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to fix the limits on the very slender information which it then possessed.18
On the matter of the difference of opinion as to the proposed commission to examine the country near the border an exchange of formal notes occurred a few days later in which each gave at length his reasons for the position he had taken. Poinsett referred the matter to his government.19 As Poinsett anticipated, the government at Washington refused to accede to the proposal for a joint commission since such was considered unnecessary and would be reversing the usual procedure, which was to decide on the principle and then send the joint commission to mark the line in accordance with the agreement. If examination were needful before deciding on the line it would be better for each government to send a separate commission. The United States had no objection to Mexico's doing so if that government desired; but hoped no unnecessary time would be lost in resuming the negotiation.20
18 Poinsett to Clay, July 18, 1825, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, I; extracts in House Executive Documents, 25 congress, I session, number 42, page 19; and British and Foreign State Papers, XXVI, 831.
19 Alaman to Poinsett, July 20, 1825, and Poinsett to Alaman, July 27, 1825, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, I; House Executive Documents, 25 congress, I session, number 42, page 20; British and Foreign State Papers, XXVI, 831.
20 Clay to Poinsett, September 24, 1825, MS., Department of State, Instructions, X, 835; extracts in American State Papers, Foreign, VI, 581; House Executive Documents, 25 congress, I session, number 42, page 7; and British and Foreign State Papers, XXVI, 836.
In reporting to Clay on July 27 what had passed between himself and Alaman on the subject, Poinsett said: "I find that there exists great apprehension in the minds of the people of this country that the government of the United States contemplate renewing their claim to the territory north of the Rio Bravo del Norte; and it may be of some importance to consider their great sensibility on this subject." He added in cipher: "It appears to me that it will be important to gain time if we wish to extend our territory beyond the boundary agreed upon by the treaty of 1819. Most of the good land from the Colorado to the Sabine has been granted by the State of Texas and is rapidly peopling with either grantees or squatters from the United States, a population they will find difficult to govern, and perhaps after a short period they may not be so averse to part with that portion of their territory as they are at present."21 A little more than a week after sending this first report on limits Poinsett again wrote in cipher: "I feel very anxious about the boundary line between the two nations. While it will be politic not to justify their jealous fears on that subject by extravagant pretensions, I think it of the [greatest] importance that we should extend our territory toward the Rio del Norte either to the Colorado
21 Poinsett to Clay, July 27, 1825, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, I; extract not including the cipher portion in House Executive Documents, 25 congress, I session, number 42, page 20; and British and Foreign State Papers, XXVI, 833. The cipher portion is quoted in Reeves, Diplomacy under Tyler and Polk, 62; and in Rives, United States and Mexico, 1821-1848, I, 168.
or at least to the Brazos.
We ought to have on the frontier a hardy race of white settlers, which the climate of that region of country situated between the Mississippi and the Sabine will not admit of.”22 Five days later another despatch to Clay, mostly in cipher, told of Alaman's declaring, in what was supposed to be a secret session of the Congress, that the United States ought to be regarded as enemies rather than as friends, because: "Mexico had everything to fear from our ambitions and nothing to hope from our friendship. He cited the treaty of limits with Spain as an instance of our disposition to encroach upon her territory. There are a few members of both houses disposed to view the treaty of 1819 in the same light, and it is possible if the question be left open and the discussion renewed this government may revive the absurd pretensions of Cevallos with regard to the western boundary of Louisiana. I am thus particular because I think it advisable that the President should be possessed of every circumstance that can aid him to come to a correct decision upon this subject."23
Poinsett's suspicions that the Mexican officials were going to try to push the line further east instead of permitting the United States to push it west proved to be well founded. It is interesting to notice that
22 Poinsett to Clay, August 5, 1825, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, I. See Reeves, Diplomacy under Tyler and Polk, 63.
23 Poinsett to Clay, August 10, 1825, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, I.
this determination on the part of Mexican officials to recover territory which Spain had ceded to the United States manifested itself almost immediately after receiving from the governor of Chihuahua the long, interesting, and enthusiastic report on the extent, the fertility, and the importance of the country drained by the Missouri and Arkansas rivers, reviewed above in the chapter on Diplomacy Concerning the Santa Fé Trail.
In an interview respecting the boundary on September 20, 1825, Alaman asked Poinsett to trace on a map the boundary between the United States and Spain as defined by the treaty of 1795. Poinsett did so and then asked why the Mexican negotiator had wished it done. The latter replied that he thought it advisable to specify the ancient boundary in the commercial treaty they were about concluding and leave it so until the new line should be agreed on in the new treaty of limits to be concluded. Poinsett then declared to Alaman that before 1819 the United States had claimed to the Rio Bravo del Norte and Spain had claimed to the Mississippi. He also asserted that the treaty of that year with Spain was binding on the Mexican States, having been concluded before their emancipation from Spain and since acknowledged by their accredited agent in the United States. It was only motives of delicacy toward Mexico that had prevented the United States from carrying that treaty into full effect. It was the same motive that had caused him to propose the conclusion of an entirely
new treaty. But he would not yield one square inch of land which had been included within the limits of the United States according to that treaty. In his opinion a more advantageous line might be drawn; but such was not to be sought for east of the Sabine or north of the Red river or the Arkansas. Finally Poinsett asserted that he would not consent to the insertion of any such article in the commercial treaty without at the same time renewing in it the claim of the United States to all of the country north and east of the Rio Bravo del Norte.24
In October, 1825, the radical change occurred in the Mexican ministry which displaced partisans of the centralist faction and replaced them with federalists favorable to the interests of the United States. It was thought that Poinsett had been largely instrumental in bringing about the change and it was suspected that he was using his influence to secure a treaty of limits through his friends which would extend the borders of his country at the expense of Mexico. But if he was trying to do so, as he probably was not, he was unsuccessful. One of the new ministry writing to another on November 7, 1825, reminded him of the "memorable words of the laws of the Indies, which say, 'We promise and give our honor and royal word
24 Poinsett to Clay, September 20, 1825, MS., Department of State, Despatches from Mexico, I; House Executive Documents, 25 congress, I session, number 42, page 23; British and Foreign State Papers, XXVI, 835.
It was on August 5 that the government received the report from the governor of Chihuahua. See footnote 16 of the chapter on Diplomacy Concerning the Santa Fé Trail.