Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward.

No. 491.]

Sir: I have not heretofore felt called upon to make mention of the rumors touching a projected Belgo-French Customs Union, which have, of late, occupied the French press, but the prominence the subject has acquired in the public mind leads me now to refer to it

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I have reason to believe that no propositions or overtures looking to such a transaction have been made to this government by that of the Emperor Napoleon. It is not, however, a new question, but has been the object of careful examination by the two governments at various times under various administrations during the reign of Louis Philippe.

The same reasons that prevented carrying out the project then, would, doubtless, be quite as potent now. The political concessions to France, such as jurisdiction of French tribunals and authorities in customs matters and the exercise by French custom-house officials of their functions in Belgium, which were expected in return for the advantages that, in a commercial and industrial point of view, would be on the side of that power, with the more extended market for their products, would hardly be granted by this government or acceded to by the people.

The persistency of the rumors would seem to indicate that the public mind is being prepared for some movement of the kind on the part of France; my opinion is, that if made, it will not be successful.

There are those here, and I lean to their opinion, who ascribe the agitation of this subject to the war party at Paris, which is powerful and grows more active and openly enterprising as the colossal military preparations of France approach their completion, and who appear to be on the alert for a foreign question to work upon.

While the press here is generally silent with regard to the possible disturbance of peace by France, there is not, among thinking men whom I come in contact with, entire freedom from apprehension on that score.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


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