Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward

No. 55.]

Sir: The sudden death of the Duke de Moray, and the prospect of an early termination of the war in the United States, has almost produced a panic in Paris. At no time since the Italian war have the French people appeared so concerned for the future. The markets have all been depressed, in spite of the efforts to sustain them.

To enable you the better to appreciate the influence and bearing of our late military successes upon public opinion, I enclose extracts from a series of journals, all more or less “officious,” and all published at or about the same time. Enclosure No. 1 is an article from the Memorial Diplomatique on the “Monroe Doctrine.” After giving an account of that doctrine, as he understands it, the writer proceeds to present additional reasons for feeling no disquietude about the French empire in Mexico, in consequence of unfriendly feelings in the United States.

Enclosure No. 2 is a report of some remarks made in the senate on the 10th by the Marquis de Boissy.

* * * * * * * *

Enclosure No. 3 is an extract from the reply of Chaix d’Est Auge to the Marquis de Boissy.

Enclosure No. 4 is an extract from an editorial article in the Avenir National of the 12th, commenting upon the article already cited from the Memorial Diplomatique.

Also extracts in same enclosure from the Patrié and the Presse and La France of the 13th.

These papers and proceedings will show that our attitude towards Mexico has been rendered much more disquieting to the people of France as our prospects of domestic peace have improved.

I am, sir, very respectfully, yours, &c.,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

[Enclosure No. 1.]

Translation from the Memorial Diplomatique, March 12, 1865, page 172.

* * * * * * * * * *

Such, disengaged from the exaggeration of party spirit and political passions, is this famous Monroe doctrine, that certain journals seek to represent as the sword of Damocles suspended over the crown of Maximilian I.

Put forward in order to protect the sovereign independence of the state of the New World, it cannot be applied to the actual state of things in Mexico without treading under foot the principle of popular sovereignty upon which it rests. Nothing is more natural than that the United States should not he particularly pleased with the re-establishment of monarchy among their neighbors; but that, through pure sympathy for the republican form, they [Page 381] should believe themselves to possess the right to force upon Mexico the return of anarchy, is what simple good sense will ever refuse to admit.

In presence of the incessant approbation of an entire people, in presence of the daily increasing popularity of the imperial couple, the best accredited organs of the American press have been forced to acknowledge that the French expedition, far from having exercised an illegitimate pressure upon public opinion in Mexico, has, on the contrary, served to bring out in a wonderful manner the free expression of the national will.

“The end to be attained,” said the Emperor of the French in the letter which he wrote to General Forey on the 3d July, 1862, “is not to force upon the Mexicans a form of government which would be disagreeable to them, but to aid them in their efforts to establish, according to their own wish, a government which may have some chance of stability, and which can insure to France redress for the wrongs of which she complains.” And immediately afterward his Majesty adds:

“We have an interest that the republic of the United States be powerful and prosperous, but we have no interest that it should seize upon the whole of Mexico, control thence the Antilles, as well as South America, and be the sole dispenser of the products of the New World.”

Hence we think that if the eventualities be considered not from a point of view purely hypothetical and conjectural, but in their practical and real aspect, we ought to take into account the letter of Napoleon III, which traces out distinctly the attitude of France in case the United States should depart from the Monroe doctrine, to such a point as to arrogate to itself the right of tutelage over a sovereign and independent state, as Mexico placed under the efficacious protection of the French flag.

It was with this object in view that, on the 10th of April, 1864, the convention of Mira-mar was signed, in the preamble of which is read:

“The government of his Majesty the Emperor of the French and that of his Majesty the Emperor of Mexico, animated by an equal desire to insure the re-establishment of order in Mexico, and to consolidate the new empire, have resolved to arrange by a convention the conditions of the stay of the French troops in this country.

Article 1. The French troops which are now in Mexico will be reduced as soon as possible to a corps of 25,000 men, including the foreign legion.

“This corps, to protect the interests which have caused the intervention, will remain temporarily in Mexico, under the conditions arranged by the following articles:

“Article 2. The French troops will evacuate Mexico according as his Majesty the Emperor of Mexico shall be able to organize the troops necessary to replace them.

“Article 3. The foreign legion in the service of France, composed of 8,000 men, will, nevertheless, still remain for six years in Mexico after all the forces shall have been recalled, conformably to article 2. Dating from this moment, the said legion shall pass into the service and pay of the Mexican government. The Mexican government reserves to itself the faculty of shortening the duration of the employment of the foreign legion in Mexico.”

