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January 12, 1847: Treaty of Campo de Cahuenga

Also known as the Capitulation of Campo de Cahuenga, it brought to a close fighting in Alta California during the Mexican War.  Widely praised at the time for its liberal terms, the treaty promised equal rights for Mexicans residing in California, freed all prisoners of war, and allowed the Mexicans to return to their homes, with their property protected.  I wonder if General Grant some eighteen years later had this treaty in the back of his mind when he drafted the generous surrender terms for the Army of Northern Virginia.  Here are the terms of the Treaty:

The Treaty of Campo de Cahuenga
TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS SHALL COME, GREETING:
Know ye that, in consequence of propositions of peace, or cessation of hostilities, being submitted to me, as commandant of the California Battalion of United States forces, which have so far been acceded to by me as to cause me to appoint a board of commissioners to confer with a similar board appointed by the Californians, and it requiring a little time to close the negotiation; it is agreed upon and ordered by me that entire cessation of hostilities shall take place until tomorrow afternoon (January 13th), and that the said Californians be permitted to bring in their wounded to the mission of San Fernando, where, also, If they choose, they can remove their camp, to facilitate said negotiations.
Given under my hand and seal this twelfth day of January, 1847.
J. C. Fremont
Lieutenant-Colonel United States
Army, and Military Commandant of California
Articles of Capitulation made and entered into at the Rancbo of Cahuenga, this thirteenth day of January, Anno Domini, eighteen hundred and forty-seven between P. B. Reading, Major; Louis McLane,.Ir, Commanding Artillery; Wm. H. Russell, Ordnance Officer, Commissioners appointed by J. C. Fremont, Lieutenant-Colonel United States Army and Military Commandant of the Territory of California; and Jose Antonio Carillo, Commandante de Esquadron, Augustin Olivera, Diputado, Commissioners, appointed by Don Andres Pico, commander-in-chief of the California forces under the Mexican flag.
Article 1. The Commissioners on the part of the Californians agree that their entire force shall, on presentation of themselves to Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont, deliver up their artillery and public arms, and they shall return peaceably to their homes, conforming to tile laws and regulations of tile United States, and not again take up arms during the war between the United State’s and Mexico, but will assist and aid In placing the country in a state of peace and tranquillity.
Art. 2. The Commissioners on the part of Lieutenant-Colonel Fremont will agree and bind themselves on the fulfillment of the first article by the Californians, that they shall be guaranteed protection of life and property whether on parole or otherwise.
Art. 3. That, until a treaty of peace be made and signed between the United States of North America and the Republic of Mexico, no Californian or other Mexican citizen shall be bound to take the oath of allegiance.
Art. 4. That any Californian or other citizen of Mexico desiring, is permitted by this capitulation to leave the country without let or hindrance.

Art. 5. That, in virtue of the aforesaid articles, equal rights and privilege are vouchsafed to every citizen of California, as are enjoyed by the citizens of the United States of North America.
Art. 6. All officers, citizens, foreigners, or others, shall receive the protection guaranteed by the second article.
Art. 7. This capitulation Is intended to be no bar in effecting such arrangements as may In future be in justice required by both parties.
P. B. Reading, Major California Battalion
Wm. H. Russell, Ordnance Officer of California Battalion
Louis McLane, Jr., Commanding Artillery California Battalion
Jose Antonio Carillo, Commandante de Esquadron
Augustin Olivera, Diputado
Approved.
J. C. Fremont
Lieutenant-Colonel United States Army,
and Military Commandant of California
Approbado.
Andres Pico
Commandante de Esquadron y en Gefe
de las fuerzas nacionales en California.
Additional Article
That the paroles of all officers, citizens, and others of the United States, and of naturalized Citizens of Mexico, are by this foregoing capitulation canceled, and every condition of said paroles from and after this date are of no further force and effect, and all prisoners of both parties are hereby released.
[Signatures the same as above]

Ciudad de Los Angeles
January 16, 1847.
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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

20 Comments

  1. Why were the U.S. Army and Navy fighting the Mexican Army in the Mexican State of Alta California in 1846 and 1847?

    On January 12, 1848, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives named Abraham Lincoln (yes, the one who saved the Union a few years later) stood up and gave a speech on the House floor that answered that exact question. This speech is well worth reading in full. The bottom line is that Lincoln concluded that the U.S. invaded Alta California as part of a calculated, illegal, aggressive land grab that was carefully planned and orchestrated by President James Polk. “Sheerest deception” is how Lincoln characterized President Polk’s justifications for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Mexico.

