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The Romance of Democracy: Manifest Destiny

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1 The Romance of Democracy: Manifest Destiny
“All this will be our future history” (Political Science 565)

2 Gap

3 Gap Confronted with criticism, designer Mark McNairy tweets:

4 The Age of Enlightenment
~1650~1800 For: Reason The source of universal truth Scientific method Empiricism Nature as the source of truth Nature as a reserve of resources to be exploited Nature as a thing to be dominated Intellectual freedom Freedom to exercise reason Liberal, but not always democratic May or may not entail political freedom Contract Only consensual agreements are binding

5 The Age of Enlightenment
Against Passions Emotions Bigotries Favorable or unfavorable Appetites Tradition Authority Customs Superstition Religious Magical Ritual

6 The Romantic Era ~1780~1850 Against Aristocracy
Political forms Social norms & restrictions, manners Over-emphasis on rationalism Deadening, mistaken Science & reason not only sources of truth

7 The Romantic Era For Sincerity Aesthetics Nature New politics
Be who you are Authenticity Spontaneity Emotion Love, fear, awe, solidarity The importance of unique individuals Aesthetics Folk art & customs The experience of beauty Nature Inherently valuable More important than the social world Beautiful, forceful New politics Liberal & radical Nationalist

8 Jacksonian Democracy Andrew Jackson Hero of the Battle of New Orleans
President Man of the [white] people Bowed to the crowd at inauguration Promoter of more direct democracy Removal of the Cherokee & Trail of Tears Favored strong states rights, Union

9 Jacksonian Democracy Jacksonian Democracy Young America Egalitarian
Racist Populist Nationalist Young America Locofocos Expansionist

10 Walt Whitman’s “The Last of the Sacred Army” (1842)
A fictional encounter with the last living veteran of the Revolution. He is the last man alive to have served under George Washington, and “the Last of His Witnesses.” After handling a “relic” once handled by Washington and bearing his initials, Whitman asks a philosopher, who had also come to see the Last Witness whether it is well that “such reverance [sic] be bestowed by a great people on a creature like themselves. The self-respect each one has for his own nature might run the risk of effacement, were such things often seen. Besides, it is not allowed that man pay worship to his fellow.” (21) Idolatry Can you worship something you have made?

11 Walt Whitman’s “The Last of the Sacred Army” (1842)
The Philosopher: “Fear not,” because “the occurrences that you have just witnessed stem from the fairest and manliest traits in the soul.” The philosopher is able to persuade Whitman that it is well that the benefactors of a state be so kept alive in memory and song, when their bodies are mouldering. Then it will become impossible for a people to become enslaved, for though the strong arm of their defender come not as readily to the battle, his spirit is there, through the power of remembrance, and wields a better sway even than if it were of fleshly substance. (22)

12 John L. O’Sullivan 1813-1895 Democratic party activist
Editor, literary critic, gov’t envoy to Portugal Influential in van Buren, Pierce administrations Founder, editor-in-Chief of United States Magazine & Democratic Review Whitman & Hawthorne NOT Melville

13 John L. O’Sullivan Defining the American community of belief
Moral perfection and political exceptionality of US national identity Expansion of US is expansion of liberty Liberty as a political good of the first order States’ rights & strong sense of national mission and identity Unconsummated revolution

14 United States Magazine & Democratic Review
“Politico-literary” journal Nationalist project of culture Helped to launch Nathaniel Hawthorne & Walt Whitman to prominence Central to “Young America” Nationalism, democracy, expansion

15 The Nation as Crusade The “high and holy” democratic/voluntary principle (“Introduction”) “the fundamental element of [America’s] new social and political system” Defining America “The best government is that which governs least” “Let man be fettered by no duty, save His brother’s right—like his, inviolable”

16 The Nation as Crusade A community of belief
“full and free profession of the cardinal principles of political faith on which we take our stand” “true and living faith”

17 The Nation as Crusade US exceptional, world-historical importance
“All history has to be re-written; political science and the whole scope of all moral truth have to be considered and illustrated in the light of the democratic principle. All old subjects of thought and all new questions arising, connected more or less directly with human existence, have to be taken up again and re-examined in this point of view.”

18 The Nation as Crusade The advent of the United States is a discontinuous break with history Transforms not only the future, but also the past Forces reinterpretation of all that has come before and that will come Analogous to birth of Christ

19 The Nation as Crusade The American interest = the universal interest
Voluntary principle = democracy = United States = “the cause of all mankind”

20 The Nation as Crusade Defining the community: What about slavery?
Vague commitment to eventual extinction of slavery slavery was “not a political” problem, “but a moral and economic one, the decision of which must rest, voluntarily, with the slave states themselves.” Matter of intrastate commerce, not rights (Democratic Review 14, 4/44, p. 429)

21 The Nation as Crusade Defining the community: What about slavery?
Union composed of states, not individuals Illegitimate to compel change in status quo Would violate democratic principle

22 The Nation as Crusade Liberty > Equality
To be treated as an equal, one must be capable of self-rule. Some can, some can’t: “According to their knowledge of, and respect for, the rights of a citizen, shall their freedom from governmental restraints be measured out to them, and every privilege which they learn to exercise wisely, government will be forced to relinquish, until each man becomes a law unto himself.” (“Territorial Aggrandizement”)

23 The Nation as Crusade To be considered an equal, one must first become free Anglo-Saxon culture (not biology) makes whites most capable of freedom Until then, it is fair to regard the un-free individual as an inferior Slaves are made incapable of being free because the brutality w/which they are treated has made them brute Natives cannot be free because of their savagery & primitiveness Mexicans can’t be free because they are “semi-barbarous”, have an aristocratic Spanish culture. They may one day be educated enough that they can be free.

