Mr. Seward to Mr. Pruyn.

No. 14.]

Sir: Your dispatch of the 6th of August, No. 21, has been received. It informs me that, in common with the representatives of Great Britain, Italy, and Spain, you have entered into a correspondence with the French minister at Caracas, in which he was requested, in a qualified manner, to detain a French ship of war, at the time lying at La Guayra, and that the French minister has answered that he is unable to comply with the request.

Diplomatic agreements between agents of foreign powers, hastily gotten up in a foreign country, under the pressure of revolutionary dangers, may be entirely erroneous in their objects, as they must be incomplete in form, and unreliable for want of adequate authority. Moreover, they unavoidably tend to produce international jealousies and conflicts. You will, therefore, carefully abstain from entering into any such negotiations, except in extreme cases, to be immediately reported to this department.

The circumstances under which the proceeding now under consideration has taken place being entirely unknown to this department, I regret that I am unable to express definitively any opinion upon the propriety [Page 965] thereof. As a general rule, representatives of the United States in foreign countries are expected to refrain from formal consultations or conferences with the representatives of other foreign countries. It is always to be remembered that any agreements which may be made by such representatives are likely to prove invalid, because they must take on the character of a treaty between the United States and other nations, while the Constitution of the United States expressly declares that no treaty shall ever be made between the United States and any other foreign state except by the President, with the consent of the Senate of the United States.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

Erastus C. Pruyn, Esq., &c., &c., &c.