Mexican Denunciations of the United States Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

As of early 1845, while Mexico had not formally acknowledged that Texas was independent, President John Tyler had begun the formal process to annex it. With the inauguration of James K. Polk as US president in March 1845—a politician who had run on a platform of westward expansion—Mexico faced the prospect of the loss of not only Texas but the rest of its northern territory. Thus, in 1845, Jose Joaquin de Herrera responded to the prospect that Texas would soon be part of the United States. As he states in the document included here, this was unacceptable to him (and to the other Mexican leaders). Even when it was part of Mexico, the exact western border of Texas had been an issue, so that with its annexation by the United States, the issue was now between the Americans and the Mexicans. It became apparent that this conflict would not be resolved peacefully, as both countries were recruiting soldiers and sending them to the disputed territory. The material by Mejia included here was a part of the Mexican call-to-arms for the conflict, which officially began on April 25, 1846. Arista's communiqué approaches the problem from the opposite side, appealing to the American soldiers to desert and, in return, to accept land grants from the Mexican government.

Summary Overview

As of early 1845, while Mexico had not formally acknowledged that Texas was independent, President John Tyler had begun the formal process to annex it. With the inauguration of James K. Polk as US president in March 1845—a politician who had run on a platform of westward expansion—Mexico faced the prospect of the loss of not only Texas but the rest of its northern territory. Thus, in 1845, Jose Joaquin de Herrera responded to the prospect that Texas would soon be part of the United States. As he states in the document included here, this was unacceptable to him (and to the other Mexican leaders). Even when it was part of Mexico, the exact western border of Texas had been an issue, so that with its annexation by the United States, the issue was now between the Americans and the Mexicans. It became apparent that this conflict would not be resolved peacefully, as both countries were recruiting soldiers and sending them to the disputed territory. The material by Mejia included here was a part of the Mexican call-to-arms for the conflict, which officially began on April 25, 1846. Arista's communiqué approaches the problem from the opposite side, appealing to the American soldiers to desert and, in return, to accept land grants from the Mexican government.

Defining Moment

With the close of the Mexican war for independence in 1821, the new nation inherited uncertain relations with its neighbor to the north. Although initially the United States had no plans for the annexation of any Mexican territory, sentiments changed over the succeeding twenty-five years. As early as 1822, American settlers were being invited into what is now Texas. In California, most Americans were hunters and trappers—until John Sutter was given a large land grant in the Central Valley, where he welcomed other emigrants from the United States. The growing populations of Americans in both areas resulted in pressure for independence from the weak Mexican government. Texas fought for and won its independence. The beginning of the process for Texas's annexation as a state, under the United States, brought the issue of Mexican sovereignty north of the Rio Grande to a head. Few doubted that war could be avoided. The Mexican congress passed a resolution warning the United States to stop the process of annexing Texas, which is the first of these historical documents. When that failed to occur, steps were taken on both sides to prepare for the oncoming war. The United States sent half of its small fleet to the Pacific to take control of California when the war started. Contingents from the army were sent to Texas, to establish a base in the disputed territory of west Texas. During that time, the speeches, represented by the second and third historical documents, were given to build support for the Mexican cause, to gain volunteers for the armed forces, and to try to weaken the American forces. They also served as a final warning to the United States that any further actions would result in war.

The documents reprinted here are representative of the nationalistic pride of the Mexican leaders and their unwillingness to ignore American encroachment into what they considered their own territory. While these views were heard by leaders in the United States, the Americans were just as firm in their belief that the United States should stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They also held the belief that the United States would prevail in any conflict, so there was no need to compromise. Although several proposals were put forward by different parties which would have resulted in payment by the United States for the territory from west Texas to the Pacific, a variety of things (including the instability of the Mexican government) prevented these from being accepted. Thus, the Mexican leaders could only call upon their citizens to make preparations for what seemed to be an inevitable conflict.

Author Biography

Mariano Arista (1802–1855) was an officer in the Spanish Army who defected to the side of those seeking an independent Mexico. He remained in the military and fought against the Texans, who were seeking independence. He was the commander of the forces that attacked the American Army in west Texas, starting the Mexican-American War (1846–48). After the war, he was elected president of Mexico in 1851, serving until 1853.

