The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 52, July 1948 - April, 1949 Page: 366
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The ten-chapter rehearsal gets off to a fairly slow start in a
chapter called "An Explosion and Its Consequences," which tells
of the explosion of the gun named the Peacemaker on the steamer
Princeton and the political and diplomatic explosion which came
with the joint resolution for the annexation of Texas to the
United States. When the Mexican minister demanded his pass-
ports, the stage was ready for war scenes.
Act II, or "Manifest Destiny," gives a detailed introduction
to James K. Polk, whom Bill presents as the hero of the drama,
regardless of the fact that he was "essentially a small man, ..
guilty of petty spite, abysmal meanness, and the basest ingrati-
tude." To balance these faults, he had the ideal of the preservation
of the Union and the vision of the expansion of the country to
With the background of the Texas problem presented, Act III,
"Church Bells and Bugles," is set in Catholic Mexico, a land of
"lethargy and stagnation," with the army the greatest barrier to
progress and prosperity. Zachary Taylor, on old Whitey, wins the
battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma.
News of those battles assured Polk's war, brought the war
spirit to the Southwest if not to New England, and created a
slogan to give the title for Act IV, "Mexico or Death." During
the act Santa Anna contrived to get back to Mexico, and Polk
determined that "West Point aristocracy" should not profit from
,the war and that some Democrats should gather laurels. And the
poison of politics began to work in Taylor's mind. Perhaps his
own experiences in World War I account for Bill's graphic and
sympathetic treatment of war in the front lines and his portrayal
of "Easy Conquests and Difficult Politics" in his sixth chapter.
While Polk worked to facilitate supply and planned a move on
Tampico, the Whigs attacked the whole war, the question of
slavery in the territory divided Congress, and the two Whig
generals divided command and sentiment in the army. Both gen-
erals won victories. That at Buena Vista was dear while Scott's
price for the capture of Vera Cruz was cheap. Back in the United
States Congress marked time, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote
pacifist poetry, and Polk and his cabinet were chiefly interested
in a negotiated peace as the next election loomed.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 52, July 1948 - April, 1949, periodical, 1949; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101121/m1/375/: accessed November 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.