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An American Journalist Explains “Manifest Destiny”

John L. O’Sullivan was an influential journalist and supporter of the Democratic Party. In 1839, he laid out historical, moral, political, and economic reasons for westward expansion. In 1845, O’Sullivan rallied support for the annexation of the Republic of Texas into the United States. He claimed that it was Americans’ “manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.”

[O]ur national birth was the beginning of a new history, the formation and progress of an untried political system, which separates us from the past and connects us with the future only…we may confidently assume that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity…. 

What friend of human liberty, civilization, and refinement, can cast his view over the past history of the monarchies and aristocracies of antiquity, and not deplore that they ever existed?.... 

America is destined for better deeds. It is our unparalleled glory that we have no reminiscences of battle fields, but in defence of humanity, of the oppressed of all nations, of the rights of conscience, the rights of personal enfranchisement….We have had patriots to defend our homes, our liberties, but no aspirants to crowns or thrones; nor have the American people ever suffered themselves to be led on by wicked ambition to depopulate the land, to spread desolation far and wide, that a human being might be placed on a seat of supremacy…. 

We are the nation of human progress, and who will, what can, set limits to our onward march? Providence is with us, and no earthly power can. 

 Yes, we are the nation of progress, of individual freedom, of universal enfranchisement….We must onward to the fulfilment of our mission––to the entire development of the principle of our organization––freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality. This is our high destiny, and in nature’s eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral and dignity and salvation of man.

Source | John L. O’Sullivan, “The Great Nation of Futurity,” The United States Democratic Review, Vol. 6 (1839): 426-30.
Creator | John L. O'Sullivan
Item Type | Newspaper/Magazine
Cite This document | John L. O'Sullivan, “An American Journalist Explains “Manifest Destiny”,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 1, 2023,

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