Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward.

No. 35.]

Sir: My anticipations expressed in despatch No. 10 are fully realized. Both Lord John Russell and Mr. Thouvenel refuse to negotiate for an accession by the United States to the treaty of Paris of 1856, except on the distinct understanding that it is to have no bearing, directly or indirectly, on the question of our southern or domestic difficulty, and to render the matter certain they each propose to make a written declaration simultaneous with the execution of the convention, of which I herewith send you a copy and a translation. I likewise send you a copy of Mr. Thouvenel’s note to me with its translation.

I had an interview on Tuesday, the 20th instant, with Mr. Thouvenel by appointment in reference to the subject matter of the convention, and then he gave me the first notice of the purpose of the French government to execute this outside declaration, predicated as it was, beyond all doubt, upon a note he had just received from Lord John Russell, dated only the day preceding He said that both France and Great Britain had already announced that they would take no part in our domestic controversy, and they thought that a frank and open declaration in advance of the execution of this convention might save difficulty and misconception hereafter. He further said, in the way of specification, that the provisions of the treaty standing alone might bind England and France to pursue and punish the privateers of the south as pirates. That they were unwilling to do this, and had already so declared. He said that we could deal with these people as we chose, and they could only express their regrets on the score of humanity if we should deal with them as pirates, but they could not participate in such a course. He said, further, that although both England and France were anxious to have the adhesion of the United States to the declaration of Paris, that they would rather dispense with it altogether than be drawn into our domestic controversy. He insisted somewhat pointedly that I could take no just exception to this outside declaration, simultaneous with the execution of the convention, unless we intended they should be made parties to our controversy; and that the very fact of my hesitation was an additional reason why they should insist upon making such contemporaneous declaration. These are the general views expressed by him.

In answer, I assented at once to the propriety of such declaration being made in advance if France and England did not mean to abide by the terms of [Page 243] the treaty. I stated that I had no reason to suppose that the United States desired to embroil these countries in our domestic difficulties—that in point of fact our great desire had been that they should keep out of them; but they proposed now to make a declaration to accompany the execution of the convention which they admitted would vary its obligations. That my instructions were to negotiate that convention, and that I had no authority to do anything or listen to anything which would waive any rights or relieve from any obligation which might fairly arise from a just construction of its terms. He said they did not mean to alter its terms, that it was not like an addition of other provisions to the terms of the treaty itself. To this I replied, that for the purpose intended, it was precisely the same as if this declaration they proposed to make were to be incorporated into the treaty itself. That its effect was to relieve them (without complaint on our part) from compliance with one of the admitted obligations of the treaty. I then told him I would consult with Mr. Adams, and it was not improbable that we might feel ourselves under the necessity of referring again to our government, to which he answered that that must be a question for us to determine. In the course of our conversation I told him that any declaration or action which looked to or recognized a difference or distinction between the north and south was a matter upon which our government was, under the circumstances, peculiarly sensitive. That we treated with foreign governments for our whole country, north and south, and for all its citizens, whether true men or rebels, and when we could not so treat, we would cease to treat at all. He answered that they did not mean to contest our right to treat for the whole country, and that was not the purpose of the outside declaration they proposed to make; but having heretofore adopted a course of strict neutrality, the declaration in question was right and proper to prevent misconception and controversy in the future.

After my conference with Mr. Thouvenel closed, I immediately wrote to Mr. Adams, and suggested to him the propriety of either referring again to our government for instructions, or, if he thought that such reference would involve any unnecessary delay, then, at least, that at the time of executing the convention (if it were executed) we should in like manner make a counter declaration in writing, stating, in substance, that “we have no power to admit, and do not mean to admit, that this outside declaration by Great Britain and France is to relieve them, directly or indirectly, from any obligation or duty which would otherwise devolve upon them in virtue of said convention.”

I have felt constrained to make these suggestions to Mr. Adams, for I am unwilling to act affirmatively in a matter of so much importance without being clearly within my instructions. I shall await his answer before I communicate further with the French government. With much respect, your obedient servant,


His Excellency William H. Seward,
Secretary of State, &c., &c.


Sir: I have the honor to communicate to you the text of the written declaration that I propose to myself to make, and of which I will take care to remit to you a copy, at the moment of the signing of the convention [Page 244] designed to render obligatory between France and the United States the principles upon maritime rights proclaimed by the congress of Paris. This declaration has for its object, as you will see, to prevent all misunderstanding upon the nature of the engagements which the government of the Emperor is disposed to contract.

If you were ready to sign the convention contemplated, we might be able to agree to make it the same day when Lord Russell should proceed from his side to the signing of a similar act with Mr. Adams.

Accept the assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant,


Mr. Dayton,
Minister of the United States at Paris.


Draft of declaration.

In affixing his signature to the convention concluded in date of this day between France and the United States, the undersigned declares, in execution of the orders of the Emperor, that the government of his Majesty does not intend to undertake, by the said convention, any engagement of a nature to implicate it, directly or indirectly, in the internal conflict now existing in the United States.