RCC Honors History Project

manifest destiny

Posted by rccaahistory on December 8, 2008

andrewptscott Says:
December 6, 2008 at 11:08 pm e

John L. O’Sullivan: A Divine Destiny for America (IV)
Class discussion post

To sum this document up, O’Sullivan basically argues that America “in its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles.” The first thing that crossed my mind after reading this document was the fact of how contradictory it is. O’Sullivan speaks of the uniqueness of the unblemished infant country that has a clean history without war or any violent past.

“America is destined for better deeds. It is our unparalleled glory that we have no reminiscences of battle fields, but in defence of humanity, of the oppressed of all nations, of the rights of conscience, the rights of personal enfranchisement.”

He uses this to defend his statement of the manifestation of the entire continent as our destiny. It was written in 1839 however, before the Civil war took place but the Revolutionary War has already happened. This must have also been viewed as part of our destiny. But my question is how can he be so ignorant to just ignore the fact that slavery exists when stating that we must spread the pureness of “freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality.” Does he really believe that white race were the only people inclined with these rights and this destiny? And how is it that he figured this nation can expand and conquer land without any type of war and bloodshed?

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4 Responses to “manifest destiny”

  1. dnsom said

    I think that O’Sullivan and proponents of “manifest destiny” thought mostly of the USA in relation to other countries and not about the USA alone. Even today, the USA is still looked up to by many people in countries or regions where there is hardly any liberty or freedom. It is only when one looks at the USA in isolation, that is, without attempting to compare it with other countries, only then does one really see its imperfections. You must be familiar with the saying that “a one eye man among the blind is king.” But this king knows that he is king only as long as he is among the blind. Once he steps out into the world where everyone else has two eyes, he seizes to be king. So is the USA. It is “the best” only if compared to others, but it is not ‘necessarily’ “the best.”

  2. drwprkr said

    I like the comment that Dnsom left but I cannot agree with the last statement. We are the “best” when only compared to others and if we are alone then there is no such thing as “best.” To be the best means that you are comparing yourself with something less, so in truth, there needs to be a comparable relationship.

    Back to O’Sullivan. I see this as just a justification but then again I was raised in a synical world so maybe that is just a synical thought. This is one of the beautiful things about the Manifest Destiny and Religion in general. I have always seen Religion as a type of justification for human actions, after all the Bible was a political move made by a Roman Emperor, as was the “ending” of slavery.

    Maybe O’Sullivan truly thought that we were right in doing what we did but then again that still goes agaisnt his own beliefs in Christianity and the Bible.

  3. blooney said

    I don’t think we can be too hard on O’Sullivan he couldn’t predict the future of where the nation would end up at just a few decades later. Our nation was still relatively young. Regarding slavery I do think he thought the white race was superior. He could not justify the institution if blacks were equal to whites. But if the race is inferior then they aren’t privileged to the same liberties and justice as whites. I think he felt the nation would be able to expand because the message he believed it was too good to be true. I mean what person wouldn’t want “freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality.” However, it was only freedom if the people America was trying to conquer obeyed the American standard. America wasn’t trying to live peacefully along other people they wanted it the way they wanted and that is what caused the problems

  4. kriemer said

    It was common for white people of this time to think their race was highly superior, I do not however entirely inderstand how they came to this belief, especially as religious people. O’Sullivan is trying to make the U.S. sound as great as possible and raise moral of his audience. The “we” in government documents at this time only refers to white men, no colored and no women. So when O’Sullivan preaches on about how “we” are so free he is probably referring to fellow white men and typically their lack of a monarch.

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