Mr. Clayton to Mr. Rives.

No. 15.]

To William C. Rives, Esq., etc.:

Sir: I transmit a copy of a note and of the accompanying papers addressed to this Department, under date the 30th of May last, by Messrs. G. P. Judd and James Jackson James, accredited to this Goverment as special commissioners of His Hawaiian Majesty, requesting the friendly interposition of the United States towards a satisfactory settlement of the differences between the Hawaiian Government and that of France. A copy of my answer to the application is also inclosed.

It certainly is very desirable that the relations between France and the Hawaiian Islands should be of an amicable character. We desire that those islands should maintain their independence. We believe that their existing government is competent to discharge the duties of a sovereign state, and that if any of its acts or omissions with reference to other governments, or to the citizens or subjects owing them allegiance, have been of questionable propriety, this should be imputed to the inexperience of the Hawaiian functionaries, and to the difficulties arising from the peculiarities of their position.

It undoubtedly behooves the governments of older and more powerful states who hold official intercourse with the Hawaiian Government to view with indulgence any delinquencies which they may commit clearly resulting from the causes just indicated. The occasion is not considered to call for an expression of an opinion by this Department in regard to the merits of the controversy between the French and the Hawaiian authorities. The Department, however, will not hesitate to express its belief that whatever may have been the convictions of the French officers as to the justice of their cause, the measures adopted to obtain redress were unnecessarily harsh. It is hoped that this will ultimately be the conclusion of the French Government itself; and that, in that event, it will make such amends to the Hawaiian Government as a great and magnanimous nation can not fail to consider as due in such case to a feeble and injured state.

The Department will be slow to believe that the French have any intention to adopt, with reference to the Sandwich Islands, the same policy which they have pursued in regard to Tahiti. If, however, in your judgment it should be warranted by circumstances, you may take a proper opportunity to intimate to the minister for foreign affairs of [Page 88] France that the situation of the Sandwich Islands, in respect to our possessions on the Pacific and the bonds commercial and of other descriptions between them and the United States, are such that we could never with indifference allow them to pass under the dominion or exclusive control of any other power. We do not ourselves covet sovereignty over them. We would be content that they should remain under their present rulers, who, we believe, are disposed to be just and impartial in their dealings with all nations.

The President is not prepared to comply with the request of Messrs. Judd and Jarves, that the United States should become a party to an arrangement with England and France to secure the neutrality of the Hawaiian Government in all wars, and to provide for the adjustment of any future misunderstanding between that Government and either of the three by a reference to the other two. But although a formal treaty for these purposes would be too little in consonance with our usual policy to be entered into without great deliberation, our interests involved in the independence of the Sandwich Islands are of sufficient importance to require and warrant us in adopting other measures for the purpose of restoring and preserving harmony between their Government and that of either England or France. The President consequently hopes for the best results from your zealous, yet prudent, endeavors toward a satisfactory accommodation of the dispute which is the immediate occasion of this dispatch.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

John M. Clayton.