What was Manifest Destiny?
Many people believe Manifest Destiny was an important document or agreement signed during the history of America. However, Manifest Destiny was a term for the attitude of many people during the 19th century when America began to expand westward. Religious fervor was an incentive to expand west, and many early settlers believed that God blessed the growth of America, and they would 'save the souls' of the Native Americans.
The word destiny means something that is meant to happen, and many thought it was destiny that the United States should stretch from the East Coast to the West Coast. The term originated in the 1840s and was first coined in an article by John L. Sullivan in 1845, when he wrote about the annexation of Texas. It was published in an edition of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review of which he was the editor.
The attitude of Manifest Destiny expressed the belief that God gave Anglo-Saxon (descendants of the British) America the mission to expand civilization and institutions across America, which would include taking over territories, freedom for all, and individual economic opportunity.
Manifest Destiny and the expansion of the United States mostly took place during a 50-year period between 1803 and 1853. It was also based on racial superiority over other nations and races, and the attitude included an obligation to bring civilization and 'enlightenment' to other races.
In the magazine, Sullivan stated, 'our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.' In other words, America was given to the people by God, and the people must develop the country and prepare it for the millions of people who will live there.
Before Manifest Destiny, America was mostly made up of the thirteen original colonies along the East coast of the country. Those borders were drawn following the end of the American Revolutionary War and the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
Many people became interested in obtaining land West of the Mississippi and used the attitude to secure the Oregon Territory, California, Mexican land in the southwest, and later in the 1850s, Cuba. Initially, it was Democratic issue, but it gained popularity with the Republicans as time passed.
In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase extended the United States from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains between the Gulf of Mexico and Canada. The 1818 Convention and Treaty created the border with Canada, and a year later another treaty set a boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.
The Webster-Ashburton Treaty resolved a dispute concerning the Maine and New Brunswick boundary near Canada, and in 1846, the Oregon Treaty was signed. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought the lands that included California, and 1853, the Gadsen Purchase led to acquiring most of Arizona and New Mexico.
By the end of the 19th century, the attitude of Manifest Destiny expanded beyond America's borders. People wanting further expansion of the United States to take place wanted to extend its influence into the Pacific and Caribbean basins.
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