Manifest Destiny and Its Legacy

Manifest Destiny
and Its Legacy
In the 1840’s territorial
expansion dominated
American politics and
diplomacy. Settlers swarmed
the Oregon country which
aggravated Britain, because
they had staked their own
claim in that area. Also the
Texas province provoked
tensions with the Mexican
government. The Mexican
government still believed that
Texas was theirs. With these
territories up for grabs, the
underlying issue would still be
The Accession of Tyler Too
Harrison contracted pneumonia,
and wearied by official functions
and plagued by office seekers,
the old warrior died after only
four weeks in the White House.
This was by far the shortest
administration in American
history, following by far the
longest inaugural address.
 Tyler Too is now claiming the
spotlight. He was six feet tall,
slender, blue eyed, and fair
haired, with classical features
and a high forehead. John Tyler
was a Virginian gentleman of the
old school. He had left the
Jacksonian-Democratic fold for
the Whigs
People accused him of being a
democrat in Whigs clothing. Tyler
had in fact been put on the
ticket partly to attract the vote of
this fringed group, many of
whom were influential southern
 As events turned out, President
Harrison, the Whig served for only
four weeks, whereas Tyler, the exDemocrat who was still largely a
Democrat at heart, served for
204 weeks, in which a Whig was
Pro-Bank, Pro-Protective Tariff,
and Pro-Internal improvements.
Tyler rhymed with Tippecanoe,
but this is where the harmony
John Tyler: A President without
a Party
Financial reform came first. The
Whig Congress hastened to
pass a law ending the
independent treasury system,
and President Tyler disarmingly
agreed to sign it. Clay wanted
a new bank of the United
When it came down to Tyler
signing the bill he flatly vetoed
it, Tyler wanted more of a
centralized bank. A drunken
mob gathered late at night
near the White House and
shouted: Down with the Veto!
And A Bank, a Bank, a Bank!!!
Whigs then tried to create a
fiscal bank there would also be
a fiscal corporation. But the
president, still unbending,
vetoed the offensive substitute.
Whig extremists condemned
Tyler as His Accidency. He
received many letters
threatening him with death. A
wave of influenza swept
through the country, which
was called Tyler Grippe. He
was then formally expelled
from his party. His entire
cabinet resigned in a body,
except his secretary of state,
who was in the midst of
negotiations with England.
The Lone Star of Texas Shines
During the uncertain 8 years since 1836,
Texas had led a shaky existence. Mexico,
refusing to recognize Texas’s
independence, regarded the Lone Star
province in revolt, and eventually be
The Texans were forced to maintain a
costly military establishment. Vastly
outnumbered by the Mexicans, they could
not tell when they were going to attack.
Texas was then driven to have talks with
Britain and France in the hopes of helping
them secure this area.
Both Britain and France thought that this
area would be great a game in divide
and conquer. These actions would result,
they hoped, in the fragmentation and
militarization of America. An independent
Texas would relieve British looms of their
chronic dependence on American fiber-a
supply that might be cut off in time of crisis
by embargo or war.
The Belated Texas Nuptials
Partly because of the fears aroused by British schemers,
Texas became a leading issue in the presidential election of
1844. The pro-expansion Democrats under James K Polk
finally triumphed over the Whigs under Henry Clay.
Tyler deserves much of the credit of shepherding Texas into
the fold. Many Whigs feared that Texas in the Union would
nourish the slave power. Tyler needed a two-thirds vote for
a treaty in the Senate. He therefore arranged for
annexation by a joint resolution. After much debate, the
resolution passed in 1845, and Texas was formally invited to
become the 28th star on the American flag.
This area was no longer Mexico’s, and they were angrily
charged. By 1845 the Lone Star Republic had become a
danger spot, inviting foreign intrigue that menaced
American people.
Oregon Fever Populated
The Oregon country was an
enormous wilderness. British claims
to Oregon were strong-at least to
that portion north of the Columbian
Scattered American and British
pioneers in Oregon continued to
live peacefully side by side. At the
time the United States had sought to
divide the vast domain at the 49th
parallel. But the British regarded the
Columbia River as the St. Lawrence
of the West, and
The whole fateful issue was now
tossed into the presidential election
of 1844, where it was largely
overshadowed by the question of
annexing Texas.
