Was Manifest Destiny justified? Historians have argued for years if all the suffering caused by Manifest Destiny worth the reward. This event helped shape United States to what it is today, it couldn’t be that bad could it The idea of Manifest Destiny is that God intended Americans to live and inherit the continent’s lands, people and resources to spread the ideas of freedom and democracy (Mountjoy). The original idea, to spread democracy and freedom to the rest of the continent was not inherently evil, but the way it has been interpreted throughout history has been nefarious.
Even though Manifest Destiny made the United States what it is today, it is unjustified because it is egotistical, self contradictory, and xenophobic exemplified through by The Trail of Tears, The Mexican-American War, and the Spanish-American War. The Trail of Tears was forced a removal of indigenous people living in the Southeast region of the United States during the 1830s (Pauls). This event tarnished the name of the young United States and forever left a scar on American history.
Records estimate that about 100,000 Native Americans were forced out of their homes during this time period and about 15,000 people died on this journey West (Pauls). 15% of people who were forced on the Trail of Tears died during the trip. Such a high death rate is unacceptable and shows the true corruptness and laziness of the government under Andrew Jackson. The term Trail of Tears refers to the hardship endured by the Southeast Native Americans during this time and is most typically connected to the suffering of the Cherokees (Pauls).
This event was a true tragedy exemplifying the clearest example of the inhumane treatment of the Cherokee people. The real trail included routes across 9 states that stretched about 5,045 miles (Pauls). Most people can barely walk 5 miles in a day. Imagine being forced to walk over 5,000 miles just because some entitled people wanted your land. The main motive of the forced removal was mainly avarice. The British Proclamation of 1763 designated land between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River as Indian Territory.
Despite this, soon many Euro-American land speculators and settlers began moving into this region. The British and the U. S. government’s mostly ignored these acts (Pauls). Even though Native American land had been agreed to be set aside after the French and Indian War the British and Americans completely ignored this Proclamation enraging many Indians. In 1829 a gold rush began on Cherokee land in Georgia. These mines had high potential and at their prime rate produced 300 ounces of gold per day.
Land speculators demanded that the U. S. Congress take all Indian property for the states. This was supported by President Andrew Jackson who was also a speculator and Congress satisfied their demands and passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 (Pauls). Southerners only saw Native American communities as barriers between them and gold and because non-white people basically had no rights at the time there was no one to oppose the corruption. Jackson, the President of the Republic, elected democratically, made the very undemocratic decision of supporting this unjustness.
The Indian Removal Act designated the President to negotiate with the Indian nations their removal to lands west of the Mississippi and provided $500,000 for native American transportation (Pauls). 100,000 people were being forced moved and they paid for it with only $500,000. That’s $5 per person for a 5,000 mile trip. Jackson heavily supported this act and made multiple speeches to Congress to justify the removal of the Natives and he also stated some of the expected outcomes from the relocation process (Pauls).
Jackson went as far as trying to justifying the evil action before Congress. What was the argument for kicking 100,000 people off their land other than their skin color? None, Jackson’s argument showed the racism and white nationalism that began to take hold of the United States starting with the Trail of Tears. Texan independence and Santa Anna’s actions are key reasons for the cause of the Mexican-American War. Texans and Americans knew that the Mexican government did not have the power to stop Texas from becoming independent.
Rather than letting Mexican and Texan officials talk everything out they forced the captured leader to sign a document without the consent of the Mexican people. This action was undemocratic and hypocritical of Texas and the United States. Yes, Texas was justified running its own local government because Mexico just didn’t have the power to govern Texas. However, they could have made better and more fair choices that could have benefitted both parties rather than benefitting only one and making the other suffer. Mexico refused to pay $2 million in damages from the Texas’s war for Independence.
