James K. Polk

Special Message

August 04, 1846

To the Senate of the United States:

I herewith communicate to the Senate the copy of a letter, under date of the 27th ultimo, from the Secretary of State of the United States to the minister of foreign relations of the Mexican Republic, again proposing to open negotiations and conclude a treaty of peace which shall adjust all the questions in dispute between the two Republics. Considering the relative power of the two countries, the glorious events which have already signalized our arms, and the distracted condition of Mexico, did not conceive that any point of national honor could exist which ought to prevent me from making this overture. Equally anxious to terminate by a peace honorable for both parties as I was originally to avoid the existing war, I have deemed it my duty again to extend the olive branch to Mexico. Should the Government of that Republic accept the offer in the same friendly spirit by which it was dictated, negotiations will speedily commence for the conclusion of a treaty.

The chief difficulty to be anticipated in the negotiation is the adjustment of the boundary between the parties by a line which shall at once be satisfactory to both, and such as neither will hereafter be inclined to disturb. This is the best mode of securing perpetual peace and good neighborhood between the two Republics. Should the Mexican Government, in order to accomplish these objects, be willing to cede any portion of their territory to the United States, we ought to pay them a fair equivalent--a just and honorable peace, and not conquest, being our purpose in the prosecution of the war.

Under these circumstances, and considering the exhausted and distracted condition of the Mexican Republic, it might become necessary in order to restore peace that I should have it in my power to advance a portion of the consideration money for any cession of territory which may be made. The Mexican Government might not be willing to wait for the payment of the whole until the treaty could be ratified by the Senate and an appropriation to carry it into effect be made by Congress, and the necessity for such a delay might defeat the object altogether. I would therefore suggest whether it might not be wise for Congress to appropriate a sum such as they might consider adequate for this purpose, to be paid, if necessary, immediately upon the ratification of the treaty by Mexico. This disbursement would of course be accounted for at the Treasury, not as secret-service money, but like other expenditures.

Two precedents for such a proceeding exist in our past history, during the Administration of Mr. Jefferson, to which I would call your attention. On the 26th February, 1803, Congress passed an act appropriating $2,000,000 "for the purpose of defraying any extraordinary expenses which may be incurred in the intercourse between the United States and foreign nations," "to be applied under the direction of the President of the United States, who shall cause an account of the expenditure thereof to be laid before Congress as soon as may be;" and on the 13th February, 1806, an appropriation was made of the same amount and in the same terms. The object in the first case was to enable the President to obtain the cession of Louisiana, and in the second that of the Florida. In neither case was the money actually drawn from the Treasury, and I should hope that the result might be similar in this respect on the present occasion, though the appropriation is deemed expedient as a precautionary measure.

I refer the whole subject to the Senate in executive session. If they should concur in opinion with me, then I recommend the passage of a law appropriating such a sum as Congress may deem adequate, to be used by the Executive, if necessary, for the purpose which I have indicated.

In the two cases to which I have referred the special purpose of the appropriation did not appear on the face of the law, as this might have defeated the object; neither, for the same reason, in my opinion, ought it now to be stated.

I also communicate to the Senate the copy of a letter from the Secretary of State to Commodore Conner of the 29th ultimo, which was transmitted to him on the day it bears date.


James K. Polk, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/201107

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