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citizens of a republic, torn, as Mexico has proverbially been, by convulsions of the most violent kind. From the assurances which he had given them, they regarded it as impossible that the President of the United States, upon receiving the dispatches acquainting him with the true "state of affairs” in Mexico and of the progress which had been made toward the consummation of the object which the bearer of those assurances had been sent there to give, could fail to revoke the recall which placed them in a position so perilous; hence the confident belief on their part that the revocation of that recall must be on its way, and hence their entreaties to Mr. Trist to delay his departure.
To the strength of the appeal so made to him, to its strength on the mere ground of simple good faith between man and man toward the patriotic men whom he had been instruinental in entrapping into that cruel position, he could not be otherwise than fully sensible. To find himself under the necessity of turning a deaf ear to it must have been most trying to his feelings.
But he was ordered "to return by the first safe opportunity;" and the possibility of his being shaken in his determination to obey this order by any such expectation as that of his recall being revoked was precluded by the whole tenor and spirit of the letter recalling him, and most especially its closing paragraph, which said:
“Should you, upon its arrival, be actually engaged in negotiations with Mexican commissioners, these must be immediately suspended. *
You are not to delay your departure, however, awaiting the communication of any terms from these commissioners for the purpose of bringing them to the United States."
So that, had his recall found him pen in hand to affix his signature to a perfected treaty of peace, this treaty word for word identical with the project given him for his guidance, our commissioner would, upon reading those instruciions, have become bareft of all authority to write his name to that treaty. Had the “ state of affairs," at the moment when those instructions reached the City of Mexico, proved to be such as to render this expenditure of one single drop of ink the sole remaining requisite for preventing all further effusion of what, in those same instructions, is called the precious blood of our fellow-citizens;" even if this had proved to be the “state of affairs " which that dispatch found to exist there, yet, so very guardedly and effectually had it provided against the expenditure of this one drop of ink, " the precious blood " inust have continued to flow. It must have continued to be “expended;" to be expended to such "amounts,' whatever this amount might turn out to be, as might be determined by the protraction of the war “ for an indefinite period. For this is the term which, less than five months after that recall left the city of Washington, was in the President's message to the Senate, February 29, 1818, assigned by him to the probable duration of the war, in case the Senate should fail to comply with his express
recomiendation" to adopt and ratify as a national act the work done by the ex-commissioner in direct contravention of the above-quoted, most carefully devised, and most skilfully framed orders for securing against even the signing of a treaty, should this prove to be the sole remaining requisite for the consummation of the object for which the mission had been instituted.
That “first safe opportunity," by which Mr. Trist was thus ordered to return, did not occur until the 10th day of December. When the order reached him, (November 16, 1817,) it was expected that an army train for Vera Cruz would leave the City of Mexico about the end of that month. Owing, however, to the unexpected detention at that port of a train which had been sent there for supplies, the departure of the one with which Mr. Trist had prepared to leave was postponed, first, to the 4th of Decemler, and then to the 10th. On this day the train started. Mr. Trist, however, did not go with it. Had it been delayed no later than the 4th, in such case his return journey would have begun on the morning of that day. Then must “the precious blood of our fellow citizens” have continued to be "expended," and our country have been made to believe this expenditure, so religiously abhorrent to our Executive and so piously deprecated by him, attributable solely to that strange infatuation" on the part of the Mexicans, which was so deplored by the President and the Secretary of State, and which they found themselves utterly at a loss to account for, except on the supposition that Mexico fancied our country to be afraid of her.
The postponement of the departure of that train to a day later than the 4th was big with consequences of vast moment. That day-the 4th of December in the year of our Lord 1847-proved to be the appointed time in the course of human events for an incident which, though in itself of the most casual, and trivial, and commonplace kind, had for its effect to reverse the gloomy aspect which things had worn at the rising of the sun, and had continued to wear till near his setting, boding the indefinite protraction of the war.
From this incident aroso a determination on the part of Mr. Trist, which, in
itself, in the circumstances nnder which it was taken, and in the results attend. ing it, constitutes an event that stands alone in history, and is not likely ever to have a parallel.
