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   Chapter 23 RELATIONS BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO, 1843–1846

The War With Mexico, Volume I (of 2) By Justin H. Smith Characters: 24982

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


1. See Smith, Annex. of Texas, text, notes, and index, particularly pp. 68, 74, 78, 85–7, 94, 99, 194–5, 199, 210, 273, 288–95, 409–31, 464. Webster: ibid., 194. See remarks in chap. iii, note 13. 137Donelson to Calhoun, Jan. 8, 1848. 77Doyle, British chargé, to Bocanegra, April 20, 1843: "The undersigned must remind His Excellency that Texas has been recognized as an independent nation by the Government of Her Majesty, and that treaties have been negotiated with that Republic as independent." 77Cyprey, the French minister, to Bocanegra, April 20, 1843: "The Mexican Cabinet has doubtless overlooked the fact that with respect to France and most of the states of Europe Texas is absolutely in the same position as that in which Mexico was before her independence had been recognized by Spain."

As early as 1839 Gorostiza admitted privately that Mexico had lost Texas (11E. de Lisle, June 21); and in 1840 the French government notified Mexico that its recognition of Texas was merely the acceptance of a fait accompli (11to Cyprey, no. 4, May 6). Webster, Writings, ix, 158: "Nothing can exceed, I have always thought, the obstinacy and senselessness manifested by Mexico in refusing for so many years to acknowledge the independence of Texas"; xiii, 351: Our annexing Texas gave Mexico no just ground of complaint (Sept. 29, 1847). In his Memoria of Jan., 1849, the Mexican minister of relaciones called the refusal of Mexico to recognize the annexation of Texas a caprice or whim (capricho). (Never) See note 5. 137Gallatin to Calhoun, Mar. 3, 1848.

2. Sen. 1; 28, 1, pp. 25 (Bocanegra); 27 (Thompson); 34 (Upshur).

3. Sen. 1; 28, 1, pp. 38, 42 (Almonte); 41, 45 (Upshur). 53Memo. of conference between Upshur and Almonte. 53Almonte to Upshur, Apr. 22, 1844. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 194.

4. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 199, 288. Sen. 341; 28, 1, p. 53 (Calhoun).

5. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 289–295. 77Relaciones to Almonte, May 30, 1844. According to Santa Anna's published account of the interview, which doubtless misrepresented the bearer of despatches, Thompson said the assent of Mexico was an essential preliminary to the annexation of Texas, and plainly recognized her ownership of the province, and the President replied that the right of subjugating it would be transmitted to posterity, and assent would never be given to its absorption in the United States. In reply to Bocanegra's assertion that the United States had now recognized Mexico's claim to Texas Calhoun sent word to the Mexican government that we recognized no such claim, but held that Texas was an independent nation both in fact and in right (Ho. 2; 28, 2, p. 23). In Tyler, Tyler, ii, 692, is a statement, apparently based on good authority, that Mexico consented to cede Texas for $15,000,000; but internal evidence and many facts are decidedly against it, and the author has not found the slightest evidence in its support. It was made forty years after the event, and probably was due to a misunderstanding or defective recollection.

Out of this affair grew a diplomatic tilting-match (Ho. 2; 28, 2). Bocanegra, though personally agreeable and officially painstaking, dignified and courteous (Thompson, Recolls., 82) was not a great logician; and the son of Duff Green could hardly be regarded as an intellectual giant. Still, certain points emerged from the discussion. The Mexican planted himself on the technical theory of ownership, accused the Texans of stealing the territory which they had been graciously permitted to occupy, and charged the United States in the usual manner with violating treaties and international law. Green, on the other hand, relied upon facts: the fact of actual Texan independence, the fact that Mexico herself owed her existence to a revolution, and the fact that she had regarded herself as independent and had been so regarded by other nations long before the mother-country would recognize her. But the correspondence as a whole was indecisive, disagreeable, and exasperating.

6. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 273–9, 365–7.

7. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 416–7. Shannon and Rejón: Sen. 1; 28, 2, p. 47; Ho. 19; 28, 2. 52Rejón to Shannon, Nov. 21, 1844. Buchanan to Shannon, no. 10, 1845. 13Bankhead, no. 67, 1844. Von Holst, U. S., ii, 685. Jameson, Calhoun Correspondence, 662. Tyler, Message, Dec. 18, 1844 (Richardson). N. Y. Eve. Post, Dec. 18, 1844. (Rejón) Sosa, Biografías; 52B. E. Greene, no. 17, 1844. N. Y. Herald, Dec. 16, 1844. Nat. Intelligencer, Dec. 20, 1844. Democ. Review, Feb., 1847, 99, 100. Richtofen, Zust?nde, 54–6. Rejón, Justificación.

A recent Mexican author has said that "perfidy," which the Mexicans loved to charge against the United States at this period, was made impossible by the publicity of our diplomatic affairs (Búlnes, Mentiras, 167). It should be remembered that we had a perfect right to seek, in the way we had sought, to acquire Texas-i.e. by purchase.

8. Sen. 1; 29, 1, pp. 38 (Almonte); 39 (Buchanan). Smith, Annex. of Texas, 420–3. Shannon, no. 10, Apr. 6, 1845. Bankhead, nos. 30, 38, 1845. Richardson, Messages, iv, 388. O Se Hace la Guerra. Diario, May 12. Memoria de ... Relaciones, Dec., 1846.

"Is it possible," exclaimed La Voz del Pueblo of March 26, "that Mexico is a nation of slaves, a wandering tribe, to be the prey of other nations? Eleven years of war [to gain our independence], all the victims executed, all the costly sacrifices made,-have these been in vain? War and only war can save us"-"war without quarter," "extermination and death." For other references and quotations see Smith, Annex. of Texas, 425–7. 52Dimond, nos. 244–5, 249, etc., 1845. Min. of treasury to Deputies, Apr. 19, 1845 (Diario, Apr. 20). 56W. S. Parrott, Apr. 26.

9. Amigo del Pueblo, July 17, 1845. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 427. Diario, July 17, 23, 25, 31; Aug. 11; Oct. 11. Siglo XIX, Aug. 1. 52Dimond, nos. 245, 249, etc., 1845. Journal des Débats, Sept. 20. 56W. S. Parrott, July 12, 15, 22, 30; Aug. 16. Patriota Mex., Nov. 14. 52Shannon, no. 3, 1844. St. Louis Republican, Aug. 18, 1845. Wash. Union, Aug. 1, 14; Sept. 29. 297Buchanan to McLane, priv. and pers., Sept. 13. 77Relaciones to mins., July 30. 52Campbell, Havana, Aug. 14. 76Guerra, circular, July 16. Bankhead, no. 38, 1845. Bustamante, Nuevo Bernal, i, 43–5.

July 30, 1845, the Mexican minister of relations wrote to the Mexican minister at Paris: "Mexico has been left no choice except to fight the United States"; "The campaign will soon begin"; 14,000 troops are en route; 6000 will soon be organized to join them (77Cuevas to Garro, res.).

10. Siglo XIX, July 27. Picayune, Sept. 23. St. Louis Reveille, Sept. 14. 52Black, no. 341, 1845. 56W. S. Parrott, July 22, 30. Dimond, nos. 249, 257, 1845. Diario, July 31. 297Polk to Buchanan, private, Aug. 7.

Spanish-American subtlety was not the only subtlety at work. Aug. 1, 1845, the Mexican agent at London reported: I have told Aberdeen that war is inevitable; he suggests that we merely suspend relations with the U. S., since a declaration of war would lawfully be followed by the occupation of California, the bombardment of Vera Cruz, and a blockade (77Murphy, no. 9). The view that no declaration of war was necessary and that an attack might be made at once on Texas was well understood in the United States, as the preceding citations show. As early as Aug. 5 the Mexican commander at Matamoros 52proclaimed: "Comrades, the moment has arrived to present ourselves on the field of honor."

11. 108Wikoff to Bancroft, May 10, 1845. 52Buchanan to Parrott, Mar. 28, 1845.

