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THE Government of the United States has at all times been liberal in its professions of neutrality in regard to belligerents, and has on various occasions endeavored to prevent its citizens from engaging in hostilities against friendly powers. In 1793, President Washington issued his proclamation warning American citizens against “committing, aiding or abetting hostilities against any of the Powers at war," and threatening with prosecution all who should “violate the laws of nations," with respect to the belligerents. Washington's subsequent acts abundantly evinced the sincerity of his proclamation.
In 1806, President Jefferson issued a proclamation declaring, that “sundry persons, citizens of the United States, are conspiring and confederating together to begin and set on foot a military expedition against the dominions of Spain; fitting out and arming vessels in the western waters of the United States; collecting arms, military stores and other means ;” and he commands all such persons to cease all further proceedings as they will "incur prosecutions with all the rigor of the law." moreover enjoined it upon all military officers of the army and navy of the United States, “to be vigilant in bringing to condign punishment persons engaged in those unlawful enterprizes."
In 1815 a similar proclamation was issued by President Madison against persons chiefly in Louisiana, who were preparing to invade the Spanish provinces.
In 1838, President Van Buren by proclamation informed the citizens of the northern frontier who were aiding the Canadian rebels, that, by compromitting the neutrality of the Government, they would render themselves liable to arrest and punishment, “under the laws of the United States, which will be rigidly enforced.”
Il thus appears that from 1793 to 1838, our Government had acknowledged the duty, and professed the ability, to punish its citizens for violating the neutral obligations of the nation.
In 1835 and 1836, Texas was at open war with Mexico, part of the time as an insurgent province, and part of the time as a separate Republic. The first official act of the government manifesting its sympathy for the insurgents, was the appointment in 1835 of four consuls to reside among them. The appointment was of itself insulting to the Mexican government, and was undoubtedly made for the purpose of stationing in Texas eonfidential agents who might facilitate the progress of revolt, independence, and annexation.
The embarrassment and perplexity into which Mexico was thrown by the revolt of Texas, and the aid openly furnished the insurgents from the United States, encouraged the Cabinet at Washington once more to press
their proposal for purchase, and Mr. Butler, the minister in Mexico, was instructed (16th August, 1835), to negociate for a cession of the territory bounded by the Rio Grande from its source to the 37th degree north latitude, and thence to the Pacific including the whole of Texas, Santa Fé, and a large portion of California !*
• Ex. Doc. 1st Sees., 25th Congress.
It may readily be supposed that the Federal administration was not very zealous in prohibiting succor to the Texans, who were laboring to secure to the United States a very large portion of this coveted territory.
On the 29th October, 1835, the Mexican Minister informed the Secretary of State that no less than twelve vessels were about to sail from New York and New Orleans with military stores, and that on the 10th of the month an armed schooner had sailed from New Orleans for Texas, without papers from the Mexican Consul, and he demanded the interposition of the Government to prevent such breaches of neutrality. In consequence of this application, the Secretary (Mr. Forsyth) addressed a circular to various United States' Attorneys, directing them
prosecute all violations of those laws of the United States which have been enacted for the purpose of preserving peace and of fulfilling the obligations of treaties with foreign nations.” The cold generality of this circular indicated the temper and wishes of its author, which were no doubt perfectly understood by the prosecuting officers to whom the order was addressed. Notwithstanding the publicity and notoriety of the “violations,” not an individual was ever punished for participating in them, nor was an officer of the Government ever dismissed or censured for treating the circular as a mere matter of form. A few months after the date of the circular, Mr. N. C. Read, United States' District Attorney in Ohio, addressed a public meeting in that State, called in aid of the Texans, and proposed the following resolution, which was adopted :-“Resolved, that no law, human or divine, except such as are framed by tyrants, and for their benefit, forbids our assisting the Texans ; and such law, if any exists, we do not as Americans choose to obey.” At the same meeting, a Committee was openly appointed “ to
assist Captain Lawrence in raising recruits and funds for the cause of Texas." We have no evidence that the extraordinary conduct of the Ohio prosecuting officer impaired the confidence the Government had placed in him. Nevertheless, Mr. Forsyth assured the Mexican Minister that “all measures enjoined and warranted by law have been and will continue to be taken to enforce respect by the citizens of the United States within their jurisdiction to the neutrality of this Government.”
The declaration of Mr. Van Buren, the personal friend of General Jackson, and his successor in office, is a singular commentary on this oficial and solemn pledge.
Nothing is either more true or more extensively known, than that Texas was wrested from Mexico, and her independence established through the instrumentality of citizens of the United States." *
To a second remonstrance from the Mexican Minister against the aid so openly and scandalously afforded by American citizens to the Texans, Mr. Forsyth returned, 29th January, 1.836, the following most extraordinary reply : “ No sooner was it apparent that the dispute between Texas and the dominant party in the other Mexican States would be carried to extremities, and indications observed of a design in some of the citizens of the United States to take a part in the struggle, all the measures in his power were adopted by the President to prevent any interference that could by possibility involve the United States in the dispute, or give just occasion for suspicions of an unfriendly design on the part of the Government to intermeddle in the domestic quarrel of a neighboring State." .
Six days before these solemn and official assurances were given, a course of measures had been commenced by the President wbich exhibits the very peculiar view he was pleased to take of neutral obligations.
* Printed Letter to Mr. Hammet, 20th April, 1844.
On the 23rd January, General Gaines was directed to take a position near the western frontier of the State of Louisiana, to prevent the contending parties from entering into the United States' territory! He was reminded that, by treaty with Mexico, each power is required to prevent by force “all hostilities and incursions on the part of Indian nations within their respective boundaries.” Supposing this order to have been given in good faith, its sole object could have been to protect the Texans from assaults by American Indians. There was no reason whatever to apprehend that the Texans, Americans themselves, and daily receiving supplies from their countrymen, would make hostile incursions into the American territory. The Mexicans had neither the disposition nor the ability to invade the United States. There was, moreover, no proof that the American Indians intended any aggressions upon the Texans. The army was stationed on the frontier of Texas for objects very different from those which were ayowed. Commanded by a General devoted to the cause of anne on, it gave countenance and support to the Texans in their struggle; and, should more efficient aid be needed, no small portion of its men, arms, and ammunition, would readily find their way into the Texan camp. It is to be observed, moreover, that Gaines was not directed to prevent American citizens from compromitting the neutrality of the Government. Regiments raised in the Southern States might freely pass his tent on their way to wage war against a friendly power. In deference to our treaty stipulations, Indians were to be restrained from entering Mexico; but foes far more dangerous to the Mexicans than savages were to have free admittance. General Gaines was a willing in