Manifest Destiny


The 1800s ushered in a new era for American nationalism. Instead of looking towards the east in order to define America, the new nation increasingly gazed west.  The push for Americans to expand and protect its borders, ideals, and culture into the western territories of the continent was culminated in the term, Manifest Destiny. Coined in 1845, by a news editor named John O’Sullivan, Manifest Destiny, as he declared, was the divine right for America “to over spread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.  Americans now had the words to describe and justify the great westward migrations taking place during the mid 1800s, which eventually redefined and reshaped America.

            The overall result of Manifest Destiny was as varied as the lands it consumed. For America, there was unprecedented growth and prosperity, but for the Native Americans, there was mass destruction. The realization of Manifest Destiny allowed for the removal of foreign powers and people from the land, but eventually it proved to be a principle factor in America’s own civil war. 



California History Standard 8.5


            2. Know the changing boundaries of the United States and describe the relationships the country had with its neighbors (current Mexico and Canada) and Europe, including the influence of the Monroe Doctrine, and how those relationships influenced the westward expansion and the Mexican-American War.


I. The Foundations of Manifest Destiny


A.     Religious Beliefs

--Puritan ideas of providence and predetermination

--Christians vs. Heathens

--Combination of Church and State

--Missionary purpose


 Sig.            Americans believed they had a God given right to govern the land

and the duty to make it civilized and Christian.



B.     Political Ideology

--Revolutionary ideals

      Declaration of Independence, natural rights

--Jeffersonian Politics

The virtuous citizen, the independent farmer, the Louisiana      Purchase

--The Monroe Doctrine of 1823

        Primary Source – The Monroe Doctrine of 1823

              New World closed to further European colonization

              Marked the beginning of the nation’s foreign policy

               gopher://   doctrine.txt

--Jacksonian Politics

Primary Source – Message to Congress-The Indian Removal Act of 1835-

                               Anti-Native American sentiments and politics



Sig.      From the beginning of the nation’s history, Americans believed in the natural rights of man to form a civil society. They also believed that their new democratic government would set an example for the world in order to showcase the democratic way. America was based on the idea of land ownership and with Jefferson, the concept and the opportunity of the yeoman farmer was a pinnacle goal for many Americans.

The Monroe Doctrine of 1823 was a strong stamp of growing American nationalism. This precedent of U.S Foreign Policy was originally meant as a philosophical defense against European powers on the continent, but it was eventually used as a basis of justification for America’s offensive actions towards those powers in order remove them and expand the nation’s boundaries. Jackson’s political ideas and actions concerning the nations of Native Americans, helped initiate their “removal” as well.    


C. Social/Cultural Attitudes

--White Superiority


Sig.      The (white) American truly believed he had dominion over his   surroundings. Justification for Manifest Destiny was realized on a personal level as well as national. The American way of life was superior to all others and it must expand.



D.     Economic Reasons

--Pre-emptive Act of 1830

--Land for farming needed

--Expansion of trade/business

--More natural resources

--The ports of the Pacific


Sig.      The population of America was growing rapidly, so the economic opportunities for the multitudes had to grow as well




II. Laying the In-Roads for Western Expansion


A. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803


Map- Louisiana Purchase/Louis and Clark Expedition Trails


--Removal of French power from interior

--Louis and Clark Expedition



Sig.     The Louisiana Purchase provided the first stage in America’s westward expansion. France was removed from the area and America now had access to the western territories. The expedition of Louis and Clark wetted American’s appetites for more land and adventure.




B. The Destiny of Native Americans

--Contact with settlers

    --Loss and destruction of natural resources

    --Cultural Disintegration

    -- Disease

    --Violent Conflicts

    -- confinement/compensation




Sig.            Americans viewed the Native Americans as a threat to the    progression of the American way of life. They were treated as a lost cause in the eyes of civilized progress.  They were to be removed from American soil. Native Americans were crowded out, relocated, and finally rounded up to live on Indian reservations, which were to be their new “homelands”. Manifest Destiny proved to be the destruction for the Native American way of life, and for the most part their very lives.


Primary Source- Cherokee Nation v. Georgia 1831


Sig.    The Native American Nations had virtually no rights in America. Using the Constitution, the courts had subscribed the Indian nations to a status of dependency and subject to American laws with no avenues of recourse. 


Primary Source – John Gast’s painting- Manifest Destiny


Sig.      This painting illustrates American’s views about progress. To them it was one-dimensional, America triumphantly conquering the West.





A.    Oregon/Great Britain

      --President Polk’s desire to gain Puget Sound

      --Treaty Line with Britain to divide Oregon on the 49th parallel

      --Primary Source: Map showing boundaries

      Sig. Set’s the boundaries of the United States and Canada

B.      The Migration to the West

      --Oregon Trail, 2000 mile long stream of rivers and natural                 landmarks.   

