John L. OíSullivan is credited with popularizing the concept (and
coining the term) Manifest Destiny. OíSullivan was editor of Democratic
Review, a nationalist magazine which advocated American expansionism during
the 1840s. The following selection is taken from his article
"The Great Nation of Futurity" (1839). As you read, think about how
OíSullivan depicts the United States, its relationship to God and its role
in the world.
America is destined for better deeds.... We have no interest in the scenes of antiquity, only as lessons of avoidance of nearly all their examples. The expansive future is our arena, and for our history. We are entering on its untrodden space, with the truths of God in our minds, beneficent objects in our hearts and with a clear conscience unsullied by the past. We are the nation of human progress, and who will... set limits on our onward march. Providence is with us....
The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation... is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation an Union... comprising hundreds of happy millions... governed by Godís natural law of equality, the law of brotherhood....
Yes, we are the nation of progress, of individual freedom, of universal
enfranchisement.... [All of] this is our high destiny... we must accomplish
it. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral
dignity and salvation of man....For this blessed mission... has America
In 1845, OíSullivan returned to his theme of manifest destiny in an article in Democratic Review advocating continued U.S. expansion. As you read, think about how OíSullivan depicts the United States and its role in the hemisphere. What impact might OíSullivanís words have had on the American decision to annex Texas and later to go to war with Mexico?
[I am ] in favor of now elevating this question of the reception of Texas into the Union... up to its proper level of a high and broad nationality, it surely is to be found, found abundantly, in the manner in which other nations have undertaken to intrude themselves into it... in a spirit of hostile interference against us, for the avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions....
It is wholly untrue, and unjust to ourselves, the pretense that the Annexation [of Texas] has been a measure of spoliation, unrightful and unrighteous of military conquest... of aggrandizement at the expense of justice.... This view of the question is wholly unfounded....
California will, probably, next fall away from [the Federation of Mexico]....
Imbecile and distracted, Mexico never can exert any real governmental authority
over such a country.... The Anglo-Saxon foot is already on [Californiaís]
borders. Already the advance guard of the irresistible army of Anglo-Saxon
emigration has begun to pour down upon it, armed with the plow and the
rifle, and marking its trail with schools and colleges, courts and representative
halls, mills and meetinghouses.... [All this will happen] in the natural
flow of events, the spontaneous workings of principles.... And [the Californians]
will have a right to independence to self-government to the
possession of the homes conquered from the wilderness by their own labors
and dangers, sufferings and sacrifices a better and a truer right
than the artificial title of sovereignty in Mexico a thousand miles away....The
day is not distant when the Empires of the Atlantic and the Pacific would
again flow together into one....
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