Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
First Pub. Date
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Pub. Date
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
1075 of 1105



WARS (IN U. S. HISTORY). I. FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR. This was the first national war of the United States, although no such nation as the United States had as yet a formal existence. Previous wars had been waged by but one colony or a few adjacent colonies in combination. They had been the inevitable Indian wars, such as the Pequot war in 1637, or King Philip's war in 1675, waged by Massachusetts and Connecticut, and the Tuscarora war, in 1711, waged by North and South Carolina; or conflicts with the neighboring French and Spaniards, into which the colonies had been dragged by their connection with the mother country. Such were King William's war, in 1689-97, in which Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York united to attack Canada by land and sea; Queen Anne's war, in 1702-13, in which the fighting was done separately by South Carolina in the south, and by New England, New York and New Jersey in the north; the Spanish war, in 1639-42, in which the brunt was borne by Oglethorpe and his new colony of Georgia; and King George's war, in 1744-8, in which all the northern colonies took part. In the course of these conflicts, an increasing community of interests had brought an increasing number of the colonies to act together; but none of them had been general, and still less could any of them be called quasi-national. The French and Indian war was essentially different from all its predecessors. It was not provoked by European diplomacy, but continued for two years in America before war was declared in Europe. It was not brought on by European interests, but was accepted by the colonies in defense of their own interests. It was waged by all the colonies in common, from New Hampshire to Georgia. In waging it, the first plain distinction appeared between Americans, or "provincials," and Englishmen. (See NATION.) And, as a part of it, the first effort was made to secure a formal union of the colonies. (See ALBANY PLAN OF UNION.)


—In 1748 the Ohio land company was formed, as a Virginia and London speculation. Several of the Washington family were engaged in it, and its object was to develop Virginia's western resources. The peculiar claims of Virginia, from the asserted northwest direction of her northern boundary line, made it doubtful whether the country around what is now Pittsburgh was in Virginia or in Pennsylvania. (See VIRGINIA; TERRITORIES, I.) The Ohio company obtained from the crown a grant of 500,000 acres in this neighborhood, and began preparations to make roads to it through the still unsettled country. The French colonial empire in America then consisted of two settled territories, in Canada and at New Orleans, the two having about one-tenth the population of the English colonies, joined by a line of some sixty forts between New Orleans and Montreal. Many of these forts, such as Detroit and Natchez, have since become the sites of flourishing cities. The country through which the line ran was an Indian territory, with a few French hunters and traders in addition to the garrisons. But the French asserted territorial claims up to the crest of the Alleghanies; and they naturally took alarm as the first feeble wave of English settlement appeared over the mountains. In 1749 they sent an expedition through the present states of Ohio and Kentucky, to bury leaden plates at important points, with the arms of France graven on them, to assert possession of the country, and to warn English traders out of it. In 1752 the rivals came closer together: the Ohio company built Redstone old fort (now Brownsville), on the Monongahela; and in 1753 the French built forts at Presque Isle, now Erie, and on the Alleghany to the south of it. Late in the same year, George Washington, then a young land surveyor, was sent to Presque Isle by Gov. Dinwiddie, of Virginia, to warn off the intruders. They declined to go, and made active preparations to extend their acquisitions.


—The key of the country was the point at the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela, now known as Pittsburgh. All parties understood its importance. Late in 1753 Dinwiddie bought from the Indians the right to build a fort there, and sent men to do the work. Early in 1754 came the conflict: the French descended from Presque Isle, drove away the English, and finished the fort themselves, calling it Fort Du Quesne; and the French and Indian war had begun. The battles, such as the defeat of Braddock in 1755, and Johnson's defeat of Dieskau, near Lake George, in the same year, were at first not very creditable to the English and provincials. Their discordant and inefficient efforts were easily foiled by the inferior forces of the abler French leaders. In 1757 Pitt became the head of the English ministry, and order, vigor, sense and success came with him into the English councils. Fort Du Quesne fell the next year, and Quebec in 1759. During the following year the various French forts were taken into possession, and the French empire in America was lost forever. In 1763, by the peace of Paris, Great Britain was formally vested with the jurisdiction of the whole of North America east of the Mississippi, the Floridas being ceded by Spain, the ally of France in the war, in exchange for Havana, which an English expedition had captured two years before. Of her former possessions in North America, France ceded the portion east of the Mississippi to her victorious enemy, Great Britain, and the portion west of that river to her partner in misfortune, Spain.


