“Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation..keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States…The adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States..to the exercise of an international police power.” – American President Theodore Roosevelt (opening of 58th Congress, 1903-1905)
"If it is commercialism to want the possession of a strategic point [Philippines] giving the American people an opportunity to maintain a foothold in the markets of that great Eastern country [China], for God's sake let us have commercialism." --Senator Mark Hanna
The Philosophy That Created A Nation
By Michael T. Lubragge
To those who wonder "why dig the past": We engage in revisiting and revising our past, i.e. historical "revisionism," to develop new emphases and raise new questions on assumptions and explanations for key historical issues and policies --given by our former colonial master America, government officials and authors of history books, then and now.
In our homeland's case, we can not afford a "balanced" approach to history since in the past and present years, our homeland's history, as it refers to Philippine-US relationships, has been imbalanced in favor of the Americans, who as far as we baby boomers can remember, are only "the good guys" and "do-gooders" in history.
It is time for us, especially for Filipinos-in-the-Philippines to recover our history, a nationalist history, which necessitates uncovering the lies and myths about America; since the American arrival into and 50-year occupation of our homeland, the sweet nothings about "Philippine-American Special Relations," etc. perpetuated through our school textbooks, mass media, government pronouncements, Filipinos with Americanized minds, etc.
We Filipinos, here and abroad, past and present, relied and continue to use these official explanations that lead only to our ignorance of hidden truths and knowledge of untruths, thus perpetuating the post-WW2 neocolonial conditions that brought only worsening impoverishment to the masses; foreign control of the national economy and the dwindling of our national patrimony.
The Philosophy That Created A Nation
By Michael T. Lubragge
This paper takes a philosophical view of the Manifest Destiny phenomenon and attempts to provide logical evidence that Manifest Destiny can be argued as the sole reason for why America itself has a history. Few Americans had ever assumed that the boundaries of the United States would stand forever unchanged. Manifest Destiny was the driving force responsible for changing the face of American history. It was the philosophy that created a nation.
Manifest Destiny - The Intangible of American History
American history was built on a chronological record of significant events, each event having a cause and subsequent effect on another event. Historical events are presented in history as being tangible, being tied to a date, or an exact happening. Manifest Destiny on the other hand, is a phenomenon. It can not be tied to a date, event or even a specific period of time. Manifest Destiny existed and still exists as the philosophy that embraces American history as a whole. Manifest Destiny is an intangible ideology that created American history. In its simplest form, Manifest Destiny can be defined as, "A Movement." More specifically, it would be the systematic body of concepts and beliefs that powered American life and American culture.
Coining the Phrase
In 1845, a democratic leader and influential editor by the name of John L. O'Sullivan gave the movement its name. In an attempt to explain America's thirst for expansion, and to present a defense for America's claim to new territories he wrote:
".... the right of our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federative development of self government entrusted to us. It is right such as that of the tree to the space of air and the earth suitable for the full expansion of its principle and destiny of growth." (Brinkley 352)
Manifest Destiny became the rallying cry throughout America. The notion of Manifest Destiny was publicized in the papers and was advertise and argued by politicians throughout the nation. The idea of Manifest Destiny Doctrine became the torch that lit the way for American expansion.
A Movement as Old as America Itself
Although the movement was named in 1845, the philosophy behind Manifest Destiny always existed throughout American History. For example, in 1818 Andrew Jackson, while taking a broad interpretation of vague instructions from President Monroe, led military forces into the Floridas during the Florida crisis. In a systematic and ruthless way, he punished the Seminal Indians for taking up arms with the Spanish, destroyed Spanish forces, and captured several cities and forts. (Demkin, Chapter 8). Americans, who had moral reservations about the rough tactics of Jackson, soothed their consciences with a familiar, but not yet named philosophy. Their reasoning, the Floridas were part of American territory; therefore, destiny intended that America should have them.
