Defiant Peacemaker: Nicholas Trist in the Mexican War
Texas A&M University Press, 1997 - 190 páginas
However much the extending of America's borders may have seemed like destiny at the time, much of the process was not as noble as its early proponents declared, and in the Southwest it represented at least partially a deliberate land grab. The work of one rather eccentric idealist, a Virginian named Nicholas Philip Trist, allows modern Americans to consider what happened during the years 1846-48 without what one writer called "a thorough revulsion." Nicholas Trist (1800-74) was one of those rare public figures who really live dangerously, prepared to risk everything for principle. Generally unknown today, and slighted or scorned when mentioned at all, he was a man of importance in his time, for he defied a presidential recall order and negotiated with Mexico the treaty that won for the United States the vast Southwest. Trist was closely acquainted with the great ones of his time--including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Andrew Jackson--and was esteemed by those who really knew him. This well-written biography of Trist is also, then, a story of many of the important people and movements of his time. Trist was an idealist, more uncompromising than his idol, Thomas Jefferson (who was also the grandfather of Trist's wife). Trist was respected by many of his contemporaries and, surprisingly for a man of his unbending character, befriended by many. Yet there were many who despised him. On two unrelated occasions, eight years apart, he stood as the most controversial figure in America. In some ways, he was his own worst enemy, as Ohrt skillfully shows. An astonishing haughtiness in a man of relatively modest station enabled him to condescend to presidents, quarrel with military commanders, and hurl insults at the House of Lords. Yet the diplomats with whom he worked in Mexico admired and respected him for his unfailing patience and courtesy under the most trying conditions. Ultimately, his career was thoroughly destroyed by its one great, defining achievement: the negotiation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the peace that ended the Mexican War. Ohrt demonstrates that Trist's quintessential character can best be distilled in a tribute he paid to another: "He is . . . a true lover of justice." Only one Trist biography has appeared to date, and it does not cover the full life and relationships as this one does. Sources for this imminently readable biography include the voluminous correspondence of the Trist and Randolph families of Virginia, biographies of notables mentioned, and the most respected histories of the times and events. Those interested in the diplomacy of the era and especially of the U.S.-Mexican War will read with interest the story of the intrigues and rivalries behind the political and military activities of the war, which are vividly presented here.
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Página v - Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls : Who steals my purse, steals trash ; 'tis something, nothing ; 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands : But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed, Oth.
Página 114 - I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Página 100 - It is not designed, in our present relations with Mexico, that you should treat her as an enemy; but, should she assume that character by a declaration of war, or any open act of hostility towards us, you will not act merely on the defensive, if your relative means enable you to do otherwise.
Página 97 - ... our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.
Página 136 - ... present except the Post Master Gen'l, who is detained at his house by indisposition. The official despatches which had been received at the Department of State from Mr. Trist as late as the 28th ult., giving an account of his negotiations with the Mexican commissioners, were read by Mr. Buchanan. Mr. Trist has managed the negotiation very bunglingly and with no ability. He has done more. He has departed from his instruction so far as to invite proposals from the Mexican commissioners to be submitted...
Página 141 - I should not now make the offer but for my clear and perfect conviction on these three points: First, that peace is still the desire of my government: Secondly, that if the present opportunity be not seized -at once, all chance for making a treaty at all •will be lost for an indefinite period — probably forever: Thirdly, that this is the utmost point to which the Mexican government can, by any possibility, venture.
Página 101 - The cup of forbearance had been exhausted even before the recent information from the frontier of the Del Norte. But now, after reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil.
Página 145 - we are making peace, let that be our only thought". — But, said he to us in relating it, "Could those Mexicans have seen into my heart at that moment, they would have known that my feeling of shame as an American was far stronger than theirs could be as Mexicans. For though it would not have done for me to say so there that was a thing for every right-minded American to be ashamed of, and I was ashamed of it, most cordially and intensely ashamed of it.
Página 49 - Mr. Jefferson, on that occasion, could hardly avoid an expression of impatience at the repeated though complimentary intrusions to which he was exposed. In Mr. Jefferson's embarrassed circumstances in the evening of life, the immense influx of visitors could not fail to be attended with much inconvenience. I had the curiosity to ask Mrs. Randolph what was the largest number of persons for whom she had been called upon unexpectedly to prepare accommodations for the night, and she replied fifty!