« PreviousContinue »
In a few weeks Maximilian's forces were routed. The Emperor and two of the most prominent of his Mexican supporters were soon tried by court-martial, and on June 19, 1867, they were shot. Seward endeavored to obtain clemency for Maximilian, but the passions of the army seem to have prevented Juarez from commuting the sentence.1
Meantime, in March, 1866, Seward learned that Austria was about to permit four thousand volunteers to be enlisted for the army of Maximilian. John Lothrop Motley, United States Minister at Vienna, was thereupon requested to make known to Austria that such permission would be viewed with displeasure by the government of the United States. On April 6th, after having received fuller information, Seward instructed Motley that
"in the event of hostilities being carried on hereafter in Mexico by Austrian subjects, under the command or with the sanction of the government of Vienna, the United States will feel themselves at liberty to regard those hostilities as constituting a state of war by Austria against the Republic of Mexico; and in regard to such war... the United States could not engage to remain as silent or neutral spectators."3
On the 16th, and after it was understood that only about two thousand were to be sent, he notified Motley that "the despatch of any troops from Austria for Mexico" "while the subject remains under consideration" would be regarded "as a matter of serious concern" by this government. When, a few days later, Motley showed that he misapprehended Seward's position, or halted in view of the contrast between the dif ferent instructions, Seward informed him that that was
1 2 Dip. Cor., 1867, 411–20.
* 3 Dip. Cor., 1865, 833.
23 Dip. Cor., 1865, 831, 832.
4 3 Dip. Cor., 1365, 837.
a question not to be discussed, and that if the Austrian government should persist in its course, he would be expected to retire from Vienna.' On May 20, 1866, but two months after Seward first took up the problem of Austria's giving aid to intervention in Mexico, Motley was informed by the Austrian government that, "in consideration of all the... circumstances, the necessary measures have been taken to prevent the departure of the volunteers lately enlisted for Mexico." Here was summary diplomacy; and the circumstances fully warranted it.
One of the striking facts connected with the negotiations about intervention in Mexico is that the Monroe doctrine, though constantly appealed to at the time by the sensational newspapers and the politicians, seems not once to have been mentioned in any official despatch from the United States government. France violated the doctrine continuously for five years. But Seward knew that it was no part of international law; that it had no authority of its own, and no claim even to consideration except where it was used as a general term to express a protest against European interference that endangered substantial and vital interests of the United States. Foreign nations would yield to it only in proportion as it was rational and as they feared the military strength ready to support it. Seward was not as wise as we think if he did not see that all the reason of the Monroe doctrine would be equally strong and even more impressive if stated ad hoc in his own words, and without reference to the very different circumstances of the previous halfcentury.
This much is certain: to Seward belongs the chief
13 Dip. Cor., 1865, 838.
2 Ibid., 845.
credit for expelling those who were violating the Monroe doctrine, for restoring republicanism in Mexico, and for averting a war with France that might have been no less terrible than the Civil War, and might even have led to a renewal of that terrible conflict.
SEWARD'S PART IN RECONSTRUCTION, 1865–69
It is hardly conceivable that any leader except Lincoln could have conquered the difficulties of the period of reconstruction. And it is possible that all the prestige and confidence he had earned by his tact, philanthropy, and perseverance might not have enabled him to direct a system of thorough reconciliation. The relations between those that had been enemies in battle, and even between the ex-master and the ex-slave, were to be less difficult to adjust than the antagonisms between radicals and conservatives, between scheming, unscrupulous politicians and sullen, brutal men that lived to obstruct progress and satisfy old prejudices. Lincoln consistently maintained that no state had withdrawn from the Union, although most of the inhabitants in some of the states were in organized insurrection against the Federal government.' The state governments of Louisiana and Arkansas had been reorganized under the President's authorization that the work might begin as soon as onetenth of the number of their voting population in 1860 became loyal; but Congress had withheld its approval by failing to admit delegations from those states. At the Hampton Roads conference Lincoln expressed the opinion that as soon as the rebellion ceased the states ought to be allowed to exercise their normal powers,
1 Dunning's Essays on the Civil War and Reconstruction, 65 ff.
and he promised to act with great liberality toward the Confederates. A few days after the surrender at Appomattox the administration decided that reconstruction should begin by the extension of the functions of the different departments to the states lately in revolt. Lincoln expected that the citizens of the respective states would soon conduct the state governments, although they might at first do it badly.'
Seward's wishes were not less generous. Seven months before the end of the war he said that he looked for propositions for a restoration of the Union to come from citizens and states not under Confederate control, and he added:
"All the world knows that so far as I am concerned, and, I believe, so far as the President is concerned, all such applications will receive just such an answer as it becomes a great, magnanimous, and humane people to grant to brethren who have come back from their wanderings to seek a shelter in the common ark of our national security and happiness."*
In his opinion slavery was "the only element of discord among the American people," and that being once removed, he was sure it would not be the fault of the administration if a period of peace and harmony did not prevail. Some remarks at Hampton Roads showed that he expected the South would be treated with kindness, and he objected to the inference that the United States demanded unconditional submission.*
2 5 Works, 504.
13 Seward, 275, 283.
3 Speech at Auburn, November 7, 1864, 5 Works, 514.
4 Campbell's MS. account of the conference says that in summing up the conclusions Hunter had inferred that there was nothing left for the Confederate States but unconditional submission. "Mr. Seward remarked that they [the President and himself] had not used the word submission or any word that implied humiliation to the States, and begged that it should not be noted."