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Were the policies and actions towards Native Americans justified?

During the 1800's and the period of Manifest Destiny Americans sought to move westward to gain a piece of independence, a plot of land to live on. After the Civil War the migration of Americans westward grew. For many Americans this was the American Dream. Far from the cities, where your neighbor couldn't be seen of heard from without a half days journey. What most failed to consider is that whenever we moved anywhere we encroached upon lands already occupied and sustaining the lives of people who had been there for perhaps thousands of years. Americans viewed these people, Native Americans, as a horse might regard a fly... or a scorpion.

The passage below by American author James Fenimore Cooper clearly depicts American feelings towards Native Americans.

The Last of the Mohicans

By James Fenimore Cooper

"More than two thousand raving savages broke from the forest at the signal, and threw themselves across the fatal plain with instinctive speed. We shall not dwell on the revolting horrors that succeeded. Death was everywhere, and in his most terrific and disgusting aspects. Resistance only served to inflame the murderers, who inflicted their furious blows long after their victims were beyond the power of their resentment. The flow of the blood might be likened to the outbreaking of a torrent; and, as the natives became heated and maddened by the sight, many among them even kneeled to the earth, and drank freely, exultingly.... of the crimson tide."

While many attitudes about native Americans were present, most viewed them as blood thirsty savages, a depiction which was clearly untrue. This attitude was driven by an American desire to move westward and conquer the lands to the west. While Manifest Destiny was the justification used by many for the removal of native Americans, it was the Homestead Act of 1862, the issuing of Land Grants and the California Gold Rush of 1849 that provided the fuel for the push.

- The Homestead Act promised free land to all settlers who staked a claim out west.

- The Land Grants were vast tracts of land given to the railroads so that a trans continental railroad would be built.

- In 1849 hundreds of thousands of speculators rushed west after gold had been found in California.

Each of these acts sped up what was most likely bound to be an inevitable process, the removal of native American from their ancestral lands. The superior technology of the white man who possessed guns,and railroads made the defeat of the native American inevitable.


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