Page images
PDF
EPUB

treaties. England and Spain had the same grievances to avenge, and their co-operation, while lightening our expenses, seemed likely to render success more easy and rapid. The treaty of 31st October, concluded between the three powers, clearly defined the object of the combined expedition. Art. 1 stipulated that sufficient forces should be sent to seize and occupy the ports and military positions on the coast. Art. 2 declared that the three powers should not seek any separate advantage, nor exercise any influence on the internal affairs of Mexico affecting the independence of the country, or its right to freely choose its own government. The instructions given to the French plenipotentiaries were in conformity with the spirit of this treaty. They represent the object of the expedition to be the occupation of the Mexican ports, explain the nature of the coercion to be used in case of resistance, and repeat the declaration that the powers will not interfere with the internal affairs of the country. They add, however, somewhat vaguely, that if the sound part of the population, weary of anarchy, should make efforts to constitute a government presenting guarantees of stability, such efforts should not be discouraged. I propose to examine whether our army has been received with sympathy by the sounder portion of the Mexicans, and is supported by men of character and influence. It is impossible to doubt what is meant by the expression "sound part of the population." It can only mean those who would welcome the invaders of their country, and I assert that such persons must be the most contemptible part of the population. What would have been thought of those who, under the convention, should have welcomed the stranger invading France? I do not wish to institute comparisons, but I am justified in pointing out the dangers to which the vague instructions given to our plenipotentiary exposed our flag. Well, the expedition was decided, and France was to send only 2,500 or 3,000 men. Well-founded alarm was soon manifested. It was said that the protection of French interests was merely a programme concealing other projects; that we were going to Mexico to overthrow the established government and erect a monarchy in its place, and the name of an adventurous, though Austrian, prince was mentioned as having accepted such a candidateship. It was in the midst of these doubts that our session began, and you cannot have forgotten the interpellations addressed to the government. You have heard the observations of M. Jubinal, who puts the question plainly: "If you go to Mexico," said he, "to avenge your wrongs, you have justice on your side ; but not so if you mean to impose upon a people a form of government which it does not wish for. If you abuse your power, you commit an act 80 much the more criminal that it concerns a weak nation that cannot resist-a nation which is perhaps a prey to regrettable divisions, but which has a right to prefer them to slavery." To these just and pointed remarks I shall add a vew others, to demonstrate that the expedition was both impolitic and unjust. It was impolitic, because the greatness of the effort and of the cost was not in proportion to the result aimed at, and because it might lead to serious diplomatic complications, and alter the equilibrium of our alliances. It was unjust, because Mexico, once informed of the claims of France, had offered to negotiate, and had presented substantial securities. By exacting more than the reparation of damages, an attack was made on the national sovereignty of a people. You remember, gentlemen, the reply of M. Billault to those interpellations. He said that we only went to Mexico to protect our citizens, menaced by an anarchical government; that we desired only a reparation of wrongs; and that we could not be eternally the dupes of a government that deceived us. He added that the expedition was made in common with Spain and England, and he asked us where, in the face of such open facts, we saw anything

of a direct convention for the advantage of some foreign power? Where were the proofs of such suppositions ? The proofs, gentlemen, will be supplied by the events brought about by the

