The term ‘manifest destiny’ has been heard in many classrooms throughout the United States. The idea was a complicated mix of national ambition and religious fervor. This ‘mission’ was supported by many Americans, which believed that the United States was destined to expand and spread across the entire northern continent. Manifest destiny was backed by the belief that Americans had a duty to spread democracy, freedom and Christianity. So while the nation’s people moved westward and created new settlements to broaden the United States territories, they also had religious agendas. Manifest destiny was a prime reason that United States citizens inhabited the western ends of North America, a driving force behind the near extinction of Native American tribes, and the beginning of the final formation for all 50 United States.
The ideology of manifest destiny lasted nearly a century, causing historic changes to the United States. As an overarching belief ingrained in many United States citizens, manifest destiny was used as a political tool. During the 1840s, especially, manifest destiny was becoming a desperately important idea to Americans. Previously, it had been used to support exploration and annexation of territories all the way to the western coast of California. Soon, manifest destiny played a key role in promoting the acquisition of the Texas state, beginning the Mexican-American War and even seizing territories belonging to the British Empire.
Manifest destiny was also more personal to each individual American. During and before the 1940s, individual Americans with a belief in manifest destiny also held a strong belief in personal equality. It was often in the mindset of the average American that they deserved to find success and prosperity equal to that of others, and by going west they would ‘manifest their destiny’ – take the first step to discovering and attaining that prosperity. The western United States were a rich dream and thousands of families migrated west to find their own land and make their own path in the world. A heavy Christian belief in God’s favor on American people also drove settlers west. Many believed they were called to prosper on lands previously inhabited by pagan Native Americans, which led to thousands of conflicts.
Manifest destiny is mainly thought to have begun disappearing from American thought in the late 1940s. The superior, God-driven beliefs of the settlers began to wane as the Mexican-American War waxed, and manifest destiny was quickly overtaken by the excitement surrounding the Gold Rush in California.