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The 'Wicked War' and Manifest Destiny

Mexico City has fallen to US forces under the command of Winfield Scott as the Mexican-America War draws to a close. Santa Anna has been defeated again. It has been an ugly business... a wicked war... because it didn't have to happen. Few leaders wanted it. Henry Clay tried to ignore it, but war has a certain momentum... a "manifest destiny" as they put it. It started over the annexation of Texas by the United States and a fear that Mexico would retaliate. Troops were sent under the command of "Old Rough and Ready" Taylor... the future President Zachery Taylor. The real dispute was over a strip of land between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. When hostile troops are within shouting distance from each other, bad things happen. War was declared and fast as you can say "Bob's your uncle", thousands lie dead on the field of battle and the US Marines are marching into the "Halls of Montezuma". By early next year, solemn oaths will be declared, treaties will be signed and Mexico will become a lot smaller. [1] [2]

"I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was a youngster, only I had not moral courage enough to resign."
--Ulysses S. Grant, 1879 [3]
My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK. Manifest Destiny is a phrase coined in 1845 as a argument in favor of annexing Texas, but it became a popular idea only long after the Mexican-American War was over. Manifest Destiny originally meant that the next step was obviously provided by Providence which meant that it was OK to take Texas from Mexico because it was all part of God's plan. In later years, Manifest Destiny became something like... if I can beat you up and take all your stuff, it is because I was meant to beat you up and take all your stuff. In contrast, I believe in using general principles to inform my actions, so even though it seems manifestly obvious that Alaska and Washington state should meet somewhere along the Pacific Coast, I will not force a war with Canada simply to make that happen. My principles won't allow it. The Canadians are safe around me. Did the Mexican-American War have to happen? No. Texas was long gone and California would have broken away in any case. Mexico was too weak to hold those territories. [4] [5]

The Germans Have Landed in Texas

The first major waves of German immigrants have hit Texas. It has been a rough start. The migration is purposeful. It simply hasn't been well funded. (An old story.) The Nobility Society was established for the purpose of creating a New Germany in Central Texas. Germans have already purchased land in Texas, but as the new colonists arrive, many of those land deals fall through. The mass migration is stalled as German immigrants wait along the Texas coast. Many die of coastal diseases such as malaria. Prince Solms is heading the push into Texas on behalf of the Society. He is well-meaning if not always wise. He has established the town of New Braunfels which will grow into the 4th largest city in Texas by 1850. Fredericksburg is also growing and will one day be the home of US Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz. But with the project near bankruptcy, the new colonists take out advertisements in their hometown newspapers telling their fellows of their plight. The Nobility Society is shamed into arranging a line of credit for the new arrivals. It won't be enough, but it will help. The Germans are going to be a driving force in Texas history from this time forward. [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
The real estate agents acting on behalf of the Germans hadn't actually seen the properties in Central Texas. They assumed that Central Texas is similar to East Texas. Big mistake. Generally speaking, Central Texas is a massive flat rock with a few inches of dirt covering the surface and those things that look like bushes are called "trees". When tornado season hits, people ask why Texans don't have basements to ride out the storms. The answer is that digging in Central Texas usually involves explosives, jackhammers or some sort of heavy grinding machine. Farming is tough, so the early German immigrants had their hands full, but their population growth proves that they worked through those problems fairly quickly. My only question is why so many Germans moved to Texas at all. There was overpopulation in Germany but that was a minor consideration. My guess is that the German nobility had greater opportunities for growth in Texas. As Germany consolidated, there were too many nobles for too few slots. Prince Solms was a good example. He was the younger son of the younger son of a minor nobleman. His chance at land ownership lay in a place like Texas, but when his wife refused to leave Germany that put an end to it and he returned home. [8]

All Is Well in the Utah Territory

Brigham Young sees the Salt Lake Valley spread out before his eyes and says, "this is the place." He has been leading his band of Latter Day Saint pioneers over the Oregon Trail and California Trail until he branches onto the Mormon Trail. (I doubt it was called the Mormon Trail initially. These are the early days.) 148 Pioneers walk into the Salt Lake Valley and make it their own. Young marks the spot where the Salt Lake Temple is to be built and he is elected President of the Church. When he began this journey he was leading his people into Mexico. After he arrived, it came under United States jurisdiction due to the treaty that ended the Mexican American War. In the midst of the wilderness, fine distinctions are lost. After suffering the murder of their founder, Joseph Smith, and the abandonment of their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois, they have found their place. Next year, Pioneer Day will be celebrated and so it will be celebrated every year thereafter... often accompanied by the hymn "All is Well" or as it will come to be known, "Come, Come Ye Saints." ([Click here.]) [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK. I'm skeptical that it all happened exactly like that but then again, when the participants in an event realize that what they are doing is historical in nature and will be recorded for posterity, everyone acts unnaturally. Someone shouting "Act natural!" doesn't help. Even recorded events can seem unreal. Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Lander of Apollo 11 onto the surface of the Moon and said, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." I heard the words myself. The words were recorded as he said them, but the world conspired to make that event seem so unnatural that some people still believe that it never really happened. (FYI, guys. It happened.) So if someone says that such-and-such an event seems contrived, remember that the event could have happened EXACTLY that way and still feel contrived. There are times when one cannot avoid it. [11]

