No. 461.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Fish.

No. 98.]

Sir: The question which has more prominently occupied the attention of the Mexican Congress, the President and his cabinet, and the public press, than any other for more than two years, has been that of a governmental concession for the construction of a national system of railroads. As the Department of State has been heretofore advised, before the adjournment of the last Congress in May, 1873, a contract was made between the Mexican government and Mr. Edward Lee-Plumb, as the representative of the International Railroad Company of Texas, for this purpose. During the session of the present Congress just closed, the contract with Mr. Plumb was revoked, and a new one made, by order of the President, with a company claiming to be Mexican in its organization and interests, but which in fact is composed of six Mexican citizens and eight foreigners. This latter contract has been approved by Congress, and it now has the full force and validity of the legislative sanctions.

[Page 724]

The action of the Executive in this matter caused much comment in the public press, and evoked a debate in Congress on the relative merits of American and European enterprises, and on the political policy of granting to any American company a concession to construct railroads in Mexico, and connect the railroad systems of the two republics. Hon. Ramon Guzman, chairman of the committee of industries, which reported the contract made by the Executive with the so styled “Mexican company,” in advocating its adoption in the chamber of Congress, maintained that it was contrary to the political as well as commercial interests of Mexico to grant a concession for the construction of railroads in this republic, to an American company, asserting that it was much safer to intrust such construction to European management and capital. He also insisted that it was dangerous to the interests of Mexico to have the railroad system of the United States extended into Mexican territory, as it would be used to facilitate another invasion of this country, attributing to the United States the same spirit of territorial aggrandizement and hostility which he alleged caused the war of 1846–’47. This speech (although I am informed materially modified) has been published in the official organ of the government, with favorable editorial comments, and, in view of Mr. Guzman’s position in Congress and his reputed confidential relations with the administration, his declarations are considered as specially significant. I am gratified, however, to inform you that these sentiments were not permitted to remain unanswered in the chamber. Hon. Estanislao Cañedo, a distinguished deputy, and a gentleman of intimate and personal acquaintance with American and European affairs, in an able and eloquent speech repelled the unfriendly assumptions of Mr. Guzman, and vindicated American skill and enterprise, as also the friendly spirit of the Government and people of the United States. I inclose herewith an extract from that portion of Mr. Cañedo’s speech which treats of the political relations of the two republics.

I am, &c.,


Extract from a speech delivered by Hon. Estanislao Cañedo, in the Mexican Congress, on the 10th of January, 1874, on the railway question.

As the opinions expressed upon our international policy by the chairman of the committee are liable to receive an interpretation which would obscure the real state of public opinion, I will venture to insist further upon the character of our relations with the United States, acting in this respect upon the line of conduct which I have observed in previous Congresses, whenever reference has been made to this point of the highest interest, for the frank and loyal harmony which ought to exist between two sister republics, doubly united by the community of political and commercial interests. To judge of the present relations between Mexico and the United States by those of 1847, is to invoke an analogy which can exist only in the minds of those who do not remember the laborious transformation which has taken place in both nations during the past thirty years.

At the date to which the orator has gone back, I would have been as uncompromising as he now is, and would have made every possible effort to remove my country from all contact with a nation whose government, not content with caressing at home that social plague called slavery, cherished the criminal design of extending it to our republic, and even to the whole of America. At that time the pro-slavery element, called democratic, was that which promoted conflicts with Mexico in order to extend its sphere of action, and to bear sway in our northern states, separated from the Mexican community by brute force. The object in view was not, as many suppose, to obtain a sterile increase of territory, but to incrust in the American federation new proslavery [Page 725] entities, which would incline the political balance in favor of the interests of the South.

It is necessary to bear in mind that from that period Mexico found an ally and a defender in the anti-slavery party in the American Senate. When it was discussing that famous declaration, or rather that farce, in which it was proclaimed that war existed by the act of Mexico, the anti-slavery party unanimously denounced that subterfuge, and hostilities were declared by virtue of an insignificant majority of two votes, if I remember right, obtained by the democratic element.