In virtue of the stipulation which we have just cited, an army corps of 25,000 men remains in Mexico to protect the interests which have caused the intervention until the emperor Maximilian shall have organized the forces necessary to replace them.

Should, however, the reorganization of the Mexican army progress sufficiently rapid to render the complete evacuation possible at some not distant future, the foreign legion, which realizes an effective of 8,000 men, would still continue to unfurl the French flag in Mexico for six whole years after the departure of all the other troops, unless the emperor Maximilian should judge it expedient to shorten the duration of its employment. Thus imposing as seems the force of bayonets of which the United States will be able to dispose if they end the fratricidal war which at present divides them, there is very little fear that they will be disposed to make an attack upon Mexico, where, for eight or ten years still, they are sure to meet the French flag; and should they forget that it is to the generous co-operation of France that they owe their own independence, they could not be ignorant that the government of the Emperor Napoleon III does not compound in a matter of honor and dignity.

When Russia, confiding in the forbearance of which the other great powers had but too long time manifested in regard to her, attempted, in 1853, to fix forever her political preponderance in the east, imperial France did not hesitate an instant to draw the sword to maintain the independence and integrity of the Ottoman empire. Then pessamists were not wanting to spread alarm over the issue of a struggle entered into, at so great a distance, against the formidable colossus of the north. The British cabinet itself appeared at first frightened at the consequences of so perilous an undertaking, and was already disposed to subscribe to the wishes of the Czar; but imperial France having declared that were she obliged to sustain the war alone she would none the less take up the glove which the Autocrat of all the Russias had thrown down to Europe, England found herself drawn, in spite of herself, into the Crimean expedition.

It is principally to this glorious campaign that the government of Napoleon III owes the immense prestige which it how exercises throughout the whole world.

In revealing the power of his country in so striking a manner, he has, at the same time, delivered all Europe from the baleful terror which the Muscovite forces inspired, the [Page 382] exaggeration of which weighed upon her like a nightmare, paralyzing the regular development of liberal institutions in the centre of our continent.

As soon as the note of the notables of Mexico, conferring the crown upon the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria, had by the subsequent adhesion of the ayuntamientos obtained the legal sanction of the country, the French diplomacy made it its duty to assure itself of the true dispositions of the American cabinet in regard to the new empire of Mexico. President Lincoln and Mr. Seward, at Washington, as well as Mr. Dayton, at Paris, did not cease to assert the well-defined purpose of the government of the United States to respect the results of the free vote of the Mexican people. They added, that out of regard to France, whose friendly sympathies for the Union were confirmed by her scrupulous neutrality in the war between the north and the south, President Lincoln, in case of re-election, formally promised to enter into diplomatic relations with the government of Maximilian I if he was generally recognized by the other powers of Europe and America. The best-informed American journals agree in stating that President Lincoln only awaited the date of the renewal of his functions on the 4th of March to recognize officially the new Mexican empire; and this recognition, positively decided upon and making a part of the political programme of the government at Washington, will no doubt establish without delay between the two countries relations of perfect understanding and neighborliness.

Never in its discussions has the cabinet of Washington allowed to transpire the slightest allusion to the Monroe doctrine: still less has it from this leading point made reserves implying any right whatever in the internal affairs of Mexico. In effect the last attempt at conciliation between the confederates and the federals has revealed to us that the initiative tending to prop up the Monroe doctrine does not belong to the government of the north, but to that of the confederates, who, in a common undertaking based upon this doctrine, saw a means of bringing back the opinion of the population of the south to ideas of conciliation and federal unity.

It will be objected, perhaps, that if President Lincoln has preserved up to the present moment a wise and prudent attitude, it was to better cultivate the neutrality of France in the existing struggle between the north and the south, and that nothing could guarantee to us that, once a reconciliation made between the belligerents, he will not break through his promises, shielding himself behind the double pressure of Congress and the public opinion of the country.

The most efficacious guarantee for the ulterior conduct of the government of Washington lies, in our opinion, in the powerful interest which the United States have to entertain amicable relations with France. The notice to terminate the treaty stipulations of 1817 between England and the United States, relative to the great lakes, betrays in President Lincoln the presentiment of an inevitable rupture sooner or later between his country and Great Britain.

If peace is concluded between the north and the south, the armies at the disposition of the American Union will not be long in being used against Canada under one pretext or another. It would be the height of folly to irritate England, and at the same time to alienate the sympathies of France. The peace which would come to put an end to the war which the federals and confederates now wage will never be more than a truce. The schism between the north and the south is too deep to be entirely effaced, unless after several generations. Let the great powers coalesce against the north, and allow the south to have a glimpse of the perspective of a complete independence, they will at once find in the secession States an army ready to again take the field against a common enemy. Spain, on her side, will not ask better than to join her fleet to the naval forces of France and England, for more than Mexico, which is covered by the French flag, is the island of Cuba menaced by the United States.