In one respect this was an unfortunate appointment, for the Mexican authorities hated Parrott; but Buchanan, who probably was not aware of that fact, regarded him as "a discreet man, well acquainted with public affairs," and entitled to the confidence of the President (52to Black, Sept. 17). He was familiar with Spanish, had an intimate acquaintance with Mexican politics and politicians, and was available. It is highly improbable that any one else combined these necessary qualifications; and, as his errand called for no public recognition and was mainly to be executed indirectly, prejudice was likely to be disarmed. 162Bancroft to Conner, Nov. 20, 1845. 162Id. to Latimer, Nov. 7, 10.

12. 56W. S. Parrott, June 24; Sept. 6. His quoted words, added to other declarations of a similar character, dispose completely of the assertion, often found in Mexican and American writings, that we offered to pay for Texas and thus admitted that we had wickedly annexed it. Baldly and as of right, Mexico's claim could not be recognized by this nation; but in a spirit of good-will, under cover of paying for a satisfactory line, we were disposed to soothe her feelings with a gift.

13. Tyler, Tyler, iii, 174 (Green). Slidell, Dec. 17. Shannon, no. 8, 1845. Dimond, nos. 256, 259, 266, 1845. 56W. S. Parrott, Aug. 16 (Herrera has said, "If a Minister from the United States should arrive, he would be well received"), 26, 29. (Black, Aug. 23) Polk, Diary, Sept. 16. 108Kemble to Bancroft, Sept. 3: letters from men in daily intercourse with Herrera, Almonte, and the minister of relations say the government desires peace; and one says: "We know from good authority that if a Minister were sent from the United States he would be well received" (note the word "Minister").

14. Richmond Enquirer, Dec. 9. Buchanan to Larkin, Oct. 17, 1845; to Slidell, Nov. 10. Dix in Cong. Globe, 30, 1, app., 176. See also pp. 136–7.

15. García, Juárez, 9, 12. 52W. D. Jones, Sept. 22, 1838. (Estrada) Valencia, proclam., Oct. 22, 1840, in Papeles Varios. London Times, Mar. 13, 1845. Picayune, Dec. 30, 1844; Jan. 25, 1846. McLane, March 3, 1845 (Curtis, Buchanan, i, 583). Feb. 28, 1846, the British Foreign Office transmitted to Bankhead a letter (delivered to it by the Spanish minister by order of his court) which pointed toward the establishment of monarchy in Mexico under a Spanish prince.

16. (Believed) 297Buchanan to McLane, priv. and pers., Sept. 13, 1845.

17. Polk, Diary, Sept. 16, 17, 1845. (Caused) Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 12 (Buchanan). Slidell had been born and educated at the north.

18. Bankhead, nos. 94, 101, 104, 1845. The British government censured Bankhead for going so far in efforts to restore harmony between the United States and Mexico (13to Bankhead, no. 36, 1845. 77Murphy, no. 2, 1846). 13Pe?a to Bankhead, Oct. 15. México á través, iv, 545. Pe?a only said that Mexico would be "inclined" to hear the United States, but of course he would not, on the ground of a passing mood, have expected two British ministers to act for his nation.

19. Bankhead, nos. 101, 104. Id. to Pakenham, Oct. 16. Richardson, Messages, iv, 437–43. That Mexico knew our claims counted among the "differences" is proved by the letter of Cuevas to Forsyth, July 29, 1837 (Sen. 1; 25, 2, p. 111): The President is anxious for "that final and equitable adjustment [of the claims] which is to terminate the existing difficulties between the two Governments."

20. Ho. 60; 30, 1, pp. 12 (Buchanan); 13, 14, 17 (Black). Pe?a to Black, Oct. 14 in Memoria de ... Relaciones, 1846. Diario, Nov. 6. 341Black, memorial, Dec. 20, 1847. Sen. 12; 30, 1.

21. Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 12 (Buchanan). Ho. Report 752; 29, 1. Monitor Repub., Aug. 1, 1846 (Herrera had been determined to settle with the United States).

22. Sen. 325; 27, 2, p. 64. Sen. 337; 29, 1, p. 10. As to Slidell's Title, cf. together Buchanan to Parrott, Mar. 28; Id. to Black, Sept. 17; Pe?a to council of state; and report of council of state. Polk, Diary, Nov. 6, 9, 10.

