Count Wydenbruck to Mr. Seward,.
Sir: I have had the honor to receive the letter you addressed to me the 28th of last month, in reply to mine of 16th of the same, bearing upon certain claims of Austrian subjects established at Bagdad, and not at Matamoras, as your excellency’s letter says, for losses inflicted on them by a troop of federal soldiers at the time of the sudden attack on said Mexican city of Bagdad, on the night between the 4th and 5th of February last.
Your excellency desires to know whether his Majesty the Emperor, my august sovereign, sanctions the claims above mentioned, and asks me, besides, to furnish the proofs that the claimants have not lost the character of Austrian subjects, and consequently their title to the protection of the imperial government.
As to the first point, I have the honor to observe, that the claims in question came to me directly from Mexico, and that having judged them to be worthy of your consideration, I have not hesitated to submit them to you without making reference to Vienna.
As to what concerns the call for proof of the Austrian nationality of the claimants established at Bagdad, (not at Matamoras,) I supposed that this nationality, as well as its continuity, was sufficiently proven, the first by the certificates of nativity annexed to each one of the claims, the second by the counter-signing of such claims by the superior authority at Bagdad.
However that may be, I would hasten to take the steps necessary for the purpose of furnishing the details which you require from me, Mr. Secretary of State, if the letter from your excellency did not close with the categorical declaration that the government of the United States does not consider itself in any way responsible for losses inflicted on persons of foreign nationalities at the time of the pillage of Bagdad by federal soldiery.
In presence of this declaration, any ulterior step on my part for the purpose above indicated becomes without object, and it only remains for me meantime to take note of this finale of non-reception.
I shall not enter upon discussion of the questions raised in the letter of your excellency, for, independently of the reserve imposed on me by the attitude of absolute passivity maintained by the imperial court of Austria in the Mexican question from the outset, I do not hesitate to avow my inability to comprehend in virtue of what principle of international law, under what serious title, the government of the United States could eventually be disposed to cause to be carried up to my august sovereign responsibility for events which have transpired in Mexico.
Let it be permitted to me to add, that whatever may be the appreciation which your excellency may deem suitable to make of pretended acts of his majesty the emperor of Mexico, I am none the less convinced that his majesty may, in this relation, rest without any uneasiness for his renown upon the impartial judgment of his contemporaries and of history.
Accept, I pray you, Mr. Secretary of State, the assurances of my very high consideration.
William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.