    Lincoln can hardly be called a liberal or a pacifist, since he himself invaded the Southern States in 1861.

    Lincoln always had strong sense of justice, of common decency, of basic honesty, and a strong sense of adhering to the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

    Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address and his 1848 Speech Against the War in Mexico are really the same speech. Both speeches call Americans to honor and follow vision of a better world found in the high ideals of the American Revolution, Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution.

    Why am I making this comment? Because while Lincoln’s 1863 Gettysburg Address is world famous, his 1848 Speech Against the Mexican War is practically unknown. Some history books mention that 1848 speech, but most discount it as a partisan attack on the president who was a member of the opposing political party. But one book that treats Lincoln’s speech fairly and accurately is by Professor Amy Greenburgh: A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico (2013). It has 135 customer reviews on Amazon, with average of 4 out of 5 stars.

    How is all of this relevant to today? Because Lincoln essentially accused President Polk of using devious means to create fake news to justify the U.S. invasion and occupation of Mexico, all with the ultimate aim of annexing the Mexican states of Alta California and Nuevo Mexico.

    Then and now, U.S. Presidents have almost unilateral power to star a war, and have great ability to create and promote fake news to justify a war.

    To Lincoln, there was such a thing as objective justice and objective truth. To Lincoln, everything was not partisan. To Lincoln, words were not merely means to material ends. To Lincoln, winning was not everything and the only thing.

    That’s why there is a monument to Lincoln in Washington, D.C., but no monument to President Polk, even though Polk added more territory to the U.S. than any other president, even more than President Jefferson with his Louisiana Purchase.

    Polk, the man without integrity is forgotten. Lincoln,, the man of integrity, is remembered and cherished. It’s a morality tale of Biblical proportions.

  2. “Why were the U.S. Army and Navy fighting the Mexican Army in the Mexican State of Alta California in 1846 and 1847?”

    Because the Mexican government never made a peace treaty with the Republic of Texas and thus the boundary of Texas was subject to dispute, with both the US and Texas claiming that the Rio Grande as opposed to the Rio Nueces marked the southern boundary of Texas. Santa Anna had recognized the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of the Republic of Texas but that treaty was never ratified by the Mexican Congress.

  3. Well, that’s exactly what President Polk said. And that’s exactly the excuse that Abraham Lincoln tore to shreds in his January 12, 1848 speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

  4. “Well, that’s exactly what President Polk said.”

    Which was absolutely factually correct. It was disputed territory, and the US had no more reason to concede that territory than Mexico did.

    “And that’s exactly the excuse that Abraham Lincoln tore to shreds in his January 12, 1848 speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

    Actually his speech had zero impact except to allow Democrats in Illinois to call him “Spottie” Lincoln for a while since the War was quite popular in Illinois. Lincoln voted for supplies and money for the War as he hastened to point out to outraged Illinois constituents. He opposed the War largely because he feared that it would bring more slave states into the Union from territory conquered from Mexico. He had no problem at all supporting Zachary Taylor for President in 1848, who was running solely because of the victories he won in the Mexican War, including the early engagements which were the subject of Lincoln’s Spot Resolutions.

  5. Responding to Mr. Donald R. McClarey, who wrote: “He [Lincoln] opposed the War largely because he feared that it would bring more slave states into the Union from territory conquered from Mexico.”

    Is that so? Where did Lincoln ever write or say that? I think I’ve read everything Lincoln ever wrote or said about the Mexican-American War, and I’ve never seen him express that. In 1848 or 1849, Lincoln wrote a letter to a friend in which he explicitly referred to the Mexican-American War as a “war of aggression.”

    I urge everyone who cares about American history and the Mexican-American War to read and study Lincoln’s January 12, 1848 Speech Against the Mexican War, and then read and study President Polk’s State of the Union messages defending and justifying his war. Lincoln’s speech was responding directly to those messages from Polk. Many other speeches about the war, both pro- and con-, made in the U.S. Senate and House, can also be found online.

    Any Catholic who reads the original speeches of the era will immediately be shocked at the anti-Catholicism of the pro-Mexican War members of the U.S. Congress. On the floor of the Congress these men openly justified annexing all or much of Mexico on the ground that Mexicans were dirty no-good, pope-worshiping Roman Catholic idolaters. They justified the annexation of all or much of Mexico on the ground of Christianizing that territory and those people. Many U.S. newspapers and church pastors repeated this same theme.

