The concept of manifest destiny in a way reflects an imperialist and expansionist nation because of the manner in which the United States, during the period 1830-1870, strived to gain economic and political dominance of territories owned and controlled by other nations or peoples. Such territories include California, New Mexico and Texas which belonged to Mexico and the western territories occupied by the Native Americans (Giusepi).
Imperialism is a concept that originated from Karl Marx in describing the highest stage of capitalism wherein capitalist nations conduct market expansion by colonizing non-capitalist nations and peoples. This is in order to address its economic problem of overproduction brought about by the leaps in production technology but a narrow domestic market that could not absorb its finished goods.
John O’Sullivan elaborated on the concept of manifest destiny when he stated that God has given the citizens of the United States the right to claim the lands and resources of the continent in order for them to prosper as their population steadily increased (Giusepi). Nations and peoples who opposed such territorial expansionism were impeding the will of God as manifested in the God-given capacity of the U.S. to do so. Whitman, who held similar views, even envisioned U.S. expansion to the Caribbean and Central America (Gruesz).
Policies consistent with the belief in a manifest destiny were meant to expand economic activities through agriculture that would provide the raw materials for the rapidly industrializing United States. At the same time, it encouraged further population growth when larger families were necessary in order to transform new territories into productive farms and made possible the abolition of slavery on which farm labor largely depended on at the same time that the mechanization of agricultural production was also looming ahead.
Political consolidation was conducted at the same time through state building and federalism. Explicit in the statutes of the newly formed United States government after the American revolution is the acquisition and formation of more states in order to add up to the confederacy (Giusepi). Problems with dual claims of states such as that between Britain and the U.S. over Oregon were also settled in favor of the U.S.
In this manner, territorial expansion within the U.S.’ immediate territory served to steer capitalist production through ensuring raw material production although the problem of overproduction and market saturation inherent in Marx’s concept of imperialism were not as marked then as during the early 20th century and which peaked into the Great Depression in the 1930’s.
Karl Marx also predicted that imperialism will lead to war as the world’s capitalist powers strive to divide the world into their own markets through the establishment of colonies. Expansionism under the banner of manifest destiny in the American continent has also led to wars albeit it involved civil wars as well as wars with its neighboring nations. Manifest destiny served as the rallying call or the justification for such actions which displaced peoples who originally occupied certain territories.
This is especially evident in the occupation of Mexican territories and having lost the battle, Mexico was left with no choice but to cede it territories occupied by the U.S. (Gruesz). War as a result of expansionism is also true regarding the Indian tribes of the West who fought for their lands from Americans who treated these as frontiers. Eventually, the Indian Tribes were relocated and their sovereignty recognized under treaties. However, the U.S. did not keep its end of the bargain as Americans still encroached into Indian tribe relocation areas and another series of armed encounters occurred (Giusepi).
Finally, the belief in manifest destiny was hand in hand with a belief in the superiority of one’s nation and culture. It was the driving force that led groups of average Americans to endure the hardships of migration in order to propagate their religious beliefs and way of life to other parts of the continent (Giusepi). All of these mirror the way in which the U.S. would soon conduct colonizing efforts in areas occupied by peoples with different religious beliefs, culture, economy and political organization in the 20th century.
Giusepi, Richard. “Manifest Destiny”. History World International. 2004. 30 May 2008
Gruesz, Kirsten Silva. “Manifest Destiny and Expansion in the Americas”. The Geographical
Imagination in Whitman and Dickinson. 2008. 30 May 2008