Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.
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.
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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.