The Mexican War of 1846 - Calhouns Disquisition - RR144P27

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: 27. The Mexican War of 1846/Calhouns Disquisition
Course: Course - American History to 1865
Subject: Subject:History
Lesson#: 27
Length: 0:46:56
TapeCode: RR144P27
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
American History to 1865(9).jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


Just a little more on Jackson before we continue. I cited before as a horrible example of what is now taught in schools, this Bonds and Noble College outline series, the United States 1877 by John A Krout. This is what it says with regard to Jackson’s hostility to the bank. “In his attitude towards the bank, Jackson represented the resentment of the debtor west over one, the banks refusal to countenance inflation, and two, high interest rates charged by the bank’s branches.” Now can you imagine a more ridiculous statement than that? As though what Jackson wanted was inflation.

But this is the kind of ignorance and stupidity that characterizes so much economic knowledge today. What Jackson represented was not an inflationary policy, but a deflationary policy in that he wanted to eliminate the paper money inflation, and get back to a hard money standard, to a restoration of the constitutional provisions.

Our concern now will be with the Mexican War of 1846. Again, I could cite at some length in this college outline book, ideas with regard to the Mexican War which are grossly unfair, in that it is presented as an example of American expansionism, in which we took advantage of a weak country, overwhelmed it and seized a vast amount of their land. We did indeed gain two fifths of Mexico. But was it a gross example of imperialism on our part? Most historians today regard it as a bad war on our part. It is extremely rare to find the Polk administration kindly treated in this matter. But you will recall from the Polk Doctrine and our study thereof that we saw something of the reason why Polk acted the way he did. We will come to a further understanding of that.

I think the climax of the misrepresentation of the Mexican War came in February of 1962, when Robert F. Kennedy, then Attorney General of the United States, publically denounced our part in that war, and described it as a shameful aspect of American history. [00:03:28]

Except for some Texans who complained, by and large...[edit]

Except for some Texans who complained, by and large no one saw anything wrong with his statement. To back up a bit in American history, the Spanish empire because it was collapsing, recognized that it could not long hang on to some of its territories, and as a result it recognized to that Florida could not be maintained. However in ceding Florida to the United States it wanted to get the maximum advantage out of its grant of that territory, by requiring that the United States at the same time relinquish all claims to Texas. The fear of Spain was that the Western Expansion of the United States would find indeed Texas right in its pathway. On top of that there were some Americans moving into Texas, which was a part of the Spanish Empire, later of the Government of Mexico.

As a result, in the treaty with Spain, about 1819 I think it was, the United States agreed in exchange for east Florida, to relinquish all claims to Texas. However, not too many years later in 1836, Texas under Sam Houston became Independent. The Mexicans however did not recognize its independence. But Texas was to all practical intent an independent country; a self-governing country. One of the problems in Texas had been, first the Texans represented an alien group, they were foreigners, the Mexicans were distrustful of them. To some degree the Mexicans made concessions to the Americans who settled in Texas. These Americans were predominately southerners. Mexico had abolished slavery, however it allowed slavery to continue in Texas, because the American Texans, were slave owners and wanted it to continue.

On the other hand, there were discriminations because they were fearful of the growth of American strength within Texas. But even more, the Spanish and then the Mexican government, had grown weak and incompetent. [00:06:55]

Texas however was not able to sustain itself because...[edit]

Texas however was not able to sustain itself because it lacked the economic strength. The population of Texas was very small for a large but independent country. A look at the map will give you something of an idea of the size of Texas. You could lose a number of southern states in Texas and have trouble finding them perhaps. And yet Texas had a population which was described as: “25,000 Whites, Blacks, Mexicans, Men, Women, Children, Desperado’s, and perhaps a few head of cattle.” Now that was humorously stated, but the population was small, and to have so vast a territory with a total population of 25,000, indeed meant that there was a problem in staying independent, in having the financing to govern so vast a territory.

As a result, after Texas became independent, not because it wanted the problems the United States had, and it was aware of the slavery and anti-slavery problems, but because it recognized that it could not stand alone, it asked for annexation, over and over again. The United States refused to Annex Texas. They refused because they made it clear: “We have signed a treaty with Spain. And although Spain no longer has control of that area, we intend to abide by the terms of that treaty.”

