Skip to content

Investigation into the Justice of the Mexican War

By Major Charles H. Owen
Published in The Journal of American History1908

Evidence which disproves the unfounded charges of predatory greed was the underlying cause of the conflict which brought the Southwest into the American Nation. Recent investigations which develop new reasons for the war that for sixty years has been denounced.

POLITICAL conditions sixty years ago divided public opinion to such an extent that even today no satisfactory conclusion has been reached regarding the tremendous problems that then entered into the campaign for the presidency. The two great parties divided on the justice of the Mexican War. The Democrats insisted that the integrity of the United States had been attacked, and that it was forced to protect itself against the intrusion of the Mexicans, which, they declared, would creep along the Pacific Coast until the United States would be entirely closed off from the Pacific, robbing it of its gate to the Orient. Viewed from the standpoint of to-day, this was a far-sighted attitude. The Whigs, on the contrary, asserted that it was an unrighteous attempt to rob a weaker neighbor, Mexico, of her richest territory. Lincoln was then just beginning his political career, and one of his first speeches in Congress was a severe indictment of this so-called imperialism, while Tom Corwin, a political leader from Ohio, declared: “If I were a Mexican, I would tell you, `Have you not room in your own country to bury your dead men ? If you come into ours, we will greet you with bloody hands, and welcome you to hospitable graves.’ “

President Polk, in his appeal to Congress and public opinion, exclaimed: “We are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the: honor, the right, and the interests of our country.” The agitation even developed to the extent of a demand for the annexation of all Mexico, and the close of the conflict found the United States in possession of more than half a million square miles, a territory sweeping from Texas through the Southwest, and including California an empire four times ;is large as Great Britain itself, giving the United States ail outlook on the Pacific comparable to that on the Atlantic, and bringing China, Japan and the East within the circle of its influence.

The transposition of the doctrines of political parties is quite evident when one considers that the Democrats at that time were expansionists, while the Whigs, or the Republican element, were as aggressive in their opposition as the anti-imperialists of today. Major Owen has made an extended investigation into the justice of the causes of the Mexican War. These investigations have been published in a volume that is of utmost importance to American historical records. Through the courtesy of Major Owen, and with the permission of his publishers, G. 1′. Putnam’s, Sons, of New York, this resume is herewith recorded.-EDITOR

THE Editors of “The journal of American History” have done me the honor of offering me a place in their pages for “a Brief on the Causes of the Mexican War.” I find a double pleasure in accepting their courtesy, in that their permission lends me the publicity of their wide circulation for the advocacy of some methods in historical writing that seem to have been neglected, and the condemnation of some other methods that have come to be altogether too much the fashion.

I like to regard the confidence of the editors as indicating that a monograph reviewing some unhistorical methods and conclusions, from which this article is more nearly an excerpt than a selection, and which constitutes my introduction to them, seems to be worth while. And I am glad of the opportunity to say what it would have been well, perhaps, to have said earlier, that if I have put emphasis on the structures I have written on the methods or conclusions of individual distinguished historians and biographers, my comrades or personal friends, such particularization is from my point of view complimentary, implying that to carry their position is to win the battle. I should not care to attack other than the vital points in an antagonist’s line.

The gist of my criticism is that history should be based on evidence, not on opinion or innuendo; and that historical evidence should be subjected to equal scrutiny with evidence admitted in a court of law.

Not precisely the same scrutiny of subjection to cross-examination and technical rules of evidence, but to such laws of logic and fair-play as forbid forcing a defendant to prove a general negative, or to search through a voluminous record in order to show that there is not in it what is alleged.

If there is anything novel or unusual in this attempted contribution to history, it is that I take a lawyer’s point of view and, instead of rewriting a history of a period and stating an independent view, undertake to analyze the evidence on which other writers have based their statements, and finding their evidence insufficient or even inadmissible, or their reasoning from admissible evidence fallacious, have protested against their acceptance of inadequate evidence, and endeavored to expose their fallacies.

The statements of historians relative to the causes of the Mexican War lend themselves easily to an exemplification of these principles.

Goldwin Smith, in his brief mention of the Mexican War, speaks of it as a case of “the wolf and the lamb.” He does not misrepresent the mass of American histories.

There is, and ought to be, a sincere satisfaction to an American in being able, while helping to establish correct principles for taking historical evidence, to repulse at the same time an unmerited attack on the good fame of the nation.

