No. 499.
Mr. Gorham to Mr. Fish.

No. 136.]

Sir: On the 25th ultimo, in my No. 130, I gave you some account of what had then recently transpired in the Second Chamber of the States-General relative to the war in Acheen, noticing events in that connection up to the adjournment for the Easter holidays.

I now take occasion to transmit a summary of expressions on the same subject, so far as made in open session, which followed the re-opening on the 16th instant.

In order that papers withheld by the government, as well as those submitted previous to the adjournment, might be at the disposition of the Chamber, it was resolved to go into “general committee,” (secret session,) so that what transpired during the first four days is little more than conjectural to the general public. But as the plea for secrecy was urged on the ground that a portion of the papers related to matters of an international character, I am strengthened in the conviction that the ministry has been more than willing from the first that members of the legislature should get an impression that foreign powers, particularly that of the United States, had an eye to the commerce of Acheen, and that great haste was necessary on the part of the government in order to forestall combinations liable to be made prejudicial to its colonial policy in the East.

Great significance, I know, has been given to the early doings of our consul at Singapore and also to the letter of Admiral Jenkins. Whether equal distrust of any other power has been felt or expressed I do not know; but that the fancied intentions of foreign governments were considered at great length in their secret deliberations, and claimed by the government in justification of an early declaration of the war, I have sufficient evidence to believe.

On re-opening the Chamber to the public, it was immediately observed that the tone of the opposition had been materially modified during the period of seclusion. One of its members took early occasion to remark, that though the discussion had been long and animated, the result had [Page 781] not been unfavorable to the administration. He concluded his remarks, however, by putting to the minister of colonies the following questions:

Is your decision to bring the empire of Acheen under the direct supremacy of the Netherlands—is this decision irrevocable or is it not?
If yes, will a third expedition be necessary?
Do you consider yourself strong enough, both in the army and navy, to enforce annexation?
What pecuniary advantage to this country do you expect from annexation?

These questions, as will be observed, were not immediately noticed.

The next speaker blamed the government for making no better preparation for the war after knowing it was inevitable. Another complained of the obligation of secrecy imposed upon members. “Formerly,” he said, “we had to say we ‘Know nothing’; but now, while knowing all, are allowed to say nothing.”

Mr. Van Houten, a young member of the advanced liberal party, thought the government had done its duty. “Treaty obligations to England imposed the duty of preventing piracy in the Indian Sea about Acheen. In the last year the government has moved quicker: perhaps a little too quick. The East India government became afraid of the machinations of the Acheenese and had needlessly alarmed the home government.”

As to any foreign government interfering with their relations with Acheen, he wished “the government had expressed a disbelief, in the language of General Grant, who, on being told during one of his great battles near Richmond that his line was broken, answered, ‘impossible.’”

Too much importance had been given, he thought, to rumors of interference. “The Netherlands sea-police,” he said, “extends over the whole archipelago, and when anything goes wrong there complaint is made to this country, but not to Italy, Turkey, or America.” He thought “a nation sometimes had rights in the absence of direct authority.” America had organized territorial governments regardless of Indian tribes inhabiting the country and claiming it as their own, and would be very unwilling that a foreign government should make treaties with those tribes or in anywise hinder the conversion of their hunting-grounds into corn-fields for the greater benefit of mankind.

As to the future, the same speaker thought the government could not desist until its authority has given to navigation and commerce security against piracy in all that part of the Indian Sea. A combination of dissentients might overthrow the ministry, but he felt sure that the material was wanting for a new one of equal force.

Mr. Gratama, liberal, defended the government, and favored annexation.

Mr. Insinger, conservative, claimed that the ministry had not the full confidence of the people or of their representatives, but that a motion of distrust would be inopportune, and he had, therefore, no intention of applying the test.

Admiral Fabius, conservative, was opposed to annexation. France wanted to annex Mexico, and what was the result? The policy was bad, and he hoped the government would come to that conclusion.

Baron Gericke, minister of foreign affairs, claimed that if the government communicated a portion of its correspondence under an injunction of secrecy, it was more for the welfare of the country than for the conservation of the cabinet. He alluded to negotiations opened at Singapore, [Page 782] meaning, no doubt, what I have before referred to, but claimed that they had not influenced the course of the government.

Mr. Van de Pulto, minister of colonies, after replying to several members who had spoken in the interest of the opposition, carne to the interrogatories of Mr. Heydensyck, noticing particularly only the first. He said, in substance, that annexation would be enforced only when there shall be no other way to obtain what must be obtained. He concluded by urging the opposition, if still dissatisfied, to press the cabinet question.

Many others participated in the discussion, some for and some against the administration. The result must have been gratifying to the ministry, composed, in my judgment, of very excellent men.

I have, &c.,