Example #1 – Westward Expansion in the Nineteenth Century
The Westward Expansion has often been regarded as the central theme of American history, down to the end of the19th century and as the main factor in the shaping of American history. As Frederick Jackson Turner says, the greatest force or influence in shaping American democracy and society had been that there was so much free land in America, and this profoundly affected American society.
After the revolution, the winning of independence opened up the Western country and was hence followed by a steady flow of settlers to the Mississippi valley. By 1840, 10 new western states had been added to the Federal union. The frontier line ran through Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas on the western side of the river. All parts of the valley except Wisconsin and Minnesota were well populated. Thus a whole new section had been colonized with lasting effects on the American institutions, ideals and ways of living.
The far west was the land of high mountains, deserts, strange rock formations, brilliant colors and immense distance. Fur trade with Europe had now become a lucrative business and the fur traders became the pathfinders for the settlers. Migration was now possible by the discovery of paths over which ox-driven carts could be driven through seeking mountains and across the western desert.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $14
Prices start at $12
People wanted to move away from the overcrowded cities and this led to the migration into the uninhabited lands. Increased transportation like roads, railroads and canals and their construction created a demand for cheap labor making it easier for people to get jobs now, in contrast with the cities where there was unemployment.
The pioneer movement for 70 years after the revolution roughly represented the form of 3 parallel streams, flowing westwards from New England, Virginia, and South Carolina. The first pioneer groups tended to move directly westward. Thus the new Englanders migrated into western New York and along the shores of the great lakes, Virginians into Kentucky and then into Missouri and the South Carolinians and Georgians into the Gulf territories. Throughout the settlement of the Mississippi valley, most pioneers did not travel long distances and as a territory had been occupied, families would move into the adjacent one.
There were boom periods of great activity, during which a million acres of land were sold, alternated with depression periods during which there was little further expansion of the frontier and many disappointed pioneers even backtracked from the west to the east.
When the treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, the Americans had thought that they had enough land between the Atlantic coast and the Mississippi River. Yet in 1803, by the Louisiana Purchase, the area of the United States doubled and not long after, it was augmented by the half-purchase-half-conquest of Florida. By the end of 1820, as many as 6 states were created, east of Mississippi-Indiana (1816), Mississippi (1817), Alabama (1819), Maine (1820), and Missouri (1821). By the 1830s, the frontier line had been carried to Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas-about one-third of the way across the continent.
By the 1840s, the expansionist policy, typified by the Manifest Destiny doctrine, became very strong with many sections willing to go to war to acquire more land. Slavery became a bone of contention between the Northern and southern states with the control of the senate in question.
The South wanted the expansion to increase slave states, the North to keep the balance with free states and the West wanting expansion to increase their land. The antagonism between the North and the South sees the beginnings of sectionalism leading to the civil war later. The spirit of equality becomes a banner with which the expansionist policy was proclaimed.
Phases Of Development
Before the 1830s, most sections of the west passed through the same phases of development in regular order. The first white men to usually enter a new area were the hunters and fur trappers, who had extraordinary skills to open up a new path through the wilderness, finding food for themselves and dealing with the Indians. These men explored the country and brought news of its resources back to the east.
In many regions, the second phase was cattle ranching while some also passed through the mining phase. Parts of Missouri and Wisconsin, for example were settled by lead miners. Behind the cattle ranchers or miners came the first farmers, who were often squatters with no legal title to land. They were frequently restless and were impatient of the restrictions of civilized society, and were not interested in making permanent houses. Many of them, had a habit of moving every few years and would follow the frontier land as it carried further into the west.
Once a new area had been opened up and shown to be fertile, it would soon attract men of sober and ambitious type, who had much more capital and more farming techniques and wanted homes where they could settle for the rest of their lives. They brought with them the habits of civilizations. They developed trade, established churches, schools and newspapers and set up institutions of government. The Federal government then assumed responsibility for guiding each area through the territorial stage until it was ready for statehood.
But there were many parts of the west, where the white settlers provided for their own government, by the democratic methods long before the legal establishment of territorial institutions. Thus the society became more diversified once small towns sprang up to meet the economic, political, and cultural needs of the population. In those cases that did not afterward become urban and industrial, this represented the final stage.
Geographic factors also caused some variation in this usual pattern. Some mountain regions never passed beyond the squatter stage, while fertile countries, such as the black belt of Alabama and Mississippi, were sometimes settled, at the start, by men of more ambitious type. Geography also determined the order in which different regions were occupied. The early pioneers mostly preferred to make their homes in a forest country or close to it, for they needed timber for shelter and warmth and also for fencing. The forest regions were therefore settled in advance of the open prairies.
By the 1830s, the frontier line had been carried into Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas. Immediately west of the Mississippi valley was the Great Plains, which after 500 miles sloped into the Rockies. The plains had a lot of wildlife with nomadic and highly warlike Indian tribes. Beyond the Great Plains, the way westwards was through the South pass between two immense mountain systems.
The Spanish territories of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California, including parts of Kansas, Colorado and Wyoming were passed onto the newly established Mexican government in 1821. But the Spanish had only made settlements in New Mexico and parts of Texas and California, so the rest of the areas were ripe for expansion.
To the north of California, the area of Oregon was to be occupied jointly by the Americans and the British according to the Anglo-American convention of 1818. From 1804 till 1807 and after 1812, the Federal government sent a number of exploring parties to the far west. This area was labeled as the “Great American desert”. And so the American government during the 1820s and the 1830s believed that the west might appropriately be left to the Indians and were willing to promise that they could keep it in perpetuity.
A more important role in expansion to the west was played by the fur trappers. They were the first white people to cover most of the western territories and find routes suitable for pioneer settlers. Between 1807 and 1835, the trappers penetrated into the mountains with intensive exploration and exploitation of the mountain country and discovering routes that helped establish the fur trade as well as open up the west for expansion.
Overland trade with Mexico also helped in the knowledge of the far west. The trade route from Missouri to Santa Fe and later up to California resulted in the Americans establishing contacts with New Mexico and California which prepared the way for annexation.
Texas and California
It can be assumed that the northern parts of Mexico would have eventually come under the control of the United States as the Mexicans did not colonize them, there was no effective sovereignty and American settlers would have resulted in American annexation. That the annexation occurred by force can be seen as the augmentation of aggressive American nationalism and the Mexicans’ refusal to sell the land and inability to develop it.
Mexico achieved independence in 1821 with the installation of a constitutional government but from 1824 to 1857, the country was dominated by the army and chronic military revolutions.
