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U.S. Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny

October 25, 2012

“The Promised Land–The Grayson Family” (1850) by William S. Jewett

Below please find two web questions written by your classmate, Andrew Laperuta, on the westward expansion of the United States in the nineteenth century and the concept of manifest destiny.

  • Why did the French sell the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. in 1803?
  • What did “manifest destiny” mean to U.S. citizens? Do you see any ironies in this idea?
21 Comments leave one →
  1. Sundes Ambreen permalink
    October 27, 2012 9:50 pm

    The French government needed the capital to protect and fund France, since it was in a vulnerable position at that time.
    “Manifest Destiny” meant that it was a divine right for America to expand and occupy other lands. I think that the whole ‘divine right’ thing was a thing nations of the past had used. America was considered one of the nations that was at the top of transformation and applying new ideas and getting rid of the old. Yet, they brought out this ‘manifest destiny’ just because it served their cause. I also feel like, America is kind of applying that rule out today too. They might not be openly saying that they are conquering other nations but their actions speak otherwise. All of this meddling in other lands is just not right, I believe.

  2. Ksenia Kurtseva permalink
    October 29, 2012 6:51 pm

    Soon after Napoleon ascended the French throne, in French-controlled Haiti broke out a revolt of slaves, which cost the French 55,000 soldiers and drained their budget. Napoleon needed to recover the funds in order to prepare for waging war in Europe. At the same time, for the U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, French control over New Orleans was an obstacle to America’s westward expansion. An envoy James Monroe was sent to France in order to buy New Orleans for $3 million. Surprisingly, Napoleon offered the Americans to buy the entire Louisiana Territory. On April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Territory was sold to the United States for $15 million. The Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States.

    By the 1840s America’s westward expansion was already going on, and many Americans spoke of the U.S’ “manifest destiny”. According to them, their country was destined, and even destined by God, to expand and occupy entire North American continent from the Atlantic shore to the Pacific and beyond. Manifest destiny was often used as a justification of the US annexations. The irony of this idea is its underlying belief in America’s supremacy over other territories: as if America’s institutions, people, economies, policies, morals were superior to everyone else’s. Obviously, “better” is not a functional comparison here. Ironically, this idea often arises even today, for example, in America’s invasion in the Middle East.

  3. Syed permalink
    October 29, 2012 9:24 pm

    Napoleon lost his intention to expand his empire in the new world when he lost Saint-Dominique. Napoleon also needed money to support French revolution.Manifest Destiny is the idea that it is a God-given right of the settler to expand their territory from atlantic to pacific oceans, newcomers to the new world needed cheap land to cultivate.To serve their purpose they created the Manifest destiny that allowed them to westward Expansion.It is Ironic Because the european settler in the new world used the same process that their Kings/Emperor used in Europe. To remove the indigenous people from their ancestral land and their hunting ground the new settler needed a justifiable cause. Because of that they created the Manifest destiny.

  4. Teddy Chattah permalink
    October 31, 2012 12:39 pm

    At the turn of the 19th century, Napoleonic France was at it’s height. Soon after, the empire began to decline. Napoleon had lost control of Haiti (which was meant to be France’s “headquarters” in the Americas). France was quickly losing money and power. In order to maintain their budget and control, Napoleon decided to limit his empire to continental Europe. He sold the Louisiana territory to Thomas Jefferson to get the land off his hands and get some quick cash.

    The concept of manifest destiny was a glorified idea in the 19th century. Americans were densely populated on the East Coast and as more people immigrated to America and the population kept growing, people simply moved West for more room. Aside from the fact that moving west was encouraged by the government, people wanted to move for economic and social reasons. Unfortunately, this idea of manifest destiny did not take into account the indigenous people already residing in the places that American were so eager to live. Nonetheless, American supremacy won. Americans mercilessly pushed the Native Americans further and further into more enclosed spaces.

  5. Jotty permalink
    October 31, 2012 5:55 pm

    After the setback and eventual defeat in the Haitian Revolution and because of the imminent wars with Britain,France’s economy was at its last apogee. In order to protect France from its enemies and debts ,Napoleon had noticed that French ownership of a mainland in the US would be indefensible. So he abandoned his hope of building an empire in North America and sold the Louisiana territory to the US in 1803.

    From the beginning of the 19th U.S have experienced a great expansion by lands acquisition. Manifest Destiny was a notion cherish by the Americans citizens in the belief that United State was destined and even received a divine order to expand its territory from the Atlantic coast to the pacific and more over.Even nowadays, we can see that this concept persist in U.S ideology by the invasion of America in others territories.This is an ironic idea that makes America thinks it has no limits.

