American West - Manifest Destiny
"(It is) ..our manifest destiny to over spread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty"
In 1845 these words were written by John O'Sullivan, a democrat leader and editor of the New York newspaper 'The Morning Post'.
What is Manifest Destiny?
O'Sullivan was expressing the long held belief that white Americans had a God-given right to occupy the entire North American continent. It was not a new idea, nor was it historically confined to America. Manifest Destiny as a concept was exercised in 1492 by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish monarchs who initially sanctioned the colonisation of South America. It was also exercised by the Pilgrim Fathers when they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, by the British when they colonised Australia and India. Indeed, any act of colonisation and settlement at the expense of another race can be said to be an expression of Manifest Destiny.
Manifest Destiny in 1840s America
Once the concept had been given the name 'Manifest Destiny' it became widely used, appearing in newspapers, debates, paintings and advertisements. It became the leading light for westward expansion.
Throughout the 1840s westward expansion gained pace. People living in the crowded east were lured west with promises of inexpensive land and open spaces.
The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in 1848 prompted thousands to leave their homes in the east and make the journey west to California.
The Homestead Act
In 1841 the government of America passed an act that allowed people to purchase 160 acres of Plains land for a very small price. A further act passed in 1862 divided 2.5 million acres of Plains land into sections or homesteads of 160 acres. People could now claim 160 acres of land. The only requirement on their part was that they paid a small administration charge and built a house and lived on the land for at least 5 years.
Advertising and Paintings
In a bid to encourage people onto the Plains advertisements told success stories of those who had claimed land under the terms of the Homestead Act and had become successful.
Pictures were painted to encourage people to fulfil their Manifest Destiny. The picture below (Library of Congress LC-USZC4-668) shows 'America' floating over the Plains. She brings light to the dark and desolate landscape and shows the way for farmers, travellers, the stage-coach, the telegraph and the railway. Ahead of her wild animals, buffalo and Indians (the darkness) turn and run leaving the way clear for settlement.
If you think, as some do today, that many drugs used as medicines are potentially deadly, consider what people living in medieval times were prescribed as curative agents—from ground up corpses to toxic mercury to crocodile dung. The annals of medieval medical history are full of substances that make us cringe. Yet people believed in these cure-alls and willingly took them when prescribed by a doctor of the... Read More
The Neo-Assyrian Empire used earthen ramps, siege towers and battering rams in sieges; the Greeks and Alexander the Great created destructive new engines known as artillery to further their sieges, and the Romans used every technique to perfection. That is to say, the Romans were not inventors, but they were superb engineers and disciplined, tough soldiers who fought against great odds and won, repeatedly.... Read More
Demetrius I, King of Macedon, invented many siege engines including battering rams and siege towers. For the Siege of Rhodes, he created the Helepolis, the Taker of Cities, a huge armored siege tower containing many heavy catapults.
The island city of Rhodes maintained its neutrality among the warring nations of the time, although it remained friendly to Ptolemy I of Egypt, the enemy of Demetrius of... Read More
In the first part of this series, we noted the siege equipment of the Assyrians consisted of complex battering rams, earthen ramps and a dedicated corps of engineers and sappers. Alexander the Great and the Greeks would take the next steps in the evolution of siege warfare. The Greeks had invented the catapult circa 399 B.C. Alexander innovated by fastening catapults and ballistas on the decks of ships to breach... Read More
While sieges had taken place earlier than the Neo-Assyrian Empire, such as that between Egyptian Pharoah Thutmose III and Canaanite rebels led by Kadesh at the Megiddo fortress in the 15th century B.C., the Assyrians perfected the art of siege warfare during the Neo-Assyrian Empire from 911 to 609 B.C.
Through war and conquest, Assyria became the most powerful empire the world had yet seen. After the... Read More