Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward

No. 169.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Nos. 173, 174, 175, and your 176, marked confidential, of dates April 6 and April 16, respectively, all reaching me under the same envelope on May 3, in the evening. No. 175 is in answer to my 156, and relates to the affairs of Austria and Prussia.

No. 173 contains certain extracts from Paris journals, and translations in Paris journals from Vienna newspapers, sent to you by Mr. Bigelow, United States minister in Paris. Such intelligence as was accurate in those extracts has already been indicated by me in advance from authentic sources in my despatches of January 8, February 20, and February 27.

The permission of the so-called imperial government in Mexico to levy troops to supply vacancies in the volunteer corps raised in this empire in 1864 was accorded in the beginning of this year, and mentioned in my despatch of 8th January. Of the signature of the supplementary convention I have subsequently apprised you. The statement that a line of steamers was to be started between Trieste and Vera Cruz, to begin to ply on April 1, has, I believe, no foundation in fact.

I have understood that Mr. Loosey, Austrian consul-general at New York, has long had the project of starting a line of steamers between Trieste and New York, and that latterly there had been some hope of causing such steamers to stop at Vera Cruz, but I have ascertained that the project has been for the present, at least, abandoned.

I sent this information to Mr. Bigelow, in reply to his inquiry made some five or six weeks ago.

The remainder of your No. 173 I shall have the honor to answer in connexion with your Nos. 174 and 176, in a separate despatch, which will go by the same post as does the present one.

Meantime I have the honor to remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

Mr. Motley to Count Mensdorff

Your Excellency: It will be doubtless within your recollection, that on the 7th of April I had the honor to lay before you, for confidential perusal, a despatch of my own to Mr. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States.

This paper was in answer to a communication from the Secretary of State, instructing me to make as earnest and emphatic protest as was compatible with the profound respect entertained by the United States for the imperial royal government against the departure of any additional soldiers from Austria for Mexico.

The language of the protest which I was thus instructed to make was quoted at length in the despatch which I had the honor of submitting to your perusal before sending it to Washington. In returning that despatch, I understood your excellency to observe that it contained a just and explicit statement of the position of the Austrian government in regard to the affairs of Mexico, and that you had no further observations to make upon it.

Since forwarding that paper to Washington, I have received despatches of a grave nature from my government in regard to the same subject.

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These despatches are not, of course, in answer to my communication abov mentioned. For this, sufficient time has not yet elapsed.

The instructions just received by me from Mr. Seward are in answer to my statement to him, under date of 27th March last, that the military supplementary convention between the Austrian government and the government of Mexico, recognized here as the legitimate one, had been signed on the 11th March, and that it was expected that about one thousand volunteers would be shipped very soon from Trieste to Vera Cruz, and at least as many more in the autumn.

An imperative duty is now placed upon me of again most respectfully calling your excellency’s attention to the general and growing uneasiness throughout the United States on the subject of foreign troops in Mexico. In so doing, I wish to use the most courteous and becoming terms that are consistent with a faithful execution of the task just committed to me by my government.

Recognizing the right of one independent nation, for reasons deemed sufficient by itself, to make war upon another independent nation, and not feeling called upon to be a judge of the quarrel between the belligerents, the United States have scrupulously maintained neutrality in the war existing during the past few years between the empire of France and the republic of Mexico, with which power the United States government has not ceased to maintain friendly relations.

This preservation of neutrality has been rendered the more difficult in proportion to the growth of the conviction among the people of the United States that the war begun by France for the purpose of redressing grievances, and with a disclaimer of all political intentions on the part of France, was continued, as it were, indefinitely for the purpose of establishing and perpetuating on the borders of our own territory a foreign imperial government by means of European troops.

It is hoped that at last an arrangement has been effected by which the French troops, heretofore preventing a free expression of the national will in Mexico, are to be withdrawn.

The appearance of fresh troops arriving from Austria at exactly this moment, therefore, would almost inevitably increase the general excitement in the United States which the recent understanding with the French government had begun to allay.

It would be thought erroneous, as such a supposition really is, that the government of Austria was about to succeed that of France in an armed and protective alliance with the new government which it wishes to see established in Mexico.

A thousand volunteers, many of them, perhaps, veterans, having served their time in the Austrian army, will be regarded as the precursors of an indefinite number sufficient to supply the void left by the retiring French forces, and to overawe for a period of years the free action of the Mexican people in regard to their form of government.

The United States government has from the beginning neither acquiesced in nor intimated the possibility of a future acquiescence in the substitution of an imperial foreign and military government in the place of the national republic of Mexico, unless it should satisfy itself that such was unquestionably the will of the Mexican people.

