Federal relations with foreign Powers.
Doubtless the proceeding has been the result of inadvertence. We feel ourselves at liberty to think that it would not have occurred if we had been so fortunate as to have been heard through you in the consolations of the French Government. We think we can easily see how the inadvertence occurred.--France seems to have mistaken a mere casual and ephemeral insurrection here, such as is incidental into the experience of all nations, because all nations are merely human societies, such as have sometimes happened in the history of France herself, for a war which has flagrantly separated this nation into two coexisting political powers which are contending in arms against each other after the separation. It is erroneous, so far as foreign nations are concerned to suppose that any war exists in the United States. Certainly there cannot be two belligerent Powers where there is no war. There is here as there has always been, one political Power, namely — the United States of America--competent to make war and peace, and conduct commerce and alliances with all foreign nations. There is none other, either in fact or recognized by foreign nations. There is, indeed, an armed sedition seeking to overthrow the Government, and the Government is employing military and naval forces to repress it. But these facts do not constitute a war presenting two belligerent Powers, and modifying the national character, rights, and responsibilities, or the characters, rights, and responsibilities of foreign nations. It is true that insurrection may ripen into revolution, and that revolution thus ripened may extinguish a previously existing State, or divide it into one or more independent States, and that if such States continue their strife after such division, then there exists a State of war affecting the characters, rights, and duties of all parties concerned. But this only happens when the revolution has run its successful course. The French Government says, in the instruction which has been tendered to us, that certain facts which it assumes confer upon the insurgents of this country, in the eyes of foreign powers, all the appearances of a government de facto, wherefore, whatever may be its regrets, the French Government must consider the two contending parties as employing the forces at their disposal in conformity with the laws of war. This statement assumes not only that the law of nations entitles any insurrectionary taction, when it establishes a de facto government, to be treated as a belligerent, but also that the fact of the attainment of this status is to be determined by the appearance of it in the eyes of foreign nations. If we should concede both of these positions, we should still insist that the existence of a de facto government, entitled to belligerent rights, is not established in the present case. We have already heard from most of the foreign nations. There are only two which seem so to construe appearances, and France is one of them. Are the judgments of these two to outweigh those of all other nations. Doubtless each nation may judge and act for itself, but it certainly cannot expect the United States to accept its decision upon a question vital to their national existence. The United States will not refine upon the question when and how new nations are born out of existing nations. They are well aware that the rights of the States involve their duties and their destinies, and they hold those rights to be absolute as against all foreign nations. These rights do not at all depend on the appearances which their condition may assume in the eyes of foreign nations, whether strangers, neutrals, friends, or even allies.--The United States will maintain and defend their sovereignty throughout the bounds of the republic, and they deem all other nations bound to respect that sovereignty until, if ever, Providence shall consent that it shall be successfully overthrown. Any system of public law or national morality that conflicts with this would resolve society, first in this hemisphere and then in the other, into anarchy and chaos. This government is sensible of the importance of the step it has taken in declining to bear the communication, the tenor of which has drawn out these explanations. It believes, however, that it need not disturb the good relations which have so long and so happily subsisted between the United States and France. The paper, as understood, while implying a disposition on the part of France to accord belligerent rights to their Sargents, does not name, specify or even indicate one such belligerent right. On the other hand, the rights which it asserts that France expects as a neutral, from the United States, as a belligerent, are even less than this Government, on the 25th of April, instructed you to concede and guarantee to her by treaty, as a friend. On that day we offered to her our adhesion to the declaration of Paris, which contains four propositions — namely: 1. That privateering shall be abolished. 2. That a neutral flag covers enemy's goods not contraband of war. 3. That goods of a neutral, not contraband, shall not be confiscated, though found in an enemy's vessel. 4. That blockades, in order to be lawful, must be maintained by competent force. We have always, when at war, conceded the three last of these rights to neutrals a fortiori, we could not when at peace deny them to friendly nations. The first named concession was proposed on the grounds already mentioned. We are still ready to guarantee these rights by convention with France, whenever she shall authorize either you or her Minister here to enter into convention. There is no reservation or difficulty about their application in the present case. We hold all the citizens of the United States, loyal or disloyal, alike included by the law of nations and treaties; and we hold ourselves bound by the same obligations to see, so far as may be in our power, that all our citizens, whether maintaining this Government or engaged in overthrowing it, respect those rights in favor of France and of every other friendly nation. In any case, not only shall we allow no privateer or national vessel to violate the rights of friendly nations as I have thus described them, but we shall also employ all our naval force to prevent the insurgents from violating them, just as much as we do to prevent them from violating the laws of our own country. What, then, does France claim of us that we do not accord to her? Nothing. What do we refuse to France by declining to receive the communication sent to us through the hands of Mr. Mercier? Nothing but the privilege of telling us that we are at war when we maintain we are at peace, and that she is neutral when we prefer to recognize her as a friend. Of course, it is understood that on this occasion we reserve, as on all others, our right to suppress the insurrection by naval as well as by military power, and for that purpose to close such of our ports as have fallen or may fall into the hands of the insurgents, either directly or in the more lenient and equitable form of a blockade, which for the present we have adopted. It is thus seen that there is no practical subject of difference between the two governments. The United States will hope that France will not think it necessary to adhere to and practice upon the speculation concerning the condition of our internal affairs which she has proposed to communicate to us. But, however this may be, the United States will not anticipate any occasion for a change of the relations which, with scarcely any interruption, have existed between the two nations for three-quarters of a century, and have been very instrumental in promoting not merely the prosperity and greatness of each State, but the cause of civil and religious liberty and free institutions throughout the world. This government understands equally the interest of friendly nations and its own in the present emergency. If they shall not interfere, the attempt at revolution here will cease without inflicting serious evils upon foreign nations. All that they can do by any interference, with a view to modify our action will only serve to prolong the present unpleasant condition of things, and possibly to produce results that would be as universally calamitous as they would be irretrievable. The case, as it now stands, is the simple, ordinary one that has happened at all times and in all countries. A discontented domestic faction seeks foreign intervention to overthrow the Constitution and the liberties of its own country. Such intervention, if yielded is ultimately disastrous to the cause it is designed to aid. Every uncorrupted nation, in its deliberate movements, prefers its own integrity, even with unbearable evils, to division through the power or influence of any foreign State. This is so in France. It is not less so in this country. Down deep in the heart of the American people deeper than the love of trade or of freedom — deeper than the attachment to any local or sectional interest, or partisan pride or individual ambition — deeper than any other sentiment — is that out of which the constitution of this Union arose — namely, American independence — independence of all foreign control, alliance or influence. Next above it lies the conviction that neither peace, nor safety, nor public liberty, nor prosperity, nor greatness, nor empire, can be attained here with the sacrifice of the unity of the people of North America. Those who, in a frenzy of passion, are building expectations on other principles do not know what they are doing. Whenever one part of this Union shall be found assuming bonds of dependence or of fraternity towards any foreign people, to the exclusion of the sympathies of their native land, then, even if not before, that spirit will be reawakened which brought the States of this republic into existence, and which will preserve them united until the common destiny which it opened to them shall be fully and completely realized.