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August 1845 - c. 1853
The term "Manifest Destiny" emerged in the 19th century in the United States and was linked to the belief that it was the nation's destiny and divine mission to expand across the North American continent. The concept gained popularity in the 1840s, driven by a sense of American exceptionalism and the idea of spreading democratic values, civilization, and Christianity.
The etymology of "Manifest Destiny" can be traced back to two key elements: "manifest" and "destiny." The word "manifest" comes from the Latin word "manifestus," meaning "evident" or "obvious." "Destiny," on the other hand, originates from the Middle English word "destinee," which refers to a predetermined course of events or a divine plan.
The phrase was popularized by newspaper editor John L. O'Sullivan in 1845 when he used it to advocate for the annexation of Texas. The idea of Manifest Destiny played a significant role in shaping American policy and expansionism, influencing decisions to acquire territories like Oregon, California, and the Southwest through diplomacy, treaties, and, at times, military force. While the concept has been heavily critiqued for its impact on Native American populations and international relations, it remains a crucial historical term to understand the motivations behind American westward expansion.
Manifest Destiny was a widely-held belief in the United States during the 19th century that it was the nation's destiny and divine mission to expand across the North American continent. The term "Manifest Destiny" originated from the idea that this expansion was not only inevitable but also justified and sanctioned by a higher power. It was driven by notions of American exceptionalism, the spread of democracy, and the desire to extend American influence and values.
The concept gained popularity in the 1840s and played a significant role in shaping American policy and expansionist efforts. It led to the acquisition of territories like Texas, Oregon, California, and parts of the Southwest through various means, including treaties, purchases, and military conflicts.
Manifest Destiny had far-reaching consequences, both positive and negative. It facilitated westward migration, economic development, and the consolidation of American power. However, it also resulted in the displacement, mistreatment, and marginalization of Native American populations, as well as conflicts with Mexico and tensions with other world powers.
While the term "Manifest Destiny" is not as commonly used today, its historical significance and impact on American history and identity make it an important topic of study and analysis.
The historical context of Manifest Destiny can be traced back to the early 19th century in the United States. At that time, the country was undergoing significant social, political, and economic changes. The idea of westward expansion and territorial acquisition gained traction as the population grew, and there was a desire for new land and resources.
Several factors contributed to the rise of Manifest Destiny. The Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which doubled the size of the United States, fueled a sense of optimism and a belief in the country's destiny for further expansion. The concept was also influenced by notions of American exceptionalism, the belief that the United States was uniquely blessed and destined to spread its values and institutions.
The ideology of Manifest Destiny was further supported by the religious beliefs prevalent in the country, particularly Protestant Christianity, which saw the westward movement as a divine mission to spread Christianity and civilization.
The historical context of the era, marked by economic growth, territorial ambitions, and a sense of national pride, provided fertile ground for the development and acceptance of Manifest Destiny as a guiding principle for American expansionism.
1. John L. O'Sullivan: A prominent journalist and advocate of Manifest Destiny, O'Sullivan coined the term in an article published in 1845. He argued that it was the divine mission of the United States to expand its territory and bring American values to the western frontier.
2. James K. Polk: As the 11th President of the United States from 1845 to 1849, Polk actively pursued a policy of westward expansion. He oversaw the annexation of Texas, negotiated the Oregon Treaty with Great Britain, and initiated the Mexican-American War, all with the goal of acquiring more territory for the United States.
3. Frederick Douglass: An abolitionist and former slave, Douglass criticized Manifest Destiny for its disregard of the rights and well-being of Native Americans and the expansion of slavery. He argued that the nation's focus should be on addressing the injustices within its borders rather than seeking to expand them.
1. Louisiana Purchase (1803): President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, doubling the size of the United States. This acquisition provided vast new lands for westward expansion.
2. Annexation of Texas (1845): Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836 and was later annexed by the United States. This action contributed to tensions with Mexico, eventually leading to the Mexican-American War.
3. Oregon Treaty (1846): The United States and Great Britain signed the Oregon Treaty, establishing the border between the United States and British-controlled territories in the Pacific Northwest. The settlement secured American claims to present-day Oregon, Washington, and parts of Idaho and Wyoming.
4. Mexican-American War (1846-1848): The United States engaged in a conflict with Mexico over the annexation of Texas and the disputed territories of California and New Mexico. The war resulted in significant territorial gains for the United States, including the cession of large parts of present-day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado.
1. Territorial Expansion: Manifest Destiny fueled a sense of entitlement and divine right to expand American territory. It justified the acquisition of vast lands, including the Louisiana Purchase, Texas, and the western territories acquired through the Mexican-American War. This expansion shaped the geographic boundaries of the United States and paved the way for westward settlement.
