The US-Mexico War (1846-8) brought two centuries of dramatic territorial expansionism to a close, seemingly fulfilling America's Manifest destiny. Or did it? As politicians schemed to annex new lands in Latin America and the Pacific, some Americans took expansionism into their own hands. From 1848-60, an epidemic of unsanctioned attacks by American mercenaries (filibusters) took place. This book documents the potency of Manifest destiny in the antebellum era, and situates imperial lust in the context of social and economic transformations that were changing the meaning of manhood and womanhood in the US. Easy victory over Mexico in 1848 led many American men to embrace both an aggressive vision of expansionism and an equally martial vision of manhood. Debates about the propriety of aggression abroad polarized the public at home, shaping antebellum Presidential elections, foreign policies, gender relations, and ultimately the failure of sectional compromise before the Civil War.
Amy S. Greenberg is Associate Professor of History and Women's Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. She is also the author of Cause for Alarm: The Volunteer Fire Department in the Nineteenth-Century City (1998). She has served on the governing boards of the Urban History Association, and the Society for Historians of the Early America Republic, and on the editorial board of the Journal of Urban History. She is the recipient of the Pennsylvania State University George Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching, as well as numerous fellowships.
Introduction; 1. The 'New Frontier' as safety valve: the political and social context of manifest destiny, 1800-60; 2. An American Central America: boosters, travelers, and the persistence of Manifest destiny; 3. American men abroad: sex and violence in the Latin American travelogue; 4. William Walker and the regeneration of martial manhood; 5. The irresistible pirate: Narciso Lopez and the public meeting; 6. American womanhood abroad; 7. Manifest destiny and manly missionaries: expansionism in the Pacific; Conclusion: American manhood and war, 1860 to the present.