“Itis our manifest destiny to overspread the continental allotted by Providencefor the free development of our yearly multiplying millions” (Stegner 115).This was a quote by John O’Sullivan, an American columnist and editor, who wasthe first to coin the phrase, “Manifest Destiny”. This phrase was first used inhis essay titled, Annexation, whichadvised the United States to annex the Republic of Texas and the Oregon Country(History.com).
Throughout history, the Manifest Destiny was known as theAmericans’ belief that the United States should control all of North America byexpanding westward from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Specifically,by believing that they were destined by God to spread their religion throughmissionaries westward as they expanded their nation’s territory. ManifestDestiny was the belief of the United States and its citizens that it was God’swill to expand their territory westward, from the Atlantic Ocean all the way tothe Pacific Ocean (Manifest Destiny). In fact, according to Jim Ollhoff in hisbook, Conflicts and Independence, Peoplein the United States…believed that they had the right to displace the NativeAmericans and take their land.
People in the United States even looked atthe large land holdings of Mexico and began to desire that land, too. TheUnited States began to believe that Florida, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, andCalifornia should be possessions of the United States. Some people even thoughtthat the United States should simply take the land, rather than buy it ornegotiate for it. (Ollhoff 16)TheManifest Destiny started around 1840 and ended around 1850. The phrase, “ManifestDestiny” was used throughout the second half of the 19th century inorder to symbolize the motivation behind Americans’ fervor to expand across thecontinent (John L. O’Sullivan). The Manifest Destiny was also known as acampaign that was “shaped by ideas of American exceptionalism” (ManifestDestiny). American exceptionalism is “the belief that the UnitedStates differs from other developed nations becauseof its unique origins, historical evolution…, and religious institutions”(Markakis 30).
Manifest Destiny was also portrayed in multiple paintings, themost important painting out of all of them was the American Progress by John Gast, a painter and lithographer. The American Progress was created inBrooklyn, New York during the year 1872. The painting shows “an allegorical femalefigure of America” moving westward (American Progress). The female figure represents “Progress”,she has a gold star on her forehead known as the “Star of Empire” (Alba100). In her right hand is a schoolbookand in her left hand she is holding telegraph wire.
The painting also showsNative Americans frantically running away from “Progress” on horses.This aspect of the painting emphasizes the United States’ belief in Americancultural superiority. The painting even shows farmers walking behind”Progress” and using two oxen and a steel plow to till the land. Thisaspect of the painting highlights the importance of agriculture andtechnological advancements. The painting also shows a prairie schooner, whichrepresented the settlers’ choice of transportation on the Oregon Trail duringthe California Gold Rush (Alchin). The painting relates “The concept of Manifest Destiny…to the beliefthat the United States had a…divine mandate to colonize the lands west of theMississippi” (American Progress).
Therewere many reasons behind the Manifest Destiny and why it happened. The firstreason was nationalism. Nationalism is a term used when describing a person’s sense of common belonging andloyalty to a nation. Nationalism risesamong a group of people when they share common traits such as culture,language, origin, and tradition (Cerulo). These patriotic feelings in the U.S.citizens developed as a result of United States’ victory in the War of 1812. Nationalismdeveloped as a result of the United States’ victory in the War of 1812 becauseit was the first war where the United States fought with unity, as a union ofstates, unlike the previous wars.
Nationalism led to the Manifest Destinybecause US citizens and their government had the greed and ambition to acquirethe inexpensive western land, especially, since “original east coast areas ofsettlement were being filled up” (Northern State University). Thesecond reason was population increase. Due to the increasing population, therewere more jobs being created and available for the US settlers. Some examplesof those occupations are farmers to harvest crops, workers to build railroadtracks for trains, and merchants to trade the crops and other goods created byother specialized workers. According to PBS,TheUnited States was experiencing a periodic high birth rate and increases inpopulation due to immigration.
