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never be compromised. Two Americans of the southern States, travelling under the English flag, had well nigh set Europe on fire, and shall not we, after thirty years of insults and wrongs, insist on reparation ? The government will not suffer the French flag to be insulted with impunity, either in the Old World or in the New. [Loud approbation.] England thought, as we did, that forcible means were necessary. She had suffered the same wrongs, and latterly a sum of money bad been taken from the English legation at Mexico. The man who stole it was tried and acquitted, on the ground that he had not stolen, but merely taken possession of the money. (General laughter.] Spain also had similar wrongs to avenge, and was also determined to obtain redress. Lastly, to cite an authority which will no doubt have more weight with the honorable member who spoke last than any monarchical government, the government of the United States declared that the wrongs it had received from Mexico would justify the occupation of the towns on the coast, and added that such a measure would be favorably received by the population. Thus, the republic of the United States certifies to the fact that the Mexicans must be disposed to receive the protection of a foreign flag. As all conciliatory means have been tried in vain, it was indispensable to obtain a remedy by other measures. But how was it to be done with a country in such a state of anarchy? The occupation of the custom-houses of Vera Cruz and Tampico seemed the simplest course, but that had proved useless, for the Mexicans would not allow imports to go into the interior without paying duty again, and when foreigners complained the only reply was, an increase of duty. [A laugh.) To occupy Vera Cruz and Tampico, and to seize on the customs, was, on the one hand, to seize on nothingness, and on the other to expose the occupants to the disastrous effects of the yellow fever. That plan was, therefore, impossible. There was a precedent for a more energetic course of action. In 1846, under similar circumstances, the United States forces marched on Mexico. There was then in that unfortunate country an appearance of governmental organization, which has since disappeared. After a stay of twelve months the claims were satisfied, and the American army was able to leave. We might think that by similar means the same results might be attained, and that the example of the United States might be followed. But at Mexico we should have found ourselves in presence of a government unable to keep its promises, even if it had the will to do 80—of a country plunged in anarchy, and of fifty men who were disputing for power. A long delay might also have been given to Mexico to satisfy the claims made on her, on condition that the people would give themselves a serious government which would respect citizens and laws. It could never enter into the minds of the three powers to impose a government on the people by force. The policy adopted by France is said to have given umbrage to Spain and England. If that were true, it would not be the fault of the French government; but, thank God, that is not the case. Those powers, however they may differ in opinion, never felt more friendly towards France. I have official proofs of that fact. (The minister then read two despatches addressed by the French minister at Madrid to the French minister of foreign affairs, and then continued.) There are two combinations in presence, that of England and of Spain. England would go to Mexico solely to exact the reparations due to her, would remain on the coast, and not interfere with the form of government. Spain, on the contrary, said that nothing would be effected if a government capable of fulfilling its engagements were not established. France proposed a middle course. It would not be sufficient to remain on the coast as England wished, neither was the plan of Spain to impose a form of government considered advisable. If a return to a monarchy in Mexico were possible, and the country expressed its wishes to that effect, France would support them with
disinterestedness, but with regard to any particular form of government she had come to no decision. Negotiations were entered into on the subject with the two powers, and the convention of the 31st October was signed. It was admitted that an expedition into the interior might be made for the very purpose of not discouraging the oppressed populations. It was desirable that a firm and liberal government should be founded in Mexico, and in that hypothesis it was neeessary to seek what the form of it should be. Certain Mexicans were in favor of a monarchy, and the idea was that a foreign prince would be best suited. France only said one thing: “I declare that I have neither for my country nor for the imperial family any ambition; I wish for no conquest; I'will have the reparation which is my due, and I ask the other governments whether they entertain the same opinion.” A prince occupying