Mr. Wright to Mr. Seward

No. 8.]

Sir: I have had an Interesting conversation with Count Bismarck, minister of foreign affairs. My opinion is, he will in a few days modify and change the views as expressed in Baron Thile’s communication, forwarded to you by my last despatch, in reference to the two sentenced criminals designed to be sent to the United States by the authorities at Erfurt.

The minister’s attention was called to the case of Jacob Carl Breiger. It was evident he had no knowledge of this ease, it being acted upon during his absence. This brought up the whole subject of Prussian laws as connected with military service, and the difficulties in the way of adjusting the same with the United States. He said it would be almost impossible to change by legislation the Prussian laws, in view of the prejudice among the German peasants, that, as all Prussians are subject to military duty, the returning adopted citizens would be exempt. After some conversation, during which the count exhibited [Page 67] the most earnest desire to adjust the whole subject—admitting it was becoming more formidable and complicated every year, as the numbers returning from the United States were increasing—he agreed with me that not one in fifty liable under the Prussian laws were brought into the army, and, to use his own language, “There was no desire on the part of his Majesty’s government to arrest any American citizen returning to his native land on business; but when a case was presented to the government by the police authorities, giving the name, place of birth, age, &c., the law was imperative, and the government compelled to act.” He remarked, “The subject could only be adjusted by some treaty arrangement with the United States; at least, in his opinion, this would be the proper way to commence its adjustment, and, if it was successful, no doubt the principles agreed upon would be carried out by the legislative authorities of both countries.”

My anxiety was to hear his plan for the settlement of this vexed question in detail. It was substantially this: “Exemption to all Prussian subjects returning to their native land who had left before their seventeenth year, and exemption also to all other persons who were not in the army or notified to enter at the time of leaving, and who shall have been out of the country for ten years.”

Allusion was then made to the difficulty in arresting and bringing to trial persons charged with criminal offences in either of the two countries under the present extradition laws. While on this subject, he remarked the progress in the commercial world since the date of our treaty, in 1828, showed the propriety of some additional guards and restrictions of a summary character, whereby a more prompt enforcement of the criminal laws may be had, and he hoped there would be some modification of the extradition laws between the two countries.

I left Count Bismarck with the understanding that he would communicate with Baron Gerolt on this subject, and the military authorities of his Majesty’s government in Prussia. If they should concur in his views, he would then, through this legation, comminicate to the United States government his views upon the propriety of making some changes in our present laws on the subject of surrendering criminals; expecting the government of the United States, if receiving the same favorably, would reply with an allusion to the military law of Prussia, asking for some modification of the existing law by which the settlement of this question might at least be entered upon, and which, he trusted, would result in its satisfactory adjustment I heard all; gave no assent to his proposals, but remarked, I would communicate the same to the government of the United States, believing they would be favorably received. I believe Count Bismarck is in earnest and desires the settlement of this question. He promises to look into the case of Mr. Breiger, and I am more confirmed in my opinion that if this subject is referred to in the forthcoming message of the President, it will accelerate the settlement of this question.

The Paris correspondent of the Czas, a Polish paper published at Cracow, who derives his Mexican intelligence from the Polish generals and colonels in the service of the emperor Maximilian, and whose trustworthiness has been repeatedly tested by gentlemen in whom I place implicit confidence, states that the French government have opened negotiations with the imperial government of Mexico on the subject of the withdrawal of the French troops from Mexico within one or two years. The emperor Maximilian (the correspondent adds) is very unwilling to accede to the proposal, but the French Emperor insists upon his assent, giving him, however, to understand, if, at the time of the contemplated withdrawal of the troops, the state of things in America and Europe should render it proper for France to leave her troops in Mexico, arrangements will be so modified as to suit thethen existing state of things. In the opinion of the same writer, this arrangement will be perfected in time for Napoleon to announce this fact at the opening of the next French Chambers, and it is intended to pacify the United States, on the one hand, leaving Napoleon, on the other, [Page 68] full liberty for the future. A few weeks will test the truth of this writer’s prediction. I should say many of the diplomats at this court place full confidence in his statements.

I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.