[An Era of Peace.]

[Andrew Jackson.]

An interval of over thirty years elapsed between our second war with Great Britain and the war with Mexico. Although this period was one of external, and, excepting the troubles which now and then arose with the Indians, of internal peace, its social and political aspects are very full of interest. Within its limits the first railway and the first telegraph-lines were laid in the United States, and the great Erie Canal was built. After three tranquil presidential terms, presided over by the sensible though not brilliant Monroe, and by the shrewd, scholarly, and positive younger Adams, a man succeeded to the Executive Chair whose course was destined to revolutionize parties, to carry party bitterness to a height of great violence, and to divert the political destinies of the country into new channels. Andrew Jackson was well fitted by his strong will and stubborn courage to do the dangerous work of his time.


Various considerations induced the State of South Carolina to defy the Union. The alleged ground of her quarrel was the high rates of the tariff imposed by Congress upon imports. This tariff she resolved to resist; hence a resolution was passed by a convention in South Carolina that after a certain date the tariff should be null and void within her limits. It was further resolved that if the United States attempted to enforce it, South Carolina should secede, and form an independent government. John C. Calhoun was, or was charged with being, the instigator of this movement. It was at once quelled, however, by the prompt action of President Jackson. He sent troops and war-ships to Charleston, under the command of General Scott; and "nullification" was overawed and defeated.

President Jackson also had the nerve to veto the bill creating a national bank; and when, after two terms of service, he retired, he gave up to the rule of his designated successor a nation of fifteen millions of people, solvent, prosperous, and apparently destined to a long career of peace and power. The four years of President Van Buren's term were not notable for great events, and are chiefly interesting as exhibiting the re-formation of parties, in which the lines between the Whigs and the Democrats became more defined and distinct. Van Buren was the leader of the Democrats, but was soon to lose that leadership by reason of his connection with the fast-growing anti-slavery cause. Henry Clay was the Whig chief; and continued to be so, despite the rivalry of Webster, down to the time of his death. [Causes of the Mexican War.]


It was during the term of President John Tyler, who succeeded to the chief magistracy after poor worn-out old General Harrison had exercised its functions for one brief month, that the events took their rise which ripened into the War with Mexico. The large territory of Texas, lying upon our extreme southwestern border, between Louisiana and Mexico, had revolted from the latter nation and set up an independent republic of its own. Texas had been largely colonized from the slave States, and General Sam Houston, formerly of Tennessee, was its President.

[Election of Polk.]

The republic sought admission to our Union in 1837, but the application was then refused. Seven years later, Mr. Tyler gave it a more hospitable reception. A treaty was framed, and at first rejected by the United States Senate. At last, in March, 1845, just as Mr. Tyler was retiring from office, a resolution was adopted by both houses of Congress annexing Texas, and this resolution was approved by the outgoing President. The presidential campaign in the autumn of 1844, between Henry Clay as the Whig and James K. Polk as the Democratic candidate, was fought mainly upon the issue of this annexation, and the election of Mr. Polk was looked upon as a confirmation of it by the people.

[Boundary Dispute.]

No sooner had the new President been inaugurated than what the Whig leaders had earnestly predicted came to pass. A dispute arose with Mexico as to the boundary between that country and Texas. Mexico claimed that this boundary was the river Nueces; Texas asserted it to be the Rio Grande. The matter was one of some importance, as the Nueces is a hundred miles northeastward from the Rio Grande, and that much of territory was therefore in dispute. The brief negotiations which ensued with a view to the settlement of this question, proved abortive. President Polk accordingly ordered General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed territory with a small body of troops. Taylor concentrated his men at Corpus Christi, near the frontier.

[First Battles.]

The Mexicans were equally prompt, and the first collisions occurred at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, near the Rio Grande. General Taylor repulsed the enemy with little difficulty and but small loss, and, crossing the Rio Grande, advanced upon and captured Matamoras. Thus far the hostilities had proceeded when a formal declaration of war was made against Mexico by the United States. Clay and the Whigs strenuously opposed this action; but the administration party bore down all opposition. Volunteers now flocked, especially from the Southern States, to Taylor's standard; and in a few weeks he found himself at the head of a resolute though not very well disciplined force of nearly eight thousand men. Monterey, a fortified town of considerable importance, was held by about nine thousand Mexican troops. General Taylor's objective point was the City of Mexico.

