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Issuing of Letters of Marque.

the position of the United States on the question — the action of England and France in regard to the treaty of Paris.--the Final Answer of Mr. Seward, &c.

In our edition of Friday last appeared a special telegraphic dispatch, briefly referring to the subjoined letter. We publish it entire, as it is a matter of some importance at this time:

Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton.

Department of State,
Sept. 10, 1861.
Your dispatch of August 22. (No. 35) has been received. I learn from it that Mr. Thouvenel is unwilling to negotiate for an accession by the United States to the declaration of the Congress of Paris concerning the rights of neutrals in maritime war, except ‘"on a distinct understanding that it is to have no bearing, directly or indirectly, on the question of the domestic difficulty now existing in our country,"’ and that to render the matter certain, Mr. Thouvenel proposes to make a written declaration simultaneously with his execution of the projected convention for that accession.

You have sent me a copy of a note to this effect, addressed to you by Mr. Thouvenel and have also represented to me an official conversation which he has held with you upon the same subject. The declaration which Mr. Thouvenel thus proposes to make is in these words:

Draft of declaration.

In affixing his signature to the convention concluded on date of this day between France and the United States, the undersigned declares, in execution of the orders of the Emperor, that the Government of his Majesty does not intend to undertake by the said convention any engagements of a nature to implicate it, directly or indirectly, in the internal conflict now existing in the United States.

My dispatch of the 17th day of August last, (No. 41,) which you must have received some time ago, will already have prepared you to expect my approval of the decision to wait for specific instructions in this new emergency at which you have arrived.

The obscurity of the text of the declaration which Mr. Thouvenel submits to us is sufficiently relieved by his verbal explanations.--According to your report of the conversation, before referred to, he said that both France and Great Britain had already announced that they would take no part in our domestic controversy, and they thought a frank and open declaration in advance of the execution of the projected convention might save difficulty and misconception hereafter. He further said, in the way of specification, that the provisions of the convention standing alone might bind England and France to pursue and punish the privateers of the South as pirates; that they are unwilling to do this, and had so declared. He said, also, that we could deal with these people as we choose, and they (England and France) could only express their regrets on the score of humanity, if we should deal with them as pirates, but that they could not participate in such a course. He added that although England and France are anxious to have adhesion of the United States to the declaration of Paris, yet that they would rather dispense with it altogether than be drawn into our domestic controversy. He insisted somewhat pointedly that we could take no just exception to this outside declaration, to be made simultaneously with the execution of the convention, unless we intended that they (England and France) shall be made parties to our controversy, and that the very facts of your hesitation was an additional reason why they should insist upon making such contemporaneous declarations as they proposed.

These remarks of Mr. Thouvenel are certainly distinguished by entire frankness. It shall be my effort to reply to them with moderation and candor.

In 1856 France, Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, Sardinia, and Turkey, being assembled in Congress at Paris, with a view to modify the law of nations so as to meliorate the evils of maritime war, adopted and set forth a declaration, which is in the following words:--

  1. 1. Privateering is and remains abolished.
  2. 2. The neutral flag covers enemy's goods, with the exception of contraband of war.
  3. 3. Neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under enemy's flag.
  4. 4. Blockades, in order to be binding, must be effective — that is to say, maintained by forces sufficient really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy.
The States which constituted the Congress mutually agreed to submit the declaration to all other nations, and invite them to accede to it. It was to be submitted as no special or narrow treaty between particular States for limited or special purposes of advantage, or under peculiar circumstances; but, on the contrary, its several articles were by voluntary acceptance by maritime powers to constitute a new chapter in the law of nations, and each one of the articles was to be universal and eternal in its application and obligation. France especially invited the United States to accede to these articles. An invitation was actually tendered to all other civilized nations, and the articles have been already adopted by forty-one of the powers thus invited. The United States hesitated, but only for the purpose of making an effort to induce the other parties to enlarge the beneficent scope of the declaration.