policy of the government. I am well aware that M. Billault admitted that our presence on the Mexican coast might give rise to circumstances, wherein we could not remain inactive. He thought that the whole Mexican population would rally to our flag and proclaim us its liberators ; and in presence of that spectacle, could we refuse to give military protection to the founding of a new government? {Noise.] Such were the explanations given by the government, and the minister, availing himself of an oratorical expedient, added "Our troops are on their way—are perhaps now at Mexico: why discuss the matter ?" Whatever were the sentiments of the chamber respecting that language, it is certain that the expression of them was less open than usual. My own opinion has undergone no change, but I hardly expected to find it so speedily justified by events. Allow me to recapitulate what has occurred. The expedition left in November, 1861, and arrived in the month of December. Just then Vera Cruz fell into the hands of the Spaniards, who had been the first to arrive. The combined army had no ammunition wagons or horses, nor any war material. It was thought that everything of that sort might be found on the spot. There were many faults at the outset of the affair: First, the season was not well chosen. The terrible month of yellow fever, auxiliary to the Mexicans, was already looming in the horizon. It was necessary to use despatch, and that was still possible. But as political action should precede the military one, a proclamation was issued, addressed to the Mexican nation, and thus worded: "Mexicans, the arms of France are open to you! Leave those who oppress you under their yoke: that yoke we are come here to break.” Nobody responded to the call, and the proclamation found no echo. The Mexican minister of foreign affairs gave it to be understood that he would only reply to diplomatic reclamations. He added that the combined army might be menaced with yellow fever on the sea-coast, and that he would open the gates of Mexico to the allies on two conditions: 1st, that the claims made should leave the existing government intact; and, 2d, that if the treaty under discussion should not be signed, the troops should retrograde to the coast. All this took place in February, 1862. The plenipotentiaries made a note of their claims, and Count de Reus was authorized to submit them to the Mexican minister. An understanding was soon come to: Mexico agreed to negotiate, and offered for her debt the guarantee of the United States. Thus falls to the ground the objection of M. Billault respecting the perpetual deceit practiced in Europe by the Mexican nation. Under these circumstances the convention of Soledad was signed by the plenipotentiaries, stipulating for the opening of negotiations, and for the removal of the allied troops to quarters on high ground, out of the reach of the yellow fever; and such was to be the state of things up to the 15th of April, when the acceptance or refusal of the European powers would have arrived. On that first convention the agreement was brokenthe Madrid and London cabinets approving, but that of the Tuilleries disapproving, of the same. And here I must ask why was this? A government ought to give precise instructions to its agents; why, then, was our plenipotentiary disavowed ? However it may be, the convention not being ratified, formal promises were still made to execute it. Unfortunately—and this is painful to relate to a French chamber--the chief of the French expeditionary corps thought himself obliged not to keep his promise. He had promised to withdraw his troops to the coast side of the defile in case of the non-ratification of the treaty. He, however, remained on the other side. That officer has given his reason, which I am authorized in calling vague and evasive, by reason of the language of our plenipotentiary at the conferences of Orizaba. To the questions of Sir Charles Wyke, M. Dubois de Saligny replied that he had refused the ratification because he had no confidence; and when asked why he had signed the convention in the first instance, he said that