      Primary Source: Map of the Oregon Trail

                        Sig. Using visual aid to show the students the actual trail.

C.  Act of Congress states it began in Independence, Missouri and ended in Oregon City, Oregon.

-- To the settlers it was a five-month trip from their old home

    to their new home.

      --1848, Oregon Territory was declared (Oregon, Washington,

          and Idaho, part of western Montana). “Oregon country”          

          before 1848.

      --First Emigrants on the Oregon Trail: “Oregon Fever of 1840s”

          Farming and trading families from: Missouri, Ohio, Indiana,

          Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee

      --Conditions and costs for the trip:

Sig. The primary path for the new immigrants to reach the Oregon Territories

Primary Source:

D.        Women on the Oregon Trail

-- Personal hardships and the family unit

Primary Source: Journal Entries

--Life and Death on the Oregon Trail

E.               Mormons in the West

--Motivation for emigrating to the west

Sig. To avoid religious persecution



IV.   Origins of Texas



When one talks about Manifest Destiny and Americas march west, very few people are aware of how important what is now the state of Texas played in this eastward movement. The conflict in Texas between Mexico and U.S. federal troops over a border dispute resulted in a war. The end result is one of the larger land transfers in U.S. history. Without this conflict a totally different picture could have emerged.


-         Texas was once sovereign territory of the Spanish Empire in accordance with   Treaty of Tordesillas. Spain used the empresario’s (colonizer) to distribute land grants in Spanish territory.

-         Moses Austin was the first foreigner to get a land grant in 1819. These grants gave the holder any where from one to four leagues depending if you were rich or not. A league is defined as 4428 square acres. Moses Austin was the father of Stephan Austin one of the defenders of the Alamo.

-          Sig. Shows the Spanish claim to new world territory.

Primary source: (Treaty map of Spanish control in new world)


-         Mexico’s wins independence from Spain 1821.

-         Sig. This shows how was Texas was once Spanish territory is now a state of Mexico, sovereign Mexican territory

-          Primary source(Show map of Mexico prior to 1836)


-         Mexico a fledgling nation encouraged immigration in their constitution of 1824. The northern and eastern  areas were the areas that they wanted settled.


-         Sig. Immigration in their out lying provinces helped to settle these less populated areas with the intent of strengthening Mexico hold on these areas.


-         Primary source (1824 Mexican Constitution, show example of constitution).




-          Mexico continues the policy of empresario land grants, these were given to immigrants as long as they followed certain rules.


      Settlers had to convert to cat holism and could not bring slaves into Mexican territory. These people were also called empresario’s (colonizer).


-         Stephan Austin was one of the first to get an empresario contract land grant from Mexico. 


-         Originally these grants were given to “men of good moral character” who had to swear loyalty to federal and state governments of Mexico for the purpose of curtailing the aggressive countrymen of the north.  Each family would receive one league of pasture land for a sum of thirty dollars.


-         Because Stephan Austin was an empresario he was to receive fifteen sitos (66,420 acres for grazing) and two labors (345 acres for farming) for very two hundred families he brought to Texas up to six hundred. Austin brought 1100 families to Texas making him a very rich man.


-         Sig. shows the legal right of Americans to settle in the Province of Texas.


Primary source (Picture of Land Grant Map)

-         Between 1821 and 1836 50,000 settlers were brought into Texas.

-         In 1825 The Fredonian Rebellion was a  bid by two brothers to establish their claim of property rights that angered the Mexican authorities. The brothers took up arms against the authorities in a premature bid for independence against the advice of Stephan  Austin. This rebellion was quickly quelled by the Mexicans and the Edwards land grant was rescinded and reissued to a loyal empresario.

-         Many families continued to come to Texas for the cheap land for you could get one league of land for what you would have to pay for ninety acres in the United States of America.

-         In 1832  The Battle of Velasco was fought and the first casualties were suffered by Texans which  would develop into the Texas Revolution. Several conventions take place displaying general unrest with Mexican rule. 

-         1835 Stephan Austin announces that war with Mexico is necessary to win Texas independence.

-         1836 From March to May four intense battles are fought for Texas independence, with the Battle for the Alamo being the most famous. In the fourth and final battle at San Jacinto, Sam Houston defeated 1600 of Santa Anna’s troops with 800 men.

-         In 1836 a Provisional Government was set up and it secured all land granted and ceased to recognize any land grants issued after  Nov 13, 1835. Is thought that land speculation was the cause of the war.(Insert map of Texas)


-         Sig. shows the territory that The Republic of Texas claimed.


-         Primary Source Map of claimed territory of Texas.  

