by Stephen Bryen
The US and world press is trying to paint President Trump as some kind of nut for wanting to buy Greenland from Denmark. Denmark, of course, did not agree, but they did so in such an insulting manner that President Trump cancelled an upcoming visit to Denmark in protest.
The US has been buying or acquiring property since 1803.
For the record, the US acquired the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25,000,000 in 1917. Of course Woodrow Wilson was President, and as he was a Democrat the press did not think he was nuts.
President Andrew Johnson also wanted to buy Greenland for fishing, but did not pursue it. Instead he bought Alaska from Russia. As Andrew Johnson’s Secretary of State William H. Seward was a Republican, they called the Alaska purchase “Seward’s Folly.”
President Harry Truman wanted to buy Greenland and offered $100 million for it in 1946. But the Danes were not “wild about Harry” and the matter didn’t go anywhere.
The Global Policy Forum provides this list of US territorial acquisitions
1803: Louisiana Purchase
Purchased from France for $15 million, the equivalent of $193 million in 2005.
The Purchase comprises 23.3 percent of the current territory of the US.
1818: Red River Valley
Previously under British control, this land acquisition came with the declaration of
the Anglo-American Convention of 1818 which established the official US-Canada border.
The land was secured at no cost.
It comprises 1.3 percent of total US territory.
1819: Florida Purchase
Also known as the Adams-Onis Treaty.
Spain ceded all of East Florida to the US and gave up its claims to West Florida. Spain also ceded territories to the southwest of the Louisiana Purchase including a portion of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
The US assumed $5 million in claims by US citizens against Spain, so no money actually changed hands.
1845: Texas Annexation
The Republic of Texas, having broken away from Mexico, was annexed by the United States. This brought 389,000 square miles of former Mexican territory into the US – a very large acquisition.
1846: Oregon Treaty
The Oregon Treaty established the boundary between Canada and the United States at the 49th parallel and
ceded the Oregon Territory to the US from Britain.
The land includes the present-day states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and portions of Montana and Wyoming and totals 286,000 square miles.
1848: Mexican Cession
Ceded to the US by Mexico following the Mexican-American War.
It includes all of the present-day states of California, Nevada, and Utah, as well as the portions of Arizona,
Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming.
Mexico lost about half of its national territory.
1853: Gadsden Purchase
Purchased (with pressure) from Mexico for $10 million, the equivalent of $343,826,098 in 2005.
It gave the US possession of the Mesilla Valley south of the Gila River.
The land is within the US state of Arizona and New Mexico.
April 9, 1867: Alaska Purchase
Purchased from Russia by the United States for US$7,200,000, equivalent to about US$90 million dollars in 2005.
It is now the US state of Alaska.
The Policy Forum does not include on its list, but should have the acquisition of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam (via the Treaty of Paris with Spain), American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and a number of minor outlying islands. Puerto Rico today is a US Commonwealth; Guam is an unincorporated territory of the U.S.; the Philippines was acquired from Spain and compensation paid of $20 million to Spain according to the terms of the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Between 1935 and 1946 the Philippines was a Commonwealth of the United States and became fully sovereign and independent in 1946.
The US also once owned the Panama Canal. But under Jimmy Carter in 1977 we gave it up. Some people thought maybe Jimmy Carter was nuts, but did not say so.
We are still holding (under a lease) Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
We also have as an “associated state” the Marshall Islands.
The Mariana Islands are now a US Trust Territory under the UN.
Kingman Reef is an unincorporated US territory annexed by the US.
American Samoa became an unincorporated territory of the US in 1899.
So it is clear the United States has a long and venerable history of acquisitions, some for money, some because of wars, and for other reasons too. It is how America expanded to the great country it is today.
President Trump is doing what American Presidents have done since Thomas Jefferson. Definitely he is not nuts, but shrewd. And it is Yankee shrewdness that built our country.