Manifest Destiny And Its Legacy Essay

1. Explain the phrase “Tyler became a president without a party, and the Whigs lost the presidency without losing an election. ” Tyler’s enemies accused him of being a Democrat in Whig clothing, but this charge was only partially true. The Whig party, like the Democratic party, was something of a catchall, and the accidental president belonged to the minority wing, which embraced a number of Jeffersonian states’ righters. Tyler had in fact been put on the ticket partly to attract the vote of this fringe group, many of whom were influential southern gentry. 2. What were the main planks of the Whig platform?

Although the dominant Clay-Webster group had published no platform, every alert politician knew what the unpublished platform contained. And on virtually every major issue, the obstinate Virginian was at odds with the majority of his adoptive Whig party, which was pro-bank, pro–protective tariff, and pro–internal improvements. “Tyler too” rhymed with “Tippecanoe,” but there the harmony ended. As events turned out, President Harrison, the Whig, served for only 4 weeks, whereas Tyler, the ex-Democrat who was still largely a Democrat at heart, served for 204 weeks. . What did Tyler do with the bill to establish a BUS? When the bank bill reached the presidential desk, Tyler flatly vetoed it on both practical and constitutional grounds. A drunken mob gathered late at night near the White House and shouted insultingly, “Huzza for Clay! ” “A Bank! A Bank! ” “Down with the Veto! ” What was the response of his cabinet? His entire cabinet resigned in a body, except Secretary of State Webster, who was then in the midst of delicate negotiations with England. 4. Why did Tyler veto the proposed Whig tariff?

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Tyler appreciated the neces- sity of bringing additional revenue to the Treasury. But old Democrat that he was, he looked with a frosty eye on the major tariff scheme of the Whigs because it provided, among other features, for a distribution among the states of revenue from the sale of public lands in the West. Tyler could see no point in squandering federal money when the federal Treasury was not over- flowing, and he again wielded an emphatic veto. What provisions did the Clayites make which enabled Tyler to finally sign the bill? Chastened Clayites redrafted their tariff bill.

They chopped out the offensive dollar-distribution scheme and pushed down the rates to about the moderately protective level of 1832, roughly 32 percent on dutiable goods. Why did Tyler sign the tariff bill? Tyler had no fondness for a protective tariff, but realizing the need for additional revenue, he reluctantly signed the law of 1842. 5. What was the Caroline affair? A provocative incident on the Canadian frontier brought passions to a boil in 1837. An American steamer, the Caroline, was carrying supplies to the insurgents across the swift Niagara River.

It was finally attacked on the New York shore by a determined British force, which set the vessel on fire. Lurid American illustrators showed the flaming ship, laden with shrieking souls, plummeting over Niagara Falls. The craft in fact sank short of the plunge, and only one American was killed. This unlawful invasion of American soil—a counter- violation of neutrality—had alarming aftermaths. Wash- ington officials lodged vigorous but ineffective protests. Three years later, in 1840, the incident was dramatically revived in the state of New York.

A Canadian named McLeod, after allegedly boasting in a tavern of his part in the Caroline raid, was arrested and indicted for murder. The London Foreign Office, which regarded the Caroline raiders as members of a sanctioned armed force and not as criminals, made clear that his execution would mean war. Fortunately, McLeod was freed after establishing an alibi. It must have been airtight, for it was good enough to convince a New York jury. The tension forthwith eased, but it snapped taut again in 1841, when British officials in the Bahamas offered asylum to 130 Virginia slaves who had rebelled and captured the American ship Creole.

Britain had abolished slavery within its empire in 1834, raising southern fears that its Caribbean possessions would become Canada- like havens for escaped slaves. 6. What did British officials do in the Bahamas in 1841 to cause tension between America and Great Britain? Offered asylum to the Virginians. 7. What was the “Aroostook War”? An explosive controversy of the early 1840s involved the Maine boundary dispute. The St. Lawrence River is icebound several months of the year, as the British, remembering the War of 1812, well knew.