he had no account to render to any one as to his motives, but that, having once signed it, he should have thought himself personally bound to adhere to the treaty, had not the Mexican government endeavored to annul it by every means in its power. Such language is to be regretted; the plenipotentiary should have been more precise and less disdainful in a question where the signature of France was involved. It is, however, certain that our soldiers remained in Mexico in virtue of a non-ratified treaty, and that this non-ratification was the cause of the rupture, and of our own isolation. That is not all. France, after having eliminated Spain and England, has opened her routes to emigrants, to factious citizens, expelled both by armed force and by the national will. Here is a second episode which will give rise to a second and more flagrant rupture. This episode has been the object of a regular discussion among the three powers--a discussion drawn up in a procès-verbal, and published all over Europe. You are aware that when the report was spread about that the old partisans of the defunct government, and notably General Miramon, would join the expedition, the representative of England declared that he would have him arrested and tried for robbing the English legation. Miramon became alarmed, and beat a retreat to Havana: but we took on board our ships General Almonte and Father Miranda, partisans of a clerical and military government, which had been overthrown and replaced by the constitutional government of Juarez. Almonte could not touch Mexican ground without exposing himself to the rigor of the law, so he came in the midst of French troops. Did he come without being sent for? I cannot admit that it was so. Almonte appeared to know the powers with which he was invested, and he declared that he came to support the candidateship of Prince Maximilian. The min. utes of the conference say, “General Almonte has declared that he relied on the three powers to change the government into a monarchy, and to name an archduke; that he believed that project would be well received, and might be realized before two months." Almonte was thus the agent of the prince—the broker, as it were, of a monarchical candidate, presenting hiinself behind foreign bayonets. Was not his pretension calculated to excite much emotion? The representatives of England and Spain said that the convention of London was violated by his presence. Were they wrong? Certainly not. That convention set forth that the powers interdicted themselves from exercising any pressure on the Mexican government. A proscribed and a condemned man—an emigrant-united himself to France. That was evidently to tear up the convention of London. The fact must be also examined as regards the violation of the law of nations and of morality. War is always a cruel extremity; but it is permitted in order to repel force, to avenge an insult, and to assist an ally. If, however, it be undertaken to impose a government which the nation will not have, and to assist the ambitious views of a citizen who has been expelled from his country, it is then a crime. What is to be thought of the morality of a man who lets loose on his country the scourge of a foreign war? For my own part, I cannot restrain the feelings with which my heart is fraught. History has recorded more than one act of that kind, but all who have turned their arms against their country have been branded with the strongest reprobation. There is no principle more sacred than love of one's country and horror of foreign intervention. I do not know what future may be reserved for France. [Loud interruptions.] But I am sure that she will achieve her complete liberty. If she could be called on to support the yoke of a power which would destroy eminent citizens, she would bear it with indignation, and would endeavor to throw it off. But if a liberator presented himself, escorted by Austrian and Prussian troops, it is he whom I should regard as an enemy-[interruption) and I think I should fulfil my duty in shedding my blood to prevent that in. solent auxiliary from defiling the soil of my country. [Movement.] Juarez said, “If the French are with Almonte, I consider it as a declaration of war." It was then that a conference took place, and it was declared that the presence of Almonte was an absolute bar to the further co-operation of Spain and England, and his re-embarkation was demanded. Admiral Jurien de la Gravière refused, and, in consequence, a division between the allies took place. Another cause of discord exists on which I am desirous of obtaining some explanation from the government. Each power had reserved to itself the right of bringing forward its individual claims, and those of France appear to be insignificant; the amount reaching, perhaps, about four millions. At the conferences, the sum first mentioned was twelve millions, and afterwards seventy-five millions. That enormous sum was connected with a transaction known by the name of the Jecker loan, and which it was thought would be recognized by the

new government. Juarez was called on to pay that sum, and he refused. He consented to pay the seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars, as stated in former treaties, but not the other fifteen millions of dollars. The house of Jecker was a Swiss establishment, which afterwards became bankrupt, and that is the creditor which France takes under her patronage ! The affair of Jecker, which was a scandalous piece of usury, was laid before the French government as a legitimate debt. That affair ought to be cleared up, and the government should declare that it will only exact the payment of sums really due, and not those which are only disgraceful speculations. In my opinion, the only course compatible with the interests and honor of_the country is to treat with Mexico and then withdraw. [Murmurs.] France must either do that or make war. If France is not the partisan of Almonte, she has no enemies in Mexico. She has only debtors, unless the words which have been spoken in this chamber have been used only to deceive the public, (murmurs,] for it has been declared that French troops only went to Mexico to protect the interests of their fellow-countrymen. To make war, therefore, is to engage in an enterprise not only difficult, but unjust. What would be the object of such a war? Would it be to avenge a check ? We have met with none. The French soldiers have, in the midst of almost insurmountable natural obstacles, heroically supported the name and honor of France, and they might return to their country with the greatest glory. France is doubtless powerful enough to proceed on to Mexico, but is the object to be attained worth the sacrifice? After victory will come responsibility. The stable government that would be established would cause an expense of thirty millions to be inscribed on the Budget ; for it would be necessary to keep a force of three thousand to four thousand men in the capital, and perhaps twelve or fifteen thousand in the interior. Such are the sacrifices necessary if the government perseveres in a fatal resolution, and refuses to acknowledge that it has taken a false step. The French government had done so on other occasions ; for it stopped short at Villafranca before it had attained the end it had in view. [Murmurs.]

