Mexican-American War, 1846-48

Additional Documents and Information on the war
  1. Chronology of the War
  2. PBS Site on US-Mexican War Includes excellent time line, interpretive essays
  3. More Links and Resources on US-Mexican War

Special Message of President James K. Polk, asking Congress to declare war on Mexico, May 11, 1846
  • James K. Polk Portrait[Message is abridged. You may read the complete text of Polk's message if you wish.]
  • To the Senate and House of Representatives: The existing state of the relations between the United States and Mexico renders it proper that I should bring the subject to the consideration of Congress. In my message at the commencement of your present session the state of these relations; the causes which led to the suspension of diplomatic intercourse between the two countries in March, 1845, and the long-continued and unredressed wrongs and injuries committed by the Mexican Government on citizens of the United States in their persons and property were briefly set forth.
  • As the facts and opinions which were then laid before you were care fully considered, I can not better express my present convictions of the condition of affairs up to that time than by referring you to that communication. The strong desire to establish peace with Mexico on liberal and honorable terms, and the readiness of this Government to regulate and adjust our boundary and other causes of difference with that power on such fair and equitable principles as would lead to permanent relations of the most friendly nature, induced me in September last to seek the reopening of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Every measure adopted on our part had for its object the furtherance of these desired results. In communicating to Congress a succinct statement of the injuries which we had suffered from Mexico, and which have been accumulating during a period of more than twenty years, every expression that could tend to inflame the people of Mexico or defeat or delay a pacific result was carefully avoided. An envoy of the United States repaired to Mexico with full powers to adjust every existing difference. But though present on the Mexican soil by agreement between the two Governments, invested with full powers, and bearing evidence of the most friendly dispositions, his mission has been unavailing. The Mexican Government not only refused to receive him or listen to his propositions, but after a long-continued series of menaces have at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil.
  • Map of MexicoIt now becomes my duty to state more in detail the origin, progress, and failure of that mission. In pursuance of the instructions given in September last, an inquiry was made on the 13th of October, 1 845, in the most friendly terms, through our consul in Mexico, of the minister for foreign affairs, whether the Mexican Government "would receive an envoy from the United States intrusted with full powers to adjust all the questions in dispute between the two Governments," with the assurance that " should the answer be in the affirmative such an envoy would be immediately dispatched to Mexico." The Mexican minister on the I5th of October gave an affirmative answer to this inquiry, requesting at the same time that our naval force at Vera Cruz might be withdrawn, lest its continued presence might assume the appearance of menace and coercion pending the negotiations. This force was immediately withdrawn. On the 10th of November, 1845, Mr. John Slidell, of Louisiana, was commissioned by me as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States to Mexico, and was intrusted with full powers to adjust both the questions of the Texas boundary and of indemnification to our citizens. The redress of the wrongs of our citizens naturally and inseparably blended itself with the question of boundary. The settlement of the one question in any correct view of the subject involves that of the other. I could not for a moment entertain the idea that the claims of our much-injured and long-suffering citizens, many of which had existed for more than twenty years, should be postponed or separated from the settlement of the boundary question.
  • Mr. Slidell arrived at Vera Cruz on the 30th of November, and was courteously received by the authorities of that city. But the Government of General Herrera was then tottering to its. fall. The revolutionary party had seized upon the Texas question to effect or hasten its overthrow. Its determination to restore friendly relations with the United States, and to receive our minister to negotiate for the settlement of this question, was violently assailed, and was made the great theme of denunciation against it. The Government of General Herrera, there is good reason to believe, was sincerely desirous to receive our minister; but it yielded to the storm raised by its enemies, and on the 21st of December refused to accredit Mr. Slidell upon the most frivolous pretexts. These are so fully and ably exposed in the note of Mr. Slidell of the 24th of December last to the Mexican minister of foreign relations, herewith transmitted, that I deem it unnecessary to enter into further detail on this portion of the subject. . . . .
