Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward

No. 213.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit a communication received from the minister of foreign affairs in reference to some documents which I had given him relative to the operations of the Havre agency of the American Emigrant Company. I sent these observations of Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys to Mr. Zumstein, agent at Havre of the company in question, and have received from him a reply stating that the company is compelled to discontinue its operations, “in consequence of the disbandment of nearly 700,000 able men, all desirous of findings some employment or returning to their former occupations.”

I have, therefore, regarded it as unnecessary to take the subject into further consideration without instructions.

I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

[Page 269]

M. Drouyn de Lhuys to Mr. Bigelow

Sir: When you handed me last September a draught of a circular, and a form of emigrant’s engagement, emanating from the American Emigrant Company of Havre, you were kind enough to express to me the desire to know if the French administration would have any changes to propose therein. I hastened in consequence to submit these documents to the examination of the ministers of the interior and of commerce, within whose province the questions of emigration more specially fall, and I have the honor to communicate to you an abstract of the suggestions made by those two departments.

My colleagues remark, in the first place, that the circular of the agency of the American Emigrant Company, and the form of emigrant’s engagement, apply exclusively to the reciprocal engagements which are to regulate the final relations between the agency and the laborers after their arrival in America; but these two documents make no mention of the price and the conditions of the transportation of the emigrants, a question which interests more especially the emigration service in the ports of the empire.

Besides, to prevent the recurrence of difficulties which have arisen in consequence of operations of the same nature, it would seem desirable that the engagement relative to the establishment of emigrants, and the regulation of their personal debts to the company, should be invested with a purely private character, and should be independent of the simple contract of transportation. The French administration would then have nothing to do but to assure the execution of the contract of transportation in favor of the emigrants, and the company for its part, would reserve by its other engagement the means of enforcing the payment of the debts contracted by the emigrants. Still, it would be well to determine at once the proportion to be deducted from the wages of the emigrants. The figure should be fixed, according to the opinion of my department, so that the wages left to the laborer should still be in proportion to the wants of material life, in the countries where they are transported.

Consequently, the agency of the American Emigrant Company should be requested to produce—

1st. The form of engagement, completed in the sense indicated above.

2d. Another form of contract, corresponding to that of the agencies already authorized, indicating the price and the conditions of transportation.

Only this last document should be invested with the visa of the commissioner of emigration. The first, the use of which would be simply tolerated by the administration, would enable the commissioner to reply to all demands for information which might be addressed him by emigrants, and to assure himself, if necessary, that the engagements proposed to them should not vary from the conditions set forth in the form definitely adopted by the company.

Several copies of the two forms should be sent to the minister of the interior, to be transmitted by him, with the necessary instructions, to the commissioners of emigration.

Messrs. de Lavalette and Behie add further, that, with the exception of the preceding observations, the two documents which you have done me the honor to communicate to me, do not seem to them open to any objection.

Accept the assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant,


Mr. Bigelow, Minister of the United States at Paris.