Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, from the west the course of realm Takes its Way, 1862. Mural, United claims Capitol.

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I. Introduction

John luigi O’Sullivan, a popular editor and columnist, articulated the long-standing American id in the God-given mission of the United states to lead the people in the peaceful transition to democracy. In a little-read essay published in The United says Magazine and Democratic Review, O’Sullivan outlined the prestige of linking Texas to the unified States:

Why, were other reasoning wanting, in favor of now elevating this inquiry of the agree of Texas into the Union, out of the lower region of our past party dissensions, approximately its appropriate level that a high and vast nationality, it surely is to be found, uncovered abundantly, in the path in which various other nations have undertaken come intrude themselves right into it, between us and also the appropriate parties come the case, in a spirit of hostile interference versus us, for the avowed object of thwarting our policy and also hampering our power, limiting ours greatness and checking the fulfillment of ours manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the totally free development of ours yearly multiplying millions.1

O’Sullivan and also many rather viewed expansion as important to achieve America’s destiny and to defend American interests. The quasi-religious contact to spread democracy coupled v the reality of countless settlers pushing westward. Manifest destiny to be grounded in the id that a democratic, agrarian republic would save the world.


John O’Sullivan, shown here in a 1874 Harper’s Weekly sketch, coined the expression “manifest destiny” in one 1845 newspaper article. Wikimedia.

Although called into name in 1845, manifest destiny to be a widely held yet vaguely defined belief that dated back to the starting of the nation. First, numerous Americans believed that the stamin of American values and also institutions justified moral cases to hemispheric leadership. Second, the soil on the north American continent west the the Mississippi river (and later into the Caribbean) to be destined for American-led political and agricultural improvement. Third, God and the constitution ordained an irrepressible destiny to accomplish redemption and democratization throughout the world. All three of these insurance claims pushed plenty of Americans, whether they uttered the words manifest destiny or not, to proactively seek the expansion of democracy. These beliefs and also the result actions were often devastating to anyone in the way of American expansion. The new religion the American democracy spread out on the feet and also in the wagons that those who relocated west, imbued through the hope the their success would be the country success.

The Young America movement, strongest among members of the autonomous Party but spanning the politics spectrum, downplayed divisions over slavery and ethnicity by embracing nationwide unity and emphasizing American exceptionalism, territorial expansion, autonomous participation, and also economic interdependence.2 Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson captured the political outlook the this new generation in a decided he delivered in 1844 title “The Young American”:

In every period of the world, there has actually been a top nation, among a more generous sentiment, who eminent citizens to be willing to was standing for the understanding of basic justice and also humanity, in ~ the risk of being called, through the guys of the moment, chimerical and also fantastic. Which have to be that nation but these States? Which have to lead that movement, if not brand-new England? Who need to lead the leaders, however the Young American?3

However, countless Americans, including Emerson, disapproved of aggressive expansion. For opponents of manifest destiny, the lofty rhetoric the the Young Americans to be nothing various other than a sort of imperialism that the American transformation was claimed to have actually repudiated.4 plenty of members that the Whig Party (and later the Republican Party) said that the joined States’ mission to be to command by example, no by conquest. Abraham Lincoln synthetic up this criticism v a fair amount the sarcasm during a decided in 1859:

He (the Young American) own a big part the the world, by best of possessing it; and also all the rest by ideal of wanting it, and also intending to have actually it. . . . Young America had actually “a satisfaction hope—a fond desire—a longing after” territory. He has a great passion—a perfect rage—for the “new”; particularly brand-new men because that office, and the new earth stated in the revelations, in which, being no much more sea, there must be about three time as lot land as in the present. The is a an excellent friend that humanity; and also his desire for land is not selfish, yet merely an impulse to expand the area of freedom. That is very anxious to fight because that the liberation of enslaved nations and colonies, provided, always, they have land. . . . As to those who have actually no land, and also would it is in glad of assist from any type of quarter, he considers they have the right to afford to wait a couple of hundred years longer. In knowledge he is particularly rich. He knows every that have the right to possibly be known; inclines to think in spirituality trappings, and also is the unquestioned inventor the “Manifest Destiny.”5

But Lincoln and other anti-expansionists would struggle to win popular opinion. The nation, fueled by the ethics of manifest destiny, would continue westward. Along the way, Americans dealt with both native peoples and also foreign nations, claiming region to the an extremely edges of the continent. However westward expansion did no come there is no a cost. That exacerbated the enslavement question, propelled Americans towards civil war, and, ultimately, endangered the really mission that American democracy it to be designed come aid.


