“Shall We Have Mexico!” (New York Times, December 26, 1860)

416. Shall We Have Mexico!

(New-York Times [Lincoln], December 26, 1860)

In view of the threatened dissolution of the Union, and the consequent derangement of commercial and business enterprises, we are gratified to learn from Washington that leading members of the Republican Party are already beginning to look forward to the acquisition or annexation of Mexico, as a ready means of at once indemnifying the North for the partial loss of Southern trade, and of marring the schemes of Slavery propagandism, which is one great incentive to disunion. This policy has been heretofore hinted at by the Press, but was formally foreshadowed in the recent speech of Mr. Wade in the Senate. We happen to know that this idea of acquiring Mexico, first under the forms of a protectorate, but eventually as a component part of the Confederacy, is no merely casual suggestion of an individual senator; but that it has been seriously and favorably considered by leading minds, which will exercise an important influence upon the incoming Administration.

There are many obstacles to the adoption of the policy of a protectorate over Mexico, which the dissolution of the Union would remove. Deeply as we should deplore the disruption of the Confederacy, as it now exists, it is a consolation to know that that sad event would remove the last obstruction to the consummation of the obvious policy of the American Republic. The whole question of Slavery will then be out of the way, and the Mexican people can receive a guaranty of a stable government at our hands, without incurring the risk of being overrun by Slavery. Ignorant and degraded as they are, the Mexicans cherish a wholesome prejudice against an institution which would reduce them to the level of slaves. It is on this account that a strong repugnance exists among the masses to the Southern portion of this Union. But they would regard the people of the free North as benefactors and deliverers from anarchy and revolution, as well as from invasion by a Slaveholding Confederacy. All classes and parties in that distracted country–or at any rate, the Liberal Party, which constitutes the great majority, would [958] fly to the free Northern Confederacy, for deliverance from the intolerable ills of the present, and the hateful subjugation of the Southern fillibusters [sic].

A protectorate would be the initiatory measure, accompanied with free trade, and a right of Colonization. But it is evident that the effect of this intimate intercourse with the free people of the North, accompanied by an infusion of a large element of Northern freemen, would be to Americanize Mexico in its ideas of Government and civil freedom; so that after a few years of pupilage the Mexican States would be incorporated into the Union on equal terms with the original States. The South would thus be surrounded by States and Territories in which the idea of civil liberty in its widest application will become the great bond of Union.

Mexico is about the size of the Slave States of this Union, and not a great way behind them in population. The trade of that most misgoverned country is even now valuable to the commercial nations of the world, and especially to England. We last year gave some interesting statistics on this subject, which demonstrate that the American Government has been singularly blind to the importance of cultivating more intimate relations with Mexico. But this trade, under the reign of anarchy which has lasted for forty years past, is as nothing when compared with what it may become when Anglo-Saxon energy, intelligence and freedom, shall have brought order out of chaos, and have converted the Guerilla bands–which now make war upon society because they have no protection in their homes–into industrious laborers.

When Mexico belonged to Spain, it was for three centuries an invaluable dependency, from which she derived fabulous wealth. The Mexican silver and gold mines for ages yielded millions to the hand of industry, while the manufactures and commerce of Spain reaped a perennial harvest in the markets of her transatlantic possession. It is useless to say that the resources of Mexico remain unexhausted. Her mines have ceased to turn out untold millions, because the hand of industry has been paralyzed by anarchy; and her soil has refused to yield rich harvests from the same cause. Under American auspices there can be no doubt that new life can be infused into Mexican industry–that treasures will again stream forth from her mines in greater profusion than ever; and that a commercial intercourse will spring up not inferior to that which we may lose by the secession of the Southern States. To doubt it, would be to doubt that the energies of American freedom are superior to those of Spanish despotism.

The secession of the Southern States would still leave the Federal [959] Government intact. It would retain every feature of its organization, and every resource for its preservation. The Army and Navy would remain in possession of the Government, and might be increased to any needful extent. There can, therefore, be no impediment to the consummation of this policy. No force which the seceding States could raise would interpose a serious obstacle. Without organization, without government, without money, without arms, without ships, without sailors, and at best, immeasurably the weaker party, the Slave States could do nothing to resist the Northern protectorate over Mexico. England and France, and all commercial nations owuld thank us for the service we should do the cause of civilization and commerce, and the Mexicans themselves will open their arms to receive us.

