Painting of a Mexican-American War battle
“The War” – From a Mexican Viewpoint
When asked about the Mexican American War; most Americans would probably give a lost and questioning reaction. However for Mexicans, they would probably remember this war passionately; “It is a scar for them.”(35)
Most American historians would call this war as “The Mexican-American War”, while Mexicans would refer it as “The U.S Invasion”. The difference in referral is based on the different perceptions of the conflict. While President Polk blamed the Mexicans for causing the war because the Mexican governments left the United States with no other choice for defending its national security and interest; the Mexicans did not see this way.
To understand the Mexicans viewpoint of the war, it is important to first understand the problem of annexation of Texas. The annexation of Texas to the United States was unacceptable for both legal and security reasons from Mexico’s point of view. Mexico stated that the annexation of Texas to the United States was a violation of the 1828 boarder treaty, which had acknowledged Mexico’s sovereignty over that territory.(36)
However little did Mexico know, such acts were a violation of the fundamental principles of international law, and moreover United States began to threaten Mexico’s territorial security. On July 4, 1845, the Texas government has agreed to the annexation.
The Mexican government had always wanted to maintain in a negotiable manner with the United States. As stated by the Mexican government to the United States one month before the annexation of Texas, “…although the Mexican nation was gravely offended by the United States due to its action in Texas – belonging to Mexico – the government was willing to receive a commissioner who would arrive in this capital from the Unite States possessing full faculties to settle the current dispute in a peaceful, reasonable and respectable way.”(37)
However not only did the United States conform to close to none negotiations, they also demand for the cession of the territories of New Mexico and California. The Mexican government had two choices: they could give in and reestablish friendly relations to the United States, proving to the world that Mexico would always be a “slave” to the United States or the Mexican government would not surrender to such degradation and resort to war.
Therefore, on July 6, 1846, President Mariano Paredes passed the Congressional decree that sustained such principles in the following terms:
Article 1 - The government, in the natural defense of the nation, will repel the aggression initiated and sustained by the United States of America against the Republic of Mexico, having invaded and committed hostilities in a number of the departments making up Mexican territory.
Article 3 - The government will communicate to friendly nations and to the entire republic the justifiable causes which obliged it to defend its rights, left with no other choice but to repel force with force, in response to the violent aggression committed by the United States.(38)
Analyzing the above decrees, it could be seen that Mexico never declared a war against the United States but rather the need to defend the country’s territorial integrity and fending off United State’s invasion. Therefore, in a Mexican view point, the war was not a result of greed or arrogance but a consequence to defend Mexico’s territory from U.S invasion. And thus, the Mexicans would call this war as “The U.S War against Mexico”.
“The War” – From an American Viewpoint
During the 1840s, many Americans had the idea of a “manifest destiny” craved into their heads. They insisted that their nation had a manifest destiny to dominate the continent and felt that it was their mission to extend the “boundaries of freedom” to others by passing on their idealism and belief in democratic institutions to those who were capable of self-government.
To understand the Americans viewpoint on the war, it is important to understand “manifest destiny” and United States’ need and desire to expand. Firstly, during that period of time, the United States was experiencing high population growth rate from increasing in birth rate and immigration. Therefore there was a need to expand into new territories to accommodate with this huge population growth. Secondly, the United States suffered from two economic depressions (1818 and 1839) (39), therefore driving people to seek living in frontier areas since frontier land was inexpensive or free. Thirdly, expansion into frontier areas provided new opportunities for commerce and individual self advancement thus promoting economical growth.
Summing up the three reasons for the Americans to expand its territory; it means that in an American viewpoint, the Mexican American War was purely driven by economical, social and political pressures to expand U.S territories.