They were determined, as a defensive precaution against the Yankees, to build a road westward from the seaport of Halifax to Quebec. But the proposed route ran through disputed territory—claimed also by Maine under the misleading peace treaty of 1783. Tough- knuckled lumberjacks from both Maine and Canada entered the disputed no-man’s-land of the tall-timbered Aroostook River valley. Ugly fights flared up, and both sides summoned the local militia. The small-scale lumberjack clash, which was dubbed the “Aroostook War,” threatened to widen into a full-dress shooting war. How was the dispute finally settled?

During the negotiations the Caroline affair, malingering since 1837, was patched up by an exchange of diplomatic notes. What “bonus” to the West did the U. S. obtain by terms of the treaty? An overlooked bonus sneaked by in the small print of the same treaty: the British, in adjusting the U. S. – Canadian boundary farther west, surrendered 6,500 square miles. The area was later found to contain the priceless Mesabi iron ore of Minnesota. 8. What did Texas do in the 8 years following 1836 when Mexico refused to recognize her independence and America refused to annex her? The Texans were forced to maintain a costly military establishment.

Vastly outnumbered by their Mexican foe, they could not tell when he would strike again. Mexico actually did make two halfhearted raids that, though ineffectual, foreshadowed more fearsome efforts. Confronted with such perils, Texas was driven to open negotiations with Britain and France, in the hope of securing the defensive shield of a protectorate. In 1839 and 1840, the Texans concluded treaties with France, Holland, and Belgium. 9. List and explain the reasons your author gives as to why Britain was so interested in an independent Texas. Britain was intensely interested in an independent Texas.

Such a republic would check the southward surge of the American colossus, whose bulging biceps posed a constant threat to nearby British possessions in the New World. A puppet Texas, dancing to strings pulled by Britain, could be turned upon the Yankees. Subse- quent clashes would create a smoke-screen diversion, behind which foreign powers could move into the Americas and challenge the insolent Monroe Doctrine. French schemers were likewise attracted by the hoary game of divide and conquer. These actions would result, they hoped, in the fragmentation and militarization of America. 10.

Why did President Tyler push for annexation? Aware of their opposition, Tyler despaired of securing the needed two-thirds vote for a treaty in the Senate. 11. “Explain the significance of the explosion onboard the newly constructed warship U. S. S. Princeton in February, 1844. 12. What four nations claimed parts of the Oregon Territory? All or substantial parts of this immense area were claimed at one time or another by four nations: Spain, Russia, Britain, and the United States. 13. What were the British claims to Oregon? British claims to Oregon were strong—at least to that portion north of the Columbia River.

They were based squarely on prior discovery and exploration, on treaty rights, and on actual occupation. The most important colonizing agency was the far-flung Hudson’s Bay Company, which was trading profitably with the Indians of the Pacific Northwest for furs. Scattered American and British pioneers in Oregon continued to live peacefully side by side. At the time of negotiating the Treaty of 1818 (see pp. 250–251), the United States had sought to divide the vast domain at the forty-ninth parallel. But the British, who regarded the Columbia River as the St. Lawrence of the West, were unwilling to yield this vital artery.

A scheme for peaceful “joint occupation” was thereupon adopted, pending future settlement. 14. The area in dispute consisted of the rough quadrangle between the Columbia River on the south and east, the forty-ninth parallel on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the west (see the map on p. 381). Britain had repeatedly offered the line of the Columbia; America had repeatedly offered the forty-ninth parallel. The whole fateful issue was now tossed into the presidential election of 1844, where it was largely overshadowed by the question of annexing Texas. 15. The so-called Oregon Country was an enormous wilder- ness.

It sprawled magnificently west of the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean, and north of California to the line of 54° 40’—the present southern tip of the Alaska panhandle. All or substantial parts of this immense area were claimed at one time or another by four nations: Spain, Russia, Britain, and the United States. 16. The area in dispute consisted of the rough quad- rangle between the Columbia River on the south and east, the forty-ninth parallel on the north, and the Pacific Ocean on the west (see the map on p. 381). Britain had repeatedly offered the line of the Columbia; America had repeatedly offered the forty-ninth parallel.

