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   Chapter 25 THE AMERICAN ATTITUDE ON THE EVE OF WAR No.25

The War With Mexico, Volume I (of 2) By Justin H. Smith Characters: 19540

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1. Buchanan in Cong. Globe, 28, 1, app., 723. For public sentiment regarding the Santa Fe prisoners see the New Orleans papers of March, 1842 (e.g. Com. Bulletin, Mar. 18), and Smith, Annex. of Texas, 31–2. 52Consul Dimond, Jan. 20, 1843. (Sentmanat) 52Consul Porter, July 20, 1844. Sentmanat's party included several Americans. (Reptiles) 77Clipping from New Orleans Bee. State Sentinel, Sept. 27, 1845. (American prisoners) N. Orl. Comm. Bull., Mar. 18, 1844. Ark. Hist. Comm., Bulletin no. 6, p. 182.

2. The statements regarding American feeling appear to be self-evident. In the daily press the author has found abundant proof of them, but it would require a great deal of space to prove inductively the state of public sentiment. 42Delegates, Feb. 12, 1847.

3. These statements also are presented as conclusions based upon an extended examination of the daily press (see Smith, Annex. of Texas, 472), speeches in Congress, etc. For example, the remarks made in Congress with reference to Jackson's request for authority to adopt forcible measures (p. 77 of this volume) contained many kind references to Mexico. This feeling persisted. In the Richmond Enquirer, Dec. 9, 1845, its Washington correspondent stated that he found the Democrats of both houses of Congress sincerely desired the friendship and confidence of that country. Id., Oct. 17, 1845. Note the first page of chap. xxxvi. For anti-slavery accusations: J. Q. Adams in Boston Atlas, Oct. 17, 1842 (Smith, Annex. of Texas, 131). For the use of money to influence the American press: ibid., 184.

4. (Forbearance) N. Orl. Bee, Feb. 19, 1846; Picayune, May 5, 1846; Guard, May 15, 1846; N. Orl. Comm. Bull., Mar. 16, 1846, and infra. 52Van Buren to Butler, Oct. 16, 1829. 13Count E. de Lillers to Gutiérrez [Mar., 1830]. (Jackson) Chap. iii, p. 77. (Imbecility) Picayune, June 23, 1842.

5. Picayune, Apr. 6, 1842. (Webster) Sen. 320; 27, 2, p. 205. Sen. 411; 27, 2. (Less willing) Chap. iii, p. 80. Jeff. Repub., Aug. 7, 1845.

6. Republican, Feb. 2, 1846.Picayune, Jan. 28, 1846. Delta, Jan. 21, 1846. Mo. Reporter, Apr. 18, 1846. Comm. Bulletin, Mar. 16, 1846.

7. Mex. consul, no. 79, Apr. 1, 1842. (Justly) Smith, Annex. of Texas, "England" in index. (Influence) Ibid., 72, 136, 153; 56W. S. Parrott, June 4, 1846 ("Mexico may be said to be completely in the hands of England"). Commonwealth, Feb. 23, 1846. Times, Nov. 21, 1845.

8. Natchez Courier and Journal, Apr. 14, 1846. Courrier des E. U. in Memphis Enquirer, Feb. 24, 1846. E.g. Picayune, Feb. 5, 1846. Cong. Globe, 29, 1, p. 256 (Hannegan).

9. Delta, Mar. 27: the pending difficulties must be settled effectually. La. Courier, Mar. 6: "The time has arrived when the U. S. must decide to act firmly and put an end to the uncertainty of our relations with Mexico." Picayune, Jan. 24: "While our relations remain in this miserable condition, our territory is liable to sudden invasion and our citizens to arbitrary exactions ... the intrigues of trans-Atlantic states demand to be counteracted, and the hostile purposes of Mexico need to be met with peremptory measures." St. Louis Reporter, Jan. 31: "Delay on our part to bring to a positive settlement all existing difficulties with Mexico would be mere madness and folly." Picayune, May 5: "There is no proposition in mathematics more absolutely demonstrable than the impossibility of having a good understanding with Mexico before giving her a sound drubbing." (Designs) Id., Dec. 30, 1845; Feb. 5, 1846. 52Consul Campbell, Jan. 7, 1846.

