From Texas to Mexico:
An Affairiste at Work
NANCY NICHOLS BARKER'
"H OW FATAL THAT MAN WILL BE TO FRANCEI" WROTE THE SPANISH
general Juan Prim in 1862 of the French minister to Mex-
ico.' His prophecy could not have been more accurate. The diplomat
in question, Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, was at that time on the
verge of culminating a long quest for personal enrichment through
advocacy of French intervention in the New World. Owing in part
to his handiwork, French troops were then on the Mexican coast
preparing to march on the capital to establish the ill-fated empire of
Maximilian. The Emperor Napoleon III was about to embark on the
most tragic folly of his reign.
The career of Dubois de Saligny as a promoter of French imperial-
ism had begun innocuously enough many years earlier under the
reign of King Louis Philippe. In 1838 as a young man he had gone out
on a mission of investigation to Texas, when the French foreign
minister was considering establishing diplomatic relations with the
newly created Republic of Texas. The Government of the King had
no ulterior designs upon the infant state and wished merely to inform
itself on the viability of its government and the commercial advan-
tages it might afford to French trade. If the agent reported favorably,
France would probably extend diplomatic recognition.!
Since the mission of investigation involved travel to a then remote
and underdeveloped area, it promised to be lackluster and arduous,
with no perceptible reward for its performer. Dubois de Saligny had
*Mrs. Barker, professor of history at the University of Texas, Austin, is the author of
Distaff Diplomacy. She recently received the Gilbert Chinard Prize for her two-volume
translation and editing of the correspondence of the French legation in Texas and the
Summerfield G. Roberts Award for Volume I of the same work. The author wishes
to acknowledge the assistance of David Quinlan, of the Latin American Collection, Uni-
versity of Texas, Austin, in selecting the cartoons that accompany the article.
'Prim to a friend in Paris, quoted by Ralph Roeder, Juarez and his Mexico (New
York, 1947), 421.
9Memorandum on Texas, May 8, 1838; Memorandum for the Minister, September 5,
1838; and Dubois de Saligny to Mold, February 2o, 1839, No. 1, in Nancy Nichols Barker
(trans. and ed.), The French Legation in Texas (2 vols.; Austin, 1971-1972), I, 39-47,
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101202/. Accessed March 29, 2015.