Criminal Annals, Part 15 – The Placer Times: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

vol1no18p1 headWhile the next two stories to not directly relate to a crime, they do bring up two subjects with possible repercussions: Mexico’s concerns with the ceding of California to the United States and the recurring issue of limiting immigration into California by restrictions and/or taxation.

The war between the United States and Mexico ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that was signed on February 2, 1848, at Guadalupe Hidalgo and ratified at Santiago de Queretaro, on May 30, 1848. In addition to ending the war, it included a provision that for the payment of $15 million Mexico would cede to the United States a large block of land that included all or parts of today’s Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah.

Just a few days prior its signing, James Marshall discovered gold at Coloma. When this information became public, about six months later, a large number of Mexican citizens felt they had been cheated by the undisclosed discovery of gold, the fact that the Congress of the United States had amended the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago before accepting it, removing many of the land rights granted by it to the citizens of Mexico by Spain and Mexico, and by the recent actions by American miners who were forcing anyone who spoke Spanish off their claims and confiscating their property.

Obviously there was a concern by the Americans in California and some in the federal government that a significant violation of the Treaty could result in a claim by Mexico that the Treaty was invalid.

This story in the September 8, 1849 edition of the “Placer Times,” which comes to it from the “New York Tribune,” shows the level of concern that the United States was not meeting the letter of the Treaty. It also includes a comment, probably from the editor of the Placer Times, that later it was found out that the problem was not a problem at all:

“Our Mexican Boundary. – It is already known that the Mexicans, in view of the gold so abundantly found in Upper California, repent of their cession of that region to the United states, and tens of thousands among them have openly avowed their determination to reconquer it. It is know, too, that the Treaty of Peace bound each of the contracting parties to send a Commissioner and Surveyor to San Diego within one year from the exchange of ratifications to run and mark the new boundary between the two countries. It is known, too, that President Polk last Winter appointed John B. Weller, ex-M.C. from Ohio and ex-Colonel in the Mexican War, Commissioner on the part of the U. States and dispatched him seasonably on his important duty. Of course his failure to appear duly at Sand Diego (as he easily might have done) will afford Mexican ground of of cavil with regard to the validity of the Treaty or at least of its cessions of Territory. And yet a gentleman direct from New Orleans informs us that Weller (who set out from Washington last January or February) has been spending most of the intermediate time in New Orleans, (‘on a bender,’ is his expression,) and has finally just set out with not half time enough left in which to reach San Diego by the period stipulated. The results of this unfaithfulness may be extensively disastrous. But it may be that our informant is mistaken. We call on the New Orleans and Ohio papers for light on the subject. – (N. Y. Tribune.)”

“We have since been credibly informed by a gentleman who was at San Diego on the 4th July, that Col. Weller was there at that date and took part in the celebration.”

Two weeks later, on September 22, 1849, a portion of what appears to be more of an editorial than a story from the “New York City Morning Star” is reprinted by the Placer Times. It ties back to the first story and regards a subject which is coming up more and more: controlling immigration into California by taxation.

“The following paragraph from the Morning Star, published in New-York City, will not be found entirely destitute of common sense:

“No Restriction. – We submit to Congress the evident impolicy of restricting emigration from any quarter of the world to California, or requiring from emigrants any tax or consideration for permission to pick up Gold. – When Spain discovered and possessed itself of all the gold and silver regions of South America, her policy was jealous, suspicious and exclusive. The severest punishments were awarded to those who intruded upon the mines; everything was to be kept profoundly secret – no maps or history of the country, or travels, were permitted to be published. What was the consequence? Spain, once the most powerful and rich country on earth, is now the weakest and poorest from the obvious impolicy of her course. Throw open California to the world – the more gold collected the more will be circulated in this country, and the country derives the benefit. We cannot if we would guard and protect these mines by a military force; and if they were watched and guarded where ten mines were discovered hundreds would be hid. When one tract of country is exhausted of gold, try another on the borders of her mountain springs. When gold is gone look for silver, quicksilver, copper, platina, tin and coal, all of which will be found in that region – but no prohibiting laws. Let those willing to settle remain there – when one branch of labor is finished another will be presented.”


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