10. (Abolitionists) N. Orl. Comm. Bulletin, Mar. 18, 1842. (Calhoun) Smith, Annex. of Texas, 209, 211, 213–6. Calhoun's remark was given to the author by Judge Martin of South Carolina, to whom it was made in the spring of 1847, and is fully in line with Calhoun's action. (Mississippi) The author thinks he has heard Dr. Wm. E. Dodd of the University of Chicago express such an opinion.

11. E.g. Ills. State Register, Dec. 27, 1844: "If war shall ensue, let it not close until the empire of Mexico" is added to the Union; Baker of Illinois in House, Jan. 29, 1846: "We must have California, and perhaps all Mexico" (Cong. Globe, 29, 1, p. 279). Besides this feeling there was a general territorial ambition, which looked in an indefinite way to a rather distant future and a peaceful, natural extension.

12. American Review, Sept., 1845, 227. No Burr was needed, however, to plant these seeds.

13. (Consul) 13Salkeld to Crawford, Feb. 25, 1830. (1835) Journal des Débats, May 25, 1848. 13Elliot to Pakenham, Apr. 14, 1843. (News and Tribune) Nashville Union, Aug. 5, 1845. Plebeian, Mar. 1, 1845: "The whole world cannot resist our onward march, until our proud flag waves over every inch of territory on the continent of North America." 253Sanders to McLean, Dec. 29, 1846: "The people if not wicked are rapacious and Anglo-Saxon-like prefer conquest to principle." The Oregon discussion revealed clearly the thirst for territory (Cong. Globe, 29, 1, app., e.g. Smith, Hunter, Pollock, Rockwell, Toombs, pp. 104, 89, 120, 129, 133. W. H. Seward, Mar. 31, 1846: "The popular passion for territorial aggrandizement is irresistible" (Works, iii, 409). N. Y. Herald, June 15, 1844. Livermore, War, 12.

14. Herald, Aug. 30, 1845. (Illinois) Everett, Recolls., 194. W. E. Dodd in Ills. State Hist. Soc. Trans., 1912, p. 17. Indiana State Sentinel, 1845, passim. (Debt) Green, Repudiation, 13. American Review, Sept., 1845, p. 227. (Calhoun) Jameson, Calhoun Corresp., 692. Lyell, Second Visit, ii, 257. Livermore, War, 6, 8, 10. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 49. (Powerful) New Englander, v, 318–9; 206J. Graham to Gov. G., Jan. 4, 1846.

15. Herald, Aug. 30, 1845. News in Nat. Intelligencer, Sept. 4, 1845. Journ. of Comm., May 21, 1845. Gen. Worth wrote in the autumn of 1845: "Our people will not rest satisfied without a war with some power" (N. Y. Times, July 16, 1916). Claiborne (Quitman, i, 310): the people "demanded war and were determined to have it." For information regarding the state of mind prevailing in western Tennessee and the adjacent regions the author is greatly indebted to Gov. James D. Porter of Nashville, who was a young man at the time of the Mexican war. The fact that hunting occupied the place of work had no little influence. (Hunting) Rose, McCulloch, 29.

16. Comm. Bulletin, Mar. 17, 1842. (Wealth) Smith, Annex. of Texas, 49. (Willing) Tribune, May 11, 1845. 210I. E. Holmes to Hammond, May 10, 1846 (The Westerners want to despoil the churches and plantations). (Letter) Globe, Aug. 25, 1845. News in Mobile Herald and Tribune, Sept. 7, 1845. The Whigs were of course inclined on partisan grounds to denounce the Democratic party and the administration for every sign of hostility to Mexico, and to maintain that if the Texas policy of their candidate for the Presidency, Henry Clay, had been followed there would have been no danger of war. Indeed, it would seem at first sight as if they could have found no logical escape from this position. But they were able to say, particularly in the south: We opposed immediate annexation; we predicted that it would cause trouble with Mexico; but the country voted that way, and now as patriotic Americans we accept the consequences. Sentiment in favor of fighting Mexico was by no means confined to the Democrats.

