Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Seward.

No. 33.]

Sir: * * * * *

Count Bismarck informs me that the British government has inquired of him as to the answer the Prussian government would make to the American government on the subject of naturalization. In reply he informed them of the intention of this government to come to an understanding with that of America, according to its request. The remarks of Count Bismarck implied that the British government is inclined to follow the example of the Prussian, and that the settlement of the question here will be virtually a settlement for Great Britain.

In the prosecution of this business to a settlement there is need of great patience, as the several departments interested in the measure have to be consulted and to propose their difficulties and desired modifications. Some time must therefore pass away before the negotiations can be closed.

* * * * * *

A few days ago, a gentleman holding a subordinate office in the Prussian province of Westphalia called on me to inquire if I would approve or consent that a benevolent society for prisoners should continue to make shipments to the United States from the prisons of Westphalia. I put to him some questions and drew out of him that they had been accustomed to make a general jail delivery of culprits and worthless persons and ship them to New York. The system was so thoroughly organized that arrangements were made with railroads for sending them into the interior, and with agents at several stations for receiving and distributing them; that the business had been interfered with by some recently enacted law, of which he could not give me any particulars, and that now the society to which he belonged, renouncing the practice of exporting condemned criminals, asked leave to send at least such persons as were imprisoned, not for crimes, but as vagabonds. Now by the Prussian law a vagabond is a man who has no occupation and no desire [Page 43] to be occupied. My answers were of course of such a nature as to put him on his defense. He said his motives were those of a philanthropist; that the superior officer in the department in which he was employed knew nothing of his application to me; that what had been done in Westphalia in shipments of prisoners to America was a trifle compared to what had been done in Bavaria; that in Bavaria the business had been carried on at an exorbitant rate. I can think of no surer way of repressing the evil than by instructions from the department to the consuls at the several ports.

The state of the Danish question remains unchanged. Denmark will have nothing less than the island of Alsen and a good military frontier. This Prussia refuses, and Denmark will wait in the hope that a general war may support her demands. Meantime, Prussia remains in possession of all North Sehleswig and treats it as an integral part of the kingdom.

The whole influence of this government is exerted to maintain the peace of Europe, and its policy meets with the success which my reports may have led you to expect. Nothwithstanding the clamor that has been raised, France has no desire of a war with North Germany, and Austria already begins to adopt the inevitable policy of abandoning the struggle for influence in Germany and of cultivating the friendship of Prussia.

I remain, sir, yours sincerely,


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