Every man has his personal equation. Even the astronomer sees a little to the fight or to the left of a given line. I am a free-soiler and a pensioner, and recognize no predilection for the ways of the slaveholders, nor other bias in these inquiries, unless it may be that, with my own wounds cared for, to be obliged to see a broken veteran of Waterloo, on either side of the channel, holding a braided cap for alms under the Nelson monument or on the benches in the Hotel des Invalids, has warmed my heart to Uncle Sam, and made me indignant at false-witness against him. In comparisons of character, he assuredly looks well beside his Spanish Indian neighbor; and since, at Stony Point, Anthony Wayne’s bayonets swept the walls of a fortress, in the night, and the new cry rose: “If you want quarter, lay down your arms!” he has led the world in the amenities of war, and is no wolf.

The charges made with great unanimity against the United States are, briefly stated, that a pro-slavery cabal brought on the Mexican War for the purpose of national aggrandizement and the extension of slave territory; that to carry out this purpose excessive and unjust claims were urged against Mexico; the diplomatic relations with her were made insulting; the independence of Texas was prematurely recognized, and her territory annexed, after Mexico had given warning that annexation would be regarded as an act of war.

That some, or many, indefensible claims were made against Mexico is a matter of course, though the historians specify only a single one. Many claims were for insults to the American flag, seizure of American ships, murder of American citizens. The general summary of the charge of insolent presentation of claims against Mexico by “the greater harpies of the United States,” is that revolutions and piracies had amassed claims against Mexico such as President Jackson said would have justified war. These claims were on behalf of citizens of the United States, Great Britain and France. Great Britain threatened Mexico with a squadron from the West Indies and an exiled revolutionary Mexican general; and got her pay. France sent warships and battered down the Castle of San Juan d’Ulloa, and got her pay. The United States submitted her citizens’ claims to arbitration, and eventually paid them herself at the close of the war.

Of the impropriety of the correspondence with Mexico, although forty historians allege it,-several in the same terms, “such as to bring the blush of shame to the cheek,” etc.,I find not a line quoted anywhere by any of them, nor a citation, nor a scrap of evidence. Against that I desire to enter the most vigorous protest of which I am capable.

Such writing is not history. After much careful reading-I cannot call it research-the phrase is traced back to its source. “John Quincy Adams once said so.” Not evidence, not even a deliberate opinion, the hasty jibe of a much badgered and irritable old man, an ex-president who had from day to day in the interests of free speech and the right of petition been playing the leading role in a congressional bear bait. The method, or lack of it, with which the matter of diplomatic correspondence is treated, may be taken as an example of the way not to write history. The brunt of this accusation against the United States has to be borne by Mr. Powhatan Ellis and his mission to Mexico, although not a line of his communications is cited by anybody, nor a reference given until Professor Garrison’s, which is subjoined.

So far then as the accusation goes of the historians and philosophers against the United States, that her diplomatic correspondence was indecent, their case fails; it would be dropped out of the calendar on motion for non-suit, or sent to a jury with instructions to bring in a verdict for defendant, by reason of the failure to show any evidence against him. Evidence for the defendant is superfluous.

It is interesting, however, and may save some labor to whoever shall eventually write a history of the United States, to introduce supererogatory as it is-some of the record evidence which stands ready to hand for the defendant, and which, if known to the mass of historians, should have been quoted by them, in fairness, at least in mitigation of their indignant denunciations.

There does not seem to be any proof offered, however, for the intimation that, under the circumstances, he “performed his duties in a rude or peremptory manner.” Professor Garrison refers in Westward Extension, New York, 1907, p. 190, to House Executive Documents, 24th Congress, d session, No. 139, pp. 6o-67, as indicating that Ellis’s letters “more forcible than diplomatic.” Of these no others seem more peremptory than Ellis to Monsaterio, December 7, 1836:

“Speaks of charges made by each side against the other, and continues, ‘Your excellency requests that the full statement of all claims on the part of citizens of the United States may be presented for consideration; but, from the manner in which those already in the possession of this government have been disposed of the undersigned can see no good likely to result from such a course. If those that might be presented should be all acknowledged as just, yet so long as the several unprovoked and inexcusable outrages inflicted on the officers and flag of this country which have been here tofore submitted to the Mexican Executive remained unsatisfactorily answered, I would have but one course to pursue.’***

Requests his passports.