Then however, Britain stepped into the scene. The British began to exercise their influence both in Texas and in Mexico. Now remember Mexico did not recognize the independence of Texas. But the British and virtually every European country recognized the independence of Texas. Texas was to them a free and independent country. [00:09:48]

Then, under British Influence, the Mexican government...[edit]

Then, under British Influence, the Mexican government told Texas: “We will agree to recognize the independence of Texas, provided Texas will promise never at any point in the future, to unite with the United States.” Now in terms of international law this is a ridiculous statement. It’s a grossly unfair statement. You cannot call a country a free country and that you are recognizing its freedom, if you say: “After you are free, there are certain things we say you cannot do.” Such a country is only a puppet country. Now this does not mean that this kind of thing has not been done, it has been done once since then, and unfortunately we were party to it. In 1955 the United States, the USSR, (the Soviet Union), Britain and France, recognized the independence of Austria provided it would never re-unite with Germany. Now such a treaty is ridiculous, and it in fact means that the Austrian government is not and independent government, nor Austria a free country. It means that it is subject at any time to pressures, from the Soviet Union especially, which will most readily exert it, as well as from France, Britain, and the United States, and so Austria scarcely dares do anything that would seriously offend the Soviet Union.

Texas however, refused to accept this. It was an impossible limitation upon its independence and self-government. There were other inducements offered then to Texas. If Texas would agree to remain independent of the United States, Britain would help it extend its territory, as far as Oregon. Now consider the implications of that. It wouldn’t take much of an imagination, or a look at a map to realize that this would include possibly not only Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado--- a tremendous territory. This would mean that Texas would become a vast empire, one of the great land-holding nations of the world. Moreover, such a country, the Republic of Texas, having so vast a territory, and dependent on Britain for financing, could then be used as a wedge in the balance of power politics, against the American government. [00:13:36]

The possibilities here were enormous in terms of balance...[edit]

The possibilities here were enormous in terms of balance of power politics. The United States would have been very seriously damaged. We would by no stretch of the imagination be the country which we are today. Consider what it would have meant for such an empire. The gold that was discovered in California would be part of the Republic of Texas, all the wealth, the mining wealth of the west would be a part of the Republic of Texas. A great deal of the agricultural wealth of the United States would be a part of the Republic of Texas. The United States would have been a very different country, and a very limited country if the Texans had bought this.

Now, in terms of these very serious problems, President John Tyler, whose administration was 1841 to 45, felt that it was imperative to push through the annexation of Texas, and to do it immediately. So, before his term of office ended, Tyler worked hard to get it through Congress, and four days before he left office he signed the annexation treaty. And Texas became a part of the United States. So when Polk took over what he faced was the threat of war. Because Mexico made it clear that they would not tolerate this. Mexico was almost certainly being egged by the British to take such a stand, or to go to war.

There was a great deal of anti-war sentiment, both in the North and in the South. In the Frontier states there was a pro-war sentiment, because those people felt that the logic of the situation and the necessity of their own protection required eliminating this threat that might develop if Texas were not recognized. In the War that ensued, there were fears by Americans that it would be a long, costly war. It proved however to be a very short war in 1846. [00:16:21]

Some of the history books present it as a very, very...[edit]

Some of the history books present it as a very, very unfair war in which great numbers of Americans overwhelmed small Mexican forces. This is not true. True, the Mexicans were in some of the battles out numbered. But it was not so uneven a battle. One of the problems of Mexico was that their government was incompetent and corrupt. Mexico in 1845 had a population of 7 million people. The original Spaniards who had settled there were hard working and industrious men who had done a great deal to develop the country, but their descendants had gotten used to living off the lower classes and had become lazy, corrupt, and unwilling to exert themselves in those things which were necessary for the development of the country.

To give you an idea of what the situation was like, it was in 1808 that they gained their independence from Spain. Spain of course did not like to recognize it, and hoped to recover Mexico. But it was only the total incompetence and corruption of the Spanish government that made possible their independence and that of other Latin American countries. When we examine what the Mexican army was at one period not too long after its independence, the absurdity of the situation becomes apparent, because at one time the Mexican army had 20,000 soldiers. Now how many officers would you expect for an army of that size? Just a guess.

[Audience Member] 250?

[Rushdoony] 250, I think that’s a pretty fair guess. How many officers did they really have, take a guess now.

[Audience Member] 2,000.