And because agriculture provided the primaryeconomic structure, large families to work the farms were considered an asset.The United States’ population grew from more than five million in 1800 to morethan 23 million by mid-century. Thus, there was a need to expand into newterritories to accommodate this rapid growth.
It is estimated that nearly4,000,000 Americans moved to western territories between 1820 and 1850.(Manifest Destiny: An Introduction)Thethird reason was rapid economic development. Rapid economic development led tothe Manifest Destiny because since the United States had a stable economy, theycould fund expeditions, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, to go westwardin order to explore more territory and acquire it as well. The Lewis and Clarkexpedition was a United States military expedition funded by President ThomasJefferson that lasted from May 14,1804 to Sep 23, 1806.
This expedition was where Captain MeriwetherLewis and Lieutenant William Clark explored the Louisiana Purchase and the Pacific Northwest (Buckley). The Lewis and Clark Expeditionled to President Thomas Jefferson purchasing the Louisiana Purchase. Accordingto Howard Zinn, “Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase had doubled the territory ofthe United States, extending it to the Rocky Mountains” (Zinn 149). The fourthreason was technological advances. Technological advances such as the steelplow, mechanical reaper, and telegraph helped the United States expand westwardby making the daily tasks of U.S. citizens more efficient.
The steel plow,invented by John Deere (The Editors of Encyclopædia), and the mechanical reaper,invented by Cyrus McCormick (Wilson), made farming and agricultural tasks moreefficient for agrarian societies by making farming and harvesting crops morecost-effective. The telegraph, invented by Samuel Finley Breese Morse (Mabee), madecommunication easier by allowing long-distance communication between stateswithin a few minutes. The telegraph eliminated the need for soldiers to ride aroundtown on horseback and send messages. The fifth reason was reform ideas. Reformideas that led to the Manifest Destiny were the Education, Mentally Insane/Asylum,Abolitionist, Temperance, and Women’s Rights movements. The Asylum Movement wasled by Dorothea Dix.
She fought for basic rights for mentally insane people, shehelped pass the Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane, and founded theHarrisburg State Hospital. The Abolitionist Movement was led by Harriet Tubman,Father G. Finney, William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, and many otherfamous reformers. These reformers had one thing in common, they all fought forslave’s rights and the abolishment of slavery.
The Temperance Movement was ledby Susan B. Anthony, preachers, women, and factory owners. They fought againstthe consumption of alcoholic beverages because it led men to commit sins, havesocial problems, have bad parenting skills, etc. Finally, the Women’s RightsMovement was led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Lucretia Mott andElizabeth Cady Stanton fought for women’s rights by holding the Seneca FallsConvention and writing the Declaration of Sentiments. The Seneca FallsConvention was an assembly held from July 19, 1848 to July 20, 1848 at SenecaFalls, New York (Seneca Falls Convention). At this assembly, women and women’srights reformers signed the Declaration of Sentiments.
The Declaration ofSentiments listed the rights that every American woman, that was a citizen, wasentitled to (Cokely). The sixth reason was the acquisition of land. Theacquisition of land, such as Texas, Oregon, California, and New Mexico. Themore land the United States acquired through conquests like the ManifestDestiny, the larger their nation expanded.
This expansion resulted in theacquisition of more land, the establishment of more settlements, and theestablishment of more authority over the other world powers, a term used todescribe a political unit (such as a nation or state) powerful enough to affectthe entire world by its influence or actions (World Power).Theboundary dispute in Oregon between Great Britain and the United States was alsoreferred to as, Fifty-Four or Fight, a campaign slogan originated by Democraticcandidate James K. Polk during the Presidential Election of 1844. The sloganportrayed the Democrat’s desire of the United States’ border on Oregon beingdrawn at the 54°40′ latitude line. However, due to the Oregon Treaty of 1846, atreaty that resolved the boundary dispute between the United States and GreatBritain over land that was located between the Columbia River and the 49thparallel, James Polk decided to draw the U.
