Friday, May 14, 2021

Declaration of War 175 -- May 14, 2021


On 11-May-1846, US President James K Polk sent a message to Congress requesting a declaration of war against Mexico. 175 years ago today, on 14-May-1846, Congress passed such a declaration. I thought it was interesting that this story said that Polk's message was the first long document transmitted by telegraph. 

Captain Seth Thornton was wounded and captured during a skirmish with Mexican soldiers. He was returned with other wounded men. Later, Thornton was killed on 20-August-1847 in an engagement at Churubusco outside Mexico City. The river referred to as Del Norte is the Rio Grande.

The Portsmouth, Virginia New Era, 14-May-1846.


We perceive that modern whiggery alias the toryism of 76, true to its instincts, is pouring forth its usual quantum of abuse and opposition against the government of the people. Not even the invasion of our territory and the blood of our slaughtered countrymen can incite some of the advocates of foreigner interests and insolence, to forget party, and go for the country. We envy not the spirit of those Congressmen and others, who can at this crisis act the traitor. A fearful retribution awaits those who dare attempt to betray the interests and honor of America. Let the odium attached to the term "Federalism" by the conduct of a party during the last war with Britain, warn even the anti-patriotic to beware.

The Bill as given below, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 173 to 14, is under discussion in the Senate, and will no doubt pass that body, with perhaps some slight modification in form. The emergency demands promptitude, and patriotism should dictate unanimity.

Since penning the above we learn from the Baltimore Sun, that the bill has passed the Senate by a vote 40 to 2. The amendments of the Senate strike out the portion requiring the officers commanding volunteers to be chosen by and with the advice of the Senate; and reduce the pay of privates to 8 dollars per month. The House met at 7 o clock, P. M., and concurred in the amendments of the Senate.

Whereas, by the act of the republic of Mexico a state of war exists between that government and the United States:
Be it enacted, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, for the purpose of enabling the government of the United States to prosecute said war to a speedy and successful termination, the President be, and he is hereby authorized to employ the militia, naval, and military forces of the United States, and to call for and accept the services of any number of volunteers, not exceeding fifty thousand, who may offer their services either as cavalry, artillery, or riflemen, to serve twelve months after they shall have arrived at the place of rendezvous, or to the end of the war, unless sooner discharged; and that the sum of ten millions of dollars out of any money in the treasury, or to come into the treasury not otherwise appropriated, be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, for the purpose of carrying the provisions of this act into effect.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the militia, when called into the service of the United Stales by virtue of this act, or any other act, may if in the opinion of the President of the United States the public interest requires it. be compelled to serve for a term not exceeding six months, after their arrival at the place of rendezvous, in any one year, unless sooner discharged.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the said volunteers shall furnish their own clothes, and if cavalry, their own horses; and when mustered into service shall be armed and equipped at the expense of the United States.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That said volunteers shall, when called into actual service, and while remaining therein, be subject to the rules and articles of war, and shall be in all respects except as to clothing and pay, placed on the same footing with similar corps of the United States army ; and in lieu of clothing every non-commissioned officer and private in any company who may thus offer himself shall be entitled, when called into actual service, to receive in money a sum equal to the cost of clothing of a non-commissioned officer or private (as the case may be) in the regular troops of the United States.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That the said volunteers so offering their services shall be accepted by the President in companies, battalions squadrons, and regiments, whose officers shall be appointed in the manner prescribed by law in the several States and Territories to which such companies, battalions, squadrons, and regiments shall respectively belong.

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to organize companies so tendering their services into battalions or squadrons; battalions and squadrons into regiments; regiments into brigades, and brigades into divisions, as soon as' the number of volunteers shall render such organization, in his judgment, expedient; and shall, by and with the advice of the Senate, appoint the generals of brigade and division, and the general staff, as now authorized by law : Provided, horn ever, that major generals and brigadier generals shall have the appointment of their own aids-de-camp, and the President shall if necessary, apportion the staff field, and general officers among the respective States and Territories from which the volunteers shall tender their services, as he may deem proper.

