Page images

a confidential agent to Mexico to inquire into and report upon the actual condition of the belligerents, and in consequence of his report, Mr. Robert M. McLane was dispatched to Mexico, March 8, 1859, "with discretionary authority to recognize the government of President Juarez, if on his arrival in Mexico he should find it entitled to such recognition according to the established practice of the United States." On the 7th of April, Mr. McLane presented his credentials to President Juarez, having no hesitation, he said, “in pronouncing the government of Juarez to be the only existing government of the republic." He was cordially received by the authorities at Vera Cruz, and during all the vicissitudes of the next eight years the United States government continued to extend its sympathy and moral support to the government of Juarez as the only one entitled to the allegiance of the people of Mexico.

Juarez thus came forward, in the rôle of reformer, as the champion of constitutionalism and the supremacy of the state against the overreaching power, influence, and wealth of the church party. He was a full-blooded Indian, without the slightest admixture of Spanish blood. In December, 1860, he finally succeeded in overthrowing the party of Miramon and driving the latter into exile. Immediately, on reoccupying the city of Mexico, the Constitutionalists proceeded to execute with severity the decree issued at Vera Cruz nationalizing or sequestrating the property of the church.

The most difficult question which the new government had to face was that of international obligations recklessly contracted by the various revolutionary

leaders who had successively been recognized as constituting the government of Mexico. In consequence of debts contracted and outrages and enormities perpetrated, for the most part during the régime of Miramon and the church party, the governments of England, France, and Spain determined to intervene in Mexico.

The grievances of the British government were based on the following facts: non-settlement of claims of British bondholders; the murder of the British vice-consul at Tasco; the breaking into the British legation and the carrying off £152,000 in bonds belonging to British subjects, besides numerous other outrages committed on the persons and property of individuals.1

The claims of the British bondholders referred to had been recognized by the Pakenham convention of October 15, 1842, and formed into a consolidated fund of $250,000, which was to be paid off, principal and interest, by a percentage on import duties at the custom-houses of Vera Cruz and Tampico. This convention was not carried out by the Mexican government, and on December 4, 1851, Mr. Doyle signed on behalf of Great Britain a new convention, in which not only the claims under the Pakenham convention, but others, recognized by both governments, were likewise formed into a consolidated fund, on which the Mexican government bound itself to pay five per cent. as a sinking fund and three per cent. as interest until the debt should be paid off. This five and three per cent. were to be met by a percentage of customs receipts.

1 Brit. and For. St. Pap., 1861-62. Vol. LII. Also House Exec. Doc. No. 100, Thirty-seventh Cong., Second Sess.

In 1857 the sinking fund was to be raised to six per cent. and the interest to four per cent.

Two days after the signing of this Doyle convention the Spanish minister in Mexico also signed a convention on behalf of some Philippine missionaries, known as the "Padre Moran" convention, on almost the same basis as the British. The consolidated fund in this case was $983,000, the sinking fund five per cent., and the interest three per cent.

The interest was paid on both funds in almost the whole amount, but the sinking fund was not kept up. Succeeding agreements were made in 1858, in 1859, and in 1860, by which the custom-house assignments to satisfy both conventions (British and Spanish) were raised from twelve per cent. in 1851, to twentynine per cent. in 1860.2

It will thus be seen that the British and Spanish claims were perfectly legitimate. The French claims, however, were of a somewhat different character. During Miramon's administration arrangements were made through the agency of Jecker, a Swiss banker, by which $750,000 were to be raised through an issue of $15,000,000 of bonds. These bonds fell into the hands of Jecker's French creditors and were pressed by the French government, which thus demanded the repayment of twenty times the original sum advanced. A claim was made also for $12,000,000 for torts on French subjects."

When the Liberal party came into power again in 1860, they were unable to meet the situation and showed a disposition to question the obligatory force

Brit. and For. St. Pap., Vol LII, p. 359. • Wharton's Digest, Sec. 58, Vol. I, p. 312.

of engagements entered into by their various revolutionary predecessors. The British government had undertaken to provide against this contingency upon the occasion of extending recognition to the Juarez administration. Under date of March 30, 1861, Lord John Russell wrote to Sir Charles Wyke, recently appointed minister to Mexico, as follows:

The instructions addressed to Mr. Mathew, both before and since the final triumph of the Liberal party, made the recognition by Great Britain of the constitutional government contingent upon the acknowledgment by that government of the liability of Mexico for the claims of British subjects who, either in their persons or in their property, for a long series of years, can be proved to have suffered wrong at the hands of successive governments in Mexico.

And further on in the same communication the attitude of the British government is expressed yet more strongly:

Her majesty's government will not admit as an excuse for hesitation in this respect the plea that the robbery was committed by the late government. For, as regards this, as indeed all other claims, her majesty's government cannot admit that the party who committed the wrong is alone responsible. Great Britain does not recognize any party as constituting the republic in its dealing with foreign nations, but holds the entire republic, by whatever party the government of it may from time to time be administered, to be responsible for wrongs done to British subjects by any party or persons at any time administering the powers of government.

Mexico, however, was slow to admit this principle of international law. In a letter to Lord John Rus

Brit. and For. St. Pap., Vol. LII, p. 237.

sell, June 25, 1861, and in other communications, Sir Charles Wyke urged the necessity of a naval demonstration against Mexico. His plan was to take possession of the custom-houses of Vera Cruz, Tampico, and Matamoros on the Atlantic, and of one or two on the Pacific, lower the duties so as to attract the great bulk of trade from other ports, and pay themselves by the percentage to which they were entitled by treaty stipulation.

On the 17th of July, 1861, President Juarez brought matters to a crisis by the publication of a decree, the first article of which declared that "all payments are suspended for two years, including the assignments for the loan made in London and for the foreign conventions."

On the 23rd, Sir Charles Wyke, the British minister, demanded the repeal of this law within fortyeight hours. On the 24th, the French minister demanded its repeal within twenty-four hours. These demands were not complied with and diplomatic relations were immediately broken off by the British and French representatives.

The Spanish government had acted somewhat in advance of the other governments and was already preparing to back its claims by an armed expedition against Mexico. The rupture with the British and French governments very naturally pointed to joint action with Spain as the best means of securing their interests. The United States government, which had just entered upon one of the greatest struggles of modern times and had its hands practically tied as far as Mexico was concerned, regarded the contem

Brit. and For. St. Pap., Vol. LII, p. 294.

« PreviousContinue »