William Gilpin is an unknown figure in American history. A county in Colorado is named after him, and he makes brief appearances in a handful of monographs about the American West, but beyond that, he has been forgotten. This is a true injustice, for William Gilpin stands as one of the most colorful and passionate minds to come out of Antebellum America. A man built around an idea, he spent his entire life spreading the gospel of Westward Expansion, assuring his audiences that the geography of the North American continent had vouchsafed a peaceful and prosperous existence. This description may not sound that exceptional, but a deep dive into William Gilpin’s writings and speeches reveals a man ahead of his time; a man who accurately predicted much of the West’s true nature, called for the building of railroads before many Americans even knew what they were, and envisioned the United States taking a leading role in a newly interconnected world. The purpose of this study is to illustrate, through careful examination of Gilpin’s work, why he deserves a place alongside the pantheon of America’s most influential geopolitical theorists.


Roche, Jeff




American Studies


Manifest Destiny, Westward Expansion, Frederick Jackson Turner, William Gilpin, Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, Geographical Determinism, Enlightenment, American Intellectual History

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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