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WESTWARD EXTENSION

CHAPTER I

THE EXPANSION MOVEMENT
(1790-1841)

THE dominant movement with which this volume deals is territorial expansion. That movement began with the planting of the English colonies in America, and continued with resistless energy, even after the mighty push of imperial Britain was no longer felt. Conquering, purchasing, and compromising, the Anglo-Americans extended their dominions to the shores of the Gulf and the summit of the Rockies; and finally, during the years 18411850, came the great impulse which carried the boundaries of the United States to the Rio Grande and to the Pacific.

To suppose that this expansion was due simply to a desire for territorial aggrandizement and increase of territory is to misinterpret all American history: without some other impulse, the movement could never have shown such energy and persistence; it has been effective and successful because supported by an adventurous and aggressive people. Though the explorer has often penetrated deep into the unbroken wilderness, the colonist has never been too far behind to hear his call, and in due course of time to answer. The American population, to this day hardly anywhere so overcrowded as to press on the means of subsistence, has always been restless and shifting. A speculative sense of near chances has sent the pioneer wandering through trackless wastes, and planted the settler's cabin far beyond the reach of neighbors. The gigantic strides with which the political boundary has moved westward have not been sufficient to keep it always beyond the advancing line of settlement, and the pioneer has shown it little respect. Whether following the flag or pushing on in advance of it, the population of the United States has moved steadily towards the West.

This forward movement of the people has been of fundamental importance in American history. It has worked more potently than all things else for the establishment of true nationality in the United States, and for the shaping of a national character,1 and they for whom it is obscured by party struggles or the conduct of administrations fail to understand the real experience out of which this character has grown.

1 Cf. Turner, "Significance of the Frontier in American History" (Am. Hist. Assoc, Report, 1893, PP. 199~**7)! Wilson, "The Proper Perspective of American History" {Forum, XIX., 544-559).

Certain aspects of the movement deserve special attention. In the first place, its effect was strongly democratic. The planting of the English colonies established in the strip between the Alleghanies and the sea a civilization changed from its original in many respects, but still essentially English. The principal modification was due to the levelling results of settlement in wild lands. Distinctions of rank and privilege were mainly left behind, and immigrants to America shared almost a common lot. As time passed and the colonists prospered and accumulated wealth, there was a tendency in their social evolution back towards the complex English system. The advance into the West, however, brought a new levelling, and developed that intensified democracy which is one of the most essential characteristics of the American.

In the second place, the westward flow of population was marked by a natural selection of the more adventurous and energetic, who went forward to take the risks and endure the hardships of the pioneer. The West was filled with a self-reliant and self-confident people whose radical tendencies must some day come in conflict, in the national councils, with the conservatism of the East.1

Furthermore, the movement until 1830 was almost entirely Anglo-American. From 1821 to 1830 1 Cf. Turner, New West {Am. Nation, XIV.), chap. vii.

all the arrivals at American ports, both of immigrants and visitors, were less than one hundred and fifty thousand; * and while no exact figures are available for the years 1775-1820, the total was relatively small. The institutions which had been inherited from England were therefore carried into the West by Americans of British descent, and were well established before the great flow of European immigration started.

The various energies, some of them highly incompatible, of which the great wave of expansion during the forties was the effect, were so complex and so difficult to measure that it is by no means easy to understand or to state them. Throughout the whole undoubtedly worked, with decisive influence, the "old land hunger" of the race; but it was modified in many ways.2 The net result was to weaken the impulse but not seriously to check the movement, of which the real strength was shown by its vast effects, in spite of the handicap laid on it by the conditions.

The spirit of the age worked strongly for the movement. For more than half a century Europe had been in a state of social and political ferment, and if America was less profoundly stirred it was only because there was not here the same necessity for revolution. The apathy in which the masses of the fourth estate had lain so long, especially on the Continent, was at an end; they had finally been roused to self-consciousness, and had undertaken a desperate struggle against the tyranny of privilege. As their hopes and aspirations grew, they naturally began to look to the United States, where monopoly had not completed the work of exploitation, and caste had not barred the career of the poor and humbly born.

1 U. S. Industrial Commission, Report, XV., 267 (1901). * Cf. Brown, Lower South in History, J4-JJ.

The Americans themselves were under the influence of a still stronger aversion to privilege, and were beginning to grow impatient of its surviving forms in the United States. In Rhode Island this feeling manifested itself in the Dorr Rebellion of 1842, a popular movement against the narrow limitation of the suffrage by the charter of the colony, which had been preserved as the constitution of the state. The movement took on a revolutionary aspect, and at one time there was a collision threatened between two rival organizations, each claiming to be the government of the state; but when President Tyler indicated his determination to support that which had been established on the pre-existing constitution, the insurrection collapsed. The result, however, was a new constitution, with more liberal provisions as to suffrage.1

In New York the same spirit was apparent in the Anti-Rent agitation, a series of disturbances which lasted from 1839 to 1847, growing out of efforts to

'Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 283-307; the best monograph is Mowry, Dorr War.

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