Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward.

No. 120.]

Sir: Your despatch No. 109 encloses a copy of Mr. Thouvenel’s note to you of the 19th of January, 1862, and your reply of the 7th of February, 1862.

Both of these papers are in the best tone and spirit, and I confess I feel now and have felt (since the address of the Emperor in opening the Chambers) in the best hopes and spirits for the future. A speech just delivered in the French senate by M. Billault, minister without portfolio, and herewith inclosed, is most satisfactory as respects American affairs. These ministers, it is said, represent the Emperor on the floor, and are understood to express his views and the views of the government. This speech, I am informed, is universally regarded as closing, for the present, all hopes on the part of the secessionists of France’s interfering to break the blockade. M. Billault, you will recollect, was, last summer, minister of foreign affairs ad interim. I think I can see from the British press how this thing has worked itself out. England and France have been coquetting a little with each other on this question. We have had what seemed to be the most reliable assurances from England that the Emperor was urging them to interfere. In the meantime, the British press was urging France to interfere; it was giving out that the blockade was a paper blockade, and the south should be recognized; thus working France and themselves up to the point of, at least, a joint interference. Then came the Emperor’s address; it was not what they expected. They said that just before its delivery “the switch had been turned off,” and forthwith the London Times and other portions of the English press ran off along with it. Now, all hands seem opposed to interference. How long this will last no human power can tell. If, in the midst of our successes at home and abroad, some reasonable hope could be given of opening two or three cotton ports, it would greatly mollify the feelings of that class of persons abroad who constantly agitate these questions against us. And I cannot help thinking that (excluding things contraband) the trade would not seriously affect our interests.

I am, sir, with much respect, your obedient servant,


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

Speech of M. Billault.

M. Billault, (minister without portfolio.) The government is anxious to clearly make known its sentiments on another point mooted by the Marquis de Boissy. When on the other side of the channel a member of the English chambers, not sharing in the feelings of his neighbors and of his colleagues, makes by chance a violent motion against our country, French feelings suffer from it, and it is not without emotion that the echo of such a discussion is heard on this side of the Strait. The reason is, that the two great nations are proud and susceptible on what touches their honor. Expressions of hatred exchanged from one tribune to the other are most objectionable. How can any one endeavor to revive feelings of hatred when the Emperor’s policy is based on conciliation? The government, without forgetting the reminiscences and lessons-of the past, and instead of allowing itself to be led away [Page 319] by savage rancor, has adopted a conciliatory and pacific policy, under the shelter of which it can proceed in the path of ameliorations which constitute the progress of the world. (Hear, hear.) Instead of recalling the memory of Waterloo, in order to revive hatred, it is wiser to think of Italy wrested from the yoke of Austria, of Savoy again become French, of Belgium and of Holland separated and constituted in a state of neutrality. It would also be much more desirable to admit that with the alliance of a great country important results might be hoped for. A good accord between the cabinets cannot but be advantageous. The Emperor does not fear the revival of old reminiscences, because they are not applicable to him, but the expressions which the senate has heard are not of the present age, nor are they good policy. The two great states may differ on certain points, and may not completely pursue the same object. All nations have not the same wants and the same instincts. Some require a large amount of material profits and advantages, while others desire more grandeur and more glory. We went into the extreme east, and shed the blood of France to there represent the spirit of religion, and plant that cross which is the symbol both of the empire and of civilization. Why, however, should the two powers be reproached for the qualities peculiar to them—qualities which impel England to seek elements for her commerce, and France for her glory? (Approbation.) As to America, France will never forget the bonds of kindness which unite her to the United States. History points out to her that war with them is impossible, but that does not prevent her from being pained at seeing the children of the same people destroying each other and their common country. The government has recommended and practiced neutrality. It would not allow events to compromise the principles which it defended and made prevail in 1856 in the congress of Paris, but it feels the strongest friendship towards the United States, and cannot comprehend how any one could wish to impel it to a combination which would have for object to force an entrance into the southern ports in order to load cotton. On the part of France such conduct would be madness, and England, whose interests are more deeply engaged in the question, and is now on good terms with the United States, would not venture on a line of policy which is not that of France, and to which the Emperor would not lend himself. (Approbation.)