The reason why Americans where in Florida in the first place, is yet another example of Manifest Destiny. The people of the Deep South, wanting more fertile land, exercise what they considered to be their right. The planter class, without any political approval or permission, just took over and started settling and planting the Florida territories. This move was an example of the arrogance that the Americans had towards expansion. Americans believed that they had a right to any land they wanted.
First used in 1845, the term Manifest Destiny conveyed the idea that the rightful destiny of the US included imperialistic expansion. This idea certainly contributed to several wars. For example, in 1846 the United States declared war on Mexico and proceeded to win much of what is now the Southwestern United States. The war with Mexico was just one out of a series of aggressive acts that can be tied to America's Manifest Destiny.
Manifest Destiny emerged naturally and inevitability out of fundamental want and need to explore and conquer new lands and establish new borders. With this growth came moral, cultural, social ideological and economical differences between people, states and countries. Were these differences not the reasons why America fought for their independence in the Revolutionary War? Were these differences not the primary cause for the American Civil War?
The idea of Manifest Destiny is as old as America itself.
The philosophy sailed with Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic. It resided in the spirits of the Jamestown colonist and it landed at Plymouth Rock with the Pilgrims. It also traveled with the fire and brimstone preachers during the Great Awakening and built the first national road. Throughout history there are numerous examples of Manifest Destiny.
However, in early American history, synonyms were used to explain the not yet named Phenomenon. American history books are filled with words such as, Explorers, Frontier, Territories, Expansionism, Settlers, Idealism, Sectionalism and Immigration. Without Manifest Destiny, phrases and terms such as "Beyond the Great American Desert," "The North West Passage," and "The Oregon Trail", would be just empty examples of white man's travels.
A Disputed Philosophy
Much of the talk about Manifest Destiny had many people suggesting that America should assume the role as a world power. James Monroe in 1822 echoed this idea in his famous Monroe Doctrine when he warned Europe and the rest of the world to "Stay out of the Western Hemisphere" (Demkin Chapter 8).
In the months following the Spanish-American War, the idea of expansionism grew stronger across the United States. In Congress, legislators called for the annexation of all Spanish territories. Some newspapers even suggested the annexation of Spain itself. Expansionists such as Roosevelt, former President Harrison, and Captain Mahan argued for creating an American empire. However, others, including Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie, and Mark Twain, opposed these ideas.
Manifest Destiny became a disputed philosophy. The following are two examples of the different views of the American people. This is evidence of the opposing attitudes towards the Manifest Destiny ideology. In a 1837 letter to Henry Clay, William E. Channing wrote:
"Did this county know itself, or were it disposed to profit by self-knowledge, it would feel the necessity of laying an immediate curb on its passion for extended territory.... We are a restless people, prone to encroachment, impatient of the ordinary laws of progress... We boast of our rapid growth, forgetting that, throughout nature, noble growths are slow..... It is full time that we should lay on ourselves serious, resolute restraint.
Possessed of a domain, vast enough for the growth of ages, it is time for us to stop in the career of acquisition and conquest. Already endangered by our greatness, we cannot advance without imminent peril to our institutions, union, prosperity, virtue, and peace..... It is sometimes said, that nations are swayed by laws, as unfailing as those which govern matter; that they have their destinies; that their character and position carry them forward irresistibly to their goal;
that ... the Indians have melted before the white man and the mixed, degraded race of Mexico must melt before the Anglo-Saxon. Away with this vile sophistry! There is no necessity for crime. There is no fate to justify rapacious nations, any more than to justify gamblers and robbers, in plunder. We boast of the progress of society, and this progress consists in the substitution of reason and moral principle for the sway of brute force....We talk of accomplishing our destiny. So did the late conqueror of Europe (Napoleon); and destiny consigned him to a lonely rock in the ocean, the prey of ambition which destroyed no peace but his own." (Blum 276)
As an example of the opposing attitude and the attitude that was voiced by the majority of Americans at the time, the following article appeared in the Democratic Review in 1845.