The earliest of the northern parts of Mexico to come under the control of Americans was Texas. In 1823, Stephen Austin secured authorization from the Mexican government to colonize the area. The Mexican government was hoping for the quick settlement and Americanisation of the area. By 1830, around 30,000 Americans were settled in Texas with local self-government. At the same time, the Mexican government barred any more Americans from settling in Texas. The dictatorial government meant negotiation was impossible and in March 1836, a convention of Texans issued a formal declaration of independence, drafted a constitution, and chose Sam Houston as commander-in-chief of their army.
The Texans were hoping for annexation by the Americans but the question of slavery meant the Lone Star Republic remained a republic. In 1844, a motion to make Texas a part of the United States failed but it became the main platform for the next presidential elections. James Polk won on the party platform of “reannexation” of Texas and “reoccupation” of Oregon. In 1845, a joint resolution was passed by Congress and Texas finally became a part of the United States.
Polk now had to get Mexican consent to the annexation of Mexico and fix the boundary line, which the Texans said was the Rio Grande while the Mexicans insisted on Nueces. Mexico had also defaulted on the repayment of the debt of 2 million dollars. This made Polk order the American army under General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed boundary region. Mexican troops were also ordered to hold the same region and when a clash between the two armies occurred in 1846, Congress declared war. The Northeast, under the leadership of Emerson, Thoreau, and James Russell opposed the war, as they feared slavery. The planters of the South wanted Texas but knew that New Mexico and California were unsuited for slavery and so wanted limited expansion while the people of the West wanted war for expansion.
Texas was soon conquered and with California being taken in 1847, the American annexation of the Far West was complete. A treaty was signed in 1848 whereby Mexico ceded Texas with the Rio Grande boundary, New Mexico, California, and the rest of the western territories. The United States would pay Mexico 15 million dollars and assumed its debt of 3.25 million dollars. The treaty was ratified by the Senate. The settlement of California was accelerated by the Californian Gold Rush, when gold was discovered in 1848. In 1849, elections were held in California and California asked Congress for admission to the confederation. California became a state in 1850.
The settlement of Oregon was preceded by lot of propaganda, which was nationalistic in nature led by Kelley and later Wyeth. Religious missions, from Methodist to Presbyterians and Congregationalists and Catholic, all tried to settle this area and they were the first permanent American settlements in Oregon and became the centers of agriculture and cattle-raising.
The great migration began in 1841 and was stimulated by the depression of 1837 with people with some capital hoping to make a fresh start. By 1845, there were 6,000 Americans in Oregon, and the United States government tried to make the 49th parallel as the boundary without success. The fur trade had since declined in this area so the British agreed to the 49th parallel as the boundary in a treaty in 1846 and thus, American sovereignty was established over the area covered by Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
The Mormon Church under the able leadership of Brigham Young settled the area south of Oregon and by 1847 had settled the area of Utah.
Immediate Problems after the War
The new acquisitions meant that problems like transportation had to be tackled. A canal across Panama was planned but this didn’t materialize for many years. The building of a transcontinental railroad with the financial assistance of the government was debated upon. Also the question of slavery in the newly acquired territories was a more troubling issue and this decided the fate of the United States for the next few years.
F. Merk in his book Manifest Destiny says “a sense of mission to redeem the old world by high example was generated in pioneers of idealistic spirit on their arrival in the new world.” It was generated by the immense potential in the virgin land of the American continents. Successive generations also gave this sense of mission life in various ways from the struggle of religious liberty in Plymouth and Boston at the time of the early colonies right until the 14 points of Wilson when the 13 colonies had matured into a major world power.
In the mid-1840s, a new form of expansionism, novel in name, appeal, and theory made its appearance in the United States. It was Manifest Destiny. It meant expansion, prearranged by heaven, over an area, which according to some was the region to the pacific, to others it was the North American continent and to others it was the hemisphere. Its public appeal was enormous as it meant an opportunity to gain admission to the American Union. John O’ Sullivan coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny” and many other politicians supported him like John Wentworth (Ill.), Stephen Douglas (Ill.), Daniel S. Dickenson (NY), and Andrew Kennedy (Ind.) The people of the Old South under Calhoun supported the annexation of Texas but were against going further as the area beyond it was unsuitable for plantation-style of farming of the South and also because the balance of free state and slave states would be disturbed.
Its dominant feature was federalism, which left control of local affairs-such as slavery-to the states and entrusted to the central government control over only such extra-local functions as foreign affairs, interstate and foreign commerce, coinage and taxation for Federal purposes. Federalism permitted a spreading of the domain of the union almost indefinitely without danger of central tyranny. The people entering the union were protected by ‘ States’ rights’ as it was republicanism on confederated states. It signified republicanism as freedom with a government of a classless society. Religious freedom was stressed as a feature of this doctrine.
Democracy was explained as political democracy with wide suffrage and frequent elections as well as economic democracy with the democracy of land ownership, ease of land acquisition and the glorification of free trade along with the promise of the development of the natural resources. This economic democracy sounded very attractive as Mexico’s failure to improve California was attributed to an incompetent local bureaucracy, degenerating into a state of anarchy and to a slothful population. The same was true of the agriculture and mining potentialities.
If these areas were brought into the American confederation, the people would be taught both the value of their resources and trained at their development. It was believed that occupation was the moral force, which should and would move territory to America. It was talked of as a refuge from monarchial Europe.
Manifest Destiny also encompassed the idea that the duty of the United States was to regenerate backward peoples of the continent.
The enthusiasm and belief for the doctrine of Manifest Destiny was enormous with every level of the intelligentsia, though the scope and enthusiasm for its separate features differed widely.
The growth of Manifest Destiny can be attributed to certain factors:
- Technological changes in transport especially the plans to build the transcontinental railroads in the mid-1840s.
- Uneasiness of insufficiency of good land.
- Economic distress- the crises in 1837, 1839, and 1841 encouraged the flight of farmers in search of better land.
- The idealism of youth, which fueled reform with vision and high enthusiasm.
- Geography of the western country.
- Dissemination of the ideas of Manifest Destiny through the press with the advancements in communication.
The forces that produced Manifest Destiny were domestic for the most part with expansionism as the dominant thread.
- John Rhodes in his monumental work History of the United States says that John C. Calhoun and others lobbied for the annexation of Texas against the protests of northern Whig traders. He says that the Whigs never forgave the South for the holocaust of the war. He talks of the Mexican war being a Southern conspiracy. He blamed the South for the Mexican war saying that excessive Southern democracy provoked Mexico into war; that in order to acquire land in which they could establish slave states, South caused the Mexican war of 1844. T. Parker and William Jay support him. Rhodes’ opinion assumes the unity of purpose and action in the South.