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the volunteers who may be received into the service of the United States by virtue of the provisions of this act, and who shall be wounded or otherwise disabled in the service, shall be entitled to all the benefit which may be conferred on persons wounded in the service of the United States.

Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized forthwith to complete all the public armed vessels now authorized by law, and to purchase or charter, arm, equip, and man such merchant vessels and steamboats as, upon examination, may be found fit, or easily converted into armed vessels fit for the public service, and in such number as he may deem necessary for the protection of the seaboard, lake coast, and the general defence of the country.

Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That, whenever the militia or volunteers are called and received into the service of the United States, under the provisions of this act, they shall have the organization of the army of the United States, and shall have the same pay and allowances, except as follows, to wit: Privates of infantry, artillery, and riflemen shall receive ten dollars per month, and privates of volunteer mounted corps twenty dollars per month, for their services and the use and risk of their horses.

And its title was so amended as to read "An act providing for the prosecution of the existing war between the United States and the republic of Mexico."

A motion was made to reconsider the vote by which the bill had been passed ; and the question being taken under the operation of the previous question, the vote was not reconsidered.

The bill was then ordered to be sent to the Senate.


On motion of Mr. Haralson, the House took up the bill to increase the rank and file of the army, and concurred in the amendments made thereto by the Senate.

And then, at a very late hour,
The House adjourned.


A letter received at Washington recently by a respectable gentleman, from a merchant in Vera Cruz, dated April 2, in which he remarked that the movements of the Mexican army towards Texas, would depend upon advices then expected from England, and which reached there very shortly afterwards; whereupon the signal for these operations was given, and the result is now before the world. It is argued from this strong fact, that Great Britain is an actor behind the scenes in this attempt of Mexico.


A New Orleans correspondent of the Baltimore Sun says, private letters received there from Gen. T. stated that he should leave five hundred men in his main entrenchment, and march with the remainder of the forces to Point Isabel.

==> We are rejoiced to learn, says the Union, by this evening’s mail, that Captain Seth B. Thornton, and Lieutenant Mason, with two dragoons, had arrived safe in Gen. Taylor’s camp.

Captain Thornton, discovering the ambuscade too late to retreat, had plunged gallantly through the enemy’s ranks, and cut his way with his own sword, with a boldness and intrepidity that is almost incredible. It seems he is not to be killed by accidents of flood or field. He is the same gentleman who so narrowly escaped when the Pulaski was blown up. He had the yellow fever several times in Florida, and has passed through many other hair breadth ’scapes.

When Gen. Worth left the camp, Captain Thornton asked him for his sword. The general buckled it upon him ; and when he heard yesterday of Captain T.’s gallantry, he exclaimed, "That was my sword. I knew it would never be disgraced in his hands. He is as noble and gallant a fellow ever held sword in hand."


Messrs. Savery &. Co., iron founders of Philadelphia, have received an order from the Government to supply at once one hundred tons of cannon halls.

==> We learn that three companies have been ordered from Fortress Monroe, to repair forthwith to the assistance of Gen. Taylor, and that they will be joined by two more companies, daily expected from Baltimore, making five in all. They will take their departure as soon as the necessary conveyance is offered. -- Herald.

==> The troops at Fort Mifflin, on the Delaware, have been ordered to the scene of war.

May 11 -- 2 P. M.

On the receipt of the news from Washington last night, the Mayor of Philadelphia published the following call for a


The President of the United States having made known to Congress that in his opinion the country has, by the failure of negotiation! with Mexico, and the attack by Mexican forces upon the troops of the United States, been placed in a state of war -- the undersigned, Mayor of the city, respectfully invites his fellow-citizens of the city and county to hold a public meeting in Independence Square on WEDNESDAY. 13th inst., at 4 P. M to express their opinion upon public affairs and to adopt such measures as are required by the emergency of the country -- and such as become citizens of this great Republic.

Philadelphia, May 12, 1846.

New York, May 11, 1846.