“December 27th, he writes to Secretary Forsyth, forwarding copies of two notes of Mr. Monasterio, one of which contained a request to be informed of the courses of his proposed departure from the Mexican republic. He adds: `I can view such an inquiry in no other light than as an uncourteous refusal of my passports, and therefore I deem an answer to it unnecessary’.” And, so far from his being under instructions to that effect, Mr. Forsyth’s written dispatches were well-tempered and conciliatory.

From May 14, 1836, the more important diplomatic correspondence between the United States and Mexico, of which Mr. Ellis’s communications were a supplement, was taking place in Washington between Senor Don Manuel Eduardo de Gorostiza, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Mexican Republic, and John Forsyth, Secretary of State, until September 28th, when Mr. Forsyth retired from personal conduct of the correspondence, and substituted for himself the Hon. Asbury Dickins. The only exception taken to the form of the United States’ papers in this correspondence was the use of the phrase “contested territory” as applied to Texas. As the battle of San Jacinto had been fought, and the treaty of Velasco signed, prior to the opening of the correspondence, which related chiefly to neutral obligations, it would seem to be as far as diplomatic courtesy could go, to admit that the territory was contested at all at that date. It certainly was all that could be conceded and maintain an acceptable attitude, as a neutral, to Texas. Don Gorostiza demanded that a Texan vessel which was said to be armed, and to have helped blockade a Mexican port, be seized and its crew treated as pirates; which surely would not have been consistent with neutrality in the war which Mexico asserted was in progress. His chief insistence was that General Gaines should not be permitted to cross the Sabine, that any suppression of Indian raids must be left to Mexico anywhere west of the Sabine, and that President Jackson should promise in no event to send troops to the west of that river. Not securing compliance with these demands, Don Gorostiza demanded his passports.

Diplomacy failed to reconcile wholly discrepant views of the obligations of the two countries. It was this vital discrepancy which terminated the negotiations. It was not due to discourtesy of American diplomats. In his letter requesting his passports, Don Gorostiza added to the usual and formal compliments and assurances of his distinguished consideration, the promise to “ever bear in mind the frank and noble manner in which Mr. Dickins has acted toward the undersigned on occasions which were in truth by no means agreeable and in affairs which, from their nature, were much less so.” (Correspondence between Mexico and the United States from May 14 to October 2o, 1836, etc. Senate Documents, 2d session, 24th Congress, p. 105). . Jackson’s message informing Congress-Dec. 5, 1836-of the close of diplomatic relation with Mexico was admirably conciliatory in tone.

The gist of disagreement was the sending of Gaines across the Sabine, into territory which, as Texas had not yet been formally recognized, was technically Mexico’s.

Forsyth’s letter to Ellis, December 9th, was a well-tempered, able exposition of why it seemed necessary to make such defense against the Indians about Nacogdoches, and hoped “the Mexican government would not construe the justifiable precaution for frontier defense made necessary by its [the Mexican government’s] known inability in execution of the stipulations of our treaty into an encroachment upon its honor.”

The advance of Gaines was the onus of Mexican complaint. It should be noted in passing that an administration really desirous of bringing on a war had several favorable opportunities offered in the withdrawal of ministers and insults to the flag.

The writers of histories have not failed to charge the pro-slavery administrations with sufficient blame for “the Gaines invasion.” Brady classes it with other (unspecified) “breaches of international comity and flagrant violations of international law which had aggrieved Mexico almost to the breaking point.”

(Conquest of the Southwest, Cyrus Townshend Brady, New York, 1905, p. 156).

Elson charges it upon Jackson that he sent an army under Gaines “to keep Texan Indians off our soil, but in fact” (a fact assumed by the historian) “to connive with Houston. Gaines’s troops deserted freely and joined Houston” (History of the United States, Henry William Elson, New York, 1904, pp. 496 and 497), a not improbable circumstance; soldiers condemned to inactivity often desert to a more active service which has their sympathies.

Schouler calls the Gaines “invasion” “the Florida trick over again, conceived by the same brain.”

