The America we know today is known as a country of opportunity, diversity of culture and religion, economic dominance and development, but how did the “Great Nation” come to be? The Manifest Destiny was a great influence on America and its territorial expansion towards the West. The Manifest Destiny was a belief created in the 19th century with the significance of the Protestants and conveyed that the United States was destined by God, to spread their democracy and authority. This belief was used as justification by the pro-expansionists in young years of America. The three themes discussed throughout the semester were exceptionalism, pluralism, and economic development. Exceptionalism was the idea that a Nation did not conform with others, being unique, and pluralism was the coexistence of different religions, cultures, or ethnicities. America was built on the ideology of Manifest Destiny, which influenced the territorial expansion and its exceptionalism, pluralism, and economic development. America achieved economic development from the expansion, however, it was unsuccessful in maintaining and developing a healthy diverse society and keeping its promise of a government for the people by the people.
Settlers arriving in the land that is now America came to escape religious persecution of the Church of England. They wanted to be able to freely practice their religion and upon settling, realized they were flourishing into success. As discussed in Introduction: The “Free Development” of a North American Empire in Amy S. Greenberg’s Manifest Destiny and American Territorial Expansion, in the early years, Puritans sought the accomplishment of settling as God’s approval and foresought the development of a “city upon a hill” (Greenberg, 4). Americans considered expansion to be natural and unavoidable because of the surrounding “inferior race, religious practices and social systems of other North American residents”, as stated by Greenberg (Greenberg, 4). Exceptionalism in young America was the idea that Nation would become one that distinguished itself from others with freedom and liberty and democratic ideals.
Exceptionalism found in the pride of Americans led to the westward expansion of the land. As stated in the Introduction of the Greenberg’s Manifest Destiny and American Territorial Expansion, “There was something special in the rapid growth of the young nation appeared clear to early national leaders”(Greenberg, 4), signifying that leaders of the young Nation took note of how the colonies had been flourishing profoundly. This analysis sparked understanding that expansion authorized further success. An example of the effect of exceptionalism on westward expansion would be the war for expansion to spread the American way of life and gain resources. In the document, Origin of the War with the United States, 1848 by Ramon Alcaraz Et Al, he describes why Americans had such immense desire to gain land. America was recognized as a great nation by all, including those from other nations like Mexican people; whom America had gone to war against to conquer. As stated by Alcarez, “They desired from the beginning to extend their dominion in such manner as to become the absolute owners of almost all this continent” (Alcarez, 118) and this was true, Americans exceptionalism had influenced them to go into war with many other countries for their land.
Another model of exceptionalism influence on westward expansion is found in the document Letter to the Citizens of Worcester County, Massachusetts by Daniel Webster. Webster writes about America’s government system has developed into one that is prosperous and successful. Although Webster believed that westward expansion was not needed, his view still provided an insight on how Americans viewed themselves and the mixed thoughts on whether America should continue to expand. Webster believed America’s government was like no other as it had institutions of liberty and religion. He agreed as to why others believed that expansion would only create the nation to be stronger, but sided with wanting to focus on becoming an even better government by stressing on local institutions.
With America’s westward expansion came struggles between settlers and others living in regions of the land. The struggling relationship between the Native Indians and settlers is infamous in American History. Native Americans were one of the most affected groups by the westward expansion. Settlers came to New World and claimed land as theirs although it already had habitants. The white settlers were then known for having greedy and selfish ways in order to take in as much land as craved.
In the beginning, Indians were used as trade partners and Indians took the impression of being alliances. Americans acted with hostility towards Native Americans by kicking them out of their own land and sending them elsewhere. In the document, Second Inaugural Address of Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson discusses what is planned to happen to the indigenous people of the land after America has taken ownership to reassure those against the expansion. As stated by Jefferson, “But the endeavors to enlighten them on fate, which awaits their present course of life, to induce them to exercise their reason…they are combated by the habits of their bodies, prejudice of their minds, ignorance, pride…” ( Jefferson, 57). Which was an example of the mindset settlers had on the future of Native Indians. They treated Natives as if they were uncivilized barbarians and as animals. Most settlers did not care for the Indians because they just wanted their land and seen them as wasteful people who did not see the potential their land could possess. They also hoped to spread their religion and save them from their “savage and sinful”, but always viewed themselves as inferior. For instance, mentioned in the book The American Journey: A History of the United States, different groups of religion attempted converting Indians, for example, Franciscans and Protestants both established missionaries in the French and English colonies to teach inhabitants their spiritual beliefs (Goldfield, 3.1.4).
Although settlers colonized Natives by teaching them their religious practices and way of living, they never fully accepted them into their society. Natives were not very trustworthy of whites after the many accounts that Americans unlawfully abused their relationship. In the document, Appeal to the Osages, a speech by Shawnee diplomat and warrior Tecumseh, made in 1811, he attempts to rally his fellow Native tribes surrounding his to come together to stand ground against the white settlers. Natives greeted Americans with peace and offered them a place to stay and farm but Americans then began to unlawfully claim they had given them the land. Tecumseh discussed the trouble the settlers brought by stating “The white men are not friends to the Indians; at first they only asked for land sufficient for a wigworm, now, nothing will satisfy them but the whole of our hunting grounds from the rising to the setting sun”(Tecumseh, 58). Americans had a chance to create a healthy relationship with the Natives but failed due to the strong urge to have a Nation that was exceptional from others.
Economic development was an incorporated motive of Americans to amplificate their territory. Americans valued land in the interest of acquiring personal gain and bettering the people’s situations. With new forestry and farming land came hard-working labor to establish a wealth of the economy. An illustration of expansion and economic development linking together is the annexation of Texas. Robert J Walker, a democratic politician, discusses his favor in the reannexation of Texas in the document Letter in Favor of Reannexation of Texas, which is found in Greenberg’s Manifest Destiny. Walker includes in his essay how it would affect the
South and Southwest by giving “peace and security; to agriculture and manufacturers, to the products of the mines, forest, and fisheries, new and important markets, that otherwise must be lost forever” (Walker, 89). With the annexation of land like Texas came room for improvement for new forms of transportation and routes that would improve trade and the economy. With the conquering of land came the economical question if it would be a free state or slave state. Again, using Texas as an example, Americans were split on whether a slave state would be best. Walt Whitman, a poet who opposed slavery, submitted his argument on the document American Workingmen, Versus Slavery. Whitman describes those against slavery as “the white workingmen, the millions of mechanics, farmers and operatives of our country”, meaning that the white working men were those that were influencing America to be such a strong nation with their honest work (Whitman, 110). The consequence of the link between expansion and economic development was two obvious western societies by the 1840’s; the North was known for free labor and family farms and the South was known for slave labor(Goldfield 13.1).
To conclude, the Manifest Destiny had great importance on America’s territorial expansion. The Manifest Destiny began its impact from the moment settlers stepped ground on the land we now call the United States. How Americans took to the Manifest destiny and the idea of exceptionalism decided the tactics and outcome of the territorial expansion. The expansion affected the pluralism and economic development of America. Creating war and setting a superior race was a downfall of expansion; blood was shed and other races were wrongly treated in the result of Americans believing their nation was bound to be great. Exceptionalism is still found today in America today and at times can also create arguments; when those who believe a Nation so great can have no faults versus those who acknowledge work can be done in the government.
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