-         1836 Annexation is proposed to the United States by the Republic of Texas, but is rejected by President Van Buren for the stated reasons of possible war with Mexico, but the underlying reasons are said to be the slavery issue. The annexation offer is withdrawn by Texas. Free vs. Slave state is big issue now.

-          In 1842 Twice Mexico attempts to regain the renegade state of Texas but is unsuccessful  holding the captured town San Antonio.

-          1844 Texas  proposes a treaty of annexation which is rejected by Congress.

-         1845 a popularly elected Constitutional Convention meets in Texas to consider annexation by the United States of America or a peace proposal from Mexico as long as it remains a independent country. Annexation wins the vote

-         1845 Polk is elected United States President and a Joint resolution is passed annexing Texas as part of the United States. Mexico severs diplomatic relations with the United States. Texas is accepted for statehood and is given the right to divide into four convenient  sized state at later time if it so desires.


-          Sig. This shows that the popular vote in Texas favored annexation but it took a joint resolution by a majority vote for the US to get what it wanted.


-         Primary source (insert annexation vote here)





V.  California Territories

A.  Reasons for wanting Mexican territory

·        US experiencing high birth rate, agriculture provided primary economic structure; large families were considered an asset.

·        Expansion offered new opportunities for new commerce and individual self-advancement

·        Land ownership was associated with wealth, self-sufficiency, and political power

·        Maritime merchants saw an opportunity to expand and promote new commerce by building West Coast ports leading to trade with countries in the Pacific (China in particular).

Sig.  Students understand the reasons the United States wanted California territory. 

B.  Polk’s declaration of war with Mexico (May 13,1846)

·        Polk sends Slidell to Mexico City

·        Terms Mexico and United States are trying to agree upon.

Sig.  Students understand when in history US and Mexico began their confrontations.

C.  Mexico’s stability as an independent country

·        Mexico achieved independence from Spain in 1821

·        The war with Spain caused several economic burdens and recovery was difficult.

·        Rule was placed under emperor but in 1824 it was overthrown and a constitutional republic was born.

·        Mexico won vast northern territories with its independence from Spain.

These areas were under populated; Mexico also had to worry about colonizing the territories and guarding its borders

Sig.  Students are able to become aware of the economic, political and social position Mexico was in at this time.

D.  Protecting and Colonizing Mexico’s northern territories

·        Proved to be nearly impossible for the staggering country

·        Due to Mexico’s economic system, there were fewer opportunities for self-advancement and people were unwilling to relocate

·        Constant warfare with Native Americans discouraged people from settling into the areas.

Sig.  Points out the weaknesses of Mexico at this time.

E.      America taking over

·        Polk orders troops to southern Texas

·        California begins being taken over beginning with Sonoma in 1846 and ending with U.S. capturing city in 1847

Sig.  To understand the concept of the process that the United States went through to take over Mexican territory.

 Primary Source:  Map of the disputed territory in Mexico

Sig.  Students have a visual aid of disputed territory and are able to recognize the territory with simplicity.

F.  Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

·        Discussions of peace treaty began in August

·        February 2, 1848 Treaty signed in Guadalupe Hidalgo, a city north of the capital.

·        Provisions called for 55% of its territory (present day Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas and parts of Colorado, Nevada and Utah)

·        The United States was going to compensate Mexico with fifteen million dollars in compensation for war-related damage to Mexican property.

·        Following ratification of the U.S. treaty, U.S. troops left Mexico City

Sig.  Students recognize the manner in which peace was brought and the reason the war came to an end.

G. Some other matters stipulated in the treaty

·        Protection for the civil rights of Mexican nationals living within the new border

·        US promises to police its side of the border

·        The guarantee of Mexican land grants was deleted from the treaty

Sig.  Students are aware of some entities that were specified in the treaty.

Primary Source:  Show the actual treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. 

Sig.  Students are able to see the actual treaty, which helps them, put some realization to the document.

H.  Results of the Mexican-American War

·        13, 000 Americans killed

·        Northern Mexico and Texas added to the United States virtually half of Mexico’s territory.

·        In Congress the Wilmot Proviso was introduced beginning in 1846.  Stated that slavery should not be allowed in any territory acquired from Mexico.  While it never passed, it provided a well-defined proposal that allowed free-soil forces to attract thousands of followers

Sig.  To recognize the outcomes of the Mexican-American war.

I.  Conclusion

           Now that California has become a free slave state, this affects the balance of

 power between the slave states and free-slave states, which only adds more tension

between the two and eventually leads to the Civil War. The Acquisition of California

should be considered the pentacle of Manifest Destiny. 

Primary Source:  Speech of Hon. W.A. Sackett, of New York; Shall Slavery be Extended

 Sig. Students identify with the actual document and understand how California

affected the balance of powers between slave and non-slave states.