James Polk's Decisions During the Mexican-American War

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James Polk was elected during the mid 1840s, a time period when the ideology of Manifest Destiny influenced many American settlers to move westward. During this time period, America had a boundary dispute over Oregon with Britain as well as the issue dealing with the independence of Texas with Mexico. America claimed the entire Oregon territory from the California boundary to the southern boundary of Russian Alaska. At the same time, Britain was a world power with a strong military to support itself while Mexico didn’t have the financial or militaristic capabilities of fighting a war after gaining independence from Spain. For this reason, President James Polk didn’t want to take a risk by waging war against a superpower Britain while a war with a militaristically weaker Mexico was more opportunistic in terms of land gains.

Britain became a superpower in terms of military in the 1800s. The British Empire in the 1840s had expanded internationally through colonial expansion to parts of Africa, India, and Australia. England’s soldiers had grown to 92,000 after the Napoleonic Wars in 1817 (“The Time When The British Army Really Stretched”, 11/15/13). The army had grown along with its colonial expansion to create a united international military force for Britain. Along with growth, the Britain army became organized in terms of infrastructure; some specific divisions were war academies, barracks, ship repair yards as well as generals in charge of each. In terms of resources, the Britain army had the funding from the Bank of England to support their military; as a result, they had an abundance of resources such as cannons and rifles compared to most countries (Kennedy, 1987, pg. 3-4) With a strong basis for funding, the British militar...

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...o as a weaker opponent than Britain and fighting Mexico provided a scope to expand to the West, tying back to the idea of Manifest Destiny.

President Polk was unwilling to go to war with Britain, but was willing to go to war with Mexico because Britain had a stronger military than Mexico and the land gains were more from Mexico. Polk’s choice to wage war with Mexico brought great power to the United States of America at the time. Instead of choosing to take a risk for a small piece of land in Oregon, Polk cleverly decided peacefully compromise for Oregon and go to war with Mexico to slowly secure the entirety of the Western lands. Successfully gaining a full country of land ranging from California to New York, America soon became an international superpower with the increasing advancements in terms of industrialization and commerce through Westward Expansion.
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