Mr. Asboth to Mr. Bernard.
Sir: I had the consoling gratification to receive on the 4th of September ultimo your dispatch of May 27th, No. 36, in which you are pleased to honor me with a general approval of all the action taken by me in the offer of mediation for the termination of the Paraguayan war, and especially of my note addressed on the 10th of April to Señor de Elizalde, then minister of foreign affairs here, renewing the offer of mediation, with a request for its reconsideration. This approval I view as an additional proof of the hind forbearance with which my government judges my humble efforts to follow up the humane spirit of its instructions, and I beg leave to offer herewith to you, sir, and through you to the President of the United States, my most sincere thanks.
With the same mail I had also the honor to receive your dispatch No. 39, dated July 11th, wherein reference is made to a copy of a communication which was addressed to your department on the 9th of the same month, by Mr. B. Mitre y Vedia, charge d’affaires of the Argentine Republic near the United States government, with special instructions for me to treat upon the subject presented by Mr. Mitre y Vedia here in Buenos Ayres, and to put into the hands of Señor de Elizalde a copy of your above alluded to dispatch No. 36, with the information that the said dispatch furnishes what you trust will be sufficient explanation of the view of the President concerning the matter, brought to the attention of the United States government by Mr. Mitre y Vedia.
The copy of the note on which you instruct me to act not having been inclosed with your dispatch No. 39, I was obliged to postpone my action in the matter until the receipt of the missing document. As soon, however, as I had succeeded in securing an official copy of it, through the good offices of Señor Dr. Don Marcelino Ugarte, who has relieved Señor de Elizalde as minister of foreign affairs, and had thus ascertained the nature of Mr. Mitre y Yedia’s note in question, which was nothing less than an official complaint against certain proceedings on the part of the American agents in the river Plate with regard to the offer made by the United States to mediate for the termination of the war waging between the allies and Paraguay, I hastened, in obedience to the instructions contained in your dispatch No. 39, to bring the subject before the Argentine government in an official note in the following terms:
Legation of the United States of America, Buenos Ayres, October 22, 1867.
Sir: I beg leave to inform your excellency that I have received from my government a communication which was addressed to the State Department at Washington on the 9th July ultimo, by Mr. B. Mitre y Vedia, chargé d’affaires of the Argentine Republic near the government of the United States of America. Introductory to this note, Mr. B. Mitre y Vedia says that, in accordance with instructions lately received, he intends to give in it some explanation relative to the conduct observed by the Argentine government on the mediation offered by the United States in the war with Paraguay, [Page 229]and at the same time to call the attention of the State Department to certain proceedings on the part of the American agents in the river Plate, which not only deviate from the usages and practices that regulate diplomacy, but which also compromise the impartial spirit which it was undoubtedly the intention of his excellency the President of the United States to give to the proffered mediation.
Well aware of the fact that your excellency is in possession of a copy of Mr. B. Mitre y Vedia’s note in question, I deem it superfluous to give here its full contents, but will refer only to that portion of it which complains of the steps taken officially by me. as represntative of the United States near the Argentine government, in the otter of mediation. That portion is as follows, viz:
“The Argentine government, after consulting together on the subject of the mediation initiated on the 4th January ultimo by the President of the United States of America, at the request of the House of Representatives, and after discussing the matter with its allies, communicated to Mr. A. Asboth, minister resident of the United States in Buenos Ayres, together with its expressions of gratitude, its regret at being obliged. by powerful motives, to decline the good offices of his government.
“But Mr. Asboth, perhaps animated by a strong desire to see the hopes of his own. government fulfilled, and thinking that the declaration of the Argentine government was not sufficient to conclude the question, renewed his offer in a note dated the 10th of April.
“This step, under different circumstances, might have appeared as a laudable excess of zeal to see the termination of a strife which has already cost so many and such painful sacrifices; but it has been taken in so extraordinary a manner that my government has thought it its duty not to let it pass unnoticed.
“The American minister, in the dispatch alluded to, does not limit himself, as was to have been hoped, to insisting on the acceptance of his government’s good offices and to making evident the advantages of peace, but has thought it proper to enter into appreciations with regard to the war, to home politics, to the state of public opinion and of the finances of the country, which he ought to have supposed had been duly studied and taken into consideration by the Argentine government.
“The Argentine government thinks that the minister of the United States did not require, in order to carry out his noble desire, to review the situation of the country, painting it in such dark colors as he does in the above-mentioned note. Were so unusual a proceeding to be passed over in silence, it would imply that Mr. Asboth, notwithstanding his very short residence in this country, was a better judge of its condition and necessities than the government elected by the people, and whose duty it is to be cognizant of that very condition and provide for those very necessities.
“Even admitting that the Argentine government was in the wrong, it surely would not belong to the diplomatic agent of a foreign nation to call its attention to the fact; the most ardent desire to promote the happiness and welfare of the country near whose government he might be accredited would not justify such a proceeding.”
