Sometimes The Border Crosses You


“The cup of forbearance has been exhausted.”

– President James K. Polk, 1846

According the Washington Post, Texas Governor Rick Perry “reportedly plans to dispatch the Texas National Guard to the U.S. border with Mexico” to deal with “the continued surge of young immigrants, most of them from Central America, crossing the border.”

“If the federal government does not do its constitutional duty to secure the Southern border of the United States, the state of Texas will do it,” Perry explained.

Hmm… I smell a history lesson brewing.

This seems as good a time as any to provide a little context on the concepts we call “the Southern border of the United States” and “the state of Texas.”


When James K. Polk was elected in 1844, he had every intention of creating a pretext to stir Americans into action against Mexico. One of the issues of the 1844 election was the annexation or Texas — or “reannexation,” as Polk called it. Apparently, no one bothered to remind him that Texas was not part of the original Louisiana Purchase.

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the territory of Texas (along with what are now New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, California, and part of Colorado) was Mexican territory. Fifteen years later, Texas claimed its independence as the Lone Star Republic. In Washington, it was viewed as U.S. property.

“Even before Polk’s inauguration, Congress adopted a joint resolution on his proposal to annex Texas,” explains historian Kenneth C. Davis. “When Mexico heard of this action in March 1845, it severed diplomatic relations with the United States.” Undeterred, Polk sent an ambassador, James Slidell, to negotiate a purchase of Texas and California. Slidell was rebuffed.

Polk took a new tack and ordered General Zachary Taylor to lead his troops all the way to the Rio Grande, thus testing the defined borders. “Mexico claimed that the boundary was the Nueces River, northeast of the Rio Grande, and considered the advance of Taylor’s troops an act of aggression,” says Davis.

Colonel Ethan Allen Hitchcock, commander of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, said of this move, “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 pretext arrived on cue when Polk ordered Taylor and his 3500-member “Army of observation” to cross the Rio Grande. Taylor’s quartermaster, Colonel Cross went missing, his body found eleven days later with his skull crushed. The day after Cross’ high-profile public funeral, a patrol of Taylor’s soldiers was attacked by Mexicans. Sixteen were killed.

Taylor sent a dispatch to Polk: “Hostilities may now be considered as commenced.”

Declaring “the cup of forbearance” to have been exhausted, Polk announced to Congress, “War exists.”

“An agreeable Democratic majority in the House and Senate quickly voted — with little dissent from the Whig opposition — to expand the army by an additional 50,000 men. America’s most naked war of territorial aggression was under way,” Davis explains.

A naked war of territorial aggression, of course, requires plenty of public funding. This reality offered author Henry David Thoreau an opportunity for a powerful example of civil disobedience. When Thoreau was asked by his local tax collector, Sam Staples, to pony up for the poll tax, he refused on moral grounds.

“What am I to do?” asked the flustered Staples. Thoreau’s reply sums it all up in one word: “Quit.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson later visited his friend in jail and asked, “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Again, Thoreau’s answer spoke volumes: “Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?”

Unfortunately, few Americans followed Thoreau’s lead and in 1846 commenced what Ulysses S. Grant later called “one of the most unjust (wars) ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”

Sadly, it was more than that. The Mexican-American War and its manufactured pretext created a template for illegal and immoral interventions by the Home of the Brave™ for the next 168 years — and counting.

Never forget, comrades: This is what we’re up against.


Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on a couple of obscure websites called Facebook and Twitter. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here. This piece first appeared at World Trust News.  

October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?