Manifest Destiny

Part romantic sentiment, part bombastic pretense, Manifest Destiny has historically been used to explain and rationalize American territorial expansion. Although derived from the missionary impulses first expressed in Puritan Massachusetts, and later combined with social Darwinian beliefs forged before the Spanish-American War (1898), Manifest Destiny is most closely associated with the Jacksonian era (c. 1815–45), the expansionist agenda of the James K. Polk administration (1845–49), and the territorial goals driving the Mexican War (1846–48). For Americans of that period, Manifest Destiny encapsulated the nation's masculine vigor and purpose and promised the incorporation of new land that would provide the economic independence associated with manhood in republican and agrarian ideology. As both a symptom and a cause of larger historical forces—including gender inequalities, civil turmoil, and ...

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