17. ("Slaves") N. Orl. Comm. Bulletin in Savannah Republican, Aug. 15, 1845. The popular American idea of a Mexican was a fat face, a double chin, a muddy complexion, a bloated body, coarse appetites, a crude organization generally, and no brains to speak of above the ears-only enough to talk with. Spanish rule and the mixture of Indian blood had tended naturally to produce something of this sort, but finer types were very numerous and sometimes brilliant. (Soldiery) N. Y. Tribune, May 11, 1845; 354Welles papers. (Picture) Comm. Bulletin, Mar. 17, 1842. "Who's for Mexico?" ran Colonel Dakin's advertisement in the New Orleans Tropic; "All who may feel disposed to make a pleasant excursion to the Frontiers of Mexico (and perhaps to explore some parts of that country) will find all the means and facilities requisite by enrolling themselves in the Regiment of Louisiana Volunteers" (Phila. No. American, Aug. 27, 1845).

18. Nat. Intelligencer, Sept. 4. Picayune, Aug. 27. Enquirer, Aug. 10. Union, Aug. 21, 1845; Feb. 10, 1847. Reveille, Aug. 28. ("Go") Picayune, Aug. 17. 297Buchanan to McLane, Sept. 13.

19. (News) Mobile Herald and Tribune, Sept. 7; Oct. 22, 1845. Less was said for a time, but probably no less was felt. Of course the New Englanders did not share the sentiment very fully. The South Atlantic states-influenced by Calhoun and, as Poinsett admitted (192to Lewis, Jan. 5, 1846), by the dread of privateers-did not feel sure that the stake was worth the risk. But the total sentiment in favor of war with Mexico was tremendous. Calhoun himself recognized that the country stood that way (Jameson, Cal. Corresp., 704 to T. G. C.). Correspondent, Apr. 15, 1846. Enquirer, Jan. 20, 1846. Mo. Reporter, Apr. 18, 1846. 210Hammond to Simms, Mar. 21, 1847.

20. (Glory) 345Poinsett to Van Buren, Mar. 9, 1848. (Power) Jameson, Calhoun Corresp., 728. (Oregon) Pendleton, Stephens, 76. (Re-elected) Johnston and Browne, Stephens, 200. (Bancroft) Schouler, U. S., iv, 498; Howe, Bancroft, i, 288, 290. The subject of California will be discussed fully in chap. xvi, but in order to allay prejudice it is touched upon here.

21. See "Office-seekers" in index of Polk's Diary.

22. Anson Jones, the last President of the Texas republic, asserted in his book that Polk was "pre-determined to have a war" with Mexico (p. 46). As evidence he maintained that Donelson, the United States minister in Te

xas, under the pretext of defending Texas against an unreal danger of invasion, brought into that country American troops in order to ensure a collision with Mexico; but (1) Donelson fully believed that Texas was in danger of invasion, and (2) there were ample grounds for that opinion (Smith, Annex. of Texas, 449). Moreover Donelson, instead of hurrying our troops into Texas, was very anxious that none should cross her frontier until after her full acceptance of annexation, which could not occur before July 4, 1845 (ibid., 446, 448, 456); and we have seen how threatening were the language and movements of Mexico at that stage. As Texas became to all intents and purposes a part of the United States on accepting our proposition, the duty to protect her people was then clear.

Jones also asserted that agents of Polk urged him to send the Texas militia against Mexico in the spring of 1845 in order to bring about a war;but this is misleading (Smith, Annex. of Texas, 446–8). The confidential orders given to Conner and Stockton of the navy and the correspondence between the state department and Donelson prove that Polk's administration had not the least intention of adopting at this time an aggressive course toward Mexico.

