On this date in 1848 the U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo) which officially established peace, friendship, national boundaries, and terms of a financial settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic, thus ending the Mexican–American War (1846–48). With the defeat of its army and the fall of the capital, Mexico entered into negotiations to end the war. The treaty called for the United States to pay $15 million to Mexico and pay off the claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico up to $3.25 million. It gave the United States the Rio Grande boundary for Texas, and gave the U.S. ownership of California, and a large area consisting of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. Mexicans in those annexed areas had the choice of relocating to Mexico or receiving U.S. citizenship with full civil rights; over 90% remained. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 38-14, against the Whigs who had opposed the war, rejected Manifest Destiny in general, and rejected this expansion in particular.
The peace talks were negotiated by Nicholas Trist, chief clerk of the State Department, who had accompanied General Winfield Scott as a diplomat and President Polk’s representative. Trist and General Scott, after two previously unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a treaty with General José Joaquín de Herrera, determined that the only way to deal with Mexico was as a conquered enemy. Nicholas Trist negotiated with a special commission representing the collapsed government led by Don Bernardo Couto, Don Miguel de Atristain, and Don Luis Gonzaga Cuevas of Mexico.
Although Mexico ceded Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, the text of the treaty did not list territories to be ceded in specific, and avoided the disputed issues that were causes of war: the validity of the 1836 secession of the Republic of Texas, Texas’s unenforced boundary claims as far as the Rio Grande, and the 1845 annexation of Texas to the United States.
Instead, Article V of the treaty simply described the new U.S.-Mexico border. From east to west, the border consisted of the Rio Grande northwest from its mouth to the point Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico (roughly 32 degrees north), as shown in the Disturnell map, then due west from this point to the 110th meridian west, then north along the 110th Meridian to the Gila River and down the river to its mouth. Unlike the New Mexico segment of the boundary, which depended partly on unknown geography, “in order to preclude all difficulty in tracing upon the ground the limit separating Upper from Lower California,” a straight line was drawn from the mouth of the Gila to one marine league south of the southernmost point of the port of San Diego, slightly north of the previous Mexican provincial boundary at Playas de Rosarito.
Comparing the boundary in the Adams–Onís Treaty to the Guadalupe Hidalgo boundary, Mexico conceded about 55% of its pre-war, pre-Texas territorial claims and now has an area of 1,972,550 km² (761,606 sq mi). In the United States, the 1.36 million km² (525,000 square miles) of the area between the Adams-Onis and Guadalupe Hidalgo boundaries outside the 1,007,935 km2 (389,166 sq mi) claimed by the Republic of Texas is known as the Mexican Cession. That is to say, the Mexican Cession is construed not to include any territory east of the Rio Grande, while the territorial claims of the Republic of Texas included no territory west of the Rio Grande. The Mexican Cession included essentially the entirety of the former Mexican territory of Alta California, but only the western portion of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, and included all of present-day California, Nevada and Utah, most of Arizona, and western portions of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.
Articles VIII and IX ensured safety of existing property rights of Mexican citizens living in the transferred territories. Despite assurances to the contrary, the property rights of Mexican citizens were often not honored by the U.S. in accordance with modifications to and interpretations of the Treaty. The U.S. also agreed to assume $3.25 million (equivalent to $88.6 million today) in debts that Mexico owed to United States citizens. The residents could choose whether they wanted American or Mexican citizenship; all but 1000 or so chose American citizenship, which included full voting rights. Article XII engaged the United States to pay, “In consideration of the extension acquired”, 15 million dollars (equivalent to $410 million today), in annual installments of 3 million dollars.
Article XI of the treaty was important to Mexico. It provided that the United States would prevent and punish raids by Native Americans into Mexico, prohibited U.S. citizens from acquiring property, including livestock, taken by the Native Americans in those raids, and stated that the U.S. would return captives of the Native Americans to Mexico. Mexicans believed that the United States had encouraged and assisted the Comanche and Apache raids that had devastated northern Mexico in the years before the war. This article promised relief to them. Article XI, however, proved unenforceable. Destructive raids continued despite a heavy U.S. presence near the Mexican border. Mexico filed 366 claims with the U.S. government for damages done by Comanche and Apache raids between 1848 and 1853. In 1853, in the Treaty of Mesilla concluding the Gadsden Purchase, Article XI was annulled.
The land that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought into the United States became, between 1850 and 1912, all or part of ten states: California (1850), Nevada (1864), Utah (1896), and Arizona (1912), as well as the whole of, depending upon interpretation, the entire state of Texas (1845) that then included part of Kansas (1861), Colorado (1876), Wyoming (1890), Oklahoma (1907), and New Mexico (1912). The remainder (the southern parts) of New Mexico and Arizona were peacefully purchased under Gadsden Purchase, which was carried out in 1853. In this purchase the United States paid an additional $10 million (equivalent to $280 million today), for land intended to accommodate a transcontinental railroad. However, the American Civil War delayed construction of such a route, and it was not until 1881 that the Southern Pacific Railroad finally was completed, fulfilling the purpose of the acquisition.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo completed the much disputed aspirations of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny which proposed that the U.S. was destined to expand to fill the central portion of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande. Its goals were to be achieved by conquest and imperialism, and set the tone for much of the 19th century including wars such as the Mexican-American War and the various wars against Native American nations.
