The US war with Mexico
Did you know the US occupied Mexico for about 8 months in the 1840s?
President Polk was for conquering all of Mexico, but after a vote with congress, the US signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo fearing more blood shed and a long battle.
The Mexican-American War was one of the most pivotal events in the history of North America. Lasting from 1846 to 1848, this conflict saw the United States and Mexico pitted against each other in a struggle for control over the southwestern portion of the continent. Fought for a variety of reasons, the war had far-reaching consequences that shaped the future of both nations.
At the time, the United States was a rapidly expanding young nation, having recently acquired the Louisiana Territory from France and established the Republic of Texas. The latter, a former Mexican province, had won its independence in 1836 with the support of American settlers. However, Mexico refused to recognize Texas as a sovereign state and continued to claim it as its own.
Tensions between the two countries escalated when the US annexed Texas in 1845, prompting Mexico to sever diplomatic relations. Matters came to a head the following year, when American troops under General Zachary Taylor clashed with Mexican forces near the Rio Grande, which the US regarded as its southern border. President James K. Polk cited the skirmish as justification for declaring war, and Congress approved the measure.
The ensuing conflict was marked by a series of decisive battles, including the US victories at Monterrey, Buena Vista, and Mexico City. American troops, led by such luminaries as Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, employed superior firepower and tactics to overwhelm their Mexican counterparts. Nevertheless, the war exacted a heavy toll on both sides, with thousands of soldiers dying from disease, starvation, and battle.
The war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ceded a vast swath of Mexican territory to the United States, including California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma. In exchange, the US agreed to pay Mexico $15 million and assume $3.25 million in debts owed by the Mexican government to American citizens. The treaty also established the Rio Grande as the official boundary between the two nations.
The Mexican-American War had far-reaching consequences for both countries. For the United States, it marked the fulfillment of its "Manifest Destiny" to expand westward and become a continental power. The acquisition of vast new territories provided new opportunities for settlement, trade, and resources, but also sparked debates over slavery and the role of the federal government in administering these lands.
For Mexico, the war was a humiliating defeat that shattered its national pride and territorial integrity. The loss of so much land and resources contributed to political instability and economic turmoil that would plague the country for years to come. The war also strained relations between Mexico and the United States, leading to mistrust and animosity that would simmer for decades.
Racial factors played a significant role in the Mexican-American War, both in terms of the attitudes of the combatants and the policies of their respective governments. At the time, the United States was a nation dominated by white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who regarded Mexicans and other non-white populations with suspicion and disdain. This racial animosity was fueled by a range of factors, including religious differences, cultural stereotypes, and economic competition.
Mexicans, for their part, viewed the Americans as arrogant interlopers who sought to impose their culture and values on a land that had long been inhabited by people of different ethnicities and languages. Many Mexicans saw the US annexation of Texas as a flagrant violation of their national sovereignty, and regarded American settlers in Texas and other parts of the Southwest as hostile invaders who threatened their way of life.
In addition to these cultural and political tensions, there were also economic factors at play. The US had long coveted the vast natural resources and fertile lands of Mexico, and saw the Mexican-American War as an opportunity to seize these resources for its own use. This desire for land and resources was fueled in part by the belief in Manifest Destiny, the idea that it was the destiny of the US to expand westward and become a continental power.
In addition to this loss of territory and identity, Mexican Americans also faced discrimination and marginalization in the United States, as they were viewed as an inferior race by many white Americans. This discrimination took many forms, including segregation in schools and public facilities, lower wages and fewer job opportunities, and violence and intimidation from white supremacist groups.
Despite its controversial origins and tragic consequences, the Mexican-American War remains a fascinating and important chapter in the history of North America. It showcased the bravery and ingenuity of both American and Mexican soldiers, and demonstrated the power of modern warfare to reshape the political and social landscape. Its legacy continues to be felt today, as the border between the two nations remains a flashpoint of conflict and cooperation.