Monday, February 02, 2009

Exceptional Expansion

A southern president responded to non-state actors' terroristic activities on U.S. territory by invading the country from which they came and was denounced by a congressional minority led by a little-known orator from Illinois who rode the wave of the war's unpopularity to his eventual election to the presidency. Not talking about W and H; the pandering politicians (apologies for the redundancy) posited in this post are James K. Polk and Abraham Lincoln.

One hundred and sixty-one years ago today, the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo concluded an expansionist war with Mexico predicated on trumped up territorial grievances. The treaty's terms were disastrous for Mexico. With an American army occupying Mexico City, the Mexican government was forced to give up 525,000 square miles of territory that would later become the states of Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming. Coupled with the 285,000 square miles within the Oregon territory (later to become the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho) extorted from Great Britain on the threat of war earlier in his presidency, the three quarters of a million square miles of territory acquired by Polk fulfilled his political platform of Manifest Destiny and established the contiguous continental boundaries of the United States whose map outline (with a future minor adjustment--the Gadsden Purchase of a small chunk territory between the Gila and Rio Grande rivers, needed for a transcontinental railroad right of way) is the one we know today.

Polk's territorial achievements were overshadowed by the north-south slavery issue which, upon the election of Lincoln in 1860, resulted in the secession of thirteen southern states from the Union and a much more horrible war than the piddling scrap with Mexico that had made Polk so unpopular by the end of his presidency. Polk died of cholera shortly after he left office and was maligned for decades for the methods by which he advanced his vision of American expansionism. He is recognized in a much better light today. Along with Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, James K. Polk is on the Colonel's short list of the greatest presidents in the history of these re-United States. The Colonel's criteria is simple: advancement of American Exceptionalism or enlargement of the American Empire.

Expansion of the socialist nanny-state agenda does not qualify.
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