The Mexican American War, a war that not only changed the course of history but allowed the U.S to be what it is right now. It was arguably one of the most crucial wars in American history, to say the least. The Mexican American war came to be due to manifest destiny and the expansion across the entire North American continent. The war was a product of the need for more land and power. What many do not speak about was the climate that was surrounding Mexico at the time and the various variables in the war that lead to the victory of America. Foremost one must begin the telling of just how crucial the Mexican American war was to the making of what is now America by telling the story of how the Mexican American war came to be and how influential it ended up being as it led to a new age that conjoined Mexicans and Americans all alike. With its everlasting effects, it contributed to a new age as well with the appropriation of Mexican culture as it became a part of the U.S. What will be analyzed is the countless influence it had on society, the issues that it has brought, and the importance of the war. But before that, the climate of the war and how it came to be will also be analyzed and mentioned.
Writer Richard Bruce Winders wrote “Mr Polk’s army : the American military experience in the Mexican War.” Which gave me a brief insight to how the people in the struggle felt and the larger political pushes Polk made to manage the war. The Mexican American war began in 1846 and it lasted about two years until 1848.It began with President James K. Polk, who believed the United States had a “manifest destiny” to spread across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. He was a crucial factor at the beginning of the war and was able to push for this movement that turned into the freedom of Texas from Mexico. Before getting into the political motives of President Polk and his influence in the beginning of the war one must foremost begin to learn about the President. James K. Polk was the 11th President of the United States from 1845 to 1849. He was often referred to as the last strong President before the Civil War. While he was not been as recognized as other presidents have been, his impact in the Mexican American war leads many to recognize him as the “Dark Horse”. Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, in 1795. And he was seemingly studious and hardworking even as a young kid. This could be referred to the strength that he showed during the Mexican American war and essentially what lead him to be called “The Dark Horse”. The up and coming of Polk became when graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina. He studied to be a lawyer and due to connections, he got into politics, and also served in the Tennessee legislature and became a friend of Andrew Jackson who influenced him a lot as he became good friends with him. Soon after n the House of Representatives, Polk was a chief lieutenant of Jackson in his Bank war. He served as a Speaker between 1835 and 1839, having to leave to become the Governor of Tennessee. This seemed like the end of Polk, but soon certain circumstances raised Polk’s ambitions. Those conditions were when he was a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for Vice President in 1844. Both Martin Van Buren, who had been expected to win the Democratic nomination for President, and Henry Clay, who was to be the Whig nominee, argued for the expansionist issue out of the campaign by opposing the annexation of Texas. Polk, however, and strongly, asserted that Texas should be “re-annexed” and all of Oregon “re-occupied”, he mentioned this publicly with no fear nor hesitance. This was a thing that he believed in wholeheartedly and did not falter in mentioning that when trying to become President. In fact, this was one of the main reasons that Polk was elected as President soon after. Jackson saw the fact that people were for the expansion of the U.S and thus he supported Polk.
Many at the time doubted in Polk and many mocked him by stating “who is Polk”. The Democrats at the time would soon reveal that Polk was the man that was able to link the Texas issue, popular in the South, with the Oregon question, attractive to the North, which in turn allowed him to become very well-known and popular. Polk also favored acquiring California, and obviously this appealed to the emotions of the Americans. Regardless, before he could take office, Congress passed a mutual resolution offering annexation to Texas. In so doing they granted Polk the possibility of war with Mexico which the public was already looking forward to. In his stand on Oregon, the President seemed to even be risking war with Great Britain and this, of course, was one of the reasons many revered him as the “Dark Horse”, since he was such a strong and aggressive leader. Moreover, he was not just an aggressive man nor a dog with no bite. He was an intelligent man that was able to negotiate the deal regarding the Territory of Oregon. In his stand on Oregon, the President risked war with Great Britain, but due to the fact neither were looking forward to truly fight for the territory they came to a peaceful resolution. Therefore the 1844 Democratic platform claimed the entire Oregon area, from the California boundary northward. Extremists at the time proclaimed, “Fifty-four forty or fight,” but Polk was not as thirsty for war as previously mentioned.
