Chapter XIV


For a very long period of time, Mexico was a Spanish colony. However, early in the 19th century, Mexico began to fight for independence. In 1822, the United States recognized Mexico as an independent country. At that time, Mexico was a much larger country than it is now. Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah were all part of Mexico.

There were very few Mexican people in Texas. Most of the inhabitants were Indians who did not pay taxes. The Mexican government needed money, and it invited Americans to come to live in Texas because it knew they would pay taxes. Thousands of Americans from the southern states began coming to Texas. They brought slaves so they could grow cotton. However in 1829, Mexico decided to abolish slavery. The American settlers refused to accept this law. By 1835, about 35,000 Americans were living in Texas. When Mexico tried to stop slavery in Texas that year, the Americans revolted. The settlers wanted to keep their slaves so that they could grow cotton and become rich. In 1836, the settlers declared Texas to be a new independent country and they defeated the Mexican army that tried to keep them as part of Mexico. They adopted a flag that had only one star in it. England and France recognized Texas as a new independent country. Texas then asked to become part of the United States. However, Congress would not accept Texas. By this time, many Americans were against slavery, and they thought the people who wanted slavery would be stronger if Texas were part of the United States. In the beginning, people who were against slavery were strong enough to keep Texas out of the United States. So, for the next ten years, Texas was a new independent country.

In 1844, there were new elections. A new Congress was elected. This time, there were three parties in the election. Two of them were against Texas; one was for Texas. In the American system, there is no run-off election. The party that gets the most votes wins, even if it has less than half of the votes. The two parties against Texas together had more than half of the votes. But the party that was for Texas got more votes than either of the other two, so it won the election. In 1845, they decided to let Texas become part of the United States. In 1846, war broke out between Mexico and the United States because they could not agree on the boundary of Texas. Most of Congress supported the war. But there were 67 congressmen who were so much against the war that they voted not to give the American army any money for the war. Among those who voted not to give the army any money was a young congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln.

The United States won the war and in 1848 a peace treaty was signed. In the peace treaty, the United States was given half of Mexico. It was given the states of Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. At that time, these states had very few Mexicans living in them. Most of the inhabitants of these states were Indians.

In 1849, gold was discovered in California. Thousands of Americans went to California to look for gold. These people were called "Forty-niners" because they came in 1849. So many people came that, the very next year, there were enough settlers for California to become a state.

During this period, more and more people in the North turned against slavery. In 1840, a political party against slavery was formed. It was named the Liberty Party. It was a small party, but it was important because it introduced into American politics the idea of abolishing slavery. It was also very much against letting Texas become part of the United States. The much larger Whig Party was against Texas, but it was silent on slavery. In 1844, the Liberty Party took just enough votes away from the Whig Party to let the friends of Texas win.

After the war, the United States had many new territories. In 1848, people who wanted to keep slavery out of the territories began to leave the Whig Party to form a new Party called the Free Soil Party. The Liberty Party merged into the Free Soil Party. In 1854, the Free Soil Party merged with other groups that were leaving the Democratic and Whig Parties to form the Republican Party. The Republican Party grew very rapidly in the North, but it was very unpopular in the South.