Page images

Mr. Seward to Mr. Pike.

No. 74.)


Washington, October 13, 1862. Sir: Your despatch of September 24 (No. 61) has been received. In these times, when civil wars disturb several states, and apprehensions of war alarm so many others, it is pleasant to read the assurance given by the King of the Netherlands to the legislature of that kingdom that it continues, with its dependencies, in the full enjoyment of peace and prosperity, and that its finances are in an improving condition.

I do not dwell upon the military situation of our own country and its prospects. They are changed much for the better since your despatch was written. But this is so apparent as to need no special effort on my part to make it manifest. Careful and candid observers, I think, would agree that the civil war is at its crisis, and that the country is not likely to be either divided or to lose its invaluable institutions. I am, sir, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD. JAMES S. PIKE, Esq., &c, dc., dec.

Mr. Pike to Mr. Seward.

No. 63.]

United States LEGATION,

The Hague, October 15, 1862. Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your two despatches of the 15th and 19th of September, (No. 69 and 70,) and also your circular of the 22d of the same month, covering a proclamation of the President in reference to the slaves of persons who may be in rebellion against the United States on the 1st of January next.

As I have often had occasion to remark, the ruling classes of Europe are in no way favorable to the American government, or to the principles on which it is founded; but, besides this, they have hitherto found a pretext for their semihostility to the efforts of the government to subdue the rebellion, in the allegation that it was engaged in no contest for the principles on which it professed to rest its claims to the consideration of mankind, and thus could not claim to challenge even the respect of its adversaries; and now that the President makes proclamation of his purpose to emancipate the slaves of rebels, and so remove in a degree the grounds of this stereotyped complaint, there will be, I presume, neither hesitation nor difficulty on their part in discovering some equally good reason why their good will should be still further withheld. Our case in Europe is a very plain one-democracy everywhere supports the federal government; anti-democracy everywhere opposes it. If there be exceptional cases, it is where policy temporarily dominates principle. The rebellion of the slaveholders being a bloody protest against the progress of free principles, it finds itself in union with the reactionary party of Europe, and of its entire aristocracy. By these it is therefore defended and upheld. It is the touchstone of every European’s political predilections and associations. All the world knows that this great and powerful class feel no real hostility to any existing form of national oppression. The white people of Europe have obtained no share in govern

ment, and no recognition of any political rights that were not wrenched by main force from the grasp of dynastic rule. What the ruling classes have denied to their own subjects, so long as denial was practicable, they do not feel, and will not admit, that the African held in slavery in America has any claim to exercise; and there is no logical reason to conclude, and no fact that I am aware of to show, that they will look with the faintest interest upon either the social or political emancipation of the blacks. The proclamation will not, therefore, unless I misjudge, operate to change the attitude of foreign governments toward the United States in their present struggle, however much that struggle may be intrinsically ennobled by making it one for widening the area of freedom. On the contrary, so far as it may be supposed, that it will encourage efforts on the part of the slaves to break their chains; the reactionary party will condemn it, as they condemn everything that tends to further the general cause of human rights at the expense of the privileged classes.

The only convincing argument with this class would be a commanding general able to cope with the rebellion.

As to the mass of the intelligent people of Europe belonging to the liberal party in politics, (outside of that island known across the channel

) of which the German may be taken as the type, they have been universally friendly to the government, and have, to a great extent, understood its difficulties as well as sympathize in its efforts. The proclamation will confirm their faith, and invigorate their hopes, that this atrocious rebellion of the slaveholders may meet with its just deserts. I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,

JAMES S. PIKE. Hon. William H. SEWARD,

Secretary of State, Washington.


[merged small][ocr errors]

No. 76.]