If, after four years of bloody war, the government of Washington has not yet succeeded in subduing the confederates, can it for an instant remain under the delusion that it can make head against the formidable coalition of which France would necessarily become the soul? For in distorting the principle of the Monroe doctrine, in order to launch an army against Mexico, the United States would in consequence affect France as to her honor and as to her interests: as to her honor, because she could not leave unfinished the work which Napoleon III has called the glorious page of his reign; as to her interests, because, as Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys says in his despatch, addressed the 17th November, 1863, to the Marquis de Montholon, (page 182 of the Yellow Book,) the end of the expedition to Mexico would not be completely attained if it should not have for effect to create between two empires a close solidarity of interests.


[Enclosure No. 2.]

Extracts from the debate in the senate, March 10, 1865.

The Marquis de Boissy.* * * * * *

I return to the question of intervention. We intervene in China, and we are about to return. But I think we had better first return from Mexico. There are two large black points in the [Page 383] horizon—Mexico and Rome. With respect to Mexico, this is the sentimental wish I form. I wish that the American war may not end, but continue forever, even to the complete extermination of the contending parties, if necessary. If the war should unfortunately come to an end, our army would be taken prisoner. (Protestations on all sides.)

Baron de Huckerin. Such language cannot be used in such an assembly as the senate. (Adhesion.)

The Marquis de Boissy. Why, you would have to deal with an army of 500,000 or 600,000 scoundrels. (Murmurs.)

The President. Your suppositions are injurious to our soldiers, and the senate expresses its feelings by its murmurs.

The Marquis de Boissy. I do not think so. (Affirmative signs.)

The President. You see, M. le Marquis, that the senate does not agree with you.

The Marquis de Boissy. Nevertheless, it is true that our army reduced to a total——(Interruption and cries of Question! Question!)

The President. The murmurs of the senate are the best reply to your observations.

The Marquis de Boissy. Well, then, be it so. We shall triumph—20,000 men against 500,000 or 600,000. But how much will that cost us? (Enough! Enough!) Let us turn our eyes, then, to China.

[Enclosure No. 3.]

The Marquis de Boissy was followed by Chaix d’Est Auge.

The following is an extract from the reply of Chaix d’Est Auge to the Marquis de Boissy, in the senate, March 10, 1865:

* * * The speaker has trenched upon a number of questions, into which I shall hardly be expected to follow him. But the convention and the affairs of Mexico are two important questions every way worthy of attention. Those questions will be treated by other speakers, and this is not the moment to go very fully into them. Of the convention I beg leave not to say a single word. As to Mexico, I have at present not much to say. The Marquis de Boissy calls himself the friend of humanity; yet, when speaking of the fratricidal war which is ravaging the United States of America, he expressed a wish that the struggle, impious in its nature and its results, might never cease. That is a wish which I repel in the strongest manner. And if the interests of my country required the continuation of this conflict, I could never, without the most heartfelt repugnance, immolate humanity on the altar of my country. M. de Boissy fears, that if the United States should become once more united, our army would be compromised, and possibly soon be made prisoners of war. Let him be reassured: the United States have too much good sense and reason to enter into such a war; they will not traverse deserts to add other provinces to provinces already too numerous. It is not because they are exhausted, but from a well-understood feeling as to their own interest, that they would not think of attacking us in Mexico. The same reasons prevailed with England when she declined to fortify Quebec, saying there was no reason to fear, and that Quebec was not threatened. I will briefly reply on a point to which I adverted last year, and in respect of which I thought I had given the Marquis de Boissy himself satisfactory explanation. The customs receipts of Vera Cruz, before our expedition to Mexico, were engaged to satisfy the claims of England, France, and Spain, and were divided monthly between them. On taking possession of that port, could we say to England and Spain, “the treaties are null and void; we tear them up and scatter them to the winds?” No; we regarded them as sacred, and respecting them was not giving way to England, but honorably fulfilling a contract which bore the signature of France.

[Enclosure No. 4.]

Extract from “L’Avenir National,” Sunday, 12th March, 1865.

* * * * * * * *

The Memorial Diplomatique exerts itself to demonstrate that the Monroe doctrine is in no way applicable to the present situation. “The system,” it says, “that President Monroe intended to combat was no other than that of legitimacy.” This was, in effect, we concede, the first thought of Monroe at the moment when Spain thought of reconquering her former colonies. We have already said that the declaration of Monroe was made at the instigation of Canning, who was alarmed at the tendencies of the congress of Verona.