[Taylor's Campaign.]

After an attack of three days, Monterey fell into his hands. Victory followed his army everywhere. Santa Anna, a crafty and able man, who had sat in the presidential chair of Mexico, was now in command of the Mexican army, and confronted Taylor at Huena Vista. His gallant attempt to stay the advance of the triumphant Americans, however, failed, for Taylor defeated him in what was perhaps the most brilliantly and hotly contested action of the war. Taylor's force at Buena Vista numbered about six thousand men, the larger part of them being but rudely disciplined soldiers. Santa Anna's command comprised at least twenty thousand Mexicans. It was at Buena Vista that the Lancers, the best body of troops in the Mexican army, were routed by the dashing onset of the American volunteers.

[Victory at Vera Cruz.]

[Scott Enters Mexico.]

General Scott now appeared upon the scene to reap fresh victories, and to lend powerful aid, by his scientific skill and ripe military judgment, in bringing the war to a decisive issue. He was despatched with an army to attack Vera Cruz, the most important port and fort on the Mexican coast. His force numbered between eleven and twelve thousand men, and he was supported by Commodore Matthew Perry, who operated with a fleet in the Gulf. Vera Cruz fell after a vigorous bombardment and a brave defence. The Mexicans could no longer hold the fortress of San Juan D'Ulloa, which was speedily occupied by General Scott. The two victories of Buena Vista and Vera Cruz rendered the cause of the Mexicans hopeless. The fall of the capital was only a question of more or less delay. The resistance of the Mexicans was still obstinate, though always ineffectual. The troops of the United States won in succession the battles of Cerro Gordo, Cherubusco, El Molino del Rey and Chapultepec. Finally, on the 14th of September, 1847, the American army of six thousand, under Winfield Scott, entered the City of Mexico. This was one year and four months after war had been declared by Congress.

Besides these main operations, there were various collateral movements designed to cripple the power and diminish the territory of Mexico. General Kearney, with an independent force of volunteers, had marched into and taken possession of the province of New Mexico; Colonel Doliphan had in like manner occupied Chihuahua; while Colonel Fremont, placing himself at the head of a band of American settlers recruited in the valley of the Sacramento, and supported by Commodore Stockton, had availed himself of the opportunity to hold Upper California for the United States.

[The Treaty of Peace.]

Thus Mexico was subdued and compelled to come to terms, her enemy dictating these from her own capital. Commissioners met at the city of Guadalupe Hidalgo to conclude a treaty of peace. By this instrument Mexico agreed to accept the Rio Grande as the boundary between herself and Texas, adding thereby to the territory of the United States an area of not less than five hundred thousand square miles; to make over New Mexico and Upper California to the United States in consideration of the sum of fifteen millions of dollars; and to guarantee the debts due from Mexico to American citizens. This treaty was duly ratified and exchanged in the spring of 1848 - about two years after the beginning of hostilities.

[Political Effect of the War.]


The political effect of the Mexican War was to add a large territory and a fast-increasing population to the tier of slave-holding States, and thus to aggrandize the slave-holding oligarchy, as opposed to the party in favor of free soil. On the other hand, the military glory won by General Taylor, and his adoption in the year after the war as the Whig candidate for the Presidency, singularly enough brought into power the party which had persistently opposed both the annexation of Texas, and the war which had been undertaken to complete it. The Mexican War provided the parties with four presidential candidates, Generals Taylor, Scott, Pierce, and Fremont, two of whom succeeded in reaching the summit of executive authority. When Colonel Fremont raised the American standard in California, it was little imagined that he was acquiring a province for the country the value of which was destined to be incalculably greater than the Texan republic. Within a year, however, the gold mines had been discovered, and that wonderful civilization of the Pacific Coast which we now witness had begun to grow up in the far western wilderness.