Imatges de pÓgina

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conclusive, as between the claimants and our own government. So strong was this conviction, that on the 8th of July, 1848, in the Senate of the United States, Mr. Benton, of Missouri, reported a bill from the Committee on Foreign Relations, which provided for the absolute payment of these awards. The 2d section of that bill, as reported, (Senate bill 313, 1st session 30th Congress,) is in the follow

Be it further enacted, That all claims of citizens of the United States against the Republic of Mexico which were considered by the board of commissioners appointed under the convention of the 11th of April, 1839, and referred to the umpire, and which were not decided by him, but returned to the said board by the said umpire on the 25th of February, 1842, shall be considered as adjudicated, and the sums awarded in favor of said claims, respectively, and reported to said umpire, together with interest on the same, as provided, &c., shall be paid to said claimants or their legal representatives, respectively."

The same view was taken, in debate, in the House of Representatives ; and, although the act, as finally passed, was modified, so as to require these claims to be presented for adjudication before the commission established by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it is believed that no one contemplated any re-examination of them beyond the points of difference between the Mexican and American commissioners, as submitted to the umpire under the convention of 1839.

The late commissioners, however, in the award which is now the subject of complaint, took a wholly different view of the question, went behind the points of difference made in 1839, and undertook a re-examination of the whole case from the beginning, as if it had not before been adjudicated. The amount awarded by them was only about one-eighth of that which had been awarded by the American commissioners under the convention of 1839. This very wide difference between the respective awards of the two commissions, is the ground of that relief which the memorialist asks at the hands of Congress.

In examining the proceedings of the late board of commissioners, not only in connexion with this claim, but also in other investigations ordered by the House, the committee have observed some irregularities and inconsistencies, which seem to have a bearing upon the present subject. In the rules adopted and promulgated, immediately after their organization in April, 1849, the commissioners ordered as follows:

" That in the opinion of the board, the claims of American citizens referred to in the 5th article of the unratified convention of 20th November, 1843, which article is made a part of the 15th article of the treaty of 20 February, 1848, may now be presented to this board for final decision, upon the memorials, proofs, and documents submitted to said joint commissioners, and by said commissioners to the umpire, and upon such new arguments as may be filed with the secretary in writing, addressed to the commissioners." “ That when the board shall close its present session, it will adjourn to meet in this city on the first Monday of June next, and then proceed to consider the claims referred to in the 5th article of the unrati

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fied convention of the 20th November, 1843;

and all such cases are hereby set down for hearing at that time, &c."

These orders seem to have been dictated by a proper view of the subject, and were in strict conformity with the stipulations of the treaty. The old cases, which had been before the umpire, and which, therefore, were already fully prepared, were to be first taken up and adjudicated, upon the principles of the 5th article of the unratified convention. It seems to be implied that they were to be taken up precisely as they were left by the commission of 1839—that is, upon the points of difference submitted to the umpire, with privilege of presenting new arguments, but not of making other points, by means of new proof

But although this order of proceedings was distinctly laid down in the beginning, the committee find that the claim of the memorialist was not taken up in June, 1849; on the contrary, it seems to hare been reserved for a period of nearly two years, and until almost every other class of claims had been adjudicated. And when it was taken up, this claim of long standing and of undoubted merit, was not decided upon the principles of the unratified convention, and was treated with less favor than other recent demands, which proved to be wholly fictitious and fraudulent.

The committee have turned their attention to the evident alterations of the record mentioned in the memorial. They find that on the docket of the cases before the board, the only entry now legible in this case is one under date of April 15, 1851, admitting the validity of the claim. But above this, there has manifestly been a previous entry, so carefully erased as not to leave a single word legible. And in the minutes of the proceedings of the board corresponding to the time when this erased entry is supposed to have been made, there is an equally apparent obliteration of several lines, the purport of which it is impossible to ascertain. The committee deem it proper to state these facts as they appear, without being able to determine whether they justify the suspicions which the memorialist deduces from them. An order or entry of any kind might well have been altered or reversed, but not by an obliteration of the record. The alterations should have been distinctly set out and explained, in order to prevent the suspicions which erasures of this character are calculated to arouse. But the committee cannot say that the facts stated, unexplained as they are, sustain the belief of the memorialist, that the commissioners, some time in 1849, decided their claim in conformity with the previous award, and subsequently altered it, with a view to secure the full payment of other claims which were wholly false and fraudulent. There is no evidence to support this conclusion, unless it can be derived from the fact of such great delay in the adjudication, after the peremptory order above quoted, and the erasures appearing on the record, together with the other well known fact, that large claims, undoubtedly fictitious, and of recent origin and invention, were preferred to this old and well-established demand, and paid in full, with all the exaggeration of' amount which fraud and perjury could heap upon them.

