U.S. Thrift of Mexican Territory
Professor: Stacy Hartlage
March 25, 2012
U.S. Thrift of Mexican Territory
In a blink of an eye, Mexicans became foreigners in their own land. After signing The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexico lost more than 50% of its land, about 949.000 square miles (Nugent 187) including the areas of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. All of this happened at a time when Mexico was very weak and almost bankrupt after a long fight in the Spanish War for their independence. Even the United States President Ulysses S. Grant acknowledged in his personal memoirs about the war the following: “For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation” (Nugent 187). It is clear that the Mexican-American War was one of the most unfair wars in the history of this country and that the intentions of United States were to aggressively expand the U.S. territory.
After the Spanish War, Mexico became an independent nation and gained fairly and honorably the territories of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and California. During this time, Mexico was inspired to become a modern nation with political stability and economic growth but they were struggling to realize their vision. At the time of the war with the U.S., Mexico felt that they were a weaker nation that was just about to be oppressed by a strong and powerful country. That is why the Mexican citizens rose in defense of their country. These soldiers risk their life and thousands of them die to protect their nation against illegitimates acts of injustice.
The United States was very clear about the interest they had in purchasing the area now called Texas, and made multiple offers to Mexico which were rejected every single time. Meanwhile, Mexico like the other nations of the Americas had problems populating their isolated regions. In an effort to populate these regions, the Mexican government allowed the Americans to settle in their northern land (King 1). This act of good faith turn out into a problem when Texas became occupied in majority by Americans (Anglos outnumbered Mexicans “Tejanos” by ten to one) and declared their independence and decided to be part of United States in 1845 (King 1, Nugent 131).
When Mexico allowed Americans to have a piece of land free of charge, the Mexican government established a few conditions to preserve the culture and the same lawns as the rest of the country. These rules were: Americans would have to convert to Catholic religion, work the land, agree not to have slaves, and they had to learn the Spanish language. After not too long, the majority of people in Texas, now Anglos, started to complain about Mexico’s rules and this was their reason to seek independence from Mexico and to be annexed as part of United States in 1845(King 1).
The independence of this rebel province and the annexation to the American Union was one of the most noteworthy reasons for the beginning of The Mexican American War (Rodriguez Diaz 3). México did not agree with the independence of Texas and the annexation by the U.S. or with other limits that the United States was proposing. As per the Mexican government the limit with Texas was the Nueces River (located about 150 miles north of Rio Grande), but the United States government claimed that the limit was Rio Grande.
It is also important to examine that Mexico’s position to defend itself was very underprivileged; the lack of economic founds, poorly equipped military and weak army was very obvious. The absence of uniforms, food, shelter, guns, and ammunition was very clear, as well as the inadequacy of training and battlefield experience in the soldiers.
The concept of Manifest of Destiny played a very important part in The Mexican American War. This was a belief that Americans had the moral duty to expand because of their “superiority” in areas like morality, religion, race and culture. For this reason, they felt that they had an obligation to help other inferior people who needed guidance. This perceived duty was to “civilize” the Mexicans by expanding America’s moral values, virtues and democratic institutions to this country. This Manifest of Destiny also held that America had a divine fate to do God’s work which was the development of the American nation. In reality, the concept of the Manifest of Destiny was only a political excuse of the United States to support her geographic expansion plans.
During the Mexican American War, the American military utilized five separate armies to invade Mexico (King 4). The War started when the President James K. Polk sent the United States troops to Mexico because of the disagreements about the occupation limits in the disputed territories. The American government sent its armies into the northern New Mexico under the command of General Stephen W. Kearny. The U.S. Army followed the route of the Santa Fe Trail with the purpose of attacking the Mexican supply lines by directing merchants to follow their orders. Two of the armies moved south from Texas, while a third one traveled to the west to Santa Fe, then New Mexico and finally to California. A series of battles at Palo Alto under the command of General Zachary Taylor defeated the Mexicans. The troops then moved south and the United States Navy took Monterey and California. They then captured City of Mexico, the capital, which was transformed into a base camp for the U.S. military. On March 9, 1847, General Scott with an army of 12,000 men took the port of Veracruz, Mexico’s most important port city.
