Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward

No. 59.]

Sir: Enclosed you will find a memorandum of a conversation which I had the honor to hold with his excellency Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, on the 9th instant, in reference to the forcible surrender by General Mejia of refugees from the rebel army, referred to in your despatch No. 49.

The original of this memorandum was left yesterday with his excellency the minister of foreign affairs.

I have the honor to be, sir, your very obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.


The undersigned, chargé d’affaires of the United States, had the honor to submit verbally to his excellency Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, minister of foreign affairs, the following statement on the 9th instant:

It is stated upon official authority that General Mejia, commanding the Mejia division of the French army at Matamoras, had arrested between twenty and thirty refugees from the rebel army in Texas; conducted them, under the guard of a file of soldiers, to the banks of the Rio Grande and delivered them into the hands of armed enemies of the United States. The pretext assigned, I am told by General Mejia, for this procedure, was, that they were offenders against the laws of the confederacy, and, therefore, liable to extradition. If so, General Mejia appears not to have been aware that the alleged criminals had a right to a fair trial and conviction, which was denied them before they could be surrendered to any government, and that he had then authority to surrender them only upon the suit of a government recognized by the Emperor of France, and to which the right of extradition had been conceded by treaty.

The refugees in question were seized by Mexican soldiers, under the orders of General Mejia, and delivered without any trial into the hands of an armed band of conspirators from Texas, who represented no lawful government, and who could not, therefore, have any political status in any Mexican tribunal, civil or military.

The undersigned,, while appreciating the difficulty of enforcing neutrality along the line which divides Texas, from Mexico, where the temptations to violate it are so numerous, expressed the hope and expectation of his government that the government of France would not permit the conduct of General Mejia to pass without such instructions as would prevent [Page 387] the recurrence of a proceeding too liable to disturb the friendly relations of the two countries.

The undersigned availed himself of the same occasion to express to his excellency the minister of foreign affairs the regret of his government at the exceptionable tone of the correspondence, addressed by the United States consul at Matamoras to General Mejia, in reference to the surrender of these refugees, and to state that orders relieving the incumbent from his official charge were on their way to him at the time the correspondence was passing.

His excellency Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys stated, in reply to the undersigned, that he had received no information whatever upon the subject referred to by the undersigned, save what the undersigned had communicated; that the subject should be taken into respectful consideration, and that the officers of the imperial government in Mexico should be instructed to preserve a rigorous neutrality.

The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to his excellency the minister of foreign affairs the assurances of his most distinguished consideration.