In Tyler, Tyler, iii, 174, may be found a statement from B. E. Green to the effect that Herrera sent word to him that a minister of the usual sort could not be received, and that he transmitted this message to Polk. But (1), if such was Herrera's attitude, why was it not made clear to Black, who had been expressly commissioned to ascertain whether a minister would be received; (2) Green, as a member of the Calhoun faction, and perhaps as an official who had lost a good post in our legation at Mexico, was not favorable to Polk, and a statement made by a prejudiced person from memory forty-four years after the event, regarding a delicate matter in which precision is essential, cannot be considered at all authoritative. (3) This statement is out of harmony with a number of material facts. 256Marcy to Wetmore, Feb. 1, 1846: Slidell was sent "on a

n express agreement that a minister would be received."

23. 52McLane, no. 8, Sept. 26, 1845. 108Kemble to Bancroft, Sept. 3, 1845. Dimond, no. 269, 1845. Times, Oct. 14. (Impatience) Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 17 (Black). Polk, Diary, Nov. 10.

24. Buchanan to Slidell, Nov. 10; Dec. 17. Veracruzano Libre, Nov. 30. 52Comte. princ. to Dimond, Nov. 30. Slidell, Nov. 30; Dec. 17. Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 22 (Black). (Fleet) Conner to Dimond, Oct. 23, 1845 (Wash. Union, Dec. 1, 1847). Conner felt so sure of the conciliatory spirit of his government that he withdrew without waiting for orders. California was well known to be in a chronic state of rebellion (chap. xvi), which Mexico had not the power to subdue, and therefore it was natural for one who knew very little about the Mexicans to suppose they would be willing to take a price for the practically worthless claim to that territory.

The view that Polk explicitly instructed Slidell to give up the plan to buy California rather than allow that plan to stand in the way of regaining amicable relations with Mexico does not seem to be correct (Kelsey, Consulate, 62, note 5). But Buchanan's letter of Dec. 17 to Slidell lays stress upon his "two last alternatives," which were to purchase northern California, including (a) the Bay of San Francisco or (b) Monterey also; yet he instructs Slidell to drop this matter, if pressing it would endanger success in endeavoring to obtain the Rio Grande boundary or a line including all of New Mexico. Now such a settlement of the Texas-New Mexico boundary would have involved a restoration of amicable relations with Mexico. The two matters (boundary and relations) were inextricably interwoven both in fact and logically. Hence in effect Buchanan instructed Slidell to drop the plan of purchasing California if pressing it would be liable to prevent the restoration of amicable relations with Mexico. Rives (U. S. and Mexico, ii, 69, note 2) takes a different view, but seems to have erred in more particulars than one.

25. See pp. 55–6. Smith, Annex. of Texas, 423–31. 52Slidell, Dec. 17, 27. Amigo del Pueblo, Nov. 1: "It is hardly possible to believe such perfidy, such baseness and such audacity ... treason more horrible has never been seen." Patriota Mexicano, Nov. 18: "To listen to talk of peace from these men [the Americans] is to take the road to perdition, death, ignominy." Voz del Pueblo, Dec. 3: "The treason has been discovered.... We no longer own the very ground on which we walk."

26. Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 22 (Black). Slidell, Dec. 29, 1845. Bankhead, no. 127, 1845. México á través, iv, 545. Roa Bárcena, Recuerdos, 19. Sierra, Evolution, i, 212. Black, Dec. 18.

One of Pe?a's minor points was that it did not appear from Slidell's credentials that he had been confirmed by the Senate; and in fact, since the American Congress had not been in session at the time of his appointment, he had not been. This was not only to inquire into our domestic affairs, but to hold that the Executive of the United States could not appoint a diplomatic agent during a recess of the Senate. Shannon's letter of credence had said nothing regarding his confirmation, and Murphy had acted as our chargé in Texas for about nine months before his name went to the Senate. Another point was that Slidell's letter of credence did not expressly state that he had full powers for the business in hand; but it was practically absurd, after the United States had taken so much trouble and shown its good faith by withdrawing our fleet, to suppose that we would send an agent to Mexico without giving him the authority to do what we were evidently so anxious to bring about. When this complaint was brought to his attention, Slidell replied that his credentials described him as minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary, and also that it was not usual to exhibit one's full powers at so early a stage in such negotiations, adding that he would have done so, however, had any desire to see them been suggested. Buchanan was doubtless right in calling the objection a quibble; and one cannot suppose that under different circumstances it would have been presented. The council of state rejected Pe?a's objections in both of these cases.

