• Tag Archives: Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny Still Exists

amManifest destiny was the idea that it was the duty, or destiny, of Americans to spread across the continent. Jane McManus Storm Cazneau wrote, “It is time for the common duty of Patriotism to the Country to succeed,” (Cummings 232) hinting that it was unpatriotic to think otherwise. The age of American expansion and manifest destiny eventually came to an end but the mindset never really did. Throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, the mindset had a few alternations, but never fully left. Americans went from thinking it was their duty to spread across the continent to spreading across the world. Manifest destiny turned into American Imperialism. This mindset has continued into the 21st Century and has not left. Granted there are those who are against American Imperialism but there is no doubt a large part of the population that see it as patriotic. Some choose to think that no matter what America does, whether it is good or bad, it is patriotic to support the country because we are just “better” than everyone else. In that sense the ideology of manifest destiny still remains. Being patriotic is a great thing, but following blindly without being informed is just foolish. Being informed and fighting for what is right, as well as supporting the country to do what is right, is patriotic. 


How did manifest destiny transform into American Imperialism?

Locke, Manifest Destiny, & the Discovery Doctrine


At the heart of Annexation by Jane McManus Storm Cazneau is the idea of Manifest Destiny, “our manifest destiny to overspread the continent,” (p. 233).  Cazneau says, “But, in regard to Texas, enoght has now been given to party. It is time for the common duty of Patriotism to the Country to succeed;” (p. 232). This idea is was the foundation for Westward expansion of the United States and it was believed that it was our right and duty as American’s to spread throughout the North American Continent.  When we look at Manifest Destiny we cannot forget that the land that was believed to be our ‘right’ had been inhabited by First Nations for centenaries. So what gave the right to the United States and its citizens over the land?

I believe that Chief Justice John Marshall laid out the best explanation for Manifest Destiny in the Johnson & Graham v. M’lntosh decision of 1823. I read this decision for my American Colonial History class to discuss what is often refereed to as the Discovery Doctrine, the precursor of Manifest Destiny. In the decision Chief Justice Marshall says, “To leave them (First Nations) in possession of their country was to leave the country as a wilderness;”.  On the surface this may not seem like a justification for Manifest Destiny, but this sentence is heavily influenced by John Locke. Locke believed that nature was the property of no one and natural resources had no value on their own. He argued that property is created when labor is performed on nature and natural resources. In Marshall’s flawed description of land use by First Nations, he believes that no labor has or will ever be performed on the land that the First Nations do not own the land and that the property rights should now be given to Americans who will put labor into the land and make it property.

Is this a just justification for Manifest Destiny? Is there any other justification for Manifest Destiny?

Patriotism and Manifest Destiny


Reading Jane McManus Storm Cazneau’s article on the Annexation of Texas, I am struck by the undiluted arrogance of this outspoken proponent for American expansion. But of course, as the source material for that most infamous phrase, “manifest destiny,” this is to be expected. What stuck out to me just as much was a train of thought which is quite common today among right-wingers, a sort of broad-stroke assessment of any and all political dissent or self-criticism as being unpatriotic. Patriotism means supporting the power and might and expansion of America by any means necessary, according to Cazneau.

But, in regard to Texas, enough has now been given to party. It is time for the common duty of Patriotism to the Country to succeed.

Duty. It is the duty of all to assent to the lawfully dubious extortion of substantial territory from a sovereign nation. Anything less is unpatriotic.

Hmmm. Where have I heard that before? Oh right, the fallout of 9/11 and the Iraq War.


While the dubious acts committed by the nation in these two examples might be cosmetically different, they essentially constitute the same principle: the US can do whatever it wants to promote its interests. All good, patriotic Americans will support it unthinkingly and all dissent ought to be rooted out.


Take this line of Cazneau’s article and tell me with a straight face that this isn’t precisely the same mentality trumpeted by War-hawks today:

Away, then, with all idle French talk of balances of power on the American Continent. There is no growth in Spanish America! Whatever progress of population there may be in British Canadas, is only for their own early severance of their present colonial relation to the little island three thousand miles across the Atlantic; soon to be followed by Annexation, and destined to swell the still accumulating momentum of our progress.

There you have it, a flagrant disregard for the sovereignty (and achievements) of America’s neighbors, a brisk acknowledgment of our exceptional and god-given mission to expand in all directions, and even the use of the word “French” as a pejorative for good measure. Jane would make a fine war-mongering pundit in certain, jingoistic circles today.