Mr. Yeaman to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I do not make this paper a despatch, because it does not concern the internal or external affairs of Denmark, nor the relations between this government and the United States, and I leave it entirely to your better judgment whether the subject-matter or any of my observations in regard to it shall be laid before others having such matters particularly in their charge.
The subject is the organization and management—the whole efficiency—of the foreign diplomatic service of the United States; and I propose, with your permission, to submit to your consideration some reflections which I deem pertinent to the public service, not impertinent for me to make, and which, in any event, I will be partially excused for making, by their having been constantly forced upon my attention during my short stay in Europe.
It need hardly be remarked that the only rational object of the service is public utility; and it cannot be amiss for any citizen, more especially for one in that branch of the service, to point out what seems to him the means of increasing its efficiency and usefulness.
I feel the more entirely at liberty to do this, as I did not expect, in accepting my present position, that I would hold it, or be expected to hold it, for more than a few years at most, and am, therefore, in no way obnoxious to the imputation that any of my reflections would have a tendency to benefit myself personally. I have no fear of any such unfounded criticism, and its possibility will not deter me from making such observations as I think just in themselves, and adapted at least to inciting an increased and impartial consideration of the subject. Prominent among my reasons for accepting a position so kindly tendered without solicitation were the probability of restored health and the facilities for pursuing a long desired course of study, while constantly having in my mind the desire and the expectation of a future return to my profession.
It is only too apparent that the American diplomatic service is regarded abroad as the least carefully organized and, as a necessary result, the least efficiently executed among all the great or highly civilized powers; and this opinion may be entertained and expressed by others without implying any reflection upon the gentlemen engaged in that service, at home or abroad, but as a fact arising entirely out of defective organization. Mr. Randolph has been censured for saying rather splenetically, and with more energy than grace, that Americans were “at the tail end” of the corps diplomatique in Europe. There was some petulance in the remark, and, as far as there is or was any truth in it, it may be safely affirmed that it is not the fault of the gentlemen sent abroad, but of the inherent and patent defect in the organization and conduct of our diplomatic service.
The matter has frequently been the subject of conversation between myself and my very intelligent and friendly colleagues accredited to this court, and I have thus, as well as in many other ways, been led to observe wherein our service differs from that of other nations, and in what points of difference it would appear to be susceptible of improvement.
One difference, perhaps the leading one, between our service and that of other [Page 646] powers, is the care they observe to secure the services, while young, of men supposed to be adapted to it, and to prepare and qualify them by a long course of experience and training for the intelligent and skilful discharge of its duties, and which contrasts, in a marked manner, with the casual and transient service of American diplomatic agents.
European diplomats call it a profession, or, more commonly, a career, and of course to run the career well, it is necessary to know well its landmarks, its objects, its duties, and the most apt means of accomplishing these. A majority with whom I have conversed began, while quite young, as attaches, and were promoted gradually to second secretary, first secretary, charge, minister, and envoy, a course of service embracing successive residences in various different capitals.
Aside from the official experience thus acquired, which is certainly its greatest advantage, the familiarity with different languages, and with the manners of diplomatic society and of social intercourse among European officials, and the reach and accuracy of political views, acquired by a studious residence in different countries, are very great advantages.
In speaking of qualifications for the diplomatic service, I wish especially to reject the idea that diplomacy is a lie; the art of polite and successful hypocrisy, of using language so as to conceal ideas; in short, of reaching any important end by finesse and strategy. In this the best and most successful practice would seem to corroborate the most approved advice, by demonstrating that entire sincerity and a properly guarded candor are, in the end, the best policy.
To say that one ought to observe a due caution, a discreet reticence, use all proper and worthy means of acquiring information, and say and write no more than is necessary, is only to prescribe such rules as would serve one equally well in any other sphere of life as in the discharge of diplomatic functions. But diplomacy, no more than the profession of arms or of law, is not ali learned on paper, and it is a service apart and distinct from an ordinary political experience, only a little less than the military service, and clearly not to be learned in a day or a year.