(History of the United States, James Schouler, Boston, 1889, Vol. IV., p. 253)

Gaines’s command was used as an army of observation. Sumner states the facts fairly. (Andrew Jackson, William Graham Sumner, Boston, 1822, p. 356) . “Jackson had ordered that General Gaines” (who was posted near the Sabine) “should enter the territory of Texas and march to Nacogdoches” (not “seize it,” as Brady alleges) “if he thought that there was any danger of hostilities on the part of the Indians and if there was suspicion that the Mexican general was stirring up the Indians to war on the United States.” It is to be supposed that reasonable suspicion and anticipation of danger is intended. Professor Sumner adds his own suspicions, and by way of innuendo: “Here we have another reminiscence of Florida revived; Gaines understood his orders, and entered the Mexican territory.” (Ibid., p. 356)

Without at this point entering into the question of boundaries on the sources of the rivers of the Gulf and of the Mississippi watershed, it is enough for the present purpose to remember that the boundaries between the United States and Mexico or Texas in the Red River region were uncertain. When there was an Indian uprising it would be uncertain on whose territory a defending or avenging column was advancing. We have to consider the especially dangerous numbers and hostility of the Indian tribes which had formerly driven back Mexican frontiers to Chihuahua and Tamaulipas. A provision had been inserted in the treaty of 1831 agreeing that troops of either nation would suppress Indian uprisings which threatened the inhabitants of the other. Generals Santa Anna, Cos, Filisola, and Sesma had been pursuing Houston through Texas, and following close on the trails of old men, women, and children, flying to Nacogdoches, when Jackson took the first measures looking toward policing the Indians over the Sabine. The Campeachy Indians had been the Mexican allies, and perhaps turned the tide of battle at Goliad and its accursed butchery. Driven out of Texas by the battle of San Jacinto, Mexico was keeping up a war of words and guerilla raids aided by Indian uprisings. There was especial danger at Nacogdoches. “There was an actual outbreak in which the Caddoes from east of the Sabine were credibly reported to have taken part.” The immediate peril was averted or postponed by Gaines’s crossing the Sabine; or the plans of Texas’ and America’s enemies developed with less rapidity than had been feared.

(Westward Extension, George Pierce Garrison, New York, 1906, p. 89.) That there was danger of greater outbreak than that of the Caddoes is apparent from the developments a little later.

“May 19, 1836, several hundred Indians attacked Fort Parker and slaughtered the garrison on the headwaters of the Navallo about sixty miles from the settlements. The defeat of the Mexicans prevented a general attack on the frontier.”(History of Texas, H. Yoakum, New York, 1856, Vol. II., p. 179).

In 1838 about 300 Mexican settlers near Nacogdoches were joined by as many Indians in a rising which looked very dangerous for a time. Their leader, Vicente Cordova, was said “to be acting under a commission from the Mexican General Filisola.” (Westward Extension, George Pierce Garrison, New York, 1906, p. 233, “letters on file the diplomatic correspondence of the Republic of Texas.”)

It is no wonder that some Yankee soldiers in camp of observation, on either side of the Sabine, took absence without leave, to have a hand in suppressing a war party which might supply itself with scalps from the dwellings of Nacogdoches in Texas, or Natchitoches in Louisiana. The soldier cared nothing on which side of a little river he effected such result. Neither did Jackson, probably, care overmuch, nor Gaines. And it was in view of this that Forsyth, through Powhatan Ellis-who had nothing savage about him save the name of a distant and royal relative,-was urging (somewhat strenuously for Hidalgo notions of diplomatic dilatoriness, the ridiculous Mexican travesty of a government, and farcical belligerent, to remember that the Texan army stood between Nacogdoches and the Mexican forces; and that it should not be considered meantime an encroachment on the honor of Mexico to protect from destruction by Indians the women and children over whom Mexico still claimed jurisdiction. But the supercilious Hidalgo, with his stage-strut preferred to permit, or incite, the ruin of his dependent subjects, rather than let his honor be infringed by the tread of a neighbor’s soldiers on the sacred soil from which he was himself by this time a fugitive pursued by Texan rifles. And if the storm of the gathering fiends should first break on the heads of the people of Louisiana, the citizens of our own republic? For where there was most booty the storm clouds would be apt toy drift. The United States must endure the peril, submit to savage loot if it evaded her sentinel lines, and look to Mexico for damages. That was the position taken by Don Gorostiza by the instructions of Santa Anna. No wonder he found the “occasions not agreeable.”

There is an interesting degree of parallelism in the Cananea affair in 1906, in which the interference of American troops to prevent riot, until Mexican troops could arrive, was not resented by the Mexican government; and again, in this summer of 1908, in Mexico soliciting United States troops to subdue riot at El Paso.

For such sort of mortal disease as Red River Indian raids, Jackson held to the old fashioned doctrine that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and let Gaines administer it”-as results proved without bloodshed.