  6. Norbert Fital permalink
    November 4, 2012 12:51 am

    France sold its land in North America in order to fund the French empire. Napoleonic France was in need of money because France was in much debt and needed to fund its military since it was constantly in wars in Europe, Asia and even in Africa. After the States accepted the Louisiana Purchase from France, people felt a need to explore and settle in the newly obtained lands. Once settled, more people wanted land and wanted the states to stretch from coast to coast on the continent. People liked the idea and then a god given concept known as “The Manifest Destiny” was created. This idea implied that the people of the states have god’s blessing to explore westward, get rid of the Native Americans and take their land, and reach the end of the continent in order to expand the territory of the States. It’s ironic because the States just broke out of a powerful empire (the British) and claimed stuff about freedom and liberty, but now they act like the British and try to take the Native people’s land and mistreat them.

  7. Vera Orlando permalink
    November 4, 2012 6:39 pm

    As mentioned in the comments above, Napoleon sold Louisiana to President Jefferson because he needed money to fund the French Revolution and to make up for the lands lost by France. Louisiana extended from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, which instantly doubled America’s size. During the expansion going on in America, citizens brought up “manifest destiny” which basically meant that America was divinely destined to keep expanding its territory into the west, from the Atlantic all the way to the pacific seaboard. They believed it was God’s intention for all of them. While trying to expand the country, however, they mistreated the native indigenous people of the original country by pushing them further and further west. They tried to Americanize all of them and so no problems with this because it was all under “manifest destiny.”

  8. Fuad Hamid permalink
    November 11, 2012 12:33 am

    Napoleon sold Louisiana because they were in an economic crisis due to many factors such as assisting the Americans in the American revolution and the French Revolution and with the ensuing war in Europe, the French were in need of money.
    Manifest destiny was the idea that Americans were meant to expand into the west. It was believed that Americans were meant to be great. This is ironic because Americans putting themselves above the native Americans which defeats the purpose of fighting tyranny and fighting for equality.

  9. Shira Binyaminy permalink
    November 12, 2012 1:28 pm

    During the Napoleonic era France was at its peak, however during the end of Napoleon France’s economic situation was declining fast and they needed money. Therefore Napoleon sold Louisiana territory for 15 million dollars, which was a bargain since the territory was huge and expansive.
    Manifest Destiny is the belief that settlers coming into the new world have the right to expand and take over the whole country. They believed that they are allowed to push the Native Americans out of their home turf and settle wherever they want. They were selfish in the sense that the Native Americans lived there hundreds of years before Europe even knew about America but when they started settling further west they drove them out without paying them or compensating their lose.

  10. Ebru Oktayer permalink
    December 1, 2012 3:36 pm

    The French sold the Louisiana Territory because of Napoleon’s need of money in order to protect his growing empire. Rather than splitting his attention and ruling both, he made the decision to sell off the territory and be able to focus his economic and military power in his Empire.
    The term “manifest destiny” refers to the right of the United States and its citizens to expand its territory across the west of the continent. It was deemed to be their destiny and used to justify its annexation of land. The irony lays in the use of this term because it suits their wants rather than their rights.

  11. Fabiola Ramos permalink
    December 1, 2012 5:04 pm

    During this time Napoleon had lost control over his original plan. Once he realized that his expansion was appearing to be almost impossible he decided to focus on his european expansion and get rid of the land he had in america. He decided to sell his land to President Jefferson and this was great for Jefferson because he was looking to continue with his westward expansion. The concept of manifest destiny made it seem like it was ok for the people to continue expanding west and basically invading the west and taking over. The whole idea was that it was ok for them to keep expanding because thats what they were destined to do. this is ironic because it created this idea that they are better than the rest and that it is ok for them to invade others but its not ok for this type of action to occur in other countries.

  12. Omar Algamoos permalink
    December 10, 2012 6:00 am

    Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. in 1803 because he lost interest in the new world due to the successful rebellion that occurred in Saint-Dominique and he needed to gain funds to recover from the revolution back home and to prepare for war in Europe. America’s concept of “manifest destiny” was that it had the god given right that destined it to expand across the continent. The irony in this belief was the massacring of the indigenous Native Americans. America has fought to free itself from so called superior rulers (Great Britain), but exercise superior ruthless force against the natives of the western side of the continent, which also contradicted the principles America was founded on. I believe America has made it more ironic in its foreign policy today, because it continues to exercise ruthless destructive behavior of superiority across the Middle East and has been supporting countries that have also showed the same ruthless, destructive and superior power (Israel), by funding them and supplying them with weapons so that they can also exercise their version of “manifest destiny.”

