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The phrase "Manifest Destiny" was first coined in 1845 by newspaperman John O'Sullivan to celebrate the annexation of Texas as evidence of the nation's imperative to settle every corner of a "continent allotted by Providence." A general rubric for the different expansionist sentiments of the middle 1800s, Manifest Destiny envisioned the United States sowing industry, democracy, and freedom in the lands it settled. And while some criticized Manifest Destiny as a pro-slavery tactic, few doubted that in time the United States would spread out to cover all of North America.

Never an official political doctrine, the notion of Manifest Destiny nonetheless made it plausible for the United States to seize upon an 1846 border dispute in Texas as a premise to declare war on Mexico and thereby gain much of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The war was initially popular in the United States, and the songs reprinted here show the depth of the nation's expansionist spirit. One song boasts of the nation's willingness to defend its borders, no matter how far-flung. Another song describes the United States' mission to repel European insolence and depredation by leading the rest of the world in the cultivation of freedom. A final song declares that "freedom's pilgrim sons" fight not for individual gain but for the good of all humankind.

These songs, like those of other popular wars, ignore the violence and duplicity with which wars achieve a nation's goals and instead invoke an image of undiluted moral superiority in the nation's political and military actions. That the United States invaded and conquered the territory of another, sovereign nation during the Mexican-American War is understandably left out of these songs.

Mark D.Baumann,
New York University

See also Mexican-American War ; Music: Early American .

2 Song of The Memphis Volunteers. Air—"Lucy Neal."

ONE mornin' bright and early,
De news came safe to hand,
Dat de Mexicans ten thousand strong,
Had cross'd de Rio Grande!
O, de Rio Grande, O, de Rio Grande,
We would we were upon your banks,
Wid rifle in our hand.
We'd raise de barrel to our eye,
Take trigger in de hand,
Some Memphis thunder soon dey'd hear,
Or leap de Rio Grande.
O, de Rio Grande, &c.
O, Memphis is a mighty place,
Can raise a fightin' band,
Dat soon are ready for a march
To rescue Rio Grande.
O, de Rio Grande, &c.
Wid bosoms to de shock ob war
Boldly we would stand,
And dar present a noble front
On de riber Rio Grande
O, de Rio Grande, &c.
We are waitin' for our orders
To shake our true lub's hand,
To shed a tear—then haste away
To rescue Rio Grande.
O, de Rio Grande, &c.
Now ladies will you remember,
If we fall as soldiers should,
To shed for us a secret tear,
A tear of gratitude.
And now for de Rio Grande,
And now for de Rio Grande,
We would we were already dere,
Wid rifle in our hand.
Our thanks now to de Memphis gals,
For de flags under which we stand,
And when dey hear from us again,
'Twill be from de Rio Grande.
We are bound for de Rio Grande,
We are bound for de Rio Grande,
We would we were already dere,
Wid rifle in our hand.

23 They Wait For Us.


THE Spanish maid, with eye of fire,
At balmy evening turns her lyre
And, looking to the Eastern sky,
Awaits our Yankee chivalry
Whose purer blood and valiant arms,
Are fit to clasp her budding charms.
The man, her mate, is sunk in sloth—
To love, his senseless heart is loth:
The pipe and glass and tinkling lute;
A sofa, and a dish of fruit;
A nap, some dozen times by day;
Sombre and sad, and never gay,
He seems accursed for deeds of yore,
When Mexico once smoked with gore:
The blood of many a patriot band,
Shed by invaders of their land,
Who now, by quick avenging time,
Are vanquished by the subtile clime,
Which steals upon the manly mind
As comes "miasma" on the wind.
An army of reformers, we
March on to glorious victory;
And on the highest peak of Ande,
Unfurl our banners to the wind, Whose stars shall light the land anew,
And shed rich blessings like the dew

59 Wave, Wave, the Banner High.

Tune—"March to the Battle Field."

WAVE, wave the banner high,
And onward to the field, boys,
By its true blue of the sky,
We ne'er will Texas yield, boys;
Each plain and wood,
Stained by the blood,
Of freedom's pilgrim sons, boys,
There Houston led,
And Crockett bled, And brav'd the tyrant's guns, boys.
Then wave, wave, &c.
All Europe's haughty powers,
Have owned her a nation,
And we have made her ours,
By the annexation.
A land so fair,
Shall foemen dare,
To crush or to enslave, boys, No, by our veins,
We'll free her plains,
And dig each tyrant's grave, boys.
Then wave, wave, &c.

SOURCE: M'Carty, William, ed. National Songs, Ballads, and Other Patriotic Poetry, Chiefly Relating to the War of 1846. Philadelphia: Published by William M'Carty, 1846.

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National Songs, Ballads, and other Patriotic Poetry, Chiefly Relating to the War of 1846 (1846, Compiled by William M'carty)

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National Songs, Ballads, and other Patriotic Poetry, Chiefly Relating to the War of 1846 (1846, Compiled by William M'carty)