Source: John L. O’Sullivan, "Annexation," The United States Magazine and Democratic Review

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Document A

Source: John L. O’Sullivan, “Annexation,” The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, Vol XVII, July, 1845.

It is time for opposition to the Annexation of Texas to cease…Texas is now ours….Let their reception into the “family” be frank, kindly, and cheerful…

(O)ther nations have undertaken…hostile interference against us, …hampering our power, limiting our greatness and checking the fulfillment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence (God) for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.

California will, probably, next fall away from (Mexico)…Imbecile and distracted, Mexico never can exert any real governmental authority over such a country…The Anglo-Saxon foot is already on (California’s) borders.…armed with the plough and the rifle, and marking its trail with schools and colleges, courts and representative halls, mills and meeting-houses.…All this (will happen) in the natural flow of events….

Document Analysis

  1. How does John O’Sullivan feel about the United States annexing Texas?

  1. In your words, what does O’Sullivan mean when he says it is “our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence”?

  1. After Texas, what is the next likely candidate for American annexation?

  1. What does O’Sullivan have to say about Mexico’s ability to govern?

  1. What do you suppose O’Sullivan means by “the Anglo-Saxon foot”?

  1. Congress approved the annexation of Texas in 1844. Infer if Americans at the time agreed with O’Sullivan.

  1. How can this document be used to justify America declaring war on Mexico?

  1. How can this document be used to argue against America going to war with Mexico?

Document A: Hint Cards

Document A: Hint Card 1

The total area of Mexico in 1821 was approximately 1.5 million square miles. After losing Texas (first to the Texas revolution, and then to the United States), and then losing the Mexican Cession (modern day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, western New Mexico, and more) Mexico was whittled down to about 800,000 square miles.

The area of Mexico today is 761,000 square miles. In less than 15 years, Mexico lost nearly half of its land to the United States.

Document A: Hint Card 2

John O’Sullivan is credited with being the first person to coin the term “manifest destiny.” O’Sullivan was the founder and editor of the magazine, United States Magazine and Democratic Review.

Like President James K. Polk, O’Sullivan was a member of the Democratic Party.

Document A: Hint Card 3

In O’Sullivan’s mind, it was America’s manifest destiny, indeed it was God’s plan, that the United States should stretch from sea to shining sea. O’Sullivan was not alone in his thinking.

Opposition to manifest destiny would come mostly from anti-slavery New Englanders, who were fearful that the acquisition of new lands meant that slavery would spread further westward. New slave-holding lands would upset the balance of power in the Senate.

Document A: Hint Card 4

1836 Texas Independence

1845 Texas Annexation by US

1846-1848 Mexican War

1848 Mexican Cession

Document B

Source: War Message of President James Polk, Washington, May 11, 1846.

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

(In an earlier message) I informed you that…I had ordered an efficient military force to take a position “between the Nueces and the del Norte (Rio Grande).” That had become necessary, to meet a threatened invasion of Texas by the Mexican forces…The invasion was threatened solely because Texas had determined…to annex herself to our Union; and, under these circumstances, it was plainly our duty to extend our protection over her citizens and soil.

…The Congress of Texas, by its act of December 19, 1836, had declared the Rio del Norte to be the boundary of that republic…The country between that river and the Del Norte…is not included within one of our congressional districts…It became, therefore, of urgent necessity to provide for the defense of that portion of our country…

(On the 24th of April a party…of sixty-three men and officers, were…dispatched from the American camp up the Rio del Norte, on it (North) bank, to ascertain whether the Mexican troops had crossed, or were preparing to cross, the river….(They) became engaged with a large body of these (Mexican) troops, and, after a short affair, in which some sixteen (Americans) were killed and wounded, appear to have been surrounded and compelled to surrender….

We have tried every effort at reconciliation. The cup of forbearance had been exhausted even before the recent information from the frontier of the Del Norte. But now,…Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil.

Note: War Vote, May 13, 1846: US Senate 40 Yes, 2 No / House of Representatives 174 Yes, 14 No

Document Analysis

  1. What river did Texas and President Polk regard as the Texas-Mexico border?

  1. Would Mexico have viewed a Mexican advance north of the Rio Grande as an invasion of the US?

  1. Where did the April 24 fight between Mexican and American soldiers occur?

  1. Evaluate the response of Congress to Polk’s war message. What does this indicate to you regarding American support for the war?

  1. Analyze Polk’s war message. Did the President ask Congress to declare war on Mexico? What did President Polk specifically ask Congress to do?

  1. How does this document help answer the question: Was the United States justified in going to war with Mexico?

Document B: Hint Card 1

Relations between the United States and Mexico had been strained ever since Texas declared itself independent from Mexico in 1835. Tension spiked when the American Congress, after twice rejecting Texas’ request for annexation, voted to annex in early 1845

ocument B: Hint Cards

Document B: Hint Card 2

Shortly after annexation, Mexico broke off diplomatic relations with the US. As he states in his speech, Polk immediately sent troops under General Zachary Taylor to a spot just north of the Rio Grande River (which was the border America desired) and one hundred miles south of the Nueces River (which was Mexico’s desired border).

Document B: Hint Card 3

Critics of President Polk believed that he deliberately provoked Mexico to fire on the Americans.

Document B: Hint Card 4

Despite some heated opposition, the war bill passed both houses of Congress by wide margins. President Polk had been clever. He did not actually ask Congress to declare war but simply respond to a war that Mexico had already started. The opposition Whig party could not politically turn down Polk’s request for 50,000 men and 10 million dollars to defend General Taylor’s troops on the border.

