What was the government's role in the economic and social transformation of the west during the Gilded Age?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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During the Gilded Age, the western part of the United States was transformed economically and socially.  The government played a role in this transformation. During this time, the government continued to follow a laissez-faire economic policy.  Businesses were encouraged to grow and expand with very little government control.  Railroads, which had been receiving land grants, continued to push west and then began to branch north and south.  The creation of time zones also helped facilitate the feasibility and reliability of the railroads.  Additionally, there were few laws protecting workers, so business was free to do as it saw fit to grow, expand, and make money.  Social policies also helped the west grow during this time.  These policies were mainly aimed at the Native Americans.  They were placed on reservations so they would be out of the way.  The army pursued many tribes to forcibly relocate the Native Americans.  In addition, the buffalo were destroyed, greatly impacting the Native Americans in a negative way.  This helped pave the way for Americans to move west to mine, farm, raise cattle and sheep, and expand businesses on the stolen land.  Additionally, other laws were passed to favor the Americans.  The Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese immigration to the United States for ten years.  This helped Americans who moved to the west to secure jobs, especially in the mining industry.  The government played a significant role in the economic and social transformation of the west in the late 1800s.

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