  • Mr. Slidell, in obedience to my direction, addressed a note to the Mexican minister of foreign relations, under date of the 1st of March last, asking to be received by that Government in the diplomatic character to which he had been appointed. This minister in his reply, under date of the 12th of March, reiterated the arguments of his predecessor, and in terms that may be considered as giving just grounds of offense to the Government and people of the United States denied the application of Mr. Slidell. Nothing therefore remained for our envoy but to demand his passports and return to his own country.
  • [Painting shows the "Battle of Buena Vista, 22-23 February 1847, painted by Carl Nebel.] Battle of Buena Vista painted by Carl NebelThus the Government of Mexico, though solemnly pledged by official acts in October last to receive and accredit an American envoy, violated their plighted faith and refused the offer of a peaceful adjustment of our difficulties. Not only was the offer rejected, but the indignity of its rejection was enhanced by the manifest breach of faith in refusing to admit the envoy who came because they had bound themselves to receive him. Nor can it be said that the offer was fruitless from the want of opportunity of discussing it; our envoy was present on their own soil. Nor can it be ascribed to a want of sufficient powers; our envoy had full powers to adjust every question of difference. Nor was there room for complaint that our propositions for settlement were unreasonable; permission was not even given our envoy to make any proposition whatever. Nor can it be objected that we, on our part, would not listen to any reasonable terms of their suggestion; the Mexican Government refused all negotiation, and have made no proposition of any kind. In my message at the commencement of the present session I informed you that upon the earnest appeal both of the Congress and convention of Texas I had ordered an efficient military force to take a position " between the Nueces and the Del Norte." This had become necessary to meet a threatened invasion of Texas by the Mexican forces, for which extensive military preparations had been made. The invasion was threatened solely because Texas had determined, in accordance with a solemn resolution of the Congress of the United States, to annex herself to our Union, and under these circumstances it was plainly our duty to extend our protection over her citizens and soil. . . .
  • From this quarter invasion was threatened; upon it and in its immediate vicinity, in the judgment of high military experience, are the proper stations for the protecting forces of the Government. In addition to this important consideration, several others occurred to induce this movement. Among these are the facilities afforded by the ports at Brazos Santiago and the mouth of the Del Norte for the reception of supplies by sea, the stronger and more healthful military positions, the convenience for obtaining a ready and a more abundant supply of provisions, water, fuel, and forage, and the advantages which are afforded by the Del Norte in forwarding supplies to such posts as may be established in the interior and upon the Indian frontier.
  • The movement of the troops to the Del Norte was made by the commanding general under positive instructions to abstain from all aggressive acts toward Mexico or Mexican citizens and to regard the relations between that Republic and the United States as peaceful unless she should declare war or commit acts of hostility indicative of a state of war. He was specially directed to protect private property and respect personal rights. The Army moved from Corpus Christi on the 11th of March, and on the 28th of that month arrived on the left bank of the Del Norte opposite to Matamoras, where it encamped on a commanding position, which has since been strengthened by the erection of fieldworks. A depot has also been established at Point Isabel, near the Brazos Santiago, 30 miles in rear of the encampment. The selection of his position was necessarily confided to the judgment of the general in command.
  • Mexican FlagThe Mexican forces at Matamoras assumed a belligerent attitude, and on the 12th of April General Ampudia, then in command, notified General Taylor to break up his camp within twenty-four hours and to retire beyond the Nueces River, and in the event of his failure to comply with these demands announced that arms, and arms alone, must decide the question. But no open act of hostility was committed until the 14th of April. On that day General Arista, who had succeeded to the command of the Mexican forces, communicated to General Taylor that " he considered hostilities commenced and should prosecute them. " A party of dragoons of 63 men and officers were on the same day dispatched from the American camp up the Rio del Norte, on its left bank, to ascertain whether the Mexican troops had crossed or were preparing to cross the river, "became engaged with a large body of these troops, and after a short affair, in which some 16 were killed and wounded, appear to have been surrounded and compelled to surrender." The grievous wrongs perpetrated by Mexico upon our citizens throughout a long period of years remain unredressed, and solemn treaties pledging her public faith for this redress have been disregarded. A government either unable or unwilling to enforce the execution of such treaties fails to perform one of its plainest duties.
