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The Westward Expansion - Research Paper in American History

7 pages
1839 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The Westward Expansion has most of the times termed as the central subject of discussion in the American history, starting from the end of 19th century as well as the central contributor in the shaping of the American history. Notably, the significant element or influence in developing the American democracy and society had been attributed to the availability of too much-unoccupied land in America, and it significantly affected American society. Nonetheless, after the revolution, the gaining of liberation opened up the Western nation, and it was later on trailed by steady migration of immigrants to the Mississippi Valley. Therefore, the push for the extension of the American soil meant that there would be more land which automatically would bring in more success hence western expansion was ideal for the state.

As pointed out above, the idea of expanding the United States was a significant issue since the government believed in Manifest Destiny (Brebner & Billington 341). In that, they believed in the right to rule from the top of the east down to the western shores. Therefore, so many different individuals supported this notion for several distinct reasons. Such groups comprised of militants, journalists, economists, and intellectuals as well as the missionaries and the religious leaders. Based on the notion that more land would bring more worth, this implied that there would be more space for migrants and settlers to start their homes.

Nonetheless, more city centers would grow, and that would translate to more businesses emergence in the land. Therefore, the more the businesses, the more the resources, economic strength, and more power. This point of view strike support from various persons one of them being Thomas Benton. He advocated for gaining of territory through settlement instead of conflict (Vandenbroucke 87). His perceptions were used to develop the Homestead Act of 1862 which provided free land to settlers provided they occupied the land for five years. The other significant factor that contributed to westward expansion was the legalization of the overland transportation which made shipping to the west easier and shorter.

During that era, America was expanding at a high rate in a way that the ones who had settled in America had no time to comprehend what was going on at that time. Therefore, the transformations had great effects not only on the Americans but everyone who lived on that land. The leading cause of westward expansion was high as a result of the idea of getting rich quickly amongst other things (Brebner & Billington 341). As a result of expansion, there were both positive and negative effects on the native occupants. There were displacements due to the Indian contact with settlers, a death which was caused by diseases and warfare as well as subjugation. The negative impacts surpassed the Europeans ideal intentions which comprised of efforts to educate Americas native populations and Christianization. The study suggests that the original inhabitants population in America declined by early 50% as a consequence of disease only.

As the Americans move west, they experienced people with different cultural differences. A majority of Inherent American section had preserved their traditions by oral and artwork cultures for a long period. During their first interaction, the native customs were quite dissimilar from the proto-industrial and specifically the Christian settlers (Halford 10). Notably, a section of the Northeastern and Southwestern traditions were matrilineal and functioned on a more joint basis as opposed to what the Europeans were accustomed with. Many Native American communities maintained their hunting and farming lands so that the entire tribe can use. During that period, the Europeans had patriarchal beliefs and had established notions of individual property ownership with respect to land that was completely dissimilar.

Consequently, the difference in culture across the Immigrant Europeans and the established Native Americans, and the changing of alliances among different states during the period of Western expansion resulted in extensive political tension, social disruptions, and ethnic violence. For instance, the European immigrants in North America did not apprehend the Indians notion of maintaining hunting and fishing lands. According to the Europeans, the land was not supposed to be cultivated. However, to the Indians, the land they traded to the migrants was perceived to be still theirs to hunt and fish. As a consequence, there was a lot of conflicts.

After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, large pieces of land was bought. Therefore, the open land had more profits and other existing challenges motivated the Americans to expand westward. The Native Americans occupants began to discover that the future of the nation was in the hands of the development of its own western resources. Notably, several motives made the Americans encounter the grueling and hazardous movement west, although the key reason was the economy. Just like the Spanish conquistadors who came before the Americans, they were ambitious, and they looked beyond Mississippi where they saw an open beckoning.

The American people wanted to explore the new territory and chase away the Europeans and the English men. They desired to develop new modern towns, expand the rail roads for trade and to transport people and goods as well as the creation of new job opportunities. Nonetheless, they wanted to take control of the Mississippi River so that they can travel over to the other end and conquer the whole land so that they could have more states (Grant 190). More so, the Eastern part of the US was overcrowded, and persons wanted to move away from the congested city, and this caused a majority of them to move to the West where there was a lot of cheap and fertile land. Therefore, for these reasons, the Westward expansion was a great deal for the Americans despite the opposition and the conflicts they faced during the expansion struggle.

