?In the 19th century, the U.S. was going through a time of major expansion.
More and more settlers were going west because they wanted to make a better living, adventure of the frontier, new beginnings, and mainly the opportunity to buy land. As this was going on, the nation was gaining territory through treaties and war (Burns). Expansion was just the mindset of the time. All of these expansions were believed to be justified by Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny was a belief held by many of the settlers that the United States was destined by God to expand across North America and it was their right to expand and take over the land. The main arguments for Manifest Destiny were because the United States were more advanced than the other cultures, they actually had a God- given right to take over these less-civilized cultures.
It was the settlers obligation to basically take over, civilize, and influence these other cultures. People also argue that by expanding the U.S. the Union would become stronger and even more legitimized and that it was needed because of the increasing population of the U.S at this time.
The main arguments against Manifest Destiny were that by expanding the U.S. it would be at the expense of all the people who currently lived on the territory the U.S. wanted and many lives would be lost in wars for the various territory and God would never allow the settlers to do this with all those negative consequences. Manifest Destiny really is just a facade for the U.
S. to take over any land they please and do what they want. By expanding so far across the country, the foundations of the Union are weakened and it becomes vulnerable because of the sheer size of the expansion.
?The people who were for Manifest Destiny held that it was their right to expand and take over the uncivilized people. The expansion would help the Indians and others by spreading their democratic ideals, religion, culture, and basically the American way. These people believed that they were the best and could take whatever land they wanted. American novelist, Herman Melville said”Americans are the chosen people—the Israel of our time.
“(Melville) Herman Melville is basically showing what everybody’s mindset was; that the U.S. were the “chosen people” the most civilized, richest, enlightened nation. That they were entitled to do whatever they pleased because they believed they were the chosen ones. Supporters of Manifest Destiny such as John O’Sullivan even felt that it was their obligation to humanity to show the way. They had to bring their culture to the west and with that, their technology and religion to teach the people in the other territories to be like them.
“The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High—the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere—its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens.
..” ( Sullivan) This excerpt from Sullivan’s article on Manifest Destiny is again showing the mindset of the people.
America is magnificent and is the top nation. America is responsible to bring to mankind all of God’s principles and show them the way in regards to religion and really establish God in these new places. ?Even though many people supported Manifest Destiny because of the religion aspect and how they felt obligated in civilizing what they thought of as the uncivilized people;there were also people who supported Manifest Destiny for more practical reasons. These people claimed that there was massive population growth going on and the U.S. needed more space.
People also claimed it would strengthen the Union. George Bancroft said “The acquisition of California by ourselves is the decisive point in the perfect establishment of the Union.” (Bancroft) Many of the supporters agreed with him, they said that by expanding the territory it would strengthen the foundation of the Union and even more so establish it. President James Polk was an avid supporter of Manifest Destiny and believed that expanding was not only their right and their responsibility but also that it would strengthen the Union.
In his inaugural speech he says, “that our domain extends from ocean to ocean.” (Polk) He also says that “America’s strong protecting arm” is a good thing for Texas. Polk is saying from day 1 that the U.S is entitled to all the land from “ocean to ocean”, basically implying any land that the U.
S. wants, it’s within their right to expand and take it. When Polk says that “America’s strong protecting arm” is a good thing for Texas it shows the mindset that the supporters of Manifest Destiny had. The U.S. was almost like the big brother.
The U.S. was the best nation and were responsible for other people not as good as them. The U.S. had the strength and also liked to show that.
Even though Texas would become part of the Union, they weren’t yet so the mindset of the Union is better than any other nation stillapplies.?Polk also said “No one can fail to see the danger to our safety and future peace if Texas remains an independent state, or becomes an ally or dependency of some foreign nation more powerful than herself.” (Polk) Polk is saying here that gaining territory, in this case the annexation of Texas, is not only for the good of the Union, but also to strengthen it. If America doesn’t annex Texas, Texas could possibly become an ally to some foreign nation and America could lose out.
Polk continues, “Is there one among our citizens who would not prefer perpetual peace with Texas to occasional wars, which often occur between bordering independent nations? Is there one who would not prefer free intercourse with her, to high duties on all our products and manufactures which enter her ports or cross her frontiers? Is there one who would not prefer an unrestricted communication with her citizens, to the frontier obstructions which must occur if she remains out of the Union?” (Polk) Here, Polk is saying that usually war occurs with bordering independent nations and that if Texas stays an independent nation then there will possibly be wars between the two. If Texas is annexed though, there will be peace and not war. There would also be free trading instead of high taxes on products and things that go through Texas’ ports if the Union excepts Texas. All of these things would strengthen the Union in various ways: more stability, less war, and better overall feelings between all the people. Supporters of Manifest Destiny also claimed that the argument that expansion would weaken the Union was just not true.
Polk said that as the U.S. land has increased, the agricultural population has been spread over a much bigger area than before making the Union better because the people who relied on farming, fishing, and hunting all now had more room to work with and more resources for themselves. ?Another reason for support of Manifest Destiny was just people who wanted to move out west to start over on the frontier. Manifest Destiny caused people to think about all the new and adventurous possibilities of having new land. These people would go on to transform the barren land and endless plains into farms and towns thereby building up America by creating new fully functional inhabited parts.
The government also claimed that they had to expand their land to protect the various American settlers who had headed west and that Americans desired expansion. Senator James Semple said “It is impossible for the government to overlook the expression of public opinion on this point, so emphatically and universally pronounced. How was it to act? Was it to allow Great Britain to exercise jurisdiction over its citizens?” (Semple) What Senator Semple is saying is that since American pioneers were already going west, it showed that the attitude of the nation at this point was that they wanted expansion.
The government could not look past that and had no choice other than to also join in the movement for expansion and protect the American pioneers who had already settled in the west. This again shows the mindset of the people and the government at this time. It was a time of expansion and it was almost like they felt that they had no choice other than to expand and take the land they wanted.