    If this was only about a mostly forgotten war in the distant past, it wouldn’t really matter except to history aficionados who love to argue and show off their knowledge.

    But “Fake News” is a big and growing part of what’s going on nowadays.

    Abraham Lincoln, in his January 12, 1848 Speech Against the Mexican War, delivers a detailed and blistering condemnation of the production and use of Fake News to achieve political ends. In this, he was simply articulating the traditional Catholic moral principle that one may not do evil (such as lying or shading the truth) in order that good may come of it.

  6. From the Ottawa Debate between Lincoln and Douglas August 21, 1858:

    “And so I think my friend, the Judge, is equally at fault when he charges me at the time when I was in Congress of having opposed our soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican war. The Judge did not make his charge very distinctly, but I can tell you what he can prove, by referring to the record. You remember I was an old Whig, and whenever the Democratic party tried to get me to vote that the war had been righteously begun by the President, I would not do it. But whenever they asked for any money, or land-warrants, or anything to pay the soldiers there, during all that time, I gave the same vote that Judge Douglas did. [Loud applause.] You can think as you please as to whether that was consistent. Such is the truth; and the Judge has the right to make all he can out of it. But when he, by a general charge, conveys the idea that I withheld supplies from the soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican war, or did anything else to hinder the soldiers, he is, to say the least, grossly and altogether mistaken, as a consultation of the records will prove to him.”
    ——————————————————————————————–

    “I dislike to waste a word on a merely personal point; but I must respectfully assure you that you will find yourselves at fault should you ever seek for evidence to prove your assumption that I “opposed, in discussions before the people, the policy of the Mexican war → .””

    Lincoln, letter to Matthew Birchard and Others June 29, 1863
    ———————————————————————————-

    “As to the Mexican war → , I still think the defensive line policy the best to terminate it. In a final treaty of peace, we shall probably be under a sort of necessity of taking some teritory; but it is my desire that we shall not acquire any extending so far South, as to enlarge and agrivate the distracting question of slavery. Should I come into the presidency before these questions shall be settled, I should act in relation to them in accordance with the views here expressed.”

    Advice as to what General Taylor should say, written by Lincoln in March of 1848

    ——————————————————————————————
    “But, as Gen: Taylor is, par excellence, the hero of the Mexican war; and, as you democrats say we whigs have always opposed the war, you think it must be very awk[w]ard and embarrassing for us to go for Gen: Taylor. The declaration that we have always opposed the war, is true or false, accordingly as one may understand the term “opposing the war.” If to say “the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President” be opposing the war, then the whigs have very generally opposed it. Whenever they have spoken at all, they have said this; and they have said it on what has appeared good reason to them. The marching [of] an army into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops, and other property to destruction, to you may appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, unprovoking procedure; but it does not appear so to us. So to call such an act, to us appears no other than a naked, impudent absurdity, and we speak of it accordingly. But if, when the war had begun, and had become the cause of the country, the giving of our money and our blood, in common with yours, was support of the war, then it is not true that we have always opposed the war. With few individual exceptions, you have constantly had our votes here for all the necessary supplies. And, more than this, you have had the services, the blood, and the lives of our political bretheren in every trial, and on every field. The beardless boy, and the mature man—the humble and the distinguished, you have had them.

    Through suffering and death, by disease, and in battle, they have endured, and fought, and fell with you. Clay and Webster each gave a son, never to be returned. From the state of my own residence, besides other worthy but less known whig names, we sent Marshall, Morrison, Baker, and Hardin; [10] they all fought, and one fell; and in the fall of that one, we lost our best whig man. Nor were the whigs few in number, or laggard in the day of danger. In that fearful, bloody, breathless struggle at Buena Vista, where each man’s hard task was to beat back five foes or die himself, of the five high officers who perished, four were whigs.

    In speaking of this, I mean no odious comparison between the lion-hearted whigs and democrats who fought there. On other occasions, and among the lower officers and privates on that occasion, I doubt not the proportion was different. I wish to do justice to all. I think of all those brave men as Americans, in whose proud fame, as an American, I too have a share. Many of them, whigs and democrats, are my constituents and personal friends; and I thank them—more than thank them—one and all, for the high, imperishable honor they have confered on our common state.