I avow myself unable to conceive a greater or more apparent error in administration than the theory of rotation in office merely for the sake of rotation. It is extremely well for the public service that incumbents should be impressed that rotation will surely occur unless duties are well discharged. And in political offices irregular and frequent rotation must necessarily and often occur to give expression to the changed or dominant opinion of the constituency. This is a result of our institutions, and I profoundly believe in those institutions. But the idea of rapid rotation in ministerial offices is only a little less injurious, and scarcely any better founded, than rapid rotation on the bench; and the idea of frequent changes, in any department of the service, only with the view of gratifying a greater number of applicants with a taste of the supposed and unreal sweets of public official service, if good in its application to a short term of a few years, must be followed to its logical results, of a few months or even a few weeks; and it would thus become as ridiculous as disastrous, by always having a set of officers who are only learning their duties; who, as soon as they have learned them, or a little before, will give place to others who run the same short, and, to the government, unprofitable career. I have long been satisfied that upon this and the kindred subject of salaries the great body of the people are in advance of most of their public men, and that many errors upon the subject of short terms, rapid changes, and low salaries, done mainly because it is supposed such measures are demanded by the people, give the intelligent part of them real concern and displeasure. They want their affairs well managed, and are not ignorant of the advantages and necessity of experience.
As to the minor advantages of experience, it is quite true that a man who is a gentleman in America is a gentleman everywhere; but, for all that, he will [Page 647] quickly find, when he undertakes to represent and protect the interests of his government near a foreign court, that it were far better for the substantial interests of his government, as well as far more comfortable to himself personally, that he should have known a few things, and if possible known them while young, which are not learned either at the bar or in political life in America. It is at once the part of wisdom and of duty to an agent’s government, as well as of interest to himself, to be familiar with and to adapt himself to the prevailing modes of that sphere in which he is sure to have an influence for or against his government, so that he will neither miss opportunities for information and favorable impression, nor discourage or repel those who might be useful friends.
All this is quite plain, and very commonly understood, so much so that its mention would seem to be superfluous; but the point in the matter is, that it is a part of the service which has to be learned; that the greater number of our agents are unacquainted with it when they first come abroad, and are withdrawn as soon as they have learned it or had time to do so, and their places supplied with others equally able and equally inexperienced.
I am assured by gentlemen who have observed, in a friendly spirit, many of our diplomatic agents when they first come abroad, that while they have nearly always found them men of talent and force of character, they have seldom or never seen one who was at first qualified or at all knew how to take charge of a legation and to commence the discharge even of his official duties in the usual way; that some have seemed to regard a mission abroad as “a mere visit to Europe under advantageous circumstances,” and were as much discouraged as surprised by the difficulties encountered in their new career.
European diplomatic agents are frequently transferred from one capital to another, but the rapidity with which those of the United States are taken entirely out of the service and fresh ones put in, is regarded in Europe with undisguised and pronounced astonishment. This objection to the system, as a system, is not met by the observation that our diplomatic agents resign as often as they are displaced. One evil begets the other, and there are other reasons for resignations found in the system itself. The understood habit of rapid changes makes some gentlemen willing to accept a few years of such service, with the expectation, if not the implied understanding, that it is a temporary employment, and they enter upon it without any intention of seriously and laboriously devoting themselves to that line of study that will prepare them for the discharge of its duties. It would be strange if it were otherwise. With no expectation of promotion or of permanence and distinction in the service, there is naturally some indifference to such labor; and it is known some of them resign a place of comparative obscurity, and return home to engage in more promising and exciting political aspirations. And it may safely be assumed that some of the influences I have named, and other unpleasant effects on what was supposed to be a pleasant and easy position, often lead to resignations sooner than they were at first intended. The office ought more nearly to resemble judicial positions, whose duties are not thought to be a pastime, for which a man is only prepared by a long course of study and experience, and a sphere of labor, which, being assumed, would generally be continued while the discharge of it was satisfactory.
