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31 review for Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hotavio

    Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981. Weinberg, Albert K. Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalistic Expansionism in American History, Quandrangle Paperback edition. Chicago: Quandrangle Books, 1963. America widely portrays the topic of manifest destiny as a glorious drive to claim land that many would deem rightfully ours. Beyond the general recognition of what now makes up the 50 states, the Am Horsman, Reginald. Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981. Weinberg, Albert K. Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalistic Expansionism in American History, Quandrangle Paperback edition. Chicago: Quandrangle Books, 1963. America widely portrays the topic of manifest destiny as a glorious drive to claim land that many would deem rightfully ours. Beyond the general recognition of what now makes up the 50 states, the American public fails to deeply ponder on the topic of manifest destiny and what scholars Reginald Horsman and Alex Weinberg would claim to be designs of “territorial aggrandizement.” Reginald Horsman’s Race and Manifest Destiny and Albert K. Weinberg’s Manifest Destiny reconsider manifest destiny in an attempt to pinpoint the American reasoning behind the growth from 13 colonies to America’s position in what Weinberg determines “world leadership.” While both books rest on the theme of manifest destiny as the American mission in which a proud people proliferate in attempt to improve the world, Horsman aims to look solely through the lens of race, while Weinberg looks at a variety of reasons used to justify the seizure of land. Besides the obvious similarity of the topic, the underlying theme of American exceptionalism ties the books together. Horsman begins Race and Manifest Destiny by noting that the Puritan establishment in America, a bitter successful fight for independence against the world’s premier superpower of the 18th century, and exponential growth in 60 following years endowed Americans with the impression that they were God’s “chosen people.” Similarly, in Manifest Destiny, Weinberg states that Americans thought of themselves as a special people with a “providential role in history.” While Weinberg devotes a whole chapter to the thought of American altruism, he provides much evidence throughout his book that Americans rationalized their expansion with the perception that they were improving the land or its people. This common view held from the extension of the colonies westward in the 19th century through the period of American imperialism. Because Americans historically perceived themselves in the right, Weinberg’s book aims not to judge America’s manifest destiny as a program of aggressive expansion based on self-aggrandizement, as Horsman might see it. Weinberg’s book considers manifest destiny as judged through American values of the time, not as many might judge it now. Ultimately, this multi-faceted and realistic approach makes the two books fundamentally different. Horsman stresses American exceptionalism through race as a primary reason for expansion. Typical of racial thought among prominent politicians Horsman notes that “For [Thomas Hart] Benton, as for so many others, ‘the children of Adam’ were to become the van of the Caucasian race’ between 1819 and 1846…and…will have completed the cumambulation of the globe, by marching to the west until they arrive at the Pacific Ocean, in sight of the eastern shore that Asia in which their first parents were originally planted.” One can trace racial motives in manifest destiny throughout Weinberg’s book, but it seldom takes primary significance. Weinberg’s chapter on “regeneration” argues that the Mexican American War intended to clear Mexican territory of its incompetent governing apparatus and its incapable people, a mission that Horsman would directly attribute to the eradication of mongrels. Yet, Weinberg suggests that Americans stopped short of the Anglo-Saxon crusade of “taking over the world” leaving south of the Rio Grande and the Yucatan to the Mexicans. While positing manifest destiny through a racial lens offers a new way to look at the subject, it can be limiting and in this case over-simplifying to consider it to be the driving factor behind expansion. Race and Manifest Destiny, written in 1981 reflects the then recent desire to break out of traditionalist scholarship. By considering prior taboos in scholarship, subjects like race provided new ways to look at well researched topics. The cult of Anglo-Saxonism, a derivative of the mythical Caucasian race provided sensitive subject matter, especially after Adolf Hitler’s Aryan mission drenched the world in blood. Race and Manifest Destiny infuses American manifest destiny with the notion of Anglo-Saxon superiority and the identified need to rid adjacent territories of inferior races of American Indian and Mexicans. Because racialism was at its peak in the first half of the 19th century, Horsman primarily considers this timeframe’s literature, government policies, and the intellectual thought maintained by those in power. Weinberg wrote Manifest Destiny in 1935 and provides a survey of diplomatic history from the Revolution until the time the book was written. This offers insight into the changing reasoning for American expansion and policies of foreign intervention, making it pertinent to recent world history where the United States has been the predominant world power and maintains the “policing role” that Weinberg identifies began with the country’s war with Spain over Cuban independence. While considering similar topics, several powerful and unique themes come up within Race and Manifest Destiny. Americans applied scientific thought, regardless of accuracy by today’s standards, to justify belief in Anglo-Saxon superiority. While Horsman identifies several pseudo-sciences of the 19th century, he fails to adequately explain the difference in them (he fails similarly in differentiating political terms such as Whig and Real Whig). The science most important to his argument is phrenology, vogue in the time period, which prominent Americans and scholars use to prove the American Indian’s inability to assimilate to the white man’s ways. To many of the designers of expansion, particularly in the 1840s, this warranted the