Finally, Jones stated that he received clear proof of his charge from Texan agents at Washington. He admitted, however, that (although he does not appear to have lost any other important documents) he had mislaid their reports; and his assertion is inconsistent with known facts. For example, he said (p. 491) that Lee, one of these agents, reported about September 13 that he found Polk, Marcy, Walker and Ritchie "excessively angry" with Jones for not consenting, months before, to an attack upon Mexico; but Lee did in fact report, September 6 and 8, that he was received "cordially" by Polk, Walker and Ritchie, and that Polk sent his "sincere regard" to Jones (Jones, Memoranda, 485, 490; Tex. Dipl. Corres., ii, 398). Again, according to Jones another Texan agent informed him "of the deep anxiety expressed by Polk for a war with Mexico." Now of course Polk may have said that a war was needed to redress American wrongs, but to suppose that a man who kept his own counsel so closely would have confessed to this comparative stranger a dishonorable intention concealed from everybody else, and would have done so knowing that in reality he and Jones were at swords' points on a vital matter, annexation, is incredible. When Jones wrote his book he was a ruined man in consequence of the general and well-founded belief that he had tried to prevent the incorporation of Texas in the United States, and he was very bitter against Polk. Not long afterward he committed suicide. His book, apparently prepared as a defence of himself, is often untrustworthy; and how clear-headed he was at the time of writing it is shown by his assertion that Texas was in undisputed possession of the territory to the Rio Grande, yet that by advancing to that stream Taylor "produced the Mexican war" (p. 68).

Ashbel Smith, in general a much better witness, stated that agents of Polk endeavored to have the militia sent against Mexico so as to bring on a war (Remins., 66–7); but as he was in Europe at the time he had no personal knowledge regarding the matter, and he also was opposed to annexation.

Evidence of Polk's alleged desire to provoke a war may be seen by some in the language of the Union, his organ at Washington, which declared blatantly that the Rio Grande was the boundary of the United States, and that Mexico would invite ruin, should her troops cross it (May 1; September 11, 13, 1845, etc.). But (1) the government had reason to believe that we had been too mild toward Mexico, and may have wished to suggest to her the danger of being rash; (2) the purpose may have been to satisfy the many Americans who complained that our national authorities lacked spirit; (3) as Polk was officially offering Mexico the olive branch at this time, the bellicose utterances of the Union, which was not recognized by the administration as its organ, could not have been regarded by the Mexican government as evidence that he desired a war, but only at most as a suggestion of what might follow should the olive branch be rejected. From this point of view they would seem to have tended toward peace rather than war (cf. his policy of having Taylor and Conner assume bold attitudes-chap. vii, p. 152).

23. The author's estimate of Polk is based upon a study of his conduct and all the documents relating to him. One may consult to advantage the Welles papers; Schouler, Hist. Briefs, 124, 129, 132; Poore, Perley's Remins., i, 328–9; Howe, Bancroft, i, 294; Claiborne, Quitman, i, 228; Jenkins, Polk, 330; McLaughlin, Introd. to Polk's Diary; Meigs, Ingersoll, 273–4; Id., Benton, 382; Reeves on Polk's Diary in Polit. Science Review, 1911, 288. 297H. M. Field to Mrs. Polk, Mar. 30, 1889 (Bancroft told me yesterday that Polk was abler than any member of his Cabinet). Benton, View, ii, 680. (Toombs) Phillips, Toombs, 37. Though Polk seems personally destitute of humor, he had known how to make an effective use of it on the stump. It must not be forgotten that he had served fourteen years in the national House and been Speaker twice. (Fidelity) Polk, Diary, Aug. 14, 1848 (I had not been three miles from the White House since July, 1847).

24. (Discussions) E.g. Smith, Annex. of Texas, p. 264, note (Benton). 351Webster to son, Mar. 11, 1845. (Writhings) The reference is to Polk's anxious and unfriendly expressions about Scott and Taylor, which grew largely out of political considerations. See chap. ix, pp. 199–200.

25. 297Polk to Haywood, Aug. 9, 1845, confid. 297Buchanan to McLane, Sept. 13, 1845.