On their final decision of this case, the commissioners discussed the questions involved in a very elaborate and plausible paper, which, it

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must be acknowledged, is not without great ability. But without entering into the argument, the committee are of opinion, that, in going behind and beyond the points of difference between the Mexican and American commissioners, under the convention of 1839, they exceeded the jurisdiction given them by the treaty of 1848. It is a striking fact, that the most important point in their decision—that which entirely controls the amount of indemnity to be awarded—is in direct conflict with facts and principles conceded by the Mexican commissioners themselves, under the convention of 1839. This point is, as to the legal effect of the contracts made with the Empresarios; whether they imported a valid grant of the lands to be colonized, upon the settlement of them by the colonists. Judge Breckenridge, when acting with Governor Marcy, under the convention of 1839, had ably maintained the affirmative of this question, basing his award upon that view. And the Mexican commissioners, in the paper presented by them in answer to that of the American commissioners, use the following language:

"Messrs. Zavala, Burnet, and Vehlein obtained from the general government of Mexico, and the State of Coahuila and Texas, in 1826 and 1829, the grant of several tracts of land in the latter department, to colonize them. The lands of said individuals being colimiting to each other, they made one single mass of them in October, 1830, &c., &c.”

And after thus admitting the original contracts to have imported grants, they proceed to state their objections to the award of the American commissioners, in substance as follows: 1. Because the claim was not presented in conformity with the convention ; particularly because some of the proof was delivered by a person who, if not an enemy of Mexico, has chosen to reside among her enemies. 2. Because the conduct of the Mexican authorities in not permitting the establishment of the colony was in conformity with article 11 of the law of April 30, 1830. These are the only grounds of objection. Yet the American commission, under the treaty of 1848, notwithstanding this distinct admission of the Mexican commissioners of 1839, elaborately argue, and finally decide, that the contracts aforesaid do not contain words of grant. This point controls the whole case, and produces all the difference between the award of 1839 and that of 1851.

The committee have thus briefly set forth what they conceive to be a sufficient statement of the merits of this case, without attempting to report all the facts, or to review the arguments on the one side or the other. They are of opinion that the late board of commissioners were not authorized to adjudicate anything beyond the points of difference submitted to the umpire under the convention of 1839; and that, if they were authorized to go behind those points, they have mistaken the character of the contracts which are the foundation of the claim, and which were plainly admitted by the Mexican commissioners of 1839, and appear upon their face, in express terms, to constitute valid grants of the land intended to be colonized. But, at the same time, the committee are of opinion that the questions involved,

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being of a judicial nature, will be more appropriately decided by the courts than by Congress.

It is true, the treaty of 1848 stipulates that the award of the commissioners shall be final and conclusive.” But the citizens who suffered from the violence and injustice of the Mexican authorities were not parties to this agreement. And in a case of manifest injustice, especially where the conduct and motives of the commissioners themselves have been impeached, and that not without some appearance of good reason, it can hardly be insisted that the suffering parties shall be concluded from all further remedy for their alleged wrongs. The committee think they ought to have a fair hearing, and therefore recommend that they be authorized to submit their demand to the circuit court of the United States in the District of Colunbia, with the privilege, either on their part or on that of the government, to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. In the judgment of the committee this proceeding will be perfectly just and unexceptionable to all parties. It will be the interest of the government to vindicate the purity and legality of the proceedings of the late board of commissioners; while the memorialist will have the benefit of a fair and impartial tribunal, in which he can fully establish his claim, if there be in it the merit which the committee are inclined to believe there is. In accordance with these views the committee report a bill, and ask the favorable consideration of the House.

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