Artistic propaganda prefer this promoted the nationwide project the manifest destiny. Columbia, the female number of America, leads Americans right into the West and into the future by transferring the worths of republicanism (as seen with her roman inn garb) and progress (shown through the consists of technical innovations choose the telegraph) and clearing aboriginal peoples and animals, checked out being pushed into the darkness. Man Gast, American Progress, 1872. Wikimedia.


II. Antebellum western Migration and Indian Removal

After the battle of 1812, Americans settled the an excellent Lakes region rapidly thanks in part to wild land sales by the commonwealth government.6 Missouri’s admission as a slave state gift the very first major dilemm over from the west migration and American development in the antebellum period. Farther north, lead and iron ore mining spurred advancement in Wisconsin.7 by the 1830s and 1840s, boosting numbers of German and also Scandinavian immigrants joined easterners in stable the upper Mississippi watershed.8 tiny settlement emerged west of Missouri as migrants perceived the good Plains together a barrier to farming. Furthermore west, the Rocky hills loomed together undesirable to all however fur traders, and all native Americans west that the Mississippi showed up too an effective to enable for white expansion.

“Do no lounge in the cities!” commanded publisher Horace Greeley in 1841, “There is room and also health in the country, away from the crowds that idlers and also imbeciles. Go west, prior to you are fitted for no life but that of the factory.”9 The New York Tribune often suggested that American exceptionalism compelled the United states to benevolently conquer the continent together the prime method of spreading American capitalism and American democracy. However, the vast West was no empty. Aboriginal Americans regulated much that the land eastern of the Mississippi River and almost every one of the West. Expansion hinged top top a federal policy of Indian removal.

The harassment and also dispossession of aboriginal Americans—whether pushed by main U.S. Government policy or the actions of individual Americans and their communities—depended on the belief in manifest destiny. The course, a fair bit of racism was component of the equation together well. The political and also legal processes of expansion constantly hinged top top the id that white american could finest use brand-new lands and opportunities. This id rested top top the idea that just Americans embodied the democratic ideals of yeoman agriculturalism extolled by thomas Jefferson and also expanded under Jacksonian democracy.

Florida was an early test instance for the Americanization of brand-new lands. The territory organized strategic worth for the young nation’s growing economic and also military understand in the Caribbean. The most important factors that led to the addition of Florida included anxieties over runaway enslaved people, Spanish overlook of the region, and also the wanted defeat of indigenous American tribes who controlled huge portions of financially rewarding farm territory.

During the early on nineteenth century, Spain wanted to boost productivity in Florida and encouraged hike of largely southern enslavers. By the second decade that the 1800s, Anglo settlers occupied plantations along the St. Johns River, indigenous the border v Georgia to Lake George a hundred miles upstream. Spain began to lose manage as the area quickly became a haven for servant smugglers pass illicit person cargo into the United says for lucrative sale to Georgia planters. Plantation owners flourished apprehensive about the growing numbers of enslaved laborers to run to the swamps and Native American-controlled locations of Florida. American enslavers pressured the U.S. Government to challenge the Spanish authorities. Southerly enslavers refuse to quietly expropriate the continued presence of equipped Black men in Florida. During the battle of 1812, a ragtag assortment of Georgia enslavers joined by a plethora of armed opportunists raided Spanish and also British-owned plantations follow me the St. Johns River. These private citizens obtained U.S. Government help on July 27, 1816, when U.S. Army regulars attacked the Negro fort (established as an armed outpost during the battle by the British and located about sixty miles south of the Georgia border). The raid eliminated 270 the the fort’s citizens as a an outcome of a straight hit ~ above the fort’s shooting powder stores. This conflict set the stage for general Andrew Jackson’s invasion of Florida in 1817 and the start of the first Seminole War.10

Americans likewise held that Creek and Seminole people, occupying the area native the Apalachicola river to the wet prairies and also hammock archipelago of main Florida, were threats in their very own right. This tribes, recognized to the Americans collectively as Seminoles, migrated right into the an ar over the course of the eighteenth century and also established settlements, tilled fields, and tended herds of cattle in the rich floodplains and also grasslands that overcame the northern 3rd of the Florida peninsula. Envious eye looked upon these lands. After bitter dispute that often pitted Americans versus a arsenal of aboriginal Americans and formerly enslaved people, Spain ultimately agreed to deliver the territory to the united States. The result Adams-Onís contract exchanged Florida for $5 million and other territorial concessions elsewhere.11