The summary and ill-founded observation about “republican simplicity “ and “aping royalty and aristocracy” is only made by well-meaning gentlemen who have not stopped to look into the subject. There is probably no instance of any American diplomatic agent having fallen into unrepublican ways of thinking and feeling; and if there is a class of Americans who make foolish and unjust remarks while abroad about the institutions and manners of their own country, every thoughtful, cultivated and observant American only has his love for our institutions deepened by a closer study and observation of other systems. The true aim is not to be peculiar or ostentatious by appearing to parade whatever may distinguish us from others, but to be acquainted with and to practice such [Page 648] things, both official and social, as will increase our usefulness to the government by increasing our influence among those with whom we come in contact; those deferences and compliances which, without compromising us, will give those numerous facilities and advantages that exist outside of a mere written controversy. “Whoever thinks he can do this suddenly and with success, without previous experience, has only to make the effort to be suddenly undeceived. And a government which constantly relies for the discharge of diplomatic duties on men without that experience, though it may select its ablest lawyers, legislators and captains, will be served, at least occasionally, with as much clumsiness as fidelity. A legation may be compared to a window or lens through which others see our government, our people, and our institutions.
Near akin to experience and nearly of as much importance is the necessity of being acquainted with modern languages, especially the one which has become, for the most part, the language of diplomacy. In no other particular does the American service, when compared with others, appear to greater disadvantage. My own lack of this qualification has furnished me with the means of intensely appreciating its importance, and has excited me, against my intention and expectations, to attempt, at least in part, to remedy the deficiency. This disadvantage arises in part from our isolated situation. No country has so great or so many facilities for an ordinary substantial education as the United States. But so little have we felt the need of modern languages, and so little have they been cultivated with us, especially in the west, as compared with European countries, that the government might not always conveniently find gentlemen having this knowledge by education in early life, and, at the same time, combining the other qualifications and claims to consideration generally deemed material in making such appointments. When they can be, then, other things being equal, the linguist ought certainly to be preferred. An agent without this acquirement ought to have it impressed on him that he is expected, as a matter of official and honorable duty, to attain it at his earliest convenience, at least so far as to read and translate with accuracy.
It is fair to presume the government sends no agent abroad not tolerably well acquainted with the works of Kent, Wheaton, and Vattel, upon international law, and these are standard works the world over. But a man may conduct a law office on Blackstone’s and Greenleaf’s Commentaries, without books of practice and reports, nearly as well as a minister can conduct the business of a legation without consulting, if not studying, the various works upon the rights, duties, and powers of ministers, the formal part of diplomatic intercourse and correspondence, the various collections of treaties, the histories of treaties and negotiations, works upon maritime law, and the collection of precedents and leading cases arising under the law of nations. If these books exist in the English language, I have not been able to find them here in that dress, and though a man in middle life or past may not often learn to speak a foreign language, it ought to be expected that no minister will remain unable to read such works as may be necessary for his enlightened guidance.
If I have correctly understood the several circular instructions found on file in this legation, taken together, they make out quite a curious case on this subject, and one to which I cannot think attention has been called. An agent is sent to a foreign court with full knowledge that all communications addressed to him by the government to; which he is accredited will be in a language of which he is wholly ignorant. He is instructed not to employ foreigners in copying; is required to give translations; is furnished with no secretary to do the copying and translating, and is enjoined not to charge the cost of translation to the contingent fund,
This prohibition of expense to the government for translating would clearly imply that a minister may hire it done if he will pay for it out of his own means; and as all translations necessarily involve a copying, and give the best possible [Page 649] opportunity for taking or keeping a copy or the substance of a document out of the office, it is not perceived how he can obey the rule about copying and have anything translated. A minister may receive a communication upon the most important or most confidential subject, and, for not being able to read it, cannot possibly know whether to report it to his government, or to answer it, or what answer to make. He has no resource left to him but to have it translated by some one not connected with the legation. The situation would certainly be awkward and embarrassing, and to any suggestion that no practical inconvenience has so far resulted from it, it is a sufficient response that the inconvenience and the injury might be so great that no opportunity ought to be allowed for it to occur, and that it is possible we may not be aware of all the damage it has caused in times past. It is much to the credit of the United States that their diplomatic agents have furnished some of the best and ripest contributions of this century to legal and historical literature. Gratifying as these examples are, it is certainly to be regretted that the acquirements necessary for such service have been the brilliant exceptions to the general rule.
