Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward
Sir: The circular from the minister of foreign affairs, par interim, to the diplomatic agents of the Emperor, for which the public press has been trying to prepare the popular mind for more than a week past, appeared in the Moniteur of the 17th instant. It is occupied exclusively with the modifications which the relations of France with the rest of the world have undergone in consequence of the recent dismemberment of the German confederation. The only allusion which takes wider proportion is one made to the rapid growth of Russia and the United States, for which we are probably indebted to the demonstrations of friendship which the two latter countries have been recently exchanging with each other.
M. de La Valette, so far from appearing to regret the course of recent events in Germany, takes the position that France is relatively stronger now, with Germany divided into at least three large and independent powers, no one of which has a population as large as France, than when Germany was united in a confederation which represented a population more than double that of France. He also denounces the narrow and miserable policy of another age, when the greatness of countries was maintained by weakening those which surrounded them; and in the name of the Emperor declares with profound wisdom the true equilibrium of Europe is to be found in the satisfied wishes of its nations.
The marvellous feature of this paper is, that after interpreting so sagaciously and correctly, as I think, the bearing of recent events in Europe upon France, events which rather strengthen than weaken her position; after proclaiming the incontestable fact that she is menaced by no one, and the less incontestable fact that she is disposed to menace no one, and that the peace now making has every element of durability, the minister proceeds to argue from this state of facts the necessity of perfecting her military organization without delay. This paragraph is so perfectly inconsequential that I venture to say that it will be understood, by all France at least, as an undertaking upon the part of the Emperor to hold his sword in readiness to aid the negotiations which he has suspended, but not abandoned, for the rectification of his northern frontiers. It is difficult to conceive any other motive for addressing an announcement of such a character to the representatives of the government abroad, and in continuation of a statement of facts which logically ought to lead to a reduction rather than to an increase of military force.
The fact is that France is very imperfectly armed at present, and if ever so much provoked would seek to avoid war for at least a year, the shortest time within which she could complete her preparations. It is also understood that there is a strong party in the government in favor of making a loan, for which there are abundant pretexts. The government also expects to be vigorously attacked in the chambers by M. Thiers and the partisans of weak neighbors, for its neglect to interfere in time to prevent the unification of Germany under the sceptre of a frontier state, &c. These reasons may suffice to explain the attachment of this otherwise most inconsequential tail to M. de La Valette’s kite, without ascribing it to any graver or more pregnant motive.
I am, sir, with great respect, your very obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.