[Rushdoony] 2,000 well you are way off. They had 24,000 officers. It was more like a comic opera army, because they were commissioning more officers than they had troops. If you were an officer and you had any relatives and any in-laws whom you wanted to honor, you made them a colonel or a major or a captain, and if it was somebody that was important, you made them a general. So there were officers all over the landscape. Now an army with 24,000 officers as against 20,000 men is rather incompetent. It was a country full of chiefs, and too few Indians to use a modern expression. [00:19:57]

As a result, while there was no lack of ability on...[edit]

As a result, while there was no lack of ability on the part of some of these men, and some of these men were really outstanding in their possibilities. Because of this insistence on prestige, because of this unwillingness to eliminate inefficiency, and to put things on an honest basis, the government of Mexico was so thoroughly corrupt and inept that when the war began, the American found after the first initial battles that it was a very simple matter to defeat the Mexican forces. Incidentally, the Mexicans began the war without a declaration of the war as far as the Americans knew; they attacked and wiped out a small detachment of American troops. So that it was not a case of the United States going to war deliberately, but finally being compelled to go to war if they were going to have any kind of future in the west.

Now a country that has been ten years independent, it’s very difficult to say it’s still ours. But the Mexicans claimed that Texas was still theirs, and they were going to oppose the annexation. Moreover, had Texas remained independent, it almost certainly would have been an empire that was allied to Britain. So, with all of Canada and with the Texan empire extending to the border of Canada, you can imagine what the future of the United States would have been.

The Mexican war was a justifiable war. The British purpose was to harm the United States.

Now there… Yes?

[Audience Member] …?...

[Rushdoony] For the simple reason that first, he did not know it, and second, it was the popular position among liberals to feel that if the United States did something it was automatically wrong. So in terms of that, if you are a radical, and you believe that the United states has been run by Capitalistic exploiters who used every opportunity to expand their empire, and that the constitutional convention was a set up whereby Capitalists gained control of the country and frustrated the people in their revolutionary desires, and I’m just repeating what you will get from some scholars, then you will say: “Well you see, the Mexican War was simply an expansion whereby those who desired an American Empire took advantage of a weak country and seized the land.” You presuppositions are going to determine your perspective. [00:23:31]

If I believe on principal that I am right no matter...[edit]

If I believe on principal that I am right no matter what I do, then no matter what you do you are going to be wrong, you see, if you cross me. Because I have said on principal that I am right; and if I say on principal that any country in which free enterprise and private property have rights is by definition an exploiting country, then any war they conduct is a war of exploitation. And Kennedy was ready to go along with this kind of thesis.

As a result he went out of his way to make this kind of statement, and he made it to an Indonesian student. You see. Well that is significant. Why did he make it to an Indonesian student? Because he was telling this Indonesian student, a young radical who was here, what a marvelous country they had. Well its fearful country. Oppressive, tyrannical, at that time it was under Sukarno, as contemptible a character as any. But he was trying to tell him: “Your country is a great country, your people are freedom fighters, and you threw off the fearful, the ugly Dutch yoke, under the leadership of your George Washington, Sukarno.” Well that comparison is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. And to make it clear: “I don’t like the fact that we have been opposed to freedom fighters at times in our history, and in fact like the Dutch in Indonesia we have had our own colonial expansion, and we mistreated those poor Mexicans and took their land away from them.” You see, that was what he was trying to convey, and more than once in talks this is what he was saying. So this was the purpose of his attack, and this is precisely the mentality of these people who condemn the Mexican War.

It’s very, very difficult to find an American historian today, in fact almost impossible, that will tell you the truth about the Mexican War. Polk really comes out badly. One of the nastiest attacks on Polk was made in a multi volume history of the United States which I am glad to say is no longer in use. I have it in my library. [00:26:30]

It was written by a professor of history who was here...[edit]

It was written by a professor of history who was here in Virginia, and then went to the White House, Woodrow Wilson. Now Woodrow Wilson took a pro-British stand on almost everything, and in fact in his history he almost makes heroes out of the loyalists at times. And some historians have written books about the loyalists: “Those poor loyalists. How they were mistreated.” Well there were times when the Tories were mistreated. But, how often have you heard about the fact that those 60,000 British troops as they went through the country were burning churches and were burning houses, and raping women? You don’t hear about that do you, we just don’t print that.

