Manifest Destiny: the Value that Drove American Expansion

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Updated: Feb 20, 2024
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Manifest Destiny: the Value that Drove American Expansion

This essay about Manifest Destiny explores the ideological force that propelled American expansion in the 19th century. Defined as the belief in the divine right and destiny of the United States to expand across the North American continent, it motivated settlers to push westward, influenced policies like the annexation of Texas and the Mexican-American War, and led to significant territorial gains. However, this ideology also had darker consequences, such as the displacement of Native Americans and tensions over slavery, contributing to the Civil War. The essay examines both the positive and negative impacts of Manifest Destiny, noting its role in fostering exploration and innovation, while also critiquing its justification for cultural superiority and exploitation. It reflects on the complex legacy of Manifest Destiny, highlighting its significance in shaping the nation’s identity and its lasting effects on American values and perceptions of national destiny. Also at PapersOwl you can find more free essay examples related to Value.

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Manifest Destiny, a term that conjures up visions of endless frontiers and the unstoppable spread of American values, is an ideology that significantly shaped the United States’ history and expansionist policies in the 19th century. At its core, Manifest Destiny was the belief that Americans were divinely ordained to expand across the North American continent, spreading democracy, freedom, and a new way of life. This concept was not just a policy for territorial expansion but a deeply held belief that drove American settlers westward, influencing every aspect of the nation’s development during this period.

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The origins of Manifest Destiny are as complex as the outcomes it produced. Coined by journalist John L. O’Sullivan in 1845, the phrase encapsulated a set of ideas that had been simmering in the American consciousness for decades. It was a call to action, urging Americans to fulfill their God-given right to spread across the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This doctrine was rooted in a mix of patriotism, religion, and a belief in the superiority of the American way of life, which proponents argued would benefit not only Americans but anyone who came under their influence.

The impact of Manifest Destiny was profound and far-reaching. It fueled the annexation of Texas, the acquisition of Oregon, and the Mexican-American War, which resulted in the United States gaining territories that would become California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. This territorial expansion was not without its dark sides, leading to the displacement and suffering of Native American populations and tensions over the extension of slavery into new territories—issues that would eventually contribute to the Civil War.

Manifest Destiny also left a lasting legacy on the American landscape, both physically and ideologically. It fostered a spirit of exploration and innovation, leading to the development of new territories, the establishment of new communities, and the spread of American institutions. However, it also propagated a sense of American exceptionalism that, in many instances, justified the subjugation of other peoples and the exploitation of natural resources in the name of progress.

In contemporary discourse, Manifest Destiny is a subject of much debate and reflection. It is celebrated for its role in transforming the United States into a coast-to-coast nation, rich in diversity and opportunity. Yet, it is also critiqued for its implications of cultural superiority and the ethical implications of its implementation. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny highlights the complexity of American expansionism, intertwining notions of destiny, morality, and power in a way that continues to influence the United States’ perception of itself and its role in the world.

In conclusion, Manifest Destiny was more than just a policy of expansion; it was an ideology that defined an era and shaped the nation’s identity. Its legacy is a tapestry of achievements and contradictions, reflecting the best and worst of American aspirations. Understanding Manifest Destiny is essential for grasping the multifaceted nature of American history and its ongoing impact on the nation’s values, policies, and self-conception. As we reflect on this period, we are reminded of the power of belief in shaping the destiny of a nation and the importance of examining the consequences of those beliefs on all affected by them.

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Manifest Destiny: The Value That Drove American Expansion. (2024, Feb 20). Retrieved from