During the 1800s, the United States underwent a transformation and change unlike any the country had ever seen in our history either before or since. It is my intention to describe some of the key issues that made this transformation possible and also to address some of the problems that surfaced from this expansion. I will be utilizing the document-based questions as a basis for my explaining this growth and change in America.
I believe that John Louis O’Sullivan’s editorial from the New York Morning News in 1845 describes it all in that he declares without any reservation that our destiny is to express our freedom and liberty by possessing the land that God had given to us. In effect, it was our duty and our right to go West and carry that torch of freedom across the whole continent, no matter what the difficulties we would encounter along the way.
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In reality, Americans endured hardships and enormous problems every step of the way. For example, as we drove westward, we began to infringe upon the Native Americans. It was of course the Indians who found no other alternative but to defend their land and their way of life. Thousands of men, women and children died during our quest to take it all from the Indians. They believed the ‘Great Spirit’ gave the land to them. They simply fought and died for what they believed was already theirs!
Equally important to understand was the fact that these brave Americans were embarking on a new adventure, a new way of life. Many were enticed by the promise of land. The land represented something that was their own to develop, to grow vegetables, to stock the land with cows, etc.
By taking the chance of going west, many believed they would make a better life for themselves and for their family. Others, such as those not only from the East but also from China, arrived on the West Coast in their search for gold, for good fortune. Many of these men came with nothing but a knife and a basket, hoping against hope they would find gold on the bottom of the basket as they shook the dirt loose.
Despite the hardships, the failures, the many who died or were killed when fighting the Indians, the many who died over the annexation of Texas, etc., these Americans endured and were successful. They ultimately created a country that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. These brave colonists ultimately left to their children and children’s children all that was ‘entrusted to us’ as described by John Louis O’Sullivan in 1845.
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