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James Russell

mexico, california, peace, war, scott, meet and terms

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In spite of adverse criticism, President Polk never once swerved from his original line of action. Early in 1847 a second army was sent out under Gen. Winfield Scott to land at Vera Cruz, and to attack the capital from the east. The series of Mexican disasters at the beginning of the war had resulted in another revolution which restored Santa Anna to power. His plan was to meet Taylor first, defeat him and then return to the city of Mexico in time to defend it against Scott. The battle of Buena Vista was fought 23 February 1847. Taylor's force of 5,000 men won a victory over an army four times as large. Immediately after the bat tle Santa Anna hurried south to meet General Scott. The two armies first came into conflict at the mountain pass of Cerro Gordo, and the Americans were again successful. This was fol lowed by the victories of Contreras, San An tonio and Cherubusco. The way was now open to the City of Mexico, but the arrival of a peace commissioner from the United States led to the conclusion of an armistice. See MEX ICAN WAR, The scene now shifts to Washington. Presi dent Polk had been confident of success from the very beginning of the war. As early as 8 August 1846 he asked Congress for $2,000,000 to be used in negotiating a peace. This was far more than enough to meet the ordinary ex penses of peace commissioners. The object of the President, however, was perfectly clear; in fact he made no attempt to conceal it. Mexico was to be called upon to cede New Mexico and California. A bill was introduced into the House of Representatives to appropriate the amount required. David Wilmot, a Pennsyl vania Democrat, moved the insertion of a proviso to the effect that neither slavery nor in voluntary servitude should exist in any terri tory to be acquired by the war. (See Wnaterr Paoviso). It was passed by the House in 1846 and again in 1847, but was defeated by the Sen ate on both occasions. The House finally yielded, and the appropriation, increased to $3,000,000, was made without the proviso.

Nicholas P. Trist, of Virginia, was at once sent to Mexico as a peace commissioner. He was authorized to demand the cession of New Mexico and Upper California and the recoe nition of the Rio Grande boundary. This was the minimum to be accepted. In order to obtain

these terms he was to begin with an additional demand for Lower California and for the right of way across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. At the proper moment he might surrender these points and also offer a consideration. The Mexican authorities refused the terms, negotiations were broken off and General Scott renewed his campaign. On 13 September he stormed the heights of Chapultepec, and on the following day entered the City of Mexico. The enemy were now compelled to accept whatever terms were offered to them. Negotiations were reopened with Trist, and the Treaty of Guada lupe Hidalgo was signed 2 Feb. 1848. It was sent to the Senate 23 February, ratified by them with amendments 10 M,arch, and the final ratifi cations were exchanged 30 May. In return for $15,000,000 and the assumption by the United States of the spoliation claims of their citizens, estimated at $3,250,000 more, Mexico ceded California and New Mexico, and recognized the Rio Grande frontier. Mexicans living in the ceded territory were to be free to continue to reside there or to remove to Mexico, without any prejudice to their property. Those who re mained could either retain the title and rights of Mexican citizens or become citizens of the United States.

The immediate result of the war, then, was the acquisition of the vast territory comprising the present States of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona north of the Gila and parts of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. More than half a million square miles of valu able land were transferred from a non-progres sive nation to a nation that was able to develop its resources. The enormous mineral deposits of that region were just beginning to be de veloped. And even now, over half a century after the peace, the agricultural industry, owing to the tardy extension of irrigation facilities, is still far from its maximum development. Many of the best people in the country in 1848 were so blinded by the slavery issue that they could not realize the value of their conquest. Fortunately for our history, such men as Cass and Douglas had sufficient influence parti ally to allay the prejudices of their section and thus to secure the ratification of the treaty.

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