Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward.


No. 11.]

Sir: I have not been unmindful of your instructions (No. 2) respecting a convention for the abrogation of passports for our citizens travelling or sojourning in Belgium.

As already intimated in my first despatch, passports are already almost virtually abolished here, the visa being no longer necessary. The usual course of this government in respect to this subject is, upon notification by a government that Belgians are not required to be provided with passports to enter upon or travel within its territories, to exempt equally citizens or subjects of such nations in Belgium.

This course has been pursued with Sweden and Holland, and will be soon followed with France and England.

In view of the disturbances in our southern States, and the consequent impossibility of assuring entire reciprocity of exemption from passports throughout our territory, I have not deemed it advisable at this time to make any proposition on this subject.

I am assured by Mr. De Vrière that, on formal notification that Belgians will not be required to present passports in the United States, the proper authorities here will direct the exemption of citizens of the United States travelling here from the requirement of passports.

They would need, however, in case of domicile here, some document to prove their identity. In this connexion, it may not be out of place to refer to a conversation I had some time since on this subject of the abolition of passports, with the officer in charge of that branch of the public service in France.

He said that they had already exempted British subjects coming to France from the action of the passport regulations, and had lately made similar exemptions with regard to Sweden, and were about to make the same exemptions with respect to Belgium, and would with most other nations on a footing of reciprocity. This was, however, a purely administrative act, liable to be recalled whenever considered for the interest of the state. They would in no case make a treaty which should bind them to the perpetual abolition of passports vis-a-vis to my nation.

In the present aspect of affairs in the United States, they deemed it important [Page 61] to have a control over the movements of their citizens to the United States and vice versa of ours in French territory; and deemed the present an inopportune time to make any change in the passport system with respect to the United States.

When matters returned to their normal condition, there would be no objection, he said, to suspend their passport regulations for citizens of the United States, and a simple administrative order was all that was necessary on their part, and could be made at any time when deemed expedient.

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I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most humble servant,


Hon. William H. Seward,
Secretary of State.