Manifest Destiny and Its Destruction Created by: Lindy Liu


How did the mythos behind Manifest Destiny shape American values and its future endeavors?


In this essay, I will analyze the question: To what extent do greed take over one’s morals, specifically, how did the mythos behind Manifest Destiny shape American values and its future endeavors? I will be dissecting the events that occurred during this time period and how they all lead up to imperialism in the late 19th century. Within all these events, I want to show how each one had shaped American values and turned them into complete selfish people. They have allowed their greed for power and wealth consume them, completely destroying their morals and humanity. This mindset will later shape into the actions that will take course in the 20th century. It's a shame how Americans don't recognize their wrongdoings until years after the horror was committed. The mythos that Manifest Destiny set had justified the fantasy as glorifiable; but inevitably demoralizing American's self values.

American Progress, chromolithograph print, c. 1873 American Progress, chromolithograph print, c. 1873, after an 1872 painting of the same title by John Gast. This was the most famous and nation known depiction of Manifest Destiny and westward expansion.

Research + Method

For this research question, I hope to analyze the factors that shaped America to be the global power that it is today. There are many influences and events that led America to dominate the world, some including the events of Manifest Destiny, the era of slavery and Jim Crow, the Gilded Age, as well as the time of imperialism. These timestamps all refer to a time where greed and desire took over morals and ethics, leading to consequences that are still in repair. I want to argue that selfishness and greed can fully consume a person’s morals and leave them completely unaware of the impacts they have created. To back up my argument, I will analyze the Manifest Destiny and read upon the historical events that took place. I will see what impacts Americans left on groups of indigenous people and what America had to gain by doing so. The methods I will be using is to deeply analyze the readings A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present, From I am Joaquin, and Burn Down the Mission! I will then tie in these readings to what see what shaped these outcomes and connect it with the mission behind it. Through analyzing all of these, I would be able to argue the motive behind American actions through understanding their ethics and morals. I wonder if it changed drastically or was it the same throughout the whole expedition. Is it based on the belief and movement at the time, or part of one’s personality and set core values. Where they always this violent? Did they have remorse for the actions they condone? Through looking at the aftermath of the events, I can conclude that it has severely damaged and influenced generations to come. Greed can take over one’s morals and leave them without ethics.


Through the movement of Manifest Destiny, it has allowed for Americans an excuse to demoralize “inferior” races. It has called on the justifications of God chosen, imperialism, and America’s duty to venture out westward and capture/domesticate as much land as possible. Although, all of these justifications were powered by motives of greed and selfishness. Through my analyzation and observation, Manifest Destiny has given Americans the perfect excuse as to why they violently and forcefully removed indigenous people off from their land. When gold was discovered in California, people flocked over in search of wealth and fortune. They kick out Californias (Mexican-Americans) and Asian immigrants from their homes by passing laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Foreign Miners Tax. They imposed indentured servitude on Indians through passing the “Act for the Government and Protection of Indians”. When Indians refused to give up their lands or be enforced into servitude, the government violently committed mass massacres, such as the Sand Creek Massacre, breaking treaties in the process. They have lied and used despicable means in order to satisfy their selfish needs, ignoring the damage and violence they’re leaving behind. The government even supported people’s journey to settle out west and provided incentives, such as the Homestead Act of 1862. Through the mythos of Manifest Destiny, American values are geared towards further expansion and greed for global power. They would continue to use the argument of imperialism to domesticate “inferior” races and colonize those who do not need colonization. These values would soon justify and shape the outcomes during America’s imperialism in the late 19th century.


Manifest Destiny led Americans to demoralize themselves through their own greed; justifying the removal of indigenous people and continuation of further imperialism upon "inferior" races.


Manifest Destiny was the 19th century doctrine that pronounced expansion westward was inevitable. This mythos coined in 1845 drove U.S. territorial expansion through means of conquering and imperializing. It held that Americans were destined by God to create an empire by expanding its dominion and spreading democracy and capitalism all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This conquest of the entire North American continent would drive millions of Americans in search of new land and economic opportunities. All categories of people, from different regions, classes, and political status were motivated to migrate west. It was America’s duty to remake the west in the image of agrarian America; to conquer and prosper. This ideology would influence American exceptionalism and its future endeavors in colonizing.

Works Cited

“Act for the Government and Protection of Indians.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/goldrush-act-for-government-and-protection-of-indians/.

“Carlisle Indian Industrial School.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Oct. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlisle_Indian_Industrial_School.

History.com Editors. “Manifest Destiny.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 5 Apr. 2010, https://www.history.com/topics/westward-expansion/manifest-destiny.

Heidler, Jeanne T., and David S. Heidler. “Manifest Destiny.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 21 Oct. 2019, https://www.britannica.com/event/Manifest-Destiny.

“Home.” ILTF, https://iltf.org/land-issues/history/.

