September 21, 2001

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

Hispanic Heritage Month recognizes the contributions and impact of the Hispanic community on the United States. Until the fateful day of September 11, 2001 the last time the continental U.S. had been attacked was during the Mexican-American War of 1845.

The act of war would not necessarily be consider a contribution to the development of the U.S. but the resulting signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848, in the Villa of Guadalupe Hidalgo, was perhaps the greatest single act between the U.S. and Mexico. Under the treaty, Mexico ceded to the United States upper California and New Mexico (including Arizona) and recognized U.S. claims over Texas, with the Rio Grande as its southern boundary. The United Staes in turn paid Mexico $15 million assumed the claims of American citizens against Mexico, recognized prior land grants in the Southwest and offered citizenship to any Mexicans residing in the area.

A map of the United States and Mexico (Mexican territory shaded in color) before the war.

Tensions and views that led to the Mexican War.

There were many tensions between the United States and Mexico that led to war, mainly on the issues of land and expansion. Mexico knew that they had to protect their territory from American settlers who where illegally taking up the land and violating Mexican laws. But after the annexation of Texas and with Mexico's presidential instability, Mexico was vulnerable.

When the United States annexed Texas in 1845, the boundaries of the new state were not specified and were left for future interpretation and discussion with Mexico.

United States President James K. Polk wanted territorial expansion to the west and he encouraged expansion. Both Mexico and the United States had different reasons to go to war but they both agreed on the treaty to stop the war.

President Polk saw the coming war with Mexico as an opportunity for expansion. Meanwhile in Mexico there was presidential instability, almost every president since Mexico's 1821 War of Independence up until the Mexican War, had been overthrown. In 1845 President Jose Joaquin Herrera rejected American overtures to negotiate the Texas dispute for fear he would provoke a rebellion by seeming too conciliatory. Polk used this rejection as a key incident to justify the declaration of war.

Since the boundaries of Texas were unclear, a skirmish took place between the American and Mexican Troops on the north bank of the Rio Grande in 1846. Polk claimed that the United States was being invaded.

Most of the conflicts and tensions were about the boundary of Texas which was unclear and both Mexico and the United States kept getting into each others way. Land Grant maps drawn by Stephen F. Austin in 1929, 1833, and 1836 show that the Nueces River and not the Rio Grande, was the boundary between Texas and Mexico. The idea of the Rio Grande as a boundary dates back to the Louisiana Purchase that supposedly defines Texas as extending to the Rio Grande. So each country had a different understanding of where the boundary was. Texas wanted the Rio Grande as the boundary and Mexico proposed to give up it's claim of territory between the Sabine and Nueces river.

Mexico was defending their rights to their lands and the United States was mainly thinking towards the expansion of their territory.

The creating and signing of The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

The treaty was created to stop the costly war and to gain more territory for the United States, but the treaty was the last stage of negotiations for peace.

During the first stage, the United States stood to gain a great deal and Mexico had little to gain by starting peace negotiations. On August 22, 1847 the U.S. Army was on the outskirts of Mexico City and a more formal and open stage of negotiations was established between General Scott and General Santa Anna, an armistice. There were many negotiations and no one agreed on any of the demands of each side. Pressure was added by General Scott a day after the armistice ended, as he marched into Mexico City and fought the bloodiest battle of the war at Molina del Rey.

On September 13 they captured Chapultepec and entered the city. Santa Anna fled with his army and resigned as President, the city surrendered on November 4. This just proved the instability of the presidency and the Mexican government and some of the pressures that persuaded Mexico into accepting the treaty.

The final stages of the compromise, were from the end of the armistice, on September 7, 1847, to February 2, 1848, when the final draft of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. After many financial and political pressures the commissioners met with Nicholas P. Trist in the Villa of Guadalupe Hidalgo and signed the treaty.

The treaty gave the United States more land and an opportunity of expansion. Mexico was guaranteed $15 million dollars and that their citizens, on the new American territory, to their land and citizenship. The treaty basically guaranteed the peaceful evacuation of American troops and the conflicts between both sides to be resolved within the stipulations in the treaty.

When the U.S. Senate received the treaty it did not accept articles 9 and made some changes to the article but the Senate completely took out article 10 and the article did not appear in the final treaty. The Protocol of Queretaro was not even mentioned in the final treaty (at the end of this article are the deleted article 10 and the Protocol of Queretaro). The treaty mainly benefited the United States of America because they ended up paying less money for more valuable lands which were abundant in natural resources which helped them accelerate their industrial growth into the twentieth century.

The Mexican War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo were pivotal in creating new boundaries and problems as well as setting in motion forces that influenced the histories of both countries.

Articles eight and nine of the treaty granted American citizenship and property rights to those Mexican citizens who do not elect to remain Mexican citizens. The articles affected about 100,000 Mexicans including Hispanicized and nomadic Indians.

