Westward Expansion

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Carey, Mathew. 1814. “Missouri territory formerly Louisiana” Map. When considering American Expansion, one must start with Westward Expansion and the concerted effort to connect the nation to the Pacific Ocean in addition to the Atlantic.

Carey’s map illustrates one of the major enlargements of the United States the addition of the Louisiana Territory to the United States after President Thomas Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleonic France (Malchow 2016). Considered one of the best achievements of his Presidency, the purchase doubled the size of the United States only a few years after it had gained independence from the British Empire and lead to an explosion in Westward Expansion. After doubling the size of the United States, as one can clearly recognize in the map, the United States now spanned the majority of the Continent in its push for direct access to the Pacific Ocean and would continue to expand for the rest of the century. This map in particular helps to illustrate how directly the U.S. government was involved in westward expansion as the President himself sent diplomatic envoys to negotiate with the French.  American efforts to ensure westward expansion and connect the domestic United States to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans lead to an explosion of development across the United States.

Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Co. 1872. “Millions of acres. Iowa and Nebraska. Land for sale on 10 years credit by the Burlington & Missouri River R. R. Co. at 6 per ct interest and low prices” Commercial advertiser printing house. Buffalo, New York.

This image produced by the Burlington & Missouri Railroad Company directly illustrates the subsequent attempts by the U.S. government and railroad companies to entice Americans to move westward and purchase land along the railway lines that the company has built (Foner 2017).  In addition to offering a deal on tickets during their travels west, this company was a beneficiary of land donation from the U.S. Federal Government, meaning that they have a surplus of land unnecessary for developing just their railroad.  In turn, the company hoped to sell the land to the American people to turn a profit from the land that had been given to them by selling it for on 10 years of credit to potential homesteaders.  Furthermore, following the construction of the railways across the United States, consumer markets expanded and the rail companies hoped to expand them further along their lines by promoting growth along their rail lines and in turn creating new markets (LaFeber 1963). Efforts such as the partnership between the U.S. and rail road companies demonstrate the  ways in which American businesses at the time attempted to raise popular support for the expansion of their business while also benefitting from favorable treatment from the government.

Rand McNally And Company, and Union Pacific Railway Company. 1883. “New map of the Union Pacific Railway, the short, quick and safe line to all points west” Chicago, IL. Map.

In addition to geographic maps from the time, a map outlining the development of the American Union-Pacific railway illustrates one of the pinnacles of cooperation between the United States government and business (Foner 2017).  More specifically, American businesses were so successful in convincing the Federal Government that the United States needed to be connected from coast to coast that the U.S. made the Louisiana Purchase and went to war with Mexico to obtain much of the American Southwest specifically for business expansion (LaFeber 1963). One can clearly see the ways in which these actions benefitted U.S. business development initiatives as the Union-Pacific railroad came as a direct result of Westward Expansion by the United States.  Furthermore Union-Pacific, like many other rail companies at the time, was able to utilize this connection westwards to expand into other lines of business and become one of the most successful companies in America at the time.

Republican Platform Of 1860. A reprint of the original broadside containing the Republican Platform of 1860, adopted by the National Republican Convention held in Chicago. Chicago, IL.

Considering the fact that efforts made by the U.S. government often prioritized business expansion over the interests of the average citizen one would likely assume that officials hid their efforts, but this was not the case.  Platforms established by political parties are often based on their most important values and the values that they intend to prioritize the most in the legislation and policies they intend to pursue once they have been elected to office (LaFeber 1963).  On this document in particular, the Republican Party explicitly lists business interests such as completing the transcontinental railroad in their platform.  Due to the overt efforts of business and the American government to expand westward and eventually overseas, one can clearly identify the influence that these corporations had over political parties at the time (Foner 2017).  Not only had these companies succeeded in pushing their values into political ideologies, they were now codified in political platforms as well.  The Republican Party’s platform of 1860 clearly exemplifies the relationship and direct cooperation between government officials and the American businesses they were closest to at the time.

Check for the Purchase of Alaska

“Check for the Purchase of Alaska” (1868) Photograph. Our Documents.

While many Americans did not necessarily appreciate the purchase of Alaska at when it happened, referring to it instead as things such as ‘Seward’s Folly,’ American business clearly supported American efforts to expand north (Foner 2017).  In addition to the increase in protection for American shipping in the Northern Pacific in particular due to expansion of American territory, this region was ripe with opportunity if for no other reason than its size.  As the largest state in the Union, many Americans have considered Alaska the last frontier since its purchase, American businesses clearly agree (Johnson 2005).  Today, Alaska contains some of America’s largest oil fields used to promote American energy independence in addition to being a prime source of gold and fishing economies for American industry.  Considering the low approval rate for the purchase of Alaska, one cal clearly identify the desire of American government officials to continue expansion at all costs once westward expansion had been fully realized (LaFeber 1963).