Title: Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism
Author: Reginald Horsman
Year: 1981
Categories: Racism, Expansionism, Mexican-American War, Intellectual History, Indians, Slavery
Place: United States
Time Period: 1800-1850

Argument Synopsis
Reginald Horsman traces the growth of a racial ideology during the first half of the nineteenth century centered around Anglo-Saxonism. Horsman argues that up through the Revolutionary War, Anglo-Saxonism had been defined largely in terms of an English heritage centered on political institutions that stretched back to the English Reformation. Inspired by Enlightenment ideas about finding universal patterns of humanity, this viewpoint maintained an optimism about spreading and teaching American republicanism to other peoples across the world. Beginning in the 19th century, however, Anglo-Saxonism began to take a turn towards a racial ideology. Several factors influenced this shift. First, European Romanticism increasingly emphasized uniqueness and individual differences rather than universalizing Enlightenment thought. Second, there was a rise in scientific racialism and the idea of different races as fundamentally different - with Anglo Saxons being superior than inferior non-whites. Third, on-the-ground realities, particularly on the frontier or in the slave-holding south, reinforced the idea of races as inferior.

Horsman argues that the view of racial inferiority hardened and gained adherence beginning in the 1810s through the mid-19th century. Oftentimes this was used as a form of justification, specifically for Indian removal, slavery, and the Mexican War. By the 1840s, he thinks that the scientific concept of a hierarchy of races (with Anglo-Saxons at the top) was the majority opinion. Horsman leans on the Mexican War and experience in the Southwest during the 1840s to make his point. Most people saw the Mexican race as a mongrel and despotic one, and debates around the propriety of the war did little to call this into question. In fact, anti-militarists often used the idea of their racial inferiority to argue that expansion into Mexico would be dangerous for the purity of the Anglo-Saxon race. By mid-century, debates over conquering all of Mexico at the end of the war and expansion into Asian markets brought into line the notion that active colonization could pose a danger to the racial stock of Anglo-Saxons, and that the far safer option would be aggressive expansion through commercial penetration and "out-breeding" and replacing other races. Horsman portrays the growth of a racial ideology in terms of justifying the expansion of the United States and its tremendous exploitation and suffering it cased other people.

Key Themes and Concepts
- Shift in belief in superiority of Anglo-Saxon political institutions (and spreading Republicanism) to superiority of Anglo-Saxon race
- Wars of expansion (rather than simply slavery) central to defining and revising racial ideology
- Importance of Romanticism as intellectual spur for racism (emphasis on uniqueness, national origin story tracing back to Teutonic/Aryan roots)
- Growth of scientific racism
- Commercial penetration as alternative to spreading republicanism (fewer dangers of intermixing or trying to integrate unfit races into society)
- Anti-militarists co-opt language of Anglo-Saxonism to argue against aggressive expansion (dangerous vulnerability of racial intermixing)
- Need to justify exploitation and expansion

Creative Commons License
U.S. History Qualifying Exams: Book Summaries by Cameron Blevins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.