Manifest Destiny

American Progress by John Gast


In 1845, the term "Manifest Destiny" was first used to describe the belief that the United States should control all the land from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast. "Manifest" means obvious, or clearly true. U.S. citizens thought it was obvious—manifest—that God had given the land to the settlers and not to the Native Americans who were already there.


Just before and after the Civil War, many settlers moved west into the Great Plains region. For them, landownership was important because they could work for themselves and earn their own money. They cleared forests, dammed rivers, and plowed grasslands to plant crops and transformed the land into farms and towns.


Look at this 1872 painting by John Gast, called American Progress. Go to your period and write in the comment box your responses to the following questions:


1) Describe any symbolism that you observe in the painting.

2) Describe the message that you think the artist was trying to say in his painting.

3) Share your opinion about the painting (Anything you like or dislike about it).