Brendan McKenzie

Manifest Destiny and the Doctrine of Discovery

Tuesday, 5 December 2023

In the 19th century, two powerful ideologies, Manifest Destiny in America and the Doctrine of Discovery in the Church, played pivotal roles in shaping history. Manifest Destiny propelled the United States westward, while the Doctrine of Discovery provided a religious rationale for European colonisation.

Historical Background

  1. Manifest Destiny emerged as a prevailing ideology in the 1840s, intertwining with America's desire for territorial expansion. The concept was not only a driving force behind major land acquisitions but also influenced policies such as the Indian Removal Act of 1830, resulting in the forced relocation of Native American tribes.

    The belief in American exceptionalism, the idea that the U.S. had a unique mission to spread democracy and civilisation, further fueled westward migration and annexing territories like Texas, California, and the Oregon Territory.

  2. The roots of the Doctrine of Discovery can be traced back to papal bulls issued in the 15th century, notably the Bulls of Alexander VI. These proclamations granted European powers the divine right to claim newly discovered lands and subjugate the inhabitants. The doctrine provided the theological justification for colonising the Americas and subsequent missionary activities.

    By relying on the Doctrine of Discovery, European powers claimed ownership of vast expanses of land, often disregarding indigenous peoples' presence and rights.

Common Themes

Divergent Paths

Impact on Indigenous Peoples


In conclusion, the intertwined narratives of Manifest Destiny and the Doctrine of Discovery illuminate the complex tapestry of expansionist histories. The multifaceted impacts on indigenous communities, culturally and territorially, underscore the need for acknowledging historical injustices and working towards reconciliation. By delving into the intricate details of these ideologies, we gain a deeper understanding of their far-reaching consequences and their enduring legacy in shaping the contours of the Americas.