Manifest Destiny Tell Everybody I'm on my way

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Notable images from the Manifest Destiny era

So What Is Manifest Destiny?

Manifest Destiny is a term for the attitude prevalent during the 19th century period of American expansion that the United States not only could, but was destined to, stretch from coast to coast. People believed that it was their destiny to move on westward to pursue new jobs and start new lives. American expansion was not selfish, its advocates insisted; it was an altruistic attempt to extend American liberty to new realms. John L. O'Sullivan, the influential Democratic editor who gave the movement its name, wrote in 1845 that the American claim to new territory (p.340)

However There Was Also Racial Justification to Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny represented more than pride in the nation's political system. Running throughout many of the arguments for expansion was an explicitly racial justification. Throughout the 1840s, many Americans defended the idea of westward expansion by citing the superiority of the “American race”–white people of northern European origins. The “nonwhite” peoples of the territories could not be absorbed into the ­republican system. The Indians, the Mexicans, and others in the western regions were racially unfit to be part of an “American” community, Manifest Destiny advocates insisted. Westward expansion was, therefore, a movement to spread both a political system and a racially defined society. O'Sullivan called “racial purity” (or “whiteness”) the “key” to the triumph of the nation. (P.341)

Photo of the settlements we had gained from the Louisiana Purchase (p.341)

However Manifest Destiny Got Many Mixed Reviews

Advocates of Manifest Destiny disagreed, however, about how far and by what means the nation should expand. Some had relatively limited territorial goals; others envisioned a vast new “empire of liberty” that would include Canada, Mexico, Caribbean and Pacific islands, and ultimately, a few dreamed, much of the rest of the world. Some believed America should use force to achieve its expansionist goals, while others felt that the nation should expand peacefully or not at all. (p.341)

Those who Opposed expanding westward

Not everyone embraced the idea of Manifest Destiny. Henry Clay and other prominent politicians feared, correctly as it turned out, that territorial expansion would reopen the painful controversy over slavery and threaten the stability of the Union. But their voices were barely audible over the clamor of enthusiasm for expansion in the 1840s, which began with the issues of Texas and Oregon. (p.341)

Those who approved

Many settlers who approved of Manifest Destiny decided to contribute to the journey and expand westward with a bunch of other settlers.

sources Staff. "Manifest Destiny." A&E Television Networks, 2010. Web. 07 Dec. 2016.

Brinkley Textbook


Created with images by schizoform - "20130209 at the Met - Albert Bierstadt (1863) 'The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak'" • - "Are people still proud of this?" • Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL - "United States of America"

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