27. Ho. 60; 30, 1, pp. 31, 58 (Pe?a); 28 (Black). 52Slidell, Dec. 17.

28. Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 58 (Pe?a). 77Relaciones, circular to govs., Dec. 11. Comunicación circular. Memoria de ... Relaciones, Dec., 1848. Sen. 337; 29, 1, pp. 21, 24, 25, 28, 32 (Slidell); 22 (Black); 25, 30 (Pe?a). Slidell, Dec. 17.

Even the unfriendly Mexican correspondent of the London Times wrote, "For once" the United States is right, for the documents prove that Mexico made no ad hoc condition (Times, Mar. 13, 1846). The matter can be viewed in another light also. Pe?a agreed to receive a "comisionado"; later he said he had agreed to receive a "comisionado ad hoc." If the words "ad hoc" added anything, they indicated a difference between his earlier and his later positions; if not, why were they used? Many Americans, doubtless without perceiving what the significance of the act would have been, have insisted that the United States ought to have humored poor little Mexico by sending an envoy ad hoc. Aside from the weightier objection to so doing, such a concession would probably have led to further demands (see note 34). Pe?a, instead of recognizing our magnanimity in taking the first step to heal a breach caused by Mexico, described our overture as "a tacit but clear and strong confession of the rights of Mexico [and] of the wrongs done to her" (77circular, Dec. 11). Gallatin stated that treaties of peace were always negotiated by special commissioners, but this was incorrect (see e.g. Jenkinson, Collection, iii, 355).

29. Memoria de ... Relaciones, 1846. The council of state said: From the language in which the ministry "explains the condition of receiving the proposed envoy (enviado), we cannot draw a satisfactory reason for not receiving Mr. Slidell." Ho. 60; 30, 1, pp. 28–49, 56. Bankhead, no. 127, 1845.

In his manifesto of July 26, 1846 (Diario, July 30), Paredes mentioned, as third among the causes of the war, the attempt of the United States to induce Mexico to receive a resident minister, so as to restore friendly relations without first making amends for the offence [annexation of Texas] that had broken off official intercourse.

30. Webster, Writings, iv, 32. R. C. Winthrop, another leading Whig, took the same ground (Union, Mar. 20, 1847). (Awkward) Calhoun in Benton's Abr. Debates, xvi, 99.

31. Revolution of Paredes. Memoria de ... Relaciones, Dec, 1846 (including documents). Contestaciones (between Paredes, Arista, and the government, 1845). Carre?o, Jefes, clxiii-clxxvii. Patriota Mex., Dec. 23, 1845. Ramírez, México, 80–124. 77Relaciones, circular, Jan. 3, 1846. México á través, iv, 546–56. 56Mexican corr. of London Times to W. S. Parrott, Nov. 19; Dec. 18. 76Guerra, circular, Jan 5. Dimond, nos. 279, 302, 1845. Aguila del Norte, Feb. 11; Mar. 18, 1846. Rivera, Gobernantes, ii, 281–5, 287–8. Giménez, Mems., 91. 285Tornel to Paredes, Nov. 19, 1845. Bankhead, nos. 94, 97, 116, 119, 120, 124, 1845; 2, 1846. Tributo á la Verdad. 56W. S. Parrott, Aug. 16, 29; Sept. 29, 1845. Black, June 10; Sept. 2, 1845. Picayune, Jan. 24, 1846. Portrait of Herrera: city hall, Mexico. London Times, Feb. 10; Mar. 2, 20, 1846. Monitor Constit., Jan. 1, 16, 1846. Slidell, Dec. 27, 1845; Jan. 14; Feb. 6, 1846. Memorial Histórico, Jan. 14, 1846.

