Manifest Destiny - RR144Q30

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Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 30. Manifest Destiny
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 30
Length: 0:37:35
TapeCode: RR144Q30
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(11).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.

Our subject this morning is Manifest Destiny. The western lands as well as all the continent was seen by the Americans from the very beginning as a new promised land. In Biblical terms, they saw the land as a new kingdom, a land to be conquered by the kingdom of God and made into the new Israel of God. The attitude therefore of the Americans towards the country from the beginning was thoroughly religious. Before them was a wilderness which had to be conquered from Satan and turned into a paradise.

One of the early prayers that we find in the Jamestown colony here in Virginia, gives us an echo of this faith. They prayed: “And seeing Lord, the highest end of our plantation here is to set up the standard and display the banner of Jesus Christ, even here where Satan’s throne is. Lord, let our labor be blessed in laboring, the conversion of the heathen, and because thou usest not works, such mighty works by un holy means, Lord sanctify our spirits, and give us holy hearts, that so we may be thy instruments in this thy most glorious work”

Very definitely thus they saw their settlement as a religious calling, the wilderness as Satan’s throne, and they as God’s people called to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion under God. And as a result, the Americans felt in a sense that they were bound for the promised land, working to establish the promised land upon the shores of America. One of the 19th Century hymns, very popular, was written by Samuel Stennett in 1787. And in a sense it not only expressed the religious faith, but also their faith that in all their activities they were bound for the promised land. [00:03:00]

This hymn went: “On Jordan’s stormy banks, and cast a wishful eye, to Canaan’s fair and happy land where my possessions lie. I am bound for the Promised land, I am bound for the promised land. Oh who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land.”

Very clearly that song expressed their mood and hence was very popular. We find also in one of the religious writers of the early 1800’s, an expression of this same kind of faith. As Americans were summoned to see their responsibility towards the west. Lyman Beecher, in: A Plea for the West, 1835, went to Scripture to find his justification for pleading for the conquest of the west in the name of God. And he referred to the problem of Nehemiah, the cynicism of people as he sought to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. ““What,” say they, “Do these Jews build? If a boss do but go up upon the wall it will fall, the world can never be converted to Christianity by the power of man.” And full well do we feel it, and in all our supplications for aid most emphatically do we confess our utter impotency. And could no power but the power of man be enlisted, it would indeed of all experiments the most ridiculous and hopeless. But, because man cannot convert the world to Christianity, cannot God do it? Has he not promised to do it, and selected his instruments, and commanded his people to be fellow workers with him, and hath he said, and shall he not do it? But as all great era’s of prosperity to the church have been aided by the civil condition of the world, and accomplished by the regular operation of moral causes, I consider the text,” This was Isaiah 66:8, “As a prediction of the rapid and universal extension of civil and religious liberty, introductory to the triumphs of universal Christianity.”

He went on to say, “Of course it is predicted that revolutions and distress of nations will precede the introduction of the peaceful reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. The mountains will be exalted, and he shall overturn and overturn and overturn, till he whose right it is shall reign king of nations, king of saints. It was the opinion of Edwards, Jonathan Edwards, that the millennium would commence in America. when I first encountered this opinion I thought it temerical, but all providential development since, and all the existing signs of the times lend corroboration to it. But if this nation is in the providence of God destined to lead the way in the moral and political emancipation of the world, it is time she understood her high calling, and were harnessed for the work, for mighty causes like floods from distant mountains are rushing with accumulating power, to their consummation of good or evil, and soon our character and destiny, will be stereotyped forever. It is equally plain that the religious and political destiny of our nation is to be decided in the West. There is the territory, and there soon will be the population, the wealth, and the political power. The Atlantic commerce and manufacture may confer always some peculiar advantages on the East, but the west is destined to be the great central power of the nation, and under heaven must effect powerfully the cause of free institutions, and the liberty of the world.” [00:08:08]

Now this is quite an amazing prediction in that there...[edit]

Now this is quite an amazing prediction in that there are those now when the East is still the center, and half the population of the United States is between Chicago and New York and Connecticut and the Washington D.C. area, half of it still is in this very limited area, and yet there are those who are recognizing that as the pacific world grows, and the nations of the far east are beginning to become increasingly more and more important in every respect, the west will be progressively more and more a central area in the affairs of the nation. So, Lyman Beecher says: “It is important for us to go out and colonize the west, to settle it, because through the west then we are going to have a greater influence on all of the world, and branch out because the United States must have a mission to evangelize all nations.”

