Many Americans in the early 1800s believed that it was the destiny of America to control all of the North American continent. This belief was called "Manifest Destiny." The term originated from a New York newspaper editorial of December 27, 1845, which declared that the nation's manifest destiny was "to over spread and to possess" the whole continent, to develop liberty and self-government to all. In the eyes of the Americans, it meant that it was God's will that Americans expand their territory from coast to coast.
This idea of Manifest Destiny strongly influenced the attitudes of the people and the policies of the U.S. government. Americans believed that they were bringing God, technology and civilization to the lands in the west. What they brought, in fact, was death, disease and wars to the Native Americans and Mexicans who occupied these lands. Americans used the idea of Manifest Destiny to justify their dishonest, cruel, and racist treatment of the Indians and Mexicans who already occupied these lands. Americans looked upon Native Americans as dumb savages and upon Mexicans as inferior people who were lazy and ignorant.
Origins of Manifest Destiny
The idea of Manifest Destiny did not begin in the 1800s, but began back when Puritans were first settling the Atlantic coast.
In 1803 Thomas Jefferson was President of the United States and the Mississippi River was thought of as the western border of the United States. Napoleon Bonaparte was the ruler of France which controlled a huge piece of land west of the Mississippi River. This land stretched from the Mississippi River all the way to the Rocky Mountains and was called the Louisiana Territory. Napoleon was on the verge of a war with Great Britain and needed money to finance the war. President Jefferson took advantage of this situation and offered to buy New Orleans from France. Napoleon Bonaparte offered to sell the entire Louisiana Territory for $15 million. President Jefferson agreed and purchased 830,000 square mile of land west of the Mississippi.
The purchase of the Louisiana Territory gave the United States valuable new land and doubled the young country's size. The Louisiana Purchase opened the way for westward expansion and the realization of fulfilling the idea of Manifest Destiny. A great nation that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition
President Thomas Jefferson knew very little about the territory acquired with the Louisiana Purchase. He wondered if one of the rivers in the newly acquired territory flowed westward to the Pacific Ocean. He chose two men to explore this new territory. One was Meriwether Lewis, his secretary and the other was William Clark, an army officer.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition was a journey of discovery. They were supposed to travel up the Missouri River and eventually make their way west to the Pacific Ocean. They were responsible for drawing maps of the...