Washington, Norember 5, 1862. Sır: Your despatch of October 15 (No. 63) has been received. I know not how profitable it might be for me to examine the very sagacious and patriotic views you have presented on the subject of the war, and the policy with which it is carried on by the government. It is to be remembered that the country, go far from remaining in a normal state, is undergoing all the agitation of an attempted revolution. Measures and men, even at home, are harshly judged under the influence of the hopes and apprehensions of the hour; and these are exaggerated by interests, ainbitions, and passions which varying occasions stimulate. The like haste of judgment upon the same questions necessarily reveals itself in Europe, for the relations of nations are too intimate to allow a disturbance in any one state to be confined within its own limits. Perhaps it is not unwise to believe that the agitation here, which has been going on for thirty years, and which broke out into open rebellion eighteen months ago, has at last reached its crisis. The exigencies have been met, and a rapid process of exhaustion of the material as well as the moral elements of the war has been going on, and the time cannot be distant when the nation will, from necessity, seek repose. Nothing can be more difficult than it is to mark the time when this condition begins to discover itself in any conflict. But if I am correct in supposing it has been reached in the present case, then I think we have occasion to congratulate ourselves upon the good position in which the

cause of the Union stands. The strength of the government was never greater, its means never more completely at command, its present vigor in applying them has at no time been surpassed. Our military and naval expeditions are now on the eve of their departure, and we look for success equal to that which attended the campaign of the last spring. On the other hand, we see that the material strength of the insurgents has been much reduced, while they have not yet gained any permanent advantage anywhere. It can hardly be presumed that the European states will interfere to complicate the strife under these circumstances. Such apprehensions are the more unreasonable when we consider how difficult these states would find it to adjust new and beneficial relations with this country if divided into intensely antagonistical republics, to say nothing of such states reversing their previous policies in regard to the termination of slavery in their colonies. Who can tell what would be the questions which would arise in the British colonies lying northward of us if this Union of ours is divided? What shall come up in place of our existing relations of amity and commercial reciprocity? What shall become of the policy of extinguishing slavery in the West India colonies of Europe after a slaveholding nation shall have been established on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico? What is to be the effect of such an establishment upon the African slave trade when the new slaveholding nation desires to grasp not only Mexico, but also even the islands of all the European states within the Gulf. I know that these questions have not yet presented themselves in Europe, but it is quite another thing to suppose that they will be left to sleep while the question of intervention is considered by the governments concerned. I am, sir, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD. James S. Pike, Esq., &c., fr., fr.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Pike.

No. 79.)

Department of State,

Washington, November 21, 1862. Sır: Your despatch of November 5 (No. 65) has been received. I have communicated to the Postmaster General Mr. Van der Maesen's note (which accompanied the despatch) on the subject of a postal convention.

Your proceeding in submitting to the minister for foreign affairs the proposition of this government on the subject of Africo-American colonization is approved.

It is not perceived how the European holder of bonds is affected by the temporary depreciation of the government currency. His interest is paid in gold. Perliaps, however, this class of capitalists is not the one to which you allude. If you refer to European creditors of individuals or corporations, it is admitted that they may suffer loss, but it is one which falls equally upon American citizens, and even upon the government itself, which protects their property and their rights. So long as the country remained at peace they profited by the high rates of interest received. Insurrection is a misfortune that some time or other inevitably befalls all nations, and certainly the existing civil war has not been instituted by the government, or wilfully provoked. If the government paper is temporarily depreciated it is a consequence of the civil war, and citizens and foreigners, all alike, may bear their losses and be thank


ful that the government maintains itself, and so preserves all private personal
interests from ruin. Moreover, the depreciation is likely to prove only a tem-
porary one. Congress is soon to assemble, and it will doubtless apply a remedy.
Certainly the national resources are sufficient to furnish the means, and it is not
to be doubted that the national legislature possesses the wisdom requisite to dis-
cover and apply them.
I am, sir,

obedient servant,

JAMES S. Pike, Esq., fr., fr., fc.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Van Limburg.


Washington, June 5, 1862. Sır: In regard to the papers which you informally left with me yesterday while waiting for the instructions of your government, I have the honor to say that the President deeply regrets the conflict between the military authorities and the consulate of the Netherlands, which occurred at New Orleans just at the moment when preparations were being made for the restoration of order and the renewal of commerce.