- Boucher thinks that the South was disunited and so couldn’t carry out the pact. He talks of different leaders, some who advocated war against Mexico, some who like Calhoun placed the blame for the war on James Polk. He says there was no effective democracy, which compelled the South to fight against the anti-slavery men who favored war.
- James Douglas Fuller agrees with Boucher’s view that there was no Southern conspiracy. He says that this is obvious when it became clear that the Mexican territory was not suited for plantation agriculture.
- William Dott favors sectional interpretations but he holds a section of West responsible for war saying that West had been interested in expansion. Manifest Destiny was America’s slogan and Westerners were its boldest advocates. The West helped Jackson and Jefferson who were in favor of expansionism to get elected and in 1804, West declared expansionist policy through the democratic platform and elected Western leader James Polk. He says that 70,000 people volunteered for the Mexican war of which 40,000 were from the West.
- Norman Grabler says that neither the West nor the South were responsible, rather it was the commercial interest of the North, which was responsible for the war. Yankee merchant ships moved from Boston to the Pacific coast and San Diego to Mexico. They exchanged goods for Californian hides & they exploited the Pacific. Eastern mercantile interests dreamt of having lucrative trade with the Orient. He says that these men dictated expansion of trade, as the occupation of western lands was the way to reach the ocean-a barrier to be crossed. Beyond Texas, the expansion of America is different unless it is explained in terms of commerce and harbors. Polk won on a party program based on a conquest to fulfill commercial interests.
- Wern says that it was the concept of Manifest Destiny and not mercantile interest, which was responsible for expansion. Americans were expansionist-minded and felt that the entire continent was for them. Manifest Destiny reflected more than mere land hunger. American democracy symbolized freedom. Men moved further on to acquire freedom. The freedom allowed them to carry the institutions. Expansionists believed that by being free in nature and not weak and impotent like the autocratic character of Mexicans, they would inherit the earth. God had built weak Mexico to be bettered by his chosen ones-the the Anglo-Saxons i.e. the Americans. The interpretation of Manifest Destiny was less a matter of expansion than purpose. The concept of expansion as a destiny meant it was a means to the fulfillment of certain ideas. The preservation and perfection of American providential mission or destiny. He talks of how it had economic implications. There was a vast land held by America yet Americans were acquiring more land. The main motive was to acquire land for future population before the need arises. The guilt of the population was a fundamental cause towards territory and expansion. He talks of how economic and social liberty was sought without which political liberty was meaningless.
- Carlos Garcia felt that to understand the expansion of the United States, it is essential to understand the colonial background of America and Mexico. The English masters of the 13 colonies had no place for red Indians in their society. The Indians were eliminated and then the Anglo-Saxons society existed. According to him, in the case of North America the ends justified the means. If the Americans wanted more land, they conquer it by eliminating its barbaric neighbors. The American’s unwillingness to assimilate Indians and Mexicans explains the enthusiasm for conquering sparsely populated Mexico and their failure to go beyond the Rio Grande. Thanks to their colonial heritage, that part of Mexico remained Mexico. It was racial supremacy that held them back.
- Richard Steinberg holds Polk responsible for the Mexican war. He argues that Polk’s party platform was to annex Texas and if he carried out this plan, it would be his responsibility totally. He encouraged the people of Texas to ask to have the Rio Grande as the boundary. Mexicans had severed their relations with the United States. Americans provoked Mexicans into war.
- The Mexican scholar Sierra was aware of the shortcomings of his nation. He blamed the church, politicians and stupid military for their betrayal to the public cause. The United States was aggressive and attacked the Mexican territory and Mexico was not defended properly.
Significance Of The Westward Movement
Any discussions on the significance of the Westward Expansion must take into account the views and criticisms of Frederick Jackson Turner whose thesis was that the westward movement had been the central factor in the evolution of American civilization and the chief reason for the differences between America and Europe. He says, “ the existence of an area of free land, its continuous recession, and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development.” According to Turner, the chief effects of the frontier were to promote the formation of a new, composite nationality and decrease the dependence on Europe, to strengthen national unity and increase the powers of the Federal government, and to stimulate individualistic and democratic attitudes and institutions.
However, many criticisms of Turner’s thesis exist with scholars like George Pierson, Hofstader and Robert Riegel challenging his arguments. They say that the frontier is an inappropriate interpretative framework for studying American history, when other themes like class struggle, economic forces of growth, level of technology, growth of urbanization, the immigrant experience or the role of continuity and urbanization exist. David Potter says that Turner failed to see that technology and industry also produced abundance, which shaped the American character of individualism, egalitarianism and immense opportunities.
Scholars say that the states of the upper valley became democratic primarily because they were founded by men who already believed in democratic ideals. So to say that the frontier brought about democracy is an exaggeration. Turner’s idea of the Westward Expansion being a safety valve for urban discontent sounds faulty to Charles Bearde who said that the people who moved were wholly agricultural people as the urban workers had neither the agricultural skill nor the capital needed to settle on the frontier.
Despite the various valid criticisms of Turner, many points of his thesis are acceptable. On the whole, the West was certainly more democratic than the East and had a stronger faith in human equality as it was settled by people looking for wider opportunities. Even the safety valve theory has an element of truth when applied to ambitious young men of the professional class who had a better chance of making it big much quicker in the West than in the East.
Without the open frontier, moreover, there would have been a much larger migration of young people from the farms to the cities; thus the frontier helped indirectly to check the exploitation of the working class by preventing it from expanding too rapidly. The Westward Expansion also weakened state and regional loyalties and promoted national unity due to its inherent mobility. Most westerners thought of themselves primarily as Americans and wanted a strong national government with broad powers for developing transportation and promoting the general welfare.
The most significant feature of the Westward Expansion was that the pioneers took with them the essential institutions of their civilization. Thus we must look upon the Westward Expansion as one of the factors in the shaping of the American civilization but not the only one.
Westward Expansion was a series of events that lead people not only to move west but also to the expansion of the United States. Manifest destiny played a huge part in this movement.
Manifest destiny is when people believe that it was God’s will for the United States to stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. They often used the expression “sea to shining sea”. These people had plans, big plans. They were willing to risk their lives for these opportunities that a new life would bring them. This journey was really difficult, but with some planning and hard work along the way, it was possible to survive.
People started moving west for many different reasons. Some of those reasons are being more land, gold, wanting to become rich, advances in our everyday lives, or even just the belief in Manifest Destiny. Farmers mostly moved for the land, because it was good for farming and there was plenty of it to go around. It was super crowded in the East with so many people immigrating, everyone wanted to move and have more land of their own. With more land, more people could be farmers, making them richer. Also, there was lots of gold being found in the west that lots of people wanted.
