Skip to content

Manifest Destiny Map Assignment United

History 420 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

Manifest Destiny Moves into the Pacific

Methods Discussion:Just like reading a book, students need to learn to read a map. In this Read the Map exercise, the following discussion questions should help students get a visual understanding of American movement into the Pacific Ocean.

  1. Take a few minutes to read this map. What is the single most important thing you understand about the map after your reading?
  2. Why would the United States want to extend its power into the Pacific between 1857-1899?
  3. What is the single most important thing you understand about the topic of Manifest Destiny after reading the map?

Introduction: Many historians believe that the term Manifest Destiny applies only to American expansion across the North American continent. Some argue that Americans simply followed their God-given right to expand westward and conquer contiguous land. This was our destiny, they argue - this was NOT imperialism.

  • What is imperialism?
  • How are imperialism and Manifest Destiny different? Similar?

If we take the position that America's movement into the Pacific was an extension of Manifest Destiny - and perhaps of imperialism - then we must look at what we actually did in the Pacific to gain control over all the above islands. That is the purpose of our last two days on the topic of Manifest Destiny.

Discussion Goals:

  1. To trace the early march of U.S. presence in the Pacific.
  2. To examine a detailed case study of American movement into Hawaii.
  3. To explore the issues raised about Manifest Destiny and imperialism inherent in the acquisition of the Philippines through warfare.
  4. To understand America's movement into Samoa - the last territory gained during the 19th Century.
  5. To agree with and/or refute the theme of this unit - that the consequences of Manifest Destiny are an example of the theme that progress is not always progressive.

Goal #1: To trace the early march of the U.S. presence in the Pacific

By 1853, the continental boundaries of the United States were complete. But the era of Manifest Destiny was not over. Many Americans - including many Presidents and Congressmen - had begun to look to the Pacific for possible expansion. Why? Trade with Asia - especially the appeal of profits that could be made by trading with China - and the search for guano.

Trade with China. Some of the world’s most sought after commodities - tea, porcelain, and silk - were plentiful in China and Western merchants had long sought access to this these treasures.

  • In February 1784, the first American ship sailed to China, followed by a steady stream of merchants hoping to open the door to Chinese trade.
  • In the early 19th century, American. traders built a small outpost in China where their interactions became both complex and contentious.
  • The British East India Company (EIC) had received a royal charter in 1600 to trade with the Far East, Beginning in 1773, the EIC " began to auction opium grown on its plantations in India to independent foreign traders in exchange for silver.
  • The opium was then transported to the China coast and sold to Chinese middlemen who retailed the drug inside China." (Source: ( Despite the fact that opium was illegal in China, a huge market existed for the drug among the Chinese. Soon, the increasing numbers of opium addicts began to alarm Chinese officials
    • In 1839, the Chinese Emperor abolished the opium trade, confiscated approximately 1210 tons of opium (2.66 million pounds) without offering compensation to the EIC, and blockaded trade.
    • The British government objected to these actions - objections which resulted in the First Opium War. In 1842, the British won the war and by treaty, China opened five ports and ceded Hong Kong Island to the British.
  • Shortly after the Opium War, in 1844 the U.S signed a treaty and established formal diplomatic relations with the Chinese Government. Thus, U.S. ministers and consuls took up residence in China’s capital and port cities.

But getting from the United States to China , however, was difficult without a network of ports in the Pacific Ocean. Indeed, it was the primary goal of Commodore Matthew Perry who sailed to Japan in 1853 to establish a foothold that would strengthen the U.S. position for trade and diplomacy in both Japan and China.

Now, let's turn to another effort by the U.S. government to gain territory in the Pacific - this time through the need to obtain fertilizer for our growing agricultural economy.

The Search for Guano. By the 1840s, Americans looked to guano for use as an agricultural fertilizer and as a primary source of saltpeter for gunpower. However, we had no internal source for this valuable commodity. Our main source was Peru but by 1850, guano cost $76 per pound. U.S. entrepreneurs began exploring alternatives to Peruvian guano and thus encouraged the passage of a new law in 1856 - the Guano Islands Act. Thus,the search for guano commenced both in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. Under the Act, Americans temporarily could occupy uninhabited islands to obtain guano. The first section of the Act states:

"Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other Government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other Government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States."

