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posed to have everything amicably arranged, but that the opposition was strong, and opposed the Government with great violence in this measure, and that the Government had to proceed with great caution; that nothing positive could be done until the new Congress met in January.” On Wednesday, the 10th December, Slidell was informed that his letter must be submitted to the Council of Government before a reply could be returned. But this gentleman would not brook delay, and on Saturday sent the Consul to inquire when an answer would be given. The Consul was told the letter had been submitted to a Committee of the Council, and that as soon as the Committee had reported, an answer would be sent; that Mr. Slidell came as a resident Minister, and not a Commissioner to treat of Texas, as was expected. The Secretary appealed to the Consul, that he himself knew “ the critical situation of the Mexican Government, and that it had to proceed with great caution and circumspection in this affair ; that the Government itself was well disposed to arrange all difficulties.”
These assurances of the friendly dispositions of the Government, and their earnest solicitation for a little delay, till those dispositions could be sanctioned and supported by the Congress about to assemble, seemed to have confirmed Mr. Slidell in his resolution to force matters to extremities ; and accordingly, without waiting for the report of the Committee, he dispatched another letter on the ensuing Monday to the Secretary, requiring to know when he might expect an answer to his first, and declaring, what was absolutely false, that “he is necessarily ignorant of the reasons which have caused so long a delay.” The “long delay” was precisely seven days, and within that time he had been twice officially informed through the Consul of “the reasons” of the delay. To this letter an answer was returned, stating that the delay complained of, had arisen from certain difficulties arising from the nature of his commission, compared with the character of a negotiator to treat on the subject of Texas, whom the United States had proposed to send to Mexico; that the subject had been submitted to the Council of Government, and that the result would be communicated to him without loss of time. The next day, 17th December, Mr. Slidell wrote to the Government at Washington, detailing the progress of the negotiation thus far. It will be observed, that up to this date he had neither been received, nor refused, and in this very letter he remarks that “the impression here among the best informed persons is, that the President and his Cabinet are really desirous to enter frankly upon a negotiation which would terminate all their difficulties with the United States.” The day after this letter was received at Washington, peremptory orders were sent to General Taylor to march to the Rio Grande ; and this order, nècessarily calculated and obviously intended to bring on a war, has been vindicated on the ground, that the Mexican Government had refused to treat with Mr. Slidell !
It was obvious, from what had passed, that the Mexican administration, although pacific in its feelings, was not strong in the confidence of the public, and it was naturally inferred, that it would not have the power, even should it have the disposition, to conclude a treaty for the dismemberment of the Republic by the cession of California. Hence the determination of Mr. Polk to secure by the sword what he now saw could not likely be acquired by the pen. This determination was moreover strengthened by the following information communicated in the same letter from Mr. Slidell. “The country, torn by conflicting factions, is in a state of perfect anarchy, its finances in a condition utterly desperate. I do not see where means can possibly be found to carry on the government. The annual expense of the army alone exceeds twenty-one millions of dollars, while the net revenue is not more than ten or twelve. While there is a prospect of war with the United States, no capitalist will loan money, at any rate, however onerous. Every branch of the revenue is already pledged in advance. The troops must be paid, or they will revolt.” Of course from such a government, it would be easy to wrest California, and as much more as we might want.
Mr. Slidell, having, as we have seen, refused to permit the Mexican Cabinet to postpone their decision respecting his reception, till the meeting of Congress in January, that decision was communicated, to him on the 20th December. He would be received as a Commissioner to treat of the questions relating to Texas; but until that question was arranged, he could not be received as Minister plenipotentiary.
Mr. Slidell was of course very insulting in his reply. “ The annals of no civilized nation present, in so short a time, so many wanton attacks upon the rights of person and property as have been endured by the citizens of the United States from the Mexican authorities.” It is to be apprehended that this gentleman is either very imperfectly acquainted with the annals of civilized nations, or very unscrupulous in drawing inferences from them. In the excitement of the moment, and for the sole purpose of irritation, he paraded before the Mexican Secretary, the millions demanded by the American government as compensation for “ the accumulated wrongs” of its “much-injured citizens.” The indebtedness of Mexico, according to Mr. Slidell was as follows, viz. :
The award under the treaty of 1839,- $2,026,139
8,491,603 Credit by payments made on the award,* 303,919
We have heretofore seen that the total amount of claims
presented to the board of arbitrators, was $11,850,578 The claims afterwards fabricated were, it seems, 2,200,000
Total claim from Mexico, $14,050,578 . It
It may here be edifying to the reader, to interrupt our narrative for a moment, to advise him of the fate of these modest demands, under the especial guardianship of the Cabinet of Washington. The Commissioners and umpire appointed by treaty, after a judicial investigation, rejected as spnrious, or fraudulent, claims to the amount of $5,568,975. The unliquidated claims, after deducting the award made under the treaty, amounted to $6,455,464. Of these, by the treaty of peace, the American Government assumes and promises to pay such as may be found valid by its own Commissioners, not exceeding, however, in amount $3,250,000. This sum deducted from the balance above, leaves no less than $3,205,464, absolutely and irrevocably abandoned and repudiated by the Federal Government, while the Government of Mexico is by treaty stipulation released from all obligation to pay them! The sum thus abandoned, added to the sum rejected by the arbitrators and umpire, makes the very respectable amount of $8,774,439. But this amount is yet to be greaily enlarged. The unliquidated claims are those preferred at the eleventh hour, when the government was striving to exaggerate the sufferings of our citizens, for the purpose of bullying Mexico out of territory, and when it was hoped that the greater the amount of claims, the more ready would the nation be for war. The best claims were undoubtedly those first presented. We here find that of those which were investigated five-sevenths were found spurious. On the very unreasonable supposition that the remaining claims are not more worthless than the first, less than two millions will remain to be paid for by the government. In all human probability, one million will be more than sufficient to meet every equitable demand; and thus of the 14 millions of claims about 11 will have proved in the end to be fictitious. Of this base currency Mr. Slidell, as we have seen, took 6 millions with him to Mexico. The use he was to make of it, is thus specified in his instructions:
* It will be recollected that a convention concluded by Mr. Thompson, the interest on the whole award was to be paid on the 30th April, 1843, and the principal in twenty instalments, one every three months. The Interest was punctually paid, as were the three first instalments. The money for these payments was raised by forced loans, so anxious was the Mexican govern: ment to meet its engagements, notwithstanding its financial embarrassments. The measures adopted by our own government in reference to the annexation of Texas, together with the state of the Mexican treasury, delayed, and finally prevented the other payments.
“Fortunately the joint resolution of Congress for annexing Texas to the United States, presents the means of satisfying these claims, in perfect consistency with the interests as well as the honor of both republics. It has reserved to this government the adjustment of all questions of boundary that may arise with other governments. This question of boundary may therefore be adjusted in such a manner between the two republics as to cast the burden of debt due to American claimants on their own Government, while it will do no injury to Mexico."
* The instructions to Mr. Slidell were called for by the House of Representatives ; but the President refused to communicate them. A copy, however, was surreptitiously obtained, and was published in the newspapers : its authenticity has never been questioned.