eradication of the American Indian. As science convenienced expansionist reasoning, it brought another dilemma unique to Race and Manifest Destiny: attempts to scientifically prove Anglo-Saxon superiority conflicted with the biblical account that all man came from Adam and Eve. Still a largely religious nation, scholars engaged in an ongoing debate of monogenesis versus polygenesis. How could the Genesis account of man’s common ancestors be correct if science “proved” so much racial differentiation occurred since 4004 BC? This moral crisis does not occur in Manifest Destiny. With the concern of race, Horsman also gives a passing mention to the conflict that 19th century European immigration poses to Anglo-Saxon expansionist theory. While he mentions that Irish Americans hold their own view of racial superiority, nodding to a mixture of their Celtic blood with the Anglo-Saxon blend, Horsman does not fully explore this idea. Weinberg’s multi-faceted approach better showcases an evolution of expansionist thought. He divides Manifest Destiny into chapters that individually highlight each reason for expansion. Weinberg successfully puts each reason into its own context so that expansionist design does not always appear as malicious as what it appears in Horsman’s book. Upon first glance, terms such as natural right, political gravitation, inevitable destiny, and political affinity seem awkwardly coined. However, Weinberg deftly groups historical quotes together which use this terminology, supporting his categories of expansionist reasoning. With each reason for expansion, Weinberg gives several examples, sometimes even spanning a swath of American history. For instance, geographic predestination serves as an argument for seeking Florida and New Orleans in the late 18th century and Americans later uses it again to claim the island naval bases Hawaii and the Philippines as late as the turn of the 20th century. Other chapters, such as the one devoted to political affinity, relate to one special case for expansion. In the case of political affinity, it was the call for Canada to be annexed on the basis that its politics and culture were so close to America’s the two nations could form “a homogeneous republic.” With the myriad of reasons for expansion that Weinberg provides, they all differentiate from Horsman’s argument in that they tend to be reactionary, particularly to European designs. Examples such as the self defense chapter consider the United States forcing the 1917 sale of the Danish West Indies for defense of its commercial interests in the Panama Canal. The paramount interest chapter illustrates America’s desperation in securing control of the Panama Canal to protect its commerce and secure a highway of naval defense against European attack. While Weinberg explains the many reasons for territorial expansion in a contextual light, he does not excuse the hypocrisy of manifest destiny: the United States first reason for it, the natural right to self-determination contrasts sharply with later US efforts to meddle in the affairs of countries like the Philippines or in areas like Latin America. Race and Manifest Destiny and Manifest Destiny provide two very different takes on the classic historical topic of manifest destiny. While they maintain their own reasons for the phenomenon, both provide insights that unique and relevant today. Written in a revisionist manner, readers may find Race and Manifest Destiny a better secondary reading to the topic, while Manifest Destiny posits a multi-faceted take on the American land grab, which some might say, continues with America’s paramount interest in geographical areas such the Middle East and its current role as a world leader.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    This is a very interesting read on how the term manifest destiny evolved from American independence to the 1960s (when it was written). Weinberg is a philosopher that traces different theories US 'expansionists' used to argue for growth as they developed the concept to encompass independence to continental expansion to imperialism. Weinberg is critical of the expansionists and manages to display their arguments for expansion with an account of anti-expansionist outcry. This is a useful book for This is a very interesting read on how the term manifest destiny evolved from American independence to the 1960s (when it was written). Weinberg is a philosopher that traces different theories US 'expansionists' used to argue for growth as they developed the concept to encompass independence to continental expansion to imperialism. Weinberg is critical of the expansionists and manages to display their arguments for expansion with an account of anti-expansionist outcry. This is a useful book for historians to trace the evolution of Manifest Destiny as a term/concept as well as a political call from a non-historian perspective.

  3. 4 out of 5

    cathy

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sammy Roy

  5. 5 out of 5

    Space Bunny

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    Brian S. Wise

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    Javier Betico

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    Mauro Kiithi

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    Joe Ortiz

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    Ludovico Canovai

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    Zheng

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    Wendy Wallace

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    Anastasia Shishkalova

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    Noah Padron

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    Steve

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    Brooke

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    Justyna

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    Jarvis Fisher

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    Colleen Granger

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    Eric Lembke

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    Henrik

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lanie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ghafiqi

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  30. 4 out of 5

    James Hill Welborn III

  31. 5 out of 5

    LE ROY

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