I am far from pretending “that this conduct arose from an attachment which does not exist in politics; but it undoubtedly sprung from a certain community of social interests, which, in the course of time, was destined to produce the complete and beneficial transformation which has taken place in the neighboring country. In fact, the pro-slavery party, conquered and forced to surrender at discretion, has lost its ancient power, and is now subject to the policy imposed by its conqueror, the republican party.

While this radical change was being wrought in the social condition of the United States, Mexico also was carrying forward her movement of reform, and produced the constitution of 1857, which has endowed the Mexican people with all the political conquests which constitute the patrimony of the neighboring republic, and which are a source of such just pride to the country of Washington. It is evident, therefore, that there is no ground for considering the present epoch akin to that recalled by the previous speaker. The contrast between them is immense, and it is natural that the disappearance of the former causes of antagonism between the two leading republics of America should have modified the effects resulting therefrom.

This truth presents itself in all its force, on reviewing the last few years, during which the neighboring republic solved its great social and humanitarian problem, by the gigantic war which it waged for the extinction of slavery. At the same time, by a rare coincidence, Mexico solved the problem relating to her autonomy and independence, and to the destiny of the republican principle on this continent; repulsing the European invader, who pretended to impose upon her a shameful tutelage, under cover of the monarchical system. At that time, as I had the honor to remind this chamber in a recent debate, both nations joined hands over the legions of slavery—over the bayonets of Napoleon III, and of Maximilian of Austria. How is it possible that this political alliance, formed in moments of trial and affliction, should disappear like smoke after the victory is gained, and the future of both nations is assured?

No, this supposition is purely gratuitous, and it is logical, it is natural, that as a necessary consequence, the union springing from the solidarity of interests should follow the union arising from identity of principles. I hear it said that the splendid edifice which I have just erected, will come to the ground in a moment on the day when the republican party loses a presidential election in the United States, and that our relations with that country will then return to the condition they were in when the democratic party held sway at Washington. I think that this opinion is unfounded. I do not deny the possibility of some difficulty arising between two countries separated only by a river or by an imaginary line; but what I affirm is, that the political and moral triumphs obtained by the republican party, at the cost of so many tears and so much blood, cannot be nullified by a few votes thrown into the ballot-box. Slavery is dead, forever dead. Five millions of rational beings, accustomed to breathe the air of liberty, will never again bend their necks before the whip of the trader in human flesh. The cause having ceased, the effect ceases. The spirit of conquest, kept alive by the desire of extending the sphere of slavery, has received a mortal wound.

Moreover, the great political and humanitarian principles which have been set in motion by the triumph of the republican party, cannot disappear. The arbitrament of friendly powers to prevent the effusion of blood, in cases of international differences, initiated by President Grant, has discovered a new horizon to all civilized nations.

The conduct of the American Congress in the Cuban question, and particularly in regard to Santo Domingo, whose annexation was rejected notwithstanding the manifest desire of that republic to link its destiny to that of the United States, denotes a radical change in the policy of our neighbors, a policy which honors them, and which could not be replaced by the unjust and immoral greed of conquest without dealing a mortal blow to their institutions and to their powerful Union.

It seems to me as difficult that an electoral surprise should substantially modify the political and social conquests which have resulted from the triumph of the republican party, or rather of the great national party in the United States, as it would be for the theocratic power to recover sway among us, or that our country be again converted into an immense military camp.

I firmly believe that we ought not to sacrifice to groundless fears the development of our commercial relations with the United States. This inestimable benefit would be worth more than the best diplomatic treaty with our neighbors, because the alliance, founded upon a community of interests, is a thousand times better than one stipulated in virtue of the abstract principles of international law. Money and credit have no nationality. If American capital is presented to construct our railroads, I fervently [Page 726] hope, that no further question will he raised as to the prudence or patriotism of accepting its co-operation. The sound principles of political and commercial convenience, which I invoke at this moment, are fortunately the same which animated the Sixth Congress in authorizing the Executive to celebrate the Plumb contract, and which actuated our Chief Magistrate in signing that contract with the representative of an American company. If the theories advanced by the previous speaker had in their favor the slightest justification, what terms of censure should we not employ in stigmatizing the hasty and unpatriotic conduct of the supreme legislative power of the Union and of the President of the republic in the case in question.