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bitious tendencies which the dishonorable (desleal) conduct of the Washington Cabinet towards Mexico discloses, it is not to be expected that it will deal with the matter with the energy that could be desired, and still less that it will be disposed to take up arms to prevent the usurpation which is projected by our Anglo-American neighbors.
France, for different reasons, was equally unwilling to become involved in war. In reply to a verbal request to Guizot for a definite answer, he was reported to have replied as follows:20
Neither the King's Government nor that of Great Britain (to whom this question is of more interest) can ever give such a guarantee as will, in certain events, compel them to intervene with force of arms. No: such a guarantee is impossible, and you can readily understand the reasons that forbid it, when you consider present circumstances and the difficulties inherent in the parliamentary system etc., etc.; but the Mexican Government may count upon the moral influence of France and England,-upon their good offices, their friendly counsels, their energetic remonstrances to prevent the Texans from violating treaties.
Great Britain perhaps might have been willing to take a much bolder stand if she could have felt sure of France; but without France at her side, the British government had always refused to act. The Mexican agents abroad believed that the secret of this refusal was the very slight reliance that could be placed by England on French support. They reported that most Frenchmen, so far as they thought about the business at all, were rather pleased than otherwise at the idea of Texas being annexed to the United States -simply because it was displeasing to England. What the immense majority of Frenchmen wanted, was to see England humiliated. Louis Philippe and his cabinet-though perhaps some of them in the bottom of their hearts had not forgotten Waterloo-did what was possible to bring about the entente cordiale, of which the king talked so much. Such an informal understanding was entirely in line with their general policy; but if the country was not behind them, there was a point beyond which the French government would not have dared to go in support of Great Britain.
The British government, it was said, were perfectly aware of this attitude on the part of the French people; and they were afraid that in the event of war with the United States France might not only fail to make common cause with Great Britain, but might even seek revenge, as in 1778, by again making an American alliance.
It is therefore not surprising [wrote Murphy] that the English Minister looks with terror upon anything that may expose him to a war Garro to same, June 23, 1845. MSS. Sec. Rel. Ext. The italics appear in the original.
with the United States, unless he first comes to a complete understanding with France; not because he needs her physical force in a conflict with the United States, but because he must commit her in such a manner that she will not join with the enemy's forces and so bring on a general conflagration throughout the world, which would involve incalculable consequences.
And Murphy, in his next dispatch, expressed the opinion that if Aberdeen could have carried France along with him, war with the United States would not have stood in his way; but that, as this was impossible, he was greatly embarrassed.21
When, therefore, the news reached the Foreign Office that the Texan proposals to abandon annexation to the United States on condition of being recognized as independent, had been favorably received by Mexico, while news came at the same time of the unanimous expressions of popular feeling in Texas against these proposals, Aberdeen saw his whole policy in ruins. He had wished to build up a buffer state and to limit the growth of the United States, but his instruments had all failed him. France, whom he may have suspected of treachery, would not take a firm stand; the people of Texas plainly did not wish her to be a buffer state; and Mexico was never ready to take any step at the time when the British government wished it to move. He was therefore very much disposed to blame the Mexicans. "You always do everything too late ", he told Murphy; and he showed him newspaper reports of the public meetings in Texas in favor of annexation. It was too late, he said, to think of a joint guarantee; there was no hope that France would agree to it; and England, as he had always told Murphy, would not act alone.22
But Lord Aberdeen's determination not to interfere was sorely tried when he began to see with increasing clearness that one inevitable result of war between Mexico and the United States must be the annexation of California to the Union. All he could do, however, was to advise delay. A declaration of war, he told the Mexicans, would immediately be followed by American occupation of California, the bombardment of Vera Cruz, and the blockade of all ports; and neither England nor France could interfere, if the annexation of Texas had once become a fait accompli.23
It follows [wrote Murphy] that England and therefore France, will submit in patience to the annexation of Texas and the defeat of the plan
"Nada le importaría esa guerra si pudiese arrastrar tras si á la Francia, pero no siendo esto posible, la cuestion por cierto toma un carácter bien embarazoso para su señoria." Murphy to Minister of Relations, November 1, 1845; October 1, 1845. And to the same effect, Garro to same, May 30, 1845. MSS. Sec. Rel. Ext. 22 Murphy to Minister of Relations, July 1, 1845. Ibid.
23 Same to same, August 1, 1845. Ibid.
of intervening to prevent it. Still, I think I can assure your Excellency that although Lord Aberdeen is afraid the Californias may fall into the power of the Americans, and advises Mexico to refrain from declaring war, and watches in a passive attitude the course of events, he would at heart rejoice if war should take place and our country should prove successful.
But notwithstanding all the discouraging reports which the Mexican government received from Europe, it resolved, as soon as it was definitely informed that the Texas convention had voted to accept the American proposals, to make one more appeal for aid to the European powers.
