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40 Territorial Expansion

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40. TERRITORIAL EXPANSION. The territorial expansion of the United States dates from the peace treaty of 1783, by which their independence was recognized and their boundaries named. There had been much un certainty about the boundaries of the colonies for a considerable period prior to the War of the Revolution, and especially so in years im mediately preceding the Declaration of Inde pendence. The early grants to the colonies were made '‘to the South Sea," by which was meant the Pacific Ocean, though it was not then supposed that the continent was more than a few hundred miles wide. Gradually, however, the French moved up the Saint Lawrence and down the Mississippi Valley, establishing their claim to the great central area, and the Spanish gradually extended their claims northward at the extreme west, so that the claims of the colonies that their territory extended to the Pacific gradually dwindled, in view of the fact that the mother-country made no attempt to prevent these encroachments on the west. The increasing claims of the French in the Missis sippi Valley and finally their claims to the Ohio Valley led to hostilities between the English and the French colonists and they were sup ported by their respective governments. In 1753, the French having begun the establishment of a military post at the present site of Pitts burgh, George Washington was sent by the governor of Virginia to warn them that the ter ritory was claimed by the English colonies and must not be occupied by the French. Their reply was that they also claimed the territory by exploration and settlement and would hold it. This led to an attack by the English in the following year, in which they were repulsed by the French, and this precipitated the war be tween the French and English, which resulted in the expulsion of the French from the con tinent. The treaty between the French and English governments, by which the French withdrew from continental America, was made in 1763, and fixed the Mississippi River as the western boundary of British territory. It sub sequently developed that France had a few months before secretly ceded her claims west of the Mississippi to Spain. The acceptance of the terms of this treaty of 1763 by the British government terminated the claims of the colonies that their boundaries extended to the Pacific. By this same treaty of 1763, made be

tween England, France and Spain, Florida passed to the control of England, and as it was deemed advisable to divide it into two provinces or colonies, the British government concluded to add to the western section a nar row strip from the southwestern part of the great colony of Georgia. Accordingly a strip west of the Appalachicola River, which had been formerly a part of Georgia, was attached to West Florida, against the protest of Georgia. The war between Great Britain and France regarding the territorial area in America had also resulted in the transfer of the French colony of Quebec to British control, and in 1774 the British government attached all of the territory north of the Ohio River and west to the Mississippi to the province of Quebec, making it, for purposes of government, a part of that province. This gave great dissatisfac tion to the people of Massachusetts, Connecti cut, New York and Virginia, since each of these claimed that a part of the section north of the Ohio was within its original grant and should not be taken from them. And this was one of the many causes of dissatisfaction which finally culminated in the War of the Revolution.

Thus when the Revolutionary War closed there were several territorial questions to be settled, in making the peace treaty: first and most important, whether the country north of the Ohio was to remain a part of Quebec, or be recognized as still a part of the former colonies; second, whether the section which had been taken from Georgia at the southwest and added to Florida should be restored as a part of the territory of the United States, in view of the fact that Great Britain had mean time receded Florida to Spain; and, third, what should be the boundary at the extreme north west. Virginia had held that her original char ter gave her the territory north of the Ohio to the Mississippi River, including that lying west of the lakes, and besides that was the important fact that it had been occupied, in some degree at least, by the colonial forces during the War of the Revolution.

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