    But the distinction between the cause of the President in beginning the war, and the cause of the country after it was begun, is a distinction which you can not perceive. To you the President, and the country, seems to be all one. You are interested to see no distinction between them; and I venture to suggest that possibly your interest blinds you a little. We see the distinction, as we think, clearly enough; and our friends who have fought in the war have no difficulty in seeing it also. What those who have fallen would say were they alive and here, of course we can never know; but with those who have returned there is no difficulty. Col: Haskell, and Major Gaines, [11] members here, both fought in the war; and one of them underwent extraordinary perils and hardships; still they, like all other whigs here, vote, on the record, that the war was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President. And even Gen: Taylor himself, the noblest Roman of them all, has declared that as a citizen, and particularly as a soldier, it is sufficient for him to know that his country is at war with a foreign nation, to do all in his power to bring it to a speedy and honorable termination, by the most vigorous and energetic opperations, without enquiring about it’s justice, or any thing else connected with it.

    Mr. Speaker, let our democratic friends be comforted with the assurance, that we are content with our position, content with our company, and content with our candidate; and that although they, in their generous sympathy, think we ought to be miserable, we really are not, and that they may dismiss the great anxiety they have on our account.”

    Lincoln, speech in the House of Representatives, July 27, 1848

  7. Responding to Mr. Donald R. McClarey, who quoted a response Lincoln made in 1858 to Stephen Douglas during a debate. Douglas tried to use Lincoln’s opposition to the Mexican-American War against Lincoln. In the quote provided by Mr. McClarey, Lincoln restates his consistent position: “whenever the Democratic party tried to get me to vote that the war had been righteously begun by the President, I would not do it. ” Then Lincoln goes on to defend himself by stating that he did however vote for funding for supplies for the troops that were engaged in combat. He always justified that on the ground that American troops whose lives are in danger deserve the funding to stay alive, since the troops themselves were completely innocent of the crime of committing a war of aggression–that maxima culpa is to be atrributed completely to President Polk, his cabinet, and certain pro-War members of Congress. Lincoln said over and over again, and made clear, that his voting for funding for the troops in no way indicated his approval of the Mexican-American War.
    Mr. McClarey’s original article about the treaty in 1847 that ended the fighting between American forces and Mexican forces speculated that perhaps General Ulyssses S. Grant was inspired by that 1847 treaty. ” I wonder if General Grant some eighteen years later had this treaty in the back of his mind when he drafted the generous surrender terms for the Army of Northern Virginia. ”
    General Grant was an officer who led troops in the Mexican-American War. Here’s what General Grant wrote about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Mexico: “I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” And: “I do not think there was ever a more wicked war…I thought so at the time…only I had not moral courage enough to resign.”
    General Grant fully admits that he failed to act with “moral courage” during the “wicked” U.S. invasion of Mexico that was wicked because it was justified by the U.S. President on the basis of a Fake News story that he, the President, had created by orchestrating events and then lying about them.
    But why does this ancient history matter? What’s done is done. Alta California and Nuevo Mexico are U.S. states. Life goes on, right? Why re-hash all this stuff?
    To me, all this is intensely relevant because more and more people in our country are full of a passion for Moral Relativism (or Moral Agnosticism?) in which any facts that interfere with political objectives are immediatly denounced as lies.
    Remember that famous quote from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: ” Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts.”
    Pope John Paul II was a fierce defender of the principle that objective truth exists, can be discovered, and must be accepted, even if it is inconvenient or an limitation on one’s will and desires. If the very concept of objective truth is eliiminated or denigrated, all that is left is “The Triump of the Will.”
    President Polk and his pro-War faction prevailed in the period of 1846-48. And, in sense, they have prevailed ever since, since most Americans who think about it assume that the U.S. was morally justified in invading, occupying, and annexing Northern Mexico. But “Might Makes Right” is not a Catholic principle. “Winning is everything” was never taught by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Lincoln tried to defend the Constitution in 1847-48. He failed. He did save it in 1861-65, however. Perhaps that grief of that earlier failure gave Lincoln the steely resolve to not fail the second time.
    I urge all to read the original full text of Lincoln’s January 12, 1848 Speech Against the Mexican War. It will be of particular interest to lawyers, since much of it involves an lawyerly explanation of basic concepts of the law pertaining to property, nations, boundaries, revolutions, and warfare.
    That speech was made on this very day, 169 years ago. Would it not be good if January 12th could become a National Truth-in-Politics Commemoration Day?

