Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I send to you to-day the laws enacted at the late session of the North German parliament.
The fourth law relates to the nationality of merchant ships and their right to use the union flag. That flag, by the 55th article of the constitution, is black, white, and red, and is, from the 1st day of April, 1868, to cover the mercantile marine of North Germany ; on and after that day it will be seen in all our considerable ports. By the second article of the law you will perceive that the character of a North German ship is acquired by ownership alone, without any regard to the country in which the ship may have been built. I have already, in my No. 17, called your attention to the fact that this new flag will cover a larger amount of tonnage than the flag of any European nation except Great Britain.
The eighth law relates to free migration, (Freizugigkeit.) This law, although at present it is confined to the citizens of the North German States, is not without interest for us. An attempt will be made at the first meeting of the German zoll parliament to extend this law to the South German States. Should that take place, perhaps we might claim the benefit of it under that clause of our commercial treaty with Prussia which places us on the footing of the most favored nations. The eleventh law, relating to the organization of the consular department, enacts that a consulmissus shall not engage in mercantile pursuits.
The collection which I send you contains the bills as presented by the president of the North German United States—that is, the King of Prussia—and the laws as they were finally adopted. The official publication of the laws I have not as yet been able to obtain.[Page 601]
I take this occasion to explain the relation which, according to my understanding of the case, the American minister at Berlin holds to this government. The King of Prussia, as King of Prussia, is the hereditary President of the North German United States, and the president of the collective German customs and commerce union, which last now embraces all Germany, except the Austrian provinces. Some of the European powers regard with dissatisfaction the tendency of Germany towards union, are reluctant to acknowledge that union as far as it has been brought about, and would gladly exercise an adverse influence upon its further progress. The United States of America have always held that every people has an undoubted right to improve its institutions undisturbed by the jealousy of its neighbors. Apart from this general principle, the United States have an especial reason to be pleased with the progress of the German union, because it brings with it an increase of liberty to the German people, and a greater analogy to our own system. I therefore attended officially the opening of the North German parliament, as well as the opening of the Prussian parliament, and intend in like manner to be present officially at the opening of the German customs parliament. In recognizing these several bodies, and assuming to be accredited to the King of Prussia as their head, I act in harmony with the interests of the United States, and, as I feel sure, with the wishes of the government and people. I should be glad to learn from you the views of the President on the points here referred to.
I remain, sir, yours sincerely,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.[Page ]