EXPANSION IN THE SOUTHWEST AND THE MEXICAN WAR
ORIGINS OF THE MEXICAN WAR
“The Republic of Texas has made known her desire to come into our Union, to form a part of our Confederacy and enjoy with us the blessings of liberty secured and guaranteed by our Constitution. Texas was once a part of our country, was unwisely ceded away to a foreign power, is now independent, and possesses an undoubted right to dispose of a part or the whole of her territory and to merge her sovereignty as a separate and independent state in ours.
“I congratulate my country that by an act of the late Congress the assent of this government has been given to the reunion, and it only remains for the two countries to agree upon the terms to consummate an object so important to both.
“I regard the question of annexation as belonging exclusively to the United States and Texas. They are independent powers, competent to contract; and foreign nations have no right to interfere with them or to take exceptions to their reunion.
“Foreign powers do not seem to appreciate the true character of our government. Our Union is a confederation of independent states, whose policy is peace with each other and al the world. To enlarge its limits is to extend the dominion of peace over additional territories and increasing millions....
“To Texas the reunion is important because the strong protecting arm of our government would be extended over her, and the vast resources of her fertile soil and genial climate would be speedily developed, while the safety of New Orleans and our whole Southwestern frontier against hostile aggression, as well as the interests of the whole Union, would be promoted by it.”
President James K. Polk, Inaugural Address (March 4, 1845)
1846 “Mexico has passed the boundary of the United State, has invaded our territory, and shed American blood on American soil.” Pres. James K. Polk, asking Congress to declare war on Mexico.
1847 “The great loss on both sides has deprived me of everything like pleasure.” Gen. Zachary Taylor, victor in the Battle of San Jacinto (February 1847).
1847 “The halls of Montezuma” Chapultepec, in Mexico City, former capital of the Aztecs, attacked in September 1847 by U.S. Marines attached to Gen. Winfield Scott’s army.
Opposition to the War
1847 “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 Mexican authority from this stain and curse.” Charles Sumner, Report on the War
1848 “The whole country from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and from the shore to the base of the Sierra Nevada, resounds with the sordid cry of gold! Gold!! GOLD!!! while the field is left half planted, the house half built, and everything neglected but the manufacture of shovels and pickaxes.” News article that appeared shortly after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill on the American River, northeast of San Francisco (January 24, 1848).
1849 “The news spreads that wonderful ‘diggings’ have been discovered... [Miners] rush vulture-like upon the scene and erect a round tent, where, in gambling, drinking, swearing and fighting, the many reproduce Pandemonium... while a few honestly and industriously commence digging for gold, and lo! As if a fairy’s wand had been waved,... a full-grown mining-town hath sprung into existence.” Louisa Smith Clapp, who accompanied her husband to California, on life among the Forty-Niners in the gold fields.
1851 “I estimate that there could have been at Hornitos from 250 to 300 persons, all men in the prime of life: I saw no women there, nor children, nor old people. In business, they spoke English and Spanish; in the street, still covered in brush, we heard all possible tongues spoken.” Jean-Nicolas Perlot, a Belgian, who went to the Yosemite Valley with 44 others, sent by a French company to search for and mine California gold.
“Whereas, it has become apparent to the citizens of San Francisco that there is no security for life and property,... and that, by the association together of bad characters, our ballot boxes have been stolen and others substituted, or stuffed with votes that were never polled, and thereby our elections nullified, our dearest rights violated, and no other method left by which the will of the people can be manifested:
“Therefore, the citizens whose names are hereunto attached do unite themselves unto an association for the maintenance of the peace and good order of society, the prevention and punishment of crime, the preservation of our lives and property, and to ensure that our ballot boxes shall hereafter express the actual and unforged will of the majority of our citizens...”
Constitution of the Vigilance Committee of San Francisco (“Vigilantes”)