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Title: Peace with Mexico
Author: Gallatin, Albert, 176-1849
Language: English
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Bartlett & Welford:
No. 7 Astor House, New York.


It seems certain that Mexico must ultimately submit to such terms of
peace as the United States shall dictate. An heterogeneous population of
seven millions, with very limited resources and no credit; distracted by
internal dissensions, and by the ambition of its chiefs, a prey by turns
to anarchy and to military usurpers; occupying among the nations of the
civilized world, either physically or mentally, whether in political
education, social state, or any other respect, but an inferior position;
cannot contend successfully with an energetic, intelligent, enlightened
and united nation of twenty millions, possessed of unlimited resources
and credit, and enjoying all the benefits of a regular, strong, and free
government. All this was anticipated; but the extraordinary successes of
the Americans have exceeded the most sanguine expectations. All the
advanced posts of the enemy, New Mexico, California, the line of the
lower Rio Norte, and all the sea ports, which it was deemed necessary to
occupy, have been subdued. And a small force, apparently incompetent to
the object, has penetrated near three hundred miles into the interior,
and is now in quiet possession of the far-famed metropolis of the
Mexican dominions. The superior skill and talents of our distinguished
generals, and the unparalleled bravery of our troops, have surmounted
all obstacles. By whomsoever commanded on either side; however strong
the positions and fortifications of the Mexicans, and with a tremendous
numerical superiority, there has not been a single engagement, in which
they have not been completely defeated. The most remarkable and
unexpected feature of that warfare is, that volunteers, wholly
undisciplined in every sense of the word, have vied in devotedness and
bravery with the regular forces, and have proved themselves, in every
instance, superior in the open field to the best regular forces of
Mexico. These forces are now annihilated or dispersed; and the Mexicans
are reduced to a petty warfare of guerillas which, however annoying,
cannot be productive of any important results.

It is true, that these splendid successes have been purchased at a price
far exceeding their value. It is true that, neither the glory of these
military deeds, nor the ultimate utility of our conquests can
compensate the lamentable loss of the many thousand valuable lives
sacrificed in the field, of the still greater number who have met with
an obscure death, or been disabled by disease and fatigue. It is true
that their relatives, their parents, their wives and children find no
consolation, for the misery inflicted upon them, in the still greater
losses experienced by the Mexicans. But if, disregarding private
calamities and all the evils of a general nature, the necessary
consequences of this war, we revert solely to the relative position of
the two countries, the impotence of the Mexicans and their total
inability to continue the war, with any appearance of success, are still

The question then occurs: What are the terms which the United States
have a right to impose on Mexico? All agree that it must be an
"honorable peace;" but the true meaning of this word must in the first
place be ascertained.

The notion, that anything can be truly honorable which is contrary to
justice, will, as an abstract proposition, be repudiated by every
citizen of the United States. Will any one dare to assert, that a peace
can be honorable, which does not conform with justice?

There is no difficulty in discovering the principles by which the
relations between civilized and Christian nations should be regulated,
and the reciprocal duties which they owe to each other. These
principles, these duties have long since been proclaimed; and the true
law of nations is nothing else than the conformity to the sublime
precepts of the Gospel morality, precepts equally applicable to the
relations between man and man, and to the intercourse between nation and
nation. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." "Love your enemies."
"As you would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise."
The sanctity of these commands is acknowledged, without a single
exception, by every denomination of Christians, or of men professing to
be such. The sceptical philosopher admits and admires the precept. To
this holy rule we should inflexibly adhere when dictating the terms of
peace. The United States, though they have the power, have no right to
impose terms inconsistent with justice. It would be a shameful
dereliction of principle, on the part of those who were averse to the
annexation of Texas, to countenance any attempt to claim an acquisition
of territory, or other advantage, on account of the success of our

But in judging the acts of our Government, it must be admitted that
statesmen think a conformity to these usages which constitute the law of
nations, not as it should be, but as it is practically, sufficient to
justify their conduct. And by that inferior standard, those acts and our
duties in relation to Mexico will be tested.


The United States had, and continue to have, an indubitable right to
demand a full indemnity, for any wrongs inflicted on our citizens by the
Government of Mexico, in violation of treaties or of the acknowledged
law of nations. The negotiations for satisfying those just demands, had
been interrupted by the annexation of Texas. When an attempt was
subsequently made to renew them, it was therefore just and proper, that
both subjects should be discussed at the same time: and it is now
absolutely necessary, that those just claims should be fully provided
for, in any treaty of peace that may be concluded, and that the payment
should be secured against any possible contingency. I take it for
granted that no claims have been, or shall be sustained by our
Government, but such as are founded on treaties or the acknowledged law
of nations.

Whenever a nation becomes involved in war, the manifestoes, and every
other public act issued for the purpose of justifying its conduct,
always embrace every ground of complaint which can possibly be alleged.
But admitting, that the refusal to satisfy the claims for indemnity of
our citizens might have been a just cause of war, it is most certain,
that those claims were not the cause of that in which we are now

It may be proper, in the first place, to observe, that the refusal of
doing justice, in cases of this kind, or the long delays in providing
for them, have not generally produced actual war. Almost always long
protracted negotiations have been alone resorted to. This has been
strikingly the case with the United States. The claims of Great Britain
for British debts, secured by the treaty of 1783, were not settled and
paid till the year 1803; and it was only subsequent to that year, that
the claims of the United States, for depredations committed in 1793,
were satisfied. The very plain question of slaves, carried away by the
British forces in 1815, in open violation of the treaty of 1814, was not
settled and the indemnity paid till the year 1826. The claims against
France for depredations, committed in the years 1806 to 1813, were not
settled and paid for till the year 1834. In all those cases, peace was
preserved by patience and forbearance.

With respect to the Mexican indemnities, the subject had been laid more
than once before Congress, not without suggestions that strong measures
should be resorted to. But Congress, in whom alone is vested the power
of declaring war, uniformly declined doing it.

A convention was entered into on the 11th of April, 1839, between the
United States and Mexico, by virtue of which a joint commission was
appointed for the examination and settlement of those claims. The powers
of the Commissioners terminated, according to the convention, in
February, 1842. The total amount of the American claims, presented to
the commission, amounted to 6,291,605 dollars. Of these, 2,026,140
dollars were allowed by the commission; a further sum of 928,628 dollars
was allowed by the commissioners of the United States, rejected by the
Mexican commissioners, and left undecided by the umpire, and claims
amounting to 3,336,837 dollars had not been examined.

A new convention, dated January 30, 1843, granted to the Mexicans a
further delay for the payment of the claims which had been admitted, by
virtue of which the interest due to the claimants was made payable on
the 30th April, 1843, and the principal of the awards, and the interest
accruing thereon, was stipulated to be paid in five years, in twenty
equal instalments every three months. The claimants received the
interest due on the 30th April, 1843, and the three first instalments.
The agent of the United States having, under peculiar circumstances,
given a receipt for the instalments due in April and July, 1844, before
they had been actually paid by Mexico, the payment has been assumed by
the United States and discharged to the claimants.

