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Where Are They Now: Manifest Destiny And The American Dream

972 words - 4 pages

Manifest Destiny is defined as “ the belief held by many American in the 1840s that the United States was designed to expand westward” (Columbia University). John O’Sullivan originally coined the phrase manifest destiny and provided three reasons behind the westward movement. One reason he stated was that God wanted Americans expanding their territory. The second reason suggested that expanding America meant expanding and spreading democracy, which would better the world. The last reason was that an increase in population required more land to be settled. O’Sullivan explained the westward movement in his article The Great Nation of Futurity as, “The expansive future is our arena, and for ...view middle of the document...

The economic depression of 1839 also lead to more and more people exploiting manifest destiny in order to find new jobs. An uncivilized West required a surplus amount of workers which would fulfill the need for those unemployed in the East. It is clear to see why manifest destiny soon became the American Dream; “The vastness of the continent, the seemingly endless frontier, the staggering natural resources…made the pursuit of happiness more than a full-time proposition”(Meacham).
Technology along with government intervention further floored the popularity of expansion. The Homestead Act and the building of the Pacific Railroad of Lincoln’s administration helped in settling the West. The Homestead Act “gave 160 acres of land to settlers who were willing to settle and cultivate the land for at least five years” (Anderson). The invention of the railroad put the treacherous six month journey across the country a thing of the past. Not only were people allowed to migrate across the country more quickly, but their ideas and products could, as well. The railroad industry led to an increase in trade and sparked the iron industry, thus helping the economy.
However, how often is the American Dream, which spun from manifest destiny, ever talked about lately? Where did this once popular ideology go? In the early to mid twentieth century, the American Dream faded into the background, and the dictatorships of Germany and Italy took its place in the limelight. Conquering Hitler regenerated the American Dream once more, yet this time around more people were entering into the middle class. The gap between the rich and the poor began growing at the fastest rate in history. The reason the American Dream was so easily attainable in the beginning as opposed to now is because America was not competing with other countries. As Jim Cullen, a historian, states, “In the...

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