That will, in the opinion of the United States government, can never be manifested in the presence of foreign fleets and armies. It has, therefore, during its very protracted diplomatic correspondence with the French imperial government, been unable to admit the validity of the revolution supposed to have been effected in the government of Mexico chiefly by the means of European forces.

In its last note addressed to the French government it expressed itself as understanding the Emperor of the French to announce to the United States his immediate purpose to bring to an end the services of his armies in Mexico, to [Page 842] withdraw them, and in good faith to fall back, without stipulation or condition on the part of the United States, upon the principle of non-intervention, as to which he is henceforth agreed with the United States.

The practice of the United States government, says the Secretary of State, is from its beginning a guarantee to all nations of the respect of the American people for the free sovereignty of the people in every other state. It is the chief element of foreign intercourse in our history.

Thus much of information I have thought it not superfluous to give of the latest expression by the United States government to that of France of its sentiments in regard to the affairs of Mexico.

I am now instructed to say to the imperial royal government of Austria, that, in the opinion of the United States, the time seems to have arrived when the position of their government in relation to Mexico should be frankly and distinctly made known to the imperial government, and to all others whom it may directly concern.

The United States, for reasons which seem to them to be just and to have their foundation in the laws of nations, maintain that the domestic republican government is the only legitimate one existing in Mexico. They cannot, in view of the character of their own political institutions, their proximity and intimate relations towards Mexico, and their just influence in the affairs of the American continent, consent to the subversion of that government by foreign armies. Having urged upon the French government their strong and, as they think, reasonable desire for the withdrawal of the French troops engaged in that objectionable invasion, it now becomes proper for the United States to announce that they are no less opposed to military intervention for political objects here-after in Mexico with the sanction of the Austrian government than they are opposed to any further intervention of the same character in that country by France.

I am accordingly instructed to state that the United States sincerely desire that Austria may find it just and expedient to come upon the ground of non-intervention in Mexico which is maintained by the United States, and to which they have invited France. They could not but regard as a matter of serious concern the despatch of any troops from Austria for Mexico while the subject which I am thus directed to present to the Austrian government remains under consideration.

I have now faithfully laid before your excellency, as briefly as the importance of the subject would permit, the position of the United States in regard to Mexico.

Until recently I have been instructed by my government to abstain from formal political discussions here of the important events occurring in that country. On repeated occasions, however, I have felt it appropriate to express in courteous language, without formality, but in all sincerity, the opinions of the United States government and people as to the attempt to establish a foreign and imperial government by means of European military forces upon the ruins of an American republic.

Those opinions have been no secret to those with whom I have had the honor of conversing, but it is only now that I am instructed by my government to speak in its name, and with the whole weight of whatever influence it may be thought to possess over the general sentiment of the world. There has been no doubt, I suppose, as to the almost unanimous opinion of the American people on the subject.

From time to time it has been my duty to place before the imperial royal government documents emanating from the cabinet at Washington relating to the affairs of Mexico. The diplomatic correspondence of the United States government with that of France, from the beginning of the hostile expeditions [Page 843] against Mexico down to a very recent period, has been regularly printed, and within the reach of all who wish to read it.

Public sentiment in the United States as to intervention on the part of European governments and soldiers for the purpose of revolutionizing the polity, subverting the existing institutions, and controlling the destiny of American republics, has been manifested in every way in which it was possible to make it known, by solemn resolutions of Congress, by the utterances of great public meetings without distinction of party, and by the general voice of the American press.

The feelings of the American people and its successive governments, as exhibited through the whole of their national career, and publicly manifested on many solemn occasions, in regard to forcible and armed interference by European powers with established institutions on the western continent, are, whether they may be deemed reasonable or not, and whatever weight may be attached to them by European opinion, a matter of history and known to mankind.

Such interference was long ago proclaimed, on the highest official authority, as of necessity to be considered a manifestation of an unfriendly disposition towards the United States. It is hardly expedient, therefore, on this occasion, to consume more of your excellency’s time by the exposition of a subject so familiar to you.

I beg your excellency to believe that the frankness and sincerity with which I have thus set forth, in obedience to the instructions of the President, the sentiments of the government which I have the honor to represent at the court of his imperial royal Majesty, are not incompatible with the most entire respect for the imperial royal government and with the Austrian nation, and with the warmest and most sincere desire for their welfare.

In conclusion, I feel it my duty, in this most grave aspect of affairs, to repeat the earnest hope that it may be found expedient to postpone the departure of fresh troops from Austria to Mexico until such answer to this communication as your excellency may be pleased to make shall have been candidly and deliberately considered by the United States government at Washington.

Meantime I pray your excellency to accept the expression of the highest consideration with which I have the honor to remain your excellency’s very obedient servant,


His Excellency Count Mensdorff, Imperial Royal Minister of Foreign Affairs, &c., &c., &c.