This determination, with the motives which impelled to it, are found stated in a confidential letter immediately written by him, and a copy of which was transmitted as promptly as possible to the Secretary of State at Washington, was among the papers subsequently communicated to the Senate, and by their order printed. The dispatch transmitting it to the Secretary of State begins as follows: “HEADQUARTERS OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY,
“ Mexico, December 6, 1847. “Hon. JAMES BUCHANAN,
“ Secretary of State, Washington: “SIR: Referring to my previous dispatches in regard to the political state of this country, and to the inclosed copy of a confidential letter, under date the 4th instant, to a friend at Queretaro, to whose able and indefatigable cooperation in the discharge of the trust committed to me. I have, from the very outset, been greatly indebted, I will here enter at greater length into the considerations by which I have been brought to a resolve so fraught with responsibility to myseli; whilst, on the other hand, the circumstances under which it is taken are such as to leave the Government at perfect liberty to disavow my proceeding, should it be deemed disadvantageous to our country.”
The friend at Queretaro, “to whose able and indefatigable cooperation " Mr. Trist so acknowledged his deep obligations, was Mr. Edward Thornton, at that time, owing to the retirement of the British minister from ill-health, left in charge of the British legation in Mexico. The same gentleman is now the representative of his sovereign to our Government.
The resolve so formed by the ex-commissioner of the United States was to this effect: Should the Mexican Government be willing, he would take upon himself to engage with its plenipotentiaries in the work which had been so unexpectedly prevented by his recall. All such action on his part would, of course, be devoid of validity and of all binding force upon our Government. Nevertheless, should the negotiation result in their agreeing upon the terms of a treaty, such treaty would secure to the cause of peace the chance of its adoption by the Government of the United States, upon its being presented with the option so to put an end to the war.
The attempt so ventured upon was crowned with success. His proposal was accepted by the Mexican Government. The plenipotentiaries, who, just before his recall arrived, had been selected to meet him, were commissioned. They at once went to work, and the work was plied so diligently that in about six weeks' time from their first regular conference their task was brought to its desired end by the signing at Guadalupe Hidalgo on the 2d of February, 1818, of the document, in the forin of a treaty, which was immediately sent to the Secretary of State at Washington.
Every possible provision having been made for its speedy conveyance, it reached its destination in sixteen or seventeen days after signature-the quickest time ever made by man between the capitals of the two Republics—the bearer being James L. Freaner, a native of the State of Maryland, and the only man who had been in any way instrumentalin determining Mr. Trist to make the attempt of which that document was the result.
On the 23d of February, 1848, some days after its arrival at Washington, the document received from Mr. Trist was communicated by the President to the Senate, with a message bearing date the day previous (February 22), beginning thus:
" I lay before the Senate, for their consideration and advice as to its ratification, a treaty of peace, friendship, limits, and settlement, signed at the city of GuadaInpe Hidalgo on the 2d day of February, 1818, by N. P. Trist, on the part of the United States, anà by plenipotentiaries appointed for that purpose on the part of the Mexican Government.'
By the Executive action so taken upon the document the invalidity of that in which it originated was cured, and it became transmuted into a genuine treaty so far as the President's sole authority was competent to impart this character to it.
A week later, on the 29th of the same month, in another message to the Senate the President took occasion to explain that his first message was intended to be understood as positively recommending the ireaty for adoption; the words upon this point in the second message being:
"I considered it to be my solemn duty to the country, uninfluenced by the exceptionable conduct of Mr. Trist. to submit the treaty to the Senate with a recommendation that it be ratified with the modifications suggested.”
NICHOLAS P. TRIST.
Incorporate, with this express recommendation are the President's reasons for considering it his solemn duty to make it; among which assigned reasons is his belief that if the present treaty be rejected, the war will probably be continued, at a great expense of life and treasure, for an indefinite period.”
After thorough discussion by the Senate, extending from February 23 to March 10, in which it underwent various modifications, its ratification was advised and consented to by a vote of :38 yeas to 14 nays.
This action of the Senate was immediately followed by the formal ratification of the treaty on the part of the United States; whereupon a joint commission was forth with dispatched to Mexico for the purpose of there procuring its ratification as amended by the Senate.
The rank of this commission and the strictly limited purpose for which it was sent are both explained with great particularity in two letters of the Secretary of State of the United States, under date of March 18, 1843, one of which letters, a very long and elaborate production, manifesting the great importance attached to the object in view, was immediately dispatched to Mexico as a forerunner of the commission. From it the following extracts are made:
[The Secretary of State of the United States to the minister of foreign relations of the Mexican
Republic.) “Sir: Two years have nearly passed away since our Republics have been engaged in war.
Causes which it would now be vain, if not hurtful, to recapitulate have produced this calamity. Under the blessing of a kind Providence this war, I trust, is about to terminate.
