Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton.

No. 56.] DEPARTMENT of STATE, Washington, September 10, 1861.

SIR: Your despatch of August 22, No. 35, has been received. I learn from it that Mr. Thouvenel is unwilling to negotiate for an accession by the United States to the declaration of the congress of Paris concerning the rights of neutrals in maritime war, except “on a distinct understanding that it is to have no bearing, directly or indirectly, on the question of the domestic difficulty now existing in our country,” and that to render the matter certain Mr. Thouvenel proposes to make a written declaration simultaneously with his execution of the projected convention for that accession.

You have sent me a copy of a note to this effect, addressed to you by Mr. Thouvenel, and have also represented to me an official conversation which he has held with you upon the same subject. The declaration which Mr. Thouvenel thus proposes to make is in these words:


“In affixing his signature to the convention concluded on date of this day between France and the United States, the undersigned declares, in execution of the orders of the Emperor, that the government of his Majesty does not intend to undertake by the said convention any engagements of a nature to implicate it, directly or indirectly, in the internal conflict now existing in the United States.”

My despatch of the 17th day of August last, No. 41, which you must have received some time ago, will already have prepared you to expect my approval of the decision to wait for specific instructions in this new emergency at which you have arrived.

The obscurity of the text of the declaration which Mr. Thouvenel submits to us is sufficiently relieved by his verbal explanations. According to your renort of the conversation, before referred to, he said that both France and Great Britain had already announced that they would take no part in our domestic controversy, and they thought that a frank and open declaration in advance of the execution of the projected convention might save difficulty and misconception hereafter. He further said, in the way of specification, that the provisions of the convention standing alone might bind England and France to pursue and punish the privateers of the south as pirates; that they are unwilling to do this and had so declared. He said, also, that we could deal with these people as we choose, and they (England and France) could only express their regrets on the score of humanity if we should deal with them as pirates, but that they could not participate in such a course. He added, that although both England and France are anxious to have the adhesion of the United States to the declaration of Paris, yet that they would rather dispense with it altogether than be drawn into our domestic controversy. He insisted somewhat pointedly that we could take no just exception to this outside declaration, to be made simultaneously with the execution of the convention, unless we intended that they (England and France) shall be made parties to our controversy, and that the very fact of your hesitation was an additional reason why they should insist upon making such contemporaneous declaration as they proposed.

These remarks of Mr. Thouvenel are certainly distinguished by entire o It shall be my effort to reply to them with moderation and Candor.

In 1856, France, Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, Sardinia and Turkey' being assembled in congress at Paris, with a view to modify the law of nations so as to meliorate the evils of maritime war, adopted and set forth a declaration, which is in the following words: 1st. Privateering is and remains abolished. 2d. The neutral flag covers enemy's goods, with the exception of contraband of war. 3d. Neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under enemy's flag. 4th. Blockades, in order to be binding, must be effective—that is to say, maintained by forces sufficient really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy. The States which constituted the congress mutually agreed to submit the declaration to all other nations and invite them to accede to it. It was to be submitted as no special or narrow treaty between particular States for limited periods or special purposes of advantage, or under peculiar circumstances; but, on the contrary, its several articles were, by voluntary acceptance of maritime powers, to constitute a new chapter in the law of nations, and each one of the articles was to be universal and eternal in its application and obligation. France especially invited the United States to accede to these articles. An invitation was equally tendered to all other civilized nations, and the articles have been already adopted by forty-one of the powers thus invited. The United States hesitated, but only for the purpose of making an effort to induce the other parties to enlarge the beneficent scope of the declaration Having failed in that effort, they now, after a delay not unusual in such great international discussions, offer their adhesion to that declaration, pure and simple, in the form, words and manner in which it was originally adopted and accepted by all of the forty-six nations which have become parties to it. France declines to receive that adhesion unless she be allowed to make a special declaration, which would constitute an additional and qualifying article, limiting the obligations of France to the United States to a narrower range than the obligations which the United States must assume towards France and towards every other one of the forty-six sovereigns who are parties to it, and narrower than the mutual obligations of all those parties, including France herself. If we should accede to that condition, it manifestly would not be the declaration of the congress of Paris to which we would be adhering, but a different and special and peculiar treaty between France and the United States only. Even as such a treaty it would be unequal. Assuming that Mr. Thouvenel's reasoning is correct, we should in that case be contracting an obligation, directly or indirectly, to implicate ourselves in any internal conflict that may now be existing or that may hereafter occur in France, while she would be distinctly excused by us from any similar duty towards the United States. I know that France is a friend, and means to be just and equal towards the United States. I must assume, therefore, that she means not to make an exceptional arrangement with us, but to carry out the same arrangement in her interpretation of the obligations of the declaration of the congress of Paris in regard to other powers. Thus carried out, the declaration of Paris would be expounded so as to exclude all internal conflicts in States from the application of the articles of that celebrated declaration. Most of the wars of modern times—perhaps of all times—have been insurrectionary wars, or “internal conflicts.” If the position now assumed by France should thus be taken by all the other parties to the declaration, then it would follow that the first article of that instrument, instead of being, in fact, an universal and effectual inhibition of the practice of privateering, would abrogate it only in wars between foreign nations, while it would enjoy universal toleration in civil and social wars. With great deference, I cannot but think that, thus modified, the declaration of the congress of Paris would lose much of the reverence which it has hitherto received from Christian nations. If it were proper for me to pursue the argument further, I might add that sedition, insurrection and treason would find in such a new reading of the declaration of Paris encouragement which would tend to render the most stable and even the most beneficent systems of government insecure. Nor do I know on what grounds it can be contended that practices more destructive to property and life ought to be tolerated in civil or fratricidal wars than are allowed in wars between independent nations.

