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Special Message

February 02, 1839

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit a report from the Secretary of State, assigning reasons which render it probable that the time limited for the exchange of the ratifications of the convention for the adjustment of claims of citizens of the United States on the Government of the Mexican Republic may expire before that exchange can be effected, and suggesting that the consent of the Senate be requested for an extension of that time. The object of this communication, accordingly, is to solicit the approval by the Senate of such an extension upon the conditions mentioned in the report of the Secretary of State.



Washington, February 2, 1839.


The Secretary of State has the honor to report to the President that, according to his instructions, Mr. Martinez, the Mexican minister plenipotentiary, was invited to the Department of State in order to ascertain if he had any recent information on the subject of the convention between the United States and Mexico, transmitted by him to Mexico for ratification by his Government. Mr. Martinez called yesterday and stated that he was without definite information, but expected daily to receive it. He supposed the delay was occasioned by the troubled condition of Mexican affairs, and hoped we would make all due allowances for unavoidable delays. When asked if he had power to enlarge the time for the exchange of ratifications, he said that all his instructions had been fulfilled on the signature of the treaty. The Secretary called his attention to information just received at the Department from Mexico that the treaty was about to be submitted to the Mexican Congress, and he was requested to state what had changed the views of his Government on the question of ratifying the convention, he himself having stated, pending the negotiation, that the President, Bustamente, believed he had full power under the decree of the 20th of May, 1837, to ratify the convention without a reference of it to Congress. He replied that he did not know the causes which had produced this change of opinion. Mr. Martinez appeared to be very solicitous to have it understood that he had done everything in his power to hasten the exchange of ratifications, and to have every allowance made in consequence of the disturbed state of Mexico and her pending war with France. From this conversation and the accompanying extracts from two letters from the consul of the United States at Mexico the President will see that it is by no means improbable, if the ratification of the convention should have been decreed by the Congress of Mexico, that the ratification may not reach the city of Washington until after the 10th of February. The Secretary therefore respectfully represents to the President whether it is not advisable to ask the consent of the Senate to the exchange of the ratifications after the expiration of the time limited, if such exchange shall be offered by the Mexican Government by their agent duly authorized for that purpose. Unless this authority can be granted, a new convention will have to be negotiated and the whole subject passed over until after the next session of Congress.

All which is respectfully submitted.


(Extract of a letter from the consul of the United States at Mexico, dated November 17, 1838.)

On the 13th Mr. Basave did me the honor to call on me, and informed me that he was requested by his excellency the minister of foreign relations, Mr. Cuevas, to inform me that in consequence of his having to go to Jalapa to meet Admiral Baudin, the French minister plenipotentiary, he could not attend to the matters relating to the American question in time for Mr. Basave to go back in the Woodbury , and wished, therefore, that she might not be detained, as was intended, for the purpose of conveying to the United States Messrs. Basave and Murphy.

On a visit to the minister of foreign relations yesterday he informed me that he was writing a friendly letter to the President of the United States and another to Mr. Forsyth, and said he was about to lay the convention entered into between the two Governments before the new Congress, and if ratified should request of me to procure for it a conveyance to the United States by one of our men-of-war, the time for its ratification being nearly expired.

Martin van Buren, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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