  • Our commerce with Mexico has been almost annihilated. It was formerly highly beneficial to both nations, but our merchants have been deterred from prosecuting it by the system of outrage and extortion which the Mexican authorities have pursued against them, whilst their appeals through their own Government for indemnity have been made in vain. Our forbearance has gone to such an extreme as to be mistaken in its character. Had we acted with vigor in repelling the insults and redressing the injuries inflicted by Mexico at the commencement, we should doubtless have escaped all the difficulties in which we are now involved.
  • Instead of this, however, we have been exerting our best efforts to propitiate her good will. Upon the pretext that Texas, a nation as independent as herself, thought proper to unite its destinies with our own she has affected to believe that we have severed her rightful territory, and in official proclamations and manifestoes has repeatedly threatened to make war upon us for the purpose of reconquering Texas. In the meantime we have tried every effort at reconciliation. The cup of forbearance had been exhausted even before the recent information from the frontier of the Del Norte. But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations are now at war.
  • As war exists, and, notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, we are called upon by every consideration of duty and patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor, the rights, and the interests of our country. Anticipating the possibility of a crisis like that which has arrived, instructions were given in August last, "as a precautionary measure" against invasion or threatened invasion, authorizing General Taylor, if the emergency required, to accept volunteers, not from Texas only, but from the States of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and corresponding letters were addressed to the respective governors of those States. These instructions were repeated, and in Januarv last, soon after the incorporation of "Texas into our Union of States," General Taylor was further "authorized by the President to make a requisition upon the executive of that State for such of its militia force as may be needed to repel invasion or to secure the country against apprehended invasion. " On the 2d day of March he was again reminded, "in the event of the approach of any considerable Mexican force, promptly and efficiently to use the authority with which he was clothed to call to him such auxiliary force as he might need." War actually existing and our territory having been invaded, General Taylor, pursuant to authority vested in him by my direction, has called on the governor of Texas for four regiments of State troops, two to be mounted and two to serve on foot, and on the governor of Louisiana for four regiments of infantry to be sent to him as soon as practicable.
  • In further vindication of our rights and defense of our territory, I involve the prompt action of Congress to recognize the existence of the war, and to place at the disposition of the Executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor, and thus hastening the restoration of peace. To this end I recommend that authority should be given to calt into the public service a large body of volunteers to serve for not less than six or twelve months unless sooner discharged. A volunteer force is beyond question more efficient than any other description of citizen soldiers, and it is not to be doubted that a number far beyond that required would readily rush to the field upon the call of their country. I further recommend that a liberal provision be made for sustaining our entire military force and furnishing it with supplies and munitions of war. I transmit herewith a copy of the correspondence between our envoy to Mexico and the Mexican minister for foreign affairs, and so much of the correspondence between that envoy and the Secretary of State and between the Secretary of War and the general in command on the Del Norte as is necessary to a full understanding of the subject.
  • James K. Polk
    Senate and House Debate on the Declaration of War with Mexico
    Historical Background:
  • President James K. Polk was an expansionist president who sought to gain territory from Mexico and did not mind going to war to get it. Congress, likewise, had expansionist ambitions, even though some members complained that the reasons for going to war with Mexico were trumped up to make Mexico look like the aggressor. The origins of the war with Mexico can be traced to the struggle to annex Texas in 1836. By the 1840s the idea of "Manifest Destiny" had claimed the imagination of many Americans. This grandiose concept held that God had ordained the United States to expand its empire from sea to sea. Polk, an early champion of the annexation of Texas, used the idea of Manifest Destiny as his campaign theme in the presidential election of 1844. Texas became a state shortly after Polk was inaugurated in 1845.