In despatches to the Mexican ministers in France and England, the Minister of Foreign Relations declared that in view of the consummation of the act of usurpation of the Department of Texas by the United States, no recourse was left but that of war with the United States. As that nation had observed a dishonorable and perfidious conduct toward Mexico and had no other object than to possess itself of as much as possible of Mexican territory, the republic would be unworthy of a place among civilized nations were it not resolved to prosecute the war with vigor. A body of fourteen thousand men was on the march for the frontier, and six thousand more would shortly follow them. The government of the republic had sought to adopt the advice of France and England in the matter of Texas, and it flattered itself therefore that these governments. would now show themselves favorable to the cause of the Mexican nation, which, it was hoped, would have their sympathy and moral support.24
To London, in addition, was sent another and most secret" instruction. The Americans, it was said, had officially announced their intention of taking the Californias.25
It is therefore indispensable that your Excellency shall, in the manner you may deem most opportune and respectful, give H. M. Government to understand that Mexico will receive their cooperation to prevent the loss of that important part of her territory, as a proof of the good relations that exist between the two Countries. As it is not possible to tell what policy may have been adopted by the British Cabinet on learning of the annexation of Texas to the United States, it is not possible to indicate the steps which your Excellency should take.
A copy of the first of these important documents was sent to Lord Aberdeen, and Murphy waited a few days before calling on "Cuevas to Garro, July 30, 1845, reservado. MSS. Sec. Rel. Ext. Also duplicate to Murphy of same date.
25 Cuevas to Murphy, July 30, 1845, muy reservado. Ibid.
him, so that it might be translated in the Foreign Office. When he called, Aberdeen said that he saw from this paper that the Mexican government considered war inevitable and that they asked for the sympathy and moral support of the British government in the struggle; but he did not see clearly what practical application that request could have. Murphy said he had something to propose. It was evident that the ambitious views of the United States were not limited to the violent and infamous robbery of Texas; California was also the object of their avarice, and it was certain that as soon as war was formally declared it would be the target for their attacks. Mexico would not neglect so important a point, and would defend it by all the means in her power, in spite of the difficulties due to the distance of that part of the republic from the seat of government. But to defend California effectually naval forces were essential, and Mexico had none, so that the help of some friendly naval power was needed. This he was instructed to ask of Great Britain.
Aberdeen said this would be taking part in the war between Mexico and the United States, which Murphy could not but admit. He thought, however, if the British government objected to war, some other plan might be adopted, "some combination which would give England the right to repel, even by force, the attack which the Americans would not fail to make on California,-without thereby losing the neutral character she wishes to preserve".
There had been, he said, a
Aberdeen rose to the bait at once. plan of colonization made up by the English consul in the City of Mexico, Mr. Mackintosh, a partner of the firm of Manning and Marshall of London, which Mr. Bankhead had forwarded with a view to finding out how far the British government would favor it; and he sent for Bankhead's despatch and read it to Murphy.26 Murphy, who had known nothing of Mackintosh's proposal, was quick to see the point.27
"Well, my Lord ", I said, "if the Mexican Government agrees to that, your Lordship can see that you have there an opportunity under which England might put itself forward as protecting British interests, and might consequently oppose an attack on California by the United States, without thereby taking any part in the war."
But Aberdeen saw difficulties in the way. He remarked that if the grant to British subjects had been made some time before, the
26 This was Bankhead's despatch of July 30, 1845, to which no reply was given (in writing) either to Bankhead or to the promoters. Adams, p. 253. It seems probable however that Lord Aberdeen may have talked to members of the firm in London.
Murphy to Minister of Relations, October 1, 1845. MSS. Sec. Rel. Ext.
matter would be simpler; but if made just at this time, it would be regarded as made in view of present circumstances and would give just cause of complaint to the United States. If war with America. was to be the result, the subject would have to be looked at for a long time, even if Mexico offered California to England as a gift, for England would not go to war alone. Now if France would join, it would be very different. Murphy asked what was to be done to accomplish the object. Aberdeen remained silent for some time, and finally promised to sound Guizot.
At an interview a few days later, reported in the same despatch, Aberdeen said he had sent a message to Guizot, but had received no answer. The policy of France generally, he considered, was to keep in accord with the United States. He wished Mexico would present some definite proposal showing how England could co-operate. Any project of colonization or sale made at this time would justly offend the United States. He would consider what could be done; the matter was very serious and needed reflection; it was necessary to watch the course of events, and in the meantime Mexico ought not to rush hastily into war.
Murphy left him firmly convinced that the British government would frankly and openly take part in the war so as to prevent the United States from absorbing the Californias, if only it were not held back by France; but as to the helpful attitude of France, he had the gravest doubts.
As time went on, Aberdeen expressed himself more and more positively as being unwilling to intervene in any way between Mexico and the United States. Murphy quoted him as saying that he did not doubt the justice of the Mexican cause; but that it would be quixotic for England and France to act upon that ground alone. As for the interest they had in seeing that California did not fall into the hands of the United States, this was hardly enough to run the risk of a war with its incalculable consequences. No doubt they could never look with indifference upon that fine country in American hands, but there was a great distinction between that and willingness to risk a disastrous war.
However, a hint from Lord Aberdeen that something might yet be done by taking advantage of a Mexican decree of April 12, 1837, under which the holders of bonds were authorized to locate land in various parts of Mexico, including California, set Murphy to work on another plan. He learned that a Mr. Powles, vice-chairman of the Mexican Bondholders Committee, and Mr. Price, a member of the firm of Manning and Marshall, had seen Aberdeen and that he