The ‘Manifest Destiny Era’ at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century: An Analysis of Path Dependence in the United States
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When studying American political and territorial expansionism in the first century of the country’s history, it impossible not to address the central and driving force in American politics: the concept of Manifest Destiny. Various prominent trains of thought among historians on the topic pinpoint the origins of an era characterized by Manifest Destiny at significantly different periods of US history, ranging from the arrival to Anglo-Europeans to the Western Hemisphere to only the mid-nineteenth century when the term was officially coined by John O‘Sullivan. By demonstrating the existence of a pattern of the dominant ideologies and practices of Manifest Destiny in the decades surrounding the turn of the nineteenth century, I prove that Manifest Destiny was an already well-established American practice and ideology decades before the War of 1812. Finally, I argue that this Manifest Destiny era, which existed at the end of the eighteenth century, is in fact a critical juncture because of the vast bipartisan and universal support for American expansionism among a super-majority of American politicians and citizens. Ultimately, I leave it up to future historians to pinpoint the start and end date of this period of path dependence and urge scholars of this field of study to think outside the box when applying the concepts of Manifest Destiny to the study of empires throughout all of world history.