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The United States Declares War on Mexico

On April 26, 1846, following a tense stand-off between U.S. and Mexican troops on the banks of the Rio Grande (which the U.S. now claimed as its border with Mexico, having annexed the state of Texas), a small patrol of sixty-three U.S. soldiers was attacked by Mexican forces, with eleven Americans killed. In response, U.S. General Zachary Taylor engaged the Mexican army in battles at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and informed President Polk that hostilities between the two nations had begun. On May 11th, Polk sent this declaration of war to Congress, claiming that Mexico had started the war by "shedding American blood upon American soil."

Washington, May 11, 1846.

To the Senate and the House of Representatives:

The existing state of the relations between the United States and Mexico renders it proper that I should bring the subject to the consideration of Congress. In my message at the commencement of your present session, the state of these relations, the causes which led to the suspension of diplomatic intercourse between the two countries in March, 1845, and the long-continued and unredressed wrongs and injuries committed by the Mexican Government on citizens of the United States in their persons and property were briefly set forth.

The strong desire to establish peace with Mexico on liberal and honorable terms, and the readiness of this Government to regulate and adjust our boundary and other causes of difference with that power on such fair and equitable principles as would lead to permanent relations of the most friendly nature, induced me in September last to seek the reopening of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Every measure adopted on our part had for its object the furtherance of these desired results. In communicating to Congress a succinct statement of the injuries which we had suffered from Mexico, and which have been accumulating during a period of more than twenty years, every expression that could tend to inflame the people of Mexico or defeat or delay a pacific result was carefully avoided. An envoy of the United States repaired to Mexico with full powers to adjust every existing difference. But through present on Mexican soil by agreement between the two Governments, invested with full powers, and bearing evidence of the most friendly dispositions, his mission has been unavailing. The Mexican Government not only refused to receive him or listen to his propositions, but after a long-continued series of menaces have at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil.

The grievous wrongs perpetrated by Mexico upon our citizens throughout a period of years remain unredressed, and solemn treaties pledging her public faith for this redress have been disregarded. A government either unable or unwilling to enforce the execution of such treaties fails to perform one of its plainest duties.

We have tried every effort at reconciliation. The cup of forbearance had been exhausted even before the recent information from the frontier of Del Norte. But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.

As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and interests of our country.

In further vindication of our rights and defense of our territory, I invoke the prompt action of Congress to recognize the existence of the war, and to place at the disposition of the Executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor, and thus hastening the restoration of peace.

In making these recommendations I deem it proper to declare that it is my anxious desire not only to terminate hostilities speedily, but to bring all matters in dispute between this Government and Mexico to an early and amicable adjustment; and in this view I shall be prepared to renew negotiations whenever Mexico shall be ready to receive propositions or to propositions of her own.

I transmit herewith a copy of the correspondence between our envoy to Mexico and the Mexican minister for foreign affairs, and so much of the correspondence between that envoy and the Secretary of State and between the Secretary of War and the general in command on the Del Norte as is necessary to a full understanding of the subject.

JAMES K. POLK

Source | Steven R. Butler, ed., A Documentary History of the Mexican War (Richardson, TX: Descendants of Mexican War Veterans, 1995) 67-71.
Creator | James K. Polk
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | James K. Polk, “The United States Declares War on Mexico,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 22, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/794.

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