The city has not wanted for excitement since Saturday noon. Confidence in the army is felt by all, and no half way measures are now spoken of; the honor of the country is at stake, and parties have ceased on this point. The more active and energetic the measures of the President the greater will be his praise.

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE. The greatest enterprise ever accomplished by Morse s Magnetic Telegraph was performed yesterday in transmitting, letter by letter, and word by word, exclusively for the "Baltimore Sun," the annexed message from the President of the United Stages to Congress, relative to our difficulties with Mexico. It was transmitted entire, as read in Congress yesterday, and was completed in the short space of two hours and a half. This is the first message or lengthy document ever transmitted in full on the Telegraph, and shows what it is capable of performing more than volumes of argument could possibly do.

Messrs. Editors: I am indebted to Messrs. Richie & Heiss, editors of the Union, for the following copy of the message.
To the Senate and
House of Representatives :

The existing state of relations between the United States and Mexico, renders it proper that I should bring the subject to the consideration of Congress. In my message at the commencement of your present session, the state of these relations and the causes which led to the suspension of diplomatic intercourse between the two countries in March, 1845, and the long continued and unredressed wrongs and injuries committed by the Mexican Government on citizens of the United Mates, on their persons and property, were briefly set forth.

As the facts and opinions which were then laid before you were carefully considered. I cannot better express my present convictions of the condition of affairs up to this time than by referring you to that communication. The strong desire to establish peace with Mexico on liberal and honorable terms, and the readiness of this Government to regulate and adjust our boundary, and other causes of difference with that power, on such fair and equitable principles as would lead to permanent relations of the most friendly nature, induced me in September last to seek a reopening of diplomatic relations between the two countries Every measure adopted on our part had for its object the furtherance of these desired results.

In communicating to Congress a succinct statement of the injury which we have suffered from Mexico, and which had been accumulated during the period of more than 20 years, every expression that could tend to inflame the people of Mexico, defeat or delay a pacific result, was carefully avoided. An Envoy of the United States repaired to Mexico, with full powers to adjust every existing difference, but though present on the Mexican soil by agreement between the two governments, invested with full powers, and bearing evidence of the most friendly dispositions, his mission has been unavailing. The Mexican government not only refused to receive him or listen to his propositions, but after a long continued series of menaces, have at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil.

It now becomes my duty to state more in detail the origin, progress and failure of that mission. In pursuance of the instructions given in September last, an inquiry was made on the 13th of October, in 1845, in the most friendly terms, through our Consul in Mexico, of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whether the Mexican Government would receive an Envoy from the United Slates, entrusted with full powers to adjust all the questions in dispute between the two governments, with the assurance that, should the answer be in the affirmative, such an Envoy would be immediately despatched to Mexico. The Mexican Minister, on the 15th of October, gave an affirmative answer to this inquiry, requesting, at the same time, that our naval force at Vera Cruz might be withdrawn, lest its continued presence might assume the appearance of menace and coercion pending the negotiations. This force was immediately withdrawn. On the 10th of November, 1845, Mr. John Slidell, of Louisiana, was commissioned by me as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to Mexico and was entrusted with full powers to adjust both the question of the Texan boundary and of indemnification to our citizens. The redress of the wrongs of our citizens naturally and inseparably blended itself with the question of boundary. The settlement of the one question in any correct view of the subject, involved that of the other. I could not for a moment entertain the idea that the claims of our much injured and long suffering citizens, many of which had existed for more than twenty years, should be postponed or separated from the settlement of the boundary question.

Mr. Slidell arrived at Vera Cruz on the 30th of November, and was courteously received by the authorities of that city ; but the Government of Gen. Herrera was then tottering to its fall : the revolutionary party had seized upon the Texas question to effect or hasten its overthrow. Its determination to restore friendly relations with the United Stales, and to receive our Minister to negotiate for the settlement of this question, was violently assailed, and was made the great theme of denunciation against it. The Government of Gen. Herrera, there is good reason to believe, was sincerely desirous to receive our Minister, but it yielded to the storm raised by its enemies, and on the 21st of December refused to accredit Mr. Slidell, upon the most frivolous pretexts. These are so fully and ably expressed in the note of Mr. Slidell of the 24th of December last, to the Mexican Minister of Foreign Relations, herewith transmitted, that I deem it unnecessary to enter into further details on this portion of the subject.

