International borders have always been centers of conflict, and the
U.S.-Mexican border is no exception. With the European colonizing the New
World, it was a matter of time before the powers collided. The Spanish
settled what is today Mexico, while the English settled what is to day the
United States. When the two colonial powers did meet what is today the
United States Southwest, it was not England and Spain. Rather the two
powers were the United States and Mexico. Both Counties had broken off from
their mother countries. The conflict that erupted between the two countries
where a direct result of different nation policies. The United States had a
policy of westward expansion, while Mexico had a policy of self protection.
The Americans never had a written policy of expansion. What they had was
the idea of “Manifest Destiny.” Manifest Destiny was the belief that the
United States had the right to expand westward to the Pacific ocean. On the
other hand, Mexico was a new country wanting to protect itself from outside
powers. Evidence of U.S. expansion is seen with the independence of Texas
from Mexico. The strongest evidence of U.S. expansion goals is with the
Mexican-American War. From the beginning, the war was conceived as an
opportunity for land expansion. Mexico feared the United States expansion
During the 16th century, the Spanish began to settle the region. The
Spanish had all ready conquered and settled Central Mexico. Now they wanted
to expand their land holdings north. The first expedition into the region,
that is today the United States Southwest, was with Corando. Corando
reported a region rich in resources, soon after people started to settle the
region. The driving force behind the settlement was silver in the region.
The Spanish settled the region through three major corridors; central,
western and eastern. The first settlements were mainly through the central
corridor. The Spanish went thorough what is now the modern Mexican state of
Chihuahua into the U.S. state of New Mexico. Eventually the Spanish
established the city of Santa Fe in 1689. The eastern corridor was through
modern day Texas and led to the establishment of San Antonio. The eastern
expansion was caused by the French expansion into modern day Louisiana. The
Spanish crown wanted a buffer between the French in Louisiana and central
Mexico. The last corridor of expansion was in the west, through the sea,
which led to the establishment of San Diego in 1769 and Los Angles in 1781.
The Spanish were not the only European power to colonize the new world;
French, English and the Dutch also settled North and South America. The
Spanish and the French settled what is present day U.S.-Mexico border region.
The French settled modern day U.S. midwest, while the Spanish settled
present day Mexico and U.S. southwest. As time went on, European influence
in the region diminished.. The French sold there claims to the United
States, in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.Mexico gained independence
from Spain in 1821. Once the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase,
western expansion began. This set the stage for major conflict in the
The United States gained independence from England in 1775. After 1775, the
Americans started to expand west. By the time Mexico gained independence,
the United States had reached the Mexican frontier. Mexico needed to protect
its northern borders. To protect the border region, Mexico needed to
populate the area. Mexico continued the policy started by Spain of allowing
Americans to settle Texas. The Americans had to follow Mexican law, religion
and customs. The settlement of Texas played into the United States
Eventually Mexico City closed Texas from more Americans from entering.
This angered the Americans wanting to enter and Americans already living in
Texas. Texas revolted from Mexico in 1833. Mexicans did live in Texas, and
fought for the independence of Texas. The majority of Texans were Americans
and fought for their independence. After the war the Americans intentionally
or non-intentionally forced most Mexicans out of Texas. The ones that stayed
faced racial tensions that continue to today.
After gaining independence from Mexico, Texas wanted to join the United
States immediately. The U.S. Congress voted against Texas from joining the
Union. Congress was worried that annexation of Texas would anger Mexico.
Mexico had never officially recognized Texas as independent. Congress was
concerned that annexation would start a war with Mexico. Mexicos repose to
American annexation was not the only factor in deciding against annexation.
If Texas was to become a state, it would be a slave state. At the time, the
United States an even balance between slave and non-slave states. Texas
entering the Union would disrupt the balance, giving slave states an
advantage in the U.S. House and Senate. Since the United States was not
ready to annex Texas, Texas declared itself a sovereign country. In 1837
President Andrew Jackson formally recognized Texas a country.
Texas wanted to be part of the United States. It needed the protection of
the Untied States. President Tyler could not get the 2/3 majority needed to
admit Texas. Instead, he changed the law to require only a simple majority.
It was not until 1845 and two Presidents later that Texas was annexed into
the United States. Mexico protested the admission of Texas into the United
States. The United States saw Mexicos protest as a excuse to spend troops
The annexation of Texas was a represented the United States expansion goals.
The United States wanted to settle in Texas, but Mexico owned the land.
That did not matter to the United States, they settled in the region
regardless. The Americans that settled the region agreed to Mexican law and
customs, but still considered themselves Americans. After the annexation of
Texas, Texas also wanted to expand. Texas claimed that New Mexico and
California were part of Texas. The boundary with Mexico was also disputed.
The United States claimed that the Texas border was at the Rio Grande.
Mexico disagreed, Mexico stated the border was at Nueces River. The United
States did try to settle matters diplomatically. The United States sent
inexperienced diplomat John Slidell. Slidell tried to buy area known as the
U.S. Southwest. Slidell, being an inexperienced diplomat, was rejected. Not
only was he not successful in buying the land, he aroused Mexican fears. This
set the stage for the Mexican-American War.
. The United States also had no written policy of expansion, but the
government quietly supported it. The United States has always had troops the
region, even though they held no land in the region The United States kept
ships off the coast of California. In 1842 the U.S. commander in the region,
Commodore Thomas Jones, attacked and took the city of Monterrey in
California. He falsely believed that Texas and Mexico were at war. Once he
realized his mistake he withdrew his forces and apologized to the Mexian
government for his action and claimed that he did not act with orders from
the U.S. government.
Although Jones claimed that he did not act with orders from the U.S.
government, clearly the government did not stop the practice. Another
example of the United States expansion goals was the Mexican-American War.
This is the first time America has fought a war with land expansion as its
main goal. The war started on April 25 1846 with the attack from Mexican
troops and the counter attack from General Taylor of the U.S. Army. Taylor
sent a message to President Polk that hostilities have started. President
Polk, with a pre-drafted declaration of war, asked Congress to declare war
against Mexico. President Polk knew that Mexico would lose the war and would
gain new lands in the end.
The Mexican-American war lasted two years, and ended with the signing of the
Treaty of Guadeloupe on February 2 1848. The United States had succeeded in
winning the war. With the Treaty of Guadeloupe the United States had
succeeded in completing its Manifest Destiny. The Treaty itself represented
the United States expansion goals. The United States wanted to settle on
were the international border was to be. Mexico wanted the border to north
of the Rio Grande river, but finally decided upon the middle of the Rio
Grande river. Mexico having been bankrupt from the war, agreed to take the
15 million as payment for the vast land. In addition, the United States
agreed to pay off all Mexican debts owed to the United States. This amount
was small in comparison to what the United States gained in territory. The
United States took advantage of a weak country of obtained its expansion
Another example of the United States taking advantage of Mexico is the
Gasden Purchase. The Gasden Purchase was ratified in 1854 for the selling
price of 10 million. Mexico was going through rough economical time and
desperately needed the money. The United States seeing an opportunity to
build a railroad through the region brought the land at a cheap price. The
selling of the Gasden Purchase was the down fall of President Santa Ana, and
led to his replacement.
The conflicts along the border region were a direct result of U.S.
expansion policies and Mexican fear for the United States. The Americans saw
Manifest Destiny, westward expansion, as there God given right. The United
States proved often that it supported policy of expansion. With the
Mexican-American war, the United States completed it’s Manifest Destiny. The
United States completed Manifest Destiny at the cost of the Mexican
government and its people.