Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-
Saxonism. By Reginald Horsman. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard
University Press, 1981. Pp. 367. Introduction, notes, index.
In Race and Manifest Destiny Reginald Horsman treats the west-
ward movement of Anglo-Saxonism from its obscure origins in India
through the woods of Germany to the British Isles and across the At-
lantic to the United States. The work reaches as far back as Tacitus's
Germania in tracing the evolution of an Anglo-Saxon "racialism" that
by the mid-nineteenth century had become, in the United States and
Great Britain, "an ideology of continental, hemispheric, and even
world racial destiny for a particular chosen people" (p. 77).
The core of this generally excellent work is its treatment of the tran-
sition in racial thought that occurred in the United States between the
Revolution and 185o. Those familiar with the period will be aware of
that transition, but Horsman's perceptive analysis, based upon impres-
sive and imaginative combing of the sources, provides a worthy, if occa-
sionally redundant, clarification of the transitional process.
The revolutionary generation took pride in its Anglo-Saxon heritage
without making unfavorable comparisons to other peoples, believing
that less fortunate races might be transformed by the Anglo-Saxon ex-
ample of republican government and education. But the revolutionary
principle of mankind's natural equality had to be reconciled with slav-
ery, which could only be achieved by condemning blacks as inferior.
(This, as we know from Winthrop D. Jordan's work, was neither novel
nor difficult for Anglo-Americans.) Next, the westward movement pro-
voked the Indian, who was then condemned as a savage because he re-
sisted being exterminated.
During the 183os phrenology was much in vogue in England and
the United States, lending "scientific" proof of superior and inferior
races. This coincided with and reinforced the South's rejection of its
previously apologetic attitude toward slavery in favor of a staunch de-
fense of the institution. Finally, the Romantic movement, stressing na-
tional and cultural particularism, simultaneously lent its support to
Anglo-Saxon superiority. In the following decade an American school
of ethnology appeared. Its most prominent members, though relatively
unbiased and objective, nonetheless contributed further credence to
the belief in the superiority and inferiority of races. By the time of the
Mexican War many Americans blithely justified the conquest of a
"mongrel" race. Even transcendentalists such as Ralph Waldo Emer-
son and Theodore Parker, while condemning slavery, the eradication
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed August 31, 2015.