, Research Paper
After the Civil War, Americans accelerated their conquest of the lands west of the Mississippi River. The story of that conquest is one of hard – working farmers and ranch families and unwavering miners. It was a tale of gallantry, of those who left everything behind to take a trial at the new life and the difficulty of working the land. While times were not going as planned, with all the fake advertisements, the government and corporations stepped in to try and lend a hand. While sometimes they did aid those of the West by handing out the government land and with mechanization of farming, but most of the time they contributed more to the loss of the West with the Big Business Bonanza, tariffs, and currency policies.
The disposing of the government land was a big reason why more people were coming into the West. Government passed the Morrill Land – Grant Act of 1862, which gave over 140 million acres of land to state governments. The state governments were then free to sell the land to fund agricultural colleges. A similar act was then passed later that year called the Homestead Act. The Homestead Act offered American citizens and immigrants who planned to be citizens 160 acres of public land each for only a ten-dollar registration fee. The catch to this act was that you had to live and build the on the land for five consecutive years before being able to claim ownership. These two acts of land distribution were the major cause for all the western migration.
The West was home to Native Americans for many years before it was home to the people of the U. S. Modern farming methods, discovery of mineral deposits, and ranching made the West appeal to many others, especially big business. Among new farming methods were the harrow and the motorized plow. The use of mechanical farm tools made the workday shorter and it caused for more production. Congress later went on to establish the Department of Agriculture in 1862 as part of the Morrill Land – Grant Act. Work8ing together, government agricultural departments and agricultural colleges funded the work of experimental stations and supported institutions that brought entertainment to farm families.
Regardless of the upbringing the government and corporations brought to the newly shaped West it caused a lot of its loss. The Big Business Bonanza Farms increased enormously the amount a farm could produce and the amount of profit it could bring in. Entrepreneurs who owned large areas of land now hoped to acquire a bonanza by supplying food to the growing East. When the market became over populated with enormous amounts of food they produced, the prices dropped. Small-scale farmers suffered the most and couldn t make enough money to support their families, but even he big corporate giants felt the blow as well.
Tariffs and currency policy presented a big problem for the majority of the population of the West – farmers. Tariffs imposed duties on imported goods. These taxes discouraged people from buying imports by making them more expensive. Therefore the goods produced at home were promoted. Tariffs on farm imports prevented foreigners from earning the American currency they needed in order to purchase American crops. Tariffs hurt American farmers in two different ways. It raised their living expenses at home and it decreased what they could earn abroad through exporting their goods. Whenever government raised tariffs to benefit industries, farmers protested.
In the years following the Civil War, the nation s money supply shrank due to the government taking paper money -that had been issued during the war- out of circulation. As a result the nation experienced a protracted period of deflation. Deflation hurt farmers whose income and capability to pay off their debts depended on high prices for their crops. Supporters of inflation hard-pressed for increasing the amount of currency in circulation. Supporters of deflation wanted less money in circulation. In 1873, Congress put the nation s currency on a gold standard in order to prevent inflation and protect economic stability. Congress act put less money into circulation. Most silver – mining interests and farmers were appalled, claiming that the conclusion of silver as currency depressed the prices of farm produce. The dollar of our daddies, Of silver coinage free, Will make us rich and happy, Will bring prosperity. (Text, pg.429) The farmers supported silver coinage, as currency in order to defend themselves from the rich whom only wanted gold coinage.
In conclusion, the government and corporations played major roles in the development as well as the loss of the West. Development of the West began with distribution of government land through many acts such as the Homestead Act of 1862, and by mechanization of farming. But soon came the destruction of the West in the farmers eyes. Big Business Bonanza s were nothing more than a shame totaling prosperity one minute and the next poverty, the government didn t make it any easier with the tariffs and currency policy it placed on the West. All in all the West had a little of both -good and bad – worlds from government and corporations.