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2 Feb 1848

2 February 2023

February 2, 1848: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the U.S.-Mexico War and extending the boundaries of the United States west to the Pacific Ocean.

Many in the North, particularly the Abolitionists, saw the war for what it was: an invasion and occupation of Mexican territory by the United States. In fact, the official name for the U.S. Army was the “Army of Occupation”. President James K. Polk had started the war almost two years earlier, in May 1846, over a “territorial dispute” with Mexico involving Texas. Polk deliberately sent US troops into Mexican territory, knowing full well that they would be attacked, thus allowing him to declare war.

Even some of Polk’s soldiers were dubious about the cause of hostilities. Col. Ethan Allan Hitchcock, aide to the commander of U.S. forces Gen. Zachary Taylor, wrote at the time in his journal about the war’s origins: “I have said from the first that the United States are the aggressors. … We have not one particle of right to be here … It looks as if the government sent a small force on purpose to bring on a war, so as to have a pretext for taking California and as much of this country as it chooses.”

The Treaty added an additional 525,000 square miles to United States territory, including the the land that makes up all or parts of present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Mexico also gave up all claims to Texas and recognized the Rio Grande as America’s southern border.

Over 13,000 Americans and some 25,000 Mexicans died in “Mr. Polk’s War”.


“The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.”

-From “Resistance to Civil Government” by Henry Thoreau; 1849.

IMAGE: 1847 map of Mexico.

Richard Smith for The Thoreau Society
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