Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton.

No. 13.]

Sir: Your despatch of May 22d (No. 5) has been received. Your safe arrival at your post of duty in this crisis, when our relations to foreign countries, and especially to France, have assumed a degree of interest and importance never known before since the Constitution was established, is a source of sincere satisfaction.

The President approves the sentiments you expressed on your presentation to his Imperial Majesty. The manner in which he received you, and the friendly expressions made by himself, as well as those which were employed by Mr. Thouvenel, although not unexpected, have given us the liveliest satisfaction.

We appreciate highly the Emperor’s assurance that he would mediate between the government and the insurgents, with a view to the maintenance and preservation of the Union, if such intervention were deemed desirable by us; and that generous offer imposes a new obligation upon us toward France, which we acknowledge with sincere pleasure.

If mediation were at all admissible in this grave case, that of his Majesty would not be declined. But the present paramount duty of the government is to save the integrity of the American Union. Absolute, self-sustaining independence is the first and most indispensable element of national existence. This is a republican nation; all its domestic affairs must be conducted and even adjusted in constitutional republican forms and upon constitutional republican principles. This is an American nation, and its internal affairs must not only be conducted with reference to its peculiar continental position, but by and through American agencies alone. These are simple elementary principles of administration, no one of which can be departed from with safety in any emergency whatever; nor could it be departed from with the public consent, which rightfully regulates, through constitutionally constituted popular authorities, the entire business of the government.

I have set them forth in no invidious, uncharitable, or ungenerous spirit. I state them fairly and broadly, because I know the magnanimity of the Emperor of France, and I know that he can appreciate directness and candor in diplomacy. I know, moreover, that he is a friend of the United States, and desires that they may continue one great and independent nation forever. I know still further, that the principles I have thus stated will commend themselves to his own great wisdom. To invite or to accept mediation would be incompatible with these principles.

When all this has been said, you will then further say to Mr. Thouvenel, or to the Emperor, that if any mediation were at all admissible it would be his own that we should seek or accept.

You may say, at the same time, that this government has no apprehension whatever of its being unable to conduct our domestic affairs through this crisis to a safe conclusion; that consummation is even not far distant, if [Page 222] foreign powers shall practice towards us the same forbearance from intervention which we have habitually practiced towards them in emergencies similar to our own; that intervention by them would only protract and aggravate the civil war in which we are unhappily engaged; that civil war is a scourge to which we are more sensitive than any other people, but that the preservation of national unity, which is national existence, reconciles us to every form of difficulty and to the longest possible endurance of the trial in which we are engaged.

Other subjects mentioned in your despatch will be the subject of a special communication after we shall have received the information from the French government which Mr. Thouvenel told Mr. Sanford that he should send with very little delay. It seems desirable to have the positions of the French government in regard to our affairs, as stated by itself, before we answer to inquiries bearing on the subjects to be discussed, which were referred to us through the conversation which took place at the time of your reception.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,


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

P. S.—I enclose a copy of a note of this date to Lord Lyons, which will dispel any uncertainty which the French government may entertain in regard to our recognition of a rule of international law which they may deem important.