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Essays On Westward Expansion In America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manifest Destiny: Western Expansion of America

The Manifest Destiny was a progressive movement starting in the 1840′s. John O’Sullivan, a democratic leader, named the movement in 1845. Manifest Destiny meant that westward expansion was America’s destiny. The land that was added to the U.S. after 1840 (the start of Manifest Destiny) includes The Texas Annexation (1845), The Oregon Country (1846), The Mexican Cession (1848), The Gadsden Purchase (1853), Alaska (1867), and Hawaii (1898). Although this movement would take several years to accomplish fully, things started changing before we knew it. New technology took off right away!

Steamboats were invented in the early 1800′s, but it took until the 1820′s to make them a common site on U.S. rivers. In the 1840′s their popularity kept rising as they continued to increase the amount of trade possible. The reaper, for farming, was also developed in 1831. This allowed more farming in the west on the prairies. Many other farming machines were also developed during this time period, they all made farming in the west much more popular, easier, and profitable. The Trans-continental railroad was started in 1862, even though other trains were already running in different parts of the U.S. The telegraph also went up along with the railroads, although the first time it was used was in 1844. All four of these major technological advancements made the United States really get going on their Manifest Destiny.

The economy would also blossom during this expansion. First, the Manifest Destiny included extremely inexpensive land for sale in the west. In some cases it was free since it was government land, and they passed things like the Homestead Act to encourage westward settlements. With so many people taking part in horizontal mobility by moving west, it gave the economy a chance to expand commerce. We would do this by building ports and increasing trade with countries in the Pacific. The economy also got a kick when there were gold or silver rushes in the west. These occurred in Denver, Colorado (1859), Virginia City, Nevada (1859), Last Chance Gulch (1861), and in the Black Hills of the Dakotas (1875). All of these sporadic improvements of the economy helped us grow into a big super power.New inspirations entered the art world at this time too. Many artists tried to capture the image of Manifest Destiny by illustrating families traveling west. One of the very popular art works of the time showed an angel like figure watching over a Conestoga wagon traveling west. Songs also changed with the building of the Trans-continental railroad. The different cultures that all came to work on the railroad influenced the songs of the times. These were just a few ways that Manifest Destiny changed the art world.

Overall, I think that Manifest Destiny was a crucial part of American History because it established the basis for our modern day country. Without this moving (mobility) movement our country would not have been able to expand in its early years. As I’ve said before, without Manifest Destiny, we would be nothing like we are today.

Haynes, Sam W. “Manifest Destiny.” Manifest Destiny. PBS & University of Texas at Arlington. May 21, 2002. <http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/dialogues/prelude/manifest/d2heng.html>

Manifest Destiny. PBS. May 21, 2002. <http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/dialogues/prelude/manifest/manifestdestiny.html>

“Manifest Destiny”, “Settling the Last West.” The Volume Library. 1998 ed.

Lubragge, Michael T. The American Revolution. January 2, 2001. Department of Humanities Computing. May 21, 2002. <http://odur.let.rug.nl/

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Westward Expansion and Regional Differences

“Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”

Horace Greeley, 1850

The war of 1812 was, in a measure, a second war of Independence, for until that time the United States had not yet been accorded a position of equality in the family of nations. After the treaty ending the war, the United States was never again refused the treatment due an independent nation. Most of the serious difficulties under which the young republic had labored since the Revolution now dropped out of sight. With national union achieved, a balance between liberty and order secured, a trifling national debt, and a virgin continent awaiting the plow, there opened a serene prospect of peace, prosperity, and social progress.

Politically this was an “era of good feeling,” as contemporaries called it, and a spirit of unity pervaded the reconstruction measures which followed the peace. Commerce was cementing the American people into a national entity. The privations of the war period had shown the importance of protecting the manufactures of America until they could stand alone against foreign competition. Economic independence, it was urged, was as essential as political; indeed, political independence was hardly a reality without economic self-sufficiency and, as the Revolutionary War had been fought for the one, so now it was proposed to win the other. Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, Congressional leaders at the time, believed in “protection”- that is, the passage of a tariff which permitted the development of American industry.

It was a propitious moment to raise the customs tariff. The shepherds of Vermont and Ohio wished protection against an influx of English wool; in Kentucky, a new industry of weaving local hemp into cotton bagging was menaced by the Scotch bagging industry; Pittsburgh, already a flourishing center of iron smelting, was eager to fill the demand now adequately supplied by British and Swedish iron. And so, the tariff passed in 1816 imposed rates of duty high enough to give the manufacturers a taste of real protection. In addition, a national system of roads and canals was being warmly advocated by those who pointed out that better transportation would bind the east and west more closely together.

The position of the federal government at this time was greatly strengthened by the declarations of the Supreme Court. The convinced Federalist, John Marshall of Virginia, was made Chief Justice in 1801 and held that office until his death in 1835. The court which had been weak before his administration he transformed into a powerful tribunal, occupying a position as important as that of Congress or the President. In a succession of historic decisions, Marshall never deviated from one cardinal principle – the sovereignty of the federal government.

Not merely a great judge, Marshall was a great constitutional statesman. When he finished his long service, he had decided nearly fifty cases involving clear constitutional issues. Thenceforth, the Constitution, as the courts applied it through out the country, was to be in great degree the Constitution as Marshall interpreted it. Among the most famous of his opinions was rendered in the case of Marbury vs. Madison in 1803 when he decisively established the right of the Supreme Court to review any law of Congress or of a state legislature. Again, in McCuIloch vs. Maryland in 1819, he dealt with the old question of the implied powers of the government under the Constitution. Here he stood boldly in defense of the Hamiltonian theory that the Constitution by implication gives to the government powers in addition to those which it expressly states. By such decisions, Marshall did as much as any leader to make the central government of the American people a living, growing force.