Here, then, is a policy which must enlist the ardent support of every Northern man, and especially those engaged in manufactures and commerce. It opens up a limitless field of enterprise, and cannot fail to restore any temporary loss we may sustain by the disruption of the Union. Should that dreaded event happen, it would undoubtedly damage and injure the commerce and trade of the North; but we have already shown that, whether in the Union or out of it, the South cannot dispense with Northern manufactures, Northern ships, Northern sailors and ship-builders, and Northern capital; and when we consider the facilities and inducements which Southern secession will give to the acquisition of Mexico by the North, we may console ourselves with the reflection that, much as disunion is to be deprecated on grounds of patriotism and national honor, it would not essentially and permanently injure the commercial and industrial prosperity of the North.

Howard Cecil Perkins, ed. Northern Editorials on Secession, Vol. II (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1964), 957-959.

“a shout for death and a war without quarter on the gachupines” (Navarro)

Whoever knows, or who can formulate, a rough idea of the type of men of that epoch, can comprehend the extreme depth of ignorance and ferocious passions of the men of those times. Whoever is informed will understand that among the Mexicans of that time, with some exceptions, there was no clear political sentiment. They did not know the importance of the words “independence and liberty” and they did not understand the reasons for the rebellion of the priest Hidalgo as other than a shout for death and a war without quarter on the gachupines, as the Spaniards were called. Thus one will readily concede and agree, as Bernardo Gutiérrez has admitted in his own way, that the band of so-called patriots “killed those fourteen victims.” But his excuse is very weak, very cowardly, and unworthy of a general who neither would nor could avoid such a scandal, much less relinquish his command upon seeing his cause blackened by a more monstrous action than could be perpetrated by a vandal chieftain.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 50.

The priest Hidalgo gave the shout at midnight on the sixteenth of September–even a delay of two hours probably would have seen him a prisoner on the way to Mexico, with all hope of independence dashed.

¡Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe; and mueran los Gachupines![56] This was the first invocation that occurred to him in those portentous moments. Upon such fragile auspices a revolution of fruitful results was born that has raised a federal republic that is a member of the family of nations.

Let those who judge these anomalies with astonishment pause and contemplate the times and the capacities of the people there. Let them put themselves in the place of the patriot Hidalgo, already denounced as a traitor before the implacable despot, the Viceroy of Mexico.[57] Imagine being in a pressing situation without the slightest plan of operation, without money, arms, or troops, having no more than a few hundred Indians from his own village. Neither the rigorous mind of a Washington nor the iron will of a Napoleon I could have led these chaotic, backward masses to so great an enterprise without motivating them by means of vengeance and [66] superstition, just as this illustrious and unfortunate patriot was compelled to do.

The plunder and slaughter, a necessary consequence, began at that point. But how powerful are the instincts of a people who fight for a just cause! The Mexicans, in the midst of those inevitable disorders, triumphed everywhere by the end of 1810.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 65-66.

This memorable day of January 22, 1811, was the first occasion in which the Mexicans of San Antonio de Béxar announced their desire to break forever the chains of their ancient colonial slavery.

This was the day in which they no longer attempted to restrain the trembling, guttural voice that pervades the long and servile life, and they were able to speak out loudly to those who had been the absolute masters of the Mexicans. But the sudden transformation of that day, in which the slaves were elevated to masters and the arbiters of their oppressors and masters of yesterday, generated a bitter vanguard directed against those called gachupines.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 68.


  1. [56]Long live our lady of Guadalupe and death to the Spaniards! Gachupín was a derogatory word for Spaniards. Derived from the Nahuatl word, cacchopini (cactus thorn), used by Aztec Native Americans with clear symbolism to characterize Spaniards by their large, conspicuous spurs. José María Santamaría, Diccionario de Mexicanismos (Méjico: Editorial Porrua, S.A. Av. Rep. Argentina, 15, segunda ediciôn, 1974), 541.
  2. [57]Francisco Javier Venegas, viceroy of Mexico 1810-1813. Venegas was described as a military man of action and few words who was bloody, cruel, and calculating. Assuming the viceregal office two days after Hidalgo proclaimed Mexican independence, Venegas undertook measures that led to the capture of the insurgent leadership, which he believed had crushed the rebellion. Manuel Garcia Puron, Mexico y sus Governantes, (México: Libreria de Manuel Porrua, S.A., tercer edición, 1964), 146-47.