Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Congress
Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward
Sir: The press of this capital has been permitted of late to discuss with quite unaccustomed freedom, as you may have remarked, the questions growing out of the extraordinary and most embarrassing relations of France with Mexico. I enclose a few articles from journals which you are not likely to have seen, but to which I am disposed to attach more than ordinary importance.
The three articles from the enlightened and conscientious pen of Monsieur Cochut, which appeared in the Temps of the 18th, 22d, and 23d of August, are chiefly important for the information they lay before the French public for the first time in regard to the financial relations of France and Mexico. I have reason to suppose that the figures which he gives were received from the highest source.
The articles from the Opinion Nationale of the 29th and 30th of August, from the pen of its editor, M. Gueroult, derive importance—
First, from the unusual freedom with which the Mexican enterprise is denounced in a journal which has been acquiring for a year past more and more official authority.
Second, from the fact that the writer is a member of the Corps Legislatif, for the city of Paris, and[Page 341]
Third, from the fact that he is supposed to consult with Mr. Rouher, the minister of state, very freely upon all public questions in which the government is supposed to have a policy not already fully disclosed to the public. These considerations enforce Mr. Gueroult’s recommendation that the government should not attach an exaggerated importance to any promised indemnities for its Mexican investment, and above all should make no sacrifice and run no risk of ulterior complications to insure them. “Our in success,” he says, “is complete, incontestable; and the only reasonable course to take is, to accept things as they are, without seeking to color, dissemble, or extenuate them; the essential point is to finish with them, to finish radically, leaving nothing behind which can Become a point of departure for new complications. It is not necessary, he says, to leave garrisons in the seaports, when we leave Mexico, charged to collect the revenue for our benefit. That would only lead to a recommencement of difficulties without number, which would make us re-enter by another door the inextricable labyrinth from which we must get out at any price. We must cut into the quick; leave nothing behind; finish, at all hazards, this bad business. A few millions more or less are not an interest to be balanced against the freedom from anxiety which would result to us from the complete and radical termination of this unhappy affair. In a word, the Mexican expedition has been a bad business. We must set it down to profit and loss, and occupy ourselves no more with it; neither believing, nor appearing to believe, nor letting others believe, that any returns are to come from it. For the present we should pursue but one end; bring back our troops and our flag, establish with the government which shall succeed Maximilian’s as good relations as the situation will permit, and which will assure us, as far as anything can be assured in that country, the safety of our country people.”
Mr. Gueroult expresses the opinion which was given by Mr. Saillard to the Emperor on his return from Mexico, that there will never be a civilized government in that country till it has been born again into the United States. He says, and no doubt alludes to Saillard’s remark: “All who have seen Mexico nearly, agree that she is destined to be devoured by the United States. They have already invaded, peopled, and colonized California, Texas, and New Mexico. The rest will follow as fast as (the traces of the civil war being effaced) their need of expansion shall be manifested.”
In his article of the following day Mr. Gueroult treats of the liability of France for the loan negotiated here, if not through the government, under government auspices. Without venturing; so say whether the government ought to assume that loan, he presents the case, so strongly in that direction as to indicate to my mind a disposition on the part of the government to assume it if public opinion should justify such a step. I think one of the purposes of Mr. Cochut’s article of the 23d was to help prepare the public mind for that result.
Independent of the moral obligation of the government to assume those bonds from which it has itself received large sums, I think the Emperor would not be indisposed to profit by the transfer of those bonds from the shoulders of the few to the shoulders of the whole people, with the view of making the nation interested in treating them and the government under whose auspices they were issued as considerately as possible, and disposed to take advantage of any, opportunity that may present itself, in future negotiations with the United States or Mexico, of realizing something from them.
I am, sir, with great respect, you obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
The Mexican crisis.
THE MEXICAN CRISIS.
The arrival of the empress of Mexico in Paris has made the forgotten affairs of that country the order of the day. There is no doubt about the object of this voyage; the official journals of the Mexican empire thus divulged it on the 7th of July:
“Her majesty the empress starts for Europe to-morrow. She goes to treat about Mexican affairs, and make various international arrangements. This mission, accepted by our sovereign with true patriotism, is the greatest proof of abnegation the emperor could offer his new country. We give this news that the public may know the real intention of her majesty’s voyage.”