A Voice. We had victories behind us then.

M. J. Favre. I cannot accept any share of responsibility in this affair. I protest against the policy which should compel me to do so, and I demand a prompt solution to extricate France from this predicament. The result of the expedition will be found to have cooled our relations with two neighboring powers; to have excited the mistrust of the United States, and alarmed all the republics of South America. A wise policy consists in retrieving faults, and not aggravating them by obstinacy. Out of evil, however, good may sometimes come. France will, perhaps, be made sensible of the danger of allowing herself to be engaged in great questions of external policy without the consent of her representatives. Las not the

chief of the state himself, to whom all authority was given for the protection of order, felt the necessity of having the nation to share his responsibility ? Has he not given the representatives of the country pre-eminence in matters affecting the public fortune? Well, all this would be illusory, if it were possible, without consulting us, to engage France in compromising undertakings. I hope this lesson may not be renewed, and that this assembly may not be reduced to vain regrets and powerless wishes. (Applause and dissent.]

M. Billault. Gentlemen, in the patriotic vote which you gave some days ago, M. Jules Favre sees only a vote of necessity, not of confidence. He is mistaken in that view, and I trust the confidence of the chamber will be still greater when complete explanations shall have been given by the government. The government was most anxious to thoroughly explain to the chamber and the country an affair in which the misconception of some and the ill-will of others have strangely disturbed the public opinion of this country, if not of Europe. It is, therefore, its interest, as well as its duty, to make known its motives and intentions. I shall have to trespass for some time on the patience of the chamber, but I am aware that your attention never flags when the interests of France are concerned. [Marks of assent.] In the first place, we have to examine whether things have reached such a pass in Mexico that war is inevitable. It has been said that insufficient and even blamable motives have determined the government. For thirty years past Mexico has inflicted all kinds of injury and annoyance on Frenchmen settled in that country, where trade and industry are the victims of anarchy and the exactions of all succeeding governments, whether reactionist or liberal. I will not dwell upon the anarchy prevailing there, but limit my remarks to the wrongs France has suffered. How many conventions have been successively made since the capture of San Juan d'Ulloa, and all violated the moment the French flag withdrew? What is more, the funds proceeding from the customs, intended to serve as a security, were seized, or rather stolen, by the Mexican government. England, too, suffered in the same way. All was anarchy in Mexico. In six and twenty years there had been above sixty presidents. When the government of Juarez was formed, which claimed to be liberal and constitutional, some faint hope of justice was entertained. M. de Saligny was accordingly sent to Mexico, and a fourth convention was signed, with no better result than the others. For thirty years all treaties have been violated with impunity, and our country. men plundered and murdered. Under these circumstances, M. de Saligny, in accord with the English minister, had just sent in an energetic protest, when Juarez issued a decree annulling all treaties with foreign governments, and declaring that the produce of the customs assigned to them should be taken by the Mexican administration. The two ministers then made another protest, and M. de Saligny informed us that he had been compelled to cease all relations with the Mexican government. He added that it was impossible longer to tolerate such conduct, and also that the Mexican government attributed our longanimity to helplessness. In September, 1861, the minister of foreign affairs sanctioned the conduct of our representative, instructed him to send in an ultimatum, and withdraw it if it were not executed. This ultimatum demanded the repeal of the decree abolishing all treaties. The Mexican government made fair promises, but as usual did nothing. The English and French ministers, therefore, left Mexico. The question then arose whether England and France should abandon the interests of their subjects. Would any one within these walls have advised the government to submit to such treatment? No, for the dignity of France was engaged ; and there are positions in which honor and duty are paramount to all other considerations. [Loud approbation.] The respect due to our flag must

« PreviousContinue »