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The Abraham Lincoln – Matias Romero Re-Enactment 

February 11, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

Tuesday, Feb. 11 is the day before Abraham Lincoln’s 205th Birthday, On this day Governors Avila and Quinn will attend a special theatrical production at the Presidential Museum, “Lincoln and Romero,” a re-creation of the day in January 1861 when Mexican President Juarez’s envoy met with President-elect Lincoln to discuss improved relations between their two countries.

Following the production, ALPLM Lincoln Historian Dr. James Cornelius and both Governors will say a few words and answer questions.

Abraham Lincoln and Matias Romero

Matias Romero met as an emissary of Mexican President Benito Juarez on Jan. 19, 1861 with President-elect Abraham Lincoln at the latter’s home in Springfield, Illinois. Romero delivered congratulations to Lincoln from Juarez and opened a dialog about peace, understanding and cooperation that could be mutually beneficial for both nations.

As a Congressman from Illinois in the 1840s, Lincoln questioned the manner in which President James Polk drew the nation into the Mexican-American War. This unpopular stance instilled hope among Mexican officials that the new U.S. President would be sympathetic to its southern neighbor. In addition, Lincoln and Juarez had much in common - they were both North American statesmen, both had risen up from poverty, and each was renowned for a keen intellect. Mexico had also just emerged from its own civil war and was soon to face another military conflict, while America was poised to begin its own divisive Civil War.

Romero gave Lincoln an update on Mexico’s situation, stressed the similarities between their two governments, and expressed Juarez’s desire “to maintain the most intimate and friendly relations with the United States…and to concede every form of facilities towards developing the commercial and other interests of both republics.” This was a an unusual offer given the recent history between the two nations - just 13 years prior Mexico had lost half its territory in a war with the United States, and many American leaders had since been proposing that even more Mexican territory be annexed. Romero told Lincoln that Mexico was “willing to grant the United States every commercial facility that will not be derogatory to our independence and sovereignty. This will give the United States all possible advantages of annexation without any of its inconveniences.”

Lincoln told Romero he would treat Mexico “with sentiments of the highest consideration and of true sympathy.” He fulfilled that promise by appointing anti-Mexican War advocate Tom Corwin as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. Later, Lincoln also approved the terms for a loan to Mexico that Corwin sent back to Washington.

Two days after their meeting, Lincoln wrote to Romero:

To Matias Romero

Mr. Matias Romero. Springfield, Ills.

My dear Sir: Jan. 21. 1861

Allow me to thank you for your polite call, as Charge d'Affaires of Mexico. While, as yet I can do no official act on behalf of the United States, as one of it's citizens, I tender the expression of my sincere wishes for the happiness, prosperity, and liberty of yourself, your government, and its people. Your Obt. Servt