The Western Frontier

By: Bryhannah Pinard

Is Expansion to the West Greater Than the Value of Human Life?

The Donner Party was a tragedy that changed many people's lives. It was very hard for many people, especially for the families who had to eat human flesh and lost close friends and family. It also was an example of how, in 1840, the cost of enlarging a nation was greater than the value of human life. Hastings risky cutoff, that supposedly was a faster way to California, and cannibalism are two of the examples of how the Donner Party was an example of how enlarging a nation was greater than the value of human life.


Hastings cutoff was an example of how enlarging the nation was greater than the value of human life because Hasting had wanted to make his own nation. He took California away from Mexico and made a path so people would come live in California and follow him but there was one thing wrong with the path, he had never been on it himself. He ended up publishing the path and sent it to people, telling them that it was safe and that it took a lot less like then the other route. “Hastings cutoff” ended up being one of the worst things that has ever happened. The trail was virtually impassable and ended up taking longer than original path. What should have taken around five months, took a whole year and very few people made it out alive. Many people died horrible deaths because of this path. He did not care about the safety of the people, he just wanted to have people live on “his” land and he was willing to risk everyone's life just to get people, so expanding was greater than the value of human life. Hastings having his land and wanting to expand was more important than the value of human life to him. He did not care if people died, he just wanted some people to live in his territory that he claimed.


Cannibalism was an example of how enlarging the nation was greater than the value of human life because the Donner Party chose to eat people to make it to California instead and expand to the West instead of just go back, when food ran out and things started to go wrong. They choose to eat each other instead of just turning back when things started to look bad in the first place. The party chose that getting to California was more valuable than saving everyone and just waiting and taking the “longer” way. The Donner party would eat all who died and would cut off the flesh from the arms and legs of the living. Sometimes they even sacrificed each other, they would pull slips and who ever got the sacrifice slip would be eaten. These conditions were horrid, they should have turned back, but to them expansion to the West was a greater value to them than human life.


In conclusion, the Donner Party was an example of how expansion of the nation was greater than the value of human life. In the end, the Donner Party should have just turned back but, expansion was more valuable than human life to them so they ate people to make it all the way to California. Though the Donner Party was a catastrophic event, it shows how expansion was more important at this time period than human life. Those who did survive are grateful for human life now but when the event was happening expansion was greater than the value of human life.

The Donner Party

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Oregon Trail and Donner Party

Oregon Trail and Donner Party

Works Cited

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<http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ca-donnerparty2.html>.


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