—The persistence of Great Britain in retaining her conquests from France in North America, and thus relieving her other colonies from the constant danger impending from Canada, was at first sight a great mistake. The French minister for foreign affairs warned the British envoy at the time that the cession of Canada would only clear the way for the independence of the original British colonies; and from 1763 until 1775 French statesmen patiently watched the fulfillment of the prophecy, and were encouraged by the unanimous reports of French agents in North America. It even became the fashion in Great Britain, after the opening of the revolution, to attribute the boldness of the colonists entirely to the cession of Canada. But, after all, the change of jurisdiction in 1763 can not thus be made the universal scape-goat: it but substituted Great Britain for France as an enemy. Burgoyne's expedition would not have been any more dangerous to the colonies under a French than under a British standard. The truth seems rather to be that the cession of Canada would have postponed the day of conflict with the mother country for half a century, if the stupidity of British statesmen had not brought it to a head in 1775. France, Great Britain and all Europe combined could not finally have balked of its prey the Anglo Saxon lust for land; but the cession of Canada to the mother country satiated it peaceably for the time, just as Napoleon's cession of Louisiana in 1803 (see ANNEXATIONS, I.) satiated it again for the time. From this point of view the action of Great Britain in retaining the western territory would seem to have been as blindly wise as her subsequent attempt to "govern" the colonies was blindly foolish.






—IV. WAR OF 1812. The causes of the "second war for independence," as the war of 1812 is sometimes called, are elsewhere given. (See EMBARGO; DEMOCRATIC PARTY, III.) The internal political difficulties which accompanied it, and the great development of national feeling which followed it, have also been given a separate place. (See CONVENTION, HARTFORD; NATION, II.) It is designed here only to give, in some necessary detail, the course of action which closed it by the treaty of Ghent.


—March 8, 1813, the Russian minister at Washington, Daschkoff, offered to the American government, by direction of the czar, his friendly mediation in the war. Madison accepted it, and nominated, May 29, Bayard, of Delaware (see that state), Gallatin, and John Quincy Adams, then minister to Russia, as negotiators. July 19, the senate confirmed them, except Gallatin, who was secretary of the treasury: the affairs of the treasury were in so critical a condition that the senate refused to sanction his absence from the country. Nov. 4, 1813, while the three American negotiators were in St. Petersburgh, one of them unconfirmed, Castlereagh wrote to the secretary of state, declining the Russian mediation, but offering to treat directly, and suggesting London as the place. It is supposed that Great Britain, not caring to offend Russia or to allow that country's friendship for the United States to influence the final treaty, wished to transfer the negotiations from St. Petersburgh. In January, 1814, Henry Clay and Jonathan Russell were nominated and confirmed as additional negotiators; and Gallatin, who had by this time resigned the treasury, was confirmed.


—In August, 1814, the place of negotiation was transferred to Ghent; and here the five commissioners met Lord Gambier, Henry Goulburn, and William Adams, on the part of Great Britain. The time was hardly propitious for peace negotiations. On the 30th of the previous March the allies had entered Paris in triumph; in April Napoleon had departed for Elba; and the British government was free to settle accounts with the upstart people whose ships had won more flags from her navy in two years than all her European rivals had done in a century. And so, while negotiations were going on, detachments of Wellington's victorious veterans were being shipped to America, there to seize New Orleans and Louisiana, and make possession of them at least nine points of the final treaty of peace.


—Behind the British negotiators were the clamorous demands of the British war party and war newspapers, demands rising, in some cases, to the banishment of President Madison to some convenient Elba. "Better is it," said the "London Times," "that we should grapple with the young lion when he is first fleshed with the taste of our flocks, than wait until, in the maturity of his strength, he bears away at once both sheep and shepherd." Nevertheless, the first demands of the British negotiators must have seemed to them quite moderate. They were: 1, the creation of a permanent and independent Indian territory, between Canada and the United States; 2, that the northern boundary of the United States should run along the southern shore of the great lakes; 3, that the United States should have no forts on the northern frontier, and no war vessels on the lakes, while Great Britain should not be so restricted; 4, that enough of the eastern part of Maine should be ceded to enable the British to build a military road from Halifax to Quebec; and, 5, that the right to use the Mississippi, guaranteed by the treaty of 1783, should be renewed to British subjects, while the American right to the Newfoundland fisheries, guaranteed by the same treaty, should be considered lost by the war. In June, as a last concession, the American government had allowed its negotiators to waive the questions of right of search and impressment, on which the war had been begun; but no instructions could cover such demands as these. They aroused the war spirit in America, when they were announced there, to a higher pitch than ever; and the American negotiators themselves lost their tempers.


