Mr. Bancroft to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have already informed the department that I do not intend to risk success in settling the question of military service by embarrassing it with anything else. Nor have I thought it proper officially to ask this government to connect any other subject with the special one in view. But there are two questions that somewhat engage public attention here and I should like an instruction from the department how to speak about them to this government.
1st. This country has not yet freed itself completely from the medieval restrictions on trade. Germans may go to America and open a shop; an American coming here could only open a shop on sufferance or by special permission. Is it not best, if occasion offers, to propose perfect reciprocity in this respect? and should the perfect reciprocity extend to the right of holding real estate, at least so far as it is required for the trade or pursuit of the American emigrating to Germany or the German emigrating to America?
2d. In our first treaty with Prussia, Franklin introduced a clause against privateering, and after about 70 years all the great powers of Europe, April 16, 1856, accepted it. Mr. Marcy offered the adhesion of the United States if England would go further and agree not to employ its countless vessels of war virtually as privateers against our commerce.
I think it not improbable that this government, which adopts the prinple laid down by Mr. Marcy, might admit a formal recognition of it. I should like to have the President’s views on this point: whether as [Page 44] between North Germany and ourselves the rule may be inviolability of private persons and property on the high seas, subject only to the necessities of war.
My own judgment is in favor of both these suggestions, especially the second one; it would bind us towards no nation but North Germany, and would be for our republic a recognition of the highest principle of civilization of our time. I am certain that the suggestion would be relished here, and, as yet, no decisive objection has occurred to me in the way of its adoption. On all questions of maritime law and neutrality the interests of North Germany and America are identical.
I remain sir, yours sincerely,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.