I. The Accession of “Tyler Too”
- The Whig leaders, namely Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, had planned
to control newly elected President William H. Harrison,
but their plans
hit a snag when he contracted pneumonia and died—only four weeks
after he came to the White House.
- The new president was John Tyler, a Virginian gentleman who was a lone wolf.
- He did not agree with the Whig party, since the Whigs were pro-bank
and pro-protective tariff, and pro-internal improvements,
from the South, he was not. Tyler was really more of a Democrat.
II. John Tyler: A President Without a Party
- After their victory, the Whigs unveiled their platform for America:
- Financial reform would come in the form of a law ending the independent treasury system; Tyler agreeably signed it.
- A new bill for a new Bank of the U.S. was on the table, but Clay
didn’t try hard enough to conciliate with Tyler
and get it
passed, and it was vetoed.
- Whig extremists now started to call Tyler “his accidency.”
- His entire cabinet resigned, except for Webster.
- Also, Tyler vetoed a proposed Whig tariff.
- The Whigs redrafted and revised the tariff, taking out the
dollar-distribution scheme and pushing down the rates to
moderately protective level of 1832 (32%), and Tyler, realizing that a
tariff was needed, reluctantly signed
III. A War of Words with England
- At this time, anti-British sentiment was high because the
pro-British Federalists had died out, there had been two
Britain, and the British travelers in America scoffed at the
- American and British magazines ripped each other’s countries,
but fortunately, this war was only of words and
not of blood.
- In the 1800s, America with its expensive canals and railroads was a
borrowing nation while Britain was the one that
lent money, but when
the Panic of 1837 broke out, the Englishmen who lost money assailed
their rash American borrowers.
- In 1837, a small rebellion in Canada broke out, and Americans furnished arms and supplies.
- Also in 1837, an American steamer, the Caroline, was attacked in N. and set afire by a British force.
- Tensions were high afterwards, but later calmed; then in 1841,
British officials in the Bahamas offered asylum to some
slaves who had captured the ship Creole.
IV. Manipulating the Maine Maps
- Maine had claimed territory on its northern and eastern border that
was also claimed by England, and there were actually
in the area (the “Aroostook War” of feuding lumberjacks).
- Luckily, in 1842 Britain sent Lord Ashburton to negotiate with
Daniel Webster, and after talks, the two agreed to what
is now called
the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, which gave Britain their desired
Halifax-Quebec route for a road while America
got a bit more land north
- The U.S. also got, as a readjustment of the U.S.—Canadian
border, the unknowingly priceless Mesabi Range of iron
ore up in
Minnesota. It later provided the iron for steel in the boom of industry.
V. The Lone Star of Texas Shines Alone
- Ever since it had declared independence in 1836, Texas had built up
reinforcements because it had no idea if or when
Mexico would attack
again to reclaim her “province in revolt.” So, Texas made
treaties with France, Holland,
and Belgium. These alliances worried the
- If Texas "buddied up" to Europe, Britain especially, it’d cause big problems for America, such as…
- The Monroe Doctrine (where Europe was told to "stay away") would be undermined if England had a buddy over here in Texas.
- The dominant Southern cotton economy would also be undercut by Texas cotton shipping to England.
- The U.S. was at a stand-still over what to do with Texas.
- The North decried the Southern "slavocracy" (a supposed Southern conspiracy to always gain more slave land).
- America could not just boldly annex Texas without a war with Mexico.
- Overseas, Britain wanted an independent Texas to check American expansionism.
- Yet, Texas would be good boost for American cotton production and provide tons more land. What to do?!
VI. The Belated Texas Nuptials
- James K. Polk and his expansionist ideas won the election of 1844.
His election was seen as a "mandate for manifest
destiny," so the
following year, Texas was formally invited to become the 28th state of
- Mexico complained that Americans had despoiled it of Texas, which
was partly true, but as it turned out, Mexico would
not have been able
to reconquer their lost province anyway.
VII. Oregon Fever Populates Oregon
- Oregon was a great place, stretching from the northern tip of California to the 54° 40’ line.
- Once claimed by Russia, Spain, England, and the U.S., now, only the
latter two claimed it; England had good reasons
for its claims north of
the Columbia River, since it was populated by British and by the
Hudson’s Bay Company.
- However, Americans had strong claims south of the Columbia River
(named after his ship by Robert Gray when he discovered
since they populated it much more. Plus, the Americans occupied and had
explored the interior of the land,
thanks to Lewis and Clark.
- The Oregon Trail, an over 2000-mile trail across America, was a common route to Oregon during the early 1840s.
VIII. A Mandate (?) for Manifest Destiny
- In 1844, the two candidates for presidency were Henry Clay, the
popular Whig who had been defeated twice before, and
candidate, James K. Polk, who had been picked because the Democrats
couldn’t agree on anyone else.
- Polk, having been Speaker of the House for four years and governor
of Tennessee for two terms. He was no stranger to
politics, was called
“Young Hickory” (in fact, Polk was born in Pineville, N.C.,
only some 15 miles from
Jackson’s birthplace) and Polk was even
sponsored by former president Andrew Jackson.
- He and the Democrats advocated “Manifest Destiny”, a
concept that stated that the U.S. was destined to
expand across the
continent and get as much land as possible.
- On the issue of Texas, Clay tried to say two things at once, and
thus, it cost him, since he lost the election (170
to 105 in the
Electoral; 1,338,464 to 1,300,097 in the popular) by 5000 votes in New
IX. Polk the Purposeful
- Polk laid out a 4-point mission for himself and the nation (then achieved all 4 points in 4 years)
- Lower the tariff
- Restore the independent treasury (put U.S. money into non-government banks)
- Clear up the Oregon border issue
- Get California
- One of Polk’s acts was to lower the tariff, and his secretary
of the treasury, Robert J. Walker, did so, lowering
the tariff from 32%
to 25% despite complaints by the industrialists.
