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CHAPTER X I.

NEW TREATIES WITH MEXICO ABOUT CLAIMS.

The Treaty of Arbitration had deprived the Administration for some time of all pretexts of complaint against Mexico, and probably postponed the annexation of Texas. Fortunately for the designs of the Cabinet, the accumulation of claims towards the close of the Commission had, as we have seen, left a large nominal amount undecided. of this surplus, the Administration eagerly availed itself to renew a harassing negotiation. No Minister had been sent to Mexico since Mr. Ellis thought it expedient to demand his passports, and to decline specifying the reasons of so ungracious a measure. The Commission under the Treaty terminated, as we have seen, in February, 1842; and the next March, Mr. Tyler, who as Vice-President had succeeded to the Executive Chair on the death of President Harrison, appointed Mr. Waddy Thompson, of South Carolina, Minister to Mexico. In selecting this gentleman, he was no doubt influenced by the same motives which had led to the appointment of Messrs. Poinsett, Butler, and Ellis. He was a slaveholder, devoted to the cause of Texas. He had, moreover, on the floor of Congress, introduced a resolution directing the President to take measures for the annexation of Texas, as soon as it could be done, consistently with the Treaty stipulations of the Government-an act which nece

ecessarily rendered him personally offensive to the Mexican Government.

It will be recollected that by the treaty of arbitration the award was to be paid half in cash, and half in treasury notes at par, bearing eight per cent. interest, and receivable for duties. Mr. Thompson found the Mexican credit very low, and treasury notes at a discount of about seventy per cent. His diplomatic correspondence has been published only in part, and we are therefore ignorant by what means he succeeded in negotiating, 30th January, 1843, a new convention or treaty by which Mexico agreed to pay on the 30th April of the same year, all the interest then due, and the award itself in five years, in equal quarterly instalments. This arrangement has been represented as a boon granted to Mexico,* and therefore aggravating her ingratitude. The assertion, like most others made in vindication or apology of the Mexican war, is untrue. Says Mr. Calhoun, Secretary of State, writing to Mr. Shannon, minister in Mexico, June 20th, 1844– “The convention (of 1839), provided that the claims which should be allowed, might be discharged by payment of Mexican treasury notes, but as these were much depreciated in value, it became a matter of importance to effect some other arrangement by which specie should be substituted in their stead. To this end your predecessor (Thompson), was empowered and instructed to enter into a negotiation with the Government of Mexico, and a convention was concluded, 30th January, 1843.” Mr. Thompson, in his “Recollections of Mexico," speaking of this convention, says, p. 223, “ the market value of the treasury notes was about thirty cents on a dollar, and, if this additional two millions had been thrown upon the market, they would have been depreciated still more. The owners of these claims knew this, and were anxious co make some other arrangement.” Hence the “

boon"

* Report of C J. Ingersol, Chairman of Com. of Foreign Affairs, June 24th, 1846.

was extorted from Mexico, and probably through the menaces of the negotiator.

But the new convention did more than regulate the payment of the award. It stipulated for the negotiation of another arbitration treaty, and one more comprehensive than the last, for it was to provide for the settlement of all claims made by the Government of Mexico against the United States, as well as the claims of the Government and citizens of the United States against the Republic of Mexico. Here was at least the appearance of fairness. The United States consented by this treaty, which was duly ratified, that the wrongs the Government and it citizens had done to Mexico should be submitted to a court of referees. What claims the citizens of Mexico had against the United States do not appear; but the claims of the Government were numerous and important.

Vessels captured by Mexican ships of war for being engaged in contraband trade, had been forcibly seized and carried off by American armed vessels, and a Mexican national vessel had been audaciously captured and brought to the United States by one of the vessels of our navy ; and frequent had been the insults which American functionaries had offered to the Mexican authorities. It must, therefore, have been a grateful reflection to the Mexicans, that the wrongs they had themselves suffered, were to be examined and redressed by a tribunal more impartial than the Cabinet at Washington. Whether it was through inadvertence, or with a view of inducing Mexico to provide for the settlement of the vast amount of claims left undecided that the American Government accorded this unusual justice to the síster Republic, is uncertain. The treaty stipulated for by the convention of 30th January, 1843, was concluded in Mexico on the 20th November of the same year. The respective claims of the citizens and Governments of the two countries were to be referred to a joint commission to sit in Mexico; and where the commissioners should not agree, the award of an umpire, to be named by the king of Belgium, was to be final. This treaty was sent to Washington, accompanied by a letter from Thompson to the Secretary of State, in which he tells him “the place of meeting of the board, you will see, is in Mexico, and not in Washington. The Mexican plenipotentiaries said that the last commission met in Washington, and that it was their right to insist that this one should meet in Mexico. The only reply that I could make was, that the claims presented to that commission were all against Mexico, and that nearly all the claimants resided in the United States; to which they replied that this commission will also be charged with the claims of the Government and citizens of Mexico against the United States, and that they could not concede this point. I thought there was much reason in their demand ; and, as it was matter of punctilio, and as with a Spaniard punctilio is everything, I was well satisfied it would be a sine qua non, and therefore yielded it, in consideration of their allowing me to name the arbiter—a much more important consideration.”

The mere details of this treaty were of course matters of discretion to which the Government at Washington had the strict right of objecting. But the United States had, by a solemn convention duly ratified, agreed that the complaints of the Government and citizens of Mexico should be referred by treaty to a tribunal for settlement; to refuse therefore to consent to such a reference, was a breach of faith plighted by treaty. Yet of such a breach was the Senate of the United States guilty.

The treaty was conditionally ratified by the Senate, first striking out of it the right of each Government to prefer before the commission claims against the other; and secondly, alter

ing the place of meeting to Washington.* There was no dispute about the treaty of 30th January, 1843. Mr. Upshur, Secretary of State, in his correspondence with Thompson, acknowledged and regretted the obligation it imposed, of referring to a tribunal wholly judicial in its character a subject “strictly diplomatic.” Yet, in defiance of a plain treaty stipulation, the Senate refused to refer the claims of the Mexican Government to the decision of the commissioners and umpire. The place of meeting was changed by the Senate to Washington, although the Government had been warned by its own agent, that the sitting of the commission in Mexico was a sine qua non, and a point of national pride. The treaty thus mutilated, and conditionally ratified, was sent back to Mexico, where no farther notice of it was taken. Hence arose the cry from the partisans of Texas, that Mexico refused to settle the claims advanced by the citizens of the United States. President Polk in his labored vindication of the war against Mexico, contained in his message of December, 1846, had the temerity to charge Mexico with “violating the faith of treaties, by failing or refusing to carry into effect the sixth article of the convention of January, 1843"!!

* Report of Com. on Foreign Affairs, June 24th, 1846.

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