Manifest Ambition: James K. Polk and Civil-Military Relations during the Mexican War

Manifest Ambition: James K. Polk and Civil-Military Relations during the Mexican War

by John C. Pinheiro

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Overview

This is not another chronological retelling of the Mexican War. Instead, it examines civil-military clashes during the war in light of Jacksonian politics and the American citizen-soldier tradition, looking at events that shed light on civilian authority over the military, as well as the far reaching impact of political ambition during this period (specifically, presidential power and the quest for the presidency). By 1848, Americans had come to realize that in their burgeoning democracy, generals and politicians could scarcely resist the temptation to use war for partisan gain. It was a lesson well learned and one that still resonates today.

The Mexican War is known for the invaluable experience it provided to future Civil War officers and as an example of America's drive to fulfill her Manifest Destiny. Yet it was more than a training ground, more than a display of imperialism. Significantly, the Mexican War tested civilian control of the military and challenged traditional assumptions about the role of the army in American society. In so doing, it revealed the degree to which, by 1846, the harsh partisanships of the Jacksonian Era had impacted the American approach to war. This is not another chronological retelling of the Mexican War. Instead, it examines civil-military clashes during the war in light of Jacksonian politics and the American citizen-soldier tradition, looking both at events that shed light on civilian authority over the military and at the far reaching impact of political ambition during this period (specifically, presidential power and the quest for the presidency).

In addition to politics, a host of others factors marred civil-military relations during the war, threatening U.S. victory. These included atrocities committed by Americans against Mexicans, disobedient officers, and inefficient U.S. military governors. In the end, as Manifest Ambition shows, Polk's ability to overcome his partisan leanings, his micro-management of the war effort, and his overall strategic vision, helped avoid both a prolonged occupation and the annexation of All Mexico. By 1848, Americans had come to realize that in their burgeoning democracy, generals and politicians could scarcely resist the temptation to use war for partisan gain. It was a lesson well learned and one that still resonates today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780313027284
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/30/2007
Series: In War and in Peace: U.S. Civil-Military Relations
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

John C. Pinheiro is Assistant Professor of History at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Co-editor of Volume 12 of the Presidential Series of the Papers of George Washington, his articles on the Mexican War have appeared in the Journal of the Early Republic, the Journal of Popular Culture, and in the anthology, Nineteenth-Century America (2005).

Table of Contents


Series Foreword     ix
Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction     1
Jacksonian America and the Coming of the Mexican War     7
"State Feuds and Factious Jealousy"     35
"All Whigs and violent partisans"     59
"A Number of Worthless Men"     83
"I was once viceroy"     105
Serving "the Great Body of the People"     131
The Mexican War in the American Civil-Military Tradition     155
Documents     181
James K. Polk, Inaugural Address, 4 March 1845     181
James K. Polk, Message to Congress, 11 May 1846     183
"Gaines Letter," Zachary Taylor to Edmund P. Gaines, 9 November 1846     189
William L. Marcy to Zachary Taylor, 27 January 1847     192
Zachary Taylor to William L. Marcy, 3 March 1847     192
"Leonidas Letter," 16 September 1847     194
Thomas Hart Benton, "Vindication of the President" Speech, 25 January 1847     196
Winfield Scott, "Proclamation to the Good People of Mexico," 11 April 1847     197
Winfield Scott, "Proclamation to the Good People of Mexico," 11 May 1847     198
Stephen W. Kearny, "Proclamation to the citizens of New Mexico, by Colonel Kearny, commanding the United States forces," 31 July 1846     199
Stephen W. Kearny, "Proclamation to the inhabitants of New Mexico by Brigadier General S. W. Kearny, commanding the troops of the United States in the same," 22 August 1846     199
John D. Sloat, "Proclamation to the inhabitants of California," 7 July 1846     200
Robert F. Stockton, "Proclamation to the people of California," 17 August 1846     201
Robert F. Stockton, "Proclamation to the people of California," undated     202
Robert F. Stockton to George Bancroft, 28 August 1846     202
Abraham Lincoln to William H. Herndon, 15 February 1848     203
Notes     205
Selected Bibliography     217
Index     223

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