Mystery is impossible in these important affairs, undertaken by such a courageous and intelligent sovereign. The news that has come to us from Mexico for several months explains the whole affair. The New Era, the semi-official journal of the French expedition, speaking of the empress’s departure, says: “Things look very gloomy.” In Sonora and Sinaloa, near California, the imperial garrisons are much diminished, and disasters are anticipated. On the other limit, towards the Texas frontier, the rout of a column conveying a specie train, the desertion of many imperialists, the capture of Matamoras, where the Juarists had a rich booty of merchandise, the use of its entry fees, one of the most important ports to the Mexican treasury, the ports of Acapulco, on the Pacific, and Tampico both feebly defended, the warlike people of the Huasteca in rebellion—these are checks which the authorities do not try to conceal.
The aspect of affairs would be more gloomy still if paragraphs from American newspapers and scraps from private letters were taken into consideration. The official promise made in Paris before the Corps Legislatif to recall the French troops, the only ones that inspired fear to the dissidents, has echoed widely in the New World, and has produced the anticipated effect. The republicans are so firmly convinced they are masters of the situation that the partisans of Juarez and Ortega are already contending for the presidency. Abominable and cruel reprisals terrify those who have openly declared for the new rule: and the poor Indians, not knowing what to do, hide themselves in the forests with their goods and cattle, and avoid both parties.
Well-established revenues could not long stand such a state of things; so the few and uncertain resources of the Mexican treasury were soon drained. By a formal order of Maximilian, great efforts are making to enforce the European engagements; but there is want in the civil departments, and even around the throne. The paragraph above quoted shows the discouraging crisis of the 5th of July. The abdication of Maximilian seems inevitable. The empress, men, with that boldness we admire in the French, and which secures her our sympathy, developed a plan to restore the situation, and started for Paris the next day.
The court of Mexico complains of not being able to follow a proper policy, because it has no army at its disposal. The French generals, in their marches, follow their own will without making it accord with that of the government. The foreign auxiliaries have not performed what was expected of them, and some have been discharged. The troops, called imperialists, are, for the most part, bands of certain chiefs like Mejia, depending upon the influence of their leader.
According to Maximilian’s advisers, then, the only means of safety is a national army of 40,000 men at the absolute disposal of the emperor. A new plan was laid out: instead of hunting the dissidents wherever they were to be found, a centre was to be formed, and a line from Acapulco to Matamoras was to be held, without caring for the immense northern regions. Now, this army could only be formed by the aid of France, and in two ways: the French army was to remain in Mexico till the commencement of 1868, within a few months of the time fixed for the complete evacuation. At the same time France was to furnish Maximilian one hundred millions of francs, to be paid monthly within two years, to pay for the organization of the national army. On such conditions the imperial government of Mexico could afford to let the French troops leave, and could guarantee the French interests in Mexico. If this indispensable aid was refused, the empress of Mexico was to quit Paris for Miramar, where her husband was soon to join her.
We are not in the secret of the Mexican embassy, and we hesitate in publishing rumors about it that appear well founded; but, whatever may be the determination of the court of Mexico, there is no doubt but it is a fearful crisis, and that the demands carried by the empress Charlotte is an ultimatum, which, if refused, will be followed by the certain abdication of Maximilian.
We are sorry to grieve those who yet believe in the security of the Mexican empire, but our duty is to tell them that nobody in France believes in it. The Mexican question is dead, and its friends in France are mourning for it. The government announced that the troops would be withdrawn from Mexico by the end of November, in three instalments, and that our expenses would decrease in the same proportion. The Corps Legislatif welcomed this promise, and was comforted. The cause of war with the United States was removed, and the world rejoiced.[Page 343]
Even if the French government does not consider itself bound by its word, the new arrangement is inadmissible. In the present condii ion of things the Mexican expedition costs us fifty or sixty millions a year; out of that sum we have reimbursed ourselves, since the treaty of Miramar, with twenty-five millions, deducted from the Paris loans. The new arrangement would suppress this annuity, and throw the entire expense of occupation upon us. We would then have to furnish for two years fifty millions for our troops, and a like sum to recruit the native army. With this new arrangement what would become of the pretended balance of our budget, and the new extinguishment of which Mr. Fould is so proud?
