Mr. Seward to Mr. Koerner.

No. 87.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch of April 18, No. 88, and to thank you for the information it gives concerning the constitutional reforms which have been adopted in Spain.

Mr. Romaine, the minister of Hayti, has just returned from Port au Prince to the United States. He represents the struggle in which the Spaniards are engaged with the Dominicans as being a very difficult one, without good assurance [Page 20] of results. His government thinks that its kind offices might be useful in effecting a settlement upon terms which, while saving the honor of Spain, would at the same time secure the independence of Dominica. But Mr. Romaine says that his government, conscious of its want of prestige, would desire to secure the sanction and co-operation of the United States, Great Britain and France. I have told him that our best wishes would go with the Haytian government in such an enterprise, although it is not now seen how, with our settled principles and habits, we could formally unite with European powers in any movement that would connect us as an ally or associate with any or all of the powers concerned. Mr. Romaine intimates a belief that the government of Spain has been chiefly moved in its attempt to re-establish its power in Dominica by an apprehension that the United States are only waiting an opportunity to seize for themselves the bay of Samana. It would be unfortunate for the Dominicans if this feeling on the part of Spain should prevent a restoration of their independence and freedom. I do not think the government of the United States has ever seriously designed to ravish the bay of Samana from the comparatively feeble people to whom it belonged, although I am aware that schemes for the purchase of that bay were heretofore entertained by some parties connected with this government, in the times when its policy was attempted to be directed towards the acquisition of Cuba, Mexico, and Central America, with a view to the establishment of a slaveholders’ dominion on the shores and islands of the Gulf of Mexico. No one can speak for the indefinite political future of that region, as indeed there is a boundary beyond which statesmen cannot hope to control the future of their own country, much less the future of foreign states. It is manifestly not only wise, but even necessary, to leave to after-coming statesmen the consideration of questions which are distant and purely contingent. The existing agitations in Europe illustrate this truism. I can speak with some confidence, however, for this government at present, and so long as it shall be occupied with the interests and ideas with which the American people are now practically engaged, I can very confidently say that the United States are not seeking nor desiring any conquest here or abroad, and that, on the contrary, they seek and desire nothing more in regard to any part of America than that it may safely remain, under the care of its own people, in the enjoyment of republican institutions. The United States already have abundant territory, and all that they can improve. They believe that their position would be strengthened more by the establishment of free and indedendent governments on the continents and islands of America, than by an extension of their now already very large domain. But it is worthy of consideration that moderation is as justly expected by us from Spain, as by Spain from us. If she insist on holding Samana, while surrendering the rest of Dominica, simply for the purpose of preventing the United States from lawfully acquiring it at a future day, can she be surprised if the United States regard her as asking them to disclaim an ambition, the indulgence of which would be as lawful for them as for herself?

I give you these instructions confidentially, that you may use them informally, if you find reason to believe that by doing so you can favor the cause of freedom and humanity.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Gustavus Koerner, Esq., &c., &c., &c., Madrid.