The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before President Abraham Lincoln’s Cabinet, painted by F.B. Carpenter. (Library of Congress) (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division/Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
Almost every USA high school student learns that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s Day in 1863, as discussed in national news media recently. But most students are unaware that Lincoln was also a supporter of Mexico, both before and during the US Civil War.
Lincoln’s support for Mexico is detailed in a book by historian/ educator Michael Hogan that examines archival documents to look at Lincoln as an international statesman, not just an iconic American political figure. Here are five facts from the book that students may not know, starting with Lincoln’s objections to the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848:
1. As a freshman member of Congress, Lincoln was willing to risk his political career by objecting to the ongoing Mexican-American War. His first major speech in Congress contained a series of resolutions the news media dubbed the “Spot Resolutions,” which detailed his objections to the war and demanded that President Polk identify the geographical spot where Polk told Congress that Mexico “invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil.”
2. In his thorough research to prepare his resolutions, Lincoln determined that the 1836 Velasco Agreement forcing Mexican troops to withdraw to the Rio Grande was not a real treaty because Santa Anna was coerced to sign it after he was captured in the battle of San Jacinto, and the Mexican government had refused to ratify it.
3. Before his inauguration as president, Lincoln offered his friendship to Mexico during a meeting in Springfield, Illinois, in 1861 with Mexican ambassador Matías Romero, the first foreign envoy to meet with the president-elect.
4. After French troops drove Mexican President Juárez into exile, Lincoln and his cabinet maintained official neutrality with Mexico to keep France from supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War. However, Lincoln responded to Romero’s pleas for help and authorized covert aid to Mexico.
5. During the French occupation of Mexico, Mrs. Lincoln and President Lincoln held several private White House meetings with Romero and major US investors friendly to the Mexican cause. This enabled the 24-year-old Mexican envoy to ultimately raise $18 million to arm and supply the Republican Army, ending European presence in North America after Lincoln’s death.
The print version of Dr. Hogan’s book is in the Lincoln Presidential Library and many public libraries and at colleges and universities. Educators in more than 150 schools have received electronic copies of the book free of charge from the Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP). We’re hoping that many of them will use the book this February to observe Lincoln’s birthday by stimulating classroom discussion about Lincoln and Mexico.
LAMP can also provide educators with a three-act student play focusing on the friendships between Mrs. Lincoln, President Lincoln, Romero, and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The world premiere in 2017 wowed audiences and critics in Mexico, which has several statues honoring Lincoln. If you’re interested, we can also provide complete lesson plans based on the book and the play. All the materials are free for education purposes. Just send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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