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Cover of the exchange copy of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo in Spanish) is the peace treaty, largely dictated by the United Statesmarker to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexicomarker, that ended the Mexican-American War (1846‚Äď1848). From the standpoint of the United States, the treaty provided for the Mexican Cession, in which Mexico ceded 1.36 million km¬≤ (525,000 square miles; 55% of its pre-war territory, not including Texas) to the United Statesmarker in exchange for US$15 million (equivalent to $313 million in 2006 dollars). From the standpoint of Mexico, the treaty included Texas as Mexico had never recognized Texan independence nor its annexation by the U.S.

The treaty also ensured safety of pre-existing property rights of Mexican citizens in the transferred territories. Despite assurances to the contrary, property rights of Mexican citizens were often not honored by the United States as per modifications to and interpretations of the treaty. The United States also agreed to take over $3.25 million ($68 million in 2006 dollars) in debts Mexico owed to American citizens.

In Mexico, this is referred to as the War of North American Invasion (La Intervención Norteamericana). Mexico had controlled the area in question for about 25 years since the finalization of its independence from the Spanish Empire in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence. The Spanish Empire had conquered part of the area from the Native American tribes over the preceding three centuries, but there remained powerful and independent indigenous peoples within the northern regions.

There were approximately 80,000 Mexicans in the areas of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas during this period and they made up about 20% of the population.

The Treaty took its name from what is now the suburb of Mexico Citymarker where it was signed on 2 February 1848.

The cession that the treaty facilitated included parts of the modern-day U.S. states of Coloradomarker, Arizonamarker, New Mexicomarker, and Wyomingmarker, as well as the whole of Californiamarker, Nevadamarker, and Utahmarker, and, depending on one's point of view, Texas. The remaining parts of what are today the states of Arizonamarker and New Mexicomarker were later peacefully ceded under the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, in which the United States paid an additional $10,000,000.

Background to war

On 1 March 1845, United States President John Tyler signed legislation to authorize the United States to annex the Republic of Texas. The annexation occurred on 29 December 1845, and Texas was admitted as the 28th state of the union on the same day. The Mexican government had long warned that annexation meant war with the United States, and had never recognized the Republic of Texas as an independent country. The United Kingdommarker and Francemarker, which both recognized the independence of Texas, repeatedly tried to dissuade Mexico from declaring war against its neighbor. British efforts to mediate were fruitless, in part because additional political disputes (particularly the Oregon boundary dispute) arose between Mexico, Britain and the United States.Before the outbreak of hostilities, on 10 November 1845, U.S. President James K. Polk had sent negotiator John Slidell to Mexico to offer the country around $5 million for the territory of Nuevo México, and up to $40 million for Alta Californiamarker. The Mexican government dismissed Slidell, refusing to even meet with him. Earlier that year Mexico had broken off diplomatic relations with the United Statesmarker over the annexation of Texas, which Mexico had warned would be considered an act of war if passed by the US Congress. Mexico's basis for this was based partly on an interpretation of the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 (which independent Mexico had inherited) in which the US had relinquished all claims to Mexican territory, ad infinitum.Polk, an expansionist, took insult and did little to prevent war with Mexico. After the Thornton Affair, a skirmish between Mexican and American troops which took place on disputed territory near the Rio Grandemarker (see the Treaties of Velasco), President Polk signed a declaration of war into effect on 13 May 1846, forty-nine days before the Mexican Congress was forced to formally declare war on 1 July. The Oregon Treaty signed on 15 June avoided war with Britain, giving the United States a free hand to make war on Mexico.
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Conduct of war

California and New Mexico were quickly occupied in the summer of 1846, and fighting there ended by January 1847 with the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga and end of the Taos Revolt. The U.S. spent 1847 invading central Mexico and occupying Mexico City, but Mexico was still reluctant to agree to the loss of California and New Mexico, offering only sale of Alta Californiamarker north of the 37th parallel north (north of Santa Cruz, California and Madera, California and the southern boundaries of today's Utah and Colorado) which was already dominated by Anglo-American settlers. Some Eastern Democrats called for total annexation of Mexico and claimed that some Mexican liberals would welcome this, but President Polk's State of the Union address in December 1847 upheld Mexican independence and argued at length that occupation and any further military operations in Mexico were aimed at securing a treaty ceding California and New Mexico up to approximately the 32nd parallel north and possibly Baja Californiamarker and transit rights across the Isthmus of Tehuantepecmarker. Jefferson Davis advised Polk that if Mexico appointed commissioners to come to the U.S., the government that appointed them would probably be overthrown before they completed their mission, and they would likely be shot as traitors on their return; so that the only hope of peace was to have a U.S representative in Mexico. Nicholas Trist, Chief Clerk of the State Department under President Polk, finally negotiated a treaty with the Mexican delegation after ignoring his recall by President Polk in frustration with failure to secure a treaty. Notwithstanding that the treaty had been negotiated against his instructions, given its achievement of the major American aim, President Polk passed it on to the Senate.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

A section of the original treaty

The treaty was signed by Nicholas Trist on behalf of the United States and Luis G. Cuevas, Bernardo Couto and Miguel Atristain as plenipotentiary representatives of Mexico on 2 February 1848, at the main altar of the old Basilica of Guadalupemarker at Villa Hidalgo (within the present city limits) as U.S troops under the command of General Winfield Scott were occupying Mexico Citymarker.

