Mr. Sanford to Mr. Hunter

No. 284.]

Sir: The order of the day to the army, of the minister of war, upon the late disaster to a portion of the Belgian corps in Mexico, of which mention was made in my despatch No. 277, appeared in the Moniteur yesterday, and was the subject of interpellations by M. Coomans in the House, who expressed his regrets at this association of the Belgo-Mexican legion with the army of Belgium.

M. Rogier replied that the minister of war had communicated the account received direct from the military cabinet at Mexico to the army and to the journals, for the information of all. A sentiment of pride in the gallant conduct of Belgians had, doubtless, influenced him in bringing it thus officially to the knowledge of their former companions-in-arms; he insisted anew that the departure for Mexico of Belgian volunteers was not a government enterprise; that the Belgian legion, although for the most part going from the army, was not a part of it—did not serve under the Belgian flag or wear a Belgian cockade. There was nothing in this, he thought, to compromise the government.

He was followed by M. D’Hane-Steenhuyse, who insisted anew upon the enrolment of the Belgian legion, composed, he said, in great part of soldiers of the army, who had left it for the purpose, under the express authority of the government, and who might be considered as on leave, as compromising the neutrality of Belgium, likely to expose its commerce to the attack of Juarez’s privateers, and in the end to cause difficulties with the United States.

M. Rogier, in reply, treated as absurd the possibility that, in case of an intervention by the United States in Mexico, Belgium would be held responsible for [Page 90] the presence of a thousand Belgians under the Mexican flag; those Belgians had, moreover, he continued, contracted an engagement not to compromise the foreign relations of Belgium, and in the event of a regular war, could return home. As many Belgians, he affirmed, had served in the United States under the American flag during the late war as were now under the Mexican flag.

M. Haymans considered the discussion useless: that the Mexican question had been long ago decided by the chambers, and on three occasions in the sense that there was no Belgian expedition in Mexico, and that if any power could find fault with Belgium under this head, it would be, least of all, the United States, which, according to him, had enrolled recruited soldiers everywhere; and he again insisted upon the charges he had made, in a newspaper which he edits, that Belgians had been enrolled by force into the army of the United States after having been engaged here as laborers.

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I regret not having been supplied by the department with the refutation of these charges to which M. Haymans referred, and which were brought to your knowledge in my despatch No. 222, accompanying the letter of M. Rogier on the subject.

A copy of the “answer of the governor of Massachusetts to inquiries respecting certain emigrants who have arrived in this country from Europe, and who are alleged to be illegally enlisted in the army of the United States, &c.,” printed at the Government Printing Office, came into my hands a short time since, through a private source, and appears to be a complete refutation of these charges. I immediately, on reading the debate referred to, took it to the Foreign Office and left it for M. Rogier, who was out, with the request that, if it had not already been brought to the attention of the government by its own agents in the United States, he would take cognizance of it; and I propose seeing him to-morrow to repeat the hope I expressed to the secretary general, that he would have the justice to correct the impression which his silence on the occasion of M. Haymans’s assertions would seem likely to make on the public as indorsing these scandalous statements.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


Hon. W. Hunter, Acting Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.