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1 The Collision Of Cultures
2 Britain And Its Colonies
3 Colonial Ways Of Life
4 The Imperial Perspective
5 From Empire To Independence
6 The American Revolution
7 Shaping A Federal Union
8 The Federalist Era
9 The Early Republic
10 Nationalism And Sectionalism
11 The Jacksonian Impulse
12 The Dynamics Of Growth
13 An American Renaissance: Religion, Romanticism, And Reform
14 Manifest Destiny
15 The Old South
16 The Crisis Of Union
17 The War Of The Union
18 Reconstruction: North And South
19 New Frontiers: South And West
20 Big Business And Organized Labor
21 The Emergence Of Urban America
22 Gilded-age Politics And Agrarian Revolt
23 An American Empire
24 The Progressive Era
25 America And The Great War
26 The Modern Temper
27 Republican Resurgence And Decline
28 New Deal America
29 From Isolation To Global War
30 The Second World War
31 The Fair Deal And Containment
32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

Manifest Destiny - Document Overview

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By the 1830s many Americans may no longer have believed in predestination in a religious or spiritual sense, but a great many did espouse national predestination. They not only nodded in agreement when they read John Louis O'Sullivan's articles advocating expansion, they packed up and hied themselves out to the West. O'Sullivan, the editor of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, coined a now familiar term when in 1845 he wrote that "our manifest destiny is to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions." Both the idea of manifest destiny and the reality of expansion showed the nature of the American character and nation and profoundly influenced their continuing development.

Contradictions abounded in the ideas supporting expansion, just as there were dichotomies between the ideas and their implementation. For instance, some citizens promoted expansion as a way of incorporating other peoples into American culture, while others used it to push them out. There were also regional variations to the arguments for and against expansion as northerners, southerners, and westerners pursued their own agendas. Some contemporaries noted these problems and used them in their arguments against expansion. That opposition in itself also shows some of the complexity that was inherent to this issue. Opponents believed that expansion—either in its means or ends—would hurt, not help, the nation. The majority of Americans, however, supported such growth.

United States citizens generally celebrated their self-proclaimed manifest destiny; Native Americans, Mexicans, and Europeans who still had claims in the Western Hemisphere did not. As Americans moved west they trampled tribal lands, trespassed over territorial boundaries, and ignored international agreements. They saw themselves as an irresistible force and worried little about coming up against immoveable objects. Those confronting the Americans were seen simply as objects to be surmounted, removed, or destroyed rather than as peoples or nations with legitimate cultures and claims. Indians, such as the Cherokee, who had endured dispossession in the East found themselves under attack again in the West by white pioneers as well as those native to the areas in which they settled. Many of the peoples native to the West, such as the Apache, Comanche, Crow, and Sioux or Lakota, sharpened their combat skills to ensure their own survival and success in the maelstrom of competing ethnic and national groups. American movement also created conflict with neighboring countries. The Mexicans, who upon their independence in 1821 had claimed the Spanish possessions in North America, and the British in Canada, who via the Hudson Bay Company had established posts in the Northwest, struggled to contain the expansion of the United States.

The British eventually decided to compromise with the Americans over the Oregon territory. In accordance with the Buchanan-Pakenham Treaty of 1846, Britain accepted the lands north of the 49th parallel while the United States took those south of it. The Mexicans, however, did not see possession of the Texas territory as something open to compromise. As they were not willing to concede their claim, they fought two wars in attempts to retain it.

The new nation of Mexico had initially encouraged American immigration into Texas, but when the government changed hands and the Americans out-numbered the Mexicans in the territory, the welcome withered. Upset by the newcomers who would not learn their language, respect their religion, or adhere to their laws (such as the abolition of slavery), the Mexicans under General Antonio López de Santa Anna tried to drive the Americans out of Texas in 1836. Although the Texans took a beating initially, they rallied to defeat the Mexicans at San Jacinto that April. Having declared their independence and confirmed it by feat of arms, the Texans established the Lone Star Republic and asked for annexation to the United States.

The American people and their Congress debated the annexation of Texas for nine years. They argued over whether its contributions to the nation's economy and security outweighed such effects as the probable extension and deeper entrenchment of slavery as well as the possibility of war with Mexico. Finally, however, President John Tyler convinced Congress to annex Texas via a joint resolution in 1845. His successor, James K. Polk, immediately stepped into a crisis with Mexico. As they protested the annexation of a state they claimed as their own territory, the Mexicans drew a line in the sand at the Nueces River over which they told the Americans not to step. First the Texans and then the Americans did: to the Rio Grande and beyond.

The United States immediately took the offensive in the Mexican War that started in May 1846. It pumped up its small regular army with tens of thousands of temporary volunteers and then marched its forces into the California and New Mexico territories as well as into Mexico itself, all the way to the "halls of Montezuma": Mexico City. Mexican regular and guerilla forces fought back fiercely, but in the end the Mexican government signed the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in February 1848 and thus relinquished Texas, New Mexico, and California.

Pioneering was a contributing factor in the movement to war; it was also a result of that war. Once the United States took possession of the lands it claimed via conquest, more and more Americans headed out to populate them. And while men may have won the West, women settled it. Neither the winning nor the settling was easy: both challenged the courage, convictions, and constitutions of white and black as well as American-born and immigrant pioneers. Whereas war tested the resolve of the nation, pioneering tested the resolve of individuals. Exploration and settlement was, as it had been for centuries, the great American adventure.


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