Letter to Reverend J. M. Peck
REV. J. M. PECK.
WASHINGTON, May 21, 1848.
Dear Sir: On last evening I received a copy of the "Belleville Advocate," with the appearance of having been sent by a private hand; and inasmuch as it contained your oration on the occasion of the celebrating of the battle of Buena Vista, and is post-marked at Rock Spring, I cannot doubt that it is to you I am indebted for this courtesy.
I own that finding in the oration a labored justification of the administration on the origin of the Mexican war disappointed me, because it is the first effort of the kind I have known made by one appearing to me to be intelligent, right-minded, and impartial. It is this disappointment that prompts me to address you briefly on the subject. I do not propose any extended review. I do not quarrel with facts--brief exhibition of facts. I presume it is correct so far as it goes; but it is so brief as to exclude some facts quite as material in my judgment to a just conclusion as any it includes. For instance, you
24say, "Paredes came into power the last of December, 1845, and from that moment all hopes of avoiding war by negotiation vanished." A little further on, referring to this and other preceding statements, you say, "All this transpired three months before General Taylor marched across the desert of Nueces." These two statements are substantially correct; and you evidently intend to have it inferred that General Taylor was sent across the desert in consequence of the destruction of all hopes of peace, in the overthrow of Herara by Paredes. Is not that the inference you intend? If so, the material fact you have excluded is that General Taylor was ordered to cross the desert on the 13th of January, 1846, and before the news of Herara's fall reached Washington--before the administration which gave the order had any knowledge that Herara had fallen. Does not this fact cut up your inference by the roots? Must you not find some other excuse for that order, or give up the case? All that part of the three months you speak of which transpired after the 13th of January, was expended in the orders going from Washington to General Taylor, in his preparations for the march, and in the actual march across the desert, and not in the President's waiting to hear the knell of peace in the fall of Herara, or for any other object. All this is to be
25found in the very documents you seem to have used.
One other thing. Although you say at one point "I shall briefly exhibit facts, and leave each person to perceive the just application of the principles already laid down to the case in hand " you very soon get to making applications yourself,--in one instance as follows: "In view of all the facts, the conviction to my mind is irresistible that the Government of the United States committed no aggression on Mexico." Not in view of all the facts. There are facts which you have kept out of view. It is a fact that the United States army in marching to the Rio Grande marched into a peaceful Mexican settlement, and frightened the inhabitants away from their homes and their growing crops. It is a fact that Fort Brown, opposite Matamoras, was built by that army within a Mexican cotton-field, on which at the time the army reached it a young cotton crop was growing, and which crop was wholly destroyed and the field itself greatly and permanently injured by ditches, embankments, and the like. It is a fact that when the Mexicans captured Captain Thornton and his command, they found and captured them within another Mexican field.
Now I wish to bring these facts to your notice, and to ascertain what is the result of your
26reflections upon them. If you deny that they are facts, I think I can furnish proof which shall convince you that you are mistaken. If you admit that they are facts, then I shall be obliged for a reference to any law of language, law of States, law of nations, law of morals, law of religions, any law, human or divine, in which an authority can be found for saying those facts constitute "no aggression."
Possibly you consider those acts too small for notice. Would you venture to so consider them had they been committed by any nation on earth against the humblest of our people? I know you would not. Then I ask, is the precept "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" obsolete? of no force? of no application?
I shall be pleased if you can find leisure to write me.