Just finished reading A Review of the Causes and Consequences of the Mexican War. This book was first published in 1849.
When I first picked up this book, I was really excited. Here was a book written by the son of one of my favorite Founding Fathers (John Jay). The book was written within one year of the actual war so I figured it would be very accurate.
If you want to read a book about the battles of the Mexican War and maybe some wonderful stories about the soldiers who fought in the battle – then this book is NOT for you.
If you want to read a book about how evil the United States of America is – then this book is for you.
I really was disappointed in this book. However, before I get into this book why I did not like it and the approach that the author took, I should first give some background on the author.
William Jay was the son of the Founding Father and first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court – John Jay. However, William had really poor eyesight and was forced to give up his legal career. William then involved himself in several political movements including the anti-war, anti-slavery, and temperance movements.
First off, I did not like this book because it was one of the hardest books to read. The author had no character development and everything was very short factual type sentences. The author would often just use a Congressman’s last name without referencing where he was from. This would make it difficult to track the characters, especially when he was referencing a figure who is not well known.
The author would often just say terms like the “President” or the “Secretary of State”. Which is fine if you remember exactly which president or Sec. of State was in power in 1842. When he did this, because of how often he jumped around, you would have to go back a couple of pages to figure out what year he was talking about and then figure out who the politician who was in power just said or did something the author agreed with.
Again, there is no flow to the book. The chapters are really short and they jump all over the place. The author was not trying to tell a story, he was trying to stick to the facts in the most truncated form possible.
Now about political ideology. As mentioned, the author was anti-war. Throughout the entire book, the author made sure he highlighted every evil thing that the United States did to Mexico. He highlighted every act of brutality committed by the military in fighting the war. He of course also highlighted the enormous cost of the war. There was nothing in this book that was pro-United States (well almost nothing, please see below regarding the chapter on John Q. Adams).
The Author started the book with the premise that it was the slave loving South that cooked up a diabolical plan to send its citizens to Texas to steal the land away from Mexico. The Author never goes into any details as to the things that the Mexican government was doing to Texans or the things that Mexico was doing to its citizens.
To be honest, those who attacked George W. Bush on the Iraq war have a few lessons that they could learn from William Jay. This entire book was a hit piece designed to make the United States look as bad as he could make it in the political decisions leading up to the Mexican War.
Jay was clearly upset about how the Missouri Compromised was being skirted by the annexation of Texas and as such, he wrote this book to persuade people that the War was bad for the United States.
I will give Jay credit for one thing, at the end of the book he acknowledges his biases and stated that he had a different view of “patriotism” than most Americans.
What was interesting about this book, is at the very end, he puts in one long chapter about the life of John Q. Adams who had died the year before. It was actually the best writing in the entire book as he was actually trying to tell a story and sing the virtues of the 6th President of the U.S.A.
Again, this book had hardly any details about the actually fighting. Instead, it was a summary of one man’s opinion as to why we should never have been in the Mexican War. If you are interested in coming up with reasons why the United States should not have gone to war some 160+ years ago, if you want to live in the past and feel guilty over the action of someone you never knew – than by all means, read this book. Otherwise, don’t waste your time.