United States citizens vs. Mexico, 1821-1848

Peter Mark Jonas, Marquette University


When the United States established diplomatic relations with Mexico in 1825, various incidents had already given rise to claims of United States citizens against its southern neighbor. A number of claims dated back to 1817 and during the next three decades the disputes continued to increase and create a multiplicity of problems. The claims involved hundreds of individuals, millions of dollars in damages, and became intricately entangled in a variety of foreign affairs between the two countries. Turning to arbitration, the United States and Mexico signed a Convention on April 11, 1839. It provided that all claims based on injuries to persons and property of citizens from the United States suffered prior to the Convention should be referred to a board of four commissioners, two from each country, and adjusted with the aid of an impartial umpire. The board meet in Washington from August 25, 1840 to February 25, 1842. During this time, 109 claims were presented and a total of $2,026,139.68 was awarded to the claimants. However, a large number of cases were left undecided by the board and over the following years new claims continued to multiply. The Mexican government failed to pay the full amount of the awards and the disputes became a source of aggravation between Mexico and the United States which was finally resolved by the Mexican War. This is the story of the claims controversy as seen through the trials and tribulations of the individuals involved, as they suffered through long delays, procrastination on the part of Mexico, and became frustrated with the political motives influencing the two governments. The claims evolved into a complex controversy that became irrevocably intertwined with the Texas boundary question. President Polk and other government officials ostentatiously cited the claims as a major cause of the war, but most of the rhetoric can be attributed to political maneuvering and diplomatic posturing. Through many attempts at arbitration, negotiations, and various agreements, the claims were eventually incorporated into the treaty of Guadalupe Hildago and settled by a new commission from 1849-1851.

Recommended Citation

Jonas, Peter Mark, "United States citizens vs. Mexico, 1821-1848" (1989). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9014052.