American realizes that 'Progress is God.' The destiny of the American
people is to subdue the continent -- to rush over this vast field to the
Pacific Ocean... to change darkness into light and confirm the destiny
of the human race... Divine task! Immortal mission! The pioneer army perpetually
strikes to the front. Empire plants itself upon the trails.
By 1821, no one knew who would control the West’s seemingly infinite spaces, what language would be dominant, whose god would be worshipped -- what the West's destiny would be.
Two young republics -- the United States and the newly established Republic of Mexico -- claimed most of it. England still had outposts in the Pacific Northwest, while a host of Indian nations held fast to their lands -- and challenged each other for more.
But the Americans were already moving west, content -- at first -- to make their way in other people's worlds.
Mountain men began it, following icy streams into the Rockies in search of furs.
Others, who called themselves Latter-day Saints, fled to the West hoping to find sanctuary.
A devout young woman from upstate New York hurried west to save the souls of Indians, but in the end could not even save herself.
A Tennessee politician whose career was ruined by drink and scandal would get a second chance in the Mexican province of Tejas.
While a Virginia family, accustomed to following a restless dream of better times over the next horizon, very nearly destroyed itself trying to reach the continent's farthest shore.
But regardless of their reasons for going West, once they got there, the Americans soon determined to make the West -- all of it -- their own.
It is our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.
reach exceeds their grasp. Americans can't do what they might like to
do, but the time is coming. This is a country that is going to grow more
and more powerful. Its ambition is already there, and there's going to
come a time by mid-century where in fact it can fulfill its ambition,
and when that time is reached, the West will be an entirely different
Program | People | Places
| Events | Resources | Lesson
Plans | Quiz|
© 2001 THE WEST FILM PROJECT and WETA