade, but not slavery, would
be outlawed in Washington D.C. 3. A new, super harsh fugitive slave law would
be enacted, and 4. Popular sovereignty The idea was that in the remaining
territories taken from Mexico, the local white inhabitants could decide for
themselves whether the state would be slave or
free when it applied to be part of the U.S. Ah, the Compromise of 1850. A great reminder
that nothing protects the rights of minorities
like the tyranny of the majority. There was a huge debate over the bill in which noted asshat John C. Calhoun was so sick that he had to have his pro-slavery, anti-compromise remarks read by a colleague. On the other side, New York’s Senator William Seward,
an abolitionist, also argued against compromise, based
on slavery being, you know, wrong. But, eventually the compromise did pass, thus
averting a greater crisis for ten whole years. Ralph Waldo Emerson predicted that if the
United States acquired part of Mexico, it
would be like swallowing arsenic. And indeed, arsenic can be a slow-acting poison. Now I don’t think Ralph Waldo Emerson
was a good enough writer to have thought
that far ahead, but he was right. Some people say that manifest destiny
made the Civil War inevitable. But, as we’ll see next week, what really
made the Civil War inevitable was slavery. But, we see in the story of manifest destiny
the underlying problem: the United States
didn’t govern according to its own ideals. It didn’t extend liberties to Native Americans or Mexican Americans or immigrant populations or slaves. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next
week, when things will get much worse. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith
Danko. The show is written by my high school
history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself. Our associate producer is Danica Johnson. And our graphics team is Thought Café. If you’d like to contribute to the libertage,
you can suggest captions. You can also ask questions in comments where
they will be answered by our team of historians. Thank you for watching Crash Course and as we
say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.

100 Replies to “War & Expansion: Crash Course US History #17

  1. The whole purpose of governments having control over land is to make life better for the people there. That is a big reason why governments exist in the first place. So the government that most deserves to possess a piece of land is the government which best administers it and its people.

    The land taken from Mexico has clearly thrived far more than the land still governed by Mexico. So the USA seems to be a much more worthy possesser of the land.

    Some people might argue that Mexico’s land grab was more justified because it was a war of independence. Yet, consider the people then living in what is now the southwest USA: did they deserve to be independent of both Spain AND Mexico?

  2. "Men skilled in science"
    A picture of Bill Nye? Haha that's a funny joke considering the man has a bachelor's in mechanical engineering and is THE FURTHEST THING FROM WHAT IS CONSIDERED A SCIENTIST.

  3. we read "on civil disobedience" in my English class today and then all turned in our essays we were supposed to write after with nothing on them but the words "Civil Disobedience." Our teacher thought it was great and gave us all a bonus point, but we had to write the essays anyways. Worth a shot though!

  4. Summarize this video with at least 5 of these terms:
    Santa Ana
    "Remember the Alamo"
    Henry Clay
    Popular Sovereignty

  5. nothing American about the Texan rebels that wanted a nation of there own.

    all so you straight up lied about Texas wanting to be part of the union. the U.S offered to have us annexed on day one but we refused.

    only for it to be 10 years later when our economy went bust that we took up the offer to join there union.

  6. well that was cool and informational I like the part were he found either a sticker or something like that

  7. So did Texas gain independence in 1836 or 1848 because Mexico officially recognized it in 1848 explain please? The same for the American Revolution 1776 or 1783?

  8. John: Writes a book called "Looking for Alaska"
    Also John: Alaska isn't a state!!
    (Yes I know his Alaska is a person, not the state, but still)

  9. You declared that the defenders of the Alamo were "Americans." Some of those defenders had the names: Abamillo, Badillo, Espalier, Esparza, Fuentes, Guerrero, Losoya, Seguin, and Nava. They were native to Texas. About 30 of the defenders had been born in Europe. Most of the defenders of the Alamo had been born in the U.S., but had become citizens of Mexico who were now defending themselves from the self-declared dictator Santa Ana.

  10. Is there a reason you skipped over the parts where Santa Anna was a dictator and killed and burned the remains of pow’s or are you just trying to make the Mexicans seem like they’re the good guys

  11. You do know that Mexicans & native Americans are literally the exact same people, right? Their differences are only cultural. They’re the same race of people & they’re all native.

  12. the video was good thanks just kick back on misinformation sometimes kids are watching these videos and get confused on comments like the 48rs…

  13. If you don't think that democracies can be aggressive, then check out the Mexican War. In this conflict we marched a bunch of troops into a disputed territory for the sole purpose of provoking a fight that we knew we would dominate. Sad.

  14. There are two important things about the Know Nothings that were glossed over in this video but illustrate who they are very well:

    1. The official title of the the party was the "Native American Party". Don't be confused though, it was for white settlers in the US, not Amer-Indian people who were considered foreigners. The white people in the party considered themselves the natives of the US despite obviously being immigrants.
    2. They were called the "Know Nothing" party because that was their response when asked what their policies were. But that wasn't because they didn't have them. It was instead because their principal organizational structure was secret societies.

    In truth, the only unifying political ideologies that they had were xebophibia, nativism, and belief in a conspiracy that the Pope was organizing a mass migration of Catholics to the US in order to take over. They condemned the Irish and German Catholics that were coming to the country as "illegal voters" as part of that conspiracy.

    They eventually fell apart because they didn't agree on any other political issues like slavery, how strong the federal government should be, taxes, spending, temperance, and so on.

  15. "Durrr, the New Deal made the Great Depression worse. Only WW2 fixed it."
    Lol, both of those involved heavy government spending. "Free market" principles don't reverse free market trends because those involve human nature. Government spending has the ability to go against that, and increase aggregate demand when the private sector is fearful.

  16. Westernmost state? Not Hawaii, but Alaska, since the Aleutian Isalands cross the International Dateline. Which also makes Alaska the Easternmost state. So the point is, Alaska is the answer to something….like where was Northern Exposure set?

    MeFromThePast (like 1 second ago)

  17. The U.S. could have instead agreed to establish the following borders with Mexico:

    The 41st parallel north, 26th parallel north (staring from the 97th meridian west and ending at the 86th meridian west), and the 103rd meridian west, and diagonally (starting from the 103rd meridian west and ending at the 97th meridian west) towards the Gulf of Mexico and establish the 26th parallel north

  18. I love how you ignorantly and stupidly make fun of genocide…. history's interesting enough without your snide and condescending remarks….little boy.

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