Slavery, Manifest Destiny, History of the USA - Essay Example

2021-06-28 01:20:37
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Harvey Mudd College
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The Manifest Destiny was a powerful ideology that heavily shaped the history of the United States. Mountjoy (2009) asserts that Manifest Destiny became a significant driving force underlying the belief that the U.S. was destined to spread their territory across the North American continent. In Addition physical expansion, Mountjoy (2009) adds that the widely held belief further sought to spread the special ideas or virtues of the American people coupled with their institutions to more parts of the world. Despite many American welcomed the idea, it turned out to be a more controversial doctrine that furthered divisions that were already in the American politics. This paper explores how the territorial expansion and extension of the slave system became intricately woven into each other with the latter serving as both a driving force for this idea and contradicting or threatening it in almost equal measures.

The expansionist agenda was propagated by the US in the 1880s. Attempts to spread American influence, vested in the countrys economy, politics, and society, in many parts of the world fueled the motivation for enhanced westward colonization and territorial expansion. Although the Democratic Party was the ideological advancement of the agenda to make America stronger and a superpower, American manifest destiny was not itself sanctioned by the US government. Hammond (2007) identifies that slavery was a serious issue that divided the Free states and the slave states of the north and south of America, respectively. After the states in the north and south were conceived, North America resorted to extending its territorial control primarily by acquiring new states (Hammond 1). After the American Revolution came to a halt and the 1783 treaty of Paris was entered, North America accessed large sections of land that had not been settled by the British particularly across the Appalachian Mountains and along the Mississippi River, among other regions (Carlisle 138). The acquisition of this land leads the concern over the extension of slavery, which caught the attention of the government.

One way in which slavery served as a catalyst to the territorial expansion was the existence of previously enacted regulatory legal provisions that allowed the slave system. Particularly, provisions such as the Southwest ordinance of 1790 made it legal for the southern states to use slavery practices especially in the region stretching from the Ohio River all the way to the Mississippi River. Moreover, the ordinance started that slavery practices were permissible in any region where the system was exempted by the federal law (Carlisle 139). Such laws that exempted some territory from advancing slavery provided a legal framework upon which the expansionists could justify the advances, which catalyzed Manifest Destiny.

At the same time, there existed a couple of such legal provisions that prohibited the slave system in some territories. The enforcement of these anti-slavery regulations inhibited attempts to integrate to promote slavery practices with the expansion of the physical territory westward. A good example of such legal provisions is the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 that outlawed the slave system in the newly acquired area north of Ohio River (Carlisle 139). Another significant regulation was the Wilmot provision that was conceived in 1846. This provision was entered with the primary purpose of barring slavery from the Mexican cession (Morrison 217). Just like the proslavery regulations, these provisions prohibiting slavery under the federal law did not only contradict the Manifest Destiny but also pose a serious threat to the agenda.

When the divided nation made steps toward establishing a new government, the issue of slavery took center stage in most economic, political, and social discussions between the two divides. Despite Pennsylvanian abolitionists initiatives to foster an end to slavery, for example by presenting petitions, the agenda to advance the system in the west became perverse. The Wilmot provision that was put in place in 1846 became a turning point in the fight against slavery as largely attributed to the emergence of the sectionalized political debates that centered on the idea of extending slavery. The provision was perceived as a struggle between the North and South over the North and South, and one that could not be challenged. The main goal of this regulation was to stop the spread of slavery into the newly acquired territories, a move that upset their southern counterparts. Despite the Wilmot proviso suffering defeat in the senate, it was a considerable threat that jeopardizes the Manifest Destiny. The re-introduction of the provision by abolitionists is attributed to the civil war due to the heated debate it provoked (Morrison, 219).

Additionally, the antagonism between the North and South promoted and impeded the Manifest Destiny. The controversy over the issue of including slavery in the expansionist agenda was provoked by the need to articulate the value of the slave system to the future American economy and society. The North held that introducing white, free labor in the frontier would ensure a safety of the new American society. Free states, which believed in liberalization, saw the retrogressive nature of the slave system would inhibit the country from progressing, degrade white workers, and was against liberty and equality of (Morrison 6). Many northerners contended that the idea of a few slaveholders largely contributed to the perverse poverty that was prevalent in the south. The resolve in the North to promote equality and freedom of all citizens reinforced the idea of free labor. According to Carlisle (2007), the northerners perceived this doctrine as an effective means to developing a competitive, democratic, and market-focused economy (145). Therefore, this commitment among the northerners to abolish the slave system paints a clear picture of how slavery threatened and contradicted Manifest Destiny.

Similarly, the southerners opposition to the ideology of free labor can demonstrate how slavery was a significant driving force for the expansionist agenda. The South was characterized by aristocratic leaders (slaveholders) who held more power than non-slave owners. Despite the power difference, both groups valued slavery on the ground that it fostered equality by reducing conflict between different classes. They treated slaves as property that could be moved to new territories (Mountjoy 147). Furthermore, the South feared that the free labor ideology practiced in the North would establish a hierarchical society and enhance conflict between the fundamental principles of capitalism and democracy. From this lens, Morrison (1999) observed that the new American society would face a profoundly economic dependency, an outcome the South stood against (6). The southerners rejection of the free labor system advanced slavery in the south, which in turn, catalyzed the Manifest Destiny.

Lastly, the notion that blacks would degrade the new territories was both a catalyst and barrier to the expansionist ideology. Race-related inequality was perceived as The Missouri Compromise in 18820, a phenomenon that evoked the debates on the slave system regarding Manifest Destiny (Hammond 124). By the Compromise failing to cover the acquired areas excluded from the Louisiana Purchase furthered attention toward slavery extension. The emergence of the anti-slavery baked with a focus on racial inequality influenced the sectional discussions as it attracted the attention of abolitionists, who largely contributed to the collapse of the institution of slavery. The issue of the legality of slaves both in the West and future states manifested itself after the inception of the Manifest Destiny (Mountjoy 36).


Works Cited

Carlisle, Rodney P. Manifest destiny and the expansion of America. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2007.

Hammond, John C. Slavery, Freedom, and Expansion in the Early American West. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007.

Morrison, Michael A. Slavery, and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Mountjoy, Shane. Manifest Destiny: Westward Expansion. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2009.

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