Now another fact about Texas is, that Texas had been claimed by both the United States and Spain till 1819. In other words we felt that in terms of the Louisiana purchase we had a claim to Texas, whereas the Spanish government said: “No, we have a claim to it.” So that there was a doubtful claim to Texas by both governments. As a result we cannot really say that Texas belonged clearly to Spain, and therefore to Mexico. True it was to an extent governed by them, but there were legitimate questions about the rightful ownership of Texas. But all that of course was ancient history. The fact is, Texas was at that time an Independent Country. [00:28:40]

Well, now, are there any questions before we leave...[edit]

Well, now, are there any questions before we leave the Mexican War?

Now very briefly we are going to analyze some aspects of John C. Calhoun’s thinking. John C. Calhoun was a very important figure in American history, a man whose training incidentally was thoroughly Calvinistic, although he abandoned that faith. His schooling therefore had given him a disposition which even his Unitarian tendencies did not altogether obscure.

Our discussion last night was with regard to the problems created by the Constitution, because every answer creates new problems. You do not escape problems, you move from one set of problems to another set of problems. You know, one of the things I’ve always found when I counseled young people who are about to get married, I always tell them is that one of the first things you are going to find out when you get married is that you really don’t know each other as well as you thought you did. Because you’ve seen the best of one another, but when you share a life totally, you are going to rub each other the wrong way. That’s inescapable. No two people can live together no matter how much they love each other, without having problems. So it isn’t that fact that you’ll rub each other the wrong way, you’ll do it from almost the first day. It’s how you cope with those problems. And one of the problems of our day, whether it is in marriage or in politics, or in church life or in any area of life, people expect perfection. And the result is, they’re disillusioned with the government, they are disillusioned with politics, they are disillusioned with the community or with the church, they are disillusioned with everything , because they fail to realize that problem are basic to life, by Gods ordination. [00:31:21]

Now, Calhoun was concerned about some of the problems...[edit]

Now, Calhoun was concerned about some of the problems that had arisen under the constitution. He was a strong constitutionalist, but he did want to further the efficiency of that document. And so he wrote a very important essay: A Disquisition on Government. And so he felt almost immediately he had to answer the question: “What is Man?” What is man? Your doctrine of man will determine to a great extent your view on government.

He said that first of all: “Man’s inclinations and wants, physical and moral, irresistibly impel him to associate with his kind, and he has therefore never been found in any age or country in any state other than in the social.” In other words, man is a social creature. Here Calhoun was going back to the Greek, the Aristotelian view of man as a social creature; in fact Aristotle also called him a political animal. So Calhoun said: “Men have to be under a government because they cannot live alone.” Then second, Calhoun assumed the inherent self-centeredness of man. In a sense here he was bringing in the Christian element. He was affirming that man is a sinner, but he makes it clear that he does not want to use that language, so that while at points he talks somewhat like the Calvinism that he picked up in college, he still refused to use that language. [00:33:27]

Third, Calhoun said that men cannot exist without government...[edit]

Third, Calhoun said that men cannot exist without government. And government does not rest in a social contract such as Rousseau and other philosophers had held, but civil government has its origin in the fundamental nature of man. So he said: “Men cannot escape government. It is a necessary part of his life. But, the weakness in having a government, the danger in government is that government always tends to grow. The minute you create a new government, no matter how weak you create it, unless it is too weak to survive it is going to grow in its strength, and every year, every administration is going to see a threat of a greater and greater power on the part of the central government.” And this of course has been essentially the problem in our American history. Now how can this be checked? Calhoun’s answer was, “Power can only be resisted by power, and tendency by tendency.” This is one of the great sentences in Calhoun, let me repeat that: “Power can only be resisted by power, and tendency by tendency.” Unquote. “Therefore” Calhoun said, “The checks and balances indeed are a means of creating some kind of power to resist the centralism that is growing in Washington. The states in their power indeed represent something further. But this is not enough.” And so he said, “What we must do is to create something further, because power has a tendency to grow.” So he developed his theory of concurrent powers. He felt that there should be a veto power over legislation in terms of sectional interests and special interests, so that not only should the President have a right to veto legislation, but somehow, say the slave state should have a veto, and the Free State should have a veto. Business interests should have a veto power, and working men’s groups, labor unions should have a veto power. [00:36:44]

Then again, the farm interests and the farm section...[edit]

Then again, the farm interests and the farm section should have a veto power. This is the theory of concurrent powers.

Now of course how this could be worked out constitutionally is very difficult to imagine, but practically the country has worked out a theory of concurrent powers in terms of what Calhoun has said, it has done this naturally and instinctively without knowing it.