Closely connected with this subject is that of a legation library. This need not be extensive, but that it ought to be more so than it is, and of a different sort from that now supplied, there cannot be any reasonable doubt. A minister for the ordinary and respectable discharge of his functions, and especially for the management of any important and difficult question, not only needs such a help, but without it he will generally fail to satisfy either himself or his government, no matter what his natural ability, his common-law learning, or his legislative experience. It is true, access can generally be had for reference to the necessary authorities in the large libraries to be found in the different capitals of Europe, but that is not equal to having them on the book-shelves of a legation. Every American legation in Europe is either encumbered with or has given away to some institution, by permission of the department, hundreds of volumes of public documents, some of them very costly, and the most of them of the smallest use conceivable to a legation. If a minister were furnished with the state papers and diplomatic correspondence of his own government, the balance of these books might well be dispensed with, and a fourth or a tithe of their cost would furnish many works of very great utility.
The orderly and neat preservation of the archives of a legation ought in some way to be better secured and enforced, so that an incoming minister may, with facility, make himself acquainted with the history, the business, and the duties of his legation previous to his accession to it. My own experience and difficulties in that matter have been detailed in previous despatches. Some system of binding, labelling, and indexing ought to be enforced that would not only preserve the archives from destruction and loss, which appear in a great measure to have happened to the papers of this legation, but would also give a reasonably industrious man access to their contents without an undue amount of drudgery.
This naturally leads me to the observation that every legation ought to have a good secretary. The advantages of this are manifold and too great to allow the trifling expense of his salary to be mentioned as an objection. Besides the greater order and neatness that would probably be attained in the ordinary despatch of business, and in making and keeping the records, its conformity with the uniform custom of other governments would prevent those inquiries, and those expressions and looks of surprise to which the absence of a secretary so frequently gives rise. The diplomatic service is perhaps the one in which we can least afford to be peculiar, or to depart from the usual customs, and in which such departure is ordinarily most” injurious. When at any court the envoys extraordinary of other governments, some of them not having a fourth the population and wealth of the United States, are furnished with from one to four secretaries and attaches, who assist them in their official labor and in the [Page 650] ordinary formal testimonies of respect on public occasions, the attitude of an American minister resident representing a government so great and powerful, standing and working alone, constantly excites remarks and conclusions which do not add to the efficiency of the legation or to the estimate accorded to our government. It cannot be other than an evil to have it supposed that such a government as the United States withholds secretaries from its legations on account of the small expense thereby saved, or from not really knowing the advantages of having a secretary in every legation. A legation is either useful or not. If not it ought to be withdrawn. We are under no obligation to support legations, no matter on how limited a scale, merely as a compliment to other governments. If useful they ought to be supplied with all the means of usefulness and efficiency. It requires no argument to show that a minister with a competent intelligent secretary can acquire information useful to the legation and to his government more rapidly and accurately than without one. As to labor, particularly in such matters as are specially given in charge to a minister, you are aware it must be irregular. There are times when of course there is but little to do, and there are occasions when a minister, without a secretary, has to perform an amount of mere physical and mechanical drudgery which ought not to be required of a man otherwise fitted for the place, and who could be otherwise so much better employed. It is in the experience of every professional man, and of all who have engaged in the duties of legislation or diplomacy, that while supported by the first ardor or mental excitement of composition the labor of reducing an argument or a document to form is comparatively easy to bear. But that first draught is nearly always unfit for use, and when thus roughed out, for a minister to have to make out two copies with his own hand, one for the Secretary of State, and one for the records of his legation, (and in case it is addressed to the government to which he is accredited, then stili a third one for its foreign office,) to men who do not copy with much facility, as I imagine most ministers do not, the task, before completion, falls little short of torture.