What if we have to buy the securities of European creditors at the price they ask? We are told that the Mexican treasury will pay all its obligations if relieved for two years from all military charges; but how can we believe that Maximilian, if left to himself, confined to a small space by an enemy emboldened by success, can collect a revenue, which he has failed to do up to the present time, and pay an annuity of fifty-six millions of the foreign debt alone, to say nothing of other expenses? On the other hand, the difficulties that would be caused by Maximilian’s abdication would require a prompt and radical solution. If the recall of our troops should take place before the time specified there would be the dignity of our army to protect as it retired, and the safety of our citizens residing in Mexico to. be insured; and we would have to take care of the holders of Mexican bonds, who are of that class that could not afford to lose their little savings, so hardly gained, and whose sufferings would be irreparable. These are interests of importance to everybody, and it is necessary to attend to them. The decision of the government is, therefore, anxiously expected.
French interests in Mexico.
It is hardly probable that the plan of the court of Mexico will be accepted by the French government. News from that country plainly shows that the experiment made at our cost is drawing to a close. We must anticipate difficulties, and prepare to meet them. The first is the withdrawal of our troops.
As Maximilian yields to discouragement, so must our military intervention be abridged. Public opinion would be pleased to see our Expenses stopped, and the sufferings of our soldiers shortened. Moreover, in the present state of European politics, it is important to bring our troops back from such a distant country The withdrawal, at present, has dangers we must notice. As soon as Maximilian declares his mission at an end, our regiments will be found scattered over a hostile country, and surrounded by an exasperated population, full of hate for the foreigner. Or shall we remain in presence of a new power, strong enough to maintain order, and wise enough to understand that a French army, supported by France, is to be respected? The French authorities in Mexico must see this alternative. Military movements in a vast country like that are always hazardous. No nation has vessels enough to bring back 30,000 men at once, with all their material. It would be very expensive to make use of merchant vessels. If the withdrawal took place gradually, the last detachments would have a hard time with the enemy and the hot region. They could not all embark at once. But these are obstacles that might be removed by experienced and scientific men. It is justly feared that the withdrawal of our troops would leave our citizens without protection. The number of Frenchmen in Mexico has increased from 4,000 to 40,000, it is said, since the new order of things. Those who are acquainted with the people of that country know the danger to which our countrymen will be exposed when not protected by the French flag. We must acknowledge now that the resistance to Maximilian is not from a few bands of robbers, as we have been too often told, but from a large class of republicans opposed to European intervention. This part of the population has been treated badly during the last two years, and but few of its families remain, whose only recollection of intervention will be of ruin and death. A Mexican is cruel and revengeful, and a severe retaliation is dreaded. One newspaper talks of Mexican vespers. It is horrible to believe in such predictions.
A large number of the immigrants that cams to earn an honest living in Mexico will have to return with the army. Those of our countrymen who have been living a long time in Mexico have not taken part in Maximilian’s cause, and they are wise enough to see the consequences. Many of them have been prudent enough to assume American citizenship for protection, in anticipation of trouble. The city is filled with shops having the names of Johnson or Wilson on their signs. There will certainly be days of trouble when the transition does take place; but foreigners, long resident in Mexico, are accustomed to those political tempests, and know how to escape them. It is to be hoped that the French military authorities will take measures with the new power, whatever it may be, to protect our countrymen after the army is withdrawn.
There is another question, that in regard to the holders of Mexican bonds, which interests more than 300,000 families. We will reserve for to-morrow the information we have collected on this subject, together with our own observations.
The question of the strange and exceptional situation of the holders of Mexican obligations was not caused by the probable abdication of the emperor Maximilian, but was the order of the day in the government councils, as is known from semi-official sources. On the 2d of July last, when six thousand breathless spectators were waiting for the drawing of the great Mexican lottery, one of the attendants remarked to Mr. Germiny that the holders of the obligations were not in despair at the depreciation of their titles, because they relied upon the government of the Emperor to secure them; and Mr. de Germiny answered him in a way to confirm him in that hope.
The serious difficulty of to-day was foreseen, and warnings to those in power were not spared.