The whole fateful issue was now tossed into the presi- dential election of 1844, where it was largely overshad- owed by the question of annexing Texas. 17. The two major parties nominated their presidential standard-bearers in May 1844. Ambitious but often frustrated Henry Clay, easily the most popular man in the country, was enthusiastically chosen by the Whigs at Baltimore. The Democrats, meeting there later, seemed hopelessly deadlocked. Van Buren’s opposition to annexing Texas ensured his defeat, given domination of the party by southern expansionists. Finally party delegates trotted out and nominated James K.

Polk of Tennessee, America’s first “dark-horse” or “surprise” presidential candidate. 18. There the tiny antislavery Liberty party absorbed nearly 16,000 votes, many of which would otherwise have gone to the unlucky Kentuckian. Ironically, the anti-Texas Liberty party, by spoiling Clay’s chances and helping to ensure the election of pro-Texas Polk, hastened the annexation of Texas. 19. Yet President Tyler as a crystal-clear charge to annex Texas interpreted this unclear “mandate” and he signed the joint resolution three days before leaving the White House. 20. On the crucial issue of Texas, the acrobatic Clay tried to ride two horses at once.

The “Great Compromiser” appears to have compromised away the presidency when he wrote a series of confusing letters. They seemed to say that while he personally favored annexing slave- holding Texas (an appeal to the South), he also favored postponement (an appeal to the North). He might have lost more ground if he had not “straddled,” but he certainly alienated the more ardent antislaveryites. 21. One of Polk’s goals was a lowered tariff. His secretary of the Treasury, wispy Robert J. Walker, devised a tariff- for-revenue bill that reduced the average rates of the Tariff of 1842 from about 32 percent to 25 percent.

A second objective of Polk was the restoration of the independent treasury, unceremoniously dropped by the Whigs in 1841. Pro-bank Whigs in Congress raised a storm of opposition, but victory at last rewarded the president’s efforts in 1846. The third and fourth points on Polk’s “must list” were the acquisition of California and the settlement of the Oregon dispute. 22. But southern Democrats, once they had annexed Texas, rapidly cooled off. Polk, himself a southerner, had no intention of insisting on the 54° 40′ pledge of his own platform.

But feeling bound by the three offers of his predecessors to London, he again proposed the compro- mise line of 49°. The British minister in Washington, on his own initiative, brusquely spurned this olive branch. 23. British anti-expansionists (“Little Englanders”) were now persuaded that the Columbia River was not after all the St. Lawrence of the West and that the turbulent American hordes might one day seize the Oregon Country. Why fight a hazardous war over this wilderness on behalf of an unpopular monopoly, the Hudson’s Bay Company, which had already “furred out” much of the area anyhow? 4. Early in 1846 the British, hat in hand, came around and themselves proposed the line of 49°. President Polk, irked by the previous rebuff, threw the decision squarely into the lap of the Senate. 25. Polk was eager to buy California from Mexico, but relations with Mexico City were dangerously embittered. Among other friction points, the United States had claims against the Mexicans for some $3 million in damages to American citizens and their property. The revolution-riddled regime in Mexico had formally agreed to assume most of this debt but had been forced to default on its payments. 26.

The golden prize of California continued to cause Polk much anxiety. Disquieting rumors (now known to have been ill-founded) were circulating that Britain was about to buy or seize California—a grab that Americans could not tolerate under the Monroe Doctrine. 27. During the long era of Spanish Mexican occupation, the southwestern boundary of Texas had been the Nueces River. But the expansive Texans, on rather far-fetched grounds, were claiming the more southerly Rio Grande instead. 28. The golden prize of California continued to cause Polk much anxiety. Disquieting rumors (now known to have been ill-founded) were circulating hat Britain was about to buy or seize California—a grab that Americans could not tolerate under the Monroe Doctrine. 29. A frustrated Polk was now prepared to force a showdown. On January 13, 1846, he ordered four thousand men, under General Zachary Taylor, to march from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande, provocatively near Mexican forces. Polk’s presidential diary reveals that he expected at any moment to hear of a clash. 30. When none occurred after an anxious wait, he informed his cabinet on May 9, 1846, that he proposed to ask Congress to declare war on the basis of (1) unpaid claims and (2) Slidell’s rejection.

