Patriot's History: The Wild West (Chap 11)

Saloon Piano Music
Red River Valley, Marty Robbins
Get ALong Little Dogies
Back in the Saddle Again, Gene Autry

More manifest became our destiny,
the right to own a piece of property.
The westward deluge of humanity
brought freedom, diligence, and industry.

From squatter's rights to Homestead Act, the "Destiny"
made "Manifest" to U.S. settlers was the guarantee
of land. "Free soil," said Jefferson, a native right,
could still be bargained for. If deeds for land incite
aggression from the Indians, it means our views
of property conflict - indeed, we can't confuse
fair ownership with trespass (though admittedly
encroachment did occur). Mistakes, as history
would show, were made by all involved. The way out west
began with Clark and Lewis. Pioneers progressed
to Oregon in 1840, on a trail
from west Missouri. "Forty-niners" would assail
the gold discoveries at Sutter's Mill, while trails
like Bozeman, Mormon, Chisholm prospered, and the mails
arrived on stagecoach or by pony (the "express"),
until the "Iron Horse" (with government largesse
at times, but even more dramatic a success
with private funds). And East and West would coalesce
in Utah -- Promontory Point. Though few approved
(Louisiana Purchase comes to mind), we moved
ahead and bought Alaska -- Seward's 'lunacy'?
And then Hawaii -- 'empire,' too, of "Liberty,"
as Jefferson had called the land. So was the West
as violent as all the movies would suggest?
In large part, no -- the guns were able to deter
but not incite. And farms? Most failed, but the allure
remained intact. And was the stripped environment
because of industry? In part, but government
was more to blame, for savvy private ownership,
especially larger firms, was able to equip
the west with tools, and with the knowledge that permits
so many people to enjoy the benefits.

Return to