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Manifest Destinies: America's Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 2, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307265242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307265241
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1840s was a decade of exuberant national growth and consolidation that laid the groundwork for schism and strife, argues this colorful history. Woodworth (Nothing but Victory) presents a vivid, episodic pageant of westward-ho empire building: settlers trekking along the Oregon Trail, Forty-Niners bound for the California gold rush, Mormons battling their way toward the promised land of Utah. Woodworth contrasts this flood of pioneering and settlement with a rickety, sclerotic political party system that papered over the problem of slavery, epitomized by the vapid populist sloganeering--"Tippecanoe, and Tyler too!"--of Whig presidential candidate William Henry Harrison in 1840. The themes collide in the book's centerpiece narrative of the Mexican War, which Woodworth, an accomplished Civil War historian, recounts with panache. The author's thesis--that the issue of slavery in the conquered Mexican territories wrecked a fragile national consensus--isn't original, but he elaborates it well, with entertaining, acid-etched sketches of egotistical politicians (and some random potshots at big government and "cultural elites" that seem cribbed from a Tea Party rally). This is narrative history writ large and vigorously--with foreshadowings of tragedy. 16 pages of photos; 19 maps. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Although various events ignited the Civil War, the war would never have occurred without the sectional strife over permitting slavery in the enormous territories the U.S. acquired in the 1840s. In this balanced political and military history, Woodworth tracks political tensions exacerbated by continental expansion, closely narrating the response of Whig and Democratic politicians to disputes that pushed slavery to the forefront. An instigator of acrimony was the prospective admission of Texas to the Union; Henry Clay’s waffling on that issue, Woodworth concludes, cost him the 1844 presidential election won by James Polk and his spread-eagle expansionism. Texas’ disputed borders led to the next fracas, war with Mexico (whose battles Woodworth recounts with exceptional clarity), followed by sectional animosity over the Wilmot Proviso, a proposed prohibition of bondage in land seized from Mexico. Meanwhile, Americans had been pouring into California, whose application as a free state provoked the decade’s most ominous North-South quarrel. Leaving off at the Compromise of 1850, Woodworth dramatically presages the collapse of political parties in the 1850s by his accessible account of the 1840s. --Gilbert Taylor

More About the Author

Steven E. Woodworth is a professor of history at Texas Christian University, and an acknowledged expert on the Civil War. He has written a number of well-received books on the topic, including Nothing But Victory. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Customer Reviews

I`d really like to see the other side here.
Marcus Vinícius Pereira de Castro
This is an excellent history, informative and fun to read.
James W. Durney
This book is not an in-depth study by any means.
C Boat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1840 four different nations control what will become the United States' lower 48 states. Who controls which area is in dispute with two or more nations's making claims. In other places, control is in name only as the owning government is weak and/or distant. Ten years later, the United States is master of the area with stable borders recognized by conquest and treaties. Four states have joined the Union, double the number joining in the 1830s, with a fifth to follow in 1850. Three Presidential elections, War with Mexico, westward expansion, the California Gold Rush, Mormons and questions about slavery make for a lively ten years.
Steven E. Woodworth is an excellent author and a respected historian. This book showcases these skills providing the read with an entertaining learning experience. Under his deft hand, we follow the major events of the decade seeing how they interact and relate. While written to look at major trends, he never forgets the details that make history interesting and real. Skillfully written word portraits are bring to life the Presidents, politicians, explorers and generals that populate these pages. His deft hand quickly explains the issues and the viewpoint of the various sides. Whigs and Democrats have very real differences and very real similarities. The two-party understanding over slavery starts to unravel during this time. This is the start of the political divisions that will divide the Democrats, destroy the Whigs and create the Republican Party.
The book is organized into major sections entitled: The Two-Party System, Westward Expansion, The Politics of Expansion, War with Mexico, The Political System and the Controversies of Expansion. Each section contains three to six chapters covering the subject.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C Boat on August 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Woodworth's book spans the 1840s and maintains as a central thesis that America had two destinies during this time period. 1) To spread the country from one ocean to the other, spreading democracy and Protestantism along with it, but also 2) To come face to face with the issue of slavery which the nation's leaders had been delaying for half a century. Woodworth explains that as the country expanded, the issue of slavery's expansion became a greater issue that all American's had to take a stance on.

This book is not an in-depth study by any means. It is produced using secondary, not primary sources. Generally, each chapter (20 in all) relies heavily on two or three secondary source from other historians. This lends itself to a book that gives a good general overview of the subject, but may not delve as deeply as some would prefer. Also, this book has some biased tones in areas. Woodworth is clearly sympathetic towards evangelical Christianity and conservative politics in general. This can be seen in several randomly inserted comments ridiculing the efficiency of government and dislike for Henry Clay's "American System," which included a National Bank, internal improvements, etc... He also handles his chapter on the growth of Mormonism and their journey west with little respect for the religion, its origins and it's leaders (especially Joseph Smith). While I myself being an Evangelical Christian may agree with much of his assessment of Mormonism, readers should be forewarned that is a very biased and negative account.

All in all, this is a solid and quick read that will provide the reader with a general knowledge of the 1840s. Especially those of conservative beliefs will enjoy Woodworth's narrative. However, in this reviewers case, it was more irritating than helpful.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By MalPitts on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The description of politics in the 1840s is entertaining, but one would expect a history book on the topic of Manifest Destiny published in 2010 to be more analytic and less of a cheerleading endorsement. Anyone familiar with Grant's Memoirs and his famous description of the Mexican War as "one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation" and "an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory" will be skeptical of Woodworth's endorsement of the war as "a fulfillment of America's Manifest Destiny to overspread the continent and increase the domain of ordered, constitutional liberty".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Attorney2nd on September 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I have read the reviews on this book and, while it may be below some who place themselves in the "serious historian" classification, I found it to be an very good primer for those who want more of a report of the history of those times than analysis. I found the piece to be immediately interesting, fair and honest. At times, however, there seem to be journeys of distraction, such as the Prineton and Peacemaker explosion incident story, but they are never the less interesting and mostly refreshing. I came to enjoy that style...kind of like taking a rest from the main subject with a tantalizing side story.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and kept my interest. I recommend.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By HarryFan on May 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The book is a great read, and the storytelling is as compelling as the superb vintage cover photo of an 1840s family. Not sure why this book made it to Costco where I found it, but perhaps it had something to do with the gratuitous nouveau-politically correct conservative-approved economic and political commentary snippets placed hither and yon in the text (by one of the editors perhaps?) The unblinking, almost satirical account of the founding (and the founders) of the Mormon church will likely give Mr. Romney some problems if the book receives a wide readership before the 2012 primaries, and will not appeal to the LDS faithful. The attribution of the abolitionist movement largely to "evangelicals" is anachronistic and does a disservice to the great many others who contributed to that mighty movement, but the account is certainly passionate and written from the heart. President John Tyler comes off surprisingly well, forced out of his own party and relentlessly harrassed by the ambitious and resentful Henry Clay - yet he manages to annex Texas as a lame duck a few days before the end of his term, and to develop a sense of humor and detachment about his predicament. To one of the guests at his very lavish end-of-term party, Tyler quips, "and yet they say I'm a President without a party!" General Zachary Taylor is portrayed, apparently accurately, as a genuinely decent man making the most of circumstances at the outset of the Mexican War, and treating the "enemy" with considerable compassion and dignity. The battle scenes in that conflict are retold in such vivid detail that they could almost serve as scripts for a Hollywood production.Read more ›
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