"Texas has been absorbed into the Union in the inevitable fulfillment of the general law which is rolling our population westward.... It was disintegrated form Mexico in the natural course of events, by a process perfectly legitimate on its own part, blameless on ours.... (its) incorporation into the Union was not only inevitable, but the most natural, right and proper thing in the world.... California will, probably, next fall away from...Mexico....
Imbecile and distracted, Mexico never can exert any real governmental authority over such a country.... The Anglo-Saxon foot is already on its borders. Already the advance guard of the irresistible army of Anglo-Saxon emigration has begun to pour down upon it armed with the plow and the rifle, and markings its trail with schools and colleges, courts and representative halls, mills and meeting houses.
A population will soon be in actual occupation of California, over which it will be idle for Mexico to dream of dominion... All this without agency of our government, without responsibility of our people- -in natural flow of events, the spontaneous working of principles, and the adaptation of the tendencies and wants of the human race to the elemental circumstances in the midst of which they find themselves placed." (Blum 277)
The notion of Manifest Destiny had many components, each serving people in different ways. Manifest Destiny reflected both the prides that characterized American Nationalism in the mid 19th century, and the idealistic vision of social perfection through God and the church. Both fueled much of the reform energy of the time. Individually, the components created separate reasons to conquer new land. Together they exemplified America’s ideological need to dominate from pole to pole.
The Religious Influence
To some, the Manifest Destiny Doctrine was based on the idea that America had a divine providence. It had a future that was destined by God to expand its borders, with no limit to area or country. All the traveling and expansion were part of the spirit of Manifest Destiny, a belief that it was God's will that Americans spread over the entire continent, and to control and populate the country as they see fit.
Many expansionists conceived God as having the power to sustain and guide human destiny. "It was white man's burden to conquer and Christianize the land" (Demkin, Chapter 8). For example, the idea that the Puritan notion of establishing a "city on a hill" was eventually secularized into Manifest Destiny--a sort of materialistic, religious, Utopian destiny.
A Sense of A Mission
While some were driven by what they considered God's will, others saw Manifest Destiny as the historical inevitability of American domination of North America from sea to sea. It was an altruistic way to extend American liberty to new realms. North West expansion started with the American fur trappers. In their search for new reserves of beaver, they blazed new trials and passages through the mountains.
In doing so, they traversed new and fertile valleys of the Far West. Their exaggerated stories and accounts of their travels publicized the newly found region of the West and aroused interest in people contemplating agricultural possibilities. It also gave the land an air of romance and adventure.
By the 1840's, expansion was at it highest. The Santa Fe Trail went from Independence to the Old Spanish Trail, which went into Los Angeles. The Oxbow Route headed from Missouri to California. Others headed out on the Oregon Trail to the Pacific Northwest. In 1845, approximately 5,000 people traveled the Oregon Trail to Oregon's Willamette Valley. The Oregon Trail was the longest of the pioneer trail that went West. It traversed more than 2,000 miles' trough prairie, desert, and rugged mountain land from Independence, Missouri to the Northwest. In its short life, 300,000 settlers traveled this trail, marking their path by the landmarks first identified by Lewis and Clark.
Thirty thousand graves mark the trial of these pioneers. In the wake of continual death and hardship the allure of Manifest Destiny continued to drive expansionist interests. Beginning with the first wagon in 1831, to the formation of the territorial government in 1848, Manifest Destiny was responsible for making America grow.
Manifest Destiny was the reason for the revived interest in territorial expansion. With a sense of mission, people were tempted by the boundless tracts and sparsely settled land lying just beyond the borders of their country. There was also the growing desire to develop trade with the Far East. Going West would eventually open new trade routes. Last but not least, there was a renewed fear that the security of the United States might be impaired by foreign intervention in areas along its borders. The easiest way to conquer those fears was to conquer land beyond its borders and expand American territories.