A third convention was concluded at Mexico on the 20th November, 1843,
by the Plenipotentiaries of the two Governments, by which provision was
made for ascertaining and paying the claims, on which no final decision
had been made. In January, 1844, this convention was ratified by the
Senate of the United States, with two amendments, which were referred
to the Government of Mexico, but respecting which no answer has ever
been made. On the 12th of April, 1844, a treaty was concluded by the
President with Texas, for the annexation of that republic to the United
States. This treaty, though not ratified by the Senate, placed the two
countries in a new position, and arrested for a while all negotiations.
It was only on the 1st of March, 1845, that Congress passed a joint
resolution for the annexation.

It appears most clearly, that the United States are justly entitled to a
full indemnity for the injuries done to their citizens; that, before the
annexation of Texas, there was every prospect of securing that
indemnity; and that those injuries, even if they had been a just cause
for war, were in no shape whatever the cause of that in which we are now

Are the United States justly entitled to indemnity for any other cause?
This question cannot be otherwise solved, than by an inquiry into the
facts, and ascertaining by whom, and how, the war was provoked.


At the time when the annexation of Texas took place, Texas had been
recognized as an independent power, both by the United States and by
several of the principal European powers; but its independence had not
been recognized by Mexico, and the two contending parties continued to
be at war. Under those circumstances, there is not the slightest doubt
that the annexation of Texas was tantamount to a declaration of war
against Mexico. Nothing can be more clear and undeniable than that,
whenever two nations are at war, if a third Power shall enter into a
treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, with either of the
belligerents, and if such treaty is not contingent, and is to take
effect immediately and pending the war, such treaty is a declaration of
war against the other party. The causes of the war between the two
belligerents do not alter the fact. Supposing that the third party, the
interfering Power, should have concluded the treaty of alliance with
that belligerent who was clearly engaged in a most just war, the treaty
would not be the less a declaration of war against the other

If Great Britain and France were at war, and the United States were to
enter into such a treaty with either, can there be the slightest doubt
that this would be actual war against the other party? that it would be
considered as such, and that it must have been intended for that
purpose? If at this moment, either France or England were to make such a
treaty with Mexico, thereby binding themselves to defend and protect it
with all their forces against any other Power whatever, would not the
United States instantaneously view such a treaty as a declaration of
war, and act accordingly?

But the annexation of Texas, by the United States, was even more than a
treaty of offensive and defensive alliance. It embraced all the
conditions and all the duties growing out of the alliance; and it
imposed them forever. From the moment when Texas had been annexed, the
United States became bound to protect and defend her, so far as her
legitimate boundaries extended, against any invasion, or attack, on the
part of Mexico: and they have uniformly acted accordingly.

There is no impartial publicist that will not acknowledge the
indubitable truth of these positions: it appears to me impossible, that
they should be seriously denied by a single person.

It appears that Mexico was at that time disposed to acknowledge the
independence of Texas, but on the express condition, that it should not
be annexed to the United States; and it has been suggested, that this
was done under the influence of some European Powers. Whether this last
assertion be true or not, is not known to me. But the condition was
remarkable and offensive.

Under an apprehension that Texas might be tempted to accept the terms
proposed, the Government of the United States may have deemed it
expedient to defeat the plan, by offering that annexation, which had
been formerly declined, when the Government of Texas was anxious for it.

It may be admitted that, whether independent or annexed to the United
States, Texas must be a slave-holding state, so long as slavery shall
continue to exist in North America. Its whole population, with hardly
any exception, consisted of citizens of the United States. Both for that
reason, and on account of its geographical position, it was much more
natural, that Texas should be a member of the United States, than of the
Mexican Confederation. Viewed purely as a question of expediency, the
annexation might be considered as beneficial to both parties. But
expediency is not justice. Mexico and Texas had a perfect right to
adjust their differences and make peace, on any terms they might deem
proper. The anxiety to prevent this result indicated a previous
disposition ultimately to occupy Texas: and when the annexation was
accomplished; when it was seen, that the United States had appropriated
to themselves all the advantages resulting from the American settlements
in Texas, and from their subsequent insurrection; the purity of the
motives of our Government became open to suspicion.

Setting aside the justice of the proceeding, it is true that it had been
anticipated, by those who took an active part in the annexation, that
the weakness of Mexico would compel it to yield, or at least induce her
not to resort to actual war. This was verified by the fact: and had
Government remained in the hands with whom the plan originated, war
might probably have been avoided. But when no longer in power, they
could neither regulate the impulse they had given, nor control the
reckless spirits they had evoked.

Mexico, sensible of her weakness, declined war, and only resorted to a
suspension of diplomatic intercourse; but a profound sense of the injury
inflicted by the United States has ever since rankled in their minds. It
will be found, through all their diplomatic correspondence, through all
their manifestoes, that the Mexicans, even to this day, perpetually
recur to this never-forgotten offensive measure. And, on the other hand,
the subsequent administration of our Government seems to have altogether
forgotten this primary act of injustice, and, in their negotiations, to
have acted as if this was only an accomplished fact, and had been a
matter of course.


In September, 1845, the President of the United States directed their
consul at Mexico to ascertain from the Mexican Government, whether it
would receive an _Envoy_ from the United States, intrusted with full
power to adjust all the questions in dispute between the two

The answer of Mr. De la Pena y Pena, Minister of the Foreign Relations
of Mexico, was, "That although the Mexican nation was deeply injured by
the United States, through the acts committed by them in the department
of Texas, which belongs to his nation, his Government was disposed to
receive the _Commissioner_ of the United States who might come to the
capital, with full powers from his Government 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, the Government of Mexico
does not reply with contumely to the measures of reason and peace to
which it was invited by its adversary.

The Mexican Minister at the same time intimated, that the previous
recall of the whole Naval force of the United States, then lying in
sight of the port of Vera Cruz, was indispensable; and this was
accordingly done by our Government.

But it is essential to observe that, whilst Mr. Black had, according to
his instructions, inquired, whether the Mexican Government would receive
an _Envoy_ from the United States, with full power to adjust all the
questions in dispute between the two Governments, the Mexican Minister
had answered, that his Government was disposed to receive the
_Commissioner_ of the United States, who might come with full powers to
settle the present dispute in a peaceful, reasonable and honorable

Mr. Slidell was, in November following, appointed Envoy Extraordinary
and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America near the
Government of the Mexican Republic; and he arrived in Mexico on the
sixth of December.

Mr. Herrera, the President of Mexico, was undoubtedly disposed to settle
the disputes between the two countries. But taking advantage of the
irritation of the mass of the people, his political opponents were
attempting to overset him for having made, as they said, unworthy
concessions. The arrival of Mr. Slidell disturbed him extremely; and Mr.
Pena y Pena declared to Mr. Black, that his appearance in the capital at
this time might prove destructive to the Government, and thus defeat the
whole affair. Under these circumstances General Herrera complained,
without any foundation, that Mr. Slidell had come sooner than had been
understood; he resorted to several frivolous objections against the
tenor of his powers; and he intimated that the difficulties respecting
Texas must be adjusted before any other subject of discussion should be
taken into consideration.

But the main question was, whether Mexico should receive Mr. Slidell in
the character of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, to
reside in the republic. It was insisted by the Mexican Government, that
it had only agreed to receive a commissioner, to treat on the questions
which had arisen from the events in Texas; and that until this was done,
the suspended diplomatic intercourse could not be restored, and a
residing minister plenipotentiary be admitted.

