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Who Coined the Phrase Manifest Destiny?

<strong><em>John L. O'Sullivan</em><br /></strong>

John L. O'Sullivan

Who created the term Manifest Destiny?

History has said, for more than eighty years, that John L. O’Sullivan was the first person to use the phrase, and it was he that supposedly wrote those famous words.[1] He had been an advocate of western expansion, as well as the annexation of new territory for the United States. He had been the editor for the newspaper The United States and Democratic Review, where the article Annexation was published in 1845. This article had been credited to him as the author.

<em><strong>Linda Hudson</strong></em>

Linda S. Hudson

But in 2001, the authorship of the article Annexation was challenged by a historian named Linda Hudson. She used a grammar check program and concluded that Jane Cazneau, who many times wrote under the name Cora Montgomery, as well as many other names, was actually the author of the phrase.[2]

According to Hudson, Cazneau also penned many other expansionist articles previously credited to O’Sullivan. Cazneau had worked for O’Sullivan, as a journalist for his paper. Many times, she would not sign her work at all, to avoid being identified as a woman, so these articles were considered to be O’Sullivan’s work.

<em><strong>Robert D. Sampson</strong></em>

Robert D. Sampson

Not all historians agree with Hudson’s findings. Robert D. Sampson is a historian, and a biographer of O’Sullivan, and he claims her use of the textual analysis product Grammatik was flawed, and that the documents she used were not necessarily the work of O’Sullivan.[3] So the end result is, there is a debate about who actually coined the phrase.

<strong><em>Amy S. Greenberg</em> <br /></strong>

Amy S. Greenberg

Amy S. Greenburg has endorsed Hudson’s findings,[4] though she felt it did not really matter who said it. The true authorship of the phrase is simply one of those interesting moments in history. Regardless of who said Manifest Destiny, the idea was formed, and a movement took place that resulted in the new country of the United States expanding its borders from coast to coast.


[1] Julius Pratt, “The Origin of Manifest Destiny,” American Historical Review, 32 (July 1927) 796.

[2]Linda Hudson, Mistress of Manifest Destiny: A Biography of Jane McManus Storm Cazneau, 1807-1878 (TX: Texas State Historical Association, 2001), 60-62.

[3] Robert D. Sampson, John L. O’Sullivan and His Times (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2003), 244-245n.

[4] Amy S. Greenburg, “A Wicked War,” Pritzker Military Museum  and Library, December 7, 2012, found at minute-mark 45:34,