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Manifest Destiny

January 25, 1998

Tad Szulc's excellent piece on Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba (Opinion, Jan. 18) contains a misstatement of historical fact about the origin of Manifest Destiny.

The birth of the term was not, as Szulc stated, during the Spanish-American War of 1898, but in the 1840s. It reflected the widely held sentiment (some called it a national disease) that the Almighty had "manifestly destined" America to spread its ennobling republican institutions from Panama to the North Pole, and ocean to ocean. It purported to justify just about every kind of heavy-handed national behavior, from killing Mexicans and Indians to annexing Texas and California.

Our advance across the continent was probably inexorable in any case, but the concept of Manifest Destiny salved our collective conscience when the "Yankee" juggernaut smashed weaker peoples whom history placed in its path.

MARK MILLER

Los Angeles

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