Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.
Sir: On the 11th instant I had the honor to bring to the attention of Mr. Calderon Collantes the subject of your despatch of March 3, of which he informed me a copy had also reached him through the minister of Spain in Washington.[Page 492]
Mr. Calderon said that he found nothing objectionable in the views manifested in that despatch on the part of the United States; perhaps he might observe in reference to the paragraph “while population in America is so rapidly increasing, resources so rapidly developing, and society so steadily forming itself,” &c., that, as regards Mexico, this idea of the progressive movement of her population, her resources, and the steady forming of her society, could hardly be considered as borne out by the facts, but this was unimportant.
As to the paragraph “the result would nevertheless be traceable to the presence of those forces there,” Mr. Calderon did not combat the statement, but remarked that if those forces were there for a legitimate purpose and made no movement directed towards a change of government in that country in any determinate sense, even though a change should occur during their presence in Mexico, they could not be responsible for it.
Such changes had been occurring constantly in that country heretofore, and for causes more trivial than the presence of European armies within its limits. Intervention in the political affairs of Mexico, in the accepted signification of that word, Spain had never undertaken nor proposed to undertake. The Spanish forces went merely to obtain redress for past grievances, and in the hope to secure some better guarantee for the fulfilment on the part of Mexico of her treaties for the safety of Spanish subjects within her limits, and the security of their property from spoliation, than it had been possible to obtain heretofore from that unhappy country. Mr. Calderon conceived that whilst the state of anarchy which had so long desolated Mexico should continue, these guarantees of peace and the fulfilment of treaty obligations, and the protection of Spanish subjects within that jurisdiction, could hardly be expected.
But whilst he hoped, therefore, that some government more solid and durable might be established in Mexico, Spain would never undertake to dictate what that government should be, nor would she consent that any other power should dictate a form of government to Mexico, nor attempt to impose any determinate government upon that nation.
The Mexicans themselves must select their own form of government, and whatever it might be, whether monarchial or republican, Spain would not object to it if it gave hope of being solid and durable.
Whether Mexico should elect a King or a president was not the question, but whether this government of her election could be depended on.
If a republican government should be constituted, Mr. Calderon thought for himself that the president ought to hold office for ten or twenty years; he did not like the frequent changes of the Executive established by the Constitution of the United States, and which the Spanish-American republics had imitated, though from their previous education and habits this provision was evidently unfitted to their political necessities.
But the Mexicans would decide these questions for themselves.
The last news from Mexico seemed to indicate that things were moving in the direction of a pacific arrangement between the allies and Mexico.
France, at first, had not been content with the preliminaries signed at “La Soledad,” but the explanations of England and the frank and loyal observations by Spain concerning those preliminaries had been well received by France, and this power had also accepted as a fait accompli what was done at “La Soledad.”
Officially he, Mr. Calderon, could not say that there was any divergence of policy between the allies at this time.
I spoke of the candidacy of the Archduke Maximilian for a throne in Mexico, put forward by France
Mr. Calderon said that, though this idea had been entertained, the imperial [Page 493]government had now given assurances that it did not purpose to do anything positive in Mexico to procure the success of this candidate.
I took occasion in this interview to urge upon Mr. Calderon the harmony of interest which exists between the United States and Spain in these questions of North America. I told him that the United States by no means intended to object to the establishment of a solid and durable government in Mexico. We could not consent that the will of that people, in respect to their interior organization, should be violated by the forces on any European state, but every interest of the United States impelled us, as well as Spain, to desire a stable and prosperous government in that country. It was a mistake to suppose that the United States looked with pleasure upon the anarchy and weakness of Mexico, as affording to ourselves a better opportunity for territorial aggrandisement. On the contrary, there were few, if any, statesmen in the United States, now prominent in the councils of that government, who were not persuaded that our own strength and stability would be endangered, rather than increased, by the addition of Mexico to our territories.
The policy of Mexican annexation, if it had ever been prominent in our councils, was at best a pendant of the policy for the extension and perpetuation of African slavery in North America, which Mr. Calderon must consider as already repudiated by the American people. We should welcome such an improvement in the political condition of Mexico as should give us a frontier upon the south and a vigorous and prosperous foreign people to maintain it. But this must be the work of that people themselves, not a thing imposed upon them from Europe.
In fact, the positions taken in Mr. Seward’s despatch were incontrovertible; nothing solid could be imposed on Mexico; any government coming from abroad and sustained from abroad would be transitory; the hearty and voluntary action of the Mexican people themselves was the only basis on which a stable government could be erected in that country. Mr. Calderon heard this train of remarks with pleasure, and said that he would assure me this nothing connected with this Mexican question could ever bring on any conflict between the United States and Spain.
On the 13th instant I had the honor to read this report of our conference of the 11th instant to Mr. Calderon, when, after suggesting some few changes, the same was approved by him as above written. In this second interview Mr. Calderon also said, you may state to your government that the policy of Spain in America, summed up in a few words, is this: Spain does not aspire to re-establish her domination over any part of the American continent. She does feel an interest in the welfare of the countries formerly her colonies, and would be glad to persuade them all that Spain is by sentiment and interest their best friend. Spain wishes them to understand, however, that, if she suffers great grievances at their hands and forbears, it is not from lack of power to chastise them. On the contrary, this government is conscious that no power in Europe is in a position to effect more in America, in a military point of view, than Spain herself. But her policy is not to weaken those nations by bringing upon them foreign wars and difficulties. She seeks the friendship of the independent States, formerly her colonies, for their advantage and her own.
She could not see their absorption by the United States with indifference. She wishes them to maintain their independence and the integrity of their territories, and to become strong and prosperous. She will not herself lay hand upon that independence in any circumstances, nor can she see this independence threatened by any other power, European or American, without considering her own interests to be compromitted.
Mr. Calderon was persuaded that my representations of a change in the [Page 494]tendencies of the government of the United States, since our southern statesmen had ceased to be dominant at Washington, were just.
He believed that we did not ourselves now desire the acquisition of Mexico, and he would, therefore, assure me again that no cause of difficulty, no conflict, could arise out of this Mexican business between the United States and Spain.
And Mr. Calderon would also say more. He would assure me and my government that, according as the conviction of this change from the former aggressive disposition manifested by the United States penetrated into this country, and the apprehension of a descent by us upon Cuba ceased, according as confidence in this respect was re-established, we should see that the government of Spain was ready and desirous to welcome and confirm a policy of good faith and good neighborhood with the United States.
Spain would then amplify and stimulate the commercial intercourse between the United States and her own colonies, making everything connected with the friendly intercourse of the two countries broader and freer. She would give to her commercial regulations all the width and freedom consistent with the various products of the two countries.
On the 15th instant, in another interview held for the purpose, the despatch of Mr. Seward was re-read, as well as the preceding report of the conference of the 13th instant, when, the same having been approved by Mr. Calderon, I was authorized to transmit this despatch to my government, and requested to furnish Mr. Calderon with a copy, to be forwarded by him to the Spanish minister at Washington for his instruction, as embodying the true sentiments and purposes of the government of her Catholic Majesty.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. G.