Not only does every legation need a secretary, but I have to submit that the difference at present existing upon that subject is unequal and not founded on reason. Some of our legations have two secretaries, and some one, and some none. When the difference in the salaries of ministers is also taken into account, the difference seems still greater and still more unsupported. I hope I am very far from desiring to make our legations ornamental. My whole argument points the other way. Another very obvious and considerable advantage of furnishing all our legations with secretaries is in the training and experience it would afford to worthy young men of laudable aspirations in preparing them for the service of the state. This is so apparent that it is a part of the organized system of other governments; and the course of our own government in this respect is in marked contrast, not only with the policy of other governments, but with its own care and solicitude to prepare young men for the army and navy. These young men should not be put into the diplomatic service with any understanding that promotion comes as a matter of course, but only as a matter of desert. If they are found worthy of promotion, it does not need to be shown that they will be more familiar with their duties by this course of experience. If they do not accept or are not offered promotion, they will at least have performed their parts as secretaries while abroad, and upon their return the country cannot be the loser by having in our midst a greater number of citizens intimately and practically acquainted with the foreign affairs of our government, and with the internal politics of foreign governments. These several considerations have partly anticipated and now lead directly to the consideration of the subject of expenses or salary. However delicate this subject may appear in my hands, I shall approach it with entire freedom, and I hope with as much justice as boldness. The subject is not without its difficulties. The first and most apparent consideration is to make the salary sufficient for the purposes of gentility [Page 651] and efficiency, and within this rule the real amount needed would vary with the size, ages, and sex of a minister’s family, matters which a government cannot stop to consider. The next is that while it should be just, it should not be large enough to make it sought after as a means of money-getting. It cannot be just unless sufficient to save a minister from loss, considering the expenses of coming and going, the cost of living, and the loss of time and business at home, even counting nothing for services rendered. Viewed in this light, it is quite evident that public and individual economy are consulted by permanency and regularity of service rather than by short terms and frequent changes, apart from the advantages to the government of having experienced agents. Ann independent of the amount of a minister’s salary, one cannot avoid reflecting upod the singular inequality which at present exists. Any attempt to graduate salaries according to the strength, wealth, population, or political importance of the country in which a legation is maintained, or even in any great degree with the importance and intimacy of our relations with its government, is a misconception of the subject. The senators from Delaware and Rhode Island are justly deemed worthy the same salary as the senators from New York and Pennsylvania, and the cost of living at Washington is quite the same to one as to the other.
