Mr. Romero to Mr. Seward

Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to transmit to you the English translation of a speech delivered in the French senate by General Forey, on the debate of the reply to the Emperor’s discourse, on the 10th of February last, in relation to Mexican affairs, and also M. Rouher, the minister of state’s, subsequent reply.

You will likewise find a printed letter, published in London by the Mexican General Don Francisco Paz, ex-prisoner of the French army, in reply to calumnies uttered by General Forey in his speech against the Mexican army, and particularly against the chiefs and officers who were sent to France as prisoners of war.

General Forey’s remarks upon the necessity of continuing French intervention in Mexico have a meaning obvious to everybody, as they are mere echoes of the opinions and sentiments of his Emperor. This opinion is strengthened when we see that the object of the project of an answer presented in both houses was to put off indefinitely the withdrawal of the French forces from Mexico.

After this, not much confidence can be put in M. Rouher’s words, which in themselves cannot be taken as a promise of a speedy withdrawal.

As to General Paz’s letter, it clearly demonstrates by itself that the senator’s assertions against the Mexican officers are as groundless as many other statements made in his speech, in which he repeats the same arguments which have been very often refuted, and the calumnies proved to be unfounded.

I accept this favored opportunity to repeat to you, Mr. Secretary, the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


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

No. 1.

Marshal Forey’s speech in the French Senate.

