The term manifest destiny was first used by John L. O’Sullivan in 1840 to describe what most Americans at the time believed was their mission from God—to expand the United States from coast to coast. Along with expanding their territory, they should spread their institutions and traditions in order to liberate and enlighten other civilizations, such as the Indians and Hispanics who were considered inferior therefore deserving cultivation. By the end of the 19th century, expansionists believed that the Anglo-Saxon heritage made America supremely fit, so it was the nation’s duty to spread its influence even beyond its continental boundaries to the Far East, Asia, and the Caribbean and Pacific regions.
While Manifest Destiny is a philosophy embraced by many, there are still proponents with opposing views. And as is with every ideology, there are pros and cons.
List of Pros of Manifest Destiny
1. A nation can expand its territory.
Manifest Destiny allowed the United States to expand its territory by more than 60%. With more land, the U.S. was able to improve, progress, and welcome more immigrants who were seeking better opportunities.
2. It paves the way for exploration.
More people are given a chance to discover new places and develop their spiritual, social, and personal growth. By settling in new territory, you must learn new ways of living and be innovative.
3. It brings more land for agricultural development.
With a bigger territory you have more land that you can use for growing food to feed your growing population. Also, farmers and merchants can produce and sell more crops.
4. It increases goods, services, and wealth.
Territorial expansion allows a nation to open more ports for trade and increase their production of goods and services. It provides opportunities to discover and gain valuable resources found in the newly acquired land. The gold rush of 1849 in America happened during the Manifest Destiny era.
5. It allows the spread of freedom.
Through Manifest Destiny, the United States also saw the chance to spread the American sense of freedom. They could teach other populations about their democratic, religious, and cultural ways.
List of Cons of Manifest Destiny
1. It takes away someone’s property to give it to someone else.
People who have been living and building their homes and communities in a specific area of land can just be forcibly pushed out so the new settlers can live there.
2. It seeds dissent.
When you take away something from someone without his consent, you will stir negativity. He will naturally feel angry and will find a way to reclaim what is his.
3. It causes violence and war.
Critics of Manifest Destiny argued that the ideology resulted to the civil war and war between countries. Native Indians who were defiant in not giving up their land and culture resolved to bloodshed and conflict.
4. It leads to the oppression of people.
Settlers can enslave and kill people whose land need to be taken in the name of Manifest Destiny. This is why most of the native Indian population was annihilated.
5. It encourages the use of the name of God and religion for personal gain.
Those opposed to Manifest Destiny believed that the philosophy manipulated the words that are attributed to God and used it to justify the act of killing someone in order to take their land.
Manifest Destiny was integral in shaping the current status enjoyed by the United States today, and that is as one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But are the means in acquiring such a status just and moral? Was it all worth it? These questions can be answered by each person on his own by weighing the pros and cons.