And so we have this kind of very emphatic emphasis on the duty to bring every area of life into captivity to Christ, so that the whole world may be brought under him. Moreover, he did not neglect education. He said that: “Experience has evinced that schools and popular education their best estate go not far beyond the suburbs of the city of God. All attempts to legislate prosperous colleges and schools into being without the inner feeling influenced of religious education and moral principle, and habits of intellectual culture which spring up in alliance with evangelical institutions have failed. Schools wane invariably in those towns where the evangelical ministry is neglected and the Sabbath is profaned, and the taverns supplants the worship of God. Thrift and knowledge in such places go out, while vice and irreligion come in.” And so, he called for education, as a part, Christian education, of the necessity for conquering the continent, as a part of fulfilling Americas manifest destiny. And he repeats this over and over again, “We must educate, we must educate or we must perish by our own prosperity. If we do not, short from the cradle to the grave will be our race, and our haste be rich and mighty, we outrun our literary and religious institutions, they will never overtake us.” [00:11:20]

Now some of his predictions about the future of America...[edit]

Now some of his predictions about the future of America are very interesting, coming as they do from his belief in Manifest Destiny, and his post-millennialism. He says of the west, now he is peaking of just the lands over the mountains, Kentucky, Tennessee, anything over the mountains was the west to him. “This vast territory is occupied now by ten states, and will soon be by twelve. Forty years since it contained only about a hundred and fifty thousand souls. Well it now contains little short of five millions. At the close of this century, if no calamity intervenes, it will contain probably 100 million.” And he was very close, by 1900. “A day which some of our children may live to see, and when fully peopled may accommodate 300 million. It is half as large as all Europe, four times as large as the Atlantic states, and twelve times as large as New England. Was there ever such a spectacle, such a field in which to plant the seeds of an immortal harvest? So vast a ship, so richly laden with the world treasures and riches, whose helm is offered to the guiding influence of early forming institutions.”

And so his prediction was, just for the west, not for the east and south, but just for the west, a population very easily of 300 millions, as a means of furthering the glory of God. Now he was not alone, for example John L. O’Sullivan, not to be confused with John L Sullivan, the heavy weight champion, wrote on the true title to Oregon. And again emphatically stated the doctrine of manifest destiny, here less religiously, less in a Christian sense. So he said of the Oregon territory: “And that claim is by the right of our manifest destiny, to overspread and possess the whole of the continent, which providence has given for the development of the great experiment of liberty, and federate itself government to us, entrusted to us.”

Now, he again predicted three hundred million population, in fact he went up to three hundred and twenty million in the western territory. However there was a difference in the statement by John L. O’Sullivan, and that by Lyman Beecher, in the statement of Manifest Destiny. The doctrine had changed, in fact, rather than having changed let us say, two separate doctrines developed. Basic to both of them was a post millennialism of the early settlers which for a time disappeared, and then was revived with the Great Awakening in 1740, and became basic to the faith of the Baptist’s, the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and many other groups. [00:15:27]

As a matter of fact the Baptists were very central...[edit]

As a matter of fact the Baptists were very central in this kind of activity and thinking, and their great lead Isaac Backus, was emphatically of this persuasion. However, Manifest Destiny became a secular and a very different kind of doctrine, in the hands of those who were not theologically sound. Let us analyze the essence of Manifests Destiny. It did indeed have some borrowings from the post-millennial position. It had in a sense been inspired to a limited degree by it. But you will recall our first lecture was on the motives for exploration. And we saw that the motives for the discovery and he exploration of America were two fold: On the one hand there was the old pagan motive, that somewhere their existed an innocent world, a paradise on earth, and in a new environment man would find himself and become free. In other words man’s hope of salvation rested in a new environment. And therefore they believed that the Americas were that new environment, they concocted the myth of the noble savage, they believed that they would find their paradise, and entering into it, they would be regenerated. The regeneration of man by his environment.

On the other hand the Christian motive was a post-millennial faith that they had a duty to conquer the world, and to bring all people’s, tribes, tongues into submission to Jesus Christ, and to subdue the earth and to exercise dominion over it. Now, while manifest destiny had overtones of Christianity in that it developed in a Christian country, and borrowed the terminology, it was to a large degree in the hands of men lie O’Sullivan, simply the old pagan faith. In fact sometimes they spoke, not of a new Jerusalem, but of a New Rome. A New Rome. Now, if you go across the United States and look at names, you will see a very interesting thing. [00:18:34]

Many of them will be Biblical names...[edit]