Last year, when the obligations were issued with a quasi official display, the attitude assumed by the government was remarked by everybody. These demonstrations inspired capitalists with confidence, in case of failure, to ask a guarantee, and the determination was expressed with energy before the legislative body. If the loan succeeds, said Ernest Picard, it is because the subscribers see the government behind it, in its strength, majesty, and responsibility. The Times, that did not encourage the Mexican delusion, had the same opinion, and expatiated upon it urgently. After analyzing the debates of the legislative body that destroyed the loan, shortly before it was negotiated, we said:
“Suppose the one hundred and fifty millions of revenue expected by Mr. Corta are not realized in the distracted country of Mexico, and that the provisions for the annual payments are in arrears, you will see the subscribers hurrying to the counter in Mont Thabor street, with the Moniteur of the 11th and 12th of April in their hands, and the speeches of Mr. Corta and Mr. Rouher republished in every paper.
“Can we understand how the French government piteously assumes neutrality, which it has a right to do, after insuring the investment as good? You may be assured that such is the reasoning now in many families. The expectation that the imperial government will not suffer Maximilian’s signature to be protested, whatever may happen, is the great encouragement to the loan.”
It is undoubtedly true that the imperial government did not bind itself; a civil tribunal could not force it to give security. Yet it often happens that a defendant is exonerated by the judge when there is no written evidence against him. But would a government hold to such a judgment? Let us bring up facts.
In April, 1864, Maximilian took possession of the throne erected for him; and, according to tradition, his first act of sovereignty was the negotiation of a loan. It was to yield 10 per cent. It was started in Paris and London by two rich and experienced houses of Europe. The French government set an example of confidence by accepting its titles up to fifty-four millions, to be drawn to its credit. Yet for all that the loan failed. The director of the Credit Mobilier said in his report for 1865: “We have omitted no sacrifice to better the condition of our customers, but we regret to confess that our efforts have caused us a considerable loss.” Such is the Mexican credit, left to itself, with an interest of 10 percent. Only a part of it was sold, and the French treasury kept the Mexican loan, just so much waste-paper, in the hands of Mr. Fould.
One year passed. Mexico is so pressed for money that military operations suffer. The emperor Maximilian has no credit; so the French government has to choose one of three things: either to give up the expedition and recall its troops, or invest the credit of Fiance for the benefit of Mexico, or to call for a Mexican loan publicly, and thus give it a moral patronage that would make its success certain.
The last plan was adopted, as the most simple and less expensive. The government was confident of its success, and so was a majority of the legislative body, as its acts prove. The objections of a few well-informed men were thought to arise from obstinate opposition. The conditions of the loan together with the lottery amounted to about 12 per cent., which is not a high rate for Spanish American countries. The loan was advertised. Ten days before the opening of the public subscription a serious debate took place in the Corps Legislatif upon Mexican affairs. Mr. Corta, the deputy who was sent to Mexico by the government to examine affairs, was invited to speak. He gave a flattering account of the resources of the country, and the brilliant prospects of the monarchy. The opposition expressed some doubts. The minister of state followed, with a pretty picture of immense immigration, banks, joint stock and steamship companies, factories, gold, silver, iron, and coal mines, oil wells—to be discovered and worked. “As to the finances,” said the minister, “has not the report of the Hon. Mr. Corta convinced the House of the abundant resources of the country?” And the House answered, “Yes! yes!”
The minister’s confidence was so great it ran over in these terms:
“You may rest assured, gentlemen, that the great ability of the emperor Maximilian will insure prosperity to the finances of the Mexican empire, and undoubted security to those who in trust him with their money.” [Cries of “Good!” “Good!” in the House.][Page 345]
True, Mr. Rouher took care to add: “It is not now a question of responsibility of the French government. France does not interfere—nor does she guarantee the Mexican loan, directly or indirectly.” Could he say aught else? It would have been very imprudent in him. A single word intimating French guarantee would have raised the obligations instantly from 340 to 1,000 francs. But we must no; forget that the government desired the success of the loan without direct responsibility.
Mr. Picard still had his doubts. He said “Subscribers lost 20 per cent. on the first loan, and now you talk of a second!” Mr. Rouher answered, “You are interested in this loan, and when the holders read your speech to-morrow, if they believe what you say, they most assuredly will not hasten up with their money. * * * These distrusts, these irresponsible criticisms that cause alarm, are impotent and empty, and persons will he right in paying no attention to them.” [This was received with much applause.]
