Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Second Session of the Fortieth Congress
Mr. Seward to M. Berthemy
Mr. Seward presents his compliments to M. Berthemy, and has the honor to enclose a memorandum of a conversation which passed between them on the 17th instant.
Memorandum of a conversation between the Secretary of State and Mr. Berthemy, minister plenipotentiary from the court of France to the United States.
Mr. Berthemy said: I have been instructed by my government to communicate to the Secretary of State the satisfaction with which the Emperor has received the good assurances made by General Dix in his speech on the occasion of his reception at Paris. From those assurances his Majesty’s government feel themselves authorized to expect a disposition, on the part of the cabinet at Washington favorable to a friendly understanding between the two governments in respect to the termination of the Mexican question.
I am further instructed by my government to say that the name of Señor Juarez being excluded from our combination, and also it being expected that the Emperor Maximilian will either abdicate or assent to such combinations as the French government might propose, in ‘ concert with the United States, we have no settled resolution in favor of any aspirant or candidate for reconstituting the political situation of Mexico, whether Señor Ortega or any other person or persons. What France desires is simply that there may be a restoration of government and order satisfactory to the people of Mexico, and acceptable to the United States and to France.
Although Señor Ortega might seem to both governments most fit, by reason of his position, to take in hand provisional measures for the reorganization of Mexico, yet we have in regard to him no bias or prejudice.
I am authorized, therefore, to say to the Secretary of State, that if he has in view another name better answering to the exigencies of the situation, we should be ready to examine, with a sincere desire to an understanding, any proposition which the government of the United States may deem it proper to make.
Mr. Seward said he would reply frankly and without reservation. The disposition of the United States in regard to the subject mentioned is entirely friendly and cordial toward [Page 291]France. They would do whatever they could consistently with their established relations towards the republic of Mexico to accommodate France, The attitude, however, which the government of the United States has held in regard to a republican government in Mexico has hitherto been, and yet is, that of recognition, exclusively, of President Juarez as the chief executive of that State. The United States do not think that the circumstances in Mexico are at the present time such as would justify them in changing that attitude. The United States are expecting that as a probable event the President of Mexico will recover the power which will enable him to exercise constitutional authority adequate to the pacification of Mexico and the restoration of order there when the French forces shall have completed their evacuation. In any view of the case that we may take, we hold ourselves forbidden by our engagements from acting injuriously towards the republican government existing there or in derogation of its authority.
The United States are intensely desirous to avoid not only such transaction, but even an appearance of intervention in the troubled affairs of Mexico, even although President Juarez should desire or solicit, whieh he does not. For these reasons this government is not prepared at this time to accede to the policy which is suggested by the Emperor.
The Secretary said: I am sure that I shall have the President’s authority for expressing his satisfaction with the directness and frankness of your communication.
This answer, like all my communications, leaves the Prince Maximilian, Ortega, and others, without special mention. My answer to you would have been exactly the same if you had left them unmentioned on your part.