Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward.
Brussels, May 26, 1861.
Sir: I had a conversation to-day with M. de Vrière on the subject of the efforts of the commissioners of the so-called “Confederate States” to obtain recognition of the European powers.
He informed me that no application had been made to him in this view, nor would it now be entertained if made. The revolution would receive no [Page 56] sanction by any act of Belgium. A small State, he continued, whose prosperity depended on the full exercise of the industrial pursuits of its people, they did not mingle in foreign politics, their policy being not to imperil their interests by stepping beyond the limits of strict neutrality in their intercourse with other States. They should, therefore, remain “neutral,” as he expressed it, in respect to this question. They had not even yet recognized the Italian government, he added. We desired, I told him, not to be subjected to any interference in the settlement of our domestic affairs, whether in the form of recognition of political existence or of belligerent rights of those who were in open rebellion to the government and laws of the United States. It was an issue between order and anarchy which we were fully able to cope with, and all Europe was interested that its settlement be in the most prompt and effective manner, as least liable to cause permanent derangement to commerce.
In reply to my inquiry, he said he had received no official information of the blockade of our southern ports, proclaimed by the President, although he had late advices from the Belgian minister at Washington. He had only knowledge of it, he said, as printed in the papers. In answer to his inquiry, I said I thought it would not injuriously affect the supply of cotton, as the crop of the past year had mostly gone forward; and, moreover, that while the blockade would be rigorously enforced with regard to supplies, or vessels bearing the “confederate” flag, I presumed, although I had no instructions on the subject, that the vessels now loading, or under engagements to load in those ports, would be allowed reasonable time to leave; that there was every desire to make this condition of things, which was but temporary, as little embarrassing as possible to foreign commerce. The minister expressed great satisfaction at this, and said that the possibility of failure of the cotton supply, growing out of these troubles in our southern States, was causing great anxiety.
M. de Vrière then spoke of the new tariff with a great deal of feeling; said that it was highly prejudicial to their interests, instancing in point that forty furnaces for the manufacture of window glass had been stopped inconsequence, and expressed his surprise that, in this age of progress, when Europe was abandoning the exploded system, as he expressed himself, of differential duties, the United States should pursue such a course. Their own experience as a manufacturing people had convinced them of the bad policy of such a system for the interests of the manufacturers themselves. I replied that I presumed the general interruptions of trade consequent upon apprehended war in the United States was, quite as much as the new tariff, a cause for suspension of the traffic he referred to. The tariff had been augmented by the last Congress to produce more revenue; if it failed to produce such result, it would probably be changed; it was a matter dependent on the will of Congress, and he was aware we had had several changes in the past few years, none of which had apparently given satisfaction to the manufacturing States of Europe which desired to supply our markets; still, it was our main source of revenue, and the system of raising means for the expenses of the government by a duty on importations would probably long continue.
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I took my leave of M. de Vrière with the repeated assurance that no countenance would be given, in any form, to the rebellion in our southern States.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward,
Secretary of State.