What were some factors leading to westward expansion in the 19th century?

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were reasons for our westward expansion in the 19th century. One reason was our belief in Manifest Destiny. We believed it was our duty to expand from the east coast to the west coast. We also believed in was in G-d’s master plan for us to spread our way of living since we believed our way of life was superior to anybody else’s way of life. It was natural for us to do this.

People wanted to move west when they heard there were minerals in the western regions. People hoped to strike it rich and make lots of money. As people moved west, the growth of railroads followed. Eventually, businesses moved to the west in order to meet the demand for products and to seize opportunities that existed in the west.

The government also encouraged people to move to the west. They supported explorers to travel to new lands we received to learn about new regions. Lewis and Clark explored the northern portion of the Louisiana Purchase. The information they gathered made it easier for other people to head west. In 1862, the government passed the Homestead Act that gave 160 acres of land free to families that would live on the land for five years.

People realized there were opportunities waiting in western lands. Farmers, cattle ranchers, and sheepherders moved west to take advantage of the opportunities that existed. For some people, moving west was a chance to start over and improve their condition. They went west hoping to develop a better life for themselves. There were many reasons why we expanded to the west in the 19th century.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of factors that led to westward expansion.  Among them are:

  • Immigration and a growing population.  This helped to push people westward in a search for new land and opportunities.
  • Feelings of racial superiority.  The idea of "manifest destiny" and the general idea that whites deserved the land more than the Indians did helped to push this move.
  • Technology.  Things like railroads and improved farm implements made westward expansion more feasible.
  • The Civil War.  This removed the South from Congress for a while and allowed Northerners to pass laws (like the Homestead Act and laws providing for federal help for a transcontinental railroad) that helped cause the westward expansion.