Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton.

No. 10.]

Sir: Mr. Sanford, who was requested by me to look to our interests in Paris in the interval which might elapse between the withdrawal of Mr. Faulkner and your own arrival, has transmitted to me (in his despatch No. 2) an account of a very interesting conversation which he has recently held with Mr. Thouvenel on our internal affairs.

In that conversation Mr. Thouvenel intimated that, in view of the great commercial interests which are involved in the domestic controversy which is now agitating the United States, the French government had felt itself constrained to take measures, in conjunction with the government of Great Britain, to meet a condition of things which imperiled those interests. That it had been decided that communications of a similar tenor should be addressed by both of those governments to the government of the United States, and that those communications would be forwarded in the current week. Mr. Thouvenel kindly foreshadowed the points of those communications.

As those papers may be expected to arrive by, perhaps, the next steamer, I shall reserve comments upon the propositions indicated until they shall thus be fully and directly brought to the attention of the President.

There are, however, some points in the conversation, or suggested by it, which I cannot properly suffer to pass unnoticed.

First. I desire that Mr. Thouvenel may be informed that this government cannot but regard any communications held by the French government, even though unofficial, with the agents of the insurrectionary movement in this country as exceptionable and injurious to the dignity and honor of the United States. They protest against this intercourse, however, not so much on that ground as on another. They desire to maintain the most cordial relations with the government of France, and would therefore, if possible, refrain from complaint. But it is manifest that even an unofficial reception of the emissaries of disunion has a certain though measured tendency to give them a prestige which would encourage their efforts to prosecute a civil war destructive to the prosperity of this country and aimed at the overthrow of the government itself. It is earnestly hoped that this protest may be sufficient to relieve this government from the necessity of any action on the unpleasant subject to which it relates.

Secondly. The United States cannot for a moment allow the French government to rest under the delusive belief that they will be content to have the confederate States recognized as a belligerent power by States with which this nation is in amity. No concert of action among foreign States so recognizing the insurgents can reconcile the United States to such a proceeding, whatever may be the consequences of resistance.

Thirdly. The President turns away from these points of apprehended difference of opinion between the two governments to notice other and more agreeable subjects.

The tone of Mr. Thouvenel’s conversation is frank, generous, and cordial; and this government feels itself bound by new ties to France when her Emperor avows his desire for the perpetual union of the States. Especially does this government acknowledge that it is profoundly moved by the declaration of his Majesty, that he would be willing to act as mediator in the civil strife that unhappily convulses our country. These expressions of good will are just what have been expected from the Emperor of France. This government desires that his Majesty may be informed that it indulges [Page 216] not the least apprehension of a dissolution of the Union in this painful controversy. A favorable issue is deemed certain. What is wanted is that the war may be as short, and attended by as few calamities at home and as few injuries to friendly nations, as possible. No mediation could modify in the least degree the convictions of policy and duty under which this government is acting; while foreign intervention, even in the friendly form of mediation, would produce new and injurious complications. We are free to confess that so cordial is our regard for the Emperor and our confidence in his wisdom and justice, that his mediation would be accepted if all intervention of that kind were not deemed altogether inadmissible. This government perceives, as it thinks, that the French government is indulging in an exaggerated estimate of the moral power and material forces of the insurrection. The government of the United States cheerfully excuses this error, because it knows how unintelligible the working of the American system and the real character of the American people are to European nations. This government knows, moreover, and painfully feels, that the commercial interests of European states are so deeply involved in the restoration of our domestic peace as to excite the highest anxiety and impatience on their part. But it desires the French government to reflect that our commercial interests involved in the issue are even greater than their own; and that every motive that France can have for desiring peace operates still more powerfully on ourselves, besides a thousand motives peculiar to ourselves alone. The measures we have adopted, and are now vigorously pursuing, will terminate the unhappy contest at an early day, and be followed by benefits to ourselves and to all nations greater and better assured than those which have hitherto attended our national progress. Nothing is wanting to that success except that foreign nations shall leave us, as is our right, to manage our own affairs in our own way. They, as well as we, can only suffer by their intervention. No one, we are sure, can judge better than the Emperor of France how dangerous and deplorable would be the emergency that should intrude Europeans into the political contests of the American people.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,


William L. Dayton, Esq., &c., &c., &c.