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CORRESPONDENCE between Great Britain, France, Spain and The United States, respecting the Affairs of Mexico; the Non-Settlement of Claims of British Bondholders and others; the Murder of the British Vice-Consul at Tasco; the Spanish Occupation of Vera Cruz; the Suspension of Diplomatic Relations, and the Combined Operations of Great Britain, France and Spain against Mexico.*-1861, 1862.
No. 1.-Lord J. Russell to Sir C. Wyke.
Foreign Office, March 30, 1861.
A PASSAGE to Vera Cruz having been ordered for you on board the contract packet appointed to leave Southampton on the 2nd of April, you will embark on board that vessel, and on your arrival at Vera Cruz proceed at once to Mexico. You will probably find Mr. Mathew already in diplomatie communication with the Constitutional Government; for Her Majesty's Government can hardly doubt that it will have willingly acceded to the conditions on which the re-establishment of friendly intercourse has been made to depend.
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.
If Mr. Mathew should not have obtained any such concession from the Constitutional Government before your arrival, you must use your own discretion as to the time at which you should present your credentials. It is, of course, desirable that the reestablishment of regular diplomatic intercourse with Mexico should not be delayed, but it might happen that the manifestation of any undue eagerness on your part to bring about such a state of things might encourage the Constitutional Government to withhold the preliminary concession which Mr. Mathew was instructed to require.
Her Majesty's Government have all along declared that they had no desire to prejudge the quarrel between the two parties who have been long arrayed against each other in Mexico, or to side with one party against the other. Had the party of General Miramon shown a due regard for international obligations, and for the rights of British subjects, the British Legation would not have
Laid before Parliament, 1862.
been withdrawn from the city of Mexico. That step was forced upon Her Majesty's Government by continual disregard of the rights of British subjects, and of the obligations of international engagements, which rendered it impossible for Her Majesty's Government to continue to hold relations with the constituted authorities. But if the newly established Government should evince a disposition to act on different principles you will state to it without hesitation that the friendly feelings of Her Majesty's Government for Mexico have undergone no change, notwithstanding the grievous wrongs which British subjects have sustained at the hands of the successive Governments of that Republic; that the policy of the British Government with regard to Mexico is a policy of non-intervention, and that the British Government desire to see Mexico free and independent, and in a position to regulate the civil administration of the country, to maintain internal peace, and to discharge its international duties without the active intervention of any foreign Power whatever. Her Majesty's Government cannot doubt that such assurances as these will induce the Mexican Government to rely with confidence on the disinterestedness of any advice or suggestions which you may see occasion to offer to it, though I would caution you against obtruding such advice upon it, and still more against entering into any contest with the Representative of any other Power for exclusive influence over the councils of the Government.
I would, moreover, particularly caution you against taking any part in the political questions which may arise between contending parties in the State. A British Minister can never safely interfere in such matters; but as the representative of a country possessing liberal institutions, and therefore desiring to see other nations enjoying the same blessing, he will always be looked upon with respect, and will have more real influence for good in proportion as he keeps aloof from the factions or disputes of rival parties in the State.
Your earliest attention after your arrival in Mexico must be given to the question of British claims. You are aware that it has not been the custom of Her Majesty's Government, although they have always held themselves free to do so, to interfere authoritatively on behalf of those who have chosen to lend their money to foreign Governments, and the Mexican bondholders have not been an exception to this rule. The Constitutional Government, however, while established at Vera Cruz under the presidency of Señor Juarez, concluded with Captain Dunlop, two years ago, an arrangement by which it was stipulated that 25 per cent. of the Customs receipts at Vera Cruz and Tampico should be assigned to the British bondholders, and 16 per cent. to the holders of Con
vention bonds. That Convention was confirmed and extended by: the arrangement lately made by Captain Aldham. The claims of the bondholders, therefore, to the extent provided for in these arrangements, have acquired the character of an international: obligation, and you should accordingly insist upon the punctual fulfilment of the obligations thus contracted.
The bondholders, moreover, have sustained a grievous loss by the robbery of a large sum of money belonging to them which had been deposited for security in the house of Her Majesty's Legation, and if Mr, Mathew should not have succeeded before your arrival in making a satisfactory arrangement for the early restitution of the amount thus plundered, you will insist upon such arrangement being immediately entered into with yourself. 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 dealings 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.
Her Majesty's Government do not, indeed, anticipate any deter-. mined refusal on the part of the Constitutional Government to afford redress in this particular case; but if you should meet with any such resistance you will apprize the Mexican Government that you are authorized and enjoined at once to call upon Her Majesty's naval forces to support, and, if necessary, enforce, your demand for reparation. The fact that the scene of the outrage was the residence of the British Mission gives Her Majesty's Government a special right to enforce reparation in this particular case.