Why our Government should have insisted, that the intended negotiation
should be carried on by a residing Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary, is altogether unintelligible. The questions at issue
might have been discussed and settled as easily, fully and
satisfactorily, by commissioners appointed for that special purpose, as
by residing ministers or envoys. It is well known that whenever
diplomatic relations have been superseded by war, treaties of peace are
always negotiated by commissioners appointed for that special purpose,
who are personally amply protected by the law of nations, but who are
never received as resident ministers, till after the peace has restored
the ordinary diplomatic intercourse. Thus the treaty of peace of 1783,
between France and England, was negotiated and concluded at Paris by
British commissioners, whom it would have been deemed absurd to admit as
resident envoys or ministers, before peace had been made.

The only distinction which can possibly be made between the two cases
is, that there was not as yet actual war between Mexico and the United
States. But the annexation of Texas was no ordinary occurrence. It was a
most clear act of unprovoked aggression; a deep and most offensive
injury; in fact, a declaration of war, if Mexico had accepted it as
such. In lieu of this, that country had only resorted to a suspension of
the ordinary diplomatic relations. It would seem as if our Government
had considered this as an act of unparalleled audacity, which Mexico
must be compelled to retract, before any negotiations for the
arrangement of existing difficulties could take place; as an insult to
the Government and to the nation, which must compel it to assert its
just rights and _to avenge its injured honor_.

General Herrera was not mistaken in his anticipations. His government
was overset in the latter end of the month of December, 1845, and fell
into the hands of those who had denounced him for having listened to
overtures of an arrangement of the difficulties between the two nations.

When Mexico felt its inability to contend with the United States; and,
instead of considering the annexation of Texas to be, as it really was,
tantamount to a declaration of war, only suspended the ordinary
diplomatic relations between the two countries, its Government, if
directed by wise counsels, and not impeded by popular irritation, should
at once, since it had already agreed to recognize the independence of
Texas, have entered into a negotiation with the United States. At that
time there would have been no intrinsic difficulty in making a final
arrangement founded on an unconditional recognition of the independence
of Texas, within its legitimate boundaries. Popular feeling and the
ambition of contending military leaders, prevented that peaceable
termination of those unfortunate dissensions.

Yet, when Mexico refused to receive Mr. Slidell as an Envoy
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, the United States should
have remembered, that we had been the aggressors, that we had committed
an act acknowledged, as well by the practical law of nations, as by
common sense and common justice, to be tantamount to a declaration of
war; and they should have waited with patience, till the feelings
excited by our own conduct had subsided.

General Taylor had been instructed by the War Department, as early as
May 28, 1845, to cause the forces under his command to be put into a
position where they might most promptly and efficiently act in defence
of Texas, in the event that it should become necessary or proper to
employ them for that purpose. By subsequent instructions, and after the
people of Texas had accepted the proposition of annexation, he was
directed to select and occupy a position adapted to repel invasion, as
near the boundary line, the Rio Grande, as prudence would dictate; and
that, with this view, a part of his forces at least should be west of
the river Nueces. It was certainly the duty of the President to protect
Texas against invasion, from the moment it had been annexed to the
United States; and as that republic was in actual possession of Corpus
Christi, which was the position selected by General Taylor, there was
nothing, in the position he had taken, indicative of any danger of
actual hostilities.

But our Government seems to have considered the refusal, on the part of
Mexico, to receive Mr. Slidell as a resident Envoy of the United States,
as necessarily leading to war. The Secretary of State, in his letter to
Mr. Slidell of January 28, 1846, says:--"Should the Mexican Government
finally refuse to receive you, the cup of forbearance will then have
been exhausted. Nothing can remain but to take the redress of the
injuries to our citizens, and the insults to our Government, into our
own hands." And again, "Should the Mexican Government finally refuse to
receive you, then demand passports from the proper authority, and return
to the United States. It will then become the duty of the President to
submit the whole case to Congress, and call upon the nation to assert
its just rights, and avenge its injured honor."

With the same object in view, the Secretary of War did, by his letter
dated January 13, 1846, instruct General Taylor "to advance and occupy,
with the troops under his command, positions on or near the east bank of
the Rio del Norte.... It is presumed Point Isabel will be considered by
you an eligible position. This point, or some one near it, and points
opposite Matamoras and Mier, and in the vicinity of Laredo, are
suggested for your consideration.... Should you attempt to exercise the
right, which the United States have in common with Mexico, to the free
navigation of this river, it is probable that Mexico would interpose
resistance. You will not attempt to enforce this right without further
instructions.... It is not designed, in our present relations with
Mexico, that you should treat her as an enemy; but, should she assume
that character by a declaration of war, or any open act of hostility
towards us, you will not act merely on the defensive if your relative
means enable you to do otherwise."

The administration was therefore of opinion, that this military
occupation of the territory in question was not an act of hostility,
towards Mexico, or treating her as an enemy. Now, I do aver, without
fear of contradiction, that whenever a territory claimed by two powers
is, and has been for a length of time in the possession of one of them,
if the other should invade and take possession of it by a military
force, such an act is an open act of hostility according to the
acknowledged and practical law of nations. In this case the law of
nations only recognizes a clear and positive fact.

The sequel is well known. General Taylor, with his troops, left Corpus
Christi, March 8th to 11th, 1846, and entered the desert which
separates that place from the vicinity of the del Norte. On the 21st he
was encamped three miles south of the Arroyo, or Little Colorado, having
by the route he took marched 135 miles, and being nearly north of
Matamoras about thirty miles distant. He had on the 19th met a party of
irregular Mexican cavalry, who informed him that they had peremptory
orders, if he passed the river, to fire upon his troops, and that it
would be considered a declaration of war. The river was however crossed
without a single shot having been fired. In a proclamation issued on the
12th, General Mejia, who commanded the forces of the Department of
Tamaulipas, asserts, that the limits of Texas are certain and
recognized, and never had extended beyond the river Nueces, that the
cabinet of the United States coveted the regions on the left bank of the
Rio Bravo, and that the American army was now advancing to take
possession of a large part of Tamaulipas. On the 24th March General
Taylor reached a point on the route from Matamoras to Point Isabel,
eighteen miles from the former, and ten from the latter place, where a
deputation sent him a formal Protest of the Prefect of the Northern
District of the Department of Tamaulipas, declaring, in behalf of the
citizens of the district, that they never will consent to separate
themselves from the Mexican Republic, and to unite themselves with the
United States. On the 12th of April, the Mexican General, Ampudia,
required General Taylor to break up his camp within twenty-four hours,
and to retire to the other bank of the Nueces river, and notified him
that, if he insisted in remaining upon the soil of the Department of
Tamaulipas, it would clearly result that arms alone must decide the
question; in which case, he declared that the Mexicans would accept the
war to which they had been provoked. On the 24th of April, General
Arista arrived in Matamoras, and on the same day, informed General
Taylor, that he considered hostilities commenced, and would prosecute
them. On the same day, a party of sixty-three American dragoons, who had
been sent some distance up the left bank of the river, became engaged
with a very large force of the enemy, and after a short affair, in which
about sixteen were killed or wounded, were surrounded and compelled to
surrender. These facts were laid before Congress by the President in his
message of the 11th of May.


