Manifest Destiny the United States Term Paper

Pages: 6 (2128 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: American History

Manifest Destiny

The United States has often been accused of promoting the image of exceptional values and moral norms. Indeed, the fact that the U.S. is the result of a historical context in which the forces of imperialism were defeated at the hands of the revolutionary armies offered historians, politicians, journalists, and even common people the base for constructing a belief in the predestined fate of the American land and of an apostolic mission towards the world. this perspective on the foreign policy was more or less a constant incentive for the United States and in the last century it can be said that the notion of "manifest destiny" has been the driving force of every accomplishments and failures of the U.S. Administrations.

The notion in itself is attributed to "John Louis O'Sullivan, a New York journalist of Irish descent, confident and optimistic in temperament" (Haynes and Morris, 1997, 7). The period in which the term was coined coincided with the early struggles of the U.S. colonies to break away from the pressures of the British Empire. In this sense, there were constant desires to escape the colonial domination of the British, a strive which ultimately evolved in the American Revolution (Jenkins, 1997). Nonetheless, one of the first signs of the emerging desires of the United States to follow a predestined future was the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 which "stated that the U.S. would not tolerate any new intervention by a European colonial power in the Americas. The policy put on record that the U.S. believed itself the dominant power in the hemisphere. In subsequent decades, many U.S. presidents would take the Monroe Doctrine to heart" (Allard, 2006). Therefore, it can be stated that in the beginning, the political environment in the U.S. was the one which determined an entire belief over the mission of the U.S. To promote the values of the Revolution, freedom, and liberty in the region.

These ideas were reconsidered years later by journalists and in particular by O'Sullivan. His article in the New York Times is viewed as one of the most representative illustrations of the way in which the United States would conduct its foreign policy in the following century. More precisely, the main argument of the journalist comes from the historical conception of the United States which is in his opinion "derived from many other nations" and whose identity in terms of political aspects has "in reality but little connection with the past history of any of them" (n.d.). However, this argumentation aims at pointing out the fact that the United States' emergence on to the international scene "was the beginning of a new history, the formation and progress of an untried political system, which separates us from the past and connects us with the future only; and as far as regards the entire development of the natural rights of man, in moral, political, and national life, we may confidently assume that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity" (n.d.) Therefore, it can be argued that the core idea of the notion relies in the consideration of the United States as the promoter of a system which had never been used before, nor has it been invented up to that point.

The general perception of the notion is rather hard to determine as the presidents of the United States in particular have made use of the concept throughout the decades, at times with little consideration of the initial meaning. In this sense, the notion aimed at identifying the particularities of a newly born nation which draws its strengths and abilities from the European political regimes especially the British one. However, the American Revolution added an element which although was taken into consideration by the British as well, the political system in the Empire did not allow it to be implemented. Therefore, the doctrine of human rights but in particular that of the equality of men, regardless of their financial or political perspective came to be seen as an element of novelty in the political framework and especially in the context of the new developments in terms of revolutionary attempts in Europe. The Untied States, taking into account the fact that it manage to create a practically new political system was able to undergo such endeavors as to ensure the respect of human rights, the equal representation of the people; most importantly however, this revolutionary enthusiasm and the fact that the colonies became independent without any particular help gave the mental and propagandistic power to believe that the values they enshrined in the Constitution must become universal values. Therefore, the mission of the United States was to promote these values.

The decades which followed such a consideration of the American mission in the world are the obvious proof of this approach. The politicians however applied this notion in the beginning to the territory in the West of the colonies. In this sense, "the belief that Americans were divinely ordained to stretch across the continent also likely motivated many pioneers to migrate west. In any case, the belief was partly rooted in a kind of "romanticism" of the time -- an optimistic faith in human nature and progress toward a better society and the achievement of great dreams" (Allard, 2006). Therefore, the "manifest destiny" came to be seen as a reason and at the same time as a motivation for the conquest of the Wild West.

On the same principle of divine mission of the United States to complete its territory, further annexations were made. In this sense, "God and nature have destined New Orleans and the Floridas to belong to this great and rising empire" (Weinberg, 1937). Therefore, in the beginning it was not so much the issue of foreign policy rather than the aspect of the unification of the territories the colonies considered to be rightfully theirs.

An interesting point related to the issue of manifest destiny is the actual use of the notion and its meaning for the collective mentality of a people. The idea that the United States has a mission above the worldly considerations of politics and foreign and internal affairs tends to motivate people for a cause. This could have been one of the reasons for which the notion was used throughout the conduct of foreign policy. In this sense, the Civil War represents an eloquent example. Thus, people in the North were to a certain extent motivated by the idea that the entire nation must stand against slavery, for one reason or another. There were voices as well which tried to take into account the fact that slavery was morally wrong. Those people supported the war precisely from the point-of-view of the "manifest destiny" notion. Thus, "What makes people willing to die for a cause? That is a primary question behind our fascination with the Civil War, which was so ferocious and horrible that today's Americans cannot imagine engaging in such a struggle" (Richardson, 1999) the answer comes after serous research of Civil War materials which points out that the soldiers "the fighters" were in fact "the men willing to die for a cause" (Richardson, 1999). This cause is considered to have been entrenched in the values the U.S. is destined to promote according to the "manifest destiny" theory.

The turn of the century however and especially the 20th century are the periods most representative for the way in which the idea of "manifest destiny" was put in practice. Therefore, the history of the First World War points out the fact that the United States entered the confrontation from various reasons; however, one of the most important and one of the most talked about was the desire of the U.S. To offer the struggling peoples in Europe freedom from the oppressors (Kissinger, 1995).

This is one of the most important aspects of the foreign policy of the U.S. Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points lead to this conclusion. Thus, the President argued in 1918 that "we entered this war because violations of right had occurred which touched us to the quick and made the life of our own people impossible unless they were corrected and the world secure once for all against their recurrence. What we demand in this war, therefore, is nothing peculiar to ourselves. It is that the world be made fit and safe to live in; and particularly that it be made safe for every peace-loving nation which, like our own, wishes to live its own life, determine its own institutions, be assured of justice and fair dealing by the other peoples of the world as against force and selfish aggression. All the peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest, and for our own part we see very clearly that unless justice is done to others it will not be done to us. The program of the world's peace, therefore, is our program" (Gort, n.d.). Therefore the President in the name of the United States assumed the role of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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