Messieurs: Last year you permitted me to say a couple of words concerning Mexico. I will not trespass longer on your time this year. I will, perhaps, say a few words more than then. You know the interest which this Mexican question has for me, who commanded the expeditionary corps charged with the duty of obtaining reparation for the outrages of which our compatriots had been the victims. Let it not be thought that the government which we overturned maintained itself in Mexico by popular sympathy. No. It maintained itself only by the fear which it inspired; and it was for this reason that the presence of our flag was sufficient to overthrow it; that flag which, in the beautiful language of the Emperor, everywhere represents the cause of the people and of civilization. Once delivered from the rule of Juarez, the Mexican people, free to exercise the elective franchise, decided for Maximilian. I have no pretension of here discussing the letter written by Mr. Seward to M. de Montholon on the 6th of December, 1865; but let me say that the popular suffrage was by no means exercised under stress of force or under the pressure of our arms. No. A thousand times, No! It was the people themselves who, fatigued with a sanguinary anarchy, proclaimed that the empire was more in harmony with their wishes and their needs. One must have a very slight knowledge of Mexico to believe that a republican form of government was desired by the population there. For a long time power had been successively confiscated by the more audacious, if not by the more honest. It cannot be repeated too often: No, the French army did not go to Mexico to overturn a government to which the Mexican people had accorded, as is pretended by the letter I have mentioned, their sympathy and submission. No. We went to Mexico to obtain reparation for spoliations, for outrages of which our fellow-countrymen had been the victims on the part of the Juarez government; and the Mexican nation seized that occasion to throw off an oppressive yoke by [Page 107] overturning the presidential chair wherein so many tyrants had sat, and erecting a monarchical throne, where there came to sit a wise and enlightened prince, who has already given Mexico useful and liberal institutions, which will lead to the efficient prosperity of the country. I come to the question of the return of our troops. At what time ought they to come back? Many whom I believe sincere, but who do not seem to me to be sufficiently sensitive as to our national honor, would wish that return immediate. As to myself, I would wish our troops to come back, if not immediately, at least as soon as possible; but still it must be looked to when this will be possible. I foresee the objection that will be made. You pretend, it will be said, that the emperor Maximilian has been spontaneously, unanimously proclaimed, and consequently he has no further need of the support of our arms to keep him on his throne. My answer will be easy; and although at first it may appear paradoxical, it will at bottom prove perfectly right. Yes. The government of Maximilian is the expression of the popular wish. I affirm it; and those who know Mexico, who have visited it, will affirm it with me, if they are sincere. Yet that government has need of our support, and I will explain myself. All those who have taken any interest in the subject know that since the declaration of independence an innumerable number of governments have succeeded each other in Mexico, and as there was no sufficiently strong central power, all of them found their authority disregarded. Anarchy has never ceased to reign in that unhappy country. There is nothing astonishing in the fact that that anarchy led to the formation of troops of bandits who lived in this disorder, instead of seeking in labor the means of subsistence, and preferred to rob travellers, pillage plantations, and oppress and exact tribute from peaceful, timid communities, who knew not how to defend themselves. It must be said that fear is the grand misfortune of Mexico. It is this which has rendered its people incapable of defending themselves and of resisting their oppressors. I have seen in Mexico villages, towns, and cities, whose inhabitants, although provided with arms and ammunition, and able to make a resistance, suffered themselves to be robbed and their houses to be burned by bands of guerillas, and yet it was a matter which concerned their fortunes and the lives of themselves, their wives, and their children. It is thus that hundreds of communities, a thousand times more powerful than their assailants, permit themselves to be disarmed, plundered, and murdered without resistance. Are they more to pity than to blame? I will not say. Yet it should not be forgotten that the tendency of anarchy is to cause honest men to yield too easily. We do not need to go so far to find examples of this weakness in our own history. [Applause.] We must allow these people time to regenerate their moral character by contact with our soldiers, so that they may acquire a sense of order, honesty, and the courage which animates them, and which all are bound to respect. [Hear, hear. J When the Emperor undertook the Mexican expedition he was impelled by a grand idea, which he explained in his memorable letter to the officer in command at its outset. When I see the impatience with which the sojourn of our troops in Mexico is regarded in France, I ask myself whether this grand idea of the Emperor’s has been well understood by the country, and whether the people should not have encouraged it as they encouraged a former undertaking led by the Emperor himself—the Italian campaign. The object is the same. In the one case a great nation was to be restored to the independence wrested from it by foreign hands. In the present case it is sought to restore to another people their independence, endangered as it was by anarchy. I ask permission to dwell upon this word independence. It has been said that the insurgents are fighting for the independence of their country. But by whom has this independence been compromised if not by the partisans of Juarez, who has been led to despoil foreigners and to plunder the public money, which should have been applied to the necessities of the Mexican nation, in order to enrich his hired assassins? The army of Juarez, fighting for the independence of Mexico, forsooth! Those who talk thus do not think it, or else they are utterly ignorant of the true state of affairs. What was this army of Juarez? With the exception of a few officers who had been specially educated, who had progressed through the various grades—such, for instance, as General Mendoza, the real defender of Puebla, whom the emperor Maximilian had the good sense to appoint prefect of Mexico—with these rare exceptions, I say, all of Juarez’s generals, far from possessing any military talent, were briefless barristers, many of them devoid of all sense of honor, such as Gonzales Ortega, or ex-leaders of bands, such as Rosas, Carvajal, and Porfirio Diaz. With regard to subaltern officers, you may judge of them by the specimens which have been sent to Prance. It suffices to see them in the different towns where they are quartered in order to estimate their worth. They are, almost without exception, miserable wretches, decidedly inferior to their soldiers. These soldiers, as you know, are not Mexicans by any means. The Mexicans are all generals or colonels. They are poor enslaved Indians who shouted for the emperor Maximilian from the moment that they were freed. You are aware how they were enlisted. They were torn violently from their families and dragged off with a rope about their necks. This is what they called a national army. These poor fellows became soldiers because they couldn’t help themselves, and at the first opportunity to desert took advantage of it. At Puebla they would have deserted en masse had they not been incessantly watched by their officers, who forced them to fight by shutting them up in churches and convents without leaving them any outlet. It was the same at Oajaca. Let no one, therefore, say that the army of Juarez was a national army. The truth is, there is no national spirit in Mexico. Either it never existed or anarchy has destroyed it if it ever did exist, and it cannot be revived save under [Page 108] the shelter of our flag. In my opinion it would be highly dangerous to recall our troops immediately. The Emperor has declared that we went to Mexico in order to protect French interests and to defend our fellow-countrymen. Therefore, if our army is recalled from Mexico, all the Frenchmen in the country will be obliged to return with it. Otherwise they will become victims to much greater outrage than they have already experienced. And as we have the interests of our fellow-countrymen to defend, there are others whom we should protect also. Is it not our duty to protect the people who received us with open arms, who compromised themselves for us, and who shouted vivas for Maximilian? Is our honor not at stake in this? It may be objected that they shouted for Maximilian, and therefore they ought to take the consequences. But we must reflect that they have not yet sufficient confidence in their own strength; that they have been demoralized by officials who ground them down and made capital of them. They must be allowed time to gain strength and courage. We must continue to lend them our support and aid them to sustain the power they have chosen. France cannot wish to incur the reproach of having misunderstood the grand idea of the Emperor. France cannot wish to abandon these unfortunate people to the fury of their former oppressors. At the first news of our withdrawal the fomenters of discord will rise again. The bandits who are now dispersed will rally under the flag of Juarez, and the Mexicans themselves will feel the vengeance of these barbarous hordes who have already given evidence of their atrocity. This is so true that even now, as soon as a town is evacuated by our troops, it is abandoned by the inhabitants, so greatly do they dread the cruel reprisals of the partisans of Juarez. What do we see in Mexico? The emperor Maximilian is zealously laboring to regenerate that unfortunate country. He is reorganizing the army and the departments of justice, finance, and public education; in fact, all the vital forces of society. He is advised by men in whom our Emperor has confidence, and the Mexicans have before their eyes a model of courage and discipline in our army. It does not befit me to treat of the relations existing between France and the United States, but let me be permitted to state that I have too much esteem for the great American republic to believe that it would prefer a republic of plunderers and bandits in Mexico, instead of a monarchy of honest men based upon the principles of civilization. [Applause from a portion of the house.] What is necessary now to be done to complete the task of improving the moral and material character of the people which we have undertaken in Mexico? The senate will be surprised, but I have to state my opinion, which, moreover, is an entirely individual one. It may become necessary to send fresh troops to Mexico. [Sensation.] At least those which are there must be kept there. And it may also become necessary to make further pecuniary sacrifices. [Further sensation.] It has been said that France is rich enough to pay for her glory. Will it not then be glorious for us not to leave incomplete the task we have undertaken in that distant country? Money is, certainly, of importance. But should we allow a money consideration to jeopard the success of this undertaking, based, as it is, upon a grand idea of the Emperor? No, messieurs, it should not be allowed; and this is why France has applauded the words uttered by the sovereign, and why she will participate in the sentiments which your address so proudly interprets. [Cries of “Very good,” “Hear, hear.”]

