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A Brief Essay of Continental Expansion in America


Since the time of continental exploration, colonial settlers have wanted to expand their territories vastly, usually with little regard for the Native Americans or other native species that might have been standing in their way (Voices, 2008). Different eras of history ignited various sparks of desire for expansion which sometimes produced great benefits and at other times proved foolish and haphazard. In any case, continental expansion was necessary to accommodate the great influx of immigrants and to support the ever-growing industrial and farming communities spanning from the time before colonization through Reconstruction.

Prior to the 1700's, the idea of overseas expansion was captivating to many diverse European groups. The wealthy dreamed of new kingdoms and estates. The merchants would have opportunities to export exotic goods and grow rich. The religious world would explode with new converts and the commoners could revel in new land and opportunity for their families with no threat of oppression or tyranny. The Spanish were funded by Royalty and had a much larger and more powerful tirade than did the English explorers. When the English finally colonized Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, they never realized that it would take several generations before they actually felt unthreatened because of their internal dysfunctions and severe Indian conflicts (Nash et.al., 2008).

The consequences of the English explorers' unpreparedness was that they had infinite struggles amongst themselves, they endured devastating illness and struggled with the Native Americans whom they often invaded and exploited despite their initial attempts to aid the new settlers. Because of these hardships, the settlers perished at alarming rates, often leaving only dozens from what began as thousands. Their perseverance paid off, however, when they discovered the cash crop, tobacco. The tobacco crop served many purposes. Firstly, it drew an income for farmers. Secondly, it caused a boom in immigration and thirdly, it was a catalyst for land expansion.

Before the turn of the eighteenth century, many revolts and discoveries shaped the production and the expansion of the colonies. Bacon's Rebellion left thousands of men looking for land to call their own which naturally prompted them to forage new territories. The success of crops such as sugar, tobacco, and rice called for an upsurge of slave labor and the need for more land to farm on.

By the time of the Jacksonian Era, expansion was already progressing at a rapid pace. Now, the major focus for expansion was to accommodate an agrarian vision for America. Although the many divisions of the nation were at odds about certain issues, the one thing they all held in common was their desire to farm and produce goods and their need for land. There were southern planters needing land for plantations, there were northern artisans who were looking for new markets and cities, there were western farmers who needed land for crops and southern lower and middle class farmers vying for property. Because of all this demand, expansion was a top priority. The major land acquisition of the era was the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 which nearly doubled the nation's size. Of course, this was great if people were able to move and cultivate new farms but there was a downside. As I previously mentioned, there were many conflicting parties in the new America and it was worrisome that this massive new land purchase would favor those in agreement with the Jacksonians. They were right. This caused upheaval amongst those who were not in accordance and although there was much more land, states were forged out of Jacksonian ideals and political angst remained.

By the later nineteenth century, the Jacksonian Era had passed and along with it, much of the interest in an agrarian nation. The main interest now was industry! With the new technology and improvements with coal and steam, railroads and steamboats were being built. Because of this boom in transportation, Americans were employed building canals and railways. This was a tremendous leap for trans-continental expansion. With the ability to produce so many more goods at once came the need for big factories rather than cottages. This called for more land. By the end of reconstruction, America was booming with industry and had expanded its hold from coast to coast.

Thanks to railroads, canals, and better roads, industry blossomed in America and the dream for trans-continental expansion became reality. There was an ever-growing need for land and workers which led to greater opportunities for wealth and personal growth. The people of America finally had an entire country to develop and thrive off of.


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