  • Polk sent a letter to Congress outlining the situation with Mexico. It was read before Congress on May 11, 1846. The previous month Mexican troops had attacked U.S. soldiers under the command of General Zachary Taylor, after much provocation by the Americans. Once shots had been fired, Polk lost no time declaring that American blood had been shed on American soil--even though it was unclear exactly where the blood had been shed. Polk's assertion that a state of war existed between the United States and Mexico touched off a brief congressional debate focusing on the language of the statement and on the maintenance of constitutional balance regarding the right of Congress to declare war. Polk's message did not ask explicitly for a declaration of war. He asked for congressional support in funding the military and a call to enlist more volunteers in Texas. The tone of his message implied that a state of war existed. After listening to the president's message, the House took less than half an hour to approve Polk's request and pass a resolution that was the equivalent of a declaration of war, by an overwhelming majority of 173-14. The Senate likewise wasted no time approving the resolution the same day by a vote of 40-2.
  • Among those participating in the debate who were critical of Polk but who ended up voting for war anyway were John C. Calhoun (D-S.C.) in the Senate and Garrett Davis (Whig-Ky.) in the House. Calhoun said Polk's message that war existed was deceptive since only the legislative branch of government had the constitutional power to declare war. Davis pointed an accusing finger at Polk for instigating a confrontation and then placing the blame on Mexico.
  • The war with Mexico ended in 1848, after many military triumphs by the United States. As the war progressed, Congress became less reluctant to support Polk's conduct of the war. The war resulted in huge territorial gains for the United States, including California, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. It left Mexico shorn of half its territory. Despite some token payments for the land acquired, Mexico was devastated financially and politically. In the United States the acquisition of the new territory raised anew the specter of the expansion of slavery into the new territories. House member David Wilmot (D-Pa.) devised a proviso to keep slavery out of any land acquired in the war with Mexico.
    Debate in the United States Senate
  • Mr. CALHOUN then rose, and said: The question now submitted to us is one of the gravest character and the importance of the consequences which may result from it we cannot now determine. I do hope that this body will give to it that high, full, and dispassionate consideration which is worthy the character of the body and the high constitutional functions which it is called on to exercise. I trust that we will weigh everything calmly and deliberately, and do all that the Constitution, interests, and honor of the country may require. I hope that in the present state of the question nothing further will be done than is usual--that is, to print the document for the use of the Senate, and after we have had the subject under consideration, it will be time enough to determine the number of copies to be printed. I say this because no man can make up his opinion from the mere reading of the message, and the printing of an extra number may seem to be a committal of this body in favor of all which is contained in the message. It is eminently proper that, in this case, the deliberate sense of the body should be expressed. It is always understood that printing a large number of documents is an endorsement. At all events, I think it would be undignified in the Senate to print on this occasion more than the usual number.
  • Mr. SPEIGHT said, I rise to respond to every sentence--every word--which has been uttered by the honorable Senator from South Carolina. My motive in moving to print an extra number of copies of the message and accompanying documents was the suggestion of Senators around me. I had supposed that the country would be anxious to read those documents, and I cannot see why the printing of it should be necessarily considered as an endorsement of that message. But I take occasion to state here in my place that I endorse every word of that message. I approve of it. The President has recommended what I am prepared to carry out. It is useless to conceal the fact that he has recommended no declaration of war. He only asks Congress to place at his disposal a sufficient military force to repel any invasion of the territory of the United States.
  • I apprehend that there is not a single Senator who will not cordially respond to that portion of the message; and I am confident I only do justice to the Senator form South Caroline, [Mr. Calhoun,] when I say that none will more cordially respond to it than himself. If I apprehended that my motion was at all inconsistent with the dignity of the Senate, I need not say that I would at once withdraw it. Far be it from me to entertain any desire to precipitate the action of the body in this important affair. But the document will appear in the newspapers, and there will be a general anxiety in the country to read it; and I cannot see the impropriety of printing such a number of extra copies as will ensure the most extended circulation of the message. It is an important document, and we seem to have approached an important crisis, and I agreed with the Senator that we should meet it firmly, calmly, and with deliberation, For my part, I am prepared so to meet the crisis.
