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Teaching Guide

Teaching Manifest Destiny & Mexican-American War

Expand…your knowledge.


If it’s your destiny to teach Manifest Destiny (and the Mexican-American War), make sure you bring our teaching guide with you to explore this complex conflict.

In this guide you will find

  • lessons examining the American response to war with Mexico. 
  • an activity analyzing an image of “American Progress.” 
  • discussion questions exploring ideologies, politics, and war.

And much more.

We’ve manifested your destiny, and things are looking good.

What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students.
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.

Instructions for You

In this document-based debate activity, your students will analyze John O'Sullivan's famous 1839 editorial on manifest destiny and debate whether the United States has fulfilled this "destiny."

1. Direct your students to this site, where they can read O'Sullivan's 1839 editorial in the United States Democratic Review.

2. Work with your students itemize the national obligations implicit in O'Sullivan's understanding of America's future.

3. Organize a debate over the following resolution:

  • The United States has utterly failed to fulfill its manifest destiny.

Instructions for Your Students

Everyone has heard the phrase "manifest destiny." But what exactly did it mean when introduced in 1839? (You can find out by going here.) 

Perhaps the more important question is, what obligations did this understanding of America confer upon the United States? And, most critically, did this special nation actually meet these obligations?

You will be debating these questions in class.

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