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.