Many of them will be Biblical names. Salem, Massachusetts. Salem, Illinoi. Salem, Oregon. You also find at times a Jerusalem. You will find a variety of Biblical names given to cities. Eden. Can you think of any other names in any of the states you lived in, if they are Biblical names, given to towns? If you look in an Atlas you will find quite a few of them. On the other hand, other people as they settled here and moved westward gave names from Greece and Rome to cities because of their classical, humanistic orientation. So they borrowed any name from the classical world. Athens, Georgia. Rome. Troy. Sparta. One name after another derived from classical culture, reflecting the humanistic yearnings, the humanistic dreams of these people. [00:20:04]

Now, with this background, let us examine this doctrine...[edit]

Now, with this background, let us examine this doctrine of manifest destiny in the hands of these, more or less humanistically oriented people, with over tones of Christianity because of the Christian culture. First, the manifest destiny people held that they had a moral mission, delegated by providence to conquer and Christianize the continent. Now this sounds quite Christian. But, let us continue. Second, America is predestined to this they held, because of a superior faith and a superior government. Now, this introduces an element of pride, does it not? Which is definitely not in keeping with a Godly position. The third point in this Manifest Destiny doctrine, in the humanistic version, makes it clear how humanistic it is despite a façade of Christianity. “It is the Anglo Saxon race which has this calling in terms of race, not grace. And they are the true pure in heart, called to overcome the evil ones, who are of other races.” I think you begin to recognize that this manifest destiny doctrine in this latter phase is still very much with us, in that there are elements in our population who do feel that all conspiracies are conducted by people of other races, and that there are conspiracies against us pure Anglo Saxons, who are the pure in heart, we are so innocent we are easily fooled, but we are the real hope of the world. Race, not grace. And of course, this kind of thing has flourished in the English speaking world, in one cult in particular which has embodied many of these ideas and become a haven for those who believe in the modern form of manifest destiny. Do you know the name of that cult? [00:23:03]

It’s on radio and television all the time...[edit]

It’s on radio and television all the time. Armstrong, British Israelism, or Anglo-Israelism. It is a form of this perverted doctrine of Manifest Destiny. You also have, in its modern form, the belief, first of all that the key to paradise is world brotherhood, and second, that it is not grace, but love that will conquer the world. You are all familiar with that, it has been very much with us in recent years.

Now of course in the Biblical form, emphatically the calling was of grace, and it was not of race, and it was thoroughly scriptural in its formulation. Now early in American history there were all kinds of expressions of this faith, we have for example Bishop Berkeley expressing the humanistic form, the humanistic motive, in his famous poem: Westward the Course of Empire in which he says: “In happy climes, the seat of innocence, where nature guides and virtue rules, where man shall not impose for truth and sense, the pedantry of courts and schools. There shall be sung another golden age, the rise of empire and of arts, the good and great inspiring epic rage, the wisest heads and noblest hearts. Not such as Europe breeds in her decay, such as she bred when fresh and young, when heavenly flame did animate her clay by future poets shall be sung.” In other words, innocence is out there in the wilderness. Now Berkeley ought to have known better, because he was in the Americas and he knew what was out in the frontier, savages. But his faith made him believe that that was the area of innocence, whereas schools and courts represented pedantry. Corruption. Civilization was corrupt, and the world out in the jungle, the wilderness among savages was innocent. This was clearly the humanistic faith. Moreover, Tuveson, in his book Redeemer Nation which was to be one of our texts and just arrived yesterday, goes back all the way to Homer for an example of this kind of faith. Homer wrote that of all things of heavenly origin like the glorious sun move westward, and truth and art have their periods of shining and of night, rejoice then oh venerable Rome in thy divine destiny, for though darkness overshadow thy seats and though thy mitered head must descend into the dust, thy spirit immortal and undecayed always spreads towards a new world, where like the soul of man in paradise it will be perfected in virtue more and more. [00:27:07]

Now this is not the Greek Homer, but we won’t go into...[edit]

Now this is not the Greek Homer, but we won’t go into that. However, very early in the United States there was poetic expression given to the biblical doctrine, to the American version of the hope that God was going to use his people in this country towards the conversion of the whole world. In 1771, before the war of Independence, Timothy Dwight, one of the great church leaders of America, and scholars, wrote a poem entitled America. Instead of seeing America as a golden land, innocent before it was discovered, he portrays it as a dark area, and wrote: “Sunk in barbarity, these realms were found, and superstition hunger clouds around. O’er all impenetrable darkness spread, her dusky wings and cast a dreadful shade. No glimpse of science through the gloom appeared, no trace of civil life the desert cheered, but furious vengeance swelled the hellish mind, and dark eyed malice of her influence joined. Age after age rolled in deepening gloom, dark as the mansions of the silent tomb.”

