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MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR: Justified Response to Mexican Aggression or Unscrupulous Land Grab?
In the 1840s, the United States wanted to acquire part of Mexico’s territory in western North America, but the Mexican government did not want to sell it. In 1845, President James K. Polk sent an official to discuss the matter with the president of Mexico. When the Mexican president refused to meet with the U.S. official, Polk deemed the action hostile and dispatched troops to the border region of Texas, an area both nations claimed. Tensions between the two countries escalated, and, in 1846, Mexican troops allegedly fired on U.S. forces in the disputed area, signaling the start of the Mexican-American War. Supporters of the war argued that, although the United States had originally sought to resolve its differences with Mexico peacefully, Mexico rejected diplomatic efforts and instead acted aggressively by opening fire on American soldiers, thus making war unavoidable. Opponents of the war argued that the United States had only half-heartedly pursued diplomacy with Mexico and had moved troops into a hotly contested area with the aim of purposely provoking a military response. The Mexican-American War, they contended, was an unscrupulous and thinly veiled land grab.
Let your students get the facts and decide for themselves: Should the United States have gone to war with Mexico in 1846 or continued to pursue a diplomatic approach to resolve tensions between the two countries? Be sure to check out Issues & Controversies in American History’s clear and unbiased examination of the Mexican-American War this month.
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