Manifest Destiny And Sectional Discord


Though the concept of Manifest Destiny was framed by John L. O’Sullivan in the context of the annexation of Texas to the United States in 1845, the idea had been around much before that time. Manifest Destiny dictated that the United States of America would one day stretch from the East Coast to the West Coast of the North American continent, due to its Anglo-Saxon heritage and its successful democratic support of liberty and economic opportunity. At the time of independence, the United States was a group of thirteen colonies concentrated along the East Coast of the North American continent. The land till the West Coast was controlled by various Native American tribes and the Mexican Government, even though portions of it had been settled by white immigrants, including niche groups like the Mormons, who made Utah their home.

While the American Government pursued the expansion of its borders, another important conflict arose between the Northern industrialized states and the labor-dependent Southern states. The latter were in favor of abolishing slavery, and tried to ensure that slavery did not expand to the new Territories being created. This led to significant opposition from the Southern States, who were looking to expand their use of slaves in the new Territories. The opposition to slavery was on the lines of positions taken by Britain, France and Germany, and America could not be seen supporting an inhuman practice if it wished to be counted among the great nations of the times. The second factor was economic. With overcrowding and lack of employment hurting economic growth, the expansion into the new territories represented a chance for settlers to thrive. The use of slave labor would have killed any opportunity for settlers from the North to be gainfully employed as they would be competing against free labor.

These opposing points of view ultimately led to many conflicting laws and counter-legislation, as well as the 1850 compromise which allowed recently acquired California to be a Free State and the new territories to determine by popular vote their decision to support or oppose slavery. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. His support of abolition ultimately led to the Southern secession, launching the American Civil War in 1861. In this manner, the sectional discord over slavery as applied to Manifest Destiny was ultimately responsible for the Civil War.

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