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Mexican Cession of 1848: Definition, Facts & Map

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  • 0:02 Expanding Westward
  • 0:36 War With Mexico
  • 1:50 Arranging for Cession
  • 3:29 A Win for Manifest Destiny
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Instructor: Adam Richards

Adam has a master's degree in history.

The Mexican cession of 1848 yielded large dividends for the United States. Learn about what sparked American interest in Mexican territory, and what Mexico eventually transferred to the United States.

Expanding Westward

During the first half of the 19th century, nationalism ran rampant throughout the United States, and with it came the desire to seek additional land. Many Americans were looking to expand out of the East into territory that was both unorganized and not federally owned. In fact, the notion of Manifest Destiny held that Americans were destined to move into the entire continent. This belief drove individuals west; it also drove the United States into a conflict with Mexico.

War With Mexico

The American war with Mexico was primarily over land. President James K. Polk wanted to expand into Mexican-held lands in the western part of the nation. Originally, he offered a hefty monetary sum to the Mexican government to cede the California and New Mexico territories to the United States. Mexico, however, declined his offer. Polk then moved to begin military exercises on the border and in waters around Mexico. This sparked a retaliatory strike by a radical Mexican political regime. On May 9, 1846, Mexico crossed the Rio Grande and launched an assault on American patrolmen. On May 11, 1846, the United States was at war.

The war lasted roughly two years, with the United States overwhelming Mexico with its military superiority and leadership. General Zachary Taylor and General Winfield Scott achieved impressive victories in the campaign against Mexico, with Scott eventually capturing Mexico City in September 1847.

Arranging for Cession

The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, ratified on March 10, 1848, was the principal document that ended the Mexican-American War and initiated the process of post-war Mexican cession. (Cession means the legal transfer of an object to another party; don't confuse it with secession!). Under the agreement, the United States provided a number of provisions that the interim Mexican government quickly accepted. So what did Mexico cede?

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