Other people moved because they knew there would be more advances. With new people and new ideas, lots of transportation advances were made. Things like the steamboat, the steam locomotive, railroads, and even just simple trails.
There were also some people that heavily believed in Manifest Destiny or even the people that wanted to start fresh. With all these opportunities for greater things, millions of people took the chance. Although there were many good things coming once you move west, you have to make it there first.
Many people died along the way, and there were many reasons. Most of the people that traveled west were lacking supplies. The majority of people didn’t take enough food and water to last them before they could get more or they didn’t bring extra supplies to fix their wagon if they had problems. Without food or bullets, and without a wagon not moving, you’re guaranteed to go to die.
In addition to these, there are also many other reasons people died. While traveling, you run into bad weather, natural barriers, or even the Native Americans. Bad weather can vary, ranging from heavy rain, to snow and extreme cold temperatures. The heavy rain can damage your supplies and the extreme temperatures can leave you with diseases and lack of warmth. In addition to disease, they also got sick from bad food or contaminated water.
There are also natural barriers like mountains that are extremely hard to get through. Another major problem was the Native Americans. They didn’t like people moving into their land, so they often killed people traveling. Another major role in people dying is their livestock dying. The oxen could also catch diseases and die. Without your oxen, your wagon is not moving, eventually leading to your death. But why didn’t people move sooner?
Well the answer is because we didn’t always have all this land. So the real question is how did we get all this land? Many purchases were held to get all the land we have today. The Louisiana Purchase, Mexican Cession, Gadsden Purchase, Texas becoming a state, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo all played important roles in the United States gaining all this land.
The Louisiana Purchase was a huge chunk of land that Thomas Jefferson purchased from the French in 1803. He bought around 530 million acres for 15 million dollars and it doubled the size of the United States.
The Mexican Cession was a section of present-day United States land that Mexico owned then. Mexico agreed to give up this piece of land in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The Gadsden purchase was an agreement in 1853 to buy a strip of land from Mexico. This strip of land was bought for 10 million dollars. The last land gain that I’m going to mention is when Texas becomes a state.
In 1845, the Texans fought Mexico to become free and independent. Texas is a larger state, so this added some land to the United States. Without these movements, we would not be where we are today, with the land we have today. There were many different trails and paths that led the West. These trails include the Oregon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Fur Trade, and many more.
The Oregon Trail was the first major trail, and it was formed by traders and fur trappers from about 1811-1840. The trail could only be traveled by horseback or foot. The Oregon Trail stretched from Missouri to Washington, and most pioneers started moving west on the Oregon Trail around 1843. Every 1 in 10 that traveled this trail ended up dying from something.
The Santa Fe Trail was an 800-mile route that was established by William Becknell. It stretched from Missouri to Santa Fe Mexico. Many people traveled this trail to move west, but it also became an international trade route. The Oregon Fur Trade was fur traders that basically followed Lewis and Clark’s trail to the Rockies. They developed relationships with the Native Americans and discovered a 10-mile pass through the mountains.
This helped many people pass through the hardest part of their journey: going through the mountains. In conclusion, many people decided to move west, due to many different reasons. Manifest Destiny played a huge role in people moving west as well as many other factors.
A major problem in the nineteenth century was westward expansion. Although the final outcome was good, it was a struggle to move the country into the wilderness. The government was greedy and wanted to take the Native Americans’ land away from them. As a political leader at that time, I would not allow such a thing to happen. The Indians would be treated with respect and able to keep their land. The white Americans would be expected to treat them as equals, rather than savages. As depicted in “Dances With Wolves,” soldiers ruthlessly killed Indians on sight.
They didn’t care if they were a threat or not because they were told by their superiors the Indians either had to be moved or eliminated. Even though the natives often had more intelligent philosophies than the whites, Americans viewed them as primitive and unintelligent. As a government figure, I would introduce laws that banned the mistreatment of natives. Any harmful act toward them would be strictly forbidden. Americans have no right to feel that they are better than any other race. The worst act by Americans in the nineteenth century would have to be Indian removal.
The main point I would make in my government term does not take another man’s land, no matter what color they are. As America moved westward, the white people could settle around the natives, rather than take their land. They could live and work together, and the natives could help the whites settle in return for food or fur. Most Indian tribes wouldn’t mind sharing because they believed no one owns the land, it all belongs to mother earth.
This system could benefit the whites, save lives, and prevent hostility between whites and natives. Native Americans did not deserve to be treated the way they were. The US was very ignorant and did not want to believe that Indians could be good. My plan would create peace between the two. It would be best for the United States if the Indians and whites had gotten along and worked together.
Example #4 – United States Expansionism: 1790s- 1860s
The major American aspiration during the 1790s through the 1860s was westward expansion. Americans looked to the western lands as an opportunity for large amounts of free land, for growth of the industry, and manifest destiny. This hunger for more wealth and property led Americans to conquer lands that were rightfully someone else’s. Manifest destiny and westward expansion brought many problematic issues to the Unites States verses the Indians that took the Americans to the Civil War.
The first issue that arose for the Americans, was where to put the existing Indians while they conquered their land. The United States felt that the Indians needed to be secluded from all other races so that they would become civilized. This Indian Territory was where eastern Indian tribes such as the Kickapoos, Delawares, and Shawnees lived.
As the population of Americans increased in the western sector of the United States, they also invaded that land specially allotted for the Indians. Instead of moving the Americans out of the Indian Territory, the government minimized the size of the Indian Territory by half. Now the Northern half was open for white settlement.
As for the western Indians, such as the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahos, American settlers went around them to settle the California and Oregon. The Americans decided to stay away from further conflict with the native Americans because they knew they were unable to move them away from their land. Americans continued their western movement and put forth their domination over the Indians. The first step the United States took in claiming this new land for them was by establishing a land system.
The Land Ordinance of 1785 established an orderly way to divide up and sell the new lands of the Western United States. Shortly after, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 set up a system of government for the land north of the Ohio River. Slavery was outlawed in the five states that made up the Northwest Territory, and no self-government was to be set up until at least five thousand free white men were in the territory.
The next step the Americans took had to do with forcing the Indians off their land. They managed to trick the Indians by making treaties with them. The Indians were practically forced to agree with the treaties. Most Americans didn’t even keep their promises. For example, in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix of 1784 and the Treaty of Fort McIntosh of 1785, the Iroquois and other Ohio Indians were forced to give a portion of their land to the United States.
