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History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard

«·The Pacific Coast and Utah · CHAPTER XII·»

Summary of Western Development and National Politics

While the statesmen of the old generation were solving the problems of their age, hunters, pioneers, and home seekers were preparing new problems beyond the Alleghanies. The West was rising in population and wealth. Between 1783 and 1829, eleven states were added to the original thirteen. All but two were in the West. Two of them were in the Louisiana territory beyond the Mississippi. Here the process of colonization was repeated. Hardy frontier people cut down the forests, built log cabins, laid out farms, and cut roads through the wilderness. They began a new civilization just as the immigrants to Virginia or Massachusetts had done two centuries earlier.

Like the seaboard colonists before them, they too cherished the spirit of independence and power. They had not gone far upon their course before they resented the monopoly of the presidency by the East. In 1829 they actually sent one of their own cherished leaders, Andrew Jackson, to the White House. Again in 1840, in 1844, in 1848, and in 1860, the Mississippi Valley could boast that one of its sons had been chosen for the seat of power at Washington. Its democratic temper evoked a cordial response in the towns of the East where the old aristocracy had been put aside and artisans had been given the ballot.

For three decades the West occupied the interest of the nation. Under Jackson’s leadership, it destroyed the second United States Bank. When he smote nullification in South Carolina, it gave him cordial support. It approved his policy of parceling out government offices among party workers—“the spoils system” in all its fullness. On only one point did it really dissent. The West heartily favored internal improvements, the appropriation of federal funds for highways, canals, and railways. Jackson had misgivings on this question and awakened sharp criticism by vetoing a road improvement bill.

From their point of vantage on the frontier, the pioneers pressed on westward. They pushed into Texas, created a state, declared their independence, demanded a place in the union, and precipitated a war with Mexico. They crossed the trackless plain and desert, laying out trails to Santa Fé, to Oregon, and to California. They were upon the scene when the Mexican War brought California under the Stars and Stripes. They had laid out their farms in the Willamette Valley when the slogan “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight” forced a settlement of the Oregon boundary. California and Oregon were already in the union when there arose the Great Civil War testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long endure.


G.P. Brown, Westward Expansion (American Nation Series).

K. Coman, Economic Beginnings of the Far West (2 vols.).

F. Parkman, California and the Oregon Trail.

R.S. Ripley, The War with Mexico.

W.C. Rives, The United States and Mexico, 1821-48 (2 vols.).


1. Give some of the special features in the history of Missouri, Arkansas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota.

2. Contrast the climate and soil of the Middle West and the Far West.

3. How did Mexico at first encourage American immigration?

4. What produced the revolution in Texas? Who led in it?

5. Narrate some of the leading events in the struggle over annexation to the United States.

6. What action by President Polk precipitated war?

7. Give the details of the peace settlement with Mexico.

8. What is meant by the “joint occupation” of Oregon?

9. How was the Oregon boundary dispute finally settled?

10. Compare the American “invasion” of California with the migration into Texas.

11. Explain how California became a free state.

12. Describe the early economic policy of the Mormons.

Research Topics

The Independence of Texas.—McMaster, History of the People of the United States, Vol. VI, pp. 251-270. Woodrow Wilson, History of the American People, Vol. IV, pp. 102-126.

The Annexation of Texas.—McMaster, Vol. VII. The passages on annexation are scattered through this volume and it is an exercise in ingenuity to make a connected story of them. Source materials in Hart, American History Told by Contemporaries, Vol. III, pp. 637-655; Elson, History of the United States, pp. 516-521, 526-527.

The War with Mexico.—Elson, pp. 526-538.

The Oregon Boundary Dispute.—Schafer, History of the Pacific Northwest (rev. ed.), pp. 88-104; 173-185.

The Migration to Oregon.—Schafer, pp. 105-172. Coman, Economic Beginnings of the Far West, Vol. II, pp. 113-166.

The Santa Fé Trail.—Coman, Economic Beginnings, Vol. II, pp. 75-93.

The Conquest of California.—Coman, Vol. II, pp. 297-319.

Gold in California.—McMaster, Vol. VII, pp. 585-614.

The Mormon Migration.—Coman, Vol. II, pp. 167-206.

Biographical Studies.—Frémont, Generals Scott and Taylor, Sam Houston, and David Crockett.

The Romance of Western Exploration.—J.G. Neihardt, The Splendid Wayfaring. J.G. Neihardt, The Song of Hugh Glass.

«·The Pacific Coast and Utah · CHAPTER XII·»