Mr. Seward to Mr. Motley

No. 181.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of your despatches of the 6th of April, No. 158, and the 10th of April, No. 159.

These papers inform me that you have brought my despatches Nos. 167 and 169 to the notice of the imperial government, although not without some hesitation and embarrassment. Subsequently to the time when that duty was performed you must have received my despatch of April 6, No. 173, my further despatch of April 16, No. 174, and also my confidential despatch of April 16, No. 176, all of which despatches relate to the situation of Mexico.

I trust that these several communications will have cleared away whatever uncertainty you may heretofore have felt concerning the views of this government in regard to that subject.

In your No. 158 you have assumed that this government could not justly regard as a departure from neutrality by the Austrian government the authority [Page 838] which it has given by entering into a recent treaty with the Prince Maximilian for the recruiting of volunteers by him in Austria and their despatch by him to Mexico.

In support of this assumption you argue that the United States would not be willing to admit that it would be a violation of neutrality on their part to permit the recruiting of volunteers within their jurisdiction for military service under the republican banner in Mexico.

Your assumption, and the argument upon which you built it, were submitted by you to Count Mensdorff, and it is not unlikely that he may have inferred that the assumption is consistent with the views which are entertained by the United States, and would therefore be approved by them. It becomes necessary, for this reason, for me to say that I do not acquiesce in your position.

While any citizen of the United States is at liberty, under municipal and international laws, to expatriate himself unarmed, and to engage individually, when abroad, in any foreign service that he may choose, yet, on the other hand, the laws of the United States and the law of nations, as they are understood by us, forbid this government from authorizing or permitting the enlistment or organization on American ground, or the departure from our territory, of armed military forces to carry on hostilities against any foreign state, except in a war against that state duly declared by Congress.

The Prince Maximilian is either a principal or a subordinate belligerent in Mexico. The treaty which has been made between Austria and that belligerent, by which the former authorizes the organization within the Austrian dominions of two thousand or more volunteers, manifestly to be engaged in war against the republic of Mexico, is deemed by the government inconsistent with the principle of neutrality, and an engagement with Maximilian in his invasion of that republic.

I give you herewith a copy of a note which was received on the 21st of April instant from the Marquis de Montholon, together with a copy of the despatch which was addressed to that minister by Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys on the 5th of April instant.

I give you also a copy of the reply which I have made to the note of the Marquis.

These several papers, together with my aforementioned despatches, which you will now have received, will put you fully in possession of the opinions of this government, and of the duty which it has called upon you to perform.

It will be an occasion of sincere satisfaction if you shall be able to obtain from the imperial government an assurance that Austria will not hereafter intervene, by sending or by giving permission to the despatch of military forces from within her dominions to make or continue a war against the republic of Mexico.

I refrain from discussing the question you have raised, “whether the recent instructions of this department harmonize entirely with the policy which it pursued at an earlier period of the European intervention in Mexico.”

Your despatch is calculated to produce an impression that, notwithstanding our protest, you expect the Austrian government will still permit the departure of the volunteers under the treaty, without waiting to give us an answer to that protest, and without affording us time to consider and reply to such answer as that government shall see proper and convenient to make. Should the Austrian government persist in proceeding in that manner, and to the extremity thus indicated, then this government will expect you to retire from Vienna, as directed in my aforesaid despatch No. 176.

I forbear also from discussing the question which you have raised of the propriety of some of the proceedings which have been taken by Mr. Bigelow in Paris, nor do I think it necessary to enter upon the consideration of the explanations which you have given of your own views in regard to these subjects.

The European war against the republic of Mexico has been from the beginning [Page 839] beginning a continual menace against this government, and even against free institutions throughout the American continent. I feel very sure that no friend of such institutions, either at home or abroad, will ever well question the necessity, the wisdom, or the justice of the policy which we have steadily pursued and are still pursuing in regard to that war. It would be unprofitable for us, under such circumstances, to open personal discussions about that policy among ourselves.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


J. Lothrop Motley, Esq., &c., &c., Vienna.