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rence of his cabinet he sent the message to Congress Monday, May 11.
On the same day a bill providing for the enlistment of fifty thousand soldiers and the appropriation of ten million dollars, the preamble to which re-echoed the president's assertion that war existed by the act of Mexico itself, passed the House by a vote of 174 to 14.1 An amendment to the effect that nothing in the bill should be considered as approving the conduct of the president in ordering the military occupation of the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande was rejected by a vote of 27 to 97.2 On the next day the bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 40 to 2,3 the two negative votes being those of Thomas Clayton of Delaware and John Davis of Massachusetts, both Whigs; Crittenden of Kentucky and Upham of Vermont, also Whigs, voted "ay, except the preamble." Two Whigs, Berrien of Georgia and Evans of Maine, together with one Democrat, Calhoun, refused to vote.
It has been the commonly accepted view of American historians that Texas did not extend west of the Nueces and that the advance of Taylor to the Rio Grande by the order of Polk was really an invasion of Mexico. The critics of President Polk have asserted that his conclusion as to the boundary was deduced wholly from the Texan statute of December 19, 1836, and that the statute itself was only a claim.1 As a matter of fact, the definition of the western limit of Texas contained in act of 1836, was based on the treaty with Santa Anna concluded while he was a prisoner in the hands of the Texans. This treaty, however, while it recognized by implication the Rio Grande as a possible line, was inconclusive as to the boundary not because of its invalidity, but because of its negative and indefinite terms. It provided only that "A treaty of commerce, amity, and limits will be established between Mexico and Texas, the territory of the latter not to extend beyond the Rio Bravo del Norte."' Although Polk made no reference to it in "his war message of May 11, 1846, in his next annual message, which contained his defence against the charge of having provoked the war by the advance of Taylor, he did refer to the treaty, as well as to the statute.8 It is evident also that to his mind the claim that Texas extended to the lower Rio Grande was a natural corollary of the theory of re-annexation; for in the same defence he asserted that the Texas ceded to Spain in 1819 embraced all the territory between that river and the Nueces. That Polk himself really considered the advance of Taylor to the Rio Grande as an invasion of Mexico is not to be believed. The status of Santa F6 is the principal difficulty in the way of Polk's attitude on the boundary.
1 Cong. Globe, 39 Cong., 1 Sess., 795.
'Ibid., 794. 'Ibid., 804.
1 See p. 106, above; cf. Von Hoist, United States, III., chap, iv. 84.
'Niles' Register, LXIX., 98. The italics are probably those of the editor of the Register.
* Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 48©, 483.
Polk seems, indeed, to have had that cast of mind in which political dogma finds too easy lodgment, and from which it receives the fiercest and most uncompromising support; but there can be no doubt of his sincere faith in the righteousness of his own purposes and of the means he used to attain them. The stern integrity and strength of his character, as reflected in the pages of his diary, take away all force and point from the epigrammatic characterization by Stephens—"Polk the mendacious"1— caught up and made prominent by Von Hoist.1 Such men as he rarely catch an historical perspective or see the whole truth that lies in any group of facts; and they are often involved in painful struggles by their own unconscious inconsistencies. No paralyzing scrupulosity or forecast of possible danger holds them back; and woe to the land if they be misguided, for they do things. But there are few in this day, even of those who condemn the methods of Polk, that would be willing to see his work undone.
1 Stephens, in Cong. Globe, 30 Cong., 1 Sess., 910. * Von Hoist, United States, III., title of chap. ix.' 1 Polk, MS. Diary, September 16, 1845.
THE SLIDELL MISSION
INFORMATION received by the authorities at Washington in August, 1845, from a confidential agent of the United States in the city of Mexico, and concurred in by the consuls there and at Vera Cruz, seemed to indicate that the Mexican government wished to re-establish the diplomatic relations broken off by Almonte's demand for his passports. On September 16 President Polk, in consultation with his cabinet, agreed that John Slidell of New Orleans should be appointed to undertake a mission to Mexico, one object of which should be an adjustment of the boundary by the purchase of Upper California and New Mexico. The president stated his desire for a line that should follow the Rio Grande from its mouth to the thirty-second parallel, and that parallel thence to the Pacific. He supposed that such a line could be had for fifteen or twenty million dollars, but he was ready, if necessary, to pay forty millions. The cabinet agreed with him unanimously.1
On the next day, September 17, a special cabinet meeting was held, and the matter was reconsidered.1 Buchanan, the secretary of state, called the president's attention to statements published in New Orleans papers which went to show that the disposition of the Mexican government was not so pacific as had been reported. In order, therefore, to avoid a mistake, it was agreed that the president should write a confidential letter notifying Slidell to be in readiness to go; that Buchanan should direct Black, the United States consul in the city of Mexico, to ascertain officially whether the Mexican government would receive a minister if he were sent; and that if the news from Mexico, even before Black could be heard from, made this reasonably certain, Slidell should be appointed and should go at once. The letters were written that evening.2
In explaining his attitude concerning California to Benton afterwards, Polk said that he thought Great Britain intended to possess that country if she could; but the people of the United States would not willingly see it become the possession of any foreign power, in the guise of a new colony; and that in his reassertion of the Monroe Doctrine he had "California and the fine Bay of San Francisco, as much in view as Oregon." 3
To what extent the fear of British designs on
1 Polk, MS. Diary, September 17, 1845. * Buchanan to Black, House Exec. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 Sess., VII., No. 60, p. 12. • Polk, MS. Diary, October 24, 1845.