[Extract, with enclosures.]

Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.

Sir: The expedition against Mexico has excited and maintained more interest in Madrid than almost any other subject, ever since the fleet sailed from the Havana. But it has been principally to know and comment upon what was happening in America, and of which you must be better informed than we can be here.

Until latterly little of interest has occurred in Spain itself connected with this subject. The information and views conveyed to you in Mr. Schurz’s despatch of November 17 (No. 41) was singularly correct and opportune according to my own knowledge, and I could add little to the import of that paper.

I informed you on the 26th of January (No. 26) that the action of the French Emperor in sending out a general with strong re-enforcements to his army in Mexico without previous consultation with this government, and with the supposed object of putting the French contingent upon a footing to act independently of the Spanish general-in-chief, had produced surprise and chagrin here. Spain had supposed that she was to take the direction of the land operations in Mexico, and General Prim left Madrid in that understanding.

The candidacy of the Archduke Maximilian of Austria for the projected throne in Mexico, put forward by France, was another blow upon Spanish hopes. For a considerable time it seemed doubtful whether this arrangement would be accepted by Spain in any event; but this candidacy is now recognized by the Queen’s government, though at the expense of much of [Page 484]the enthusiasm with which they at first went into this business, and perhaps with the scarcely avowed hope that the course of events in Mexico will itself defeat the plan.

It is also evident that, for some time past, the tendency here has been to draw closer to England in the Mexican affair, so as the better to make head against the vigorous initiation of the French Emperor.

Your attention will not fail to be drawn to the visit of the Duke of Brabant, heir of King Leopold, of Belgium, to Seville. The duke has just arrived at Valencia, and will proceed immediately to Seville, where the Duke and Duchess of Montpensier (sister to Queen Isabel) reside.

We have heard the name of the Count of Flanders (younger brother of Brabant) mentioned frequently of late in connexion with the projected throne in Mexico, and you will remember the significant declaration of a Madrid ministerial journal, as early as December last, to the effect that if the throne of Mexico were not to be occupied by a Spanish prince, it would, at least, be pressed by a Spanish princess.

The journey of the Duke of Brabant is publicly stated to be merely a family visit to his cousins, and the delicate health of the duke is given as his reason for seeking the climate of the south of Spain at this time; but there is little doubt it is really an embassy for negotiating the marriage of the Count of Flanders with the eldest daughter of Montpensier, who enjoys the rank of a Spanish infanta. The movement is meant to conciliate the sympathies of England and Spain upon this young couple as candidates for a constitutional throne in Mexico, and, no doubt, it is hoped to make this candidacy prevail in preference to that of Maximilian by means of the Mexicans themselves.

If this cannot be managed, there are many in Madrid who believe General Prim capable of maintaining the republican form of government in Mexico, and that he will be sustained by England. The Spanish government declares and repeats in all its organs that, if such is the deliberate determination of the Mexican people, Spain will not oppose their wishes; nor will the Spanish forces in Mexico ever attempt to force a monarchy upon that people against their will.

* * * * * * * * *

Your information from Mexico will be better and more recent than any here. Ours shows, however, that General Prim had adopted, practically, upon the scene of operations the same policy of close and intimate understanding with the English representatives, whilst his relations with the French admiral were not so harmonious. We know, also, that Prim had already excited the animosity of the Spanish residents in the republic who have always acted with the clerical or monarchical party of Mexicans. Formal written memorials from these Spanish residents, complaining of General Prim, I am informed, have already reached this government, and fifties, hundreds of private letters have been received in Madrid criticising, and even denouncing, his conduct in the strongest terms.

You will have noticed, also, that the French journals have denounced what they call the temporizing policy of General Prim, and have been led to indulge in some unflattering expressions about the “poor Spaniards” and their expedition, which have driven the press of Madrid furious. Even the ministerial journals during the past week have hardly been able to dissemble their rage.

Thus it is both true and evident that all cordiality of feeling and sympathy is already lost between these allies in the invasion of Mexico. Whether any harmony of purpose still exists, you will be better able to judge than I.

In this state of affairs here, the telegraph announcement a few days since, [Page 485]that General Scott had been appointed an envoy or commissioner by the President of the United States, to proceed to Mexico with powers to treat with the Mexican government and with the representatives of the allied powers, produced a deep impression upon this government and the political circles of the capital. The personal signification of General Scott with ourselves is understood here. The history of his glorious campaign in Mexico is tolerably familiar, and the conviction that such a man would not go to Mexico without great powers and means to effect the results proposed by our government, made this news to be the prominent theme of conversation and of some degree of apprehension in all circles. The impression seemed to be that General Scott would be very likely to succeed; that means would be found to make or preserve peace; and that the real object of the allied powers would be frustrated.