  13. Rahman Muzaffar permalink
    December 11, 2012 11:24 pm

    The territory had to be sold because Napoleon was in need of money to support the French empire after territory loses, and to fund the upcoming war. Manifest destiny meant that god was supporting America and wanted them to gain land towards the west. The irony behind it is that they were taking over the land of the Native Americans and killing many at the same time. The States had just got their freedom from the British, but now they were taking away the freedom of the Native Americans.

  14. Khansa Mansoor permalink
    December 17, 2012 4:56 pm

    The French sold the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. because Napoleon needed funds for his wars in Europe. He was having an upcoming war with Great Britain and he could not spare troops. He needed funds to support his military instead. So he sold Louisiana to the U.S. for 15 million dollars. Manifest Destiny, on the other hand, meant that it was the U.S’s destiny to expand its territory from sea to sea. The irony in it is that the land in between wasn’t even theirs but they were taking it over. The Americans took away the Native Americans freedom just like how Great Britain took away America’s freedom.

  15. Richard Cabral permalink
    December 18, 2012 5:56 am

    The French sold the Louisiana Territory for funds for the war Napoleon was waging. Manifest Destiny meant that America should spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific for the people. That God supported this fact. What made this whole thing ironic was the kicking the natives out their home and taking their land so that Americans could have the freedom of the land.

  16. Irena Pergjika permalink
    December 18, 2012 8:01 pm

    The reason why Napoleon decided to sell the Louisiana Territory was mostly because he needed the cash as he was in the middle of wars. He did not have the resources to hold or maintain a territory that far away when he needed the money for military power closer to home.
    Manifest Destiny was a belief that the right of the United States was to expand towards the West and conquer as much land as possible. The term was used by people who claimed that it was “God’s will” to expand in the West.

  17. Victoria Karcz permalink
    December 19, 2012 12:02 am

    In 1803 the Louisiana Territory was purchased by the U.S. as a method of westward expansion, but also provided Napoleon of France the money he needed for war preparation. Hand in hand, this worked out for the United States which came to claim that their expansion was of “manifest destiny.” This being said, manifest destiny relates to what is destined by God, in which the United States claimed related to their westward expansion. However, why would God grant the right for Americans to push natives out of their lands so that they could take over? This is the irony of this concept of “manifest destiny,” as the Americans were expanding their territory, they were doing so by the elimination of others.

  18. Anastasia Davidyants permalink
    December 19, 2012 12:48 am

    Why did the French sell the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. in 1803?

    When Napoleon sent an an army to suppress the Haitian rebellion at the island of Hispaniola, he lost thousands of soldiers to yellow fever. The island had to be abandoned, and without that island he had little need for the Louisiana territory. Facing another war with Great Britain, Napoleon realized the need for immediate money and he also could not spare any of his soldiers to defend the territory. The US was getting a much better deal, but Napoleon realized that he was at a loss and had no choice but to sell it in order to receive some input of money to support military needs. President Thomas Jefferson was thrilled with the treaty to buy this land since the US was gaining such a large amount of land for such a small amount of money and they immediately negotiated.

  19. Xing Hui Lu (Richard) permalink
    December 19, 2012 11:54 pm

    The French during 1789-1799 had a revolution that had cost a lot of capital, and on top of that, before the French revolution started, King Louis XVI had inherited an enormous amount of debt. So in order for the French at the time to get back on its feet, Napoleon Bonaparte had to sell some of territory in the west. It allowed the U.S. to double in size overnight. During that time it was great because people had the idea of the Manifest Destiny.

  20. Caryn Rosario permalink
    December 20, 2012 12:07 am

    Napoleon needed funds to protect France from its enemies. He sold the Louisiana territory to the United States. The U.S. expanded rapidly and the spoke of “manifest destiny”. This was the idea that the United States was destined as well as divinely ordained to expand. It was often invoked to justify U.S. annexation. (Traditions, 679)

  21. Xiarra-Diamond Nimrod permalink
    December 21, 2012 8:06 am

    The French sold Louisiana to the US in 1803 because they were in the middle of war and Napolean needed money for war expenses. By selling their territory it allowed the French to earn profits for their war costs, which resulted in them gaining 15 million dollars for Louisiana. Manifest Destiny is the historical belief that the US is destined and divinely ruled by God to expand across the North American continent from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean.

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