Moreover, he synthesizes the imaginative expression of Western myths and symbols in literature with their role in contemporary politics, economics, and society, embodied in such forms as the idea of Manifest Destiny, the conflict in the American mind between idealizations of primitivism on the one hand and of progress and civilization on the other, the Homestead Act of 1862, and public-land policy after the Civil War. The myths of the American West that found their expression in nineteenth-century words and deeds remain a part of every American's heritage, and Smith, with his insight into their power and significance, makes possible a critical appreciation of that heritage.
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From the American Revolution on, people migrated steadily west to more open spaces until the frontier finally closed in the late 19th century. Manifest destinty was the view that America's domination of the North American continent from sea to sea was the manifest intention of God. The Homestead Acts were designed to open the West to farming settlement by offering a section of land to those who would farm it with certain restrictions.