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,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.[Page 486]
- A ministerial journal.↩