Joined: 27 Nov 2007
Location: Monterey County, California
|Posted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:18 pm Post subject: Premature Flag-Raising
|THAT TROUBLE was brewing between Mexico and the United States was well known throughout the nation; likewise across the ocean. The Jackson and the Polk administrations were frankly committed to territorial expansion as the "manifest destiny" of the country. And Europe was watching from the sidelines.
The War Department deemed it expedient to keep a close watch on the Pacific Coast, for English, French and Russian ships were sailing up and down the coast-line, in and out of Mexican and Californian ports.
If territory was to be acquired, what was more desirable than the vast empire west of the Rockies, along the blue Pacific? A country in which men spent a few years, and returned to the East with fortunes, made from furs and hides and whale by-products, only to return for more. A country, seemingly, of inexhaustible resources, and a glorious place in which to live.
Then, there were grievances with Mexico.
There was the old Texas question, for instance, constantly growing more sensitive; and the matter of boundary lines—the usual type of wrongs charged by a nation coveting the territory of another. Quite moral, however, from the point of view of the times, depending much upon by whom the view was held, and whose territory was coveted.
So, out of the haze of national feeling and unofficial understanding, Commodore Thomas A. Catesby Jones sailed the United States into the Port of Monterey on an autumn day in 1842, landed his men, hauled down the Mexican ensign from the Customs House flagstaff, and raised the Stars and Stripes.
At a Mexican port, the commander had heard that the looked-for break had come between the nations, He determined to play safe, English ships on the coast might beat him to it, England was thought to be the chief contender.
A bit premature, of course, as the formal break did not occur until May 13, 1846, The republics in '42 were merely showing their teeth and growling.
Most certainly an embarrassing situation for Commander Jones and the nation. Discovering his error, he promptly lowered the colors, ran up the Mexican standard and fired a salute in its honor. Then, with his staff, he started south to call upon Governor Micheltorena—then en route to Monterey—to make the proper apologies. The incident was closed at the interview, the governor receiving the officers with suave courtesy in Los Angeles, The matter was ended. In fact, before the week was out, the commander was host at a baile grande, entertaining leading dons and donas, all in the gayest mood. And Commodore Jones, with his staff, was entertained by nearly all the leading families during the rest of the stay of the vessel in California. Thus the faux pas became merely an incident for dull recorders of history.
The Californians loved a good time more than anything else in the world. And, after all, why should a little error of judgment—properly apologized for— interfere with a baile when a lot of good-looking Americanos were in port to dance and dine with?