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The U.S. invades Mexico by mistake

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Title:
The U.S. invades Mexico by mistake
Series Title:
This week in history
Creator:
Castro, Richard T.
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
Richard T. Castron
Publication Date:
Language:
English

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Auraria Library
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Auraria Library
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Copyright [name of copyright holder or Creator or Publisher as appropriate]. Permission granted to University of Colorado Denver to digitize and display this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.

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Full Text
This Week In History
U.S. Invades Mexico By Mistake
by
Richard Castro
On October 20, 1842, Commodore Thomas Gatesby Jones invaded California, which was then part of Mexico, by mistake. Jones had heard that the U.S. and Mexico were at war. He was four years early. -
As early as December 1841, American warships were sent to the Pacific area in anticipation of problems with Mexico. Actually, the threat to American security came not from the Mexican, but from the English and French, both of which had interests in Latin America. Each nation attempted to establish friendship with Mexico, while at the same time, doing what she could to undermine the hold Mexico had on California.
To prepare for anticipated difficulties in the Pacific, Secretary of the Navy, Abel P. Upshur, sent Commodore Jones to the area as commander. In this position Jones committed a serious blunder, which served to heighten Mexican hatred and to forewarn them of American intentions.
There was a growing conviction in the United States that California at the other end of the American continent belonged by some "natural right" to the Republic.
Neal Harlow in his book, "California Conquered", described the tenure of those times; "As early as 1806 there was a plan to use American troops in the conquest of California. John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State in 1819, believed the whole North American continent was the proper dominion of the United States. In 1822, Joel Poinsett, an agent sent to Mexico by President Monroe, had proposed a new boundry giving Texas, New Mexico, and California, with other northern Mexican territory, to the United States. And in 1835, President Andrew Jackson had authorized his charge d'affaires in Mexico to attempt to buy a large chunk of that country to the west with


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the great object of securing the bay of San Francisco."
Mexican concern over the loss of Texas, two decades of Anglo-American indecision over Oregon, and repeated changes of administration in all the interested countries left California in the 1840's still, a tantalizing . issue. So it was that the Secretary of the Navy in 1841 warned Jones that "Nothing but the necessity of prompt and effective protection to the honor and interests of the United States will justify you in either provoking hostility or committing any act of violence toward a belligerent . . . . especially a state with which our country is at peace."
While on a training cruise in South America, Jones heard of three English ships off the coast of California conducting a secret mission. He also heard from the U.S. consul at Mazatlan about the imminence of war with Mexico.
Given all of these concerns he polled his officers. They agreed with him that if war had been declared, they were bound to seize and hold every California port and point. Jones then steamed towards Monterey to uphold the Monroe Doctrine.
It was at this point Commodore Jones made his spectacular blunder. As the ranking United States naval officer in the Pacific he seized Monterey, California from its Mexican sovereigns during peacetime. Although he only held the Mexican provincial capitol for only thirty hours, and then realizing the error of his judgment; he tried to sooth the feelings of the Mexican officials. This proved to be an impossibility.
Diplomatic correspondence protesting the illegal American invasion was sent to Washington as Mexican officials expressed their anger at the commodore's action. The American Navy quickly sent another officer to replace Jones, but the erroneous commodore had departed the coast for a cruise on the Pacific. He sailed to Hawaii and then to South America; there


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he learned that the offi'cer sent to replace him had died in 1844. In 1845, rather than being disciplined, Jones was lauded by the new President James Polk, who renewed the commodore's command in the Pacific.
There are many unanswered questions regarding the occupation of Monterey. Was Jones given verbal orders, as he claimed, to take the Mexican port? For that matter, why was the commodore publicly censured for his actions, but never officially disciplined, and in fact even commended by President Polk? These questions still remain unanswered.
Much of the confusion and resulting actions were most probably the result of the embarrassing position in which the action placed the United States Government as far as relations with Mexico were concerned.
Jones' act was a prelude and a rehearsal for the hostilities that would break out in 1846 between Mexico and the United States. This war lasted two years and created the current boundry that exists today between the United States and Mexico.
# # # #
10/13/88


