God's Will Of Westward Expansion Inside The Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny was God’s will. Americans believed that God had given the American nation a destiny; the further expansion of territory westward towards the Pacific Ocean must be accomplished. The 19th century expansion was ultimately successful as the United States evolved into the powerful country of today. Due to the westward expansion, technological advancements, population growth and civilized unity resulted for American citizens. The discovery of gold in the western territories promised citizens as well as the country wealth and prosperity and business development. Most importantly, Westward expansion provided American citizens new opportunities and beginnings no longer available in the Eastern states. Although manifest destiny established our proud nation, the methods employed were cruel, immoral, and had lasting negative fingerprints on society today.
The Mexican-American War in the 1840’s was the ultimate event of conquest that brought about Manifest Destiny. At first, many Democrats had used the terminology for their reasoning to start a war with Mexico while also dealing with British forces in upper Northern America. Defeating Mexico in the war, as well as combating the British forces, provided a crucial step towards completing the ultimate mission of westward conquest by gaining the territory that is now Texas (“Mexican-American War”). Additionally, during this time frame, America had defeated Britain and gaining the state of Oregon from Britain in 1846 as they continued their relentless expansion West. By 1847, Britain had retreated back to their home country while America focused on annexing Texas and dealing with the situation of Mexico. A newspaper editor, John O’ Sullivan, as well as many Democrats developed the idea that the manifest destiny only belonged to white Americans; any non-white race would not be qualified (“Manifest Destiny”). Therefore, in 1845 only the annexation of Texas proceeded. The American nation refused to annex the whole country of Mexico. Many American politicians viewed that if the nation included non-white ethnicity into the manifest destiny ideology, this would an overall threat to the nation. This means that any other non-white ethnics groups like native Americans, Mexicans, and African Americans would not deserve a sense of belonging or be considered a part of the benefits of westward expansion.
Decades later, historians viewed the ramifications behind the actions of expansion that were committed in the movement west. The difference in all of the actions committed to achieve successful expansion was the mass murder and torture of minority individuals and native ethnicities. What all the major events of action had all in common was its source. The initial victims of Manifest Destiny were the Native Americans who were the first individuals to inhabit North America and western land. One of the notable tragic events would be the Trail of Tears that occurred from 1830-1877. Before the event, in 1830, the American Congress passed the “Indian Removal Act ” which was applied to the Cherokee Native Indian tribe. The American Congress wanted to force out the Cherokee out of their homeland located in the state we call Georgia today (‘Trail of Tears’). When the Cherokee Native Indian tribe attempted defiance, American soldiers attacked and killed almost a third of their tribe. Men, children and women were forced to march thousands of miles westward. Tsalagi, the vice chief of the Cherokee tribe stated the grief and sadness of his tribe towards leaving their homeland. Tsalagi expressed, “We are now about to take our leave and kind farewell to our native land, the country the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, we are on the eve of leaving that country that gave us birth, it is with sorrow we are forced by the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood…we bid farewell to it and all we hold dear, ” (Tsalagi). The final ramification of the Trail of Tears was a lugubrious event. A total of four thousand Cherokee died or were killed because of forced removal reflecting and defining the immorality of committing the pillar of conquest and eliminating the existence of Native Indians and their culture.
Besides the complete elimination of the Native American population, the Manifest Destiny led to the rise of social class ranks and slavery, one of the five pillars. Because many people grew wealthy by owning new land to start new businesses as well as farming, social classes started to erupt. The owners of the land, or the wealthy “bourgeoisie” manipulated the lower class who worked in harsh environments and never ending hours. Clara Lemich was a shirtwaist maker in multiple clothing shops during the mid 1850’s. Lemich exemplifies her experience working in the clothing shops, “ the shops are unsanitary – that’s the word that is generally used, but there ought to be a worse one used. Whenever we tear or damage any of the goods we sew on, or whenever it is found damaged after we are through with it, whether we have one it or not, we are charged for the piece and sometimes for a whole yard of the material. At the beginning of every slow season, $2 is deducted from our salaries. We have never been able to find out what this is for,” (“TESTIMONIALS”). In addition to the social classes, another negative result of U.S. territorial expansion westward was the spark of slavery.
Although Americans made a promise that they would not resort to violent means, history showed that this did not really happen. Slavery of the Native Americans was at its peak after expansion in the mid 1850’s mimicking the plight of Africans in America’s lust of slavery. In class, we focused on Olaudah Equiano, an abolitionist who was once a proud individual in his native land but became a slave to the American nation. His narrative showcases the immorality behind slavery. Like all slaves, he was taken away from his home village from Africa and was part of the triangular trade through the middle passage reoccurring in the 18th and 19th century from the other side of the Atlantic between Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Equiano describes his feelings of being taken away and the overall picture of the slave trade, “I looked round the ship too and saw a large furnace or copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate; and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted,”(Equiano, 24). Every individual who was captured and kept in hostage in the slave ships felt the same sense of hopelessness and fear about their future. After being placed on the deck, the slaves were relocated to the dungeons deep below within the ships. Conditions were often unsanitary and millions of slaves died from diseases such as measles, scurvy, and smallpox (Digital History). When the slaves arrived in the New World, they were bought and sold to many American who earned large sums of money by playing the role as slaves owners known as chattel slavery (Tripp). Overall, America’s lower class citizens and slaves had to work for many hours day by day that ultimately was tied to the rise of Capitalism, a dominant economic system in America by the mid 19th century. Because of social classes and slavery, urbanization grew and America was soon recognized as a world empire.