In a quite different sphere, there was clear evidence that national consciousness was stirring, for this period marked the appearance of a truly American literature. Foremost among the writers of this new American school were Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper. Irving’s humorous History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker, published in 1809, drew its inspiration wholly from the local American scene. Some of Irving’s best work, such as the story of Rip Van Winkle, is set in the Hudson Valley of New York and reveals America as a land of legend and romance. Similarly Cooper’s talent found expression through indigenous materials. After an attempt at a novel of the conventional English type, he published The Spy. a tale of the Revolution which won immediate popularity. Next came The Pioneers. a vivid prose picture of the simple life of the American frontier. In the series called the Leatherstocking Tales. published between 1823 and 1841, Cooper made the pioneer, Natty Bumppo, and the silent-footed Indian chief, Uncas, permanent figures in world literature. Cooper also wrote tales of the sea, and they too were products of American influences. Another significant event of the literary world was the founding in 1815 of The North American Review. Under its able editor, Jared Sparks, it set a high standard of excellence, drawing enough contributions and support from the young intellectuals of New England to give it an enduring place in the developing culture of the nation.

Another force which did much to shape American life-more probably than any other single factor-was the frontier. Conditions along the entire Atlantic seaboard stimulated migration to the newer regions. The soil of New England hillsides was incapable of producing grain in competition with the cheap and fertile western lands. Soon a steady stream of men and women left their coastal farms and villages to take advantage of the rich lands in the interior. In the south, also, conditions induced migration. People in the back settlements of the Carolinas and Virginia were handicapped by the lack of roads and canals giving access to coastal markets, and they suffered also from the political dominance of the tidewater planters. And so, they too moved across-slowly but steadily-from the Atlantic to the Rockies. This movement profoundly affected the American character-it encouraged individual initiative; it made for political and economic democracy; it roughened manners; it broke down conservatism; it bred a spirit of local self-determination coupled with respect for national authority.

Without pause, the westward stream flowed beyond the first frontier-the Atlantic coast strip – beyond the headwaters of the coastal rivers, and over the Appalachians. By 1800, the Mississippi and Ohio valleys were becoming a great frontier region, “Hi-o, away we go, floating down the river on the O-hi-o,” became the song of thousands of emigrants. The tremendous shift of population in the early nineteenth century led to the division of old territories and the drawing of new boundaries with bewildering rapidity. Then, as new states were admitted, the political map was stabilized cast of the Mississippi. Within a half-dozen years, six states were created – Indiana in 1816, Mississippi in 1817, Illinois in 1818, Alabama in 1819, Maine in 1820, and Missouri in 1821. The first frontier had been tied closely to Europe, the second to the coast settlements, but the Mississippi Valley was independent and its people looked west rather than east.

Naturally the frontier settlers were a varied body of men. In the van of emigration marched the hunter and trapper, described by an English traveler named Fordham as “a daring, hardy race of men, who live in miserable cabins. They are unpolished but hospitable, kind to strangers, honest and trustworthy. They raise a little Indian corn, pumpkins, hogs, and sometimes have a cow or two. But the rifle is their principal means of support.” These men were dexterous with the ax, snare, and fishing line- they blazed the trails, built the first log cabins, and held back the Indians.

As he penetrated the wilderness, the settler became a farmer as well as a hunter. Instead of a cabin, he built a comfortable log house which had glass windows, a good chimney, and partitioned rooms. Instead of using a spring, he dug a well. An industrious man would rapidly clear his land of timber, burning the wood for potash and letting the stumps decay. He grew his own grain, vegetables, and fruit; ranged the woods for venison, wild turkeys, and honey; fished the nearest streams; looked after his cattle and hogs. The more restless bought large tracts of the cheap land and, as land values rose, sold their acres and moved westward, making way for others.

Soon there came -in addition to the farmers – doctors, lawyers, storekeepers, editors, preachers, mechanics, and politicians -all those who form the fabric of a vigorous society. The farmers were the most important. They intended to stay all their lives where they settled and hoped their children would stay after them. They built larger barns than their predecessors and sound brick or frame houses. They brought in improved livestock, plowed the land more skillfully, and sowed more productive seed. Some of them erected flour mills, sawmills, distilleries. They laid out good highways, built churches and schools. So rapidly did the west grow that almost incredible transformations were accomplished in but a few years. In 1830, for instance, Chicago was merely an unpromising trading village with a fort. Long before some of its original settlers died, it was one of the largest and richest cities in the world.

Many different peoples mingled their blood in the new west. Farmers of the upland south were prominent, and from this stock sprang Abraham Lincoln, born in a Kentucky log cabin. Scotch-Irish, Pennsylvania Germans, New Englanders, and men of other origins played their part. By 1830, more than half the people living in America. had been brought up in an environment in which the old world traditions and conventions were absent or very weak. And men in the west were valued not for their family background, for inherited money, or for their years of schooling, but for what they were and could do. Farms could be had for a price well within the reach of any thrifty person, government land after 1820 could be obtained for $1.25 an acre and, after 1862, for merely settling on it. And tools for working the land were easily available too. It was a time when, as the journalist, Horace Greeley said, young men could “go west and grow up with the country.” The equality of economic opportunity bred a sense of social and political equality and gave natural leaders a chance to come quickly to the fore. Initiative, courage, individual vigor, and hard sense were indispensable to the good pioneer.

As they went west, the New England settlers carried with them many of the ideals and of the region from which they came. The same was true of the southerners and, in a sense, the whole process of colonizing the west was a race between the two influences. The problem of slavery, which bad thus far received little public attention, suddenly assumed enormous importance “like a fire bell in the night,” wrote Jefferson. In the early years of the republic, when the northern states were providing for immediate or gradual emancipation of the slaves, many leaders had supposed that slavery would presently die out everywhere. In 1786, Washington wrote that he devoutly wished some plan might be adopted “by which slavery may be abolished by slow, sure, and imperceptible degrees.” And Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and other leading southern statesmen made similar statements. As late as 1808, when the slave trade was abolished, numerous southerners thought that slavery would prove but a temporary evil.

But during the next generation, the south was converted into a section which for the most part was united behind the institution of slavery. This change came about for various reasons. The spirit of philosophical liberalism which flamed high in Revolutionary days gradually became weaker, and a general antagonism between puritanical New England and the slaveholding south became evident. Above all, certain new economic factors made slavery far more profitable than it had been before 1790.