The Dark Side
For all the positive atmosphere and grand spirit Manifest Destiny created, it also created the dark side of American History, non darker than the plight of the American Indian. While the positive side of Manifest Destiny was a surge of enthusiasm and energy for pushing West, the negative side was the belief that the white man had the right to destroy anything and anyone -- namely Indians -- who got in the way.
Tracing the path of Manifest Destiny across the West would highlight mass destruction of tribal organizations, confinement of Indians to reservations, and full blown genocide. The dark side of Manifest Destiny revealed the white man's belief that his settlement of the land and civilization of its native peoples was preordained.
The settlements that extended across the Western territories promised the American dream: the freedom and independence of a seemingly limitless land. This, coupled with the Agrarian spirit produced an attitude that nothing was going to stand in the way of progress, the progress of Manifest Destiny. In the name of this doctrine, Americans took what ever land they wanted. With a belief that Manifest Destiny gave them a right and power to do so, many simply settled, planted and farmed Indian land.
The large-scale annihilation and movement of Native American onto Indian reservations reached its peak in the late 19th century. The U.S. government intended to destroy tribal governments and break up Indian reservations under, what was then considered, the progressive Manifest Destiny Doctrine. The arrogance that flowed from the Manifest Destiny philosophy was exemplified when Albert T. Beveridge rose before the U.S. Senate and announced:
"God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Tectonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-admiration. No! He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns... He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savages and senile peoples.
Theodore Roosevelt, John Cabot Lodge, and John Hay, each in turn, endorsed with a strong sense of certainty the view that the Anglo-Saxon [Americans] was destined to rule the world. Such views expressed in the 19th century and in the early 20th century continue to ring true in the minds of many non-Indian property owners. The superiority of the "white race" is the foundation on which the Anti-Indian Movement organizers and right-wing helpers rest their efforts to dismember Indian tribes." (Ryser).
Manifest Destiny, in its many forms, existed throughout history. It controlled America's destiny and was responsible for man's travels throughout history. With this said, America would not be America without the phenomenon of Manifest Destiny. The philosophy that built American history was the rationalization that expansionists everywhere used to justify territorial growth.
Some used the Manifest Destiny Doctrine as a political philosophy stressing tradition and social stability, while others used it as a simple reason to explore new lands. Expansionist experienced minimal interference of governmental institutions in private economic activities with Manifest Destiny leading their way.
Americans used Manifest Destiny as their proclamation of superiority and insisted that their conquests merely fulfilled the divine mission that man is impelled by forces beyond human control. Manifest Destiny was responsible for creating American history. Without it, American territory would be as big as the property surrounding its first settlement. It was the movement responsible for American Independence and American expansion. Because of the notion of Manifest Destiny, America's drive to explore and conquer new lands will never die.
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?
"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.
Manifest Destiny had its share of promoters. But, rather promote the Doctrine under its real name, several aliases were used.
If God and mission was the road to Manifest Destiny, imperialism was the light that lit the way. Between the late 1800 early 1900, the American business man fueled the notion of International Destiny. This group strongly believed in America extending its authority over other lands. This authority can be done by political, military or economical means. But, no matter what the method, imperialism was the reason to extend America’s interest beyond the Pacific.
"One popular way of thinking, however, was to attribute imperialism to a determinism of some sort: the hand of God, the instinct of race, the laws of Darwinism, the force of Economics and trade - anything but reasonable decision. Though many Americans deemed willing to surrender to imperialist policies, few would admit that they did so because they wanted to" (Blum 536).
As a result of imperialism, the US took control of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico via the Spanish-American War.
Although there was still an abundant amount of land throughout the world that applied to the Manifest Destiny ideology, acquiring land on opposite sides of the globe required new methods. It would not be as easy as building roads and displacing a few thousand American Indians. Controlling colonial possession thousands of miles away required a new military commitment.