This loan is issued by the discount bank, and the public knows the establishment, bound by its charter, could open no subscription of that kind without the special authority of the minister of finance; and the receivers general of France are authorized by the minister to receive subscriptions. The care of the funds collected and the payment of the interest are intrusted to a committee of Mexican finances, established in Paris, and presided over by Count Germiny, nominated by the French government, who is a senator, former minister of finance, and ex-governor of the Bank of France. A state counsellor and eminent statesman, Mr. Langlais, issent to Mexico to put the financial affairs of Maximilian in order; while the instalments due from subscribers are being paid in, confidence is encouraged by semimonthly applause in the Moniteur, repeated by other papers. Did a government ever before take so much trouble to help a negotiation in which it had no interest?
But this is not all. The French treasury held a credit of fifty-four millions of the first loan. It was necessary to realize that sum in order to free the floating debt, which increased the sum. This was not easy. Mexican credit had fallen so much that the revenue of the first emission, yielding more than 12 percent, at that time, was not salable. The conversion of these rents into obligations with remaims and lotteries was effected, and on that occasion Mr. Fould hurried to transform his unprofitable rents into obligations, so as to clear his portfolio. In his report of the 20th December, 1865, to the Emperor, he declares he has realized the rents he held, but at some loss. Do you suppose the minister would have thrown new Mexican obligations into market last year unless he believed them good? It seems to us of great importance to enlighten the public in regard to the funds raised for Mexico. We have some information on the subject, from good authority, which we will give.
One of the principal clauses in the treaty of Miramar was the emission of a loan to be divided into two portions, one to indemnify France for expenses already incurred and private claims to be made out; the other to furnish the sinews of war. The loan of 1864 was issued in 6 per cent. rents, delivered at 63. The French treasury received rent titles amounting to 6,600,000 francs, to pay its indemnities and claims, and locked them in its portfolio. Of the portion offered to the public only 10,162,000 francs of the 6 per cents were negotiated in London and Paris—the rich profits of which were in round numbers 102,000,000 francs. The second issue, in 1865, of 500,000 obligations, at 340 francs, yielded 170,000,000. Total amount of both, 272,000,000. The expenses of both were 26,000,000, which leaves a net profit of 246,000,000 delivered to the committee of Mexican finances.
Now what has been done with this two hundred and forty-six millions? In the first place thirty-four millions were taken to form a capital of two series of obligations, due in fifty years, and that sum is safe in the bank of deposits and consignments. A sum of fifty-four millions has been reserved for the payment of all expenses of the first loan for two years, and one year of the second, and will be used accordingly. At the time of the first loan there was a large arrearage on the old Mexican debt due to England, and its creditors would have caused the loan to fail if some provision a had not been made for their satisfaction; so Maximilian’s agents deducted 22,000,000 from the sums raised in Paris to pay the London creditors. It is known that the treaty of Miramar authorized the French government to raise considerable sums, mentioned in our budgets, to pay the expenses of the war. These amounted to 102,000,000. On adding these various sums we find they amount to 212,000,000. By this reckoning, what remains to the credit of Maximilian out of 246,000,000 of the two loans? Only 34,000,000, including the 22,000,000 paid for him in London. The preceding estimate does not comprise 6,600,000 six percents of the first issue, delivered to the French government in 1864. Last year, when the six per cents were converted into obligations, the French treasury secured 174,000 obligations of the second series, estimated at 56,000,000. Out of these only 60,000 have been recently sold. Now if these obligations have been thrown into market when the solvency of the Mexican empire is doubtful, is it not reasonable to suppose the government would insure them in some way or other?
If our information is correct, there yet remain in the French treasury 114,000 Mexican obligations unrealized; 47,000 for indemnities to French subjects, and about 83,000 of the unconverted rents of the first issue, still in the hands of the Mexican committee. At this rate, there are 756,000 classified obligations in public circulation, and they are dispersed among more than 300,000 families.
Now if these obscure bondholders are not indemnified, they will have the honor of contributing 102,000,000 to the support of the French army in Mexico; and in the end the [Page 346] French creditors in Mexico and English creditors in London will be paid by a new and long list of creditors in Paris. We are now only repeating what these bondholders say, and their complaints are certainly worthy of being heard.
On the other hand, we know very well what the tax-payers will say, and we will soon give them a chance to speak. We must confess that this is the most complicated and interesting case of conscience we have ever met with, and we are not ashamed to say we are not casuist enough to solve it.
