This definition enjoyed widespread currency for decades. However, this meaning was contested, notably by radical behaviorists such as John B.
Railroads and Manifest Destiny. However, it recently occurred to me that the railroad truly made America in a deeper and more profound way. What first came to my attention with the effect of a light bulb switched on were the relative dates for two key events: Asa Whitney [first] submitted his plan for a Pacific railroad to Congress through his representatives in January Sullivan — in an essay about Texasbut with reference to "the railroad".
Whether they will then attach themselves to our Union or not, is not to be predicted with any certainty. Unless the projected rail-road across the continent to the Pacific be carried into effect, perhaps they may not; though even in that case, the day is not distant when the Empires of the Atlantic and Pacific would again flow together into one, as soon as their inland border should approach each other.
But that great work, colossal as appears the plan on its first suggestion, cannot remain long unbuilt. Langley, New York, July, The telegraph has to be part of it.
It is very difficult to asign motive to anyone, but I am convinced that there was essentially no interest in western expansion at the time of the Louisiana Purchase. The negotiations were only for New Orleans and west Florida. The French threw in that country west of the Mississippi at the last hour.
But by when settlers began moving to Oregon by the wagonload, this clearly had changed. Texas fits in here, too, but there seems to have been a mixed bag of expectations — whether it was really American expansion, or merely emigration.
Anyway, does this notion that the mere potential of the railroad opened [or played a previously unrecognized role in opening] the frontier deserve more research? No sooner is the internet "invented" than people begin to imagine that the internet will do away with libraries, and the telephone, and yield all other kinds of marvelous things.
We — railroad historians — spend a lot of time recording the development of particular technological features and the construction of miles of track, but what about the expectations that railroads inspired?
There is a story — perhaps more myth than true — that Leland Stanford told his seasick wife on their way to California that he would build her a railroad for her return journey.
I wonder if people really went to California thinking they could ride a train home someday. Indeed, many did just that, whether they imagined it would happen or not.
Lightning Express Trains Leaving the Junction. Courtesy of Vanessa Rudisill Stern. It goes much deeper. Fremont, is one example, another is the Southern route.
A good deal of political wrangling and compromise — and dead ends attended the railroad discussions.
It is not coincidence that the railroad was approved after the Civil War started — the South was holding out for the Southern route — and held up all others. Certainly the railroad surveys opened much of the West and much of the subsequent history is based on them.
From Hayden and GunnisonFremontand others — the role these surveys played in no small part kept the thought of the West in the mind of the country, especially when partnered with the discovery of mineral wealth.
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