After the purchase, planters from the Carolinas, Georgia, and also Virginia entered Florida. However, the influx of settlers into the Florida territory was temporarily stopped in the mid-1830s by the outbreak that the second Seminole battle (1835–1842). Complimentary Black men and women and escaped enslaved laborers also occupied the Seminole district, a instance that deep troubled enslavers. Indeed, basic Thomas Sidney Jesup, U.S. Commander throughout the beforehand stages that the 2nd Seminole War, labeled that conflict “a negro, no an Indian War,” fearful together he was the if the rebellion “was not speedily put down, the south will feeling the effect of that on your slave population before the finish of the following season.”12 Florida came to be a state in 1845 and also white settlement expanded.

American activity in Florida seized indigenous people’s eastern lands, decreased lands obtainable for freedom-seeking enslaved people, and killed entirely or removed native American peoples farther west. This came to be the template for future action. Presidents, due to the fact that at least Thomas Jefferson, had long questioned removal, but President Andrew Jackson take it the many dramatic action. Jackson believed, “It will location a dense and also civilized population in huge tracts of nation now lived in by a couple of savage hunters.”13 desires to remove native Americans from beneficial farmland urged state and also federal federal governments to stop trying to assimilate native Americans and instead setup for compelled removal.

Congress happen the Indian Removal plot in 1830, thereby giving the president government to begin treaty negotiations the would give Native american land in the West in exchange for their lands eastern of the Mississippi. Many advocates of removal, consisting of President Jackson, paternalistically declared that the would protect Native American communities from outside influences that jeopardized their chances of coming to be “civilized” farmers. Jackson emphasized this paternalism—the belief that the government was exhilaration in the finest interest of aboriginal peoples—in his 1830 State of the Union Address. “It will different the indians from immediate contact with settlements of white skin - man . . . And perhaps cause them gradually, under the defense of the Government and also through the influence of good counsels, to cast off your savage habits and become one interesting, civilized, and Christian community.”14

The endure of the Cherokee was an especially brutal. Despite many tribal members adopting part Euro-American ways, including intensified agriculture, slaving, and Christianity, state and also federal federal governments pressured the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and also Cherokee nations to authorize treaties and surrender land. Many of these tribal countries used the regulation in hopes of protecting your lands. Many notable amongst these efforts was the Cherokee Nation’s effort to sue the state of Georgia.

Beginning in 1826, Georgian officials asked the federal government to negotiate with the Cherokee to secure financially rewarding lands. The Adams administration resisted the state’s request, but harassment from local settlers versus the Cherokee compelled the Adams and Jackson administrations to begin serious negotiations v the Cherokee. Georgia thrived impatient with the procedure of negotiation and also abolished currently state agreements through the Cherokee that had guaranteed civil liberties of movement and also jurisdiction of defect law. Andrew Jackson penned a letter quickly after acquisition office that encouraged the Cherokee, amongst others, to voluntarily relocate come the West. The discovery of gold in Georgia in the fall of 1829 additional antagonized the situation.

The Cherokee safeguarded themselves versus Georgia’s regulations by citing contract signed v the United says that guaranteed the Cherokee nation both your land and also independence. The Cherokee appealed come the supreme Court versus Georgia to stop dispossession. The Court, if sympathizing v the Cherokee’s plight, ruled that it short jurisdiction to hear the instance (Cherokee country v. Georgia <1831>). In an associated case, Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the can be fried Court ruled that Georgia regulations did not apply within Cherokee territory.15 regardless of this rulings, the state federal government ignored the supreme Court and did little to stop conflict between settlers and also the Cherokee.

