Mr. Seward to the Marquis de Montholon

Sir: Having made known to the President the Emperor’s views on Mexican affairs which you communicated to me on the 29th ultimo, I have now the honor to inform you of the disposition of this government in regard to the same subject. It seems proper, however, for me to say, in the first place, that what I have to communicate has been already fully made known to Mr. Bigelow, with authority, in his discretion, to impart the same to Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys.

The effect of the Emperor’s suggestions when they are reduced to a practical shape seems to be this: that France is willing to retire from Mexico as soon as she may, but that it would be inconvenient for her without first receiving from the United States an assurance of a friendly or tolerant disposition to the power which has assumed to itself an imperial form in the capital city of Mexico. The President is gratified with the assurance you have thus given of the Emperor’s good disposition. I regret, however, to be obliged to say that the condition the Emperor suggests is one which seems quite impracticable.

It is true, indeed, that the presence of foreign armies in an adjacent country could not, under any circumstances, but cause uneasiness and anxiety on the part of this government. It creates for us expenses which are inconvenient, not to speak of dangers of collision. Nevertheless, I cannot but infer from the tenor of your communication, that the principal cause of the discontent prevailing in the United States in regard to Mexico is not fully apprehended by the Emperor’s government. The chief cause is not that there is a foreign army in Mexico; much less does that discontent arise from the circumstances that that foreign army is a French one. We recognize the right of sovereign nations to carry on war with each other if they do not invade our right or menace our safety or just influence. The real cause of our national discontent is, that the French army which is now in Mexico is invading a domestic republican government there which was established by her people, and with whom the United States sympathize most profoundly, for the avowed purpose of suppressing it and establishing upon its ruins a foreign monarchical government, whose presence there, so long as it should endure, could not but be regarded by the people of the United States as injurious and menacing to their own chosen and endeared republican institutions.

I admit that the United States do not feel themselves called upon to make a [Page 451] war of propagandism throughout the world, or even on this continent, in the republican cause. We have sufficient faith in the eventual success of that cause on this continent, through the operation of existing material and moral causes, to induce us to acquiesce in the condition of things which we found existing here, while our own republic was receiving its shape and development. On the other hand we have constantly maintained, and still feel bound to maintain, that the people of every State on the American continent have a right to secure for themselves a republican government if they choose, and that interference by foreign states to prevent the enjoyment of such institutions deliberately established is wrongful, and in its effects antagonistical to the free and popular form of government existing in the United States. We should think it wrong as well as unwise, on the part of the United States, to attempt to subvert by force monarchical governments in Europe for the purpose of replacing them with republican institutions. It seems to us equally objectionable that European states should forcibly intervene in states situated on this continent to overthrow republican institutions, and replace them with monarchies or empires.

Having thus frankly stated our position, I leave the question for the consideration of France, sincerely hoping that that great nation may find it compatible with its best interests and its high honor to withdraw from its aggressive attitude in Mexico within some convenient and reasonable time, and thus leave the people of that country to the free enjoyment of the system of republican government which they have established for themselves, and of their adherence to which they have given what seems to the United States to be decisive and conclusive, as well as very touching proofs. I am, sir, the more inclined to hope for such a solution of the difficulty for the reason that when, at any time within the last four years, the question has been asked of any American statesman, or even of any American citizen, what country in Europe was the one which was least likely to experience an alienation of the friendship of the United States, the answer was promptly given, France. Friendship with France has always been deemed important and peculiarly agreeable by the American people. Every American citizen deems it no less important than desirable for the future than for the past.

The President will be pleased to be informed of the reception which the Emperor gives to the suggestions which I have now made.

Accept, sir, the renewed assurances of my very high consideration.