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A recent letter from IIon. Reverdy Johnson, a member of the Senate at the ratification of the treaty, attests the merits of Mr. Trist:
BALTIMORE, May 21, 1870. MY DEAR SIR: I understand that a petition is now before the Senate, of Mr. Nicholas P. Trist, asking to be allowed the full pay of a minister plenipotentiary during the time he was in the public service in Mexico, and negotiating the treaty which terminated our war of 1846 with that country. Being a member of the Senate when the treaty was submitted for ratification, I distinctly recollect that the Senators placed a high estimate upon the value of Mr. Trist's services, and thought that a salary as minister should be allowed him, and I have little doubt that this would have been done had he requested it. In this I fully concur with Colonel Benton, in his letter of the 18th June, 1856, which forms a part of the memorial.
Mr. T., at that time, however, failed to make the demand, but he is now poor and too old to earn a livelihood, and it would seem to be not only generous, but just, that his services should be rewarded.
It is difficult to exaggerate how much they benefited the country. The treaty, as you know, not only ended the most expensive war upon honorable terms, but secured to us territory of inestimable value. Hoping that the negotiator may now be compensated, I remain, with regard, your obedient servant,
REVERDY JOHNSON, Hon. Chas. SUMNER,
United States Senator, Washington, D. C. The committee are satisfied that Mr. Trist should receive compensation for the entire period of his service, and not merely for that part terminating November 16, 1847, when the letter of recall reached him, such entire period extending from April 15, 1847, to April 8, 1848; that such compensation should be at the rate then established for what was called a “full mission,” being outfit, salary, and return allowance, and in addition thereto whatever was expended as “contingent expenses," being $797.50, deducting therefrom the money actually received, being $8,276.65. Interest should be allowed on the "contingent expenses” actually incurred from April 8, 1848; but on the compensation now due only from the presentation of his petition, March 7, 1870.
In justice to a faithful public servant and for the sake of its historic interest, the statement of Mr. Trist, filed with the committee, is annexed.
MISSION OF MR. NICHOLAS P. Trist to MEXICO, INSTITUTED APRIL 15, 1847.
FACTS OF THE CASE.
A.-The mission instituted; its object and plan of proceedings; the person
selected for it.
In April, 1847, Congress being then not in session, a determination was taken by the President of the United States, in the exercise of his Executive discretion, to institute a special mission to Mexico; this mission having for its single and sole object the effecting of a treaty of peace; in other words, the extrication of our country from the war in which she had become involved by the annexation of Texas.
For this service the selection fell upon Mr. Nicholas P. Trist, then holding the post in the Department of State next to that of its head. It was undertaken by him single handed, unaccompanied even by a secretary.
The plan was that he should at once repair to the headquarters of our army in Mexico, then under command of Gen. Winfield Scott (or at his option, upon reaching the port of Vera Cruz, remain on board our fieet there), and that the Mexican Governinent should be informed of the presen e there of the officer of our Department of Foreign Affairs, next in rank to its chief,” clothed with full powers to conclude a treaty of peace, should that Government deem proper to enter upon a negotiation with this view.
The letter of instructions from the Department of State, under which he so proceeded to Mexico, is contained in the Senate document, Thirtieth Congress, first session, Executive No. 52. It begins thus (p. 81 of document just named):
(Mr. Buchanan to Mr. Trist.]
“ DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
" Washington, April 15, 1847. “Sir: Since the glorious victory of Buena Vista, and the capture of Vera Cruz and the castle of San Juan d'Ulloa by the American arms, it is deemed probable that the Mexican Government may be willing to conclude a treaty of peace with the United States. Without any certain information, however, as to its disposition, the President would not feel justified in appointing public commissioners for this purpose, and inviting it to do the same. After so many overtures, rejected by Mexico, this course might not only subject the United States to the indignity of another refusal, but might in the end prove prejudicial to the cause of peace. The Mexican Government might thus be encouraged in the mistaken opinion which it probably already entertains, respecting the motives which have actuated the President in his repeated efforts to terminate the war.
“He deems it proper, notwithstanding, to send to the headquarters of the army a confidential agent, fully acquainted with the views of this Government and clothed with full powers to conclude a treaty of peace with the Mexican Government should it be so inclined. In this manner he will be enabled to take advantage, at the propitious moment, of any favorable circumstances which might dispose that Government to peace.
“ The President, therefore, having full confidence in your ability, patriotism, and integrity, has selected you as a commissioner to the United Mexican States, to discharge the duties of this important mission.”
