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United States of munitions of war by the belligerents in Mexico, which will correctly inform you of the position taken by this government.
Besides the information thus disclosed, it is understood that the Secretary of War has since placed such a construction upon the executive order as to make it applicable to certain articles much needed by the French in the prosecution of their hostilities in Mexico. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. THOMAS CORWIN, Esq.
Mr. Corwin to Mr. Seward.
Mexico, March 11, 1863. Sir: I have received your despatch No. 63, under date of December 19, · 1862, accompanied by copies of the note of Mr. Romero, chargé d'affaires for Mexico, dated December 10, 1862, and your note in reply, dated December 15, 1862, copies of which, agreeably to your instructions, I bave communicated to his excellency Mr. Fuente, secretary of foreign affairs for Mexico.
The correspondence between Mr. Romero and the United States, concerning the exportation of arms by Mexico, and that of wagons and mules from New York by French agents, for the use of the French army in Mexico, had, as I am informed, been transmitted to the state department of Mexico some time before the receipt of your despatch of December 19, 1862.
This correspondence and the decision of the American government on the points it involves has, I am sure, caused quite an unfriendly feeling in the minds of the Mexican cabinet towards the United States. The decision of our government is regarded here in the very light in which Mr. Romero has endeavored to place it—that is, as simply denying to Mexico rights which we concede to France; and from this postulate they easily reach the conclusion that our government has disregarded, to the projudice of Mexico, those obligations which international law imposes upon neutral powers. However erroneous this view may be, I have no reason to expect that it will be changed. I have had no conference with the minister of foreign affairs on the subject, nor has he named it to me, either verbally or by written communication. As I regard your note to Mr. Romero as presenting all the reasons for the course our government has adopted, I shall not, of course, seek to transfer the controversy from Washington to this city, but shall use all proper means, on proper occasions, to satisfy the Mexican authorities of the propriety of the course my government has deemed it proper to take.
On the 9th day of February the Prussian minister, being about to leave Mexico, addressed to me a note, a copy of which I transmit herewith, requesting me to assume the protection of all French, Spanish, Prussian and Belgian subjects residing in Mexico.
On the withdrawal of the French legation from Mexico, the duty of protecting the foreigners above named was committed to Baron Wagner, the Prussian minister. I thought proper, at that time, to decline the office and duties proposed, for the reasons assigned in my note to the Prussian minister under date of the 16th of February, a copy of which I send you herewith.
On the 18th day of February I received from Baron Wagner another note, a copy of which I also enclose, proposing to commit the protection of the resident subjects of the four powers named above to the whole foreign diplomatic corps remaining here. This note was dated the day before the departure of
Baron Wagner, and was not received by me until the next morning, and afte he had left the city. I deemed it proper, in compliance with his request, to inform the other members of the corps now here of it, and ask their opinion as to the course proper to be adopted by us. I have received notes on the subject from the diplomatic representatives of the republics of Ecuador and Peru, and also from the consul general of Venezuela, copies of which are herewith transmitted. It will be observed that, at this time, no European power is represented here by any agent above the rank of consul, nor have any of the American republics a diplomatic representative here, except the United States and the three governments named above. Whilst I entertain no doubt that I might have accepted the powers proposed to be conferred upon me by the Prussian minister, without giving any just cause of offence to the government of Mexico, I thought such a step on my part imprudent, under existing circumstances, unless the request to do so should first be made, through the proper channels, to the President of the United States, and his approval obtained and transmitted to me; I also entertain as little doubt that the diplomatic corps, collectively, or any one of them, might, in a proper case, and in a respectful manner, interpose to protect the rights of any foreigner, without any express power given by the government to whom the allegiance of such foreigner might be due. This, it seems to me, would be my duty, since the same course of proceeding pursued towards a Prussian or Belgian subject resident here would, under like circumstances, be adopted towards a citizen of the United States residing here.
It will be seen by the copy of a letter from the state department of Mexico, under date of December 4, 1861, which is forwarded with this despatch, that when the French minister, on withdrawal from Mexico, committed the protection of the French and Spanish subjects in Mexico to the minister of Prussia, the Mexican government accepted and approved that arrangement. It is notorious that the Prussian minister bas exercised that power, without objection, up to the time of his withdrawing the Prussian legation, on the 18th of February, 1863.
On the 24th of February, 1863, and before I had informed the Mexican government of the correspondence of Baron Wagner with myself and the diplomatic corps, I received the note, a copy of which is enclosed, from Mr. Fuente. To this I have, on the 7th day of March, 1863, given a reply, a copy of which is herewith transmitted. I shall act in conformity with the principles laid down in that note till otherwise instructed. I beg the early attention of the State Department to this whole subject. I have stated the reasons by which I was guided in declining the protection of the subjects of the four powers, as proposed by the Prussian minister, and have forwarded the opinions of the several members of the diplomatic corps respecting the collective protection of those subjects, as required by the note of Mr. Wagner of the 17th of February, 1863, upon all of which I ask the opinion of the President, and such instructions as may be deemed necessary for the regulation of my future action.
