Westward Expansion Analysis

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History is a complicated and controversial subject. Robert Morgan makes that point clear throughout his article titled “There Is No True History of the Westward Expansion.” Many people associate history with a few well known names or faces, but they don’t realize that there are hundreds of thousands, even millions of other less prominent characters. This point is evident when discussing the topic of westward expansion. Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, and William Clark are three big names that come to mind when thinking about the westward expansion of the United States. However, without the average citizens, “on foot and on horseback, in wagons and ox carts” (Morgan 2), the deed would not have been accomplished. Based on my research and…show more content…
The citizens living close to the Mississippi River could see the benefits of migrating west, and they were beginning to do just that when the U.S. government decided to back them up. Evidence of this can be seen in “Thomas Jefferson’s America, 1801,” an essay by Stephen Ambrose. Ambrose writes, “The entire population, both free and slave, west of the mountains, reached not yet half a million; but already they were partly disposed to think themselves, and the old thirteen States were not altogether unwilling to consider them, the germ of an independent empire, which was to find its outlet, not through the Alleghenies to the seaboard, but by the Mississippi River to the Gulf” (52). This quote shows how the United States government realized that the citizens close to the western border were going to cross over into the vast lands, even if it meant starting a new nation. This point adds to the argument that common people were responsible for westward expansion by showing that the U.S. government practically followed the citizens’ lead into the western…show more content…
This claim is backed up in another one of Stephen Ambrose’s essays titled “Reporting to the President.” Ambrose quotes Lewis when he writes, “The merit of having added to the world of science, and of liberty, a large portion of the immense unknown wilds of North America, is equally due to...those who were the joint companions of our labours and difficulties in performing that task” (419). Lewis was the leader of the first successful expedition to explore the west, and he is the one many give credit to for doing that. Lewis knew that he would be remembered as the hero, and many of the common people who had helped him along the way would be forgotten. He recognizes them by saying that his expedition would not have been possible without those average citizens. This example shows that even though most people remember Meriwether Lewis as the sole explorer that paved the way for westward expansion, there was a team of common folks that were responsible for his success. History is not just a few heroes and villains, there are always background characters that contribute more to the story than people will ever
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