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?