The United States, as a young nation, had the desire to expand westward and become a true continental United States that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Various factors, strategic and economic, contributed to the desire to expand westward. According to John O’Sullivan, as cited by Hestedt in Manifest Destiny 2004; "the U.S. had manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence to the free development of our yearly multiplying millions" (¶2). As Americans ventured westward to settle the frontier, their inherent superior beliefs, culture and the principles of democracy accompanied them. America’s ruthless ambition to fulfill its manifest destiny had a profound impact on the nation’s economy, social systems and foreign and domestic policies; westward expansion was a tumultuous period in American History that included periods of conflict with the Native Americans and Hispanics and increased in sectionalism that created the backdrop for the Civil War.
Westward Expansion and U.S. Economic Growth
After the Revolutionary War, the developing U.S. economy was significantly affected by westward expansion. When settlers migrated west, new land was obtained and made available for farming. Additional land provided increase in production of good that could be sold in the economy. Advanced forms of transportation and improved communications helped spur economic growth and the advance westward.
The development of canal, steam boats and railroads provided a transportation network that linked different regions of the nation together. When farmers began migrating westward and acquiring land for crops, cheaper forms of transportation provided the means to transfer their goods to other regions for sale and distribution. According to Davidson, 2002, “From 1825 to 1855 . . . the cost of transportation on land fell 95 percent, while its speed increased fivefold. As a result, new regions were drawn quickly into the market” (pg. 256). The construction of canals allowed the great lakes region to ship goods to interior regions of the country. Later, steamboats shortened the length of time needed to transport goods. “Steamboats reduced the time of a trip from New Orleans to Louisville from 90 to 8 days, while cutting upstream costs by 90 percent” (Davidson, 2002 pg. 256). In the 1830, railroads began appearing initially as connectors to canals. Soon, railroads became a preferred method of travel because they were twice as fast as steamboats, had direct routes to destination locations, and could operate all year (Davidson, 2002).
As the population continued to expand westward, and products began to increase, an effective means of communication from one end of the country to the other became necessary. A revolution in communication was made possible by the postal system, perfection of the power press and the invention of the telegraph (Davidson, 2002). The postal system enabled letters, public communication, and other...