While the act specifically states that the U.S. was not obliged to retain possession after private American interests exhausted guano deposits, it fails to specify what the status of the territory is after it is abandoned by private U.S. interests.Thus began the concept of insular territories.

  • During the era of Manifest Destiny, any territory acquired by the U.S. was considered to be an integral part of the country and eventually would have the opportunity to become an American state.
  • However, with insular areas gained under the Guano Act, the federal government could hold land without the prospect of its ever becoming a state. Thus, in 1857, the U.S. took possession of the Howard and Baker Islands, followed by Jarvis Island. The following year, the U.S. added Kingman Reef , in 1867, Midway became an American possession, and in 1898, both Johnston Atoll and Swain's Island (now part of American Samoa) became the last two islands claimed by the U.S. under the provisions of the Guano Act.
Under the Guano Islands Act, more than 100 islands have been claimed for the United States . However, most claims have been withdrawn over the past 150 years. The territories in the Pacific still claimed by the United States under the Act are Baker, Jarvis, Swains, and Howland Islands; the Johnston, Palmrya, and Midway Atolls; and Kingman Reef. What this means in the 21st Century is that the U.S. government has the legal authority to protect waters up to 200 miles out from each of these insular territories, an area known as the exclusive economic zone.
  • On January 6, 2009, President George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument which incorporates approximately 86,888 square miles within its boundaries and extends 50 nautical miles from the low water lines of Howland, Baker, and Jarvis Islands, the Johston, Wake, and Palmyra Atolls, and the Kingman Reef.

  • The Monument is the largest marine protected area in the world and an essential part of the most widespread collection of marine life on the planet under a single country's jurisdiction. The islands allow the U.S. to conduct climate change research at the equator; far from population centers. Because the Pacific Remote Islands contain some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world, their Monument status ensures these special areas are conserved.

Thus, by the mid-1850s, private, economic interests in trading and excavating natural resources became the primary motivation for U.S. movement into the Pacific Ocean. It should be no surprise that American interest in the Hawaiian Islands began with a similar trajectory - private interests came to the island to make money BUT also to save souls.

Goal #2: To examine a detailed case study of American movement into Hawaii

Shortly before private interests focused on China and guano, several individuals had set their sights on the strategically located Hawaiian Islands. Manifest Destiny initially came to Hawaii not at request of the United States government, but rather at the hands of private business entrepreners and missionaries. In the late 1820s, the first Americans began to settle in Hawaii when Presbyterian and Congregational missionaries founded schools to Christianize and Americanizethe Hawaiians.

Within two decades of missionary work, the Hawaiian monarchy was worried about increasing American influence on the islands. Thus, three laws were passed that determined who could own land in Hawaii.

  • The 1840 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii proclaimed that the land belonged to its people and was to be managed by the King. King Kamehameha and his 245 chiefs allocated one-third of the land to the Hawaiian crown, one-third to the chiefs, and one-third to the people.
  • The 1850 Alien Land Ownership Act was passed by the Hawaiian legislature in opposition to the King. The Act, which allowed foreigners to hold title to land, was supported as a way to bring much-needed capital and labor to the islands.
  • The 1850 Kuleana Act allowed Hawaiian commoners to petition for title to land on which they already cultivated and/or lived. Because private ownership of land was a previously unknown concept for ordinary Hawaiians, many did not understand the need to make a claim for land on which they already lived or worked.
    • Making a claim depended on the ability to read, to pay for a pre-claim land survey, and to find two witnesses to confirm that the claimant had worked the land.
    • The law also stated that the lands must be claimed within two years of the Act's passage.

By the late 1850s, few Hawaiians had made claims. Eventually, less than one percent of the land was ever owned by the people. Instead, the chiefs and foreigners owned and controlled almost all the land while the Hawaiian people collectively worked the land.

Sugar plantations, some owned by Americans, began to grow in Hawaii.

  • By the 1840s, the profits of plantation owners rose and fell according to American tariffs placed on imported sugar.
  • During the Civil War when Southern sugar could not be shipped up north, Hawaiian planters' profits soared as the price of sugar rose 525% - from 4 cents per pound in 1861 to 25 cents in 1864.
  • Profits again skyrocked with the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 which allowed Hawaii to sell sugar to the United States without paying duties or taxes.The Treaty led to large American investments in Hawaiian sugar plantations.
  • By 1885, almost all Hawaiian sugar plantations were owned by Americans, most of whom were the ancestors of the early missionaries. Not surprisingly, the planters began to demand a greater role in Hawaiian politics.

