In June of 1844, Joseph Smith ordered the destruction of Nauvoo Expositor, which had been declared a public nuisance by the Nauvoo city council. After the Mormon militia, the Nauvoo Legion, carried out his orders, he declared martial law in the city of Nauvoo, fearing an uprising by anti-Mormon militias in the surrounding areas. These actions caused Illinois Governor Thomas Ford to dispatch a small contingent of state militia to put down the supposed "Mormon uprising," but when news of their arrival reached Smith, he responded by fleeing to a small island in the middle of the Mississippi River, outside of the jurisdiction of state officials. While there, his wife Emma sent him an emotional letter, calling him a coward and pleading for his return, which she sent via his bodyguard and childhood friend, Porter Rockwell, who was illiterate. Rockwell, however, lost this letter, and was unable to report its contents to Smith, who chose to remain on the island for several weeks while the city council met with Governor Ford, and negotiated a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
Over the next several months, Smith's popularity continued to grow, thanks to his fresh political views and the efforts of hundreds of "political missionaries" who he sent to every major city in the country to campaign on his behalf. His ideas on bringing a peaceful end to slavery by selling public lands and using the funds to compensate slave owners gained popular support in Northeast, while his expansionist views gave him a strong backing in the Western states. The Election of 1844 was one of the closest in history, with the popular vote split almost equally between the Independent Smith, Democratic candidate James Polk, and the Whig statesman Henry Clay. Smith carried ten states in the Northeast, as well as Illinois and Missouri; Clay won a handful of border states, as well as Ohio; Polk took the deep South, Pennsylvania and Virginia. None of the candidates acquired enough electoral votes to become president. With the Electoral College deadlocked for hours and Clay ever more fearful that the election would be decided by the Democrat controlled House of Representatives, Henry Clay finally decided to throw his support behind Smith to prevent a Polk presidency, allowing Joseph Smith, Jr. to be elected the 11th President of the United States.
Once in office, Smith quickly authorized the annexation of Texas, sparking off the Mexican War, which became one of the defining features of his presidency. After US forces occupied the Mexican capital, Smith rejected the treaty initially negotiated by Nicholas Trist, stating it was not nearly ambitious enough. Most Whigs favored the annexation of Mexico, but Northern Democrats opposed it, fearing that it would allow the spread of slavery to Western lands. Smith convinced both parties to accept the annexation of all of Mexico, on the condition that the sale of Mexican land to settlers would fund the generous compensation of slave owners, whose slaves would be peacefully emancipated by 1860. During the debate, he famously evoked the concept of Manifest Destiny, declaring to the thunderous applause of the Congress, "The only fault I can find in the Constitution is that it is not broad enough to cover the whole earth!"
Viewed by the American public as both a victorious conquerer and great mediator, Smith easily won reelection in 1848 against Winfield Scott and Lewis Cass. Ironically, in this election former President Martin Van Buren, who had previously scorned Smith's requests for protection against mob persecution, enthusiastically threw his support, and that of the Free Soil Party, behind Smith. Smith's second term was marked by rapid expansion into the former Mexican territories in the West and South. During this period, the new states of Tamaulipas, New Leon, North and South California, and Mexcoco, which contained the City of Mexico, were admitted to the Union.
After much deliberation, Smith decided to seek a third term in the election of 1852. Although the past eight years had been taxing, he was only 46, and was in good health, thanks to the strict Mormon health code, which forbade smoking and alcohol. Nevertheless, he vowed that it would be his last term and he would then return to guide his Church, which was under the temporary leadership of the fiery Brigham Young, who oversaw the construction of four temples in MIssouri. In these elections, Smith met a surprisingly tough challenge from newcomer Franklin Pierce and veteran Daniel Webster. The outcome of the contest was in doubt until just weeks before the election, when Webster died after falling from his horse, throwing the Whigs into disarray and guaranteeing Smith's third term.
During his final term, Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas and Chihuahua gained statehood, but settlers met ever increasing Indian resistance, especially from Commanches and Apaches. Initial attempts to convert them to Christianity by sending missionaries to preach to them largely failed, frequently in bloody fashion, forcing Smith to dispatch the Federal Army time after time. These frequent and costly campaigns yielded little results, causing many to question his leadership. After years of continued frustration, he was happy to finally leave office in 1857 and return to the Saints in Missouri.
Following Smith's departure from office, President Stephen Douglas found himself in increasingly frequent conflicts with Great Britain, ever more wary of the rising American super power, whose ships often smuggled goods from Canada to avoid high American tariffs. These conflicts finally came to a head in his second term, in 1862, resulting in a third war between the United States and Britain. After three years of conflict, the United States was finally able to defeat the mighty British navy by constructing a modern fleet of ironclads, and occupied much of eastern Canada. As part of the peace settlement, Britain agreed to allow Canada to determine whether or not to become part of the United States by voting in a referendum. This proved to be a costly mistake, as thousands of American snuck across the border in the following months and cast their votes for Canada to become a state.
The rivalry between the US and Britain continued in the following years. When Britain completed the Suez Canal in 1869, America responded by annexing Central America beginning construction of its own canal in Nicaragua. After much hardship and loss of life, the canal was completed in 1880, allowing the US to rival Britain as the dominant commercial and economic power in the world. In 1883, war broke out between the US and Spain over control of the Caribbean. After a decisive victory, the US gained not only the Caribbean, but also an unexpected headache in the Philippines, where they would battle an Islamic insurrection for the next decade.
When the Great War broke out in 1914, the US sided with Germany and took the opportunity to seize British and Dutch possession in the East Indies. The conflict was long and bloody, but the Central Powers were eventually triumphant, throwing France and Britain into political and economic turmoil, from which the fascist leaders Charles de Gaulle and Winston Churchill ultimately rose. At that point, it became clear that another World War was all but inevitable, and despite the best efforts of President Hoover to maintain the peace, war again broke out in 1935. The next decade saw bloody battles in India, the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe. The fighting only finally ended as a mushroom cloud rose over the ruins of London. All agreed that it was a terrible tragedy, but a necessary one; the invasion of the British Isles would have cost millions of American and German lives.
Following the war, the world was shocked to find evidence of the millions of Irish who lost their lives in British extermination camps. Though no precedent existed, German and American leaders vowed that justice would be served for these "crimes against humanity". Within months, Clement Atlee, Alan Brooke, Bernard Montgomery and dozens of others were executed by hanging. The Central Powers, vowing that such atrocities would never again be committed, created an ambitious plan for a Union of Nations that would maintain peace and justice around the globe.
This Union spent the remainder of the century spreading democracy around the globe. Though nuclear arms made another World War all but impossible, they often fought proxy wars in far-off and exotic lands against rebellions backed by Tsarist Russia or Imperial China. By the dawn of the 21st Century, most of the world was either aligned with the Union or the Eurasian Alliance. As the Chinese economy continued to grow at astonishing rates, many wondered if the 21st Century would be dominated as completely by China as the previous century was by the United States.