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Was the Mexican-American War Justifiable?

Updated on August 5, 2010

 |Work I did in my Junior Year for US History Final Semestral Essay| |Second Essay|

The Mexican-American war was a conflict between the United States and Mexico for various reasons. In the start of this war the Mexicans took the first shot but the Americans provoked the Mexicans to take violent action. Whether the war was justifiable or not is a controversial manner since many lies and confusion caused the war. I believe that the Mexican-American war was justifiable because Mexico owed money to the United States which they did not want to pay, the United States provoked Mexico and the decision of approving the war was mostly based on lies and people making decisions only for their personal desires and not thinking about their country or people.

            Before the war started, Mexico was in economic trouble with the United States. Mexico owed a large amount of money to the United States. At first they both made a deal of Mexico paying in 20 payments but Mexico stopped paying at the third payment. This made the United States find another solution for the problem and they proposed to Mexico that they should give lands to the United States instead of money. Mexico refused this proposal and when the Mexican-American war came up they decided they could win against the United States so they did not had to pay them anymore. Schweikart states “But Mexico wanted the war as well, and both Mexican military strategists and European observers express a near universal opinion that Mexican troops would triumphantly march to Washington, D.C., in as little as six weeks!”[1] Mexicans wanted to go to war with the Americans and they thought that by winning they would not have to pay them. Mexicans had a poor understanding of the American army and thought they would defeat the United States in six weeks. Their idea about the United States was wrong and they were defeated by the Americans in the war.


            Both of the countries took part in cooperating to start this war and both had their reasons for it. Mexican wanted to not pay their debts and the United States wanted land. Polk wanted the land and he knew the only way to get it was by the war. Johnson tells us “Polk wanted the war because he wanted California. But he did not want to start it.”[2] After the Mexicans broke relations to protest about the annexation of Texas, Polk send an army to the Rio Grande and there the Mexicans killed the Americans and this started the war. Polk’s desire for the war made him lie to the Congress about the conflict and instead made Mexico look like the savages and the Americans like the victims, as Lincoln states “… besides this open attempt to prove by telling the truth what he could not prove by telling the whole truth…”[3] This passage tells us how Polk said a lie to the Congress so the war would take place and this way he could get the land he desired. We can see how this war was based on lies only to satisfy certain people.

            The war was based on lies and people took decisions in a quick and inefficient manner. Lincoln states “When the war began, it was my opinion that all those who because of knowing too little, or because of knowing too much, could not conscientiously oppose the conduct of the President in the beginning of it should nevertheless, as good citizens and patriots, remain silent on that point, at least till the war should be ended…”[4] It only took two hours for the congress to decide to do this war, which can tell us that it was definitely not reviewed or analyzed the correct way. Most members of the congress did not speak their decision about the war because of their fear or respect for the president. This caused that the war was not fully revised for it to be a good choice to do this war. Thoreau says “Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it.”[5] This is another example of inaction from not only the congress but the American people too. During the war people would talk about injustice but don’t act to stop it in any way. People only possessed the ability to follow. This meant that in the war people would only do as they are told so most of the people did not want to act incorrectly but they were made to do this.

            In brief, the Mexican-American war was indeed justifiable because of the lack of truth in the process of the decisions in the war and because of the causes and misunderstandings that caused the war. Basically American and Mexican people alike were fooled by their leaders simply by their desire for either money or power. The Mexican-American war could have been avoided and the conflict could have been dealt with in a peaceful manner, however, the many things that made this war were most of them lies and only the desire of certain people and not the desire of the people. This is why I believe the Mexican-American war was justifiable. The war concluded by Mexico losing and giving land and money to the United States. We can see that Mexico was affected a lot by this war and even though they thought they could win, they lost more than what they could have lost by only dealing with the situation peacefully.

[1] Schweikart, Larry and Michael Allen. 2004. A Patriot’s History of the United States New York: Penguin Press, p. 240-242.

[2] Johnson, Paul. 1999. A History of the American People New York: HarperCollins Publishers, p. 378-82.

[3] Lincoln, Abraham; Douglas, Stephen A.; Bartlett, David W. 1860. Life and Public Services of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, with a Portrait on Steel. To Which is Added a Biographical Sketch of Hon. Hannibal Hamlin. New York: H. Dayton, p. 326-328.

[4] Lincoln, Abraham; Douglas, Stephen A.; Bartlett, David W. 1860. Life and Public Services of Hon. Abraham Lincoln, with a Portrait on Steel. To Which is Added a Biographical Sketch of Hon. Hannibal Hamlin. New York: H. Dayton, p. 326-328.

[5] Thoreau, Henry David. 1849. Civil Disobedience. (accessed 11/12/09).


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    • profile image

      Myles 13 months ago

      Add Your Comment..Hay thats pretty good

    • Elbeto94 profile image

      Elbeto94 7 years ago from Guatemala

      Thank you for your opinion on my essays. I did had a great US History teacher from which I learned a lot and taught me very well. I'm only 15 years old at the moment but being a History teacher could be one of my options in life. Thank you, again, for your opinion.

    • World-Traveler profile image

      World-Traveler 7 years ago from USA

      You make many good points about the problems mentioned above. I think you would make an excellent history teacher. Your topics provide information that many people are not aware of but should be.