M. Rouher, secretary of state, said:

Messieurs: The senate understands that I do not mean to reply to the honorable marshal’s speech. He has taken care to indicate that the opinion he expressed is a personal one. The opinion of the government is not modified by the words you have just listened to, and it is completely formulated in the discourse of the Throne and in the project of reply (projet d’adresse) which you are now called to vote. [Very good.]

No. 2.

Marshal Forey and the officers of the Mexican army.


To the Editor of the Morning Advertiser:

Sir: I feel assured that you will do me the favor of publishing the following in your widely circulated paper.

You will thereby greatly oblige, sir, yours, &c.,

FRANCISCO PAZ, Mexican General of Artillery, ex-Prisoner of the French Army.


In the sitting of the French senate of the 10th instant Marshal Forey delivered a speech full of insults and calumnies against the generals and officers of the Mexican army, to which I have the honor to belong.

[Page 109]

I would have contradicted him at once had I not been in France, where there is no liberty of the press, and where the respective positions of the marshal and myself were so different.

I therefore come to this free country for the sole purpose of defending that army which has fought, and is still fighting, with so much courage and patriotism for the independence of its country, and which is not yet vanquished, after a four years’ struggle and the innumerable conflicts that have taken place.

Can the bravery and discipline of the republican Mexican army be put in question when the French press itself and the bulletins of the French generals assert that their enemies never give way until they have left half of their number on the ground?

As the marshal neither points out any facts nor produces any proofs, but merely insults us most gratuitously, (which is rather unworthy of the high position he occupies,) I will not follow him in his course, but simply confine myself to declare to him that his malevolent attacks cannot reach those he supposes to be conquered, and dares to call vile and cowards.

That army which he holds so low has taught him what Use it made of victory when it had the advantage over the French and their auxiliaries. Instead of shooting and incarcerating their prisoners, they gave them their liberty without any conditions, and even assisted them in spite of their own privations. Instead of dragging the wounded before courts-martial, thence to be shot, they took care of them in their hospitals in preference to their own men; and, instead of insulting the vanquished, they returned them their decorations, and tried by every means in their power to alleviate their position.

The marshal further insinuates that the conduct of the prisoners transported to France has been very bad. He certainly has not taken the trouble to read the reports of the generals and commanders of the gendarmery in all the towns where we have been confined, which reports exist at the War Office. The justice done to us in those documents singularly contrasts with the calumnies he proffers. A great number of those prisoners have shown how they understand patriotism and military honor in acting in a manner of which history has but rare examples. Threatened by the French government to be deprived of all resources if they did not take the oath of allegiance to the government imposed on our country by the brute force of arms, they preferred the chance of starving rather than submit to that act of dishonor. They started from the different places of residence assigned to them within the twenty-four hours allowed, quitted the French soil, where such a heavy despotism prevails, and went to Spain in search of the means of earning their bread. Many worked as common laborers at the fortifications of San Sebastian.

History will relate with impartiality the respective conduct of the French and Mexican armies. It will record the heroic defence of Puebla, an open town, fortified in a hurry, and only compelled to succumb after sixty-three days of a regular siege, conducted with forces four times superior to the besieged—its garrison having exhausted all their food and ammunition, destroyed their arms, and asked for no conditions. Was it a triumph for the French arms? Will it not be asked if the military and political capacities of General Forey shown in Mexico did not rather tend to bring him before a court-martial than to receive the staff of a marshal of France?

The senate has shown its subserviency in echoing last year the absurd and ridiculous rumors which the marshal originated against the honorable General Porfirio Diaz, as likewise allowing him to utter the insults he has addressed to the whole Mexican nation.

FRANCISCO PAZ, General of Artillery, ex-Prisoner of the French Army.