Mr. Seward to Mr. Bigelow

No. 516.]

Sir: I transmit herewith for your information copies of the President’s proclamation of the 17th instant, declaring null and void a decree of Prince Maximilian closing certain ports in Mexico.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


John Bigelow, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

[August 17, 1866.—Declaring null and void a decree of Prince Maximilian closing certain ports in Mexico.]



Whereas a war is existing in the republic of Mexico, aggravated by foreign military intervention; and whereas the United States, in accordance with their settled habits and policy, are a neutral power in regard to the war which thus afflicts the republic of Mexico; and whereas it has become known that one of the belligerents in the said war, namely, the Prince Maximilian, who asserts himself to be emperor in Mexico, has issued a decree in regard to the port of [Page 339] Matamoras and other Mexican ports which are in the occupation and possession of another of the said belligerents, namely, the United States of Mexico, which decree is in the following words:

“The port of Matamoras and all those of the northern frontier which have withdrawn from their obedience to the government are closed to foreign and coasting traffic during such time as the empire of the law shall not be therein reinstated.

“ART. 2. Merchandise proceeding from the said ports, on arriving at any other where the excise of the empire is collected, shall pay the duties on importation, introduction, and consumption, and on satisfactory proof of contravention shall be irremissibly confiscated. Our minister of the treasury is charged with the punctual execution of this decree.

“Given at Mexico, the 9th of July, 1866.”

And whereas the decree thus recited, by declaring a belligerent blockade unsupported by competent military or naval force, is in violation of the neutral rights of the United States, as defined by the law of nations, as well as of the treaties existing between the United States of America and the aforesaid United States of Mexico:

Now, therefore, I, Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, do hereby proclaim and declare that the aforesaid decree is held, and will be held, by the United States to be absolutely null and void, as against the government and citizens of the United States, and that any attempt which shall be made to enforce the same against the government or the citizens of the United States will be disallowed.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.


By the President:

William H. Seward, Secretary of State.