Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.

No. 57.]

Sir: The news of the sudden termination of the Spanish Mexican expedition caused a great sensation at Madrid. I deem it unnecessary to repeat all the different opinions and comments which have been expressed in conversations and in the press.

All branches of the opposition to the present government have seized upon this event to make furious attacks upon the ministry for having allowed the honor of Spain to be dragged in the dust, and it was for a moment supposed that the cabinet could not survive this shock. But as the first outbursts of passion or prejudice have passed by, the public sense of Madrid seems to be taking an altogether different view of the matter. The aides-de-camp of General Prim have now been here for several days and the situation of things in Mexico previous to the rupture between the allied plenipotentiaries begins to be better understood

It is, I think, generally conceded already that at the height the pretensions of France had been carried in Mexico the prompt and somewhat brusque action of General Prim in retiring the Spanish forces from the scene of action was the best possible way left them of getting out of the affair. It is seen that if they had remained, if they had gone on with the French towards Mexico, the forces of Spain would have either been forced to do battle under French orders, for a policy not Spanish, or to break with the French after military operations had actually commenced, a step which would then hardly fail of producing serious complications between Spain and the French government, such as is our evident interest for Spain to avoid.

The discourse of Mr. Calderon Collantes in the Cortes on the 19th instant, when the government of the Queen boldly declared its approval of the conduct of General Prim and made important revelations, which you will find marked in the enclosed copy of his speech, produced an excellent effect, and the moderato opposition, which believes that Napoleon III is the only statesman in Europe, retired quite vanquished and crestfallen from the debate which they impatiently provoked.

Though there has not been time to receive any instructions from you since the news of General Prim’s action in Mexico could have been known at Washington, I considered it my duty, following the evident spirit of your policy in this question, to immediately seek an interview with Mr. Calderon Collantes and felicitate him upon that event.

A copy of my verbal note of the 19th instant will be found enclosed.

I was in some degree moved to this step also by the excited and, as I conceived, mistaken attitude of the opposition journals on the one hand, and because I knew that the French ambassador, Mr. Barrot, was long and frequent in his interviews with Mr. Calderon, and I suspected that the attitude of France toward this government would not be benevolent. It was proper and opportune therefore for the United States to give expression to their sense of the loyalty, good faith, and true foresight with which the Spanish government and their general had proceeded in Mexico; and if this should serve as any moral support to Spain against the pressure which might be put upon her from France, I did not imagine this circumstance would contravene any part of your policy either towards Spain or towards Mexico. I have heard, since my interviews with Mr. Calderon, that this government is proud and content with the attitude of the United States towards Spain. Indications of this have appeared in the press. A leader of the democratic opposition came to me to know if it were a fact that this government was [Page 499] well with the United States as they boasted, for they were putting this forward as a strong point in their favor in this Mexican business.

I assured the leader of the Spanish democratic party that the best relations existed at this moment between the present government of Spain and the government of Washington. We had every motive to approve and none to disapprove the conduct of the Queen’s government in the Mexican business; and I turned his attention to the evident similarity of interest which might impel Spain and the United States to a common line of action in America, in case Mexico should become a dependency of France and the aggressive designs of the Emperor should not prove to be limited by the Mexican frontiers.

The idea of possible danger to the Spanish colonies lying on the road between Mexico and France has been quickly seized, and the anti-French feeling of the people comes bravely up in support of the government, and the whole of this works well together, exciting the sympathies of all classes at this moment in favor of the actual government of the United States.

I have had frequent occasion, also, in quarters not distant from the palace, to praise the admirable instinct of the Queen, which led her from the beginning to repel the candidacy of the Archduke Maximilian to a throne in Mexico, out of which no possible good could come to her Majesty’s dynasty, nor to the interests of Spain in America in any event.

* * * * * * *

It is indeed evident that your direction of the policy of the United States in this question of Mexico, the firm and constant attitude of our government, kept free as well from all passion or exaggerated pretension on our part as from any sign of weakness or disposition to permit that the internal policy of the American republics should be dictated from Europe, by the late powerful coalition, have had a great influence upon the actual course of events.

