“Died of the Spotted Fever”: The Spot Resolutions and the Making of Abraham Lincoln

Publication Year:
2017

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Repository URL:
https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/compiler/283
Author(s):
Bilger, Ryan D.
Tags:
Abraham Lincoln; James K. Polk; Mexican American War; Spot Resolutions; History; Military History; Public History; United States History
blog post description
On December 22, 1847, the Speaker of the House of Representatives recognized a young, freshman congressman from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln who wished to speak about the ongoing war with Mexico. The lanky, awkward, high-voiced westerner raised doubts regarding President James Knox Polk’s conduct in starting the war, proposing eight resolutions that challenged Polk to provide evidence for his stated reason for doing so. Polk had said that Mexican troops had shed “American blood on American soil” and forced his hand, but Lincoln challenged this assertion. Lincoln insinuated that the fatal encounter between Mexican and American troops had in fact occurred in a contested region between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande, a region to which Mexico had stronger claims than the United States. With his demand that Polk prove that the exact location of the engagement had been on American soil, Lincoln’s proposals became known as the “Spot Resolutions.” This speech brought Lincoln into the national spotlight for the first time, and it proved key in the development of his future career. [excerpt]