One element in the economic change was the rise of a great cotton-growing industry in the south. Several causes were responsible for this change. Improved types of cotton with better fibers were introduced. Eli Whitney’s epochal invention, in 1793, of the “gin” for cleaning the seeds from cotton greatly accelerated production. At the same time, the demand for raw cotton was vastly spurred by the Industrial Revolution which made textile manufacture a large-scale industry. And the opening of new lands in the west after 1812 greatly expanded the area available for cotton cultivation.

Cotton culture moved westward rapidly from the tidewater states, spreading through much of the lower south to the Mississippi River and eventually on to Texas. Another factor which placed slavery on a new basis was sugar growing. The rich, hot lands of southeastern Louisiana proved ideal for growing a profitable sugarcane crop in the late eighteenth century, and by 1830 the state was supplying the nation with about half its sugar supply. This required slaves who were brought from the eastern seaboard. Finally, tobacco culture also spread westward taking slavery with it. Therefore the slaves of the upper south were largely drained off to the lower south and west.

As the free society of the north and the slave society of the south spread westward, it seemed politically expedient to maintain a rough equality between the new states then being established. In 1818, when Illinois was admitted to the Union, ten states permitted slavery and eleven free states prohibited it. When Alabama was admitted as a slave state the balance was restored. Many northerners at once rallied to oppose the entry of Missouri except as a free state, and a storm of protest swept the country. For a time, Congress was at a deadlock. Under the pacific leadership of Henry Clay however, a compromise was arranged. Missouri was admitted as a slave state, but at the same time Maine came in as a free state, and Congress decreed that slavery should be forever excluded from the territory acquired by the Louisiana Purchase north of Missouri’s southern boundary. This proved a temporary solution. Jefferson felt that the fire bell in the night had been hushed but for the moment. “This is a reprieve only,” he wrote, “not a final sentence. A geographic line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once conceived and held up to the angry passion of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper.”

Save for a migration into Texas beyond the bounds of the United States, the westward march of the agricultural frontier did not pass Missouri until after 1840. In the meantime, the far west became a field of great activity in the fur trade which was to have a significance in history far beyond the value of the skins which were collected. As in the first days of French exploration in the Mississippi Valley – indeed, as in the first steps of the English and Dutch westward from the Atlantic Coast -the trader was the pathfinder for the settlers. The French and Scotch-Irish “trappers” explored the great rivers and their tributaries and found all the passes of the Rockies and the Sierra Mountains. Through the knowledge they gained of the geography of the western regions, the traders made possible the overland migrations of the forties and the later occupation of the interior. In addition to expanding by westward emigration, the United States in 1819, in return for assuming the claims of American citizens to the amount of $5,000,000, obtained from Spain both Florida and Spain’s rights to the Oregon country in the far west.

In 1817, President James Madison had been succeeded by James Monroe who crowned a distinguished public career with a term as President. His two exceptional qualities were his shrewd common sense and strong will and as his successor, John Quincy Adams, put it, he had “a mind sound in its ultimate judgments, and firm in its final conclusions.” The event of his administration which has given his name immortality was his enunciation of the so-called Monroe Doctrine.

The three elements of this policy were all, separately well recognized American principles. First, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison had all advised against involvement in “permanent” or “entangling alliances.” Then Jefferson had proclaimed the doctrine of the paramount interest of the United States in the fate of the neighboring territory when he protested against the transfer of Louisiana by Spain to any power other than the United States. The third element was the principle of self-determination again expressed by the people of the United States in their sympathy for the inhabitants of the Spanish-American colonies now struggling for independence.

Ever since the English colonies had gained their freedom, the hope of a like liberty had stirred the people of Latin America. Before 1821, Argentina and Chile had established their independence, and in 1822, under the leadership of Jos� de San Martin and Simon Bolivar, several other South American states won independence. By 1824, only small colonies remained to several European nations in the West Indies and on the northern coast of South America. These, together with one or two other British possessions, were the only European colonies remaining in America.

The people of the United States felt a natural and deep interest in what seemed a repetition of their own experience of breaking away from a mastering European government. In 1822, President Monroe, under powerful popular pressure, received authority to recognize the new countries -among them Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Brazil-and soon exchanged ministers with them. This step committed the United States to the principle that these countries were self-sustaining, self-governing, genuinely independent, and entirely separated from their former European connections. They were confidently accepted as equal sister states -part of a free America.

At just this -time, a combination of central European powers, commonly called the Holy Alliance, organized for the purpose of guarding the “legitimate” rulers of Europe against revolution. It adopted the practice of intervening in countries where popular movements threatened the thrones of monarchs, hoping to prevent the spread of revolution into their own dominions. This policy was the very antithesis of the American principle of self-determination. The confidence of the United States in the permanence of the new governments in South America received a severe shock when the alliance turned its attention to Spain and her colonies in the New World. To the United States, this looked like the attempt of several European powers to come in and occupy the territories which had freed themselves from Spain. For years the American government had practiced the policy of aloofness laid down by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, John Adams, and other early statesmen. Its purport was that the United States had no share in European political combinations, was not a party to European wars, and would pursue the policy of developing itself as an American state. From this policy it was an easy transition to the complementary doctrine that European powers ought not interfere in American affairs.

The time seemed to have come in 1823 for action that would head off the threatened invasion of Latin America by third parties in behalf of Spain. On December 2, Monroe delivered to Congress his annual message, several passages of which constitute the original Monroe Doctrine. The principal points in this declaration were, in Monroe’s own words: 1) “The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers,” 2) “The political system of the allied powers is essentially different. from that of America. We should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.” 3) “With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered ‘and shall not interfere.” 4) “In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy to do so.”

While the Monroe Doctrine was clarifying American policy in world affairs, domestic interest was centered on the coming presidential campaign. A close contest among five candidates including Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, resulted in the election of the learned, experienced, and statesmanlike but stubbornly intractable John Quincy Adams. A man of extraordinary talents, fine character, and great public spirit, he was handicapped by his icy austerity, brusque manners, and violent prejudices.

