Manifest Destiny

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In 1845, John L. O'Sullivan, a newspaper reporter in New York City, coined the phrase "manifest destiny." O'Sullivan claimed that it was the God-given destiny of the United States of America to spread over North America.

O' Sullivan summarized his view this way:

And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.

Many white Americans agreed with O'Sullivan's view. Since the arrival of the first European colonists to what would eventually become the United States of America, many of the newcomers had believed that they were God's chosen people. Some of these same people had believed that the North American continent was destined to be under white control. Europeans drove the Indians away from their lands, including those in Ohio, throughout the 1600s and the 1700s.  During the 1800s, the United States government began acquiring more land from both the Indians and from European countries claiming land in North America. Through various treaties, land purchases, and wars, the United States, by 1848, acquired all of the territory that comprises the continental United States today.

While manifest destiny united many Americans with a shared belief that God had a grand mission for them, it also divided them. As the United States acquired more territory during the first part of the nineteenth century, the issue of slavery and where it would be permitted began to divide the country. Increasingly through this period, many Southerners and some Northerners wanted slavery to exist everywhere in the United States, including in the new territories added to the country. Many other Americans did not want slavery to expand at all, and some people  wanted slavery to be prohibited across the entire nation. Eventually these tensions would lead to the American Civil War.

The concept of manifest destiny did not end with the American Civil War. Throughout the late nineteenth century and well into the recent history of the United States, many  Americans continued to believe that it was their nation's duty to spread the American  political and economic system around the world.

See Also


  1. Hietala, Thomas. Manifest Design: American Exceptionalism and Empire. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003.  
  2. Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.  
  3. Jordan, Philip D. Ohio Comes of Age: 1874-1899. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1943.  
  4. Pletcher, David. The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon, and the Mexican War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973.  
  5. Roseboom, Eugene H. The Civil War Era: 1850-1873. Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1944.