A Growing Nation

Being the new kid on the block wasn't enough for the United States. Early Americans wanted their nation to be bigger, too. (And probably badder.) They succeeded--but at a cost. In this unit, students learn how the United States began to grow as soon as it became a nation, and they examine the effect of this growth on societies already established in North America. 

** This unit groups together lessons that are also found in the Geography Library and Road to the Constitution units. You can still find those lessons in their original locations.

We're Free... Let's Grow!

With the end of the Revolutionary War, America’s geographical size doubled… but how should new territory be added to the United States? Learn about the issues raised by this American “first” and the challenges the nation faced with its new Northwest Territory.

Louisiana Purchase (1803)

In this map-based lesson, students learn the historic importance of the Mississippi River and why the U.S. was determined to maintain access. They find out how the United States acquired the land that made up the Louisiana Purchase—and just how little anyone knew about that land before handing over the purchase price!

Manifest Destiny

In this lesson, students get an introduction to the concept of Manifest Destiny. Even before the phrase “Manifest Destiny” was first used in 1845, many Americans believed the U.S. was destined to grow. Students learn what this philosophy looked and sounded like in the 19th century and preview United States expansion. This lesson is intended to serve as an introduction to further study of American expansion.

Oregon Treaty (1845)

With the Oregon Treaty, the United States added what today is the Pacific Northwest. In this mini-lesson, students learn how it happened, what tensions were involved, and how Native Americans were affected. 

Annexation of Texas (1845)

The United States annexed Texas after years of debate. In this mini-lesson, students learn about Texas’ independence from Mexico, the role of slavery in delaying Texas’ admission, and the sneaky way President Tyler pushed annexation through in the final hours of his presidency. 

Mexican Cession (1848)

The Mexican-American war ended with Mexico giving up a million acres of land to the United States. In this lesson, students learn about Americans’ drive to expand west, tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, and President James Polk’s actions that started a war between the two countries. This lesson also includes the Gadsen Purchase of 1853. 

The Louisiana Purchase: Branching Out

President Jefferson usually gets the credit for the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which doubled the size of the young nation. But this ignores one important actor, the U.S. Congress. Nearly every step of the process involved the approval of, and funding from, the Legislative Branch. This DBQuest will walk you through primary sources that show the give and take between the two branches.