Causes Of The Mexican War Essay, Research Paper
Causes of the Mexican War
The Mexican War lasted from 1846-1848 in the area now known as Texas.
What began as several small disputes eventually led into an armed conflict
between the considerably new nations of Mexico and the United States. The
geographical and political disputes are the most likely causes of the war. These
causes of this war became significant, when the outcome gave the United
States a platform to become one of the most powerful countries in the world.
The first sign of problems between the two countries began when the
United States bordered Mexico after the Louisiana Purchase. “With these areas
now available, American settlers began to move into them, and from there, they
began to enter illegally the sparsely inhabited Mexican territories of California ”
Nardo pg 21. Mexico was unable to deal with these invaders at the time because
they were still dealing with their revolution, but after the Mexican Republic was
established Mexico realized that the United States expansion could be a threat.
Mexico had recently acquired its independence from Spain in the
1820’s and America in the later half of the 1700’s. These new nations had were
unfamiliar with solving their disputes without war. “Although the new
country had established democratic form of government, most of the former class
differences among its citizens still remained. Like Mexico the United States had
extremes of wealth and poverty ” Nardo pg 12. Mexico believed in equality for all
people even though they had differences in their social class. The United States
also believed in equality for all people, even though slavery was practiced by
American citizens. The differences in which each country ran itself caused a small
sense of tension.
To try and help situation between Mexico and the United States, a law
student named Steve Austin developed a proposal for the American settlers in
Texas problem. “Austin promised that the settlers would give up allegiance to the
United States and become Mexican citizens. They would convert to Catholicism
and obey Mexican laws ” Nardo pg 17. This idea backfired when the settlers in
Texas disobeyed Mexican laws. They were too used to having free religion in the
United States and refused to become Catholic. There were several armed revolts
in Texas to any enforcement of the Mexican law. These uprisings by the United
States settlers intensified their feelings toward each other.
The possibility of the annexation of Texas by the United States further
irritated the developing situation. The Mexican Army clearly outnumbered the
Texan Defense and slowly but surely Mexico would end the revolts in Texas.
Though with the help of the United States, Texas would be able to fight the
Mexicans. “Subsequently in the minds of those who believed that the United
States forced war on Mexico as part of preconceived plan forces had in time of
peace encamped in and marched across the territory below the Nueces claimed by
Mexico-though, for that matter, all Texas to the Sabine was so claimed, and
Mexico had announced more than once that entry of Texas into the Union was in
and of itself to be regarded as equivalent to a declaration of war ” Henry pg 28.
Similar feelings were also shared on the other side of the border. “President
Jackson, nearing the end of office, feared that to annex would mean war with
Mexico and an upheaval in domestic politics. Not until the day before he left the
White House would he even recognize the Republic of Texas” Meltzer pg 41.
Though the other reason that Texas wasn’t immediately annexed was a slavery
issue. The North knew that Texas would enter as a slave state. Even though this
was not want the North wanted eventually Texas was annexed. “For several years
the politicians, not yet ready to meet the slavery issue head-on, dodged any debate
on annexation. Texas did not stand still meanwhile. She attracted thousands of
settlers with more liberal offers of land than the United States would make.
Within a decade the Texan population had jumped to 142,000. And by now,
across the border, Americans were ready to act on annexation” Meltzer pg 40.
The annexation of Texas by the United States caused more dispute between
the two countries. The Sabine was established as the boundary between United
States Louisiana and Texas, but when Texas became part of the United States the
dispute over where the Texas and Mexico boundary would be. “While continuing
to deny the existence of Texas as an independent state and its power to annex itself
to the United States, and in no way abating the Mexican claim to everything up to
the Sabine, Mexico also asserted subsequently a lesser claim to the Nueces River
as a boundary line between the states of Tamaulipas and Texas ” Henry pg 18.