I cannot, indeed, admit that the engagement which France is required to make without the qualifying declaration in question would, directly or indirectly, implicate her in our internal conflicts. But if such should be its effect, I must, in the first place, disclaim any desire for such an intervention on the part of the United States. The whole of this long correspondence has had for one of its objects the purpose of averting any such intervention. If, however, such an intervention would be the result of the unqualified execution of the convention by France, then the fault clearly must be inherent in the declaration of the congress of Paris itself, and it is not a result of anything that the United States have done or proposed.

Two motives induced them to tender their adhesion to that declaration— first, a sincere desire to co-operate with other progressive nations in the melioration of the rigors of maritime war; second, a desire to relieve France from any apprehension of danger to the lives or property of her people from violence to occur in the course of the civil conflict in which we are engaged, by giving her, unasked, all the guarantees in that respect which are contained in the declaration of the congress of Paris. The latter of these two motives is now put to rest, insomuch as France declines the guarantees we offer. Doubtlessly, she is satisfied that they are unnecessary. We have always practiced on the principles of the declaration. We did so long before they were adopted by the congress of Paris, so far as the rights of neutrals or friendly States are concerned. While our relations with France remain as they now are we shall continue the same practice none the less faithfully than if bound to do so by a solemn convention.

The other and higher motive will remain unsatisfied, and it will lose none of its force. We shall be ready to accede to the declaration of Paris with every power that will agree to adopt its principles for the government of its relations to us, and which shall be content to accept our adhesion on the same basis upon which all the other parties to it have acceded.

We know that France has a high and generous ambition. We shall wait for her to accept hereafter that co-operation on our part in a great reform which she now declines. We shall not doubt that when the present embarrassment which causes her to decline this co-operation shall have been removed, as it soon will be, she will then agree with us to go still further, and abolish the confiscation of property of non-belligerent citizens and subjects in maritime war.

You will inform Mr. Thouvenel that the proposed declaration on the part of the Emperor is deemed inadmissible by the President of the United States; and if it shall be still insisted upon, you will then inform him that you are instructed for the present to desist from further negotiation on the subject involved.

I am, sir, your obedient servant, WILLIAM H. SEWARD. WM. L. DAYTON, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

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I here with enclose to you a copy and translation of a communication recently received by me from Mr. Thouvenel on the subject of the execution of the convention as to maritime rights. It contains nothing that I have not referred to before, but it is evident he wanted to put the specific grounds of exception to an unconditional exception of the treaty on record. >k >k >k >k >k >k >k >k >k

With much respect, your obedient servant,
His Excellency WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State, déc., d.c., d.c.

