SUMMARY OF WESTERN DEVELOPMENT AND NATIONAL POLITICS
While the statesmen of the old generation were solving the problems of their age, hunters, pioneers, and home seekers were preparing new problems beyond the Alleghanies. The West was rising in population and wealth. Between 1783 and 1829, eleven states were added to the original thirteen. All but two were in the West. Two of them were in the Louisiana territory beyond the Mississippi. Here the process of colonization was repeated. Hardy frontier people cut down the forests, built log cabins, laid out farms, and cut roads through the wilderness. They began a new civilization just as the immigrants to Virginia or Massachusetts had done two centuries earlier.
Like the seaboard colonists before them, they too cherished the spirit of independence and power. They had not gone far upon their course before they resented the monopoly of the presidency by the East. In 1829 they actually sent one of their own cherished leaders, Andrew Jackson, to the White House. Again in 1840, in 1844, in 1848, and in 1860, the Mississippi Valley could boast that one of its sons had been chosen for the seat of power at Washington. Its democratic temper evoked a cordial response in the towns of the East where the old aristocracy had been put aside and artisans had been given the ballot.
For three decades the West occupied the interest of the nation. Under Jackson’s leadership, it destroyed the second United States Bank. When he smote nullification in South Carolina, it gave him cordial support. It approved his policy of parceling out government offices among party workers—“the spoils system” in all its fullness. On only one point did it really dissent. The West heartily favored internal improvements, the appropriation of federal funds for highways, canals, and railways. Jackson had misgivings on this question and awakened sharp criticism by vetoing a road improvement bill.
From their point of vantage on the frontier, the pioneers pressed on westward. They pushed into Texas, created a state, declared their independence, demanded a place in the union, and precipitated a war with Mexico. They crossed the trackless plain and desert, laying out trails to Santa Fe, to Oregon, and to California. They were upon the scene when the Mexican War brought California under the Stars and Stripes. They had laid out their farms in the Willamette Valley when the slogan “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight” forced a settlement of the Oregon boundary. California and Oregon were already in the union when there arose the Great Civil War testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated could long endure.