The robbery committed by General Degollado, when acting under the orders of the Government established at Vera Cruz, on a conducta of specie on its way to the coast, in which specie British subjects were largely interested, stands next in order as an act of violence for which reparation must be obtained; and I do not doubt that there will be no hesitation in making good the losses, sustained by that transaction.
It is unnecessary for me on this occasion to go through the list of claims of British subjects which it will be your duty to press. for settlement. Mr. Mathew has been instructed to present a list of such claims to the Ministers of the Republic, and to demand a settlement of them.
You will find on examining this list that the several claims,
although differing in degree, are all of a nature to require reparation, and it will be your duty to arrange with the Mexican Government the manner in which such reparation shall be made. Whatever arrangement you may make should be recorded in a Convention. For this purpose Her Majesty has been pleased to grant you a full power under the Great Seal.
The general British claims may probably be classed under two heads those the validity of which has been recognized, and those the validity of which is still to be ascertained.
As regards the first class, the Convention should be confined to providing for the manner in which the amounts already agreed upon should be paid; for Her Majesty's Government will not allow cases already examined and determined to be re-opened for prospective benefit either of British parties or of the Mexican Govern
As regards the second class, the Convention should provide for examining the claims, and for the liquidation of such as may be pronounced valid, either in whole or in part, on the same principle and in the same manner as may be stipulated in regard to the first class. Whether the examination of such claims shall be made by a Mixed Commission or not, must be left to your discretion to determine.
As regards the first class of claims they should be severally specified in the Convention with the sums payable in respect of each; but such enumeration will of course not be practicable as regards the second class, which must remain open for the insertion of any claims brought forward before a specific day.
As regards the time at which either class of the claims shall be paid, Her Majesty's Government are aware that some degree of indulgence may be necessary. The troubles which have for many years past distracted the Republic have, as a natural result, impoverished the country, and made it difficult for the Constitutional Government to raise at once funds sufficient to provide for the immediate wants of the civil administration, and for the liabilities of the country towards foreign creditors and claimants. But you must be careful not to allow any temporary forbearance which you may show in pressing for the liquidation of British claims to be construed into indifference. So far from that, you will lose no opportunity of pointing out the necessity of taking measures for developing the resources of the country, on the ground that the result of such development will be to supply the Treasury not only with the means of meeting the expenses of the Civil Government, but also with those for satisfying all international claims.
An opinion has got abroad that the Constitutional Government
will probably adopt some measure in regard to ecclesiastical property which will place at its disposal a large sum of money.
It is not the part of Her Majesty's Government to say whether this act should be sanctioned or not, but if by any measures of the Mexican Government, which they consider right and expedient, the public Treasury should be immediately or prospectively replenished, Her Majesty's Government may fairly urge that British claimants should have the benefit of such a state of things, and obtain an earlier settlement of their outstanding claims.
The only question affecting the internal polity of Mexico, in regard to which Her Majesty's Government would feel warranted in offering advice unsolicited, is that of freedom for religious worship. Putting aside all considerations of a moral character, which are so strongly in favour of a general liberty of conscience, it is impossible to doubt that Mexico would find great political advantage in throwing down the barrier which now prevents Christians of different sects from settling in the country, and in thereby encouraging the immigration from other countries of persons whose activity and skill would contribute to improve the resources of the country.
I inclose a despatch on this subject which I addressed to Lord Cowley in July last.
You are so well acquainted with the peculiarities of the Spanish character that it is needless for me to dilate on the best means of dealing with the people with whom you may be brought into contact. They are to be influenced by moderate language and considerate demeanour, but they resist and defy attempts to intimidate
But it may be that with all your tact and forbearance you will fail to obtain a hearing for well-founded representations on behalf of British subjects; and in such cases you may, by referring quietly to the presence of Her Majesty's ships of war on the coasts of Mexico, leave the Mexican Government to infer that those ships are available for your support if your just demands should be rejected, or if the engagements entered into with you should be disregarded.
As regards the question of Article X of the Convention of 1826,* you will find that the construction of that Article has been a fruitful source of discussion between the two Governments, more especially during the rule of General Miramon, when forced loans, under one denomination or another, but more usually, of late, under that of a tax on capital, were continually attempted to be levied on Her Majesty's subjects. You will judge how far any overture on your part for clearing up doubts in regard to this Article, and for secur* Vol. XIV. Page 614.