Prior to moving West, Northern America had gone through various wars and battles, one being the Seven Years War, also known as the French and Indian War. The French and Indian war had been fought between England and Britain for control over North America. The two fought each other along with their Indian and colonist allies in a war that lasted seven years. When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 it put an end to the fighting between Britain and England.
Tax laws had been passed by Parliament on the colonists and it had infuriated them. The colonists in Boston went through a lot of small acts of rebellion on their way to freedom from the British Crown. Acts of rebellion consisted of the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea party. In 1812 Americans began to push more for Westward expansion after the Louisiana Purchase and ‘Manifest Destiny.’ Manifest Destiny convinced Americans that in order to make god happy they had to move west.
Before Manifest Destiny President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the Corps of Discovery. The Corps of Discovery was a military unit in the United States that was the foundation of westward expansion. Captain Meriwether Lewis was named the leader of the corps by Thomas Jefferson, in which Lewis soon chose William Clark as his second in command. This expedition received the name of Lewis and Clark Expedition’ which would later play an important role in America’s history and the journey west. Lewis and Clarke’s expedition lasted from May 14, 1804 to September 23, 1806 and opened up the fur and lumber trade while giving America it’s access to life in the west.
This new life in the west would cause a boom in the country’s economy due to more resources provided by the land.
The concept of Manifest Destiny gave farmers new hope in 1845 far after the end of Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Farmers became excited to move westward to start a new life in a new land with rich soil. Others who lived in America didn’t see eye to eye with farmers about the idea of Manifest Destiny. Northerners and Southerners had believed that moving west would open more slave states (Fraser 309) which would’ve been bad for the North . Those who were against slavery, mostly people in the North, were the people most likey to be against Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny wasn’t the first step in the westward expansion, but it was a big step in entering the new land.
In advance of Manifest Destiny, a small handful of pioneers had moved west After moving west many pioneers started to discover that the land in the west was dry and hard to farm. The land had been a major let down for those who hoped to start off fresh with Western land. This had caused problems for the pioneers and prevented them from having a constant food source besides hunting. Starving became common and there was a point in history where the Donner Party, who were traveling west, started to eat their own people. This showed how hard living was on the frontier and people had to come up with a solution. Some pioneers gained more knowledge and figured out how dry farming worked. When digging deeply and frequently enough people were able to farm in recently infertile land. Pioneers were fascinated with their discovery and were slowly making a life for themselves.
More people began to invent and patent things that helped with farming and agriculture. People like John Deere, Lewis Miller and Cyrus McCormick advanced agriculture on the frontier with their machines and tools. Life had become easier for pioneers because of these advancements, not only for those in the western frontier but also those who worked in other parts of America. Owning a machine or advanced tools gave a farmer his own personal elite status. Making a life was slowly becoming easier for those who owned land in the west. Though, this way of life was different compared to those who lived on government land illegally. These people were called squatters.
Squatters were generally people who couldn’t afford to pay for government land in the west so they just took it on their own. These people tended to be poor and in search of a life in the west that they couldn’t afford. A majority of the West’s population was made up of squatters that occupied the dry land. The squatters had convinced themselves and strongly believed that if the land wasn’t occupied then it was anyone’s game.
Back in 1803 France had sold the territory of Louisiana to the United States for 15 million dollars. The US had sold their newly acquired land for three cents an acre and created 13 new states out of its new land. Farmers purchased land in the new territory to start a new life for themselves, while the squatters settled down in the empty land. These squatters lived free lives in government territory without having the worry of paying for the land.
The 1862 Homestead Act gave squatters a right to the land they were living on. After living on unoccupied land for up to five years, without paying the government, a squatter could legally own the land he lived on. These men and women were no longer referred to as squatters, but homesteaders who had the same rights as everyone else living in the West. This choice made by the government gave newly named homesteaders a fresh start in the West. Land settled by homesteaders provided people with ways to take care of their families and make an actual living off the land.
Fredrick Jackson Turner wrote a thesis about moving west that was later named the ‘Frontier Thesis’ and the ‘Turner Thesis.’ The thesis had given the idea that free or cheap land had a ‘safety valve’ that protected the country from poverty. Men transformed because of the harshness and adventurous life in the west. Despite the fact that frontier life was hard and full of struggles, the frontier made men stronger and gave them more freedom.
The World’s Columbian Exposition had a variety of technologies on display for the first time, including the ferris wheel. Turner’s thesis had made its debut in Chicago, Illinois at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. The point of the event was for people to share their new technologies and in Turner’s case, sharing his thesis. Not too long after Turner gave his thesis, the era of the frontier ended and Westward Expansion was no more.
After facing many challenges moving West, such as difficulties with farming, the US was able to overcome and control the foreign land of the west. The Turner Thesis had given Americans a significant point of view of the way life was in the west and encouraged them to move West. Life in the west had been hard at first, but with more advances in life and politics, life and habits turned around and changed for the US.