Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward.


No. 9.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a circular dated May 6, 1861, giving instructions in respect to granting passports.

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I understood him (M. Thouvenel) to say an answer could be got within ten or twelve days from the other powers. I was surprised at the briefness of the time stated, but supposed he meant to consult the representatives of those powers at this court; but his remark, as I am now informed, applied to a consultation with certain of the ministers of the French government only. The statement in the American newspapers, that the Department of State had authorized the acceptance of the Paris treaty of 1856 (if that is understood by Lord Lyons to be a distinct acceptance of the treaty, pure and simple) will, I fear, prevent all chance of other terms. The late annunciation of the course of the British government, shutting their ports against privateers, (which so much limits the belligerent rights of the so-called Confederate States,) you will consider, perhaps, renders the accession of our government to the treaty of Paris at this time of less importance than it otherwise would be. I think, from remarks in the New York press, (Herald and Times, and perhaps other prints which I have not seen,) that the force and efficacy of an accession by our government to the treaty of Paris is misunderstood. If I understand the view of these foreign governments, such accession by us would merely bind our hands as respects privateering; it would not at all enlarge our rights as against a belligerent power not a party to the treaty; nor would it bind these European governments to enforce the laws of piracy as against such belligerent power not a party to the treaty. If they admit the Confederate States as a belligerent power, and recognize them for even commercial purposes, (which, I take it, is what they mean to do,) our accession to the treaty of Paris will not change their action on this question. The status of these rebellious States as respects privateering will remain where it was; at least that is the view which I think is and will be taken of this question by England and France. But however this may be, I am happy to know that, in suggesting to the French government the amendment to that treaty, (securing private property afloat, unless contraband,) I have occasioned no unnecessary delay, inasmuch as Mr. Adams has referred the whole matter back to Washington, [Page 221] and as soon as you shall act there, or before, upon a notification to me, I can act here.

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With high consideration, I have, &c.,


Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State.