At the same time American influence on the islands increased, new diseases significantly decreased the native Hawaiian population. To deal with labor shortages, American plantation owners began to import Chinese and Japanese laborers to work in the fields. Thus, by the time that the U.S. government was becoming interested in moving their economic and political ideals of Manifest Destiny into the Pacific, Americans in Hawaii were building a multi-racial society over which the Hawaiians were gradually losing control.

By the 1880s, private American entrepreneurs were attempting to gain more and more over the economy. And in 1887, the U.S. government entered the picture when representatives met with the King's representatives to renew the 1875 sugar treaty. The Americans insisted that in return for continuing Hawaii's duty and tax free sugar trade, the King would grant:

"... to the Government of the US the exclusive right to enter the harbor of Pearl River, in the Island of Oahu, and to establish and maintain there a coaling and repair station for the use of vessels of the US and to that end the US may improve the entrance to said harbor and do all things useful to the purpose aforesaid."

The King, however, balked. It was clear that the American planters had become too powerful and granting U.S. Naval rights to Pearl Harbor would give them even greater power. When the King hesitated, a group of American planters, missionaries, and businessmen who were members of the secret organization, the Hawaiian League, forced King Kalakaua to accept a new constitution - which he called the Bayonet Constitution .

Methods Discussion: A close reading of an annotated version of the Bayonet Constitution will not only give you a chance to develop your DBQ Skills, it will also tell you how and why the King and the Hawaiian people were so angry with its contents. You can find the abridged version by clicking here.

Then, in 1889, a young, part-Hawaiian named Robert W. Wilcox staged an uprising to overthrow the 1887 Bayonet Constitution. He led some 150 men, Hawaiians and foreigners, in a predawn march to Iolani Palace with a new constitution for King Kalakaua to sign. The king was away from the palace, and the Cabinet called out troops that forcibly put down the insurrection. Tried for high treason, Wilcox was found not guilty by a jury of Native Hawaiians who accused those in power of being usurpers and having blood-stained hands. They refused to convict him.

Adding fuel to the growing fire over who controlled Hawaii - the foreign planters or the Hawaiians - the U.S.Congress again entered the fray by passing the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890.

  • The Tariff eliminated Hawaii's tax free sugar trading status and also gave domestic US sugar growers a bounty of 2 cents a pound so they could sell at lower prices than Hawaiian and other foreign growers.  Hawaiian sugar prices plunged 40%. 
  • Consequently, Americans in Hawaii - who composed less than 10% of the population and owned about 3/4 of the island's total wealth - began pressing for annexation to the U.S. in order to classify their sugar as domestic rather than foreign. 

The following year, King Kalakaua died and his sister, Liliuokalani, assumed the throne. The Queen announced that she was planning a new constitution that would give her more discretionary powers to help fight the American planters. (See videos "Hawaii's Last Queen, Part 5 at and Part 6 at Around this time, American newspapers and magazines began a propaganda campaign, largely through the use of political cartoons. In these cartoons, Queen Liliuokalani was drawn with "savage" features including feathers in her hair, nappy hair, thick lips, and bare feet - all for the purpose of illustrating her as a primitive woman. This cartoon portrays the queen as a dark-skinned, underdressed woman with thick lips who tries to give her crown to a pawnbroker for cash.

In reality, the Queen ruled over a highly civilized nation, lived in a victorian style mansion that was one of the first palaces that had full electricity and indoor toilets, and was accepted as an honorable ruler by many European monarchs. There was nothing "savage" about the Queen, her nation, her people, or her rule.

In January of 1893, American and foreign resident merchants forced the Queen from power and proclaimed a provisional government under the leadership of pineapple entrepreneur Sanford B. Dole.

During the overthrow, the American Minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, ordered the landing of armed U.S. Marines from the USS Boston in Honolulu which he said was necessary to protect lives and property.

  • The Provisional Government of Hawaii - under control of the American planters - immediately sent a treaty of annexation to President Benjamin Harrison who referred it to the Senate for ratification on February 15, 1893.
  • Three weeks later, Grover Cleveland became President and soon thereafter withdrew the treaty and appointed former congressman James Henderson Blount as special representative to investigate the events surrounding the overthrow.
  • The investigation confirmed that self-interested Americans led a conspiracy and that Hawaiians opposed annexation.

