All throughout the history of America, there has always been a philosophy, a phenomenon that has been considered to be instrumental to man’s travels through time. This is Manifest Destiny, a movement that was an intangible part of American history, but nonetheless, an integral part.
What is Manifest Destiny?
This term was coined by the prominent newspaper editor John O’Sullivan in 1845. Manifest Destiny is what the mindset of the American people where in the 19th century, wherein they believed in the expansion of American territory from coast to coast and that time, to the West. Although even as the early 1800s, Andrew Jackson led an army of men during the Florida crisis and conquered forts and cities. He also punished Seminal Indians who supported Spanish troops. The expansion was not only focused on territory but also to achieve freedom and economic stability for the people.
The term was also considered to be related to America’s territorial expansion which covered 1812 to 1860. It started at the end of the War in 1812 and the start of the American Civil War. Notable figures were behind the attempts of expansion, including John Quincy Adams, who was behind the Louisiana Purchase and the Polk administration in 1803 and 1840, respectively.
In 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico and became a state of the United States after the Texas Revolution. This, however, did not take place without controversy because Texas added to the slave states of the Union. Manifest Destiny was what made America look beyond its borders and go as far as Asia and the Far East.
Components of Manifest Destiny
The movement or philosophy that was Manifest Destiny showed American Nationalism and the influence or at least belief of the people in Divine Providence. There were those who believed that it was God’s will that the country should expand to different areas and that America was destined to do so. For others, it was more of a call or obligation to extend the liberty of America by domination over places from coast to coast.
Although Manifest Destiny was embraced by many, it was still a disputed philosophy with opposing views stemming out from Americans even in the 1800s. There are proponents and opponents stating their points of view.
List of Pros of Manifest Destiny
1. There was territorial expansion.
Generally, expansions mean improvement and progress. Proponents of the movement said that with Manifest Destiny, America became what it is today, one of the most powerful countries in the world. When our forefathers followed what was destined for America, the U.S. was able to acquire more properties as well as gold. This also made it possible for more immigrants to have chance to start new lives. Without this phenomenon, none of this will happen.
2. It brought more land for farming and improvement.
Those who were in favor of the movement said that with more land area acquired, there were more agriculture land made available which was good for the economy and for supply of food and vegetables for the people. The Manifest Destiny made it possible for the merchants and farmers to produce more crops to consume and sell.
3. It was good for trade and industry.
Proponents said that this opened new doors for trading to other countries. By acquiring lands from other places and even other countries, like Alaska which was bought from Russia, there will be more routes for trade and barter. Also, those who want to live somewhere else for economic purposes and greener pasture were given the opportunity to do so.
4. As it doubled the land area of the U.S., it also increased goods, services and wealth.
Some advocates said that not only did the movement increase the size of the country, expanding to other countries and not just states, but it also added to farm lands needed to produce products and poultry. Moreover, with the territorial expansion not only in Asia but also in Europe, more ports for trade were opened and all these added to the reserves of the country, thus, it brought about more wealth. The gold rush of 1849 is one of the significant events in American history and this happened within the period where Manifest Destiny evolved.
5. It paved the way for Americans to share their culture.
When new territories were acquired, people who lived there were influenced with the way of life of Americans. With Manifest Destiny, American culture also expanded. Americans are known to be lovers of individuality and freedom. These are just few of the good traits to learn from the American culture and given this chance, many people will benefit from this. Believers asserted that this will be beneficial to the Indians and the people who were in the territories because they will learn about the democratic, religious and cultural ways of the Americans.
6. It offered the chance for exploration.
One of the benefits advocates for Manifest Destiny claimed was that Americans were given the chance to discover other places other than the community they grew up in. This was not only great for economic improvement but also for personal gain, spiritually, emotionally and socially. By given the chance to be settlers, Americans were able to maximize their potential, discover new ways of living and learn to be innovative. As a whole, this was able to bring more benefits than drawbacks to the American people.
List of Cons of Manifest Destiny
1. It brought about war and conflict.
Opponents of Manifest Destiny argued that this philosophy resulted to war between countries and even the civil war. As early as 1822, the U.S. was already in conflict with Great Britain over the division of Oregon. It also gave a reason for the U.S. to start a war with Mexico and Spain. These are not the only conflicts that took place. Critics also said that it had other names and one was imperialism which led to the taking over of the United States on other countries like Guam, Philippines and Puerto Rico.
2. It was a time of slavery.
One of the drawbacks of U.S. territorial expansion was the proliferation of slavery. Although the Americans made a promise that they will not be taking the land of other people, like the Native Americans, without their consent and other than through peaceful means, history showed that this did not really happen. Slavery of the Native Americans was at its peak during this time and many were killed and displaced during the so-called expansion. And although there were those who submitted themselves freely and perhaps from fear, there were also those who overtly showed defiance, which led to more bloodshed and conflict.
3. It led to the death and suffering of many people, particularly, the Indians.
Opponents claim that Manifest Destiny brought about suffering to the people whose land were taken from them without their consent. Along the way, many people were killed and there was mass destruction of tribes. Indians were brought to reservations as well. With the belief that expansion was a destiny, Americans were convinced they can just conquer and own any land they want to the point of annihilating the tribe of the Native Americans.
4. It used the name of God or the Divine Providence to manipulate other people.
Critics did not agree with the claim of some that Manifest Destiny came from the Divine Providence and that it is actually God who made this happen. For opponents, this is mere manipulation to gain personally. They brought up that in order to achieve the goal of this movement or belief, land was taken from people forcibly while inhabitants were made to suffer and abused.
5. It is unconstitutional.
Those who are not in favor of what the Manifest Destiny stood for said that what the Southerners did, which was spread slavery, was against the constitution and so is taking other territories that do not really belong to them. They also argued that those who pushed for territorial expansion already knew beforehand that the Native Americans will be uprooted to give way for white settlers and international railroad links and yet they still proceeded. For critics, this is clearly a violation of the rights of the people. Abolitionists said that the constitution did not give the country the right for acquisition of new land areas. They also added that by letting the people live in other places, population will be affected and this can be detrimental for the country in a way that there will be less people to protect the American institutions.
6. God will not allow for a territorial expansion that would lead to killings.
Opponents also argued that God has no hand in Manifest Destiny because He will not order for America or any nation, for that matter, to expand its territories by putting the lives and safety of other people in line. They said that although some areas were acquired, others were results of war and oftentimes, acts that were barbaric and unconstitutional.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. She is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.