Westward Expansion
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 to move directly westward. Thus the
new Englanders migrated into western New York and along the shores of the great
lakes, Virginians into Kentucky and then into Missouri and the South Carolinians
and Georgians into the gulf territories. Throughout the settlement of the

Mississippi valley, most pioneers did not travel long distances and as a
territory had been occupied, families would move into the adjacent one. There
were boom periods of great activity, during which million acres of land were
sold, alternated with depression periods during which there was little further
expansion of the frontier and many disappointed pioneers even backtracked from
the west to the east. When the treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, the Americans
had thought that they had enough land between the Atlantic coast and the

Mississippi river. Yet in 1803, by the Louisiana Purchase, the area of the

United States doubled and not long after, it was augmented by the
half-purchase-half-conquest of Florida. By the end of 1820, as many as 6 states
were created, east of Mississippi-Indiana (1816), Mississippi (1817), Alabama
(1819), Maine (1820) and Missouri (1821). By the 1830s, the frontier line had
been carried to Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas-about one-third of the way across
the continent. By the 1840s, the expansionist policy, typified by the Manifest

Destiny doctrine, became very strong with many sections willing to go to war to
acquire more land. Slavery became a bone of contention between the Northern and
southern states with the control of the senate in question. The South wanted
expansion to increase slave states, the North to keep the balance with free
states and the West wanting expansion to increase their land. The antagonism
between the North and the South sees the beginnings of sectionalism leading to
the civil war later. The spirit of equality becomes a banner with which the
expansionist policy was proclaimed. Phases Of Development Before the 1830s, most
sections of the west passed through the same phases of development in a regular
order. The first white men to usually enter a new area were the hunters and fur
trappers, who had extraordinary skills to open up a new path through wilderness,
finding food for themselves and dealing with the Indians. These men explored the
country and brought news of its resources back to the east. In many regions, the
second phase was cattle ranching while some also passed through the mining
phase. Parts of Missouri and Wisconsin, for example were settled by lead miners.

Behind the cattle ranchers or miners came the first farmers, who were often
squatters with no legal title to land. They were frequently restless and were
impatient of the restrictions of civilised society, and were not interested in
making permanent houses. Many of them, had a habit of moving every few years and
would follow the frontier land as