What if the United States had annexed Mexico in 1848?

Inspired by this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=332527 According to a recent Pew poll (http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=52), four of every ten Mexicans surveyed would like to relocate to the United States. Not just the poor, either – the results cut across lines of class and income.

Suppose it were not an issue? Suppose they already were living in the United States?

In 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War, there was an “All of Mexico Movement” in the U.S. Congress, clamoring to annex not just the territory for which the war had been fought (what is now California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico), but the whole defeated country. http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h142.html It was defeated, for various reasons: The problem of policing so much newly conquered and thickly inhabited territory clearly would have been daunting. Many Anglo-Americans quailed at the prospect of making voting citizens of all those brown-skinned (and Roman Catholic!) Mexicans. And there was no slavery in Mexico --and the war was mainly a Southern-states project, to acquire territory in the West that could be settled as new slave states, and preserve the all-important North-South balance of power in the Senate. (The Wilmot Proviso, providing that no slavery should be allowed in any newly annexed Western territory, passed in the House but was defeated in the Senate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilmot_Proviso)

What if, despite all of this, the “All of Mexico Movement” had succeeded?

Would the U.S. have ruled Mexico as a voiceless, voteless colony (like the Philippines, later), or would the Mexican states have been admitted to the Union on equal terms with the Anglo states?

Assuming the latter, would all Mexicans have resented the Yankees as foreign conquerors? Or would some have welcomed them as liberators from Santa Anna’s tyranny?

Would a Mexican nationalist rebel movement have emerged? Mexico had been a Spanish colony within living memory – and remained a society ruled by “Creoles” of pure Spanish blood. Was a sense of “Mexican” national identity developed enough, at that point, to be something for which common men would die?

How would American rule have affected the subsequent development of the Mexican states?

How would the inclusion of Mexico have affected subsequent U.S. history? The slaveholding South would have found itself sandwiched between free states to the north and south of it. Would that have prevented the Civil War? Or brought it on sooner?

Would the people of Mexico be better off or worse off than they are in our timeline?

Sorry, but the whole thing is so silly a concept as to not require much answer.

The Mexicans didn’t want our government. Given that they revolted against the government they did have more than once, they undoubtedly would have done the same with our government. To have kept them tied to us in spite of that would have made a colonial power out of us, which we have always shied away from even when events thrust it upon us.

:stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue: :stuck_out_tongue:

Tell it to the Filipinos!

I’ve often thought of this myself. What if Mexico had been part of the US? The mind boggles. My guess would be that Mexico would have been harder to conquere than it seems. The US would have been tied down for quite a while with uprisings. And then what would have happened during the civil war?? Also, just WHO would have been occupying Mexico? Southerners…or Northerners? Depending on the answer to that, the outcome of the Civil War may have been different.

Speculating though that Mexico COULD have been conquered, I think it probably would have (in the long run) been the best thing for my former country TOO have been conquered and integrated into the US.

Doubtful in the long run. Eventually the anexed portions of Mexico would have been given the chance to join the Union. In fact, SOME of the anexed portions probably would have joined rather quickly (well, withing a few decades of the occupation). Sort of like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

All? No, I’m certainly not seeing that. Mexican’s come from all different classes and social backgrounds (and there is a whole caste system in Mexico based on ‘race’ and the mixing of ‘race’). Some Mexican’s would have resented the hell out of Mexican occupation by the US (mostly in the upper classes…the ruling classes…and in the more ‘pure blooded’ Spanish ‘races’), while others would have been indifferent (mostly the peasants…we get fucked over reguardless of who is in charge). Some probably would even have welcomed occupation (those who’s faction was out of power, probably some of the small middle class or artisan class, maybe even some of the poor).

I doubt many would have seen the US (at the time) as liberators though. Even today, if the US took it into its head to anex Mexico (something I would be for ironically enough), you’d probably have much the same mix of resentment, sullent acceptance with maybe a very few who would be happy in the short term. There wouldn’t be many waving US flags and greeting the US as liberators.

I imagine that the Mexican states (i.e. more agriculturally focused, with less initial industry and probably a bit poorer than the more prosperous Northern states…but with a lot of potential for future growth) would be the equivelent of our Southern states…which is infinitely better than how Mexico actually is or was.

Nothing would have prevented the Civil War IMHO…certainly not the anexation of Mexico in the 1840’s. And you are assuming the newly anexed states would have been free. Its just as possible they could have been slave I suppose. Even if they weren’t, they would have been too newly anexed to have much of an impact on the fight…certainly New Mexico and Arizona didn’t play a huge role in the Civil War.