  8. Mexico was not going to keep California and the present day American Southwest no matter what.

    Informed American Catholics are aware of the incessant anti Catholicism of the 19th century.

    Freemasonry made its way to Mexico in the 19th century and even today the Mexican government cannot be labeled pro Catholic.

  9. The Californos were in revolt against the Mexican government just prior to the Mexican War with debate among them as to whether they should become independent, ask for annexation by the US or join some other foreign power. Most Californos realized that with a population of 9,000 they could not go it alone.

  10. “General Grant was an officer who led troops in the Mexican-American War. Here’s what General Grant wrote about the U.S. invasion and occupation of Mexico: “I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.” And: “I do not think there was ever a more wicked war…I thought so at the time…only I had not moral courage enough to resign.””

    Grant suspected that the Civil War might be punishment for the Mexican War, and he opposed the Mexican War because he believed that the intent of the War was to create more slave states.

    “In taking military possession of Texas after annexation, the army of occupation, under General Taylor, was directed to occupy the disputed territory. The army did not stop at the Nueces and offer to negotiate for a settlement of the boundary question, but went beyond, apparently in order to force Mexico to initiate war. It is to the credit of the American nation, however, that after conquering Mexico, and while practically holding the country in our possession, so that we could have retained the whole of it, or made any terms we chose, we paid a round sum for the additional territory taken; more than it was worth, or was likely to be, to Mexico. To us it was an empire and of incalculable value; but it might have been obtained by other means. The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.”

  11. Responding to Mr. Donald R. McClarey, who quoted a fragment found among Abraham Lincoln’s papers: “As to the Mexican war → , I still think the defensive line policy the best to terminate it. In a final treaty of peace, we shall probably be under a sort of necessity of taking some teritory; but it is my desire that we shall not acquire any extending so far South, as to enlarge and agrivate the distracting question of slavery. Should I come into the presidency before these questions shall be settled,…” In writing this Abraham Lincoln was acting as speechwriter for General Taylor, who was then runnning for president. What Lincoln wrote for General Taylor to say in a speech does not have to be the exact views of Lincoln himself.

    Mr. McClarey also quoted a public letter that Lincoln wrote in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War. Lincoln wrote the letter as a response to people who were strenuously objecting to Lincoln arresting Americans who were publicly protesting and organizing resistance to the Federal Government’s invasion of the Southern States for the purpose of putting down the armed insurrection in those states.

    The people who were publicly protesting the Federal Government invasion were accusing Lincoln of hypocrisy, since he himself had criticized and opposed President Polk’s invasion of Mexico back in 1846-48. Lincoln’s statement, at first glance, appears to contradict everything else Lincoln has ever said about his view on the Mexican War. In that 1863 letter he wrote: “I must respectfully assure you that you will find yourselves at fault should you ever seek for evidence to prove your assumption that I ‘opposed, in discussions before the people, the policy of the Mexican war’.” One historian wrote in a book published in 1999 that what Lincoln meant here is that he never opposed the Mexican War “in discussion before the people,” and by that meant that he only opposed the war in speeches on the floor of Congress, and in private letters to friends. In other words, Lincoln is saying that what made him different from the protesters of the Civil War was that he did not organize street protests or hold public rallies of the citizens against the war. Rather, his opposition was expressed publicly solely on the floor of Congress in his capacity as a legislator. Lincoln was arguing that in a time of war, the freedom of speech of the citizens in general is subject to being curtailed, but that the freedom of speech of legislators on the floor of Congress is not subject to being curtailed in the same manner. I believe it is correct that under old English Law members of parliament acting in their official capacity have rights of regarding speech that ordinary citizens don’t have.

    Overall, I very much appreciate that Mr. McClarey wrote his original article in commemoration of the January 12, 1847 treaty that ended the fighting in Alta California. The Mexican-American War is so little remembered.

    As far as anyone changing their mind and coming to the conclusion that the Mexican War “was unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President” (which is the exact language of a House resolution that Lincoln voted for), that is not something that can be happen readily. It can happen, if at all, by reading and reflecting on many original source documents, and, for the most part, giving little weight to opinions and conclusions found in secondary sources. The desire to defend the honor of the history of one’s country is powerful thing. It is like the gravitational force of a mighty star, pulilng everything into its obit.

    Jesus said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We owe a measure of fealty to the nation of our birth, but we own a higher measure of fealty to the Truth. Jesus said: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the Truth.”

    Catholic doctrine says that the Almighty Hand of the Holy Spirit of God will not allow a pope to lead the Church into Untruth.

