This Day in History

Jan. 21, 1848: North Star Publishes Editorial on War with Mexico

Time Periods: 19th Century, Early 19th Century: 1800 - 1849
Themes: African American, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

Frederick Douglass

The North Star, the abolitionist newspaper edited in Rochester, New York, by Frederick Douglass, argued the case against the U.S. war on Mexico, highlighting not only the question of slavery, but the class dimension of the war, as well. Here is an excerpt of Douglass’s editorial, from Voices of a People’s History of the United States, edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove.

January 21, 1848

Our nation seems resolved to rush on in her wicked career, though the road be ditched with human blood, and paved with human skulls. Well, be it so.

But, humble as we are, and unavailing as our voice may be, we wish to warn our fellow countrymen, that they may follow the course which they have marked out for themselves; no barrier may be sufficient to obstruct them; they may accomplish all they desire; Mexico may fall before them; she may be conquered and subdued; her government may be annihilated — her name among the great sisterhood of nations blotted out; her separate existence annihilated; her rights and powers usurped; her people put under the iron arm of a military despotism, and reduced to a condition little better than that endured by the Saxons when vanquished by their Norman invaders; but, so sure as there is a God of justicewe shall not go unpunished; the penalty is certain; we cannot escape; a terrible retribution awaits us.

We beseech our countrymen to leave off this horrid conflict, abandon their murderous plans, and forsake the way of blood. Peradventure our country may yet be saved. Let the press, the pulpit, the church, the people at large, unite at once; and let petitions flood the halls of Congress by the million, asking for the instant recall of our forces from Mexico. This may not save us, but it is our only hope.

There was another article about the war published in The North Star in February of 1848, available at the Library of Congress.

The North Star, “The War with Mexico” (January 21, 1848)

Benjamin Bratt reads the North Star’s editorial “The War with Mexico” (January 21, 1848) from Voices of a People’s History on Vimeo.

Many more video clips can be found at the Voices of a People’s History website and in the film The People Speak. Find lessons and other resources below for teaching about the U.S. war with Mexico and the Abolition Movement.