Primary Source Analysis #2
“Manifest Destiny,” John O’Sullivan, 1845
John O’Sullivan described westward expansion as “Manifest Destiny,” in an article written in 1845. The idea of “Manifest Destiny” was important because it both defined a basis for expansionist policies and became a central defining feature of American culture.
Write an analysis of O’Sullivan’s statement on “Manifest Destiny” that responds to the following questions:
- What is “Manifest Destiny”?
- Why did O’Sullivan believe that Americans should settle westward and how did he justify expansionist policies? Please draw on the document itself to support your answer; what language does O’Sullivan use to support his argument?
- The idea of “Manifest Destiny” has been evaluated by historians as having had both positive and negative influences on American society and culture. In what ways might it have been positive, and in what ways might it have been negative? Your answer to this question should reference at least two other sources from class; any source of your choice and “American Progress” by Gast, the painting that became an iconographic representation of expansion and progress in the United States.
- Please pose at least one discussion question about this source. What do you think is important to talk about with regard to O’Sullivan’s support for American expansion?
Responses will be graded according to the following criteria:
- Does the response address all the questions posed?
- Does the response demonstrate that the student has done a close and careful analysis?
- Does the response offer a thoughtful engagement with the source?
- Does the response demonstrate a concerted effort to think about the significance of the source and its relationship to course topics?
- Does the response make sense? Are the ideas within it clearly communicated?
- Is the response written in essay form, with a thesis, a set of paragraphs that each address a distinct argument in support of the thesis, and a conclusion?