International borders have always been centers of conflict, and the U.S.-Mexican border is no exception. With the European colonizing the New World, it was a matter of time before the powers collided. The Spanish settled what is today Mexico, while the English settled what is to day the United States. When the two colonial powers did meet what is today the United States’ Southwest, it was not England and Spain. Rather the two powers were the United States and Mexico. Both Counties had broken off from their mother countries. The conflict that erupted between the two countries where a direct result of different nation policies. The United States had a policy of westward expansion, while Mexico had a policy of self protection. The Americans never had a written policy of expansion. What they had was the idea of “Manifest Destiny.” Manifest Destiny was the belief that the United States had the right to expand westward to the Pacific ocean. On the other hand, Mexico was a new country wanting to protect itself from outside powers. Evidence of U.S. expansion is seen with the independence of Texas from Mexico. The strongest evidence of U.S. expansion goals is with the Mexican-American War. From the beginning, the war was conceived as an opportunity for land expansion. Mexico feared the United States expansion goals.
During the 16th century, the Spanish began to settle the region. The Spanish had all ready conquered and settled Central Mexico. Now they wanted to expand their land holdings north. The first expedition into the region, that is today the United States Southwest, was with Corando. Corando reported a region rich in resources, soon after people started to settle the region. The driving force behind the settlement was silver in the region.
The Spanish settled the region through three major corridors; central, western and eastern. The first settlements were mainly through the central corridor. The Spanish went thorough what is now the modern Mexican state of Chihuahua into the U.S. state of New Mexico. Eventually the Spanish established the city of Santa Fe in 1689. The eastern corridor was through modern day Texas and led to the establishment of San Antonio. The eastern expansion was caused by the French expansion into modern day Louisiana. The Spanish crown wanted a buffer between the French in Louisiana and central Mexico. The last corridor of expansion was in the west, through the sea, which led to the establishment of San Diego in 1769 and Los Angles in 1781.
The Spanish were not the only European power to colonize the new world; French, English and the Dutch also settled North and South America. The Spanish and the French settled what is present day U.S.-Mexico border region. The French settled modern day U.S. midwest, while the Spanish settled present day Mexico and U.S. southwest. As time went on, European influence in the region diminished.. The French sold there claims to the United States, in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase. Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Once the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase, western expansion began. This set the stage for major conflict in the region.
The United States gained independence from England in 1775. After 1775, the Americans started to expand west. By the time Mexico gained independence, the United States had reached the Mexican frontier. Mexico needed to protect its northern borders. To protect the border region, Mexico needed to populate the area. Mexico continued the policy started by Spain of allowing Americans to settle Texas. The Americans had to follow Mexican law, religion and customs. The settlement of Texas played into the United States’ expansion plans.
Eventually Mexico City closed Texas from more Americans from entering. This angered the Americans wanting to enter and Americans already living in Texas. Texas revolted from Mexico in 1833. Mexicans did live in Texas, and fought for the independence of Texas. The majority of Texans were Americans and fought for their independence. After the war the Americans intentionally or non-intentionally forced most Mexicans out of Texas. The ones that stayed faced racial tensions that continue to today.
After gaining independence from Mexico, Texas wanted to join the United States immediately. The U.S. Congress voted against Texas from joining the Union. Congress was worried that annexation of Texas would anger Mexico. Mexico had never officially recognized Texas as independent. Congress was concerned that annexation would start a war with Mexico. Mexico’s repose to American annexation was not the only factor in deciding against annexation. If Texas was to become a state, it would be a slave state. At the time, the United States an even balance between slave and non-slave states. Texas entering the Union would disrupt the balance, giving slave states an advantage in the U.S. House and Senate. Since the United States was not ready to annex Texas, Texas declared itself a sovereign country. In 1837 President Andrew Jackson formally recognized Texas a country.
Texas wanted to be part of the United States. It needed the protection of the Untied States. President Tyler could not get the 2/3 majority needed to admit Texas. Instead, he changed the law to require only a simple majority.
It was not until 1845 and two Presidents later that Texas was annexed into the United States. Mexico protested the admission of Texas into the United States. The United States saw Mexico’s protest as a excuse to spend troops into Texas The annexation of Texas was a represented the United States expansion goals.
The United States wanted to settle in Texas, but Mexico owned the land. That did not matter to the United States, they settled in the region regardless. The Americans that settled the region agreed to Mexican law and customs, but still considered themselves Americans. After the annexation of Texas, Texas also wanted to expand. Texas claimed that New Mexico and California were part of Texas. The boundary with Mexico was also disputed. The United States claimed that the Texas border was at the Rio Grande. Mexico disagreed, Mexico stated the border was at Nueces River. The United States did try to settle matters diplomatically. The United States sent inexperienced diplomat John Slidell. Slidell tried to buy area known as the U.S. Southwest. Slidell, being an inexperienced diplomat, was rejected. Not only was he not successful in buying the land, he aroused Mexican fears. This set the stage for the Mexican-American War.
The United States also had no written policy of expansion, but the government quietly supported it. The United States has always had troops the region, even though they held no land in the region The United States kept ships off the coast of California. In 1842 the U.S. commander in the region, Commodore Thomas Jones, attacked and took the city of Monterrey in California. He falsely believed that Texas and Mexico were at war. Once he realized his mistake he withdrew his forces and apologized to the Mexian government for his action and claimed that he did not act with orders from the U.S. government.
Although Jones claimed that he did not act with orders from the U.S. government, clearly the government did not stop the practice. Another example of the United State’s expansion goals was the Mexican-American War. This is the first time America has fought a war with land expansion as its main goal. The war started on April 25 1846 with the attack from Mexican troops and the counter attack from General Taylor of the U.S. Army. Taylor sent a message to President Polk that hostilities have started. President Polk, with a pre-drafted declaration of war, asked Congress to declare war against Mexico. President Polk knew that Mexico would lose the war and would gain new lands in the end.
The Mexican-American war lasted two years, and ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadeloupe on February 2 1848. The United States had succeeded in winning the war. With the Treaty of Guadeloupe the United States had succeeded in completing its Manifest Destiny. The Treaty itself represented the United States expansion goals. The United States wanted to settle on were the international border was to be. Mexico wanted the border to north of the Rio Grande river, but finally decided upon the middle of the Rio Grande river. Mexico having been bankrupt from the war, agreed to take the 15 million as payment for the vast land. In addition, the United States agreed to pay off all Mexican debts owed to the United States. This amount was small in comparison to what the United States gained in territory. The United States took advantage of a weak country of obtained its expansion goals.
Another example of the United States taking advantage of Mexico is the Gasden Purchase. The Gasden Purchase was ratified in 1854 for the selling price of 10 million. Mexico was going through rough economical time and desperately needed the money. The United States seeing an opportunity to build a railroad through the region brought the land at a cheap price. The selling of the Gasden Purchase was the down fall of President Santa Ana, and led to his replacement.
The conflicts along the border region were a direct result of U.S. expansion policies and Mexican fear for the United States. The Americans saw Manifest Destiny, westward expansion, as there God given right. The United States proved often that it supported policy of expansion. With the Mexican-American war, the United States completed it’s Manifest Destiny. The United States completed Manifest Destiny at the cost of the Mexican government and its people.