Mr. Seward to Mr. Koerner.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of despatches as follows: from Mr. Perry, late in charge of the legation, No. 113, bearing date September 15, and No. 114, of the date of September 18. From yourself, No. 53, of the date of September 18, and No. 54, of the date of September 20.[Page 2]
In the present paper I shall confine myself to so much of these despatches as relates to the question of the maritime boundary of Spain in the waters which surround the island of Cuba. Mr. Perry’s proceedings on that question are approved, so far as their spirit and general effect are concerned, but he has unfortunately erred in regard to the form of proceeding he chose for referring the question to the arbitrament of his Majesty the King of the Belgians. Mr. Perry has assumed, and has left the Marquis of Miraflores to infer, that the President can properly make the reference without first obtaining the consent of the Senate of the United States. On the contrary, the United States cannot contract any binding engagement whatever with a foreign power except by a solemn treaty, which in every case must be submitted before ratification to the Senate for its approval. This point was explicitly reserved in my note to Mr. Tassara, of the 10th of August, and it ought to have been distinctly brought by Mr. Perry to the notice of the Marquis of Miraflores. You will please make the necessary explanation at the earliest convenient moment to the Marquis. With a view to carry the agreement into effect without any loss of time, I herewith send you the project of a treaty, a copy whereof I have also furnished to Mr. Tassara. You will submit this project to the Marquis of Miraflores, who will be expected to suggest any modifications of it which he may think necessary, and to give full powers to Mr. Tassara to close the negotiation. When I shall have agreed with him, the treaty can then be signed here, and having been duly executed, the President will promptly submit it to the Senate, and ask its approval thereof. If, as the President expects, that approval shall be given, the treaty will be formally ratified and exchanged. When thus exchanged, it will be the authority upon which his Majesty the King of the Belgians can proceed to examine and determine the question, and his award will be final and conclusive upon both parties.
I am not to be understood as raising any objections to the proposition of the marquis that her Catholic Majesty shall address a letter to the King, requesting him to assume the office of arbitration; though the request must, of course, admit the reservation of the approval of the measure by the Senate of the United States. A letter of that form would be a proper demonstration of respect to his Majesty, and the President will concur in it by addressing a similar letter to the King.
It will require due consideration on your part so to conduct this affair as, in the first place, to satisfy the cabinet of Spain that the departure from the course agreed upon between Mr. Perry and the Marquis of Miraflores is rendered necessary by the form of our organic law; and secondly, to relieve Mr. Perry of a misapprehension of our course on the subject; to which end you are authorized to say to him that his error is set down to the account of mere inadvertence, and does not at all derogate from the highest appreciation of his ability and diligence in conducting the important negotiation with which he has been charged.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Gustavus Koerner, Esq., &c., &c., &c., Madrid.