Consequently, President Cleveland opposed annexation and tried to restore the Queen. In response, on July 4,1894, Sanford Dole announced the creation of the Republic of Hawaii and declared himself president. Many Hawaiians gathered arms for a counterrevolution to restore the monarchy.

In January of 1895, an insurrection began to try to restore the Queen; after 10 days of fighting, most of the rebels were captured.

  • On January 15th, the Queen was arrested and imprisoned. She was tried, found guilty, and given the maximum sentence of five years imprisonment at hard labor and a $5,000 fine.
  • While the sentence was not carried out, she remained a prisoner in the palace.
  • During her imprisonment, the Queen abdicated her throne in return for the release of her jailed supporters.
  • Eventually, she was released (See Hawaii's Last Queen, Part 7 at After her release, the provisional government placed her under house arrest for a year.
  • In 1896, she received a full pardon.

In 1897, a treaty for annexation was submitted to the U.S. Senate, but did not receive the required 2/3 of the majority needed for approval. In the meantime, by late 1897, 21,269 native Hawaiian people -more than half of the 39,000 Hawaiians living in Hawaii - had signed a petition saying that they opposed annexation.

Four delegates traveled to the U.S. with the petition and they met up with the Queen who was already in the U.S. fighting against annexation. Together, they created a strategy to present the petition to the Senate. However, most Congressional sympathy for the Hawaiians died in February, 1898 when the U.S.S. Maine exploded, prompting the U. S. to start the Spanish-American War. Now the need for a mid-Pacific fueling location was essential - and the Hawaiian Islands were the optimal choice.

Shortly thereafter, President McKinley signed a treaty to annex Hawaii, but it failed in the Senate. Congress still was not deterred. Instead of passing the treaty, a joint resolution of both houses of Congress was passed on July 4th to approve annexation. In 1900, Hawaii became a territory of the U.S. and Sanford Dole became its first governor. Since then, many Hawaiians and many historians have questioned the legitimacy of the annexation by joint resolution because international law requires annexation to be accomplished by a treaty.

And how did the average American feel about this extension of Manifest Destiny into the Pacific? The cartoon below - published in 1899 - and the accompanying description is a great illustration of how and why Americans felt annexation was justified:

On August 21, 1959 Hawaii joined the US and became the 50th state.

But this story is incomplete without a discussion of the continuing efforts of Hawaiians to regain their nation and their sovereignty. Today, Native Hawaiians are the only major indigenous group in the 50 states without a process for establishing a government-to-government relationship with the federal government. Below are some of the most recent such efforts:

  • 1972 - An organization called A.L.O.H.A. (Aboriginal Lands of Hawaiian Ancestry) was founded to seek reparations from the United States for its involvement in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government in 1893.
  • 1978 - State of Hawai‘i’s Constitutional Convention was held, resulting in the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (O.H.A.)
  • 1987 - Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi was formed as a local grassroots organization for Hawaiian sovereignty. The organization has a constitution, elected offices and representatives for each island. The group supports US Federal recognition and its independence from the U.S. and supports inclusion of Native Hawaiians in federal Indian policy. They do not support the 2009 Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act as they do not want to have a government-to-government relationship with the U.S.; rather, they support full independence.
  • 1991 - The General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) passed a resolution “Recognizing the Rights of Native Hawaiians to Self-Governance and Self-determination”. It was heralded as the beginning of a reconciliatory process between native and non-native Hawaiians for the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government.
  • 1993 - The President of the UCC issued a formal apology and committed the church to redress the wrongs done to native Hawaiians.
    • Congress passed and President Clinton signed an Apology Resolution apologizing for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. The apology was only to Native Hawaiians - "“Congress…apologizes to the Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination.”
    • The "People's International Tribunal" was formed to bring indigenous leaders from around the world to Hawaii to put the U.S. Government on trial for the theft of Hawaii's sovereignty. The tribunal found the U.S. guilty, and published its findings in a lengthy document filed with the U.N. Committees on Human Rights and Indigenous Affair.s
  • 1994 - The Nation of Hawaii was created by Native Hawaiian activist Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele. Kanahele led 300 people in the occupation of a popular east Oahu beach which began a15-month standoff with law enforcement. It finally ended in 1995 when Hawaii Governor. John Waihee offered a trade for peace: A $3,000-a-year land parcel on which Kanahele and his supporters could live. Today the Nation of Hawaii has about 70 resident members. The group does not limit its membership to Native Hawaiians, since people of all ethnicities were governed by the Hawaiian Kingdom at the time of the overthrow.
  • 2000 - Senator Akaka launched the first five attempts to have the U.S. Senate pass a bill that would provide for federal recognition of tribal status for Native Hawaiians.
  • 2009 - The Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act was passed and begins the process of federal recognition of a Native Hawaiian government, whereby the U.S. State Department would have government-to-government relations with the US.
  • 2016 - In September, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced an administrative procedure that would allow a unified Native Hawaiian government — if one is established in the future — to enter into a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States. This would give Native Hawaiians a status similar to more than 560 Native American tribes that currently hold nation-to-nation status, which could allow federal considerations on issues ranging from land management to social services.
  • 2017 - The constitutional efforts continue with a group that includes politicians, police officers, fast-food workers and farmers on every island who have drafted a new constitution and plans for a ratification vote. Leaders are trying to raise $2.5 million and have joined with a consortium of advocacy groups to study what could become the touchstone of their self-determination efforts to claim sovereignty: an eight-chapter constitution that lays the foundation for a democracy with executive, legislative and judicial branches.