B.-Grade of the mission: First, in point of official character; second, in point
First. In point of official character it was of the highest grade possible. The full powers with which the commissioner was clothed were of the amplest kind that any government can intrust to a diplomatic functionary. His “commission,” under the great seal of the United States, signed by the President and countersigned by the Secretary of State, runs thus: - Commissioner of the United States of America, with authority to meet," etc., “and to negotiate and conclude a settlement of subsisting differences and a lasting treaty of peace,"etc. His “full power," under the same great seal, and bearing the same signatures, runs thus:
“ Have invested him with full and all manner of power and authority, for and in the name of the United States, to meet and confer with any person or persons having like authority,
and with him or them to negotiate and conclude a settlement of subsisting differences and a lasting treaty of peace, friendship, and limits between the United States and the Mexican nation; whereby shall be definitively settled all claims * * and likewise the limits and boundaries between the United States of America and the United Mexican States, and all matters and subjects therewith connected which may be interesting to the two nations."
For his action in the execution of these ample powers. a latitude of discretion is conferred in his letter of instructions such as is but seldom, if ever, exceeded.
Considered in this point of view, the powers conferred and the importance and magnitude of the object for which it was instituted, the mission was of as high a grade as any mission can be, whatever be the title given to the person employed in its execution. And it is to be observed that the title in this instance, “commissioner," was the same with that borne by those three “United States commissioners at Ghent,” Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and Jonathan Russell, by whom was negotiated and concluded our last (last thus far, and 'tis to be fervently hoped, last forever) treaty of peace with our mother country.
Second. Puy attached to the mission.-In this respect its grade was fixed at the other end of the scale: the pay of this special mission was made the same as that of a chargé d'affaires, the lowest grade of the then regular diplomatic stations.
In connection with this fact it is necessary to advert to the peculiarities of the case in these respects: First. There was no appropriation for this special mission, and Congress wis not in session to make one. Moreover, it was deemed important that it should be a secret one, and so remain as long as possible. Hence the necessity that its cost should be defrayed out of the fund (familiarly called “secret service") which is provided by Congress as a resource for emergencies arising in our foreign intercourse; which fund being intrusted by law to the President ior expenditure at his sole and untrammeled discretion, there necessarily attaches to every such expenditure a peculiar sense of personal responsibility, restraining from all approach to lavishness in this irresjonsible disposal of public money. Secondly. This mission was a mere exper ment which might prove abortive. like other measures previously ta en by the President in the hope of thereby obtaining of the Mexican Government a negotiation for peace, among which “repeatı di efforts on the part of the President to terminate the war." as they are called in the Secretary of State's instructions to Mr. Trist, had been the public mission of Mr. John Slidell, of Louisiana, for which an appropriation had been obtained from Congress, and which had proved a fruitless waste of public money to the extent of nearly $16,000.' Thirdly. This mere experiment was expected to be a very short one; å result, one way or the other, would very soon be reached; and for a terın of service so very brief (not over three months at the outside) it would be extravagant, upon mere Executive authority alone, to incur an expenditure beyond the sum which would be made up of the outfit and salary of a chargé.
C.-Result of the mission; steps by which this result was reached. The mission had for its result the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on the 2d of February, 1818, and subsequently ratified by both Governments. The steps by wbich this result was reached were briefly as follows:
Mr. Trist left Washington April 16, 1847; embarked at New Orleans for Vera Cruz, where he landed May 6, and immediately proceeded to headquarters of our army, then at the city of Jalapa. Thenceforward he continued with it until April 8, 1818, when he left the City of Mexico, on his return to Washington, which he reached about the middle of June.
At the time of his arrival at Vera Cruz the only federal authority existing in the Mexican Republic was lodged in “the Sovereign Constituent Congress,” then sitting in the City of Mexico-a body regularly elected for the twofold purpose of, first, reestablishing (with amendments) the constitution of 1824, that had been subverted by military violence and usurpation; second, disposing of all questions connected with the war. By this body a provisional executive had been established, at the head of which was Santa Anna as provisional President of the Republic.
In August, 1847, the American army, by a rapid series of brilliant achievements, having carried and occupied all the strong positions constituting the outer line of defenses of the City of Mexico, an offer was made by its commander, General Scott, to the Mexican Government of an armistice, with a view to negotiations for peace, which offer being immediately accepted, the terms of the armistice were forthwith settled by commissioners appointed on both sides, those selected by General Scott being Generals J. A. Quitman, Persifer F. Smith, and Franklin Pierce.