    But there is no such principle that says a U.S. President can’t create and promote Fake News for political purposes and thereby cause the Federal Government to carry out unconstitutional and immoral actions.
    Abraham Lincoln in his January 12, 1848 speech labored to prove that President James Polk had done exactly that. I think Lincoln succeeed in making his case. I also think that any reasonable person who reads and reflects on the relevant original source documents will reach the same conclusion.

    So my theory is this: Once a citizen sees the crime that Abraham Lincoln was convinced that President Polk carried out and got away with, the citizen is better able to detect and fight against similar unconstitutional and immoral crimes and scams being carried out by governmental leaders in our time.

    But, being realistic, I well realize that the mighty forces, passions, and fears sweeping across America and the world these days leave little interest in the factual details of historic events of 150 or so years ago. We are not going to be saved by accurate knowlege of history. Only the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ can save us. Glory be to Jesus Christ!

  12. President Polk and his pro-War faction prevailed in the period of 1846-48. And, in sense, they have prevailed ever since, since most Americans who think about it assume that the U.S. was morally justified in invading, occupying, and annexing Northern Mexico. But “Might Makes Right” is not a Catholic principle. “

    The notion that the territory in question was ‘Mexican’ was a diplomatic courtesy. There was little or nothing of a Mexican society in that territory. The population of peninsulares, criollos, and mestizos in Texas in 1836 was about 3,000. There were a few thousand settlers around Santa Fe. The population in California might just have made it into five digits. Anglophones were a majority of the non-aboriginal population in Texas and common in California.

  13. Spain had about three centuries to colonize their territories in New Spain north of Mexico and never did it. The reason there were white settlers in Texas is because Spain/Mexico allowed/invited them in to colonize (see The Old Three Hundred and Moses and Stephen F. Austin). The Spaniards know to this day that is why they “lost Texas.” I’ve heard one say — in San Antonio at a priestly ordination anniversary — “We didn’t colonize it.” They’re still wringing their hands over it. A condition the Texas settlers had to adhere to was that they would be Catholic, at least nominally. Even as a cradle Catholic myself I can’t blame the non-Catholic settlers for resenting Catholicism and Mexico, at least to some extent.

    To Jim Bob (aka Jaime Roberto) et al I would like to ask where the territory came from in the state(s) in which they reside, if indeed they reside in the US. All the moral umbrage about Texas “stealing” land from Mexico could be repeated with regard to the fact that most of the country was “stolen” from Native Americans, with a trail of broken treaties littering the corridors of history.

  14. To TX, who wrote: “To Jim Bob (aka Jaime Roberto) et al I would like to ask where the territory came from in the state(s) in which they reside.”

    Well, TX, good question (aka buena pregunta).

    But I suggest that there are some legal and moral distinctions that can be made here.

    I alway recommend that everyone read Abraham Lincoln’s January 12, 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives against the fakes news that President Polk created in order to get the Congress to vote for the U.S. invasion of Mexico.

    Lincoln isn’t called “Honest Abe” for nothing. In 1848, Lincoln has been practicing law for 12 years. He had lots of experience of challenging and exposing liars in the courtroom. The same great Lincoln who gave the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address was alive and in-action in 1848. (Of course, I acknowledge that today’s Neo-Confederates agree with John Wilkes Booth’s view of Lincoln as being a tyrant, deceiver, and criminal.)

    In that 1848 speech, Abraham Lincoln discusses the law and morality pertaining to treaties, national boundaries, the right of revolution, and the conducting of war. He discusses the U.S. Constitution. In 1848, Lincoln voted for a House Resolution that declared that the Mexican War had been “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced by the President.”

    In 1846, when the U.S. commenced its invasion and occupation of Northern Mexico (and not just territory claimed by Texas, but also other entire Mexican states, such as California and Nuevo Mexico, that were far, far away from Texas and had no logical or legal connection to the Texas boundary dispute), the government and the sovereignty of the Republic of Mexico, and its national boundaries, had been diplomatically recognized by the U.S., and by all the governments of Europe, since 1821. That was 25 years before the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846.

    The U.S. had a general moral and legal obligation, under the U.S. Constitution and international law, to respect the national rights and territory of the Republic of Mexico. The U.S. could not treat the Republic of Mexico like it might treat an “uncivilized,” aggressive, nomadic warrior tribe of Native Americans (like say the Apache).