The statements of the transaction which have been received show that Major General Butler was informed that a very large sum of money belonging to insurgent enemies was lying secreted in a certain liquor store in the city, and he very properly sent a military guard to search the premises indicated. The general says that it was reported to him that Mr. Conturié, who was found there, denied all knowledge of any such deposits, and claimed tl at all the property in the building belonged to himself personally. These repeated assertions of Mr. Conturić, of course, determined the general to proceed with the search. Mr. Conturié, at this stage of the matter, avowed himself to be the consul of the Netherlands, and pointed to the flag which he had raised over the door. He withheld all explanation, however, concerning the property for which search had been ordered, and protested against any examination whatever of the premises on the ground of the immunities of the consulate. He was thereupon detained, the keys of the vault were taken from his person, the vault was opened, and there was found therein $800,000 in specie, and $18,000 of bonds or evidences of debt, certain dies and plates of the Citizens' Bank, the consular commission and exequatur, and various title deeds and other privato papers. All the property and papers thus taken were removed and placed for safe-keeping in the United States mint, and the transaction was reported by Major General Butler to the Secretary of War.

Åfter the affair had thus been ended, the consul made written protests, in which he insisted that his detention and search were illegal, and that the specie and bonds were lawful deposits belonging to Hope & Co., subjects of the King of the Netherlands; and an agent of Hope & Co. has also protested to the same effect, and demanded that the specie and bonds shall be delivered to them.

The consul further denied that he had at any time claimed that the specie and bonds were his own. Major General Butler still insists that the deposits were fraudulent and treasonable, and were made with the connivance of the


The President does not doubt that in view of the military necessity which manifestly existed for the most vigorous and energetic proceedings in restoring law, order, and peace to a city that had been for fifteen months the scene of insurrection, anarchy, and ruin, and in the absence of all lawful civil authority there, the consul of the Netherlands ought, in the first instance, to have submitted to the general the explanations which he afterwards made in his protest, with the evidences which he possessed, to show that the deposits were legitimate. If he had done this, and then referred Major General Butler to yourself or to this government, the President now thinks that it would have been the duty of the general to have awaited special instructions from the Secretary of War. The consul, however, preferred to stand silent, and to insist on official immunities, the extent of which he certainly misunderstood when he assumed that his flag or the consular occupancy of the premises entitled him, in a time of public danger, to an exemption from making any exhibition of suspected property on the premises, or any explanations concerning it.

Nevertheless, this error of the consul was altogether insufficient to justify what afterwards occurred.

It appears, beyond dispute, that the person of the consul was unnecessarily and rudely searched ; that certain papers, which incontestably were archives of the consulate, were seized and removed, and that they are still withheld from him; and that he was not only denied the privilege of conferring with a friendly colleague, but was addressed in very discourteous and disrespectful language.

In these proceedings the military agents assumed functions which belong exclusively to the Department of State, acting under the directions of the President. Their conduct was a violation of the law of nations, and of the comity due from this country to a friendly sovereign state. The government disapproves of these proceedings, and also of the sanction which was given to them by Major General Butler, and expresses its regret that the misconduct thus censured has occurred.

The President has already appointed a military governor for the State of Louisiana, who has been instructed to pay due respect to all consular rights and privileges, and a commissioner will at once proceed to New Orleans to investigate the transaction which has been detailed, and take evidence concerning the title of the specie and bonds and other property in question, with a view to a disposition of the same, according to international law and justice. You are invited to designate any proper person to join such commissioner, and attend his investigations. This government holds itself responsible for the money and the bonds in question, to deliver them up to the consul, or to Hope & Co., if they shall appear to belong to them. The consular commission and exequatur, together with all the private papers, will be immediately returned to Mr. Conturié, and he will be allowed to resume, and for the present exercise, his official functions. Should the facts when ascertained justify a representation to you of misconduct on his part, it will in due time be made, with the confidence that the subject will receive just consideration by a government with which the United States have lived in amity for so many years.

I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to you, sir, the assurance of my high consideration.

WILLIAM H. SEWARD. Mr. Roest VAN LIMBURG, fr., fr., fr.

« PreviousContinue »