After the Revolutionary War, American’s were no longer restricted by the Appalachian boundary that had previously been enforced by British rule. The westward expansion had a significant impact on economic growth, and immigration directly influenced demographics, as well as the economy, and political climate during the mid-19th century. This paper will take a close look at these effects, as well as how each region of the United States developed different economic and social systems that led to sectionalism, and the effects on domestic and foreign policy.
Westward Expansion and the Economy
“As Americans watched their nation’s frontiers expand and its economy grow, many began to view history in terms of an inevitable and continuous improvement. The path of commerce, however, was not steadily upward. Rather it advanced in a series of wrenching boom-bust cycles: accelerating growth, followed by a crash, and then depression” (Davidson, Gienapp, Heyrman, Lytle, & Stoff. 2002. p.276). When American settlers entered a new area, they sought land for cotton, wheat, livestock, as commercial and industrial wealth assumed a growing importance for the first several decades of the 1800’s. Merchants became wealthy by selling various commodities in the West, and soil was still fundamental.
Handspun cloth and tools made by local blacksmiths, soon gave way to factory-made farm equipment and cloth, and the quest for manufactured goods of all kinds was on. The cotton crops of the south boomed after Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793. The government supported the expansion westward by creating national roads, canals, and bridges. “As transportation improved, new markets continuously opened. The steamboat made river traffic faster and cheaper, but development of railroads had an even greater effect, opening up vast stretches of new territory for development” (Conte & Karr Chapter 3 ¶ 19).... [continues]
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