In Tijuana’s Avenue of Heroes there is a massive statue of Abraham Lincoln. Why is he a Mexican hero? The statue has the American President holding broken chains, a reference to his role in emancipating the slaves in the United States. But there is another part of Lincoln’s story that is not well known in the U.S. That chapter of Lincoln’s life is the focus of this blog.
Abraham Lincoln as a Mexican Hero
In 1846 Abraham Lincoln was elected to a two-year term in Congress, the only member of the Whig Party elected from Illinois. Lincoln worked on a host of issues including a failed attempt to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. He also supported the effort to ban slavery from territory won by the U.S. from Mexico.
President James Polk led the war effort against Mexico that culminated in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The war was triggered when Mexican soldiers killed a dozen U.S. soldiers under the command of Zachary Taylor. President Polk claimed that the Mexican troops had invaded U.S. soil to commit the massacre, but the territory was in dispute. Lincoln called for Polk to show Congress exactly where the killings took place and to prove that the exact spot was on U.S. soil. His “Spot Resolution” was never acted upon by Congress and was ignored by the President.
Meanwhile Lincoln continued to speak out against the war, foreshadowing the eloquence that would lead to speeches that would last for the ages. He criticized Polk’s desire for “military glory—that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood, that serpent’s eye that charms but to destroy.” He voted against the war resolution and to censure President Polk for “unnecessarily and unconstitutionally” beginning the Mexican-American War. Lincoln said the President in his inability to base his arguments on facts talked “like an insane man.”
Lincoln’s leadership against the war resulted in a dramatic slippage of his support in Illinois. One paper referred derisively to him as “spotty Lincoln.” Lincoln had pledged to only serve one term in Congress, so in 1848 he returned to his legal practice in Illinois. Later he would shift his views on Presidential war-making power as the Chief Executive overseeing the Union during the U.S. Civil War.