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Among the memorable deeds in this war, we ought not to pretermit Colonel Child's successful defence of Puebla. With a force of only 247 effective men—the rest of the garrison being in the hospital -he resisted a close siege of 28 days by 8000 men under Santa Anna.
It should here be mentioned that the American government, finding that the war, which had so far been one uninterrupted series of victories, and the cost of which had been defrayed by the large importations of specie from Europe for flour and grain, was likely to be seriously felt by the American people, endeavored to profit by the successes of the invading armies to obtain an advantageous peace. They accordingly sent a confidential agent, Mr. Trist, the chief clerk in the State Department, to endeavor to effect a peace, and the three millions, which had been put at the disposal of the President, were made subject to his order. He reached the American camp a short time before the armistice. This course excited general surprise for its singularity, and gave rise to no little party animadversion; but, in the desirableness of the end, the means were forgiven by the nation.
Let us now pause at this stage of the war, and advert to some detached military operations of our countrymen, yet more greedy of adventure than of gain. In August, 1846, General Kearney, with a force of 1600 men, took possession of Santa Fé, appointed a governor, and declared New Mexico a part of the United States. Monterey, the capital of Upper California, being about the same time taken possession of by Commodore Sloat, that country was also declared a part of the United States. A detachment of the troops raised by General Kearney, consisting of about 800 men, commanded by Colonel Doniphan, left Fort Leavenworth, on the Missouri, in June, 1846, and marching west through the State of Iowa and the Indian country adjoining, they entered New Mexico, passed through Santa Fé, thence followed the course of the Rio Grande, which they crossed at Passo del Norte, traversed the Mexican provinces of Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, until they reached Saltillo, from whence they again marched to the Rio Grande, which they followed to Brasos Št. Jago, at its mouth. In this remarkable march of more than 3,000 miles in less than twelve months, they twice encountered the enemy in superior force, and twice were victorious. In the first skirmish, at Bracito, they had seven men slightly wounded, while the Mexicans had 30 killed and eight prisoners. In the battle of Sacramento, the Mexicans are stated to have lost 1,100 men of the 3,000 engaged. Doniphan's loss was inconsiderable.
After the resignation of Santa Anna, Ex-President Paredes, who had recently contrived to return to his country from Europe, through Vera Cruz, made some efforts to rouse his countrymen to a more effectual resistance, but they proving unavailing, he remained an inactive spectator of what was passing,
While the conquest of the capital of Mexico and the stronghold of its defenders was very flattering to the pride of the Americans, it disappointed their hopes. The people of most of the other confederated States, judging by the solemn declarations of their local authorities, were not a whit more disposed to give up any important portion of their territory. At a conference between Mr. Trist and the Mexican commissioners, the latter indeed appeared willing to cede the immense but unprofitable province of Upper California, on receiving from the United States more money than it was worth; but these terms were so far short of those insisted on by the American government as to preclude all hope of an early settlement of the contest. To render the Mexicans the more desirous of peace, by making them more feel the pressure of war, it was decided to levy a contribution of three millions on the several Mexican provinces. General Scott accordingly issued a proclamation which assigned to each State its respective portion of the contribution, as if the whole country was subjugated. In the meantime, the ruling party in the United States seemed disposed to rise in their demands against Mexico for indemnity, and many were now found to consider the annexation of all Mexico, which at first no one had dreamt of, as both practicable and desirable, when in February of the present year the project of a treaty was agreed on by the party then exercising the civil authority in Mexico and Mr. 'Trist, though he had been previously recalled, and his powers to treat had been considered as revoked.
By the terms of this compact Mexico agreed to make the Rio Grande the boundary line between the two countries, until it reached New Mexico, the whole of which, together with Upper or New California, it ceded to the United States, who were to pay to Mexico $15,000,000, and satisfy all claims of their citizens against Mexico, amounting to some $3,000,000 more. The country ceded is estimated to contain upwards of 500,000 square miles, being about two-fifths the area of the Mexican territory; and though the chief part, Upper California, is at present valuable only for its harbors on the Pacific, and is in the possession of aboriginal Indian tribes, it will one day support an immense population.
While the party in opposition to the government are opposed to the incorporation of any portion of the Mexican people with the United States, they are still more opposed to the war, and a majority of that party in the Senate have voted with a majority of the administration party for the treaty, with some amendments of minor importance, and it wants only the sanction of the Mexican Congress for its final ratification. They have done so in their great anxiety for peace, especially as they dread the growing disposition manifested by the people to endure the prolongation of the war with a view to the acquisition of all Mexico; a result which may require a far longer time and heavier burdens than the advocates for the scheme of conquest anticipate, and which, if effectéd, may lead to political consequences and changes which no human foresight can scan.
Among the memorable events of this war, not one of the least remarkable is that the two generals, whose unvarying success, under whatsoever disadvantage, have reflected so much credit on their talents, prudence and firmness, and who have won for themselves the unbounded admiration and gratitude of their countrymen, have been not supposed to possess the favor and confidence of the administration, and that these unfriendly sentiments first caused General Taylor's victorious career to be suddenly arrested; and subsequently General Scott's reputation to be thrown into the shade, first by withholding from him a share in the negotiation confided to Mr. Trist, and then by subjecting him to a court of inquiry without waiting for the termination of hostilities. Such a course towards a commander-in-chief, in the midst of the public rejoicings for his victories, for alleged impropriety of language towards an inferior officer, has excited no small surprise by its novelty; and its consequences with the accused and his accusers, both with the army and the people, remain to be seen.
