Letter of Admiral Lagraviere to General Prim.—Annexed to despatch No. 4 of General Prim.
My Dear General: What has occurred since your last letter was written? I thought you were in Puebla, with Sir Charles Wycke, and I see to-day by your letter of the 20th that you are still in Orizaba with dispositions very different [Page 764]from what I had a right to suppose. Our engagements are certainly, as you justly say, the same, since we contracted them in concert, and we have formed together a good and wise policy. I have never doubted but that we should come out in an honorable manner. I have no more desire than yourself to burn our ships under a futile pretence, and furnish the Mexicans with a pretext for complaint. I have always been disposed to recognize, with yourself, that it was necessary here to avoid embracing too openly the cause of the party constituting the minority, and which is generally opposed throughout the country; but, at the same time, I have not failed to declare to you, as often as the occasion required, the nature of the counsels I should wish to give to all the parties that divide Mexico.
The establishment of a monarchical government has always appeared to me the only method of putting an end to the dissentions which have made this unfortunate people an object of scandal to Europe. In order to arrive at this termination, I have thought that conciliatory measures were the best. This is the reason why I hastened to sign the treaty of Soledad, thinking that a truce would give us time to work upon minds without appearing to force them, and would permit us to prepare them for the solution that to me seemed the most favorable. When General Doblado gave us notice of the measures of proscription he had just adopted, it appeared to me that our dignity did not permit us to espouse them, and I pronounced myself ready to found upon this ground a declaration of rupture. There exists another point upon which I am ready from this moment to explain myself with the most perfect frankness, without waiting for the opening of the conferences of Orizaba; I refer to the guarantees we must demand of Mexico before treating of the arrangement of matters purely financial.
The government of Mexico might accord us the most complete satisfaction respecting our several claims, without our being for this a whit further advanced. It is not compacts, more or less advantageous, that we require; what we need is the certainty that the government that has signed them will have the strength and will to enforce their execution. The last instructions I have received upon this point are decisive; and even if they were not so, I would take it upon myself to exact that this question should be solved before beginning to discuss the others. I am certain I should have met with support from you in establishing this opinion. I surely did not deceive myself when I thought that in your opinion, as well as in that of Mr. Doblado, the treaty of Soledad was nothing else than the adoption, in principle, of the military occupation of Mexico by the allied forces.
If any doubt upon this point has existed in the mind of the Mexican government, I think it right and loyal to dispel at once all illusions, and make known to it the first exigencies it must count upon. If this communication give rise to immediate hostilities I am ready, as I have already told you, to fall back upon Paso Ancho, and to open a new campaign from this instant. I am equally of opinion that a complete amnesty is requisite, without conditions and reserves, which would allow us to consult the true wishes of the country. Do you find it more advantageous, in agreement with Sir Charles Wycke, to seek, in order to break our convention, a motive, I will not say a pretext, in wrongs which it seems to me date from very far back? you know, my dear general, that I am accustomed to speak to you without reserve, and to disclose to you my whole mind.
You have, with your moderate and prudent conduct, done a great service to this country. You have preserved it from disastrous consequences from an expedition conceived with an exaggerated confidence, and which Spain would not have been able to sustain alone without sensible prejudice to her finances. You have done more. You have facilitated to us the means of tranquilizing Mexico with regard to our intentions, and to make her understand that we have not come to establish a dominion she did not desire. In my opinion it was a fault [Page 765]to have given a color exclusively Spanish to our expedition; firstly, allowing that the number of your troops was much the most considerable; next, for having reserved for your personal illustration and for your military knowledge the charge of creating for yourself a position so preponderant that the action of the other plenipotentiaries must naturally disappear, in part, before your own.
If you had been actuated by sentiments less noble and generous—if yon had been merely a soldier, in place of a political man, you would have dragged us fatally into a war, inasmuch as that national feeling, which your prudence alone has assuaged, would have arisen against us. I doubt not, although nothing has been said to me, that the Emperor, in deciding to send here a new army and a general to command his troops, has looked only to giving free scope to the actions of France, and to reserve to it the most complete liberty in its decisions. I certainly shall not interpret this determination as a proof that our alliance is weakened—that it obliges me, even when my sympathies did not impel me to do so, to lend the most active and disinterested co-operation to the Spanish army in whatever position it might be; but I think, at the same time, I should consider the importance given to my mission as a notice that I must not subject my political views to those of any other plenipotentiary.
I should be surprised, my dear general, to be unable to proceed in concord with you, since I repeat that I retract in nothing from what we have already agreed. You will permit me only to be, in future, more watchful against a certain deference which was called forth more by your personal character than by your superior position. In a word, I am resolved to continue, happen what may, until I accomplish the end I have proposed. In order to attain it, I am decided to take advantage of the true sympathy that appears to exist here towards France. Consequently, without disclaiming our alliance, without separating in anything our cause from yours, I insist that it be well understood by all that our expedition is a French expedition, and is at the orders of no one. I should have wished, my dear general, to go myself to give these explanations in person, and arrive as soon as my letter at the appointment you have been pleased to give me, but I find myself still invested with the entire and immediate command of the troops which I have conducted to Tehuacan.
I have not at my orders any officer of sufficiently high rank to be able to confide to him, with all security, a command which may from one moment to another call for the adoption of prompt and decisive steps. I have requested General Lorencez to come and unite with me, or to send me the chief of his staff, Colonel Valaze. Then I shall have greater liberty of action, and I will place myself in agreement with M. de Saligny in order to fix, if necessary, out of Tehuacan, the point of our residence. I desire that the battalion of ———, commanded by General Lorences, at Tehuacan, should continue its march. It is impossible to foresee what may arise from all the complications in which we find ourselves, and I should not be sorry to re-enforce my little army.
Receive, my dear general, the assurance of my highest consideration and entire regard.
E. JURIEN, Vice. Admiral, Commander-in-chief of the French expeditionary troops in Mexico.
His Excellency General Prim, Count de Reus, marquis of Castilbios, Commander-in-chief of the forces of Spain in Mexiro.
P. S.—I write to General Lorencez by the mail which carries you this letter, that if the position of the Spanish army should find itself in the slightest de-degree threatened, the batallion of ———, which left Vera Cruz to unite with me at Tehuacan, should place itself at once under your orders.