S.’s border on Oregon at the 49thparallel (Oregon Treaty of 1846).TheManifest Destiny had its advantages as well. One advantage was that the UnitedStates expanded their territory by more than 60% than what it originally wasbefore the Manifest Destiny (10 Pros and Cons).
The second advantage wascolonization and the imparting of cultural values (Lombardo). Since more landwas gained during Manifest Destiny, more people were needed to establishsettlements on the vast, empty plots of land. They were also needed to instillAmerican culture into the previous inhabitants of the land.
Believers of this ideologyasserted that this will be beneficial to the Indians and the people who were inthese territories because they will learn more about the democratic, religious,and cultural ways of the Americans (ConnectUS). The third advantage wasagricultural development. Because of all of the excess land that had beenacquired from the westward expansion, the Americans had more land to use forfarming crops to feed the growing population and more crops to sell and buy,which boosted the economy and made it more stable (10 Pros and Cons).
The boostin agriculture also led to more efficient ways (technological advances) to farmcrops, such as the steel plow, mechanical reaper, windmill, wheat farmingtechnique, and the dry farming technique. Along with advantages, the Manifest Destinyhad its disadvantages. One disadvantage was that the Manifest Destiny broughtwar and conflict to the western frontier. Critics of the Manifest Destinyargued that it resulted in war between multiple countries and even caused theCivil War. For example, the United States was already in conflict with Great Britainover the division of Oregon, which gave the United States a reason to start awar with Mexico and Spain. There was even conflict between American citizensand the Native Americans because some of the Native Americans refused to giveup their holy villages to the United States, which resulted in bloodshed (10Pros and Cons). Another disadvantage was slavery, especially since the ManifestDestiny brought in tons of land for the Americans to colonize on, establishsettlements, and to start a farm on; the United States needed more labor towork on these plantations, and the cheapest labor for them were AfricanAmerican slaves and displaced Native Americans.
So as the amounts of territoryexpanded increased in millions, the amount of slave labor used at theseplantations increased as well. Some of the African Americans and NativeAmericans were subservient, so they gave themselves away to their white mastersfreely. While there were some African Americans and Native Americans whoopposed the idea of becoming a white man’s slave, and they were slaughtered andflogged, which led to more conflict and bloodshed between the white people andthe minorities (ConnectUS). Another disadvantage was that God and religion wereused throughout Manifest Destiny.
The critics of the Manifest Destiny did notagree with the claim that the right to expand westward was given by God and hisDivine Right. The critics of the Manifest Destiny believed that “The believersof the Manifest Destiny manipulated the wordsthat were attributed to God and used it to justify the act of killing someonein order to take their land” (10 Pros and Cons). Another disadvantage ofthe Manifest Destiny was that the Native American population was declining. TheNative American population was declining because of the diseases that theAmerican settlers carried with them. Another reason that the Native Americanpopulation was declining, was because of the violence that erupted between theAmerican settlers and the Native American populations. As equally as it wasdisastrous for the Native Americans, it was disastrous for the Americansettlers as well. The American settlers died of various diseases, such as fever,diarrhea, cholera, measles, malaria, smallpox, and famine, as they were travelingwestward (Boyd).
The American settlers even lost their means of transportation (horses, cattle,etc.), because of lack of resources, attacks by wild animals, attacks by NativeAmericans, and most importantly disease.TheManifest Destiny ended around the year 1850 after 15 years of expandingwestward. The Manifest Destiny ended after the United States acquired California,Mexico, and Texas by defeating the Spanish in the Mexican-American War. TheMexican-American War started because Texas gained its independence from Mexico.Texas gained its independence from Mexico during the Battle of San Jacinto,which was a battle that took place on April 21, 1836 and lasted for onlyeighteen minutes (Holley).