Though this war will have probably cost the nation upwards of an hundred millions of dollars; though it has deprived us of some of our most meritorious citizens; and though, as a precedent, it has been said to have impaired one of the safeguards of the constitution, inasmuch as Congress may be thought rather to have given its subsequent sanction to it than to have originated it, yet it has, on the other hand, furnished more than one ground of congratulation to the American patriot. Independently of the accession of territory, no longer doubtful, of which different portions of our citizens make very different estimates, the energy, skill, and coolness of our officers, as well as the bravery and self-devotion of the men, most of them never before in battle, have rarely been equalled. We have also learnt that our means of natural defence are not the less certain and efficient from the difficulty of enlisting men for a regular army, since much of the glory we have acquired in the field has been achieved by volunteers, who, at the first summons from the government, left their happy homes to rally round the standards of their country, and who have fought with the cool and persevering valor of disciplined veterans.
Among other consequences of the war we must admit that it has dispelled an illusion once very prevalent in this country. It was formerly insisted among the advantages of republican governments that they were particularly favorable
to peace—nay, that if all governments were of that description, there would be an end of warfare, and that wars of conquest were incompatible with the first principles of popular governments. Yet we have found that of all our citizens, those most democratic have not been the most unwilling to conquer territory from the enemy, and some have even wished to make the hazardous experiment of subjugating the whole of Mexico and her eight millions of people. Since experience has thus corrected this error of our self-complacency, and our statesmen see that the love of power and aggrandizement is as natural to a people as to princes, and it is quite as strong, let us hope that they will more sedulously guard against calling these sentiments into action-sentiments which in their effects may either adulterate our population by a commixture with a debased and mongrel race, or by creating a numerous class of prætors and distant agents, carry bribery and corruption into every corner of the nation.
The commerce of the United States was unusually prosperous both in 1846 and 1847. The general failure in Europe of the potato crop in both years, and of the crops of corn in 1847, furnished a foreign demand, at liberal prices, for all the grain we could spare. Our exports of flour and grain, which were ordinarily under ten millions in the preceding year, now exceeded forty millions. Our imports of merchandize not immediately experiencing a correspondent increase, and the war occasioning a perpetual drain of coin to Mexico, the excess in value of our exports was paid in the precious metals, of which so large an amount had never before been brought into the country. A part of this amount was indeed received by the banks, but those institutions, aware that these golden days could not long continue, profited by experience, and but moderately increased their issues, so that there was no redundancy, and consequently no depreciation, of the currency consequent on the general prosperity of our farmers, merchants, and ship-owners.
In the year 1846, the tariff of 1842 underwent a considerable change, chiefly by a reduction of the duties laid for protection. The effect was immediately felt by some portion of the cotton and woollen manufacturers, but for some time not at all by the makers of domestic iron, in consequence of the price in England being kept up by the extraordinary demand for railways. That cause, however, having ceased, the reduced price of English iron has caused some of the iron works to stop, and the profits of all have been greatly diminished. It is still a mooted question between the respective advocates of free trade and of protection, whether the community gains or loses by the change. Though the whole amount of gains by the consumers of iron from the reduction of price may exceed the amount of loss to the producers, yet the latter falling exclusively on a few individuals and particular districts, excites loud complaints with those who feel it, and calls forth the sympathies of the public. It is also insisted that it causes a great waste of the national capital, to prevent which, the father of the doctrines of free trade, Adam Smith, admits, by way of exception, that such changes should be made “slowly, gradually, and after a very long warning."
It gives us pleasure to record among the memorable events of the year, the liberal contributions of the people of the United States to the relief of the suffering poor in Ireland." Donations, amounting to above a million and a half of dollars, were remitted in money, or in cargoes of flour and Indian corn. Every part of the country united in this deed of charity. It is no less gratifying to add that, in 1846, Pennsylvania wiped out the reproach of repudiating her debt, which had indeed been unjustly cast upon her, because she had, in payment of the interest, temporarily substituted her cash bonds bearing interest. The few other States which were unable to meet their improvident engagements, are preparing to follow her example. The dearth in Europe more than doubled the average immigration to this country, and the tide thus swelled seems not since to have abated. It is probable that the population of the United States, at the next census, will have been augmented by emigrants from Europe more than a million and a half.
Among the improvements in our social condition, in the last two years, we may mention the great increase of railroads; the rapid extension of telegraphs; the essay to share in the navigation by ocean steamers, of which Great Britain previously had the monopoly; and, lastly, the use of ether and similar gases for the suspension of bodily pain in surgical operations. The United States claim the honor of introducing this new agent in medicine, and though some of the faculty entertain strong objections to it, as producing pernicious influences on the system that compensate or more than compensate for its beneficial effects; and that it sometimes endangers life itself; yet a large majority of the profession disregard the speculative part of these objections; and, notwithstanding its occasional failures, consider it, as an alleviator of human suffering, one of the greatest discoveries of the age.
SOUTH AMERICA. With the exception of the war between the United States and Mexico, the whole American continent, in both hemispheres, for the last two years, has been in a state of almost general repose.*
* In the Quarterly Chronicle will be found an account of the disturbances in Venuela during the present year.