During his administration, new party alignments took shape. The followers of Adams assumed the name of National Republicans, later to be replaced by that of Whigs, and the Jacksonians gave a new character to the Democratic Party. Adams governed honestly and efficiently. However, he strove in vain to institute a national system of roads and canals. His administration was one long campaign for the next election, but his coldly intellectual temperament did not win friends, and the election of 1828 was like an earthquake, the Jackson forces so overwhelming Adams and his supporters.

The self-reliant backwoodsmen who had built the commonwealths west of the Alleghenies had written into their constitutions the democratic ideas of the frontier. By 1828, the influence of their philosophy had brought about the enfranchisement of the masses in most of the old states. Since the war of 1812, the west had held the balance of power in the Union. Now the political center of gravity, like the center of population, definitely left the seaboard as the youthful democracy of the west came of age. Aided by supporters in the east, it placed Jackson, the very personification of the spirit of the frontier, in the Chief Executive’s chair.

Washington, D. C. at Jackson’s inauguration, gave boisterous evidence of the conviction of the people that they had come into possession of the government. Ten thousand visitors from all parts of the country thronged to witness the event. Jackson, a tall, lean figure dressed in black with a hawk-like face under a splendid crest of thick white hair, walked through the crowds and mud up Pennsylvania Avenue, unescorted save by a small company of friends. At the top of the great stone stairway to the east portico of the Capitol, he took the inaugural oath and read his inaugural address. With difficulty he pushed through the shouting masses, all eager to shake his hand. Mounting his horse, be rode to the White House at the head of an informal procession of carriages, farm wagons, and crowds of people of all ages and kinds.

Jackson was, heart and soul, completely with the plain people. He had been born in titter poverty, his father dead before his birth. Reared in hardship, he developed keen sensitiveness and a lifelong sympathy with the oppressed. As a mere ]ad, lie fought in the Revolution in which his two brothers died. At fourteen he was alone in the world. As a frontier lawyer, planter, and merchant, he developed an intense distrust of eastern financial organizations which exercised strong influence overmuch western commerce. Furthermore, Jackson had faith in the common man’s capacity for uncommon achievement. Altogether, his creed was simple and enveloping – he believed in the common man and in political equality, in equal economic opportunity, and be had a strong hatred of monopoly and special privilege.

Once in power, Jackson vigorously carried these ideas into practice. He dealt sternly with South Carolina on the question of the protective tariff of 1828. All the benefits of protection appeared to be going to the northern manufacturers, while southern planters bore the burden of higher prices. As tariff schedules rose by successive Congressional acts, the country as a whole grew richer but South Carolina declined in prosperity. The South Carolinians had hoped that Jackson would use his power as President for the modification of the tariff which they had long opposed. This expectation proved vain, for he did not share the southern view of the unconstitutionality of protection. When Congress enacted a new tariff law in 1832, Jackson signed it without hesitation. The people of South Carolina organized the “State Rights Party” which represented those who believed in the principle of nullification -that a delegate convention within a state could adjudge an act of Congress to be unwarranted by the Constitution, that act becoming null and void within the nullifying state. The new state legislature, elected on a platform favoring the nullification idea, adopted an “Ordinance of Nullification” by an overwhelming vote. This measure declared the tariff laws of 1828 and 1832 unconstitutional and void within the state and required all state officials to take an oath to obey the Ordinance. It threatened secession from the Union should Congress pass any law for the employment of force against the state.

In November 1832, Jackson sent seven small naval vessels and a ship-of-war to Charleston with orders to be ready for instant action. On December 10, he issued a resounding proclamation against the nullifiers. South Carolina, the President declared, stood on “the brink of insurrection and treason,” and he appealed to the people of the state to reassert their allegiance to that Union for which their ancestors had fought. Like Daniel Webster, a leading statesman of the day, he affirmed that instead of being “a compact between sovereign states,” the United States was “a government in which the people of all the states, collectively, are represented.”

In the meantime, the question of tariff duties was again before Congress. It soon became clear that only one man could pilot a compromise measure through Congress. This was Senator Henry Clay, the great advocate of protection, whose compromise tariff bill was quickly passed in 1833. By this tariff all duties in excess of 20 per cent of the value of the goods imported were to be reduced by easy stages so that by 1842 the duties on all articles would reach the level of the moderate tariff of 1816.

The nullification leaders had expected the support of other southern states, but these, without exception, denounced South Carolina’s course as unwise and unconstitutional. The Ordinance was to go into effect in February, but a public meeting of State Rights leaders in January voted to suspend it pending Congressional action. In March, the South Carolina convention formally rescinded the Ordinance.

Each side marched from the field with colors flying, claiming victory. The administration had committed the federal government unqualifiedly to the principle of the supremacy of the Union but, on the other hand, South Carolina, by a show of resistance, had secured a large number of the demands she sought and proved that a single state could force its will on Congress. The nullification episode had a profound effect on the later development of the state rights theory. The southern leaders saw that nullification was ineffective in practice. Accordingly, during the next thirty years, they placed chief stress upon the right of an aggrieved state to secede from the Union.

While the controversy over nullification was still unsettled, there occurred the stirring struggle of the second Bank of the United States for recharter, an event which strained Jackson’s leadership to the utmost. Under Hamilton’s guidance, the first Bank of the United States had been established in 1791 and chartered for a twenty year period. While the government held some of the stock, it was not a government bank. Rather, it was a private corporation with profits passing to its stockholders. Although its purpose was to stabilize the currency and stimulate trade, it was resented by those who felt that the government was granting special favors to a few powerful men. When the Bank’s charter expired in 1811, it was not renewed by Congress. For the next few years, the banking business was in the hands of state chartered banks which issued currency in amounts beyond their ability to redeem it, thus creating great confusion. It seemed clear that state banks were powerless to provide the country with a uniform currency and in 1816, a second Bank of the United States, similar to the first, was chartered for twenty years.

