What is Manifest Destiny?
In the 1800s, many people believed America was destined by God to expand West, bringing as much of North America as possible under the rule of the United States government. This idea was known as Manifest Destiny. With the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the Louisiana Purchase of 1893, over half of the continent became American.
America was well on its way to spanning all the way from East to West, from one ocean to the next across the whole continent. Americans were trying to just spread a little bit further and a little bit farther to reach that goal. However, America’s rapid and continuous expansion brought conflict.
When America was taking over these new lands, sometimes they were taking colonies or settlements that were previously said to be owned by European nations, or sometimes they were simply taking the Native Americans’ land. As they moved further South, they were taking the land that had previously been under Mexico’s rule.
They had conflict with Native Americans, Great Britain, Mexico, and Spain. One result of this conflict was the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848. After the war, Texas, California, and much of the American Southwest joined the Nation. They gained even more land after the Mexican-American War.
America had annexed Texas and Mexico wasn’t recognizing the same borderline as America was saying they were entitled to, so they went to war. Out of that war, America gained even more land, getting all of Texas, plus California, and much of today’s American Southwest. Conflict also rose over the Oregon Territory border up in the Northwest.
This border was shared by the United States and Great Britain. They argued over where the border actually should be. In 1846, President James Polk exacted a compromise with Britain, establishing the United States boundary south of the 49th parallel, which is where you see it today. The 49 parallel is a line of latitude across the globe.
They did it geographically, and said, “Okay, we’ll settle for this.” You’ll notice he did this in 1846 right before the Mexican-American War. He didn’t want to be fighting Great Britain and Mexico at the same time, so he quickly settled everything here so that he could focus on fighting Mexico.
In the end, America did reach its goal. They achieved a manifest destiny. The United States stretches from the East to the West from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, or from sea to shining sea.