The U. S. then proceeded to divide up this land, but settlers could not buy any of it until 1788. Many Americans became restless and decided to go in and settle these lands illegally, not honoring their treaty with the Indians.
These treaties were the only way the United States was going to be allowed to legally take over the Indian lands with the agreement of the Indians. This new recognition and use of treaties fell under the Indian Intercourse Act of 1790. This was a form of written documentation that allowed the ceding of land to be possible through the treaties. Americans, however, did not honor their agreement with the Indians, and in the future, some tribes used this against the government is trying to regain the land that was taken from them illegally.
These treaties also led to Indian resistance and increasing difficulties with the native peoples. As Thomas Jefferson took over the Presidency in 1801, he was determined to civilize the Indians.
He planned to take over the land in a peaceful manner. In return, the Americans shared with the Indians their civilized way of living. Jefferson’s goal was to educate the Indians and convert them to Christianity. He did this in hopes that the two cultures would be able to co-exist. However, his plan failed and continuous problems arose between the Americans and the Indians.
The United States also managed to gain three million acres of Delaware and Potawatomi land in Indiana through the Treaty of Fort Wayne. Because these people had established an alliance with the Northwest Confederation tribes, Tecumseh, the leader, proclaimed this treaty invalid because one tribe could speak for the rest.
This belief led to great resistance, by the Indians, to further expansion and disagreement with the U. S. government. In 1822, Tecumseh gathered Indian warriors to attack American soldiers, led by William Henry Harrison. This attack was a failure for the Indian cause and both sides suffered casualties. However, the Indians managed to scare the United States.
The British were on the Indian side, which consisted of Democratic-Republicans. They resented this British interference and wanted to continue expanding and exerting their superiority over the Indians, and supported war as an answer to the conflicts. In June of 1812, the U. S. Senate voted to go to war against the British. The British had a stronger army and navy as opposed to the Americans. While the U. S. gained terms of defining national boundaries and gaining some land, the war of 1812 did much more in terms of creating a conflict within the United States government. Because of the differing sectional opinions of the war, the Mexicans’ attack on the British and Indian forces failed.
Following the War of 1812, many Indian groups signed treaties with the US. A government that removed them from their land onto the Indian Territory because they were unwilling to civilize themselves. The “Five Civilized Tribes,” the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles, resolved to stay where they were, though they eventually ceded most of their land. Of these groups, the Cherokees took the greatest strides in co-existence with the white people.
Their land could even be seen at this time as one of the few frontiers of inclusion, where racial mixing and marriage frequently occurred between the Cherokees, whites, and African Americans. Most settlements were set up as frontiers of exclusion where no racial sexual mixing was allowed.
Despite this obvious peaceful co-existence, the states of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi stood up to the federal government and voted to invalidate the treaties with the Indians. Under President Jackson, who supported the removal of the Indians, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which would transfer Indians to reservations, by agreement or by force they.
When the Cherokees were supported when they took the issue to the Supreme Court. However, Jackson insisted on removal. After the defeat of the Cherokees, the Seminoles decided to fight for their land and succeeded in maintaining it. The other tribes, however, were eventually forced to leave their native lands as well. The most renowned of these removals was that of the Cherokees, referred to as the “Trail of Tears.” Many Indians died when the United States army took the Cherokees to Oklahoma.
It is only a shame that many had to give their lives for the greed of others. One must always keep in mind the pain many Indian families suffered as their lands were being taken away. While westward expansion was an accomplishment in the eyes of many, it was a loss for others.
Example #5 – The Transcontinental Railroad And Westward Expansion
Thesis: The transcontinental railroad greatly increased Westward expansion in the United States of America during the latter half of the nineteenth century. The history of the United States has been influenced by England in many ways. In the second half of the 1800s, the railroad, which was invented in England, had a major effect on Western expansion in the United States.
“Railroads were born in England, a country with dense populations, short distances between cities, and large financial resources. In America there were different circumstances, a sparse population in a huge country, large stretches between cities, and only the smallest amounts of money.” (”Railroad” 85)
The first American railroads started in the 1830s from the Atlantic ports of Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Charleston, and Savannah (Douglas 23). Within twenty years, four rail lines had crossed the Alleghenies to reach their goal on `Western Waters’ of the Great Lakes or the tributaries of the Mississippi. Meanwhile, other lines had started West of the Appalachian mountains, and by the mid-1850’s Chicago, St. Louis, and Memphis were connected to the East. Still other lines were stretching Westward, beyond the Mississippi.
An international route connected New England and Montreal and another one crossed Southern Ontario between Niagara, New York, and the Detroit River. During the 1850s, North and South routes have developed both East and West of the Alleghenies. It was not until after the Civil War, however, that a permanent railroad bridge was constructed across the Ohio River. After the Civil War, the pace of railroad building increased.
The Pacific railroads, the Union Pacific building from Omaha, Nebraska, and the Central Pacific building from Sacramento, California, had started to build a transcontinental railroad during the war to help promote national unity. They were joined at Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, completing the first rail connection across the continent.
Before the transcontinental railroad, the Eastern railroads had lines running only as far West as Omaha, Nebraska. The Western railroads had a few lines running North and South in California, far West of the wall of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In between these two networks was a huge gap of about seventeen hundred miles of plains and mountain ranges. Closing this gap was a dream shared by many Americans. Businessmen thought of all the money they could make by having an entire continent full of customers and using the railroads to serve their needs.
Romantics dreamed of the discoveries of wild Indians, scouts and hunters, and, of course, gold. Gold had been the desired find throughout the exploration of America. The California Gold Rush of 1849 again created much excitement about the search for gold.
The Pacific Railroads were founded when the Civil War was in progress. Until the war was over, the transcontinental railroad was a giant enterprise stalled by much bickering between a reluctant Congress and the Army, who had clamored for it (Cooke 254). If it had been left to the government, it would have taken another twenty years to complete the transcontinental railroad.
However, it was a commercial venture, and it was fortunately fed by the adrenaline of competition. There were two railroad companies building the transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific from the East, and the Central Pacific from the West.
The two companies struggled to beat each other in slamming down a record mileage of track. At first, Congress avidly pursued the project and they had stipulated that the Central Pacific should stop when it reached the California Border (Congress was full of Easterners). In 1865, after much argument about the aid, the government was providing to the two companies, the actual construction of the transcontinental railroad was started. Then in 1866, Congress decided that two companies should build as fast as possible and meet wherever they came together (255).
First, the Union Pacific sent out location parties, tracing the line and clearing the path by killing the Sioux and the buffalo in the way of the railroad. Then came the construction gangs who, working in shifts, graded (flattened) the land by as much as a hundred miles a stretch. Behind them came the track-laying crews, each consisting of ten thousand men and as many animals.
