Western Expansion, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican-American War

Start Free Trial

Did the belief in Manifest Destiny justify our expansion westward?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Manifest Destiny was used to justify the westward expansion of the United States, but it did not justify it. Manifest Destiny was the belief that God intended for the American people to spread their cultural and political values throughout the American continent. It was the belief that American agriculture and...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Manifest Destiny was used to justify the westward expansion of the United States, but it did not justify it. Manifest Destiny was the belief that God intended for the American people to spread their cultural and political values throughout the American continent. It was the belief that American agriculture and industry were the best uses of the land and that all other cultures were utilizing the resources either incorrectly or not at all. While Manifest Destiny allowed the United States to grow rapidly and the nation became a haven for land-starved European immigrants, the doctrine of Manifest Destiny also allowed the United States to take Mexican territory in an expansionist war and to crush the cultures of the Native Americans who lived in the West. Manifest Destiny also meant environmental destruction, as the buffalo was hunted mercilessly to provide food for railroad workers and hides for leather. Manifest Destiny also allowed the Plains to be tilled on a massive scale which would lead to the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression era. While Manifest Destiny made heroes out of the American pioneers as the conquerors of the land, it did not justify American westward expansion. The important thing is that one remembers that the people who lived in that era used Manifest Destiny to justify westward expansion, as it is dangerous to judge events in history with hindsight and modern outlooks.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The belief in Manifest Destiny justified the American expansion to the Pacific Ocean. Manifest Destiny was an attitude that stated it was the destiny of the people of the United States to expand from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

This belief allowed the Americans to justify taking land away from the Native Americans. It was argued that the Native Americans were holding back the progress of the United States. Therefore, many people and many leaders felt it was justified to remove the Native Americans from the lands on which they lived, in order for the United States to grow economically and politically.

Other people believed it was God’s plan for the American people to control more land. These people believed that the Americans should spread religious teachings to other people and to other areas. They believed God wanted the superior American way of living to be spread to other people who were considered to have an inferior way of life.

The belief in Manifest Destiny allowed Americans to support annexing Texas in 1845 and going to war with Mexico in 1846. The goal was to gain more land, and both of these events added significant land to the United States, allowing the country to expand to the Pacific Ocean.

The belief in Manifest Destiny justified the expansion of the United States in the minds of many Americans.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
The problem with your question is its premise. Our belief in Manifest Destiny made us feel that our expansion was justified, but that doens't mean that it was. Manifest Destiny was our excuse, what we told ourselves to make what we were doing acceptable.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Absolutely the idea of Manifest Destiny justified (or was used to justify) our westward expansion.  We used it as a reason to move the Indians off the land and we, especially, used it as a justification for the war with Mexico in the 1840s.

The idea behind Manifest Destiny was, of course, that we sort of deserved the land more than everyone else.  This was because we had a superior culture, a superior form of government, and were a superior race.  This allowed us to justify removing the Indians (on both grounds of race and culture) and to justify taking land from Mexico (mainly on the grounds of culture, part of which was religion, and government systems).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team