…more beautiful and lovely scenes, than those of the vast prairies of the West; and of man and beast, no nobler specimens than those who inhabit them—the Indian and the buffalo—joint and original tenants of the soil, and fugitives together from the approach of civilized man; they have fled to the great plains of the West, and there, under an equal doom, they have taken up their last abode, where their race will expire, and their bones will bleach together…”
George Catlin, Letter—No. 31
Mouth of the Teton River, Upper Missouri (1832)
The editor and columnist, John L. O’Sullivan was one of countless 19th century Americans who believed that it was the nation’s God-given right—indeed, it’s pre-ordained mission—to conquer the North American continent. His outspoken support for the annexation of the Texas Republic was front and center of an essay he wrote in 1845.
“Texas is now ours… Her star and her stripe may already be said to have taken their place in the glorious blazon of our common nationality; and the sweep of our eagle’s wing already includes within its circuit the wide extent of her fair and fertile land. She is no longer to us a mere geographical space–a certain combination of coast, plain, mountain, valley, forest and stream. She is no longer to us a mere country on the map. She comes within the dear and sacred designation of Our Country… other nations have undertaken to intrude themselves … in a spirit of hostile interference against us, for the avowed object of thwarting our policy and hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.”
O’Sullivan made no other claim to fame during his lifetime, but those two words: Manifest Destiny, became a rallying cry for politicians and preachers. They inspired expansion, motivated wars, and defined the character of 19th century America like few others. Manifest Destiny became the torch that lit the way for America to expand from sea to shining sea.
Manifest Destiny is the four and final programatic themes in the series, Growth of a Nation. It spans the period 1830–1849 and explores the American quest to conquer the continent, including the settlement of the Oregon Country and the California Gold Rush; the Texas Revolution; and the causes, conduct, and outcome of the Mexican-American War.
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