“We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God”

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Reading Questions for Howard Zinn’s
Chapter 8 “We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God”
A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to the Present.

Prompt/Question:
Given your exposure to Zinn and your knowledge of the conquest of Mexico’s northern territories during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, analyze the events that led to the war, the war itself, and the negotiation of peace resulting in the loss of territory by one as the gain for the other, and then evaluate to what extent the United States’ government was justified in its endeavors to acquire the land from our southern neighbors. In your evaluation, consider the chapter title and quote from the Whig newspaper the Whig Intelligencer concluding that “we take nothing by conquest….Thank God.” (page 169)

In writing your essay, the following are good to consider and address the following:

When did Mexico achieve independence from Spain?

When did Texas become independent from Mexico?

When did Texas become a states of the USA?

When did the Mexican-American War begin and end?

Before President Polk’s term as President, which river had the US government recognized as the border between Mexico and Texas?

Which river did Texas claim as its border with Mexico?

Which river did President Polk choose as the border between Texas and Mexico?

How did Polk’s choice of the border allow the United States to provoke a war with Mexico?

What were the arguments that the news media used to support a war with Mexico?

What were Colonel Hitchcock’s private thoughts concerning the war with Mexico? Why might he have not shared his thoughts with fellow officers and enlisted men?

By 1848, did Congressman Lincoln end up supporting the war? Explain

Walt Whitman wrote that Mexico must be soundly punished. What did Mexico do that persuaded Whitman to demand that Mexico be “crushed?”

What role did race play in both the promotion of and opposition to the war?

The New York Herald believed that, in conquering Mexico, the United States would “civilize” it. What exactly do you think the Herald meant by “civilize?” What data lead you to your hypothesis?

A) building factories and transforming farmers into workers. B) convert Mexican Catholics into Protestants. C) teach the Mexican better table manners, etc…. D) importing slavery-based plantations.

E) dividing Mexican provinces into states subjected tot the rules laid down by the US Constitution (those rules are as follows: each state has a constitutional convention to create a state constitution that must be submitted and accepted by the US Congress before the state is admitted to the Union – can elect and send representatives to Congress, etc….)

F) having Mexicans of mixed Spanish/Indian decent (Mestizos) ruled by Anglo-Saxon (White, northern European) Protestants whose government would be more efficient and less corrupt (although still corrupt in many ways, then as well as now, in both the USA and Mexico) than the Mexican government was in 1845.

Who were the opponents of the war? How did they manifest (in word and deed) their opposition to the war? To what degree were their tactics effective? How could they have been more effective (what were the obstacles in the way of their success)?

How can the division over the Mexican-American War (1846-48) be seen as a prelude the US Civil War (1861-1865)?

Apart from an increase in pay, why might an Irish-American soldier desert the US Army and join the Mexican Army (as did the San Patricios [St. Patrick’s] Battalion)?

Why did many of the American soldiers wish to stop fighting?

How strong was the Mexican/Indian...
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