The Effects of Manifest Destiny Essay

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Defined as “an aggressive program of expansion,” Manifest Destiny characterizes American national identity (Haynes, 2006, p. 1). Manifest Destiny refers to both a philosophy and a strategy: a means of crafting the notion of American exceptionalism as well as the methods used to construct American geo-political power. The geographic shape of the United States today owes itself to the principles and widespread embrace of Manifest Destiny, in which Washington laid claim to lands that had to be taken by force, from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 through to the acquisition of Texas and northern Mexico, to the takeover of Hawaii. The consequences of Manifest Destiny continue to reverberate more than two centuries after the initial rise of territorial expansion programs. Manifest Destiny emboldened the American experiment, fueling its economy, bolstering its military and political power, and exacerbating social unrest and disparity.

The relative ease with which the United States acquisitioned new territories helped to expand the economy and establish the nation as a global leader in both raw materials and industrial manufacturing. New land meant renewed opportunities to reap the natural resources available from those territories, also enabling rapid population growth. Manifest Destiny also perpetuated the slave trade and the institution of slavery by opening up new territories that would be incorporated as slave states that could continue to produce goods without having to pay for labor: an issue that precipitated the Civil War (“Manifest Destiny,” n.d.). Other economic consequences of Manifest Destiny include the ability to capitalize on new transportation and communication technologies including the railroads, steamboats, and telegraph (Haynes, 2006). These technologies facilitated territorial expansion, but also enabled the growth of new markets. Moreover, the American economy was facing stiff competition with Britain and other European nations due to the rise of globalization, access to Asian markets, and the need to woo such foreign markets with a greater supply of American goods (Haynes, 2006).
Manifest Destiny provided the political propaganda that could be used to bolster the American economy on the eve of the Industrial Revolution.

Long after the harpy cry of Manifest Destiny had died down in the middle of the twentieth century, the economic consequences of this “militant brand of imperialism” could be felt (Haynes, 2006, p. 1). Armed with the religious fervor of the movement, Americans laid claim to lands that were not even geographically contiguous with the rest of the nation, including Alaska and Hawaii. Acquiring these new territories and incorporating them as states extended the reach of the United States with economic as well as political effects. For example, control of the Pacific Rim meant that the United States had direct access to Asian markets for bilateral trade. The importation of Chinese laborers had a major bearing on the growth of the American economy, too. Participation in the First and Second World Wars further enhanced the capacity of the American manufacturing sector to become a global leader. After Europe’s devastating infrastructure damages suffered after World War Two, the United States rose to the occasion as the world’s creditor only because it had for so long aggressively pursued a policy of territorial expansion and rapid economic growth via Manifest Destiny.

The political implications of Manifest Destiny were just as profound as the economic repercussions. During its heyday in the nineteenth century, Manifest Destiny resulted in the deepening divide between federalists and anti-federalists, between slavery and freedom, urban and rural, and between north and south. In fact, Manifest Destiny was “never a clearly defined movement, or one that enjoyed broad, bipartisan support,” (Haynes, 2006, p. 1). Political schisms in American society led to the Civil War, which did not stop territorial expansion but did put an….....

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Haynes, S.W. (2006). Manifest destiny.

“Manifest Destiny,” (n.d.).

Olson-Raymer, G. (2014). Political, economic, and social consequences of Manifest Destiny.

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