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

The Results of the War

To the United States and Mexico

The avowed purpose of the war—Area of the conquered territory—The cost in human life and treasure—Value of the acquisition—Discovery of gold in California—Effects on population and commerce—Value of products—Development by railroads—Perils to the Union—Grandeur of the nation.

The partisan supporters of President Polk's administration did not hesitate to avow that the war with Mexico was waged for conquest of territory. The cession of no less than New Mexico and Upper California was thought of. "I take it for granted," said Mr. Giles in Congress, "that we shall gain territory, and must gain territory, before we shut the gates of the temple of Janus. We must have it. Every consideration of national policy calls upon us to secure it. We must march out from ocean to ocean. We must fulfil what the American poet has said of us, from one end of this confederacy to the other:

"The broad Pacific chafes our strand,

We hear the wide Atlantic roar."

"We must march from Texas straight to the Pacific Ocean, and be bounded only by its roaring wave."

Resolutions declaring that "the war is not urged with a view to conquest" were repeatedly rejected by Congress.

The demands of indemnity from Mexico first made by the United States were equal, exclusive of Texas, to half of the domain of Mexico, embracing a territory upward of eight hundred thousand square miles. The Territories of the United States, independent of the thirty States, at this time contained an area of one million three hundred and thirty-five thousand three hundred and ninety-eight square miles. But the advocates of slavery sought this new territory of New Mexico and California, in the words of the Charleston Courier, "to widen the field of Southern enterprise and power for the future." Mr. Polk, in his message to Congress, declared that "the boundary of the Rio Grande, and the cession of the States of New Mexico and Upper California, constituted an ultimatum which our commissioner was under no circumstances to yield."

The area of New Mexico, as actually ceded by treaty to the United States, was five hundred and twenty-six thousand and seventy-eight square miles. The disputed ground of Texas which rightfully belonged to Mexico, and which was also yielded in the treaty of peace, contained no less than one hundred and twenty-five thousand five hundred and twenty square miles. The acquisition of the total amount of six hundred and fifty-one thousand five hundred and ninety-one square miles of territory was one of the direct results of this war, in which President Polk was ever pretending "to conquer a peace". To this must be added the undisputed region of Texas, which was three hundred and twenty-five thousand five hundred and twenty square miles more, in order adequately to represent the acquisition of territory to the United States, amounting to eight hundred and fifty-one thousand five hundred and ninety square miles. This has been computed to be seventeen times the extent of the State of New York, which has but fifty thousand square miles.

To accomplish this immense enlargement of territory, the number of volunteers accepted and engaged in the war in the service of the United States was fifty-six thousand nine hundred and twenty-six. The number of regular troops of the United States army was twenty-six thousand six hundred and ninety. The number of recruits, naval forces, and teamsters was thirteen thousand; so that over one hundred thousand men were mustered into the army and navy to prosecute the war.

The mortality of the American troops in battle was comparatively small on account of their physical superiority and skill to that of the Mexicans. It did not exceed five thousand. But the deaths from wounds, and sickness from chills, fevers, diarrhea, and vomito, which was very prevalent in the hot region and on the table-lands, and fatal to the Americans, made the total loss of life exceed twenty thousand men. General Scott had at one time, out of a force of ten thousand seven hundred and thirty-eight men in Puebla, nineteen hundred sick in hospital. General Taylor said that the proportion of those cut down by disease to those who fell in battle was about five to one. At Perote there were two thousand six hundred American victims of disease. The deaths of the soldiers in the city of Mexico were the at rate of one thousand each month. The men who were diseased and crippled, ruined in body if not in character, and unfitted for the maintenance of homes and families, are to be added to this destruction of human life and efficiency for citizenship.

The material cost of this war to the United States was in direct outlay of money about one hundred million dollars. Additional to this was the cost of return of troops, extra pay, and bounties, amounting to twelve million five hundred thousand dollars. The payment of claims assumed by the United States Government required two million five hundred dollars more, and the price paid for the ceded territory was fifteen million dollars. So that this new territory was purchased at a cost, in money, of one hundred and thirty million dollars, beside the human suffering and loss of life it caused to both nations. This was an enormous sum in that period of United States history. Twenty-five millions was once offered by Mr. Polk's administration for the peaceful purchase of the same territory.