Your important despatch of March 3, No. 17, crowning the policy which you have developed from the beginning, produced, as I had the honor to state in a prior communication, the most beneficial effects upon the cabinet of Spain; and I may here most justly and properly congratulate you upon the results obtained in this instance, as one of the few cases since I have observed the world’s affairs, where the diplomatic arm of the American government has wielded the means at its command strongly and skilfully so as to produce a palpable and evident effect upon the course of political events.

It will not be improper to add that Spain at least will be found considerate and friendly whenever our government may choose to treat her as she has been treated since your own direction of our foreign affairs, with some comprehension of the nature of this government and people and a complete avoidance of the unadvised blundering or gross threats which have too often heretofore formed almost our only demonstrations towards this sensitive and justly proud nation.

There is a limited fraction of deputies in the Spanish Cortes, of officers in the army and navy, men who have been to Paris, and speak and read French, some under officers of the Spanish state department and members of other branches of the administration, who eat dinners at the French ambassy and represent a considerable coterie, which maintains that a close alliance with France is the only safe and fruitful policy for Spain; but they are overborne at present by a majority of all classes who desire for Spain a strictly national and Spanish policy in Europe and in America.

I am happy to be able to report also that the persuasion gains ground here that the policy of the government of President Lincoln is not antagonistic to the policy of Spain in America, as explained and declared to me by Mr. Calderon, but the reverse; and the good intelligence of the two governments [Page 500] under your direction of affairs, if no untoward circumstance should intervene, may soon be expected to rest upon a firm and reliable basis, which will serve you for such further developments of your policy as you may think the interests of the United States demand.

Having thus summed up the general aspect of things at Madrid, in connexion with this Mexican affair, I retain the detailed report of my interviews with Mr. Calderon, which could not be prepared in time for the steamer of this week, especially as I wish to submit the same to Mr. Calderon for his approval before it is transmitted.

I will, however, anticipate the communication of the fact, which you will probably learn also from our legation in Mexico, that a treaty was actually prepared and agreed upon between the Spanish plenipotentiary and the Mexican government, whose terms cover all the claims of Spain on Mexico, and even stipulate the payment by Mexico of the expenses of the Spanish expedition. This treaty was not signed on account of material impossibility for the plenipotentiaries to meet for that purpose; but Mr. Calderon holds Senor de Clado’s written pledge on the part of Mexico that the same shall be signed whenever the representatives of the two nations can meet for this purpose.

A Mexican minister is expected to come to Madrid, and General Prim is mentioned as Spanish ambassador to be sent to Mexico.

I have the honor to remain, with the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.


Mr. Perry to Mr. Calderon Collantes.

The chargè d’affaires of the United States presents his compliments to the minister of state, and requests him to do him the honor to appoint a time in which he may have an interview with his excellency, for the purpose of congratulating him upon an event in a high degree reflecting honor upon the government and flag of her Catholic Majesty.

Mr. Perry avails himself, with much pleasure, of this occasion to renew to his excellency Senor Don Calderon Collantes the assurance of his most distinguished consideration.

His Excellency The Minister of State of her Catholic Majesty.


What was the purpose of this policy? I will tell you. In America there were two completely mistaken opinions.

It was thought by one party that the Spain of 1862 was the Spain of 1814, or of 1824; it was believed that it was feeble; that by the side of its [Page 501] feebleness it entertained ideas of absorption or of reconquest, and yet with feebleness ambition very poorly accords. For this it was needful to demonstrate that in the future the relations of Spain with the American continent might be facile, suitable, and dignified; that Spain of 1862 was not the Spain of 1814, nor of 1824. Our army was not understood out there; out there the reconstruction of our navy was not understood; it had not made a visit to those countries out there, whence our flag, in sad days which should not be recalled, had been, not expelled, but withdrawn because of the calamities and misfortunes which afflicted the monarchy, and of the dissensions to which through so many years this great nation was subjected.

It was therefore necessary to demonstrate what I have said; but another thing was also necessary; it was necessary that it should become known that the policy of Spain on the American continent was wholly disinterested; inspired by justice and sprung from a fraternity of feeling which in the future we would not belie in our relations.

