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American History 1--HIST 2111 (OER): Chapter 12: Manifest Destiny

American Yawp Chapter Summary

John Louis O’Sullivan, a popular editor and columnist, articulated the long-standing American belief in the God-given mission of the United States to lead the world in the peaceful transition to democracy. In a little-read essay printed in The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, O’Sullivan outlined the importance of annexing Texas to the United States:

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 dissensions, 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 undertaken to intrude themselves into it, between us and the proper parties to the 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. John Louis O’Sullivan ((John O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17, no.1 (July-August 1845), 5-10.))

O’Sullivan and many others viewed expansion, particularly to the West, as necessary to achieve America’s destiny and protect American interests. The antebellum period saw the quasi-religious call to spread democracy coupled with the reality of thousands of settlers pressing westward. The precepts of manifest destiny, grounded in the twin beliefs of virtuous American institutionalism and the uplifting effects of agrarian republicanism, rode the wagon trails westward in advance of the destinarian belief in American greatness – the proverbial city on the hill of the colonial period began its move westward. Read more of Chapter 12.

Things to Consider

Questions to be thinking about as you move through the content of this chapter

  1. What role did the policy of “Indian Removal” play in westward expansion?
  2. Why was the “Florida Model” so appealing to proponents of westward expansion?
  3. How did the Cherokee Nation attempt to resist American encroachment through treaty-making and assimilation? Why did that attempt ultimately fail?
  4. Explain the role played by Comanchia in the Mexican-American War (US-Mexican War).
  5. How did frontier society affect gender norms?
  6. In what ways did the federal government incentivize settlement in the west?
  7. How did the Mexican-American War change the American notion of “the West”?
  8. What were the short-term and long-term consequences of the Mexican-American War on Mexico? What about on the United States?
  9. What were the reasons behind the Monroe Doctrine? What was the United States attempting to accomplish with this approach to foreign policy?  What role did the Caribbean play??

Learning Objectives and Assessment

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Identify key events that define change over time in a particular place or region, and identify how change occurs over time
  • Understand the dynamics of change over time
  • Distinguish between historical facts and historical interpretations
  • Evaluate a variety of historical sources for their credibility, position, significance, and perspective

Course Objectives

  • Students will be able to analyze economic development & cultural reform movements during the first half of the 19th century.
  • Students will be able to understand the relationship between events connected to Manifest Destiny & the causes of sectionalism & the Civil War.
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