In the short term…probably not, no. For several decades after the anexation I don’t really see much improvement in Mexico over all. After that though? Certainly. I also think the attitude of ‘whites’ towards ‘hispanics’ (or Mexicans) MIGHT have changed more rapidly (towards the good…as it seems to be these days, though slowly) with such an anexation. If anyone has read Harry Turtledoves alternate history saga about a North/South split they will kind of follow what I’m getting at as far as hispanics goes…and I think it would have been more so without the South actually winning the Civil War. :slight_smile:

Just my two cents FWIW.


I’m sure there’d be plenty of complaining about illegal immigrants from Guatemala.

Look at what happened to the half of Mexico we did keep; the threat of open rebellion and charges of colonialism seems pretty minimal in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Texas. If the United States had annexed all of Mexico, it would probably have been the same story; there would have been a flood of internal immigrants from the Eastern US into the new territory and the existing Hispanic culture would have been submerged in it.

Most of the new settlers would probably have been Southerners and there would have been slavery in the new territory. But the Civil War wouldn’t have been changed in any major way by a Confederate Mexico; the outcome of the war was decided in the more strategic Eastern theatres.

The difference is that in 1848 the regions between Texas and the Pacific were scarcely inhabited (except by a few tens of thousands of Indians, who did periodically rebel); it was possible for Anglo-American settlers to go there and turn it into culturally American territory. But the states of Mexico south of the Rio Grande were home to millions of Spanish-speaking Mexicans, most of them peasants of Indian blood. Much less room for settlement, limited prospects for cultural transformation. (The U.S. has held Puerto Rico since 1898, and it still has the same Latin Catholic culture it had before the Spanish-American War.)

In practical terms most Mexicans were slaves, or at least peons, which is not much different from serfdom. But chattel slavery had been abolished in Mexico in 1824 (although the last slaves were not freed until 1829) – http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/travel/slenchek/slslavery.html. There would have been widespread resentment at any effort to revive the institution. Besides, there was no economic need for it – the ecomienda system provided the landowning elite with quite enough cheap labor. Mexico might not have played much of a military role in the CW, but if the Mexican states were represented in Congress, they would have played a political role. What role is debatable. Most Mexican congressmen, at least in the early years, almost certainly have come from the Creole elite – and their elitist world-view was not much different than that of the Southern slaveowning plantocracy; they might have taken the attitude that “we aristocrats have to stick together.” OTOH, the Northern abolitionist movement might have found allies in the Mexican peasantry. How might that have played out?

Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Nevada, Texas, and Utah were never very densely settled by Mexico. They were borderlands and wilderness, which is why the Mexican governments didn’t have much of a problem with Anglo settlement in those areas in the first place, and those areas were largely Anglicized before the Mexican War.

This wouldn’t have been true of Mexico proper.

It was precisely our distaste for “empire” that caused us to treat the Phillipinos as short-term members of our country. One might prefer to refer to the Puerto Ricans, I imagine, to make the point.


When was it U.S. government policy to organize the murder of thousands of citizens? Which, of course, is what was done to the Phillipinos.

Consider for a moment the French invasion and occupation of Mexico, 1861-1867, and the short reign of Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico. Admittedly, the United States was unhappy with the situation but was unable to do much about it until after April 1865. To the greatest extent it was the Mexicans themselves without much help from anyone else who ran the French out and executed the Austro-Hungarian claimant, Monroe Doctrine or not. It is hard to imagine that the United States would not have faced the same situation in 1848 that France faced in 1861, or that the US would have had any more stomach for the fight than did Napoleon III. In addition we had already grabbed all of Northern Mexico suitable for cotton plantations when the Texas Republic seceded from the Mexican Republic with annexations a mere matter of having enough votes in the US Senate to expand the slave territory. It is my recollection that Texas came in when paired with Wisconsin so as to maintain the balance of power in the Senate.

And as Patrick Henry said… and let George III profit from their example.

When the Americans took over the Philippines in 1898, they* settled in for a long stay. U.S. troops fought Filipino rebels/patriots from 1899 to 1913. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine-American_War The Philippines became independent in 1946, but imperialism was going out of style then anyway.
Note the correct usage of national pronouns in political-narrative grammar: “"They colonized the Philippines.” "We won WWII." :slight_smile:

Unlike slaves in the South, the Mexican peasantry would have had suffrage. That would make a tremendous difference. How much would the history of Mexico as an independent country have differed with a U.S. style democracy since 1848 instead of an oligarchy? (This is assuming the statehood route, and not a permanent territory.)

Would they? Remember, in those days there was no Voting Rights Act and no 14th or 15th Amendments. Voting qualifications were entirely up to state law. The antebellum Southern state governments were oligarchies controlled by the big landowners/slaveowner; poor whites were frozen out. It might have been the same in the Mexican states.