International law is not such an exalted institution that it has yet risen above the precedents of the common law which governs the every day life of the citizen. Indeed, in matters it is far behind the practice of our courts of jurisdiction over individuals.

If A’s barn is afire, and adjoins your house, and endangers it; and you climb over A’s fence without his invitation or permission, and extinguish the fire, you commit a technical trespass; but any sane judge or jury will refuse A any other than nominal damages, and will possibly find implied permission, even if A protests and resists-in which case you knock A down and put out his fire all the same. And you would not be made to suffer unendurably for that either. There is legal technicality, and there is common-sense in international law-and in the police courts. And, practically, common-sense is good law; technically good enough in most cases for really able lawyers and sound judges.

Jackson put out his neighbor’s fire, and saved his neighbor’s tenants and his own; and can stand, or his memory can, the criticism of whoever is appalled, and wounded in his sense of etiquette, that Jackson should have been capable of common-sense on a national scale. Garrison, who, as a Texan, has grown up into a fuller sympathy with the events on Texan borders and a broader view of Mexican affairs than others possess well says:

“What the criticism would have been if the instructions to Gaines had been such as to prevent him from advancing to protect the mass of women and children who fled before the Mexican invasion in March and April, 1836, from the Indian attack that was then feared, can hardly be imagined; and the government [of Jackson’s administration] may well have been pleased to incur what it did rather than this.”

(Texas, a Contest of Civilizations, George Pierce Garrison, Boston, 1903, P. 254).

It must be noted, however, that there were imponderable, and perhaps sentimental, impulses or motives to war with Mexico, that, according to Professor Woolsey’s schedule of justifying causes for war as applied to the war for Cuban independence, were ample. To go to the official record, and to an example which, involved no constitutional questions and no internal dissensions or struggle for sectional political supremacy, received the enthusiastic support of the whole people of the United States, and its underlying principle the consent of the peoples of the world.

Rehearsing in a preamble: “The abhorrent conditions in Cuba, so near our own borders * * * which have shocked the moral sense of the people of the United States, and have been a disgrace to Christian civilization-culminating in the destruction of a United States battleship with two hundred and sixty-six of its officers and crew, while on a friendly visit in the harbor of Havana-and cannot longer be endured. The Senate and House of Representatives resolved: I. That the people of Cuba are and of right ought to be free and independent. II. That the Government of the United States demands that the Government of Spain at once relinquish its authority and government in the island of Cuba and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters. III. That the President be directed to use the entire land and naval forces to carry this resolution into effect.”

(Joint Resolution No. 21, April 20, 1898, 30 Statutes At Large, p. 738).

The case of Mexico in Texas differed from that of Spain in Cuba in that:

“1st. Spain had large districts under control in Cuba; Mexico had not so much as a fighting chance to establish control over any part of Texas. Texas in 1845 had been practically independent for nearly nine years. (Westward Extension, George Pierce Garrison, New York, 1906, p. 149).

“2d. The cruelties in Cuba had been continued three years; those in Texas, nine, plus the long period prior to the Texan Revolution.

“3d. The abhorrent conditions in Cuba had been without the avowed sanction of the Spanish Government, but under the orders of a commander (Wehler) who had been withdrawn. Our own naval board of inquiry as to the blowing up of the Maine had reported that the explosion was from the outside, but that by whose agency could not be determined. The abhorrent conditions in Texas were by the direct and avowed orders of the sole government of Mexico, the dictator Santa Anna, and of preconceived purpose, fully authorized by his creature, the Mexican Congress, in deliberate record of his enactments.

“4th. The excesses in Cuba had been committed mainly against a race alien to us. Those in Texas were inflicted on our own kin, settled in Texas by Mexican invitation and land grants.

“5th. The disorders in Cuba `near our own border’ were across intervening seas. Those in Texas were absolutely adjacent to our territory, divided from it only by the scanty waters of the Sabine and a long imaginary line.

“6th. The blowing up of the Maine was a single incident, though of terrible consequence. The attacks on our ships and flag by Mexicans had been many and, for a long time, continuous.”

The impulses and motives thus far mentioned did not bring about the annexation of Texas nor the sequent war. “In 1837 the Texan government proposed to Van Buren the annexation of Texas to the United States, but Van Buren declined.”

(Life of Henry Clay, Carl Schurz, Boston, 1887, Vol. II., p. 235).