The Battle of San Jacinto was between the Texasmilitia led by Sam Houston and the Mexican army led by General Antonio Lopez deSanta Anna. “By the end of the Battle of San Jacinto, the Texans captured SantaAnna, who promised, in exchange for his life, that he’d retreat from Texas”(Sears 109-110). After the Battle of San Jacinto ended, Texas became known as,the Lone Star Republic, more formally known as, the Republic of Texas. TheRepublic of Texas’ flag was known as the Burnet Flag and “bore a singleyellow star” in the center of the blue banner (Sears 110). After Texas gainedits independence, John O’Sullivan published an essay titled, Annexation, in the July-August 1845issue of the Democratic Review. The essay requested the United States to annexthe Republic of Texas. John O’Sullivan requested for the U.S.
‘ annexation ofTexas by saying, “It is now time for the opposition to the Annexation ofTexas to cease…It is time for the common duty of Patriotism to the Country tosucceed;—or if this claim will not be recognized, it is at least time forcommon sense to acquiesce with decent grace in the inevitable and irrevocable”(O’Sullivan 5). O’Sullivan’s quote was attempting to tell Mexico to cease allof their attempts at preventing the annexation of Texas into the Union. Hisquote was also stating that it was time for the U.S.’ nationalistic feelings totake over, otherwise, it was impossible for the Republic of Texas to be annexedinto the Union. After the Battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston requested for theUnited States to annex the Republic of Texas. However, at the time, since therewere thirteen slave states and thirteen free states, the annexation of Texaswould have caused the balance of slave and free states to tip.
Which was whythe annexation of Texas was postponed “until President John Tyler succeeded inpushing a joint resolution through Congress allowing Texas to join the Union in1845 as a slave state”. The annexation of Texas angered Mexico and causedthem to break off all ties with the United States. The Mexicans were furtherinfuriated when the United States requested for the Rio Grande to be declaredas the southern border of Texas instead of the Nueces River. The border disputecontinued even after Democratic President James Polk “offered to purchaseCalifornia and New Mexico and…assume Mexico’s debts in exchange for the RioGrande border”. After a couple of days, the United States heard rumors of aMexican invasion, so Polk “sent General Zachary Taylor and 3,500 troops to theRio Grande to defend Texas”.
After several of Taylor’s soldiers were killed,Congress declared war on Mexico, which was known as, the Mexican-American War.During the Mexican-American War, the United States captured California andforced the Mexicans to surrender in Monterrey, Mexico (Sears 109-111). The Mexican-AmericanWar ended because of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February2, 1848.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo stated that the Rio Grande would bethe United States-Mexican border, not the Nueces River (Stout). The treaty alsostated that Mexico agrees with the US’s annexation of Texas, and agreed to sellCalifornia and the rest of its territory north of the Rio Grande for $15million and the assumption that the United States would take care of all of thedamage claims being put on Mexico. However, a couple of days before the signingof the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, James W. Marshall, a mechanic, discoveredgold when he was removing a sawmill for Johann Augustus Sutter “on a branch forthe American River in Eldorado County, in the lower Sacramento Valley”. Thenews spread like wildfire due to “Polk’s confirmation of the discovery in hisannual message to Congress” on December 5, 1848. This sudden discovery of goldbecame known as the California Gold Rush, which caused California’s populationto increase by 100,000 settlers.
People from all over the United States andeven overseas from China and Australia came to take part in the California GoldRush. The U.S. settlers who left their hometowns in search of gold were knownas the “forty-niners”, because of the year, 1849 (Morris 207). Due to theincreasing population of California and the imbalance of slave states and freestates, on January 29, 1850, United States Senator Henry Clay delivered afamous speech in the Senate known as the Compromise of 1850.
The Compromise of1850 consisted of eight resolutions, the most important resolution pertainingto California was that California would be admitted into the United States as afree state (Weinstein and Rubel 239). The annexation of California caused thenumber of free states and slave states to balance out to fourteen free statesand fourteen slave states. Another reason behind how the Manifest Destiny endedwas because the dispute over the status of the new western territoriesregarding slavery disrupted the American political system by reviving argumentsthat broke treaties and rose sectionalism once again (Encyclopedia Brittanica).