Manifest Destiny

Expansion westward seemed natural to many Americans in the 19th century. Brave pioneers believed that America had a divine obligation to stretch its boundaries to the Pacific Ocean. Independence had been won in the Revolution and reaffirmed in the War of 1812. The spirit of nationalism that swept the nation in the next two decades demanded more territory. The "every man is equal" mentality of the Jacksonian era fueled this optimism and Americans headed west. Newspaper editor John O'Sullivan coined the term "manifest destiny" in 1845 to describe this mindset.

The religious fervor created by the Second Great Awakening created another incentive for the drive west. Many settlers believed that god himself blessed the growth of the American nation. The native Americans were considered heathens. By Christianizing the tribes, American missionaries believed they could save souls.

Economic motives were important for others. The desire for more land brought aspiring homesteaders to the frontier. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, the number of migrants increased.

At the heart of manifest destiny was the pervasive belief in American cultural and racial superiority. Native Americans had long been perceived as inferior, and efforts to "civilize" them had been widespread.

in 1840, the entire southwestern corner of the united states was controlled by foreign powers; by 1850 the U.S. had control of lands from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Expanding the boundaries of the U.S. was a cultural war as well. The desire of southerners to find more lands for cotton cultivation eventually spread slavery to these regions. North of the Mason-Dixon line, many citizens were concerned about adding more slave states. Manifest destiny touched on issues of religion, money, race, patriotism, and morality.

Source: Manifest Destiny
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