US I Honors
In the 19th century, the young United States would spread its wings from the Atlantic to the Paciﬁc in an unprecedented wave of expansion. The driving force behind this massive expansion was the concept of Manifest Destiny; that Americans were destined to spread across the entirety of the continent. Manifest Destiny would become the creed of the “Missionary Nation”, as it spread civilization westwards. The term was ﬁrst used by journalist John L. OʼSullivan in May of 1845 in an article titled Annexation, published in the Democratic newspapers the United States Magazine and Democratic Review. Writing on the subject of the debate concerning the annexation of Texas, OʼSullivan trumpeted:
“Why, were other reasoning wanting, in favor of now elevating this question of the reception of Texas into the Union, out of the lower region of our past party dissentions, up to its proper level of a high and broad nationality, it surely is to be found, found abundantly, in the manner in which other nations have taken to intrude themselves into it, between us and the proper parties of this case, in a spirit of hostile interference against us, for the avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulﬁllment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions. (OʼSullivan 2)
Religion, especially Protestant Evangelicalism, would play a large role in the development of the idea of Manifest Destiny. Many Americans saw the nation, like their Puritan ancestors, as a “City on a Hill” that would act as a “beacon to the world”, and create an example for the world to follow. The concept of the “Missionary Nation”, that was obligated to spread Christian values to those not enlightened yet, in America; the Native Americans. Many Protestant organizations formed missions across the world to spread Christianity and the American values of democracy and self-government, which they believed to be conveniently connected by God. With their righteous mission statement, Americans believed they had been divinely ordained to own the continent. In addition to spreading their Christian faith, Americans also wanted to spread democracy westwards. As American settlers travelled west, especially into Texas, Americans believed they must have the same rights as American citizens, something they didnʼt believe the Mexican government could guarantee. In fact, many Americans viewed Mexico as a military despotism. They thought it was their duty to free the Mexican peoples from the clutches of a European style tyranny. During the MexicanAmerican war, William M. Swain wrote in the Public Ledger of Philadelphia: “On this hemisphere principles have been developed calculated to revolutionize the old habits of thinking among men, to disprove the divine right of kings, to explode the reverenced maxims of tyranny, and to establish a rational political liberty for the human race... [Mexico must annexed] to redeem the Mexican people from anarchy, tyranny, debasement; to redeem security, civilization, improvement” (Merk 124)
Slavery would also prove to encourage expansion west. By the 1840ʼs, much of the American Northwest was slowly being colonized by Americans from the Northern colonies. Also, the dry, grassy plains of the Midwest were not friendly to cotton. Therefore, slaves were not taken west and most believed that the territories would eventually be admitted as free states. This scared the Southerners as once the free states were added, the balance in Senate between free and slave states would be destroyed. For the southerners, there was no unclaimed land to the west to spread slavery. They saw a solution in Texas, and possibly New Mexico and California. Texas would eventually be admitted as a slave state, but not New Mexico and California. The impending deﬁcit of slave states led...
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