From: Tom Lynch
Time: 8:13:48 PM
Remote Name: 220.127.116.11
Message of President Polk, May 11, 1846
This message was given by President Polk in order to persuade Congress into declaring war on Mexico. It really was only a formality at that point because hostilities had broken out on April 24 when a Mexican army attacked a small detachment of U.S. soldiers. The real purpose of this message seems to be an attempt to justify the war with Mexico. Throughout the document, Polk makes several references to American innocence in causing the conflict. He makes the claim that the U.S. has done nothing to provoke the Mexicans. He uses the fact that Mexico was controlled by a military dictatorship that is very undemocratic and diametrically opposed to the U.S. Finally, Polk says that his stationing on troops on the border was not an aggressive or threatening gesture. The bulk of his justifications are simply not true though. America was constantly antagonizing the Mexican state over its borders in an attempt to gain additional territory in fulfillment of its "manifest destiny." Any time you station troops on another country's border they will see it as an act of aggression and not self defense. Polk used the border dispute with Mexico to further American expansion to the Southwest. President Polk was very active in U.S. foreign relations. He would use them to further his expansionist ideas not only with Mexico, but with Britain as well over the Oregon Territory. Issues concerning foreign relations took some of the attention away from the growing conflict between slave and free states. It provided something for the country to think about instead of the growing differences between North and South. The presidency will often use foreign affairs to deflect attention away from domestic turmoil. It is interesting to note that the president does not have complete control over the course of foreign relations. Diplomats can also play an important role in shaping policy. Nicolas Trist best illustrates this point when he ignored Polk's orders and signed Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to end the Mexican War.