I most cordially congratulate you on the cheering prospect. This will become a reality as soon as the Mexican Government shall approve the treaty of peace between the two nations concluded at Guadalupe Hidalgo on the ri of February last, with the amendments thereto which have been adopted by the Senate of the United States. *
** I have now the honor to transmit you a printed copy of the treaty, with a copy in manuscript of the amendments and final proceedings of the Senate upon it. This is done to hasten, with as little delay as practicable, the blessed consummation of peace, by placing in the possession of the Mexican Government at as early a period as possible all the information which they may require to guide their deliberations.
“Recurring to the amendments adopted by the Senate it affords me sincere pleasure to know that none of the leading features of the treaty have been changed.
** The President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, has appointed the Hon. Ambrose H. Sevier, of the State of Arkansas, and the Hon. Nathan Clifford, of the State of Maine, commissioners to Mexico, with the rank of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary. Mr. Sevier has for many years been a distinguished Senator of the United States, and for a considerable period has occupied the highly responsible station of chairman of the Coinmittee on Foreign Relations. Mr. Clifford is an eminent citizen of the State of Maine, is AttorneyGeneral of the United States, and a member of the President's Cabinet. They will bear with them to Mexico a copy of the treaty, with the amendments of the Senate, duly ratified by the President of the United States, and have been invested, either jointly or severally, with full powers to exchange ratifications with the proper Mexican authorities.
That this final act may be speedily accomplished, and that the result may be a sincere and lasting peace and friendship between the two Republics, is the ardent desire of the President and people of the United States."
The other letter from the Secretary of State was addressed to the joint commissioners, Messrs. Sevier and Clifford. In it the object of their mission was thus strictly defined:
- You are not sent to Mexico for the purpose of negotiating any new treaty, or of changing in any manner the ratified treaty which you will bear with you. None of the amendinents adopted by the Senate can be rejected or modified, except by the authority of that body. Your whole duty, then, will consist in using every honorable effort to obtain from the Mexican Government a ratification of the treaty in the form in which it has been ratified by the Senate; and this with the least practicable delay.
Your mission is confined to procuring a ratification from the Mexican Government of the treaty as it came from the Senate."
Nevertheless, to provide for a contingency which might occur, the instructions continua thus:
“Should you find it impossible, after exhausting every honorable effort for this purpose, to obtain a ratification from the President and Congress of Mexico of the treaty as it has been amended by the Senate, it may then become necessary for
you, in conversation with the proper Mexican authorities, to express an opinion as to what portion of the Senate's amendments they might probably be willing to yield for the sake of restoring peace between the two Republics."
The very earnest solicitude for the definite consummation of the treaty mani. fested by the Secretary of State in both these letters, and most especially in the passage last quoted, presents a striking contrast to the spirit pervading the letter of recall from the same hand, written less than five months before. It brings into strong relief the high value to which the result attending Mr. Trist's mission had risen in the estimation of our Executive in the intervening period, and even in the short portion of it—just one month-which had elapsed since the arrival of the treaty at Washington, and the delay thereupon experienced by it in being communicated to the Senate.
It seems also to bring into yet stronger relief a further result of that mission which was soon to disclose itself. This consisted in the course pursued by the Mexican Government (by the Congress no less than the Executive) by which the anxieties expressed in those two letters were speedily dissipated. That course constituted a conclusive proof that the state of affairs" truly existing in Mexico, with reference to the purpose of Mr. Trist's mission, was such as to afford no better grounds for anxiety about the ratification of the treaty then than at the time of his recall it had afforded for the “ belief” which, in the President's message to the Senate, February 22, 1817, was stated to have“ dictated ” that recall; the words of the President upon this point being: I deem it my duty to state that the recall of Mr. Trist as commissioner of the United States, of which Congress was informed in my last annual message, was dictated by the belief that his continued presence with the Army could be productive of no good, but might do much harm," etc.
Upon the subject of ratification Mr. Trist, in his dispatch of February 2, 1818, transmitting the treaty, had written:
• With respect to the ratification of the treaty, I believe the chances to be very greatly in its favor.
The elections are yet to be held in the States of Vera Cruz and Puebla. In the former the puros (war party) never had any strength whatever, in the latter not enough to counteract a vigorous and concerted effort on the part of the moderados. These elections will now speedily take place, under the arrangements for facilitating them which will be entered into in pursuance of the second article of the treaty (inserted with a special view to this object); and the result will. according to every probability, give to the peace party in Congress a preponderance so decided as to insure its prompt ratification.”