a disinterested situation, who was friendly to France, and who was entitled to general esteem, was mentioned, but only in conversation, and as an indication, and it was so taken by the two other powers. The instructions given by the English government state, that if the Mexican people, by a spontaneous movement, placed an archduke on the throne, there is nothing in the convention of London to oppose it; no pressure was to be exercised on the Mexicans, who were to consult their own interests. The object of the convention is the reparation of injuries suffered; the means is constraint by war. Declaration is made that it will not be limited to the coast, but, if necessary, carried into the interior; the desire of the powers is that there should be a counter-blow on the part of the nation itself. In the supposition that Mexico would manifest a wish to have a stronger and more regular form of government, declaration is made that no power will endeavor to derive any personal advantage. In case of a tendency towards a monarchy, indication is made that a sovereign which would not give umbrage to at least two of the powers might be named. The last indication was only subsidiary. Such is the clear and candid statement of the situation of affairs. There are some persons who find the hypothesis of the substitution of a monarchy for a republic to be shameful. The French government deeply respects the independence of nations and the principle of national sovereignty. The independence of nations is a principle which France has written on her flag, and with her sword on Europe. [Movement.] If we foresee any organization whatever which might take place in a coun try, it would not be to prepare obstacles to liberty, of which we know the resources and the future. [Hear, hear.] But there is a country which cannot be suspected of any ideas in favor of monarchy—a country which has a great respect for the sovereignty of the people. I allude to the United States. What is the desire of that country? A despatch of its President, of the 12th January, says: “Mexico ought to be a prosperous republic. Is it possible that such a nation should be abandoned to anarchy and ruin without our making some effort to save her? Shall the United States allow that country to destroy itself? A government like that of Mexico which cannot repress such attacks deserts all its duties. It is to Mexico that it is Decessary to go and penetrate into the interior of the country to seek for the guilty parties." It is necessary to go to Mexico to seek reparation for the past and guarantees for the future. Mexico is a nation adrift. As a good neighbor the United States government must hold out its hand to pilot her. [Noise.] If it does not do so, there is reason to believe that others will do it. [Renewed agitation.) Gentlemen, I dwell perhaps too much on these facts, [No, no;] but I wish to demonstrate that for all governments there was but one method of obtaining a redress of grievances, that of striking a blow at the heart of the Mexican government by an occupation of Mexico; and but one hope, that of seeing the people rise and manifest its intentions. We have, then, here the first point in the debate clearly established. There is nothing here in common with the rash hypotheses invented
by men of imperfect information, who think a great government capable of compromising the treasure and blood of France in pure gaiety of heart. Such ideas will not find favor in this assembly. [Great applause.) Gentlemen, the use of force was decided on, and the three powers sent a com-. bined expedition; Spain sending about 7,000 men, France 2,500, and England a fleet and some marines to be employed for the time ashore. The retreat of the English has been likened to that of the Spaniards. But I cannot admit the resemblance; I do not explain facts, but only point out a difference. Spain, convinced that it was necessary to penetrate to the interior, sent an army. England felt more hesitation, and left the affair in our hands, not wishing to meddle with it. [Noise.] Some English troops had been momentarily disembarked; they were re-embarked long before the disagreements that subsequently occurred. We must do justice to all. I do not blame or condemn any foreign power, but merely state facts; Europe will judge them. The expedition started. Its object was not to resume fruitless negotiations, but to overthrow the phantom of a government, to erect the standard of justice, and to give the country an opportunity of fixing, if it so wished, its own destinies. Instead of that, what took place? The three, or rather four or five, plenipotentiaries met with ideas essentially different. The French agents had clear and formal instructions; England hesitated, not wishing to meddle with the interior of Mexico. The Spanish plenipotentiary, gentlemen, appears still to have very special ideas about Mexico. He believed in the power of Juarez; he put trust in his ministers, and had relations with them; he had not the feeling that dictated the treaty