Mr. Taylor to Mr. Seward.

No. 27.]

Sir: Your despatch No. 10, of December 23, was received on the 17th instant. The first portion of it, which relates to the impression conveyed by my despatch No. 21, of November 28, 1862, has, I trust, been already answered by my subsequent despatches. I consider that a part of my official duty is to acquaint you, without reserve or modification, with the state of public opinion at this capital concerning the events of our national struggle. These statements, however, are entirely of an objective character, and I have unfortunately chosen my words if they suggest the inference that I have in any manner shared the doubts and anxieties which I have described as being prevalent here.

On the contrary, I have invariably expressed my confidence in the strength of the federal power, and the successful issue of the struggle, not from a sense of official propriety, but from my own unshaken, individual faith. I believe, however, that you will not have misunderstood me in this respect.

I have just returned from an interview with Prince Gortchacow, which I had requested immediately upon receiving your despatch. * * * *

“Tell Mr. Seward,” said he, “that the policy of Russia in regard to the United States is fixed, and will not be changed by the course adopted by any other nation. We greatly desire, as you know, the termination of your unfortunate struggle, but we shall not offer our friendly mediation until it is certain of being accepted by both sides—by the federal government and the southern States. We earnestly hope for the maintenance of the Union, but at the same time we have no hostility to the southern people; and for the sake of both sides, we shall gladly proffer our services when they are mutually requested, but not until then.” This reply, I trust, will prove as explicit and satisfactory as you could have desired; but it is probably no more than the course of Russia hitherto has led you to anticipate.

[Page 856]

I also gave the Prince the explanation you required, concerning the statement of the strength and resources of the United States, which I sent to him, unofficially, in November. In compliance with your request, I informed him that you would not have intructed me to take this step, and, therefore, would not have given your sanction, had you been informed of it in advance. He answered that he regarded the paper at the time he received it entirely as a confidential communication; that he had read it with great interest, and was very glad that I had prepared it, as it contained important facts which had not previously come to his knowledge. He further said, that he regarded the relations between the two countries as possessing, necessarily, something of an intimate and confidential character, and my act was, therefore, especially that of a friend.

The best justification which I can offer for an unauthorized step of the kind is the good effect which it evidently produced. I did not venture upon it without careful deliberation, nor can I now perceive, looking back to that period, that it was ill-judged. For the previous two months our military operations only had been watched by European observers; and in November the impression was very general here, even among our friends, that the national cause was about to fail. I do not suppose that, except myself, a single diplomatic representative at this court had faith in our success; our real sources of strength were overlooked; and the imperial government, hearing nothing but unfavorable opinions from all quarters, showed signs of impatience and despondency. It seemed to me that Russia had deserved, by her steady friendship towards us, that her confidence in our national power and stability should be supported. Such support, I knew, would, under the circumstances, be acceptable to her, no less than advantageous to us. The paper I prepared was a simple exhibition of our actual strength and resources; it contained no argument; it was sent to Prince Gortchacow unofficially; and, as I have to-day learned from his excellency, the act was understood precisely as I had desired. Before receiving your last despatch, I had considered that I was incidentally justified by the closing words of your despatch No. 9, of December 7, stating that the President’s message and the accompanying reports would be very useful in enabling me “to show to Prince Gortchacow the grounds of the public confidence in the stability of the Union.” I had already endeavored to do the same thing by anticipating some of the statements contained in these documents.

In conversing afterwards on the recent news from the United States, especially the military movements in the west, and the actions of Murfreesboro’ and Vicksburg, the Prince took occasion to say: “I shall be glad, nevertheless, when you cease to show me laurels. They are always dipped in blood; but whenever you have a branch of olive to exhibit, bring it to me at once.” I replied that I could, at least, offer him an olive leaf, in the magnanimous policy adopted by General Banks at New Orleans, and that by adding leaf to leaf in this manner, we would finally be able to hold the entire branch. He expressed his pleasure at the news, which he had already noticed in the papers, and his willingness to accept it as a leaf from the tree of peace.

* * * * * * * * *

On the 13th instant, (New Year’s Day, O. S.,) there was a diplomatic reception at the winter palace. The Emperor, having so fortunately passed the point of danger in carrying out his grand reforms, was, apparently, in the best of health and spirits. My interview with him was brief, but very satisfactory. He asked me the character of the last news I had received from America. I told him it could neither be called good nor bad, and that the forces at the command of the government were scarcely yet in motion. “But you anticipate good news soon, do you not?” he asked. “You are sure of final success?” I replied that I should not consider myself worthy to represent my country if I doubted it. “Quite right,” he remarked, “and I hope it will come soon.” “All Americans know,” I then said, “that your Majesty is one of our best friends.” [Page 857] He bowed, and said, “I shall remain so.” Afterwards I was very kindly received by the Empress.

At the court ball two days afterwards, the Emperor again approached me, and after some pleasant conversation, spoke of the battle of Fredericksburg. I assured him that although General Burnside’s attempt had failed, the bravery and efficiency of our soldiers had been strikingly exhibited, and the country seemed to be encouraged, rather than depressed, since the nature of the battle had been fairly understood. He then asked me what was the next news I expected to receive. I replied, the President’s proclamation of emancipation, the effect of which, I hoped, would be equivalent to many battles. He assented to this in the most hearty and emphatic manner.

I may add that on this and other recent occasions which I have attended in my official capacity, I have been treated by all the officers of the imperial government with the most gratifying courtesy and kindness.

It is also proper to state that Prince Gortchacow, at our interview to-day, in speaking of American affairs, expressed his regret at the violence of party contentions in the loyal States, and especially at the direct attack recently made upon the cabinet. I replied, that at home, where the nature of our parties and their operations are better understood, these differences are not so important as they appear to European eyes; they were to be deprecated at the present time, but they could not seriously interfere with the policy of the government. With regard to the cabinet, I said, that from all I could learn, it was now stronger than before the assault was made, and perhaps in consequence of it. It may not be out of place for me to add, that any change in the direction of our foreign relations would be regretted at this court.

The internal condition of the Russian Empire continues to be very satisfactory. I am collecting information with regard to various important changes which are now being developed, and will shortly forward to you a special report on the subject.

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

BAYARD TAYLOR, Chargé d’Affaires.

Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.