Impact of the Mexican-American War

The Mexican-American War had a significant impact on the United States and Mexico. The war was primarily a territorial dispute caused by the United States' policy of manifest destiny. President Polk and the American citizens wanted to expand their nation by acquiring all of the land on the North American continent regardless of the native people already residing on the land. Some southerners wished to acquire more slave states in order to strengthen slavery as an institution. In addition, the United States wished to obtain the Pacific ports and natural resources in the Mexican territories. However, by focusing only on the struggle between the two nations, individuals often disregard the indigenous people residing in the disputed territories. As a result of the war, the Tejanos, Nuevo Mexicanos, and Californianos lost their homeland. Since neither nation would accept these individuals as full citizens, they were forced to assimilate into either culture by essentially erasing their own traditions. In this way they became second-class citizens. Therefore, the Mexican-American War was certainly unjust. Both nations, especially Mexico, endured hardships following the two year war.

There were positive and negative effects on the United States following the Mexican-American War. The war was the first time the United States fought on foreign territory and occupied another nation's capital. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo granted the United States half a million miles of territory which lead to the discovery of gold and silver in California and significantly contributed to the national economy and westward expansion.
However, the war further divided the United States between slave owners and abolitionists. The new territories disturbed the balance of power between free and slave states. In addition, the Americans suffered an additional 11,000 casualties after the war from disease alone. Finally, the financial cost of the war was approximately 75 million dollars.

In contrast to the United States, Mexico suffered more severely from the war. The government was forced to enact a leva or conscription, which resulted in the deaths of many peasants; there were more than 25,000 military and civilian casualties. Additionally, since the war was fought on Mexican territory, many buildings, roads, and ports were destroyed. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo created an artificial political border, which inadvertently divided families. The Mexicans residing in the former Mexican territories were forced to assimilate into American culture and were regarded as inferior individuals by the United States. The war resulted in political and economic chaos as well. Mexico experienced many different Presidents during the war; however, the federal republic was finally re-established in 1847. The draft weakened the national agrarian economy since most farmers were required to serve in the war. During the war, the daily paper, "El Republicano" stated, "No one had any doubts about the intentions the Washington cabinet has had now for some time with respect to Mexico...One fights in the name of usurpation; the other defends justice...A government that starts a war without a legitimate motive is responsible for all its evils and horrors. The bloodshed, the grief of families, the pillaging, the destruction, the violence, and its works and its crimes...such is the case the U.S. Government, for having initiated the unjust war it is waging against us today." As a result of all the suffering the war caused the nation, Mexicans often refer to the war as the "American Intervention."

A realist may assert that the war with Mexico was just according to the just-war principles since both the United States and Mexico were protecting their territorial integrity. According to the theory of realism, the United States was justified in its quest for more territory since acquiring land was in the nation's national interest in order to gain more natural resources and increase the economy. In addition, the United States only resorted to military action in self-defense after American troops were attacked in Texas. On the flip side, Mexico engaged in war to protect its national autonomy and territorial integrity.

However, I believe that the Mexican-American War was unjust since it deviates from the just-war principles in many aspects. Although, Mexico used force to protect its territorial integrity, the United States only engaged in the war to expand its territory. Though one may assert that the United States acted in self-defense, the Mexican government clearly stated to the American government that any action to annex Texas would be considered a declaration of war. Mexico effectively warned the United States that they would attack American troops in Texas and the attack therefore was not preemptive. Additionally, the war failed to re-establish or institute peace in any of the annexed territories; in fact, the war divided families by creating a political border along all their annexed territories. The indigenous people suffered a great deal from the war since they were forced to assimilate into the United States and become lower-class citizens with virtually no rights. In addition, both the United States and Mexico suffered many casualties from the war. While the war certainly centered on territorial acquisition, the consequences of waging such a war were more widespread. The effects of the Mexican-American War on indigenous residents and individuals in both countries clearly violated the just war principles.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Created by: Julie Singley
World Politics 116
Spring 2005
Questions: Email jasingle@mtholyoke.edu
Last Updated: 4/25/05 1:36 PM