A Mandate for Manifest
The two major parties nominated their presidential standard
bearers in May 1844. Democrats delegated James K Polk of
Tennessee, America’s first Dark Horse or surprise presidential
candidate. Whigs nominated Henry Clay.
Polk may have been the dark horse, but he was hardly
unknown. He was the Speaker of the House for 4 years and
the governor of Tennessee for 2 years.
The campaign of 1844 was in part an expression of mighty
emotional known as the Manifest Destiny. Countless citizens
in the 1840’s and 50’s feeling a sense of mission believed
that Almighty God had manifestly destined the American
people for them to get what was theirs which was land.
This land greed was also called their empire and their
A Mandate for Manifest
Expansionists Democrats strongly swayed by the spell
of Manifest Destiny came out flat footed in their
platform for the Re-Annexation of Texas and
Reoccupation of Oregon. The Democrats were in the
game of slogans: one of them was Fifty-Four forty or
Fight, this slogan became popular just two years after
the election.
The Whigs as noisemakers took no backseat. They
countered with slogans as Hooray for Clay, and Polk,
Slavery, and Texas, or Clay, Union, and Liberty.
In the end, the Dark Horse, Polk barely beat Clay, 170
to 175 in the electoral vote and 1,338,464 to
1,300,097 in the popular vote. Clay would have won
if he had not lost New York State by 5,000 votes.
Polk the Purposeful
Polk was middle height, five feet 8
inches tall, lean, white-haired, grayeyed and stern faced, and he took
life seriously and drove himself into
a premature grave. His burdens
were increased by an unwillingness
to delegate authority. He was hardworking, but not brilliant; he was
shrewd, narrow minded, and
First Goal: Polk wanted to lower the
tariff, from 32 to 25 percent. It was
called the Walker Tariff, and if
proved to be an excellent revenue
producer, largely because it was
followed by boom times and heavy
Polk the Purposeful
Second Goal: The restoration of the independent treasury,
which was dropped by the Whigs. Pro-bank Whigs in
Congress raised a storm of opposition, but victory at last
was rewarded in 1846.
Third and Fourth Goal: Polk’s must haves were California
and the settlement of Oregon territory.
The Oregon Territory was still occupied by the British, and
by this time there was no opposition standing in the way.
The only thing that both sides had to negotiate was where
they were going to draw the line. Early in 1846, the British
came around and proposed the line of the 49 parallel. Polk
put this into the lap of the Senate. The senate accepted
the offer, because at that time we were in a war with
So Polk, despite all the campaign bluster, got neither fiftyfour forty or a fight. But he did get something that in the
long run was better: a reasonable compromise without a
rifle being raised.
Misunderstandings with
The population of California in 1845 was mixed. It consisted of
13 thousand Spanish Mexicans and as many 75 thousand
Indians. There were fewer Americans in this place as well and
wanting to bring California into the Union.
Polk was eager to buy California from Mexico, but relations with
them were dangerously embittered. The United States had
claims against the Mexicans for some 3 million dollars in
damages to American citizens and their property.
A more serious contention point was Texas. The Mexican
Government threatened war if the United States should acquire
the Lone Star Republic.
The golden prize of California continued to cause Polk much
anxiety. In a last ditch effort Polk dispatched John Slidell to
Mexico City as minister late in 1845. The new envoy offered 25
million for California and territory to the east. But the Mexican
government told Slidell that this was an insulting proposition.
American Blood on American
Polk now prepared to force a
showdown. On January 13, 1846, he
ordered four thousand men under
General Zachery Taylor, to march
from the Nueces River to the Rio
Grande, near the Mexican forces.
According the Polk’s diary, he was
just waiting to hear about a clash.
Not wanting to wait, Polk asked
Congress to go to war with Mexico
with two claims.
Claim One: Unpaid claims
Claim Two: Slidell’s rejection
They decided that they would go to
war if Mexican troops should fire
American Blood on American
News arrived April 25, 1846 Mexican troops had crossed the Rio Grande
and attacked General Taylors command, with a loss of 16 Americans
killed or wounded.
