James K. Polk entered office in March of 1845… with two potential wars hanging over the country. Negotiations with the British concerning the Oregon territory had reached an impasse while the new government in Mexico, under José Joaquín de Herrera, refused to recognize Texas independence; the Mexican government also considered American annexation an act of war.
British Minister Richard Pakenham rejected the compromise… of the 49th parallel as the boundary in the Oregon territory. American expansionists were demanding 54°40′ or a war to obtain it. Popular opinion held that America, “by the right of our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent”. Polk had to find the diplomatic middle ground or face a second war with the world’s superpower in 5o years.
Despite the better efforts of revisionists, Mexico wanted war… Texas had won independence in a fair fight and wanted to join the United States. The Herrera government refused the treaty of San Jacinto ex post facto. Texas annexation was legal, and a clear victory for the Polk administration. Herrera decided to push north of the river Nueces and confront the Americans. Polk had made all the correct political moves to annex Texas, now he had to defend the new American territory.
Polk was confronted with diplomatic crises… from the moment he took office. How did he do?