But far greater was the loss of treasure and the sacrifice of life and property to the people of Mexico. They were left by this war distracted, overwhelmed with woes, and discouraged by their protracted struggles to establish and maintain self-government on the democratic principles avowed by the great republic which inflicted the awful evils of war upon them.

The territory thus acquired included ten degrees of latitude on the Pacific coast, and extended east to the Rio Grande, a distance of a thousand miles. Three great harbors, Monterey, Santiago, and San Francisco were embraced in this cession One was on the Gulf of Mexico, another on the Atlantic, and the third on the Pacific Ocean. Five thousand miles of sea-coast were added to the possessions of the United States. The Bay of San Francisco affords a fine harbor, unsurpassed in the world, where the navies of all nations could be sheltered at once. It

is easily approached, and as easily defended from its rocky shores. China and Japan with six hundred millions of inhabitants can here find commercial intercourse with the food-producing peoples of America, and an unlimited demand for teas, silks, and foreign wares, in exchange for the products of Western inventive skill, and the commodities of a Christian civilization.

The discovery by Americans of gold in California, in the early part of 1848, though it had been previously known to the Jesuits, sent vast tides of immigration from the United States and foreign lands toward that coast. In the eight months ending March, 1850, nine million dollars' worth of gold was brought to the United States. The changes thus wrought in California were really marvellous. The population of California rapidly increased. The overland route was thronged with gold-seekers from the Atlantic States and the Mississippi valley. Multitudes swept across the plains. Fleets of vessels loaded with gold-hunters and merchandise made the long cruise around Cape Horn. Many steamship lines to the Isthmus of Panama sprung up, thronged to their utmost capacity with passengers, who often waited months on the Pacific coast of the isthmus for passage. From Australia, Great Britain, Germany, and France, ships poured foreign immigrants into the port of San Francisco. Towns and cities sprung up along the coast and the rivers. San Francisco leaped into the front ranks of commercial importance and population among the cities of the Union.

California after a few years settled down to mining as a legitimate industry, and it has become even more celebrated for the wheat and fruit-growing qualities of its soil and climate, and its great products of wool. On these her wealth and property now more largely depend than upon her gold.

The mineral resources of the conquered territory, including California, New Mexico, Arizona, Western Colorado; Utah, and Nevada, have been developed to such an extent that their value is beyond computation. Their mountains are veined with silver and gold, copper, lead, iron, and coal. The report of the product of the precious metals in the States and territories west of the Missouri River in 1882 was eighty-nine million two hundred and seven thousand five hundred and forty-nine dollars. Of this twenty-nine million eleven thousand three hundred and eighteen dollars was in gold; forty-eight million one hundred and thirty-three thousand and thirty-nine dollars in silver, and the balance was in copper and lead. The yield of gold for 1882 was smaller than in any year since gold-mining became prominent in California. By far the largest portion of this yield was in the territory obtained by conquest and purchase from Mexico. An immense volume of wealth in thirty-two years has been added to the country's resources from this acquisition. Probably it has nearly equaled the debt incurred to preserve the Union in the Civil War, when, in the words of the immortal President Abraham Lincoln, "the wealth piled up by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil was sunk, and every drop of blood drawn with the lash was paid with another drawn with the sword."

With the construction of the great trans-continental railroad system, a new development of this wide stretch of country began. It has already four great through trunk lines uniting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Mexican Republic has by a national system of railways opened communication with these American roads, bringing its products of a tropical climate and its nine millions of population into close connection with the commerce and the civilizing influences of the American Union.

An all-wise Providence has brought this vast region into the possession of the Anglo-Saxon race, to be planted with free institutions, and governed by the equal laws of the American Republic. A development of wealth and an increase of population amazing to contemplate awaits this territory in the future. Perils to the Union lie in the ignorance of the population and in the institutions of Mormonism, that enormous crime against morality and society, which has found security and expansion in those regions. Unless the hundreds of millions of people who shall yet occupy this belt of territories shall become like the citizens of the Eastern States in education, religion, laws, and customs of society, there will be a fissure in the Union along the borders of the great plains.

On the other hand, the grandeur of a Christian republic, that in a hundred years may hold three hundred millions in its borders, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific shores over such a magnificent domain, will ever, over the graves of the heroes of the Mexican war, inspire patriot hearts to the severest toils and largest sacrifices for their country.