Westward Expansion

Westward expansion was the most impractful event because...

It enabled the U.S. to achieve it's "Manifest Destiny."

  • "Manifest Destiny," a term coined by newspaper journalist John O'Sullivan, is the ideal that the United States was destined by God to spread its borders from the Eastern Atlantic coast to the western Pacific coast, or from "sea to shining sea."
  • Through the Revolutionary War, French-Indian War, Louisiana Purchase, Annexation of Texas, Adams-Onis Treaty, Convention of 1818, Gadsden Purchase, and the War with Mexico the United States obtained all the land we now own except for Alaska and Hawaii.

It encouraged western settlement by Americans and led to mass immigration to the U.S.

  • Through incentive policies like the Land Ordinance of 1785, Northwest Ordinance, and Homestead Act, Americans were encouraged and enabled to pursue land ownership in western territories. This eventually led to the statehood of these territories.
  • Trailblazers like Daniel Boone, long riflemen, fur trappers, Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea, Marcus & Narcissa Whitman and other missionaries, Mormons, Forty-Niners, and speculators paved the way the for future settlers to more easily follow their paths to the West equipped with information that would help them meet the challenges and overcome the obstacles they faced.
  • As the rest of the world watched America grow bigger, stronger, and broaden its borders, they were inspired to immigrate to the U.S. due to the potential for land ownership (nearly and impossibility in Europe), riches (like gold), and jobs (especially in the Northeast where there was a great deal of industry).
  • Mass immigration to the U.S. during the 1700s and 1800s drastically increased the population of the U.S. and, in many cases, decreased the quality of life and increased poverty and unemployment (specifically in large urban areas like New York City).

It made a vast amount of various new resources avaialble to the U.S.

  • Lewis and Clark's Expedition resulted in countless maps of the uncharted territory they explored and navigated along with scientific journals documenting new species of animals and plants.
  • Gold was discovered at John Sutter's sawmill by James Marshall who was there building something for Sutter on his property. This discovery resulted in floods of Americans and immigrants (called Forty-Niners) to go to California to pan/mine for gold in hopes of getting rich quick. Few achieved that dream.
  • The Transcontinental Railroad was eventually built on this land which connected the Eastern and Western U.S. making the transportation of people, goods, and resources MUCH faster and cheaper which boosted the Amercian economy as a whole.


Westward expansion, like most events in history, had pros and cons. Perhaps the greatest con of all regarding Westward expansion is the removal of Native Americans from their homeland and the virtual genocide of Native American culture.