Mr. Wright to Mr. Seward
Sir: Immediately on the receipt of the news of Lord Palmerston’s death, I called upon Lord Napier, the English ambassador at this court, and expressed to him my profound sympathy and regret, in which my country would join, at [Page 64] the loss his government had sustained in the death of the first officer of the country. His lordship responded with much feeling to my expression of sympathy, and desired me to convey to my government his unfeigned thanks for this mark of respect and sympathy, and he desired at the same time to be especially remembered to you.
I forward with this despatch the reply of Baron Thile, the acting minister of foreign affairs, to the application of Jacob Carl Breiger, who desires to return to Prussia with a view of settling his family affairs. The case was reported by Mr. Judd, December 27, 1864, in despatch No. 79. This reply of the minister is certainly without any precedent. The idea of a child 13 years of age being charged of having left his country with a view of avoiding military duty seems to me most absurd. After making this statement, as connected with the finding of the court at Newstadt, he says: “Under the peculiar circumstances of the case, the government will permit the said Breiger a short stay in Prussia, upon the condition that he submits to the judgment, by the payment of the money or imprisonment for one month;” and then adds, most generously, “Mr. Breiger must pay the cost.” This language is applied to a young man who left this country when a child with his brother, having committed no offence, upon whom no liability had accrued of any kind, and who is now only asking permission to return to adjust and settle his family matters with a government which have, by solemn treaty with us in 1828, stipulated and agreed, among other things, that “the inhabitants shall be at liberty to sojourn and reside in all parts of said territories, in order to attend to their affairs,” &c. Having written so much on this subject, I do not propose to take your valuable time with a repetition of my views, but would most respectfully refer you to my despatches Nos. 50 and 56, as also No. 13, with the accompanying documents connected with the case of Eugene Dullye.
The Minister Baron von Bismarck is not expected to return for some days. I am most anxious to see him before replying to your despatch No. 4. I will, however, say we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by taking a decided and firm stand on this subject; not by attempting to enforce our views by threats, nor by the way of menace, but by argument. The condition of things in Prussia at this time is most favorable for us. All is not quiet and secure. Much dissatisfaction exists in many portions of the country. Great discontent is to be found among the working classes, not only on account of the question of wages, but on political questions. The agitation is greatest in the Rhenish provinces. The questions connected with Schleswig-Holstein and Lauenburg provinces are not settled. Prussia has a popular legislature, called the Landtag, elected by the people, who are at variance with the King, and have been for years. Taxes are levied and collected for the payment of the army without appropriations made by law, although she has a written and liberal constitution. Large bodies of her leading men have been prohibited from meeting together to discuss political questions.
At this time our commerce and trade with Prussia is very great. We purchase five times the amount of Prussia that she does of us. The emigration is constantly increasing, consequently the communication and correspondence are daily becoming more frequent by the cheap and weekly steamers by the way of Bremen and Hamburg.
There have been at least five hundred American citizens in Prussia the present year, liable to perform military duty according to their laws and regulations. They do not succeed in placing in the army one in a hundred. I believe the arrest of any American citizen by Prussia, which necessarily becomes the subject of discussion in the papers, with the consequent agitation that follows, is productive of great evil to Prussia. All these things are beginning.to be fully understood by the Prussian cabinet; they will not let the subject lie over from year to year, becoming, as it must, more and more complicated and formidable. [Page 65] But the initiative should come from Prussia. In my opinion it will come if wetake our position with firmness, for they desire the continuance of our good willand friendship. Prussia acknowledges the right of men to expatriate themselves, as she is constantly admitting citizens of other countries to become citizens ofPrussia; acknowledging thereby she is opposed to the doctrine of perpetualallegiance, and thus favoring the right of men everywhere to form new politicalassociations.** ** *
I have the honor to be, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.