Mexico, like Canada and the United States a territorial giant with not dis- similar problems of control and security, points the contrast with which this comparative survey may end. The military in Mexico after independence took on a life of its own, absorbing eighty percent of a swollen national budget imposed on a crippled, stagnant economy. The Mexican military gave little in return, ex- cept endless political chaos to which the army periodically pretended to bring some measure of order. So absorbed in the politics of central Mexico was this army that the government could secure the frontier province of Texas only by inviting Anglo-americans to settle there and defend it. And so corrupted by its political absorption was this army that it could not protect Mexico against inva- sion by smaller U.S. forces in 1846-1847. 38
To dwell exclusively on the very different ways in which military struc- tures and events played themselves out in these three areas of North America would be to violate the admonition with which this essay began. But in seeking some satisfactory explanation for post-colonial histories that diverged so dra- matically, we gain an important degree of understanding by tracing and compar- ing their military histories. The remarkable unimportance of organized armed forces in the political and social life of New Spain between the brief age of con- quest and 1763 was the basic condition underlaying what happened after 1763. By arming and organizing the creole population to defend New Spain, and at the same time keeping them out of the most prestigious military positions in the regular regiments, the Spanish government planted the seeds of colonial insur- rection and Mexican militarism. In contrast, the remarkable extent to which New France was militarized, almost from its beginning, with military organization providing the French regime both its most effective instrument of local govern- ment and its chief means of controlling the aristocracy of the colony, was a criti- cal factor in the history of Canada after 1760. Projecting a false, anglicized pic- ture of elite rule on to the strange society of the St. Lawrence valley, the new British regime abruptly shifted the balance of power within the French popula- tion, leaving the habitants alienated and apathetic. To the southward, a con- stantly expanding, aggressive population of farmers, the colonial Anglo- Americans were both heavily armed and terribly vulnerable. When the British government eventually found the cost of their wars becoming intolerable, and the value of their production and consumption indispensable, London ordered British regulars to take over the task of policing the Anglo-American colonies. The fiscal and constitutional ramifications of that change led to civil war, a war which the presence of regulars in North America encouraged London to begin, but a war that Britain, confronted by a numerous, armed people, simply could not win. Although the collapse of British imperial greatness was the predicted result, the actual result was the anglicization of the Canadian population.
The clear lesson of these three stories is that military arrangements repre- sent vital allocations of power and interest, however invisible or unimportant those arrangements may seem in the day-today life of a society. The politicians