« PreviousContinue »
struction was recommended. I now add that, with the hearty concurrence of Congress, I would yet be pleased to construct the road, both for the relief of those people and for its continuing military importance.
The diplomatic correspondence of the year 1863, which was transmitted to Congress with the President's Message, was voluminous and interesting. But it touched few points of general interest, relating mainly to matters of detail in the relations between the United States and foreign powers. One point of importance was gained in the course of our correspondence with Great Britain,—the issuing of an order by that Government forbidding the departure of formidable rams which were building in English ports unquestionably for the Rebel service. Our minister in London had been unwearied in collecting evidence of the purpose and destination of these vessels and in pressing upon the British Government the absolute necessity, if they wished to preserve peaceful relations with the United States, of not permitting their professedly neutral ports to be used as naval dépots and dock-yards for the service of the rebels. On the 5th of September, 1863, Mr. Adams had written to Lord Russell, acknowledging the receipt of a letter from him in which the deliberate
of the British Government to take no action in regard to these rams was announced. Mr. Adams had expressed his regret at such a decision, which he said he could regard as no otherwise than as practically opening to the insurgents free liberty in Great Britain to prepare for entering and destroying any of the Atlantic seaports of the United States. “ It would be superfluous in me," added Mr. Adams," to point out to your lordship that this is war. No matter what may be the theory adopted of neutrality in a struggle, when this process is carried on in the manner indicated, from a territory and with the aid of the subjects of a third party, that third party to all intents and purposes ceases to be neutral. Neither is it
show, that any Government which suffers it to be done, fails in enforcing the essential conditions of international amity towards the country against whom the hostility is directed. In my belief it is impossible that any nation, retaining a proper degree of self-respect, could tamely submit to a continuance of relations so utterly deficient in reciprocity. I have no idea that Great Britain would do so for a moment.” On the 8th of September Earl Russell wrote to Mr. Adams, to inform him that “instructions bad been issued which would prevent the departure of the two iron-clad vessels from Liverpool.” The Earl afterwards explained in Parliament, however, when charged with having taken this action under an implied menace of war conveyed in the letter of Mr. Adams, that it was taken in pursuance of a decision which had been made previous to the receipt of that letter and in ignorance of its existence.
On the 11th of July Mr. Seward forwarded a dispatch to Mr. Adams, elicited by the decision of the British Court in the case of the Alexandra, which had been seized on suspicion of having been fitted out in violation of the laws of Great Britain against the enlistment of troops to serve against nations with which that government was at peace.
The decision was a virtual repeal of the enlistment act as a penal measure of prevention, and actually left the agents of the Rebels at full liberty to prepare ships of war in English ports to cruise against the commerce of the United States. Mr. Seward conveyed to Mr. Adams the President's views on the extraordinary state of affairs which this decision revealed. Assuming that the British Government had acted throughout in perfect good faith and that the action of its judicial tribunals was not to be impeached, this dispatch stated that “if the rulings of the Chief Baron of the Exchequer in the case of the Alexandra should be affirmed by the Court of last resort, so as to regulate the action of Her Majesty's Government, the President would be left to understand that there is no law in Great
Britain which will be effective to preserve mutual relations of forbearance between the subjects of her Majesty and the Government and people of the United States in the only point where they are exposed to infraction. And the United States will be without any guarantee whatever against the indiscriminate and unlawful employment of capital, industry and skill by British subjects, in building, arming, equipping, and sending forth ships-of-war from British ports to make war against the United States.” The suggestion was made whether it would not be wise for Parliament to amend a law thus proved to be inadequate to the purpose for which it was intended. If the law must be left without amendment and be construed hy the Government in conformity with the rulings in this case then, said Mr. Seward, “ there will be left for the United States no alternative but to protect themselves and their commerce against armed cruisers proceeding from British ports as against the naval forces of a public enemy; and also to claim and insist upon indemnities for the injuries which all such expeditions have hitherto committed or shall hereafter commit against this Government and the citizens of the United States.” “Can it be an occasion for either surprise or complaint," asked Mr. Seward, “that if this condition of things is to remain and receive the deliberate sanction of the British Government, the navy of the United States will receive instructions to pursue these enemies into the ports which thus, in violation of the law of nations and the obligations of neutrality, become harbors for the pirates ?" Before the receipt of this dispatch, Mr. Adams had so clearly presented the same views, of the inevitable results of the policy the British Government seemed to be pursuing, to Lord Russell, as to render its transnission to him unnecessary,--Mr. Seward, on the 13th of August, informing Mr. Adams that he regarded his “ previous communications to Earl Russell on the subject as an execution of his instructions by way of anticipation."
Our relations with France continued to be friendly; but the proceedings of the French in Mexico gave rise to representations on both sides which may have permanent importance for the welfare of both countries. Rumors were circulated from time to time in France that the government of the United States bad protested, or was about to protest, against the introduction into Mexico of a monarchical form of
government, under a European prince, to be established and supported by French arms; and these reports derived a good deal of plausibility from the language of the American press, representing the undoubted sentiment of a very large portion of the American people. Various incidental conversations were had on this subject during the summer of 1863 between Mr. Dayton, our Minister in Paris, and the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, in which the latter uniformly assured Mr. Dayton that France had no thought of conquering Mexico or establishing there a dominant and permanent power. She desired simply to enforce the payment of just claims and to vindicate her honor. In a conversation reported by Mr. Dayton in a letter dated August 21, M. Drouyn de l'Huys “ took occasion again to say that France had no purpose in Mexico other than heretofore stated,—that she did not mean to appropriate permanently any part of that country, and that she should leave it as soon as her griefs were satisfied, and she could do so with honor.” “In the abandon of a conversation somewhat familiar,” adds Mr. Dayton, “I took occasion to say that in quitting Mexico she might leave a puppet behind her. He said no; the strings would be too long to work. He added that they had had enough of colonial experience in Algeria : that the strength of France was in her compact body and well-defined boundary. In that condition she had her resources always at command.”
In a dispatch dated September 14, Mr. Dayton reports a conversation in which the French Minister referred to the
“ almost universal report that our government only awaits the termination of our domestic troubles to drive the French out of Mexico.” He said that the French naturally conclude that, if they are to have trouble with us, it would be safest to take their own time; and he assured M. Drouyn de l'Huys that “relying on the constant assurances of France as to its
purposes in Mexico, and its determination to leave the people free as to their form of government, and not to hold or colonize any portion of their territories,” our government bad indicated no purpose to interfere in the quarrel, not concealing at the same time our earnest solicitude for the well-being of that country, and an especial sensitiveness as to any forcible interference in the form of its government.
On the 21st of September Mr. Seward instructed Mr. Dayton to call the attention of the French Minister to the apparent deviations of the French in Mexico from the tenor of the assurances uniformly given by the French government that they did not intend permanent occupation of that country, or any violence to the sovereignty of its people. And on the 26th of the same month Mr. Seward set forth at some length the position of our government upon this question, which is mainly embodied in the following extract:
The United States hold, in regard to Mexico, the same principles that they hold in regard to all other nations. They have neither a right nor a disposition to intervene by force in the internal affairs of Mexico, whether to establish and maintain a republic or even a domestic government there, or to overthrow an imperial or a foreign one, if Mexico chooses to establish or accept it. The United States have neither the right nor the disposition to intervene by force on either side in the lamentable war which is going on between France and Mexico. On the contrary, they practise in regard to Mexico, in every phase of
the non-intervention which they require all foreign powers to observe in regard to the United States. But notwithstanding this selfrestraint, this government knows full well that the inherent normal opinion of Mexico favors a government there republican in form and