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Mexican American War

D. Eisenhower, Frederick Merk, and David M. Pletcher in three important works on the Mexican American war. These works are, respectively: So Far From God: The U.S. War With Mexico, Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History, and The Diplomacy of Annexation. The paper begins by discussing each author’s thesis, arguments and evidence provided to support the thesis one at a time. It then discusses the works in a comparative fashion. While this author agrees most strongly with Merk’s argument that U.S. expansionism-Manifest Destiny was not some unique strategy that was only pursued by Americans, there are merits to the arguments presented in the two other works. The paper ends with a conclusion summarizing the major points covered.
John S. D. Eisenhower’s book, So Far From God: The U.S. War With Mexico is a narrative history of the Mexican American war. Eisenhower has a distinctly "top down" militaristic, traditional historgraphy approach. It is one that emphasizes the VIPs of the war such as presidents and generals – essentially a "great men" view of history. The book is peppered with military details such as battle actions and tactics.
One of Eisenhower’s contentions is that the great military man, Santa Anna y Perez de Lebron (Santa Anna), who fought for Mexican independence from Spain was just an indiscreet popular figure. Eisenhower argues that these indiscretions in his pleasures and private life of Santa Anna’s effectively barred him from belonging to the elite of Mexican society.2 However, Eisenhower doesn’t discuss the possibility of a person being able to be both a populist and a member of this elite at the same time.
Eisenhower used primarily books as his sources, though some of the books contain collections of primary resources such as letters and official government documents of the day.3 He also used newspapers and periodicals, though again, the majority of these are not primary or contemporary sources4. This is perhaps a reflection of his preference for traditional, "great men" history, in respecting the opinions of other already published historic works. First hand anecdotes are frequently used when Eisenhower discusses the details of events from the battlefields. There are maps included both assist the reader in following and understanding the text, as well as serve to emphasize the author’s "headquarter’s history" approach.5
The full title of the book So Far From God: The U.S. War With Mexico 1846-1848 suggests that the book is from the U.S. Side of the war. Substantial sections are written based on earlier writing by North American historians. The breath of research is limited to English sources and, with the exception of three sources, all of non-Mexican origin.6 One of the ‘non-Mexican sources is of Fanny Caldern de la Barca’s memoirs and de la Barca was born in Scotland7.
Eisenhower attempts to be unbiased towards Mexico and Mexicans. This is especially evident in his references to Mexican soldiers who, he concludes, had to fight an unbalanced war just to maintain their national pride. Eisenhower frequently draws attention to their courage as well, especially in reference to the poor, rough leadership they were under.
It is rare that a work is completely unbiased, however, and that is the case for So Far From God. Eisenhower’s biasis is revealed through the language he uses to refer