24 The Nation as Crusade To forcibly annex Mexico would make a mockery of the voluntary principle It would also taint the US w/people who were not prepared to rule themselves Thus, Mexico should be left alone (he changed his mind)

25 The Nation as Crusade “The Great Nation of Futurity”
“we have, in reality, but little connection with the past history of any [other nations], and still less with antiquity, its glories, or its crimes. On the contrary, our national birth was the beginning of a new history.” America is new, morally pure, and unstained by sins of the past A radical break from the past

26 The Nation as Crusade “America is destined for better deeds. It is our unparalleled glory that we have no reminisces of battle fields, but in defence of humanity, of the oppressed of all nations, of the rights of personal conscience, the rights of personal enfranchisement.” America acts with pure motives, in the interest of all mankind by definition

27 The Nation as Crusade “We have no interest in the scenes of antiquity, only as lessons of avoidance of nearly all their examples. The expansive future is our arena, and for our history. We are entering on its untrodden space, with the truths of God in our minds, beneficent objects in our hearts, and with a clear conscience unsullied by the past. “

28 The Nation as Crusade The old, the past is to be repudiated
For Americans, the only history that matters is future history It is not what we have been or what we have done that makes us who we are, but what we will do and who we will be Americans are a people who are unmarked by sin

29 60 seconds of theology What is sin?
Not being a bad person Not doing bad things (individual sins) In Christian thought, the taint of original sin is a state of moral imperfection. A person can be very good and still be stained by sin. Makes forgiveness necessary Separates humans from God For O’Sullivan, America is beyond sin

30 The Nation as Crusade “We are the nation of human progress, and who will, what can, set limits to our onward march? Providence is with us, and no earthly power can. We point to the everlasting truth on the first page of our national declaration, and we proclaim to the millions of other lands, that ‘the gates of hell—the powers of aristocracy and monarchy—’ shall not prevail against it.”

31 The Nation as Crusade America’s purpose, its telos is to spread democracy throughout the world Telos: A purpose that is part of a things nature, forming what it is America is providentially destined to succeed in this mission. Failure is impossible. Voluntary principle = democracy = United States = “the cause of all mankind” = The will of God

32 The Nation as Crusade The enemies of the United States and democracy are enemies not only of all mankind, but of God They are intrinsically evil, satanic “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18 Refers to the Christian church America, embodying the will of God, is the new church By definition, the United States is a force of pure good and its enemies agents of pure moral and religious evil

33 The Nation as Crusade Because the American interest is identical with the universal human interest and the will of God, everything done in the name of the American interest is by definition good, acting to promote freedom and democracy By the same token, every opponent of the American interest is by definition an enemy of God and all mankind

34 The Nation as Crusade “no lust for territory has stained our annals. No nation has been despoiled by us, no country laid desolate, no people overrun.” The indigenous would probably disagree. But, they cannot for O’Sullivan be free, and thus are removed from consideration. Where they were, democracy will be.

35 The Nation as Crusade New York Morning News, Dec. 27, 1845:
“To state the truth at once in its neglected simplicity, we are free to say that were the respective arguments and cases of the two parties, as to all these points of history and law, reversed—had England all ours, and we nothing but hers—our claim to Oregon would still be best and strongest. And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us.”

36 The Nation as Crusade Manifest Destiny: manifest here means “made apparent, revealed, obvious”. Fated by Providence (the will of God) to spread across continent America’s moral & religious right and mission are prior to any existing legal claim.

37 The Nation as Crusade “All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man—the immutable truth and beneficence of God. For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the life-giving light of truth, has America been chosen; and her high example shall smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will where myriads now endure an existence scarcely more enviable than that of beasts of the field. Who, then, can doubt that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity?” (Great Nation of Futurity)

38 The Nation as Crusade The US is chosen by God for “blessed mission to spread the life-giving light of truth (democracy) to the world America does not have a mission, it IS a mission. It must redeem the world. Messianic Nation: Redeeming people of other nations, raising them to dignity of humans from bestial condition

39 Spot Resolutions First. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his message declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819 until the Mexican revolution. Second. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico. Third. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the United States army. Fourth. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.

40 Spot Resolutions Fifth. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the government or laws of Texas or of the United States, by consent or by compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at elections, or paying tax, or serving on juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other way. Sixth. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and their growing crops, before the blood was shed, as in the message stated; and whether the first blood, so shed, was or was not shed within the inclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it. Seventh. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his message declared, were or were not, at that time, armed officers and soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military order of the President, through the Secretary of War. Eighth. Whether the military force of the United States was or was not so sent into that settlement after General Taylor had more than once intimated to the War Department that, in his opinion, no such movement was necessary to the defense or protection of Texas.

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