Historians have emphasized that “Manifest Destiny” was a contested concept—many prominent politicians (such as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and most Whigs) rejected it. Historian Daniel Walker Howe writes, “American imperialism did not represent an American consensus; it provoked bitter dissent within the national polity. [Whigs] saw America’s moral mission as one of democratic example rather than one of conquest.”
Manifest Destiny always limped along because of its internal limitations and the issue of slavery, says Merk. It never became a national priority. By 1843 John Quincy Adams, originally a major supporter, had changed his mind and repudiated Manifest Destiny because it meant the expansion of slavery in Texas. Merk concludes:
From the outset Manifest Destiny—vast in program, in its sense of continentalism—was slight in support. It lacked national, sectional, or party following commensurate with its magnitude. The reason was it did not reflect the national spirit. The thesis that it embodied nationalism, found in much historical writing, is backed by little real supporting evidence.
The treaty led to numerous conflicts which had to be adjudicated, and it was constantly subject to revision well into the 20th century.
The treaty extended U.S. citizenship to Mexicans in the newly purchased territories, before many African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans were eligible. Between 1850 and 1920, the U.S. Census counted most Mexicans as racially “white,” despite the actual mixed ancestry of most Mexicans. Nonetheless, racially tinged tensions persisted in the era following annexation, reflected in such things as the Greaser Act in California, as tens of thousands of Mexican nationals suddenly found themselves living within the borders of the United States. Mexican communities remained segregated de facto from and also within other U.S. communities, continuing through the Mexican migration right up to the end of the 20th century throughout the Southwest.
Community property rights in California are a legacy of the Mexican era. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the property rights of Mexican subjects would be kept inviolate. The early Californians felt compelled to continue the community property system regarding the earnings and accumulation of property during a marriage, and it became incorporated into the California constitution.
Border disputes continued. The U.S.’s desire to expand its territory continued unabated and Mexico’s economic problems persisted, leading to the controversial Gadsden Purchase in 1854 and William Walker’s Republic of Lower California filibustering incident in that same year. The Channel Islands of California and Farallon Islands are not mentioned in the Treaty.
The border was routinely crossed by the armed forces of both countries. Mexican and Confederate troops often clashed during the American civil war, and the U.S. crossed the border during the war of French intervention in Mexico. In March 1916 Pancho Villa led a raid on the U.S. border town of Columbus, New Mexico, which was followed by the Pershing expedition. There were constant disputes concerning boundaries between purchase lands and those of the state of Texas, as well as between the U.S. and Mexico. Controversy over community land grant claims in New Mexico persists to this day.
Disputes about whether to make all this new territory into free states or slave-holding states contributed heavily to the rise in North-South tensions that led to the United States Civil War just over a decade later. The treaty was leaked to John Nugent before the U.S. Senate could approve it. Nugent published his article in the New York Herald and, afterward, was questioned by Senators. Nugent did not reveal his source.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo led to the establishment in 1889 of the International Boundary and Water Commission to maintain the border, and pursuant to newer treaties to allocate river waters between the two nations, and to provide for flood control and water sanitation. Once viewed as a model of international cooperation, in recent decades the IBWC has been heavily criticized as an institutional anachronism, by-passed by modern social, environmental and political issues.
In a recent battle between tourists, fishermen, surfers, other members of the public, and venture capitalist billionaire Vinod Kholsa, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald J. Buchwald invoked the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to deny public access to a portion of the California coastline. See, Friends of Martin’s Beach v. Martin’s Beach 1, LLC, San Mateo County Civil Case #CIV517634. Despite the California State Constitution’s specific provision enabling members of the public to access the beach, Judge Buchwald ruled that the Treaty trumped the California Coastal Act because it predated it, and officially ended a century of access to Martins Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. In this controversial ruling, Judge Buchwald found that the treaty, which settled the Mexican-American War, granted the 200-acre beach property to Jose Antonio Alviso before California’s Constitution in 1879 established the public trust doctrine that preserved access to such areas for all state residents.
The region ceded to the U.S. by Mexico covers territory that is quite diverse culturally. I have already given several recipes from the Southwest, so I thought it might be interesting to move farther afield. I settled on Utah because the outdoor Dutch oven is the state cooking utensil, symbol of pioneer days. It is made of cast iron with three legs so that it can sit stably in coals, and a concave lid to hold hot coals. It is an incredibly versatile cooking pot that can be used for stews, baking, frying, and roasting.
The cherry is the state fruit of Utah, so here is a recipe for Dutch oven cherry cobbler.
2 (12½ ounce) cans unsweetened dark sweet cherries
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 egg, beaten
½ cup butter
Drain cherries and reserve juice. Combine the cherries and brown sugar in a small bowl.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Stir to blend well.
Stir in egg and ¾ cup reserved cherry juice to make a fairly thick batter. If necessary, add a little more juice so you can just stir the heavy batter with a spoon.
Melt butter in a 12″ Dutch oven. Spoon batter over butter. (Butter will come up over batter at the edges.) Gently spoon cherries and any juice remaining in the bowl into center of the batter. Bake at 350°F (see below) or cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour with 16-18 coals on top and 8 coals on bottom. Be sure to rotate oven cover every 15 minutes for even heating when using coals.
Cobbler is done when the sides just begin to pull away from the pan and a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Note: You can estimate the temperature of a Dutch oven by holding your palm 6 to 8 inches from it and rotating it. The number of seconds you can hold it there indicates the temperature: 8 = 250-350°F; 5 = 350-400°F; 3 = 400-450°F; 1 = 450-500°F.