Full Text

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__ _ -' by C . L . SONNICHSEN 7he EL . . PASO .SALT WAR Illustrations by Josi CisNEROs Typography b y CARL HERTZOG ::.t

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This Week In History U.S. Invades Mexico By Mistake by Richard Castro On October 20, 1842, Commodore Thomas Gatesby Jones invaded California, which was then part of Mexico, by mistake. Jones had heard that the U.S. and Mexico were at war. He was four years early. As early as December 1841, American warships were sent to the Pacific area in anticipation of problems with Mexico. Actually, the threat to American security came not from the Mexican, but from the English and French, both of which had interests in Latin America. Each nation attempted to establish friendship with Mexico, while at the same time, doing what she could to undermine the hold Mexico had on California. To prepare for anticipated difficulties in the Pacific, Secretary of the Navy, Abe 1 P. Upshur, sent Commodore Jones to the area as commander. In this position Jones committed a serious blunder, which served to heighten Mexican hatred and to forewarn them of American intentions. There was a growing conviction in the United States that California at the other end of the American continent belonged by some 11natural right11 to the Republic. Neal Harlow in his book, 11California Conquered11, described the tenure of those times; 11As early as 1806 there was a plan to use American troops in the conquest of California. John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State in 1819, believed the whole North American continent was the proper dominion of the: United States. In 1822, Joel Poinsett, an agent sent to Mexico by President Monroe, had proposed a new boundry giving Texas, New Me xi co, and California, with other northern Mexican territory, to the United States. And in 1835, President Andrew Jackson had authorized his charge d'affaires in Mexico to attempt to buy a large chunk of that country to the west with

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2 the great object of securing the bay of San Francisco.11 Me xi can concern over the 1 oss of Texas, two decades of Anglo-American indecision over Oregon, and repeated changes of administration in all the interested countries left California in the 1840 ' s still, a tantalizing issue. So it was that the Secretary of the Navy in 1841 warned Jones that 11Nothing but the necessity of prompt and effective protection to the honor and interests of the United States will justify you in either provoking hostility or committing any act of violence toward a belligerent .... especially a state with which our country is at peace.11 While on a training cruise in South America, Jones heard of three English ships off the coast of California conducting a secret mission. He also heard from the U.S. consul at Mazatlan about the imminence of war with Mexico. Given all of these concerns he polled his officers. They agreed with him that if war had been declared, they were bound to seize and hold every California port and point. Jones then steamed towards Monterey to uphold the Monroe Doctrine. It was at this point Commodore Jones made his spectacular blunder. As the ranking United States naval officer in the Pacific he seized Monterey, California from its Mexican sovereigns during peacetime. Although he only held the Mexican provincial capitol for only thirty hours, and then realizing the error of his judgment; he tried to sooth the feelings of the Mexican officials. This proved to be an impossibility. Diplomatic correspondence protesting the illegal American invasi-on was sent to Washington as Mexican officials expressed their anger at the commodore's action. The American Navy quickly sent another officer to replace Jones, but the erroneous commodore had departed the coast for a cruise on the Pacific. He sailed to Hawaii and then to South America; there

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3 he learned that the sent to replace him had died in 1844. In 1845, rather than being disciplined, Jones was lauded by the new President James Polk, who renewed the commodore1S command in the Pacific. There are many unanswered questions regarding the occupation of Monterey. Was Jones given verbal orders, as he claimed, to take the Mex ican port? For that matter, why was the commodore publicly censured for his actions, but never officially disciplined, and in fact even comm ended by President Polk? These questions still remain unanswered. Much of the confusion a n d resulting Jctions were most probably the result of the embarrassing position in which the action placed the United States Government as far as relations with Mexico were concerned. Jones1 act was a prelude and a rehearsal for the hostilities that would break out in 1846 between Mexico and the United States. This war lasted two years and created the current boundry that e xists today between the United States and Mexico . # # # # 10/13/88