Manifest Destiny is the term associated with the territorial expansion of the United States which was first used by John L. O’Sullivan and mentioned in an article published in the July-August 1845 edition of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review about the annexation of Texas. It was the American people’s belief in the need to expand the boundaries of freedom. It was also motivated by their desire to impart idealism and push for self-government.
In 1818 and 1839, the United States suffered two major depressions. These also drive the Americans to desire to live in frontier areas and seek for fortune and brighter future. Indeed, it opened doors for aspiring settlers. Despite the benefits that come with Manifest Destiny, however, there were also setbacks associated with the colonial expansion of the U.S.
List of the Pros of Manifest Destiny
1. Territorial Expansion of the United States
Since frontier land was inexpensive that time and there were also land that was free, Manifest Destiny made it possible for the U.S. to acquire more land and in fact, its territory expanded to 60%. This played a major role in the power that the United States is enjoying today.
2. Answer to a Growing Population
During that time, the population of the U.S. was experiencing a rapid increase due to the increasing number of immigrants. With the purchase and acquisition of territories, it answered the problem of accommodating the continuous growth of the number of people.
Another advantage of Manifest Destiny was the opportunity given to the American leaders and people to impart their ideals to other people and influence the lives of those who lived in the areas they colonized.
4. Wealth and Income
Land ownership was associated with wealth and self-sufficiency. With the land amassed by the Americans, they were able to open doors to developments and commerce. With the expansion of territories from coast to coast, trade and industry increased among countries and the economy became more stable.
With Manifest Destiny, the United States was able to achieve its dream to extend their boundaries and let the people feel a sense of freedom. As expeditions grew, colonies were formed and these colonies were able to be self-sufficient and enjoy their freedom in other territories. This was also the time where there was a balance between slavery and freedom since there were those who were against slavery and pushed for against it during this period.
6. Fostered Friendships and Union Between Countries
During the acquisition of territories, the United States was also able to form allies like in the case of Britain when these two powers agreed on joint occupation of Oregon at a time when Russia and Spain were still holding to claims to the land. With the agreement of the U.S. and Britain, citizens of both countries were given equal access. This was good for the economy of both since Americans and Britons were handed opportunities to work and live in the territory.
As colonies increased and explorers made their expeditions, many plants, spices, herbs and animal species were also discovered and given names. These discoveries are still as useful today as they were useful centuries ago. This would not have been possible if the U.S. did not expand its territories.
List of the Cons of Manifest Destiny
1. Conflicts and War
With the rapid acquisition of land such as the Oregon Territory and the Old Mexican Southwest, conflict between the Americans and Mexicans was not prevented. The Mexican-American war was fought in foreign soil and the Americans won but this also led to the loss of lives and property. Despite the rationalization on Manifest Destiny, the fact still remains that there were wars surrounded with bloodshed and the death of American soldiers, Mexican soldiers and Indian natives, among others. And for critics, there are no winners in wars.
2. Displacement of Rightful Land Owners
The expansion of American territories brought about pain and hardship to the native Indians, Mexicans and other people who were displaced and even killed that time. Aside from the conflicts that resulted from the expansion, many native Indian tribes were fooled into selling their land lower than the actual value.
In the mid-1830s, around 30,000 Americans went into farming and cotton-growing but had black slaves working for them. It was also during this period that slavery proliferated. For opponents, Manifest Destiny came to be not only to purchase more territories but to expand slavery. This made possible the creation of more slaveholding territories in the Caribbean and Central America.
4. Acquisitions Were Done with Violence
Despite what proponents say that the purchases of land were done peacefully and with full consent of the land owners, opponents say otherwise. According to them, it was the desire of the colonizers to acquire more land, they did not care if these were achieved with violence or not. In fact, it resulted to wars among countries and the suppression of the native tribes of the West.
5. Native American Oppression
Manifest Destiny entailed ethnic cleansing, that is, the Americans felt they need to regulate where the Native Indians should live. This resulted to the oppression of the native tribes. Native tribes were forced to give up their lands or get paid less than the real value of their lands.
6. God and Religion Used
People behind Manifest Destiny claimed that it was God’s will for the United States to expand their territories and it was the destiny of the country to acquire these pieces of land, thus the term “Manifest Destiny”. It used religion and God for people to rule over others and crave for power.
Manifest Destiny resulted to slavery, death, destruction and oppression. However, despite the truth, it was rationalized and presented to be something that is good. The deaths of people who were caught in between conflicts will never be justified but Manifest Destiny claims otherwise.
The expansion of American territories brought power to the country and to the people who benefited from it. However, Manifest Destiny will remain to be a divisive topic. These pros and cons clearly show its influence on the lives not only of the Americans but also of people in the world.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.