From what precedes it appears, that the Government of the United States
considered the refusal of Mexico to receive a resident Envoy, or
minister as a sufficient cause for war; and the Rio del Norte as the
legitimate boundary of Texas. The first opinion is now of no importance;
but the question of boundary, which was the immediate cause of
hostilities, has to this day been the greatest impediment to the
restoration of peace. I feel satisfied, that if this was settled, there
would be no insuperable difficulty in arranging other pretensions.

The United States claim no other portion of the Mexican dominions,
unless it be by right of conquest. The tract of country between the Rio
Nueces and the del Norte, is the only one, which has been claimed by
both parties, as respectively belonging either to Texas or to Mexico. As
regards every other part of the Mexican possessions, the United States
never had claimed any portion of it. The iniquity of acquiring any
portion of it, otherwise than by fair compact freely consented to by
Mexico, is self-evident. It is, in every respect, most important to
examine the grounds on which the claim of the United States to the only
territory claimed by both nations is founded. It is the main question at

The Republic of Texas did, by an act of December 1836, declare the Rio
del Norte to be its boundary. It will not be seriously contended, that a
nation has a right, by a law of its own, to determine what is or shall
be the boundary between it and another country. The act was nothing more
than the expression of the wishes or pretensions of the Government. Its
only practical effect was that, emanating from its Congress or
legislative body, it made it imperative on the Executive, not to
conclude any peace with Mexico, unless that boundary was agreed to. As
regards right, the act of Texas is a perfect nullity. We want the
arguments and documents by which the claim is sustained.

On a first view the pretension is truly startling. There is no
exception: the Rio Norte from its source to its mouth is declared to be
the rightful boundary of Texas. That river has its source within the
department, province, or state of New Mexico, which it traverses through
its whole length from north to south, dividing it into two unequal
parts. The largest and most populous, including Santa Fe, the capital,
lies on the left bank of the river, and is therefore embraced within the
claim of Texas. Now this province of New Mexico was first visited and
occupied by the Spaniards under Vasquez Coronado, in the years 1540 to
1542. It was at that time voluntarily evacuated, subsequently
re-visited, and some settlements made about the year 1583: finally
conquered in 1595 by the Spaniards, under the command of Onate. An
insurrection of the Indians drove away the Spaniards in the year 1680.
They re-entered it the ensuing year, and after a long resistance
re-conquered it. This was an internal conflict with the Aborigines; but
as related to foreign powers, the sovereignty of the Spaniards over the
territory was never called in question; and it was, in express terms,
made the western boundary of Louisiana in the Royal Charter of the
French Government.

The conquest of the province by Onate, took place five-and-twenty years
prior to the landing of the Pilgrims in New England, and twelve years
before any permanent settlement had been made in North America, on the
shores of the Atlantic, by either England, France, Holland, Sweden, or
any other power, but that in Florida by Spain herself.

I have in vain sought for any document, emanating from the Republic or
State of Texas, for the purpose of sustaining its claim either to New
Mexico or to the country bordering on the lower portion of the del
Norte. The only official papers within my reach, in which the claim of
Texas is sustained, are the President's messages of May 11 and Dec. 3rd,
1846; and these refer only to the country bordering on the lower part of
the del Norte. The portion of the message of May 11th, 1846, relating to
that subject, is as follows: "Meantime Texas, by the final action of our
Congress, had become an integral part of our Union. The Congress of
Texas, by its act of December 19, 1836, had declared the Rio del Norte
to be the boundary of that republic. Its jurisdiction had been extended
and exercised beyond the Nueces. The country between that river and the
del Norte had been represented in the Congress and in the Convention of
Texas; had thus taken part in the act of annexation itself; and is now
included within one of our congressional districts. Our own Congress
had, moreover, with great unanimity, by the act approved December 31,
1845, recognized the country beyond the Nueces as a part of our
territory, by including it within our own revenue system; and a revenue
officer, to reside within that district, has been appointed, by and with
the advice and consent of the Senate. It became, therefore, of urgent
necessity to provide for the defence of that portion of our country.
Accordingly, on the 13th of January last, instructions were issued to
the general in command of these troops to occupy the left bank of the
del Norte....

The movement of the troops to the del Norte was made by the commanding
general, under positive instructions to abstain from all aggressive acts
towards Mexico or Mexican citizens, and to regard the relations between
that Republic and the United States as peaceful, unless she should
declare war, or commit acts of hostility indicative of a state of war.
He was specially directed to protect private property, and respect
personal rights."

In his annual message of December 8, 1846, the President states that
Texas, as ceded to the United States by France in 1803, has been always
claimed as extending west to the Rio Grande; that this fact is
established by declarations of our Government during Mr. Jefferson's and
Mr. Monroe's administrations; and that the Texas which was ceded to
Spain by the Florida treaty of 1819, embraced all the country now
claimed by the State of Texas between the Nueces and the Rio Grande.

He then repeats the Acts of Texas with reference to their boundaries;
stating that "during a period of more than nine years, which intervened
between the adoption of her constitution and her annexation as one of
the States of our Union, Texas asserted and exercised many acts of
sovereignty and jurisdiction over the territory and inhabitants west of
the Nueces; such as organizing and defining limits of counties extending
to the Rio Grande; establishing courts of justice, and extending her
judicial system over the territory; establishing also a custom-house,
post-offices, a land-office, &c."

The President designates by the name of _Texas_, the cession of
Louisiana by France to the United States; and he again calls the
territory ceded to Spain by the Florida treaty of 1819, _the Texas_. He
intimates that the claim of the United States to the territory between
the Sabine and the Rio Norte, was derived from the boundaries of Texas,
and that by claiming as far west as this river, the United States did
recognize that it was the boundary of _the Texas_. I really do not
understand what is meant by this assertion.

The United States claimed the Rio Norte as being the legitimate boundary
of _Louisiana_, and not of Texas. Neither they nor France had ever been
in possession of the country beyond the Sabine. Spain had always held
possession, and had divided the territory into provinces as she pleased.
One of these was called Texas, and its boundaries had been designated
and altered at her will. With these the United States had no concern. If
their claim could be sustained, it must be by proving that Louisiana
extended of right thus far. This had no connection with the boundaries
which Spain might have assigned to her province of Texas. These might
have extended beyond the Rio del Norte, or have been east of the Rio
Nueces. There is not the slightest connection between the legitimate
boundaries of Louisiana, and those of the Spanish province of Texas. The
presumed identity is a mere supposition.

It is not necessary to discuss the soundness of the pretensions to the
Rio Norte, asserted by Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Monroe, since they were
yielded in exchange of Florida and some other objects by the treaty of
1819; a treaty extremely popular at the time, and the execution of which
was pressed with great zeal and perseverance.

Whenever ultimately ceded to Mexico, that republic fixed its boundaries
as it thought proper. Texas and Cohahuila were declared to form a state;
and the Rio Nueces was, made the boundary of Texas. When Texas declared
itself independent, it was the insurrection of only part of a state; for
Cohahuila remained united to Mexico. But the Rio Nueces was the boundary
between the department of Texas and the state of Tamaulipas. The whole
contested territory lies within the limits of Tamaulipas, which never
was, under the Mexican Government, connected in any shape with Texas.