This was feared, at least, and weighed upon the spirits of political circles so that yesterday, when the telegraph again announced that General Scott’s name had been withdrawn from the Senate by the President, and he would not go to Mexico, it was greeted with joy and an evident sensation of relief.

I know nothing of the causes or incidents of this nomination or withdrawal, but report to you simply the sensations produced at this capital by these successive telegrams, and my own impression, judging from this place, that the measure of General Scott’s nomination was eminently wise, and, perhaps, the best thing our government could imagine to be done for our interests in Mexico. But I judge only in the light of appearances in Europe.

It will not be amiss again to recall to your mind the representations contained in Mr. Schurz’s despatch (No. 41) concerning the personal character and personal circumstances of General Prim. At the same time that the French newspapers urge this government to recall him, all the retrograde ultra Catholic and absolutist journals in Madrid have been making a strong effort to discredit him, and labor for his replacement in the command of the expedition by some other general more agreeable to themselves. The liberal journals defend him, and the ministerial press declares and redeclares that the government is completely satisfied with his conduct and defends and upholds him. They will uphold him. The present government of the Queen will hardly think of bringing back upon themselves, in Spain herself, the personality of General Prim as a disappointed man.

You will be able to gather from the circumstances I have mentioned that the intervention of our government in this Mexican business is already a subject of considerable apprehension, and it is broadly stated in some journals that unless the object of the allies is attained now, promptly, the ultimate result of the whole business will be neither more nor less than the establishment of a protectorate by the United States over Mexico, and the triumph of our principles throughout America. Others catch at straws; give great importance to the inaugural address of Mr. Jefferson Davis; and in spite of the triumphant march of our armies cling to the hope that our civil war will yet last for years. These things would have lost their interest before they could reach you.

I enclose for your perusal only two extracts from the Epoca, ministerial journal, showing the avowed policy of the Spanish government in regard to the throne,

And remain, sir, with the highest respect, your obedient servant,

HORATIO J. PERRY.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

[Page 486]

[Untitled]

“The high contracting parties bind themselves not to seek for themselves, through the employment of coercive measures, foreseen by the present convention, any acquisition of territory or especial advantage, nor to exercise over the domestic affairs of Mexico any influence in derogation of the right of the nation freely to choose and constitute the form of its government.”—Article 2d, treaty of London.

The Mexican question is necessarily for some time to be the subject of earnest thought in Spain and Europe. It touches us very nearly. Its solution may exercise an influence too great on the destinies of Spanish America to allow us not to devote all our attention to it, and at the same time we should discuss it with that calmness and moderation which, if there were no other considerations, would call forth our feelings of patriotism. The highest interests are involved, and in view of the complications or benefits to which it may give place we completely forget the political position we occupy in the Spanish press.

In two points of view this matter merits attention: under that of the feeling which, it is said, has inspired what is called the conservative party in Mexico, in regard to the attitude until now of the representatives of Spain in that country, and in examining the differences to which that conduct may have given rise among some of the cabinets which, guided by the same noble thought, have concerted those measures for restoring peace and tranquillity to the Mexican republic.

The complaint made by the Spanish party is, that the allies at first thought of treating with the constitutional or Juarez party, but have done little or nothing to quiet the strong power in array against it. The reply is brief: The allies did not go there to revive old quarrels. What could be done was not to be by giving way to one or other of the factions that were injuring the country.

The prompt restoration of order, even by the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, would not compensate bygone disasters. That would be as poor a basis as for Ferdinand VII, in the civil war of 1823; or, for the elder Bourbons, that which placed Louis XVIII on the throne.

But what prevented the partisans of monarchy and of Spanish alliance from opposing Juarez after the allies had arrived at Vera Cruz? Two facts, which as symptomatic, should be considered by the three allied powers.

That disembarkation gave pretence to many to accept the amnesty offered by Juarez, on the ground of defending their common country. At the same time the correspondence, &c., of the Diario Español shows that at no time or place, from any party, or from natives or from Spanish by descent, did French or Spanish receive any aid or countenance, nor even from the thousands of Spaniards, French, or English established in the country. Perhaps they deemed more convenient for the allies to settle affairs, and not initiate measures in agitation of this or that idea, of this or that principle, or even of certain princes, although that may be here considered popular in Mexico.

