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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 States (U.S.)[1][2] to the interim government of a militarily occupied Mexico, that ended the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). From the standpoint of the U.S., the treaty provided for the Mexican Cession of 1.36 million km² (525,000 square miles) to the United States in exchange for US$15 million (equivalent to $380 million today). From the standpoint of Mexico, the treaty included an additional 1,007,935 km² (389,166 sq mi) as Mexico had never recognized the Republic of Texas nor its annexation by the U.S., and Mexico lost 55% of its pre-war territory.[3]

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 U.S. in accordance with modifications to and interpretations of the treaty.[4][5][6] The U.S. also agreed to take over US$3.25 million (equivalent to $81.4 million today) 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.[7]

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

The cession that the treaty facilitated included parts of the modern-day U.S. states of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming, as well as the whole of California, Nevada, Utah, and, depending on one's point of view, Texas. The remaining parts of what are today the states of Arizona and New Mexico were later peacefully ceded under the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, in which the U.S. paid an additional US$10 million (equivalent to $260 million today).


Background to war

On 1 March 1845, U.S. Pres. John Tyler signed legislation to authorize the U.S. to annex the Republic of Texas, effective 29 December 1845. The Mexican government, which had never recognized the Republic of Texas as an independent country, had warned that annexation would be viewed as an act of war. The United Kingdom and France, which both recognized the independence of the Republic 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, Tyler's successor as 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 California.[8] The Mexican government dismissed Slidell, refusing to even meet with him[9]. Earlier that year Mexico had broken off diplomatic relations with the U.S., based partly on an interpretation of the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 (which independent Mexico had inherited) in which the U.S. had relinquished all claims to Mexican territory, ad infinitum.[10]

Polk, an expansionist, took insult[9] and did little to prevent war with Mexico.[11][12] After the Thornton Affair, a skirmish between Mexican and American troops which took place on disputed territory near the Rio Grande (see the Treaties of Velasco), Pres. Polk signed a declaration of war into effect on 13 May 1846, 49 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, gave the U.S. free hand to make war on Mexico.

Map of Mexico. S. Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia, 1847. Alta California shown including Nevada, Utah, Arizona.

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 California 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[13], but Pres. 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 California and transit rights across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.[9]

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.[14] Nicholas Trist, chief clerk of the State Department under Pres. Polk, finally negotiated a treaty with the Mexican delegation after ignoring his recall by Pres. Polk in frustration with failure to secure a treaty.[15] 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.[15]

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

A section of the original treaty.

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

Changes to the treaty and ratification

The version of the treaty ratified by the United States Senate eliminated Article X[16], which stated that the U.S. government would honor and guarantee all land grants awarded in lands ceded to the U.S. 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 Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon, all of Coahuila and a large part of Chihuahua 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 Sevier were opposed and the amendment was defeated 44-11.[17]

An amendment by Whig Sen. 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 U.S. 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.[18] 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.[19]

The protocol further noted that said explanations had been accepted by the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Mexican Government,[19] and was signed in Santiago de Queretaro by A. H. Sevier, Nathan Clifford and Luis de la Rosa.

The U.S. 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.[20]

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.[21]


The Mexican Cession (red) and the Gadsden Purchase (orange). Part of the area marked as Gadsden Purchase near modern-day Mesilla, New Mexico, was disputed after the Treaty.

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 Texas and Mexico.[22] The land boundaries were established by a survey team of appointed Mexican and American representatives,[15] 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.[15] Most of these markers were simply piles of stones.[15] Two later conventions, in 1882 and 1889, further clarified the boundaries, as some of the markers had been moved or destroyed.[15]

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 States received San Diego 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" [23], despite the actual mixed ancestry of most Mexicans.[24] 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 U.S. 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 U.S.'s desire to expand its territory continued unabated and Mexico's economic problems persisted,[25] 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. 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.

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 Mexico persist to this day.[26]

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


  1. ^ "War's End: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo". Richard Griswold del Castillo. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  2. ^ The U.S.-Mexico Border: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, John C. Davenport, P.43, ISBN 0-7910-7833-7
  3. ^ "Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo". Retrieved 27 June 2007. 
  4. ^ U.S. Congress. Recommendation of the Public Land Commission for Legislation as to Private Land Claims, 46th Congress, 2nd Session, 1880, House Executive Document 46, pp. 1116-17.
  5. ^ Mexicanos: A history of Mexicans in the United States. Manuel G. Gonzales, Indinana University Press P.86-87 ISBN 0-253-33520-5
  6. ^ The U.S.-Mexico Border: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, John C. Davenport, P.48, ISBN 0-7910-7833-7
  7. ^ RICHARD L. NOSTRAND (1975) MEXICAN AMERICANS CIRCA 1850* Annals of the Association of American Geographers 65 (3) , 378–390 doi:10.1111/j.1467-8306.1975.tb01046.x
  8. ^ Mills, B. 2003. U.S.-Mexican War. Facts On File, p. 23. ISBN 0816049327
  9. ^ a b c "James K. Polk's Third Annual Message, 7 December 1847". Retrieved 27 June 2007. 
  10. ^ Adams-Onis Treaty, Article III. From: Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  11. ^ Grant, U.S. 1885. "We were sent to provoke a fight, but it was essential that Mexico should commence it." Personal memoirs of U.S. Grant, Volume I. Chapter IV. C.L. Webster & Co., p. 68 (no copyright in the United States). No ISBN.
  12. ^ Smith, J.H. 1919. The War with Mexico. The Macmillan Company, p. 446, 476 (no copyright in the United States). No ISBN.
  13. ^ "Mexican Argument for Annexation." The Living Age, Volume 10, Issue 123. 19 September 1846.
  14. ^ Rives, Vol. 2, p. 622
  15. ^ a b c d e f Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. National Archives. Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  16. ^ "The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo." Library of Congress, Hispanic Reading Room. Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  17. ^ George Lockhart Rives. The United States and Mexico, 1821-1848. pp. 634-636. 
  18. ^ Rives, p. 649
  19. ^ a b Treaty of Hidalgo, Protocol of Querétaro. From: Retrieved 6 November 2007.
  20. ^ David Hunter Miller, Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, vol. 5 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1937)
  21. ^ Mills, B. p. 122.
  22. ^ Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Article V. From: Retrieved 7 November 2007.
  23. ^ Gibson, C.J. and E. Lennon. 1999. "Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-1990." U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Retrieved November 6, 2007.
  24. ^ "Landmark Study Reveals Significant Genetic Variation Between Mexico's Population And World's Other Known Genetic Subgroups", Science Daily (May 12, 2009)
  25. ^ The U.S.-Mexico Border: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, John C. Davenport, P.60, ISBN 0-7910-7833-7
  26. ^ "Treaty of Guadalpe Hidalgo: Findings and Possible Options Regarding Longstanding Community Land Grant Claims in New Mexico" (PDF). General Accounting Office. Retrieved 5 June 2008. 


  • Griswold del Castillo, Richard (1990), The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0806122404 .
  • Ohrt, Wallace (1997), Defiant Peacemaker: Nicholas Trist in the Mexican War, College Station: Texas A&M University Press, ISBN 0890967784 .
  • Reeves, Jesse S. (1905), "The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo", American Historical Review 10 (2): 309–324, .

External links

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