United States territorial acquisitions

United States territorial acquisitions are the lands coming under the control of the United States, beginning with American independence.


  • Our well-founded claim, grounded on continuity, has greatly strengthened, during the same period, by the rapid advance of our population toward the territory—its great increase, especially in the valley of the Mississippi—as well as the greatly increased facility of passing to the territory by more accessible routes, and the far stronger and rapidly-swelling tide of population that has recently commenced flowing into it.
    • John C. Calhoun, secretary of state, letter to Richard Pakenham, British minister to the United States (September 3, 1844), concerning the boundary dispute between the two countries. Congressional Globe (December 2, 1845), vol. 15, Appendix, p. 26. When the dispute was settled in 1846, the United States was given all the land south of the forty-ninth parallel except Vancouver Island. The area included the modern states of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming.
  • What do we want with this vast, worthless area? This region of savages and wild beasts, of deserts of shifting sands and whirlwinds of dust, of cactus and prairie dogs? To what use could we ever hope to put these great deserts, or those endless mountain ranges, impenetrable and covered to their very base with eternal snow? What can we ever hope to do with the western coast, a coast of three thousand miles, rock-bound, cheerless, uninviting, and not a harbor on it? What use have we for this country?
    • Attributed to Daniel Webster, supposedly from a speech in the Senate. Benjamin Perley Poore, Perley's Reminiscences (1886), vol. 1, chapter 15, p. 213–14. The same quotation, with slight word variation, appears in Edmund J. Carpenter, The American Advance, p. 216 (1903), with the additional sentence, "Mr. President, I will never vote one cent from the public treasury to place the Pacific coast one inch nearer to Boston than it is now". It is reported in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989) that these remarks have never been verified in the speeches or writings of Webster, and are probably spurious. T. C. Elliott, The Outlook (August 15, 1908), p. 869, said, "It is safe to say he never uttered it".

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