End of first day discussion

Goal #3:

Cold Call: "Selling Empire: American Propaganda and War in the Philippines" at

Methods Discussion: We have spent a great deal of time talking about Close Reading of our Texts. This article by Dr. Brewer required just such a close reading. Now that we have a strong understanding of her article, it is important that we work together to analyze the "bottom line." Please do the following:

  1. Get into 4 groups of 4-5. Assign a recorder who will also report your group's findings to the entire class.
  2. Spend 20 minutes discussing the following:
    • Does the author portray McKinley as a liberator or a conqueror? What is the traditional narrative?
    • What were the attitudes of American "expansionists" about people of color and women? How do these attitudes fuel imperialism?
    • What were McKinley's goals for war with Spain?
    • What were the primary goals of the "campaign to keep the Philippines?"
    • What were the specific issues raised by anti-imperialists against continued U.S. control and occupation of the Philippines?
    • Describe the types of propaganda used to convince the American people to support war with the Filippinos.
  3. Take another 5-10 minutes to decide what you believe to be the single, most powerful point of Dr. Brewer's article. Then, turn that point into a theme that you could use in a world history course. REMEMBER - a theme must be a message, a bottom line statement that consists of a complete sentence with a noun, verb, and object.
  4. Be prepared to share your theme with the entire class AND to explain why the theme highlights the primary point Dr. Brewer is trying to make.

Goal #4: To understand America's movement into Samoa - the last American territory gained during the 19th Century

Most Americans have no idea that we have a territory in the Pacific that is about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii - American Samoa. American Samoa is legally classified as an insular area, making it neither a part of one of the fifty U.S. states nor the U.S. federal district of Washington, D.C. Such areas are called "insular" because they were once administered by the War Department's Bureau of Insular Affairs, now the Office of Insular Affairs at the Department of the Interior.

So what does that mean? While Congress extends citizenship rights by birth to all inhabited territories, American Samoa is the ONE exception. American Samoans are the only people left with U.S. national status, even though they have been part of the U.S. for over a century. This means that American Samoans:

  • are U.S. nationals by place of birth, or they are U.S. citizens by parentage, or naturalization after residing in a State three months;
  • are free within the U.S. to move around and seek employment without immigration restrictions;
  • cannot vote or hold office outside of American Samoa;
  • do not pay U.S. federal income taxes but must pay other U.S. federal taxes - import/export taxes, federal commodity taxes, social security taxes.

Their current status - about which we will learn more later in our discsussion - came to be as a direct result of the American march into the Pacific during the era of Manifest Destiny. As we will see, their history of territorial status with the U.S. is both similar to, and quite different from, that of Hawaii. So just what is this history?

As we have previously discussed, research tells us that students simply do not understand the chronology of history. And we have also discussed that teachers are similarly disconnected to a chronological understanding of historical events. So, let's get into one last chronology - this one providing an understanding of the evolution of U.S. and Samoan relations.

