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distance of some of which was two thousand miles. I confess that in taking the high ground I did, upon the order expelling our people from California, I felt some compunctious visitings; for I had been informed that a plot had been arranged, and was about being developed by the Americans and other foreigners in that department, to re-enact the scenes of Texus." *
Mr. Thompson, in describing California, says: "Sugar, rice, and cotton, find there their own congenial clime
Of course the same motives which led to the scenes in Texas,” would prompt their re-enactment in California. We shall see hereafter that. Mr. Thompson was not misinformed.
There were two modes of acquiring California -- by negotiation and by war. The first was the most economical, the latter would probably be the most expeditious, but, unless commenced by Mexico, would be extremely hazardous to the popularity and stability of the Administration.
By blustering about our claims, swelling them to the greatest possible point of inflation, and then kindly offering to waive them all in consideration of a cession of California, and throwing in a douceur of a few millions, perhaps it might be possible to worry Mexico into a surrender of the province. But the result was doubtful. Mexico had been very tenacious of her soil, and had refused every bribe to part with it. War was the alternative. Mexico was just now extremely sensitive on the subject of Texas. Her Minister at Washington had demanded his passports on the passage of the joint resolutions. Mr. Shannon, after irritating the Government by his insulting demeanor, had left Mexico, and all diplomatic intercourse between the two countries was now suspended. Under such circumstances, it would not be difficult to excite a war, and a war would give us California. But then a war, to be popular or even to be endured by the North, which would share its burdens but not its spoils, must be “a war by the act of Mexico."
* Recollections of Mexico, p. 227-232.
It was obviously most expedient to try negotiation in the first instance, and, if that failed, then to bring on a war by inducing Mexico to strike the first blow. Such a war could be waged as one of defence, not of aggression; Mexico would of course be immediately humbled, and we might dictate the terms of peace, one of which would be the surrender of the coveted province. Subsequent events have manifested that the policy we have explained was early adopted by Mr. Polk, and maintained with unwavering pertinacity.
MISSION OF MR. SLIDELL TO MEXICO.
BEFORE an attempt could be made to acquire California by negotiation, it was necessary to restore the diplomatic intercourse between the two countries. For this
purpose, the American Consul in Mexico, in compliance with instructions, addressed a letter, 13th October, 1845, to the Mexican Secretary of State, inquiring whether the Mexican Government “would receive an Envoy from the United States, entrusted with full powers to adjust all questions in dispute between the two Governments.” Two days afterwards, the Secretary personally delivered to the Consul a reply, stating, “that although the Mexican nation is deeply injured by the United States through the acts committed by them in the Department of Texas, which belongs to this nation, my Government is disposed to receive the Commissioner of the United States who may come to this country with full powers to settle the present dispute in a peaceful, reasonable, and honorable manner, thus giving a new proof that even in the midst of its injuries and of its firm decision to exact adequate reparation for them, it does not repell with contumely the measures of reason and peace to which it is invited by its adversary.” This, it will be observed, was an indirect reply to the question put by the Consul. Instead of consenting to receive an Envoy with full powers to adjust all questions in dispute, the Secretary refers expressly to the dispute about Texas, and, with a show of condescension, says that his Government will receive the Commissioner who may come to settle the present dispute. The language irresistibly refers to a Commissioner who is to offer, not to demand, reparation for a certain injury, alleged to have been committed in " the department of Texas.”
Such is the fair, and indeed, the only inference to be drawn from the answer returned to the Consul. The answer was not improbably dictated by that species of cunning which politicians are so apt to mistake for wisdom. It
may have been the design of the Mexican Government to use language which would hereafter permit it to reject an American Minister, or to refuse entering with him into negotiations on other topics than Texas, should circumstances render such a course expedient. A similar cunning was evinced by the Cabinet at Washington in its prompt acceptance of the equivocal reply of the Mexican Secretary, as a full and explicit answer to the question proposed by the Consul. Should the Envoy be received, the affair of Texas would of course be set aside as res adjudicata, while the alternative of California or payment of claims would be pressed upon the feeble, distracted Government of Mexico. If, however, the Envoy should be rejected on the ground, that the Government had consented to receive only a Commissioner to treat about Texas, then loud complaints of breach of faith, and of insult offered to the national honor, would prove convenient incentives to war. Mr. Polk avoiding all explanations, hurried off Mr. Slidell, of Louisiana, as Minister to Mexico, within three weeks of the meeting of Congress, and of course without waiting for the confirmation of his nomination by the Senate. The Mexican Secretary, mindful of the rudeness with which his Government had been hitherto treated by American functionaries, expressed the hope,
that the person now to be sent would be one “ whose dignity and prudence, and moderation, and the discreetness and reasonableness of his proposals, will tend to calm, as much as possible, the just irritation of the Mexicans.” How far the gentleman selected by Mr. Polk endeavored to exercise a calming influence, will be seen in the sequel.
On the 3d of December, it was reported in Mexico, that the new Envoy had landed at Vera Cruz. On this, the Mexican Secretary sought an interview with our Consul, and begged him to induce Mr. Slidell to postpone, for the present,
his appearance in the Capital, as he had not been expected before January, by which time the Government, having collected the opinion and consent of the departments, “it would be able to proceed in the affair with more security.” The existing administration were charged by the party in opposition with being too friendly to the United States. “You know,” remarked the Secretary to the Consul, “the opposition are calling us traitors for entering into this arrangement with you ;” and he declared that the Government were afraid that the appearance of the Envoy at this time would produce a revolution against it, which would terminate in its destruction.* The Consul immediately advanced to meet Mr. Slidell, and at Puebla acquainted him with the wishes of the Government. Far from consulting those wishes, he pushed on to the Capital, where he arrived on Saturday, the 6th of December, and the ensuing Monday officially announced his arrival, and asked for an audience for the purpose of presenting his credentials as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States. This letter was the same day delivered by the Consul to the Mexican Secretary of State, who assured him that “he himself was well dis* 29th Cong., 1st Sess., Senate Documents, No. 337, p. 18.