Articles tagged with: Mexican American War

The Ostend Manifesto and the Dark Side of Manifest Destiny

Manifest DestinyManifest Destiny is the idea that a higher power ordained the expansion of American republican government over the North American continent. Rooted in the idea of American Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny was a rallying point for expansionists in the 19th century as many sought to expand the borders of the United States for political, religious, and commercial reasons.

Any fair consideration of Manifest Destiny recognizes that it was not a benign expansion of American institutions over an empty land. At the very least, the westward movement of Americans displaced Indian tribes and disrupted their ways of life. Additionally, Manifest Destiny has inherent racist undertones focusing on the promulgation of ideas of American government and custom as a way of life. While many writings and events of the period demonstrate the belief in the superiority of American ideals idolized by the political majority, the drafting of the Ostend Manifesto in 1854 serves as a useful tool in recognizing the darker side of Manifest Destiny within the scope of Cuban annexation.

Manifest Destiny and Polk’s Inaugural Address

James K. Polk

James K. Polk

In “A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico,” Amy S. Greenberg describes James K. Polk as an “instrument of Manifest Destiny.” Described as a mere “instrument,” Greenberg’s characterization of Polk is likely an understatement as the young president “extended the domain of the United States more than any other president.”[i] Due to his expansion of the United States as a result of the Mexican-American War and his Oregon settlement, Polk must be inextricable linked to Manifest Destiny. In fact, Polk’s 1845 Inaugural Address foreshadows the political philosophy that spread the United States across a continent.

Book Review: The Age of Gold by H.W. Brands

The Age of Gold by H.W. BrandsThe California Gold Rush was a shot of adrenaline in the settlement of the American West. While settlors had been trickling into California and Oregon prior to the discovery of gold by James Marshall in 1848, news of the his gold find energized people around the world to travel to the gold fields. In The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream, H.W. Brands vividly tells the story of not only the immediate effects of Marshall’s discovery, but also the broader effects of the California gold rush on the United States.

The Inspiration of the American Flag: Fremont and California

The Star Spangled Banner

The Star Spangled Banner

Memorialized best in Francis Scott Key’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the American flag invokes a rallying cry among those witnessing its fluttering in the wind. Through the words “What so proudly we hailed,” Key instantly described the effect of seeing the American flag waiving over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. Renewed by this sight, Key and others forgot the uncertainly of the previous battle.

Throughout history and throughout the world, this scene has been repeated countless times. For John C. Fremont, increasing tensions between his explorers and the Mexican government of California caused such an event in March, 1846.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo – The Aftermath of the Mexican American War

Treaty of Guadalupe HidalgoFor much of the middle portion of the 19th century, Manifest Destiny – the idea that the United States was destined to occupy and remake the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans – shaped American foreign policy. While the Louisiana Purchase and the 1846 Oregon Treaty furthered the goal of coast-to-coast settlement, the February 2, 1848 signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo completed the southern half of the Manifest Destiny puzzle and ended the Mexican American War.

While the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo resolved the issues between Mexico and the United States that led to war, it created many new issues within the United States as rival political factions vied to form the new territory in their own view.

The Thornton Affair

Wars are creatures of men and do not spontaneously begin. Rather, there is some event – a casus belli – that spurs nations to battle. The siege of Fort Sumter in 1861 or the Japanese Navy’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941 precipitated years of armed struggle.

James_Polk_restoredA casus belli is often controversial, such as the Thornton Affair during the Mexican American War. The Thornton Affair focused a squadron of 63 dragoons dispatched up the Rio del Norte to assess whether any Mexican troops had crossed into territory claimed by the United States. The troops were led by Captain Seth Thornton and despite indications that “the enemy had crossed in strength,” Captain Thornton pressed on. Ultimately, his men were surrounded at a ranch and captured.

The School Yard of the Mexican American War

Saddam_rumsfeldThe cross roads of history are replete of examples of individuals crossing paths who would latter play much more significant roles. For example, the iconic photograph of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in December, 1983 contrasts with Mr. Rumsfeld’s subsequent role in removing the Iraqi leader from power.

The personalities involved in the Mexican American War are no different. Winfield Scott, the general in chief of the American army that captured Mexico City, crafted the Anaconda Plan, the initial strategy designed to economically devastate the South during the Civil War. George Meade, Robert E. Lee, P.T.G. Beauregard, Ulysses S. Grant, and other key officers received training under fire that shaped them into the commanders of the commanders of the coming conflict.

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