DESCRIBING PRIMARY SOURCES
Abraham Lincoln’s main argument against the Mexican American war was that President Polk had declared war on Mexico because, according to him, the hostilities were commenced by Mexico on American soil. Lincoln argued that the soil did not belong to the United States at the time, because both Texas and Mexico had recognized the territory as theirs.
Lincoln contended that the disputed territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande only belonged to Texas where her jurisdiction had been clearly established, and he did not think it extended to the Rio Grande. “It is a fact, that the United States Army, in marching to the Rio Grande, marched into a peaceful Mexican settlement, and frightened the inhabitants away from their homes and their growing crops,” Lincoln said. In his “Spot” resolutions of 1847, he called on Polk for proof of the president’s insistence that the war began when Mexicans shed American blood on American soil “That soil was not ours; and Congress did not annex or attempt to annex it.” Lincoln voted for a resolution that declared the war unnecessary and accused Polk of violating the Constitution in commencing it.
Lincoln offered the following evidence points as his proof:
1.- First item, according to President Polk, that the Rio Grande was the Western boundary of Louisiana, as the US purchased it of France in 1803, and that by the treaty of 1819, then the US sold to Spain the whole country from the Rio Grande eastward, to the Sabine. He then asked to
Congress, admitting for the present, that the Rio Grande, was the boundary of Louisiana, what, under heaven, had that to do with the present boundary between us and Mexico?
He followed with, How, Mr. Chairman, the line, that once divided your land from mine, can still be the boundary between us, after I have sold my land to you, is, to me, beyond comprehension.”
2.- Polk’s next piece of evidence is that “The Republic of Texas always claimed this river (Rio Grande) as her western boundary.” That is not true, in fact. Texas has claimed it, but she has not always claimed it. But suppose she had always claimed it. Has not Mexico always claimed the contrary? so that there is but claim against claim, leaving nothing proved, until we get back of the claims, and find which has the better foundation.
3.- Lincoln next considered the President’s statement that Santa Anna in his treaty with Texas, recognized the Rio Grande, as the western boundary of Texas. Besides the position, so often taken that Santa Anna, while a prisoner of war—a captive—could not bind Mexico by a treaty, which I deem conclusive.
Lincoln said: “Santa Anna does not therein, assume to bind Mexico; he assumes only to act as the President-Commander-in-chief of the Mexican Army and Navy; stipulates that the then present hostilities should cease, and that he would not himself take up arms, nor influence the Mexican people to take up arms, against Texas”.
The author’s mainstay in the book is that the borderland native had a unique cultural identity of their own and how this was exchanged during the conquests of the borderlands especially in Mexico. The author extensively uses selected readings from original sources on narratives that happened during U.S –Mexico War, and highlight the imposition of national boundaries and systems of surveillance in the mid to late nineteenth century.
The primary sources that the authors have collected show the growing influence of the Americans in Mexico especially on the native tribes of Chihuahua, Tejas, and Nuevo Mexico before the invasion. These carefully preserved documents bring out the concern of the Mexicans over the growing power of the Americans would ultimately lead to loss of identity.
In these very cleverly documented articles the ethos of the Mexicans is very carefully surmised leading to a clear understanding of how Mexicans viewed the growing influence of the Americans in their land and understood that their identity would soon be lost unless something very intelligent was done.
Until the day I read the document, I had no idea that Abraham Lincoln had opposed the Mexican American War. I pride myself on being a knowledgeable man in American history, however, I must accept that I had never researched into Abraham Lincoln’s congressional career. I found myself flabbergasted at the idea of him opposing the sitting president.
As an American Citizen of Mexican descent, I find the issues relevant because today, just like when the two countries fought the war, the conflicts have not ceased to exist. These days the issue of illegal immigration into the country from Mexican Nationals poses a volatile situation which makes normal relations between the countries delicate and tenuous.