Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward.


No. 24.]

Sir: Your despatch No. 27 was not received by me until after my return from London.

By my note to Mr. Adams, written in London, and to be found in despatch [Page 239] No. 22, you will find your instructions were anticipated by my action; that immediately upon learning, from a reliable source, what were the views of the government in regard to an accession to the treaty of Paris, expressed with full knowledge of facts occurring since its original instructions to me, I at once took measures to comply with them, without attempting to balance the suggestions of my own mind against its known wishes. But I confess that in a matter of such grave importance as an accession by the United States to that treaty, I did want those wishes distinctly expressed with full knowledge of the facts. You will observe, by the copy of a communication to the minister of foreign affairs, (marked A,) and hereunto annexed, that I have already moved in the matter here.

* * * * * * * *

With much respect, I have the honor to be your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward,
Secretary of State.


Sir: I had the honor to inform your excellency some time since that I was authorized, upon the part of the United States, to treat with any person or persons authorized by the Emperor concerning the principles of maritime law which affect neutral and belligerent rights at sea, and other matters connected therewith, of interest to the two nations, and on the 31st of May last proposed to your excellency an accession by the United States to the treaty of Paris of 1856, with certain words of addition thereto.

Under date of 26th of June last I received a reply from your excellency stating that the protocols of the congress of Paris impose upon all the powers who signed the declaration of the 16th of April the obligation not to negotiate, separately, upon the application of maritime rights in time of war, any arrangement which differed from the declaration resolved upon in common, and that, as a consequence, it would be necessary that my offer include the other powers signing the declaration before it would be considered.

At the time the foregoing offer was made I had some reason to believe that it might be accepted by all the powers who negotiated that treaty, but subsequent information (the nature of which I have explained to you) has satisfied me that this was an error.

The government of the United States would have preferred the incorporation in the treaty of the amendment before referred to; and when there shall be any hope for the adoption of that beneficent feature by the necessary parties as a principle of the law of nations, the United States will not only be ready to agree to it, but even to propose it, and to lead in the necessary negotiations.

Under existing circumstances I am satisfied that I would not be justified in further delaying negotiations for an accession by the United States to the treaty of Paris of 1856, in the vain hope that the amendment in question, if proposed to all the powers, would, at present, be accepted. I have the honor, therefore, to apprise your excellency that I am prepared, on the part of the government of the United States, and hereby propose to your excellency, to enter into a convention with the Emperor of the French for [Page 240] accession by the United States to the “declaration concerning maritime law” adopted by the plenipotentiaries of France, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, Sardinia, and Turkey, at Paris, on the 16th of April, 1856, and that I have special authority for this purpose from the President of the United States, dated 26th of April last, which I shall be happy to submit to your excellency. I beg likewise, in this connexion, to say to your excellency that a like proposition has been made by Mr. Adams to her Britannic Majesty, and herewith I deem it proper to enclose you a copy of the reply of Lord John Russell.

With much respect, I have the honor to be your very obedient servant,


Monsieur le Ministre.