Mr. Taylor to Mr. Seward.

No. 24.]

Sir: Your despatches, No. 8, of December 1, and No. 9, of December 7, together with the copy of your despatch No. 263, of November 30, to Mr. Dayton, have been received. The copious extracts from your published correspondence, especially with the legations at London and Paris, received at the same time through the public prints, complete my understanding of the policy of the government in its foreign relations during the changing fortunes of the present year, and arm me sufficiently to meet any new questions that may arise. I cannot refrain from expressing to you the profound gratification which I have derived from the perusal of this correspondence. The calm, confident, self-possessed attitude of the government which it reveals, undiscouraged by temporary reverses at home, and presenting a firm and dignified front to the impertinent suggestions of interference from abroad, cheers and strengthens the American representative, whose anxieties increase in proportion to the distance from his own country, and to his diminished opportunities of receiving regular and reliable information of passing events.

My despatch No. 22, of December 17, will have already satisfied you that the effect produced by misstatements and exaggerations, many of which have their origin at home, and are, therefore, all the more likely to mislead foreign observers, has been of late very much diminished. The admirable tone of the President’s message, temperate, yet firm, dispassionate, yet profoundly earnest, has produced a most favorable impression throughout Europe. As soon as it reached me, I forwarded one of the official copies to Prince Gortchacow, and it has since been translated and published entire, though without comment, in the government journal. But the President’s striking presentation of the steady growth of the United States, and the rapidity by which the burden of any extraordinary expenditure is thereby lightened, needs no comment. It speaks for itself; and no unprejudiced reader can fail to see that if the present war for the Constitution and the integrity of the nation is a check drawn upon the resources of the coming years, their natural increase will be sufficient to meet it. This is a vast advantage we possess over the nations of Europe, which, with the exception of Russia, have either approached the limit of their material development or are shorn of their increase by the superior attractions offered by new lands; and its importance, as an element of present and future power, has never been understood abroad. I believe that the manner in which it has been stated by the President will furnish the surest basis for a renewed confidence in the stability of the American republic.

Your remarks in relation to exaggerated statements which “have been presented to Europe, even by friends of this country, as portentous facts,” are entirely correct, as is also your judgment of the temporary character of the impressions they have created. But to combat these impressions while they lasted was a serious task. It is always a more difficult because a more delicate [Page 853] labor to allay the impatience of friends than to resist the open hostility of enemies. I was not then in possession of all the weapons which your recent de spatches and the government papers laid before Congress afford me at present. To the continued demand for explanations of abortive military movements, of the failure of the federal armies, superior in numbers, in equipment, and means of support, to achieve any important advantage over the rebels from May to November, I could give no satisfactory reply. I may say now frankly that the delays of General McClellan and the inaction of General Buell have done our cause great damage among its European friends. Even after the battle of Antietam, Prince Gortchacow intimated to me that it was not politic to talk of final success while Lee’s army was on the Potomac. It is very evident that the judgment of Europe accredits the rebel commanders in Virginia with a generalship superior to that of our own. I mention this as a simple fact, which adds its strength to the erroneous impressions of which you speak.

My own course has been to show, by the simplest and most easily understood representations, that a division of the Union will not be allowed to take place. The democratic party, I have asserted, professes an equal devotion to the national cause; thousands of its members are fighting in the ranks of our armies; and if its leaders assume an attitude of opposition to the administration, it is not that they really design to encourage, the insurgents, but that they differ in regard to the policy to be pursued in defeating their parricidal scheme. While admitting the failure of our armies to accomplish all that was promised and might reasonably have been expected from their summer campaign, I have insisted that the rebellion has been steadily losing ground in the regions most essential to its success. Its plans with regard to California, to New Mexico, Arizona, and the other Territories of the United States, have been most signally defeated. Missouri has been so thoroughly secured to the Union that the battle-ground is now virtually removed from her soil; and Maryland and Kentucky, whose loyalty seemed to waver in the beginning, have at last purged themselves of the dishonoring doubt. The secured possession of these States and of Western Virginia, with the command of the Mississippi river, and of every port on our long line of sea-coast, which our present naval strength assures to us, will confine the rebellion within limits too narrow for its existence. Holding thus its borders on every side, we need only act on the defensive thereafter to compass its gradual dissolution. We will have so cut down the basis upon which it was undertaken, so restrained that spirit of aggression which is its breath of life, that we might even, holding Tennessee, give to the States between the Mississippi and the James rivers permission to establish a separate republic, safe in our knowledge that the hopelessness of the task would prevent the offer from being accepted.

The most momentous results of the war, thus far, have not been owing to the direct effect of the battles that have been fought. All along the line of disputed territory I can trace the footsteps of amoral change. State after State is slowly emerging from the darkness of the struggle, and shining more fairly in the light of an undoubted allegiance to the Union. The interests of a peculiar system are giving way before the overpowering importance of preserving the national life. The ground thus won is won forever; and though the war should last for years, the gradual consolidation and extension of that broad, all-embracing sentiment of loyalty without which no nation can have a permanent existence, will repay us for its losses and its trials.

These, however, are features of our struggle which foreigners, even those best informed in regard to American affairs, do not at once perceive. The military operations, on the other hand, stand forth prominently in the eyes of all, and our fortunes are measured by them alone. The recent articles in the Revue des Deux Mondes, ascribed to the Prince de Joinville, have been everywhere reprinted and read, and their effect has been all the greater that they emanate [Page 854] from one friendly to our cause. In various ways an impression has been very generally established that our armies are lacking in discipline and soldierly esprit, and that the number of men the nation can bring into the field is no real measure of its military strength. The pictures of the destitute and suffering condition of the rebel armies, which continually reach us through both northern and southern journals, naturally increase for us the shame of defeat, and lessen the prestige of victory. When I find these views shared by many of the loyal American citizens with whom I come in contact, I cannot wonder that the confidence of our foreign friends should be now and then shaken. I have, therefore, in my intercourse with the latter, principally confined myself to representations of the important sources of encouragement already mentioned.

I foresee that the terrible repulse of General Burnside’s army at Fredericksburg, the news of which has just reached here by telegraph, will be at once seized upon by our enemies, and brandished in the face of Europe as another evidence of the hopelessness of the national cause. I shall not, however, suffer the humiliating fact to depress my hopes, or shake my steadfast faith in the divine wisdom which guides our struggle. The news is not a cheering gift for the new year which opens to-morrow; but perhaps the next sun which dawns upon the world will witness, before its setting, the grandest triumph of the republic, and consecrate the day as an anniversary of jubilee in our future history.

I have communicated to the imperial government the thanks of that of the United States for the generous assistance rendered on the occasion of the wreck of the American ship Emperor.

No answer has yet been received to the circular of Mr. Blair in relation to a postal convention, or to the application of the Navy Department for tracings of the internal arrangements of men-of-war.

I trust that the foregoing statement of the views which have guided my action as temporary representative of the United States at this court will be satisfactory to the President. Of my earnest desire to forward the interests of my country, in every legitimate way, you do not need to be assured, and I trust you will feel satisfied, in case any new complications should arise, that I shall not lightly estimate or carelessly exercise the trust committed to my hands.

I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, your obedient servant,

BAYARD TAYLOR, Chargé d’Affaires.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.