“Manifest Destiny”

“Manifest Destiny,” John O’Sullivan, 1845

John O’Sullivan described westward expansion as “Manifest Destiny,” in an article written in 1845. The idea of “Manifest Destiny” was important because it both defined a basis for expansionist policies and became a central defining feature of American culture.

Write an analysis of O’Sullivan’s statement on “Manifest Destiny” that responds to the following questions:

  1. What is “Manifest Destiny”?
  2. Why did O’Sullivan believe that Americans should settle westward and how did he justify expansionist policies? Please draw on the document itself to support your answer; what language does O’Sullivan use to support his argument?
  3. The idea of “Manifest Destiny” has been evaluated by historians as having had both positive and negative influences on American society and culture. In what ways might it have been positive, and in what ways might it have been negative? Your answer to this question should reference at least two other sources from class; any source of your choice and “American Progress” by Gast, the painting that became an iconographic representation of expansion and progress in the United States.
  4. Please pose at least one discussion question about this source. What do you think is important to talk about with regard to O’Sullivan’s support for American expansion?

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