From its foundation, the second bank was unpopular in the newer parts of the country and with less prosperous people everywhere. It was again maintained that the bank virtually possessed a monopoly over the credit and currency of the country and, in its operation, represented the interests of the wealthy few. On the whole, it was well conducted and rendered valuable service to the nation, but Jackson was elected as a popular champion against it, and he sternly vetoed a bill for its recharter, questioning both its constitutionality and the desirability of its continued existence. If Jackson showed in this veto little knowledge of the principles of banking and finance, he made it unmistakably clear to the “farmers, mechanics, and laborers” that he was unalterably opposed to legislation that would make “the potent more powerful.” The veto created a profound sensation. The Washington Globe declared it freed the country from a moneyed monopoly, but other statesmen and bankers were mightily opposed to the course of events. Whether Congress or the President had correctly gaged the will of the people remained to be decided in the impending presidential election,

In the campaign that followed, the issue that occupied the foreground was the bank question, upon which there was a fundamental division of opinion between the merchant, manufacturing, and financial classes on the one hand, and the laboring and agrarian elements on the other between those who feared the new democratic upheaval and those who desired to give Jackson their wholehearted approval. The outcome was an enthusiastic endorsement of “Jacksonism.”

Jackson interpreted his re-election as a mandate from the people to crush the bank beyond hope of recovery. His weapon lay at hand in a provision of the bank’s charter which authorized the removal of public funds. Late in September 1833, the order went forth that no more government funds should be deposited in the United States Bank and that the money already in its custody be gradually withdrawn in the ordinary course of meeting the expenses of government. As a substitute depository, a careful selection was made of the stronger state banks and stringent restrictions were imposed upon them.

The same energy and directness displayed in Jackson’s conduct of domestic affairs characterized his handling of foreign relations. When France suspended payment on certain obligations to the United States, he recommended the seizure of French property and brought her to terms. When Texas revolted against Mexico and appealed to the United States for annexation, he wisely took a waiting attitude. To the end of his second term he retained his vast popularity.

The political factions opposed to Jackson had no hope of success so long as they remained divided and working at cross purposes. In consequence, the experiment was tried of bringing all the dissatisfied elements together under a common party name-Whig. But although they organized after the election campaign of 1832, it was more than a decade before they reconciled the divergent points of view they represented and were able to draw up a platform. In Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, the Whigs possessed two of the ablest and most brilliant statesmen, and it was largely the magnetism of their personalities that solidified the party’s membership. In general, people of substance and position were to be found within Whig ranks. In the 1836 election, the Whigs were still too heterogeneous a group to unite upon a single man or upon a common platform. Martin Van Buren, who was supported by Jackson, won the contest. But the period of economic depression which accompanied his term and the picturesque personality of his predecessor obscured his merits. Van Buren’s public acts -like the ten-hour day for government workers awakened no enthusiasm, for he lacked the compelling qualities of leadership and the dramatic flair which had attended Jackson’s every move. The election of 1840 found the country afflicted with hard times and low wages, and the Democrats were on the defensive.

The Whig candidate for President, William Henry Harrison of Ohio, regarded himself, like Jackson, as a true representative of the democratic west. He had great popular appeal as the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe in the War of 1812. John Tyler, whose views on state rights and a low tariff were popular in the south, was vice-presidential candidate. The entire Whig campaign was one joyous romp. Giant mass meetings and barbecues were held everywhere; torchlight processions paraded the streets. The women were almost as active as the men. The enthusiasm easily lent itself to song, and “Old Tippecanoe” was on everybody’s lips. The outcome was a sweeping Whig victory. But though the Whigs were at one about their candidates, they were divided as to a program of public policy, and they indeed paid the penalty for the noncommittal opportunism which had characterized their campaign. Within a month of his inauguration, sixty-eight-year-old Harrison died, bringing to the presidency Tyler, whose beliefs differed from those of Clay and Webster, still the most influential men in the country. These differences were to lead to an open break before Tyler’s term was over, and the President was repudiated by the party which had elected him.

When Andrew Jackson entered the presidency in 1829, a current of unrest and revolt was coursing through the entire western world. While the reform spirit in America had its own sources of support, it was thoroughly in harmony with this current of world development. The democratic upheaval in politics, exemplified by the movement which brought Jackson to the presidency, was merely one phase of the advance of the common people towards larger rights and opportunities. The period of the thirties and forties was characterized by an invigorating faith in the perfectibility of mankind, and there resulted an emancipation of the intellectual and spiritual as well as the material life of the people.

Accompanying the liberal political movement was the beginning of labor organization. By 1836, union membership in the cities of the northern seaboard, mounting to some three hundred thousand, secured the betterment of conditions of employment in many places. In 1835, labor forces in Philadelphia succeeded in establishing their most cherished reform, a ten-hour work day in place of the old “dark to dark” day. This was merely the beginning of similar reforms in other places -New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Ohio, and California, which was admitted to the Union in 1850.

The activity of labor and its zeal for humanitarian reform were indispensable factors in the progressive movements of the time. Its struggle for democracy of education was especially significant. The spread of manhood suffrage led to a new conception of education, for clear-sighted statesmen perceived the danger of universal suffrage if coupled with universal ignorance. The efforts of such men – De Witt Clinton in New York, Abraham Lincoln in Illinois, Horace Mann in Massachusetts -were supported by the vigorous and incessant agitation carried on by organized labor in the cities. Labor leaders demanded free, tax-supported schools open to all children without taint of charity. In 1830, the workingmen of Philadelphia said: “. there can be no real liberty without a wide diffusion of real intelligence. until means of equal instruction shall be equally secured to all, liberty is but an unmeaning word and equality an empty shadow.” Gradually in one state after another, such free instruction was provided by legislative enactment, The public-school system was common throughout the northern part of the country by the 1840′s, and the battle for it in other areas continued until won.

