American History 164 Years Ago
In 23 July, 1846, Ralph Waldo Emerson, America's greatest philosopher, visited Henry DavidThoreau in jail for a night in jail for failure to pay taxes to support the Mexican War, a war he thought immoral "to expand slavery". Henry Clay declared, "This is no war of defense, but one of unnecessary and offensive aggression."
Most Whigs supported the war--in part, because two of the leading American generals, Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, were Whigs, and in part because they remembered that opposition to the War of 1812 had destroyed the Federalist party.
But many prominent Whigs, from the South as well as the North, openly expressed opposition. Thomas Corwin of Ohio denounced the war as merely the latest example of American injustice to Mexico: "If I were a Mexican I would tell you, "Have you not room enough in your own country to bury your dead."
Emerson asked, "Henry, why are you here?"
Thoreau replied, "Why are you not here?"