Westward Expansion. Theme and relevance in American History

Essay by A.R.DIAMONDUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, January 2003

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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. Motives 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. 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...