Five days after the date of Mr. Slidell’s note, Gen. Herrera yielded the government to Gen. Paredes, without a struggle, and on the 30th of December resigned the Presidency. This revolution was accomplished solely by the army, the people having taken little part in the contest; and thus the supreme power of Mexico passed into the hands of a military leader. Determined to leave no effort untried to effect an amicable adjustment with Mexico, I directed Mr. Slidell to present his credentials to the government of Gen. Paredes, and asked to be officially received by him.
There would have been less ground for taking this step had Gen. Perades come into power by a regular constitutional succession. In that event his administration would have been considered but a mere constitutional continuance of the Government of General Herrera, and the refusal of the latter to receive our Minister would have been deemed conclusive, unless an intimation had been given by Gen. Perades of his desire to reverse the decision of his predecessor. But the Government of Gen. Paredes owes its existence to a military revolution by which the subsisting constitutional authorities had been subverted.

The form of government was entirely changed, as well as all the high functionaries by whom it was administered. Under these circumstances Mr. Slidell, in obedience to my directions, addressed a note to the Mexican Minister of Foreign Relations, under date of the 1st of March last, asking to be received by that government in the diplomatic character to which he had been appointed. The Minister, in his reply, under date of the 12th of March, reiterated the arguments of his predecessor, and in terms that may be considered as giving just grounds of offence to the government and people of the Untied States, denied the application of Mr. Slidell. Nothing, therefore, remained for our Envoy but to demand his passports, and return to his own country.

Thus the Government of Mexico, though solemnly pledged by official acts in October last to receive and accredit an American envoy, violated their pledge, their plighted faith, and refused the offer of the peaceful adjustment of our difficulties. Not only was the offer rejected, but the indignity of its rejection, enhanced by a manifest breach of faith in refusing to admit the envoy who came because they had bound themselves to receive him. Nor can it be said that the offer was fruitless from the want of opportunity of discussing it, as our envoy was present on their own soil. Nor can it be ascribed to a want of sufficient powers -- our envoy had full powers to adjust every question of difference. Nor was there room for complaint that our proposition (or settlement was unreasonable permission was not even given our envoy to make any proposition whatever. Nor can it be objected that we, on our part, would not listen to any reasonable terms of their suggestion ; the Mexican government refused all negotiations, and have made no proposition of any kind.

In my message at the commencement of the present session. I informed you that upon the earnest appeal, both of the Congress and Convention of Texas, I had ordered an efficient military force to take a position between the Neuces and the Del Norte. This had become necessary to meet a threatened invasion of Texas by the Mexicans, for which extensive military preparation had been made. The invasion was threatened solely because Texas had determined, in accordance with a solemn resolution of the Congress of the United States to annex herself to our Union, and under these circumstances it was plainly our duty to extend our protection over her citizens and soil. This force was concentrated at Corpus Christi and remained there until after I had received such information as rendered it probable that the Mexican government would not receive our envoy.

Meantime, Texas, by the final act of our Congress had become an integral part of our Union. The Congress of Texas, by its action of Dec. 19, 1836, had declared the Rio Del Norte to be the boundary of that Republic. Its jurisdiction had The country between that river and the Del Norte had been represented in the Congress and the Convention of Texas, had thus taken part in the act of Annexation itself, and is now included within one of our Congressional Districts. Our own Congress had moreover, with great unanimity, by the act approved Dec. 31st. 1845, recognized the country beyond the Nueces as a part of our territory by including it within our own revenue system, and a revenue officer to reside within that district has been appointed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. It became therefore of urgent necessity to provide for the defense of that portion of our country. Accordingly on the 13th of January last instructions were issued to the General in command of these troops to occupy the left bank of the Del Norte.