Therefore, on this occasion, believing, as I do believe, the despatches from the Spanish plenipotentiary in Mexico and from the commander of the forces, believing, as I do believe, what has reached me through other channels not of so high authority, but so respectable as to inspire full confidence, these two purposes have been attained, and the policy of the government, on the most essential and important point, has achieved a present realization. But in respect to Mexico, when we ordered our expedition there we laid down four bases of action, from which we have not for an instant swerved, and thus I reply to all that Mr. Castro has said, and I reply plainly, frankly, explicitly. The government held when signing the convention of London, and through all the acts which it afterwards executed for bases of action, which have been invariable:

First. Justice in all its reclamations. The claims which Spain presented have been just, have been moderate; have been so moderate and so just that they were accepted. A matter also which Mr. Castro did not know.

Second. The government of her Majesty, on signing the convention of London for sending national troops to Mexico, proposed to itself to respect the independence, and the freedom of that nation to establish its institutions in the manner which should most conform to its habits, its ideas and its wants.

Third. The government purposed faithfully to carry into execution the convention of London; let Congress well understand in which were laid down all the obligations entered into by her Majesty’s government with the allied governments, and with any other country, such as the United States, invited as they were to adopt the convention. There are no obligations, no engagements but those which are contained in the convention of the 31st October of the year last past. Mr. Castro has referred upon this point to advices and versions completely mistaken.

I declare to you, sirs, that when General Almonte came to Madrid and saw the president of the council of ministers, and saw the secretary of state, he heard from both statements which maintained the interests of the country, our dignity, and our principles Does Mr. Castro wish to know more clearly what were our responses? Then I will tell you, sirs; but how, is it not already public, that the thought which has made place for so many conversations, so many labors, so many difficulties, is a thought principally conceived, principally put in movement by Mexican emigrants in Paris and at other places in Europe?

Well, General Almonte came to Madrid after the departure of the commander-in-chief of the troops and the plenipotentiary of her Majesty, to command the expedition, and to conduct the negotiations which were to be carried on in Mexico; and he came to tell us what were the wishes of some [Page 502] of his friends, emigrants in Europe; he came for this; did Mr. Castro wish to know it? Does he now wish to know the answer we gave him? Then I am going to tell him, adding that I am willing to hear all the questions which he may put to me; to answer them with all the frankness permitted to me by the nature of the affairs I may have to discuss, and with the reserve imposed upon me by the position which I fill, in which it is often necessary to sacrifice one’s self love, and other things temporarily and transitorily, even to one’s reputation, because the public good may so require, and because it is the duty of good statesmen. You, gentlemen, know that on grave questions, by saying all that lies at the bottom, and all that is involved with them, and making public the whole matter, interests of very sacred character may be compromised and dangers and differences be brought upon the country. This is not done by the most ordinary man even when he is intrusted with the management of affairs of the immense importance which attach to those connected with the government of a country.

Well, sirs, I have no occasion for reserve in telling you the answer given to General Almonte. It was said to him—when did you come? And here I have no occasion to mention what the President said to him, who coincided in the opinion and even the form of expression with the minister who is speaking; and this is a satisfaction I enjoy, and which I wish to impart to some deputies who are making some demonstrations. I said, then, you have come to talk of an idea you have conceived, of a project for effecting which you have taken many steps in advance, precisely when our expedition has set out, when our general-in-chief who is to command it has gone, and the plenipotentiary who bears with him the instructions of the government. This fact alone, this single circumstance exempts me, not only as minister, but as Spaniard merely, from giving you any answer. I added more; the plenipotentiary of the Queen, and the commander-in-chief of the Spanish troops have had instructions upon all the points which were discussed when concluding the convention of London, and particularly the difficulties which may present themselves; and above all, I solemnly declare here that every precaution was had to estimate duly the incidents which might turn up, and the solutions which would be adopted in every case.

