Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to report for your information that on the 4th instant I called on his excellency Mr. Calderon Collantes, by appointment, at his office of state, and after some other conversation said that I had lately received an instruction from Mr. Seward relative to Mexican affairs, the import of which I was glad to have an opportunity to communicate to her Catholic Majesty’s minister of state. Mr. Seward, whilst he considered that the uncertainty still hanging over the course of events in Mexico counselled him to defer further discussion upon that subject, especially after the clear and full explanations of the views of the government of the United States which he had already given to the powers that signed the convention of London, nevertheless, had authorized me, on one point, to speak with all the strength that might be needful for the assurance of the government of Spain.
Mr. Calderon said that he was very desirous to hear from the government of the United States on this subject. Public attention has been strongly excited by the report that the United States had concluded a treaty with Mexico, in which various provinces had been pledged in security for the payment of an advance of money to Mexico by the United States.
I thereupon read your instructions No. 31, May 29, to Mr. Calderon, and remarked upon the last paragraph that notwithstanding the reports which had reached Madrid of a treaty by which the sovereignty and independence of Mexico were supposed to be put in jeopardy through the diplomatic action of the United States, he ought to feel assured that there was no such plan on the part of the government of Washington, either executed or intended to be executed.
Mr. Calderon was glad to have that assurance. The principle announced by Mr. Seward, that respect for the sovereignty and independence of nations was the most effectual security for peace and the progress of civilization, met his hearty approval Spain had acted on this principle, and would continue to act. It was a neglect of this principle which alone could bring on serious complications.
Of the fact of the existence of a treaty pledging the sovereignty of certain Mexican provinces for the repayment of money to the United States, he believed there was little doubt. England had assigned this as the motive for not ratifying a treaty signed by Sir Charles Wyke and based on the existence of that treaty of the United States. Though there were other reasons why England did not ratify the Wyke treaty, this was the one assigned, and, indeed, he must say that the American treaty, if carried out, would, perhaps, furnish the only basis for a new diplomatic arrangement between the three European governments in regard to Mexico.
I said I had seen such a treaty mentioned in the newspapers, but had not received a word concerning it from my government. All I could say about it was exceedingly adventurous, and founded on no kind of knowledge, official or extra-official; but Mr. Calderon would remember the assurances heretofore expressed by me personally, and not contradicted by my government, that the United States were not ambitious to extend their territory upon the south, but, on the contrary, would welcome any arrangement made by the Mexicans themselves, in the free exercise of their national will, which should establish the prosperity, sovereignty, and independence of that nation upon a firm basis as quite as profitable to the United States as to any other foreign power; and Mr. Calderon would, at the same time, call to mind that an offer of money in aid of Mexico was made from the first by the United [Page 508]States, and announced to the allied powers. If the American minister had now concluded a treaty by which the United States should advance money to Mexico for the purpose of aiding that republic to traverse in safety the difficulties in which she was now engaged, that was no more than carrying out the original policy of the United States in this Mexican business. I could understand it very well thus far, and I could indeed imagine that the American minister at Mexico, in casting about for an adequate security for the proposed loan, should have found himself a good deal at a loss in the present state of Mexican affairs. He might, of his own accord, have determined in favor of a territorial guarantee, if so, it was probable he did it looking exclusively to the financial aspect of the question, and out of his natural anxiety to secure the loan by a guarantee which should not prove afterwards to be fallacious, without, perhaps, considering sufficiently the political bearings of such a stipulation at this moment. Such a stipulation, though intended to have a purely financial effect, I was forced to confess, in view of what Mr. Calderon had said, was unfortunately liable to be misinterpreted in another sense; but he would observe that it was also said that President Lincoln had not thought proper to offer this treaty to the Senate for ratification. Perhaps the President had doubted the expediency of taking a pledge of this description from Mexico at this moment. We were speaking wholly without knowledge, but this circumstance, taken together with the strong language and evident meaning of the last instruction of Mr. Seward to myself, ought to have the effect to reassure the government of her Catholic Majesty upon this point.
Mr. Calderon made some observations not repelling but rather following up the same train of reasoning, and I again repeated, in different form, many of the considerations heretofore urged by me to show that the policy of annexation in Mexico and Cuba had been the policy of the statesmen of the South of the United States, opposed and counteracted by the statesmen of the North, and that the only possible wish of the present administration would be that Mexico should be able to maintain her sovereignty and independence throughout her present difficulties.
Mr. Calderon said that he was disposed to accept this view of the case, and remarked that it was evidently adapted to the actual state of things in the United States, where, undoubtedly, we were exposed to a recognition of the independence of the Confederate States in case a contrary policy should guide our policy in Mexico.
I replied that I did not suppose the Emperor of the French would allow himself to be led into such additional error in America. The time had passed when a European recognition could be of service to the rebels themselves. Probably its immediate effect would be only to precipitate a blow at the root of the rebellion, which the government had not yet thought it necessary for the preservation of the republic to deliver, and had therefore withheld; but, if any serious complication should threaten us from abroad, Mr. Calderon would remember that the institution of slavery, with all the complications depending from it, could be abolished at a stroke; and standing on that platform, the United States would meet the nations of Europe who came to sustain that institution on our soil with little apprehension as to the ultimate result.
Thus terminated the conversation on the subject of Mexico. It will not fail to arrest your attention, and I have to say that Mr. Calderon’s expressions in regard to the supposed treaty by which Mexico pledges territory in security for money to the United States are not stronger than was warranted by the tone of public feeling here.
This news has given immense aid to the French party at this court, and tells hard against the rising influence of the United States.[Page 509]
Mr. Calderon’s hint that this treaty might be a basis for a new alliance between the three powers will probably be confirmed to you by our ministers at London and Paris.
French diplomacy has been laboring hard for this result, and will not fail to improve this circumstance to the utmost, at least, in Spain, where the rooted apprehension of our extension on the south comes well in aid of their purpose.
I do not think it politic to mention the case of St. Domingo as an instance of Spain’s respect for the sovereignty and independence of nations last year, and accepted with pleasure Mr. Calderon’s present assurances in this respect, so honorably illustrated by the recent action of General Prim in Mexico.
With sentiments of the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.