James Madison Papers

To James Madison from José María Morelos, José María Linaga, and Remigio de Yarza, 14 July 1815 (Abstract)

From José María Morelos, José María Linaga, and Remigio de Yarza, 14 July 1815 (Abstract)

§ From Jose Maria Morelos,1 José María Linaga, and Remigio de Yarza. 14 July 1815, Puruarán. The signatories state that the Mexican people, weary of suffering the tremendous weight of Spanish domination, and having lost forever the hope of being happy under the government of their conquerors, broke the barriers of their moderation, and, confronting difficulties and dangers which seemed insuperable to an enslaved colony, raised the cry of their liberty, and undertook bravely the work of their regeneration. They relied on the protection of Heaven, which could not forsake the well known justice of their cause, or abandon the righteousness and purity of their intentions, directed exclusively to the good of humanity; they relied on the fire and enthusiasm of their patriots, determined to die before returning to the insulting yoke of slavery; and finally, they relied on the powerful aid of the United States; who, having guided the Mexican people wisely by example, would grant them aid with generous feeling, after signing treaties of friendship and alliance ruled by good faith and recognizing the reciprocal interests of each nation. The disasters brought about by the changing fortunes of war, into which the Mexican people were perhaps thrown by their inexperience, have never beaten down their minds; rather, constantly facing adversities and misfortunes, they sustained their struggle for five years, becoming convinced through practice that there is no power capable of subjugating a people determined to save themselves from the horrors of tyranny. Without arms at the start, without discipline, without a government, fighting with valor and enthusiasm, they pushed back numerous armies, made astounding assaults on fortified positions, and, finally, have made an impression on the pride of the Spaniards, who are already daunted, despite affecting calm in their public papers, and announcing that the fire that burns in the people’s hearts, and assures the success of their efforts, is coming closer to extinction every day. The revolutionary government, having commenced, as was natural, with the most formless rudiments, has been gradually improved, as the disturbances of the war have permitted, and today it is subject to a constitution consisting of maxims of all liberal enlightenment, and adapted, as far as possible, to the genius, customs, and habits of the people, no less than to the circumstances of the revolution. In the course of time it will receive modifications and improvements as enlightened by experience; but will never stray a single line from the essential principles which constitute true civil liberty. Meanwhile, the signatories flatter themselves that the approval and promulgation of their constitutional decree, and the effective organization of their government have produced consternation in the poisoned hearts of their enemies, giving a death stroke to the Spanish loyalists’ hopes, while filling the insurgents with joy, inspiring them with new ardor to continue their glorious enterprise. Precisely at this moment, the opportunity they wished for a thousand times has been presented to them, of establishing relations with the government of the United States, and, making use of the precious moments which a series of incidents, connected by the hand of Providence, has brought them, they hasten to realize their intentions, with the satisfaction that this attempt will not suffer the same fate as others before it, but that, fortunately completed, it will fulfill their designs, providing the completion of the early plans for their political restoration. The interior persuasion in which they have always lived, that being friends and allies, the two American countries, the Northern one and the Mexican one, will influence each other in the matters of their own happiness, and make themselves invincible against the aggressions of envy, ambition, and tyranny, encourages them beyond measure in insisting on this request; so much so that they believe that this important alliance will instantly earn the approval of the worthy representatives of the Anglo-American nation, and of all its citizens, so respectable for their enlightenment and social virtues. The sincerity and the philanthropic spirit characteristic of both nations; the ease and speed with which they can send aid to each other; the attractive combination which will result, of two peoples, the one privileged with the fertility and products, as rich as they are varied, of their soil, and the other distinguished for their industry, their culture, and their genius, which are the most bountiful wellsprings of the wealth of nations: all this combines to support the signatories’ views, offering henceforward the most gratifying prospect, if the two republics manage to unite by means of treaties of alliance and commerce, which, supported by reason and justice, will become the sacred links of their common prosperity. Engaged with these grand ideas, the Mexican Supreme Congress, in order to open negotiations and form treaties with the United States in the style rightly adopted by nations, has named the most excellent Don José Manuel de Herrera,2 Licentiate, as minister plenipotentiary, authorizing him with the most ample powers, and has also dictated the instructions necessary to effect the object. In consequence, the Supreme Government of Mexico, in the name of the Congress itself, and the nation it represents, offers this letter and the six legal documents accompanying it3 to JM’s superior knowledge, praying that he will inform the Congress of the United States of everything the papers communicate, and that he will recommend the recognition of Mexican independence and the admission of the aforementioned José Manuel de Herrera as minister plenipotentiary of Mexico near the government of said States, in order that the process may begin, in the correct form, toward the negotiations and treaties which may assure the happiness and the glory of the two American nations.

RC and enclosures (DNA: RG 59, NFL, Mexico). RC 7 pp.; in Spanish. Enclosed in José Manuel Herrera to JM, 1 Mar. 1816 (ibid.). Translation printed in full in Manning, Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States concerning the Independence of the Latin-American Nations, 3:1596–98. For enclosures, see n. 3.

1José María Morelos y Pavón (1765–1815), a native of Valladolid, Mexico (now renamed Morelia in his honor), studied for the priesthood under Miguel Hidalgo and served the parish of San Agustín Carácuaro from 1799 to 1810. In the latter year, commissioned by Hidalgo, he began to raise forces for the Mexican insurgency, and after Hidalgo’s execution became a recognized leader of the movement. He called the 1813 Congress of Chilpancingo, which declared Mexican independence from Spain, drafted a constitution, and proposed to abolish slavery and class distinctions while retaining Catholicism as the state religion. The congress placed Morelos at the head of the insurgent government; however, early in 1814, its members voted to remove him and assumed many of his executive powers themselves following the defeats of his forces at Valladolid and Puruarán. Morelos’s military fortunes declined further thereafter, but in 1815 the congress, threatened by Spanish forces, nevertheless asked him to convoy the revolutionary government to Tehuacán. Royalists attacked this expedition in November of that year and captured Morelos; he was executed in Mexico City the following month (David F. Marley, Mexico at War: From the Struggle for Independence to the 21st-Century Drug Wars [Santa Barbara, Calif., 2014], 180–81, 248––53).

2José Manuel Herrera (1776–1831) was a leader in the Mexican insurgency that culminated in the Congress of Chilpancingo. Attempting to carry out his diplomatic mission to Washington, he was unable to proceed further than New Orleans, as explained in his 1 Mar. 1816 letter to JM. While in the latter city, Herrera collaborated with a loose “association” of Spanish-American rebels and their American supporters to plot further insurrectionary activities against Spain. In September 1816 he traveled to Galveston, Texas, to participate in the filibuster led by Louis Aury, which proved to be another unsuccessful attempt to establish an independent Mexican republic (PJM-RS description begins David B. Mattern et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Retirement Series (3 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 2009–). description ends 2:552 n. 9; Warren, The Sword Was Their Passport [repr. 1972], 128–30, 139–40, 143–44, 183).

3The enclosed documents (8 pp.; in Spanish) summarized decrees of the Mexican congress dealing with flags, arms, and the great seal for a Mexican republic as well as three regulations governing privateering and the sale of prizes captured by Mexican vessels.

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