Thus, there is today to a great extent a veto power on what Washington does on the part of the Labor Union. It’s very difficult to pass legislation if labor is strongly against it. There is a veto power also in terms of certain minority groups, thus in the negro voters today are opposed to something, they have according to this theory of concurrent powers, an effectual veto power. Similarly various groups, say western mining and farming groups, for a long time were exercising a great deal of power over legislation. And from about the 1770’s to about 1930, this western farm and mining block to a great extent was governing the United States through its veto on particular types of legislation and its demand for a certain type of legislation. And we could go on and cite the various types of interest groups which have to a great extent exercised this type of veto and control. So while Calhoun’s plan has been Constitutionally impossible to imagine and to work out, as far as any practical reality is concerned, it has naturally worked out in terms of what he imagined. [00:39:15]

For better or worse, the theory of concurrent powers...[edit]

For better or worse, the theory of concurrent powers is a part of our working American system.

Now there is another factor in Calhoun’s analysis that is very, very important. He recognized the effect of unequal taxation and disbursement. Let me read his statement which is extremely important, and I think that conservatives have missed a bit in failing to recognize some of the ideas of Calhoun, in fact I know of only one real conservative who has given any attention to Calhoun, Mr. Frederick (Nighmyer?) is a great admirer of Calhoun, I think you know him.

Now, this is what he had to say: “It is then manifest, taking the whole process together. The taxes must be in effect bounties to that portion of the community which receives more in disbursements then it pay’s in taxes, while to the other which pay’s in taxes more than it receives in disbursements, they are taxes in reality, burthens instead of bounties. This consequence is unavoidable. It results from the nature of the process, be the taxes ever equally laid, and the disbursement ever so fairly made in reference to the public service.”

Let’s remember something that John C. Marshall said, last night I cited it with regard to taxes, what was his statement? Yes. “The power to tax involves the power to destroy.” Now Calhoun is calling attention to another aspect of it. “Taxes are in effect subsidies to those who in effect receive the bounties, from taxes.” So that taxation has an additional danger, it in effect subsidizes one portion of the population, at the expense of another. Now again Calhoun’s insight here is tremendous, because today this factor in taxation is very important to us. The state schools of course get a subsidy. The welfare people get a subsidy. Various kinds of enterprise get subsidies, so that in one area of the economy after another there is effectual subsidy by means of taxes. And if you get no subsidies, you are the one who is getting penalized. [00:42:41]

So, as Calhoun recognized, taxation presents a problem...[edit]

So, as Calhoun recognized, taxation presents a problem. Because beyond a certain point, if a civil government does anything more than provide for the common defense, and provide for the operation of the government, taxes are a subsidy to a sizeable element of the population. And this immediately creates very serious problems.

Now at another point we will have to disagree with Calhoun. He felt and I quote: “Neither religion nor education can counteract the strong tendency of the numerical majority to corrupt and debase the people.” He felt the effect that religion and education could have on changing the unhappy tendency of government was limited. So that his picture of government thus was a very bleak one of various pressure groups, each working to manipulate the government, and check one another. But in such a situation, each will only increase in its particular sin, and we have seen the evil of concurrent majorities without a faith, in that they increasingly become groups out to exploit all they can for their own welfare, and without any thought for the common welfare. Are there any questions now? Yes. [00:44:43]

[Audience Member] You were discussing concurrent powers...[edit]

[Audience Member] You were discussing concurrent powers…

[Rushdoony] Yes. Well of course it is important to know because Calhoun is one of the great political philosophers of this country, and therefore it is necessary to cover his thought in American history, and realize, that this, practically, has developed. That we have the theory, the veto of concurrent powers, concurrent groups in this country, and unless we recognize that this is the way our government is practically operating---- you see, we look at it just in terms of the constitution, but Calhoun’s point was this: “You have a written document, but that written document doesn’t express entirely the life of the people. The life of the people will create in a form an unwritten constitution.” So that, Calhoun was here describing something that has become an unwritten constitution in the United States. For example, in terms of the theory of concurrent powers, every president feels it is necessary to have at least one Catholic in the Supreme Court, and now one Negro, and if possible one Jew as well. So that you give each of these powerful groups in the country a representation on the Supreme Court. There is also a tendency to make sure that one of these lawyers has had a strong background of association as a lawyer with labor groups. [Tape Ends] [00:46:42]