Mr. Corwin to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The monthly British courier offers a safe conveyance to Vera Cruz, of which I avail myself to advise the department of passing events here.
Since my last despatch a dispute has arisen between the allies and Mexico, concerning the possession of the custom-house at Vera Cruz, and the disposition of the revenue accruing there. Unfortunately, nothing was said or agreed on touching this point in the preliminary treaty, a copy of which I sent some time since to the department. Two commissioners on the part of Mexico, a week ago, went to Orizaba, to meet Sir 0. Wycke and General Prim, to endeavor to arrange this matter. I have this moment learned by telegraph from Puebla that the commissioners are on their return to Mexico, having arranged this question to the entire satisfaction of all parties.
Another matter threatening disturbance of friendly feeling is a tax of two per cent, on all capital, including foreigners, recently levied. All foreigners here seem to think that property owned by them is to pay no taxes, especially if they can make out plausibly that such tax is, in their own favorite phrase, an “extraordinary [Page 734]tax.” The British, Prussian, and French ministers, object to this tax, and write angrily and vehemently to their fellow subjects here, as well as to the government, against it. I have thought it my duty to hold a different opinion on the subject, and wrote to the American consul at Acapulco (at his request) an opinion, giving also to American citizens here the same opinion. I send herewith copies of my correspondence with the consul at Acapulco. As the arguments of the other foreign ministers on this subject had been published by themselves, at the earnest request of the minister of foreign affairs, I allowed the government to publish my opinion given to American citizens resident here.
I hope the course I have judged it proper to take in this business may meet the approval of your department. It has brought upon me the universal censure of all foreign residents here, including our own Americans, who, with few exceptions, look upon Mexico as a place wherein to make their fortunes as rapidly as possible, and carry them to some other country as soon as possible.
The minister of foreign affairs here expressed much regret that my instructions in your despatch No. 37 were so stringent in regard to the terms on which a loan could be had from the United States. This government wants money now more than it probably will a year or two hence. Its great effort now is to show the allies that they are able to crush out the remnant of the reactionary bands that still roam over the country, dashing into the more fruitful and well cultivated portions of it unexpectedly, robbing and assassinating wherever they go, for a brief time, and then suddenly retreating to some of the inaccessible mountain holds which abound in this country. The reactionary chiefs yet remaining, aware of this necessity of the government, recently united all their forces, numbering about three thousand. An expedition was set on foot by the government designed to surround and capture or kill this entire force. Five thousand men were assembled for this purpose, and I know they were detained here for a whole week, for want of funds to feed them on their march. The requisite amount was only obtained five days since, by a forced loan. During this time the minister of foreign relations frequently assured me he could raise this money from capitalists here readily, if he could assure them that a loan of a few millions was to be expected from the United States. It is quite impossible for any one, not having the knowledge which I have acquired by one year’s close observation, to estimate the depth to which the exhausted resources of this country has fallen by forty years of civil war, and our own invasion and conquests in 1847 and 1848. Now when three powerful nations are here, threatening to precipitate half of Europe upon them unless they treat on terms such as they dictate, Mexico, with all her faults and follies, is an object of sympathy to all who regret to see weakness trampled in the dust by strength. I do not believe that some of the allies intend to deal harshly with Mexico, but I am not satisfied that this is either the feeling or intention of one at least of the three powers. More light will be thrown upon the point by the events of the next month.
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, Washington, D. C.