Politically Incorrect Facts about the Mexican-American War

The other day I posted about the Texas Revolution of 1836, giving some facts to counter the position that America’s early settlers were just a bunch of greedy, unscrupulous, white land-grabbers who “stole” their land from the Mexicans (and Native Americans). On the contrary, the Anglos had mostly been invited in by the Mexican government (which needed more citizens who could form militias to fight off hostile Indians) and allowed to make land claims. When the “Anglo” population revolted against the corrupt and often brutal Mexican government, the local Hispanics largely supported them.

sign with La Raza positionAfter winning its independence, Texas spent the next decade fending off attacks from Mexico, which refused to acknowledge that independence and abide by the terms of the treaty signed by President Santa Anna. Other nations recognized Texas’ sovereignty and advised Mexico not to try to take it back. Further, Mexico threatened to go to war with the United States, if the U.S. annexed Texas, which it did on Dec. 29, 1845. Between the annexation and other matters (including American presence in California and the Bear Flag Revolt), relations between the U.S. and Mexico continued to sour. After a more nationalistic administration came into power in Mexico City, things escalated and eventually led to a declaration of war in the Spring of 1846.

Thus, this year is also the 165th anniversary of the start of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). As I said in my previous post about the Texas Revolution, you will likely hear/read various anti-American and Hispanic-centric claims about the evils of American expansionism and Manifest Destiny. Since this is a sequel to that post, I would like to continue with a few more politically incorrect facts about the circumstances of the Mexican-American War. As such, I’ll also continue the numbering from where I left off:

9. In 1845 Mexico had the largest army on the North American continent — 30,000+ professional soldiers commanded by the “Napoleon of the West” (i.e., Santa Anna) and a cadre of professionally trained officers, including a number of expatriate European commanders.

The U.S. Army in 1845 consisted of approximately 5,000 professional soldiers, plus state militias, commanded by self-taught generals (many left over from the War of 1812). They were joined by a small contingent of untested graduates from the new Military Academy at West Point. Throughout the Mexican War, these West Pointers served as junior officers, often under the command of political generals. (It was not until the American Civil War that they rose to command the armies of the North and South.)

10. As indicated and contrary to the assertions of some, it was the Mexican army that had superior numbers — especially, re trained soldiers & officers. Many of those looking on from both Europe and Latin America expected the Mexican professional army to summarily route the Americans. Some say that the Mexican army was ill-equipped, ill-trained and lacked discipline and morale. Perhaps, but this was also true (except for the low morale) of the militia who constituted the bulk of the American army.

11. The territory between the Rio Grande and the Nueces rivers was at best disputed territory. As argued in my previous post, the Republic of Texas had successfully established its de facto authority over the area — a claim which passed on to the U.S. when it annexed Texas in 1845.

12. Both Mexican and American troops entered the disputed territory in 1846. The presence of U.S. forces in the area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande did not constitute an “invasion of Mexico” or a violation of Mexican sovereignty, which Mexico had failed to re-establish in the area for ten years. In fact, the presence of Mexican troops north of the Rio Grande could just as easily be considered an invasion of American territory by right of inheritance from the former Republic of Texas.

13. After Texas was annexed by the U.S., General Mariano Parades seized power in Mexico City, declaring his intention of driving the Americans out of Texas. He mobilized the Mexican army and ordered an attack on American troops along the Rio Grande. On April 23, 1846, he issued a Declaration of War against the United States.

14. A superior force of Mexican troops ambushed a much smaller patrol of American cavalry within the disputed territory on April 25. Thus, the war was first declared and the first shots fired by Mexico, just as President Polk claimed. The U.S. did not declare war on Mexico until May 13, after Mexican forces had attacked American troops north of the Rio Grande.

15. In less than eighteen months, the U.S. Army (mostly amateurs, remember) defeated a larger Mexican army led by a body of professionally trained officers.

16. Many of the Hispanic inhabitants of New Mexico and California openly supported the Americans during the war. In fact, some of their leaders even urged them to do so, including General Mariano Vallejo, Governor of California.

Mexican-American War map17. When the U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845, it was at Texas’ request — as it had every right to do. The Polk administration had also sought to purchase California and New Mexico prior to the outbreak of hostilities on the Rio Grande. Mexico refused to sell, as a matter of national honor.

18. Having initiated the war and suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Americans, Mexico ceded New Mexico and California to the U.S. in return for $15 million, plus the cancellation of $3.25 million in debts owed by Mexico to U.S. citizens. By the time the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed (1848), the U.S. in effect purchased these territories even after it had already conquered them. (This is a prime example of America’s benevolence and graciousness with those whom she defeats, which the “America sucks” crowd tends to overlook.) In accordance with the common practices of the day, the U.S. could have simply annexed the lands it chose by right of conquest and required Mexico to pay an indemnity as well, such as the Germans did to France at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War of 1871.

Today’s activists still complain about the ceding of territory that the Mexican government was “forced” to do. But, that is the nature of such a war and the rights of the winning side over the vanquished. Yet, under the treaty, Mexican citizens living in the ceded territories had the freedom to a) return to Mexico, b) remain where they were and retain their Mexican citizenship, or c) become American citizens. From what I understand, the majority eventually chose “c”.

Yet again, the underdog won against a larger and recalcitrant enemy (who was the aggressor, remember), then gave the defeated foe very gracious terms in the treaty. America both conquered the land in question under the rules of war and effectively purchased it. Nothing was “stolen”. Got it?


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