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Manifest Destiny & Abolition

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1) Define and discuss the phrase Manifest Destiny. Explain how this belief came to divide the nation.

2) Abolition was arguably the most important reform of the era. It would become an explosive issue that tore the nation apart. Discuss the objectives of the movement and describe the methods the leaders employed. What reactions did the methods and movement as a whole evoke within the different sections of the nation?

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1) Manifest Destiny was the main political and social ideology adopted by Americans starting in the 1840s. It stated that the U.S. had "God-given rights" to explore, conquer, colonize, extract materials from, and otherwise settle in originally Native American (and by that time, Mexican and British) territory. Essentially they viewed themselves as "the New Israel," a religious reference to a people on a pilgrimage with rights to settle in a land that essentially was given to them by G-d (if not the native peoples). Ultimately, this was a belief borne from the zeal that democracy was a priority (and some would be strong in adding "slave-free democracy"). But eventually, this kind of religious fervor didn't belie a passion for democracy and economic opportunity for the common man - but instead covered a growing sense of American Imperialism: the right to territory was not necessarily religious, but was always without question because of the superiority of America's values and interests. More or less, this kind of imperialist "Destiny" influenced the presidencies of Polk straight through until Woodrow Wilson (though Wilson's tactics eventually shifted towards a policy ...

Solution Summary

The philosophies behind Manifest Destiny and Abolition Movement are touched on in brief, with references.

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Movements in American History and Culture

1. Discuss the reform movements of the first half of the nineteenth century.
2. What exactly was the "romantic impulse" and what did it mean for American culture?
3. In what ways was the abolitionist movement similar to the other reform movements discussed in this chapter? How was it different?
4. What were some of the arguments of the anti-abolitionists? How did they present their case?
5. Discuss the influence of Manifest Destiny on Americans during the period, and how it shaped American policies.
6. How did the Westward migration change American society?
7. What caused the Mexican-American War? What were the domestic consequences of the American?
8. What factors (besides slavery) caused the deep divisions between the North and South during the 1850s?
9. What were the results, and subsequent effects, of the Compromise of 1850?
10. Compare and contrast the Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and James Polk.
11. There was arguably as much change in America in the years prior to the Civil War as during any other time period in America's history. Please discuss the social, cultural and economic changes in the decades leading up to the Civil War. What impact did this have on the concepts of Manifest Destiny, the Abolitionist movement and the growing sectional differences between the North and South.

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