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Transcript of Manifest Destiny
"from sea to shining sea"
The term "Manifest Destiny" refers to the belief that Americans had the God-given right to expand the country across the entire North American continent.
The phrase was coined by John O'Sullivan in 1845 in the newspaper the
Under presidents John Tyler, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor, the major territories of Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, and California were added to the country.
Such territories were obtained through annexation, cession, treaties, and war.
Several presidents had considered annexing this territory, but were hesitant as they feared it would upset the balance between free and slave states.
John Tyler was the first to propose a treaty of annexation, but it was rejected by the senate.
However, Tyler was able to find a loophole in the system: by convincing some members of both houses of Congress to pass the resolution, he needed only a simple majority, rather than a two-thirds vote.
While the annexation itself was peaceful, as many residents of Texas had come from the US, it angered Mexico who had lost Texas during its war for independence and had been hoping to regain possession.
The next area sought by Americans was the Oregon Territory. Obtaining this land was a major part of James K. Polk's presidential campaign in 1844.
America adopted the slogan "fifty-four forty or fight", referring to the latitude line that was the desirable northern border of this territory.
Polk was willing to compromise this goal in order to avoid war with Britain, the owners of the area at the time, although he did not initially reveal this.
While the northern boundary was not the intended parallel, Polk's goal of gaining land, "without costing a cent of money, or a drop of blood," was achieved.
The Mexican Territory was the only area to be obtained through warfare.
The Mexican War broke out in 1846, and while they had a smaller army and other disadvantages, the Unites States was victorious.
The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ended the conflict and awarded the Americans the territories of New Mexico and California.
While technically the US could have also gained control of Mexico itself, the government wanted to avoid further conflict with Mexico, and felt that the area would not be easily controlled.
Other Plans For Expansion
Gadsden Purchase: a small area of land in present day New Mexico and Arizona, purchased by president Pierce for railroad building
Ostend Manifesto: the secret plan, formulated by President Pierce, to send three American diplomats to Ostend, Belgium to negotiate purchasing Cuba from Spain
Walker Expedition: an attempt by Southern adventurer William Walker to take Baja California (unsuccessful) and Nicaragua (successful) as part of a plan to create a pro slavery Central America
Nationalism is simply defined as pride in one's country, and it cannot be denied that this feeling was present at the time, although it was often marred by sectional tensions.
The term "Manifest Destiny" itself implies a feeling of nationalism, as it depicts America as God's chosen country.
Many Americans united in their desire to expand westward, which is what resulted in the successful election of James K. Polk, a dark horse candidate.
Overall, Manifest Destiny was one of the main causes of the Civil War due to the sectional conflicts it brought to the surface.
Documents that expressed the Southern desire to expand slavery included the Ostend Manifesto and the Walker Expedition.
The Wilmot Proviso expressed the northern desire to prevent slavery from expanding into the newly acquired territories.
The Compromise of 1850 attempted to retain a fragile peace.
Sectional conflict was most visible in the Kansas-Nebraska territory, where mounting violence led to the nickname "Bleeding Kansas"