The idealism which freed men from most of their ancient fetters awakened women to a realization of their unequal position in society. From colonial times, the unmarried woman in most respects enjoyed the same legal rights as men. But custom required her to marry early, and with matrimony she virtually lost her separate identity in the eyes of the law. Feminine education was limited to a large degree to reading, writing, music, dancing, needlework. Of course, women were not permitted to vote. The awakening of women began with the visit to America of Frances Wright, a Scotswoman of advanced views. Her appearance before audiences to deliver lectures on theology and women’s rights shocked the public. Her example, however, soon aroused to action such great figures in the American feminist movement as Lucretia Mott, a Philadelphia Quakeress; Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who braved the contempt of men as well as that of most women while they devoted their energies to antislavery, feminism, and labor welfare. In 1848, a women’s rights convention, the first in the history of the world, was held at Seneca Falls, New York. The delegates drew up a declaration demanding equality with the male sex before the law in educational and economic opportunities, and in voting. The feminist leaders were not altogether without friends. Prominent men like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lincoln, and Horace Greeley worked and lectured in their behalf. Although the period was one of agitation rather than accomplishment, definite improvement was achieved. In 1839, Mississippi granted married women the control of their own property, and similar laws were enacted by seven other states within the next decade. In 1820, Emma Willard opened a seminary for girls; in 1837, Mount Holyoke, a woman’s institution of college rank was established. Even more venturesome was coeducation in which the lead was taken by three Ohio colleges -Oberlin in 1833, Urbana in 1850, and Antioch in 1853.

The spirit of national self-confidence, as might be expected, was finding utterance in a great outpouring of literature. The decade of the thirties brought a full harvest of American letters. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell began at this time their poetic careers. Emerson preached the doctrine of individualism and the nobility of man in imperishable verse and prose. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe exemplified the versatility of American thinking by giving literary expression to the somber and supernatural in men’s experience. Although most of these men derived their enduring fame from their writings, many of them took an active interest in the humanitarian and political struggles of the age. Whittier was pre-eminently the poet laureate of the antislavery crusade; Longfellow published his Poems on Slavery in 1842; Lowell acted as editor of the Pennsylvania Freeman; George Bancroft was an ardent anti-Bank man; Bryant’s brilliant poetic career was coupled with his distinguished editorship of the New York Evening Post from 1829 to 1878.

The trend of the times awakened a new interest in the history of the Republic and marked the beginning of historical scholarship. In the thirties, Jared Sparks, who years before had begun the North American Review, took up the task of editing historical documents, publishing, notably, collections of the writings of Washington and Franklin and the diplomatic correspondence of the Revolution. In 1834, George Bancroft published the first volume of a history of the United States from the earliest discoveries to the adoption of the Constitution. This was the first comprehensive American history based upon a laborious examination of source materials. Before the close of the decade, Bancroft and William Prescott had shown the ability of American scholars to write history with literary distinction.

In day to day living, the welfare of the people was improving visibly in the period between 1825 and 1850. After 1825, the threshing machine began to supplant the flail and the roller, and shortly after, the mower and the reaper were invented. The difficulty of maintaining a united nation in the face of rapid geographical expansion was somewhat eased by the mechanical ingenuity of the people. Railway mileage steadily progressed from the first horse-drawn public carrier of 1830. By 1850, one could travel over the iron highways from Maine to North Carolina, from the Atlantic seaboard to Buffalo on Lake Erie and from the western end of Lake Erie to Chicago or Cincinnati. The electric telegraph, invented in 1835, by S. F. B. Morse was first used in 1844. In 1847, the rotary printing press, devised by Richard Hoe, was put to use. It revolutionized publishing processes and played a major part in giving newspapers their commanding position in American life.

Indicative of the growth of the nation from 1812 to 18S2 was the rise in population which increased from approximately 7,250,000 to over 23,000,000. During this period, the land available for settlement had increased to almost the size of the European continent – from 1,700,000 to almost 3,000,000 square miles. In addition to a flourishing agriculture, varied industries were rapidly developing not only on the eastern seaboard but in the fast-growing cities of the west. The durability of the nation and the vitality of its economy and institutions were established. Still unresolved, however, were the basic conflicts rooted in sectional differences, which within the next decade were destined to flame into Civil War.


Best of History Web Sites

American History » Westward Expansion

Westward Expansion

"Carte Lewis and Clark Expedition" by Victor van Werkhooven – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – Image Source:

Westward Expansion Web Sites

Lewis and Clark
A companion to Ken Burns’ PBS film, this site provides background on the world of Lewis and Clark, an archive of their expedition, audio excerpts by historians, a discussion of Native American tribes encountered, classroom resources, an interactive story where you lead the expedition, and more. This PBS web site provides biographical information about the members of the Corps of Discovery (the small expeditionary group Jefferson sent to explore the uncharted West), and puts the expedition into historical and political context. There is a searchable, chronological compilation of excerpts from the Lewis and Clark journals, full-length, unedited interviews with seven experts, historical maps created by Clark, a pre-expedition map, and a map showing the route taken by the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific. There are also short articles of Native American tribes that had the most most significant interactions with Lewis and Clark. The lessons plans and activities include a multidisciplinary unit in the subject areas of science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts.

The West
This is a valuable PBS online supplement to Ken Burn’s documentary film, The West. The companion website includes a timeline, glossary, biographies, a photo gallery, maps, documents, and more. The ‘People’ provides concise profiles of the men and women featured in The West, ‘Places’ features an interactive map of historic landscapes, and Events features a timeline of of events across five centuries. There are also select primary source documents and images, recommended resources, and lesson plans. A great general site on the West.

Discovering Lewis and Clark
This regularly updated site has more than 1400 pages and revolves around a nineteen-part analysis of the Lewis and Clark expedition by historian Harry Fritz. Photos, maps, and audio vignettes help visitors better understand and appreciate the arduous and historic expedition. The web site is managed by the Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation of Washburn, North Dakota.

The Donner Party
Part of PBS’s American Experience series, this site tells the story of an ill-fated immigrant group who set out for California in 1846 but whose journey ended up in death and cannibalism. Included are a teacher’s guide, background on western migration, diary excerpts, a map of the route, and recommended readings. You can also follow an interactive map of the Donner party route. Below is a video chapter from the production.

