President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris

Grant believed that the greed and hubris of our western expansion had a cost, which we paid in the Civil War.

Excerpt from the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, U. S. Grant (New York, 1885), pages 22-24.

Causes of the Mexican War

Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation [of Texas] was consummated or not; but not so all of them.  For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war [with Mexico] that resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.  It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.

Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. … it had but a very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize.  These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does it now, sanction that institution.  Soon they set up an independent government of their own … [and] offered themselves and the State to the United States, and in 1845 their offer was accepted.  The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

Even if the annexation itself could be justified, the manner in which the subsequent war was forced upon Mexico cannot … the Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war.  Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.  We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.   {end}

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other posts about grand strategy

Does America need a grand strategy?  If so, what should it be?  Answers to these questions illuminate many of the questions hotly debated about foreign policy and national security.  Here are some posts on this subject.

  1. The Myth of Grand Strategy   (31 January 2006)
  2. America’s Most Dangerous Enemy   (1 March 2006)
  3. Why We Lose at 4GW   (4 January 2007)
  4. America takes another step towards the “Long War”   (24 July 2007)
  5. One step beyond Lind: What is America’s geopolitical strategy?   (28 October 2007)
  6. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part I  (19 March 2007; revised 7 June 2008)
  7. How America can survive and even prosper in the 21st Century – part II  (14 June 2008)
  8. America’s grand strategy: lessons from our past  (30 June 2008)
  9. America’s grand strategy, now in shambles  (2 July 2008) 
  10. America’s grand strategy, insanity at work  (7 July 2008)

 Click here to see a list of all posts about strategy and military theory.

One thought on “President Grant warns us about the dangers of national hubris

  1. I am not an expert on the CSA. They definitely used chattel slavery. Some critics have charged that the wage slavery of the industrialized North was less humane. However, if we are to say that the proto-CSA slaveowners in Texas were morally inferior to the non-slave-owning Mexicans, we would have to overlook the grotesque inequalities of social power in Mexico.

    I think Grant was the product of his times and culture rather than an impartial judge.

    Unfortunately, it looks like Mary Turner’s thought-provoking book, “From Chattel Slavery to Wage Slavery” is out of print. I enjoyed my copy while I had it, some 13 years ago. To summarize my perspective on how that book informs Grant’s view of morality: I think they were all evil. The Mexicans, the Southerners, the Northerners, the rich, the poor — there were no good guys.

    Likewise, when the USA invaded Iraq, there were no good guys. Saddam was bad, Cheney’s puppets were bad, everyone was bad.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Is anyone an impartial judge, or are we all a product of our times and culture?

Leave a Reply