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determined policies with greater success or ruled their party with a stronger will. The Mexican War was the necessary result of the annexation of Texas, as both Clay and Van Buren had foreseen and asserted in the early stages of the presidential campaign, and Polk was no more responsible for it than the thousands of his fellow citizens who had voted for him. Polk selected an able cabinet. James Buchanan became secretary of state, Robert J. Walker secretary of the treasury, William L. Marcy secretary of war, John Y. Mason attorney-general, and George Bancroft secretary of the navy. In 1846 Bancroft was sent as minister to England, but during his term in the cabinet he succeeded in getting Congress to establish the Naval Academy at Annapolis.
While Polk had tried to avoid taking a positive stand on the tariff, Secretary Walker, who professed to be an advocate of free trade, suggested in his first report a reduc- The tariff tion of the duties, and a bill drawn at his dictation act of 1846 was enacted into law July 30, 1846. As a matter of fact, it was far from being a free trade measure, for it still afforded a considerable degree of protection, but it proved to be a very satisfactory law and continued in force until 1857, when the duties were still further lowered. The reduction of the tariff caused the Democrats to lose Pennsylvania at the Congressional election of 1846 and at the presidential election of 1848. Another measure of importance of about the same date was the reënactment of the independent treasury act, which the Whigs had repealed in 1841. This method of handling the public funds, first suggested by Van Buren, now became a permanent policy.
Before the close of Tyler's administration Congress undertook to carry out the pledge of the Democratic
Adjustment platform relating to Oregon, and the House passed of the a bill February 3, 1845, providing for the organi- Oregon diszation of a territorial government with the parallel treaty, June of 54° 40' as the northern limit, but the Senate 15, 1846
refused to concur. When Polk came into office he took the matter up with vigor. He first offered to compromise with England on the line of the 49th degree, and when this offer was declined he asked permission of Congress to give the necessary notice for the termination of the joint-occupation agreement, to provide for the military defense of the territory, and to extend over it the laws of the United States. In April, 1846, notice was given to England, but at the same time the hope was expressed that the matter might be adjusted diplomatically.
As Polk had correctly surmised, England had no intention of going to war over the dispute, and as soon as it was evident that the United States was in earnest she gracefully yielded and accepted the terms which had first been proposed. By the treaty of June 15, 1846, the boundary was fixed at the 49th parallel. As war with Mexico was now imminent, the public generally approved of the compromise, though the criticism was made by some at the North that the South, having secured in Texas a large addition to slave territory, was now indifferent about the expansion of free territory.
As Mexico had never recognized the independence of the Republic of Texas, she protested against its annexation to Causes of
the United States and promptly withdrew her the Mexican minister from Washington. The rupture of diploWar
matic relations under such circumstances usually leads to war and it did so in this case. Furthermore a mass of claims of American citizens against Mexico had accumulated in the State Department, and Mexico had persistently refused to recognize them or to submit them to arbitration.
As Mexico refused to be reconciled to the loss of Texas and its annexation to the United States, she refused, of course, The south
to agree upon any boundary. Santa Anna had ern bound- agreed to the Rio Grande as the southwestern ary of Texas boundary of Texas, but his entire arrangement had been repudiated by Mexico. As a Mexican province
Texas had extended only to the Nueces River. The southern bank of the Nueces was occupied by the Texans, but from that point to the Rio Grande the region was uninhabited. When Polk came into office he determined to adjust these matters and also, if possible, to acquire California, which was sparsely settled and not likely to continue in the hands of a weak power like Mexico. Polk had the foresight to see the immense importance to the United States of the Pacific coast. Had Great Britain been permitted to acquire the whole of Oregon, she would inevitably have acquired California too and thus shut us off entirely from the Pacific. Negotiations with Great Britain and with Mexico were simultaneously pushed by him with characteristic vigor.
Polk hoped to arrive at an amicable adjustment with Mexico, but in case diplomacy failed he was prepared for war. In November, 1845, he dispatched John Slidell Slidell's to Mexico with the hope of reëstablishing diplo- mission matic relations. Slidell was instructed to bring to the attention of the Mexican government the claims of American citizens and the question of the Texas boundary, and to offer $30,000,000 for California and New Mexico. In case Mexico was willing to sell this territory and accept the Rio Grande boundary, the United States would agree to assume the claims of its citizens. The Mexican government refused to receive Slidell or to entertain his proposals.
Meanwhile, General Zachary Taylor was stationed with a force of 3500 men on the southern bank of the Nueces River, having been sent there as soon as annexation was
General decided on for the purpose of guarding the frontier
Taylor against invasion. As soon as the failure of Sli- occupies the
disputed dell's mission became known, Polk ordered Taylor to advance to the north bank of the Rio Grande. The order was promptly obeyed and Taylor stationed his troops in a commanding position opposite Matamoros, where the principal Mexican force was concentrated. The Mexican