Mr. Seward to Sir F. Bruce
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a note which you addressed to me on the 16th instant, concerning a proposed extension of the reciprocity treaty. Perhaps I could not reply in any other manner more satisfactorily than I shall now do, by stating anew the verbal explanations which I have had heretofore occasion to make to you upon that subject.
The character of the constitutional distribution of public affairs amongst the different departments of the government is well known. It confides commerce and national finance expressly to the legislature.
The now expiring reciprocity treaty constitutes almost the only case in which the executive department has by negotiation assumed a supervision of any question of either commerce or finance. Even in that case the executive department did little more than to make a treaty, the details of which had been virtually matured beforehand in the Congress of the United States, and sanction was given to the treaty afterwards by express legislation. The question of continuing that treaty involves mainly subjects of the special character which have before described.
Careful inquiry made during the recess of Congress induced the President to believe that there was then no such harmony of public sentiment in favor of the extension of the treaty as would encourage him in directing negotiations to be opened. Inquiries made since the reassembling of Congress confirmed the belief then adopted that Congress prefers to treat the subject directly, and not to approach it through the forms of diplomatic agreement.
In accordance with this conviction all communications, verbal and written, upon the subject, have been submitted to the consideration of the proper committees of Congress, and the question of extending a system of reciprocal trade with the British provinces on our frontier awaits their decision.
I have the honor to be, with the highest consideration, sir, your obedient servant,
The Hon. Sir Frederick W. A. Bruce, &c., &c., &c.