Ten days later, his dispatch No. 29, February 12, 1818, transmitting the maps referred to in the fifth article of the treaty, closes with these words:
“ I take great pleasure in stating that the probabilities of the ratification of the treaty by Mexico, which were previously very good, have been growing stronger and stronger every hour for several days past, and that there is good reason to believe that it may take place within two months of this date.
“In the accompanying Monitor Republicano of the 11th instant will be found the circular of the minister of relations to the governors of States informing them of the signature of the treaty.”
These anticipations of Mr. Trist, both as to the results of the election in aug. menting the preponderance already acquired by the peace party in Congress and as to the use which would be made of this preponderance, were soon verified to the very letter, and far beyond it.
Intelligence reaching Mexico that the Senate of the United States were engaged in making amendments to the treaty, all action of the Mexican Government in regard to its ratification was suspended until the amendments so made should become known. They became so officially by the letter of the Secretary of State of the United States, March 18, to the minister of relations. Upon its receipt by him, the treaty, as ratified by the Government of the United States, with the amendments of our Senate, was laid before the Mexican Congress, both houses of which must advise and consent to a treaty before it can be rified. First taken up in the chamber of deputies, it was adopted there by a large majority; then in the senate it passed that body by vote of 33 yeas to 5 nays.
Thus was the question of ratification of the treaty, as amended by our Senate, definitely settled. Thus was it settled by the spontaneous action of the Mexican Congress, this action terminating by that vote in the senate of 33 yeas to 5 nays on the 25th of May, 1818, just one month and thirteen days after the expiration of the two months” which on the 12th of February Mr. Trist had assigned for this action upon the treaty in its primitive form.
This definitive ratification took place before our joint commissioners could reach Queretaro, the seat of the Mexican Government. Thus far did the event fall short of verifying the apprehension expressed by our Secretary of State lest they should find it impossible, after exhausting every honorable effort tor this purpose, to obtain a ratification.” Thus far did those commissioners find themselves from the necessity, “in conversation with the proper Mexican authorities, to express an opinion as to what portion of the Senate's amendments they might probably be willing to yield for the sake of restoring peace between the two Republics.
The first dispatch of the joint commissioners, after reaching their destination, was as follows:
CITY OF QUERETARO,
May 15, 1848–9 o'clock p. m. Sir: We have the satisfaction to inform you that we reached this city this afternoon at about 5 o'clock, and that the treaty, as amended by the Senate of the United States, passed the Mexican senate about the hour of our arrival by a vote of 33 to 5. It having previously passed the house of deputies, nothing now reinaing but to exchange the ratifications of the treaty.
At about 4 leagues from the city we were met by a Mexican escort under the command of Colonel Herrera, and were escorted to a house prepared by the Government for our reception. The minister of foreign relations and the governor of the city called upon us and accompanied us to dinner, which they had previously ordered. So far as the Government is concerned, every facility and honor have been offered us, and Señor Rosa, the minister of foreign relations, desires us to state that he feels great satisfaction in meeting the ministers of peace from the United States
We will write you again shortly and more at length, as the courier is on the point of departure. The city appears to be in a great state of exultation, fireworks going off, and bands of music parading in every direction. We have the honor, etc.,
A. H. SEVIER.
NATHAN CLIFFORD. Hon. JAMES BUCHANAN,
Secretary of State.
Cost of the joint commission sent to Mexico for the purpose of obtaining the ratifi
cation of the treaty by that Government. Paid to A. H. Sevier as commissioner's outfit.
$9,000.00 Salary for two months and twenty-nine days.
2, 250.00 Return allowance..
Total for two months and twenty-nine days' service
$13,500.00 9,000.00 3, 256.48 2, 250.00
Total for four months and ten days' service ..
Total cost of the joint commission on that service
28,728.67 Remarks on the above.- In the case of Mr. Clifford, the “return allowance" does not appear on the public acconnts as part of the cost of the joint commission for this reason: He remained in Mexico as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from July 28, 1848, to September 6, 1819, for his service in which capacity he was paid a new “outfit,” and his “ return allowance" appears in this account as follows: Paid to Nathan Clifford as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from July 28, 1848. to September 6, 1849, outfit.
$9,000.00 Salary for one year, one month, and eight days.
10, 002. 42 Return allowance
Total paid to N. Clifford for one year, five months, and eighteen days,
Total cost of service of N. Clifford in both capacities