« PreviousContinue »
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 had 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. 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 had 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 that war, 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
domestic in its organization in preference to any monarchical institutions to be imposed from abroad. This government knows also that this normal opinion of the people of Mexico resulted largely from the influence of popular opinion in this country, and is continually invigorated by it. The President believes, moreover, that this popular opinion of the United States is just in itself and eminently essential to the progress of civilization on the American continent, which civilization, it believes, can and will, if left free from European resistance, work harmoniously together with advancing refinement on the other continents. This government believes that foreign resistance, or attempts to control American civilization, must and will fail before the ceaseless and ever increasing activity of material, moral, and political forces, which peculiarly belong to the American continent. Nor do the United States deny that, in their opinion, their own safety and the cheerful destiny to which they aspire are intimately dependent on the continuance of free republican institutions throughout America. They have submitted these opinions to the Emperor of France, on proper occasions, as worthy of his serious consideration, in determining how he would conduct and close what might prove a successful war in Mexico. Nor is it necessary to practise reserve upon the point that if France should, upon due consideration, determine to adopt a policy in Mexico adverso to the American opinion and sentiments which I have described, that policy would probably scatter seeds which would be fruitful of jealousies which might ultimately ripen into collision between France and the United States and other American republics. The statements made to you by M. Drouyn de l'Huys concerning the Emperor's intentions are entirely satisfactory, if we are permitted to assume them as having been authorized to be made by the Emperor in view of the present condition of affairs in Mexico.
The French Minister, in a conversation on the 8th of October, stated to Mr. Dayton that the vote of the entire population of Mexico, Spanish and Indian, would be taken as to the form of government to be established, and he had no doubt a large majority of that vote would be in favor of the Archduke Maximilian. He also expressed a desire that the United States would express its acquiescence in such a result, and its readiness to enter into peaceful relations with such a govern
ment, by acknowledging it as speedily as possible, inasmuch as such a course would enable France the sooner to leave Mexico and the new government to take care of itself. ́In replying to this request, on the 23d of October Mr. Seward repeated the determination of our government to maintain a position of complete neutrality in the war between France and Mexico, and declared that while they could not anticipate the action of the people of Mexico, they had not "the least purpose or desire to interfere with their proceedings, or control or interfere with their free choice, or disturb them in the exercise of whatever institutions of government they may, in the exercise of an absolute freedom, establish." As we did not consider the war yet closed, however, we were not at liberty to consider the question of recognizing the govern ment which, in the further chances of that war, might take the place of the one now existing in Mexico, with which our relations were those of peace and friendship.
The policy of the President, therefore, in regard to the war in Mexico has been that of neutrality; and, although this policy has in some respects contravened the traditional purposes and principles of the government and people of the United States, it is not easy to see what other could have been adopted without inviting hazards which no responsible statesman has a right to incur. The war against Mexico was undertaken ostensibly for objects and purposes which we were compelled to regard as legitimate, and we could not ourselves depart from a strict neutrality without virtually conceding the right, not only of France but of every other nation interested in our downfall, to become party to the war against us. While we have to a certain extent pledged ourselves to hold the whole continent open to republican institutions, our first duty is clearly to preserve the existence of our own Republic, not only for ourselves, but as the only condition on which republicanism anywhere is possible. The President, therefore, in
holding this country wholly aloof from the war with France, has consulted the ultimate and permanent interests of Democratic institutions not less than the safety and welfare of the United States, and has pursued the only policy at all compatible with the preservation of our Union and the final establishment of the Monroe doctrine. Neither the President nor the people, however, have indicated any purpose to acquiesce in the imposition of a foreign prince upon the Mexican people by foreign armies; and on the 3d of April, 1864, the House of Representatives adopted the following resolution upon the subject, which embodies, beyond all doubt, the settled sentiment of the people of this country.
THE MEXICAN MONARCHY.
Resolved, That the Congress of the United States are unwilling by silence to leave the nations of the world under the impression that they are indifferent spectators of the deplorable events now transpiring in the Republic of Mexico; therefore, they think it fit to declare that it does not accord with the sentiment of the people of the United States to acknowledge a monarchical government erected on the ruins of any republican government in America, under the auspices of any European Power.
No action up to the present time (May 5) has been taken upon this resolution in the Senate.