2. Native American Displacement: The belief in Manifest Destiny often led to the displacement and mistreatment of Native American tribes. As settlers moved westward, conflicts arose over land and resources, resulting in the forced removal of tribes from their ancestral territories. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Trail of Tears are tragic examples of the consequences of Manifest Destiny for Native Americans.
3. National Identity and Exceptionalism: Manifest Destiny became intertwined with American national identity and the belief in American exceptionalism. It fostered a sense of destiny and mission, viewing the United States as a chosen nation with a duty to spread its values, institutions, and way of life across the continent. This notion of exceptionalism continues to shape American political and cultural discourse.
4. Impact on Foreign Policy: Manifest Destiny also influenced American foreign policy. It contributed to the push for territorial acquisitions, such as the annexation of Hawaii and the Philippines, as well as the desire for commercial access to the Pacific and the idea of America as a global power.
1. Literature: Many works of literature explore the themes and ideas associated with Manifest Destiny. One notable example is the novel "Blood Meridian" by Cormac McCarthy. Set in the mid-19th century, the novel follows a group of outlaws engaged in violent encounters along the American-Mexican border, highlighting the brutal consequences of Manifest Destiny.
2. Films: Several films have depicted the era of Manifest Destiny and its impact on American history. One such film is "The Revenant" (2015), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Based on a true story, it portrays the harshness of the American frontier during the 1820s and showcases the conflicts between indigenous peoples and settlers driven by the ideology of Manifest Destiny.
3. Artwork: Manifest Destiny has also been represented in visual art. The painting "American Progress" by John Gast (1872) is an iconic example. The painting depicts an angelic figure leading settlers and pioneers across the American West, symbolizing the belief in the divine mission to expand and civilize the continent.
1. Manifest Destiny led to significant territorial expansion for the United States. By the mid-19th century, the United States had acquired vast territories, including the Louisiana Purchase (1803), the annexation of Texas (1845), the Oregon Territory (1846), and the Mexican Cession (1848). This expansion increased the size of the country and shaped its geopolitical landscape.
2. Manifest Destiny fueled westward migration and settlement. The allure of new opportunities, fertile land, and the belief in a prosperous future drew thousands of settlers to venture across the continent. The California Gold Rush of 1849 further accelerated westward migration as people sought fortune and a fresh start in the West.
3. Manifest Destiny resulted in conflicts and displacement of Native American tribes. As American settlers moved westward, they encroached upon Native American lands, leading to clashes and displacement of indigenous populations. These conflicts, such as the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, had a profound impact on Native American communities, shaping their history and challenging their sovereignty.
Manifest Destiny is a crucial topic to explore and analyze in an essay due to its significant impact on American history and the development of the United States as a nation. Understanding Manifest Destiny provides insights into the motivations, beliefs, and actions that drove westward expansion in the 19th century. By examining this concept, one can delve into the political, social, and cultural factors that influenced American expansionism.
An essay on Manifest Destiny allows for an examination of the complex interplay between nationalism, imperialism, and the expansion of democratic ideals. It raises important questions about American identity, the relationship between settlers and Native Americans, and the ethical implications of territorial acquisition.
Moreover, exploring Manifest Destiny encourages critical thinking about the legacies of westward expansion, including the displacement of indigenous populations, the exacerbation of sectional tensions leading to the Civil War, and the shaping of American identity as a continental power. By examining the origins, historical context, notable figures, and consequences of Manifest Destiny, an essay can provide a comprehensive understanding of this pivotal period in American history and its ongoing relevance in contemporary discussions of nationalism, imperialism, and land rights.
1. Boorstin, D. J. (1973). The Americans: The national experience. Vintage.
2. DeVoto, B. (1994). The course of empire. Mariner Books.
3. Divine, R. A. (1998). The illusion of destiny: A historiography of the American West. University of Nebraska Press.
4. Etulain, R. W. (2017). Western lives: A biographical history of the American West. University of Oklahoma Press.
5. Hietala, T. R. (1989). Manifest design: Anxious aggrandizement in late Jacksonian America. Cornell University Press.
6. Horsman, R. (1981). Race and manifest destiny: The origins of American racial anglo-saxonism. Harvard University Press.
7. Kagan, R. (2006). Dangerous nation: America's place in the world from its earliest days to the dawn of the 20th century. Vintage.
8. Limerick, P. N. (1992). The legacy of conquest: The unbroken past of the American West. W. W. Norton & Company.
9. May, L. (1973). Manifest destiny's underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America. University of North Carolina Press.
10. Stephanson, A. (1996). Manifest destiny: American expansionism and the empire of right. Hill and Wang.
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