Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Third Session of the Fortieth Congress
Mr. Plumb to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The time fixed for the assembling of the national congress of Mexico, in the decree calling the late election, was the 20th of November.
On that day one hundred and four members, out of the full number of two hundred and seven, were present, and what are here termed the preparatory meetings, then commenced.
These meetings continued until the 4th instant, one hundred and ten members being then present, when the examination of the credentials of the members, which is here a preliminary act, and the organization of congress was declared effected, and Sunday, the 8th instant, was fixed for the formal opening, in the presence of the President of the republic, of the regular sessions.
The ceremony of this formal opening, therefore, yesterday took place, and I have now the honor to transmit herewith a copy of the “Diario Official,” containing the speech of President Juarez, and the reply of the president of congress, Mr. Ezequiel Montes, delivered on that occasion.
The importance of these discourses, under all of the circumstances, and the character of certain positions taken in both, lead me to refrain from any comment thereon.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Address of President Juarez to the Mexican Congress, convened on the 8th of December, 1867, in the city of Mexico.
Citizen Deputies: On the 31st of May, 1863, I addressed the people’s delegates, and congratulated them on the promptness and energy of the true children of the republic in their resistance to foreign intervention. The national representatives having once more assembled, I now felicitate them upon the just triumph of the republican cause.
By their courage, loyalty and patriotism, the Mexican people have preserved their independence and their beloved institutions. The foreign partisans of monarchy vainly attempted to overthrow the government of our precious republic. But the whole people arose in unanimity against the usurpers, and the foreigners had to vanish, leaving the republic stronger at home and more respected abroad.
The children of the country, who showed themselves great in the mighty struggle for liberty, have shown themselves magnanimous in generosity, since their final victory: as they recovered places occupied by the enemy, they gave protection to all, without distinction of nationality, even to their conquered enemies.
The government believes it interprets the generous feelings of all true republicans by confining the severest penalty of the law to the chief of the insurgents, who is a foreigner, and to a few natives who took the most active part against us. Present justice, for the sake of future peace, demanded the execution at Queretaro, to put an end to internal convulsions and soften the calamities brought upon the country by the [Page 379]most sanguinary war. The necessity of an example, by applying the extreme penalty of the law to the most guilty, allowed the use of greater clemency towards the many culpable. The republic has pardoned her wicked children, as much as she could, and has extended lenity to the invaders of her soil from abroad, who came to ensanguine the earth, and spread ruin and desolation in every quarter.
The slanderers of the republic have seen law and order restored, as the invaders were driven out; and with the return of liberty, the inhabitants begin to enjoy the blessings of good government.
The influence of the national government being now felt throughout the land, the duties of administrative officials are gradually resuming their wonted course. The laws are administered in the spirit of our institutions; federal affairs being first in rank, then state concerns.
In compliance with its most sacred duty, the government has ordered a general election, both for the national congress and for the States, to take place as soon as possible. The fullest liberty is allowed by the government in all these elections; there is no trammel put upon word or writ.
Orders have been issued for the organization of courts of justice and the just administration of the laws. With the intention of serving individual interests, the decisions of judges who had no authority under the usurper have been confirmed.
Institutions of learning and charity have been attended to, with the solicitude that such important things deserve.
The government has granted protection and all possible privileges to enterprises that might be useful to commerce, manufactures, and other sources of public wealth.
Besides regulating financial affairs, and attending to the public debt, with a due regard to economy, avoiding the old system so ruinous to public credit, the government has duly attended io the civil list and redeemed many of its bonds,
The army has been reduced to a peace footing, and as those soldiers and officers who served against the foreigners have chiefly been retained, they will surely be the true defenders of liberty and law.
So far as its revenue would allow, the government has paid off those of its faithful servants who have returned to their families and their domestic duties; and pensions and honors have been awarded to those who have particularly deserved such a testimony of national gratitude.
The consequence of European intervention in favor of monarchy is, that Mexico now has friendly relations only with the republics of America, having similar institutions. During our struggle, those republics evinced their sympathies for the cause of independence and the liberty of Mexico.
The people and governments of some of the South American republics exhibited special demonstrations of friendship for the cause of Mexico and its government. Bolivia recently sent a special envoy to felicitate the republic on its triumph.
The United States of America continued their friendship for us during the whole period of our long and bitter struggle. The constant sympathy of the people of the United States, and the moral support given by their government to our cause, justly deserve the sympathy and regard of the people and government of Mexico.