The condition of Mexico on the eve of this revolution was well described by the Revista Económica y Comercial: "The country wavers, goes backward, loses courage, and loses hope, because all the systems of government that it has tried, one by one, have failed to give the fruits promised by their authors, and, worn out and exhausted by so many and varied medicines that have been applied in vain, it desires only order, peace, and some degree of security. Our men of merit, education, and patriotism are silent, live in retirement and sadness in their houses, occupied solely with private affairs ... we have become a nation of soldiers, officials, lawyers, clergymen, and smugglers, where the number who produce bears a miserable proportion to the number of those who live by the labor and sweat of the producers, and where the continual political changes, the disorders, the bad administration of justice, and the bad commercial and financial system offer more or less sustenance to those who produce nothing, always at the expense of the toilers and their allies, the merchants." The political situation was thus explained by El Siglo XIX: "When a long series of civil dissensions, of frauds upon the public, of treasons against the parties, of perjuries to principles, have mixed up men and things, blotted out the line between political groups, and confused all ideas, politics must become a genuine chaos. Mexico is in precisely that condition." When charged with upsetting public order Paredes replied, "None existed" (Esperanza, Jan. 8, 1846). As late as Aug. 6, 1846, Texas was called upon, like the other political divisions of the country, to elect members of Congress.

32. (Scheme) 52Black, Dec. 30, 1845; 52Slidell, Dec. 27; 297McLane to Polk, private, Jan. 17, 1846; Memorial Histórico, Jan. 26, and the Mexican press generally. Slidell saw grounds for hope: the delay in furnishing him an escort; a possibility that Paredes might hold that Herrera had committed Mexico; the improbability that money to pay the troops could be borrowed while war seemed likely (hence he sent a hint to the government that money could be obtained by accepting a boundary satisfactory to the United States); Castillo, with whom he had talked a number of times before he became minister of relations, was intelligent and averse to a war with the United States. Buchanan to Slidell, Jan. 20, 28; Mar. 12.

33. Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 63 (Slidell). Memoria de ... Relaciones, 1846. The council said that Slidell could not be received on any footing, unless Taylor (now at Corpus Christi) should retire. "The limiting of the mission of the comisionado to the sole question of Texas," it remarked, "was a tacit condition (una condición tácita)." This admitted once more that the condition was not stated. The council admitted also that comisionado was not the proper term for an envoy ad hoc, which refutes again the contention of a certain American school that Mexico explicitly required us to send a "commissioner" instead of a minister. Castillo's reply to Slidell (Mar. 12) said: Mexico cannot have agreed to receive a regular minister, for it would have been imprudent to do that; by fraud and violence the fair province of Texas has been stolen; and now, after robbing and outraging Mexico, your country seeks to obtain a pretext for war by demanding of us the impossible humiliation of receiving you (Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 67). At this time Castillo did not know that Taylor was advancing toward the Rio Grande (Diario, Mar. 15, 1846). 166Slidell to Conner, Feb. 7; Mar. 15.

34. Mar. 17 Slidell answered Castillo at some length (Ho. 60; 30, 1, p. 72), vindicating the course of the United States in regard to Texas. All the threats of war, he pointed out, have come from Mexico; to suppose that the present Mexican administration in particular does not intend to fight, would be to accuse it of declaring, in order to overthrow Herrera, what it did not mean; so far as words can produce war it already exists by the act of Mexico, and is the United States to remain entirely passive, taking no precautions, till your army "shall be prepared to strike, with due effect, the threatened blow?" Slidell at the same time requested his passports. Castillo to Slidell, March 21 (Memoria de ... Relaciones, 1846) declared the discussion closed and transmitted passports. April 23 Paredes said in a manifesto that he rejected Slidell because "the dignity of the nation resented this new insult" (México á través, iv, 559). In view of the grounds on which his revolution had been launched (73Bermúdez de Castro, no. 200, res., 1846) he could not have received Slidell without grave danger to himself (Black, May 26, 1846; Slidell, no. 11). See chap. viii, note 24. Slidell sailed from Vera Cruz on March 31, but at Polk's request he retained his commission and held himself in readiness to go to Mexico again for about a year (Moore, Buchanan, vii, 211; 52Slidell, no. 14, 1847).

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