Growth is at the core of most conflicts in politics. It's either the desire for more growth or the request for less and a focus on the troubles at hand. But growth often shapes the future of a country, as Manifest Destiny certainly did. While Manifest Destiny made the country larger and wealthier, it also brought many troubles that the powerful Whig Party, the Opposition Party, did not want hoisted on the growing republic. The eventual fallout brought an end to slavery as well as the Whig Party.
Whig Party Politics
The Whigs, or the Opposition Party, preferred to focus on setting a democratic example, such as a firm belief in the written constitution, protecting minorities from tyranny by the majority and advocating for the rule of law, rather than conquest. The rather complex issue of Manifest Destiny caused strife within the Whig Party, which was mostly anti-slavery and worried expansion would extend slavery into those areas. They preferred to concentrate on the industrial growth within the boundaries the country already had issues governing.
While the Whig Party faltered in its quest to halt Manifest Destiny by its Democratic Party foes, it saw two presidents elected to further their cause during their 20-year reign. They were General William Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1848. Unfortunately, both died in office.
The internal pressures of the expansion of slavery pulled the party apart as anti-slavery members vied for the rights of a growing population. The party evolved into the Republican Party, which Abraham Lincoln, a former Whig, would eventually lead as president in 1860.
Manifest Destiny Primer
The underlying concept of Manifest Destiny came from the belief in the 19th century that the United States had the God-given right to expand its territories across the entire continent. The population swelled from 5 million people in 1800 to more than 23 million just five decades later. Unfortunately, there were also two economic depressions twenty years apart that pushed people out of the crammed cities toward the hope of wide open spaces in the west.
The westward expansion began when President Thomas Jefferson approved the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. That land purchase of more than 800,000 miles nearly doubled the size of the young country and gave much needed elbow room to its growing population. At the same time, Lewis and Clark were opening up far-flung regions of the west all the way to the coast and plans to purchase land in Florida and Texas were well on their way. After the hard-won effort to admit Texas into the Union in 1845, politicians and their constituents were dead set on expanding to the west coast.
Manifest Destiny was on its way, but had yet to be fully realized as a concept that would properly define what the people of the United States were feeling. The Democratic Review and the New York Morning News, both owned by John O’Sullivan, posted editorials in the summer of 1845 coining the phrase Manifest Destiny.
The act of Manifest Destiny didn’t sit well with those who shared the continent with the land-hungry young country. It resulted in war with Mexico and the disruption, displacement and brutal altercations with Native Americans and other non-European residents in North America.
After the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, the U.S. gained more than 500,000 miles of territory that extended its borders to California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico and north through Colorado and Wyoming.
During its reign, Manifest Destiny brought economic growth, resources and land, while also wiping out cultures, creating wars and leaving a lasting negative effect on those who had made North America home long before others landed on its shores.
Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.