Mr. Seward to Mr. Yeaman.

No. 30.]

Sir: Your elaborate communication of the 4th instant has been received. I think you err in describing it as a letter instead of a despatch. Practically the head of the Department of State can have no private correspondence with the representatives of the United States in foreign countries upon political subjects otherwise than in the customary diplomatic form adapted to the records and archives of the government. Your letter will therefore be recorded in that form and marked 43. The paper presents an argument in favor of certain alterations of the laws of the United States by which the diplomatic service is regulated. All the matters you have discussed fall properly within the province of legislation. The habit of Congress in regard to such reforms as you contemplate is to inaugurate discussion by itself, calling upon the President, when it thinks necessary, for information. The inconveniences which need correction, as you assume, are not new, special, or extraordinary, but, on the contrary, they are long-standing subjects of public discussion. In such case, the President, confining himself within the sphere of the executive department, forbears from entering upon the debate. A practice, however, has obtained in the several departments of occasionally holding informal communication, with the President’s leave, with committees of Congress, upon important questions which present themselves in the ordinary course of administration. In conformity with this practice I have transmitted a copy of your despatch to the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations. That committee will doubtless bestow upon the matter discussed such consideration as it shall seem to demand.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


George H. Yeaman, Esq.,&c., &c., &c.