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Federal Government and the West

While the profit motive dominated the movement westward, the Federal government played a vital role in securing land and maintaining law and order, which allowed the expansion to proceed. 

Despite the Jeffersonian aversion and mistrust of federal power, it bore more heavily in the West than any other region, and made possible the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny.  Since local governments were often absent or weak, Westerners, though they grumbled about it, depended on the federal government to protect them and their rights, and displayed little of the outright antipathy of some Easterners to Federalism.

The federal government established a sequence of actions related to control over western lands.  First, it acquired western territory from other nations or native tribes by treaty, then it sent surveyors and explorers to map and document the land, next it ordered federal troops to clear out and subdue the resisting natives, and finally, it had bureaucracies manage the land, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Land Office, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Forest Service.

The process was not a smooth one. Indian resistance, sectionalism, and racism forced some pauses in the process of westward settlement. Nonetheless, by the end of the 19th century, in the process of conquering and managing the West, the federal government amassed great size, power, and influence in national affairs.

More US History

History of the Old West
Frontier Begins
Settling the West
Before the Civil War
Civil War in the West
After the Civil War
Frontier Life
Frontier Warfare
People of the Old West

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