“Indian Indenture System.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Oct. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_indenture_system.

“Sand Creek Massacre.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 13 Nov. 2009, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/sand-creek-massacre.

“The Gold Rush Impact on Native Tribes.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/goldrush-value-land/.

“The History.” Carlisle Indian School Project, http://www.carlisleindianschoolproject.com/history/.

9, Asian American Blog Group. “The Result of the Foreign Miners Tax Act.” The Result of the Foreign Miners Tax Act, 1 Jan. 1970, http://asianamgroup9.blogspot.com/2010/11/foreign-miners-tax-act.html.

J.S. Pughe, Peace (1905). This picture portrays rugged individualism and how individuals were to modeled on building a successful democracy.

Frontier Thesis + Bootstrap Myth

Fredrick Jackson Turner coined the famous term "Frontier Thesis". Through this myth, it called upon the endless resources, trade, and alliances waiting to be redeemed by mankind. Tuner believed that by going out into the plain built this rugged individualism that called for problematic reasoning and resourcefulness, which were all the ingredients needed to have a successful democracy. This American experience fostered a democracy that was a very romanticized version of history.

Events that Fueled Manifest Destiny

Video on the brief summary of upbringings leading to Manifest Destiny.

Manifest Destiny began in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the United States. With all these newly acquired territory, President Thomas Jefferson urged Americans to migrate westward and settle on these lands. Victory from the Mexcian-American War helped fulfill Manifest Destiny; admitting more Anglo settlers in Texas than ever before. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 allowed for the further expansion into westward territory. This collection of unexplored land encouraged settlers to settle west in search of farming and economic success. The frontier myth entitled endless resources, trade, and land waiting to be redeemed by mankind. The bootstrap myth claimed that by going out into the plain built this rugged individualism that called for problematic reasoning and resourcefulness. All these ingredients were needed to have a successful democracy and thus it was the duty of Americans to carry out this vision.

But at what costs did America use to acquire all these new lands? As America started to venture westward, they encountered problems with non-citizens and imposed laws to make sure they wouldn't be a barrier to American success.

This Picture protrays miners in california putting their attempt on striking it rich. Califronia Gold Rush - In 1769, there was over 3 million indians living in california. However, the discovery of gold led to white settlers outnumbering indian populaton 2 to 1. By 1850s, many indians lost their land to american squatters.

The discovery of mass amounts of gold in California led to white settlers outnumbering Indians two to one. The California Gold Rush drastically changed the population; Mexicans and Asians have deterred away from their homes to American squatters. In 1850, Congress passed the foreign miners tax which imposed a $20 monthly fee to all non-American miners. California was establishing its own treaties to keep non-Americans out of California, including ignorance of the protection of Indian land claims that were already established. If that wasn’t enough to deter non-Americans from their homes, Americans started to enact forced labor, specifically targeting Native Americans. Through the passage of “Act for the Government and Protection of Indians”, it allowed for a legal method of imposing indentured servitude on California indigenous people. Through America’s own greed, they have resorted to either kicking people out of their homes or forcing them into labor.

J. B. Starkweather "Gam Saam Meets El Dorado". This picture protrays Asian immigrants working away at the mines back in the 19th century.

Foreign Miners Tax

This tax imposed $20 monthly fee on all non-American miners. As an attempt to repeal foreigners from taking their gold, Americans were eager to kick out the people that were already living there for their selfish gains. Many Chinese and Latino miners suffered heavily from this tax and were forced to move elsewhere.

Native Americans were long perceived as “inferior”, and thus, needed the Americas to help to bring them into civilization. When in fact, Native Americans didn't need colonization as they lived happily without U.S. interference. America has ignored the fact that indigenous people have lived in these lands for centuries before America was founded. Through the newly discovered resources found in their lands, Americans forcibly removed Indians from their homes. In events such as the Sand Creek Massacre, Dawes Act of 1887, and the Indian Removal Act. Indian removal was the biggest consequence of Manifest Destiny. Native’s were dislocated and brutally mistreated in order to fulfill the needs of America. For example, in Sand Creek Massacre, gold discovered in Pikes Peak led to the government breaking the Treaty of Laramie and wiping out the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribe. In the Dawes Act of 1887, the government subdivided Native American tribal landholdings into allotments for Native American heads of families and individuals. Congress passed this act by reasoning they were protecting Indians as they would be granted citizenship. Yet, Natives who were granted citizenship were still treated the same as non-American citizens. It was never about civilization but rather getting access to land and the raw materials underneath. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 moved Indians west of the Mississippi River. The tribes went peacefully, but only in fear of massacre and further consequences if they retaliated. Native American’s culture was also displaced as the government set a goal of civilizing them. Many Indian kids were kidnapped and forced to go to boarding school. Carlisle Indian Industrial School is one of the most well-known boarding schools which domesticated Indians into American culture. From the pictures presented, we can see natives integrating into American culture; one of the most noticeable domesticating being the Penn. State football team consisting of Indians.