These, at best, were rather flimsy pretexts. Two cabinet members spoke up and said that they would feel better satisfied if Mexican troops should fire first. 31. On April 25, 1846, Mexican troops had crossed the Rio Grande and attacked General Taylor’s command, with a loss of sixteen Americans killed or wounded. 32. A patriotic Congress overwhelmingly voted for war, and enthusiastic volunteers cried, “Ho for the Halls of the Montezumas! ” and “Mexico or Death! ” Inflamed by the war fever, even antislavery Whig bastions melted and joined with the rest of the nation, though they later condemned “Jimmy Polk’s war. 33. Did Polk provoke war? California was an imperative point in his program, and Mexico would not sell it at any price.

The only way to get it was to use force or wait for an internal American revolt. Yet delay seemed dangerous, for the claws of the British lion might snatch the ripening California fruit from the talons of the American eagle. Grievances against Mexico were annoying yet tolerable; in later years America endured even worse ones. But in 1846 patience had ceased to be a virtue, as far as Polk was concerned. Bent on grasping California by fair means or foul, he pushed the quarrel to a bloody showdown. 4. The dethroned Mexican dictator Santa Anna, then exiled with his teenage bride in Cuba, let it be known that if the American blockading squadron would permit him to slip into Mexico, he would sell out his country. 35. American operations in the Southwest and in California were completely successful. In 1846 General Stephen W. Kearny led a detachment of seventeen hundred troops over the famous Santa Fe Trail from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe. This sunbaked outpost, with its drowsy plazas, was easily captured. But before Kearny could reach California, the fertile province was won.

When war broke out, Captain John C. Fremont, the dashing explorer, just “happened” to be there with several dozen well-armed men. In helping to overthrow Mexican rule in 1846, he collaborated with American naval officers and with the local Americans, who had hoisted the banner of the short-lived California Bear Flag Republic. 36. General Zachary Taylor meanwhile had been spear- heading the main thrust. Known as “Old Rough and Ready” because of his iron constitution and incredibly unsoldierly appearance—he sometimes wore a Mexican straw hat—he fought his way across the Rio Grande into Mexico.

After several gratifying victories, he reached Buena Vista. There, on February 22–23, 1847, his weakened force of five thousand men was attacked by some twenty thousand march-weary troops under Santa Anna. The Mexicans were finally repulsed with extreme difficulty, and overnight Zachary Taylor became the “Hero of Buena Vista. ” One Kentuckian was heard to say that “Old Zack” would be elected president in 1848 by “spontaneous combustion. ” Accordingly, he sent along with Scott’s invading army the chief clerk of the State Department, Nicholas P. Trist, who among other weaknesses was afflicted with an overfluid pen.

Trist and Scott arranged for an armistice with Santa Anna, at a cost of $10,000. The wily dictator pocketed the bribe and then used the time to bolster his defenses. 37. The anti- slavery Whigs in Congress—dubbed “Mexican Whigs” or “Conscience Whigs”—were denouncing this “damnable war” with increasing heat. 38. Polk submitted the treaty to the Senate. Although Trist had proved highly annoying, he had generally followed his original instructions. And speed was imperative. The anti- slavery Whigs in Congress—dubbed “Mexican Whigs” or “Conscience Whigs”—were denouncing this “damnable war” with increasing heat. 39.

The Mexican War proved to be the blood-spattered schoolroom of the Civil War. The campaigns provided priceless field experience for most of the officers des- tined to become leading generals in the forthcoming conflict, including Captain Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant. The Military Academy at West Point, founded in 1802, fully justified its existence through the well-trained officers. Useful also was the navy, which did valuable work in throwing a crippling blockade around Mexican ports. A new academy at Annapolis had just been established by Navy Secretary and historian George Bancroft in 1846.

The Marine Corps, in existence since 1798, won new laurels and to this day sings in its stirring hymn about the Halls of Montezuma. 40. The disruptive Wilmot amendment twice passed the House, but not the Senate. Southern members, unwilling to be robbed of prospective slave states, fought the restriction tooth and nail. Antislavery men, in Congress and out, battled no less bitterly for the exclusion of slaves. The “Wilmot Proviso” never became federal law, but it was eventually endorsed by the legislatures of all but one of the free states, and it came to symbolize the burning issue of slavery in the territories.


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