The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Enemy Prisoners of War, from the Revolution to the War on Terror

By Robert C. Doyle | Go to book overview

FOUR
Manifest Destiny versus Nativism
Mexico, 1846–1848

Let all our soldiers professing the Catholic religion remember the
fate of the deserters taken at Churubusco.

—General Winfield Scott

When the War of 1812 ended, Americans felt relatively secure from attacks by foreign countries. The militia system had been discredited, and states created their own volunteer regiments—what we know today as the National Guard—that could be federalized very quickly in case of a national emergency. The standing army grew as well and evolved into a frontier army of tough soldiers who were invisible in the sophisticated East, which enjoyed industrial expansion unparalleled in American history up to that point. The issue was expansion of the American nation west, and the disputes rested on how and where that expansion would take place and whether the new United States would be slaveholding or free.

On 12 April 1844 Texas nearly became a territory of the United States; however, the agreement was rejected by the Senate, which was embroiled in arguments over expansion and slavery. A year later the United States annexed Texas, and to Sam Houston’s joy, Texas became a state on 29 December 1845, an event that changed the nature of MexicanAmerican relations permanently. A month earlier, President James K. Polk had offered Mexico $5 million to purchase New Mexico and $25 million for California. Both offers had been refused as an assault on Mexican sovereignty. Alarmed at a clear manifestation of American expansionism, the Mexicans broke diplomatic relations but stopped short of declaring war on the United States. The president was clearly responding to the popular cry of Manifest Destiny, a term coined by journalist and editor John L. O’Sullivan in 1845 in the United States Democratic Review.1 Polk was also responding to what he perceived to be a military threat to the border area of the newly acquired state. A solid Jacksonian Democrat from Tennessee and a friend of Sam

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