The French forces are concentrated at a point about five miles from Puebla, but as late as yesterday had made no attack upon that city, nor had they made any forward movement in the direction of this place. I think, from all I can learn, that the Mexican army is quite confident of victory should Puebla be attacked. I am your obedient servant,
THOMAS CORWIN. Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State, fr., fr., fr.
[Exhibit accompanying despatch No. 39.)
March 11, 1863.
1. Note of Prussian minister, requesting protection of the American legation for Prussia, French, Spanish, and Belgian subjects resident in Mexico.
2. Reply to the same.
3. Note of the Prussian minister, placing said subjects under the protection of the diplomatic corps generally, and the American minister, as its dean, particularly.
4. Note of American minister, calling a meeting of the diplomnatic corps, to consider the request of the Prussian minister.
5. Reply of chargé d'affaires of Peru.
1. Communication from minister of foreign affairs of Mexico, protesting against the acceptance of the powers proposed to be conferred by the Prussian minister upon the diplopiatic corps. 2. Reply of the American minister.
Reply of the official mayor of the department of foreign affairs of Mexico to note of the Prussian minister, informing the department that he had taken under his protection the French, Spanish, Italian, and Swiss subjects, resident in Mexico.
A 1, No. 39.
Mr. Wagner to Mr. Corwin.
PRUSSIAN LEGATION, Mexico, February 9, 1863. Sir: Having solicited a temporary leave of absence, and my government having granted me permission to leave Mexico, I intend to start in a few days for Berlin.
Your excellency is aware that the protection not only of the German, but also of the French, Spanish, and Belgian subjects, has been confided to this legation.
I trust that during my absence the Prussian, Spanish, and Belgian consular authorities will be able to afford all due protection to their respective countrymen, as they have already done on many occasions; and whilst I hope that their intercession in favor of the interests confided to them will avoid the necessity of often troubling your excellency, still I beg, at the same time, to take the liberty of recommending them, in case of need, to the kind and more effective protection of the United States legation, confident, as I am, that your excellency will be pleased to grant to the above-mentioned consulates, as well as to the French residents who may appeal to your excellency, such aid and assistance as may be possible under the present critical circumstances.
The French consul, M. Morineau, having left Mexico with the imperial legation, M. Farine had previously been appointed his substitute, in order to take charge of the consular archives and to keep the civil register of marriages, births, &c., &c. The Mexican government had, at the time, been informed of this circumstance.
I have the honor to remain, with the highest consideration, sir, your excellency's most obedient, humble servant,
E. DE WAGNER. Hon. THOMAS CORWIN, &c., &c.
A 2, No. 39.
Mr. Corwin to Mr. Wagner.
Mexico, February 16, 1863. Sir: The undersigned has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency's note, under date of the 9th instant, asking the undersigued to extend the diplomatic protection of the United States government to the French, Prussian, Spanish, and Belgian subjects resident in Mexico. The undersigned has given to the subject of your excellency's request his earnest attention, and is compelled, under existing circumstances, to decline the acceptance of the duties and responsibilities which a compliance with your excellency's request would impose upon him. Were such request addressed to the cabinet at Washington, and its objects approved, and proper instructions given to the undersigned, he should then, and only then, deem it proper for him, in obedience to such instructions, to discharge, to the best of his ability, the duties they might impose. The undersigued has not, at this time and place, the means of searching for precedents, but his memory furnishes him with no instance where a minister of the United States has, under circumstances like the present, assumed to extend diplomatic protection to foreign citizens, resident within the territories of the government to which he is accredited, without express instructions to do so from the President of the United States. In regard to the proposed protection of the subjects of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the French, there are reasons for the course the undersigned has adopted, which might not apply with equal force to the other nationalities specified in your excellency's note. The French empire and Mexico are at war. Between these two belligerent powers the government of the United States occupies a purely neutral position. Should the government of the United States assume the right and duty of protecting the subjects of one of the belligerent powers against the supposed wrongs to be inflicted upon them by the government of the other, it is easy to foresee that cases might arise which would te:d strongly to disturb these peaceful relations with one or both the belligerents. which it is the object of perfect neutrality to preserve in violate.
I have the honor, also, to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency's note of the 13th instant, relating to this subject, and enclosing correspondence relating thereto between your excellency and the minister of foreign relations for Mexico. The undersigned finds nothing in this last note and accompanying papers which, in his judgment, should affect the conclusion wbich he had come to in relation to the proposition contained in your excellency's note of the 9th instant.
