Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward

No. 246.]

Sir: I had the honor to enclose to you in my despatch No. 214 the report of the debate in the House of Representatives on recruiting in this country for the Belgo-Mexican legion, and the result, viz., a vote on Mr. Bara’s motion that “the House, in view of the formal declaration that the government has remained, and will continue to remain, completely aloof (étranger)from the formation of a corps destined to serve in Mexico, passes to the order of the day.”

On the 24th ultimo the debate was again opened upon the subject, which is a thorn in the side of the government that the extremes of both parties appear to delight in vexing, upon the report of the committee to whom were referred two petitions touching the legality of these enlistments; one of the petitions is by Mr. Vandenkerkhove, a lawyer here, being a pamphlet of considerable volume, invoking on this subject the action of the laws, and more especially the 92d article of the penal code, against recruiting in Belgium for foreign service.

Five of the ministers of the government took part in the discussion, which was quite animated, and which served to bring forward the fact of the personal sympathies in this enterprise of several of them, including the minister of foreign affairs, while at the same time all insisted that the government had not, as such, taken any part in it. A request was made of the minister of war for the documents bearing upon the formation of this legion; and these appear in the Moniteur of yesterday.

After a day’s discussion, the report of the committee, referring the petition to the minister of justice and of the interior, was adopted.

* * * * * * * * *

The first, under date of the 25th of July, is a circular, signed in behalf of the minister, addressed to the generals commanding territorial divisions or army corps, “to give, without delay, to Lieutenant General Chapelie, pensionné, all the facilities which he may ask for the accomplishment of the mission with which he is charged.”

The second, under date of 3d September, (the day after the vote before mentioned,) is a circular to the same authorities, as follows: “The intervention of the government, in accordance with the desire expressed by the House of Representatives, being to remain aloof from the said organization of a Mexican corps, I have to recall to you that you can execute no act which can engage the responsibility of the government.”

These are accompanied by the royal decrees of 8th October and 19th November, [Page 75] 1864, and 10th February, 1865, authorizing officers and soldiers “to serve temporarily in the armies of his Majesty the Emperor of Mexico,” and continue to them their Belgian nationality.

According to the minister’s statement in the House, 875 authorizations were given to officers and soldiers to enlist; and according to statements made in the course of the debate, it would seem that the whole number recruited in the Belgo-Mexican legion was from 1,200 to 1,500.

There have been difficulties, before referred to, growing out of the want of means and dissatisfaction of the soldiers, which have prevented the raising the 2,000 originally contemplated, and complaints of the soldiers from Mexico, and their parents here, which are now beginning to be heard, will probably make this a sore subject for some time to come.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.