Mr. Seward to Mr. Corwin.

No. 2.]

Sir: The actual condition of affairs in Mexico is so imperfectly understood here that the President finds it very difficult to give you particular and practical directions for the regulation of your conduct during your mission.

Our latest information was, in substance, that the provisional government of President Juarez, so long confined to the sea-coasts of the country, had finally overthrown its adversaries and established itself at the capital; that the opposing armies had been demoralized and dispersed, and that there was no longer any armed resistance in the States; that an election for president had been held, in conformity with the constitution of 1857, and that the now provisional president had probably secured a majority of the votes, although the result was as yet not certainly known. The pleasure which these events have inspired is unhappily diminished by rumors that the government is without sufficient authority or hold on the public confidence to maintain order; that robberies are of frequent occurrence on the high roads, and even that a member of our late legation in the country has been murdered on his way from the city of Mexico to Vera Cruz.

You will apply yourself at once, with energy and diligence, to investigate the truth of this last-mentioned occurrence, which, if found to have been accurately reported, will not only be regarded as a high offence against the dignity and honor of the United States, but will prove a severe shock to the sensibilities of the American people.

The President is unable to conceive that any satisfactory explanation of a transaction so injurious to the character of Mexico can be made. He will, however, wait for your report concerning it, though with the deepest anxiety, before taking action upon the subject.

I find the archives here full of complaints against the Mexican government for violations of contracts and spoliations and cruelties practiced against American citizens. These complaints have been lodged in this department, from time to time, during the long reign of civil war in which the factions of Mexico have kept that country involved, with a view to having them made the basis of demands for indemnity and satisfaction whenever government should regain in that country sufficient solidity to assume a character for responsibility. It is not the President’s intention to send forward such claims at the present moment. He willingly defers the performance of a duty which at any time would seem ungracious, until the incoming administration in Mexico shall have had time, if possible, to cement its authority and reduce the yet disturbed elements of society to order and harmony. You will, however, be expected, in some manner which will be marked with firmness as well as liberality, to keep the government there in mind that such of these claims as shall be found just will, in due time, be presented and urged upon its consideration.

While now, as heretofore, it is a duty of this government to reason with [Page 66] that of Mexico, and deprecate a continuance of the chronic reign of disorder there, a crisis has unhappily arrived, in which the performance of this duty is embarrassed by the occurrence of civil commotions in our own country, by which Mexico, in consequence of her proximity, is not unlikely to be affected. The spirit of discontent seems, at last, to have crossed the border, and to be engaged in an attempt to overthrow the authority of this government in some parts of the country which adjoin the Mexican republic. It is much to be feared that new embarrassments of the relations of the two countries will happen when authority so long prostrated on the Mexican side finds the power of the United States temporarily suspended on this side of the frontier. Whatever evils shall thus occur, it is much to be feared will be aggravated by the intervention of the Indians, who have been heretofore with difficulty restrained from violence, even while the federal authority has been adequately maintained.

Both of the governments must address themselves to this new and annoying condition of things, with common dispositions to mitigate its evils and abridge its duration as much as possible.

The President does not expect that you will allude to the origin or causes of our domestic difficulties in your intercourse with the government of Mexico, although that government will rightfully as well as reasonably ask what are his expectations of their course and their end. On the contrary, the President will not suffer the representatives of the United States to engage in any discussion of the merits of those difficulties in the presence of foreign powers, much less to invoke even their censure against those of our fellow-citizens who have arrayed themselves in opposition to its authority.

But you are instructed to assure the government of Mexico that these difficulties, having arisen out of no deep and permanent popular discontent, either in regard to our system of government itself, or to the exercise of its authority, and being attended by social evils which are as ruinous as they are unnecessary, while no organic change that is contemplated could possibly bring to any portion of the American people any advantages of security, peace, prosperity, or happiness equal to those which the federal Union so effectually guaranties, the President confidently believes and expects that the people of the United States, in the exercise of the wisdom that hitherto has never failed them, will speedily and in a constitutional way adopt all necessary remedies for the restoration of the public peace and the preservation of the federal Union.

