Sunday, November 19, 2017

HISTORY101C//UNR--Essay on Henry Clay Speech, 1847--JC LANGELLE

History 101C.1001
Univ of Nevada, Reno
Professor CB Strang
Fall 2017

Primary Source Essay: Henry Clay Speech; Lexington, Kentucky  November 13, 1847

     Deception, invasion, occupation, unfettered military action by the Commander-in-Chief; does this sound like something out of the last
decade? Hardly. It was the Mexican War  of 1846-1848. Although it was brief, casualties were staggering and war crimes allegations dominated
the subsequent treaty that ended hostilities. Before it ended, but after General Winfield Scott captured Mexico City; Henry Clay, a Kentucky
Whig who  lost to James K. Polk in the 1844 Presidential election, gave a speech in Lexington in 1847. The war developed over the annexation of
Texas into the Union along with a border dispute linked to the territory.
     In opening remarks of his speech, Clay denounced the war as illegal, precipitated by a false clause written into the preamble. However, in
a letter addressed to the Senate delivered on May 11, 1846, the President states his case for war with Mexico. In it, Polk argued that the
Mexican government had changed hands and adopted a military posture. Even as US naval forces were drawn back from Vera Cruz and the diplomat
Slidell arrived and requested a meeting with the Foreign Minister, Mexico City refused to negotiate. Following this rebuttal, Polk ordered
troops across the Rio Nueces, claiming that the border had been drawn beyond that and revenue had been agreed upon to be extracted from that
district, with a revenue officer already appointed by Congress. It was this redeployment beyond the Rio Nueces that exacerbated the conflict
when a dragoon patrol from the American camp along the Rio Bravo del Norte was ambushed and close to a dozen soldiers killed. (1)
     Inasmuch as the speech compares aggression to former empire seekers such as Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, it is worth noting Clay’s
assertion that Congress does not have the power to intervene and halt a war once it has been declared, leaving the President alone to determine
its progress and conduct. Quoted from the speech text:
     “If it be contended that a war having been once commenced, the President of the United States may direct it to the accomplishment of any
objects he pleases, without consulting and without regard to the will of Congress, the Convention will have utterly failed in guarding the
nation against the abuses and ambition of a single individual.” (2)
     The United States would have to wait 126 years to see any kind of legislation that would address the authority of the President in the
conduct of war. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 would only check the Commander-in-Chief’s authority in undeclared wars with various
restrictions and requirements for the Executive Branch to be held liable to the Legislative Branch in the absence of consent by Congress to
engage in hostilities against a foreign adversary. Henry Clay was perhaps the most visionary politician of his time to discover this flaw in
the Constitution that allowed even the most altruistic leader the opportunity to become a despot. (3)
     Clay then turns his attention toward the possibility of the annexation of Mexico into the US empire, steadfastly arguing against such a
proposal. He cites 100,000 troops that would have to be stationed in Mexico on a continuous basis to suppress rebellion; he notes the
probability of a new political party, the Mexican vote, in Congress, that would undermine the interests of the nation to the north as a whole.
He offers the conflict that would be created by the Catholic nation below the Rio Grande being ruled by the Protestant nation to the north and
finally, the rejection of slavery into Mexico. The issue of slavery is examined in detail in the speech and not just from the interests of the
plantation owners. Clay indirectly refutes the abolitionist demand for immediate emancipation, claiming the slaves were too ignorant and
disorganized to contribute to the society. In addition, the fact that slaves were, if not dominant numerically in some states, they would be a
significant force to be reckoned with if they were given the vote.
     All of this he rationalized into the calculus of annexation of Mexico and in the end, Clay introduces resolutions that he believed would
prevent the United States from entering into costly wars, both in the lives of soldiers and the national debt. Looking back on this incredibly
visionary speech, one can only become speechless himself that most of what Henry Clay warned against and proposed has fallen on deaf ears.

(1) The Congressional Globe, 1846.
(2) Speech of Henry Clay, Lexington Mass Meeting, 1847
(3) War Powers Resolution 1973

     Image result for HENRY CLAY

Sunday, November 12, 2017


-- The student's position is clear after reading but it is not explicitly stated in their opinion piece, so I find it difficult to explain their message in a sentence or two.

-- The student effectively argues their point by using real world examples that resonate with me and but does not really convince me to value their position because it is unclear what exactly their position is.

-- The student does not state their main point in the first few sentences of the piece and does not effectively summarize the piece's main arguments in the final paragraph.

-- The student's writing is clear but it distracts from their arguments when grammatical mistakes are made. The student's voice and perspective come though in a convincing way but I can't identify the position they take.

-- The student appears to be venting about something that bothers them.

-- The paper was very detailed, but the point that the author is trying to convey is slightly difficult to understand

-- The paper did highlight some important topic, however specific examples could have been used to convince the value of the author's position

-- Although the main point was not capture in the first sentence, the author did a great job of catching my attention. The opening sentence hooked me right in and I was very interested in reading the rest of the paper. The main point was summarized at the end

-- The author did an excellent job with how they wrote this paper. The writing is clear and the tone is very present. There were also little to no grammatical errors

-- It was clear from the paper that the author was polite and respectful especially towards the other side of the argument

-- This paper was poorly written because the write up did not have a strong focus on any argument at hand. As well, there were no references and there was no analysis on behalf of any arguments.

-- This paper had average attention to detail in which there times the arguments were not backed up.

-- This paper had strong arguments which were backed up by evidence from the sources.

-- This paper had strong arguments which were backed up by evidence from the sources.