The question now under consideration is only that between the United
States and Mexico; and in that view of the subject, it is quite
immaterial whether the acts of the United States emanated from Congress,
or from the Executive. No act of either, recognizing the country beyond
the Nueces, as a part of the territory of the United States, can be
alleged against Mexico, as a proof of their right to the country thus
claimed. Any such act is only an assertion, a declaration, but not an
argument sustaining the right. It is, however, proper to observe here,
that the port of delivery west of the Nueces, erected by the act of
Congress "To establish a collection district in the state of Texas," was
at Corpus Christi, a place which was in the actual possession of that

It must also be premised that, in the joint resolution for the
annexation of Texas, the question of the boundary between it and Mexico
was expressly reserved, as one which should be settled by treaty between
the United States and Mexico.

The only arguments in the President's message, which sustain the right
of Texas to territory beyond the Nueces, are contained in those
passages, in which it is asserted, that the jurisdiction of Texas had
been extended and exercised beyond the Nueces: that the country between
that river and the del Norte had been represented in the Congress and
Convention of Texas, had taken part in the annexation itself, and was
now included within one of our congressional districts.

But it is not stated in the President's message, how far beyond the
Nueces, the jurisdiction of Texas had been extended, nor what part of
the country between that river and the del Norte had been represented in
the Congress and convention of Texas, and was then included within one
of our congressional districts.

Now the actual jurisdiction beyond the Nueces never extended farther
than the adjacent settlement of San Patricio, consisting of about twenty
families. That small district, though beyond the Nueces, was contiguous
to, and in the actual possession of Texas. On this account it might be
rightfully included within the limits, which we were bound to protect
against Mexican invasion.

But what was the country between this small settlement of San Patricio,
or between Corpus Christi and the Rio del Norte, over which it might be
supposed from the message, that the jurisdiction of Texas had been
extended; so as to be included within one of our congressional
districts? Here again, Texas had erected that small settlement into a
county called San Patricio, and declared that this county extended to
the Rio del Norte. This, like all other declaratory acts of the same
kind, was only an assertion not affecting the question of right. The
State of Texas might, with equal propriety, have declared that their
boundary extended to the Sierra Madre or to the Pacific. The true
question of right to any territory beyond the Mexican limits of the
Department of Texas depends on the facts: By whom was the territory in
question actually inhabited and occupied? and had the inhabitants united
with Texas in the insurrection against Mexico?

The whole country beyond the settlement of San Patricio and Corpus
Christi, till within a few miles of the del Norte, is a perfect desert,
one hundred and sixty miles wide by the route pursued by General Taylor,
as stated by himself, and near one hundred and twenty miles in a
straight line.

The only settled part of it is along the left bank of the del Norte, and
but a few miles in breadth. This belt was settled, inhabited, and
occupied exclusively by Mexicans. It included the town of Loredo; and
Mexico had a custom-house at Brazos, north of the mouth of the river.
Till occupied by the American arms it had ever been, and was at the time
when invaded by General Taylor, a part of the Department of Tamaulipas,
and subject to the jurisdiction of the Prefect of the Northern District
of that department.

In the course of the war between Mexico and Texas, incursions had been
occasionally made by each party into the territories of the other. A
Mexican officer had, once or twice, obtained temporary occupation of San
Antonio, within the limits of Texas; and the Texans had on one occasion
taken Loredo itself, and more than once had carried their arms, not only
to the left bank of the del Norte, but even beyond that river. In both
cases the aggressive parties had been repulsed and expelled. The last
Texan expedition of that kind took place in December, 1842, and
terminated in their defeat at Mier.

That the country, adjacent to the left bank of the river, was
exclusively in the possession of the Mexicans, was well known to our

When General Taylor marched to the del Norte, he issued an order (No.
30), translated into the Spanish, ordering all under his command, to
observe with the most scrupulous respect the rights of all the
inhabitants, who might be found in peaceful prosecution of their
respective occupations, as well on the left as on the right side of the
Rio Grande. No interference, he adds, will be allowed with the civil
rights or religious privileges of the inhabitants.

In June, 1845, General Taylor had been directed to select and occupy, on
or near the Rio Grande del Norte, such a site as would be best adapted
to repel invasion and to protect our Western border. But on the 8th of
July following, the Secretary of War (Mr. Marcy) addressed the following
letter to him.

"This Department is informed that Mexico has some military
establishments on the East side of the Rio Grande, which are, and for
some time have been, in the actual occupancy of her troops. In carrying
out the instructions heretofore received, you will be careful to avoid
any acts of aggression, unless an actual state of war should exist. The
Mexican forces at the posts in their possession, and which have been so,
will not be disturbed as long as the relations of peace between the
United States and Mexico continue."

On the 30th July, 1845, the Secretary again addresses Gen. Taylor as
follows: "You are expected to occupy, protect and defend the territory
of Texas, to the extent that it has been occupied by the people of
Texas. The Rio Grande is claimed to be the boundary between the two
countries, and up to this boundary you are to extend your protection,
only _excepting_ any posts on the Eastern side thereof, which are in the
actual occupancy of Mexican forces, or _Mexican settlements_, over which
the Republic of Texas did not exercise jurisdiction at the period of
annexation, or shortly before that event. It is expected, in selecting
the establishment for your troops, you will approach as near the
boundary line, the Rio Grande, as prudence will dictate. With this view,
the President desires that your position, for a part of your forces at
least, should be west of the River Nueces."

The Mexican settlements, thus excepted, are not those over which Texas
did not claim jurisdiction, but those on the East bank of the Rio
Grande, over which Texas did not _exercise_ jurisdiction at the period
mentioned. The President had no authority to give up the boundary
claimed by Texas; but it is clear that at the time, when war was not
contemplated, the Administration was of opinion that, till the question
was definitively settled, the occupancy by the Mexicans of the territory
adjacent the left bank of the del Norte ought not to be disturbed.
Neither the subsequent refusal by Mexico to receive a residing Envoy,
nor the successes of the American arms have affected the question of
right. The claim of Texas, whether to New Mexico, or to the lower
portion of the Rio Norte, was identically the same, as invalid and
groundless in one case as in the other. Why a distinction has been made
by the Executive has not been stated. The fact is that he has
established a temporary government for New Mexico, as a country
conquered, and without any regard to the claim of Texas; whilst, on the
other hand, he has permitted that State to extend its jurisdiction over
the country lying on the left bank of the del Norte, which, like New
Mexico, had been conquered by the arms of the United States. Not a
shadow of proof has been adduced to sustain the pretensions of Texas to
that district; and justice imperiously requires that it should by the
treaty of peace be restored to Mexico.

It so happens that the boundary, which may be traced in conformity with
this principle, is a natural one, and that, as a measure of expediency,
none more eligible could have been devised. A desert of one hundred and
twenty miles separates the most Southwesterly Texan settlements of
Corpus Christi and San Patricio, from those of the Mexicans, on the left
bank of the del Norte, than which no boundary could be devised, better
calculated to prevent collisions hereafter between the two nations. It
will be sufficient, for that purpose, to draw a nominal line through the
desert, leaving all the waters that empty into the Rio Norte to Mexico,
and all those that empty into the Rio Nueces to Texas, together with
such other provisions, respecting fortifications and military posts, as
may be necessary for the preservation of peace.

