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Social Impacts of Westward Expansion After the Civil War

The American Civil War represents the bloodiest War in the United States’ history, resulting in almost one million casualties. The War touched every American’s life since military mobilization reached levels that had not been seen before. The Northern soldiers went to War necessarily to preserve the Union. In contrast, the Southerners fought against the union army as they saw its advances caused interference with their social and economic welfare. The War transformed into a social struggle whose main goal was eradicating slavery from the United States, especially in the Southern part of the country (Locke et al., page 397). Women also became part of the War, making it a historic war in the country’s history.

The Native Americans dominated the vastness of the American West. Linked with trade, warfare, and travel, many indigenous groups controlled most of the western part of the United States west of the Mississippi River. The Spanish, French, and British settlers established themselves in the rich areas, pushing emigrants into the West. After the Civil came and went, it sensitized people on the question of slavery following the industrialization of the United States, and rails were laid, making it easier for the population to move further westwards. In the American Yawp, “In the decades after the Civil War, American settlers poured across the Mississippi River in record numbers.”

Indigenous Americans have occupied western parts of the United States for centuries. The settlers and the American military The United States removed the Native Americans to shrinking reservations, making the West become territories and states control the land between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Following decades after the Civil War, many settlers crossed the Mississippi River in many numbers, settling into the vast part of the continent. Other United States migrants went to the West for economic benefits during the rushes for gold and silver in the midcentury (Locke et al., page 397). Working-class women operated shops, boarding houses, saloons, and even brothels. The Civil War began due to the differences between the free and the slave states based on the national government’s power of prohibiting slavery in territories that had not become states of the United States. After Abraham Lincoln won the elections in 1860 as the first president in the history of the Republican Party history, around seven states in the South seceded, forming the new nation calling itself the Confederate States of America. Lincoln and his entire administration did not recognize the legitimacy of the secession. Their main fear was that it would discredit democracy, creating a fatal precedence that could lead to the division of the United States into warring small countries.

In the inauguration address of President Lincoln, secession was declared legally void, and he had the intention of invading the southern states; he, therefore, used force to maintain the federal property in the states that seceded (Gow et al., page 39). Electing Lincoln as president was considered a threat to the institution of slavery by the southerners. South Carolina acted with immediate effect as it called for immediate secession. Other states followed and wanted to secede from the central government. In the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the United States became more prominent and more potent at some time. The Louisiana Purchase doubled the nation’s size, opening a region not known for settlement and exploration. Explorers returned to the wilderness, showing people fertile lands and other beautiful stories about the hinterland. This made Americans venture westwards, but the United States was highly consumed by the challenge of maintaining neutrality as it faced threats from France and Britain. The 1812 war brought this issue to an end and left the United States to be able to pursue its North American goals. The United States was on the verge of expanding as the founding fathers envisioned it as a place of freedom and would cover a territory that reached out to the entire North American continent. The new leaders had not forgotten the desire to make the United States tremendous and encouraged the expansion westwards through the enactment of laws and rhetoric.

The first of the waves of westward expansion led to the rise of manufacturing that was done in New England, which increased mobility throughout the United States (Gow et al., page 39). As settlers began to move to places currently known as Midwest, the national transport infrastructure was established around these developments, and they helped to connect the cities and towns of the United States through the use of canals, roads, and even railroads. The new methods in the transportation sector also impacted the agricultural sector since they led to the invention of new machines and newer treatments for the diseases that were discovered. The American culture was established based on writing, painting, and acting. Most painters and writers perceived the American West as something that inspired them, making the West a symbol of American identity.

Expansion did not happen in an atmosphere that represented progress. The Jacksonian Democracy brought about the rise of political strife that involved the ruling party democrats and the Whigs of the opposition; as the system of the two parties matured, the tensions of politics focused on the institution of slavery. The West developed gradually, making the existing states to get torn apart. The economic and social divisions were accentuated, and the two parts of the country, North and South, remained loyal to their customs and beliefs. In 1848, the Mexican War ended, and the United States regained its complete control of Texas, New Mexico, and California territories. As settlers started to crowd these parts of the United States, it became evident that the westward expansion was linked to the future of slavery. The North and South made focused on the energy to pursue the political desires about the institution of slavery, especially in the territories of the West, and the debate between Lincoln and Douglass which was very famous and was mainly about the future of slavery in the West (Nagy et al., page 49). Even though there was reconciliation, especially the compromise of 1850, the Union plunged itself into a Civil War over the institution of slavery between 1861 to 1865 making the process of western expansion slow down as a result of the bloody conflict. After the Civil War ended and the reconstruction period faded, westward expansion began again. The western settlers got themselves were spurred by the establishment of the transcontinental railroad, which was a significant byproduct of the industrialization that started in earnest. Immigration and expansion combined the process of industrialization to provoke the growth and development of American urban societies. With the needs of industrial workers becoming even more critical, the political scene of the nation was then dominated by the discrepancies in the needs of American rural and populations in the urban environments and the needs of the newly rising classes of people brought forth by the process of industrialization and the emancipation of slavery.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the United States had around forty-eight states that stretched across the American continent. Following the overwhelming defeat of the Spanish in 1898, the United States became a global power. Its cities started to trade with other foreign markets, which made the United States become involved in international politics. Both economic and political evolution that resulted from the westward expansion made the United States get involved in World War One. (Payne et al., page 59). After the end of the reconstruction, African Americans once again contributed to transforming American life. As they moved and got driven into parts that had economic concerns and faced the social conditions of the South, they started moving North and West in large numbers. In the 1890s, the number of African Americans that moved North East and Midwest doubled. The relocation of people in large numbers in North East and West came with many changes as the rural people relocated into urban areas.

Social problems such as suitable housing became social problems. In most of the existing cities, American residents who were non-African Americans imposed segregate stringent laws. The African-Americans were relegated to neighborhoods self-contained in parts of towns that were not desirable. Moreover, the available work in those cities involved industrial work where many African-Americans who migrated into those towns learned the art of learning new trades and, in most cases, at lower pay than what the European Americans obtained (Payne et al., page 39). The tensions between residents who are longtime and the new migrants flared at the beginning of the century riots that affected the cities and towns of the United States ranging from Springfield to Tulsa.

When the Mexican American War ended, the United States could extend its sovereignty from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. The most people that suffered were the indigenous populations as they faced armed soldiers and were forced to relocate. The parts of the sparsely populated continent got folded up into a nation with the potential for sovereignty and power. The many settlers who moved to the western parts formed new communities, and the new territories gave the country access to natural resources such as minerals and the pacific trade. The acquisition of these new territories heightened the debate about the institution of slavery and how it expanded, which led to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

In conclusion, the invention and establishment of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 spurred westward expansion, making it easy to transport human beings and industrial goods. People quickly moved to the West in search of opportunities, and industrial goods could also be easily transported to the required destinations making it easier to do business between the east and the West.

Work Cited

Locke, Joseph, and Ben Wright. “The American Yawp.” (2019). Retrieved from: file:///C:/Users/empire/Downloads/Locke_American-Yawp_V1.pdf

Gow, James, and Rana Ibrahim. “The unreconciled US Civil War.” Reconciliation After War: Historical Perspectives in Transitional Justice. Routledge, 2021. Retrieved from:

Nagy, Dávid Krisztián. “Hinterlands, city formation and growth: Evidence from the US westward expansion.” (2020). Retrieved from:

Payne, B. Keith, Heidi A. Vuletich, and Jazmin L. Brown-Iannuzzi. “Historical roots of implicit bias in slavery.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116.24 (2019): 11693-11698. Retrieved from:


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