Manifest Destiny Was An Aggresive Imperialistic Ideology.
Manifest Destiny Was An Aggresive Imperialistic Ideology.
America in the 1840s was a rapidly expanding and growing nation. With this expansion came the notion that America should share its free form of federal government with the rest of the world. This ardent conviction was the basis of the ideology called Manifest Destiny. If enlightening the world was the goal, then expansion was the means. Although the general consensus among Americans was that Manifest Destiny was a kindly movement, it was in fact aggressive, racist, and imperialistic. The Manifest Destiny was driven by these factors and pursued at the expense of others. Some examples of this twisted ideology are the American acquisition and settlement of the Oregon country, America causing the Texan subversion of Mexico, and the war between America and Mexico.
American expansion into the Oregon country was a crusade to convert the native population to Protestant Christianity, bring in more American settlers, and to eventually annex the area to America. The Oregon country consisted of what are now the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and parts of Montana, Wyoming, and British Columbia. This area had been jointly occupied by America and Britain since 1818, after the two nations signed a treaty ending their dispute over the territory. However, American interest in the area sparked in the 1830s, and by the 1840s American presence in the area was significantly greater than the British. This interest was mainly grounded in placing missionaries in Oregon to convert Native Americans to Christianity, and in stopping Catholic Canadian missionaries from operating in the same area, which was seen as a threat to eventual American annexation of the territory. When the Native Americans rejected Christianity, the missionaries spitefully encouraged Americans to settle in the tribes’ lands. The settlers brought an epidemic of measles that decimated the native population. This American expansion continued unhindered, and by the middle of the 1840s, Americans were not only well entrenched in the Oregon territory, but they were also pushing for the annexation of the territory to the United States. This method of expansion recalls the image of a virus infecting cells to produce more of itself at the expense of the cells. This was not the only example of the Manifest Destiny’s virus.
Texas was another victim of the Manifest Destiny. It was originally occupied by Mexico, and America tried to purchase Texas from Mexico twice unsuccessfully; however, American settlers in the territory rebelled and eventually gained independence from Mexico. Most of these settlers were slave-holding plantation owners from the southern United States. From the time of Texan independence on until 1845 (when Texas was finally admitted to the Union as a slave state), Texas became entangled in a diplomatic dance with the United States in order to achieve statehood. This was because of American fears of sectionalism and the shift in the balance of power Texas’ annexation would cause with regard to the debate over slavery. It was finally admitted to the Union on the condition that the Oregon territory be occupied as a slave-free area. All of this occurred at the expense of black slaves in Texas and the Mexican people who originally inhabited Texas.
Texas’ annexation did not satisfy American designs on Mexican territory, a lust that would eventually lead to war. Many Americans, led by Democratic President James K. Polk, held the view that the border between Texas and Mexico was the Rio Grande, not the Nueces River. Additionally, they were committed to annexing New Mexico and California to the United States. They justified these claims through supremacist beliefs that since Mexicans were racially “inferior” to Americans, then their claims to any territory were just as insignificant as those of the savage Native Americans. Additionally, Mexicans were thought “incapable of participating as equals in America’s republican system”. President Polk secretly made preparations for war, positioning forces to retaliate against Mexico in case of a war. However, he first attempted to buy the territories form Mexico. When Mexico refused, he ordered troops to advance from Texas to the Rio Grande, the limit of the American claim to Texas. Mexico refused to give battle, although a few Mexican troops allegedly attacked the Americans across the Rio Grande. Polk used this as justification for war and invaded Mexico, eventually occupying Mexico City, the capital, on September 14, 1847. Mexico capitulated and ceded California and New Mexico to America in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. The only reason why Polk did not allow for the annexation of all of Mexico was his fear of promoting sectionalism and losing political power in the upcoming election.
One can see that America in the 1840s was a land-grabbing imperialist bully, fueled by the greed of Manifest Destiny. In Oregon, Americans used evangelism as a pretext for settling the territory and claiming it for themselves. In doing so, they nearly eradicated the native population. They snatched Texas from the Mexicans by encroaching upon the land in a similar manner, however this time Mexico itself provided the means to do so by allowing Americans to immigrate. As soon as Americans became well established in Texas, they revolted and the United States eventually annexed the territory. Even then, American greed was not satisfied. They still wanted California and New Mexico, and virtually instigated war in order to acquire those territories as well. Annexation of all Mexico was actually deliberated, but the idea was rejected for fear more debate over slavery. Manifest Destiny was instrumental in causing many problems for America, as one can see in American history during the mid-eighteenth century.