Mr. Dickinson to Mr. Seward.
Sir: Much anxiety is manifested by the people of this country in regard to the project which seemed to be entertained by the President of the United States of colonizing persons of African descent in Central America.
The people of Nicaragua are very generally opposed to such a scheme, and their opposition seems to be deep-rooted and strong. They manifest as much abhorrence at being placed on a social and political equality with emancipated slaves as do some of the people of our northern States. Although a majority of the population of Nicaragua is more or less colored, the African blood is comparatively trifling. The colored portion is mostly a mixture of the early white adventurers with an aboriginal people, that had made some progress in agriculture and many of the useful arts before the white race came among them. The fact that the white blood is so largely mixed with the Indian is not so much a proof that the early whites of this country had different tastes from those that first settled in North America, as it is that the Indians themselves were a more congenial race, and more readily assimilated to the whites than did the northern tribes. The African blood of Nicaragua is mostly confined to the Atlantic shore, among the Mosquito Indians, who have no political power in the government. The people of Nicaragua are proud and sensitive, and by no means devoid of talent. They are extremely jealous of their national character, and feel indignant at the idea of being ranked with the North American negro. It is not the labor that they object to, it is their assumed equality with the African race.
As an instance of the excitement which exists on this subject, I quote from a letter written to me by honorable 0. N. Riotte, our minister to Costa Rica, under date of 28th August, 1862, as follows:
“The last steamer from Central America conveyed us the news of a perfect panic prevailing over Nicaragua and Honduras on account of a dreadful deluge of negro emigration into these two countries from the United States. Permit me to ask you what is at the foundation of these rumors ? The contagion of fear has spread already here, and spoiled a project which, for a number of months, I was considering, with the government, with the view of facilitating and securing the establishment of freed negro colonies by an act of congress. I take the liberty of begging your attention to this inquiry at your earliest convenience.”
This excitement was at first produced, and is now aggravated as much as possible, by the active secession influence which pervades this country. From the first day of my arrival in this republic to the present time, I have been ever watchful and diligent in searching out and making myself acquainted with the nature, extent, and secret springs of this malign influence. I have succeeded in discovering its various agencies, and know how they operate in this country. I have also succeeded in counteracting and controlling them. I have brought [Page 894]the privateer question, which was entirely the work of secessionists, (foremost among whom were my predecessor, and the United States consul,) to a successful issue. In the same manner, I am confident, I shall eventually succeed in controlling this panic, for I have influences at work as sleepless and untiring as they, but in this they have more substantial ground to work upon than they have had on any other question.
National jealousy has taken the alarm, and feels insulted at the idea of being classed with a servile race. Paradoxical as it may seem, the colored population are the most violently exercised on the subject.
They regard it as the greatest degradation for the country to be overrun with blacks. They feel a sort of pride in being lifted up into a political equality with the white race, but they do not wish to have the national character darkened any more than it is. I do not think that the President of the United States intends anything of the kind, but this is the way it is and will continue to be received here until the idea is distinctly disavowed by the highest authority.
The great disturbing question of this country is, which of these races shall maintain the political supremacy ? It is a question more intimately and ineradicably engrafted into the social and political system of these states, and even more difficult of solution, than the slavery question in the United States.
It is a question in which the whole civilized world, and especially the United States, is most deeply interested, for more than one half of the American continent is now peopled by mixed races, one or the other of which must eventually predominate. Surely nothing should be done to crush out the white race from any portion of the chosen home of civilization and free government. Whatever will be productive of this result in Nicaragua will be instantly repelled.
Having received no instructions on the subject, and not knowing the precise character or extent of the project in view, I have not deemed it wise, at this time, to do more than to use my personal influence in endeavoring to allay the excitement, and to write the brief notes to this government, copies of which are enclosed.
I also ask your attention to the enclosed copy of my answer to Mr. Riotte, as containing details which time will not permit me to enlarge upon here.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, Washington, D. C.