“We have it in our power to start the world over again.”
—Thomas Paine, from his pamphlet Common Sense
Americans had always believed they could build a new, better society founded on democratic principles. In 1839, writer John O’Sullivan noted, “We are the nation of human progress, and who will, what can, set limits to our onward march?” Actually, there was one limit: land. By the 1840s the United States had a booming economy and population. Barely 70 years old, the nation already needed more room for farms, ranches, businesses, and ever-growing families. Americans looked west—to what they saw as a vast wilderness, ready to be taken. Some people believed it was America’s manifest destiny, or obvious fate, to conquer land all the way to the Pacific Ocean in order to spread democracy. O’Sullivan coined the term in 1845. He wrote that it was America’s “manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole continent which Providence [God] has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty . . . ” So please follow the directions and work in your pairs share groups to answer all the guiding questions.