The negotiation for peace was forth with entered upon by Mr. Trist and four plenipotentiaries appointed by Santa Anna. At the head of these stood General Herrera, the highest name, by universal acknowledgment, throughout that Republic for the purity of patriotism and general probity of character for which he was noted, and which, on several occasions, had caused his elevation to the Presidency of the Republic by constitutional election. Next to Herrera among the Mexican plenipotentiaries was his bosom fried, Couto, the most eminent lawyer of the Republic, and no less noted than himself for proverbial integrity. Between all four of these men and Santa Anna the utmost repulsion was known to exist that could arise from extreme contrariety of character in every possible respect, private
1 The exact figures as they stand in the public accounts (Fifth Auditor) are:
Compensation paid to John Slidell as minister to Mexico. Outfit...
$9,000.00 Salary at $9,000 per annum, for 4 months and 19 days
3, 471.74 Return allowance
2, 250.00 Total paid him as compensation
14,721.74 Add contingent expenses reimbursed to him
204.35 Add salary of secretary for 4 months and 19 days, at $2,000 per annum. 772.19 Total cost of that mission.
as well as public. Upon being appointed by him they had begged to be excused, and it was only upon his insisting and appealing to them, in the name of their country, that they had consented to act.
The negotiation began August 27, 1847, and ended on the 6th of September, with the announcement to the American plenipotentiary of the rejection of the terms proposed by him and the submission of a counter project from Santa Anna. This caused the immediate cessation of the armistice and the resumption of hostilities
the day following. It afterwards became public that the conferences between the plenipotentiaries had borne for their fruit a recommendation from those on the Mexican side to Santa Anna and his cabinet that a treaty should be conducted upon the terms proposed by the Government of the United States.
The resumption of hostilities on the ith of September was speedily followed by the capture of the City of Mexico and the dissolution of the Mexican Government. In his dispatch of September 27, 1817, Mr. Trist, speaking of the capture of the Mexican capital, says: “From which event dates the total dissolution of the Mexican Government. There has not been since that moment any recognized authority in existence with whom I could communicate.”
For the time being, therefore, negotiation was simply impossible. The only thing that Mr. Trist could do was to further, by such means as might be in his power, the formation of a government with which to treat.
It so happened that means toward this end were in his power, and they were diligently used by him. They consisted in the sentiments of personal regard and confidence in him with which the Mexican commissioners in the recent abortive negotiation had become inspired, and with an expression of which their final official report had closed in the following words:
" It now only remains for us to say that in all our relations with Mr. Trist we found ample motives to appreciate his noble character; and if at any time the work of peace is consummated, it will be done by negotiators adorned with the same estimable gifts which, in our judgment, distinguish this minister."}
These men became the nucleus of a peace party, which engaged forthwith in exertions that were unweariedly plied. After a most arduous struggle they accom. plished the object of reconstituting the Government, and at the same time estabÎishing the peace party in entire possession of it in all its branches.
So soon as the executive branch had become solidly constituted its first action consisted in the selection of four commissioners to meet Mr. Trist for the conclusion of a treaty upon the basis that had been proposed by him in the first negotiations. At the head of this new list was no longer seen the name of Herrera, but that of his bosom friend, Couto, associated with that of one more of the former four, and two new names, Don Manuel Rincon and Don Luis Gonzaga Cuevas, both men of the highest personal standing throughout the Republic and conspicuous among the leaders of the peace party. In being made acquainted with this selection, Mr. Trist was informed why all four of the commissioners could no longer be the same whom he had formerly met. General Herrera was lying dangerously ill, and General Mora y Villarnil's services were needed in the new cabinet as minister of war.
Thus did the case stand with reference to the certain and early accomplishment of the object for which he had been sent to Mexico, when, on the 16th of November, 1847, Mr. Trist received his letter of recail, under date October 6, the triplicate of which letter was the first to reach him as an inclosure in another dispatch from the Secretary of State, dated the 25th of October, reiterating the recall. The original was delivered to him on the day following by the person specially sent with it from Washington.
In that letter of recall the ground of the President's determination to discontinue the mission is stated in the following words:
“They (the Mexican Government) must attribute our liberality to fear, or they must take courage from our suppose i political division Some such cause is necessary to account for their strange infatuation. In this state of affairs, the President, believing that your continued presence with the army can be productive of no good, but may do much harm by encouraging the delusive hopes and false impressions of the Mexicans, has directed me to recall you from your mission and instruct you to return to the United States by the first safe opportunity."
