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way throughout the republic. The Message of Mr. Polk (Dec. 1846), in vindication of the war, has been termed “a pyramid of mendacity". It would occupy too much space to examine in detail the various materials of this vast structure, we will merely give a few specimens which the attentive reader of the preceding pages will be qualified to analyze for himself.
The existing war with Mexico was neither desired nor provoked by the United States; on the contrary, all honorable means were resorted to to avert it. After years of endurance of aggravated wrongs on our part, Mexico, in violation of solemn treaty stipulations commenced hostilities, and thus by her own act forced the war upon us. Long before the advance of our army to the left bank of the Rio Grande, we had ample cause of war against Mexico; and, had the United States resorted to this extremity, we might have appealed to the whole civilized world for the justice of our cause." “The wrongs which we have suffered from Mexico almost ever since she became an independent
power, and the patient endurance with which we have borne them, are without a parallel in the history of modern civilized nations." “The annexation of Texas to the United States constituted no just cause of offence to Mexico.” “Whilst occupying his (General Taylor's) position on the east bank of the Rio Grande within the limits of Texas, then recently admitted as one of the States of our Union, the Commanding-General of the Mexican forces, who, in pursuance of the orders of his Government, had collected a large army on the opposite shore of the Rio Grande, crossed the river, invaded our territory, and commenced hostilities by attacking our forces.” “Every honorable effort has been used by me to avoid the war that followed ; but all have proved vain. All our attempts to preserve peace have been met by insult and resistance
on the part of Mexico.” “ This war has not been waged with a view to conquest,” &c., &c.
With a reckless consistency rarely paralleled, he announced to Congress on the 6th of July, 1848, that “the war in which our country was RELUCTANTLY involved in the NECESSARY vindication of the national rights and honor, has been terminated.”
The fictions of Mr. Polk were reiterated by his party with all the gravity of sincere belief. The Whigs in Congress, with a few honorable exceptions, pursued a different policy. They fearlessly confessed that the war for which they voted was unnecessary and unjust, a war of aggression and not of defence; and that the assertion in behalf of which they enrolled their names in an enduring record, that the war existed “ by the act of Mexico” was
To excuse their conduct, they also had their fiction. They voted to raise fifty thousand men, for the purpose of rescuing General Taylor and his little army from capture by the Mexicans !
The falsehoods respecting the Mexican war, coined in Washington, became a circulating medium throughout the country. They were found in almost every official de spatch ; they were uttered through the press; they were passed as genuine by Governors in their messages, and by Legislatures in their resolves. Who shall estimate the injury done to the morality of the nation by this widespread contempt for truth? The example of men conspicuous for talents, influence, and station, must be operative for good or for evil. “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn.' It has been well said that truth and the confidence it inspires, is the basis of human society, and that error is the source of every iniquity. How deplorable, then, that the love of truth and abhorrence of falsehood should be weakened by the authority and example of those in high places! But with this subject are connected considerations more momentous than any that belong to this transitory scene ;-we are all soon to enter upon an endless existence in a world in which sorrow and falsehood are alike unknown, or in a place from which joy and truth are for ever banished.
Surely, among the awful responsibilities resting upon the authors and supporters of the Mexican war, will be included the corruption of public opinion and the depravation of public morals to which it has given birth.
ACQUISITION OF TERRITORY.
HAVING taken a retrospect of the pecuniary, political, and moral sacrifices made by the American people, in the war they have waged against Mexico, let us next inquire what equivalents they have received. It is difficult to imagine any which are not included in the TERRITORY and the GLORY they have acquired. The value of these acquisitions, we proceed to examine. It
appears from a document laid before Congress from the War Department and Land Office, that the alleged limits of Texas embrace 325,520 square miles; and those of New Mexico and California, as ceded by treaty, 526,078 more, making a grand total of 851,590 square miles. It is only by comparison that we can form an adequate idea of the extent of this prodigious area. The state of New York contains less than 50,000 square miles; of course the addition made to our possessions is equal to seventeen times the extent of the Empire State. It is four times the size of France, and five times that of
Texas, it is true, was acquired by other means than open war. But no less than 125,520 square miles, included within her assumed boundaries, rightfully belonged to Mexico, and our title to them is founded, not on her claim, but on conquest, confirmed by the treaty of peace. Adding this territory to that of New Mexico and California, we have 651,591 square miles, about one half of all that was left to Mexico, after the revolt of Texas, as the spoils of war. Such was “the magnanimous forbearance exhibited towards Mexico," of which Mr. Polk thought proper to boast in his Message to the Senate communicating the treaty which ceded to us this vast plunder.
* See American Almanac for 1842, p. 270.
How far this forbearance was magnanimous depends, of course, on the motives which prompted it. We have already seen that the insurgents of Texas, after some hesitation, forbore to include California within its boundaries. The reason assigned for this forbearance had no reference to right and justice ; it was simply, that they had already taken as much as they wanted, and that more at present would be inconvenient. It is difficult to see wherein our forbearance was more magnanimous than that of our Texan brethren. We have taken precisely what we went to war to acquire ; and a territory from which thirteen large slave States could be carved, was sufficient to give the slave power an entire control of the Federal Government. Mexico, moreover, is so enfeebled and despoiled, that all that is left may be absorbed by the mighty Republic, at any moment it may be deemed expedient to take possession.
But as Mexico was prostrated, and we might have annexed the whole Republic to our territory, was it not magnanimous to pay her for what we did take? It is true Mexico was prostrate, but she was not submissive. She could not resist our arms, but she could not be occupied and governed as American territory except by military force. The war was becoming unpopular, and the Administration was tottering, the popular branch of the National Legislature having declared against it. doubtful whether Congress would furnish supplies for new conquests. But, in any event, nothing more could be