Jackson wanted a equipment that might preserve peace and his reputation. He sent out secretary of war Lewis Cass to offer title to western lands and also the promise the tribal governance in exchange for relinquishing the the Cherokee’s eastern lands. These negotiations opened a rift within the Cherokee Nation. Cherokee leader john Ridge thought removal to be inevitable and also pushed because that a treaty that would offer the best terms. Others, referred to as nationalists and led by man Ross, refuse to take into consideration removal in negotiations. The Jackson administration refused any deal the fell short of large removal of the Cherokee from Georgia, thereby fueling a devastating and violent intratribal fight between the 2 factions. At some point tensions prospered to the allude that number of treaty advocates were assassinated by members the the national faction.16

In 1835, a section of the Cherokee nation led by john Ridge, hope to prevent additional tribal bloodshed, signed the treaty of brand-new Echota. This treaty delivered lands in Georgia for $5 million and, the signatories hoped, would certainly limit future conflicts between the Cherokee and white settlers. However, many of the tribe refused to adhere come the terms, the town hall the treaty as illegitimately negotiated. In response, john Ross pointed out the U.S. Government’s hypocrisy. “You asked united state to throw off the hunter and warrior state: we did so—you asked united state to type a republican government: we did so. Adopting your own as our model. Girlfriend asked united state to maintain the earth, and also learn the mechanic arts. Us did so. Friend asked us to learn to read. We did so. Girlfriend asked us to actors away our idols and worship her god. Us did so. Now you demand we cede come you ours lands. That we will not do.”17

President Martin van Buren, in 1838, decided to press the issue past negotiation and also court rulings and also used the new Echota treaty provisions come order the military to forcibly remove those Cherokee not obeying the treaty’s cession that territory. Harsh weather, poor planning, and complicated travel compounded the tragedy that what came to be known together the trace of Tears. Sixteen thousand Cherokee undertook the journey; only ten thousands completed it.18 no every circumstances of remove was as treacherous or demographically devastating as the Cherokee example. Furthermore, tribes responded in a variety of ways. Some people violently resisted removal. Ultimately, over sixty-thousand native Americans were required west prior to the civil War.19

The allure that manifest destiny urged expansion nevertheless of terrain or locale, and also Indian removal also took place, come a lesser degree, in north lands. In the Old Northwest, Odawa and Ojibwe neighborhoods in Michigan, Wisconsin, and also Minnesota withstood removal as numerous lived ~ above land north of preferable farming land. Moreover, part Ojibwe and also Odawa people purchased land independently. They developed successful partnerships with missionaries to help advocate versus removal, and also with part traders and merchants who depended upon trade with aboriginal peoples. However Indian removal emerged in the North together well—the black Hawk battle in 1832, for instance, brought about the removed of many Sauk come Kansas.20

Despite the disaster of removal, tribal nations progressively rebuilt their cultures and in some situations even achieved prosperity in brand-new territories. Tribal nations combined traditional cultural practices, including usual land systems, with western practices including constitutional governments, usual school systems, and creating an upstream enslaving class.

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Some indigenous American teams remained too an effective to remove. Beginning in the so late eighteenth century, the Comanche climbed to strength in the southerly Plains an ar of what is currently the southwestern united States. By easily adapting to the horse culture first presented by the Spanish, the Comanche transitioned indigenous a foraging economic situation into a combined hunting and pastoral society. ~ 1821, the brand-new Mexican nation-state asserted the region as part of the north Mexican frontier, however they had little control. Instead, the Comanche remained in power and controlled the economy of the southerly Plains. A flexible political structure enabled the Comanche to dominate other native American groups as well as Mexican and also American settlers.

In the 1830s, the Comanche introduced raids right into northern Mexico, finishing what had been one unprofitable however peaceful diplomatic partnership with Mexico. In ~ the exact same time, lock forged new trading relationships with Anglo-American traders in Texas. Transparent this period, the Comanche and several other independent aboriginal groups, an especially the Kiowa, Apache, and Navajo, involved in thousands of violent to meet with north Mexicans. Collectively, this encounters made up an ongoing war during the 1830s and 1840s as tribal nations vied for power and also wealth. By the 1840s, Comanche strength peaked with an empire that regulated a large territory in the trans-Mississippi west well-known as Comancheria. By commerce in Texas and also raiding in north Mexico, the Comanche managed the circulation of commodities, consisting of captives, livestock, and also trade goods. They practiced a fluid system the captivity and also captive trading, quite than a strict chattel system. The Comanche provided captives for financial exploitation yet also adopted captives into kinship networks. This enabled for the assimilation of diverse peoples in the an ar into the empire. The ongoing conflict in the an ar had sweeping aftermath on both Mexican and also American politics. The U.S.-Mexican War, start in 1846, have the right to be seen as a culmination that this violence.21