John O’Sullivan coined the phrase “Manifest Destiny” in 1845.
What did he mean by the phrase and is there any difference between then and now in how historians apply the term? Did the term have an effect on settlers traveling to the West?
What were the motivations and/or philosophy of settlers in the westward expansion?
INTRO: Introductory Remarks: People at the time talked about the obvious destiny of the United States to move west and occupy the entire continent of North America. The term was used after coined by John Sullivan in 1845. After him “go west, young man” first appeared in 1851. Lowell Mill girls working in the factories earned money to send their brothers west. Americans claimed to bring progress, freedom, and technology with them.
They wanted land. They also brought slaves and inequalities. O’Sullivan did emphasize that expansion was for the “white race”. But the notion actually began much earlier. John Winthrop in 1630 referred to the American settlements as a “city on a hill”, an example to the world. So did Thomas Paine in 1776, stating the American colonies could “begin the world over again”. Likewise “manifest destiny” had the same ring to it, to expand from “sea to shining sea”. Polk just gave all this a greater geographical context. During the war with Mexico there were even calls to take “All Mexico”. But, as John C. Calhoun explained, ” I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race….” Career relevant takeaway: The whole discussion reminds of some fundamental themes in US history. Big ideas and dreams guided people, but they were also divided by religion and race, gender and class. For people the term “manifest destiny” explained why they were doing the things they were doing.
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