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Manifest Destiny. America Looks West (& Up) Not East. Trying to get something done around here is like . . . Three Branches of Federal Government Executive/”Commander-in-Chief” Applies & enforces laws, has veto power Appoints judges Legislative/Senators & Representatives

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Manifest destiny l.jpg

Manifest Destiny

America Looks West (& Up)

Not East


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Trying to get something done around here is like . . .

  • Three Branches of Federal Government

    • Executive/”Commander-in-Chief”

      • Applies & enforces laws, has veto power

      • Appoints judges

    • Legislative/Senators & Representatives

      • Passes laws, can override veto

      • Declares war (?)

      • Powers of confirmation & impeachment

    • Judicial

      • Interprets law, Constitution

  • Which branch is most powerful?

    • Marbury vs. Madison (1803)

  • Separation of powers a check on ambition


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Constitution for the Rich?

  • Permits slavery and, until 1808, slave trade

    • Slaves, in effect, to count as “silent voters” for southern states

  • Voting rights left up to states’ definition

  • No democracy, no “power to the people”?

  • Federal government reserves power & rights

    • Only groups recognized are states & individuals – no church, parties, cities or other associations

    • No way for states or individuals to override federal decisions except through long judicial process

    • Depends too much on enforcement rather than persuasion?


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OK, OK, you can have a “Bill of [individual] Rights”

  • Granted as amendments, not in “established & ordained” body of Constitution

    • Can be overturned

    • Worded in general terms

  • Ideology more “American”?


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Framers’ Assumptions

  • Rights based in social/political existence, not in individual life – whose argument is that?

    • Large is better; small is weaker and less just

    • BUT people feel closer to small, local community?

  • Government necessary to preserve Union

    • Regulation of interstate & foreign commerce

      • Anti-feds distrusted foreign commerce; preferred austere self-government to affluent dependence on intl. trade

    • War not regulated – President & Congress free

    • Unequal people allowed to co-exist

  • Class differences not reflected (unlike Britain)

    • Nor are geographical differences


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“Interest-Based Government”

  • National identity based on two bottom lines of individual (private) existence

    • Commerce – money, well-being (whose?)

    • War – safety, emotional ties to warriors

    • NOT on loyalty to “laws”? Or to “land”?

  • What if total of private interests do not add up to national interest?

    • Most 19th c. Americans willing to tolerate slavery?

    • Full shelves vs. child labor in Asia, future war

  • What if store shelves turn up empty?


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Jefferson the Federalist?

  • Louisiana Purchase (1803)

    • Jefferson wants more land for farmers BUT

    • Assures that federal government will create most of the states (a dozen more to start) AND

    • Precipitates sectional crisis of slavery extension

  • Along with Constitution, does this “federal statehood” help create “American” identity?

    • Civil War – 40% of military fights for “the colors” (North) even if they come from Southern states

    • 1957 – Arkansas National Guard enforces segregation in Little Rock; nationalized 24 hours later, enforces desegregation – NO QUESTION

  • Are Americans primarily divided by political or by sectional differences?


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Both sides half-hearted

Burning institutions

Further creates feeling of US nationality (heroes! anthems! campaign slogans!)

BUT New York, New England merchants freely sell supplies to British troops

Finally settles territorial disputes with Britain

Gives US more international respect

Monroe Doctrine (1823)

Further wipes out Indian tribes on western frontier

Tecumseh & “the Prophet”

Erstwhile British allies

War of 1812


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Another Peaceful Revolution

  • Federalists (Adams, Madison, Adams) replaced by Jacksonian Democracy

    • “King Andrew” (1828-1836)

    • First “non-elitist” president, from West

    • War hero, Indian fighter, slaveowner, land speculator

    • States given freer hand by executive

      • Voting rights extended to poorer whites

      • Vetoes Bank of United States

      • Ignores judiciary

      • Encourages removal or slaughter of Creeks, Seminoles, Cherokee et al. (Indian Removal Act of 1830)

      • Jackson & allies prosper


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Organization of American Space”

  • US defines itself by (westward) expansion

    • “Let us bind the republic . . . with roads and canals . . . let us conquer space” – Rep. John Calhoun, 1816

  • New territories organized in rectangles

    • Defined in effect as “real estate”

    • No attention to distinctive ecological, cultural features – land is squared off “blank slate”

    • Speculators reap huge profits, at expense of infrastructure

    • Conflicting visions inscribed on this “empty space”

      • Thomas Cole, “Daniel Boone at His Cabin”(1826)

      • Small independent farmers? Market for manufactures?

      • Huge cotton & tobacco farms based on slavery? Cities?


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Metaphysical Space?

  • Aggressive imperialism justified by unofficial doctrine of “Manifest Destiny”

    • “the continent allotted by Providence”

  • Innate belief in American superiority

    • “spreading republican values”

      • The “blessings of industry”

        • Capitalism on the heels of agrarianism

      • Technological orderliness vs. Indian mysticism

    • Missionary/crusader zeal

      • Despite Deism, Protestantism vs. Catholics & heathens

      • American space as “white space”

  • Missouri Compromise (1820)

    • Political & economic borders



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