Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton

No. 525.]

Sir: I have received your despatch of March 25, No. 442, which informs me of the completion of the loan to the Grand Duke Maximilian, and of his anticipated embarcation for Mexico. In order that you may understand the condition of affairs in that country, as fully as they are understood here, I have given you a copy of a communication which has lately been received from our consul at Matamoras.

I give you also, for your information, a copy of a note which has been received from Mr. Geofroy on the subject of the protection which was extended to the consul at that place by Major General Heron, and of my answer to that paper. This correspondence embraces some other incidental subjects. It is proper to say that Mr. Geofroy proposes to communicate to me a statement of another distinct subject of complaint, in regard to proceedings on the frontier, under instructions from Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, and that I have engaged to bestow due consideration upon it.

I send you a copy of a resolution which passed the House of Representatives on the 4th instant, by a unanimous vote, and which declares the opposition of that body to a recognition of a monarchy in Mexico. Mr. Geofroy has lost no time in asking for an explanation of this proceeding.

It is hardly necessary, after what I have heretofore written with perfect candor for the information of France, to say that this resolution truly interprets the unanimous sentiment of the people of the United States in regard to Mexico. It is, however, another and distinct question, whether the United States would [Page 357] think it necessary or proper to express themselves in the form adopted by the House of Representatives at this time. This is a practical and purely executive question, and the decision of it constitutionally belongs, not to the House of Representatives, nor even to Congress, but to the President of the United States. You will, of course, take notice that the declaration made by the House of Representatives is in the form of a joint resolution, which, before it can ac quire the character of a legislative act, must receive first the concurrence of the Senate, and, secondly, the approval of the President of the United States; or in case of his dissent, the renewed assent of both houses of Congress, to be expressed by a majority of two-thirds of each body. While the President receives the declaration of the House of Representatives with the profound respect to which it is entitled, as an expression of its sentiments upon a grave and important subject, he directs that you inform the government of France that he does not at present contemplate any departure from the policy which this government has hitherto pursued in regard to the war which exists between France and Mexico. It is hardly necessary to say that the proceeding of the House of Representatives was adopted upon suggestions arising within itself, and not upon any communication of the executive department, and that the French government would be seasonably apprised of any change of policy upon this subject which the President might at any future time think it proper to adopt.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


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


Mr. Geofroy to Mr. Seward, April 3, 1864.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Geofroy, April 6, 1864.

Resolutions of House of Representatives, April 4, 1864.


Mr. Geofroy to Mr. Seward.

Sir: As I have had the honor to inform you, I have transmitted to my government the documents which your excellency submitted to me, on the subject of the affair at Matamoras. The documents can scarcely have reached Paris at this moment.

While awaiting the answer they will occasion, I this morning received a second despatch from Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, pointing to new facts on which I shall have the honor to confer with your excellency on the earliest day my health will permit me to go out; but there is a point which seems to be of importance to bring immediately to your notice. It would appear that on the news of the events of the month of January last, General Bazaine took the measures necessary to protect, in the direction of Matamoras, the Mexican territory against any further invasion. Whatever may be the opinion we may form upon past events, you will comprehend, sir, how necessary it is, to avoid all complication in the future, that General Banks, and the officers serving under his orders, may be again called to the strict observance of the instructions given the 23d November, 1863, from your excellency’s department.

I should not, either, leave you in ignorance that the French troops must also have been directed to Sonora, where, according to reports, more or less founded, a very considerable number of emigrants from California must lately have disembarked at Guaymas, and have established themselves in the country in virtue of grants which were made to them by the ex-President, Juarez.

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The mission of our forces is to prevent, in Sonora, all these; takings of illicit possession, if they be really attempted; and, in any case, the lawfulness of concessions which shall have emanated from Juarez will never be admitted. Your excellency will probably judge proper to make this known to American citizens who might allow themselves to be drawn into such speculations.

I seize this occasion to renew to your excellency the assurances of my high consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Geofroy

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 3d instant, in which you inform me that you have received a second despatch from Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, pointing to new facts in relation, as I am left to infer, to the proceedings which took place at Matamoras in the case of Mr. Pierce, the consul at that place, and which have been made the subject of recent correspondence on your part with this department. I shall with pleasure receive the promised information, when the state of your health shall be such as to enable you to visit me, and I sincerely regret the cause by which such a visit is delayed. Since my last note to you on the Matamoras affair was written, I have learned that General Cortinas, with his forces, is certainly adhering to the government of the United States of Mexico. In view of this fact, it is not now apparent to this government that France, being, in our view, only a belligerent in Mexico, and having no forces at or near Matamoras when the transaction in regard to the consul occurred there, can reasonably expect explanations concerning it from the United States.

You inform me in the note now before me that, on hearing of that transaction, in January last, General Bazaine took the measures necessary to protect the Mexican territory, in the direction of Matamoras, against any further invasion, and you suggest that, in consequence of that proceeding, Major General Banks, and the officers serving under his orders, may be again called to a strict observance of the instructions which I gave to that general on the 23d of November last. Passing over the words “further invasion,” as an accidental assumption of a fact which this government has not conceded, and is not yet prepared to con cede, I have had no hesitation in informing Major General Banks of the purpose of General Bazaine, and enjoining the United States general to a strict and faith ful observance of the instructions of November, which require him to forbear from any form of intervention in the war between France and Mexico.

You also inform me in your last-mentioned note that French forces have been directed towards Sonora, and you bring to my knowledge rumors that a very considerable number of emigrants from California have lately disembarked at Guaymas, and have established themselves in the country in virtue of grants which were made to them by President Juarez, whom you describe as ex-president. You further state that the mission of the French forces is to prevent, in Sonora, the taking possession of estates under such grants, the lawfulness of which you say will never be admitted, and you suggest to me the expediency of making this information known to American citizens who might be disposed to allow themselves to be drawn into such speculations.

While I appreciate the frankness and the good will which the Emperor’s government manifest in thus communicating its views and purposes on the subject mentioned, it nevertheless remains my duty to say that this government [Page 359] has long recognized, and still does continue to recognize, the constitutional government of the United States of Mexico as the sovereign authority in that country, and the President Benito Juarez as its chief This government at the same time equally recognizes the condition of war existing in Mexico between that country and France. We maintain absolute neutrality between the belligerents, and we do not assume to judge, much less to judge in advance, of the effect of the war upon titles or estates. We have no knowledge of such an emigration from California to Sonora as you have described in your note. But if such an emigration has taken place, those persons who thus emigrate will, of course, be regarded as subjecting themselves to the authority and laws by which the rights of citizens of Mexico are governed; and while it seems unnecessary tor the President to assume that such emigrants will claim the protection of this government for any estates, of whatever kind, they may attain, or attempt to attain, in Mexico, it would certainly be premature to attempt now to decide upon the validity of such claims.

Peaceful emigration from the United States is entirely free from restraint or influence of the government. Emigrants themselves are generally well informed concerning their rights. Under these circumstances, any interference of the government concerning such emigration would be as inexpedient as it would be without precedent. The case would be different if the act of emigration was attended with preparations and purposes hostile to Mexico, or to either belligerent party, or to any other nation, and, therefore, incompatible with the laws of the United States, or with the law of nations. It is believed that the government of the United States has sufficiently indicated the views it must take in such a case, if it should occur, which, however, there seems no immediate reason to apprehend.

Accept, sir, the renewed assurance of my high consideration.


Mr. L. de Geofroy, &c., &c., &c.