A Comparison of the Manifest Destiny and American Imperialism

Should the United States expand its territory? This was a great debate in the country from the mid1800 s until the close of the century. Two main ideas stemmed from the debating Manifest Destiny and Imperialism. Both movements helped the United States to grow and adopt new lands, policies, cultures, and people. The policies share many similarities and differences, though nothing really makes either one better than the other. The ideas both embraced the fact that the United States should expand and encompass a larger territory, but they differed in two ways. First, Manifest Destiny was believed to be predetermined by God, whereas Imperialism had no references to destiny. Secondly, Manifest Destiny dealt only with the North American continent, but Imperialism was the expansion of the U.S. into other territories.

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There was one main similarity between Manifest Destiny and Imperialism. Both policies agreed that the United States should grow and expand its territory at all costs. Of course the country always tried to do it peacefully, but in most cases expanding ended up causing a battle or war. This happened with due cause; not many people actually want foreigners to come in, take their land, and assert new government and power over them. As Olney, Secretary of State, put it, because of Manifest Destiny, to-day the United Sates is practically sovereign on this continent and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition. During the period of Manifest Destiny, the U.S. went to any lengths to gain the entire continent of North America, including the Oregon Territory, Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The Imperialists went for the non-continental lands of Hawaii, Samoa, Midway, Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, and the Philippine Islands.

Unlike Imperialism, Manifest Destiny dealt directly with God, religion, and predetermination. The basis of Manifest Destiny was that the United States was destined by God to reach from sea to sea. Believers of this idea thought that it was their duty to carry out the writ of God and gain the other territories at all costs–whether through peaceful ways like treaties and purchases, or through violent methods like destruction through war. Followers of Imperialism also believed that America was to become the great country. They, however, did not relate this directly to God or religion in any way. This could be because although religion was still vastly important around the middle of the century during Manifest Destiny, it took a lesser seat in the back with the introduction of the Industrial Revolution towards the end of the century.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two policies concerned where the action was taking place, so to speak. Manifest Destiny concentrated only on the continent of North American, saying that the country should span the continent from sea to sea. Efforts were focused on gaining large territories from the foreign countries that claimed them, such as getting the Oregon Territory from Britain, Russia and Spain; Alaska from Russia, and many of the southwestern states from Mexico. Imperialistic efforts, however, were all overseas. The United States wanted islands like Midway and Samoa for refueling stations on long overseas trading excursions. Countries were also desired for their supplies of natural resources and trading possibilities. The U.S. did have a logical explanation for trying to take over the areas that they did.

Even though there were two main differences between Manifest Destiny and Imperialism, both policies are virtually the same. The basis of their ideas and also the effect they had on this country are nearly identical. However controversial they were, both policies can be considered excellent steps in helping America to gain much desired new territory.

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A Comparison of the Manifest Destiny and American Imperialism. (2022, Sep 29). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from

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