They didn’t want to pay because they never agreed to the treaty, to begin with, and still saw Texas as part of the Mexican Republic. This angered Polk, but he also knew the Mexican treasury was almost bankrupt. He wanted to pay a large amount of money for California and New Mexico. The Mexican government, however, underwent a coup where the most peaceful president was forced replaced with an aggressive an anti-American General Mariano Paredes y Arillaga (Crawford). The disagreements about Texan Independence set the stage for the Mexican American War.
Slave owners who controlled Southern influence in Congress wanted Texas and other Mexican territories to be open to slavery. They campaigned very hard for Texas to be admitted to the Union and Texas accepted the offer before the US even passed a bill considering the matter. Texas also recognized the Rio grande as the southern border of Texas well knowing that Mexico disputed this territory. Mexican’s were offended that the US had accepted territory that they considered Mexican land causing them to remove their minister from the US capital and preparing for war (Crawford).
Southern slave owners saw Texas and other Mexican territories as an opportunity to take advantage of a weaker nation and expand slavery in the United States. After a decade of lobbying by Southerner’s they were able to annex Texas which outraged Mexican officials because they still believed Texas was their land. Mexico agreed to receive an American minister to discuss the purchase of Mexican land, the dispute was, however, which land. While American’s came to purchase California and New Mexico, the Mexican’s wanted to discuss the official purchase of Texas as they still saw it as their land.
When neither of the countries could agree on a purchase due to their very different demands Polk was furious of the failure (Crawford). While Polk did try to legally gain Mexican land, past events, mainly Texan Independence prevented it. Mexican’s refused because American’s had essentially stolen Mexican land, without Mexico’s permission. In short, because of past aggressive actions caused by manifest destiny more peaceful options were made impossible for the MexicanAmerican War. General Zachary Taylor moved his troops directly into contested territory with Mexico directly across from the campsite of Mexico’s Army.
Polk ordered him to do this to possibly provoke Mexico into a war. His plan worked as Mexican’s saw this as an invasion force and attacked a group of US dragoons (Crawford). While Mexico did not like the idea of Texas, they weren’t exactly going to go into another war for it and basically just accepted it. What really got them angry was the boundaries of Texas as Texans saw the boundary much further South than Mexicans did. Polk knew this would outrage Mexicans and made sure to start a war by camping his Army right across the river from the Mexican Army.
Though Polk did not fire the first shot, he did pretty much straight up invade Mexico and wait for the Mexican’s to attack the invaders. The newly independent government of Mexico had many problems in its early days and was in no position to fight a war especially with a much more powerful country. Mexican General Arista, seeing this as an invasion of Mexico ordered his cavalry to attack US cavalry sparking the Mexican-American War (Crawford). Polk knew the Mexican Government did not see the Rio Grande as an American territory and that they would feel like they had just been invaded.
He was right so when Mexico felt like it was defending itself, American’s saw the attack on the US dragoons as an act of aggression. When Polk heard of the first U. S. casualties he seized it as an opportunity to raise support for a war. He declared that American blood had been shed on American soil to fuel the efforts and succeeded in convincing Congress into declaring war (Crawford). Polk twisted a fact, Americans had been killed by Mexicans in a small skirmish, into a lie to promote a war, American blood had been shed on American land.
He knew very well that the American force was not in American land, but was camping in Mexican land. Without good leadership militaries always fail. It is no surprise that the Mexican Army failed because a much more powerful, welltrained, and motivated force was fighting against them. General Winfield Scott was assigned to organize an army and take Mexico’s capital (Crawford). Polk really wanted the war to end fast so he could still win with popular American support. Santa Anna refused to give up and basically built a makeshift militia.
They barely trained, fought hard, but still the U. S. kept winning. A Mexican officer referencing manifest destiny said: “God is a Yankee” (Crawford). The Mexican’s put up hard resistance, but they were no match for the professional U. S. army. The U. S. gave only $15 million for all of California, New Mexico, and Arizona in return for peace with Mexico. (Crawford). The United States had successfully achieved it’s “righteous” goal of manifest destiny by forcing a war on a weaker nation, crushing the weaker nations army, and forcing the defeated nation to give them half their territory for almost nothing.