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North America

United States in the 19th century

George Washington (1732-1799)George Washington (1732-1799) Following the Revolutionary War, George Washington became the first President of the United States in 1789. The national capital moved from New York to Philadelphia and then to Washington, D.C. in 1800. War broke out between the US and its old colonial masters, Britain, in 1812, when Britain attempted to restrict American trade with their enemy, France, and supported Native Americans attacking settlers in the Midwest. The British invaded US territory and burned Washington, but were turned back at Baltimore and defeated at the Battle of New Orleans. The war ended with the Americans claiming victory in February 1815. After that, Americans vowed, in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, that European powers should never again be allowed to interfere in the Americas.


The burning of the White House by British troops, 1814The burning of the White House by British troops, 1814

A map showing expansion of US territoryA map showing expansion of US territory

Expansion of US territory 

Through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the United States had gained vast areas of land, previously owned by France (who reacquired it from Spain in 1800), west of the Mississippi River. In the 1830s and 40s, the nation grew rapidly, as more territory was added to the west—despite continuing resistance from the Native Americans.

When the Republic of Texas was annexed in 1845, war broke out with Mexico in 1846 over competing claims. The US was victorious, also gaining California and New Mexico by the peace treaty of 1848. The northwestern territory of Oregon was added in 1846.

From 1790 to 1820, only around 60,000 immigrants arrived in the USA in each decade. Then in the 1820s, the number rose to 129,000; in the 1830s, to 538,000, and in the 1840s to 1,430,000.

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