Convention of London (1861)

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Convention of London
TypeMilitary alliance
Drafted23 September 1861 – 11 October 1861[1]:27
Signed31 October 1861 (1861-10-31)
LocationLondon, United Kingdom
Effective31 October 1861
Conditionforces meet at Vera-Cruz[1]:33
Expiration18 April 1862 (1862-04-18)[2]:89
SignatoriesFrancisco Javier de Istúriz y Montero
Earl John Russell
comte Charles Joseph[2]:69
PartiesFrance Second French Empire
Spain Kingdom of Spain
United Kingdom United Kingdom
RatifiersIsabella II of Spain
Napoleon III
Queen Victoria (37th Congress)
DepositaryLondon, United Kingdom
Document No. 100. pp. 134–137, Vol. VIII. House Executive Documents, 2nd session, 37th Congress.[3]:315
LanguagesFrench, English[3]:315

The Convention of London was a treaty, signed by France, Spain, and the United Kingdom, on 31 October 1861. The purpose of the treaty was to agree on a course of action towards obtaining loan repayments from Mexico.[4]:552 Though this violated the main tenet of the Monroe Doctrine (European non-intervention in the Western Hemisphere), the United States could not offer much opposition as it was engulfed in its own civil war.

It led the three countries to put pressure on Mexico through blockades. After France's invasion, Spain and the United Kingdom, realising France's intention to colonise Mexico, pulled troops from the region. The resulting struggle is known as the French intervention in Mexico by the army of the Second French Empire, also known as the Maximilian Affair and The Franco-Mexican War.[4]:553


The Convention of London was preceded by a quadrilateral convention in 1860, by which France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Prussia threatened intervention in Mexico unless the incapacity of its government was changed. The parties to the convention also invited the United States to seek a solution to the financial and social chaos in Mexico. The stalemate between the Mexican political parties, both of whose actions depended on the support of the said European nations and the United States, resulted in a six-year civil war and rendered the country bankrupt.[5] Earlier in May the English navy had disembarked a 400-men strong contingent at San Blas to secure the Mexican Pacific coast custom houses.[6] The ongoing civil war from 1858 resulted in both Mexican political parties becoming indebted. Aside from the country's previous loan contracts the opposing sides ran out of funds and tried to cover their expenses in any way possible. Miguel Miramón of the conservatives chose to apply for a disadvantageous loan lent by creditor firm Jecker and Company. It was composed of 15,000,000 pesos in internal bonds, 619,000 pesos in cash and 368,000 in military clothing. These loans formed the basis of the long-term French claims, which led to the French Intervention in Mexico. In 1860 Miramón took a step further and seized a British deposit of 660,000 pesos reserved for the British bondholders by the Liberal cabinet of Benito Juárez. The same year Juárez also crossed the line by illegally seizing 1,100,000 pesos at Laguna Seca that constituted the property of mainly western European merchants. He immediately returned one third of the plunder and promised to pay 12% interest on the rest after the liberals' victory in the civil war.[7]:20–23 After their victory Juárez expelled the Spanish minister for allegedly supporting the Miramón faction and his navy seized the Spanish steam frigate La Concepción.[1]:27 On 11 June 1861 Mexico passed the recompensation deadline of the Lacuna Seca incident and was still not ready to repay the withheld money. Next month the Mexican Government suspended to transfer payments for two years.[7]:24

European claims[edit]

Don Pacheco Expelled Spanish Minister to Mexico, one of the provisos of the Spanish claims

The British financial claims dated back to the end of 1851 when, at the Doyle Convention, Mexico agreed to pay 5,000,000 pesos on a 3% yearly interest rate and a 5% redeem rate. At the time of the London Convention, these rates rose to 4 and 6 percent respectively, and the amount of debt had been reduced to 1,800,000 pesos. That same year, the Spanish and Mexican Government settled an old claim of 983,000 pesos (the Juarez party still hadn't recognized the 2 million dollars owed by the Santa Anna government[8]) and additionally provided a new fund of 6,600,000 pesos, which was ratified two years later. The interest rate of the first bonds was set at 3% while the latter was issued at 5%. Mexico also had similar negotiations with France in 1851 and 1853. Those claims totaled 1,759,000 pesos.[7]:14–18 The French also addressed unfulfillable individual claims on the behalf of French nationals living in Mexico. Such French nationals included a tailor in Mexico City, who had been stabbed in front of his house; a bootmaker who had been robbed and seriously wounded; the relatives' of a Frenchman who was assassinated at Puebla allegedly by the Mexican police; a hotel-keeper who had been robbed twice at Palmar; a farmer who was killed in Durango; a coach-driver who was kidnapped and held for ransom several times; a colporteur who was murdered at Cuernavaca and numerous other instances of robbery, torture or ill-treatment of French subjects in Mexico.[1]:731 Similar claims were added to the Spanish claims as well, including the killing of five Spanish nationals at Cuernavaca and the reconciliation of the Spanish Minister to Mexico and the recovery of the lost ship Concepción.[8] Altogether with the Jecker debt, France sought a consolidated 10,000,000 pesos.[2]:71 The justness of the Jecker loan became questionable when United States intelligence intercepted an 1862 letter between the Jecker family and Charles de Morny, Duke of Morny, which clearly revealed the ambiguous motivation of the French financial aid and the personal interests of the duke and emperor Napoleon III behind it.[2] :48–49The same concerns were brought up in the case of Mexico where Juan de Borbón seemed to be a possible pretender to the Mexican throne.[8]