José Joaquin de Herrera (1792–1854) was a career military officer, originally fighting on the side of Spain during the war for Mexican independence. However, he retired before the war ended and eventually joined those rebelling. After independence, he opposed several authoritarian leaders. He was elected president in 1845, but then deposed in 1846 by the army he had created. After the war was elected again, in 1848, serving until 1851.

Francisco Mejia (died 1852) was twice governor of the state of Coahuila in the early 1840s and a general in the Mexican Army. When he made the proclamation at Matamoros, he was the general in charge of the Army of the North, with his forces then on the south bank of the Rio Grande. Many believed this speech to his troops was a declaration of war against the United States.

Historical Document

[José Joaquin de Herrera, June 4, 1845]

The minister of foreign affairs has communicated to me the following decree: José Joaquin de Herrera, general of division and president ad interim of the Mexican Republic, to the citizens thereof.

Be it known: That the general congress has decreed, and the executive sanctioned, the following:

The national congress of the Mexican Republic, considering:

That the congress of the United States of the North has, by a decree, which its executive sanctioned, resolved to incorporate the territory of Texas with the American union;

That this manner of appropriating to itself territories upon which other nations have rights, introduces a monstrous novelty, endangering the peace of the world, and violating the sovereignty of nations;

That this usurpation, now consummated to the prejudice of Mexico, has been in insidious preparation for a long time; at the same time that the most cordial friendship was proclaimed, and that on the part of this republic, the existing treaties between it and those states were respected scrupulously and legally;

That the said annexation of Texas to the U. States tramples on the conservative principles of society, attacks all the rights that Mexico has to that territory, is an insult to her dignity as a sovereign nation, and threatens her independence and political existence;

That the law of the United States, in reference to the annexation of Texas to the United States, does in nowise destroy the rights that Mexico has, and will enforce, upon that department;

That the United States, having trampled on the principles which served as a basis to the treaties of friendship, commerce and navigation, and more especially to those of boundaries fixed with precision, even previous to 1832, they are considered as inviolate by that nation.

And, finally, that the unjust spoliation of which they wish to make the Mexican nation the victim, gives her the clear right to use all her resources and power to resist, to the last moment, said annexation;

IT IS DECREED 1st. The Mexican nation calls upon all her children to the defence of her national independence, threatened by the usurpation of Texas, which is intended to be realized by the decree of annexation passed by the congress, and sanctioned by the president, of the United States of the north.

2d. In consequence, the government will call to arms all the forces of the army, according to the authority granted it by the existing laws; and for the preservation of public order, for the support of her institutions, and in case of necessity, to serve as the reserve to the army, the government, according to the powers given to it on the 9th December 1844, will raise the corps specified by said decree, under the name of “Defenders of the Independence and of the Laws.”

MIGUEL ARTISTAN, President of the Deputies.

FRANCISCO CALDERON, President of the senate.

Approved, and ordered to be printed and published.

JOSÉ JOAQUIN DE HERRERA. A. D. LUIS G. CUEVAS

Palace of the National Government, City of Mexico, June 4, 1845.

* * *

[Francisco Mejia, March 18, 1846]

FELLOW-CITIZENS: The annexation of the department of Texas to the United States, projected and consummated by the tortuous policy of the cabinet of the Union, does not yet satisfy the ambitious desires of the degenerate sons of Washington. The civilized world has already recognized in that act all the marks of injustice, iniquity, and the most scandalous violation of the rights of nations. Indelible is the stain which will for ever darken the character for virtue falsely attributed to the people of the United States; and posterity will regard with horror their perfidious conduct, and the immorality of the means employed by them to carry into effect that most degrading depredation. The right of conquest has always been a crime against humanity; but nations jealous of their dignity and reputation have endeavoured at least to cover it by the splendour of arms and the prestige of victory. To the United States, it has been reserved to put in practice dissimulation, fraud, and the basest treachery, in order to obtain possession, in the midst of peace, of the territory of a friendly nation, which generously relied upon the faith of promises and the solemnity of treaties.

