Westward Expansion: 19th Century Migration & Manifest Destiny - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1693 Words
Date:  2023-02-11


The westward expansion took place in the 19th century, a movement that involved the American settlers to the west. Its genesis can be traced to the Louisiana Purchase and was energized by the Oregon trail, the Gold Rush, and the belief pertaining, "Manifest Destiny." The migration started before the American colonies winning their independence during the Revolutionary War. At the time of the expansion, a land of up to 1.6 million square kilometers of the Mississippi River is believed to have been acquired by the federal government of the United States. Different factors also spearheaded the expansion with issues like economic activities and population growth taking significant roles. The paper, therefore, revolves the culmination of understanding of chapter 21 of American history. It seeks to analyze and synthesize the history and development of westward expansion and offer an explanation on the impacts of the land acts coupled with those of the settlement pattern. It will also answer how the westward expansion influenced both the political and economic development of both the East and the West.

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In the analysis of the westward expansion, a primary concept of, "Manifest Destiny," cannot be ignored. It revolved the belief where the settlers had a conviction of settling in the Northern part of the American continent. They believed that settling and land acquisition was their God-given duty and as such, were supposed to obey. It was the same belief that led to the Europeans claiming and occupying the land, which was on the Western part of North America or the popularly referred to as the Westward Expansion. The Manifest Destiny belief was aligned to the superiority of the white man on matters land acquisition, exercise of control, and the spread of Christianity as a religious doctrine (Andersen 223). Manifest Destiny was also used in the validation of the Indian Removal Acts, an act that took place in the 1830s. The Act led to the displacement of the Native Americans and assisted in clearing the way for the settlers in their bid of establishing a settlement.

Based on the force that was applied by the settlers in their bid of westward expansion, religious inspiration was ruled out as the primary force of motivation. It is believed that financial opportunities played a significant function. The Mississippi River was a place that was known for different financial opportunities with the dominant ones being the silver and the gold prospects. The land was also fertile for agriculture and strategic for urban, and industrial growth. Other lands like California were already getting depleted of their riches even as people continued to migrate and establish industrial hubs (Brinkley 50). The Mississippi had initially been thought of as a free land before the expansion, but the idea was short-lived since the settlers made a permanent settlement. The census report conducted in 1980 by the United States of America declared the existence of many permanent settlers in the region hence declaring that Mississippi was no-longer within the radar of free spaces for acquisition.

The declaration also brought what was termed as the Frontier Thesis, an issue which was criticized by many historian scholars. The historians rejected the idea of American Frontier with some describing it as the merging point between civilization and savagery. Historians believed that the description of free land which defined westward expansion existed at a severe cost. The Spanish Speaking population and the Native Americans severely suffered the settlers' aggression and brutality. The immigrants from Asia were also not left out since they were forced to take the Eastern route to the side of the Pacific.

According to the white settlers, the concept of manifest destiny with consideration to westward expansion was, therefore, divinely ordained and had its intention directed towards the expansion of the democratic institutions across the continents. While the expansion was on course, culture, customs, and thoughts were to be spread with the bid of improving the lives of the natives. It was because of the belief that writers and politicians of the time had the conviction of the United States of America becoming the supreme leader of the world.

The Impact of Land Acts and the Settlement Patterns

The Land Acts included the Indian Removal Act, the Homestead Act, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act to mention but a few. The signing of the Indian Removal Act took place in 1830, specifically on 30th May. The President who signed it into law was one Andrew Jackson with the intent of granting the head of state the power of giving out the unoccupied lands in the west for the Indian lands that lied within the state borders (Carlson 500). The unsettled lands were primarily those that lied on the Western side of Mississippi. The impact of the Land Act was severe as the Cherokees were forced to flee to the West. An estimated death of about 4,000 Cherokees was registered during the process. The forced migration was later termed as the "The Trail of Tears."

The next Land Act was referred to as the Homestead Act. It was signed by President Lincoln into law at around 1862 with the specific date traced to 20th of May. The Act allowed settlers occupation of about 160 acres of land hence promoting Western migration (Shanks 30). Abraham Lincoln later engaged in small fee negotiations where the homesteaders were given the option of purchasing public land at a rate of $1.25 per acre. The impact of the Act led to the government losing about 80 million acres of land. The rate made it easy for people to buy land and places such as Nebraska and Kansas received the highest number of occupants.

