Mr. Faulkner to Mr. Black.

No. 111.]

Sir: I had the honor to-day to receive your despatch, No. 45, touching certain recent political movements in the United States. I had, of course, through the public journals, been made acquainted with the painful facts to [Page 202] which you refer; but your communication brings them now, for the first time, officially to my notice.

I need hardly say to you that the events which have signalized the history of the United States for the last few months have occupied the attention of a very large share of the statesmen and people of Europe. In all my intercourse, public and private, from the Emperor to the peasant, embracing all grades of ministerial and diplomatic agents, it has been the engrossing, I might almost say the only topic of conversation. A revolution was as little anticipated in the United States as an earthquake in Paris.

That large communities should be casting off the protection of a government to which thousands on this continent were looking for the realization of all their dreams of happiness on earth; that a system should he pronounced a failure which has produced, within a few years, the most extraordinary developments of national prosperity and power of which history has left any record; that a flag should be trampled in the dust which has never been stained by oppression, and which is hailed as the emblem of civil and religious freedom in every corner of the globe, were problems well calculated to rouse the inquisitive and to puzzle the uninformed. The consequence was, that there has been, within the last four months, throughout Europe a more thorough and general discussion, by the press and by individuals, of American institutions than had occurred for the previous twenty years. In general the press of Europe is in able and skilful hands; and if, in their late discussions, it has occasionally fallen into some egregious blunders, it shows how little familiar the best-informed were with the details of our system when those events arose which have attracted to our condition the gaze of Europe.

You inform me that it is not improbable that persons claiming to represent the States which have attempted, to throw off their federal obligations will seek a recognition of their independence by the Emperor of the French; that you would regard such an act, on the part of the French government, as calculated to encourage the revolutionary movements of the seceding States, and to increase the dangers of disaffection in those which shall remain loyal; that it would be inconsistent with the friendship which the government of the United States has always heretofore experienced from the government of France; that it would tend to disturb the friendly relations, diplomatic and commercial, now existing between those two powers, and prove adverse to the interests of France and the United States.

You have not in your despatch informed me what line of policy it is the purpose of the federal government to adopt towards the seceding States, a fact most material in determining my own action, as well as the views to be addressed to a foreign power on the points presented by your instructions. If I correctly construe the intentions of the government, it looks to a pacific solution of the difficulties which now disturb its relations with the seceding States. In other words, it does not propose to resort to the strong arm of military power to coerce those States into submission to the federal authority. If this be a correct view of its proposed action, and all who understand the genius of our institutions and the character of our people must hope that it shall be such, the only difficulty will be in making European governments appreciate the spirit of such wise and conciliatory policy, and comprehend the just application of the principles of international jurisprudence to a state of facts so novel and peculiar.

