Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward

No. 8.]

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.


At the risk of exposing ourselves to accusations, which, however, will not affect our enlightened patriotism, we believe it our duty to call public attention to the conduct of France towards Spain, in the Pacific, under circumstances in which it might have been put to the proof by our naval forces on the coast of Chili and Peru. According to statements made by semi-official journals and correspondents from Panama, it is certain, and proofs of these facts exist in governmental regions, that after the catastrophe which destroyed the frigate Triemfo, and when the attitude of the Peruvian congress threatened to lead to difficult complications [Page 363] for our flotilla, the commandant of the French naval forces in the Pacific put all his resources at the disposition of your navy; as also, several months previously, the French consul at Panama had exposed his life in order to save that of Mr. Salazar y Mazaredo, the Spanish representative. Four years ago France placed herself in the same way, and resolutely, on our side, in our African war. She has sustained us in Mexico, and has not made the least trouble on the subject of San Domingo. Of what importance is it that certain persons obedient to the unworthy prejudices of our epoch disregard these facts, which, nevertheless, evidence a profound respect for the independence of the Spanish nation, and prove sincere sympathy for the august sovereigns seated upon the throne of Castile? In our day public opinion does justice to whom it is due, and the passions of a party cannot succeed in misrepresenting the sentiments of a people as noble and as loyal as the Spanish people.—(Epoca.)


Letters from Guayaquil received by the Journal Las Noticias confirm the account published by la Epoca up to the 30th December. No demonstration or attempt of any kind had been made against our squadron in the Pacific, and according to the statement of its commandant he had no fears whatever of being attacked. The 16th, three days after the departure of the mail, the vessels destined to increase our force in those seas ought to arrive; and on the other hand, our vice-admiral had received from the commandant of the French fleet offers of service of every sort if he should have need of them.—(Idem.)