The empress Charlotte’s voyage to Paris has recalled attention to Mexican affairs. It is said the young princess has come to ask men and money of the French government, and has failed to get them. As this refusal coincides with the recall of our troops, promised to the United States, and the success of the Juarists, who are besieging and capturing cities, it is ominous of the fall of the Mexican empire; and we would not be surprised to see Maximilian return to Europe in a very short time.
This expected event would finish an enterprise in which we have never had any confidence, and of which we predicted the failure as early as 1862. We have not touched upon it since, because we did not wish to increase the obstacles already in the way of its success.
The voluntary or forced abdication would certainly simplify it, by relieving France of her promised patronage; but though desirable, it will not be the end of the troubles in that quarter.
Though Maximilian should leave, our troops would still be surrounded by the Juarist forces that we have fought for four years, and from whom we can expect no good will. We do not mean that our army is cowardly and is afraid of anything, but since it has to leave, it ought to be in France by October, 1867, (and sooner, if possible,) and we must consider the situation of our countrymen after it quits Mexico. It is a situation that requires a delicate treatment. The first thing to do is to give up all aid to Maximilian’s monarchy. The emperor said, and his agents have repeated it, “We did not go to Mexico to give it a government.” Now is the time to remember that declaration, and to treat with the Juarist party if it resumes the government. No matter to us whether there is an empire or a republic in Mexico. All we have to do is to see that the government there respects the rights and the lives of our countrymen.
If we were allowed to give advice in regard to the sad reality now apparent, we would advise the French government to place no importance in the promises of indemnity—to make no sacrifice—to risk no further complication to secure it. The Mexican affair is a bad business, and nothing can make it better. We depended upon Spain and England to help us, but they failed. The civil war in the United States was a circumstance favoring the establishment of a monarchy in Mexico. Perhaps Maximilian might have shown a higher capacity for the position offered to him. Attributing the failure of the enterprise to all these disappointments, it is not less true that the failure is complete, and all that now can be done is to accept the situation as it is, without disguise, for the most important point is to finish the business completely, and leave nothing behind as a nucleus for new complications.
We insist upon this, after spending seventy or eighty millions, to collect twelve or fifteen for our countrymen. When we quit Mexico we must not leave garrisons in the seaports to collect the custom-house duties for our benefit. It would be a cruel disappointment. Our soldiers and employés left at Tampico and Vera Cruz would be decimated by yellow fever, and we might be sure the indemnity would not be paid long, for the Juarists would respect no agreement with Maximilian, but would annoy us and lead us back into the labyrinth from which we imagined we had escaped. We must now cut to the quick, and leave nothing behind—finish the bad business at every cost. A few millions, more or less, are not to be considered when weighed with the liberty of mind and freedom of action we would enjoy at the complete termination of this unfortunate expedition.
We must profit by past experience, and the horrid scenes of the last five years to preserve us from diappointment in the future. What is the original cause of all our difficulties in Mexico? It is just what has kept Mexico in anarchy ever since her independence; the want of organic elements. The extent of territory, sparseness of inhabitants, habits of idleness, theft, and robbery, qualifies the people to retain their independence, but places insurmountable obstacles in the way of the formation of a durable and regular government.
You find among them no business habits, no inclination to industry that characterizes our native host of order and peace. Commerce, trade, and business of all kinds is in the hands of foreigners. People of means lead an idle life. The clergy dream about impossible restorations. The Indian is imposed on by everybody. There is no class to depend on. There is no starting point anywhere. It is so easy to overturn a government in Mexico, and so hard to maintain one, there is never a stable government. This is what makes every one who has seen Mexico believe that the country is destined to be gradually swallowed up by [Page 347] the United States. They have already taken Texas, New Mexico, and California, and settled them, and the rest will follow as civil war ceases, and the necessity of annexation becomes urgent. Till that time, anarchy will continue to prevail in Mexico. We may treat with the government that follows Maximlian, but we must not rely upon the fulfilment of any obligation, and must avoid every act that might compromise us. In a word, the Mexican expedition is a bad business. We must charge its costs to profit and loss, and close the accounts, and make no one think anything is to be made out of it. This desperate resolution is the only counsel of wisdom. If events prove that we are wrong, so much the better; we shall be agreeably surprised. At present there is but one thing we can do, recall our troops; take in our colors, and form as good relations as we can with the government that succeeds Maximilian for the protection of our countrymen. As to war indemnities and quotas of custom-house revenues, secure them if you can, but don’t expect it; and leave no soldiers behind to stir up new conflicts.
