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Manifest destiny was, by the late 1830s and early 1840s, an ideology for those who believed that the United States had the divinely ordained right to expand westward to the Pacific Ocean. By claiming that it was the right of the United States as a Christian, democratic country to annex territory in the Southwest, Manifest Destiny combined discourses of imperialism and freedom. Standing in the way of what they viewed as American progress was Mexico, which controlled most of what we know today as the American Southwest and California. It, along with the desire to spread slavery, was the driving ideological force in the debates over annexing Texas in the 1844 election, as well as the dispute with England over the Oregon Territory in the first year of Polk's presidency. When the United States annexed Texas in early 1845, the ultimate expression of manifest destiny, war between the US and Mexico became almost inevitable. The results of the war, including the addition of the entire Southwest, including California, were understood by men like Polk (though not to his Whig opponents like Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln) to be a fulfillment of manifest destiny. Manifest Destiny, then, was the ideological force that contributed to the outbreak of the Mexican War.
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