Further on Mr. Mitre y Vedia continues:
“The Argentine government, while desiring me to submit these remarks to your excellency’s enlightened consideration, does not for an instant doubt that they will be received as a proof of its ardent desire to preserve unaltered the close bonds of friendship and sympathy which unite it with the government of the United States. It therefore confidently hopes that the United States government, which has given such signal proofs of the interest by which it is animated in not permitting that its agents should go beyond their assigned sphere of duty, will be able to give full credit to the justice of these remarks.”
Such are the complaints, relative to my humble self, contained in Mr. Mitre y Vedia’s communication, laid before my government pursuant to instructions received from Señor de Elizalde, your excellency’s distinguished predecessor in office; and the Secretary of State instructs me, in his before-mentioned dispatch, that, in reply, he advised Mr. Mitre y Vedia “that the subject which he had presented could be treated of more profitably in Buenos Ayres than in Washington, and that instructions would be given to me for that purpose.”
Accordingly, I was authorized and directed to put into the hands of Señor de Elizalde, then minister for foreign affairs, a copy of a dispatch, marked No. 36, previously addressed to me from the State Department at Washington, and to inform him. at the same time, “that the said dispatch No. 36 furnishes what the Secretary of State trusts will be a sufficient explanation of the views of the President concerning the matter brought to the attention of the State Department by Mr. Mitre y Vedia.”
I am further instructed by my chief, the honorable Secretary of State, to say to Mr. Elizalde “that it is difficult to conduct a correspondence of mediation between belligerents without inadvertently giving offense to one or other of the parties, and that, considering that every care has been taken by the United States government to avoid misapprehension, the Secretary of State begs to be excused from entering unnecessarily into collateral discussion.”
In obedience to these instructions, I have now the honor to append a full copy of the [Page 230]dispatch No. 36, with which I was honored by my government in reference to the note addressed by me on the 10th April ultimo, under No. 20, to Señor de Elizalde, requesting the reconsideration by the Argentine government of the mediation offered by the United States of America to the contending parties for the termination of the Paraguayan war and the restoration of peace in the countries washed by the river Plate and its tributaries, viz:
“Department of State, Washington, May 27, 1867.
“Sir: Your dispatches of April 10, No. 20, and of April 12, No. 21, have been duly received and submitted to the President, together with the important documents accompanying the same. From these papers the President has learned with profound regret that the Argentine Republic disallows the propositions made by the United States to the several belligerents for the termination of hostilities and the restoration of peace in the valley of the Parana and its tributaries. I have carefully read the note which you addressed to Mr. Elizalde, on receiving his announcement of the decision of his government. What you have written in that note is very discreetly expressed, and is in entire harmony with the views of this government, since its proceedings have been inspired by a sincere friendship to all the South American states, and an earnest solicitude for the restoration of peace and harmony on the American continent. Your note is therefore approved.
“At the same time I think it proper to remind you that earnestness for the restoration of peace is not to be carried to the extent of invading the sovereignty or the dignity of the belligerents. Whether they would accept our well-intentioned and friendly good offices was left to their own intelligent free choice. Nothing could be further from the President’s purpose than an idea of imposing any constraint or bringing any material pressure to bear upon that choice.
“Under these circumstances you will not be expected to press with undue importunity, at the present time, the tender of the good offices of this government to the Argentine Republic, or to that of Uruguay. Retaining the same attitude, however, you will wait further instructions, unless some new and unforeseen conjuncture shall seem to render it likely that our good offices will then have become more acceptable.
“I am sir, your obedient servant,
“WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
“Alexander Asboth, Esq., &c., &c., &c.”
Having thus fulfilled the orders of my government, I beg leave to express to your excellency my deep regret that your distinguished predecessor in office should have thought it proper to complain to my government respecting a note of mine, which was dictated by the most sincere sympathies and best wishes for the vital interests of the Argentine Republic, and in reference to which the above dispatch of my chief, the honorable Secretary of State, says that all that I have written in it is very discreetly expressed, and is in entire harmony with the views of my government, since its proceedings have been inspired by a sincere friendship towards all the South American states, and an earnest solicitude for the restoration of peace on the American continent. Your excellency will appreciate the consoling gratification which I derived from so emphatic an approval by my government of all my action in the offer of mediation, and especially of my note complained of by Señor de Elizalde, the more so as the progress of events subsequent to my said note has fully demonstrated that all to which I therein alluded and referred relative to the internal affairs of the Argentine Republic was the true reflection of the sad reality.
In the confident belief and trust that, while your excellency continues to preside over the foreign affairs of the Argentine confederation, the representatives of a sister republic, the United States of America, will be spared similar misapprehensions, I seize the opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurance of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be your excellency’s obedient servant,
His Excellency Dr. Don Marcelino Ugarte, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
It was my endeavor to bring this lengthy note in accord with the instructions received from your department on the subject, and I beg leave to assure you, in conclusion, of my most grateful appreciation of the generous manner in which you were pleased fully to vindicate before the Argentine government my official action in the mediation question, assailed in Mr. Mitre y Vedia’s note addressed to your department on [Page 231]the 9th July ultimo, pursuant to instructions received from Señor de Elizalde.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.