This river, which is the south western boundary of the State of Texas, is an exposed frontier. From this quarter invasion has been threatened. Upon it, and in its immediate vicinity, in the judgment of high military experience, are the proper stations for the protecting forces of the Government.

In addition to this important consideration, several others occurred to induce this movement Among these are the facilities afforded by the ports of Brazos Santiago and the mouth of the Del Norte for the reception of supplies by sea, the stronger and more healthy military positions the convenience for obtaining a ready and more abundant supply of provisions, as water, fuel and forage, and the advantages which arc afforded by the Del Norte in forwarding supplies to such posts as may be established in the interior and upon the Indian frontier.

The movement of troops to Del Norte was made by the commanding General, under positive instructions to abstain from all aggressive acts towards Mexico or Mexican citizens, and to regard the relations between that Republic and the United States as peaceful, unless she should declare war or commit acts of hostility indicative of a state of war. He was especially directed to protect private property and respect personal rights.

The Army moved from Corpus Christi on the 11th of March, and on the 28th of that month arrived on the left bank of the Del Norte, opposite to Matamoras, where it encamped on a commanding position, which has since been strengthened by the erection of field works. A depot has also been established at Point Isabel, near the Brazos Santiago, 30 miles in the rear of the encampment. The selection of his position was necessarily confined to the judgment of the General in command.

The Mexican forces at Matamoras assumed a belligerent attitude on the 12th of April. Gen. Ampudia, then in command, notified General Taylor to break up his camp within 24 hours, and to retire beyond the Neuces river, and in the event of his failure to comply with these demands announced that arms and arms alone must decide the question. But no open act of hostility was committed until the 24th April. On that day Gen. Arista, who had succeeded to the command of the Mexican forces, communicated to General Taylor, that he considered hostilities commenced, and should prosecute them. A party of dragoons of 53 men and officers were on the same day despatched from the American camp up the Rio del Norte, on its left bank, to ascertain whether the Mexican troops had crossed or wore preparing to cross the river, became engaged with a large body of these troops, and after a short affair in which some 16 were killed and wounded, appear to have been surrounded and compelled to surrender. The grievous wrongs perpetrated by Mexico upon our citizens through out a long period of years remain unredressed ; and solemn treaties, pledging her public faith fur this redress have been disregarded. A government either unable or unwilling, to force the execution of such treaties, fails to perform one its plainest duties.

Our commerce with Mexico has been almost annihilated. It was formerly highly beneficial to both nations; but our merchants have been deterred from prosecuting it by the system of outrage and extortion which the Mexican authorities have pursued against them; whilst their appeals through their own government for indemnity have been made in vain. Our forbearance has gone to such an extreme as to be mistaken in its character. Had we acted with vigor in repelling the insults and redressing the injuries inflicted by Mexico at the commencement, we should doubtless have escaped all the difficultly in which we are now involved.

Instead of this, however, we have been exerting our best efforts to propitiate her good will, upon the pretext that Texas, a nation as independent as herself, thought proper to unite its destinies with our own. She has affected to believe that we have severed have severed her rightful territory, and in official proclamation, and in manifestoes, has repeatedly threatened to make war upon us for the purpose of reconquering Texas. In the meantime we have tried every effort at reconciliation. The cup of forbearance had been exhausted, even before the recent information from the frontier of the Del Norte. But now after reiterated menace. Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil. -- She has proclaimed that hostilities have commenced, and that the two nations.are now at war. As war exists, and notwithstanding efforts to avoid it, exists by the act of Mexico herself, are called upon by every consideration of duty patriotism to vindicate with decision the honor the right, and the interests of our country.

Anticipating the possibility of a crisis like that which has arrived, instructions were given in August last, as a precautionary measure against invasion or threatened invasion, authorizing Gen Taylor, it the emergency required, to accept volunteers not from Texas only, hut from the States of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. And corresponding letters were addressed to the respective Governors of those States. These instructions were repeated, and in January last soon after the incorporation of Texas into our Union of States, Gen. Taylor was further authorized by the President to make a requisition upon the Executive of that State for such of its militia force as may be needed to repel invasion, or to secure the country against apprehended invasion.

