Mexican American War And James Polk Essay

953 words - 4 pages

James Polk was elected during the mid 1840s, a time period when the ideology of Manifest Destiny influenced many American settlers to move westward. During this time period, America had a boundary dispute over Oregon with Britain as well as the issue dealing with the independence of Texas with Mexico. America claimed the entire Oregon territory from the California boundary to the southern boundary of Russian Alaska. At the same time, Britain was a world power with a strong military to support itself while Mexico didn’t have the financial or militaristic capabilities of fighting a war after gaining independence from Spain. For this reason, President James Polk didn’t want to take a risk by waging war against a superpower Britain while a war with a militaristically weaker Mexico was more opportunistic in terms of land gains.

Britain became a superpower in terms of military in the 1800s. The British Empire in the 1840s had expanded internationally through colonial expansion to parts of Africa, India, and Australia. England’s soldiers had grown to 92,000 after the Napoleonic Wars in 1817 (“The Time When The British Army Really Stretched”, 11/15/13). The army had grown along with its colonial expansion to create a united international military force for Britain. Along with growth, the Britain army became organized in terms of infrastructure; some specific divisions were war academies, barracks, ship repair yards as well as generals in charge of each. In terms of resources, the Britain army had the funding from the Bank of England to support their military; as a result, they had an abundance of resources such as cannons and rifles compared to most countries (Kennedy, 1987, pg. 3-4) With a strong basis for funding, the British military was able to develop its militaristic resources. Moreover, the Hudson Bay Company, based in Oregon at the time, provided Britain a fur-based self-sufficient economy before the 1840s. However, by the early 1840s, the fur trade declined; many forests were cleared to discourage American settlers and “fur-bearing” animals such as the beaver were driven nearly to extermination.(“Oregon History: Land-Based Fur Trade and Exploration”, 11/16/13). The Hudson Bay Company (HBC) was no longer able to maintain a sustainable economy and as a result, HBC lost its trust with the government of Britain. Therefore, Britain perceived Oregon to have no economic worth fighting a war for as much as territories above the Columbia River, so a compromise was the best option. Keeping Britain’s massive military strength in mind, Polk decided to diplomatically attempt to gain the vast domain of Oregon. He indirectly threatened Britain to go to war for Oregon by employing, along with the Senate, the slogan, “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight”, referring to the boundary between Canada and Oregon....

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