It is surprising how little attention is given to the idea of expansion in general, and the war with Mexico specifically, in the platforms of American political parties between 1832 and 1848. With Texas, Oregon, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican War defining the period, I expected to find these subjects being addressed in the party platforms. It is only after the fact, the Mexican- American War that the parties mention the new territories. More prominent are statements concerning constitutional questions: limited government versus large scale internal improvements, and slavery. They generally feature praises of the various candidates. Below are planks that address expansion and the war with Mexico. One plank, the #6 plank in the 1848 Whig platform, is over-board in its description of Taylor’s virtues. If you are interested in reading it a link is provided in the source reference.
Colonial Eras to Independence
Once I began studying the Mexican American War, it became apparent that my original writing plan (Mexican- American War: Part 2/ Research and Writing Plan) would not provide an understanding of the conditions that existed in Mexico and the United States in 1846. If the purpose of this history is to identify the factors that contributed to the war’s outbreak, execution, and outcome, I needed more than a superficial understanding of each nation’s history immediate to the outbreak of war. 1846 did not emerge from the abyss, disconnected from previous events. Until I took on this project, I had not studied this subject in significant detail. Every class I have had seemed to examine other events from the period in detail while rushing past the Mexican American War. We examined the War of 1812, the Era of Good Feelings, Jackson, Indian wars, and the growing slavery divide. We talked about Manifest Destiny.
Attention given the Mexican American War, as the subject, seemed parenthetical and disappointingly simplistic. Always the same narrative: the greedy US attacked its weaker neighbor. Manifest Destiny, and racism, emboldened Euro- Americans to assume a righteous speciality, justifying its blatant land grab. A Jacksonian puppet (but tyrannical) president James K. Polk, engineered the conflict, manipulated information, over-ruled his military leaders, and condemned his nation to a coming Civil War. Texas and Oregon are usually given some attention. Polk bullied and manipulated his way to settlement with Britain over the Oregon boundary. Americans migrated to Texas (mostly illegally), ignored Mexican authority, rebelled, and asked the US for statehood. A plea that was rebuffed for a fear that admitting a new slave state might cause a civil war. While the narrative contains truth, I think it is quite problematic and begs many questions. I will begin with basic questions that are consistent throughout the period, and then expand upon those questions as my research continues. It is important to understand that this is not an attempt to victim blame Mexico for the war. I am not looking for victims or heroes. The purpose is to understand how Mexico and the U.S. arrived at 1846. In this post I will examine the questions in the historical context of the period to 1821.
As one of the more formative events in the establishment of the United States as one of the world’s great powers, it is strange that the Mexican- American War has been so willingly forgotten. Sandwiched as it was between America’s two Wars of Independence (the American Revolution and the War of 1812) and the American Civil War, the Mexican war’s significance is little considered on its own. It is little considered at all. A Military History of the United States course I completed spent remarkably little time on the subject. I spent more time reading about the war in one of my Spanish Language classes. Granted, I have lived my life in the East and have only visited the states involved in the war. Had I lived there I may have been exposed to more of the history.