Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward.

No. 398]

Sir : A report to the King, under date of the 19th instant, appears in the Moniteur, in which the new minister of war, Generalde Goethals, states that “the new system of defence adopted by the country, and the progress realized in the art of war, demand that investigation be made with the view to see if the present condition of the organization of the army yet responds to the necessities of the national defence ;” and in order to enlighten the government he proposes to submit this important question to the examination of a commission.

A royal decree follows appointing the commission nominated by the minister, and which consists of 28 members, one-half military and one-half civilian, the latter representing both parties in Parliament ; I enclose the document herewith. It was made the subject of an interpellation the same day in the house, and the cursory debate that followed indicates the probability of considerable opposition, irrespective of parties, to any project looking to increase of the Belgian army. This question will doubtless occupy a prominent place in the discussions in Parliament when the budget of the war department, based upon the decision of the commission, is presented.

While the futureis generally looked forward to here with some apprehension in view of the extensive preparations for war by France and Prussia, public opinion seems to be divided as to the expediency and practical value of increasing the army, or very notably the expenses of the war department. I think it probable, however, that the views which have led to the formation of the commission will be adopted, and that the same pernicious results which are following thoughout Europe upon this contagion of mistrust., even in Switzerland, which is arming and borrowing twelve million francs to buy new guns, will arrive here, viz : increase of the draft upon the men and resources of the country to augment the means of warfare.

I propose to refer to this subject more in detail in a future despatch.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


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