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Mexico within the United States. For such a boundary the United States government would be willing to pay all just claims of its citizens on Mexico, and five million dollars besides.
For California the president was willing to give a good deal more. The department of state had reason to believe that both Great Britain and France had designs on that province, and Slidell was to do what he could to prevent it from passing to either. The possession of the bay and harbor of San Francisco was all-important to the United States. California was then only nominally dependent on Mexico, and it was doubtful if Mexican authority would ever be restored there. Under the circumstances the president wished Slidell to use his best efforts to obtain the cession of that province to the United States. He was to strive to obtain a boundary running due west from a point on the boundary of New Mexico so as to reach the Pacific south of Monterey if possible; and, if not, then south of San Francisco—the farther south the better. For the line to include Monterey, Polk was willing to give twenty-five million dollars, besides assuming payment of the claims on Mexico; while for that to include only San Francisco he would assume payment of the claims and give twenty millions besides.
Finally Slidell was warned that conciliation of the Mexicans was indispensable to his success. He was reminded that it would be difficult to raise a point of honor between the United States and a power so feeble and degraded as Mexico. He was to bear and forbear much in order to accomplish the objects of his mission. Further instructions to Slidell, dated a little more than a week later, urge upon him the necessity of pushing the negotiations to a conclusion as early as might be consistent with their success, because the president wished to submit the result to Congress before the end of the approaching session, so that, in the event of failure, prompt and energetic measures might be used to redress the injuries that citizens of the United States had sustained from Mexico.1
When Slidell received the letter of November 10, he wrote for further instructions concerning the boundary north of El Paso.2 Meanwhile, he said, he would not feel himself at liberty to recognize the right of Mexico to any territory within the limits Texas had marked off for itself by the statute of December 19, 1836—that is, everything east of the Rio Grande from mouth to source, thus dividing New Mexico in twain. Slidell stated that, while asserting the title of the United States to the part claimed by Texas, he would offer to assume the obligations of Mexico to citizens of the United States if Mexico would relinquish her claims to the disputed area.
About a month later Slidell was informed that, if he discovered that the attempt to settle the boundary question in the manner indicated by his instructions would endanger the two prime objects of his mission — to counteract foreign influences adverse to the interests of the United States, and to restore the old, peaceful relations with Mexico—he was not to sacrifice these objects in pursuit of the unattainable.1
1 Buchanan to Slidell, November 19, 1845, U. S. MS. Archives, State Dept.
2 Slidell to Buchanan, November 30, 1845, ibid.
In his message of December 2,1845, Polk informed Congress that Mexico had consented to renew diplomatic relations, and that he had sent a minister with power to adjust all questions, including boundaries. He hoped to communicate the result during that session, and meanwhile he would recommend no measure of redress.2
Slidell reached Vera Cruz November 29, and his arrival was promptly reported to Consul Black in the city of Mexico. As soon as Black had the news, he informed Pefia y Pefla, the Mexican minister of foreign affairs, who stated that the Mexican government was not expecting the commissioner and was not prepared to receive him,3 and expressed the fear that Slidell's appearance in the capital just then might be disastrous to the government and might defeat the whole affair. Black was reminded of the accusations of treachery that had been made against the Herrera administration because of the agreement to negotiate, and was requested to prevent SlideH from coming to the city of Mexico at that time, or even from disembarking. It was too late to reach Slidell until he was well on his way to the city; but Black went to meet him at Puebla, and informed him that the Mexican minister of foreign affairs would have "preferred less promptness" on the part of the United States government.1 If the expediency of Slidell's delay or return to Vera Cruz was discussed, it does not appear in the correspondence; at any rate, he pushed on to the city of Mexico. Soon after his arrival he sent a copy of his letter of credence to Pena y Pena and asked to know when he would be officially received.2 He was told that he should have a reply two days later; but when the time came he was informed that the matter must be referred to the council of state, and that he should know when the answer would be given.
1 Buchanan to Slidell, December 17, 1845, U. S. MS. Archives, State Dept.
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 391.
* House Exec. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 Sess., VII., No. 60, p. 21.
In a letter to Buchanan, dated December 17, 1845, in which the facts that have been given are detailed, Slidell explained the inner aspects of the situation still further. While Herrera and his cabinet wished frankly to enter on the negotiations, they dared not take the responsibility; so they had referred the question to a body which they were not legally required to consult, which was known to be opposed to Slidell's reception, and a majority of the members of which were generally understood to be tinfavorable to the administration. The reasons stated for not receiving him were that his credentials did not seem to have been given with the consent of Congress; that his appointment had not been confirmed by the Senate; that while the Mexican government had agreed to receive only a commissioner to treat on the subject of Texas, a plenipotentiary had been sent; and, finally—paradoxical as this may seem—that his powers were not sufficient.1
1 House Exec. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 Sess., VII., No. 60, p. 33. * Ibid., p. 14.
On December 15, just one week from the date of his first letter to Pefia y Pefia, Slidell wrote again asking when he might expect an answer as to his reception. On the 16th the council decided that he ought not to be received; and the same day he had received a communication from Pefia y Pefia—which Slidell thought was written after the council had acted—assuring him that the delay was due solely to difficulties arising from the nature of his credentials, and that he should know the result of the reference to the council without loss of time. In his report of these proceedings, December 17, the envoy complained that the letters sent him by Pefia y Pefia were not addressed to him officially, but he thought there was less reason to notice this because the existence of Herrera's government was exceedingly precarious and a revolution was probable.2
1 House Exec. Docs., 30 Cong., 1 Sess., VII., No. 6o, pp. 83-31.