If Mr. Castro gives credit to the documents when they are presented, he will see if Mr. Castro, outside the documents, puts faith in what relates to verbal declarations, to the speech of the minister of state and of Count de Reus, those words will be harmony when the fit time comes; when all the questions may be discussed which it was foreseen might present themselves in Mexico, and of the turn which things might take. Does Mr. Castro require a reply more plain and more conclusive? It was then said to General Almonte that they could have no reason to reckon in any manner on the support of the Spanish government, from the mode in which they had initiated the question and begun to realize their idea, because the government of the Queen, beyond all things, desired to give on one day and on any day, in all its acts and language, irrefragable proofs of the respect with which it regarded the independence of that unfortunate republic, and for the freedom which that people enjoyed to shape its constitutions as would best suit them, as there was no government existing with which they had any anterior connexions. We know, then, Mr. Castro must already see what the project was; we were not ignorant of it; we apprized Count de Reus of the course to be pursued in the eventualities which might present themselves.

The Count de Reus has acted upon the instructions of the government; and therefore when we have believed that through his noble sentiments, so worthy a distinguished soldier, he was sometimes, perhaps, more considerate, somewhat more indulgent, than allowable by the nature of the government [Page 503] he was dealing with, and that of the affairs placed under his direction, we have urged to energetic action, if the prospects did seem productive of the results, which he in his loftiness of spirit looked forward to. Accepting, then, the idea of coming to a conclusion, pacific, conciliatory, and friendly, upon the great question agitated in Mexico, we believed that at times a certain vigor was called for, and we recommended it. But we always took care that any conflict with the other plenipotentiaries should be avoided, and that was the fourth basis of our action. Then came up a special question upon which, at this moment, I have but little to say. Mr. Castro has referred to it, but he has not made a thorough analysis of it, because he could not do so, nor has he uttered a clear and definitive opinion, because he has not formed one. Because we cannot ignore it, we cannot forget it, that what Mr. Castro would desire is, that the government, at the moment of receiving advices of events, which he sometimes qualifies as at least inconvenient and prejudicial, and at others as untoward for the honor of the country and its interests, should have uttered its opinion so as to have impugned it with safety. But Mr. Castro does not know what the opinion of the government is about this business, and hence springs that vacillation, that timidity, inappropriate to him when occupied with this event. After telling us that he had arranged the great plan, the terrible accusation with which he was going to finish the wretched existence of this moribund administration, his worship has arrived at no determinate opinion. He has declaimed, but he has not reasoned. A fact has happened, at first incredible, is what he said—well, pass the word round; one thing, however, I will not pass—with one remark I will not be indulgent; he said that from the moment when the event was announced the friends of the administration believed it impossible—believed such event would dishonor the country and destroy the credit of the government; but, nevertheless, they have since changed their opinion, converting their grieved and disconsolate accents into words of pleasantness and approval. * * * * * This event, which Mr. Castro has considered, has not been passed upon up to this day, nor has it been condemned, as Mr. Castro affirms.

Now, I will say something more of what Mr. Castro has said, and if, in saying more of what he has said, he believes that the solution which has been given to the question is a solution which compromises the honor and interests of the country—if he believes the government has incurred by it a moral responsibility which may in time be converted into a legal responsibility—that would be another motive why he should maintain his proposition and demand a vote upon it. I am about to say more. The government has thought that, in the situation to which things have come, regretable and unlooked for differences having sprung up between the Spanish and English plenipotentiaries on the one part and the French on the other, the resolution adopted by the Count de Reus was inevitable. He could not adopt another, as the question was radically set according to the differences of opinion which showed themselves at the conferences.

The resolution adopted by the Count de Reus to withdraw the Spanish forces from the Mexican territory was a necessary resolution; it was not at his option to take another; he could not remain without grave risk—without exposing himself, and exposing the Spanish troops, the government, and the nation to great contests. Oh, but if it had been allowed that that event should have occurred to which, in another way, Mr. Castro distinctly alluded. If it had occurred in presence of our army, then what would Mr. Castro have said? What an indignity! Then would he have said that by its presence it had sanctioned, and by its inaction permitted, a thing contrary to the honor and interests of the country. And if that should have been realized; if the Spaniards, impassable and with arms shouldered, had witnessed [Page 504] this event without adopting any decision, on whom would the censures have fallen? Would they have included the Count de Reus, or would they be confined to her Majesty’s government? For it must be observed that I notice in the discourse of Mr. Castro a certain desire to throw exclusively upon the government all responsibility for the occurrences and the acts which have taken place in the expedition to Mexico, excluding entirely the Count de Reus.

The Minister of State, Calderon Collantes.