The line of the Rio Norte is one, from which Mexico would be perpetually
threatened, and from which their adjacent town on the eastern bank may
be bombarded. Such an intolerable nuisance would perpetuate most hostile
feelings. With such a narrow river as the Rio del Norte, and with a
joint right of navigation, repeated collisions would be unavoidable.

Among these, when there was nothing but a fordable river to cross,
slaves would perpetually escape from Texas: and where would be the
remedy? Are the United States prepared to impose by a treaty on Mexico,
where slavery is unknown, the obligation to surrender fugitive slaves?

Mexico is greatly the weaker power, and requires a boundary, which will
give her as much security as is practicable. It is not required, either
for the preservation of peace, or for any other legitimate purpose, that
the United States should occupy a threatening position. It cannot be
rationally supposed, that Mexico will ever make an aggressive war
against them; and even in such case, the desert would protect them
against an invasion. If a war should ever again take place between the
two countries, the overwhelming superiority of the Navy of the United
States will enable them to carry on their operations wherever they
please. They would, within a month, re-occupy the left bank of the Rio
Norte, and within a short time, effect a landing and carry the war to
any quarter they pleased.

Must the war be still prosecuted for an object of no intrinsic value, to
which the United States have no legitimate right, which justice requires
them to yield, and which even expediency does not require?


It is an indisputable fact, that the annexation of Texas, then at war
with Mexico, was tantamount to a declaration of war, and that the
comparative weakness of Mexico alone prevented its Government from
considering it as such.

Under these circumstances, it was evidently the duty of the United
States to use every means to soothe and conciliate the Mexicans, and to
wait with patience for an unconditional recognition of the independence
of Texas, till the feelings excited by our aggression had subsided.

It has been shown that after Mexico had resorted, as a substitute for
war, to the harmless suspension of the ordinary diplomatic intercourse,
the attempt to make it retract that measure, before any negotiations for
the restoration of harmony between the two countries should be entered
into, was neither countenanced by the acknowledged law of nations, nor
necessary for any useful purpose, nor consistent with a proper and just
sense of the relative position in which the aggressive measure of the
United States had placed the two countries. But that the refusal of
Mexico to submit to that additional contumely, should have been
considered as an insult to the United States, betrays the pride of
power, rather than a just sense of what is due to the true dignity and
honor of this nation.

It has been demonstrated, that the republic of Texas had not a shadow of
right to the territory adjacent to the left bank of the lower portion of
the Rio Norte; that though she claimed, she never had actually exercised
jurisdiction over any portion of it; that the Mexicans were the sole
inhabitants; and in actual possession of that district; that therefore
its forcible occupation by the army of the United States was, according
to the acknowledged law of nations, as well as in fact, an act of open
hostility and war: that the resistance of the Mexicans to that invasion
was legitimate; and that therefore the war was unprovoked by them, and
commenced by the United States.

If any doubt should remain of the correctness of these statements, let
them be tested by the divine and undeniable precept, "Do unto others as
you would be done by."

If at this moment France was to contract a treaty of defensive and
offensive alliance with Mexico, a treaty taking effect immediately, and
pending the war between the United States and Mexico, and binding
herself to defend it with all her forces against any and every other
Power, would not the United States at once consider such a treaty as a
declaration of war against them?

If, in lieu of declaring war against Great Britain, in the year 1812,
the United States had only suspended the ordinary diplomatic relations
between the two countries; and Great Britain had declared that she would
not enter into any negotiation for the settlement of all the subjects of
difference between the two countries, unless the United States should,
as a preliminary condition, restore those relations; would not this have
been considered as a most insolent demand, and to which the United
States never would submit?

If the United States were, and had been for more than a century, in
possession of a tract of country, exclusively inhabited and governed by
them, disturbed only by the occasional forays of an enemy; would they
not consider the forcible military invasion and occupation of such a
district by a third Power, as open and unprovoked war, commenced against
them? And could their resistance to the invasion render them liable to
the imputation of having themselves commenced the war?

Yet it would seem as if the splendid and almost romantic successes of
the American arms had, for a while, made the people of the United States
deaf to any other consideration than an enthusiastic and exclusive love
of military glory; as if, forgetting the origin of the war, and with an
entire disregard for the dictates of justice, they thought that those
successes gave the nation a right to dismember Mexico, and to
appropriate to themselves that which did not belong to them.

But I do not despair, for I have faith in our institutions and in the
people; and I will now ask them whether this was their mission? and
whether they were placed by Providence on this continent for the purpose
of cultivating false glory, and of sinking to the level of those vulgar
conquerors who have at all times desolated the earth.


The people of the United States have been placed by Providence in a
position never before enjoyed by any other nation. They are possessed of
a most extensive territory, with a very fertile soil, a variety of
climates and productions, and a capacity of sustaining a population
greater, in proportion to its extent, than any other territory of the
same size on the face of the globe.

By a concourse of various circumstances, they found themselves, at the
epoch of their independence, in the full enjoyment of religious, civil,
and political liberty, entirely free from any hereditary monopoly of
wealth or power. The people at large were in full and quiet possession
of all those natural rights, for which the people of other countries
have for a long time contended, and still do contend. They were, and you
still are the supreme sovereigns, acknowledged as such by all. For the
proper exercise of these uncontrolled powers and privileges, you are
responsible to posterity, to the world at large, and to the Almighty
Being who has poured on you such unparalleled blessings.

Your mission is, to improve the state of the world, to be the "Model
Republic," to show that men are capable of governing themselves, and
that this simple and natural form of government is that also which
confers most happiness on all, is productive of the greatest development
of the intellectual faculties, above all, that which is attended with
the highest standard of private and political virtue and morality.

Your forefathers, the founders of the Republic, imbued with a deep
feeling of their rights and duties, did not deviate from those
principles. The sound sense, the wisdom, the probity, the respect for
public faith, with which the internal concerns of the nation were
managed, made our institutions an object of general admiration. Here,
for the first time, was the experiment attempted with any prospect of
success, and on a large scale, of a Representative Democratic Republic.
If it failed, the last hope of the friends of mankind was lost or
indefinitely postponed; and the eyes of the world were turned towards
you. Whenever real, or pretended apprehensions of the imminent danger of
trusting the people at large with power, were expressed, the answer ever
was, "Look at America!"

In their external relations the United States, before this unfortunate
war, had, whilst sustaining their just rights, ever acted in strict
conformity with the dictates of justice, and displayed the utmost
moderation. They never had voluntarily injured any other nation. Every
acquisition of territory from Foreign Powers was honestly made, the
result of Treaties, not imposed, but freely assented to by the other
party. The preservation of peace was ever a primary object. The recourse
to arms was always in self defence. On its expediency there may have
been a difference of opinion; that, in the only two instances of
conflict with civilized nations which occurred during a period of sixty
three years, (1783 to 1846), the just rights of the United States had
been invaded by a long continued series of aggressions, is undeniable.
In the first instance, war was not declared; and there were only partial
hostilities between France and England. The Congress of the United
States, the only legitimate organ of the nation for that purpose, did,
in 1812, declare war against Great Britain. Independent of depredations
on our commerce, she had, for twenty years, carried on an actual war
against the United States. I say, actual war, since there is now but one
opinion on that subject; a renewal of the impressment of men sailing
under the protection of our flag would be tantamount to a declaration of
war. The partial opposition to the war of 1812, did not rest on a denial
of the aggressions of England and of the justice of our cause, but on
the fact that, with the exception of impressments, similar infractions
of our just rights had been committed by France, and on the most
erroneous belief, that the administration was partial to that country,
and insincere in their apparent efforts to restore peace.

