Published January 13, 2018
Trump repeats the lie of American exceptionalism. It’s not about Trump, it’s about the system, the lie. Trump has just exposing the soft underbelly myth of American Exceptionalism which followed with the Doctrine of Discovery of 1493, and Manifest Destiny. If we survive Trump, we can be grateful that he personified such disgusting truth.
We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, we are equal under the law, and we are equal under our Constitution.
This lie is smooth because it repeats a sentiment that Americans want to believe about ourselves. We want to think that we are a nation founded on the “truth that all of us are created equal.” We want to believe that we are all equal under the law and under our Constitution.
But that is not even close to what the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution intended to communicate. Many of the founding fathers were white supremacists, and nearly all of them were white nationalists.
They largely envisioned a racially homogeneous country where white men ruled over subservient women and people of color. Many of them owned slaves, they participated in the ethnic cleansing of natives, they broke treaties, they stole land. They were quickly becoming enamored with talk of Manifest Destiny.
In their Declaration of Independence, they labeled natives as savages. And in their Constitution, they never mentioned women, they specifically excluded natives and they all agreed to count Africans as 3/5th of a person.
Even when they tried to fix it, they didn’t. The 13th Amendment doesn’t actually abolish slavery. And the 14th Amendment still specifically excluded women and Indigenous Peoples. Even today, the legal precedent for land titles is based on the dehumanizing Doctrine of Discovery and the Constitution is still peppered with 51 gender-specific, male pronouns in regard to who can be President, run for (or hold) office and, is a citizen.
Another possible influence is racial predominance, namely the idea that the American Anglo-Saxon race was “separate, innately superior” and “destined to bring good government, commercial prosperity and Christianity to the American continents and the world”. This view also held that “inferior races were doomed to subordinate status or extinction.” This was used to justify “the enslavement of the blacks and the expulsion and possible extermination of the Indians.”
The 19th-century belief that the United States would eventually encompass all of North America is known as “continentalism”. An early proponent of this idea was John Quincy Adams, a leading figure in U.S. expansion between the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Polk administration in the 1840s. In 1811, Adams wrote to his father:
“The whole continent of North America appears to be destined by Divine Providence to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religious and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs. For the common happiness of them all, for their peace and prosperity, I believe it is indispensable that they should be associated in one federal Union.”
All of Mexico Movement
After the election of Polk, but before he took office, Congress approved the annexation of Texas. Polk moved to occupy a portion of Texas that had declared independence from Mexico in 1836, but was still claimed by Mexico. This paved the way for the outbreak of the Mexican–American War on April 24, 1846. With American successes on the battlefield, by the summer of 1847 there were calls for the annexation of “All Mexico”, particularly among Eastern Democrats, who argued that bringing Mexico into the Union was the best way to ensure future peace in the region.
American Occupation of Mexico City in 1847
This was a controversial proposition for two reasons. First, idealistic advocates of manifest destiny like John L. O’Sullivan had always maintained that the laws of the United States should not be imposed on people against their will. The annexation of “All Mexico” would be a violation of this principle. And secondly, the annexation of Mexico was controversial because it would mean extending U.S. citizenship to millions of Mexicans. Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who had approved of the annexation of Texas, was opposed to the annexation of Mexico, as well as the “mission” aspect of manifest destiny, for racial reasons.
He made these views clear in a speech to Congress on January 4, 1848:
“We have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race-the free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind, of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race…. We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged … that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent. It is a great mistake.
This debate brought to the forefront one of the contradictions of manifest destiny: on the one hand, while identitarian ideas inherent in manifest destiny suggested that Mexicans, as non-whites, would present a threat to white racial integrity and thus were not qualified to become Americans, the “mission” component of manifest destiny suggested that Mexicans would be improved (or “regenerated”, as it was then described) by bringing them into American democracy. Identitarianism was used to promote manifest destiny, but, as in the case of Calhoun and the resistance to the “All Mexico” movement, identitarianism was also used to oppose manifest destiny. Conversely, proponents of annexation of “All Mexico” regarded it as an anti-slavery measure.
Growth from 1840 to 1850
The controversy was eventually ended by the Mexican Cession, which added the territories of Alta California and Nuevo México to the United States, both more sparsely populated than the rest of Mexico. Like the All Oregon movement, the All Mexico movement quickly abated.
Historian Frederick Merk, in Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History: A Reinterpretation (1963), argued that the failure of the “All Oregon” and “All Mexico” movements indicates that manifest destiny had not been as popular as historians have traditionally portrayed it to have been. Merk wrote that, while belief in the beneficent mission of democracy was central to American history, aggressive “continentalism” were aberrations supported by only a minority of Americans, all of them Democrats. Some Democrats were also opposed; the Democrats of Louisiana opposed annexation of Mexico, while those in Mississippi supported it.
Michael Meuers is the public relations director of the Red Lake Nation.
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