    The Indian nations and tribes in what became the U.S. were generally not organized as nation-states along the European model. They generally had no republican form of government, no single leader, no defined territory and borders, no ambassors, and so on. Most of the land that became the U.S. was not claimed by any Native America tribe, but was simply open and empty. And though Native Americans were often moved by force off land they occupied and claimed, sometimes they agreed to move off their land in exchange for something they were offerred.

    Nevertheless, many horrible crimes were indeed committed by Americans, the British, and Spanish in the Americas. But how does that justify or rectify what Abraham Lincoln and General Ulyssess S. Grant said was a U.S. war of aggression against the Republic of Mexico, a war of aggression, conquest and annexation that was planned and orchestrated by President James K. Polk?

    All or most of this is addressed in Abraham Lincoln’s January 12, 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives. That speech really clarifies and resolves many misconceptions about the justice or injustice of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Mexico.

    Historians have generally dismissed that speech as pure partisanship. They say that Lincoln didn’t really mean what he said, but was just aiming to attack and weaken the Democrat president as a means to promote himself and his Whig Party.

    I speculate that this characterization has become normative because most or many historians are eager to portray a narrative sweep of American history that is heroic, righteous, even God-ordained. If the U.S. gained one-third of its lower 48 territory by means of a crime, that doesn’t fit too well into the doctrine of American Exceptionalism.

    But Professor Amy Greenberg’s 2013 book on the Mexican-American War does provide a balanced and fair, and very detailed, history of that war.

    Abraham Lincoln and General Ulysses S. Grant lived in a time when most Americans were certain that the Biblical rules of Christian morality absolutely applied as much in the conducting of international affairs as they did in private and personal affairs. Lincoln’s January 12, 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives only makes sense or is persuasive in that context.

    But, it seems, that many Americans today, even some in the highest offices of government, no longer feel that the Biblical rules of Christian morality have any application in life at all, and certainly not in business, sports, economics, international relations, or in the conducting of national wars.

    Rather, the “winning is everything and the only thing” philosophy has swept the nation and the culture. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve been noticing.

    To those who have gone all-in regarding the “winning is everything and the only thing” philosophy, Lincoln’s January 12, 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives will just seem like useless and pointless words.

  15. Dear Mr. Donald R. McClarey: If you would deign to grace us with a review and evaluation of Abraham Lincoln’s January 12, 1848 speech in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding President Polk’s “sheerest deception” in starting the Mexican War, I for one would be very interested in reading that.

  16. “The U.S. had a general moral and legal obligation, under the U.S. Constitution and international law, to respect the national rights and territory of the Republic of Mexico.”

    Why? The Californos were in revolt from the Mexican government, and other than around Santa Fe Americans outnumbered Mexicans in territory that the Spanish claimed but had never settled. A prime example of this is that the Mexican government brought in settlers from America to serve as a shield against Comanche raids. Plus, Mexico had never ratified a peace treaty with the Republic of Texas that was now part of the US. The US had just as much right to assert the Rio Grande as the southern boundary line of Texas, the boundary line asserted by the Republic of Texas, as the Mexican government had to assert the boundary as being the Rio Nueces.

  17. I might sometime. It was not one of Lincoln’s finest efforts in my opinion. Most Whigs in Congress opposed the Mexican War for fear that the Democrats would benefit from it. Lincoln’s speech was part of an effort to attack the Democrats over the War. As a political maneuver the speech was unsuccessful. As a look at the causes of the war between the US and Mexico it was partisan and truth challenged. It is chiefly remembered whenever an effort is made to attack a war that some Americans find unpalatable, the historical context of the speech ignored.

  18. “The U.S. had a general moral and legal obligation, under the U.S. Constitution and international law, to respect the national rights and territory of the Republic of Mexico.”
    The name of the country was and is ‘the United Mexican States.’, and, again, the territory was ‘theirs only according to diplomatic convention (and only during the period running from 1821 to 1848, It’s an idle exercise to want to relitigate this issue 168 years after the fact on such flimsy grounds.

  19. You can go to the Library of Congress today and see the slips that Abraham Lincoln signed when he checked out copies of the documents that formalized the terms of the end of fighting in the Texas Revolution of 1835-36.

    He read those documents because he had to discuss them in depth in order to make his conclusion about whether the Mexican War was unconstitutionally commenced by President Polk in 1846.

    Say what you will about Abraham Lincoln, but at least he actually read primary source documents before talking about them.

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