The New Manifest Destiny

The Eternal Doctrine

Manifest Destiny is an enigma. Yet, it is the philosophy that built American history. Manifest Destiny is un-definable; however, it is often used to define how America actually became America. Manifest Destiny is a dispute, where historians argue about, not only what it is; but, when it started and when it ended. Did the Manifest Destiny Doctrine reach an end?

To This End

Echoing the thoughts of America in the late 1800s, Stephen Demkin said, "Land is a finite commodity." Having conquered the land spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific, most historians agreed that the Manifest Destiny Doctrine was complete. After all, land has a definite and definable limit. There was a specific amount of land that needed to be conquered in order to complete America's Manifest Destiny. Having successfully done this by 1890, Manifest Destiny ended.

However, those who argue the end of Manifest Destiny from this point a view tend to dismiss one very important factor that proves the immortality of the Doctrine. Those who argue a definable end to Manifest Destiny must qualify the meaning of the word "land." Does the word land refer to only the area of North America?

A Metamorphosis

"Most people believed that there was an endless amount of land. It took 200 years to reach the Mississippi; therefore, people believed that it would take a life time to reach the Pacific. In reality, it only took forty years." (Demkin Chapter 11). Think about it, for 250 years, man climbed, hacked, swam, walked, and plowed their way across America. Are we to believe that when this task was complete they also considered their Manifest Destiny complete? Is it logical to suggest that while standing on the shores of the Pacific ocean they had no interest in the world beyond? Were these frontiersmen not the ancestors of the colonists who stood on the shores of England peering out onto an unknown ocean in the 1500's?

Not only did the idea of Manifest Destiny not end in 1890, it took on a whole new face. The Manifest Destiny Doctrine can be divided into two distinct parts. One part could be defined as National Manifest Destiny. This is the drive behind building the American Main Land. The America whose borders are between Canada and Mexico on the North and South and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on the East and West.

The other part could be defined as International Manifest Destiny which started in 1867 when America purchased Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000. Although this acquisition could fall into the example of National Destiny, it was the first time America went beyond its immediate border to acquired land. In fact, the acquisition of Alaska was a second thought. The purchase of Alaska was only approved after the senate rejected plans to purchase the Virgin Islands from Denmark (Blum 403).

The Pacific And Beyond

America had a presence in the Hawaiian Islands since 1810 (Demkin 20). But this presence came from only a few shipping pioneers who dared to leave the safety of the American shores to pursue their own personal destiny in the unknown waters of the Pacific. America's International Manifest Destiny came in 1898 when America decided that it wanted total control of Hawaii and walked in and took it. The idea of Manifest Destiny specifically related to Hawaii came full circle in 1959 when America made Hawaii its 50th state.

There were some who truly believed that the Manifest Destiny Doctrine was based on the idea that America had a divine providence that was destined by God to expand its borders. Others believed that America simply had a mission, the altruistic right to extend its liberty to new realms. Both reasons could be considered the most classical of definitions. Whether a person believed that America's expansion was driven by God or a sense of mission, those promoting Manifest Destiny were certainly not in short demand or variety.