Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward
Sir: During an interview which I had yesterday with his excellency the minister of foreign affairs, and after disposing of some matters with which I have no occasion to trouble you at present, a conversation ensued, which I deem it my duty to report to you—part of it at his excellency’s request.
I took the liberty of recalling a remark which his excellency made to me at our first interview, to the effect that the relations of France and the United States were, as usual, “friendly, though delicate—delicate.” I asked him if he [Page 362] had any special source of anxiety in his mind when he made that remark, of which I or my government might be ignorant. He said promptly, “Oh, no; nothing. I only referred to the perplexities growing out of our neutral position. “No,” he added, “if there were anything special I should have told you; you may always be sure that I shall speak frankly and freely with you.” I thanked him for the assurance; said I should not have troubled him with the question, but I had already learned to know the value of his words, and had been struck by the somewhat emphatic repetition of the word “delicate,” which led me to fear that something might have occurred since he last saw Mr. Dayton which had not been communicated to me.
I then said that, with the frankness which he invited by his example and promise, I would take the liberty of asking him another question, premising, however, that I did so without any special solicitude upon the subject, and of course without any instructions from my government. I referred him to reports quite current in the public journals, and at the clubs, that the Archduke Maximilian, the titular emperor of Mexico, had ceded or was about to cede Sonora to France. I told him that while I had no instructions to put such a question, I felt that I should neglect my duty if I failed to give my government the earliest information possible upon a matter in which the people of the United States would feel the liveliest interest.
His excellency replied that there had been no cession of terrritory, nor any question of such a thing; that it had been proposed to give the government of France a lien upon the mineral products of Sonora, in some way to secure the Mexican indebtedness to France, and an inquiry had been instituted to ascertain how far such a security could be made available, but nothing had been determined upon.
His excellency then said there was another report circulating in the papers, which he was glad of an opportunity of speaking to me about. He referred to the article of which I enclose a translation, copied from the Epoca of Madrid, and which I had already read and discussed with Mr. Barreda, the Peruvian minister, who had satisfied me that its material averments were entirely groundless. Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys stated that there was no foundation whatever for the story; that he did not know the motives of the Spanish journal for making such a statement, but he supposed the party in whose name it speaks were not indisposed to have it believed that France sympathized with Spain in her controversy with Peru.
I told him that I had seen the extract to which he had referred in an evening print, but was so entirely satisfied that there could be nothing in it, that I had not thought of troubling him with questions about it. I only wondered how such a paragraph could have found its way into the columns of the Moniteur He asked if it was in the Moniteur. I said it was.
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I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.