Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton

No. 447.]

Sir: Your despatch of December 4 (No. 382) has been received. Your [Page 8] proceedings in the case of the Rappahannock are approved, and the good disposition which has been manifested by Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys in the matter is appreciated.

I send herewith a copy of an extract, which has accidentally attracted my notice, from what purports to be an annual report of S. R. Mallory, who is pretending to act as secretary of the navy for the insurgents at Richmond. So soon as I shall be able to procure a copy of the whole paper, I shall transmit it to you. In the mean time, there is no room for doubt that the extract, of which a copy is now sent, is authentic. It boldly avows the authority and the activity of the insurgents at Richmond for the building of armed steam-rams in France and Great Britain, on their account, with their money, and for the very purpose of making war against the United States from French and British ports.

Secondly. It avows with equal directness and boldness the sending of twenty-seven so-called commissioned officers and forty reliable petty officers from Richmond to the British North American provinces, to organize and despatch from thence a naval expedition to make war against the United States on the great lakes, which expedition they confess has been defeated through the vigilance of the provincial authorities.

Thirdly. In connexion with the two avowals, the same conspirator says that he has sent another cruiser with instructions which will shortly be made apparent to the enemies of the insurgents near home. This may possibly mean instructions to send the Rappahannock and other vessels for armament into French waters, and it may mean to seize vessels on the high seas under their officers, and arm these captured ships in neutral waters, or with lighters from neutral ports.

You will lose no time in laying this information before Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys, and you will submit to him, as the opinion of this government, that the proof thus presented is sufficient to remove all lingering doubt concerning the objects, character, and designs of the builders of the steam rams in France, which have lately been indicated to his Imperial Majesty’s government.

Secondly. In the opinion of this government, a toleration by the French government of the proceedings of the pirates, thus avowed by the insurgents, after the knowledge of them now imparted to M. Drouyn de l’Huys, would not be neutrality, but would be a permission to the enemies of the United States to make war against them from the coasts of France.

Thirdly. It is the opinion of this government that persons pursuing these now avowed practices in France are not entitled, after the knowledge communicated, to reside there without restraint, upon the plea of freedom to political exiles, but that they ought to be regarded as belligerents unlawfully perverting their shelter to the commission of crimes, not only against the people of the United States, but against the dignity and honor of the French empire.

Fourthly. In the opinion of this government, it is a deliberate design of the insurgents, through these practices now avowed, to involve France in a war with the United States. At least, these practices tend directly to that nefarious end, for they tend to exasperate the people of the United States and the people of France against each other, and to provoke citizens of the United States in every form to pursue their enemies operating from French ports and seeking refuge in them within the jurisdiction of France, or to adopt some other form of retaliation.

The President is well assured that the government of the Emperor will reprobate and condemn this design, and desire to defeat it as earnestly and sincerely as this government can do. I regret that beyond this temperate use of remonstrance and appeal to the French government, which we have thus far presented, to prevent the designs, we are unable to suggest any remedy for the evils complained of that would be effective, and at the same time consistent with the policy which France has hitherto pursued towards the insurgents who [Page 9] have made this lamentable civil war. On the contrary, the very abuse of the flag, ports, and waters of France is resorted to by the insurgents as a means to make themselves, through the involuntary toleration of the French government, the naval belligerent which that government acknowledges them to be, and which, in fact, they are not nor cannot be without flag, ports, ships, or waters in the region which they falsely claim to defend.

At the same time, it must be manifest that the unlawful proceedings of the insurgents ought to be brought to an end; and it is respectfully submitted that, for this purpose, the Emperor’s government will need to adopt some means beyond any that it has yet put into execution.

After having submitted the foregoing facts and suggestions to M. Drouyn l’Huys, on the part of this government, in a spirit of cordial esteem, and in a manner perfectly respectful, you will, for the present, leave them to his just consideration.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


William L. Dayton Esq., &c., &c., &c.