There is a self-evidence to the laws of the land that makes them suggestive of many things at once: records of asserted national identity, the practical answers to questions that urge a nation toward not only what it hopes to be but what it thinks it is; the framework of a nation, in regard both to its legal bounds as well as to its explicitly sanctioned moral norms; institutional records, the tracks of its attempt to keep up with the society it governs, and to contain the social and economic forces in directing them as national purpose.
The following are given as an indication of how federal laws attempted to apply structure to the sense of geographical bounds within the United States during the 19th century, as it developed from the protean confusion of who owned what and where, to the increasingly directed and clarified sense(s) of purpose regarding the establishment--in legal, economic, and cultural terms--of the West.
The 12th Congress
The 25th Congress
The 37th Congress
American Studies at UVA
Scott Atkins: October 1995; February 1996.