School Improvement in Maryland

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic B. Emergence, Expansion and Changes in Nations and Empires

Indicator 1. Analyze the growth and the development of the United States

Objective b. Evaluate Manifest Destiny and its impact on territorial expansion of the nation

Democratic newspaper columnist John O’Sullivan is credited for coining the phrase “manifest destiny,” although the concept had existed in the popular mind for decades. Addressing the dispute over the Oregon Territory with Great Britain in 1845, O’Sullivan wrote of “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. . .” Read this quote aloud to students, or have them read a portion of one of O’Sullivan’s essays in which he addresses manifest destiny and/or American exceptionalism. After discussing the meaning of Manifest Destiny, have students work in pairs or small groups to create a list of reasons for supporting westward expansion and a list of reasons for opposing westward expansion. Have students consider such factors as the American economy, population pressures, relations with foreign nations, effects on Native American nations, American exceptionalism, etc. Next, conduct a classroom debate. Have students pretend that it is 1844 and they are debating whether the nation should pursue the goal of possessing the entire North American continent. Ask five students to represent those supporting Manifest Destiny and five students to represent those who oppose Manifest Destiny. Have them conduct a debate, addressing the issues of Oregon and Texas. Other students should ask the debaters critical questions and will vote to decide the winner of the debate.

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