I avail myself of this (probably the last that may ever occur) occasion to renew to your excellency the assurance of my esteem.
THOMAS CORWIN. His Excellency BARON E. D. WAGNER,
Minister of Prussia, Mexico.
A 3, No. 39.
Mexico, February 17, 1863. Mr. Envoy: Your excellency having considered it your duty, by your note of to-day, to refuse the protection I had solicited in favor of Prussian subjects, and Germans, French, Spanish, and Belgians, resident in Mexico, I now find myself under the necessity of placing these foreigners under the friendly protection of the diplomatic corps, convinced that all its members, were it only from a sense of humanity, would not refuse, under the grave circumstances which may present themselves, their aid and good offices to the many foreigners whose governments have not at this time representatives in Mexico.
I pray your excellency will have the kindness to inform the representatives of the other American republics, who are now at this capital, of the very pressing instances I make to the diplomatic corps, and each of its members in particular, to lend their assistance in favoring protection to foreigners who may address them directly, or to your excellency as their dean.
As neither your excellency nor your colleagues will certainly ever ask anything unjust from the Mexican government, the latter has as much interest as the other American States, that it cannot be said that foreigners are intentionally abandoned to the discretion of the govern. ment, and without any diplomatic protection. I appeal, then, once more with earnestness, and in the most formal manner, to the feelings of humanity of your excellency, and of the other members of the diplomatic corps, in recommending the foreigners above mentioned to their special protection. Please accept, Mr. Envoy, the assurance of my high consideration,
E. DE WAGNER. Hon. THOMAS CORWIN, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, and
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Mexico.
A 4, No. 39.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Mexico, February 21, 1863. MY DEAR COLLEAGUE: On the day of the departure of the Prussian minister, but after he had left the city, I received from him a note, a copy of which I enclose herewith.
In compliance with the request contained in the note of the Prussian minister, I have to ask that you will meet the members of the diplomatic corps, now in this city, at my rooms, (Calle Donceles, No. 23,) on Monday, the 23d instant, at 12 o'clock m., there and then to take into consideration the request contained in Mr. Wagner's note. I have the honor to be your friend and colleague,
A 5, No. 39.
Mexico, February 21, 1863. MY WORTHY COLLEAGUE: I have had the honor to receive your esteemed communication, by which you invite me to assist at a meeting of the diplomatic corps which is to take place at the United States legation on Monday at noon.
I have no certainty of being in the city on the day and hour indicated, because I must go to-morrow into the country; but made aware of the object of the meeting through the despatch of the minister of Prussia, which you were pleased to send me in copy, I can make up my opinion on the matter, which is, that the diplomatic corps, to whose good offices the min. ister of Prussia has appealed in favor of European subjects who are at present without a representative in Mexico, would be able to render purely friendly private services, in accordance with the laws of the republic, in cases in which, in conformity with international law, diplomatic action might be interposed, and especially when the Mexican government, by its courteous concessions, should accept such oftices which do not legitimately spring from the mission of representatives of nations, to whom the subjects treated of have no relations.
Please so expound my opinion to the diplomatic corps, and accept the assurances of consideration and respect which I have the honor to subscribe myself your very respectful, humble servant,
MANUAL NICHOLAS CORPANCHO. His Excellency the Hon. THOMAS CORWIN,
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, &c., &c., &c.
A 6, No. 39.
MEXICO, February 24, 1863. Mr. MINISTER: As I proposed yesterday, I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication, dated 21st instant, in which you are pleased to send in copy that which was ou the 17th addressed to you by his excellency Baron Wagner, placing, for reasons expressed therein, the Prussian, Russian, French, Spanish, and Belgian subjects, resident in Mexico, under the protection of the diplomatic corps, and of each of its members.
Confining myself, Mr. Minister, to the side note of bis excellency Mr. Wagner, I think that the respective consuls of the subjects to whom it relates will suffice to protect the interests of their countryinen; and for those Europeans who, by force of circumstances, find themselves without representatives, either consular or diplomatic, it is to be expected that the enlightened Mexican cabinet will grant them the proper protection given to every peaceable foreigner. Moreover, I think I ought to say to your excellency that if any of the st, as well as the second, should come to me asking aid and assistance, I shall believe myself bound to interpose, as far as might be possible, my good and friendly offices with the Mexican executive government, which I hope will look with pleasure upon the frank statements I might make to it in respect of peaceful and inoffensive foreigners.
By this occasion I have the honor to repeat to your excellency, my colleague, that I am your obedient servant,
FRAN'CO DE P. PASTER. His Excellency THOMAS CORWIN,
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary of the United States of America.