At present, all these principles would seem to have been abandoned. The
most just, a purely defensive war, and no other is justifiable, is
necessarily attended with a train of great and unavoidable evils. What
shall we say of one, iniquitous in its origin, and provoked by
ourselves, of a war of aggression, which is now publicly avowed to be
one of intended conquest.

If persisted in, its necessary consequences will be, a permanent
increase of our military establishment and of executive patronage: its
general tendency, to make man hate man, to awaken his worst passions, to
accustom him to the taste of blood. It has already demoralized no
inconsiderable portion of the nation.

The general peace, which has been preserved between the great European
powers during the last thirty years, may not be ascribed to the purest
motives. Be these what they may, this long and unusual repose has been
most beneficial to the cause of humanity. Nothing can be more injurious
to it, more lamentable, more scandalous, than the war between two
adjacent republics of North America.

Your mission was, to be a model for all other governments and for all
other less favored nations, to adhere to the most elevated principles of
political morality, to apply all your faculties to the gradual
improvement of your own institutions and social state, and, by your
example, to exert a moral influence most beneficial to mankind at large.
Instead of this, an appeal has been made to your worst passions; to
cupidity, to the thirst of unjust aggrandizement by brutal force; to the
love of military fame and of false glory; and it has even been tried to
pervert the noblest feelings of your nature. The attempt is made to make
you abandon the lofty position which your fathers occupied, to
substitute for it the political morality and heathen patriotism of the
heroes and statesmen of antiquity.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have said, that it was attempted to pervert even your virtues.
Devotedness to country, or patriotism, is a most essential virtue, since
the national existence of any society depends upon it. Unfortunately,
our most virtuous dispositions are perverted, not only by our vices and
selfishness, but also by their own excess. Even the most holy of our
attributes, the religious feeling, may be perverted from that cause, as
was but too lamentably exhibited in the persecutions, even unto death,
of those who were deemed heretics. It is not, therefore, astonishing,
that patriotism, carried to excess, should also be perverted. In the
entire devotedness to their country, the people, everywhere and at all
times, have been too apt to forget the duties imposed upon them by
justice towards other nations. It is against this natural propensity
that you should be specially on your guard. The blame does not attach to
those who, led by their patriotic feelings, though erroneous, flock
around the national standard. On the contrary, no men are more worthy of
admiration, better entitled to the thanks of their country, than those
who, after war has once taken place, actuated only by the purest
motives, daily and with the utmost self-devotedness, brave death and
stake their own lives in the conflict against the actual enemy. I must
confess, that I do not extend the same charity to those civilians, who
coolly and deliberately plunge the country into any unjust or
unnecessary war.

We should have but one conscience; and most happy would it be for
mankind, were statesmen and politicians only as honest, in their
management of the internal or external national concerns, as they are in
private life. The irreproachable private character of the President, and
of all the members of his administration, is known and respected. There
is not one of them who would not spurn with indignation the most remote
hint that, on similar pretences to those alleged for dismembering
Mexico, he might be capable of an attempt to appropriate to himself his
neighbor's farm.

In the total absence of any argument that can justify the war in which
we are now involved, resort has been had to a most extraordinary
assertion. It is said, that the people of the United States have an
hereditary, superiority of race over the Mexicans, which gives them the
right to subjugate and keep in bondage the inferior nation. This, it is
also alleged, will be the means of enlightening the degraded Mexicans,
of improving their social state, and of ultimately increasing the
happiness of the masses.

Is it compatible with the principle of Democracy, which rejects every
hereditary claim of individuals, to admit an hereditary superiority of
races? You very properly deny, that the son can, independent of his own
merit, derive any right or privilege whatever, from the merit or any
other social superiority of his father. Can you for a moment suppose,
that a very doubtful descent from men, who lived one thousand years ago,
has transmitted to you a superiority over your fellow-men? But the
Anglo-Saxons were inferior to the Goths, from whom the Spaniards claim
to be descended; and they were in no respect superior to the Franks and
to the Burgundians. It is not to their Anglo-Saxon descent, but to a
variety of causes, among which the subsequent mixture of Frenchified
Normans, Angevins and Gascons must not be forgotten, that the English
are indebted for their superior institutions. In the progressive
improvement of mankind, much more has been due to religious and
political institutions, than to races. Whenever the European nations,
which, from their language, are presumed to belong to the Latin or the
Sclavonian race, shall have conquered institutions similar to those of
England, there will be no trace left of the pretended superiority of one
of those races above the other. At this time, the claim is but a pretext
for covering and justifying unjust usurpation and unbounded ambition.

But admitting, with respect to Mexico, the superiority of race, this
confers no superiority of rights. Among ourselves, the most ignorant,
the most inferior, either in physical or mental faculties, is recognized
as having equal rights, and he has an equal vote with any one, however
superior to him in all those respects. This is founded on the immutable
principle that no one man is born with the right of governing another
man. He may, indeed, acquire a moral influence over others, and no other
is legitimate. The same principle will apply to nations. However
superior the Anglo-American race may be to that of Mexico, this gives
the Americans no right to infringe upon the rights of the inferior race.
The people of the United States may rightfully, and will, if they use
the proper means, exercise a most beneficial moral influence over the
Mexicans, and other less enlightened nations of America. Beyond this
they have no right to go.

The allegation that the subjugation of Mexico would be the means of
enlightening the Mexicans, of improving their social state, and of
increasing their happiness, is but the shallow attempt to disguise
unbounded cupidity and ambition. Truth never was or can be propagated by
fire, and sword, or by any other than purely moral means. By these, and
by these alone, the Christian religion was propagated, and enabled, in
less than three hundred years, to conquer idolatry. During the whole of
that period, Christianity was tainted by no other blood than that of its

The duties of the people of the United States towards other nations are
obvious. Never losing sight of the divine precept, "Do to others as you
would be done by," they have only to consult their own conscience. For
our benevolent Creator has implanted in the hearts of men the moral
sense of right and wrong, and that sympathy for other men, the
evidences of which are of daily occurrence.

It seems unnecessary to add anything respecting that false glory which,
from habit and the general tenor of our early education, we are taught
to admire. The task has already been repeatedly performed, in a far more
able and impressive manner, than anything I could say on the subject. It
is sufficient to say that, at this time, neither the dignity or honor of
the nation demand a further sacrifice of invaluable lives, or even of
money. The very reverse is the case. The true honor and dignity of the
nation are inseparable from justice. Pride and vanity alone demand the
sacrifice. Though so dearly purchased, the astonishing successes of the
American arms have at least put it in the power of the United States to
grant any terms of peace, without incurring the imputation of being
actuated by any but the most elevated motives. It would seem that the
most proud and vain must be satiated with glory, and that the most
reckless and bellicose should be sufficiently glutted with human gore.

A more truly glorious termination of the war, a more splendid spectacle,
an example more highly useful to mankind at large, cannot well be
conceived, than that of the victorious forces of the United States
voluntarily abandoning all their conquests, without requiring anything
else than that which was strictly due to our citizens.


