The Marquis de Montholon to Mr. Seward

Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to inform your excellency that the govemment of the Emperor, in a decree of the 30th of June last, decided to abolish the tax on passports and the visa of passports in favor of French subjects, and secures the same immunity to citizens of those foreign powers that will reciprocate with us.

I therefore beg your excellency to let me know if the American government is disposed to instruct its representatives in France to grant passports and indorse them free of charge; in which case citizens of the United States shall [Page 387] immediately have the immunity presented by the decree of the 30th of June in all French affairs.

Accept, Mr. Secretary of State, the assurances of my most high consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.

[Communicated by the French legation.—Translation.]

Mr. Le Marquis: The correspondence of my predecessor has sufficiently initiated you in the views of the Emperor in regard to Mexico. I think it advisable, nevertheless, on writing to you for the first time, to lay down the situation exactly, and not leave you in any doubt in regard to our resolutions.

Already, for some time, the cabinet of Washington has been informed, and officially from the month of April, that his Majesty has fixed the close of the year 1867 as the extreme term of our military occupation of Mexico.

This term will not be exceeded; on the contrary, our desire is to hasten it as much as possible. The government of the Emperor, as was its right and its duty, and as my predecessor wrote to you the 7th of June last, reserved the taking of all indispensable precautions, in order not in any way to compromise the health and security of our army.

There is for us in this an interest of the highest order, which cannot cede precedence to any other. But the news received from Mexico within these last days presents a state of things which must awake our solicitude. Armed resistances are increasing; the dissidents show themselves in force at divers points in the Mexican territory, and at any moment the mode of successive evacuations, originally adopted by us, might place our soldiers in a position of difficulty if we should thus leave them in small force and isolated at so great a distance from Europe.

Justly impressed by this eventuality, the Emperor has sent to Mexico his aide-de-camp, General de Castelnau, to have explanations thereon with the Emperor Maximilian, and make known to us his intentions, while fully and definitively enlightening him as to ours,

Mr. de Castelnau has for his mission to make it well understood that the limit of our sacrifices is reached, and that if the Emperor Maximilian, thinking to find in the country itself a point of sufficient support, may wish to endeavor to maintain himself there, he cannot for the future count on any succor on the part of France.

But it may happen that, deeming it impossible to triumph through his own resources over the difficulties which surround him, this sovereign may determine to abdicate. We will do nothing to dissuade him from this, and we think that on this hypothesis there would be ground to proceed, by way of election, in the establishment of a new government.

You see, marquis, that under these conditions it is at present quite likely that our expeditionary corps may return entire to France by the spring of next year. This probability seems to us to be destined to be received in the United States with real satisfaction. To suppose the contrary would be to admit that the Mexican question furnished the parties with the means of an easy popularity which they would with regret see escape. We have too much confidence in the good sense of the American people, and in the old feelings of friendship and regard for France, not to be beforehand convinced that suspicions without foundation, or inadmissible exigencies, will not occur to change between the [Page 388] United States and ourselves relations which have a tendency to become more easy and more close by means even of decisions which we may think it a duty to take at this moment. We take them in the plenitude of our freedom of action, which we must maintain entire to the end. This reservation is imperatively commanded by our sense of dignity; and anything which might have the character of pressure, which could not be borne on the part of a foreign government, would only have for consequence to force us, against our wish, to prolong a state of things which our interest, well understood, has decided us to abridge. It is impossible that this situation is not perfectly understood in advance by the cabinet of Washington, and it will certainly dedicate all its cares to turning aside incidents which would be susceptible of bringing results regrettable to those I have made allusion to.

Receive, marquis, the assurances of my high consideration.


Marquis de Montholon, &c., &c., &c.