Manifest Destiny - A Philosophy So Flawed It Stains the Country Centuries Later
Manifest Destiny is a grandiose sounding phrase, but it serves to hide one of the most tragic and devastating philosophies that this country has ever lived with.
Origins of Manifest Destiny, Where Did it Come From?
In 1845, a newspaper editor named John L. O’Sullivan wrote that it is “the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent.” The word “our” refers, of course, to the European colonists who came here seeking freedom from persecution and opportunities. The concept, however, was there a generation before when, in 1818, Andrew Jackson ruthlessly waged war on the Seminole Indians because they had supported the Spanish. Why the settlers were in Florida was simple. They wanted more fertile land for their crops so they went further South and simply took the landfor their plantations. It was through manifest destiny that supported their right to take land.
What Manifest Destiny Mean for the Expanding American Colonial Powerbrokers
Manifest destiny is a complex view of the world and oversimplifying it can lead to an under estimation of its adverse significance in the treatment of the Native American Tribes and the creation of the United States of today. That said, the concept is, in essence, a belief that the White people who came to the continent were superior to the Natives and that they had a God-given mission to conquer the Native Tribes and occupy their lands from “sea to shining sea.” It was assumed that since the settlers believed that they were more “advanced” and had a “more sophisticated culture and way of life,” the land and its original inhabitants would benefit from the conquest and they would learn a better way of life from their new overlords, as in the case of the Spanish missions. In other words, it means that since it was the White man’s destiny to rule over the land, whatever they did to further that objective was biblically correct. The end justified the means!
Also Read: Why Federal Recognition Is Important for Native Americans
What Were the Results and Impacts to Native Societies Due to Manifest Destiny?
Over the centuries of European expansion in America, Native American tribes like the Muwekma Ohlone had their land taken from them, were eventually forced to convert to Christianity. The hundreds of tribes had their culture and way of life destroyed and became, for all practical purposes, not even second-rate citizens of this country. Many of the tribes were moved to designated “reservations” on the pretext that this would be their land and they would be safe there. It was conveniently forgotten that the whole continent was originally their land and the people offering them “safety” were those from who the tribes had to be protected from. Mr. O’Sullivan would have been proud to know that the phrase he coined would be used to justify the British colonial expansion in Africa and Asia, the French occupation of Indo-China, and the Dutch rule over Indonesia and the South China Sea, as well as other examples of colonial devastation.
Also Read: The Politics of Erasure and the Missing Tribal Name in Bay Area History
Today, the British Empire no longer exists (it is now referred to the ever shrinking British Commonwealth), the French and the Dutch have been pushed out of the lands they occupied,asother colonial lands have been returned to the people who live there. However, manyinequalities remain. In the United States, the difference in the living standards, income, education and the other parameters used to measure the quality of life between the Native Americans and the rest of the country speaks for itself. 200 years ago, it was manifest destiny to justify the occupation of the continent and subjugate the indigenous people. The phrase is now relegated to the dustbin of history, but the concept and legacy of superiority over the Native Americans remains. What was taken from the original in habitants of the land has never been returned to them. It is for this reason that even steps like restoring the homeland of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe are hopefully, the beginning of off-setting the colonial legacies of“manifest destiny.”
- Dec 29, 2022