Less than 100 years after its creation as a fragile republic, the United States more than quadrupled its size, making it the world's third largest nation. No other country or sovereign power had ever grown so big so fast or become so rich and so powerful. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Richard Kluger chronicles this epic achievement in a compelling narrative, celebrating the energy, daring, and statecraft behind America's insatiable land hunger while exploring the moral lapses that accompanied it. Comprehensive and balanced, Seizing Destiny is a revelatory, often surprising reexamination of the nation's breathless expansion, dwelling on both great accomplishments and the American people's tendency to confuse opportunistic success with heaven-sent entitlement that came to be called manifest destiny.
In an admirable and important addition to his distinguished oeuvre, Pulitzer Prize winner Kluger (Ashes to Ashes, a history of the tobacco wars) focuses on the darker side of America's rapid expansion westward. He begins with European settlement of the so-called New World, explaining that Britain's successful colonization depended not so much on conquest of or friendship with the Indians, but on encouraging emigration. Kluger then fruitfully situates the American Revolution as part of the story of expansion: the Founding Fathers based their bid for independence on assertions about the expanse of American virgin earth, and after the war that very land became the new country's main economic resource. The heart of the book, not surprisingly, covers the 19th century, lingering in detail over such well-known episodes as the Louisiana Purchase and William Seward's acquisition of Alaska. The final chapter looks at expansion in the 20th century. Kluger provocatively suggests that, compared with western European powers, the United States engaged in relatively little global colonization, because the closing of the western frontier sated America's expansionist hunger. Each chapter of this long, absorbing book is rewarding as Kluger meets the high standard set by his earlier work. 10 maps.