Because urbanization as well as the human population continued to rapidly grow, America took on risky actions. Under the further influence of the Manifest Destiny, America strived to be the most powerful nation in the Pacific. The nation grew their military and initiated their first imperialist actions with Hawai’i’s Overthrow in 1893. Hawai’i’s monarchy was threatened by the Committee of Safety who had the main objective to create a voluntary treaty that would lead to the Hawaiian islands being annexed to the American nation (“Americans Overthrow Hawaiian Monarchy”). The Committee of Safety went to the U.S. Government minister, John Stevens, who sent American troops to Hawai’i which violated international and Hawaiian kingdom law because the troops arrived to the islands without the Queen of Hawai’i’s approval. Liliuokalani, Hawai’i’s last monarch, instead of dealing with a small committee was faced with an imperialist nation bloodthirsty for power and her island’s territory (“Americans Overthrow Hawaiian Monarchy”).
Instead of sacrificing her own people in a physical conflict, she decided fight back politically by exercising her authority issuing a legal argument to the US government that their troops had landed in Hawai’i illegally. Lastly, she requested for the US government to assign her constitutional role back as the main monarch and leader of Hawai’i. Her request was denied since the American nation wanted the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands. Her reaction was surprising yet remarkable. The queen did not demonstrate bitterness or hate towards the American nation. Instead, Queen Liliuokalani only sent a letter to the newly elected president, Grover Cleveland, wishing that her people would be treated with justice under American control. In her letter to the American president, Liliuokalani wrote, “I hope and pray that the United States and her President will see that justice is done to my people and to myself; that they will not recognize the treaty of annexation, and that it may forever be laid aside; that they will restore to me and my nation all the rights that have been taken away by the action of her minister; that we may be permitted to continue to maintain our independent stand amongst the civilized nations of the world as in years gone by; that your great nation will continue those kind and friendly relations that have always existed for many years past between the two countries. I can assure you that Hawaii and her people have no other sentiment toward American and her President than one of the kindest regard,”( Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, 1898). Her letter was written after Hawai’i was finally annexed in August 1898.
Liliuokalani, within the letter, presented herself full of hopefulness as well as nonviolent intentions instead of resorting to selfishness and aggression like the American nation. This difference was caused by the Manifest Destiny which fueled America’s selfish perspective and egotism towards the rest of the world. Even though Liliuokalani came across as passive and nonviolent, the annexation of Hawai’i by America’s act of conquest had caused traditional Hawaiian culture to fade away and now is only taught by native Hawaiians or brought up as discussions inside classrooms in schools only within the islands. Many citizens through mainland America who often visit the islands for vacation are unaware of the drastic cultural changes that native Hawaiians have faced since the annexation of their land.
The Manifest Destiny left a deep scar on our country felt by many of today’s population whose ancestors had lived during the time period of American westward expansion. Even though many white Americans try to provide respect towards Native and African Americans, the victims of Americas past atrocities of westward expansion are often still bitter and suffer from the memory of the past acts of mass murder and torture. Native Hawaiians live in the shadows of a commercialized Hawaii and tourist mecca. Additionally, Manifest Destiny still exists today in different ways. For example, our modern American country continues to use Manifest Destiny by involving itself in foreign events. America uses its military might in attempts to solve many political, social and economic unbalances within multiple countries but only in its own best interests. We continue to hear about the chaos within the Middle East on the news. Since the 1980’s, the US continues aiding Saudi Arabia in their “cold war” with Iran (Rubin). Saudi Arabia formed an alliance with America which was called the Gulf Cooperation Council (Al Jazeera). Towards the early 2000’s there was a conflict between American politicians who argued whether America’s involvement with the war between Saudi Arabia and Iran was the right choice. One side argued that terrorism rose because of America’s involvement while the other side believed that Saudi Arabia and Iraq would have fell to the hands of Iran if America had not provided aid (“U.S.-Saudi Arabia Relations”). Although, America saved Iraq from Iranian invasion, America made the mistake of leaving Iraq without a stable political government. America’s mistake led to an uprising of many terrorist groups originating from both Saudi Arabia and Iran that continues to fight in multiple proxy wars all over the Middle East. Continued American belief in Manifest Destiny is at hand. This belief was believed to be God’s will that provided new enlightenment and the opportunity for America to become one of the most powerful nations that exist today. However, our status as a power does not mean that all nations around the world respect us. For our next move as a nation, we need to better utilize the Manifest Destiny to provide for other nations as well as ethnic groups around the world rather than solely for the benefit of American interests.
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