In Europe the difference in the cost of living at different capitals is not nearly so great as is often assumed or imagined. House-rents, meats, and carriage hire are more costly in the large than in the small capitals, while dry-goods, carpets, linen, furniture, and servant’s hire are cheaper in the large, and dearer in the smaller capitals. As to all those additional and quite considerable expenses of living, aside from mere comfort, which a minister and his family must incur in order to appear as becomes them and their government in that society in which they are expected to move, they are very much the same all over Europe. One court, in all that distinguishes it from any other good society, is about as expensive as another. A court wardrobe for gentlemen or lady must be equally good at Copenhagen or Stockholm as in London or Paris, and is more expensive in the smaller than in the great capitals; just as it costs a family more to get to and from Copenhagen and Stockholm, than to and from London and Paris. Certainly some legations are far more important, and have more labor to perform, than others; but so have they more rank and official position, (so far as that may be held a consideration,) and have competent help in the performance of that labor. It would be difficult to show that the legations which have one or those which have two secretaries, have any more, or even as much work to do, in comparison with the working force provided, as those which have none. This observation seems especially true of such legations as Madrid, Florence St. Petersburg, as compared with the Hague, Berne, Copenhagen, and Stock-holm. It is not insisted that salaries should be entirely equal, that they should all be as high as the largest now are, but only that the present very great inequality has no solid and just foundation. Compared with the salaries of the ministers from Russia, France, and England, the amount of which I refrain from mentioning, ours is so small as to suggest either extravagance on one hand, or a mistaken economy on the other; possibly somewhat of both. But all this does not prove that the salary is really deficient. My own experience has convinced me, and I feel not the least hesitation in declaring my conviction, that with no outfit, and with short terms of service, which seems to be the habit if not the policy, it is palpably deficient; and that a man with a family, supporting them and the legation as he ought, and as the real interests of the government require he should, will either lose money or barely save himself in the matter of money received and spent, giving his services to the government, and losing that much time from his business at home. So that with a man who has tolerably good prospects at home, it is literally paying for the privilege of being minister. I do not affirm that ministers always lose money. It cannot be required of them, and it would hardly be wise in them to do so. But the most of them can avoid [Page 652] it only by a kind of economy far more injurious to their government than to themselves. I cannot imagine anything more embarrassing to a minister, and less serviceable to the state, than for him either to refuse all proffered hospitality, or to be constantly accepting it without the ability fairly to reciprocate. The department could not long remain ignorant of an abuse so coarse as the act of hoarding the larger part of a man’s salary instead of maintaining the dignity of his legation and the interests of his government by bestowing proper attentions upon his official acquaintances, and upon deserving Americans abroad; and it. would be nearly as gross for us to presume in advance such conduct as to be guilty of it.
After being once established here, I can live a little inside my salary; and that would decide the matter with those who overlook the cost of coming and returning, of providing suitable wardrobes, the loss of breaking up and selling out at home and the loss of buying and selling furniture here, or the still greater expense of renting it. In my own case, counting travelling expenses, the necessary additional outfits, cost of living here, cost of furnishing house, not yet quite defrayed, I have not only consumed my salary, but am in arrears by several months with my banker, who from the first kindly offered to advance me quite as much money as I was willing to borrow on my mere promise to draw my checks in his favor as they fell due. I understand other ministers have had to do the same thing. It is an indulgence and an assistance which we have no right to expect on strict business principles, and is a favor which it seems to me no government ought to be willing to see its agents compelled to ask. It is not a fit thing that a minister should be indebted to cabinet-makers, upholsterers, and linen-drapers about town, nor even to a kind and confiding banker. If a man had no regard for his personal credit, a clear perception of his duty to his government, and as the head of a legation, would induce him to avoid debt; and I cannot avoid the conclusion that a government has not fully regarded its own interests or done its whole duty, until it has so dealt with a newly-appointed minister as that any material indebtedness at the capital where he is to reside would be his own fault. There ought to be no occasion for those painful and embarrassing questions with which an indebted minister might be confronted on being suddenly recalled, or having, from, any unexpected cause, to ask for his passports. Our system has presented unsafe temptations and facilities for the abuse of outfit and in fit; but surely if any such abuse was ever detected, means could have been found to avoid it in the future; and if the present sys-tem of naked salary and rapid change is continued, it may be expected that after a little the government will begin to find difficulty in getting proper men for the service, except by confining its offers to those who have spare means of their own and are willing to use them in that way. When I learned there was no outfit and no transportation, had I also known the expenses of coming and of living here, matters about which I was singularly misinformed, I would have felt constrained respectfully to decline the proffered appointment. The idea that living in Europe is so much cheaper than in America is being rapidly dispelled, by the experience of those who try it, and by the marked rise all over Europe of rents, labor, hotel bills, and the cost of the necessaries of life.
