Montezuma Affair

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: February 9, 2019

The Montezuma Affair, an incident in diplomatic relations between Britain and the Republic of Texas, occurred in the summer of 1842. The Mexican government had contracted with Lizardi and Company of Liverpool and London to build two ironclad warships to be named the Guadaloupe and the Montezuma; a former vessel named Montezuma, a steam frigate also built by Lizardi and Company for the Mexican navy, had been practically destroyed by the Texas ship Invincible in March 1836. Crews for the two new ships were to be recruited in England, and the vessels were to be delivered to Veracruz under command of English officers. In May 1842, William Kennedy, Republic of Texas consul general in London, and Ashbel Smith, minister to England, protested the building of the vessels for Mexican use against Texas and urged the English government to detain them. Lord Aberdeen of the British Foreign Office decided that arms might be placed on the vessels so long as they were not mounted in English ports, and the Guadaloupe sailed in June despite Texas protests. Aberdeen insisted that the English would maintain strict neutrality in the struggle between Texas and Mexico and that no English commissioned officer would be allowed to serve in the Mexican nation against Texas. In July 1842 James Hamilton, then in England, learned that English officers had secured permission of the Admiralty to command the Montezuma and that guns were being placed aboard the ship. He presented customs officials with an affidavit to the effect that the Montezuma was about to sail in violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act, which provided for confiscation of vessels equipped and armed to make war against a country at peace with England. The customs officials detained the ship, and Hamilton and Lizardi and Company both took the case to the Lords of the Treasury, who decided that the law had been violated technically but not intentionally and decreed that the Montezuma was to be released after its large guns were removed and its crew reduced to that of a merchant vessel. Smith protested to Aberdeen that Texas would, if the Montezuma were permitted to join the Guadaloupe, believe that Great Britain was trying to aid Mexico. Despite Hamilton's further efforts to have the ships detained in Cuba, both of them reached Mexico and took part in action against Yucatán, where the Texas Navy was then employed. Commodore Edwin Ward Moore of the Texas Navy attacked the ships off the coast of Yucatán in April 1843, damaging the Montezuma and almost disabling the Guadaloupe.

E. D. Adams, British Diplomatic Correspondence Concerning the Republic of Texas, 1836–1846 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1918?). Ephraim Douglass Adams, British Interests and Activities in Texas, 1836–1846 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1910). Alex Dienst, "The Navy of the Republic of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 12–13 (January-October 1909; rpt., Fort Collins, Colorado: Old Army Press, 1987). Madge Evalene Pierce, The Service of James Hamilton to the Republic of Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1933).

  • Peoples
  • English
  • Politics and Government

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anonymous, “Montezuma Affair,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 9, 2019