The mindset of President Polk and the guidance of Andrew Jackson was what lead to the actual Mexican American war. It was around this time, specifically 1846, that the conflicts regarding Texas as well with the territory that Polk and Jackson deemed American was disputed between Mexico and what would become current America. At the time, not many Mexican owners of the land was willing to sell all their land due to the fact that it meant losing their pride and essentially the only power they had. What was the beginning of the war; was when Polk offered to take California. This was after the British settled for the 49th parallel, except for the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Which lead to a treaty in 1846. After this Polk offered Mexico the sum of up to $20,000,000, plus settlement of damage claims owed to Americans, in return for California and the New Mexico country. No Mexican leader could cede half his country and still stay in power, Polk was met with disappointment at this fact and thus the skirmishes began between Polk and Mexico. Polk was not pleased with Mexico denying his request, so he decided to bring pressure, which seemed to be the way that Polk got around things. And this could have been compared to the way that he also kept annoying the British for territory. Nevertheless, Polk was keen at just applying pressure over countries for more land due to the overwhelming power of America. Polk sent Gen. Zachary Taylor to the disputed area on the Rio Grande. To Mexican troops, this was a sign of aggression and war, so they decided to attack Taylor’s forces. Soon after Congress declared war and, despite much Northern opposition, supported the military operations. American forces won repeated victories and occupied Mexico City which angered many, but the overwhelming force of the U.S was able to just overpower Mexico. The war ended in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty was signed on 2 February 1848, it is the oldest treaty, still in force between the United States and Mexico. As a result of the treaty, the United States acquired 500,000 square miles of territory and became one of the leading world powers in the late nineteenth century.
The war had its everlasting effects that can still be looked upon to this day. Truthfully that is why the majority of America has become Hispanic and able to speak Spanish. It is important to note that it was a major war for the United States. The U.S.-Mexican War had a tremendous impact in fact. For the United States, this was the nation’s first foreign war fought almost entirely on foreign territory, this was never ever done before and the fact that it was able to work well became one of the leading motivations for the U.S to become a superpower. Not only that but it involved multiple armies, long supply lines, a large-scale amphibious landing of troops, and it also provided the first experience of occupying a foreign capital and establishing a military government for an alien population. Separately this was done throughout history often, in fact, it was how the Indians were colonized. But this was one of the first times that the U.S had done this as a country. Despite all this, the war had several cons since many were left dead and the U.S ended up losing about $75 million in accordance to the American lives that were lost during this was. Not only this but Mexico was the one to suffer the most. The psychological effects that it had on the country were seen throughout history. The pride they had in their land was destroyed and it became a series of unfortunate events as they got pushed out. It was a humiliation to the land and to the people and most people falter to see that when celebrating the annexation of Texas. The war left tens of thousands of orphans, widows and cripples spread across the land. The artillery shelling and small-arms gunfire caused widespread damages in many cities, it also happened to block roads and leave many people just stranded in an unsafe environment that ended up destroying the economy as a whole. According to https:library.uta.edu, The naval blockade and movement of thousands of troops across the land harshly affected the economy basically leading to the creation of many poor people and lost people. The wars’ drawbacks all lead to the disrupting of internal and external trade, and the massive influx of peasants caused a steep decline in agricultural and mineral production, this was all due to the war just leaving everything in ruins as many just flooded the streets with no intention of metaphorically getting back up from the damages. The war also destroyed political careers and caused chaos in the country. There was a total of seven presidents and 10 different ministers of foreign relations during the two years of the war. This dramatically changed as the events of the war unfolded. By the end of the war, Mexico led an entirely new despotic regime, this coincidentally led to another civil war amongst the country.