I have said that the unfounded claim of Texas to the territory between
the Nueces and the Rio Norte, was the greatest impediment to peace. Of
this there can be no doubt. For if, relinquishing the spirit of military
conquest, nothing shall be required but the indemnities due to our
citizens, the United States have only to accept the terms which have
been offered by the Mexican Government. It consents to yield a territory
five degrees of latitude, or near 350 miles in breadth, and extending
from New Mexico to the Pacific. Although the greater part of this is
quite worthless, yet the portion of California lying between the Sierra
Neveda and the Pacific, and including the port of San Francisco, is
certainly worth much more than the amount of indemnities justly due to
our citizens. It is only in order to satisfy those claims, that an
accession of territory may become necessary.

It is not believed that the Executive will favor the wild suggestions of
a subjugation, or annexation of the whole of Mexico, or of any of its
interior provinces. And, if I understand the terms offered by Mr. Trist,
there was no intention to include within the cessions required, the
Province of New Mexico. But the demand of both Old and New California,
or of a sea-coast of more than thirteen hundred miles in length (lat.
23 deg. to 42 deg.), is extravagant and unnecessary. The Peninsula is
altogether worthless, and there is nothing worth contending for South
of San Diego, or about lat. 32 deg.

In saying that, if conquest is not the object of the war, and if the
pretended claim of Texas to the Rio del Norte shall be abandoned, there
cannot be any insuperable obstacle to the restoration of peace, it is by
no means intended to assert that the terms heretofore proposed by either
party are at this time proper. And I apprehend that the different views
of the subject entertained by those who sincerely desire a speedy and
just peace, may create some difficulty. There are some important
considerations which may become the subject of subsequent arrangements.
For the present, nothing more is strictly required than to adopt the
principle of _status ante bellum_, or, in other words, to evacuate the
Mexican territory, and to provide for the payment of the indemnities due
to our citizens. The scruples of those who object to any cession
whatever of territory, except on terms unacceptable to the Southern
States, might be removed by a provision, that would only pledge a
territory sufficient for the purpose, and leave it in the possession of
the United States until the indemnities had been fully paid.

Was I to listen exclusively to my own feelings and opinions, I would
say, that, if the propositions which I have attempted to establish are
correct; if I am not mistaken in my sincere conviction, that the war was
unprovoked by the Mexicans, and has been one of iniquitous aggression on
our part; it necessarily follows that, according to the dictates of
justice, the United States are bound to indemnify them, for having
invaded their territory, bombarded their towns, and inflicted all the
miseries of war on a people, who were fighting in defence of their own
homes. If all this be true, the United States would give but an
inadequate compensation for the injuries they have inflicted, by
assuming the payment of the indemnities justly due to their own

Even if a fair purchase of territory should be convenient to both
parties, it would be far preferable to postpone it for the present,
among other reasons, in order that it should not have the appearance of
being imposed on Mexico. There are also some important considerations,
to which it may not be improper to call at this time the public

Our population may at this time be assumed, as amounting to twenty
millions. Although the ratio of natural increase has already been
lessened, from thirty three to about thirty per cent in ten years, the
deficiency has been, and will probably continue, for a while, to be
compensated by the prodigious increase of immigration from foreign
countries. An increase of thirty per cent, would add to our population
six millions, within ten, and near fourteen millions in twenty years. At
the rate of only twenty five per cent, it will add five millions in ten,
and more than eleven millions in twenty years. That the fertile
uncultivated land, within the limits of the States admitted, or
immediately admissible in the Union, could sustain three times that
number is indubitable. But the indomitable energy, the locomotive
propensities, and all the habits of the settlers of new countries are
such, that, not even the united efforts of both Governments can or will
prevent their occupying within twenty if not within ten years, every
district, as far as the Pacific, and whether within the limits of the
United States or of Mexico, which shall not have previously been
actually and _bona fide_ occupied and settled by others. It may be said
that this is justifiable by Natural Law; that, for the same reason,
which sets aside the right of discovery, if not followed by actual
occupation within a reasonable time, the rights of Spain and Mexico have
been forfeited by their neglect, or inability, during a period of three
hundred years, to colonize a country, which, during the whole of that
period, they held undisputed by any other foreign nation. And it may
perhaps be observed that, had the Government of the United States waited
for the operation of natural and irresistible causes, these alone would
have given them, without a war, more than they want at this moment.

However plausible all this may appear, it is nevertheless certain, that
it will be an acquisition of territory for the benefit of the people of
the United States, and in violation of solemn treaties. Not only
collisions must be avoided, and the renewal of another illicit
annexation be prevented; but the two countries must coolly consider
their relative position; and whatever portion of territory, not actually
settled by the Mexicans, and of no real utility to them, they may be
disposed to cede, must be acquired by a treaty freely assented to, and
for a reasonable compensation. But this is not the time for the
discussion of a proper final arrangement. We must wait till peace shall
have been restored, and angry feelings shall have subsided. At present
the only object is Peace, immediate peace, a just peace, and no
acquisition of territory, but that which may be absolutely necessary for
effecting the great object in view. The most simple terms, those which
will only provide for the adjustment of the Texas boundary and for the
payment of the indemnities due to our citizens, and, in every other
respect, restore things as they stood before the beginning of
hostilities, appear to me the most eligible. For that purpose I may be
permitted to wish, that the discussion of the terms should not be
embarrassed by the introduction of any other matter. There are other
considerations, highly important, and not foreign to the great question
of an extension of territory, but which may, without any inconvenience
or commitment, be postponed, and should not be permitted to impede the
immediate termination of this lamentable war.

I have gone farther than I intended. It is said that a rallying point is
wanted by the friends of peace. Let them unite, boldly express their
opinions, and use their utmost endeavors in promoting an immediate
termination of the war. For the people, no other banner is necessary.
But their representatives in Congress assembled are alone competent to
ascertain, alone vested with the legitimate power of deciding what
course should be pursued at this momentous crisis, what are the best
means for carrying into effect their own views, whatever these may be.
We may wait with hope and confidence the result of their deliberations.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have tried, in this essay, to confine myself to the questions at issue
between the United States and Mexico. Whether the Executive has, in any
respect, exceeded his legitimate powers; whether he is, for any of his
acts, liable to animadversion, are questions which do not concern

There are certainly some doubtful assumptions of power, and some points
on which explanations are necessary. The most important is the reason,
which may have induced the President, when he considered the war as
necessary and almost unavoidable, not to communicate to Congress, which
was all that time in session, the important steps he had taken, till
after hostilities, and indeed actual war had taken place. The
substitution, for war contributions, of an arbitrary and varying tariff,
appears to me to be of a doubtful nature; and it is hoped, that the
subject will attract the early attention of Congress. I am also clearly
of opinion, that the provisions of the law respecting volunteers, which
authorizes them to elect their officers, is a direct violation of the
constitution of the United States, which recognizes no other land force
than the army and the militia, and which vests in the President and
Senate the exclusive power of appointing all the officers of the United
States, whose appointments are not otherwise provided for in the
constitution itself. (With respect to precedents, refer to the act of
July 6th, 1812, chap. 461, (cxxxviii.) enacted with due deliberation,
and which repeals, in that respect, the act on same subject of February
6th, 1812.)

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Page 10: Changed adequte to adequate
Page 28: Changed oppropriate to appropriate

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