A Chronology of Selected Relations between the United States and Samoa


  • 1722 Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen becomes the first European to discover Samoa.
  • 1768 French captain Louis-Antoine de Bougainville visits the islands on his expedition of circumnavigation. He names Samoa "The Navigator's Islands."
  • 1770s Traveling along the spice route between Europe and Asia, trading ships begin to stop in Samoa on a regular basis.
  • 1787 The French La Perouse expedition visits Tutuila and Upolu. When the captain and four boats go ashore in search of fresh water, natives eventually surround the captain and kill him. After his death, his men open - 12 Frenchmen are killed and 20 injured, and many natives are massacred.
  • 1830 John Williams arrives with the London Missionary Society. The local population generally embraces the missionaries. Christianity soon becomes the predominant religion in the islands.
  • 1839 The U.S. Exploring Expedition lands on Tutuila, the largest island in Samoa. One of its key findings is that the harbor at Pago Pago would serve as a much-need American Pacific coaling station.
  • 1857 The trading company J.C. Godeffroy and Son opens a depot in Apia, which results in Samoa becoming the most popular trading post in the Pacific at the time.
  • 1872 The U.S. wins exclusive control of Pago Pago Harbor and receives permission to establish a naval base, in exchange for protecting the people of Samoa from many civil wars and foreign intrusions.
  • 1873 The U.S. State Department sends a special agent to report on conditions in the islands. He drafts a constitution and bill of rights, sets up and seizes control of a new government, and becomes Samoa's premier. He severs ties with the US government and begins negotiations with Germany regarding taxes, land claims and administration of financial interests in the Samoas.
  • 1876 British and American consuls deport the premier to Fiji. Samoan self-government collapses, leaving warring political factions and the First Samoan Civil War in its wake. A delegation of Samoans seeks protection from Britain, the U.S., and Germany but all refuse to come to Samoa's aid.
  • 1879 Germany and Samoa sign a treaty under which Samoa gives Germany the right to establish a naval station in the harbor of Saluafata. All previous flags are abolished and a new one adopted to show the unity of Samoa.
  • 1884 German troops land in Samoa.
  • 1889 In March, a German naval force invades a Samoan village, destroying some American property. Three American warships subsequently enter the Samoan harbor, adjacent to the three German warships already there. Before an attack is waged, a typhoon wrecks both the American and German ships. A compulsory armistice is called.
    • Under the Treaty of Berlin, Britain, Germany, and the United States agree to recognize the Kingdom of Samoa.
    • The three countries later cancel the treaty to be able to intervene in the factional fighting over the Samoan throne, which eventually breaks out in another civil war.
  • 1899 After the Second Samoan Civil War reaches a head, Germany, Britain, and the U.S. argue over who should have control over the island chain. When the war is over, the Tripartite Convention in Berlin divides the archipelago between Germany and the U.S. - with Germany receiving the larger and more populous islands to the west, and the US receiving those to the east, including Tutuila with its bay of Pago Pago, the best naval base in all the South Seas. The British are given other Pacific island chains formerly belonging to Germany.



  • 1900 The U.S. formally occupies the area later known as American Samoa after the chiefs ceded their lands. In the Instruments of Cession, the U.S. agrees to allow local matai (chiefs) to retain power over the villages and the right to keep their property according to Samoan custom. The Samoans legally become “nationals” – a term not officially defined until 1940 - nationals are those who are born within U.S. territories but who are not granted citizenship..
    • President Roosevelt signs an Executive Order on February 19 which announces that American Samoa would be placed under a military government controlled by the U.S. Department of the Navy.
    • Thereafter, the Navy sets out to protect Samoan cultural, religious, and political institutions, but the Samoans themselves are given very little say in such decisions.
  • 1901 In the first of the Insular Cases, the U.S. Supreme Court examines the expansionist policies of the McKinley administration and creates a new set of rules for governing territories. It gives McKinley the right to continue expansion and govern as he saw fit and describes the territories as neither foreign nor domestic.
    • The series of Insular Cases ends the era of Manifest Destiny and put into place a new doctrine of political and military control over lands that were never destined to become part of the United States.
    • These newly-described “unincorporated” territories only enjoy the protection of the Constitution for the most “fundamental rights.”
  • 1904 The eastern Samoan islands become territories of the United States. This marks the official beginning of American sovereignty over the islands. At this time, the western islands become known as Western Samoa.
  • 1914 Western Samoa passes from German control to New Zealand.
  • 1920 Some Samoans demand a larger role for Samoan governance, a stronger relationship with the U.S., a formal organization of the territory, and full U.S. citizenship for American Samoans. They organize a campaign for citizenship with support from the people and their chiefs. The U.S. Senate supports the recommendations, but the measure fails due to opposition from the U.S. Navy.
  • 1925 The U.S. officially annexes Swains Island and it becomes part of American Samoa.
  • 1940 The Port of Pago Pago becomes a training and staging area for the U.S. Marine Corps. American Samoans enlist in the Marine Corps, establishing a home guard unit. Congress creates a new designation – “national” – to describe those who are born within U.S. territories but who are not granted citizenship.


