Document based essay reporting the westward migration across America in the mid 1800's. Deals with "Manifest Destiny" and the California Gold Rush.

Essay by ctHigh School, 11th gradeA+, March 2003

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The Wild West

In the mid 1880's a rampant migration began that swept across America. People were migrating in search of fertile land and economic opportunities beyond the pre-existing border of the nation. There were many other more specific reasons for the expansion as well. One of the main economic attractions of the west was the discovery of gold ion California in 1848. People went west at the thought of becoming rich fast. They had no idea exactly how wild the west would prove to be. Others belonging to the lower classes were enticed to the west by the free land. The government was giving away the land in the west to promote development and many people took advantage of that opportunity. There was also the economic benefit of securing commerce with China and India, through means of the transcontinental railroad. The railroad company itself would profit, as well as numerous businesses that would involve themselves in international trade with the western countries.

All of these economic reasons for the westward expansion were backed by the American sentiment of "Manifest Destiny," a phrase coined by John O'Sullivan and best described in the following passage: "The American claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence [fate] has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty" (Democratic Review 1845).

This essence of manifest destiny inspired politicians and propagandists to call for the annexation of the areas that the migrants were occupying. Some went further and proclaimed that expansion should continue until it had absorbed all of North America, including Canada and Mexico. This led to a great confrontation with Mexico known as the Mexican War. The Mexican War was over the unsettled territory between the...