Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the circular of March 9, 1863, together with concurrent resolutions concerning foreign intervention in our existing rebellion. The resolutions were communicated in accordance with instructions, and were received with expressions of a friendly interest, and with an apparent appreciation of the justice and pertinence of the sentiments and principles therein set forth. Indeed, remarks were made showing that the Tunisian authorities are not at their ease in regard to their position. While they prize the good will of their nearest. and most powerful neighbor, they are, like our Congress, averse to officious intermeddling with their affairs, however friendly may be the pretext, or honeyed the expressions of good will; and, apparently to counteract such a course of action on the part of one government, they are courting friendly and intimate relations with other governments far and near. And hence the significance of the decorations and presents which I have reported, and to whose number I have now to add grand decorations from the Kings of Prussia and Italy for the Bey and his first ministers, sent by men-of-war, and received and reciprocated in Oriental style.
The chiefs of this government appear to be men of discrimination and foresight, though the wisdom of their policy is not beyound question. Having little confidence in the power of the Turkish Sultan to protect them in their rights as his subjects, they are seeking, with the view of greater security, recognition as an independent neutral power, like that, for example, of Belgium. Unofficially, they speak freely of their fears, hopes, and ambition. With neighbors crowding on their territory from the line of Algeria, perhaps occasionally assuming dictatorial airs at the capital, and ready to wink at, if [Page 1320] not foment, difficulties, in order to have a chance to arrange them in their own way, the Tunisians have little encouragement to develop their resources. Their precarious situation is assigned as one reason why their soil remains uncultivated, their mines unopened, and their harbors unimproved. “Let us be free from the danger of foreign interference, and we should be more inclined to engage in the work of internal improvements. Let foreigners residing here, and having the benefit of our country, pay taxes like ourselves, at least for the support of streets and highways.” Such sentiments occasionally find utterance, and their justice cannot be utterly denied, though I believe the backwardness of the country to be attributable more to the inherent character of the people and to causes explained in their history.
Not long since, one of the counsellors of the Bey, alluding to dangers, put a question thus: “Could America be depended upon for support in case of trouble?” My reply was, though America seeks to avoid taking an active part in European diplomacy, her moral support could be depended upon on the side of justice and right, and especially would she discountenance any violation of international law.
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I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.