February 1 to February 15
Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future
by John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith
President James K. Polk was anchored to his belief in “Manifest Destiny”—that the nation was meant to spread far and wide in North America. According to History.com, “he sent his Commanding General of the Army Zachary Taylor and his troops to claim territory along the Rio Grande River between the U.S. and Mexico…” They skirmished in the Mexican American War, signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, and annexed 525,000 miles with the eventual boost of Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona; parts of Colorado and Wyoming.
Although the U.S. was victorious, Polk’s policies generated 1,773 casualties, $100 million in costs—nearly $3 billion today—and a downturn in public opinion. Polk departed office in compromised health and died three months later. Zachary Taylor succeeded him.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Mexican-American War by John DiConsiglio for more information.
On February 10, 1763, the French and Indian War ended. The Treaty of Paris terminated the hostilities, but the “Republique” was forced to cede virtually all of its North American territories, including Canada and Louisiana. The British scooped up Florida from Spain.
According to History.com, “the treaty ensured the colonial and maritime supremacy of Britain and strengthened the 13 American colonies by removing their European rivals to the north and the south.” Fifteen years later, French bitterness over the loss of most of their colonial empire contributed to their intervention in the American Revolution on the side of the Patriots.”
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The War That Made America: A Short History of the French and Indian War by Fred Anderson.
On February 15, 1898, an American battleship—anchored in Havana harbor—exploded; two hundred sixty sailors–out of approximately 400–perished.
A U.S. Navy court investigated the incident and ruled that a mine had been used to sink the ship. The court did not blame Spain for the incident. But according to History.com, “much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war … Subsequent diplomatic [overtures] failed to resolve the…matter, coupled with [the] United States’ indignation over Spain’s brutal suppression of the Cuban rebellion and continued losses to American investment, led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.”
Four months later, an armistice was declared, and by the end of the year, a treaty was signed.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Theodore Roosevelt’s The Rough Riders. The 26th president fought in the Spanish-American War.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.