The Donner Party (American Experience video)

The Avalon Project: Louisiana Purchase; 1803 and Associated Documents
The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy offers a varied array of primary source documents. This section includes the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, various Jefferson messages to Congress, and more.

Exploring the West from Monticello: A Perspective from Columbus to Lewis and Clark
This photographic/cartographic presentation by the University of Virginia Library and the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation traces the geographic evolution of North America, and the planning and the planning of the Lewis and Clark journey.

Westward Expansion
History.com presents a Westward Expansion gallery featuring 13 video clips and 13 photo galleries. Video clip topics include Louisiana Purchase, Gold Rush, The Donner Part, Sitting Bull, Lewis and Clark, and more. The gallery presents images of Native American tribes, warriors, and legislation.

California As I Saw It
This research collection from the Library of Congress centers on eyewitness accounts of life in California between the Gold Rush and the turn of the twentieth century. Its foundation consists of texts and illustrations of 190 works documenting this formative period.

Prarie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs and Family Letters
This digital presentation by the Library of Congress helps illustrate the story of settlement on the Great Plains. There are roughly 3,000 glass plate negatives and 3,000 family letters in this collection. Perhaps the most revealing elements in the collection are personal letters detailed the struggles of life on the Great Plains.

The Northern Great Plains, 1880-1920
This Library of Congress website has over 900 images of rural and small town life in the North West. Of special interest are images of homes, farms, and machinery.

Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion, 1820–1890
This American Memory Project of the Library of Congress features documents and other historical sources from the Mystic Seaport Museum and Library. Drawn from primary sources such as ships’ logbooks, topics covered include migration and immigration, whaling, maritime business, and more. It also provides insights into settlement of California, Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest.

Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase
This research collection from the Library of Congress provides a variety of contemporary sources centering on issues surrounding the inclusion of Louisiana into the nation. There are maps, letter, manuscripts and more drawn from 119 sources as well as an essay by Senior Reference Librarian Michael Klein.

Trails to Utah and the Pacific: Diaries and Letters, 1846-1869
This research collection from the Library of Congress includes ‘on the trail’ accounts from Mormon pioneers and others who embarked on the trek westward across America to Utah, Montana, and the Pacific between 1847 and 1869. In addition diary accounts, the collection includes maps, photographs and illustrations, and guides for immigrants. There is also an interactive map of western trails.

The First American West: The Ohio River Valley 1750-1820
This 15,000 page research collection from the Library of Congress documents, among other things, travels of the first Europeans to enter the trans-Appalachian West and their relations with Native Americans. It also provides a rich array of commentary on politics and reveals the lives of trans-Appalachian African Americans, women, and the roles of churches.

The Gold Rush
This PBS film companion website includes various classroom resources, a map, a timeline, and “fun facts” for kids. Special features include stories from native inhabitants, an online poll on routes to the West Coast, and an online role-playing game on striking it rich. Enjoyable site for younger students.

The U.S.-Mexican War
Part of PBS Online, this bilingual (Spanish-English) site examines the Mexican-American War and includes a timeline, dialogues (essays), teaching resources and more. A special feature is an interactive timline of the war both historically and geographically.

Westward Expansion 1803 – 1861
Program 6 of this Annenberg Biography of America video companion centers on American expansion from the Louisiana purchase to the American Civil War. Among the features are an interactive, expanded timeline, a map of the Louisiana Purchase, and the Mississippi river system. There is also video transcript of a discussion of noted historians, including Douglas Brinkley, Stephen Ambrose Links to sites with primary and secondary source materials

IIn the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark
The Sierra Club’s Lewis and Clark web site provides an interesting mix of information and resources. Along with historical background on the voyage, notes from Lewis and Clark, and photographic guides to the trail, there are some unique offerings here. One is a movie entitled “Wild America: Protecting the Lands Explored by Lewis and Clark,” which examines the diverse landscapes traveled by the explorers. Another is a comic depiction of Lewis and Clark and a series of drawings from artist Kenneth Holder. Not surprisingly, nature and conservation feature prominently at this Sierra Club web site.

The Gold Rush in San Francisco
Leads to a series of articles by the Museum of the City of San Francisco about people and events related to the California Gold Rush. Includes documents and images.

Chinese and California: 1850 – 1925
This research collection from the Library of Congress includes 8,000 images and pages of varied primary source materials. It focuses on experiences of Chinese immigrants in California along with a section on westward expansion. This link takes you directly to the “Chinese and Westward Expansion” section.

Early Advertising of the West, 1867-1918
The University of Washington Libraries has created a collection of advertisements from the Pacific Northwest from 1867-1918. The homepage has an introduction to early advertising and popular categories are listed along the right side of the page. The collection includes over 450 advertisements and is easy to browse.

Mountain Men and the Fur Trade
This site teachers about the Mountain Men, hunters and explorers in the Rockies in the early 1800’s. Among the varied resources at this site are artwork on the Mountain Men, business records, diaries, and more. Serves as both an introduction to Mountain Men and a research site.

NativeWeb
NativeWeb is a comprehensive site for Native American studies whose purpose is to disseminate information from and about indigenous nations, peoples, and organizations. Go to the “History” database under Resources for chronologically organized collections of American Indian resources. NativeWiki, a new NativeWeb project, allows users to contribute information on Indigenous peoples around the world.

First Nations Histories
Provides a geographic overview of First Nation (Indian) histories as well as a location list of native tribes in the United States and Canada. Has a search function as well.

The Index is a large gateway to many Native American resources in various categories, such as History, Government, Culture, Education, Bibliographies, and more. The site is organized by geographic regions and “to make it useful to the Native American community and the education community.” There is a useful search engine and the webmaster blogs regularly with news about the site.

Mountain Men and the Fur Trade
This home page is an on-line Research Center devoted to the history, traditions, tools, and mode of living, of the trappers, explorers, and traders known as the Mountain Men. Features an archive, a gallery, a museum, a discussion group and more.

