Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 16:3 (Summer 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Coy Cross's book is a well-written, focused, solidly documented study of an absorbing and important topic. Unlike some of the "new" western historians, Cross analyzes manifest destiny and expansionism in historical context; he avoids the pitfalls of ideological polemics through evenhanded, analytical narrative prose. Moreover, he provides an important assessment and qualification of Greeley's (and Turner's) safety valve theory, concluding that while New York City's poor may not have heeded Greeley's call to "Go West!" millions of others in fact did. "And the Homestead Act, the absence of slavery, the information on the latest developments in agriculture, and the transcontinental railroads helped make their migration and settlement much easier. [Greeley's] were not wasted efforts, although he misjudged who the beneficiaries would be."