The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968 Page: 322
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
lined for Trist in 1847, it is presumed that the Treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo was the index of national ambition and that the Commis-
sioner acted in the best interests of the United States. Indeed, his-
torians have generally spared no labor in affording Trist a resound-
ing clatter of applause for his unusual efforts to gain peace with Mex-
ico. President Polk, on the other hand, has been arraigned on charges
of incompetence, greed, and petty personal malice." In no case has
an alternative judgment found that the President was honestly dis-
satisfied with this diplomat or that, in fact, Trist bungled the negotia-
tions on almost every count. A brief survey of the pro-Trist, anti-Polk
literature reveals the extent to which the traditional view has been
Louis M. Sears advanced the thesis that Trist was a conscientious
liberal, bringing a new quality to diplomacy. As a man of ideals, Trist,
even before departing for Mexico, had grown disillusioned with Polk,
"reflecting how incapable mere politicians were of comprehending
his point of view." Sears found nothing to blame in Trist's conduct.
He believed that in the credentials quarrel with Scott, "the General
himself was chiefly to blame," but placed the ultimate responsibility
upon Secretary of War William L. Marcy for "not stating the situ-
ation plainly to Scott." The failure of the August armistice was not
Trist's fault, but was caused by "the chaotic state of Mexican poli-
tics. . . ." Trist's recall was the result of mere opportunism and greed
for land on the part of the Polk administration. According to Sears,
Polk, recognizing Mexican weakness, therefore found a pretext for
recalling his peace commissioner.!
Norman Graebner in his study, Empire on the Pacific, also found
no joy in Polk's diplomacy, but praised Trist. Although the Commis-
sioner did lack "good judgment and humility," he was an intelligent,
able, experienced diplomat, according to Graebner, and "the treaty
he secured from Mexico was not the product of incompetence." His
actions in Mexico were the result of conscience and moral duty, and
"few other Americans could have succeeded at the task." Polk's ven-
detta against Trist was the result of the former's conviction that Scott,
Bernard de Voto, The Year of Decision: x846 (Boston, 1943), 488-489, 490; Hunter
Miller (comp.), Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States (8 vols.;
Washington, 1931), V, 272; Justin H. Smith, The War With Mexico (2 vols.; New York,
1919), II, 127-129; Sears, "Nicholas P. 'kist, A Diplomat With Ideals," 93-94.
8Ibid., 92-98; see also Ray A. Billington, Westward Expansion (New York, 1949), 588-
585; R. M. McElroy, The Winning of the Far West (New York, 1914), 299; Alfred H. Bill,
Rehearsal for Conflict: The War With Mexico, 1846-1848 (New York, 1947), 304; Smith,
The War With Mexico, II, 236; de Voto, The Year of Decision: 1846, p. 490.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 71, July 1967 - April, 1968, periodical, 1968; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117145/m1/372/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.