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The Mexican War 3 Essay, Research Paper

The Mexican War

On May 9, 1846, President James K. Polk informed his cabinet that he intended to ask Congress to declare war upon Mexico. Congress agreed, and soon, the United States of America was at war with its neighbor Mexico. These actions by our country will forever remain as a blemish upon her history. Clearly, this war was not justifiable, both rather a conquest based upon greed, anger, and the arrogance of men, such as James K. Polk.

Although unimpressive in figure, Polk was extremely purposeful, developing a a positive four-point program and with remarkable success achieved it completely in less than four years. (Bailey, p. 389). Although lowing the tariff, restoring the independent treasury, and compromising with Britain in order to acquire most of the Oregon Territory, proved difficult, Polk managed to accomplish them all without a rifle being raised. However, Polk s last goal of acquiring California from Mexico, proved to present the greatest challenge. As with his other goal, the president first attempted to gain this territory through diplomatic terms. Sending John Sidell to Mexico City with the instructions to offer a maximum of 25 million dollars for California and the territory to the east, was Polk s last resort to achieve his goal without forceful means. When the proud Mexican s refused Sidell to even present his proposition, James K. Polk became extremely frustrated and, was now prepared to force a showdown. (Bailey, p. 391). To Polk, the basis of the unpaid claims from the brief skirmish in Texas with Mexico, as well as Sidell s rejection, proved reason enough to declare war. However, taking into account the reasoning of several of his cabinet members that said they would feel better if the Mexican s fired first, Polk ordered four thousand men, under Zachary Taylor, to march into the disputed territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande.

These actions proved to be (as Polk had hoped) the immediate cause of the conflict. As General Grant stated, In taking military possession of Texas, after annexation, the army of occupation, under General Taylor was directed to occupy the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war. (Koneck & Konecky Ed., p. 36). As Grant predicted, on April 25, 1846, news of a bloodshed arrived. Apparently Mexican troops had crossed the Rio Grande and attacked General Taylor s command, with a loss of sixteen Americans wounded or killed. This shedding of blood on the American soil, (Bailey, p. 391) is what the President needed to be able to justify going to war, thus, receiving Congress backing in becoming involved in a war with Mexico. As he did on the Texas border, cunningly inciting war, Polk, manipulated Congress and the American public into supporting this War. His accounts of blood shed on American soil, stirred up many patriotic emotions and feelings which allowed Polk and Congress to go to war. However, this key point which he used to justify his actions is clearly debatable. Lincoln, a freshman congressman for Illinois, took up this debate and royal argued it upon the floor of Congress. He stated that since neither Texas or Mexico was exercising jurisdiction between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, therefore, neither could claim the territory. Thus, the area between the two rivers, where the blood was shed, was clearly not American soil. So as can be seen, military movement and agitation, as well as manipulating Congress and the Public, allowed Polk to justify and bring on War.

Don Ramon, a Mexican historian, believed that, it is sufficient to say that the insatiable ambition of the United States, favored by our weakness caused the war. (Readings in American History, p. 165). This ambition to gain territory thus expanding the United States was most prevalent in the champaign of 1844, where a mighty emotional upsurge known as Manifest Destiny (Bailey, p. 387) occurred. This Manifest Destiny, according to countless citizens of the United States, stated that God himself had manifested and destined the American people for a hemispheric career. They felt that they truly had the right and even the duty to spread their truly wonderful institution known as democracy, throughout the continent. This conveniently justified any conquest and expansion. Clearly, the Mexican War was a war of conquest. In a letter to Commodore Sloat, the Secretary of War states that, you will take such measures as will render that vast region, (California) a desirable place of residence for emigrants from our soil. (Readings in American History, p. 161). The order to conquer and take possession of Upper California and New Mexico and to establish civil governments their, was also given. Congress also reflected this attitude, everybody knew–yes everybody knew–that this was to be a war of invasion, a war territorial conquest. (Readings in American History, p. 162). Therefore, by using the concept of Manifest Destiny, Polk, as well as others justified an unjustifiable war of invasion and territorial conquest.

A war of conquest is bad; but the present War has darker shadows. It is a war for the extension of slavery over a territory which has already been purged, by the Mexican authority, from this stain and curse. (Readings in American History, p. 163). As can been seen in the above quotation, the Mexican War was also a war with the objective to expand the slave-run economy of the South. Polk, a Southerner, clearly realized and saw this, thus, pushed hard for this war. Noting the location of the territory to be gained, in the southern part of the country, southerners stated that no doubt that every foot of territory we shall permanently occupy (with slaves). (Readings in American History, p. 163). This acquisition of vast territory definitely upset the careful balance of free to slave states. This balance was the glue of the Nation, keeping it together. When the balance was severed, so was the Union. Thus, as General Grant sums up, the Civil War was largely an outgrowth of the Mexican War. Nations, like individuals are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguine and expensive war of modern time. (Koneck & Konecky Ed., p. 36)

Upon analysis, the Mexican War was truly an unjust war. From its beginnings of incitement of a Mexican attack and the manipulation of the public for their support, the war continued on as an invasion and a conquest, carrying, to a once free territory, the hateful institution of slavery, which ultimately lead to the Civil War, the country s most costly and devastating war in its entire history.

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