The Mexican American war, a war that can by many to be one of the most brutal in terms of the lasting psychological effects it had on Mexico. With its complete dominance, it was able to pin Mexico into a corner in which it destroyed what once carried Mexican pride so boldly. All becoming the product of Manifest Destiny. Something which little opposed and many encouraged. In fact, Journalist John L. O’Sullivan, spread the idea of “manifest destiny” stating, “[It is] the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty.” But the few that opposed this were people like Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, he would write, “People of the United States! Your Rulers are precipitating you into a fathomless abyss of crime and calamity! Why sleep you thoughtless on its verge, as though this was not your business . . .? Awake and arrest the work of butchery ere it shall be too late to preserve your souls from the guilt of wholesale slaughter!” This is the argument that many did not propose as the war carried on. It became a slaughter of another country despite the American Dream. Moreover, the countless of Indians that were also slaughtered through this ordeal was also a considerable number. Regardless of the various Mexican and American lives that were lost the number of Indians killed during this sliver of time was vast beyond comprehension. With Polk and Jackson as general, it became a ruthless war. Something that many were not able to comprehend and something that goes hand in hand with the Mexican American War. While it may be seen as a tragedy and a victory all at once for Americans, it should not be forgotten the many lives that were lost in order to get here. Without the war, many things would have not been achieved but due to its many lives were lost and it became something of a tragedy. America celebrates the Annexation of Texas as if it was a holiday and they are right to celebrate, but at what cost was America able to accomplish what they wanted.
It is simple and obvious to see the effects the war had back then as the world has had many decades to study through primary sources what happened. But what became of the influence the war has had on the U.S and Mexico in modern day? Well, the war brought U.S a major income since California was found to have a lot of hidden gold and the land itself has proved to be extremely valuable in order for the U.S to keep its role as a superpower. Furthermore, the influence the Spanish left in the U.S is more than noticeable due to its culture and history. According to Census.gov the number of Hispanic people dating from 2017 is 57.5 million. Not only that but the military also holds a prodigious number of Hispanics in correlation to the number that is in. Moreover, the number of Hispanic that was stated was also just the documented ones, which does not include the millions of immigrants that cross over illegally every year. Therefore, the expansion of the U.S was able to reap a lot of rewards in correlation to all the slaughtering that was necessary in order to attain land. California brought tons of money to the U.S and with its abundant resources, it led to one of the most significant gold rushes in history. White settlement accelerated despite the war and it can be argued that the U.S would not have come to be if it was not for this war. The war that was able to bring many people in from different places and areas to fight for one country. The war that killed so many and encouraged the death of Native Americans in order so the U.S could achieve Manifest Destiny.
Although it is overlooked a lot of the times in comparison to the American Civil War, which broke out about 12 years later, the Mexican-American War was just as if not more important to American History than the Civil war, which coincidentally, it would have most likely not have happened if it was not for the Mexican-American War. The massive territories gained during the war make up a large percentage of present-day United States. As an added bonus, gold was discovered shortly in California which made the newly acquired lands even more valuable and worthy. The Mexican-American War was in many ways a precursor to the Civil War. Most of the important Civil War Generals fought in the Mexican-American War as well so it was sort of a brilliant way in which things were connected. The Mexican-American War is invaluable to history, it brought many good things as well with terrible. At the end of the day, America was able to succeed and connect with each other and that is what truly matters, but the Mexican-American War will always have its ever-lasting effects.
Culturally affecting the political and personal day to day life of a resident of Texas. Mexican culture has been imprinted into texan society. A easy to say statement made from a resident not being born in Texas, Palo Alto Professor J. Peterson said that San Antonio felt defend compared to other well-known cities. San Antonio’s rich culture drives its own economy, and picks its positives from the past; as you can see when visiting the downtown area. These proud positives can be seen once a year as the city of San Antonio celebrates history and the cities’ very own culture with a festival named Fiesta. Shifting over to me; I for one am bilingual and live in a large Hispanic community. Getting to learn and actively celebrate my heritage and history is self-fulfilling from a personal perspective.
- Winders, Richard B. “Mr Polk’s army : the American military experience in the Mexican War.” 1st ed. College Station, Tex. : Texas A&M University Press, 1997.
- PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/war/wars_end_guadalupe.html.
- History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/topics/mexican-american-war/mexican-american-war.
- Levinson, Irving W. “The Mexican-American War.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History, 2017, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199366439.013.442.
- Robertson, Lori. “Illegal Immigration Statistics.” FactCheck.org, 10 Aug. 2018, www.factcheck.org/2018/06/illegal-immigration-statistics/.
- US Census Bureau. “Newsroom.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, United States Census Bureau, 3 Aug. 2018, www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/hispanic-heritage.html.
- Texas State Historical Association. TSHAOnline, 1897. https://www.tshaonline.org/home/ . Accessed November 29, 2018.
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