History of the War with Mexico - H. O. Ladd

National Histories:

The United States and Mexico

Extent of the United States—Prosperity and power—The Republic of Mexico—Its people, army, and Congress.

During the period of 1840 to 1850 within which the war with Mexico occurred, the United States had a population of twenty millions. The Union contained twenty-seven States, extending from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, and from the Atlantic sea-board to the present tier of States just beyond the west bank of the Mississippi as far northward as Wisconsin. The most western State was Missouri. Louisiana was on the south-western border. One half of the States, as far as the Ohio River and including Missouri, was slave territory, of which the raising of cotton and corn was the chief industry.

A remarkable degree of prosperity prevailed at this period in the whole country. The wonderful agricultural resources of the prairie States were being largely developed. The wheels of industry were humming all over the Eastern States, which were also extensively engaged in shipping., Their mercantile navy competed with that of Great Britain for the commerce of the seas. The United States possessed wealth, an exhaustless soil, mines of coal, iron, copper, and lead already opened, and a brave, intelligent, and vigorous population, a mixture of the best blood of the most energetic nations of Europe, having at once enterprise, inventive skill, and patriotic zeal. This Republic was able to fight successfully with any power on the earth.

Mexico had within only a few years wheeled into line with the few republics of the world. Her population was composed of the native Indian, descended from the Aztec people of the middle centuries, mixed with the Spanish and other Southern races. The Spaniards having first conquered the inhabitants of this rich and beautiful country, by a steady stream of emigration and an oppressive military rule had held them in subjection for two centuries and a half, without developing the resources of the land for the benefit of its original owners. At the time of this foreign war, the passionate and luxurious Spanish caballero, the sluggish Indian, and the preponderating Mestizos, or half-breeds, made up its population, over which the Roman Catholic priests held an enervating sway, not only in matters of religion, but as one of the ruling political powers of the land.

There were six States in the Mexican Confederation. They occupied a country rich with mines of gold and silver, a tropical climate, and fertile soil. They had an indolent population, largely given to the work on plantations, and unaccustomed to the demands of self-government, by reason of centuries of subjection to a foreign power. The sentiment of the people was divided between monarchy and republicanism. The majority were incapable of the self-denials to which an exalted patriotism would submit for the sake of national honor and growth.

The Mexican army lacked the discipline which permanent officers and a strong and well-ordered government creates but the National Congress, in their pride of self-government, had a sense of importance equal to that of the parliaments of the oldest nations extant.

The invasion of a country will arouse and unite for a time any civilized people. The passion of the hour and the instinct of self-defence will lead them to bold and courageous fighting. But for a long and persistent contest with a commanding government like that of the United States, they were unfitted, and the ventures of such an unequal war were almost inevitably full of disaster to the young republic. Had the burning zeal and unhesitating bravery of the thousands who sacrificed their lives on its battle-fields been preserved for safeguards to the Mexican Constitution and Government against internal dissensions, how much brighter would have been the future of Mexico! The blood of such heroes and veterans was too precious to be wasted in vain conflict with the sons of freedom in a sister republic.