The success of this government in conducting affairs to that consummation may depend in some small degree on the action of the government and people of Mexico in this new emergency. The President could not fail to see that Mexico, instead of being benefited by the prostration or the obstruction of federal authority in this country, would be exposed by it to new and fearful dangers. On the other hand, a condition of anarchy in Mexico must necessarily operate as a seduction to those who are conspiring against the integrity of the Union to seek strength and aggrandizement for themselves by conquests in Mexico and other parts of Spanish America. Thus, even the dullest observer is at last able to see what was long ago distinctly seen by those who are endowed with any considerable perspicacity, that peace, order, and constitutional authority in each and all of the several republics of this continent are not exclusively an interest of any one or more of them, but a common and indispensable interest of them all.

This sentiment will serve as a key to open to you, in every case, the purposes, wishes, and expectations of the President in regard to your mission [Page 67] which, I hardly need to say, he considers at this juncture perhaps the most interesting and important one within the whole circle of our international relations.

The President of the United States does not know, and he will not consent to know, with prejudice or undue favor any political party, religious class, or sectional interest in Mexico. He regrets that anything should have occurred to disturb the peaceful and friendly relations of Mexico with some of the foreign States lately represented at her capital. He hopes most sincerely that those relations may be everywhere renewed and re-invigorated, and that the independence and sovereignty of Mexico and the government which her people seem at last to have accepted, after so many conflicts, may be now universally acknowledged and respected.

Taking into view the actual condition and circumstances of Mexico, as well as those of the United States, the President is fully satisfied that the safety, welfare, and happiness of the latter would be more effectually promoted if the former should retain its complete integrity and independence, than they could be by any dismemberment of Mexico, with a transfer or diminution of its sovereignty, even though thereby a portion or the whole of the country or its sovereignty should be transferred to the United States themselves. The President is moreover well aware that the ability of the government and people of Mexico to preserve and maintain the integrity and the sovereignty of the republic might be very much impaired, under existing circumstances, by hostile or unfriendly action on the part of the government or of the people of the United States. If he needed any other incentive to practice justice and equality towards Mexico, it would be found in the reflection that the very contention and strife in our own country which at this moment excite so much domestic disquietude and so much surprise throughout a large part of the world, could probably never have happened if Mexico had always been able to maintain with firmness real and unquestioned sovereignty and independence. But if Mexico has heretofore been more unfortunate in these respects than many other modern nations, there are still circumstances in her case which justify a hope that her sad experience may be now coming to an end. Mexico really has, or ought to have, no enemies. The world is deeply interested in the development of her agricultural, and especially her mineral and commercial, resources, while it holds in high respect the simple virtues and heroism of her people, and, above all, their inextinguishable love of civil liberty.

The President, therefore, will use all proper influence to favor the restoration of order and authority in Mexico, and, so far as it may be in his power, he will prevent incursions and every other form of aggression by citizens of the United States against Mexico. But he enjoins you to employ your best efforts in convincing the government of Mexico and even the people, if, with its approval, you can reach them, that the surest guaranty of their safety against such aggressions is to be found in a permanent restoration of the authority of that government. If, on the other hand, it shall appear in the sequel that the Mexican people are only now resting a brief season to recover their wasted energies sufficiently to lacerate themselves with new domestic conflicts, then it is to be feared that not only the government of the United States but many other governments will find it impossible to prevent a resort to that magnificent country of a class of persons, unhappily too numerous everywhere, who are accustomed to suppose that visionary schemes of public interest, aggrandizement, or reform will justify even lawless invasion, and aggression.

In connexion with this point it is proper that you should be informed that [Page 68] the Mexican government has, through its representative here, recently complained of an apprehended attempt at invasion of the State of Sonora by citizens of California, acting, as is alleged, with the knowledge and consent of some of the public authorities in that State. You will assure the Mexican government that, due care being first taken to verify the facts thus presented, effective means shall be adopted to put our neutrality laws into activity.

