Mr. Sanford to Mr. Seward

No. 255.]

Sir: The news of the capture of Richmond and rout of Lee is generally received here as a certain indication of the collapse of the rebellion.

A deputation consisting of the chairman, M. Picard, officers and other participants of a public meeting of Belgians held in this city, preceded by music and the flags of the United States and Belgium and followed by a large procession with torchlights, came to this legation on the evening of the 22dto present an address of congratulation upon this event.

I enclose a copy of the address, and also of my reply (A) and rough translations of each, (B and C.)

In response to the serenade which followed, and the enthusiastic cheers of the immense crowd which had accompanied the deputation, I appeared at the balcony and thanked them for their congratulations. Although what I said would appear too insignificant to bear repetition, I annex D, in accordance with general instructions—verbatim in translation—the few words I said to the assembled multitude.

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


Hon. William H. Seward,

Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.


Sir: Deputed by a large number of our fellow-citizens assembled in public meeting, we come to congratulate you upon the brilliant triumphs gained by the people of the United States, and to evince at the same time the lively sympathies which we ever entertain for them.

We are happy and proud to be near you, sir, who represent here the great American republic, the organ of this manifestation.

During the days of trial which the Union has traversed we have not ceased to pray for its triumph. Today, when that noble cause is victorious, permit us to associate ourselves with the joy of the people of the United States, and to salute them as brothers.

The capital of the rebels is taken; the star-spangled banner floats over the walls of Richmond. It may be asserted henceforth that the revolt is conquered, and that the Union will subsist in its integrity.

These facts represent more than material victories, and therefore we could not remain in different to them.

When a country enjoys, as yours does, every liberty; when every part of its territory, when every individual, has its share in the national sovereignty, resistance to the laws of the majority is an attack upon right; armed rebellion becomes a crime.

The revolt of the south against the north was unjustifiable. It could not be that right, desperately struggling with blind interests, was to issue mutilated from this great combat.

War, often an iniquitous scourge, has been elevated with you to a mission of justice and of humanity. It was, in fact, the arm, the mailed arm, of civilization.

The blood which has been shed will not flow in vain. The dead have freed the living. Two hundred and fifty thousand men of the north have perished, but, in falling, they have given liberty, and admitted to the common law, four millions of slaves, and with them a whole race up to this day oppressed and despised.

Doubly fruitful sacrifice! It suppressed slavery at the same time that it strengthened the American Union.

The whole people of the United States will again enter upon the tranquil current of works of peace, and give us the blessed example of the complete development of its liberties.

The whole world has been deeply moved by your successes, for it feels that beyond the seas you are a harbor to it.

It knows that the United States represent the aurora of a new policy, which is caused to replace everywhere the ancient law. It knows that, after having repudiated governments based upon force or divine rights, you have, since a long time, proclaimed the principle of [Page 80] the autonomy of every nation. It knows that with you every man is really a citizen in the true acceptation and grandeur of that word, and in the whole reality also it knows that with you all the powers emanate from the nation. These principles are not only inscribed in your Constitution—the practice of each day reaffirms them.

You have the veritable sentiments of democracy, and this sentiment has caused American society to tend constantly towards the most perfect realization of self-government, that political ideal of society. Hence, what marvellous results have everywhere been obtained by you! Human invention, extending each day its limits; your system of railroads and telegraphs, vaster than that of all Europe, carrying the conquest of civilization from the shores of the Pacific to those of the Atlantic; popular instruction, that vivifying well-spring, penetrating from strata to strata, till it reaches the home of the poorest citizen, and from prairie to prairie across your immense territories to the most distant hamlets; the participation in public affairs of all the citizens formed in the double school of a vigilant press, which spreads abroad everywhere the opening idea, and of immense popular assemblies, where come, and whence issue in every direction, the great currents of opinion; the constant accord of the administration with the nation it represents, and of which it is proud to be the simple organ; finally, even in the midst of the severest trials, this admirable spectacle of order always maintained in the midst of agitation, and of liberty ever respected.

Such noble efforts, such noble conquests, will bear their fruits for humanity.

Your entire continent will be gradually drawn into the current of your expansive civilization.

These teachings which Young America gives us will not be lost on Old Europe.

You have thus paved the way for universal brotherhood. You have strengthened the Union at home; we count upon you to cement the union of peoples.


Gentlemen; I thank you for this manifestation of your sympathies for the American Union and for your congratulatory address to the people of the United States by your fellow-citizens without party distinction, on the occasion of the victories which assure the end of the slaveholders’ rebellion.

It is natural that the friends of civilization, humanity, and progress everywhere, should celebrate an event of such great influence upon the world’s affairs. The triumph of this formidable but now expiring rebellion would have been a retrograde of civilization and a perpetual menace for public peace. It was, indeed, devised by a class for its own selfish and criminal purposes, not only to overthrow the republic but to make itself, while destroying universal suffrage, an oligarchy of slaveholders and fillibusters, and it believed with the monopoly of cotton to be able to dictate laws to the universe. And our victories are not alone the defeat of a class of slaveholders; they complete emancipation, strengthen the Union, elevate the nation, abase our enemies, and consolidate American liberty. The rebel chiefs will seek to escape by flight from the vengeance of their fellow-citizens whom they have destroyed, as much as from the penalties of the laws they have violated; and the world will see how a great people, which to crush the rebellion and to defend its cherished institutions has made unheard-of sacrifices, will be generous and magnanimous towards its erring brethren. Those who think that the Union will not come out intact from this last great trial, deceive themselves; there will be, it is true, a change in the Constitution; the stain of slavery will disappear from its pages; but with that respect for legality which is one of the most striking characteristics of our people, and which they have constantly maintained during this crisis of civil war, it will be done legally and in accordance with the provisions of that venerated charter.

We shall soon enter, I hope, upon an era of peace. Certainly it will not be the people of the United States which will desire to see it disturbed; they comprehend, and hope that others will comprehend, that every State has the right to, discuss, vote, and, if need be, to fight out its own internal questions, without interference on its part against others, or on the part of others against it.

I thank you again, gentlemen, and I pray you to thank, in my name, those you represent, for their sentiments towards the people of the United States and their sympathies for our cause, which you have expressed to me; they cannot but tighten the bonds of friendship and of brotherhood which so visibly draw together the two peoples.


My voice cannot command this vast crowd; but, although I have just thanked your deputation, I cannot omit to thank you personally for this imposing manifestation of your sympathies for the cause of the American Union, and your congratulations upon the defeat of the slaveholders’ rebellion.

I am happy to salute the flag of Belgium which I see here by the side of that of my country. Again I thank you.