Mexican–American War

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[O]fficers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. 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. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory. ~ Ulysses S. Grant

The Mexican–American War, also known as the Mexican War, was a war that was fought between the United States and Mexico in the 19th century, lasting from April 1846 to February 1848. The U.S. started and won the war, with Mexico ceding a large portion of its territory to the U.S. as part of the terms of surrender of Mexico. The war was a highly controversial and divisive one in U.S. politics, with anti-slavery advocates seeing it as aggression by the Democratic Party to annex foreign land in which to spread and introduce slavery. This heated political tension over slavery increased after the war, leading to the creation of the anti-slavery Republican Party, and ultimately, the American Civil War, which resulted in the ending of slavery in the U.S.


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Quotes[edit]

The Mexicans were badly commanded, and there was very little hard fighting during that war, at least nothing to be compared with what was seen afterward in our own. Our soldiers had only to show the bayonet at the Mexicans and they would run. As to the bowie-knife, I do not think one was used during the war. It was a pity to see good troops used as the Mexican soldiers were in those campaigns. I do not think a more incompetent set of officers ever existed than those who commanded the Mexicans. With an able general the Mexicans would make a good fight, for they are a courageous people. ~ Ulysses S. Grant
The United States will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man swallows the arsenic, which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we wanted, a few years ago, a slice of Mexico, it was hinted that the Mexicans were an inferior race, that the old Castilian blood had become so weak that it would scarcely run down hill, and that Mexico needed the long, strong and beneficent arm of the Anglo-Saxon care extended over it. We said that it was necessary to its salvation, and a part of the "manifest destiny" of this Republic, to extend our arm over that dilapidated government. ~ Frederick Douglass
The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times. ~ Ulysses S. Grant

B[edit]

  • Having lived in Texas as a youth and been forced to study Texas history, I thought I knew the story of its admission to the Union pretty well. But I never knew the profound importance of race to that history. In particular, I did not know that Mexico had abolished slavery and that this was a key reason for the war for Texas independence. The Texans were determined to keep their slaves and were willing to fight to the death for that right. And of course, the admission of Texas as a state was critical to the maintenance of slavery in the United States, which was threatened both economically and politically in the 1840s.

D[edit]

  • Has the Mexican War terminated yet, and how? Are we beaten? Do you know of any nation about to besiege South Hadley? If so, do inform me of it, for I would be glad of a chance to escape, if we are to be stormed. I suppose [our teacher] Miss Lyon would furnish us all with daggers and order us to fight for our lives.
  • Charge of inferiority is an old dodge. It has been made available for oppression on many occasions. It is only about six centuries since the blue-eyed and fair-haired Anglo Saxons were considered inferior by the haughty Normans, who once trampled upon them. If you read the history of the Norman Conquest, you will find that this proud Anglo-Saxon was once looked upon as of coarser clay than his Norman master, and might be found in the highways and byways of Old England laboring with a brass collar on his neck, and the name of his master marked upon it were down then! You are up now. I am glad you are up, and I want you to be glad to help us up also... The story of our inferiority is an old dodge, as I have said; for wherever men oppress their fellows, wherever they enslave them, they will endeavor to find the needed apology for such enslavement and oppression in the character of the people oppressed and enslaved. When we wanted, a few years ago, a slice of Mexico, it was hinted that the Mexicans were an inferior race, that the old Castilian blood had become so weak that it would scarcely run down hill, and that Mexico needed the long, strong and beneficent arm of the Anglo-Saxon care extended over it. We said that it was necessary to its salvation, and a part of the 'manifest destiny' of this Republic, to extend our arm over that dilapidated government.

E[edit]

  • The United States will conquer Mexico, but it will be as the man swallows the arsenic, which brings him down in turn. Mexico will poison us.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted in Kearny's March (2011), by Winston Groom, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, p. 275

G[edit]

  • After the United States gobbled up California and half of Mexico, and we were stripped down to nothing, territorial expansion suddenly becomes a crime. It's been going on for centuries, and it will still go on.
    • Hermann Göring, at lunch during the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal (11 December 1945), as quoted in Nuremberg Diary (1947), p. 66
  • With a soldier the flag is paramount. I know the struggle with my conscience during the Mexican War. I have never altogether forgiven myself for going into that. I had very strong opinions on the subject. I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign. I had taken an oath to serve eight years, unless sooner discharged, and I considered my supreme duty was to my flag. I had a horror of the Mexican War, and I have always believed that it was on our part most unjust. The wickedness was not in the way our soldiers conducted it, but in the conduct of our government in declaring war. The troops behaved well in Mexico, and the government acted handsomely about the peace. We had no claim on Mexico. Texas had no claim beyond the Nueces River, and yet we pushed on to the Rio Grande and crossed it. I am always ashamed of my country when I think of that invasion. Once in Mexico, however, and the people, those who had property, were our friends. We could have held Mexico, and made it a permanent section of the Union with the consent of all classes whose consent was worth having. Overtures were made to Scott and Worth to remain in the country with their armies.
  • Generally, the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation was consummated or not; but not so all of them. 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. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.

J[edit]

  • It’s been well said—and by many people in many circumstances—that whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad. These people in the Deep South were mad because they could have elected Douglas, and Douglas would have given them everything they wanted—everything that they wanted that was consistent with his election in the free states... Douglas was a radical expansionist. Both parts of the Democratic Party in 1860 called for the annexation of Cuba. And there were 100,000 slaves in Cuba, and Cuba was the place that slaves were still being brought from Africa and then resold in the United States. So under a Douglas presidency, we would have taken over the rest of Mexico and Central America whenever we had the resources and the appetite to take to do so. You can be sure that most of the Mexicans would have either been reduced to peonage or to slavery. In the Mexican War itself, in case you don't know it, we appropriated 60 percent of the land area of Mexico as it was then defined through the Spanish Conquest. So we increased the size of the United States by 40 percent and reduced Mexico by 60 percent.

L[edit]

  • Any people anywhere being inclined and having the power have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right — a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. Any portion of such people that can may revolutionize and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit... Military glory,—that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood.
  • Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose, and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power in this respect, after having given him so much as you propose. If, to-day, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, "I see no probability of the British invading us" but he will say to you, "Be silent; I see it, if you don't."

    The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.

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