Human Diversity Politics

John C. Calhoun Vetoes Annexation of Mexico

Former VP Warned America Against Trying to Assimilate Mexicans. John C. Calhoun foresaw today’s problems in 1848

By V-News Staff
August 24th, 2006

A fact of history unknown to most Americans today is that Congress once debated a proposal to annex all of Mexico. Following the conclusion of the Mexican War in 1848, Mexico, utterly defeated by American forces, was under U.S. military occupation. Expansion-minded lawmakers began to contemplate simply retaining the army’s conquests and extending our southern border all the way to Guatemala. One who disagreed with this idea–and whose position ultimately prevailed–was Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who had earlier been Vice President of the United States under President Jackson.

Calhoun understood that the acquisition of Mexico would turn America into a multiracial state, fundamentally altering its character. In his speech before the Senate arguing against annexation, he identified both the essence of American nationality and the perquisites for the freedom that Americans enjoyed. As today’s Americans suffer under the present invasion of Mexican migrants that their leaders refuse to repel, Calhoun’s words have special relevance:

…it is without example or precedent, wither to hold Mexico as a province, or to incorporate her into our Union. No example of such a line of policy can be found. We have conquered many of the neighboring tribes of Indians, but we have never thought of holding them in subjection—never of incorporating them into our Union. They have either been left as an independent people amongst us, or been driven into the forests.

I know further, sir, that we have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race—the free white race. To incorporate Mexico, would be the very first instance of the kind of incorporating an Indian race; for more than half of the Mexicans are Indians, and the other is composed chiefly of mixed tribes. I protest against such a union as that! Ours, sir, is the Government of a white race. The greatest misfortunes of Spanish America are to be traced to the fatal error of placing these colored races on an equality with the white race. That error destroyed the social arrangement which formed the basis of society. The Portuguese and ourselves have escaped—the Portuguese at least to some extent—and we are the only people on this continent which have made revolutions without being followed by anarchy. And yet it is professed and talked about to erect these Mexicans into a Territorial Government, and place them on an equality with the people of the United States. I protest utterly against such a project.

Sir, it is a remarkable fact, that in the whole history of man, as far as my knowledge extends, there is no instance whatever of any civilized colored races being found equal to the establishment of free popular government, although by far the largest portion of the human family is composed of these races. And even in the savage state we scarcely find them anywhere with such government, except it be our noble savages—for noble I will call them. They, for the most part, had free institutions, but they are easily sustained among a savage people. Are we to overlook this fact? Are we to associate with ourselves as equals, companions, and fellow-citizens, the Indians and mixed race of Mexico? Sir, I should consider such a thing as fatal to our institutions.

Instead of annexing Mexico, the Senate instead ratified the treaty that the State department negotiated with Mexican authorities at Guadalupe Hidalgo. Under the treaty, the United States acquired the southwestern fourth of its present territory, an area that at the time was nearly uninhabited. In return, the United States–the undisputed victor in the war and master of Mexico–relinquished its control over the that country and compensated the Mexicans for their loss with an indemnity of $15 million–a huge sum in 1848.


Full Speech By John C. Calhoun 1848

Images of the U.S.-Mexican War

An Interesting U.S.-Mexican War Website

Gen. Scott hoists Old Glory over National Palace of Mexico

Franklin Pierce’s Journal on the March from Vera Cruz

Descendants of Mexican War Veterans Website

The Mexican-American War 1846 -1848

Gen. Winfield Scott’s Entrance into Mexico City Sept. 1847
Gen. Winfield Scott's Entrance into Mexico City September 1847

United State’s Land Acquisition Map 1783 -1853

Map of the United States
& Mexico following the war

Map of the United States & Mexico as the two countries appeared following the war. (Special Collections, Texas University at Arlington Library)