ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Manifest Destiny in Picture Form

Updated on May 7, 2015

The Fine Line Between Confidence and Arrogance

In 1872, John Gast created the painting “American Progress,” (see above) which was essentially a visual representation of “Manifest Destiny,” a term first coined in the 1840s. According to many 19th century Americans, God had made it clear that Western expansion was the destiny of the United States. And as the United States expanded, it would carry out God’s will by bringing the blessings of modern civilization to the wild and undeveloped West.

The central figure of the painting is the giant angelic figure floating across the Plains and bringing light into the darkness. Needless to say, she is one impressive angel. Any angel, after all, can spread goodness and light and inspire us mere mortals to fall at her feet. This lady, however, manages to have the wherewithal to string telegraph wire as she transmits her spiritual blessings. Now that is an angel for me, part conveyor of spiritual light and part 50-foot handywoman. Due to her engineering example, following close behind are other technological wonders of the industrial age: railroads, merchant ships, bridges, and modern cities. Wagon trains of hopeful farmers and gold prospectors also tag along on this march of civilization.

Of course, not everyone in this painting is happy about seeing the giant white lady. By this time, Native Americans already had centuries of bad experiences with normal sized white people. Seeing this amazon woman in the white dress, no matter how beautiful and magical she may be, was clearly enough to send them into a panic. The various wild animals in the picture – buffalo, wild horses, reindeer, bears and the hyena/llama hybrid thing in the bottom left corner - do not look thrilled either. But the feelings of these various primitive life forms are beside the point. In the name of God’s preordained march of progress, these are the inevitable casualties.

It is hard to imagine a painting more arrogant than this one. The concept “Manifest Destiny” is, in fact, a reflection of an arrogance that had existed since colonial times, tracing back to the Puritans who came to this new world in order to create a “city on a hill” that would serve as an example of the perfect Christian community. Arrogance, however, is not an entirely bad thing. In fact, it has been one of the keys to this nation’s success. It took a fair amount of arrogance, after all, to build transcontinental railroads, dig the Panama Canal, bring fresh water to the Southwest, and put a man on the moon, among other accomplishments. Unfortunately, this same arrogance has led to many moments of foolishness: misguided wars, intolerance for non-white races and foreign cultures, and an often remarkable level of ignorance about the outside world. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance, faith and a rigid intolerance.

You are unlikely to hear many people using the term “Manifest Destiny” today. This term has, to say the least, too much historical baggage. No one talks either about the United States conquering the Western frontier, given that the frontier was declared conquered and closed more than a century ago. Still, there are many Americans who apparently feel that the United States is a special nation that can accomplish unique things, and the push for expansion did not stop when the Western frontier was declared to be closed. As soon as the frontier was conquered, the United States broadened the expansion program, getting increasingly involved over the past 125 years in virtually every corner of the globe. And according to many people throughout the world, the United States of today is both overly involved and as arrogant as ever.

So can the United States of the future learn to better straddle that fine line between confidence and arrogance? Can we continue to nurture that “can-do” American spirit without stepping on the toes of other nations and disregarding their points of view? Given the consistent propensity of the United States for expansion, the fate of many people throughout the planet will, to a certain degree, be determined by the answers to these questions.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)