WestWeb: Western History
West Web is a topically organized site from CUNY that offers an introduction to the era, primary and secondary sources, teaching guides, images, links to related sites, biographies, and bibliographical resources

Animated Atlas
Animated Atlas portrays history by animating maps. This site features a ten minute, interactive movie that is a geographic history of the United States, locating major events and the admission of every state. Animated Atlas also sells classroom videos.

The Iron Road
Part of PBS’s American Experience series, this site is the story of the building of the first east-west railroad link. There is a teacher’s guide, a bibliography, photos and recommended readings

Africans in America; Westward Expansion
Part of PBS’s African-American Journey site, this extended essay explores Jackson’s Trail of Tears, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, and the Dred Scott decision. There is a biography of Dred Scott and text of the decision.

Lesson Plans, Teacher Guides, Activities and more

Lewis and Clark: Classroom resources
The 17 Lewis and Clark lesson plans on this page offer a wide array of classroom activities. Created by PBS, the activities address all parts of the famous expedition. Lewis and Clark A companion to Ken Burns’ PBS film, this site provides background on the world of Lewis and Clark, an archive of their expedition,

New Perspectives on the West Lesson Plans
A companion to Ken Burns’ The West film, these classroom resources are designed to help you use The West Web site, other material on the Internet, and The West video.The 10 lessons are designed for middle and high school students (grades 6-12).

Westward Expansion: Encounters at a Cultural Crossroads
This Library of Congress Primary Source Set provides a PDF handout teacher’s guide, links to online resources, and more. The focus of the set is for students to explore Westward expansion of the United States and the resulting interactions.

Westward Expansion: Links to the Past Lesson Overview
In this Library of Congress lesson students use sources from the collection “California As I Saw It: First Person Narratives, 1849-1900”, and create a script providing insights in to the lives of immigrants who settled California between 1849 and 1900.

Westward Expansion
This Gilder Lerman module provides a primary source interpretation activity, other primary source with questions, a lesson plan, a factual quiz, and a timeline of the 19th century.

The Iron Road: Teachers guide
In this PBS Teachers guide, students will examine the planning, funding and building of the transcontinental railroad; demonstrate map reading skills; compare and analyze sources of information and discuss how the decision to build the railroad affected different ethnic communities.

Teacher Lesson Plan: Explorations in American Environmental History
Part of the LOC Learning Page, these two lesson plans make use of visual resources. Emphasis is put on understanding the environmental issues that arose with Westward expansion. Grades 8-12

Teacher Lesson Plan: Links to the Past
Students use documents to create a script depicting the motivations, expectations, fears, and realizations of immigrants who settled California between 1849 and 1900. The finished product will be a hyperscript, an online written dialogue, containing links to illustrative written materials, images, and sound files from American Memory collections. Presented by the Library of Congress for grades 6-12

Lesson Plan: Life on the Great Plains
In this four part MarcoPolo lesson plan, students will study the Great Plains. Plan includes a mapping activity and PBS resources. Recommended for grades 9-12

Lesson Plan: On the Oregon Trail
In this lesson, students work with primary documents and latter-day photographs to recapture the experience of traveling on the Oregon Trail. The lesson plan was created by MarcoPolo and boasts a vast collection of resources.

Simulation: Oregon Trail
Written by Louise C. Murphy (An Arizona Teacher), this AskERIC simulation lets students experience the Oregon Trail for themselves. Activities include reading maps, writing letters, and conducting research. Purchase of “The Oregon Trail” Computer simulation is required. Grades 5-8.

Expansion, Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820 … This is a series of reading guides with discussion questions from the National Humanities Center.

Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion This lesson plan from the Ohio State University History department explores ways the ideology of Manifest Destiny and features select primary sources.

Cowboys
In this Discovery Education lesson plan middle school students will learn that Old West cowboys produced a category of literature.

Interpreting Primary Sources
Digital History provides brief excerpts from primary sources and statistics and also questions to think about: Indian Policy

Learn about Westward Expansion
Digital History provides various resources for exploring westward expansion including maps, images, text sources, fact sheets, and recommended lesson plan and readings. Online Resources on Westward Expansion

Digital History Resource Guides
The Digital Resource Guides provides links to American history web sites by period and provide historical overviews, readings (online textbook chapter, Reader’s Companion) primary source documents (documents, maps, cartoons), teaching resources (chronologies, maps, quizzes), audio-visual resources, and additional resources. It is an excellent and comprehensive teaching resource.

Declarations of Independence: Exploring American Indian Rights to Self-Governance
In this New York Times lesson, students will examine what they know about American Indians past and present, then research key issues facing American Indian tribes today. To synthesize their learning, students will write letters taking the perspective of an American Indian examining questions of tribe recognition.

HistoryTeacher.net: AP United States History Quizzes
A New York teacher has produced a great general site for history teachers that offers AP-level United States history quizzes on many different periods and topics.

Territorial Acquisitions: Blank Map
The companion web site to The American People offers blank maps related to various topics in American history. The maps can be printed or placed in a PowerPoint presentation

US Southwest in the 1840s: Blank Map
The companion web site to The American People offers blank maps related to various topics in American history. The maps can be printed or placed in a PowerPoint presentation

Western History: Photography Collection
This site contains a selection of 65,000, historic photographs from the collections of the Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Department and the Colorado Historical Society, including images of Native Americans, pioneers, early railroads, and mining towns.

Images of Indian Peoples of the Northern Great Plains
The digital collection was created in consultation with Native Americans, educators, librarians, and historians. The overall organization of the database is by tribe, including: Crow, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Salish (Flathead), Kutenai, Chippewa-Cree, Gros Ventres (Atsina), and Assiniboine.

Strike it Rich!
This PBS game will see if you have what it takes to strike it rich in the Gold Rush!

Characteristics of Geographic Regions This game quizzes the user on geographic regions in the U.S. in a variety of formats.

Westward Expansion & Manifest Destiny quiz
Students can take this self-scoring, multiple choice quiz to test their knowledge of Westward Expansion and the concept of Manifest Destiny.

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