What prompted westward expansion in the 1840s?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are at least two ways to answer this.

For individuals, westward expansion was caused mainly by a desire for a better life.  People felt that they could find good farmland where they could prosper.  Others, like the Mormons, were looking for a place where they could live in the way they wanted to.

As a nation, westward expansion was caused largely by the idea of Manifest Destiny.  There was a sense that God had destined the US to be a continental power.  Americans and their leaders felt that the US was superior enough that it deserved to take lands away from Indians and from Mexico.