Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny was a term created by John Lewis O’Sullivan, a New York newspaper editor. It was first mentioned in 1845 and it was connected with America’s belief that they had the right to expand. It had many reasons behind it, all either being political or religious, and was in many ways achieved and justified. Manifest Destiny was achieved and justified by means of expanding further into the North American continent and claiming it was God’s will for them to spread democracy and their destiny to spread democracy to the rest of the North American continent.

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The main goal the United States had for Manifest Destiny was expanding further west and spreading Democracy to the rest of the North American continent. The attitude behind Manifest Destiny had long been a part of the American experience (Heidler 3). One way for them to expand the country and potentially achieve their manifest destiny was the annexation of Texas. Crisis for the ‘re-annexation’ of Texas increased after Mexico, having won its independence from Spain, passed a law suspending U.S. immigration into Texas in 1830 ( Editors 2). American immigrants, however, ignored this because they were eager to expand their agricultural fortunes (Locke 18). In 1834, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna rose to power, becoming a dictator. Settlers in Texas, Texians, opposed Santa Anna’s centralizing policies and met in November (Locke 18). On March 2, 1836, Texas declared their independence. Soon after, the Texas Revolution began. The Texas Revolution of 1835-1836 was a successful secessionist movement in the northern district of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas that resulted in an independent Republic of Texas (Locke 18-19). On May 14, 1836, the Treaty of Velasco was signed, and Santa Anna agreed to withdraw his army from Texas and acknowledged Texas independence (Locke 19). On March 3, 1845, President Tyler made an official offer to Texas to become a state in the United States of America. On July 4, 1845, the Republic of Texas accepted and became the twenty-eighth state. Adding Texas to the Union allowed them to further their democratic influence in the North American continent, which could be considered an achievement of their manifest destiny. The annexation of Texas was one step closer to the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent (John O’Sullivan 1).

The Mexican-American war began in 1846. The two countries were at odds over what the southern boundary of Texas was. Mexico claimed it to be the Nueces River but Texas claimed it to be 150 miles west of the Rio Grande. After the United States Army invaded Mexico and took control of Mexico City, the two countries negotiated for a period of about four months, while General Winfield Scott’s men still occupied Mexico City. Finally, after that period of time, they came to an agreement. Following the war with Mexico, on February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed between the United States and Mexico. As a result of the treaty, the United States gained lands that would become the future states of California, Utah, and Nevada; most of Arizona; and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming (Locke 22). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ultimately added an additional 525,000 square miles of U.S. territory ( Editors 3). They also guaranteed the Rio Grande as its southern border (Locke 22). Gaining these territories and adding them to United States could also be considered an achievement of their manifest destiny because they were able to expand farther into North America and expand their democratic influence into more parts of the continent. Just a few years later, the Gadsden Purchase of 1854 further added to American gains north of Mexico (Locke 22). As they added to the United States, they also increased their influence, more specifically their political influence, to the rest of the North American continent.

America felt that it was necessary to expand and it was their destiny. America is destined for better deeds (John L. O’Sullivan 1). Americans felt it was their destiny to spread democracy to the rest of the North American continent, which was done through Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny eventually became a standard historical term, often used as a synonym for the territorial expansion of the United States across North America (Manifest 1). Many Americans had different justifications and reasons for expanding westward. Many believed the mission to be divinely inspired while others felt it more as an altruistic right to expand the territory of liberty (Manifest 1). Whether they took part in westward expansion due to the belief that it was God’s will or their belief that they were destined to dominate North America, these beliefs is how they justified Manifest Destiny.

Americans felt that their culture was reason enough to expand to the west. Many Americans believed that the strength of American values and institutions justified moral claims to hemispheric leadership (Locke 2). They believed that the rest of the continent should live as they do and have same values and morals as the United States. They believed that the truthful annals of any nation furnish abundant evidence, that its happiness, its greatness, its duration, were always proportionate to the democratic equality in its system of government (John L. O’Sullivan 1). One of America’s political values was having a democratic government, which is what they thought should be the form of government of the rest of the North American continent. Having this belief is what allowed them to justify their westward expansion.

Americans also felt that the land itself was meant to be apart of America. They believed the lands on the North American continent west of the Mississippi River (and later into the Caribbean) were destined for American-led political and agricultural improvement (Locke 2). They did not think so much that the United States was not big enough and needed to grow, they just believed that the United States should not be restricted to just a part of North America. They believed that they should have control of the majority of North America and that the land on the continent itself needed the influence of the United States in order to survive, which is how they justified expanding further west of the United States. In their eyes, in order for all of North America to be successful, it needed to grow economically and only the United States had the best means of doing so, which would mean that they had no other choice but to move further west of the United States border.

In addition to it being their destiny to expand westward, they also felt it necessary to expand due to religious purposes. Americans believed that God and the Constitution ordained an irrepressible destiny to accomplish redemption and democratization throughout the world (Locke 2-3). They believed that it was God’s will for them to move westward and spread their American political views and values to the rest of the North American continent. The land to the west of the United States was seen as needing to be enlightening with American values and morals, such as democracy. In the well-know painting, American Progress, by John Gast in 1872, he depicts a scene of Americans traveling to the west while an angel travels above them carrying a book. Behind the travelers and the angel is land that is filled with light but in front of them is darkness. This could symbolize that as they travel more to the west, they are bringing light onto the land. Claiming that the lands west of the United States border needed their influence in order to survive is also how they justified expanding further west and Manifest Destiny in general.

Manifest Destiny was achieved in several ways, one of them being the Texas Annexation because they were able to expand the country. They achieved their manifest destiny each time they expanded their borders because the main goal of Manifest Destiny was to expand further in the North America and expand their influence on the rest of the continent. They also justified it in several ways, such as claiming it was God’s will and saying it was their destiny. The United States was successful in fulfilling their manifest destiny and were able to justify in their own way.

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Manifest Destiny. (2019, Jul 19). Retrieved January 31, 2023 , from

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