What Are Examples of Manifest Destiny?

Examples of manifest destiny include the war with Mexico to acquire Texas and other areas of the Southwest, the dispute with Great Britain over the Oregon Territory and the U.S. colonization of Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Manifest destiny also influenced the U.S. acquisition of Native American lands.

The term manifest destiny refers to the moral, cultural and economic imperative many Americans felt to expand westward during the 19th century. These Americans reasoned that their culture and form of government were inherently superior to all others, and that they had a God-given obligation to remake others in the image of America. First used in 1845 by journalist John O’Sullivan, the term was appropriated quickly by politicians intent on expanding the country into new territories. Missionaries used it to justify their proselytizing of indigenous peoples; settlers used it to dispossess Mexican and Native American landholders, and businessmen used it to pursue commercial opportunities.

Some Americans of the era, including Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams and the political party known as the Whigs, opposed manifest destiny. They reasoned that the United States should be an example of a democratic ideal rather than a conquering force and were concerned that the concept and institution of slavery would expand as America moved west. Others claimed that the concept of manifest destiny was flawed because democracy should be voluntarily embraced rather than imposed, and that it should not be pursued at the expense of racial integrity.