The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975 Page: 255
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The Reluctant Imperialist
ton Messenger, whose editor said: "The refusal merely to receive a minister,
is not sufficient cause for war."'2
In March and April reports from Mexico became more alarming. Slidell
had failed and was returning home. Mexico was believed to be falling into
anarchy. According to the Charleston Courier, war seemed "almost cer-
tain." In fact, the bellicose Abbeville Banner called for it. Its editor stated
that the United States had borne Mexican insults until "forbearance has
ceased to be a virtue." The American government should hesitate no longer
to punish "imbecile Mexico."3
In the mounting crisis, however, the South Carolina press hardly men-
tioned General Zachary Taylor's march to the Rio Grande. Only the influ-
ential Charleston Mercury seemed genuinely alarmed about the move,
although somewhat belatedly. Editor J. Milton Clapp severely criticized
James Polk's administration for ordering Taylor into the disputed territory.
His small army was in an exposed position, "the worst possible, whether
for peace or war--under the very nose of Mexico." Equally dangerous to
peace was Taylor's reported blockade of Matamoras. The editor predicted
clashes soon to come between scouts and stragglers of the two armies. Then
on "some fine morning" Taylor would be ordered to invade Mexico.4
The anticipated trouble occurred when a Mexican force crossed the Rio
Grande and attacked an American mounted patrol. In Washington the
administration immediately prepared for war. During this scramble the
Mercury editorialized: "So, after committing the enormous folly of putting
an army of 2500 men into conflict with Io,ooo without affording them
any means either of retreat or advance, or even communication with their
depots of provisions, we are to crown this with the still greater folly of
raising 90,000 men to save them from the consequences."'
2Pendleton Messenger, February x3, 1846. See also, Charleston Courier, January 22,
February 5, 1846; Edgefield Advertiser, January 7, 1846; Anderson Gazette, February 6,
13, 20o, 1846.
3Charleston Courier, April 20o, 1846; Abbeville Banner, April 22, 1846. See also,
Pendleton Messenger, April Io, I7, 24, I846; Winyah Observer (Georgetown), April 29,
1846; Edgefield Advertiser, April I5, 1846.
4Charleston Mercury, April 16, May 7 (second quotation), 8 (first quotation), II,
I846. The Mercury, along with the Charleston Courier and the Charleston Evening
News, was widely quoted in the South Carolina weeklies. It was reputed to be a Calhoun
"organ" though its editors denied such. When John E. Carew replaced Clapp as editor
on February I, I847, no significant change occurred in editorial policy. The Winyah
Observer (Georgetown), March 24, 1846, and the Pendleton Messenger, April 1o, 1846,
briefly noted the danger of sending troops to the Mexican border.
5Charleston Mercury, May 14, 1846.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975, periodical, 1974/1975; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/m1/302/: accessed August 16, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.