—After four months of wrangling, a treaty was made in which not a point of the British demands was granted. This result can not be attributed to any friendly feeling between the two sets of negotiators, for they quarreled unremittingly from the beginning to the end of the negotiation; nor to any accord among the American negotiators, for they quarreled with one another almost as constantly. Clay wished to give up the fisheries and save the Mississippi; Adams wished to give up the Mississippi and save the fisheries: and Gallatin alone was busied in keeping the peace among his colleagues and with the British negotiators. The best explanation seems to be that the treaty was due mainly to the high tone taken by Russia and Prussia, at the congress of Vienna, in defense of neutral rights, and the desire of Great Britain to eliminate the United States from possible complications. Nevertheless, it remains very singular that the British negotiators should have signed a treaty without any mention of Louisiana, while the British expedition for its conquest was still in position before New Orleans, with high hopes of success. The treaty even provided that "all territory whatsoever taken by either party from the other during the war, or which may be taken after the signing of this treaty, * * * shall be restored without delay"; so that the lives of Packenham and his dead were absolutely thrown away, and their victory would have gained no more than their defeat. It is not easy to avoid the feeling that the inside history of the treaty of Ghent is yet to be written.


—The treaty, dated Dec. 24, 1814, at Ghent, and ratified by the senate Feb. 17, 1815, was in eleven articles. The first three provided for peace and the restoration of prisoners; the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, for the northern boundary (see MAINE; NORTHWEST BOUNDARY); the ninth, for the cessation of Indian hostilities; the tenth, for the suppression of the slave trade; and the eleventh, for the exchange of ratifications. It will be seen that the treaty did not touch one of the points on which the United States had declared war. These had been more practically settled: one frigate battle at sea was worth more to that purpose than a host of treaties.


—V. THE MEXICAN WAR. The settlement of Texas by Americans, its secession from Mexico, its annexation to the United States, and its admission to the Union as a state, have been given elsewhere. (See ANNEXATIONS, III.) Before the annexation Gen. Zachary Taylor was stationed in Louisiana, then the southwest frontier of the United States. May 28, 1845, he was ordered to cross the Sabine and take post in Texas, so as to protect it from invasion by Mexico. The apprehended invasion by Mexico did not take place; and, though diplomatic intercourse between Mexico and the United States was interrupted, war did not follow. Corpus Christi, on the western bank of the Nueces, was then the advanced Texas town; and here Taylor made his headquarters for the rest of the year. The territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, a desert in the east but fertile in the west, had been claimed by Texas, but never reduced to possession. During the summer several dispatches were sent to Taylor, authorizing him to advance to the Rio Grande if he saw fit, because of hostile preparations by Mexico, and ordering him, in that case, not to wait for orders from Washington. But Taylor, Oct. 4, in a long dispatch declared that he "did not feel at liberty, under his instructions, particularly those of July 8, to make a forward movement to the Rio Grande without authority from the war department." There the matter rested until the following January.


—In the meantime, Nov. 9, President Polk appointed John Slidell (see LOUISIANA) as ambassador to Mexico, in pursuance of an intimation from Mexico that she would receive a commissioner to settle the Texas dispute. In December the Mexican government declined to receive Slidell in the character of an ambassador, since such a resumption of diplomatic intercourse would imply an abandonment by Mexico of the points in dispute, which had led to the rupture; but the offer to receive him as a commissioner was renewed. This was refused by Slidell. Soon afterward a revolution in Mexico placed a new government in power.


—Before any of these events could be known at Washington, but, as Mr. Buchanan, the secretary of state, admitted, "in anticipation" of them, an order, dated Jan. 13, 1846, was sent to Taylor to advance to the Rio Grande. Taylor arrived at the river March 28, established his camp opposite Matamoras, and was notified by Arista, the Mexican general, after a series of angry communications, that he considered war as already begun. April 26, a party of American dragoons was captured, with some bloodshed, by a superior force of Mexicans. As soon as Taylor's dispatch announcing this event reached Washington, the president sent a message to congress, in which he declared that Mexico had "at last invaded our territory, and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil." Two days afterward, congress passed an act authorizing the president to call out 50,000 volunteers; but the gist of the act was in its short and simple preamble: "Whereas, by the act of the republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that government and the United States." The whigs protested against the preamble, as a falsehood, but it was passed in the house by a vote of 123 to 67, and the whole bill by 174 to 14. In the senate the whole bill was passed by a vote of 40 to 2; five whigs protested against the preamble, and three refused to vote. War had thus begun; and, though the whigs had not been manœuvred quite into an attitude of opposition to it, they were for some time thrown into confusion by their efforts to evade the issue so unkindly thrust upon them. (See WHIG PARTY.)