  • Mr. ALLEN. . . . these are facts about which there can be no dispute; and if ever there was a case in which it becomes important to give an extended circulation to a great public fact, this is that case. What is it? The honorable Senator has told us that the President recommends no declaration of war; but he did not tell us what the President has told us, which is the far more important fact, that war actually exists, and he asks the Congress of the United States to acknowledge that fact by such a public act as shall nationalize the troops, and put the United States in that relation to the nations of the world which she has a right to assume, as growing out of a state of war. Sir, it has been said that time for deliberation is necessary; but the time of deliberation should be measured by the crises presented by the state of facts upon which that deliberation is to be had; and what is the crises here! The crises is existing war. The deliberation can tend to no point, if it have a useful object, except the great point of the defence of the country against invasion. And as for the suggestion thrown out that the arm of the Government should be limited to its own soil--that we should be required to fight over one square of the board, while Mexico fights over the whole board--seems to me to involve a most suicidal policy. How can this war be brought to a successful issue? How can any permanent peace be expected to result from all this conflict with Mexico, unless she is given distinctly to understand that when she makes war upon the United States she incurs all the penalties which the condition of war inflicts upon nations? But I am sensible that this is digressive. I desire that these documents may be printed in large numbers, for the reasons that I have given; and for the sake of testing the sense of the Senate, I ask the yeas and nays.
  • Mr. MOREHEAD said: I regret that I cannot concur with my friend from Delaware in his suggestion as to the proper direction which this document should take. I think that in the first instance the reference should be made to the Committee on Foreign Relations; and I do so because I concur with the Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. Calhoun,] that before war does exist, according to the Constitution of the United States, there must be some action on the part of Congress. Thus far, if war does now exist--if the people of the United States now find themselves in a state of war with Mexico, it is a war which has not been brought about or declared by the legislative department of the United States, to which constitutionally the power of declaring war belongs. It does, therefore, seem to me that before we can occupy a proper position in the estimation of the nations of the world--(whose opinion on subjects of this sort, I think, we dare not disregard, at all events it is our duty to pay respect to it)--before we assume a hostile position, which in all probability it will be our duty to assume--this subject ought to be referred to that committee which in all cases of this sort has charge of these subjects; that this ought to be done before the Congress of the United States shall recognise the existence of war, and perform that part assigned to them by the Constitution. It is with this view, and with regret, that I cannot concur with the Senator from Delaware, and I hope that the subject will take the usual direction.
  • Mr. J. M. CLAYTON. It is perfectly clear in my mind that this Message should go to the Committee on Military Affairs, and not to that on Foreign Relations. The President has announced to the Senate of the United States that there is war--that war does exist between this country and Mexico, and he calls upon us for millions of money to aid him in carrying on that war; he pronounces it necessary, and demands of us the needful supplies. He also asks for tens of thousands of volunteers. Now I am quite willing--although I so not take upon myself any portion of the responsibility of this war--that devolves upon the President and upon him alone, with those who have brought it about--but I say I am quite ready to fight it out. I will not undertake to decide, in the first instance, whether it was right or not; but I go for the soldiers and the millions at once, to support the honor of the country and army. The Committee on Foreign Relations can decide at their leisure any grave questions touching the constitutionality of this war. We shall have all that undoubtedly in debate here from day to day; but the first duty of the Senate, in my judgement, is to vote the supplies. Well, what has the Committee of Foreign Relations to do with that? What does it know about the manner of furnishing these supplies? That is the appropriate duty of the Committee of Military Affairs. I would say to my friend from South Carolina--if he will allow me to call him my friend--that I entertain opinions perhaps closely allied to his own on this general subject. I do not mean to express any opinion as to the sending of troops o the Rio Grande, by voting for the supplies. The President has announced the existence of war. What is the first duty of Congress? I hold that its first duty is to vote the supplies; to lose no time in defending the country. . . .
