Although the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War ended on complete opposite terms, both wars consisted of similarities that contributed to the outbreak of these conflicts. In the Mexican-American War and the War of 1812, the United States was comprised with similar beliefs that led them to take action, they had battles that made a huge impact to American victory which can still be seen today, and both of the wars ended in treaties that assisted in shaping the country.
The War of 1812 was a dispute between the United States and Great Britain. Some of the main causes of this war were the British attempt to enforce naval blockade, the action of impressing American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, and the United States’ desire to expand westward. Because of this war, the United States suffered financially, but Americans still viewed the war as a victory. The War of 1812 was perceived as a triumph because the new country that no one believed in successfully defeated the largest empire at the time for the second time. From then on, the American people filled themselves with pride and patriotism.
The Mexican-American War was a conflict between the United States and Mexico due to the American’s desire to expand west and border disputes between the two countries. After Texas had gained its independence, James K. Polk, the president of the United States at the time, plotted to re-annex Texas. This re-annexation meant that Polk wanted to acquire land from Texas territory. Polk believed that by doing this, he was accomplishing Manifest Destiny. As a dedicated believer of Manifest Destiny, Polk was willing to do anything and everything it would take to obtain Texan land.
The reason why a war erupted between the United States and the two foreign lands, Mexico and Great Britain, was because of the Americans homogenous beliefs. These beliefs include of the view of achieving expansion across the west of the United States, better known as Manifest Destiny. The people of the United States also had a strong sense of nationalism. This means that Americans felt very patriotic towards their country, followed the U.S. principles, and their efforts were for their home land.
As previously mentioned, James K. Polk was a strong believer of Manifest Destiny. Polk was even convinced that the people voted for him for the sole purpose to accomplish westward expansion. Although there were disagreements between the North and the South about how the new land would divide as slave states or not, the United States still felt the need to expand their territory. The South hoped that the new land would be fertile for agricultural purposes and allow them to also expand slavery. However, the North feared that the South would gain more power by expanding to new lands. Despite the fact that this fear arose within the northerners, the commercial benefits that the North would gain from the expansion outweighed their fear. This idea of expanding because it was God’s given right, according to the American people, justified their actions. The people trusted that by doing this, it was granting God’s wish and that Christianity would expand to places where “uncivilized” people resided in. Although the term Manifest Destiny did not prevail until many years after the War of 1812, the same idea of expansion was present during the War of 1812. This idea of extension commenced with a group out southern politicians, known as War Hawks, who wanted the northern portion of Mexico and hoped to gain Canada by going to war with Great Britain. According to Andrew N. Wegmann, the United States invaded Canada because they wanted to obtain Britain’s largest colony found in North America as a payment for land in the northwest and the liberty to trade cargo and people by sea or any other waterways. Both of these wars show how Manifest Destiny was a valued ideology throughout the history of the United States. This belief impacted the way that the United States is shaped today.
Other than the credence of territory growth in the United States, nationalism prevailed throughout these wars. Before John L. O’Sullivan published Manifest Destiny, a sense of nationalism that led them to the desire to expand was already roaming throughout the United States. Governor A.G. Brown claimed, “…America might become the last asylum of liberty to the human family.” This quote emphasizes a nationalistic feeling of the American public towards liberty and freedom. The idea of nationalism that the people possessed was an influence on the aspiration of expansion from east to west. The people’s nationalistic views led them to the Mexican-American war, therefore, it had an impact in the desire for expansion. Similarly, to the Mexican-American War, nationalism united the people of America during the War of 1812. Even though this feeling strengthened after the war, it still had a massive impact on the people and the country. After the United States defeated Great Britain, Americans aroused with pride and patriotism. Not only had they vanquished the most power empire, but the United States also managed to end the war with Britain in righteous conditions. Because of this so-called victory, eyes around the world had finally viewed the United States as a country. The War of 1812 gave more power to the United States even though they did not gain any land from it as they originally hoped for. Although the U.S. did not physically grow, it gained power, strength, and respect.
Not only were beliefs and values were shared amongst the people involved in these wars, but also similar events occurred during battle. Some of these events are beginning war in U.S. territory, the capture of nation capitals, and war heroes that helped achieve United States victory. On April 25, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, Mexico was accused by James K. Polk of invading and attacking the United States territory. This could be controversial due to the fact that Mexico had no clue that they were trespassing land. Because of the boundary disputes between the U.S. and Mexico, it led to confusion and bloodshed. This attack served as an excuse for the U.S. congress to declare war against Mexico on May 13, 1846. Unlike the United States’ eagerness to find an excuse to declare war during the Mexican-American War, the United States did have a reason to fight against Great Britain. The United States government could not protect their citizens being pressed into Royal Navy service, but in 1807, the U.S. took matters into hands when four Virginia Cape sailors were pressed. After the four men escaped from British service, Americans decided to protect them by enlisting them to aboard Chesapeake. As soon as Britain found out about the whereabouts of the runaways, he demanded the United States to return them. The United States refused to return them, and the British reacted by firing seven men boarding Chesapeake. Because of this and other disputes in American soil, James Madison signed the declaration to war.