The common and ready answer by some to all arguments upon this and kindred subjects is that the government can easily get the offices filled for the present salaries. Undoubtedly it can. Indeed, those who are satisfied with that mode of investigation do not do justice to their argument; they do not carry it far enough. The government can get the places filled on half the money, and occasionally for none of it. A man can come to Europe, put his family in mean apartments on the third floor in a mean street; see nothing, learn nothing, and have no influence while abroad, and in leaving carry with him the contempt of others for himself and his government, on much less than the present salaries. Or the government can find learned and patriotic bachelors who, being expected [Page 653] to have only a very limited establishment, can better live on half the salary than a man of family, who occasionally opens his house, can live on all of it.
I submit that our government ought always to accredit to each power a minister of at least equal rank to the one maintained by such power at Washington. This in itself involves no additional expense, and a contrary course is liable to be injuriously misunderstood. It is certainly far better to regulate our own conduct in this respect by the conduct of other governments towards ours, than to make distinctions in the grade of rank of our own ministers, based upon our own estimate, either of the importance of a foreign nation or of the utility of maintaining a legation at its capital. It is not to the purpose to say that rank is in itself a matter of no consequence. There is no proposition an American will more readily admit. But the real question is, how does it affect our diplomatic standing and influence at the several courts of Europe where the rule I suggest is disregarded? No one who has observed it will say that it is not a perceptible disadvantage. And if rank really be indifferent in itself, there can be no solid objection to doing what every American diplomat in Europe would admit to be desirable on public considerations.
It has heretofore been proposed to provide by law that diplomatic and consular agents should not be removed except for cause. Whatever benefits might flow from a legislative recommendation or declaration of a policy intended to secure competency and experience in that branch of the public service, the wisdom and practicability of placing any such legal restrictions upon the President’s power of removal would appear very doubtful. To remove only for cause the cause must yet be inquired into and determined by somebody; if by the President, it comes to the same thing as before; if by a tribunal before which investigation and decision must be much slower, it would involve delays which, at times, might become extremely pernicious to the public interests. The President, having under his executive direction the management of foreign relations, subject to the approval of the Senate, ought to be left free, not only in the choice of his agents, through whom he must always act, but to displace them instantly and substitute others for any reason that appears sufficient to him, whether improper conduct, inadequate or inattentive discharge of duty, or the belief that some other agent can more successfully manage the business in hand. Neither such discretion nor the public good, nor public opinion will demand frequent changes for the sake of rotation, nor on account of ordinary differences of political opinion.
The diplomatic relations and service of the United States have suddenly been invested with a vastly increased importance. The admitted and admired position of our government among the leading powers, the remaining political connections of the Eastern with the Western hemisphere, and our own great and just interest in all that occurs in the latter; the great questions of public law affecting the whole world, and originating mainly in the affairs of the United States; the important and beneficent changes in that law which have been so much advocated by our own government, and the accomplishment of which is now almost visible to the mind’s eye, all bear witness to the increased importance of the service. We may adhere as closely as possible to the Washingtonian precept against entangling alliances, but the great fact remains that the civilized, independent Christian powers of the earth are, in a large degree, a grand commonwealth of nations to which we must belong, and in the councils of that commonwealth it is equally our duty to guard our rights and our right to guard our influence. The world is probably just entering upon a great and interesting epoch in the history of parliamentary government. There are some indications that that form of political machinery will become universal in the civilized world, and there are other fainter indications that the same public opinion which is demanding and obtaining this form of representative expression will also be soon demanding more immediate, energetic, and direct action than has so far been [Page 654] attained in those assemblies in which discussion has maintained so attractive a pre-eminence. The question is interesting in itself to the safety of popular political rights, and to the growth and healthy action of public opinion. To the same extent that we are interested in all these things we ought to be close. and intelligent observers.
I beg to close this letter, which has grown so unexpectedly on my hands, with the assurance that nothing less than the hope of doing a mite of good for my government could have induced me to trouble you with any observations upon this subject.
I am sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.