  • Mr. ARCHER proceeded. It has been stated, on the highest authority that the President of the United States cannot declare war. The intervention of Congress is absolutely indispensable to constitute war. What is the import of the message received this morning? A certain state of facts has reached the President, which has rendered it necessary for him, in the discharge of his duty, to inform Congress of the necessity of inquiring what action of Congress may be necessary, and whether there shall or shall not be war on the part of the United States, Does the existence of hostilities on one of the frontiers of the United States necessarily put us in a state of war with any foreign Power? Clearly not. Suppose we have misunderstood the state of things on the Rio Grande, and that the Mexican authorities have acted justifiably under the circumstances: the danger of admitting the doctrine that a state of war can exist except by the constitutional action of the Government of the United States will then be evident. There can be no question about that. There can be no war till the ascertained facts be submitted to the Congress of the United States, to be pronounced upon by them, and till they authorize war. That is the question. . . .
  • Mr. BENTON said: I apprehend that there are two very distinct questions presented to the consideration of the Senate in the message of the President. He announces the fact of the invasion of the territory of the United States, that's one thing.
  • He then proposes to Congress to carry on war against Mexico on a scale commensurate with the exigency of the occasion, in order to bring it to an immediate close. These are two distinct subjects; and on these two subjects a different form of action is, I think, required. It is not merely the constitutional authority, but the duty of the President to repel invasion at once, and by all the means which the law has put into his hands. He has a regular army and navy for that purpose. The act of Congress of 1795 authorized him to call out the militia from the neighboring States for that purpose; but their services is limited to a period of three months; and as often as emergencies of this kind have occurred, it has been deemed proper, both for the purpose of getting troops more promptly into action, and also, such as could be retained in the service for a longer period--it has, I say, been usual for Congress on all such occasions, when in session, and when not in session, it has been usual for the President to call for volunteers. . . .
    Debate in the US House of Representatives
  • Mr. GARRETT DAVIS. . . . Sir, if the bill contained any recitation upon that point in truth and justice, it should be that this war was begun by the President. The river Nueces is the true western boundary of Texas. The country between that stream and the Del Norte is part of Mexico; and that Power had people and establishments on it. Months ago the President, of his own will, orders General Taylor and his army to take post at Corpus Christi, on the west bank of the Nueces, where they remained until a considerable time after the beginning of this session of Congress. In March last, under the positive orders of the President, he moves through the disputed country upon Del Norte. The Mexican authorities meet him at several points with the declaration that he has invaded their country, and with protests against the aggression. They warn him that unless he retires east of the Nueces, he will be deemed to be making war upon Mexico, and they will resort to force. He refers to the positive orders of the Executive, and in the execution of them he presses on to Matamoras; strongly fortifies a position overlooking the city, and mounts a battery of cannon within three hundred yards of it, bearing upon its public square, and from whence he could, in a few hours, batter it down. He then blockades the port of Matamoras, orders off English and American vessels, and directs the capture of a Spanish schooner. The Mexican commander treats all these as acts of war; and, on the 25th of April, General Taylor is informed, by a messenger from the Mexican camp, that hostilities exist, that the Mexicans will prosecute them according to the usages of civilized nations. That night a detachment of the Mexican army crosses the Rio Grande, General Taylor sends out a scouting party to reconnoitre, which attacks the Mexicans, and is defeated and captured by the Mexicans, and thus war is raging in bloody earnestness. It is our own President who began the war. He has been carrying it on for months in a series of acts. Congress, which is vested exclusively by the Constitution with the warmaking power, he has not deigned to consult, much less to ask it for authority. Now, forsooth, when it has unexpectedly broke forth in bloody reverses, a position must be taken by the friends of the President in Congress to protect him by charging Mexico with being the author of the war; and he, in cold blood, teaches others to sacrifice a brave and veteran officer, whenever it may become necessary to cover his mistakes and incompetency.