The fact which seems chiefly to have governed the conduct of nations in establishing diplomatic and commercial relations with States or provinces which have thrown off their allegiance to the general power—I mean, of course, apart from the fact of their ability to maintain international relations with the world—is the practical cessation of all attempts by arms to enforce [Page 203] obedience to the authority asserted. This rule is founded upon the idea that force, successfully exerted or resisted, is the only criterion by which the respective claims to sovereignty of the contending parties can be adjudged. And, unfortunately, the past history of the world exhibits no other influence which has been deemed fit and proper to be invoked to maintain authority or to suppress revolution. But it is obvious that this rule cannot be rigidly applied by foreign governments to our political system, nor to the course of policy which the federal government has thought expedient to pursue towards the seceding States, without exhibiting, on the part of such foreign government, a most unfriendly disregard of the rights and interests of the remaining twenty-eight States, and an eager desire to dismember the confederacy. Where the parties place the issue fairly upon the arbitrament of the sword, there the result of arms must naturally determine the action of foreign powers. But where force is ab initio repudiated as the means of terminating the contest; where the appeal is to the reason, judgment, and interests of the seceding States; where time is an essential element to moderate excited passion, to examine into alleged grievances, and to apply the remedies provided by our constitutional system; and especially when it is known that propositions for the adjustment of the points at issue are now being considered by some of the most influential States of the confederacy, a hasty recognition by any foreign power of the independence of the seceding States would exhibit, upon the part of such foreign government, proof as unequivocal of an unfriendly spirit towards the United States as if such recognition were made amidst the clash of arms, and with a view of exerting a moral influence over the result of the struggle. It would seem to me, therefore, that no principle of international law, nor any considerations of courtesy or commercial benefit could justify a foreign power in adding to the embarrassments of our present domestic position by recognizing at this time the independence of the confederated States. No appeal will be made to its sympathy by the allegation of grievous wrong and oppression in the presence of the fact that nine other States, with the same rights and interests involved, equally free, brave, and high spirited, have not deemed the evil sufficient to justify a remedy so extreme. Time has not yet made manifest to the world how far those movements have sprung from passion, or are the results of deliberate judgment; whether they have originated in fears which have since proved unfounded, or are the settled convictions of the popular mind. Nor has any adequate opportunity been afforded for the correction of the grievance complained of by the regular operation of our constitutional system. The foreign power which would, under such circumstances, recognize the independence of those States, and thus frustrate and embarrass the regular and pacific adjustment of our own internal difficulties, would subject itself to grave accusations of hostility to the Union, and give to the federal authority, as the agent and representative of the remaining States, just cause of dissatisfaction.

I have no hesitation in expressing it as my opinion, founded upon frequent general interviews with the Emperor, although in no instance touching this particular point, that France will act upon this delicate question when it shall be presented to her consideration in the spirit of a most friendly power; that she will be the last of the great states of Europe to give a hasty encouragement to the dismemberment of the Union, or to afford to the government of the United States, in the contingency to which you refer, any just cause of complaint. The unhappy divisions which have afflicted our country have attracted the Emperor’s earnest attention since the first of January last, and he has never, but upon one occasion of our meeting since, failed to make them the subject of friendly inquiry, and often of comment. He looks upon the dismemberment of the American confederacy with no pleasure, [Page 204] but as a calamity to be deplored by every enlightened friend of human progress. And he would act, not only in conflict with sentiments often expressed, but in opposition to the well understood feelings of the French people, if he should precipitately adopt any step whatever tending to give force and efficacy to those movements of separation, so long as a reasonable hope remains that the federal authority can or should be maintained over the seceding States.

The Emperor Napoleon has no selfish purpose to accomplish by the dismemberment of the American Union. As he has upon more than one occasion said to me: “There are no points of collision between France and the United States; their interests are harmonious, and they point to one policy, the closest friendship and the freest commercial intercourse.” He knows full well that the greatness of our republic cannot endanger the stability of his throne, or cast a shadow over the glory of France. He would rather see us united and powerful than dissevered and weak. He is too enlightened to misapprehend the spirit of conciliation which now actuates the conduct of the federal authorities. He knows that appeals to the public judgment perform that function in our republic which is elsewhere only accomplished by brute force. And if armies have not been marshalled, as they would have been ere this in Europe, to give effect to the federal authority, he is aware that it is not because the general government disclaims authority over the seceding States, or is destitute of the means and resources of war, but from an enlightened conviction on its part that time and reflection will be more efficacious than arms in re-establishing the federal authority, and restoring that sentiment of loyalty to the Union which was once the pride of every American heart.

I have not, so far, heard that any commissioners have been sent by the seceding States to France. Should they, as you anticipate, arrive shortly, I think I am not mistaken in saying that they will find that the imperial government is not yet prepared to look favorably upon the object of this mission.

I have made this despatch longer, perhaps, than was necessary, for I have not had time to elaborate and digest my ideas very carefully, and submit them as suggestions to elicit more fully the views and instructions of the government.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. Jeremiah S. Black,
Secretary of State.