But we. consider that it is not the disgust of restless parties in Mexico. With every desire not to aggravate small matters of irritation, we must say the self-love, vanity, and national pride of France is mixed up in this question. France, always accustomed to be foremost, took umbrage that the Spanish army and fleet was in sight of Vera Cruz before the other allies. Afterwards, with an irrepressibility more Andalusian than northern, on the conception of the idea of a monarchy for this or that prince in Mexico, they deemed the thought and fact should be simultaneous; and it was enough [Page 487]that the tri-color should wave on San Juan for the Mexicans to acclaim Maximilian I as King of Mexico. Was that Spain’s fault? Could the allies thus belie the most important article of the treaty of London?

We need not argument. The question is satisfactorily settled by the attitude of the English government and Parliament, and public opinion. England, as well as ourselves, proclaims her respect for the will of the Mexican people, but makes no opposition to her choice to become a monarchy, and that certain names are acceptable to her sovereign. Singular enough, we, who have been accused of plans of ambition—of conquest in Mexico—are now charged with temporizing, as excessively well-disposed to the constitutional government in Mexico and the people. If the first charge was groundless, this need not grieve us, for it is especially our interest that our influence in Mexico (and that of Europe also) should not be accompanied by any disastrous consequences for her. The basis of our influence in Mexico should consist mainly in the lofty disinterestedness of Spain, and in her profound respect for the true interest of the Mexican people.

Doubtless we would be pleased were a Spanish prince by acclamation made King of Mexico, or that by the side of any prince of high character a Spanish princess should take her place. In all this we agree with our colleague “La España.” But at present opinion is not in Mexico so just and favorable as it should be to Spain. And from considerations arising from the respective situations of Europe and America at present, either a republic should exist in Mexico or a monarchy should be established which should be Catholic and constitutional at the same time, although not Spanish. We, far from opposing this in any way, would entreat our country—our government and public—to support measures tending to those two supreme results, constituting a stable condition of things in Mexico, preventing her absorption by the United States, and keeping up the intimate alliance of the three western powers in face of the eventualities to which the American question may give rise.

Therefore it would be ill done to expect from us that, influenced by these or those motives, in our opinion, of little weight, and which will in time pass away, we should place ourselves in competition with France about Mexico. On the contrary, we are sure that Spain will on this occasion give a lofty example of loyalty compatible with honor to the two nations by whose flags ours now, perhaps, waves side by side in Mexico. Those will be greatly mistaken who may believe that if Mexican opinion decides upon a constitutional monarchy for that country, so disturbed by anarchy, Spain, because this or that prince might, in the plentitude of her power, be called by the Mexican people to direct her destinies, would prefer a republic, unstable and exposed to dangers, to another order of things, which, opening an unlimited scope to the legitimate Spanish influence in America, would obviate at some given time that which European powers, separated in action, could not do in resistance of the invasive spirit of the United States, which, with scarcely the dawn of peace between them, already threaten war against all the latin nations in America.

[Translation.—Extracts and substance.]

The mission of Scott is probably to calm the excitement produced among the irritable Yankees by the presence of European troops on that continent.

It is our duty emphatically to deny that Spain would maintain, at any rate, [Page 488]a republic in Mexico. It adheres strictly to the treaty of London, and wishes a stable government established by the will of the people.

A monarchy sustained by our protectorate would require great sacrifices from us. The continuance of the republic—that is, anarchy—would bring round its absorption by the United States. To conciliate the great majority, to keep the conservatives with us, and look forward to a policy which will connect England, France, and Spain with Mexico is the true course. Spain will follow it.

From La Epoca, of Madrid, of March 14, 1862.

La Crónica de ambos mundos courteously asks our opinions, which we never disguise. We think that, in domestic as well as foreign questions, nothing is worse for governments than the negative policy. For some time the statu quo may answer; but in the end solutions come, often contrary to those who have not met them by an affirmative and resolute policy. The policy we advise as to Mexico is that of good sense, of true foresight, at the same time strictly sustained on the principles of international law, and of the treaties and conventions which have been agreed upon between England, France, and Spain. We desire Mexico, in the plentitude of its power, to act decidedly upon the question of its form of government. We, however, prefer monarchy to republic—the first based upon the popular vote and the loyal adhesion of the three powers.

  1. A ministerial journal.