Mr. Plumb to Mr. Seward.
Sir: In the early part of this month, after the discovery of a reported conspiracy at Guadalajara, in which it was stated, with what foundation I am not informed, that some foreigners were engaged, the government here gave orders under which, since that time, many arrests of foreigners in various parts of the country have taken place.
The number in this capital alone has amounted, as I have been informed by Mr. Lerdo de Tejada, to twenty-eight, of whom, however, seven were speedily placed at liberty, it appearing there were no tenable grounds for their detention.
Soon after the fact of such arrests became known, I called upon Mr. Lerdo de Tejada to inquire what were the grounds for these proceedings, and to what extent the government proposed to go. He informed me that since the issuance of the commutation order of the 31st of October last, which required all foreigners who had been engaged in the civil or military service of the so-called imperial government to leave the country, many who were included in the terms of that order, and who had been soldiers, had remained in the country; that these, with deserters from the French army, of whom there were some numbers, were being seduced to join in movements to disturb the public order; and that there were also some bad Spaniards in the country who were involved in many of the grave crimes, as kidnapping, &c., now so prevalent.
That for these reasons the government had determined to arrest such persons and send them out of the country; but that, as he had assured [Page 440]me several months before, it was not the intention to arrest those who were engaged in pacific pursuits and could show a good character, of those who might at one time have been engaged in the intervention, many of whom have married here, and, with others, are occupied in useful employments; nor was it the intention of the government to disturb in any way the foreigners settled in the country who have in no way been engaged in political affairs.
Later I was informed of several arrests of those not included in that order, one of whom, a Frenchman, had only a few months since arrived in the country.
On stating these facts to Mr. Lerdo de Tejada, these persons were released, as were also others included in the number before referred to as having been released, their friends having made representations to the government in their behalf.
Yet, in the execution of the orders that have been given by the government in this matter, there has been a degree of irresponsible and arbitrary action, by the governor of this city, which is in the highest degree reprehensible, and at one moment considerable alarm was produced among the pacific foreign residents.
With regard to this action, and the arrests above mentioned, I have, under the position taken by this government, only been able to use my private good offices; but I have felt it my duty to speak strongly to Mr. Lerdo de Tejada with regard to the necessity of including in such action as might now be taken by the government, only those against whom there were clear proofs of improper conduct.
That, with reference to any who were now engaging in movements against the public order, or in crimes of the kind he had referred to, the government would be perfectly justified in proceeding with the utmost rigor, but that it was better many such guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should be arrested, especially in the case of those who had not taken any part in the intervention.
The observations I have made, I have reason to believe, have led the government to be more careful with regard to the action of its subordinates.
So far as the cases herein referred to are concerned, in whose behalf my good offices have been appealed to, all are now terminated satisfactorily with one exception—the case of a Spanish subject, against whom the government insists it has good ground for proceeding.
The number of foreigners remaining in the country, however, of those compromised with the late intervention, appears to me entirely too small to require that, for the safety of the government now, any revival at this late day of measures of rigor against them should be necessary.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.