For each mile of track, the government was loaning the railroad from $16,000, for flat land, to $48,000, for mountainous land (”Railroad” 86). The supplies needed to lay a single mile of track included forty train cars to carry four hundred tons of rail and timber, ties, bridgings, fuel, and food, which all had to be assembled in a depot on the Missouri River.
But the Union Pacific had the twin advantages of comparatively flat land and a continuous supply line back to the factories of the East coast. It was quite different for the Central Pacific, which had to fetch most of its materials, except timber, by sea, twelve thousand miles around the tip of South America. Another difference between the two companies was their work-forces.
The Eastern work gangs were recruited from immigrant Irish, poor Southern whites, and poor Southern blacks, while the Western crews came mostly from China. The Union Pacific was said to be sustained by whisky while the Central Pacific was said to be sustained by tea (Douglas 110).
While the Easterners were racing through the prairie, the Westerners were stripping foothill forests, painfully bridging, tunneling, and inching up the mountains. Working summer and winter, it took the Central Pacific two years to hurdle the barrier of the Sierras. A thousand miles back East, the Irish workers frequently fainted in the midsummer heat, but their employers were kept going by the money they would receive from the government upon completion of the transcontinental railroad.
With the Westerners over the Sierras and the Easterners over the Rocky Mountains, the two armies slogged along the sage toward each other. When the two crews came within sight of each other, the Irish turned to their fists to slow down the Chinese. The Chinese resorted to pickaxes, which in turn brought the Irish to use their guns. The Chinese finally gave in and the fighting was stopped (Merk 456).
On May 10, 1869, the two rails met at a spot in Utah that was named Promontory Point. The crews had laid 1,775 miles of track in just over three years. Five days later, a special Central Pacific train arrived carrying company executives, engineers, and state dignitaries. Three days later, the Union Pacific train came with its own load of dignitaries, three companies of infantry, and a regimental band.
“It promised to be a gallant and decorative ceremony. But in the course of their labor, the crew had collected a more colorful assortment of interested parties: saloon keepers, gamblers, whores, money lenders, odd-job rovers. And these, with the cooks and dishwashers from the dormitory trains, made up the welcoming party.” (Douglas 121)
Five states had sent along with gold and silver spikes for the official ceremony. The chosen symbol for the ceremony was a golden spike which was to be driven in by the Governor of California, Leland Stanford. The band stopped playing and a prayer was said. The telegraph operator was connected with San Francisco and New York and was ready to send the first coast-to-coast commentary. It was a single sentence, “Stand by, we have done praying,” (Mark 461).
Then the Governor of California lifted the sled hammer above his head and brought it down to meet the rail. He had missed the spike, but the telegraph operator had already sent the message and New York fired a hundred gun salute, Philadelphia rang the Liberty Bell and a San Francisco paper announced the “annexation of the United States,” (Cooke 218).
“The country might take to the railroad as a novelty and a tourist fashion, but the companies saw it as a chain of missing links between the Great Plains and the people who would want, or could be urged, to settle it,” (Cooke 229).
The years 1870-1900 were a period of enormous growth in the United States. During these years, 430 million acres of land were settled, which was more than had been occupied in all preceding American history. A considerable part of this expansion was in the Great Plains (”United States of America” 472).
This enormous expansion was the product of a combination of forces. One was the Homestead Act of 1862. The Homestead Act of 1862 was passed by the government to encourage farming in the Mid-West. The government offered any head of family or person over twenty-one, either citizen or alien who wished to become a citizen, a 160 acre section of land. The recipient paid a small fee and agreed to live on the homestead or cultivate it for five years (Merk 236).
In addition to the Homestead Act, there was the realization on the part of informed people that the era of well-watered, free land was drawing to a close. A warning had been given in 1880 by the Director of the Census that the era of free land was closing (Horn 130). The swift expansion across the Great Plains was, in part, a rush of American farmers who wanted to take part in free and cheap land in areas that were well watered. A third factor was the sale of land by states at attractive prices. School lands, university lands, and other state lands were put on the market in competition with homesteads.
The chief factor, however, in this swift Westward colonization was the railroad companies. All of them were eager to transport settlers to the vast prairie, to get it colonized as a matter of developing traffic. The land-grant railroads had their own areas to sell. But, they also aggressively advertised the free homestead lands of the federal government. The main objective was to build up a settlement as a means of creating freight to carry.
The prices at which railroad lands were sold varied according to location and soil from five to twenty dollars or more an acre with easy credit terms. Many settlers preferred railroad lands that were favorably located over free homesteads. Railroad companies, especially those possessing land grants, were colonizers of the Great
Plains on a large scale. They carried forward on a vast scale the work that had been done on a lesser scale by colonizing companies on the seaboard during the colonial period.
The Great Plains were advertised with extraordinary enthusiasm. The Northern Pacific Railroad kept eight hundred agents in various European countries distributing literature and assisting immigrants. Literature was spread in every important European language, especially to areas in which there were droughts or bad soil. Western railroads had agents in New York City to receive immigrants; they offered special immigrant rates to the West, and they gave new arrivals advice on where to settle and about the best methods of farming.
The railroad enterprise was one of the most important aspects of the history of the West since the Civil War, and the reason the story is not emphasized more in summary accounts is that the story has so far been told only for individual railroads.
“In an all-out campaign to lure settlers, railroad land offices churned out reams of propaganda that painted the prairies and plains as a veritable paradise.” (Horn 194) Railroads were not always scrupulous in their colonization methods. They permitted their New York agents to use dubious means of enticing immigrants coming off steamboats to settle on their lands. Some were said to have stolen trainloads of immigrants from each other.
High-pressure salesmanship was used in disposing of lands to prospective settlers. Rapturous tales were told about what the land would grow. The climate of the plains was misrepresented. Jay Cooke, the financier of the Northern Pacific had weather maps printed in the 1870s which were altered to show the region a place of warm winters in order to counteract the impression that the region of the Northern Pacific was a harshly cold country. The Northern Pacific was thereafter wittily referred to by newspapers as Jay Cooke’s Banana Belt.
Lack of rainfall was known to be a crucial problem in the Western Plains. The whole region is an area of semi-aridity and of climatic cycles. A series of wet years occurs when the annual rainfall is somewhat more than twenty inches; then a dry series will follow, bringing years of droughts. It so happened that the five years prior to 1887 were a wet series on the Great Plains, when Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota had fairly frequent rainfall.