The other Act was the Kansas-Nebraska Act and was signed into law by the U.S. Congress. The signing took place in 1854 with the specific date getting traced to 30th of May. It came to exist as a repeal to the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which was against slavery. The Act, therefore, gave the people of Nebraska and those of Kansas the opportunity to determine the existence or the inexistence of slavery (Congress 2). They were to decide whether the practice of slavery was to take place or not to take place within their borders. The impact of the Act was, therefore, pegged to the promotion of slavery since free labor was needed to help in the cultivation of the lands that were purchased from the government at nearly a free cost. On the part of the settlement pattern, the impact was nearly similar because people were displaced to give the room the settlers in their bid of establishing occupation.

How the Westward Expansion Influenced Political and Economic Development of the East and the West

The impact of Westward expansion can also get discussed with the view of politics and the economy. On the West, with the view of America politics, the Monroe Doctrine took center stage by setting the policy of Manifest Destiny which extended the United States' control from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. Many political crises ensued following the expansion, for example, there was the dispossession federal landholdings and Native Americans in the West and the expansion of slavery to mention but a few. On the part of the East, the real struggle of political freedom existed following a series of displacements. The economy of the United States improved due to slavery and fertility of the land, not to mention the industries, among others. The East suffered economic blow since they occupied areas which were deemed to be less productive, thereby making the practice of agriculture difficult. They also remained on the receiving end when slavery became the order of the day. Most of them worked as slaves to their white masters.

It is also notable that the question of slavery brought Nebraska and Kansas to war with the Northerners getting outraged. They believed that slaveocracy was at their expense. The battle, therefore, became the soul of the nation. Ten years after the battle, civil war erupted in Kansas over the same issue of slavery (Nowacki, Gregory, and Marc 322). The war was followed by a national civil war over slavery for a third time. Thomas Jefferson predicted that slavery was the cause of the nationwide civil war in the West, a place which had been deemed to be an emblem of American freedom.


In summary, the paper has effectively covered the discussion of Westward Expansion, the influence of the Land Acts, and the settlement patterns to mention but a few. Other issues which have been looked are the political and economic influences to both the West and the East. The Westward Expansion has been argued to have existed in the 19th century and involved the movement of the white settlers to the American West. Its genesis can be traced to Louisiana Purchase and was primarily propelled by the Oregon Trail and the Gold Rush. An issue which has also formed a significant part of the discussion was the "manifest destiny." Lastly, some of the discussed Land Acts included the Indian Removal Act, the Homestead Act, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act as noted herein.

Works Cited

Andersen, Brett R., et al. "Westward expansion of the evening bat in the United States, with notes on the first record from New Mexico." Western North American Naturalist 77.2 (2017): 223-230. Retrieved from https://repository.arizona.edu/bitstream/handle/10150/625717/064.077.0210.pdf?sequence=1

Brinkley, Alan. American history: Connecting with the past. McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2012.

Carlson, Leonard A., and Mark A. Roberts. "Indian lands, "Squatterism," and slavery: Economic interests and the passage of the Indian removal act of 1830." Explorations in Economic History 43.3 (2006): 486-504. Retrieved from http://economics.emory.edu/home/documents/documents/Carlson-1.pdf

Congress. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. (N.Y). Retrieved from https://www.cpsk12.org/cms/lib/MO01909752/Centricity/Domain/3513/13%20-%20Kansas-Nebraska%20Act.pdf

Nowacki, Gregory J., and Marc D. Abrams. "Is climate an important driver of postEuropean vegetation change in the Eastern United States?" Global Change Biology 21.1 (2015): 314-334. Retrieved from http://personal.psu.edu/users/a/g/agl/Nowacki%20and%20Abrams%202015%20GCB.pdf

Shanks, Trina RW. "The Homestead Act: A major asset-building policy in American history." Inclusion in the American dream: Assets, poverty, and public policy (2005): 20-41. Retrieved from https://openscholarship.wustl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1045&context=csd_research

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Westward Expansion: 19th Century Migration & Manifest Destiny - Essay Sample. (2023, Feb 11). Retrieved from https://midtermguru.com/essays/westward-expansion-19th-century-migration-manifest-destiny-essay-sample

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