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What Is Manifest Destiny?

In 1845, an American journalist and newspaper editor John O’Sullivan wrote an article about plans to annex Texas. He justified the move saying it was “America's destiny to overspread the continent.” He believed that in time the country would become a superpower, both in terms of political authority and cultural influence. Sullivan went on to say that this was not only proper, but practically Divine will. He thought the country had been “chosen” for the mission of conquering the wilderness and civilizing the rest of the West.

The term caught on and was used to justify the country’s expansion from the west to the east. The propaganda campaign was picked up by newspapers and other mass mediums. It was, in fact, influential in gaining support for the Homestead Act and was the heart of the belief that people had the right to take the land.

The concept of manifest destiny became deeply rooted in American consciousness. Sullivan had spoken of the importance of spreading democracy to the rest of the world, which justified foreign affairs policies and the United States’ involvement in the political concerns of other countries. In their minds, it was not only their right but their duty to spread the American way “from sea to shining sea.”

The concept of Manifest Destiny, though, has led to a backlash from other countries who bristled at the interference of the United States government and the insinuation that the Americans had a “superior” civilization and the “duty” to spread it.

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