Mr. Taylor to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The announcement of the London Morning Post, and La Patrie, of Paris, that France has submitted to England and Russia a proposal for intervention in American affairs reached here yesterday. After my conversation with Prince Gortchacow, communicated to you in my despatch of the 29th ultimo, (No. 16,) I was not unprepared for the news. Although the action of Russia had been declared in advance, I determined to call upon the Prince in the hope of obtaining some details of the proposition. He was just leaving the foreign office, on his way to attend the imperial council, when I called, but assured me that he desired to have an interview with me in relation to the subject. As his communications cannot fail to be important, and I desire to forward them to you by the next mail, I have to-day written to him, asking that the interview be granted within the next three days.
The Journal de St. Petersbourg, of this morning, contains a leading article on the proposed interference. Although Prince Gortchacow has assured me that it was not written at his dictation, the official character of the journal in which it appears will cause it to be accepted throughout Europe as having [Page 842] emanated from the imperial cabinet. I therefore subjoin a translation, as follows:
“We are ignorant of the precise terms in which the proposition of France has been made, but we persist in believing it very improbable that one power, or several European powers combined, should otherwise than by way of counsel intervene in the struggle which divides the States of the American Union. From the very commencement of the war Russia caused her voice to be heard, amicably pleading for peace and conciliation. She would assuredly not refuse, at present, to unite with two other powers in urging these views in the sense in which she has already spoken. But the question whether the belligerents will be disposed to receive the counsel thus offered to them remains intact. At a period when the policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states is more widely preached and practiced in Europe than it ever was before, there would be, it seems, something at least unusual in the fact of the European powers crossing the ocean on the strength of the opposite principle. The intelligence and the sentiment of humanity would rejoice if Russia, France, and England should make use of their legitimate influence in America to favor the return of peace and concord upon a soil ravaged by bloody combats; but if this kindly and entirely amicable intervention should take a form which might, in any degree, resemble an act of authority, it would be an event the consequences of which would become disastrous to the peace of the world, and we prefer to believe that the wisdom of the governments will preserve us from the fatal complications it would bring after it.
“We have not the intention of examining, incidentally, from the point of view of international right, whether a European intervention in the affairs of the United States could be legally justified. We consider that whatever may be the misfortunes of which North America is at present the theatre, the foreign powers have no right to impose their mediation upon the country. The war between the partisans who support the federal compact, and the secessionists who seek to destroy it, cruel as it is, does not trouble the internal security of any European nation; and if it injures certain of their commercial interests; if it moves the pity of civilization for its victims, it nevertheless does not compromise the existence or the safety of any people in the Old World. Europe would thus have no right in seeking to impose a mediation on the American belligerents. The powers would thus not only place the policy which they have adopted in one hemisphere in contradiction with that which they wish to practice in the other, but they would also lack prudence, (habilete;) for it is beyond doubt that a mediation which should be thrust uninvited upon America would so profoundly wound the susceptibilities of the population between whom it attempted to intervene, that there would be, perhaps, more cause to dread manifestations against European action, than there is now to deplore the actual struggle.
“For the sake of the good reputation, both for ability and for respect of rights, of the powers mentioned in the announcement of the Morning Post and La Patrie, we earnestly hope that their action towards the American belligerents will be prudent, wise, and reserved, such as that of the cabinet of St. Petersburg has been, (if we may be permitted to recall it,) since the commencement of the struggle. Such action would, moreover, become the more efficacious in proportion to its calmness, and to the difficulty which the parties concerned would have to find a pretext for seeing in it the evidence of a manifestation of mercantile interests, or the pride of the military power of European states.
“Intervention is one of the most delicate political acts which a power can ever be called upon to exercise. The reserve which Europe has thus far exhibited in regard to the great American question, allows us to hope that the honor and the advantages of a past course, so prudent and so loyal, will not be compromised by a movement in favor of those who so ardently plead their [Page 843] injured interests, but that an intelligent foresight of the results will dissuade from such a step. In order that the European powers may have some chance of rationally proving to the belligerent parties that reconciliation is the best solution, they must first prove that it is the love of peace, the fervor of sentiments of humanity and civilization, which alone inspires them, directing them to measures of sympathy, whence all ideas of supremacy are excluded, and which are made with a profound respect for the independence and the liberty of the States of the American Union.”
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.