Manifest Destiny Lesson for Kids: History & Facts

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  • 0:04 Manifest Destiny
  • 0:47 Louisiana Purchase
  • 1:22 John O'Sullivan
  • 2:09 Effect on Native Americans
  • 2:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kristin Pia Hayman

Kristin taught for over 10 years in the elementary classroom. She holds a B.A. in Journalism as well as a Master's Degree in Elementary Education.

Manifest destiny was the idea that the United States was destined to occupy all of the land between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This was a major factor in the expansion of the U.S. and helped to create the large country we are today.

Manifest Destiny

Imagine picking up and moving to a new place. What would it be like? What would your hopes be for this new land?

When European settlers first came to America, they had no idea how large of a continent they had just discovered! Little by little, the settlers began to expand their settlements up and down the eastern coast, eventually heading west. Manifest Destiny was based on the idea that the United States was destined to occupy all of the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. For some people during the nineteenth century, this was an exciting time filled with adventure, hope, and opportunity. However, for others, this idea slowly led to the deterioration of their culture and way of life.

Louisiana Purchase

As the original 13 Colonies began to grow, the United States acquired new land through purchases, treaties, and wars. One of the largest areas of new territory came from the Louisiana Purchase, which occurred in 1803, doubling the size of the country and extending U.S. territory all the way to the Rocky Mountains. Although Texas had declared its independence, it was annexed by the U.S. in 1845, and the United States continued to expand after the Mexican-American War ended in 1848. To annex means to add land to an existing territory or country.

John O'Sullivan

In 1845, the term 'manifest destiny' was first used by newspaper editor John O'Sullivan. According to an editorial:

'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.'

Whoa. So, what exactly does that mean? Basically, O'Sullivan was trying to say that America has a right to expand across the whole continent in order to become more independent. But not everyone was in support of Manifest Destiny, including President Abraham Lincoln, the Whig party, and the hundreds of Native American tribes who had been living in North America for thousands of years.

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