The cabinet of the United States does not, however, stop in its career of usurpation. Not only does it aspire to the possession of the department of Texas, but it covets also the regions on the left bank of the Rio Bravo. Its army, hitherto for some time stationed at Corpus Christi, is now advancing to take possession of a large part of Tamaulipas; and its vanguard has arrived at the Arroya Colorado, distant eighteen leagues from this place. What expectations, therefore, can the Mexican government have of treating with an enemy, who, whilst endeavouring to lull us into security, by opening diplomatic negotiations, proceeds to occupy a territory which never could have been the object of the pending discussion? The limits of Texas are certain and recognized; never have they extended beyond the river Nueces; notwithstanding which, the American army has crossed the line separating Tamaulipas from that department. Even though Mexico could forget that the United States urged and aided the rebellion of the former colonists, and that the principle, giving to an independent people the right to annex itself to another nation, is not applicable to the case, in which the latter has been the protector of the independence of the former, with the object of admitting it into its own bosom; even thought it could be accepted as an axiom of international law, that the violation of every rule of morality and justice might serve as a legitimate title for acquisition; nevertheless, the territory of Tamaulipas would still remain beyond the law of annexation, sanctioned by the American Congress; because that law comprises independent Texas, the ground occupied by the rebellious colony, and in no wise includes other departments, in which the Mexican government has uninterruptedly exercised its legitimate authority.

Fellow-countrymen: With an enemy which respects not its own laws, which shamelessly derides the very principles invoked by it previously, in order to excuse its ambitious views, we have no other resource than arms. We are fortunately always prepared to take them up with glory, in defence of our country; little do we regard the blood in our veins, when we are called on to shed it in vindication of our honour, to assure our nationality and independence. If to the torrent of devastation which threatens us it be necessary to oppose a dike of steel, our swords will form it; and on their sharp points will the enemy receive the fruits of his anticipated conquest. If the banks of the Panuco have been immortalized by the defeat of an enemy, respectable and worthy of the valour of Mexico, those of the Bravo shall witness the ignominy of the proud sons of the north, and its deep waters shall serve as the sepulchre for those who dare to approach it. The flames of patriotism which burns in our hearts will receive new fuel from the odious presence of the conquerors; and the cry of Dolores and Iguala shall be re-echoed with harmony to our ears, when we take up our march to oppose our naked breasts to the rifles of the hunters of the Mississippi.

FRANCISCO MEJIA.

Matamoros, March 18, 1846

* * *

[General Mariano Arista, April 20, 1846]

Soldiers!—You have enlisted in time of peace to serve in that army for a specific term; but your obligation never implied that you were bound to violate the laws of God, and the most sacred rights of friends! The United States government, contrary to the wishes of a majority of all honest and honorable Americans, has ordered you to take forcible possession of the territory of a friendly neighbour, who has never given her consent to such occupation. In other words, while the treaty of peace and commerce between Mexico and the United States is in full force, the United States, presuming on her strength and prosperity, and on our supposed imbecility and cowardice, attempts to make you the blind instruments of her unholy and blind ambition, and force you to appear as the hateful robbers of our dear homes, and the unprovoked violators of our dearest feelings as men and patriots. Such a villainy and outrage, I know, is perfectly repugnant to the noble sentiments of any gentleman, and it is base and foul to rush you on to certain death, in order to aggrandize a few lawless individual, in defiance of the laws of God and man!

It is to no purpose if they tell you, that the law for the annexation of Texas justifies your occupation of the Rio Bravo del Norte; for by this act they rob us of a great part of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Chihuahua, and new Mexico; it is barbarous to send a handful of men on such an errand against a powerful and warlike nation. Besides, the most of you are Europeans, and we are the declared friends of a majority of the nations of Europe. The North Americans are ambitious, overbearing, and insolent as a nation, and they will only make use of you as vile tools to carry out their abominable plans of pillage and rapine.

I warn you in the name of justice, honour, and your own interests and self-respect, to abandon their desperate and unholy cause, and become peaceful Mexican citizens. I guarantee you, in such case, a half section of land, or three hundred and twenty acres, to settle upon, gratis. Be wise, then, and just, and honourable, and take no part in murdering us who have no unkind feelings for you. Lands shall be given to officers, sergeants, and corporals, according to rank, privates receiving three hundred and twenty acres, as stated.

If, in time of action, you wish to espouse our cause, throw away your arms and run to us, and we will embrace you as true friends and Christians. It is not decent or prudent to say more. But should any of you render important service to Mexico, you shall be accordingly considered and preferred.

