Meaning, Origin & Facts about Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny meaning and facts

Manifest Destiny meaning and facts

Manifest Destiny was a 19th-century American ideology which stated that the US was destined (by the Almighty God) to be a powerful nation. Therefore, many Americans held the belief that the U.S. had to expand its territories westward and dominate the entire of North America.

With this expansionist mindset, the early post-independent Americans crisscrossed the continent and exercised their powers over the so-called “inferior nations” and tribes. The origins, meaning and major facts surrounding the Manifest Destiny can be found as follows:

Meaning and Overview of Manifest Destiny

In a show of power, the early American settlers messed with the livelihood and territories of Hispanics (people of Spanish origins) and American Indians (Native Americans).  The reason was simple – those who considered themselves “superior Americans” felt that their victims were primitive people who ought to be enlightened.

They wholeheartedly believed that it was their God-given destiny to bring people of other races out the “darkness”. At this juncture, the best decision readers can take is to ponder and question the destinies of the inferior ones.Americans were so sure of their cultural identity, and they never left any stone unturned in their quest to introduce democratic and economic principles to the so-called unlucky inferior nations.

History now knows that, it was more than just superior Americans moving around and teaching lessons. In essence, the American dream partly entailed, or was all rooted, in going about conquering territories and enlarging the country’s boundaries. In the 1840s, these series of US provocations ignited the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).

Negative Effects of the Concept of Manifest Destiny

From the 18th to 19th century, America’s territorial expansion drive was a key player in federal government policies. The U.S. federal government focused on hunting for ways to spread America’s wings beyond the stipulated U.S. soil. Even though Manifest Destiny was a huge success, it was also a big failure to some extent. The territorial expansion came with untold ramifications, especially for Native Americans.

As the expansion grew, the repercussions set in. Curious minds may question how come a positive, superior expansion ended up destroying the homes of Native Americans. The reason is simple – the expansion policy was centered on annexing the lands of Indians (Native Americans). As the expansion moved to the west of the continent, government introduced policies to confiscate lands from Natives.

A Removal Act signed in 1830 opened the gate for the government to bribe or forcefully dispossess lands from Natives. In the end, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even a million, of Native Americans were dislodged from their abodes. Native American Genocide further worsened the plight of the citizens. As if that wasn’t enough, unemployment rate of Native Americans soared to its peak.

On health, conditions were even worse; diseases and mortality engulfed Native Americans. Even as you read this article today, the afflictions of Manifest Destiny continue to impact sections of Americans.

Read More: Everything that you need to know about the Trail of Tears

Origin of the Manifest Destiny Phrase

Manifest Destiny

John O’Sullivan- Editor of the Democratic Review Newspaper (c.1845)

During the mid-19th century, John O’ Sullivan (an editor of the Democratic Review and the New York Morning Review newspapers) became the first man to coin the concept of “Manifest Destiny” – the strong belief that the U.S.A. was blessed by God to be a superior power that had to expand throughout North America- and even march into areas on the Pacific. In other words, he had coined a term for the Continental Expansionism. Some historians have argued that, the concept was a direct proposition for the extermination of American Indians.

From one point of view, “Manifest Destiny” appeared as a new term. But deep beneath historical facts, its underlying ideas of colonialism and subjugation were as old as Methuselah.

Facts about Manifest Destiny

Have you ever wondered how America (I mean the U.S.A) became so huge in land area? Here are the facts. Those 50 states (13 at first) didn’t come out of nothing; they are products of expansion efforts made by the early American settlers and their leaders.  The idea of Manifest Destiny was the fuel that motivated white Americans to dispossess Native Americans (Indians) of their lands, and then conquer other inferior nations in North America.

The following are some interesting facts about Manifest Destiny; the disguised term for the Continental Expansionism that magnified USA during 1803-1853.

President Polk’s was instrumental in championing the concept

James Polk was the American president, the eleventh U.S. president, who was largely associated with “Manifest Destiny”. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, Polk’s tenure lasted for only one term (1845-1849). A seasoned Democrat, Polk held previous top positions such as Tennessee Governor and Speaker, before he became president.

In the midst of the Expansionism, President Polk led the US to win the Mexican-American War. After America’s victory in 1840, huge portions of Mexico were added to the U.S.A. under the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. These territories amassed to about 525,000 square miles. They included present-day California, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah.  Polk’s other big accomplishment was his successful negotiation with the British which allowed the U.S. claim about half of the Oregon Territory.

Owing to the Louisiana Purchase, the size of the U.S. doubled

As the first 13 colonies grew, Americans sought to increase the size of their country. They achieved their expansion dreams by waging wars, buying lands and signing treaties. In 1803, the US purchased huge Louisiana from France. With just $ 15 million, President Thomas Jefferson acquired over 823, 000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of land. This approximately doubled the size of America. A smart move indeed!

The Manifest Destiny may have fueled the annexation of Texas

As events in the Mexican-American War unfolded in 1836, Texas declared itself an independent country. It turned out that was too early. America successfully added Texas to US territory way before the end of the war.

Some US Presidents disapproved of Manifest Destiny

It is interesting to learn that not all the past US presidents tooted the horn of Manifest Destiny. Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and the Whig Party said no to the Expansionism. Quincy Adams initially endorsed the idea but later rejected it. However, Democrats liked the idea of expansionism – the Whig Party did not.

Manifest Destiny wasn’t a principle

Due to the heavy impact Manifest Destiny had on American size, many people erroneously assume that it was a well-established principle. Truth be told, this is far very from the reality of the concept. It was just an informal idea that popped up and amassed significant support from like-minded individuals, who believed that America was a God-made superpower that deserved to expand its territories

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1 Response

  1. April 29, 2020

    […] be seen as a stellar accomplishment for the United States. The expedition more than supported the Manifest Destiny and Thomas Jefferson’s Empire of Liberty dreams. However, the US’s gain was the Native […]

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