The Union Expanded and Challenged (1835–1860) for AP US History

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Updated on Mar 3, 2011

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The Union Expanded and Challenged (1835–1860) Review Questions for AP US History

Summary: Guided by the principle of "Manifest Destiny," Americans began to stream westward in the 1830s. By the mid-1840s settlers were entrenched in the Oregon and California territories. Adventurers also settled in Texas and helped the Texans defeat the Mexican army in 1836. The Mexican-American War took place between 1846 and 1847; by the terms of the treaty ending this war the United States paid Mexico $15 million dollars; in return the United States acquired the northern part of the Texas territory and New Mexico and California. The pivotal issue for Americans remained whether newly acquired territories would enter the Union as slave states or as free states. Under the Missouri Compromise a line was drawn westward to the Pacific Ocean; all territories north of the line would enter the Union as free states and all territories south of the line would come in as slave states. The issue of whether California would enter the Union as a free or slave state necessitated the Compromise of 1850. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 stated that settlers living in those territories could vote on whether they would become slave states or free states. The Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857 stated that Congress had no right to prohibit slavery in the territories and that even though Scott, an ex-slave, had spent time in a free state and a free territory this did not make him a free man. Tensions between the North and the South remained high. In the 1860 presidential election, Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln campaigned on the need to contain slavery in the territories. After his election representatives of seven Southern states met to create the Confederate States of America, with Jefferson Davis as the first president of the Confederacy.


Manifest Destiny: concept that became popularized in the 1840s stating that it was the God-given mission of the United States to expand westward.

Mexican-American War: war fought over possession of Texas, which was claimed by both Mexico and the United States; the settlement ending this war gave the United States the northern part of the Texas territory and the territories of New Mexico and California.

Compromise of 1850: temporarily ending tensions between the North and the South, this measure allowed California to enter the Union as a free state but also strengthened the Fugitive Slave Law.

Fugitive Slave Act: part of the Compromise of 1850, legislation that set up special commissions in northern states to determine if accused runaway slaves were actually that. Commissioners were given more money if the accused was found to be a runaway than if he/she was not. Many northern state legislatures attempted to circumvent this law.

Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854): compromise that allowed settlers in Kansas and Nebraska to vote to decide if they would enter the Union as free states or slave states. Much violence and confusion took place in Kansas as various types of "settlers" moved into this territory in the months before the vote in an attempt to influence it.

Dred Scott case: critical Supreme Court ruling that stated that slaves were property and not people; as a result they could not seek a ruling from any court. The ruling also stated that Congress had no legal right to ban slavery in any territory.

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