The “state of affairs” really existing in Mexico, with reference to the object for which the mission intrusted to Mr. Trist had been instituted, was, then, the direct reverse of that supposed by the President and by him assigned as his reason for withdrawing that mission, and for the further determination on his part expressed
As translated at Washington, by order of the Senate, Thirtieth Congress, first session. (Senate Executive, No. 52, p. 345.)
in the letter of recall “not to make another offer to treat,” * * * “they must now gue for peace.”
what terms the President may be willing to grant them will depend upon the future events of the war, and the amount of the precious blood of our fellow.citizens, and the treasure which shall, in the meantime, have been expended.”
Thus situated, Mr. Trist did, nevertheless, forthwith enter upon a course of strict conformity with his recall. In his dispatch, acknowledging the simultaneous receipt of the recall, and its reiteration under dates October 6 and 25, he says:
“My first thought was immediately to address a note to the Mexican Government, advising them of the inutility of pursuing their intention to appoint commissioners to meet me. On reflection, however, the depressing influence which this would exercise upon the peace party, and the exhilaration which it would produce among the opposition being but too manifest, I determined to postpone making this communication officially, and meanwhile privately to advise the leading men of the party here and at Queretaro of the instructions which I had received.
". Their spirits had, for the last few days, been very much raised by the course of events at Queretaro; and one of them (the second of the two heads mentioned in a late dispatch) had called on me the very day after your two dispatches came to hand, for the purpose of communicating the good news' and making known the brightening prospects.' Upon my saying that it was all too late, and telling what instructions I had received, his countenance fell, and flat despair succeeded to the cheeriness with which he had accosted me. The same dejection has been evinced by every one of them that I have conversed with, while joy has been the effect upon those of the opposite party who have come to inquire into the truth of the newspaper statement from the Washington Union. By both parties the peace men were considered floored; this was the coup de grâce for them.
· Mr. Thornton was to set out (as he did) next morning for Queretaro, and I availed myself of this privately to apprise the members of the Government of the state of things with reference to which their exertions in favor of peace must now be directed, and to exhort them not to give up, as those here had at first seemed strongly inclined to do, and as it was believed that those at Queretaro would at once do. Fortunately, however, when the news reached there they had just taken in a strong dose of confidence-the result of the meeting of the goverpors--which served to brace them against its stunning effect.
* * The peace men did not cease for several days to implore me to remain in the country; at least until Mr. Parrott shall have arrived with the dispatches, of which report makes him the bearer. To these entreaties, however, I have turned a deaf ear, stating the absolute impossibility that those dispatches should bring anything to change my position in the slightest degree.
“I recommended to the peace men to send immediately, through General Scott, whatever propositions they may have to make: or to dispatch one or more commissioners with me. After full conversations on the subject, however, I became thoroughly satisfied of the impracticability of either plan; it would, to a certainty, have the effect of breaking them down. The only possible way in which a treaty can be made is to have the work done on the spot-negotiation and ratifi. cation to take place at one dash. The complexion of the new Congress, which is to meet at Queretaro on the 8th of January, is highly favorable. This will be the last chance for a treaty. I would recommend, therefore, the immediate appointment of a commission on our part."
In a letter to his wife, accompanying that dispatch, he sent a message to Mr. Buchanan, (the Secretary of State) beseeching him, as he valued our Union, to lose not an instant in seizing the last chance for peace; and suggesting that, to gain time, authority to conclude a treaty should be forth with dispatched to General Scott, or to Gen. W. O. Butler, of Kentucky, or to both conjointly, the lastnamed officer being a member of the Democratic party, who had been sent to take command of our Army as General Scott's successor,
The position in which Mr. Trist was placed, by his recall, toward the peace party could not but be a most painful one. At his instigation it was, as our country's representative, and on the strength of the assurances given by him of the sincerity and earnestness of her and her government's desire for peace, that this party had built itself up; and, after a most ar luous struggle, had accomplished what was universally regarded as an impossibility.” In this struggle its leaders, and every prominent man whom they had succeeded in enlisting in the same cause, had staked everything which can be staked in a political contest by the
This not in my official dispatches, but I have the letter. * This nowhere stated in my dispatches; but any historian would infer all this from what is there stated,