Mr. Campbell to Mr. Seward

No. 2.]

Although the facts I am about to relate may, in themselves, be of little importance, in connection with other information they may have a tendency to throw some further light upon the present situation of affairs in Mexico. I therefore deem it proper to communicate them.

The day after my arrival in this port I was informed by Mr. Miner, our consul general here, that an interview with me was desired by General Magruder, late of the so-called confederate army, who, after a residence of many months in Mexico, had arrived here on the 17th instant, directly from the city of Mexico and Vera Cruz. Mr. Miner also stated that he had reason to believe that General Magruder might be able to communicate to me some information of value.

I did not deem it proper to call upon General Magruder in any capacity, or to seek any information from him, yet believed that if any information was voluntarily tendered it became my duty to receive it, from whatever quarter it might come. On yesterday, casually meeting General Magruder at the United States consulate, he requested an interview with me, which I granted, and a lengthy conversation at once took place, relating mainly to the situation of affairs in Mexico. The substance of the information imparted by him is as follows:

He left the city of Mexico about the first of November, prior to which date [Page 10] Maximilian had already left the city and proceeded to Orizaba. It was the general understanding that he had abdicated, or at least had in some measure turned over the government to Marshal Bazaine. Being about to leave the city of Mexico for Washington, leaving his family behind in Mexico, General Magruder called on Marshal Bazaine with a view of ascertaining the true situation of affairs, for the purpose of such provisional arrangements for them and their safety as might be necessary.

During the interview, General Magruder said to Marshal Bazaine, “I presume, in the event of the abdication of Maximilian, your excellency will be the government?” To which he replied, “If such should be the case, I shall only occupy the position for transient purposes.”

The following day General Magruder left the city of Mexico for Vera Cruz, Maximilian then being at Orizaba. He observed, on the road down, that the French were strongly fortifying various points, and especially at Puebla, Orizaba, and the passes below, but he was impressed with the belief that these works were rather designed for the safe withdrawal of the French troops than for the continued occupation of the country by them. On his arrival at Vera Cruz he learned, from reliable authority, that Maximilian was about to take his departure, but had temporarily delayed doing so in consequence of the arrival in that city of Miramon and Marquez, the old leaders of the reactionary party.

On the 13th instant General Magruder was informed by the second captain of the Austrian frigate then lying in the harbor of Vera Cruz that that vessel was to take out Maximilian, and that their departure had only been delayed in consequence of the arrival of Miramon and Marquez, but that Maximilian would certainly leave within ten days, which would be prior to the 23d instant.

General Magruder further informed me that, at the close of his interview with Marshal Bazaine, when he was about to bid him adieu, the marshal said to him, “You are about to visit the United States, general?” Reply: “Yes.” “You will see the President?” Reply: “I probably shall.” “If you do,” said Marshal Bazaine, “deliver him this verbal message from me:

“The moral influence wielded by the government of the United States has destroyed this empire. Upon it, therefore, rests the obligation to see that some government be established and sustained here that shall secure the protection of life and proper, and the tranquillity of this people. This, in my judgment, can only be done by furnishing physical aid. The interests of foreigners in this country cannot be left without some protection. Of non-combatants engaged in peaceful pursuits, the larger proportion of whom are French subjects, there are at least thirty thousand; there should be an armed force, properly distributed in the country, temporarily at least, to assist the government that may be established in preserving order and enforcing its decrees. Ten or fifteen thousand United States troops, properly distributed in the northern States, and a similar number of French troops in the southern States, co-operating with each other, could accomplish this.”

I cannot say that I have given the precise words of General Magruder, as the conversation was somewhat desultory, but I have given the substance, so far as relates to material points. I inquired particularly of General Magruder whether he understood from Marshal Bazaine that the French government would desire to furnish any portion of the French troops, or only in the contingency that the United States should decline to do so. General Magruder replied promptly that his understanding was, that the French government would expect to provide a portion of the troops only in the event that the United States desired it, or declined furnishing the necessary forces.

I then inquired whether he communicated these facts to me for my own information merely, or whether I had his authority to communicate the same to the Secretary of State. His reply was to this effect: “When I left Mexico I [Page 11] expected to proceed at once to Washington, and communicate these facts to the government in person, but, on arriving here, I learn that, in consequence of the death of Mr. John Van Buren, one of my attorneys, and other causes, I may be delayed for some time in this city. Regarding this information as of importance, I have sought this interview with you, as the envoy of the United States to Mexico, believing that, by communicating it to you, I am accomplishing, practically, as nearly as circumstances will permit, the promise I made to Marshal Bazaine to deliver his verbal message to the President. You are, therefore, at full liberty to make such use of it as you may deem proper.”

The foregoing, so far as my recollection serves me, embraces all the essential points of the interview which I thought it proper to accord to General Magruder, in compliance with his request communicated to me by Mr. Miner. From his manner, and the general tenor of his conversation, the impression was left upon my mind that he was sincere, and that he desired in good faith to serve the interests of the government in communicating what he did.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


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