respecting Spanish and French grievances. [Movement] The result of all this was a mitigation of tone. The expedition had arrived to impose its will; it made a pause, and sent to Juarez a sort of ultimatum, which appeared to charge the very government that it was expected to fall with the task of reforming itself. When, in my former reply to M. Jules Favre, I said that we were en route, and perhaps even then in Mexico, I was in error; negotiations were then going on with Juarez, and there were hopes of an arrangement Those hopes were never entertained by France. We knew that the word, the signature of men who had employed their ephemeral existence in deceiving foreign nations and oppressing their own, was value less. [True, true.] France, however, had not the preponderance due to the greatest number of soldiers; Spain had the strongest force; England kept nearly aloof, but had her policy. Under those circumstances, the French plenipotentiaries submitted to—or, more correctly, he should say agreed to-the experiment. It was, indeed, useless; but it was also dangerous. Juarez found that time was precious, and resolved not to lose it. On December 18 he promulgated a decree closing the port of Vera Cruz, and declaring as traitors all who had favored the cause of the invaders. Pardon was granted to all Mexicans, (except those whom the government thought unworthy of it,)-[laughter)—and the government reserved to itselfthe right of judging individual cases. What Juarez feared was, not being obliged to give a promise to pay, but lest his compatriots should return and put themselves at the head of a movement. Gentlemen, when all this was known in France, the French government did not hesitate to blame a proceeding that could only lead to further deception. It knew well that Juarez was counting on the rainy season and the yellow fever as his allies. The expeditionary corps arrived in January, and there was to be no action before April; thus, much time would be lost, and the situation became extremely difficult. Immediately that the government became aware of the false route on which it had entered, it hastened to pronounce its opinion. Gentlemen, I state facts, not for yourselves only, but for the general public. A government like that of the Emperor must clear itself of the charge of compromising the name of France; with ten
years of glory behind us, we must not have a cloud before us. [Great applause.] M. Thouvenel wrote to his plenipotentiaries that since conciliation did not succeed, it became necessary to act with energy. Our minister at Madrid found the sentiments.of the Spanish government on this subject in exact conformity with our own. M. Calderon Collantes also declared that energetic measures were required, and that Spain, for her part, was quite decided on the point. [Noise; interruption.] An analogous conversation also took place in London between our ambassador and Earl Russell. Lord Russell admitted that a more rapid action would have been desirable; but I must repeat that the English cabinet never abandoned its reserve about the interior of Mexico. Its circumspection on that point has never been caught tripping. [Movement.] Energetic action was then resolved. But whilst this long correspondence with Europe and the internal negotiations were being carried on, Juarez was adopting, with a reckless tyranny, the most violent measures for stifling within the country any opinions hostile to his interests. With this view he issued a decree which was a monument of sanguinary tyranny-the penalty of death inscribed sixteen or seventeen times: Any foreigner found with arms to be sent to the galleys for ten years; any armed Mexican to be put to death! Such was the reply made by the Mexican government to the appeal made by the three powers to the populations. In presence of those facts the convention of Soledad was signed, a convention negotiated by General Prim alone, and afterwards accepted by the plenipotentiaries. But whilst the object of the expedition was to provoke the establishment in another government in Mexico, the first thing done by General Prim was to give a sort of moral recognition to the power of Juarez. He stipulates that negotiations should be negotiated in April; he asks permission for the allied troops to occupy healthy quarters; he promises to retrograde to the pestilential regions if the negotiations fail. Our sick are confided to the proved loyalty of the Mexican government, and the Mexican flag is to float on the forts of Vera Cruz by the side of those of France, England, and Spain. Such conditions were contrary to the policy of the French government; they were very deplorable.
A Voice. Humiliating.
M. Billault. The journals have said that the Emperor's government has demanded of Spain the recall of General Prim; but the Emperor's government is studious only of its own dignity, and leaves to other nations the care of their own. [Great applause. It has confined itself to disavowing the convention of Soledad as contrary to the honor of France. A Voice.