The remaining question, that of the situation of subscribers, we will postpone till our next.
Subscribers to the Mexican loan.
The probable failure of the Mexican empire will not only ruin our countrymen residing in Mexico, but will seriously injure pecuniarily all who took part in the Mexican loan. It is already announced that the interest on the bonds will not be paid, and that the lottery their titles call for will not be drawn. Here, then, are 756,000 bonds scattered among 300,000 families, worth no more than waste-paper.
If the loan had been offered to the pubi c by private banks, without recommendation of the French government, we would pity the bad luck of the subscribers, because they could have no hope of compensation. They would have to bear their disappointment with resignation.
Unfortunately, such is not the case. The French government, wishing to keep Maximilian, encouraged the loan, and made public efforts for its success. A committee of Mexican finance was formed in Paris, with Count Germing at its head. M. Langlais, a state counsellor, was sent to Mexico to put financial affairs in order. The discount bank authorized by the government undertook to dispose of the Mexican loan, and in fine, receiver generals in France were authorized agents to receive subscriptions and forward them to the bank in Paris. These different measures, without binding the government directly, were equivalent to a recommendation, and it is not its custom to take an interest in any financial operation outside of its own loans.
And its public language in congress was favorable to the Mexican empire, promising a most brilliant prospect. M. Corta, who was sent on a financial mission to Mexico, gave the legislative body a most brilliant picture of M Mexican resources, and the minister of state used it to confirm the doubting, saying: “The great capabilty of the emperor Maximilian will assure prosperity to Mexican finances, and a certain guarantee to those who intrust him with their money.” The minister believed it, and he convinced others; and so the loan was a success. Would it have succeeded if the government had remained neutral, or M. Rouher and M. Corta had kept silence, or the discount bank kept out of it, or the minister of finance had not authorized the receiver generals to act as agents for it? We doubt it.
Another weight to the arguments of those on the subscribers’ side is, that out of the two hundred and forty-six millions realized, one hundred and two millions went into the French treasury to pay war expenses, &c. The French treasury has absorbed the subscribers’ money, then, and owes them nothing.
It is singular, and not generally known, that Maximilian got only thirty-four millions out of the two hundred and forty-six, together with twenty-two millions paid for him in London, making a total of fifty-six millions.
The situation being as we have described, the question that arises is this: Has the French government contracted any obligation towards the subscribers to the Mexican loan, and ought it to aid them in any way?
It is a serious question, and is worthy of serious discussion. One party says the French treasury has already sacrificed too much in this unfortunate expedition; that the government has not guaranteed the Mexican loan; that it did not promise a guarantee by encouraging the loan; that the public would oppose any increase of expenses; let the subscribers take care of themselves; their high interest and] lottery prizes were enough to compensate them; if the Mexican empire had succeeded, their gains would have been immense, and they would not have shared with the French treasury; but luck having gone against them, they have no reason to complain, and should not ask the nation to repair their losses. These reasonings are serious, and merit a profound examination.
The other side reasons thus: Though the government may not have guaranteed the loan, yet it sanctioned it morally by favoring it, permitting public institutions and officers to act [Page 348] as agents for it; by persuading the public of its validity; thus the loan was sustained. If these seeming encouragements, given in the beginning, cannot now be interpreted as insuring it, the government certainly acted imprudently. In fact, the government has made one hundred and two millions by it, which it now holds and still refuses to reimburse the subscribers. Three hundred thousand families are injured by it, and the government has made one million of enemies, and policy as well as justice condemns it.
These two opposing theses are not lacking in force or sound arguments. The affair is embarrassing, and its solution difficult. If we lived in England or Belgium, it is probable the immediate consequence would be a change of cabinet; but to those concerned the question would remain entire, and the new ministers, though not responsible for the past, would be bound to attend to the necessities of the future. With us, where there is no ministerial responsibility, a change of cabinet would do no good. Those who committed the error will have to repair it. How this is to be done we cannot say, but it is evident that something must be done.
The press puts the question, and the government must answer it.