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A Failed Vision of Empire

The Collapse of Manifest Destiny, 1845?1872

Daniel J. Burge

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 05/2022
Pages: 282
Subject: History
eBook ISBN: 9781496231666


Since the early twentieth century, historians have traditionally defined manifest destiny as the belief that the United States was destined to expand from coast to coast. This generation of historians has posed manifest destiny as a unifying ideology of the nineteenth century, one that was popular and pervasive and ultimately fulfilled in the late 1840s when the United States acquired the Pacific Coast. However, the story of manifest destiny was never quite that simple. In A Failed Vision of Empire Daniel J. Burge examines the belief in manifest destiny over the nineteenth century by analyzing contested moments in the continental expansion of the United States, arguing that the ideology was ultimately unsuccessful. By examining speeches, plays, letters, diaries, newspapers, and other sources, Burge reveals how Americans debated the wisdom of expansion, challenged expansionists, and disagreed over what the boundaries of the United States should look like. A Failed Vision of Empire is the first work to capture the messy, complicated, and yet far more compelling story of manifest destiny's failure, debunking in the process one of the most pervasive myths of modern American history.


Daniel J. Burge is an associate editor at the Kentucky Historical Society. ?


"By shattering long-held notions that mid-nineteenth-century white Americans shared a common commitment to their country's territorial growth, Daniel Burge complicates stereotypes about U.S. imperialism while speaking to today's nation disunited. His astute parsing of cartoons, literature, and political discourse makes for a lively, informative, and ultimately convincing read."?Robert E. May, author of Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

"New and important. . . . A Failed Vision of Empire provides a much wider framing of the concept of manifest destiny than most prior works, which in turn helps to dismantle it as the single explanatory framework often grafted onto the late 1840s and 1850s. Burge explores little-known episodes that will be valuable to not just specialists but more general historians."?Thomas Richards Jr., author of Breakaway Americas: The Unmanifest Future of the Jacksonian United States