Manifest Destiny

  • The belief that the United States was destined or even divinely ordained to grow from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the Arctic to the tropics. By way of providence Americans are intended to have this area for a great experiment in liberty.
  • The term was initially used primarily by Jacksonian Democrats, or more specifically the "Young America" Movement. The "Young America" Movement were a group of young members of the Democratic Party who were interested in territorial expansion in the 1840's.
American progress(1872) by John Gast
  • The notion of Manifest Destiny blended a belief in expansionism with other popular ideas of the era such as American exceptionalism, nationalism, and a belief in the natural superiority of the "Anglo-Saxon race"
  • In 1803 with the the Louisiana Purchase, the size of the United States doubled, triggering the mission for continental expansion.

  • In 1843 Andrew Jackson described America's new mission as "extending the area of freedom". Yet as more territory was added, the central argument in the next decades became the right to extend the institution of slavery.

  1. Lewis and Clark
  • Lewis and Clark were exploreres commisioned by President Jefferson to survey the Louisiana Purchase. In May of 1804 they set out via the Missouri river, they reavled through the Sioux territory, crossed the Rockies follwing the stream to the Columbia iver eventually reaching the Pacific in November of 1805. They brought back with them volumes of notes and drawings ultimately assuring that the Lousiana Purchase was a very good buy.
Shoshone guide Sacagawea with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark by N.C. Wyeth in 1940


  • In around 1812 settlers began to filter into the Missouri territory. Then in 1819 Missouri which was a slaveholding terriotry became the first new state to be created from th Louisiana Purchase. Many congressional debates centered on the issue of Missuouri entering into the union as a slave or free state. The debates on this question were about sectional power, not the morality of slavery.
  • The Missouri Compromise was the legislative package that congress passed in 1820. The compromise maintained sectional balance in congress by admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state and by drawing a line west from the 36 30' parallel sperating future slave and free states.
  • Senator Jesse Thomas of Illinois was responsible for this solution because of his proposed Thomas Proviso.
3. Manifest Destiny and Oregon
  • The role of Manifest Destiny was most vital in the Oregon boundary dispute with Great Britain.
  • The British rejected a proposal by Presidenr John Tyler to divide the region along the 49th Parallel. People who rallied for Manifest Destiny protested and called for the annexation of the enrire Oregon Country up to the Alaska line (54 40' N).
  • Presidential Candidate James K. Polk ran on the platform 54' 40. Americans demanded all of Oregon, chanting the slogan, "Fifty-four forty or fight!"
  • In June of 1846 Polk accepted a compromise treaty that split the Oregon country betwen the United States and Birtain at the 49th Parallel.
4. Mexico and Texas
  • The change in the Mexican government in 1834 with General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna making himself dictator intinsified conflicts. When he forced Mexico's laws in Texas, a group of American settlers revolted and declared independence from Mexico in 1836. After a Mexican Army led by Santa Anna attacked the Alamo in San Antonia, killing all of the American defenders, the American army caught the Mexicans off gaurd and capures their General Santa Anna.
  • After texas Revolution, texas sought to join the United States as a new state. Once again the controversy of adding another slave state to the union plagued the debate over the annexation of texas.
  • The issue over the annexation of Texas was a major deciding factor in the election of 1844. Whig canidate Henry Clay and the assumed Democratic candidate Van Buren were both oppoesed to the annexation of Texas. This led to Van Buren being dropped by the Democrates in favor of Polk who was for annexation.
  • Polk acted how he did before with the Oregon dispute helping him get elected.
5. Mexican War

  • In order for Polk to get California and New Mexico he provoked a war with Mexico. By sending a special envoy to Mexico City with an offer to buy New Mexico and California for $30 million, an order to place federal troops to the disputed border between mexico and texas, placing a navy partol at the gulf coast of Mexico, and even bringing an American consul to the Mexican capital of California at Monterey. These tactics provooked a poilitcal revolt in Mexico City that brought a militant anti-American group to power. This gave Polk the greenlight to respond with 4,000 soldiers under general Zachary Taylor to march all the way to the Rio Grande.
President James K. Polk
General Zachary Taylor
General Winfield Scott

  • The military campaigns of 1846 and 1847 such as Taylor's force of 6,000 who drove the Mexican army from Texas, crossed the Rio Grande into northern Mexico, and General Winfield Scott to invade central Mexico. His army of 14,000 succeeded in capturing Mexico.
  • The treaty of Guadalupe of Hidalgo-Mexican Cession (1848) forced Mexico to recognize the Rio Grande as the southern border of Texas, and the United States took possession of Caifornia and New Mexico. The United States paid $15 million and assumes the claims of American citizens against Mexico.
After the Mexican War the issue over slavery in the territory overshadowed all others in the debate over the war. Many southerners hoped that slavery would spread into the Mexican territory. Opposition Democratic congressman David Wilmot of Pennsylvania offered an amendment to an Army appropriations bill: " ...that, as an express and fundamental condition of the acquistion of any territory from the Republic of Mexico...neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory." This famous "Wilmot Proviso" framed the debate ocer slavery for the next 15 years.

6.The Oregon and California Trails

  • After the acquisition of Oregon and California Americans began to migrate across the Great American Desert in the 1940's.
  • After the migration of farm families to Oregon and California, there was a Mormon exodus to Salt Lake, and in 1849 there was a gold rush in california which attracted more Americans to make the trek along the trails.

A family making the trek to the West across the Great American Desert

Post Civil War

  • Five transcontinental railroad went into service betwen 1869 and 1893, spurring settlement and economic development.
  • The Mining Frontier: Inventions such as Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb(1876) and an electrical generator(1881) created a demand for copper wire. Hydraulic and strip mining became a highly capitalized industry attracted thousands of men to the West.
  • The Ranching Frontier: An abundance of longhorn cattle and a postwar explosion of population and railroads made created the cowboy of the old west. The cowboys would take their longhorns along the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansas where the railroads inclreasingly crept westward