DBQ: American-Mexican Conflict

The 1800s was a time of change for America. The West was ultimately open for settlement, and many pioneers chased their dreams of success all the way to California. Trade in the Pacific sprung up immediately, and industry advanced in the pursuit of the nation’s dream of prosperity. Nevertheless America had her share of conflicts, namely the Mexican War, which has been labeled an “unprovoked and unjustifiable war of aggression and territorial aggrandizement.” This assertion certainly does hold true for America as, evident from its actions during the early 1800s, acted solely on its interest of territorial expansion.

One of America’s interests was California, which had fertile land and access to the Pacific that, in turn, led to possible trade with China. The California region also contained a passage through the Rocky Mountains low enough to build a railroad. Since the Mexican government refused to sell the area, the United States government prepared to seize it in the midst of the fighting. In his memoirs (Document C), John Charles Frémont recalls that California “stood out as the chief subject in the impending war, and...it became a firm resolve to hold it for the United States.” Great Britain was also deeply interested in California, and this threat made the United States grow even more protective over the area. President James K. Polk noted in his diary (Document D) that “Great Britain had her eye on that country and intended to possess it but...the United States would not willingly permit California to pass into the possession of any new colony planted by Great Britain....” Seeing the United States’ determination to keep California free from foreign control, it is obvious that it merely wanted to keep the area for its own.

The second area of frequent dispute was Texas. Its rich land and climate suitable for cotton drew the Americans toward it, and eventually the annexation of the Lone Star Republic--as it once was called--in 1845 seized the area from Mexico. As Mexico saw Texas as rightfully their land, the country began to attack the area and threatened to start a war. Yet, the United States government made matters worse by proclaiming the boundary of Texas to be the Rio Grande River while Mexico pushed for the border to be the Nueces River. Both powers were ready to fight for “their” territory, as stated in Document B where President James K. Polk assures Senator William H. Haywood that “[they] will not be the aggressor upon Mexico;...but if her army shall cross the Rio Grande del Norte and invade Texas, [they] will if [they] can drive her army to her own territory.”

The United States defended ther claims, even to the point that they terrorized small Mexican settlements, as stated in Document F where President Don Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga presented the threat of war imposed by the Americans. He proclaims: “...Hostilities, then, have been commenced, by the United States of North America, beginning new conquests upon the frontier territories...and progressing at such a rate that troops of the same United States threaten Monterey in Upper California.” This account clearly shows the American greed for territorial expansion.

So, it can be concluded that the Mexican War was, in its entirety, provoked by the avaricious actions of the United States of America. It was lured by the land and the possibility of increased proficiency, and it went to no ends to attain the states of California and Texas. Because of the strong American belief of manifest destiny, the Mexican War gave the United States California, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah-- altogether called the Meixcan Session--and Mexico lost half of its dominion. Therefore it can be asserted that the Mexican War was an unprovoked and unjustifiable war of aggression and territorial aggrandizement.

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Copyright (c) 1998 by Gemma Truman
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Too bad that I can't type in the actual Document-Based Question and the Documents that accompany this, as it can be incredibly helpful in reviewing for the AP US History test. Nevertheless, the quotes (which I was later told not to use) still give a good idea about what the entire essay is really about. The DBQ came from an old AP test that my teacher had us do in preparation for the real thing. And trust me, it helped me a lot.