Defining Terms: Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny is a phrase which was coined by John L. O’Sullivan in an article entitled “Statue to Jackson” in the July/August, 1845 issue of the Democratic Review (which can be found here). There are three basic themes to Manifest Destiny:

  1. the special virtues of American people & their institutions
  2. America’s mission to redeem & remake the world in its own image
  3. a divine direction to accomplish such a task.

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Defining Terms: Empire of Liberty

Thomas Jefferson—like many other Republicans—had a vision of an America composed of many, small, land-owning farmers and expanded popular participation in elections. The Louisiana Purchase (1803) allowed Jefferson to implement this vision through what he called the Empire of Liberty. He did not view this as an empire of conquest (like the empires of Spain, France, and England). The terminology “empire of liberty” comes from the notion that the United States can spread liberty to other places through its territorial expansion. This ideology was not much different than colonization.

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Defining Terms: Sovereignty

Sovereignty is a nation’s right to self governance. In the Supreme Court’s opinion on Worcester vs. Georgia (written by Justice Marshall), the Cherokee were recognized as a sovereign entity. The ruling cited previous treaties that were entered into, saying “[the] treaties the United States of America acknowledge…[the] Cherokee Nation by which that Nation was acknowledged to be a sovereign nation, authorized to govern themselves.” It specifically references the “the treaties of Hopewell and Holston” as being of particular force. President Jackson, however, refused to enforce this decision and he went ahead with Indian Removal.