The intervention broke up our relations with the European powers. By a convention in London, three of them declared war against the republic. Two of them soon withdrew, and France was left alone, as actively hostile to us. The others, however, soon recognized the monarchy established by the French, and thus became our moral enemies because they did not declare neutrality. In that manner many of the European governments violated their treaties with the republic, and broke off their friendly relations with us.
The conduct of the government of this republic towards those nations must be regulated by those discourteous acts. We asked nothing of them, and we have been careful not to give them cause of offense; and even now we offer them an occasion to renew their treaties with us for the general benefit of commerce.
The government has also taken care that the subjects of those nations, residing in this republic, shall be protected by its laws, and justly dealt with by its officials; and the protection has been such that we hear of no cause of complaint. Thus it is practically demonstrated that the enlightened principles of our institutions and the civilization of our people offer foreigners in Mexico all the security its own people enjoy, without the necessity of special treaties.
Public opinion has lately been occupied by the proposals of sundry amendments to the constitution, made in the convention of the 14th of August last. No objection has been made to the proposed amendments, but the manner in which they should be made is warmly discussed. Though many failed to vote on the proposed reforms, the majority favored them. The opinion of the government was freely expressed in the convention. Its express conviction was, that amendments, in ordinary times, should only be made in accordance with the provisions of the constitution itself, and that the present appeal to the people by proclamation should not serve as a precedent in future, under any circumstances; yet the government considers proper at this time, owing to the grievous trials through which the republic has just passed.[Page 380]
The result of the vote is not exactly known, but so many votes have been cast for the proposed reform that the question ought to be taken into due consideration. The government thinks it would not be proper to call another election because of the delay it would give to necessary reforms, and it suggests that the decision of the subject be left to the present congress.
By the law of the 27th of May, 1863, the power of the chief executive was continued for thirty days after the meeting of congress, or it was to end as soon as the war with France was concluded. Mexico could not say when the war was at an end, although hostilities had ceased, for France had brought on the war, and had not announced its close.
Thus, according to law, the presidential term of office must continue for thirty days from this date; yet I think it best to declare, as I now solemnly do, that I will not claim this continuation of my executive powers. If any emergency should arise requiring additional support to the government, I am sure the patriotic representatives of the people will render that aid and assistance by adopting measures dictated by their acknowledged prudence and profound wisdom.
I am pleased, citizen deputies, to return to you the plenary powers you had the confidence to bestow upon me in my very responsible position. If I have erred in the use of them, I ask your forgiveness, with the excuse that in all my acts my only motive has been the good of the nation and the salvation of our beloved country. Article 2 of the above-mentioned law limits the power of concluding treaties. In view of this, the government has carefully refrained from compromising the republic by any treaty, convention, or engagement with any other nation.
In conclusion, I beg you, citizen deputies, to accept my best wishes for complete harmony in your deliberations, and my hope that your enlightenment and patriotism may be a blessing to the republic.
Reply of Speaker Montez to the foregoing address.
Citizen President: The nation this day resumes the constitutional exercise of one of the most precious attributes of its sovereignty—the power of legislating through its representatives. This blessing is due to the heroic constancy of her brave sons in the glorious contest, of five years’ duration, against the foreign invaders, and to the justice of that greatest of modern nations and best friend of Mexico, the United States of America. Yes, in the United States they are continuing a work worthy of the great father of American independence, the founder of republicanism on the continent of Columbus—the venerable and immortal Washington. The republic of Mexico will always reckon among its best friends the statesmen that directed the American policy during the period of our crisis. The principle of non-intervention, faithfully observed by the oldest of the republics of this continent, the only ally of Mexico, has proved the salvation of our country.
A prince from one of the most civilized, powerful, and war-like nations of Europe resolved to destroy the Mexican republic and elevate a throne upon its ruins. To do this he used the most flagitious means—violation of public faith and the assassination of prisoners of war. The preliminaries of Soledad, on the 19th of February; the note of the French commissioners of the 9th of April, 1862; the return of the French army to Orizaba on the 20th of the same month, without surrendering Paso Ancho; and the circular of Marshal Bazaine of the 9th October, 1865, will be lasting monuments of our justice and of the perfidy of our enemies. Yet the republic is alive; and on to-day, as on the 12th of April, 1862, it says to the world, friendly Frenchmen residing in the country are protected by the laws and by the Mexican authorities. (See the law of the 12th of April, 1862.)
