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United States, respecting the North-eastern boundary of the latter. No President assumed the responsibility of plunging the country into war by taking military possession of the disputed territory, and the question was finally settled by treaty. Mr. Polk, on his accession to the Presidency, found another and most important question of boundary pending between the same parties respecting the territory of Oregon. He expressed, in his inaugural address, the opinion, that the title of the United States to the whole of that vast region up to 54° 40' of North latitude, was clear and unquestionable ; and he refused all offers of compromise, and all reference of the question to arbitration. Yet he sent no army to defend what he declared to be our Northern frontier. On the contrary, he entered into negotiation with Great Britain, and surrendered five degrees and forty minutes of territory, which he had himself asserted belonged to us " by irrefragable facts and arguments,” by a treaty which General Cass declared in the Senate was “prepared by the British Government,” and which was ratified by the Senate without “the crossing of a t, or the dotting of an i; untouched and unchanged." Great Britain was a powerful nation, and Mexico a feeble one; the territory surrendered was in the North, and would for ever be free—that which was seized was in the South, and was intended to be for ever a slave region.
COMMENCEMENT OF WAR AGAINST MEXICO BY GENERAL
Mr. Polk, having decided on war, in case California could not be had by negotiation, commenced his preparations for waging it, even before the annexation with Texas was consummated. On the 8th July, 1845, the Secretary of War wrote to Taylor, “This department is informed, that Mexico has some military establishments on the east side of the Rio Grande, which are, and for some time past have been, in the actual occupation of her troops. In carrying out the instructions heretofore received, you will be careful to avoid any acts of aggression, unless a state of war should exist. The Mexican forces at the posts in their possession, and which have been so, will not be disturbed so long as the relations of peace between the United States and Mexico continue.” An invading army is sent into a territory in military possession of Mexico; territory which had never been out of her possession since its conquest from the aborigines. But no attack is to be made on the Mexican forts ; let the first blow be struck by the Mexicans, and then the war will be one of defence, and therefore more popular. On the 6th August, Taylor is informed that the seventh regiment of infantry and three companies of dragoons have been ordered to Texas, and 10,000 muskets, and 1,000 rifles. A few days after he is told, he will have “a force of four thousand men of the regular army.” In addition to these regulars, requisitions were made upon the Governors of Alabama, Mississippi,
Louisiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, to furnish Taylor with as many volunteers as he might require. The Secretary of War, in thus calling for an indefinite number of troops, makes the following candid and extraordinary confession: “It is proper to observe, that the emergency rendering such assistance from the militia of
State sary, does not appear to have been foreseen by Congress, and consequently no appropriation was made for paying them.” Truly indeed Congress had not foreseen that Mr. Polk meant to invade Mexico, and had made no provision for the intended war.
The President having thus made, on his own responsibility, ample provision for the commencement of the war, instructed Taylor how he might bring it on in case Mexico remained passive. On the 30th August, he was told, “The assembling a large Mexican army on the borders of Texas, and crossing the Rio Grande with a considerable force, will be regarded by the Executive as an invasion of the United States (!) and the commencement of hostilities. An attempt to cross the river with such a force will also be considered in the same light. In case of war, either declared or made manifest by hostile acts, your main object will be the protection of Texas; but the pursuit of this object will not necessarily confine your action within the territory of Texas. Mexico having thus commenced hostilities, you may
your discretion cross the Rio Grande, disperse or capture the forces assembled to invade Texas, defeat the junction of troops uniting for that purpose, drive them from their positions on either side of the river, and, if deemed practicable and expedient, take and hold possession of Metamoras and other places in the country.”
Thus we find the President in time of peace, and without the knowledge or expectation of Congress, ordering the invasion of a territory in the actual and exclusive possession of Mexico, a territory having Mexican villages under the authority of Mexican magistrates, a port of entry, a custom-house, and various “ military establishments.” Should the Mexicans, prompted by the natural dictates of patriotism and self-defence, assemble a body of troops which in General Taylor's discretion might be deemed “ large,” and attempt to cross the river to reinforce their military establishments, to protect their villages, to secure the collection of their customs, to watch the motions of the invading army, then General Taylor is to regard their conduct as AN INVASION OF THE UNITED STATES, and is to begin a war of defence, although not a Mexican shot has been fired, and is to capture the city of Metamoras, and to carry the war into the interior of Mexico.*
So confident was Mr. Polk of the success of his plan, that, as we have seen, the Governors of no less than five States were ordered to supply Taylor with an unlimited number of troops to commence the intended campaign with eclat.
The pretended apology for this most unwarrantable assumption of power in thus plunging the country into an unexpected, unprovoked, and unnecessary war, was that Texas was in danger. None were more sensible than the administration of the utter inability of Mexico to wage an offensive war against the United States. Since the commencement of the Texan rebellion, the Mexican Government had been uttering inflated threats against its revolted province, yet no hostile force had entered it since the disastrous conflict at San Jacinto. A vast desert extended between the Nueces and the Rio Grande; and in the district along the east of that river not one Texan dwelling was to be found. The population of the country invaded by Taylor, was exclusively Mexican. There was no human probability that Mexico, feeble, disorganized, and distracted as she was, would dare to invade Texas, now protected by the whole power of the American confederacy, when nine years before a handful of adventurers had destroyed her army, and taken captive her President. The pretence was no less absurd than false ; and, had danger been indeed apprehended, there was no necessity to send an army 200 miles in advance of the Texan settlements, when no hostile movements of the Mexicans indicated an intention to cross the intervening desert, and enter Texas. The falsity of the pretence is evinced by a remarkable confession made by the government so late as 16th Oct., 1845. The Secretary of War, writing to Taylor, says, “The information we have, renders it probable that no serious attempts will at present be made by Mexico to invade Texas, although she continues to threaten incursions."* General Taylor, instead of proceeding immediately to the Rio Grande agreeably to his instructions, stopped at Corpus Christi at the mouth of the Nueces, the extreme point of Texas proper, and Oct. 4th, 1845, wrote to the Secretary, “Mexico having as yet made no positive declaration of war, or committed any overt act of hostilities, I do not feel at liberty under my instructions, particularly those of July 8th, to make a forward movement to the Rio Grande without authority from the war department.” He alluded to his instructions to take a position on the Rio Grande to repel invasion, but
* The following from the Union of the 11th Sept., 1845, the official paper of the Administration, shows how well the editor understood the designs of his employers, “ If Arista (the Mexican General at Metamoras), dares to carry out his braggart threats, if he ventures to cross the Rio Grande with reinforcements to any little armed posts, which the Mexicans may occupy on the east side of the river, General Taylor will attempt to prevent himblood must flow-war WILL ENSUE."