26. 48To Conner, Mar. 29; July 11; Aug. 16. 48To Sloat, Mar. 21; June 24. 48To Id., Aug. 30 (orders to "preserve peace if possible"). The despatch of June 24 to Sloat said further: You and every part of your squadron "should be assiduously careful to avoid any act which could be construed as an act of aggression." Dec. 5, 1845, Sloat was notified that "our relations with Mexico are becoming more friendly." The instructions to Sloat about occupying San Francisco were made contingent on Mexican action, indicating that an American declaration of war was not even contemplated. 52To Donelson, June 3. (Frémont) Benton, View, ii, 579. Mrs. Frémont, with the approval of her father, Senator Benton, held back the order (ibid.). Richardson, Messages, iv, 427–8. The Washington correspondent of the N. Y. Sun wrote: "It is the opinion of those best qualified to judge, though not my own, that the President did not seek or wish the war with Mexico" (Sun, June 4, 1846).

27. Republican, Aug. 19. Picayune, Aug. 27. Globe, Aug. 25. Courier in Picayune, Aug. 27.

28. (Scale) Polk, Diary, Sept. 30, 1845. Sen. 1; 29, 1, pp. 209 (Scott); 649 (Bancroft). Howe, Bancroft, i, 289. (Navy unprepared) Conner, Home Squadron, 9–10.

29. 56W. S. Parrott to Buchanan, June 29, 1845. The correspondence between Buchanan and Slidell contains, to be sure, expressions indicating a design to influence public opinion in the United States. January 20, 1846, the minister was directed to conduct himself "with such wisdom and firmness in the crisis" that the voice of the American people would be "unanimous in favor of redressing the wrongs of our much injured and long suffering claimants" (Buchanan, no. 5). But as Herrera had now refused to receive Slidell and a peaceful settlement had become extremely improbable, this was obviously a wise and proper injunction, and by no means implied that a rupture had been desired. No one who goes open-mindedly through the documents can accept the fine-spun theory that Polk knew Slidell would not be received, and sent him in order to make a show of pacific intentions and obtain a pretext for war. He already had better grounds for war; and had he been determined to fight, he would have been extremely foolish to offer his intended victim an opportunity to restore friendly relations, for undeniably it was quite possible-from the American point of view, considering the comparative weakness of Mexico, far more than possible-that she would seize upon it. Polk, Diary, Mar. 28–30; Apr. 3. American (Whig) Review, 1847, p. 325. Slidell, no. 13, Apr. 2. Id., Apr. 9 (Curtis, Buchanan, i, 599).

30. Examiner, June 13. Ho. 158; 28, 2, p. 3 (Upshur). 13Ashburnham to Backhouse, July 6, 1838. Santangelo, Address, 31: "Have a number of American citizens been unjustly injured by Mexico in their persons and property, or not? Have our government and nation been gratuitously outraged by Mexico, or not?"

31. Slidell, Mar. 18 (Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 66). 52Dimond, no. 265, Oct. 1, 1845. British minister in Siglo XIX, Sept. 24, 1845.

32. Times, Jan. 8, 15. Picayune, Dec. 30, 1845. Buchanan to Slidell, no. 7, Mar. 12, 1847 (Information received from various quarters that several European powers may be aiming to establish monarchy in Mexico). Dec. 1, 1847, Olozaga showed in the Spanish Cortes a statement of large sums spent by Spain in 1846 to place a Spanish prince on the throne of Mexico (Dix, Speeches, i, 214, note). See also chap. x, note 21.

33. Vattel, Law of Nations (Chitty), book ii, chap. iv, secs. 49–51.

34. American trade with Mexico declined from $9,029,221 in 1835 to $1,152,331 in 1845 (Niles, Oct. 17, 1846, p. 104). (Contrary) 52Buchanan to Slidell, Nov. 10, 1845. The protest of the Mexican minister at Washington against the annexation of Texas asserted the right of his country to recover Texas at any time and by all the means in her power (Cong. Globe, 30, 1, 334).

35. (Oregon) London Times, Sept. 30, 1847. Polk, Diary, Apr. 22, 1846.

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