The American Indians and manifest destiny
In the Washington Administration his first Secretary of War, Henry Knox, formulated the manner in which lands could be purchased from the American Indian tribes. It was established that only the Federal Government could purchase the lands, by negotiating with the leaders of the tribes which claimed them, with the process formalized via a treaty. The treaties were not for the purpose of displacing the Indians, unless they so wished, instead official government policy was to encourage them to be assimilated into American society. Following the War of 1812 this policy changed to one of Indian removal.
The Indian Removal was justified in the eyes of the proponents of manifest destiny because they, just as did other “civilized” nations, stood as an obstacle in the path of a duty of imposed by Divine Providence. In 1862, with the United States at war with itself, Abraham Lincoln pushed Congress to pass the Homestead Act, long stalled in Congress prior to the Civil War. After the Southern states seceded their Representatives and Senators, who had opposed the act as it would add to the majority of non-slave states, were absent. Congress passed the act which opened much of the land obtained from the Mexican Cessions to settlement.
The Homestead Act of 1862 offered nearly free land to adults who had not joined the rebellion against the Union. Immigrants who had applied for citizenship were included in those who could apply, and were often encouraged to do so. Andrew Johnson was a major proponent of the act. Qualified applicants received a tract of 160 acres, with the proviso that they must occupy the land, erect improvements, and operate a farm. The land was to be properly titled by the territorial government in which it was located. After the minimum five year period fulfilled the contract with the government the owner was free to do what he wished with the land, or any portion of the holdings.
Both during and in the aftermath of the Civil War (when the act was extended to include former slaves) settlers streamed into the West. This obviously pushed back on the Indians who saw the open ranges for bison being broken into farms, and settlements appearing along the under construction transcontinental railroad. To the proponents of manifest destiny the remaining Indians on the plains needed to be removed. Leading advocates of manifest destiny for the most part welcomed some of the immigrants who came to America to avail themselves of the Homestead Act, depending upon which country they came from. Others did not.
Recognizing that the Indians would fight led to a campaign to eliminate much of the Plains Indians food supply, through the destruction of the buffalo herds on which they depended for food and shelter. The fate of the Indians as the Western lands were increasingly settled could no longer be relocation to sites further west but to reservations upon which their way of living could no longer be achieved. Manifest destiny meant the duty to subdue and improve all of the land so that all could enjoy the gifts of American liberty and the perfection of American democracy. It was the duty of white men, all across the lands held by the United States, according to its supporters.