Mexico and the United States share historical experiences. Both nations experienced periods of colonization, revolution, and independence. However, the experiences of each nation through these periods differ greatly. A cursory examination of these experiences helps to understand how each nation benefited, or suffered, from the legacy of those experiences. My aim is to understand the trends that brought each nation to war in 1846. I am not establishing blame, justifying actions, proclaiming heroes, or identifying villains.
“Something was said which drew from General Taylor the expression of views which greatly surprised me. They were to the effect that California and Oregon were too distant to become members of the Union, and it would be better for them to be an independent government. He said that our people would inhabit them and repeated that it would be better for them to form an independent government for themselves. These are alarming opinions to be entertained by the President of the United States.”
An excerpt from James K. Polk’s diary entry of Monday, March 5, 1849. Polk is relating a conversation between himself, President Zachary Taylor, W.W. Seaton (the Mayor of Washington D.C.), and Robert Winthrop (former Speaker of the House of Representatives) conducted during a carriage ride after Taylor’s inauguration.
Nevins, Allan (ed). Polk: The Diary of a President 1845-1849. New York: Capricorn Books, 1968. p 389.
There are few monuments in the United States to the U.S. Servicemen who gave their lives in service during the U.S.- Mexican War. None on the mall in Washington, D.C. These are a few of the Mexican- American War Memorials from around the U.S.
Context is key to understanding a historic event, and contextualizing a complex event is a challenge. Where do you begin? Too far removed and the history will lack nuance. Too close and the history may present the event as particular when, in fact, it reflected a larger trend. Because the United States and Mexico were both new countries at the war’s outbreak in 1846, an overview of each nation’s colonial history is necessary. From there I studied each nation’s early history, looking at political, economic, and social developments. I examined the domestic concerns that animated people in both countries. Abolitionists in the U.S. fearing the expansion of slavery, or Mexican elites facing potential revolution and ethnic unrest. Or leaders in both nations fearing political adventurism in the continent’s undeveloped vastness. Concerns not unfounded. They were rooted in experience, in history.
“The drama, indeed the tragedy, of history comes from our understanding of the tension that existed between the conscience wills and intentions of the participants in the past and the underlying conditions that constrained their actions and shaped their future.”
Wood, Gordon S. The Purpose of The Past: Reflections on the Uses of History. (New York: The Penguin Press, 2008).p.11
We had so much fun visiting Europe last year that we decided to book another Globus tour this year. This time we booked the Irish Escape, a 7-day tour of the Republic of Ireland that begins and ends in Dublin. Globus Escapes are a great introductory tour that visits many of the highlights associated with the tour’s given nation(s). We elected to travel in off-season again, March in celebration of my 60th birthday, as the prices are much reduced.
“Rather than trying to understand the past on its own terms, these historians want the past to be immediately relevant and useful; they want to use history to empower people in the present, to help them develop self-identity, or to enable them to break free of that past.”
“In their well-intentioned but often crude efforts to make the past immediately usable, these scholars undermine the integrity and the pastness of the past.”
Gordon S. Wood on many cultural historians from:
Wood, Gordon S. The Purpose of The Past: Reflections on the Uses of History. (New York: The Penguin Press, 2008).p8
Ron has produced an excellent history of the Alamo. From it’s construction to today, his posts cover the compound’s entire history. This is the first in a series of nine posts (so far?) on the subject. Just one of many series he has written on various subjects.
By the end of 15th century Span had claimed for itself all of South and Central America and as far north in North American as California, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas. But claiming these lands and controlling them were two totally a different matters.
The professional Spanish Conquistadors sole mission was to look for gold and silver, not to create settlements for Spain. This was very true with their North America claims. In fact Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Kansas went completely unsettled by the Spanish. The Spanish also had problems in populating the extreme northern parts of Florida and Mexico.
Although British colonists from Georgia and the Carolina colonies had begun settling in northern Florida and its panhandle it was losing their state of Texas that worried Spain the most.
In 1689, near Matagorda Bay in Texas, they found the remains of French explorer La Salle’s Fort Saint…
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“Remember the days of old,
consider the years long past;
ask your father, and he will inform you;
your elders, and they will tell you.”
Deuteronomy 32:7 NRSV