Lincoln's Spot Resolution

The spot of the spot.jpg

During his presidency, James K. Polk was a noted expansionist. So, it was fairly obvious that when he conveniently initiated the Mexican American War, the intent was not rooted in passion for his people. He was a firm believer in Manifest Destiny, and reached out for any reason to justify his expansion. The Mexican American skirmish on April the 25th gave Polk the perfect opportunity. Eleven soldiers were killed. The battle was fought overland of dubious owner ship, but he took it as a chance to put give a reason for the boarders On May 11, 1846, he came before congress, demanding redemption for the "American blood shed on American soil." Only fourteen members of the house and two senators voted against the declaration. Two days later Congress permitted the war, and Polk was allotted his chance to push further west.

But one up-and-coming congressmen was not sold on Polk's claims. He questioned if the soil where the battle was fought was truly in possession of America. The facts were that Polk had sent an army into the alleged area, and that Mexico had followed suit. Was even this play warranted? Wasn't Mexico justified in their own defense? He condemned the entire war was unconstitutional. He went so far as to demand Polk take him to the exact spot where the blood was allegedly shed.

President James Knox Polk

Abraham Lincoln

manifest-destiny1.jpgLincoln's address to Congress is as follows; Lincoln would leave no stone un-turned. In this statement Lincoln accuses the house of being; "desirous to obtain a full knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot on which the blood of our citizens was so shed was or was not at that time our own soul." From this statement, Lincolns further investigation was dubbed; The "Spot" Resolution.

Abraham Lincoln,

"Spot Resolutions"

Speech Before the United States House of Representatives,

22 December 1847

Whereas the President of the United States, in his message of May 11, 1846, has declared that "the Mexican Government not only refused to receive him, [the envoy of the United States,] or listen to his propositions, but, after a long-continued series of menaces, has at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil:"

And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that "we had ample cause of war against Mexico long before the breaking out of hostilities; but even then we forbore to take redress into our own hands until Mexico herself became the aggressor, by invading our soil in hostile array, and shedding the blood of our citizens:"

And yet again, in his message of December 7, 1847, that "the Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of adjustment which he [our minister of peace] was authorized to propose, and finally, under wholly unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two countries in war, by invading the territory of the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the blood of our citizens on our own soil."

And whereas this House is desirous to obtain a full knowledge of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot on which the blood of our citizens was so shed was or was not at that time our own soil: Therefore,

Resolved By the House of Representatives, That the President of the United States be respectfully requested to inform this House --

1st. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution.

2d. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico.

3d. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the United States army.

4th. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.

5th. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the government or laws of Texas or the United States, by consent or compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at elections, or paying tax, or serving on juries, or having process served upon them, or in any other way.

6th. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected their homes and their growing crops, before the blood was shed, as in the messages stated; and whether the first blood, so shed, was or was not shed within the enclosure of one of the people who had thus fled from it.

7th. Whether our citizens, whose blood was shed, as in his message declared, were or were not, at that time, armed officers and soldiers, sent into that settlement by the military order of the President, through the Secretary of War.

8th. Whether the military force of the United States was or was not sent into that settlement after General Taylor had more than once intimated to the War Department that, in his opinion, no such movement was necessary to the defence or protection of Texas.


zach taylor.jpg

Lincoln's resolutions were not adopted. However, it was later discovered that before Polk had even asked for his so-called justice for the American bloodshed, he had already made a draft to congress, asking to declare war on Mexico for failure to pay damage claims to America. He notified his cabinet of these intentions, and was counseled to delay the declaration. Later on, Polk got word of the April 25th battle. Polk's plea of war was revised, and then on May 11th he asked for justice for the "American blood shed on American soil."
In about seven months the American Military had entirely defeated the overpowering Mexican Army on it's own turf in three foul swoops. Zachary Taylor lead the army, and earned himself the nickname "Old Rough and Ready". He had several victories, including Rescaca de la Palma and at Palo Alto, and the eventual capture of Monterrey in September of 1846. A year later, Mexico City was under the siege of American forces. Mexico was wrapped around Polk finger, a finger that still pointed west. The Manifest Destiny fever was still hot in the states, and some extremists even called for all of Mexico, even though Polk's true focus was California. Eventually, a treaty was formed that established that New Mexico and California would be bought for 15 million dollars and the Texas boarder would be pushed back to the Rio Grande. This treaty faced opposition from American leaders. Democrats wanted more land, and Whigs wanted none at all. Eventually, Polk got his way.
Though it could be argued justice was not victorious there were positives to this ordeal. This case established Lincoln not only as a politician to be reckoned with, but one who was willing to question supreme authority It also established that Manifest Destiny was not to be taken lightly. Not everyone in the White House would be gun-ho for expansion without just cause.

(Here would be a link to a Western Expansion rap, but LaSalle blocks youtube)

Nationalism and Sectionalism

This instance generally divided congress, drawing the lines that manipulation would be noticed and questioned. More obviously, this case strengthened belief behind the expansion. The deaths of the eleven American Soldiers gave more fuel to the logic that Americans were the victims and must set matters straight, Just as Polk had intended, this gave Manifest Destiny an excuse. It invigorated the American-are-naturally-superior ideal. Most importantly, the Spot Resolutions questioned Nationalism itself.