This commitment came by way of a modern Navy. The US steamed into oversees expansion when the Federal Government commissioned the building of several cruisers and battleships between 1883 to 1890. It was clear to the US that those countries that controlled the seas controlled their own destiny.
Yellow Journalism served as an influential means to get those Americans on the cusp, to join the Manifest Destiny movement. Nowhere was Yellow Journalism more effective then with Cuba's war with Spain. At the time, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer were in fierce competition for readers of their respective newspapers. In an attempt to gain distribution, they sent correspondents to Cuba to cover the fighting between Cuba and Spain.
The field journalist's over exaggerations of events, sensationalism reporting and graphic details of the brutality and atrocities being committed by the Spanish, created a new form of journalism. It also helped aroused popular sentiment of the American people.
Yellow Journalism coaxed the American public to rally behind Cuba and America's involvement. When President McKinley asked for a declaration of war against Spain in April 1898, he had the majority backing of the American public.
White Man's Burden
Another way to disguise Manifest Destiny was to promote the philosophy of White Man's Burden. Rudyard Kipling made this philosophy famous in his poem of the same name. In his poem Kipling urged the United States to follow in the footsteps of Great Britain. He stated that, as a world power, the US had the burden to help the inferior people of the world adjust to Christianity.
He also warned the United Sates that it would not be an easy task to take on the role of a world leader but, the rewards will outweigh the trouble. (Demkin Chapter 11). In addition to Kipling influencing the masses, president McKinley also took up the notion of White Man's Burden. In defense of America's presence in the Philippines he said, "Duty determines destiny."
The greatest promotion for Manifest Destiny came from a passing reference made by President Monroe in 1822. This passing reference became known as the Monroe Doctrine. During one of his political speeches he warned Europe to "Stay out of the Western Hemisphere" (Demkin Chapter 8).
This simple statement established the US as the protector of all the lands in the Western hemisphere. With the Monroe Doctrine blazed on its chest, America could expand its involvement and control in foreign affairs throughout the Western Hemisphere.
The Roosevelt Corollary
Manifest Destiny received an additional promotion when President Theodore Roosevelt added to the Roosevelt Corollary. In addition to being the military protector of the Western Hemisphere, Roosevelt wanted the US to be the Business protector as well.
The Roosevelt Corollary stated that even if a country had a legal contract agreement with a smaller, uncivilized country of the Western Hemisphere, the US could step in and interrupt that contract if the US thought the deal was not in the best interest of the smaller countries. This "Iron-Fisted Neighbor" mentality was yet another example of manifest destiny. By the US controlling its neighboring countries it controlled its own destiny.
The phrase Manifest Destiny was first used by the American journalist and diplomat John Louis O'Sullivan, in an editorial supporting the annexation of Texas. The phrase appeared in the July-August 1845 edition of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review. (Encarta) The phrase was later used by expansionists in all political parties to justify the acquisition of California, and the Oregon Territory.
By the end of the 19th century the same phrase was being applied to the proposed annexation of various islands in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Manifest Destiny was what the United States saw when it looked at Asia and the Far East.
Manifest Destiny has no end. It is perpetual and everlasting. Without Manifest Destiny the world would be flat and the earth would be the center of the solar system. Whether divinely ordained or not, expansion is inevitable and without limit. Yes, land is a finite commodity...on earth.
Please see also:
- http://thefilipinomind.blogspot.com/2005/05/buffalo-soldiers-in-philippine.html, and
"For a people to be without history, or to be ignorant of its history, is as for a man to be without memory - condemned forever to make the same discoveries that have been made in the past, invent the same techniques, wrestle with the same problems, commit the same errors; and condemned, too, to forfeit the rich pleasures of recollection. Indeed, just as it is difficult to imagine history without civilization, so it is difficult to imagine civilization without history." - American historian Henry Steele Commager (1965)
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“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” – Meridel Le Sueur, American writer, 1900-1996
" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus (widow of Andres Bonifacio)