The propagandists of the railroads, as a result, either denied the assertion that the Plains were a region of semi-aridity, or contended that the climate was changing for the better. They advanced various theories to explain the change. Plowing the sod was said to produce rain. The stringing of telegraph lines was said to also produce rain. A theory was developed that the noise of civilization, the clanging of the locomotives, etc., lead to the rain. These theories were even repeated by state officials.
“The scientists of the federal government were not allowed to counteract such propaganda. In the reports of the Geological Survey, Major John Wesley Powell was obliged, at the insistence of Western congressmen who were acting on the behest of railroad lobbies, to strike out, in his account of the Great Plains, every reference of `semi-aridity’ and substitute the words `semi-humidity.’” (Merk 473)
All this propaganda led to even more settlement. A prime example of the effect of the incredible rush of settlement in the Prairie is the growth of the state of Nebraska, specifically Omaha, before and after the coming of the transcontinental railroad. Nebraska was admitted to the Union in 1867, and despite an economic depression and a grasshopper plague, the State’s population increased from about 120,000 to more than 1,000,000 by 1890. Much of this growth was due to the State’s location along the transcontinental railroad. During the 1880s, Omaha became an important industrial and meat-packing center. The railroad connections made this growth possible.
The beef industry was one of the many that were dependent on the railroad. When the transcontinental railroad went into service a twenty-nine-year-old livestock trader from Chicago named Joseph McCoy had an idea that would be the start of cowboys. He planned to herd cattle from Southern Texas to the railroad at Omaha, meanwhile having the cows graze on the grassland in between the two points (Cooke 229).
With the refrigerated train car in 1870, beef became part of the diets of the millions in the East (232). Thus, the railroad created a sustainable industry for the cattle ranchers in the Mid-West and the city of Omaha.
Many other small towns along the railroad also boomed during the last quarter of the 1800s. Without the railroad, the homesteads could have only been reached by wagon, which would have discouraged many if not most of the settlers going to become farmers. Unlike the gold miners of the earlier years, the farmers did not dream of getting rich quickly. They wanted to be self-sufficient, and they felt that the land on the Prairie could help them do it.
The railroad was an incredible catalyst in the population of the Mid-West and without it the area might still be sparsely populated. The transcontinental railroad proved it’s worth and had a tremendous impact on westward expansion. “In less than thirty years after the Civil War, all across the `enormous gap’ spanned by the railroad, the interior was being conquered and domesticated.” (Cooke 240)
The right of our manifest destiny to overspread to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given to us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federative development of the self-government entrusted to us. It is right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth ..John.L O’Sullivan
Manifest Destiny can be described as a phenomenon that created America’s history, a movement that would embody American beliefs and American culture, it implied imperialistic expansion that the Americans believed was there right, this right led to hardships, several wars, and hostilities between countries and also between people occupying the American land. Though this destiny also led to new lives, comradery and development it achieved the ultimate goal of possession. Manifest Destiny was the philosophy that created a nation.
In the year of 1800 the West to coin an old phrase was an unknown frontier to the Americans who had settled upon the East Coast. The West was a mystery blocked by a French colony by the name of Louisiana. America was under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson who in the true spirit of Americans was interested in the west and the possibilities it offered. With this in mind he organized an expedition into the French-owned territory, before this expedition could begin in 1803 French leader Napoleon Bonaparte offered to sell Louisiana to America for a price of fifteen million dollars and with this historic purchase the West was opened up to expansion and pioneers.
America now possessed the heart of their continent. Jefferson planned expedition continued and under the leadership of Lewis and Clarke the exploration of the newly acquired West began, the expedition covered 4,000 miles and all lands beyond Louisiana to the Pacific were claimed for America. This expedition shattered dreams of Jefferson and exposed how hard the Rockies were to penetrate despite this, the extensive richness in the area and in the fur trade enticed trade, and the Rockies became the center of the American fur trade.
The west was now largely American and the lure would call too many in the following years. The call of Westward migration was largely related to the economic situation of the East and in times of hardships or depression, the West seemed to be a form of escape the first example of this occurred in 1806 when business restrictions in the East caused economic problems, this wave of migration consequently resulted in the additional states of Louisiana(1812), Indiana(1816), Mississippi(1817), Illinois(1818) and Alabama(1819) to the union of the United States. (To become a State of the Union a population of 60,000 must be reached).
In 1807 the Embargo Act was passed which prohibited United States vessels from trading with European nations during the Napoleonic Wars, this embargo seriously threatened American livelihoods and stimulated a continuation of economic disruption. The war of 1812 is worth mentioning as it created a feeling of national pride and stopped the domination of America by European events, the decade in which followed has often been referred to as the Era of Good Feeling but in fact, it could be classified as the prelude to the strife and devastation and animosity that was destined to continue for four decades.
Westward Expansion accelerated when Spain ceded Florida to America in 1819, in exchange for the payment of $5 million dollars and the settlement of all American claims made towards the Spanish government.
In 1921 the Mexicans drove the Spaniards from the continent and declared Texas to be a Mexican State. The Mexicans encouraged the American Westward Movement and American pioneers and settlers were driven to this territory by trade and also by the promise of cheap fertile land. The Americans soon outnumbered the Mexicans and some were calling for annexation by the USA. This perhaps is the starting point of hostilities between the Mexicans and the Americans, which would later develop into the Mexican American War. The Texas situation however would evolve into a revolution led, without the help of the American army. The Mexicans were defeated and Texas declared independence in 1836 due to the question of slavery Texas was not annexed until 1844.
The question of slavery comes up in context to westward expansion as it causes disruption within the union and hatred between states and political parties. The first question of slavery was aroused I relation to Missouri who applied for statehood in 1818, Missouri was the first state to be created from land entirely west of the Mississippi from territory added to the union. There was a fear that the admission of Missouri, in which slavery was legal to the union would enable and encourage slavery in future states, in the end, a compromised settlement was achieved in which slavery was legal within Missouri, but prohibited in all other states created out of the Louisiana purchase above a latitude 3630.
With this decision the issue of slavery would be brought into the prevalence and would eventuate into an issue that would divide the union into sides that would clash in conflict. The struggle over new Western territories would continue and affect migration routes and numbers in accordance with their position upon slavery.
The American Indigenous People or the Indians have relevance to the issue of Westward Expansion, they provided an element of fear and hostility within the settlers they were an unknown factor. The American government underwent a policy of removal. Indians were removed from land that was ready to be settled in order to make the land more attractive to settlers, the Indians were moved to land designated especially for them until the white man wanted expansion and the Indians would be moved again.
