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History of USA

U.S. History of Westward Expansion


From the first European colonists in the New World, expansion westward was a perpetual goal. Beginning with the Land Ordinance of 1785, which provided for the sale of land in the Northwest

Territory, the ground rules were set, including standards for land sales. When the local lands were claimed and settled, colonist looked to push westward to conquer more of the nation. Expeditions of explorers were sent to map out the continent and find the best routes across the country, notably the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 doubled the size of the United States, moving its westward boundary all the way to the Mississippi River.

Westward expansion in the United States was at its height during the Jacksonian Era from 1820 to the 1850s, spurred on by land policies like the Indian Removal Act and a cultural atmosphere of idealism that led to the idea known as Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny, a term coined by journalist John O'Sullivan in 1845, described the belief in a divine obligation to expand westward to the Pacific Ocean. The European settlers believed they had a duty to Christianize the natives, which carried an intrinsic sense of superiority, that is, a belief that the natives were inferior and needed their help.

Fueled by this sense of national responsibility, colonists set out on a quest to fulfill their purpose. Prompted by the Mexican-American war, which began in 1846, and then the California Gold Rush starting in 1848, the population pushed westward at an accelerated rate. The westward movement was also fueled by new modes of transportation, from the steamboat to railroads and covered wagons. These pioneers forged their own paths, creating new communities along the way in the Wild West.

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