Literary Analysis Essay on Manifest Destiny: Westward Expansion by Shane Mountjoy

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Harvey Mudd College
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With the growth of the population of the thirteen colonies in addition to economic development, there was an increase in the desire to expand into a new land. Americans in the 19th century were of the view that it was their divine right to have the territory extended to the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic Ocean. John O'Sullivan first used the phrase Manifest Destiny' to articulate the idea that God had given Americans a mission to ensure that a republican democracy was spread throughout the continent. Proponents of manifest destiny had the conviction of discharging the mission and triggered some wars to win what is currently the southwestern US. One of them was the war with Mexico. This book examines how the idea of spreading out the land impacted the United States.

The first chapter talks about the meetings that were held to devise a strategy that would challenge the government of President James Polk together with his war policy. Those in attendance believed that it was time to do something that would change the focus to the issue of slavery (Mountjoy 1). It was becoming increasingly worrying that the southern states had acquired so much power within the federal government and used the same to protect and support slavery. There were questions on what America had become.

The second chapter goes through the origins of manifest destiny. According to Mountjoy (p.9), this phrase was used to portray the notion that it was the fate of the US to expand throughout the American continent. The phrase was not new to America in the course of the 1840s. It was mostly associated with John O'Sullivan. He used to define the dream that he had about the future of America.

Chapter three analyzes the Treaty of Paris that brought the American Revolution to an end. Based on the terms and conditions of the agreement, Great Britain acknowledged her former colonies as an independent nation. It went ahead to cede control of the lands that were situated south of the Great Lakes and to the east of the Mississippi to the US. Spain, on the other hand, received Florida (Mountjoy 21). France got nothing even thought it had helped the US in the course of the revolution. In 1783, Great Britain, the US, and Spain were the only powers left in North America.

The fourth chapter looks at the territories and national policy (Mountjoy 35). Americans started to buy into the settling western frontiers that had not been explored. Initially, they moved into areas like Michigan, Ohio, and Arkansas among others. During the 1840s and 50s, the country expanded rapidly, and within a period of five years, the US increased its size tremendously. The US annexed Texas. Also, it negotiated with Britain to have part of Oregon. Moreover, the US acquired more due to war with Mexico.

The emphasis on Oregon is evidenced in chapter 5 (Mountjoy 47). One area of significant expansion for the US was the Oregon Territory. Initially, Spain, the US, Britain, and Russia staked claim to this territory. In the end, Russia and Spain dropped their demands. It left Britain and the United States as the sole contenders. Claims by Britain were founded on prior discovery, treaty rights and most importantly exploration. The claims by the United States were also based on development, treaty rights and the element of exploration. Furthermore, a small population of Americans with the inclusion of missionaries seeking to change Pacific Northwest Indians became part of the claim of occupation.

Chapter six examines the case of Texas (Mountjoy 60). The first movement of American settlers beyond the borders set by the Missouri Compromise was into Texas which was a Mexican province. This area was sparsely populated from the early colonial period. Being a newly independent nation, Mexico experienced political conflict and instability. There was a bid to fill the land which was home to Indians and missionaries from France. Therefore, Americans were called upon to populate Texas. Families were expected to show good moral character, abide by the Mexican laws and take after the Roman Catholic Church.

The war with Mexico is analyzed in chapter 7 (Mountjoy 73). Following the war between America and Mexico, the latter ceded much of the west and southwest to the US. It entailed what would later become the states of New Mexico Arizona, California, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and Nevada. The US bought an additional parcel of land from Mexico. Expansion to the west was enabled by some factors including California Gold Rush, the long pilgrimage by Mormons to Utah and construction of railroads among others.

Focus on the fruits of the war with Mexico is articulated in chapter 8 (Mountjoy 88). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo accorded the US thousands of miles of territory which resulted in the gold and silver discovery in California. Moreover, it largely contributed to the economy of the country and westward expansion. Despite this, the war further divided the US between owners of slaves and abolitionists. The new territories tilted the balance of power between slave states on the one hand and free states on the other. Furthermore, the Americans suffered some casualties following the war due to disease alone. It was in addition to the financial cost incurred in the war. Mexico, on the other hand, suffered severely as a result of the war.

Chapter nine looks at the legacy that was left behind by the manifest destiny (Mountjoy 104). Americans increasingly adopted the phrase manifest destiny which was connected with the expansion of land. However, the phrase was also linked to the notion of Americanization of Mexicans and Indians in places like Texas and Oregon. Also, most Americans related this idea of the physical spread of the borders of the US with spreading freedom. The debate touching on expansionism was never a simple one. On the contrary, it raised complex questions regarding the nature of liberty. There were also concerns about republicanism and the role played by the state in the expansion. It was feared that expansionism remained a threat to the country, in the form of changing demographics, national security, and overextension. Private citizens involved in commercial and agricultural enterprises of the expansion frontiers became the greatest causes of expansionism. It is because their economic activities always preceded imperial expansion to a territory. The last chapter provides a chronology of events that occurred during this period. The reader is taken through the flow of events.

Work Cited

Mountjoy, Shane. Manifest Destiny: Westward Expansion. Infobase Publishing, 1 Jan 2009

 

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