Manifest Destiny is a phrase that is used to describe an attitude or a mindset that was prevalent in America during the 19th century. This was the period of the expansion of America and quite a number of things took place. According to this mindset, the United States was destined to stretch from coast to coast. Manifest Destiny was a widely held belief that American settlers were destined to expand throughout the continent. It has widely been argued that Manifest Destiny helped in fueling western settlement, Native American removal and war with Mexico.
The phrase, Manifest Destiny was first used in an article about the annexation of Texas by John L. O’Sullivan in 1845 on the July-August edition of the United State Magazine and Democratic Review. In the article, O’Sullivan wrote, ‘’our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying million.’’
The phrase, manifest destiny expressed the belief that it was the providential mission of Anglo-Saxon Americans to expand their civilizations and institutions across North America without any interference from anywhere. The expansion that was being talked about in this context would not merely involve territorial aggrandizement but also steps toward liberty and individual economic opportunities.
Manifest destiny and its entire concept was more of a delight and an answered prayer to those who were burning with desire to secure territories in Oregon, California, Mexico and later on Cuba. However, most historians have emphasized that Manifest destiny was a contested idea. Despite their idea being an endorsement of Democrats, quite a number of prominent Americans like Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant were against it. Democrats used the concept in justification of the war with Mexico in the 1840s. Besides, it was also used in the division of half of Oregon with the Great Britain. The idea provided the rhetorical tone for the largest acquisition of United States territory.
The concept of manifest destiny also outlined a pervasive belief in the superiority of the American race and culture. The expansion of American territories was also partly a cultural war. There was fear that the idea would lead to the spread of slavery from the south. Several citizens were concerned and raised eyebrows on the additional of more slave states.
At the time that the phrase manifest destiny was coined, America was faced with social, political and economic pressures that even agitated the need for expansion further. During that time, American was experiencing a high periodic birth rate and population growth as a result of immigration. Besides, the country had also suffered two economic depressions in 1818 and 1839, crises that drove some people to find their livelihoods in frontier areas. Most Americans also got the urge to expand and acquire land in other territories since that opened opportunities for self sufficiency, political power and independence.
Even though manifest destiny was well received by Americans, its support was light and did not bear national, party or sectional following. Many argued that it did not reflect the national spirit of the American people at that time.
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