The same representative has also expressed to the President an apprehension that the removal of the federal troops from the Texan border may be followed by outbreaks and violence there. There is, perhaps, too much ground for this apprehension. Moreover, it is impossible to forsee the course of the attempts which are taking place in that region to subvert the proper authority of this government. The President, however, meantime directs you to assure the Mexican government that due attention shall be bestowed on the condition of the frontier, with a view to the preservation and safety of the peaceable inhabitants residing there. He hopes and trusts that equal attention will be given to this important subject by the authorities of Mexico.

These matters, grave and urgent as they are, must not altogether withdraw our attention from others to which I have already incidentally alluded, but which require more explicit discussion.

For a few years past, the condition of Mexico has been so unsettled as to raise the question on both sides of the Atlantic whether the time has not come when some foreign power ought, in the general interest of society, to intervene to establish a protectorate or some other form of government in that country and guaranty its continuance there. Such schemes may even now be held under consideration by some European nations, and there is also some reason to believe that designs have been conceived in some parts of the United States to effect either a partial dismemberment or a complete overthrow of the Mexican government, with a view to extend over it the authority of the newly projected confederacy, which a discontented part of our people are attempting to establish in the southern part of our own country You may possibly meet agents of this projected confederacy, busy in preparing some further revolution in Mexico. You will not fail to assure the government of Mexico that the President neither has, nor can ever have, any sympathy with such designs, in whatever quarter they may arise or whatever character they may take on.

In view of the prevailing temper and political habits and opinions of the Mexican people, the President can scarcely believe that the disaffected citizens of our own country, who are now attempting a dismemberment of the American Union, will hope to induce Mexico to aid them by recognizing the assumed independence which they have proclaimed, because it seems manifest to him that such an organization of a distinct government over that part of the present Union which adjoins Mexico would, if possible, be fraught with evils to that country more intolerable than any which the succees of those desperate measures could inflict even upon the United States. At the same time it is manifest that the existing political organization in this country affords the surest guaranty Mexico can have that her integrity, union, and independence will be respected by the whole people of the American Union.

The President, however, expects that you will be watchful of such designs as I have thus described, however improbable they may seem, and that you will use the most effective measures in your power to counteract any recognition of the projected Confederate States by the Mexican government, if it shall be solicited.

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Your large acquaintance with the character of the Mexican people, their interests and their policy, will suggest many proper arguments against such a measure, if any are needful beyond the intimations I have already given.

In conclusion, the President, as you are well aware, is of opinion that, alienated from the United States as the Spanish American republics have been for some time past—largely, perhaps, by reason of errors and prejudices peculiar to themselves, and yet not altogether without fault on our own part—that those States and the United States nevertheless, in some respects, hold a common attitude and relation towards all other nations; that it is the interest of them all to be friends as they are neighbors, and to mutually maintain and support each other so far as may be consistent with the individual sovereignty which each of them rightly enjoys, equally against all disintegrating agencies within and all foreign influences or power without their borders.

The President never for a moment doubts that the republican system is to pass safely through all ordeals and prove a permanent success in our own country, and so to be commended to adoption by all other nations. But he thinks also that that system everywhere has to make its way painfully through difficulties and embarrassments, which result from the action antagonistical elements which are a legacy of former times and very erent institutions. The President is hopeful of the ultimate triumph of this system over all obstacles, as well in regard to Mexico as in regard to every other American State; but he feels that those States are nevertheless justly entitled to a greater forbearance and more generous sympathies from the government and people of the United States than they are likely to receive in any other quarter.

The President trusts that your mission, manifesting these sentiments, will reassure the government of Mexico of his best disposition to favor their commerce and their internal improvements. He hopes, indeed, that your mission, assuming a spirit more elevated than one of merely commerce and conventional amity, a spirit disinterested and unambitious, earnestly American in the continental sense of the word, and fraternal in no affected or mere diplomatic meaning of the term, while it shall secure the confidence and good will of the government of Mexico, will mark the inauguration of a new condition of things directly conducive to the prosperity and happiness of both nations, and ultimately auspicious to all other republican States throughout the world.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Thomas Corwin, Esq., &c., &c., &c.