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The 1840s was a period in the United States for a new generation to rise. A generation with new ideas and new technologies, with these new developments changes must always occur in society. One such change of the time was the Mexican War. The Mexican war was a short and one-sided war that, bluntly, was just an experiment for the United States. The American civilization was beginning to blossom to its full wing spanned potential and to do this they felt that they deserved everything the North American continent could give them; they called this their manifest destiny. Unfortunately, during their spread to the west, there came another situation to deal with…someone was already there.
The US government believed firmly in the doctrine of Manifest destiny, the government argued that they had the right and duty to expand through North American because it was necessary and inevitable. During the 19th century, Mexico dominated a large amount of North America which was inhabited by American settlers and the American government aimed to expand the USA from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and was ready to achieve this by any means. (Joseph, 437)
The American government saw the lands of Texas and California as grand prizes with the opportunity of lush agricultural prospects and the possibility of a gateway to the Pacific Ocean. The lands though belonged to the nation of Mexico, which was seen by the Americans as a backward nation and did not deserve to have the lands. President James Polk intended to use the full extent of his power to expand America and he devoted his time during his reign as President in negotiations with Mexico over the lands of California. Yet Mexico refused to give away the land and yet it had such a weak economy and could use the money that President Polk was offering them to rebuild the economy and develop the nation. But the Mexican government still did not intend to sell the land because it would not be popular with the people if the nation shrinks half in size and also because of the rivalry that was associated with Americans and Mexicans. (Joseph, 444)
So President Polk was left with no choice but to provoke the Mexicans to war, General Zachary Taylor was sent to a disputed region between Mexico and the US with 4000 troops. Polk was anxious to start the war but did not intend to initiate it because then he would be seen as an aggressor thus he waited till the Mexicans attacked the American troops then Congress had but no choice but to support Polk to fight Mexico. Polk was granted a $10 million budget and to raise an army of 50’000 troops, he had succeeded in his plan and now wanted to secure California as soon as possible. (Douglas, 24) He ordered a quick war and successive victories against the Mexicans at the Port of Matamoros, Buena Vista and Santa Fe in 1846 meant that by September 1847 within a year that the war started the Mexican capital fell into American hands. The treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was quickly drawn up and Mexico lost Texas and California for a mere $15 million, which was seen as an extraordinary triumph for the Americans. (Eisenhower, 274)
Historians have argued that the invasion of Mexico was unjustified and that President Polk had no right to do what he did. It is said that the Euro Americans took advantage of the young, independent, and unstable government and forced them to engage in an unfair and aggressive war so that the Americans could take 1 million square miles of their country away from them. It is argued that Polk provoked the war and that the annexation of Texas was an act of aggression to force the Mexican government to give up Texas and California. (Christensen, 202) The Mexican war was seen by the Mexican people were a criminal offense and that America forced the Mexican’s into the war.
Professor of history Rodolfo Acuna argued that America fought the war because the nation’s leaders were land-hungry, insolent, to celebrate heroes, and to prove the nation’s power by military superiority. Acuna supports the theory that America used the Mexican war as an exercise of American imperialism and supports this with the theory that the Americans wanted to show the world that a powerful nation was rising and wanted the Europeans to take notice of this fact. (Douglas, 27) President Polk aimed to show the world that America was worthy of becoming a strong nation with a strong economy and military strength. This aim was achieved by raging war upon neighboring countries such as Mexico and thus showing the nation’s military force and might. The war also gave the US commerce, industry, mining, agriculture, and stocking raising a rise in production and boosted the power of the economy. The Americans gave no respect to the Mexicans and thus thought that the land that belonged to Mexico was of no use to them and that they did not deserve to own the land. (Eisenhower, 271) Thus by forcing the country into a war it showed that America was ready to take on the world and that the power of the nation was undeviating.
Yet even though the Mexican war can be seen as an act of aggression by USA historians have argued America did not want to wage a war upon the Mexican war. Professor Norman A. Eisenhower argues that the US gave Mexico a series of negotiations before it retaliated to the Mexican aggression against the US troops within disputed territories. President Polk offered the Mexican government large sums of money to purchase the lands of Texas and California yet Mexico ignored the offers and forced the Americans to shed blood when it was unnecessary. (Eisenhower, 261) If the Mexicans and negotiated with America then war would not have been provoked and thus both sides would benefit, yet the Mexican government was stubborn and thus America was forced to take the lands by other means.
It is also argued that the American nation had the right and duty to take the lands of Texas and California from Mexico because of the policy of Manifest destiny which meant that America had the claim to take the lands because it was seen that America deserved the land more than the Mexicans and that God proclaimed the lands to belong to the USA. (Douglas, 29) Joseph (2007) states the fact that although America did claim war upon Mexico in 1846 it was not the US who fired the first shots, it was the Mexicans. Although it is said that the Mexicans were forced into the war the military was not forced to attack the American troops first and Polk had the right to do what he did because the Mexicans had attacked his country and to defend his nation he needed to attack Mexico. (441) Thus it can be said that America did not force Mexico into war but Mexico forced America to war and thus America reacted to the Mexican aggression by taking the lands of California and Texas justly.
Although it is easy to see that America did in some way force Mexico into a war the Mexicans did attack first and the Americans had the right to wage a war upon Mexico. Thus concluding the statement it can be said America did use the Mexican war to show off their military power and policy of Manifest Destiny and thus was an exercise in American imperialism. Yet it was the Mexicans who attacked first and who forced America to fight back thus the Mexican war was not an exercise in American imperialism but American defense.
Christensen, Carol. The U.S.-Mexican War. Publisher: Bay Books, 1998: 202.
Douglas, Meed V. Essential Histories: The Mexican War 1846 to 1848. Taylor & Francis, 2007: 23-29.
Eisenhower, John S. D. So Far from God: The U.S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848 Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000: Eisenhower, 261-274.
Joseph, Wheelan. Invading Mexico: America’s Continental Dream and the Mexican War, 1846-1848. Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st Carroll & Graf Ed, 2007: 437-445.