Stance of the United States[edit]

The United States regarded the claims as unjustifiable or even outrageous, except for those of the British;[2]:70 however the American government offered to cover the arrearages of the debt. This offer was rejected by the allied powers.[9]:22–23 The USA remained neutral, but reserved its right to mobilize and intrude upon Mexican soil on behalf of the safety of its citizens and commercial sphere of interest, if necessary.[9]:24 A naval blockade was set up in the Gulf of Mexico to secure the trade routes and key ports.[9]:24 This led to an incidental near-collision between an American vessel and the British steamboat Valorous. On another occasion, a small skirmish between steamers San Jacinto of the United States and Trent of Britain caused confusion.[9]:33 These incidents could have easily escalated into a military conflict between the two nations[2] :73[9]:10 and thus Britain decided to reduce its naval presence in the expedition.[9]:33

The treaty[edit]

The treaty consisted of a preamble and five articles[9]:23 and had the following key points:

  • The assembling of invading armies and the launch of a joint expedition to take over the important ports of Mexico.[10] The ports were the main target of the intervention as 100% of the customs income on the Pacific coast and 85% of the Gulf of Mexico were spent redeeming international conventions.[9]:9 Permission to act freely to achieve the common goal and to protect European nationals was granted to the commanders of the operation[10]
  • None of the participating nations could gain territorial, political or financial advantage nor could attempt to get involved in internal affairs, coup d'état or violation of the rights of Mexican people during the course of the intervention[9]:21–22[10]
  • A Commission of three was empowered to enforce the claims and oversee the distribution of reparations[10]
  • A formal invitation was forwarded to the United States to join the cause, provided that not in any case would it mean the delay of operations[9]:21–22[10]

Allied arrangements before taking Veracruz[edit]

Contemporary view of Veracruz, the meeting point of the Allied forces

The following arrangements were agreed upon before the Allied landing to Mexico. (Note that these terms were not part of the treaty.)

  • As a preliminary precaution for defending the French in the city, the consul of France and the senior French commander should be informed in advance of any assault, so precautionary steps could be taken.
  • The occupying forces should be half Spanish and half French.
  • As a main objective of the intervention, the Mexican public treasuries, the custom houses, and administrative revenues should be overseen by an allied tripartite commission, and be sealed and reserved until the arrival of the Commanders-in-Chief.
  • All forts, fortification or public buildings should be left untouched, their destruction should be only in last resort, to serve the purpose of self-defense
  • The Spanish naval blockade of Veracruz should not in any case affect the French maritime commerce
  • After taking the city, the Spanish high command should consult Napoleon III before advancing into inner Mexico or engaging in peace talks.
  • All French possessions in Mexico must remain intact.
  • Commodore Dunlop, commander of the British navy, was given equal rights with his French counterpart, but could refrain from the battle in the event of lack of approval of his government.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Gustave Niox (1874). Expédition du Mexique, 1861–1867; récit politique & militaire [Mexican Expedition, 1861–1867, military & political narrative] (in French). Paris, France: J. Dumaine. ASIN B004IL4IB4. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Percy Falcke Martin (1914). Maximilian in Mexico. The story of the French intervention (1861–1867). New York, United States: C. Scribner's sons. ISBN 9781445576466. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  3. ^ a b Clyde Augustus Duniway (1903). "Reasons for the withdrawal of the French from Mexico". Annual report of the American Historical Association (1890). I.. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  4. ^ a b David Marley (1998). Wars of the Americas: A Chronology of Armed Conflict in the New World, 1492 to the Present. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780874368376. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  5. ^ "Foreign Intervention in Mexico". The New York Times. 27 August 1860. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  6. ^ "Very late from Mexico.; Highly important intelligence. The Failure of Jecker and Company Statement of their Affairs Political and Military News Miscellaneous". The New York Times. 11 June 1860. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  7. ^ a b c William H. Wynne (1951). State Insolvency and Foreign Bondholders: Selected Case Histories of Governmental Foreign Bond Defaults and Debt Readjustments. Volume II. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. ISBN 9781587980466. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  8. ^ a b c "The European Expedition Against Mexico; The Position and Motives of Spain". The New York Times. 1 December 1861. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hubert Howe Bancroft; William Nemos; Thomas Savage; Joseph Joshua Peatfield (1888). History of Mexico Vol VI. (1861–1887). San Francisco: The History Company. ISBN 9781147416466. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  10. ^ a b c d e "The history of foreign intervention in Mexico I" (PDF). The New York Times. 9 July 1867. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  11. ^ "Late Atlantic news". Sacramento Daily Union. 22 (3420). 15 March 1862. Retrieved 26 June 2012 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.
  12. ^ "The Allied Intervention in Mexico". The Daily Alta California. 14 (1862). 13 March 1862. Retrieved 26 June 2012 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.

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