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
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
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 Mexican 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
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
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.
American History by James Smith: the american history publishing company copyright 1891