Mexican American War Term Paper

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Mexican-American War

Mr. Polk's War -- American Opposition and Dissent, 1846-1848

Schroeder, John H.

Mr. Polk's War -- American Opposition and Dissent, 1846-1848.

Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1974.

According to John H. Schroeder's book on Mr. Polk's War -- American Opposition and Dissent, 1846-1848, political opposition to the Mexican-American War before the Civil War tore apart America was considerably better organized and more vocal than we might acknowledge today. The controversy over the war has largely been forgotten, because the question of the annexation of territory formerly under the control of Mexico was eclipsed by the Civil War. But the Civil War, according to historian Schroeder, occurred as precipitously and contentiously as it did because the political controversies over the Mexican-American War fanned the flames of discord and opposition, rallied and polarized the abolitionist and pro-slavery religious and political leaders of the day, and raised controversy over the power of the chief executive to act in an unprecedentedly dictatorial manner.

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Even amongst his contemporaries, President Polk was seen as manipulative in the way that he managed the war with Mexico Schroeder believes that the Mexican-American War was an immoral war, and was largely orchestrated by Polk to protect the president's interests politically, and was instigated with the ultimate goal of incorporating California and New Mexico into the nation by any means necessary, not out of any moral considerations for the territory's residents or American security. Schroeder's bias is exemplified even in the title of his work -- the war is 'Mr. Polk's war, as if Polk alone was responsible for the war's germination, and Polk is referred to as Mister, not President Polk.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Mexican American War Assignment

Rather than focusing upon the administration or the advocates of the war, Schroder is mainly interested in the politicians and other Americans who opposed the war, and why. He paints a picture of a fascinating and complex array of characters of different political and ideological orientations, all of whom rallied against the war for vastly different reasons. Religious leaders, writers, abolitionists, pacifists, 'Conscience' Whigs and Calhoun Democrats spoke out against Mr. Polk's war (Schroder 92-119). Personalities as diverse as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, William Lloyd Garrison, and Henry David Thoreau joined their voices with people from other states, regions of the country, and opposing political alliances. Some were quite passionate, and even risked their lives and liberty to oppose the war. Thoreau's famous essay on "Civil Disobedience" was penned when he was incarcerated for refusing to pay his taxes to support what he firmly believed was an immoral war.

What is so interesting about Schroeder's text, however, is that he does not believe that the dissenting groups of advocates had a great deal of an impact on the war itself, but more of a cultural impact upon America as a nation. Because the opposition was so fractured, and united only in its opposition of the conflict, Schroeder notes that these movements did not have a substantial impact upon the war's duration, outcome, or the final peace settlement. But he still believes that the quality and rhetoric of the opposition must be analyzed to fully understand the aftermath of the war (Schroeder 162). The war stoked fears of the incorporation of more slave states into the union in the hearts of abolitionists, and cased pro-slavery, pro-states' rights advocates to fear the concentration of federal power in presidential hands.

The contentious nature of the war makes it difficult to avoid parallels with our own national struggle. For example, much as in current debate about the war, when an opposition congressman voted against sending aid to the troops in Mexico, the congressman was accused of putting American lives in jeopardy, but if he supported sending more aid,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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