Indian Indentured Servitude - Wikipedia. This picture shows a big group of Indians which included all age ranges from babies to adults.

Indian Indentured Servitude

Through the “Act for the Government and Protection of Indians", the government was able to use this legal method to impose indentured servitude on California indigenous peoples. This act enforced as many as 3.5 million Indians into transportation to labour in European colonies. Indian indentured servitude would last as late till the 1920s. America saw this as the perfect system to replace slavery and impose punishment upon Natives who resisted against their rule.

The David Hilton Family, Nebraska-1880s. Photo by Soloman Butcher. This picture shows a family of homesteaders being photographed along with their horses and wagons.


Consequences of Manifest Destiny led to the Homestead Act of 1862, where Westerners were encouraged to migrate westward through acquiring 160 acres of land. Many black and women citizens took advantage of this law and migrated west in search of economic opportunities. Homesteaders didn't care how they acquired the land, even if it meant taking over the indigenous people's land who lived there for centuries before.

Twentieth-Century depiction of Sand Creek Massacre—Robert Lindneux. This cartoon protrays the battle between the Cheyenne and the Arapaho Indian tribe against the United States troops in Pikes Peak.

Indian Massacres and Removal Through Forceful Means

In 1864, gold was discovered in Pikes Peak, an area occupied by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian tribe. When the tribe refused to relocate, the government broke the Treaty of Laramie and committed mass massacre. The government later accepted responsibility for the massacre but still forced the tribes to relocate. The government recognized their wrongdoing but did not care as long as they obtained the raw materials they desperately sought. They would repeat the same course of action to Indians when any sort of valuable resource was discovered. In the Battle of Little Bighorn, even though the Sioux won the battle, the government decided to forcibly take over the mines by imposing violent means. America would dehumanize others repeatedly throughout history when it was advantageous.

Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Penn. Football Team. These collection of photos shows the various ways how Indians were domesticated.

Boarding and Educating Indian Children

This was America's idea of civilization: kidnapping Indian kids, forcing them to go to boarding school, and domesticating them. Americans argued they had a moral obligation to immerse those "inferior" into Euro-American culture. By doing so, they were advancing civilization and empowering their dominant society. This was essential for the empire they were trying to build and establishing themselves as the most powerful nation in the world.

A 1911 ad offering "allotted Indian land" for sale. Wikimedia Commons Adapted from United States Department of the Interior by Braden208 CC BY-SA 3.0. This is a poster made by the government advertising United States citizens to buy Indian land.

Government Imposing Laws to acquire Indian Land

As natives lost greater and greater portions of their land, their traditions of communal living were undone by legislation such as the Dawes Act of 1887. This act subdivided Native American tribal landholdings into allotments for Native American heads of families and individuals. They lost parts of their land in exchange for American citizenship and its proclaimed 'rights'. This act was meant to help integrate Indians into white civilization and offer them the same benefits and protection as a citizen, however they still faced violence as over 60 of them were murdered in 1920 due to discovery of oil under their homes. It was never about bringing civilization to Indian, but getting access to land and those raw materials.


In 1491, there were over 145 million Indians living in the western hemisphere. However, by 1860, there were less than fifteen million Indians alive, losing more than 90% of their original population. Through my analyzation, Indians were forced from their homes and massacred due to American’s selfishness. Through slavery, rape, and war, indigenous people were displaced, died of disease, and killed by Americans. This all goes to show how American values have changed to neglect the lives of others besides their own. They had no justifiable reason to commit these deeds other than the ideology of Manifest Destiny. Their morals have completely changed to dehumanize those they deemed “inferior” due to their ignorance of others. Manifest Destiny has paved the way for the ideology it was ok to continue to imperialize. These actions committed by Americans have led them to accept the new morals. This mentality set up for the imperialism that would occur in the late 19th century. As America has settled all throughout the west, their next goal was expanding its power overseas. Similar to Manifest Destiny, they argued that they have a moral obligation to help Puerto Rico reach independence from Spain. It was their “duty” to help those in need. Thus, leading up to the colonization of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. However, as history shows, those being colonized were unhappy and dehumanized. Wars and massacres would repeat itself as America has no morals left regarding the lives of others besides their own.

Cartoon - “Ten Thousand Miles from Tip to Tip”. This cartoon symbolize America as the eagle having its grasp on global territories such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

U.S. Imperialism in the late 19th century

After fulfilling manifest destiny, America shifted their goal to expand their power overseas. In the late 19th century, U.S. had their eyes set on colonizing Puerto Rico and Philippines for military and economic gains. These ambitions will eventually lead to the Spanish-American war and the Philippines-American War. Those being colonized resisted, similarly to how Indians resisted. History repeats itself as America carried their mindset over to future endeavors.

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