No. 449.
Mr. Blaine to Mr. Morgan.

No. 112.]

Sir: With reference to the cases of American citizens impressed into the military service of Mexico, which were reported to the Department by Mr. Schuchardt, the United States vice-consul at Piedras Negras, and in regard to which you were instructed, and have had correspondence with Mr. Mariscal, I transmit a copy of a dispatch of the 18th ultimo from Mr. Schuchardt. His suggestion that the persons or their representatives so impressed, and who afterwards died or were killed or discharged, should have a pecuniary indemnity from that government, seems to be at least worthy of consideration. It is notorious that the impressment of American seamen into the naval service of a foreign power was at one time a serious grievance, not to be acquiesced in, and raised a question upon which all parties in this country were unanimous in regarding as one of international character. Public sentiment here in regard to that subject was borne in mind during the late civil war. The number of persons of foreign birth, especially in the large cities, led to the accidental or involuntary enrollment of unnaturalized aliens in the military or naval service. These, however, as is shown by the large space in the records of the Department at the time, were at once discharged upon complaint made and in the absence of proof of their naturalization. It is hoped, therefore, that in considering this subject the Mexican Government will not only have due regard to the unlawfulness of the impressment, but to the universal and strong sentiment upon the subject which pervades this country.

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I am, &c.,

[Page 758]
[Inclosure in No. 112.]

Mr. Schuchardt to Mr. Hunter.

No. 262.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your instruction numbered 136, dated February 2, 1881, relative to the impressment into Mexican military service, of five citizens of the United States, and inclosing a copy of a letter from Mr. Minister Morgan to the honorable the Secretary of State, also a copy of a letter from Mr. Morgan to Mr. Mariscal, and the latter’s reply to Mr. Morgan, all treating on the same subject; and pursuant to your instruction, to express my opinion whether it would be well to take any further action in the case.

I respectfully submit the following report to the consideration of the Department:

Mr. Minister Morgan, in his letter to Mr. Mariscal, demanding the speedy discharge of the American citizens, refers to the action of the Government of the United States during the late civil war against the demands of local recruiting officers. This involves the belief that the Mexican army is regularly recruited, and that our citizens in question were drafted by mistake, but there exists no regular recruiting to fill the places of the unfortunates who escape from or die in the Mexican army. Only the poor and friendless are taken by force to fill the ranks thinned by desertion and starvation. As it does not reflect well on company commanders that frequent desertions occur in their troop, they try to substitute the vacant places on the rolls by any one whom they think they can force into the service without responsibility. The men thus made soldiers generally go under the assumed name of some who died by bad treatment or who deserted. This, in my opinion, accounts for the difference in the name of George Cino, whose name is quoted in the roll as Guadelupe George. In order to show that these subaltern officers feel no responsibility for their arbitrary acts, and that such outrages as those committed on the five American citizens occur, and in the future may be repeated at anytime, I respectfully relate a more recent case. Some time in last January, José Maria Gutierrez, a freighter from San Antonio, Texas, an American citizen of Mexican race, had unloaded his freight at Eagle Pass, Texas and on Sunday afternoon came over to Piedras Negras to visit a public show. When he came out from the show he was surrounded by a squad of soldiers, and taken to the military quarters and made a soldier. When Gutierrez’s friend spoke next day in his behalf to Captain Villareal, the commander of the troops stationed here, he was told by the captain that he needed about sixteen soldiers, and was obliged to take them where he could find them, but that if he (Gutierrez’s friend) would bring him a substitute he would let Gutierrez go. As Gutierrez, however, was released on that day, I abstained from reporting the case to the Department at the time.

Mr. Mariscal in his note to Mr. Minister Morgan states that four of the American citizens had been discharged and that Guadelupe George had deserted. It is true that Felipe Buruato and Manuel Guerrero have been begged out, the former by his wife and the latter by his old mother; it is also true that George Cino or Guadelupe George deserted in October on the march of the battalion to Monterey, and was fortunate to reach Texas, where he is working now; but in regard to Mr. Mariscal’s statement as to Santos Hernandez and Miguel Guerrero I respectfully beg to rectify it. Both Santos Hernandez and Miguel Guerrero have not been discharged from the military service in which they were impressed, but were only transferred from the thirty-first battalion of infantry to a cavalry force, called “colonias militares.” It is safe to state that they have been discharged, but it should be added, from the thirty-first battalion of infantry (in which body I reported them as serving) into the “Colonias militares.” While serving in the “colonias militares” Miguel Guerrero was killed some time this winter in a fight that troop had with Indians, Santos Hernandez, a few days after Miguel Guerrero was killed, deserted and is working now in Texas. Manuel Guerrero, who had been discharged, is now at Eagle Pass, Texas, where the Mexican consul proposed to make him a Mexican citizen; for what purpose I am unable to say.

In my opinion, in order that the Mexican Government in future hold responsible its subaltern military officers as well as the civil authorities for the consequences brought on by similar arbitrary acts against American citizens like those committed by them on the five citizens, the subjects of this correspondence, those citizens should be indemnified by the Mexican Government for their losses and sufferings; Buruato and George Cino for illegal imprisonment and detention, Miguel and Manuel Guerrero and Santos Hernandez for the loss of their property, consisting of three horses, saddles and bridles, two Winchester carbines, one pistol, all their wearing apparel, and for illegal imprisonment and detention; the old mother of Miguel Guerrero for the loss of her [Page 759]support by the death of her son while in involuntary military service of Mexico. All these men are poor and depend on their daily labor, and belong to that class who need most the protection of their government.

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I am, &c.,