Moreover, there were attacks made against the capitals of countries in the Mexican-American War and the War of 1812. During the Mexican-American War, Gen. Winfield Scott invaded Vera Cruz and then marched north to Mexico, City where he successfully launched a blockade. Although the United States was not the country that invaded but was invaded instead, this event during the War of 1812 can still be perceived as a similar situation. The British were angered at the fact that the United States attacked a city in Ontario, Canada, so they sought revenge. British troops achieved their retaliation by invading Washington, D.C. and burning down the White House. In both circumstances, it can be seen that a capital of a nation was devastated by the enemy.
Furthermore, another similarity found during both wars is the growth of war heroes that contributed to the success of the United States. Zachary Taylor was the hero who led the United States to achieve victory during the Mexican-American War. Taylor received a command to prevent any invasion made by Mexicans against Texas, so in 1846, he proceeded by marching to the disputed border, Rio Grande, to support Americas claim. Taylor went against congress policy when he took action right after the Mexican force attacked his men. Because Taylor was a very skilled artilleryman, he was able to successfully defeat the Mexican army who was three times larger than his army. Not only was Taylor named commander of the Army and promoted to major general by president Polk, but also congress showed their gratitude by giving him two gold medals. Taylor then went on capturing Monterrey, Mexico on September of 1846 and agreed to give Mexicans an eight-week truce. Soon after, Zachary Taylor disregarded his order to stand by in Monterrey and contacted Santa Anna’s army. He victoriously demolished and forced Mexico to retreat during the battle of Buena Vista and once again was recognized with a gold medal. From then on Taylor was known as the war hero who contributed into the Mexican-American War. Identical to Taylor, Andrew Jackson played a role in achieving national success. When Jackson discovered that the United States was being attacked by the British, he took advantage of the situation to seek vengeance against Great Britain for making him their prisoner during the Revolutionary War. He did just that by putting together a group of six thousand volunteers to help him fight the British to protect the Mississippi River from being taken from them. Jackson was able to instantly defeat the British. According to Walter Prichard, the United States lost seventy-one men while Greta Britain lost two thousand. Because of this massive and critical defeat, the British surrendered and departed the United States. Andrew Jackson became known as the “Hero of New Orleans” which contributed to him becoming the future president.
Lastly, both wars ended with treaties. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was the agreement that the United States and Mexico came up with. This treaty granted the United States a large portion of land, and it brought border disputes to an end as well. Rio Grande became the official borders that now divides both nations. The land that the United States gained from this treaty are seven present day states which are California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming. Because of this settlement, Mexico and the U.S. no longer have any border or land disagreements. On December 24, 1814, Treaty of Ghent was signed to end war between Great Britain and the United States. This peace treaty promised to return any property that was taken from each other such as land, prisoners, slaves, and ships. It also restored their relationship as it was before, and reinstated their border.
If even the United States did not gain any land from The War of 1812 like it did from the Mexican-American War, many aspects of the wars are very similar. From the people’s beliefs t their actions, equivalence prevailed. It seems as if the United States’ ideas remained the same as time passed.
Davenport, John C. “”Making a Modern Border: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo”” Arbitrary
Borders: The U.S.-Mexico Border, Facts On File, 2004.
Greenberg, Amy S. “Mexican-American War.” Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political
History, edited by Michael Kazin, vol. 2, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 493-497.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
Green, Susan Marie. “Mexican-American War.” Multicultural America: A Multimedia
Encyclopedia, edited by Carlos E. Cortés and Jane E. Sloan, vol. 3, SAGE Reference,
2014, pp. 1455-1457. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.
Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler. “War of 1812.” Europe 1789-1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire, edited by John Merriman and Jay Winter, vol. 5, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2006, pp. 2438-2441. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.
Jr., Richard Buel. “War of 1812.” Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History, edited by Michael Kazin, vol. 2, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp. 872-877. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.
Kagan, Frederick W. “French War of 1812.” Encyclopedia of Russian History, edited by James R. Millar, vol. 2, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004, pp. 523-525. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.
Prichard, Walter. “New Orleans, Battle of.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 6, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, p. 75. Gale Virtual Reference Library, Accessed 25 Nov. 2017.