Some of the tactics used by the troops were to attack the Mexican supply lines and to bombard the city of Veracruz by means of the U.S. Navy. The War came to an end when the Mexican troops where outnumber by the U.S. army at the Chapultepec Castle and they took the charge of Mexico City.
During the course of the War around 12,000 American soldiers died, but only 1,700 on the battlefield. The others died because of disease and poor living conditions. On the other hand, an estimated 25,000 Mexican soldiers died during the War.
Another interesting point about the Mexican-American War is the fact that some of the American troops decided to support the Mexicans. This was the case of the Battalion of San Patricio. It is believed that a total of 9,000 to 10,800 American soldiers deserted to support the Mexican cause. They felt a need to sympathize because of the unfairness of the war and in support of the catholic religion in Mexico. At the end of the War, most of them were sentenced to be executed by a U.S. military tribunal court because they were considered traitors. To this day The San Patricio’s are considered heroes of war by the Mexican people and their history.
Like Foos, I believe that a many of the American soldiers disagreed with the purposes and methods of the Mexican-American War. This was the case of the Orlando John Hodge of Ohio. Hodge was a soldier of the Tenth U.S. Infantry. Most of his comrades were from New York and New Jersey and some were from Ohio and Indiana. John Hodge served in northeastern Mexico in the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista (Foos 156). In some of Hodge’s letters to his brother, he wrote that his superior, Lieutenant Stephen Powers, was one of the most abusive men in the whole regimen (Foos 156). Hodge described how Powers almost killed someone who did not work fast enough. Hodge also he witnessed numerous executions of deserters from his own regiment. Additionally, Hodge was growing tired of the crimes of his comrades against Mexican people describing their behavior as unmilitary and uncivilized (Foos 158).
The war was a disastrous hit for Mexico. The destruction that left the country in ruins was all around on a massive way. Mexicans were forced to sign away almost half of the land they owned. The money that the U.S. paid for these territories was then used to rebuild the wreckage that the U.S. left in the country. Then, the economic hit that Mexico endured after the war was never relief by the payment that U.S. gave to Mexico for their land. Furthermore the U.S. got a lot of wealth like oil and gold in the lands that they acquired from Mexico, which help the nation to grow immensely and to become an empire economically strong.
I agree with Nugent’s thoughts in his book “Habits of the Empire that “recalling that “Of all the American territorial acquisitions of the nineteenth century, Texas was the purest case of demography determining an area’s destiny- not diplomacy, not luck, and not even military conquest.” And as we have already learned, Texas was the beginning of the U.S. take- over of many Mexican many territories.
To this day the Mexican’s keep regretting the consequences of the War. The way that this conflict hurt the honor of the country, reduced their territory, and stole a lot of wealth to the country, has no excuse or name. Without a doubt, the United States took advantage of a vulnerable and economically inferior nation to appropriate of a huge part of Mexico’s land to gain power over them. As many other Americans that did not agree with this War, I also feel that the unfairness of these actions were very clear and I understand that Wars are not always fair, but it would it be a good change, if we try to apply so ethics and morals at times of important decisions.
Del Rosario Rodríguez Díaz, María. “Mexico’s Vision Of Manifest Destiny During The 1847 War.” Journal Of Popular Culture 35.2 (2001): 41. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.
Foos, Paul. “Short, Offhand, Killing Affair : Soldiers And Social Conflict During The Mexican-American War.” University of North Carolina Press, 2002. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 25 Feb. 2012.
King, Rosemary. “Border Crossings In The Mexican American War.” Bilingual Review 25.1 (2000): 63. Sociological Collection. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.
Sandoval, David A. “The American Invasion of New Mexico and Mexican Merchants.” Journal Of Popular Culture 35.2 (2001): 61. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.
Nugent, Walter. “Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansionism.” Westminster, MD. Vintage Books, 2009. Print.