In addition, if one is to point the finger of blame at someone, at least a basic examination of who that person was, should be done first - as, even if the situation was that person's fault, an understanding of that person's motivation will surely give a greater understanding of the conflict itself. That is where this examination of the causes of the Mexican-American War will start - with a brief look at American's eleventh president himself. We will then deal with the westward expansion of the American population and the concept of Manifest Destiny. Only then will enough information be avalible to make a preliminary determination of how much each cause (including Mr. Polk) actually contributed to the start and continuation of the Mexican-American War.
James K. Polk was born in North Carolina in 17951. His father was of Scottish and Irish background, and his mother was Scots as well. Hi father was a Democrat who supported Jefferson, thus Polk was brought up as a Jefferson Democrat.2 One of ten children in a successful farming and slave owning family, James was often ill, which delayed his formal schooling3. In 1806, his family followed its relatives in a move to Tennessee, where they became quite well to do plantation owners, and, in addition, his father became a county judge. Growing up in a successful slave owning family quite probably affected Polk's presidential policies, especially those concerning slavery and territories that strongly supported slave-holding.
Through family connections, James Polk was accepted and attended the University of North Carolina. It was there that he first developed the skills that he would use in his political career - as both a speech maker in the Dialectic Society, and as the Society's first two term president. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Polk moved to Tennessee to study law, and to be a the Clerk with the state Senate simultaneously from 1819-18224. In 1822, Polk left his position as Senate Clerk to run for office. His strong speech making skills won him the seat, and soon the reputation of one of the senate's great orators.5
Polk was a very strong leader who, by the time he became president in dominated the American government of the day. It was the seven years that Polk spent in congress starting in 1828, as the speaker of the house and as Tennessee's governor that developed the strong leadership skills he employed as America's eleventh president6. It was these skills that Polk employed when war broke out after the annexation of Texas, which forced him to adapt his peacetime leadership skills to those of Commander in chief of the American Forces7. A similarly volatile situation with Great Britain over the Oregon Territory, was resolved by Polk though diplomacy alone. Thus, James K. Polk was able to employ both military and diplomatic means to solve conflicts and international disagreements.
2.1 Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny
Manifest Destiny is an expansionist view where one country or people expands by pushing the other out of the way - "elbowing owners of property rudely to one side" while "making away with their possessions."8 It was "a policy of imperialism rationalized as inevitable (as if granted by God)"9.