The Outcomes Of Westward Expansion For The United States

In the early 1800’s, as our young country was still forming its ideals and vision, a great movement westward was born from exploration efforts and a large purchase of land from the French known as the “Louisiana Purchase.” As the boundaries of our country broadened, the movement known as Westward Expansion began. Exploration of our new territory ushered in a multitude of changes that began to shape the political, economic, cultural, and societal spectrums. In the pursuit of perfection, The Moral Reform Movement became responsible for shaping our society and culture. Andrew Jackson’s presidency transformed politics by giving the common man a voice in government. The United States economy was also transforming thanks to the rise of growing agriculture from cotton production in the south and industrial growth in the north. As the population boomed from a mere 5.3 million in 1800 to 23 million in 1850, the effects of these changes were profound and deeply felt.

As our country expanded westward and our population boomed, changes to society and daily life was both apparent and inevitable. Christianity, specifically protestant denominations, was thriving and the moral ideals attached to it were spreading. The Moral Reform Movement was considered to be the Second Great Awakening. There are five elements that are connected to this movement. These foundational components are identified as the Temperance Movement, Asylum and Penal Reform, Abolitionism, Education Reform, and Women’s Rights. Each of these socio-political movements made great impacts to our budding identity as a nation and continue to shape who we are today. The Temperance Movement promoted voluntary abstinence from alcohol as a means to help eliminate social problems. Asylum and Penal Reform advocated for the division of the mentally ill, orphans, and criminals by calling for them to be housed separately. As a result, 28 states maintained mental institutions by 1860. Abolitionism, the demand for freedom and equality of slaves, remained a divisive topic between states until the Civil War. Education Reformists pursued tax-supported public education for states. The success of this reform was brought to fruition when Massachusetts became the first state to develop and implement a State Board of Education in the 1830s. The Women’s Rights Movement established liberation ideals that would be used as a foundation for women’s equality arguments for the remainder of the century and beyond. Women sought equality through education and professional opportunities, property rights, and the right to vote.

As our country was growing and society was championing for change, culturally our patriotism was blossoming. We see evidence of this in the artwork of the time. American artists developed their own style with grand romanticized landscapes. Political art was also popular and contained idealized subjects. The antebellum American society was proud of who and what they were becoming and showed that excitement through their art.

Just as society and culture were prone to change, politics were headed for a transformation as well. Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign birthed the modern Democratic Party which drew its support from the common man. This marked the first time in our country’s history that American’s who were not considered among the elite were empowered to have their voices heard. This new ideal presented a stark contrast to a political landscape that had seen all political offices held by rich elitists from the inception of our young nation’s government. This new political ideal of appealing to the average man is still in practice today.

As the United States grew so did its economy. Innovation and industrialization led to an economic boom in the early half of the 19th century. The number of patents approved increased exponentially during this time period. This caused increase in productivity, average household income, and overall standard of living. The invention of the cotton gin contributed to a major increase in cotton production, accounting for more than half of the South’s economy. As the country developed westward, it opened up more land for the expansion of farming. This economic boom gave the United States a foothold in the global economy.

The start of the 19th century saw the explosive westward growth of a young nation. The Moral Reform Movement sought a more perfect society based on a Christian morals and ideals. Patriotism was evident in our culture as seen in the romanticized landscapes and political art. Andrew Jackson’s presidency gave the common man a voice and provided opportunities for the growth of the economy. The westward expansion contributed to changes in the social, cultural, political, and economical aspects of everyday life and helped to formalize a future built on growth, production, globalization and creativity.

Works Cited

  • Feazel, Marie. 'Moral Reform Movements of the 19th Century.' HIST 2111: US History I. College of Coastal Georgia; Kingsland, 6 & 13 November 2019. Microsoft Power Point Presentation and Lecture. .
  • Shi, David Emory. America: a narrative history. Ed. Jon Durbin. Eleventh. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2019.
16 August 2021
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