Great West Dbq

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Just got this back with a favorable grade (98) and felt it may be nice to share. We actually had a while to do this, so it's generally much more polished than a timed essay would be, but with my procrastination and general unwillingness to edit there are still a few uncomfortable sentences and a rather hasty conclusion.

1992 DBQ - To what extent did the natural environment shape the development of the West beyond the Mississippi and the lives of those who lived there? How important were other factors?

Despite having gained an early reputation as a barren desert, the Great West quickly became the dominant target behind the expansionist campaigns of the United States during the 18th century. Swarms of frontiersmen travelled to the West,
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Without the railroads, the West could never have become as populated as it did. And while the creation of Western railroad tracks only came about after interest had been sparked in the region by its natural potential, the tracks were nevertheless essential in realizing and acting on the interest. Before railroads were available, the trek west had been done by wagon, and had deterred many with its length, risk, and hardship (Doc. E). Thus, the transcontinental railroad and its subsidiary lines were central to Western development. Not only did their completion result in a massive westward migration and the virtual overnight creation of towns, but the massive labor required to create the tracks prompted the railroad companies to recruit over 12,000 Chinese workers (many from China itself), and the need for a market for the completed railroad convinced the companies to actively encourage Western settlement by selling their land cheaply and setting railroad rates low enough to be affordable by virtually anyone (Doc. G). The government similarly promoted expansion into the West with the Homestead Act and other decrees, which also offered land at token prices. Even before the highly nationalistic and pro-expansionist regime under the Republican Party came into play during and after the Civil War, the government had been partial to expansionism through such leaders as James K. Polk. Polk’s seizure of Oregon from the British and the Southwest and California from Mexico reflected the growing popularity and power of Manifest Destiny in justifying expansionism, and set the scene for the American dominance of the West (Doc.

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