Subsequently, some persons were against the Westward expansion, and they had various reasons to oppose the idea of expansion, The Mexican war concluded that America gained a complete dominance of the Texas, New Mexico, and California boundaries. Therefore, they believed that as immigrants continued to pour into these regions, it was very evident that the Westward expansion was closely connected to the future of slavery (Ngai & Gjerde 3). As a result, the North and South were determined to pursue their political motives regarding slavery in the west. Regardless of the numerous efforts to oppose the Westward expansion notably the Compromise of 1850, the whole body was engaged in a civil war due to the problem of slavery. There were political tensions caused by the issue of slavery.

As a result of these conflicts, the western expansion slowed down. For instance, The Louisiana Acquisition and the Treaty of Ghent, which brought to an end the war of 1812, successfully detached all external infringement within the American terrain in North America. The treaty entailed the removal of all the protection that the states Inborn Americans was enjoying from foreign powers, particularly Britain. Additionally, the free to expand and the American policy during the nineteenth century acted as a detriment to the Indians. It is vital to note that, the US government applied treaties as the mechanism to displace Indians from their ancestral land, a tool that gained power with the Removal Act of 1830. In situations where the use of treaties failed, the government violated both Supreme Court directives and the treaties to enhance the spread of European Americans Westwards.

The strongest group that had the most persuasive arguments was the group that was supporting the westward expansion. Consequently, by 1840, new Western states had been included in the Federal union. As a result of their arguments on the need to expand the westward, there was a discovery of many paths through which ox-driven carts could be moved through along the western desert (Grant 191). Nonetheless, the idea of expansion was a destiny which implied that they had to come up with approaches that would end up fulfilling the concept of expansion. The whole idea was to acquire more and more land for the future occupants before the need arises.

The congressional law or Supreme Court rulings wiped away the sovereign status of persons living in the west. The American government confiscated the Indian land and sold it to someone else and making it even worse; they tried forcing the locals to change their way of life. The Congress made this reality when it enacted the Dawes act which had devastating results to the locals (Ngai & Gjerde 3). White settlers forced the Indian to relinquish their homelands which they had stayed there for ages, and they were moved to reservations which were located a hundred miles away. The government created over three hundred reservations which were used to separate the Indians from the settlers.

There were two social forces each with its own policies that helped to shape the new policy of humanitarianism and greed. The procedures were guided by the desire for whites to take the Indian land. They knew well that if they created policies and ideas that would make the Indian tribes to disappear, they would most definitely have an easier time obtaining the land. As a consequence, the Congress implemented the Dawes act in 1887. The act was signed after the realization that majority of the Indians taken to the reservations were suffering mercilessly (Vandenbroucke 100). Therefore, the Congress believed that the best way to assist Indians to surpass the suffering and poverty was to introduce the idea of assimilation. The Supreme Court made a ruling that in order to eliminate tribal sovereignty, reservations were supposed to be abolished and force the Indians to assimilations. The court made this ruling even without consulting the Indian tribes.

To sum up, there were several motives for expansion into the west, and all groups had their own ideas. There were those who supported the motives and those who were against the expansion. In as much as most of the methods used to expand were not favorable, they worked, and the region was able to develop even more than it was initially. Therefore the U.S A succeed in getting what they wanted. As a consequence of the westward expansion, America has one of the strongest military powers in the universe, and a stable economy as well as free religious worship throughout the state. Indeed, those who had a vision regarding expansion, and those who made a reality both made the United States of America to be successful.


Works Cited

Brebner, J. B., and Ray Allen Billington. Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier. Geographical Review, vol. 40, no. 2, 1950, p. 341. Doi: 10.2307/211297.

Grant, H. R. "To the Wide Missouri: Traveling in America during the First Decades of Westward Expansion." Choice (Conari Press), vol. 49, no. 1, Sept. 2011, pp. 190-191.

Halford, Joan Montgomery. "A Different Mirror: A Conversation with Ronald Takaki." Educational Leadership, vol. 56, no. 7, Apr. 1999, pp. 8-13.

Ngai, Mae M, and Jon Gijerde. Major problems in American immigration history: documents and essays. Major problems in American immigration history: documents and essays - JH Libraries,

Vandenbroucke, Guillaume. The U.s. Westward Expansion. International Economic Review, vol. 49, no. 1, 2008, pp. 81110., doi:10.1111/j.1468-2354.2008.00474.x.

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