In the mid-19th century, the West drew increasing numbers of American settlers despite the hardships of the journey and the difficult living conditions that waited them at their journeys end. Thus Americans were immediately sized on the phrase Manifest Destiny- believing that United States destiny is manifest, inevitable, to expand to the Pacific Ocean and into Mexican territory.
Various factors in the United States in early 1800s caused the nation to become grabbed with the Western Expansion. First, there were geographical and psychological issues. After Thomas Jeffersons Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which had doubled the United States size, Americans explored this huge territory in limited numbers. Then the fever of expansion swept through country; Americans believed that their movement westward and southward was destined and ordained by God.
Also, the economic factors influenced the country taking in part in Manifest
Destiny. In this period of time, Americans were thirst for the land. Americans wanted to claim land for farming and land speculation because it was an important step toward prosperity. Moreover, the Panic of 1930 with its disastrous consequences convinced many Americans to attempt a fresh start in the West. Also the Santa Fe traders and fur traders of Mountain advertised the West land to the Americans in the East. Furthermore, the opportunity to trade with Asia increased with the transportation revolution and the Oregon Trail because they opened several important harbors for trading. Learning all these good deals about West, many Americans left their homeland for a new start in the West.
During the West movement of 1830s and 1840s, there were many conflicts that American settlers faced. The first problem settlers had to solve was relations with the Native Americans. As the numbers of American settlers grew, the life of Native Americans was greatly affected. The Native Americans tried to maintain their cultural traditions and the peace with white settlers, but they were often forced to move out of their homeland. Then came the Black Hawk War, which was the Native Americans rebellion against the United States in Illinois and Wisconsin Territory. After failure of this rebellion, Native Americans were forced to abandon their lands and move to reservation even with the Fort Laramie Treaty, which promised the peace between Native Americans and white settlers.
Secondly, the wagon life on the trails west was not an easy task to lead.
The wagon itself was very small that many pioneers often were forced to lighten their loads by leaving treasured possessions along the trail. The people often traveled in groups or parties. There were several trails to the west; the most famous ones are Santa Fe Trail, Oregon trail, as well as the National Road. On the Santa Fe Trail, people traveled in organized groups of up to hundred wagons. At night, they formed a square with their wagon creating a corral for horses, mules, and oxen. This square was also to protect the people from the attacks of Native Americans or wild animals. The Methodist missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman initiated the Oregon Trail in 1836. This journey took at least months even if all went well. There was often natural interference such as thunderstorms and buffalo herds, which stopped the wagons for weeks to even months. Also there were many diseases spreading among the travelers. Fever, diarrhea, cholera were common among people which were incurable at that time. These diseases were extremely contagious because people often shared the same water which may had been contaminated. It was not uncommon to leave the sick person along the side of the road to get on with their plan. By 1844, there were about 5000 Americans had arrived in Oregon territory and were farming in its green and fertile soil. However, not all the travelers made to their final destination. There were many tragic cases of wagon traveling where the parties were lost on the way, ran out food, or got attacked by Native Indians. The most well known tragedy was that of the Donner Party. The Donner Party was the group of people from Springfield, Illinois, who headed for the large land of California. Donner Party took the Hastings book, which was titled the Emigrants Guide, and decided to follow the book and take the unknown shortcut. The problem was that this book of Lansford Warren Hastings was fraud. The only trouble was that the guides author, Lansford Warren Hastings, had not done this route himself with a wagon train. No one had. (Calabro, 42) Without knowing this fact, the anxious Donner Party was following this dangerous shortcut with a great risk. Like Virginia Reed, a member of the Donner
My father was so eager to reach California that he was quick to take advantage of any means to shorten the distance…. a few days showed us that the shortcut was not as it had been represented…. There was absolutely no road, not even a trail. (Calabro, 56 )
The Donner Party was lost in the middle of nowhere. They ran out of food and met the unexpected early snow. All the members were starving but could not find anything to eat. More and more people died of starvation and disease. Some people were too depressed about their situation that they drove themselves to be at the hysterical stage of mind, which led them to be insane. Not knowing where they were, the people decided to send search party to ask for help. This search party was also unsuccessful. People could not find anything edible in the cold weather and were starving to death believed that the only way to live was to eat the human flesh. Their last struggle to survive was extreme. After several attempts of the search party, the rescue team from California finally came. However, by that time more than half of the Donner Party was dead. Later it was found that the final position that Donner Party held before the rescue team was not far from their destination California. What they believed to be the shortcut took them longer than what the regular trail would have taken them to California. The final major pathway to the west was the National Road. The National Road differs from the other pathways to the west due to the fact that it was a turnpike. This meant that travelers had to pay a fee to use the roadway. One reporter by the name of Charles Hoffman wrote an article about travel on the National Road, The tolls are so high along this western turnpike (Hoffman, 277). Due to the cost of traveling this road, many travelers opted to take other pathways to the west.
Due to the large number of American settlers heading west disputes arose with other countries over control of some Western lands. The Oregon territory was the main issue in these disputes between countries. However, Russia, France, and Spain had abandoned their claims to this rich territory in early nineteenth century. Only Great Britain and United States were arguing over the Oregon Territory. The expansionists urged the country to seize the Oregon Territory. To avoid the war, United States and Great Britain compromised to split the Oregon Territory in half. Nonetheless, President James K. Polk believed that all of the Oregon Territory should be annexed to the United States. Agreeing with the President, Americans demanded the Fifty-Four Forty or Fight. By 1846, Great Britain and United States peacefully agreed to set the Oregon Territorys boundary at 49 parallel by the Oregon Treaty.
Also the annexation of Texas to Union was partly resulted from the boom of
Western movement. Many Americans traveled to Texas for the cheap land with hopes to start a new life in the 1830s. However, Texas was under the control of Mexico at that time. Mexicans changed their generous attitude toward American settlers after the Mexican Independence, and started to restrict the life of American settlers. Texas announced the independence and formed its own government in March 1836. This called the Texas Revolution that includes the famous battle the Alamo. The Republic of Texas was recognized by Mexico after the Alamo. However, when Texas tried to annex to the United States, the President Andrew Jackson refused to annex Texas to the United States. After many devoted attempts, Texas was finally admitted to the Union later in 1845.
The Manifest Destiny, the migration to the West, brought a great change in the history of United States. With this Western movement, the half of our country was formed and developed. The improvements of United States western land made the nation stronger and richer than any other country. Initiated by the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, Manifest Destiny of United States never stopped from the expansion of the West.
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