Mr. Morris to Mr. Seward
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of despatch No. 93, dated September 21, relative to the negro troops about to be sent from Egypt to Mexico. In conformity with the instructions from the department, I have made his Highness Ali Pacha, minister of foreign affairs, acquainted with the contents of the same. He informed me that the Ottoman government was in nowise connected with the sending of the original contingent of negro troops from Egypt to Mexico; [Page 310] that it first became cognizant of the transaction through the public prints, and that at my request in 1863 it had addressed the late viceroy on the subject. He replied by telegram (and it was the last communication received from him, for he was then in a dying condition) that it was an inconsiderate act on his part, of which he deeply repented, but that it was then too late to recall the engagement he had contracted with the French Emperor. The affair was altogether surreptitious so far as the consent of the Porte was necessary to its authorization.
His Highness further observed that the present Pacha of Egypt, during his visit here last summer, had represented the great embarrassment he felt on this subject; that a request had been made to him by the French Emperor for a further contingent of negro troops to supply the losses occasioned by war and disease in the ranks of those originally sent, and that he deemed himself in some degree constrained by courtesy to a friendly sovereign and the example of his predecessor to comply with the request, and that he desired to know if the Porte would interpose any objections.
His Highness replied to this inquiry, after consultation with his Majesty the Sultan, that the Porte must not be considered as privy to the transaction; that it was originally entered upon without its knowledge or approbation, and that while, owing to the peculiar circumstances of the case, it would now insist on the cancelling of the obligations already contracted with the French Emperor by the viceroy, it must express the hope that this would be the last of such an impolite proceeding. The Pacha assured his Highness that the wishes of the Porte would, in this respect, be complied with. His Highness added that none of these negroes . were slaves. He said that the minister of Maximilian at this court, General Marques, had never spoken to him on the matter.
In conclusion he remarked that the Porte entertained a sincere feeling of respect and friendship for the government of the United States; that it regarded it as its natural ally; that it admired the principles of equity and justice by which its intercourse with other nations was regulated, and, as he had often assured me, his Majesty the Sultan, and all. the members of the Ottoman government, most cordially rejoiced in the re-establishment of the integrity of the American Union, and, as I was also aware, their sympathies during the late civil war had invariably been on the side of the constituted government of the United States. He begged me also to convey to the President of the United States the assurance that the government of his Majesty the Sultan desired to be understood as having no wish to interfere directly or indirectly against the interests of the government of the United States or of those of the American people, but that, on the contrary, it would be most happy to promote them whenever the occasion offered.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.