On the second day of March he was again reminded in the event of the approach of any considerable Mexican force, promptly and efficiently to use the authority with which he was clothed to call to him such auxiliary force as he might need. War actually existing, and our territory having been invaded, Gen. Taylor, pursuant to authority invested in him, by my directions, has called on the Governor of Texas for 4 regiments to of State troops, two to be mounted and two to serve on foot; and on the Governor of Louisiana for 4 regiments of infantry, to be sent to him as soon an practicable.

In further vindication of our rights, and the defense of our territory, I invoke the prompt action of Congress, to recognize the existence of the war and to place at the disposition of the Executive the means of prosecuting the war with vigor, and thus hasten the restoration of peace. To this end I recommend that authority should be given to call into the public service a large body of volunteers to serve for not less than six or twelve months, unless sooner discharged.

A volunteer force, is, beyond question, more efficient than any other description of citizen soldiers ; and it is not to be doubted that a number far beyond that would readily rush to the field upon the call of their country. I further recommend, that a liberal provision be made for sustaining our entire military force and furnishing it with supplies and munitions of war.

Most energetic and prompt measures, and the immediate appearance in arms of a large and overpowering forces are recommended to Congress as the most certain and efficient means of bringing the existing collision with Mexico to a speedy and successful termination.

In making these recommendations, I deem it proper to declare that it is my anxious desire, not only to terminate hostilities, speedily, but to bring all matters between this government and Mexico to an early and amicable adjustment; and with this view I shall be prepared to renew negotiations whenever Mexico shall be ready to receive propositions or to make propositions of her own.

I transmit herewith a copy of the correspondence between our Envoy to Mexico and the Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs, and so much of the correspondence between that Envoy and the Secretary of State, and between the Secretary of War and the General in command on the Del Norte, as are necessary to a full understanding of the subject.

JAMES K. POLK. Washington, May 11th, 1846.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Pulp -- Planet Stories -- May 13, 2021

Fiction House published Planet Stories, a pulp, and Planet Comics. Both usually featured attractive women on their covers. Leigh Brackett and Ray Bradbury wrote two of the stories in this issue. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Internet Archive 25 -- May 12, 2021

25 years ago today, on 12-May-1996, Brewster Kale founded the non-profit Internet Archive ( The Archive has been an indispensable tool for my websites and blogs. I keep telling people how lucky we are to live today with all of these resources available online.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Georgia Lynching Trials Explode -- May 11, 2021


Chicago Whip, 07-May-1921

The Chicago Whip was an African-American owned weekly newspaper. How much would you like to bet that no one got convicted? 


CAMILLA, GA., May 7— The much heralded and far flung trial of the alleged lynchers of James Roland began blowing up here last week when M. K. Boutwell, white, the first man to be tried, was acquitted after the jury had been out ten minutes. Immediately after the trial of Boutwell. Woll Reeves, white, was to be put on trial for the same offense.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Donovan 75 -- May 10, 2021



Singer/songwriter Donovan was born 75 years ago today, on 10-May-1946. I first heard "Mellow Yellow" on the radio around 1970 and thought it was pretty cool. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mother's Day, 2021 -- May 9, 2021

Happy Mother's Day, everyone.  I'm grateful for my mother and my wife and my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and cousins and friends. All excellent mothers.

I took the photo at Good Shepherd School in Pacifica on 05-October-2008, during the school's 40th anniversary celebration.

Daniel Berrigan 100 -- May 9, 2021


Time, 25-October-1971

Father Daniel Berrigan SJ, Jesuit priest and antiwar activist, was born 100 years ago today, on 09-May-1921. Daniel was probably the first Jesuit I knew anything about. Daniel and his brother Josephite Father Philip were leaders in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Daniel served six years in prison for his War protests with the Catsonville Nine. Daniel gave pastoral care to AIDS patients, who were often cut off by their families and their churches. 

 “Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.”