With this border set up the United States wanted to send troops to protect them
from the bordering Mexico. General Taylor was instructed to go on or near the
Rio Grande, while making sure not to cause annoyance with the Mexicans on the
east side of the river. “So doing, Taylor placed himself on the right, or south bank
of the Nueces ” Henry pg 20.
Now that Texas was a part of the United States, it would be increasingly
harder for them to defeat Texas. Though the Mexicans had some advantages.
“The United States was far wealthier and more highly populated, there were more
trained soldiers in the Mexican army than in the American. Mexican cavalry was
rated better than that of the United States by European observers, and cavalry
would be important in the theater of warfare across the border” Downey pg 64.
Eventually the United States would get fed up with the antics of Mexico. “United
States ships, visiting Mexican ports on legitimate errands, were delayed and their
officers insulted. In April, 1840 numbers of Americans and other foreigners living
in California were suddenly arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison” Downey
pg 79. The constant harassment of Americans led the United States to defend their
people and show that these action would not go unpunished.
The slave interest at the time could be an additional reason for the Mexican
War. The southern slave states had good reason to support the war. “This
interpretation maintains that the slave interest sought more territory for cotton
cultivation and for additional slave states to balance the northern free states in the
national legislature” Rappaport pg 35. The United States involving themselves in
the war would allow them to acquire Texas. Texas would be another place for
agricultural support. Furthermore, Texas would most likely join the United States
as a slave state. This would make the number of free and slave states equal.
Another possible reason for the Mexican War is to complete manifest
destiny and for freedom. By involving themselves in the war they were able to
obtain land and power. The idea in America was that the more land, the more
places to prosper. This idea caused America to expand at rapid rates. “No other
nation ever expanded so far and so fast in one generation as the United States.
The national frontier leaped from the banks of the Mississippi to the shores of the
Pacific” Meltzer pg 10 . It was also highly supported. “Many Americans,
Northerners and Southerners supported the war because they believed it was
America’s destiny to cover the whole northern if not southern continent”
Rappaport pg 44. America was bent on controlling New Mexico and California
one way or another to complete their manifest destiny dream. “An attempt at a
peaceful settlement was made by Polk in November, 1845, when he sent John
Slidell to Mexico City to try to buy California and New Mexico for thirty million
dollars. His mission failed” Downey pg 69. Several months later the United
States took action achieve manifest destiny and declared war on Mexico on May
No matter what the cause of the Mexican War was, this event helped to
secure America as a major power. Now that the United States stretched from
ocean to ocean his country would begin to thrive for centuries. It is believed that
the causes of the Mexican war were geographical due to the yearning of manifest
destiny. The idea of stretching across a continent would enough to cause the
United States involvement with Mexico. To annex Texas and gain all its
resources and power is another reason for the Mexican war. At the time the views
on reasons for becoming involved were of all sorts. “Some believed Mexico
deserved chastisement for not honoring valid American claims, rejecting John
Slidell, and for the mistreating of Americans living in Texas. Some thought
Mexico would so greatly benefit by an American military victory followed by
democratization of that country as to warrant war. Some were convinced that
American acquisition of Mexican territory would help to fulfill the divine plan that
fertile soil be in the hands of a superior people for its “beneficent utilization”.
Some were outraged by the Mexican attack on American troops on “American
soil” on May 9,1846” Rappaport pg 11. Issues like New Mexico, California,
slavery, and other less important reasons were all apart of causing the Mexican
War. The results of the Mexican War led America to gaining a few territories, but
the long term affect that it had on America can still be seen today.
Downey, Fairfax.Texas and the War with Mexico. New York: American Heritage
Publishing Co., Inc. 1961.
Henry, Robert. The Story of the Mexican War. New York: Fredrick Ungar Publishing
Meltzer, Milton. Bound for the Rio Grande; The Mexican Struggle, 1845 1850. New
York: Random House, 1974.
Nardo,Don. The Mexican-American War. San Diego: Lucent Books, 1991.
Rappaport, Armin. The War With Mexico: Why did it happen?. New York: Harper and
Row Publishers, Inc., 1974.