Expansion in the West
Expansion of the United States was also seen in events in the Southwest, events that were chronicled in the periodicals in the collection. In July 1836, The North American Review explored in some depth the history of Texas from Spanish rule to the establishment of the Republic of Texas. The author summarized the situation as of July 1836 as follows:
In Texas, the emigrants from the United States, who have formed extensive colonies under the authority of the Mexican Republic, have taken up arms against what they call the usurpation of the central government, and a declaration of Independence has been published to the world. On the other hand, the Mexican commander's proclamation, at the commencement of the present extraordinary campaign, denounced the insurgents as a mob of ungrateful adventurers, on whom the authorities of Mexico have incautiously lavished favors which they had failed to bestow on Mexicans, and who have raised the standard of rebellion in order that that extensive and fertile department may be detached from the Republic.
From "Mexico and Texas," The North American Review, Volume 43, Issue 92, July 1836, page 227
- What echoes of earlier events in U.S. history do you hear in this account of the conflict in Texas?
- The author went on to say that to understand the current situation, one needed to look at previous events in Mexico. Read the author's account of these events. You may find it useful to make a simple timeline of the events. What insights do these events give you into the reasons for the conflict over independence for Texas?
- According to this article, why did the settlers in Texas want independence? Do you think their reasons were valid? Why or why not?
- In what ways did the Americans in Texas fail to prepare themselves for the response to their declaration of independence? What might account for this failure? What might be the result?
- What does the author predict the U.S. government will do in the future regarding Texas? Were those predictions accurate?
Texas became independent in 1836, although Mexico never recognized that independence. In 1845, Texas was annexed into the United States, becoming the 28th state. That same year, the Polk Administration sent John Slidell to Mexico City to try to negotiate the purchase of Mexico's California and New Mexico territories. Numerous changes in government and the disapproval of the Mexican people doomed the effort, however. A dispute over the location of the U.S. border with Mexico led to the massing of forces on both sides of the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo in Mexico). War resulted, but U.S. involvement was not universally popular.
The collection contains several items regarding the Mexican-American War:
- "Mr. Slidell's Mission to Mexico," The American Whig Review, Volume 5, Issue 4, April 1847
- "The Mexican War - Its Origin and Conduct," The United States Democratic Review, Volume 20, Issue 106, April 1847
- A two-part article on the justification of the conflict in The United States Democratic Review in January 1848 and February 1848.
- Representative Abraham Lincoln's famous "Spot Resolution" proposed in Congress upon the outbreak of hostilities is available in another American Memory collection, The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.
- Reviews of The Other Side; or Notes for the History of the War between Mexico and the United States translated from Spanish and edited by Albert Ramway; the reviews of this different perspective on the war appeared in February 1850 in The American Whig Review and The United States Democratic Review.
Read several of these documents about the Mexican-American War and consider the following questions:
- What was at the heart of opposition to the Mexican-American War?
- Why did Lincoln introduce the "Spot Resolution"?
- What similarities do you find in the two reviews of The Other Side? What differences do you note? What might account for the differences? (Think about the two journals that published the reviews.)
- How do the accounts provided in these articles published during and shortly after the war conform to the treatment of the war in current textbooks?
The Mexican-American War ended in February 1848, with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. In the treaty, Mexico ceded approximately 500,000 square miles of its territory in what is now California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming. In return, the United States agreed to pay Mexico $15 million. Just a year later, gold was discovered in California, prompting a huge migration of people westward.
The collection includes a series of articles on the Gold Rush printed in The Century; use the series title Gold Hunters of California in a keyword search to locate the numerous articles in the series. Despite the title, many articles in the series dealt with events before the discovery of gold. Some provide personal accounts of expeditions across the continent to California, such as Virginia Reed Murphy's "Across the Plains in the Donner Party," while others describe life in California before the Gold Rush. Of course, many recount events that occurred after the discovery of gold.
Read one account about life in California before the Gold Rush and another about life after the Gold Rush. Write a brief description of the changes that resulted from the influx of immigrants lured west by the promise of wealth.