- Despite warnings of doom, the new tariff was followed by good times.
- He also restored the independent treasury in 1846 and wanted to acquire California and settle the Oregon dispute.
- Under Polk, the Oregon border issue was settled.
- While the Democrats had promoted acquiring all of Oregon during
their campaign, after the annexation of Texas, the
didn’t much care anymore.
- England and the U.S. had been bargaining for Oregon land to answer, "Where is the border of Oregon?"
- England first answered 42o latitude; then said the Columbia River
- The U.S. first answered 54o40' latitude; then said 49o latititude
- Things were tense for a while, but England realized there were more
Americans in Oregon than Brits—their leverage
- So, the British proposed a treaty that would separate British and American claims at the **49th parallel (excluding
Vancouver), a proposal that Polk threw to the Senate, and which accepted.
- The U.S. got the better of the deal since
- the British second-choice was rejected but the Americans' second-choice was accepted and
- as with the Maine treaty, the U.S. got a bit more land than England did
- Those angry with the deal cried, “Why all of Texas but not
all of Oregon?” The cold, hard answer was that
because Mexico was
weak and that England was strong.
X. Misunderstandings with Mexico
- Polk wanted California, but this was difficult due to strained U.S.-Mexican relations.
- After the annexation of Texas, Mexico had recalled its foreign
minister, and before, it had been forced to default
on its payments of
$3 million to the U.S.
- Also, when Texas claimed its southern boundary to be the Rio Grande
and not the Nueces River like Mexico said, Polk
felt that he had to
defend Texas and did so.
- The U.S. then sent John Slidell to Mexico City as an envoy
instructed to buy California for $25 million, however, once
the Mexican government, pressured by its angry people, refused to see
him, thus “snubbing” him.
XI. American Blood on American (?) Soil
- A frustrated Polk now forced a showdown, and on Jan. 13, 1846, he
ordered 4000 men under Zachary Taylor to march from
the Nueces River to
the Rio Grande, provocatively near Mexican troops.
- As events would have it, on April 25, 1846, news of Mexican troops
crossing the Rio Grande and killing of wounding
16 Americans came to
Washington, and Polk pushed for a declaration of war
- A group of politicians, though, wanted to know where exactly was
the spot of the fighting before committing to war;
among them was
Abraham “Spotty” Lincoln because of his “Spot
- Pushed by Polk, Congress declared war, and so began the Mexican-American War.
XII. The Mastering of Mexico
- Polk hoped that once American had beaten Mexico enough, he could
get California and end the war, and the recently dethroned
told the U.S. that if he could return to Mexico, he would take over the
government, end the war, and give
California to the U.S. He lied.
- In the Southwest, U.S. operations led by Stephen W. Kearny (led
1700 troops from Leavenworth to Santa Fe) and John
C. Fremont (leader
of the Bear Flag Revolt in California) were successful.
- “Old Rough and Ready” Zachary Taylor, a general, he
fought into Mexico, reaching Buena Vista, and repelled
with only 5000 men, instantly becoming a hero.
- General Winfield Scott led American troops into Mexico City.
XIII. Fighting Mexico for Peace
- Polk sent Nicholas Trist to negotiate an armistice with Mexico at a
cost of $10,000 (Santa Anna took the bribe and
then used it for his
- Afterwards, Trist was recalled, but he refused to leave.
- He negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, which…
- Gave to America all Mexican territory from Texas to California that
was north of the Rio Grande. This land was called
the Mexican Cession
since Mexico ceded it to the U.S.
- U.S. only had to pay $15 million to Mexico for it.
- $3.5 million in debts from Mexico to the U.S. were absolved as well.
- In essence, the U.S. had forced Mexico to "sell" the Mexican Cession lands.
- In America, there were people clamoring an end to the war (the
Whigs) and those who wanted all of Mexico (but the leaders
of the South
like John C. Calhoun realized the political nightmare that would cause
and decided not to be so greedy),
so Polk speedily passed the bill to
the Senate, which approved it, 38 to 14.
- Polk had originally planned to pay $25 million just for California,
but he only paid $18,250,000; some people say that
American paid even
that much because it felt guilty for having bullied Mexico into a war
it couldn’t win.
XIV. Profit and Loss in Mexico
- In the war, America only had 13,000 dead soldiers, most taken by
disease, and the war was a great practice for the
Civil War, giving men
like Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant invaluable battle experience.
- Outside countries now respected America more, since it had made no
major blunders during the war and had proven its
- However, it also paved the way to the Civil War by attaining more land that could be disputed over slavery.
- David Wilmot of Pennsylvania introduced his Wilmot Proviso (a
provision or amendment), which stated that slavery should
in any of the Mexican Cession territories that would be taken from
Mexico; the amendment was passed twice
by the House but it never got
passed the Senate (where southern states equaled northern).
- Although it failed, the importance of the Wilmot Proviso lay in the fact that it opened old wounds—those of slavery.
- In other words, it opened a "can of worms" by raising the question, "Will we have slavery in the Mexican Cession lands?"
- It's this question that starts the Civil War in 1861, only 13 years later.
- Bitter Mexicans, resentful of the land that was taken from them,
land that halved their country’s size while
America’s. They took small satisfaction when the same land caused
disputes that led to the Civil War,
a fate called "Santa Anna’s
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