Something around land lies deep in the American psyche. Due to the fact that the early 20th century many Americans have resided in cities and suburbs, yet the mystique of agrarian life paint, etc millions come farmers’ markets and makes the household farm a touchstone that American politics. The cowboy, the rugged article of the open up West, continues to be an symbol of American culture. Squabbles in between developers and preservationists end land use become battles end the meaning and destiny that America.

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That’s because they room battles over the meaning and destiny of America. The of America’s soil is the of the nation itself. America flourished into its specifying institutions even as it flourished into its land. The land inspired American independence; that spawned American democracy; the undergirded America’s increase to human being power. Floor symbolized possibility to generations that Americans, starting with homesteaders who never had actually the possibility of owning building in Europe; the vast continent gleamed in their eyes and its frontier drew them west. Once the open spaces filled up, Americans suffered an identity crisis: there is no the frontier of open land, that would we be?

Colonel Washington concerns His Allegiance

George Washington knew the frontier well together it existed in 1763. He had surveyed floor of the Ohio Valley, then deep in Indian territory, and he had actually led a Virginia regiment in the French and Indian War, combated primarily ~ above the frontier. At the war’s end, he meant to capitalize ~ above his understanding of the frontier by acquiring legal location to hundreds of acres in the West, which he would host for resale in ~ a greater value.

But then the brothers imperial government issued a proclamation heralding all region west the the Appalachian mountains closed to settlement. The war had actually thrown Britain deep in debt, and also cost-cutting was imperative. Western settlement would cause further friction with the Indians, necessitating brand-new spending top top frontier defense. London couldn’t purchased the latter, so it wouldn’t enable the former. The West was closed.

Washington currently bristled under british rule. Despite a gifted soldier, his colonial origins limited his advancement in the brothers army. This personal slight was unexpectedly compounded by the proclamation’s blow to his company plans. He had spent a an excellent deal of effort—and no little amount the money—on his Ohio project; he had risked his neck and also lost good men securing the West to Britain. Currently the British federal government was maintaining him native his hard-earned prize. And also there was nothing he might do, for as a colonial he had actually no representation in Parliament.

Washington wasn’t a philosopher like other Virginian cutting board Jefferson. Wherein Jefferson assumed in state of organic rights, Washington, a helpful man, dealt in product things choose land. The British government was depriving him of land—land he had combated for and reasonably won. The was sufficient to make him reconsider his allegiance.


This paint from 1795 depicts ‘Mad Anthony’ Wayne and his police officers negotiating a treaty that opened up most of present-day Ohio to settlers, after ~ Wayne’s legion winner a decisive victory over a confederation of Indian warriors. (Credit: Chicago Museum/Getty Images)

Mad Anthony Rides Again

Before long, a critical mass that Americans join Washington in finish they required a government of your own. Complaints over taxation and other issues joined the land question in triggering the American Revolution, which ended with the americans in possession that the Ohio Valley and much more.

The brand-new land verified the brothers right about one thing: much more western settlement meant more trouble through the Indians. Come the tribes of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, American freedom was a disaster. The american were much more aggressive in seizing land than the British had been. Regularly tribes secured treaties from the governments of the white settlers, however those treaties rarely inhibited the white skin - man from acquisition what land lock wanted.

At times the indians resisted. In the very first years that George Washington’s presidency, one Indian confederacy that developed in the region between the Ohio River and the good Lakes inflicted a collection of defeats upon settlers and local militia groups. They received arms and also moral assistance from the British, who, quiet stinging indigenous the ns of your 13 American colonies, were happy to provoke trouble for the upstart republic.

Washington summoned one of his lieutenants indigenous the Revolutionary War, Anthony Wayne, known as mad Anthony for his impetuous format of command. Wayne led America’s an initial federal army under the Constitution, referred to as the Legion of the unified States, against the Indian confederacy and also won a decisive success at the fight of collapse Timbers, near contemporary Toledo.

The victory permitted the negotiation of Ohio, yet it on the other hand foreshadowed a century that struggle between whites and also Indians end land along the westward-moving frontier.

VIDEO: Manifest Destiny chronicler Matthew Pinsker offers a crash course on the principle of “manifest destiny” and the seed of from the west American expansion.

Franklin Reckons, Jefferson Chooses

In the 18th century Benjamin Franklin calculated the the American populace doubled every 20 years. Because that an agricultural people, together Americans overwhelmingly were at the time, this had an noticeable corollary: American territory essential to expand lest the country end up being crowded and also the human being impoverished. Americans looked at Europe, currently crowded, and determined not to become like that.

Thomas Jefferson admired Franklin and also read his calculations. And also when Jefferson, chosen president in 1800, had an chance to double America’s domain by to buy the western fifty percent of the Mississippi Valley—the an ar called Louisiana—he seized it.

The purchase cost Jefferson part sleep. Lengthy an support of interpreting the constitution narrowly, Jefferson scanned his copy that the record and experienced nothing permitting congress or the chairman to purchase brand-new land. Had actually he been true come his constitution principles, that should have actually told Napoleon, the French leader who available Louisiana because that sale, thanks however no thanks.

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But one more of Jefferson’s ethics told him to take the deal. Jefferson to be the first president to speak to himself a democrat—30 years before his party would contact themselves Democrats—and he thought that the success of America’s experiment in self-government depended on the virtue and also prosperity that the nation’s simple people. Jefferson feel obliged to ensure the America’s farmers and their children and their children’s youngsters would have actually adequate soil for your farms.