James K. Polk

Special Message

May 26, 1846

To the Senate of the United States:

A convention was concluded at Lima on 17th March, 1841, between the United States and the Republic of Peru, for the adjustment of claims of our citizens upon that Republic. It was stipulated by the seventh article of this convention that "it shall be ratified by the contracting parties, and the ratifications shall be exchanged within two years from its date, or sooner if possible, after having been approved by the President and Senate of the United States and by the Congress of Peru."

This convention was transmitted by the President to the Senate for their consideration during the extra session of 1841, but it did not receive their approbation until the 5th January, 1843. This delay rendered it impracticable that the convention should reach Lima before the 17th March, 1843, the last day when the ratifications could be exchanged under the terms of its seventh article. The Senate therefore extended the time for this purpose until the 20th December, 1843.

In the meantime, previous to the 17th March, 1843, General Menendez, the constitutional President of Peru, had ratified the convention, declaring, however, in the act of ratification itself (which is without date), that "the present convention and ratification are to be submitted within the time stipulated in the seventh article for the final approbation of the National Congress." This was, however, rendered impossible from the fact that no Peruvian Congress assembled from the date of the convention until the year 1845.

When the convention arrived at Lima General Menendez had been deposed by a revolution, and General Vivanco had placed himself at the head of the Government. On the 16th July, 1843, the convention was ratified by him in absolute terms without the reference to Congress which the constitution of Peru requires, because, as the ratification states, "under existing circumstances the Government exercises the legislative powers demanded by the necessities of the State." The ratifications were accordingly exchanged at Lima on the 22d July, 1843, and the convention itself was proclaimed at Washington by the President on the 21st day of February, 1844.

In the meantime General Vivanco was deposed, and on the 12th October, 1843, the Government then in existence published a decree declaring all his administrative acts to be null and void, and notwithstanding the earnest and able remonstrances of Mr. Pickett, our charge' d'affaires at Lima, the Peruvian Government have still persisted in declaring that the ratification of the convention by Vivanco was invalid.

After the meeting of the Peruvian Congress in 1845 the convention was submitted to that body, by which it was approved on the 21st of October last, "with the condition, however, that the first installment of $30,000 on account of the principal of the debt thereby recognized, and to which the second article relates, should begin from the 1st day of January, 1846, and the interest on this annual sum, according to article 3, should be calculated and paid from the 1st day of January, 1842, following in all other respects besides this modification the terms of the convention."

I am not in possession of the act of the Congress of Peru containing this provision, but the information is communicated through a note under date of the 15th of November, 1845, from the minister of foreign affairs of Peru to the charge' d'affaires of the United States at Lima. A copy of this note has been transmitted to the Department of State both by our charge' d'affaires at Lima and by the Peruvian minister of foreign affairs, and a copy of the same is herewith transmitted.

Under these circumstances I submit to the Senate, for their consideration, the amendment to the convention thus proposed by the Congress of Peru, with a view to its ratification. It would have been more satisfactory to have submitted the act itself of the Peruvian Congress, but, on account of the great distance, if I should wait until its arrival another year might be consumed, whilst the American claimants have already been too long delayed in receiving the money justly due to them. Several of the largest of these claimants would, I am informed, be satisfied with the modification of the convention adopted by the Peruvian Congress.

A difficulty may arise in regard to the form of any proceeding which the Senate might think proper to adopt, from the fact that the original convention approved by them was sent to Peru and was exchanged for the other original, ratified by General Vivanco, which is now in the Department of State. In order to obviate this difficulty as far as may be in my power, I transmit a copy of the convention, under the seal of the United States, on which the Senate might found any action they may deem advisable.

I would suggest that should the Senate advise the adoption of the amendment proposed by the Peruvian Congress the time for exchanging the ratifications of the amended convention ought to be extended for a considerable period, so as to provide against all accidents in its transmission to Lima.


James K. Polk, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/200931

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