Glossary

Dolores: the city where the Mexican war for independence began

Iguala: the city where the Mexican war for independence ended

Panuco, banks of: the area where Spanish forces invading Mexico, in 1829, were defeated

perfidious: treacherous

Document Analysis

These three documents represent the progression of the crisis between Mexico and the United States. Up until the last minute, President Herrera believed a negotiated settlement might be possible, and so he tries to approach the subject in a legalistic manner. General Mejia spoke only five weeks before the formal conflict commenced and, as such, was attempting to rally the forces of northern Mexico as well as to speak about the legitimacy of the Mexican position. Less than a week before the first skirmish between Mexican and American forces, General Arista tried to undercut the morale of the American soldiers and offered them incentives to desert. As should be expected of a nation's leaders, all three were trying to rally their country and weaken their rival.

Herrera and the Mexican congress issued the resolution in 1845, when there might have been a chance to stop the impending hostilities. Although the American president, James Polk, had been elected on the platform of America's Manifest Destiny, he was willing to purchase the land. However, Mexico demanded that their view of Texas as essentially Mexican first be recognized. Although the Mexican government was strongly opposed to the annexation of Texas, what riled them even more was that the United States did not recognize the “boundaries fixed with precision” for Texas. As a result of the Americans not recognizing Mexico's claim on Texas or its borders, Herrera called for a new army reserve to be created to be prepared to protect Mexico's interest. Stopping just short of declaring war, Herrera hoped to create a stronger incentive for negotiations by stating his position and by having a stronger army with which to defend Mexico's interests.

Having been recently appointed commander of the Army of the North, Mejia gathered his troops together to give them what was essentially a pep talk. He outlines the ways in which the United States had violated Mexican trust and international laws. Starting with the annexation of Texas, he depicts it as a “violation of the rights of nations,” having obtained control of the territory by “treachery.” In addition, the western border of Texas was, for Mexico, the Nueces River, while for the United States, it was the Rio Grande. Referring back to landmark victories in Mexico's struggle for independence, Mejia goes on to call for a forceful defense of all territory claimed by Mexico, including Texas.

Arista was in command of the forces in Matamoros when the American general, Zachery Taylor, built a small fort just across the Rio Grande. With many immigrants having joined the American Army, Arista hoped to have them desert and join the Mexican side. He depicts the American enlisted man as being “forced” to serve the “unholy and blind ambition” of the American leaders. He offers them free land and a warm welcome, if they crossed the river. He seems to especially try to have those from Catholic countries join the Mexicans, as this was what he meant by “Christians.” Some American soldiers did accept his offer, crossing the river to Matamoros. This caused Taylor to order sentries to shoot anyone in the river, which they did. This stopped the flow of deserters and ended any effect this proclamation had.

Essential Themes

Although after being defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto and being captured, Santa Anna had signed a document granting Texas independence in 1836, with the border being set as the Rio Grande. However, the Mexican government never ratified this agreement, since Santa Anna signed it while a prisoner. Neither side lived up to the promises made in what came to be called by Americans the Treaty of Velasco. Thus, Mexico always claimed Texas was still a part of their nation. This is echoed forcefully in the documents from Herrera, Mejia, and Arista. For Mexico, annexation of Texas by the United States was an illegal land grab, no matter what boundaries were recognized. Thus, each, in their own way, pronounced the United States as treacherous, violated international law, and initiated hostilities. The desire by the United States to take Alta California (now the state of California) and territories to its east only accentuated America's “scandalous violation of the rights of nations.” Thus, Mexico was prepared to defend its sovereignty and to finally seek to regain control of Texas.

While these points were clearly made, and with some justification, they essentially were ignored by most. The American government had recognized Texas as an independent country, and then it was annexed into statehood. No amount of complaining by the Mexican government would alter that fact. While it might have been possible to negotiate the sale of land west of Texas to the United States, since Mexico had very few citizens or economic interests even in Alta California, neither side was really listening to the other. Even in Mexico, the call to its defense resulted in only 6,000 men joining the new reserve force request by President Herrera. Thus, while these documents reflect the views of the Mexican leaders, they did not reflect views for which most Mexicans were willing to lay down their lives. As a result, when the war did come, President Polk was able to achieve all of his goals.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Brooks, N.C. A Complete History of the Mexican War. Philadelphia: Grigg, Elliot & Co., 1849. Internet Archive, 2009. Web. 17 Oct. 2014.
  • Henderson, Timothy J. A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008. Print.
  • “Prelude to War.” The U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848). PBS/KERA, 1995–2006. Web. 17 Oct. 20014.
  • Vazquel, Josefina Zoraida. “War and Peace with the United States.” The Oxford History of Mexico. Eds. Michael C. Meyer & William H. Beezley. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.
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