In Other News

  • The first chocolate bar is created. Chocolate as a drink has been around for years, but Joseph Fry creates a chocolate paste that he molds into a chocolate bar. Milk chocolate will be invented in Switzerland in 1876. [12] [13]
  • Production begins on the Necco Wafer candy. It's called a "hub wafer" at first. They look like large, flat pills and they will become very popular with soldiers during the Civil War. [14]
  • Peanut brittle is invented this year... or maybe not. Candy makers will "stumble-upon" or "accidentally" create several candy confections over the next few years. The explanations will all sound like the stories someone's crazy uncle would tell about how he invented the Enchirito for Taco Bell. "You wouldn't believe it!" [15]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1847, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Borneman, Walter R.. Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America. Random House. ISBN 9781400065608. “Taylor's response was to reinforce his patrols. In the early morning of April 25, 1846, Captain Seth Thornton led two companies of dragoons (essentially heavily armed cavalry or mounted infantry) some twenty-five miles upstream on the north bank of the Rio Grande to investigate reports of large numbers of Mexican cavalry crossing the river. Arriving at a small ranch, Thornton's patrol stopped to investigate a stockade of chaparral. While they were inside, a force of several hundred Mexican cavalry surrounded them and cut off their retreat. In the fight that followed, eleven American dragoons were killed and twenty-six others were captured, including Captain Thornton.” 
  2. Greenberg, Amy S.. Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico, A. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307592699. “When John Crittenden warned Clay in early December that Tyler had set his sights on Texas, Clay dismissed his concerns. Having already determined that annexation was impossible, Clay was sure that Tyler was introducing it 'for no other than the wicked purpose of producing discord and distraction in the nation.'” 
  3. Greenberg, Amy S.. Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico, A. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780307592699. “Quote taken from the epigram of the book.” 
  4. Manifest destiny - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “In this article he urged the U.S. to annex the Republic of Texas,[17] not only because Texas desired this, but because it was 'our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions'.[18] Overcoming Whig opposition, Democrats annexed Texas in 1845. O'Sullivan's first usage of the phrase 'manifest destiny' attracted little attention.”
  5. Alex Shrugged notes: I recall watching a C-Span interview of Christopher Hitchens for his new book on Thomas Jefferson entitled "Thomas Jefferson: Author of America." He was asked what Jefferson would have to criticize about America today and Hitchens replied that Jefferson would be disappointed that Americans hadn't have the manhood to have taken Canada by now. Secondly, I may be repeating a line I heard in an MTV animated cartoon that described Manifest Destiny. I think the cartoon was "Daria".
  6. The Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) (2016). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “Between 1844 and 1847 more than 7,000 Germans reached the new land. Some of the immigrants perished in epidemics, many stayed in cities such as Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio, and others settled in the rugged Texas Hill Country to form the western end of the German Belt. The Adelsverein founded the towns of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg.”
  7. Chester W. Nimitz - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “Nimitz, a German Texan, was born the son of Anna Josephine (Henke) and Chester Bernhard Nimitz on February 24, 1885 in Fredericksburg, Texas,[3] where his grandfather's hotel is now the Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site.”
  8. The Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) (2016). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “Provisionally organized on April 20, 1842, by twenty-one German noblemen at Biebrich on the Rhine, near Mainz, the society represents a significant effort to establish a new Germany on Texas soil by means of an organized mass emigration.”
  9. Come, Come, Ye Saints (All Is Well). YouTube (1846). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “Written in 1846 by pioneer poet William Clayton in Locust Creek, Iowa, while crossing the plains west.”
  10. Brigham Young - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “Smith had earlier recorded a revelation which stated the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was 'equal in authority and power' to the First Presidency,[9] so Young claimed that the leadership of the church fell to the Twelve Apostles.[10] The majority in attendance were persuaded that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was to lead the church with Young as the Quorum's president. Many of Young's followers would later reminisce that while Young spoke to the congregation, he looked or sounded exactly like Smith, which they attributed to the power of God. Young was ordained President of the Church in December 1847, three and a half years after Smith's death.”
  11. Neil Armstrong - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “At the bottom of the ladder Armstrong said, 'I'm going to step off the LEM now' (referring to the Apollo Lunar Module). He then turned and set his left boot on the lunar surface at 2:56 UTC July 21, 1969,[81] then spoke the famous words, 'That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.'”
  12. The History of Chocolate (1847). Cadbury (OFFICIAL SITE) (2015). Retrieved on 8 October 2015. “18th century France produced pastilles (tablets) and bars. But it wasn’t until Bristol company Fry & Son made a 'chocolate delicieux a manger’ in 1847 that the first bar of chocolate appeared, as we know it today.”
  13. Candy Bar invented by Joseph Fry in year 1847. targetstudy.com (2016). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “In 1847, Joseph Fry discovered a way to mix some melted cacao butter back into defatted, or 'Dutched,' cocoa powder (along with sugar) to create a paste that could be pressed into a mould. The resulting Bar was an instant success to such an extent that people soon began to think of eating chocolate as much as drinking it.”
  14. Victorian Pride - History of Victorian Food in America. victorianpride.com (2014). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “1847 Necco Wafers, peanut brittle”
  15. Victorian Pride - History of Victorian Food in America. victorianpride.com (2014). Retrieved on 11 August 2016. “1847 Necco Wafers, peanut brittle”

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