This policy of removal to unfit land came into precedence in1812 after the Battle Of Tippecanoe where the Indians attempted resistance. The systematic removal of the Indians made the west more attractive to many Americans the removal of Indians also gained the white man additional territory to settle in the West.
In 1823 President James Monroe, announced the Monroe Doctrine, the effects this policy would have upon United States Westward expansion would come into play in the 1840s where it would be used as a justification of expansion and as a threat towards Britain regarding California and Oregon.
With increasing hostilities with the Mexicans the United States had to settle the issue of Oregon with Britain to avoid conflict on both sides and also to ensure the continuation of pioneers spreading across the west. In 1945 Oregon was not on American soil and with the increasing numbers of settlers establishing themselves upon Oregon soil a settlement was required to repress any problems that may occur.
The United States made an offer to Britain which was rejected, with this rejection America became more aggressive in their demands this tension was alleviated by a British Company fearing attack moving to a fort beyond the Americans reach, with this movement the two countries agreed upon the original offer made by the United States therefore in 1846 all Oregon territory under the latitude 49 North became legally part of the United States. Settlers flocked to this newly acquired area and as trails and transportation methods improved it allowed families and larger groups to move West with the American Dream held strong in the hearts of many.
The animosity with the Mexicans finally came to rise in the Mexican-American wars which spanned from 1846-1848. The reasons for the eruption of the hostilities included the annexation of Texas in 1845, claims of property damage by US citizens against the Mexican government, and the desire of the United States to acquire California into their boundaries (manifest destiny). After failed negotiations in 1845 regarding land, the movement of an American army was considered an act of aggression, and Mexican troops were sent to protect their land, in turn America declared war on 13th May 1846.
The Mexicans lacked resources to fight a war and were ill-equipped to combat the three armies America put into the field for combat. America forced the Mexicans back and put onto effect a naval blockade. A revolt in California lead to its declaration of independence from Mexican rule and was declared a territory of the United States in July 1846. Despite the United States victories against the Mexican armies and the naval blockade’s success, Mexico refused to acknowledge defeat.
The United States decided to end the war by capturing Mexico City and after battles at Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, Conteras, and Churubusco, Mexico City fell to the United States on 14th September 1847. Peace was established in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which established the Texan border and ceded New Mexico and California to the United States for the sum of $15million and responsibility for US claims against the Mexican government. This war continued the opening of the West and encouraged the Westward movement to California.
The West encountered its first major influx of people in 1849, the word of the year was Gold. The discovery of gold in California enticed over one hundred thousand people to flock to Californian goldfields in one year in the search of riches. The gold did not last very long but the legacy did as many of the gold seekers settled and developed the land, the people who choose to leave the fields followed other gold discoveries and scattered themselves throughout the growing West.
The final slither of the South-West not owned by the United States was purchased in 1953 in the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, thus perhaps realizing a large part of the Manifest Destiny philosophy. The United States was united from East to West. With this final purchase and the successions of the Mexicans in 1948 the United had acquired an undisputed title to all land westward from the Rockies to the Pacific Coast, north to the 49th parallel and south to the Rio Grande.
It was this legitimate possession that convinced thousands of settlers to move westward in search of the fulfilled dream of the United States. This union though would be tested, not by foreign powers but by an internal struggle revolving around the issue of slavery.
The American Civil War would have an enormous impact upon the United States it would pause if not halt Westward migration for its duration(1861-1865) as the South combated the North. Ultimately as Scarlet OHara so eloquently put it the Yankees are coming, and the Yankees did come, the Union triumphed over the Confederacy in 1865 after four years of bloody wars and decisive battles resulting in the abolishment of slavery.
The main impact the civil war imposed upon Western migration was the virtual halt of migration as mentioned before, the pausing of settlement which served as an enticement to the west and the detrimental effect of the loss/death of approximately 620 000 thousand men in a nation of 35 million people had upon migration.
The after-effects of the civil war were characterized by a continuation of the Westward movement, a massive influx of foreign immigrants, rapid industrialization, and the passing of many laws previously frowned upon by the confederacy. A large incentive to the Westward movement came in the form of the 1862 Homestead Laws.
The Homestead laws enabled settlers without the capital to acquire homesteads, it provided that anyone who was the head of the family, 21 years old, a veteran of 14 days active service in the US armed forces and who was or had an intent to become a citizen could acquire a tract of land in the public domain (excluding the original 13 states and Maine, Vermont, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas) the tract of land could not exceed 160 acres.
To acquire the land title, the homesteader was obliged to settle on or cultivate the homestead for five years. This enticement for the Westward movement succeeded as settlers mainly from the period after the civil war flocked towards the West in the lure of free land.
The West was still not accessible enough for mass migration to occur, the wagon trails were well established but still a test upon a person’s endurance, determination, and spirit. The West needed to be opened up to the masses and this opening came in the form of a railway. It was realized by the government that the West needed to be opened up and in turn they offered large sums of money and land grants as incentives to companies. The first railroad construction began in 1862, though progress only began to be made from 1866 when supplies were more readily available.
The two railway companies, Union Pacific Railroad, who employed veterans from the civil war and the Central Pacific Railway Company who employed overseas labor mainly the Chinese and Irish, were in direct competition. The Union began from east building tracks West across the largely unsettled Prairie whereas the Central Pacific began from the West in San Francisco, the companies raced across the countryside not even stopping to meet the tracks, only with government intervention did the tracks finally meet at Promontory Point, Utah on the 10th May 1869 and the Transcontinental Railway was completed. Effects of the railway include, the West was now open to the masses, many townships blossomed along the railways and the United States took a huge step in technological dominance.
By the 1870s the West was no longer a frontier to be braved by explorers but a thriving center of settlers, pioneers, and towns. In the space of seventy years the United States had accomplished a centuries worth of achievements, and in the true spirit of Manifest Destiny they had quadrupled their size by the means of purchase, war, and exploration. This extension of territory or the opening up of the West came about largely to these factors, The Louisiana Purchase, Texan independence and then annexation, the Mexican-American Wars, and the Oregon agreement.
This opening up of the West allowed Americans to venture into their West in search of their American Dream, the enticement of cheap land, a new beginning, gold, a second chance and later free land allowed the dreams of many to be followed and attempted either in the heart of America or on its Pacific Shoreline. A large factor that allowed the West to be settled was the vast numbers of foreign immigrants.
Western Expansion setbacks were largely owed to the early years where established trails were hard to find and the threat of Indians was fierce also setbacks occurred throughout the civil war days though in the post-war days there was an increase in Westward migration. The West provided an opportunity to many and with the continual settlement and the development of railways it would be an opportunity that was available to many.
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