Western Expansion

Westward, ever westward. -Henry Wells

The Western Expansion was a movement that occurred after The War of 1812 where American families traveled west to settle in to newly acquired territories west of the Mississippi. These territories included land from the Louisiana Purchase, the Texan Annexation, The Gadsen Purchase and the Pacific Northwest.
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Map of Acquired Territories

  1. Important People
  2. Manifest Destiny
  3. Slave States Controversy

Important People

  • Robert Fulton invented the steamboat which made it infinitely easier to travel upstream rivers. This was especially beneficial for traveling along the Mississippi river.
  • Andrew Jackson was the President of the United States from 1829-1837. He signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which made more land available to the pioneers.
  • John Tyler was President of the United States from 1841-1845. He was a fierce advocate of slavery and he and his secretary of state, John Calhoun, went to extreme measures to gain support for the Annexation of Texas.
  • James K. Polk was President of the United States from 1845-1849. During his term the US annexed Texas and Oregon and fought Mexico in the Mexican War. He vigorously pursued Western Expansion.

Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny, the idea that Americans have the divine right to expand their territory all the way across the North American continent, was one of the main reasons pioneers migrated from the East Coast to land west of the Mississippi. The term Manifest Destiny was coined by the journalist John O'Sullivan in 1845 in an issue of The Democratic Review, however it has been present in American minds since after the War of 1812. In addition to the Manifest Destiny mindset, Americans also moved west because they desired more land to farm and raise their families on.
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John Gast, American Progress. A symbol of Manifest Destiny

Slave vs. Free States Controversy

As more people moved in to western territories, new states were admitted in to the Union. The majority of new states were free of slavery. This worried the southern slave states because they feared they would be underrepresented in the Senate and House of Representatives when it came to the issue of keeping slavery legal. To soothe their concerns, slave states and free states were often admitted in to the Union in pairs so that there would be equal representation. An example of this concession is The Missouri Compromise in which Missouri was admitted as a slave state, while Maine entered as a free state at the same time.