Manifest Destiny: US Ideology of Expansion and the US Foreign Policy
Terms Used: Manifest Destiny, Polk, Texas, Mexico, Louisiana
The term ‘Manifest destiny’ is coined by an American writer John L. O'Sullivan in 1845. It signifies the ideas and beliefs of American nation (in 19th century) that they have the rights of expansion; rights to expand towards westward in order to extend the continent of United States. O'Sullivan used this term in the support of President James Polk plan of expansion towards westward. President Polk assumed the office of President in 1845 and he immediately expressed his vision to expand the US boundary towards southwest and taking the possession of the Texas. Herein, it is important to highlight that Texas has announced its independence in 1836 from Mexico but their claim of independence was not accepted by Mexico. In other words, the term manifest destiny is used by O'Sullivan in the favor of Unites States war with Mexico which resulted in 1846 to 1848.
However, the ideas and beliefs of expansion of US can be identified by going back further in the history when, in 1803, US paid France 50 million francs to acquire the territory of Louisiana, historically known as Louisiana Purchase and it resulted in doubling the size of United States. Probably, this was the historical incident that set the stage for the ideas of expansion of US later. Subsequently, Andrew Jackson, who became the seventeenth president of United States in 1829, romanticized the idea of expansion of US and termed it as ‘extending the area of freedom’. This has started an era of Jacksonian democracy, attributed to the his own name, representing the political movement which demanded equal rights and equal polices for common white man and bashing the domination of ruling elites. This political movement has lead the way toward what is now known as period of second party system by political scientists since it is typified by the rise of democratic spirits among American masses. It was this Jacksonian democracy era in which O'Sullivan gave the preliminary idea of manifest destiny when he wrote an article in 1839, “the great nation of futurity” (O'Sullivan 3). Although, he didn’t used the term in this article but he presented an idea of divine destiny for US. A destiny based on the values and virtues of equal rights with a mission to create a land of moral dignity and self esteem. He extended these ideas six years later in his essay, “Annexation” written in 1845 (O'Sullivan), to support President Polk, and aspired a nation that shares these common values of self respect and equality with other unions of republic. It was then when he first used the term manifest destiny with the prediction of expansion of United States towards westwards, and with an urge of United States Annexation with Texas (Stephanson 7).
Therefore, the term ‘Manifest Destiny’ has great relevance and it played a vital role in determining the foreign policy of America in twentieth century. In addition, it is still relevant even today and one can visualize the fundamental ideas of manifest destiny in the foreign policy of United States in building and supporting the democratic nations around the world. Steve Jones has written in his online article ‘American Manifest Destiny’ that it is hard to identify the reasoning of World War II and relating it to US ideology of manifest destiny but President Bush decisions of Iraq War can fit the ideas of manifest destiny quite easily (Jones).
O'Sullivan, John. "The Great Nation of Futurity". The United States Democratic Review Volume 0006 Issue 23 (Nov 1839).
O'Sullivan, John L. (July–August 1845). "Annexation". United States Magazine and Democratic Review 17 (1): 5–10
Jones, Steve. “American Manifest Destiny. A Historical Concept with Modern Foreign Policy Implications”. Online. Web. April 29 2013. usforeignpolicy.about.com/od/introtoforeignpolicy/a/American-Manifest-Destiny.htm
Stephanson, Anders. Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right. Hill and Wang, 1995.
Coles, Roberta. “Manifest Destiny Adapted for 1990s War Discourse: Mission and Destiny Intertwined.” Sociology of Religion 63.4 (2002): 403–426. Print.