—The essential facts and dates of the proceedings preliminary to war have been given above. Taken as they stand, they might be considered as a case of blundering into the lucky acquisition of California and New Mexico, for President Polk has not usually been regarded as a very able man. But von Holst, as cited below, has focused upon Polk a great mass of evidence going to convict him of almost Satanic ingenuity in luring Mexico into war. It must be remembered that the Oregon dispute with Great Britain (see NORTHWEST BOUNDARY) was coincident with the series of events above given. It is certain that Mexico was not willing to fight about Texas; and it seems probable, that, in the beginning, she was no more willing to tight single-handed for even the disputed territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. The allegation, then, is that the long delay to order Taylor forward was diligently used in working the dispute with Great Britain apparently to a war point; that Taylor was then ordered forward; that Mexico, relying on Great Britain as an ally, incautiously accepted the gage of war; and that then every point in dispute was given up to Great Britain, peace was settled with that power, and California and New Mexico, the real objects of the war, were squeezed out of the grasp of Mexico. It has been said above that the array of circumstantial evidence is strong: and it is impossible to repress a certain feeling of admiration for the repulsive skill with which the diplomatic combinations were made, if they were really the result of design. The times and seasons were chosen with such consummate adroitness, the advantages gained by them were pressed with such resolute persistence, and the whole scheme was worked out to the end with such a complete repudiation of moral objections to it, that Machiavelli might have been proud to own it as his master-piece. Nevertheless, the conviction remains that Polk had not the ability requisite for the conception of such a plan, and that he was the creature of circumstances rather than their creator. The train of events may fairly have the two interpretations; and, while the first would have been the more natural in the case of Cardinal Richelieu, the second is certainly the more natural in the case of James K. Polk. Given the desire of the government to obtain California and New Mexico in case of war, the constant pressure behind it urging it toward war, and its natural hesitation to base the war on its excessively doubtful claim to the territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande; and a little occasional suppressio veri by the president will explain the whole drift of events without supposing them to be the result of a carefully elaborated plot. But, if the reader inclines to accept the first interpretation, he will find that it is necessary to take Marcy, the secretary of war, not Polk, as the presiding genius.


—During the year 1846 Taylor first drove the enemy in headlong retreat over the Rio Grande, and then followed them and finished the campaign in Mexico. He captured, in Monterey, an army nearly double his own numbers, in spite of very strong natural and artificial defenses. Finally, Feb. 23, 1847, with less than 5,000 undisciplined volunteers, he met and routed more than four times his number, under Santa Anna, at Buena Vista. In the meantime an overland expedition from Fort Leavenworth had captured New Mexico; and the Pacific squadron, aided by Fremont and some irregular land forces, had taken possession of San Francisco and California. The year 1847 ended the war. Scott, with 12,000 men, took Vera Cruz, and forced his way up to the plateau of Mexico before summer set in. In August and September, he beat nearly three times his number in a series of brilliant battles around Mexico, overturned the government, and conquered the peace of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Feb. 2, 1848. (For its results, see ANNEXATIONS, IV., V.; WILMOT PROVISO; COMPROMISES III.; DEMOCRATIC PARTY, V.)


—VI. See REBELLION.—(I.) See 2 Sparks' Writings of Washington, 478 (for the history of the Ohio company); H. B. Adams' Maryland's Influence, 13; 1 Marshall's Life of Washington, 2; 4 Bancroft's United States, 106, 460; 1 Draper's Civil War, 159. (II., III.) See articles referred to. (IV.) See 4-6 Niles' Weekly Register (index under Mediation and Peace); 3 Palmer's Historical Register (1814), 234; 6 Hildreth's United States, 530, 544; John Q. Adams' Works; 5 Pamphleteer; Morse's Life of John Q. Adams, 75 (the best account of the negotiations); 2 Parton's Life of Jackson, 37; Ingersoll's Second War with Great Britain; the treaty of Ghent is in 8 Stat. at Large, 218. (V.) See 3 von Holst's United States, 79, 159, 198 (and index); Statesman's Manual (Polk's Messages); Jay's Review of the Mexican War; Ripley's History of the Mexican War; Ramsey's The Other Side (Mexican authorities); 16 Benton's Debates of Congress, 64, 215; 9 Stat. at Large, 9 (act of May 13, 1846), and 922 (treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo).—(VI.) See authorities under REBELLION.


1075 of 1105

Return to top