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Mexicans; but there is no reason to believe that he ever condescended to corrupt them.
It was very true that Mr. Polk would rather acquire territory by negotiation than by fighting; and hence it was his aim to disqualify the Mexicans from fighting, by promoting treason and rebellion; and hence Taylor was instructed to encourage the departments to declare themselves independent of the central Government. Hence also Commodore Sloat was instructed (June 8th, 1846), “ to encourage the people of that region (California), to enter into relations of amity with our country.” Hence, General Kearney, four days after entering Santa Fé, informed the inhabitants by proclamation (22d August, 1846), that it was the “ wish and intention of the United States, to provide for New Mexico à free Government, with the least possible delay, similar to those in the United States.” He moreover required those who had in loyalty to their country“ left their homes, and taken arms against the troops of the United States, to return forthwith to them, or else they will be considered as enemies and TRAITORS, subjecting their persons to punishment, and their property to seizure and confiscation." But these Mexicans who were to be punished as traitors for resisting the invaders of their soil, owed the same allegiance to their Government, as the General did to his. To remove this difficulty, the Brigadier assumed the prerogative once exercised by the Papal See. “The undersigned,” continued the proclamation, “ hereby ABSOLVES all persons residing within the boundary of New Mexico, from all further allegiance to the Republic of Mexico, and hereby CLAIMS them as citizens of the United States."
The absolution and the claim were of equal validity. The General had been instructed to establish a temporary civil Government, “ therein abolishing all arbitrary restrictions" and well knowing the ultimate purpose for which his conquest was made, he ordained that the right of suffrage in New Mexico, should be exercised by “every free male,” thus preparing the inhabitants for the arbitrary restrictions of the peculiar institution to be hereafter introduced. From Santa Fé, this gentleman proceeded to California, and there again assumed the powers of the Roman Pontiff and the American Congress. Addressing the Californians in a proclamation of 1st March, 1847, he declares : “The undersigned, by these presents, ABSOLVES all the inhabitants of California, of any further allegiance to the Republic of Mexico, and regards them as CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES.” Not content with wielding the attributes of ecclesiastical and civil sovereignty, he assumes those of a'prophet : The stars and stripes now float over California ; and, as long as the sun shall shed his light, they will continue to wave over her, and over the natives of the country, and over those who shall seek a domicile in her bosom ; and under the protection of this flag, agriculture must advance, and the arts and sciences will flourish like seed in a fertile soil. Americans and Californians, from henceforth ONE PEOPLE.”
CONDUCT OF AMERICAN OFFICERS IN MEXICO.
War, being always waged for the immediate purpose of inflicting misery and death, necessarily calls into action the malignant passions of our nature. It is impossible that those who are contriving the ruin and death of their enemies, should exercise towards them that love, and kindness, and forgiveness enjoined by Christianity. Hence the profession of arms has a strong tendency to blunt the sensibilities of the soldier, and to render him callous to the sufferings of his victim. Military glory, which is the prize that stimulates the ambition of the soldier, founded, as it is upon his bravery, skill, and success in destroying his enemy, and totally disconnected from all reference to the justice of the cause in which his victories are achieved has necessarily an unhappy influence in perverting the moral sense. In those qualities which twine the laurel around the brows of the warrior, there is no one element of moral goodness; nothing which has not been often exhibited by the most depraved of mankind. It has been well said, that when the soldier has vigorously assaulted the
enemy, when though repulsed he returns to the conflict, when being wounded he continues to brandish his sword till his grasp relaxes in death, and he falls on the field “covered with glory,” he has attained to the moral rank of a bull-dog. Hence the thirst for military fame, by diverting the mind from the contemplation and pursuit of objects really virtuous, renders the soldier peculiarly exposed to the allurements of vice. His ordinary life, moreover, is on various accounts unfavorable to the cultivation of those benevolent and virtuous affections which adorn and bless society. Banished from the softening and humanizing influences of domestic associations, exiled from wife and children, without other occupations than the monotonous routine of the camp or the barrack, and with no companions but such as are subjected to similar privations, both his mind and his heart are left without wholesome aliment. It is true that the army has had its saints; some good men have passed through its furnace without the smell of fire on their garments, but the attention excited by their wonderful deliverance attests the greatness of the peril they escaped.
The officers of an army are, with few exceptions, far superior in education and refinement to the privates, and are therefore rarely guilty of that vulgar motiveless ferocity which too often marks the conduct of the common soldier. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable to expect, that their education and refinement should generally shield their hearts from the indurating influence of their profession.
The foregoing remarks are, it is believed, founded on the acknowledged principles of human nature ; they are most abundantly verified by all military-history; and the conduct to which we will now call the attention of the reader, proves that they are applicable to American, as well as to other armies.
During the horrible bombardment of Vera Cruz, and after a day of indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children, the French, Spanish, and English Consuls in the city, addressed on the evening of the 24th March, 1847, a joint note to General Scott asking a suspension of hostilities for a time “sufficient to enable their respective compatriots to leave the place with their women and children, as well as the Mexican women and children.” How far the emergency of the case justified this application, may be learned from the report of the chief of the artillery, made the same evening to the General—“We have been restrained from the want of shells from throwing more than one every five minutes during the day ;" he adds that a full supply would be sent to the batteries that night for the ensuing day. The next day the 25th, General Scott sent to the consuls a peremptory refusal of their request—the neutrals might have left the place previous to the bombardment; and as to the Mexican women and children, his summons to the city had been disregarded, and now no truce would be allowed apart from surrender, Some excuse for this stern denial of mercy to foreigners, and to innocent women and children, might have been found if the capture of the city would have been hazarded by the intermission for a few hours of the fiery deluge which was overwhelming it. But Scott well knew that he had it in his power to reduce the whole city to one mass of ruins. So also, had a reinforcement of Mexicans been approaching, a motive would have existed for compelling a surrender before their arrival; but the beleaguered city had no hopes of relief, and the position and force of the American army precluded the possibility of succor. Scott's army, moreover, were so safely ensconced in their entrenchments, that he had no reason to fear, that the boon that was asked would prove injurious to the assailants ; since in his operations against the castle and city, his total loss, out of 10,000 men, did not exceed sixty-five killed and wounded. Before replying to the Consuls, he wrote to the Secretary of War the same day,