Document C

Source: Jesus Velasco-Marquez, Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, “A Mexican Viewpoint on the War With the United States,” Voices of Mexico, Issue #41, Center for Research on North America (CISAN), National Autonomous University of Mexico, 2006.

The most dramatic event in the history of relations between Mexico and the United States took place a century and a half ago. US historians refer to this event as “The Mexican War,” while in Mexico we prefer to use the term “The U.S. Invasion.”…

From Mexico’s point of view, the annexation of Texas to the United States was inadmissible for both legal and security reasons. Thus, when the Mexican government learned of the treaty signed between Texas and the United States in April 1844, it…would consider such an act “a declaration of war.”…

(In early 1846, on Polk’s orders) the troops commanded by General Zachary Taylor arrived at the Rio Grande, across from the city of Matamoros, thus occupying the territory in dispute and increasing the possibilities of a confrontation…In the eyes of the (Mexican) government, the mobilization of the US army was an outright attack on Mexico…As a consequence, the Mexican government reaffirmed the instruction to protect the border, meaning the territory located between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River – an order which led to the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma…

…(One article) in the daily El Tiempo…stated: “The American government acted like a bandit who came upon a traveler.”

Document Analysis

  1. Whose point of view is held by the author of this document?

  1. How did the Mexican government feel about the annexation of Texas by the United States?

  1. According to the author, why did a Mexican force attack Zachary Taylor’s troops when they arrived at the Rio Grande River?

  1. How does this document help answer the question: Was the United States justified in going to war with Mexico?

  1. What is the connection between Texas secession, Texas annexation, and the Mexican attack on General Taylor’s troops?

  1. In your opinion, would there have been a Mexican-American War if Texas had remained part of Mexico? Explain your reasoning.

Document C: Hint Card 1

Jesus Velasco-Marquez is a professor of international studies at Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico. He is a recognized scholar with special expertise in Mexican public opinion at the time of the Mexican – American War.

ocument C: Hint Cards

Document C: Hint Card 2

Marquez’s important distinction between the secession of Texas from Mexico and the annexation of Texas by the U.S. is necessary to note. Both of these were hard for the Mexican government to swallow. At another point, Marquez mentions that the Mexican government regarded Texas secession in 1836 the same way Lincoln and most Northerners regarded South Carolina’s secession from the Union in 1860. Both Mexico and America used force to try to hold their country together.

Document C: Hint Card 3

The “bandit” comment in El Tiempo appeared on May 11, 1846. While there was considerable discord, or argument, among different political factions in Mexico City at this time, there was agreement that the United States was guilty of outright aggression.

Document C: Hint Card 4

The attack of April 25, 1846, on 52 American dragoons (soldiers) was fought in disputed territory on the Texas side of the Rio Grande. Several Americans were killed. Most were taken prisoner. In a letter written the day of his capture, Captain William Hardee reported to Zachary Taylor that the 45 prisoners were being treated in a gracious manner. The American officers dined with the Mexican General Arista who even offered to pay the Americans half their normal pay while they were in confinement.

Document D

Source: Charles Sumner, “Objections to the Mexican-American War,” adopted by the Massachusetts State Legislature, 1847.

Note: Sumner was a young state legislator from Massachusetts who later served 24 years in the U.S. Senate.

Mexico, on achieving her independence of the Spanish Crown…decreed the abolition of human slavery within her dominions, embracing the new province of Texas…

At this period, citizens of the United States had already begun to (move) into Texas…The idea was…that this extensive province ought to become a part of the United States….

A current of emigration soon followed from the United States. Slaveholders crossed the Sabine (river between Louisiana and Texas) with their slaves, in defiance of the Mexican ordinance of freedom. Restless spirits, discontented at home…joined them…The work of rebellion spread. Our newspapers excited the lust of territorial robbery in the public mind…Certainly (Mexico)…might justly charge our citizens with disgraceful robbery, while, in seeking extension of slavery, (our own citizens denied) the great truths of American freedom…

Note: According to an early Texas census, there were 103,000 whites and 38,000 slaves in the state in 1847.

Document Analysis

1.After achieving independence from Spain in 1821, did Mexico make slavery legal or illegal?

2. Sumner mentions a “disgraceful robbery.” Who robbed what from whom?

3. Did Charles Sumner have the support of the people of Massachusetts? Provide evidence and explain your thinking.

4. How does this document help answer the question: Was the United States justified in going to war with Mexico?

Document D: Hint Card 1

Charles Sumner introduces perhaps the most commonly held reason for not going to war with Mexico. Sumner was a passionate abolitionist. His drive to prevent the growth of slavery into new western territories led him to a career in politics.

ocument D: Hint Cards

Document C: Hint Card 2

A strong ally of Sumner was the abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison. In an 1847 letter to a friend, Garrison wrote:

“We are in good spirits, and serene as heaven itself, though the opposition is still formidable…especially in regard to the atrocious war with Mexico. It is certainly not a popular war; it was begun and is carried on against the deep moral convictions of the sober portion of the people; its real object, the extension and preservation of slavery, no intelligent man honestly doubts; still, the diabolical motto, “Our country, right or wrong….”

Document C: Hint Card 3

Many northerners were concerned about the extension of slavery to new territories, and eventually, states. They wanted to maintain the current balance of power in the Senate, because additional slave states would give more political power to the South.

Summarize the Documents

Based on Documents A thru D, summarize the reasons both for and against the U.S. going to war with Mexico.

Arguments for war:

1. Background essay map:

2. O’Sullivan:

3. Polk:

Arguments against war:

1. Marquez:

2. Marquez:

3. Sumner:

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