Mr. Thouvenel to Mr. Dayton.
[Translation 1

PARIs, September 9, 1861.

SIR: I have received the letter which you did me the honor to write me, the 26th of the month of August, in order to explain to me the reasons which induced you to await further instructions from your government before proceeding to the signing of the convention relative to maritime rights.

In this state of affairs, I could but await the arrival of the instructions which you have requested, and, consequently, I do not wish to enter into the discussion of the motives which have prevented you from signing the contemplated convention, and which you were pleased to bring to my knowledge. I desire, however, to set forth clearly, by some further explanations, what is the train of thought followed by the government of the Emperor, in judging, like the government of her Britannic Majesty, that it is expedient to accompany the proposed treaty with a special declaration.

If the United States, before the actual crisis, had adhered to the declaration of the congress of Paris, as this adhesion would have bound the whole confederation from that moment, the cabinet of Washington might, at the present time, have availed itself of it to contest the right of the southern States to arm privateers. Now, if this supposition be correct, (fondée,) one could not be astonished that the government of Mr. President Lincoln, according to the principles which it has set forth in its manner of viewing the present conflict, should wish to consider the contemplated convention as much obligatory upon seceded States, in the present circumstances, as if it had preceded the hostilities. But if this opinion be quite explicable on the part of the cabinet of Washington in the situation in which events have placed it, it could not be thus with governments which have proposed to themselves to preserve the strictest neutrality in a struggle, the gravity of which it has no longer been possible for them to disregard. In accepting, then, a proposition presented (formulée) by the federal government, when the war had already unhappily broken out between the northern and southern States of the Union, it was natural that the government of the Emperor, having decided not to turn itself aside from the attitude of reserve which it had imposed upon itself, should consider beforehand what extension the cabinet of Washington might be induced, on account of its position, to give to an arrangement, by which it declared that the United States renounced privateering. The hostilities, in which the federal government is actually engaged, offering to it the opportunity of putting immediately into practice the abandonment of this mode of warfare; and its intention, officially announced, being to treat the privateers of the south as pirates, it was manifestly of importance to caution the cabinet of Washington against the conviction, where it might exist, that the contemplated treaty obliged us thus to consider the privateers of the south as pirates. I will not dwell upon the matter (n' insisterai pas) in order to show how much we would deviate from the neutrality we have declared ourselves desirous of observing towards the two factions of the Union, if, after having announced that they would constitute for us two ordinary belligerents, we should contest the primitive rights of a belligerent to one of them, because the other should consent voluntarily to the abandonment of it in a treaty concluded with us. There is no need to point out, further, how we would forcibly break through our neutrality as soon as we should be constrained, in virtue of the contemplated convention, to treat as pirates the privateers which the south will persist in arming. The cabinet of Washington might, then, I repeat, be led, by the particular point of view in which it is placed, to draw from the act which we are ready to conclude such consequences as we should now absolutely reject. It has seemed to us that it is equally important to the two governments to anticipate (prevénir à l’avance) all difference of interpretation as regards the application to the actual circumstances of the principles which were to become common to them both. Otherwise, it would have been to be feared, if the same explanations had had to be exchanged later, that there would have been attributed to them a character altogether different from that which they really possess. We would regret, too, sincerely that the least misunderstanding should be produced in our relations with the United States, not to be anxious, from this moment henceforth, to enlighten them upon a reserve, which, being officially stated to the cabinet of Washington before the signing of the convention, maintains strictly one line of neutrality, without taking away from the value of the agreement, which, in this case, we will be happy to establish with the United States. Accept the assurances of the high consideration with which I have the honor to be, sir, your very humble and very obedient servant,

- THOUWENEL. Mr. DAYTON, Minister of the United States at Paris. Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton. No. 59.] DEPARTMENT of STATE,

Washington, September 23, 1861. SIR: Your despatch of the 29th of August (No. 37) was duly received. The proceedings it relates had, however, been anticipated, and it only remains to be said in regard to them, that your conduct therein is fully approved I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant, WILLIAM H. SEWARD. WILLIAM L. DAYTON, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

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