All these motives had been urged by Stephen F. Austin and Memucan Hunt, authorized agents of Texas, the latter her minister in 1836. They had the support of the enthusiastic propaganda which has been magnified by historians into the great and only cause of the war-sufficient unto itself. And the United States for nine years refused to break the peace with her malignant and insolent, but feeble neighbor. Twice the Senate refused to ratify a treaty for annexation; as late as April 22, 1844, by a more than two-thirds vote against ratification, 35 to 16, while two-thirds was required to ratify. The patience and forbearance of a nation with “a manifest destiny,” the clemency of the wolf, had not been exhausted. The causes alleged by historians as the causes of the Mexican War brought on no war. The nations remained at peace.

Meantime Houston played his diplomatic card boldly. Mexico had taken a British loan of £ 10,000,000. An empire protected by France and Great Britain was threatened, of which Marshal Sault was to be emperor, and the eastern boundary was to be the Rocky Mountains, cutting off our access to the Pacific. Lord Aberdeen proposed a protectorate in the form of a “Diplomatic Act.”

There was trouble brewing of which Polk’s administration was probably advised. but in regard to which little would be said outside of diplomatic circles so long as war with Great Britain and Mexico at the same time was not coveted. Friends of the United- States in Texas would have been likely to see to it that the administration knew confidentially what it was their interest to know, and of Texas that it should be known.

Among such friends was Ashbel Smith. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1805, he graduated from Yale in the class of 1824, and from the Medical School in 1828, after a course in law study. He became noted for a medical practice in which he gave his services free, and for volunteer work during epidemics in different cities. He served as a volunteer through the Mexican War, and in 1860 he raised a regiment, 2d Texas, serving with the Confederates.

Houston sent him abroad as minister from Texas, and under the Jones presidency he continued to represent Texas at various times, in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Spain. He was at one time the Texan Secretary of State, and went as special envoy to close up the Texan legations in Europe after annexation.

His testimony is full as to what was the actual position of affairs relative to a foreign protectorate of Texas; he says he personally “saw Louis Philippe and Monsieur Guizot and received the absolute assurance that France would unite with the British Cabinet in the `diplomatic act’ proposed by Aberdeen.”

There had been other unpleasant features in proposed foreign intervention. The British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, “having its seat in London * * * entered with strange eagerness into the cause of Mexico, at an early period, against Texas; they promoted the building and fitting out of Mexican war steamers designed to ravage the coasts of Texas. These war steamers were light-draught vessels built on models furnished by the admiralty; carried each two 68-pound Paixhan pivot guns besides lighter armament; and were commanded by two distinguished British officers–Captains Cleveland and Charlwood of the Royal Navy-by permission of the admiralty, to serve in the Mexican Navy; manned by British seamen, recruited mostly in London and Portsmouth.” (Texas Hist. Series, No. 1, Galveston, 1876 ; Reminiscences of Texas Republic, Ashbel Smith, p. 39).

Should such an exhibition of British neutrality seem incredible to any one, let him read in MacCarthy’s History of Our Own Tunes of the building and equipment and manning of the Alabama. The stories are almost identical except for change of dates.

There was plenty of reason for any citizen to believe that the danger of a European government or protectorate of Texas, or California, indeed of both, was so great as to make it necessary in self-defense to undertake the protection of Texas ourselves, and not leave it to another. At any rate the representatives of the people appear to have so believed; the people had pronounced for annexation by the election of Polk; and the nation which for nine years had refused to take Texas into the Union, whose Senate, April 22, 1844, had voted by more than a two/thirds majority not to ratify a treaty to annex Texas, by May r, 1846, had learned so much of some new reason, Lord Aberdeen’s “diplomatic act” or something else, that Congress passed -a joint resolution to annex Texas, with the boundary of the Rio Grande still claimed by her; virtually joining war with Mexico, who had formally declared that such a resolution would be regarded equivalent to a declaration of war.

There had been plenty of other provocations, motives, causes for war; and, with a patience almost unparalleled in the history of nations, the great republic had forborne to join issue of battle with a weaker neighbor; had refused to extend slave territory; had refused to punish insults to the flag, seizure of ships, murder and robbery of citizens; had refused to collect just and long past-due claims for spoliations except in court of arbitration; or to do battle for unsurveyed boundaries. But a French and Mexican empire or a British suzerainty on our immediate borders the United States would not allow. Texas was made a State of the Union, Fremont was ordered to the Pacific, and the war which had been held back for a decade, as too inglorious with a weaker nation, was at last offered unhesitatingly to three powerful nations.