But now the Americans give to the principle a more extended interpretation. They see only in the words of Monroe the passage which is the solely important one for them: “We owe it to our good faith, and to the amiable relations which exist between the allied powers and the United States, to declare that we would consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any part of this hemisphere as dangerous for our tranquillity and our [Page 384] security.” This is the political evangel of the Americans, and one can foresee that upon the day when the south, at the end of its resources, will be obliged to submit, it will take as a pretext for reconciliation the necessary application of the Monroe doctrine.

We scarcely believe, with M. de Boissy, that as soon as peace is concluded there will be an invasion of Mexico of 500,000 to 600,000 worthless scamps. But this is an eventuality against which it would be prudent to guard.

It is wisdom in the French government to avoid a useless danger in foreign quarters. The convention with Maximilian of the 10th April, 1864, says well that 25,000 men, including the foreign legion, will remain temporarily in Mexico; but no minimum of sojourn is stipulated for—except for the foreign legion, which is to remain for six years—so all the other troops may be recalled from the present moment. We ought to wish that this may be at the soonest period possible.

Nevertheless, the Memorial Diplomatique, so reassuring in whatever concerns Mexico, is less incredulous in what regards the British possessions. “If peace,” says it, “be concluded between the north and the south, the disposable armies of the American Union will not delay, under one pretext or another, to be used against Canada.” What prevision is this which makes the Americans march rather towards the north than towards the south? We do not wish, like the Memorial Diplomatique, to give ourselves airs of prophesy, but we repeat that we would like for more than one reason to see our troops return from Mexico.

[Enclosure No. 4.]

Extracts translated from La France, (Reone financiere,) March 13, 1865.

Events have occurred, this week, which have reacted on the financial as well as on the political world. The illness and death of M. de Morny produced for a while a legitimate sensation among the financial men accustomed to identify the public credit with the statesman whose name is intimately connected with the institutions of the country. But this sensation could not be lasting; the present state of inactivity existed at the Bourse previous to the painful event which has so justly occupied public attention, and it will doubtless continue to exist after this sensation shall have passed away.

Attempts are also made to influence the market under pretence of the various vicissitudes of the war going on in America between the north and south; but the confederates are yet far from being conquered, and the fears expressed in relation to Mexico, in case of peace being restored in the United States, are singularly premature.

Why not ascribe the present situation to its general and real causes, instead of stopping at jtnere secondary considerations? The cause may be summed up in one word—distrust, flow can those who have for so long a time sown the seeds of distrust wonder that they should now bear fruits? Every enterprise or institution of credit has been attacked, and we cannot be surprised that the public, having become suspicious of them, dares no longer venture upon a ground whose unsteadiness has so often been denounced.

Continuation of Enclosure No. 4.

Besides the “Credit Mobilier,” and its forthcoming dividend, which continues to be much talked about, the financial world appears greatly preoccupied concerning the future of the Mexican empire and the consequences which the approaching cessation of hostilities between the northern and the southern armies may have for that country.

The warlike tendencies evinced some time ago by certain members of the United States Senate were but disconnected facts, for which the government at “Washington could in no wise be considered responsible. The initiative of the resolution adopted by that eminently deliberative assembly is not of a nature to justify the fear that, as some ceaselessly repeat it in the market, as soon as the fratricidal war which has for four years desolated that country [shall cease,] the Mexican empire will become, in the name of the Monroe doctrine, the aim of these tumultuous hosts, condemned by peace to an inactivity which would all at once become dangerous for Europe.

Shall the United States, after being reconstructed by peace, not have wounds enough of their own to bind up before attempting to quarrel with their neighbors? An empty treasury, a country laid waste, and a decimated population, are these not interior enemies with whom they shall also have to contend?

The work of regeneration so happily commenced and carried on by the emperor Maximilian, with as much firmness as success, may well be considered as a sure proof of the liberal views of civilization and progress which have so far inspired all the acts of the new Mexican empire. In our opinion the edicts of the emperor are in no ways inferior in reality to the principles of pretended equality of the United States of America.

[Page 385]

Indeed, the ceaseless solicitude of the newly elected sovereign for the welfare of this people becomes every day more manifest in his incessant labors. Creation of railroad companies, contracts for marine transportation on the Pacific, everywhere, in short, does the emperor seek to simultaneously infuse activity and life into that country so favored by nature.