  • 1953 The American corporation, Starkist, builds a huge fish cannery on Pago Pago harbor.
  • 1962 Western Samoa becomes independent, later changing its name to Samoa in 1997.
  • 1967 The first American Samoa Constitution – originally put into effect by Executive Order in 1962 - becomes effective and the territory becomes self-governing. The Constitution allows for an elected governor and legislature, returning de facto control to the Samoans.
  • 1988 The National Park of American Samoa is established by entering into a 50-year lease for the parkland from Samoan village councils. The park is distributed across three separate islands and includes coral reefs and rain forest.
  • 2012 Tuaua v. United States (July 10) is filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint seeks recognition of the State Department that persons born in American Samoa are citizens based upon the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The argument is based on the belief that individuals born in the territory of a nation are automatically citizens of that nation.
    • The U.S. argued to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the series of Supreme Court decisions known as the Insular Cases deny constitutional citizenship to those born in the territories.
    • On June 26, 2013, the case was dismissed, with U.S. District Judge Leon arguing for the decision based upon the Insular Cases.

Today in American Samoa


  • The status of “national” only applies to those who are born in American Samoa. American Samoans live in the only remaining unorganized territory and are the only territory in which its people are not U.S. citizens.
  • Canned tuna is the primary export of American Samoa, earning $300 million in revenue annually. While some American Samoans work at the cannery, most of its 5,000 employees are workers from independent Samoa who are willing to work for $3.60 an hour.
  • American Samoa is one of two U.S. jurisdictions where the federal minimum wage laws do not apply.
  • American Samoans are divided about the issue of citizenship.

So, now that we know the history of how and why American Samoa became a U.S. territory, let's bring the conversation forward to its contemporary status and the last two issues:

  • American Samoans live in the only remaining unorganized territory and are the only territory in which its people are not U.S. citizens.  The legal status of “national” only applies to those who are born in American Samoa. 
  • American Samoans are divided about the issue of citizenship.

If we look at American Samoa as the last territory annexed to the United States in the 19th Century and if we accept that part of the reason for its annexation was the American belief in Manifest Destiny and that the vast majority of American Samoans are patriotic and proud to be associated with the U.S., then we should all be asking - Why are American Samoans divided about losing their national status and becoming official U.S. citizens? The answer is complex and fascinating - and lies deeply embedded both in the understanding of American Samoans about what happened to other Pacific Islanders, especially the Hawaiians, during the era of Manifest Destiny, as well as the cultural and political traditions of the Samoan people.

  1. Understanding of American Samoans about what happened to other Pacific Islanders, especially the Hawaiians. The American Samoans have deep ties with the Hawaiian people - culturally, politically, economically, and spiritually. Furthermore, they have a clear understanding of what happened when the Hawaiian king and his chiefs allowed foreigners - especially Americans - to buy Hawaiian land. And what did happen?? Because of this knowledge, many American Samoans have tenaciously held onto their traditional cultural and poliical traditions in order to keep American Samoa under the control of American Samoans.
  2. Cultural and political traditions of American Samoans. American Samoa has two systems of government - the Constitutional government and the traditional village government.
  • Constitutional government. The government has three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
    • Executive. Because American Samoa is a self-governing territory, the official executive is the U.S.President. While he does not play an active role, he can dissolve the Legislature/Fono and no legislative act can become law without his approval. The actual head of government is the elected Governor of American Samoa
    • Legislative. Legislative power is vested in the bicameral Fono. The House of Representatives has 21 elected members and the Senate has 18 members. Representatives are elected by the people and Senators are elected by the matai (chiefs). All senators must be matai.
    • Judicial. The judicial branch is independent of the executive and the legislature. The High Court of American Samoa is the highest court below the United States Supreme Court in American Samoa, with the District Courts below it. The High Court consists of a Chief Justice and an Associate Justice who are appointed by the United States Secretary of the Interior.

