Father Marcello Domeco Jarauta stood before a firing squad in Guanajuato, Mexico on July 19, 1848. His crime had been to continue resisting the US invasion of his homeland.
The forced signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had officially ended the Mexican American War on February 2nd or as it is called south of the Rio Grande or Rio Bravo del Norte depending on which side you are on, the ‘North American Intervention’. This treaty ceded 55 per cent of the original territory of Mexico to an expansionist USA. Prior to 1848, treaties recognized a Mexico stretching north to the border of its state of Alta California and the Oregon Territory of the United States.
Father Domeco was certainly not alone in his continued opposition to this unjust war of aggression. Drumhead court-martials and trials feigning legality permanently silenced leaders like Pablo Montoya of New Mexico. Montoya’s capital crime, the occupying army said, was treason. Lewis H. Garrard, who was present when Montoya’s death verdict was read out later wrote “I left the room, sick at heart. Justice! Out upon the word when its distorted meaning is a warrant for murdering those who defended to the last their country and their homes.”
A who’s who of Americans enlarged on Garrard’s critique. Abraham Lincoln almost a one-term Congressman because of his opposition to the war, and Henry David Thoreau, whose essay Civil Disobedience would influence later leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., were among them.
Ulysses S. Grant, who served as a junior officer in Mexico and later the 18th president of the United States, would decades later write in his Personal Memoirs of that the war, “as one of the most unjust wars ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.”
Canada, more specifically British Columbia, actually has a strong connection to the Mexican American War. American expansionist sentiment under the banner of “Manifest Destiny” bought a narrow electoral victory for James Polk in the 1844 presidential campaign. The slogan “Fifty-four Forty or Fight” focused US territorial ambitions in the Pacific northwest on all the territory up to the border with Russian America. Needless to say, this put the United States into direct conflict with the British Empire.
Facing the possibility of two simultaneous wars, President Polk accepted the compromise position of the 49th parallel as the boundary from Manitoba west to the Pacific Ocean with the exception of the whole of Vancouver Island remaining north of the international line. Britain equally had no desire for a third war with the United States in 70 years. Plus facing the food crisis, now known as the Irish Famine, imports of American wheat were essential.
So it was that the way was paved for the eventual admission of British Columbia into the Canadian confederation as is sixth province on July 20, 1871 and Polk got to wage war on Mexico. Slavery, gold and British naval supremacy can be counted among a host of other factors playing into these events as well.
With the benefit of historical hindsight we can see and judge the conflicts that have devastated lands and wrecked havoc on peoples. How do we do this for the troubles swirling around us now? What socio-political precautionary principle should be develop to weigh any potential involvement in struggles afflicting our planet now?
A strong value base plus critical analysis skills are essential to turning the problems before us inside out and outside in before we put the wealth and human resources of our land in harms way. What would Lincoln, Thoreau and Grant, let alone Gandhi and King, say about the conflicts being waged in today’s world?
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.