The treaties provisions regarding citizenship and property were complicated by legislative and Judicial (Supreme Court) interpretations. Only a few people chose to remain Mexican citizens when compared to the many that became U.S. citizens. After the treaty had been ratified and put in effect, the state constitutional convention agreed that the Mexicans remaining were not American citizens but required some further action by Congress to make them United States citizens.

In the People vs. de la Guerra, the status of Mexican citizens is now defined. Basically the United States Supreme Court granted citizenship to Mexican National and thus ended the struggle of many Californianos who were trying to keep their citizenship and property.

Despite countless number of violations of the internationally recognized document, the treaty remains in force, according to historian Richard Gris-wold del Castillo. "The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo has remained a viable part of the U.S. system of laws, having been interpreted again and again by the federal and state courts... the treaty has not effectively protected the civil and property rights of Mexican Americans but it did serve to fuel the political movement of the 1960s and 1970s," wrote Griswold del Castillo in "The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict."

"In July of 1980, at the Sixth Annual Conference of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) meeting at Fort Belnap, Montana, a resolution was introduced by native delegates to support the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and Mexican American rights of self determination," writes Griswold. The International Indian Treaty Council is dedicated to working for rights of the native peoples throughout the western hemisphere and has been recognized by the United Nations since 1977.


The text of Article IX was modified by the U.S. Senate, and Article X was deleted in its entirety. The original text of Article X appears below. The Protocol of Queretaro, also included below, clarified what was meant by the U.S. Senate modifications of the original treaty.


All grants of land made by the Mexican Government or by the component authorities, in territories previously appertaining to Mexico, and remaining for the future within the limits of the United States, shall be respected as valid, to the same extent that the same grants would be valid, if the said territories had remained within the limits of Mexico. But the grantees of lands in Texas, put in possession thereof, who, by reason of the circumstances of the country since the beginning of the troubles between Texas and the Mexican Government, may have been prevented from fulfilling all the conditions of their grants, shall be under the obligation to fulfill said conditions within the periods limited in the same respectively; such periods to be now counted from the date of exchange of ratifications of this treaty: in default of which the said grants shall not be obligatory upon the State of Texas, in virtue of the stipulations contained in this Article.

The foregoing stipulation in regard to grantees of land in Texas, is extended to all grantees of land in the territories aforesaid, elsewhere than Texas, put in possession under such grants; and, in default of the fulfillment of the conditions of any such grant, within the new period, which, as is above stipulated, begins with the day of the exchange of ratifications of this treaty, the same shall be null and void.



In the city of Queretaro on the twenty sixth of the month of May eighteen hundred and forty-eight at a conference between Their Excellencies Nathan Clifford and Ambrose H. Sevier Commissioners of the United States of America, with full powers from their Government to make to the Mexican Republic suitable explanations in regard to the amendments which the Senate and Government of the said United States have made in the treaty of peace, friendship, limits and definitive settlement between the two Republics, signed in Guadalupe Hidalgo, on the second day of February of the present year, and His Excellency Don Luis de la Rosa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mexico, it was agreed, after adequate conversation respecting the changes alluded to, to record in the present protocol the following explanations which Their aforesaid Excellencies the Commissioners gave in the name of their Government and in fulfillment of the Commission conferred upon them near the Mexican Republic.


The American Government by suppressing the IXth article of the Treaty of Guadalupe and substituting the III article of the Treaty of Louisiana did not intend to diminish in any way what was agreed upon by the aforesaid article IXth in favor of the inhabitants of the territories ceded by Mexico. Its understanding that all of that agreement is contained in the IIId article of the Treaty of Louisiana. In consequence, all the privileges and guarantees, civil, political and religious, which would have been possessed by the inhabitants of the ceded territories, if the IXth article of the Treaty had been retained, will be enjoyed by them without any difference under the article which has been substituted.


The American Government, by suppressing the Xth article of the Treaty of Guadalupe did not in any way intend to annul the grants of lands made by Mexico in the ceded territories. These grants, notwithstanding the suppression of the article of the Treaty, preserve the legal value which they may possess; and the grantees may cause their legitimate titles to be acknowledged before the American tribunals.

Conformably to the law of the United States, legitimate titles to every description of property personal and real, existing in the ceded territories, are those which were legitimate titles under the American law in California and New Mexico up to the 13th of May 1846, and in Texas up to the 2d March 1836.


The Government of the United States by suppressing the concluding paragraph of article XIIth of the Treaty, did not intend to deprive the Mexican Republic of the free and unrestrained faculty of ceding, conveying or transferring at any time (as it may judge best) the sum of the twelfe [sic] millions of dollars which the same Government of the United States is to deliver in the places designated by the amended article.

And these explanations having been accepted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Mexican Republic, he declared in name of his Government that with the understanding conveyed by them, the same Government would proceed to ratify the Treaty of Guadalupe as modified by the Senate and Government of the United States. In testimony of which their Excellencies the aforesaid Commissioners and the Minister have signed and sealed in quintuplicate the present protocol.

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