TeacherServe Essays

The Religious Origins of Manifest Destiny

Author: Scott, Donald (NHC Fellow, 1985–86)

In 1845, an unsigned article in a popular American journal, a long standing Jacksonian publication, the Democratic Review, issued an unmistakable call for American expansionism. Focusing mainly on bringing the Republic of Texas into the union, it declared that expansion represented “the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” Thus a powerful American slogan was born. “Manifest Destiny” became first and foremost a call and justification for an American form of imperialism, and neatly summarized the goals of the Mexican War. It claimed that America had a destiny, manifest, i.e., self-evident, from God to occupy the North American continent south of Canada. Manifest Destiny was also firmly anchored in a long standing and deep sense of a special and unique American Destiny, the belief that in the words of historian Conrad Cherry, “America is a nation called to a special destiny by God.” The notion that there was some providential purpose to the European discovery and eventual conquest of the land masses “discovered” by Christopher Columbus was present from the beginning.

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Subjects
History / Education Studies / American History / Manifest Destiny / American Westward Expansion / Imperialism / Christianity / American Frontier /