Traditional (local) village politics of both Samoa and American Samoa Islands are deeply imbedded in fa'amatai and fa'asamoa.

  • Fa'asamoa refers to the traditional language and customs, and
  • fa'amatai consists of the protocols of the local Fono (council) and matai. The fa'amatai influences every aspect of politics - from the family, to the village, to the region, to national matters. The Fono elect the matai through consensus. The matai and the fono decide on who owns and who may live on communal lands - the majority of which are communal. In most cases, such decisions about owning and residing on land are based upon one's status as a Samoan.


  1. Who can be recognized members of the local fono?
  2. Who can be matai?
  3. Who can be members of the American Samoan Senate?
  4. Who controls who owns and resides on communal land in American Samoa?
  5. Why would any of these requirements encourage some American Samoans to continue supporting national status rather than American citizenship?

One of the bottom line understandings of this final content discussion on Manifest Destiny is that by 1899, as the map indicates, America had gained control over most of the Pacific Islands, thus extending the concept of Manifest Destiny outside the boundaries of the continental United States. The quest for Pacific possessions had begun before the Civil War - with the 1857 acquistion of Jarvis Island and the Howard and Baker Islands. It was sealed with the annexation of Hawaii in 1898 and finalized with the annexation of American Samoa in 1899.

Goal #5: To agree with and/or refute the theme of this unit - that the consequences of Manifest Destiny are an example of the theme that progress is not always progressive.

Methods Discussion: We are already familiar with the Write Around. So we will end today's discussion with this method.

  • Step 1: Get into groups of 3-4 people each. Each of you needs a piece of lined paper. Write your name on the paper. As you work on the assignment below, please follow these rules:
    • Use legible writing
    • Use every minute of time you are allowed to write.
    • Please do not talk. This is a silent activity.
  • Step 2: Each person will spend 5 minutes writing a response to the following question: The consequences of Manifest Destiny are an example of the theme that progress is not always progressive. Be sure to provide evidence from our last month's discussion in your response.
  • Step 3: Pass your response to the person on your left. Take 5 minutes to read what was written by the other group member and write a response beneath it.You can agree or disagree, add an additional comment, ask questions, share a connection ("that reminds me ..."), or raise a whole new idea. Just keep the conversation going.
  • Step 4: Pass your response to the person on your left. Take 10 minutes to read what was written by the two other group members and to respond as explained above in Step 3.
  • Step 5: Pass the paper back to the original writer. Take 5 minutes to read what you originally wrote and what your other group members wrote in response and underline/highlight what you believe is the single most convincing argument that anyone wrote - including yourself.
  • Step 6: Taking turns, each of you should read out loud the single most convincing argument you marked. Then take 10 minutes to decide if you can agree on ONE single most convincing arguement.. Elect a group spokesman to share your thoughts with the entire class. Be sure to turn in your papers at the end of class.





  1. Find It

    The map shows United States growth throughout the 1800s. Click on the Louisiana Purchase in the Legend. Which river forms the eastern border of the Louisiana Purchase?

    Back to the map.

  2. List It

    Which major cities existed in 1850 on land gained through the Mexican Cession?

    Back to the map.

  3. Create It

    Draw a timeline based on the information in the map. Make sure every date shown in the Legend is clearly labeled on your timeline.

    Back to the map.

Learn More About It

The United States did not always own all of the land that makes up the country today. Much of the nation's land, such as Florida, Texas, and Oregon, was once owned by other countries. These countries included Mexico, Spain, France, and Great Britain. Through discussions, treaties, and sometimes war with these countries, the United States gained large amounts of territory. Today, the United States spreads from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts of North America.

Back to the map.

Check Your Answers

  1. The Mississippi River.
  2. San Francisco and Salt Lake City.
  3. The following dates and events should be labeled on your timeline: 1783 United States; 1803 Louisiana Purchase; 1810, 1813 West Florida Annexation; 1818 Red River Cession; 1819 East Florida; 1842 Webster Ashburton Treaty; 1845 Texas Annexation; 1846 Oregon Territory; 1848 Mexican Cession; and 1853 Gadsden Purchase.