So it was. M. Billault. It was necessary to ascertain whether our allies shared this sentiment. M. Barrot wrote that the Spanish government also blamed the convention of Soledad; that the president of the council acknowledged the fault committed, and was ready, if any conservative party made an effort in Mexico, to support it with the moral authority of Spain. M. Barrot de clared that the Emperor's government would never allow French soldiers to leave Mexico humiliated. [Hear, hear.) The Duke de Tetuan said that Spain would do as much for her flag, and would shrink from no sacrifice. [Sensation.] Thus Spain seemed to coincide with us as to the convention of Soledad. New instructions were sent off to Mexico. The command of the troops was given to General de Lorencez, the diplomatic direction to M. de Saligny, who was told to make the reparation of French grievances the principal point, and to give moral aid to the establishment of a government offering some security, but not to impose it. We have no wish to impose any particular form of government; all we want is a real government of some kind.
In the meantime circumstances occurred which rendered the convention impossible. The French residents were worse treated than ever, and Juarez's sanguinary decree of 25th January was enforced. All Mexicans were threatened with death if they took part in the municipal government of Vera Cruz while the French occupied it. Could such a state of things be endured ? (The honorable minister here read letters from General Prim to Admiral Jurien, to the effect that negotiations were useless, and that energetic action was the only course.) These letters were dated 20th and 21st March, but on the 23d, the general again wrote to inform the admiral that he was prepared to take his departure. What was the cause of this sudden change? Why, the presence of General Almonte with the French troops. In his letters of the 20th and 21st General Prim was in favor of vigorous means; but did not the state of things call for some other measures ? And was not the French commissioner right in endeavoring to obtain from Juarez a serious amnesty, and in demanding that the Mexicans should have an opportunity of manifesting their sentiments freely? But the resistance of the Spanish commissioner was absolute on this last point. As to the presence of Almonte in the French camp, the French admiral informed General Prim that the Mexican emigrants had not left Vera Cruz under the protection of the French troops with his (the admiral's) consent, in his opinion they ought to have waited for the armistice. It thus appears that both policies were agreed on the necessity of putting down Juarez, but differed on the point of giving the Mexicans an opportunity of making known their wishes. Yet other populations have been consulted in the same way. (Hear, hear.] Were they not aided by the French flag, which, the Hon. M. Jules Favre will acknowledge, was not regarded by them as a foreign flag? Were they not by that flag delivered from tyrannical governments ? [Hear.] What you like beyond the mountains you do not approve of beyond the seas! (Loud approbation.) The allied commissioners held their last conference at Orizaba, on the 11th April. From the procès-verbal of that sitting, M. Jules Favre quoted only the words of the foreign commissioners opposed to the right of France, but not a word of the two plenipotentiaries who upheld the interests of our country. [Hear.) Surely, in a French assembly, discussing French interests, the opinions of our representatives ought to be held in more honor. (Hear, hear.] When the last conference met, the allied commissioners were no longer agreed. Sir Charles Wyke had always been disposed to treat with Juarez. England seemed then to have forgotten all the conventions violated for twenty-five years past; but I have not to discuss that point. One of our representatives at that conference was Admiral Jurien de la Gravière, and I may here be permitted to render well-merited homage to his straightforward and generous character. Admiral Jurien acquitted himself of the task with the utmost composure, but with a feeling of our numerical inferiority as compared with the Spaniards—they were 6,000, we only 1,200. Well, what said Admiral Jurien, in whose words I am sure you have the utmost confidence ? (Yes, yes.] He declared that nowhere had he ever seen such terror, more arbitrary spoliation, or more crushing oppression. And when he thus judged the situation he entirely set aside all projects relative to the Archduko Maximilian. "Monarchy is not the question," said he; "a moral and respected government is the thing wanted; the majority of the population wishes to see an end of anarchy, but dare not speak out, and awaits our arrival at Mexico." And he adds, “It is impossible to treat with a government which allows sanguinary executions, and issues edicts of death: our troops must go to Mexico." I now return to the letters of 20th, 21st, and 23d March. All must have been struck by seeing General Prim, who in the first two letters considered that the vexatious conduct of the Mexican government ought to decide the allies to act, announces in the third his intention of quitting Mexico with his troops. It has been said that the motives of such a determination was that a conference had taken place between him, Sir Charles Wyke, and two Mexican ministers, one of whom was M. Etcheverin, an uncle of the general. [Ah, ah!] No suspicions must,