The Mexican-American War was a pivotal moment in the history of both Mexico and the United States, with far-reaching consequences for the development of the two nations. At the heart of this conflict lies a disputed claim to land, with Mexico asserting its right to sovereignty over territories that the United States also claimed as its own. However, many people may not be aware that the conflict was actually initiated by the Mexicans, who had long-held imperial aspirations over the North American continent.
To understand the origins of the conflict, we must go back to the early days of the colonization of the Americas. Texas was originally a part of French Louisiana, a vast region that spanned from the Mississippi River all the way to the Rocky Mountains. When France ceded Louisiana to Spain in 1762, Texas became a part of New Spain, where it remained until the early 19th century.
In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, which included northern Texas and a large portion of what is now the Western United States. However, when Spain returned Louisiana to France in 1802, it decided to withhold some of the originally French territory, including Texas. When France sold the territory to the United States, Spain attempted to renege on its agreement with France, attempting to keep all of the territory for itself and giving only the Mississippi River to the Americans.
This conflict was further complicated by the fact that the United States claimed sovereignty over all land between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Lawrence River. In 1819, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the U.S. Constitution was the supreme law of the land on all of this territory, which included Texas, northeastern New Mexico, eastern Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Kansas, and all territory up to the Oregon Country and northern California (which was owned by Russia at the time). Utah and Nevada were still owned by their indigenous peoples at the time.
Mexico, which had not yet gained its independence from Spain, asserted its own imperial claims to the North American continent, and viewed the U.S. claims to Texas and other territories as a direct challenge to its sovereignty. When Mexico gained independence in 1821, it inherited Spain's claim to Texas and other territories, and began to enforce its own claims to these lands.
In the decades that followed, tensions between the United States and Mexico continued to mount, with both sides claiming rightful ownership of Texas and other disputed territories. The United States attempted to settle the dispute peacefully, first by agreeing to accept Spanish sovereignty over the disputed lands in exchange for Florida, and then by trying to buy back the land from Mexico. However, these attempts were unsuccessful, and in 1846, war broke out between the two nations.
The Mexican-American War was a brutal conflict that lasted for two years and resulted in the deaths of thousands of soldiers and civilians. Ultimately, the United States emerged victorious, and as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexico was forced to cede a vast portion of its territory to the United States, including all of Texas and much of what is now the American Southwest.
The legacy of the Mexican-American War continues to be felt in both Mexico and the United States, with many Mexicans viewing the conflict as an unjust invasion of their country by a more powerful neighbor. However, the fact remains that it was Mexico, not the United States, that initiated the conflict by asserting its own imperial claims to the North American continent, and refusing to acknowledge the existing claims of other nations.