PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

Grade 7 Humanities: Week of 1/28/2019 Westward Expansion: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

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Dear Families,

“Manifest Destiny” expressed the philosophy that drove 19th-century territorial expansion. It dictated that the United States was destined by God to expand and occupy the entire North American continent. Westward expansion had already become a reality when the actual term, “Manifest Destiny,” emerged in an editorial published in an 1845 issue of the Democratic Review.

Due to a high birth rate and immigration, the U.S. population exploded in the beginning the 19th century, from about 5 million people in 1800 to more than 23 million by 1850. This rapid growth, coupled with two economic downturns in 1819 and 1839, drove Americans westward in search of new opportunities.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 added 828,000 square miles to the U.S., essentially doubling its size. Thomas Jefferson was also interested in attaining Spanish Florida, but it was not added until 1819 under James Monroe.

Texas, Oregon, Idaho, Washington State, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and California were to follow. Despite the “idealism” of Manifest Destiny, the rapid territorial expansion in the beginning of the 19th century resulted not only in war with Mexico, but in the forced removal and mistreatment of Native American, Hispanic and other non-European occupants of the land.


Ms. Sacilotto

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“The fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” — John O’Sullivan