  • I have yet another objection to this bill. All that is proposed to be voted by this bill is to be trusted to him. He is to conduct this war. He is our Commander-in-Chief, our Generalissimo of army and navy. He knows, or ought to know, how much money and how many men the present exigency requires; and yet he has not named any sum or any number of troops, as has been invariably the usage in such cases by all former Presidents. He leaves us to act upon our information and judgement in the premises. Are we to understand that he abandons the responsibilities and duties as President and Commander-in-Chief in the conduct of this war? Does he intend to be understood by Congress as saying to them, (what must be now apparent to the whole nation,) "I am unequal to the high position which I now occupy. I know not how to advise you as to the amount of money and the number of men you must raise to rescue the military renown of the country from the passing cloud which now covers it. In this important matter you must assume my duties and my responsibilities, and adopt the necessary measures to vindicate the suffering honor of the nation?" If this be the position of the President, he has exhibited more good sense in assuming it than in all the acts of his Administration besides; if it be not, he exhibits his usual reprehensible secretiveness.
  • But, Mr. Speaker, the essence of this measure is the supplies. They will all be required before the nation gets out of this difficulty. I will vote for the supplies of the bill with a hearty alacrity, at the same time protesting against its falsehoods. Since the play has begun, I am for fighting Mexico on our soil, on hers, everywhere, until we drive her across the Rio Grande, and retrieve our ancient renown. I am then for withdrawing our army to the east side of the Nueces, and then settling by treaty all our points of dispute with that weak and distracted country upon the most liberal terms.
  • Mr. BAYLY rose and said: Mr. Speaker: I ask to be excused from voting. I cannot vote in silence, without placing myself in a false position. I consider this bill virtually a declaration of war, made without Executive recommendation; for I do not understand the message, from hearing it read, as recommending a declaration of war, and made, too, when we do not know that the invasion of our territory and the aggressive acts are sanctioned by the Mexican Government. They may yet be disavowed, and reparation made. I am unwilling, therefore, at this time, and under the circumstances, to vote for a declaration of war. I do not think such a declaration necessary to meet the emergency. On the other hand, I am anxious to vote such supplies of men and money as will afford succor to our army, and repel the invasion. I must, as I am now situated, decline to do this, or vote for the bill before the House, I shall vote for the bill, if not excused, as I can never withhold supplies, under the circumstances, as the greater evil. Mr. B. then withdrew his request to be excused.
  • The question, "Shall this bill pass?" was then taken, and decided as follows:
  • [Painting to the right shows the Battle of Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, 13 September 1847, painted by Carl Nebel.] Battle of Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, 13 September 1847, painted by Carl NebelSo the bill was passed in the following form, viz [Declaration of War with Mexico]:
    Whereas, by the act of the Republic of Mexico, a state of war exists between that Government and the United States:
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That, for the purpose of enabling the Government of the United States to prosecute said war to a speedy and successful termination, the President be, and he is hereby, authorized to employ the militia, naval, and military forces of the United States, and to call for and accept the services of any number of volunteers, not exceeding fifty thousand, who may offer their services, either as cavalry, artillery, or riflemen, to serve twelve months after they shall have arrived at the place of rendezvous, or to the end of the war, unless sooner discharged; and that the sum of ten millions of dollars out of any moneys in the Treasury, or to come into the Treasury, not otherwise apportioned, for the purpose of carrying the provisions of this act into effect.
    Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the militia, when called into the service of the United States by virtue of this act, or any other act, may, if in the opinion of the President of the United States the public interest requires it, be compelled to serve for a term not exceeding six months, after their arrival at the place of rendezvous, in any one year, unless sooner discharged.
    Sec. 3. And it be further enacted, That the said volunteers shall furnish their own clothes, and if cavalry, their own horses; and when mustered into service shall be armed and equipped at the expense of the United States.
    Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That said volunteers shall, when called into actual service, and while remaining therein, be subject to the rules and articles of war, and shall be in all respects, except as to clothing and pay, placed on the same footing with similar corps of the United States Army; and in lieu of clothing every non-commissioned officer and private, in any company, who may this offer himself, shall be entitled, when called into actual service, to receive in money a sum equal to the cost of clothing of a non-commissioned officer or private (as the case may be) in the regular troops of the United States. . . .
    Source: Congressional Globe, 29th Congress, 1st session, May 11, 1846, 782-795.