The Westward Expansion
Published 13 Mar 2017
The first British colonialists first arrived in Virginia in the 17th century. They were amazed by vastness of America. They saw a lot of potentials with the unexplored land. Throughout the succeeding centuries by means of procurements and treaties, the United States would expand from the Atlantic region to the pacific region (Westward Expansion, 2007). They use the mountains and rivers as a demarcation for American territories. The British expansion in the 1800s through the Appalachians was opposed by the Native American Indians. To protect the British territory in America, the Proclamation of 1763 was issued to protect the lands of the American colonies in these areas (Westward Expansion, 2007).
However, when the American War for Independence took place, the name for these lands where changed. England agreed to surrender its land west of Mississippi to the New American nation through the Treaty of Paris in 1783 (Westward Expansion, 2007). Going to the West meant moving past the Appalachian Mountains where most Native Americans were located these include the Cherokees, Chickasaws and the Choctaws. The early settlers were not yet interested in the acquisition of California and the Rocky Mountains in that period (Westward Expansion, 2007).
Some American territories were still under France, Russia, Spain and Britain when Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the new American nation. Jefferson wants to get a hold of New Orleans which was controlled by France because of its proximity to Mississippi. The trade and commerce of the new American nation was also affected through its route going to Canada and Mexico (Westward Expansion, 2007)
It was a tumultuous time for Napoleon in that period where he wanted to gain more control of the French colonies in America. Napoleon engaged in many battles. He lost a great number of soldiers while fighting in a slave revolt in Haiti. France was also in conflict with Britain. Thus, the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 came into being (Westward Expansion, 2007). Thomas Jefferson asked Merriweather Lewis and Lewis Clark who were both in the army to look at the possibility of expanding the American nation from Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains. They saw that there is a great promise in these regions (Westward Expansion, 2007).
In 1817-1825, the political climate in the American nation is termed as an “Era of Good Feelings under James Monroe. There was a decline of partisan politics. The Democratic and Republican parties emerge in victory over the Federalist Party. James Monroe also sponsored the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 which stated that America should be free from European rule and meddling with the affairs of the states (MacroHistory, 2003). In 1828, Andrew Jackson was elected as president of the United States. Jackson was the founding-father of democracy. In the same year, voter turn-out was remarkable. As a member of the Union, Vermont was permitted to vote. Tennessee has allowed its taxpayers to exercise their freedom to take part in the election. In 1830, the Congress enacted the Indian Removal Act which gave the President the power to enter into treaties that “exchanged Indian tribal lands of the eastern states for lands in the Mississippi River” (Smith) An Indian territory was instituted in the eastern part of Oklahoma. In Jackson’s term, thousands of lands were taken away from the Native Americans as a result of these treaties. One of the main examples of these treaties was the Treaty of Echota of 1835, which expelled the Cherokees in their own lands (MacroHistory, 2003).
Through laws enacted by the U.S. government, westward expansion moved through the western part of the region past the border line. The first settlement in Kentucky was pioneered by Daniel Boone. This was ensued by the settlement of the hunters and trappers who did business with the Native Americans. These hunters traded furs and assisted new settlers to California, Oregon and Utah. The Americans did not have an issue with regards to expanding their territories particularly in California, Texas and Oregon. Western expansion was justified through the principle behind the “Manifest Destiny” (Smith, 1980, 353).
The War between the U.S. and Mexico broke out in 1846. Mexico lost the battle against the U.S. and with the Treaty of Hidalgo, California, New Mexico and Texas became a part of the U.S. territory. These territories would eventually become the center of regional conflicts over the growth of slavery (MacroHistory, 2003)
During the era of expansionism, various events had taken place such as the enactment of the Homestead Act which gave the settlers 65 hectares of land to till for a minimum amount; the Oregon Territory was established, the Texas Revolution transpired, the Mormon settlement to Utah (1846-1847), the California Gold Rush (1849), the Colorado Gold Rush and the construction of the first railroad in 1869 (MacroHistory, 2003).
In retrospect, the western expansion is one of the many causes of Civil War. The expansion of the U.S. westward posted a problem for the Southern states for the balance of power in the Senate because California was seen as a free state. The South begins to withdraw from the Union. The issue of slavery became a widely debated topic. The South does not want to give up slavery (MacroHistory, 2003).
As the railroad was completed in 1860, isolationism became both the domestic policy and philosophy of the United States. The country is independent of other countries in terms of trade and industry because they can now supply their own economic demands (MacroHistory, 2003)
Foreign policy was handled with great care. Differences with other nations were reportedly settled amicably (MacroHistory, 2003).
The economy of the Northern part of America during the Civil War expanded as a result of various industries in the 1840s. The former confederate states’ economy declined. The population of the country also increased from 31 million (1860) to 38 million people (1870). This is the result of settling of the new immigrants from Europe (MacroHistory, 2003).
The economic expansion was termed as the railroad boom which was funded by the U.S. government. Through the construction of the transcontinental railroad, trading was made easier between the eastern and the western states. Commodities such as artificial ice and canned goods were being delivered through railways from California to the east then Europe (MacroHistory, 2003).
- MacroHistory: A Prehistory to Yesterday. “Inside the United States, 1865-1900″. 2003.
- Smith, Page. The Shaping of America, a People’s History of the Young Republic. New York: McGraw Hill, 1980.