Changes to the treaty and ratification

The version of the treaty ratified by the United States Senate eliminated Article X, which stated that the U.S. government would honor and guarantee all land grants awarded in lands ceded to the United States to citizens of Spain and Mexico by those respective governments. Article VIII guaranteed that Mexicans who remained more than one year in the ceded lands would automatically become full-fledged American citizens (or they could declare their intention of remaining Mexican citizens); however, the Senate modified Article IX, changing the first paragraph and excluding the last two. Among the changes was that Mexican citizens would "be admitted at the proper time (to be judged of by the Congress of the United States)" instead of "admitted as soon as possible", as negotiated between Trist and the Mexican delegation.

An amendment by Jefferson Davis giving the U.S. most of Tamaulipasmarker and Nuevo Leonmarker, all of Coahuilamarker and a large part of Chihuahuamarker was supported by both senators from Texas (Sam Houston and Thomas Jefferson Rusk), Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, Edward A. Hannegan of Indiana, and one each from Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee. Most of the leaders of the Democratic party, Thomas Hart Benton, John C. Calhoun, Herschel V. Johnson, Lewis Cass, James Murray Mason of Virginia, and Ambrose Hundley Sevierwere opposed and the amendment was defeated 44-11.

An amendment by Whig Senator George Edmund Badger of North Carolina to exclude New Mexico and California lost 35-15, with three Southern Whigs voting with the Democrats. Daniel Webster was bitter that four New England senators made deciding votes for acquiring the new territories.

A motion to insert the Wilmot Proviso banning slavery into the treaty failed 15-38 on sectional lines.

The treaty was subsequently ratified by the United States Senate by a vote of 38 to 14 on 10 March 1848 and by Mexico through a legislative vote of 51 to 34 and a Senate vote of 33 to 4, on 19 May 1848. News that New Mexico's legislative assembly had just passed an act for organization of a U.S. territorial government helped ease Mexican concern about abandoning the people of New Mexico. On the other hand, the discovery of gold in California a week before the treaty was signed did not become known in Mexico until August 1848.

Protocol of Querétaro

On 30 May 1848, when the two countries exchanged ratifications of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, they further negotiated a three-article protocol to explain the amendments. The first article stated that the original Article IX of the treaty, although replaced by Article III of the Treaty of Louisiana, would still confer the rights delineated in Article IX. The second article confirmed the legitimacy of land grants pursuant to Mexican law.

The protocol further noted that said explanations had been accepted by the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Mexican Government, and was signed in Santiago de Queretaromarker by A. H. Sevier, Nathan Clifford and Luis de la Rosa.

The United States would later go on to ignore the protocol on the grounds that the U.S. representatives had over-reached their authority in agreeing to it.

Treaty of Mesilla

The treaty of Mesilla which concluded the Gadsden purchase of 1854 had significant implications for the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Article II of the treaty annulled article XI of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and article IV further annulled articles VI and VII of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Article V however reaffirmed the property guarantees of Guadalupe Hidalgo, specifically those contained within articles VIII and IX.


In addition to the sale of land, the treaty also provided for the recognition of the Rio Grande as the boundary between the State of Texasmarker and Mexico. The land boundaries were established by a survey team of appointed Mexican and American representatives, and published in three volumes as The United States and Mexican Boundary Survey. On 30 December 1853, the countries by agreement altered the border from the initial one by increasing the number of border markers from 6 to 53. Most of these markers were simply piles of stones. Two later conventions, in 1882 and 1889, further clarified the boundaries, as some of the markers had been moved or destroyed.

The southern border of California was designated as a line from the junction of the Colorado and Gila rivers westward to the Pacific Ocean, so that it passes one Spanish league south of the southernmost portion of San Diego Bay. This was done to ensure that the United Statesmarker received San Diegomarker and its excellent natural harbor, without relying on potentially inaccurate designations by latitude.

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. Mexican communities remained segregated de facto from and also within other US communities, 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.

Additional issues

Border disputes continued; the United States'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 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. is thought to have 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 Mexicomarker, which was followed by the Pershing expedition.

The shifting of the Rio Grande would much later cause a dispute over the boundary between Purchase lands and those of the state of Texas, called the Country Club Dispute.

Controversy over community land grant claims in New Mexicomarker persist 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.

See also



  • Griswold del Castillo, Richard. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict. University of Oklahoma Press, 1990
  • Ohrt, Wallace. Defiant Peacemaker: Nicholas Trist in the Mexican War Texas A&M University Press, 1997
  • Jesse S. Reeves, "The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo", The American Historical Review, 10 (Jan. 1905), 309-324, full text online at JSTOR

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