It would be unjust to blame the French for the act of their chief. The independent press and free tribunals have done us justice; the impartial speeches of Berryer, Picard, Thiers, and Jules Favre, are evidences of a rational policy that will acknowledge our rights and give satisfaction for our wrongs.
It is pleasant to know that the government has cultivated the friendly relations that existed between Mexico and the United States, and it is no less gratifying to learn that all our sister republics of South America have offered us constant evidences of sympathy in the days of our misfortune, and now seek to renew friendly relations with our republic.
Mexico will not refuse her friendship and commerce to any nation on the globe, but Mexico will not beg diplomatic intercourse with any nation in existence; she has demonstrated to the world that she can defend her sovereign rights against the most powerful enemy, and will beg no foreign government to acknowledge her existence as an independent nation.
The internal affairs of the republic are not yet perfectly arranged, but organization has advanced as rapidly as could be expected. The cities of Puebla, Queretaro, Merida, [Page 381]Mexico, and Vera Cruz have returned to the legitimate government, and have been occupied by the republican army, after long and tedious sieges. An army of only sixty thousand men has preserved peace in the republic for the last six months.
It is not strange that we hear of some outrages that the government has not been able to suppress; but now that its authority is acknowledged in every part of the national territory, security of person and property will soon be felt in every portion of the country. The executive may depend upon the support of congress in securing protection to persons and property. In order to assure peace, it was the painful necessity of the government to be more severe in June than it has been since that time; but the Latin maxim, salus populi suprema lex est, must not be forgotten. The usurper gave frequent proofs of his contempt for the people’s will, in the formation of their government. He well knew that not one of them favored intervention. He subjected them by the bayonet, and knew they would return to the republic as soon as the French troops were withdrawn; and yet he persisted in styling himself the Emperor of Mexico. So long, therefore, as he lived, the republic could not be tranquil; the sacrifice of his life was our peace. The assassinations at Taeubaya, in 1859, demanded the execution of those who perished with the chief of the rebels.
Five months have not passed since the government returned to the capital, and yet its constitutional authorities are established in many states. To-day the national congress opens the first term of its regular sessions, and the two other departments of the general government will soon be organized and put in complete operation. The diligent solicitude of the government to restore constitutional order is very apparent.
Relieved from the cares of war, the government can now devote its whole attention to the different branches of the public service. The administration of justice, reforms in the army, and in the collection of the revenue have already been considered by proper laws and regulations; and it is a satisfaction to know that the treasury notes have a ready circulation, thus removing one of the chief causes of public calamity.
The sovereignty of Mexico is exercised by its people through the general government, so far as the constitution allows. The President of the republic has the right to propose laws, and his proposals of reform are legal in the proposal; the legislator is to decide upon their acceptance.
Congress hears with pleasure that the chief executive restores the powers conferred upon him by the laws of the 11th of December, 1861; 3d of May and 27th of October, 1862; and 27th of May, 1863; for it is declaring to the monarchs of Europe who have calumniated our government, that this republic can maintain its sovereignty in peace. Where, in Europe, do we hear of a sovereign deposing his powers into the hands of the people, from whom they ought to be derived?
I am sure the executive power will attend to the duties with which he was charged by the laws of the 27th of October, 1862, and the 27th of May, 1863, and that he will render to congress a just account of what he has done, in conformity with the provisions of those acts; after that the legislative power will determine what extra recompense shall be awarded to the national army for its courage in this second war of independence; and I believe I give a faithful interpretation of the sentiments of congress when I say it is pleased with the conduct of General Garcia, Riva Palaeio, Regules, Corona, Escobedo, and Porfirio Diaz, who never despaired of the salvation of the republic, but continued to struggle against the invader and his allies; and at this time they are examples of fidelity to our free institutions and models of obedience to the President of this republic. They have perfectly understood, just as congress understands, that obedience to the laws and the preservation of public peace ought to be the constant care and anxious solicitude of all public functionaries.
The convention of 1857 called the blessing of God upon the constitution about to be formed at that time, and which fundamental code yet directs us in our rule; let us once more invoke a Divine blessing upon the recommencement of our constitutional labors. May the Almighty Creator and Preserver of the human race, He who directs legislators in the just ways of government, condescend to hear your prayers and ours, and guide us in our deliberations, so that all our acts may be for the good of the republic.
As true representatives of the people we are assembled to promote, sincerely and ardently, the consolidation of public peace, pledged to a faithful observance of the laws and respect to property and persons, and, above all, to the preservation of the sovereignty and independence of Mexico.