Westward expansion refers to the expansion of United States towards the west. Originally, the United States comprised of the Thirteen Colonies on the day of its independence in 1776. Over time, the country began to grow westwards and incorporate more and more of the North American territories.
In time, United States spread all the way to the Pacific coast in the west, while also expanding southwards. The expansion transformed the nation and the fabric of the American society. It also defined American culture and politics for most of the 19th century.
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Abraham Lincoln signed a law in 1962 to begin the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad Read more about the First Transcontinental Railroad >>
America demanded that Spain officially accept West Florida as being part of USA Read more about the Florida Becomes a Part of USA >>
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Louisiana Purchase - America bought a large parcel of land called the 'Louisiana Territory' in 1803. Read more about the Louisiana purchase 1803 Amazing Deal >>
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Popular westward trails were the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Santa Fe Trail and the California Trail Read more about the Trails into the West >>
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In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of Louisiana Territory from France. This was a large parcel of land which stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Canadian border in the north to the Gulf of Mexico in the south.
Louisiana Territory was purchased for a sum of $15 Million Dollars. The addition of Louisiana Territory to United States effectively doubled the size of the nation.
It also ushered in the era of westward expansion. Soon after the Louisiana Purchase, Americans begun to migrate westwards in search for land they could own and other opportunities.
Manifest destiny was a concept coined by a journalist John O’Sullivan in 1845. According to this concept, it was the manifest destiny of the United States that it must spread its principles of liberty and freedom to the entire North America.
The concept was repeatedly used to justify the westwards expansion of the United States during the 19th century. It also rallied the support of patriots and other political groups in the favor of expansionist policies.
When the United States began to expand westwards, the West had no roads or any other form of infrastructure. The migrants used overland paths and trails to make long journeys in order to reach different parts of the west.
Some of these trails ran thousands of miles. Nearly all were served by wagons on which migrants, their families and their goods journeyed.
The westward expansion of United States raised the issue of slavery. Should the new territories and states be allowed to practice slavery?
The country already had pro-slavery and anti-slavery states, and the issue of slavery became a major point of disagreement. Throughout the early 19th century, attempts were made to settle the question through a compromise – by keeping the number of slave states and free states equal.
But the issue ultimately erupted in the American Civil War in 1861.
As United States expanded westwards, the Wild West came into being. Wild West was a land of opportunity, freedom and liberty. It also lacked the power of the law, so lawless elements reigned free.
Killings and shootings were frequent. At the same time, Wild West was also the home of self-reliant, sturdy and brave frontiersmen who stood their own against all obstacles.
We hope you enjoyed this article about Westward expansion and the Louisiana purchase which greatly increased the size of America and was negotiated by ‘President Thomas Jefferson’ in 1803 for the princely sum of $15 Million dollars.
If you would like to learn more about Westward expansion and the ‘American Wild West’ please see some of the links at the bottom of this page.