To demonstrate once more the value of these assertions, we give here the principal condition of a contract between the government of his Imperial Majesty, Maximilian I, and Mr. Edward Gautherin, ship-owner, having the contract for the Imperial Mexican Express Company:

The company is to be Mexican: foreigners becoming members shall have to renounce the rights they may possess as such.

The vessels on the Gulf lines shall carry the Mexican flag, and be nationalized according to the laws already in force.

The steamers of the Imperial Mexican Express shall run on the four lines of Vera Cruz to New Orleans, Vera Cruz to Havana, Vera Cruz to Campeachy, and along the whole coast from Taxpam to Coatzacoalcos.

The ships of the company shall be exempt from port and light-house duties.

The company receives from the government of his Imperial Majesty the monopoly for the construction of jetties and breakwaters in the stopping ports of its steamers, and is authorized to levy upon commerce a transit or storage duty on all goods shipped from or landed on these jetties or breakwaters.

This duty shall be equivalent to 80 centimes per ton for ordinary goods, and 80 centimes per two hundred pounds for such merchandise as iron, lead, rails, steam-engines, minerals, &c.

The government shall receive from the company 20 per cent. of the duties levied by it. The receipt of these duties shall be registered in two books, one of which shall remain in the office of the company and the other at the office of the custom-house.

The vessels of the company shall, on their lines, transport the employés of the preventive service and the mails. Besides the usual postage, the post office administration will take additional postage on the company’s account, which it shall pay to it at the time of embarking the mail bags; and the amount due to the company shall vary according to the net weight of the bags and the nature of their contents.

Thus, for the mere transportation of letters the government shall pay one real per half ounce weight, being the price of a single letter from one point to another of the Gulf of Mexico. For letters to Havana the company shall receive two reals.

For carrying newspapers, pamphlets, and printed matter, the company shall charge two reals per arrobe.

The company engages to build its workshops, building docks, storehouses and yards on the grounds designated by his Imperial Majesty’s government. The port of Vera Cruz is the point momentarily chosen as the centre of the lines of the Imperial Mexican Express steamers.

The company shall, as much as possible, employ the inhabitants of the country, as also the materials it furnishes, such as wood, copper, iron, coal, &c.

The grant is made for twenty-one years, and to the exclusion of any other Mexican company.



* * * * * * * * * *

Money is abundant. The proof is seen by the state of the bank and by its rate of discount, which it has been obliged to reduce to 3½ per cent.; but this money does not want to be employed.

This feeling of distrust which the capital evidences is not peculiar to France; the English market proves it by the continuance of its feebleness. One cannot, then, without injustice attribute to the situation of a place, nor to noisily rumored proceedings, the dearth of our business and the weakness of our market. European politics leaves us in an absolute repose. From the American side it is not the same. It is a sad thing to say, but we fear for our cash boxes that peace may be made in America. The largest thorn that we have in our foot is, incontestably, the Mexican affair, which trammels our finances, and which causes lively apprehensions for the future. The equilibrium of our budget will feel for a long time, we think, the Mexican expedition. It allows to float incessantly the fear of a loan, which may be retarded by the aid of treasury means at the disposal of the minister, but the bankers think that it cannot be avoided. Italy herself threatens us with a loan.


Letters from New York, up to the 25th of February, brought out by the North American, arrived yesterday in London.

They contain no further military news, but there has been received in New York the text of an address of Juarez to the Mexicans, in which he says, “Faithful to my duty and to my [Page 386] conscience, I shall devote all my energy to the national defence, with the assistance and co-operation of the Mexican flag.” He denounces emperor Maximilian as a usurper enslaving a free nation.

Houston papers publish a correspondence between the confederate Colonel Cyron and General Lopez, commanding the imperial troops on the Rio Grande. Cyron informs Lopez that the confederate government desires to cultivate friendly relations with the Mexican government. Lopez in return declares his sympathies for the southern cause. Named commander by emperor Maximilian, he says that the sons of the confederacy can rely on the complete security of their persons and interest, and on the fullest hospitality. He shall permit no expeditions to be fitted out against the confederates.

Houston papers also report that Matamoras has ceased to be a free port.


However, in spite of all the elements tending to improve the condition of the market, the peaceful news from America has been made use of by the parties wishing to depreciate the stocks, who multiplied their offers, and sought to frighten their opponents by hinting at the complications which, according to them, might arise from a cessation of hostilities in the United States. From that moment the upward tendency of prices was not only completely paralyzed, but a retrograding tendency prevailed, and most stocks lost the advance they had previously obtained; some even descending below the previous fortnight’s quotation.