You see the picture he gives of America before its discovery. It was all darkness, there was no light of science, and the Christian saw science, because for them it was thoroughly Christian, in fact men of science then were all Christian, as a light. They saw the gospel as a light. They saw civil government as a light. Instead there was only savage vengeance. And so he says at length Columbus taught by heaven to trace far distant lands, through unknown pathless seas, America’s bright realms arose to view, and the old world rejoiced to see the new. “Oh lands supremely blessed, to these is given to taste the choicest joys of bounteous heaven. Thy rising glory shall expand its rays, and lands sometimes unknown rehearse thine endless praise.”

Incidentally, is it time for the class to adjourn, for those… 5 minutes alright. Now, Dwight continued: “Religion leads whole realms to worlds of joy, undying peace and bliss without alloy.” And so, now because the gospel had come to this continent, its future was great, there were men here who had dedicated themselves to bring the whole world into captivity to Christ, and so he says: “Hail, land of light and joy. Thy power shall grow far as the seas, which round thy regents flow. Through earths wide realms thy glory shall extend and savage nations at thy scepter bend. Around the frozen shores thy sons shall sail, o’er stretch their canvas to the Asian gale. Round thy broad heels, more glorious Rome’s arise, with pomp and splendor brightening all the skies, Europe and Asia with surprise behold thy temple starred with gems and roofed with gold.” And so his vision of the future under the influence of Christian America was one in which no more on earth shall rage and discord dwell. But sink with envy to their native hell. Then, then a heavenly kingdom shall descend, and light and glory through the world extend. And every regents smile in endless peace till the last trump the slumbering dead inspire shake the wide heavens and set the world on fire.”

Now Timothy Dwight was a grandson of Jonathan Edwards. And like his grandfather, Timothy Dwight felt that the millennium would spread abroad from America. America in the fullness of time would be conquered for Christ, and meanwhile it would begin spreading the gospel to the far corners of the world, until the whole world was won. “Hence o’er all lands shall sacred influences spread, warm frozen climes, and cheer the death like shade to nature bounds, reviving freedoms reign, and truth and virtue light the world again.” And so as he spoke to America, or Columbia: “Columbia, Columbia, to glory arise, the queen of the world and child of the skies. Thy reign is the last and the noblest of time, most fruitful thy soil, most inviting thy clime. Let the crimes of the East ne’er encrimson thy name, let freedom and science, and virtue thy name, as the dayspring unbounded thy splendor shall flow, and earths little kingdoms before thee shall bow, while the ensigns of union in triumph unfurled, hush the tumult of war, and give peace to the world.” [00:33:45]

Now this is the kind of faith that these men had, emphatical...[edit]

Now this is the kind of faith that these men had, emphatically. And it would be easy to go on and cite and when you read this you will see the development, even though this man is not theologically of our persuasion or a Christian, still, and despite his confusion of some theological points, he is aware of the very great impetus this faith gave to America. And also aware of the changes that took place.

One of the men of the day, and we just have a brief moment or two, was David Humphries, and aid and a protégé of George Washington. And Humphries similarly held that there would be, and wrote poems on the glory that would come in a Christian America. “Then cities rise and spiry towns increase. With gilded domes and every art of peace. Then cultivation shall extend his power. Rear the green blade and nurse the tender flower, Make the fair villa in full splendors smile, And robe with verdure all the genial soil. Then shall rich commerce court the favoring gales, And wondering wilds admire the passing sails .Where the bold ships the stormy Huron brave, Where wild Ontario rolls the whitening wave, Where fair Ohio his pure current pours, And Mississippi laves the extended shores.”

However, as Tewson points out, there were other versions. Now we have a better understanding because of our Christian background; these were a revival of the humanistic motive, and in Herman Melville, in White Jacket the book that proceeded Moby Dick He expressed the Manifest Destiny faith, but he said, although he speaks in somewhat Christian language at times because he was churched reared: “God has predestined, mankind expects great things, from our race, and great things we feel in our souls. We are the pioneers of the world, the advanced guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the new world that is ours, “But now the humanism, the total humanism comes out. “Long enough have we been skeptics with regard to ourselves, and doubted whether indeed the political messiah has come. But he has come in us, if we would but give utterance to his promptings.” And so, here is Manifest Destiny. Here is a faith that is analogous to the whole idea of the anglo Israelites. “We are the political messiah.”

Now there was another religious group which gave voice to the same kind of… [Tape Ends]