Ralph Waldo Emerson

.       Major American intellectual, leading transcendentalist

.       Mentor of Thoreau

.       Opposed Mexican-American War


Henry David Thoreau

.       Major American intellectual, leading transcendentalist

.       Essayist, author, naturalist

.       Wrote Civil Disobedience, Leaves of Grass

.       Refused to pay poll tax in protest of Mexican-American War; spent night in jail before being bailed out by Emerson


James Polk

.       Democratic president of the United States, 1845-49

.       Oversaw Mexican-American War and largest expansion of U.S. territory since Louisiana Purchase


Henry Clay

.       American senator and statesman, leader of Whig Party

.       Commonly referred to as the "Great Compromiser"

.       Shaped Missouri Compromise and Compromise of 1850

.       Opposed annexation of Texas at first, then compromised position for political reasons


Zachary Taylor

.       American general in Mexican-American War and later Whig Party President of the United States

.       Commanded troops near Rio Grande that spurred outbreak of Mexican-American War

.       Won great fame at battle of Buena Vista

.       As president, debated but did not resolve question of whether California should enter as free or slave state (he preferred free)



1819 Adams-Onis Treaty

.       U.S. purchased Florida but gave up claims to Texas

.       Giving up Texas made many southerners angry at Secretary of State John Q. Adams


1836 Battle of the Alamo

.       Mexicans captured Alamo, a mission church in San Antonio being used by Texan fighters as a makeshift fort

.       Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie killed

.       Emotional turning point for Sam Houston's Texan forces, who won a string of battles and the overall war within a year of Alamo defeat


1836 Texas Independence

.       Texans created independent Lone Star Republic

.       Never recognized by U.S. or Mexico

.       Major debate in U.S. about whether or not Texas should be annexed; much concern over upsetting slave/free balance in congress          


1844 Presidential Election

.       Democrat James Polk won presidency running on explicitly expansionist platform

.       Polk presidency led to major territorial gains for U.S.


1845 Annexation of Texas to U.S.

.       Congress barely ratified annexation of Texas in last days of John Tyler's presidency

.       Mexicans broke diplomatic ties in response


1846 Onset of Mexican-American War

.       General Zachary Taylor led Americans to Rio Grande, in disputed territory on Mexico-Texas border

.       Skirmish between Mexican and American troops led to full-blown war


1846 California Independence

.       Small group of Americans led by John C. Frémont declared Bear Flag Republic, free from Mexican rule

.       U.S. forces consolidated control by landing at San Francisco and Sonoma


1846 Wilmot Proviso

.       Congressional proposal to outlaw introduction of slavery to all newly annexed territory

.       Controversial measure voted down repeatedly in congress, became political wedge issue for Whigs because it split northern and southern Democrats on slavery issue


1847 Fall of Mexico City

.       U.S. forces led by Winfield Scott landed at Veracruz, marched inland to capture Mexican captial

.       Forced Mexicans to accept peace treaty that ceded American Southwest to U.S.


1848 Gold Discovery in California

.       News of gold strike spread quickly through U.S., prompting huge migration of "49er" miners in 1849

.       California still officially Mexican territory at time of discovery


1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo

.       Officially ended Mexican-American War

.       U.S. annexed California, Arizona, New Mexico, other areas in Southwest

.       Mexico lost 55% of its territory


1848 Founding of Free Soil Party

.       Members of Liberty and Whig parties joined to create Free Soil Party, dedicated to preventing spread of slavery into new territories

.       Nominated ex-president Martin Van Buren as presidential candidate; he won only 10% of vote






.       American political party, founded to oppose Jacksonian Democrats in 1830s

.       Believed in economic improvement and domination of legislative branch

.       Torn apart by questions over expansion of slavery


.       Direct descendant of Thomas Jefferson's Republican Party

.       Cultivated broad support across sectional lines

.       Believed in egalitarian agricultural society, opposed modernization

.       Generally in favor of both territorial expansion and slavery


Free-Soil Party

.       Founded in opposition to expansion of slavery into territories

.       Precursor to Republican Party; formed base for Lincoln's election 





"Manifest Destiny"

.       Notion that America was destined by God to stretch from Atlantic to Pacific

.       Drew upon Thomas Jefferson's vision of an expansive "empire of liberty"

.       Used as a rationale for expansionist foreign policy





The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

.       Old Spanish mission church used as makeshift fort by Texan soldiers surrounded by Santa Anna's Mexican army, 1836

.       Battle ended with defeat of all Texan forces

.       "Remember the Alamo" became rallying cry for Texan fighters through remainder of struggle for Texas independence


Sutter's Mill, California

.       Site of discovery of gold in 1849

.       Gold strike sparked rapid American settlement of California, previously Mexican territory



.       Before 1846, a country twice as large as it is today; used to include California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas

.       Forced to cede control over this territory to US following defeat in Mexican-American War