Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward.

No. 22.]

Sir: On the 21st of this month I received a note from Mr. Adams, a copy of which, marked A, is hereunto annexed, apprising me that, under renewed instructions from the government at Washington, he had proposed to the British government, on the 11th of this month, to negotiate on the basis of the project which had been transmitted to him soon after his arrival at London, touching the four points of the declaration of the convention at Paris in 1856, and inquiring whether I felt empowered and disposed to remove the obstacle of delay by entering at once into an arrangement for simultaneous action with the Emperor of the French. Accompanying his note was the copy of a communication from Lord John Russell, dated July 18, 1861, of which I send a copy, (though I doubt not Mr. Adams has anticipated me in doing so.) Feeling the great importance of this matter, and mindful of your request that we should confer together when we could, I immediately went over to London.

I found, by the date of your renewed instructions to Mr. Adams, that you did not intend the negotiation upon this question should be conducted at Washington, but that it should be done on this side; and further, that with a full knowledge of all the facts, the original purpose of acceding to the treaty of Paris of 1856 was adhered to. Under these circumstances, I felt it my duty to say to Mr. Adams that there need be no delay on my account. [Page 237] To facilitate matters, while I was yet in London I made to him, in writing, a communication to that effect, of which I send you a copy, marked B.

You will observe that I ask Mr. Adams, in this communication, whether Great Britain has, at his instance, or otherwise, considered the Marcy amendment? This was done after conference with him, and after he had told me what would be his answer. He said that after I had made the proposition here it was considered at London, and Lord John Russell, upon his (Mr. Adams) suggesting this amendment to the treaty there, said at once that the principle was inadmissible; that the British government would not assent to it. This answer I thought it most desirable we should have on record, and therefore made a suggestion in my note which Mr. Adams said he would adopt. Great Britain, so far as I know, never has, before this, distinctly placed herself on record against the adoption of that humane and noble principle as a provision of maritime law.

I was much gratified that I had gone over to London. I felt a sense of relief in conferring with Mr. Adams upon questions of so much importance, and got knowledge of some facts of which I had no knowledge before. I was in England but two days, and then returned immediately to Paris. I missed, however, the mail by the steamer of last week, which I much regretted.

With much respect, your obedient servant,


His Excellency Wm. H. Seward.


Sir: Upon considering your proposition of Saturday last I have two remarks to make:

The course hitherto followed has been a simple notification of adherence to the declaration of Paris by those states which were not originally parties to it.
The declaration of Paris was one embracing various powers, with a view to general concurrence upon questions of maritime law, and not an insulated engagement between two powers only.

Her Majesty’s government are willing to waive entirely any objection on the first of these heads, and to accept the form which the government of the United States prefers.

With regard to the second, her Majesty’s government arc of opinion that they should be assured that the United States are ready to enter into a similar engagement with France, and with other maritime powers, who are parties to the declaration of Paris, and do not propose to make singly and separately a convention with Great Britain only.

But as much time might be required for separate communications between the government of the United States and all the maritime powers who were parties to or have acceded to the declaration of Paris, her Majesty’s government would deem themselves authorized to advise the Queen to conclude a convention on this subject with the President of the United States so soon as they shall have been informed that a similar convention has been agreed upon, and is ready for signature, between the President of the United States and the Emperor of the French, so that the two conventions might be signed simultaneously and on the same day.

I have the honor to be, with the highest consideration, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,


Charles Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

[Page 238]


Sir: Yours of the 19th instant, enclosing a copy of Lord John Russell’s of the 18th instant, was duly received by me at Paris. My powers to negotiate with France an accession by the United States to the treaty of Paris of 1856 are of the same general character as your own. Under those powers and the instructions received by me from Washington I did propose such accession to the government of France, but with an addition to the first clause of the following words: “And the private property of subjects or citizens of one of the belligerents shall not be seized, upon the high seas, by the vessels of war of the other belligerents, unless it may be contraband of war.” To this proposition I received an answer from the French minister of foreign affairs, dated June 20, 1861, the substance of which was that the French government declined to consider the proposition (inasmuch as it differed from the provisions of the treaty of Paris) unless it was addressed to all the powers who were parties to that convention. In the meantime I saw it stated in the public press of Europe that the British, French, Spanish, and Belgian governments had made a declaration of their intentions as respects their conduct towards the United States government and the insurgents of the south, and I was not certain whether our government would desire, under the circumstances, that the proposition to accede to the treaty in question, without the amendment, should be made.

Your renewed instructions to proceed on the basis of that treaty are subsequent to and with a full knowledge by our government of the facts hereinbefore stated.

Under these circumstances, therefore, I feel authorized and required to proceed without further delay. Before, however, I shall communicate further with the French government, I wish to know whether Great Britain has, at your instance, or otherwise, considered the amendment of the treaty hereinbefore referred to. Before abandoning the hope of obtaining the incorporation, in our code of maritime law, of that great and humane principle, it seems to me desirable that we should have distinct assurance that the principle will not be admitted. I do not recollect that Great Britain has any time, heretofore, answered distinctly, if at all, upon that proposition, but seems rather to have avoided it. I think it desirable that that answer should be of record, (either in a note from or to you,) so that the responsibility may attach, through all time, where it properly belongs.

Immediately upon the receipt of your answer I will enclose a copy of your notes, in connexion with that from Lord John Russell to the French government, and, as soon as heard from, advise you of its reply.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


His Excellency Chas. F. Adams.