Mr. Seward to Mr. Hale

No. 59.]

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your despatch of January 28th, No. 79, which is accompanied by a copy of a correspondence which has taken place between yourself and Mr. Calonge on the subject of the proposition by this government, to the several belligerents, of its good offices by way of mediation for the restoration of peace between Spain and certain allied republics of South America.

To guard against all misapprehension, I recite from the letter of Mr. Calonge his answer to the proposition which was made by me on the subject referred to on the 20th day of December last, in identical terms to each and ail of the belligerent parties.

Mr. Calonge is understood to say, in behalf of the government of her Catholic Majesty, that Spain accepts the proposition of the government of the United States, subject to a certain condition, which is as follows :

Spain desires that by agreement of all the belligerents, certain amendments of the plan submitted by the United States, which Spain deems indispensable to the better direction of the conference proposed and for its more speedy termination may be adopted by the United States, not, however, without the previous concurrence of all the belligerents.

The amendment which Mr. Calonge requires is defined by him as follows :

1. To fix with precision a period within which the matters shall have arisen which are to be submitted to the conference, upon which matters and none others shall there be a submission to arbitration in case the plenipotentiaries are not able to agree among themselves.

2. To affix some condition or qualifications in respect to the arbitrator; and that the President shall be at liberty freely to select an arbitrator from the sovereigns or states who possess these conditions or qualifications.

Mr. Calonge, having accepted the proposition of the United States, subject only lo the reservation above recited, agrees, on behalf of Spain, that a conference shall be held at Washington, as proposed, and at the time proposed by the United States; that the conference shall be presided over in the manner proposed by the person to be designated by the President of the United States; that the plenipotentiaries of the several belligerent parties are to be appointed and to constitute the conference, and to act and proceed in the conference, with respect to their own several governments and with respect to all parties, in the manner proposed by the United States. Spain further accepts, subject to the same reservation, the armistice which the United States proposes, such armistice to last during the existence of the conference. And Spain further agrees that the points upon which the plenipotentiaries shall not be able to agree shall be submitted to the arbitration proposed, in the manner proposed by the United States, and that such arbitration shall be final.

According to Mr. Calonge, Spain further agrees that the armistice proposed by the United States shall begin on the day of the reception of Mr. Hale’s despatch at this department, that is to say, on the 23d day of February, 1867, and it being understood that the agreement of armistice does not and shall not prejudice the right of Spain or of any orali of the other belligerents to treat preliminarily on the modifications which Spain proposes, and any other modifications which either or all of the other belligerents may have proposed or provided for proposing to the United States.

I think it proper to state in this place that at the present moment no answer upon the subject of our proposition has been received by this government from either of the allied belligerent enemies of Spain. It is therefore unknown and [Page 524] uncertain whether those parties have accepted or will accept the proposition, and equally unknown and uncertain whether they, or any of them, would desire to propose any modification of the plan which was submitted to all the belligerents by this government.

Having taken the President’s directions upon the matters thus recited, I have now to instruct you as follows:

1st. I shall desire to know as early as may be whether I have correctly conceived and expressed the meaning of Mr. Calonge’s communication.

2d. As to armistice, the United States understand that an armistice is to be deemed established from this date, unless the allied enemies of Spain shall renew hostilities before receiving notice thereof from the United States, or, upon receiving notice by a copy of this paper furnished by me, they shall decline to accept the armistice on the terms upon which it is so accepted by Spain.

3d. As to the amendment presented by Mr. Calonge, the United States will oppose no objection to preliminary discussion between Spain and her allied enemies, with a reference to the fixing of a time within which the matters shall have arisen which are to be submitted to the conference, and upon which, and none others, there is to be a submission to arbitration in case the plenipotentiaries are not able to agree among themselves. If, in the view of the parties concerned, it will facilitate that discussion, this government would be willing that this department should be a channel of communication. On the other hand, I am authorized to express, with profound respect to the several parties, an apprehension that the carrying on of such a preliminary discussion might produce delays which would be more injurious than the advantages which it is conceived by the President would be likely to result from an ultimate agreement between the parties as to the suggested period of limitation.

In regard to the suggestion of conditions or qualifications of the arbitrator, restricting the President’s liberty of choice, I am instructed to say that it would not be agreeable to this government to modify its original proposition in this respect. Impartiality and the good faith of the United States, as well as an exercise of sound discretion, are already pledges in the proposition to appoint an arbitrator in case the proceedings of the conference shall render it necessary. Should either of the belligerent parties insist upon such a condition in this respect as the one thus offered by Spain, the United States must be understood as declining to proceed further in the matter.

Finally, it being a matter of importance to save time in the negotiations which have been so happily begun, a copy of this communication, without further explanation, is transmitted to the legations of the United States near the allied belligerents, to be laid before them in the same words in which the minister of the United States at Madrid is hereby directed to submit the same to the consideration of her Catholic Majesty’s government. Whatever communications bearing upon the subject may be received from either of the belligerents will, without delay, be made known to all other interested parties.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


John P. Hale, Esq., &c., &c., &c.