Manifest Destiny — the Intangible of American History
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American history was built on a chronological record of significant events, each event having a cause and subsequent effect on another event. Historical events are presented in history as being tangible, being tied to a date, or an exact happening. Manifest Destiny on the other hand, is a phenomenon. It can not be tied to a date, event or even a specific period of time. Manifest Destiny existed and still exists as the philosophy that embraces American history as a whole. Manifest Destiny is an intangible ideology that created American history. In its simplest form, Manifest Destiny can be defined as, “A Movement.” More specifically, it would be the systematic body of concepts and beliefs that powered American life and American culture.

Coining the Phrase
In 1845, a democratic leader and influential editor by the name of John L. OSullivan gave the movement its name. In an attempt to explain Americas thirst for expansion, and to present a defense for Americas claim to new territories he wrote:

“. the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federaltive development of self government entrusted to us. It is right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth.” (Brinkley 352)

Manifest Destiny became the rallying cry throughout America. The notion of Manifest Destiny was publicized in the papers and was advertise and argued by politicians throughout the nation. The idea of Manifest Destiny Doctrine became the torch, that lit the way for American expansion.

A Movement As Old As America Itself
Although the movement was named in 1845, the philosophy behind Manifest Destiny always existed throughout American History. For example, in 1818 Andrew Jackson, while taking a broad interpretation of vague instructions from President Monroe, led military forces into the Floridas during the Florida crisis. In a systematic and ruthless way, he punished the Seminal Indians for taking up arms with the Spanish, destroyed Spanish forces, and captured several cities and forts. (Demkin, Chapter 8). Americans who had moral reservations about the rough tactics of Jackson, soothed their consciences with a familiar, but not yet named philosophy. Their reasoning, the Floridas were part of American territory; therefore, destiny intended that America should have them.

The reason why Americans where in Florida in the first place, is yet another example of Manifest Destiny. The people of the deep South, wanting more fertile land, exercise what they considered to be their right. The planter class, without any political approval or permission, just took over and started settling and planting the Florida territories. This move was an example of the arrogance that the Americans had towards expansion. Americans believed that they had a right to any land they wanted.

First used in 1845, the term Manifest Destiny conveyed the idea that the rightful destiny of the US included imperialistic expansion. This idea certainly contributed to several wars. For example, in 1846 the United States declared war on Mexico and proceeded to win much of what is now the Southwestern United States. The war with Mexico was just one out of a series of aggressive acts that can be tied to Americas Manifest Destiny. Manifest Destiny emerged naturally and inevitability out of fundamental want and need to explore and conquer new lands and establish new borders. With this growth came moral, cultural, social ideological and economical differences between people, states and countries. Were these differences not the reasons why America fought for their independence in the Revolutionary War? Were these differences not the primary cause for the American Civil War?

The idea of Manifest Destiny is as old as America itself. The philosophy sailed with Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic. It resided in the spirits of the Jamestown colonist and it landed at Plymouth Rock with the Pilgrims. It also traveled with the fire and brimstone preachers during the Great Awakening and built the first national road. Throughout history there are numerous examples of Manifest Destiny. However, in early American history, synonyms were used to explain the not yet named Phenomenon. American history books are filled with words such as, Explorers, Frontier, Territories, Expansionism, Settlers, Idealism, Sectionalism and Immigration. Without Manifest Destiny, phrases and terms such as “Beyond the Great American Desert,” “The North West Passage,” and “The Oregon Trail”, would be just empty examples of white mans travels.

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Manifest Destiny And Intangible Of American History. (June 14, 2021). Retrieved from