Polk sent a message to Congress and declared that despite all efforts to
avoid a clash, hostilities had been forced upon the country by the
shedding of American blood upon the American soil. Congress voted
for war.
In his message to Congress, Polk was making history not writing it. Like
many presidents with ambitious goals, he felt justified in bending in truth
if that was what if taken to bend towards public war.
Did Polk provoke war? California was an imperative point in his program,
and Mexico would not sell it at any price. The only way was to use force,
because Britain was waiting in the wings.
Both sides were fired by moral indignations. The Mexican people could
fight with the flaming sword of righteousness. Yankee picked a fight by
polluting their soil? Many earnest Americans on the other hand, sincerely
believed the Mexico was the aggressor.
The Mastering of Mexico
Polk wanted California. Santa Anna came back into
Mexico and rallied his men into this desperate
defense of their soil. Polk thought that Santa Anna
was going to work with Polk and sell out his own
country but then didn’t.
In 1846, General Kearny led a detachment of 1700
troops over the famous Santa Fe Trail into Santa Fe
was easily captured. Before Kearney could reach
California, the province was won, because John C
Fremont just happened to be there with several
armed men. In helping to overthrow Mexican rule in
1846, he collaborated with American naval officers
and with the local Americans, who had hoisted the
banner of the California Bear Flag Revolt.
The Mastering of Mexico
Zachery Taylor speared the main thrust, and was known as
Old Rough and Ready because of his iron constitution and
incredible un-soldiery appearance. He sometimes wore a
straw hat and fought his way across the Rio Grande into
Mexico. After many victories he reached Buena Vista, with
5000 men, and on Feb 22-23 they were attacked by Santa
Anna force of 20 thousand men. The Mexicans were in a
tough spot; Taylor would not be beaten and was called the
hero of Buena Vista.
Zachery Taylor and a sound American strategy they were
able to beat Mexico in many ways. Taylor then battled his
way into Mexico City by September 1847. Taylor proved to
be the most distinguished general by his country between
the Revolution and the Civil War.
Fighting Mexico for Peace
Polk wanted this fighting to
end soon. Polk arranged for his
chief clerk of the state
department Scott to arrange
for an armistice. Scott and Trist
arranged for this agreement
with Santa Anna at the cost of
10,000. The dictator took the
money and used it to bolster
his defenses.
Polk was not happy and he
wanted Trist back in
Washington. Trist was not
coming back and sent a 65
page letter as to why he is not
coming back. But Trist
grasping a fleeting opportunity
signed the Treaty of
Guadalupe Hidalgo on
February 2, 1848.
Fighting Mexico for Peace
The terms of the treaty were:
Confirmation of the American title to Texas and
the enormous area stretching westward to Oregon
and the ocean and embracing California, this
totaled including Texas.
The United States agreed to pay 15 million for the
Polk agreed to the treaty and sent it to the Senate.
After much debate, the treaty was finally
approved by the Senate, 38 to 14. Oddly enough,
it was condemned both by those who wanted all
of Mexico and by those who wanted none of it.
Profit and Loss in Mexico
As wars go, the Mexican War was a small one. It
cost some 13 thousand American lives, most of
them were taken by disease.
America’s total expanse was increased by about
one third. Most ominous of all, the war aroused the
slavery issue. Abolitionists said the Mexican conflict
was one of the reasons why the civil war started.
Quarreling over slavery extension also erupted on
the floors of Congress. In 1846, shortly after the
shooting started, David Wilmot introduced a
fateful amendment. This amendment stated that
slavery should never exist in any of the territory to
be wrested from Mexico.
Profit and Loss in Mexico
The disruptive Wilmot amendment twice passed
the House, but not the Senate; the southern states
fought this amendment tooth and nail. The Wilmot
Proviso never became federal law, but it was
eventually endorsed by the legislatures of all but
one of the Free states, and it came to symbolize
the burning issue of slavery in the territories.
In a sense the Mexican War really starts the Civil
War. Mexicans could later take some satisfaction
in knowing that the territory that was taken from
them was now going to be an area of discord,
and that could be called Santa Anna’s revenge.