Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny

Flag of the California Republic, which broke away from Mexico during the US-Mexican War.

Flag of the California Republic, which broke away from Mexico during the US-Mexican War.

During the 1840s, the United States continued its expansion westward. This brought the US into conflict with other nations, particularly Mexico but also Britain (during the settlement of the boundary between Oregon and Canada as well as Maine and Canada). Americans did not all agree on the the means or reasons for expansion, particularly with geographic expansion threatened to include an expansion of slavery. Below are some examples of the range of opinions on expansion in general, the nature of this expansion, and the means by which the United States acquired territory.

John L. O’Sullivan on “Manifest Destiny”
The Wilmot Proviso
U.S. Grant Recalls the Mexican War

Questions to consider:

  1. What, according to O’Sullivan, is America’s destiny?
  2. Why should the US expand?
  3. How does O’Sullivan characterize the United States? Provide specific examples from the document.
  4. What did the Wilmot Proviso seek to do?
  5. From your textbook reading or coursework, was the Wilmot Proviso approved? Who would have supported it? Who would have opposed it?
  6. How did Grant characterize the Mexican War? What did he see as its consequences for the United States? Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not?