Having failed in that effort, they now, after a delay not unusual in such great international discussions, offer their adhesion to that declaration, pure and simple, in the form, words and manner in which it was originally adopted and accepted by all of the forty-six nations which have become parties to it. France declines to receive that adhesion unless she be allowed to make a special declaration, which would constitute an additional and qualifying article, limiting the obligations of France to the United States to a narrower range than the obligations which the United States must assume towards France and towards every other one of the forty-six sovereigns who are parties to it, and narrower than the mutual obligations of all those parties, including France herself.

If we should accede to that condition, it manifestly would not be the declaration of the Congress of Paris to which we would be adhering, but a different and special and peculiar treaty between France and the United States only. Even as such a treaty it would be unequal. Assuming that Mr. Thouvenel's reasoning is correct, we should, in that case, be contracting an obligation, directly or indirectly, to implicate ourselves in any internal conflict that may now be existing, or that may hereafter occur in France, while she would be distinctly excused by us from any similar duty towards the United States.

I know that France is a friend, and means to be just and equal towards the United States. I must assume, therefore, that she means not to make an exceptional arrangement with us, but to carry out the same arrangement in her interpretation of the obligations of the declaration of the Congress of Paris in regard to other Powers. Thus carried out, the declaration of Paris would be expounded so as to excclude all internal conflicts in States from the application of the articles of that celebrated declaration. Most of the wars of modern times — perhaps of all times — have been insurrectionary wars, or ‘"internal conflicts."’ If the position now assumed by France should thus be taken by all the other parties to the declaration, then it would follow that the first article of that instrument, instead of being, in fact, a universal and effectual inhibition of the practice of privateering, would abrogate it only in wars between foreign nations, while it would enjoy universal toleration in civil and social wars.

With great deference I cannot but think that, thus modified, the declaration of the Congress of Paris would lose much of the reverence which it has hitherto received from Christian nations. If it were proper for me to pursue the argument further, I might add that addition, insurrection and treason would find in such a new reading of the declaration of Paris, encouragement which would tend to render the most stable and even the most beneficent systems of government insecure. Nor do I know on what grounds it can be contended that practices more destructive to property and life ought to be tolerated in civil or fratricidal wars than are allowed in wars between independent nations.

I cannot, indeed, admit that the engagement which France is required to make, without the qualifying declaration in question, would directly or indirectly implicate her in our internal conflicts. But if such should be its effect, I must, in the first place, disclaim any desire for such an intervention on the part of the United States. The whole of this long correspondence has had for one of its objects the purpose of averting any such intervention. If, however, such an intervention would be the result of the unqualified execution of the Convention by France, then the fault clearly must be inherent in the declaration of the Congress of Paris itself, and it is not a result of anything that the United States have done or proposed.

Two motives induced them to tender their adhesion, to that declaration--first, a sincere desire to co-operate with other progressive nations in the amelioration of the rigors of maritime war; second, a desire to relieve France from any apprehension of danger to the lives or property of her people from violence to occur in the course of the civil conflict in which we are engaged, by giving her, unasked, all the guarantees in that respect which are contained in the declaration of the Congress of Paris. The latter of those two motives is now put to rest, insomuch as France declines the guarantees we offer.--Doubtless she is satisfied that they are unnecessary. We have always practiced on the principles of the declaration. We did so long before they were adopted by the Congress of Paris, so far as the right of neutrals or friendly States are concerned. While our relations with France remain as they now are, we shall continue the same practice none the less faithfully than if bound to do so by a solemn convention.

The other and higher motive will remain unsatisfied, and it will lose none of its force. We shall be ready to accede to the declaration of Paris with every Power that will agree to adopt its principles for the government of its relations to us, and which shall be content to accept our adhesion on the same basis upon which all the other parties to it have acceded.

We know that France has a high and generous ambition. We shall wait for her to accept hereafter that co-operation, on our part, in a great reform which she now declines. We shall not doubt that, when the present embarrassment which causes her to decline this co-operation shall have been removed, as it soon will be, she will then agree with us to go still further, and abolish the confiscation of property of non-belligerent citizens and subjects in maritime war.

You will inform Mr. Thouvenel that the proposed declaration, on the part of the Emperor, is deemed inadmissible by the President of the United States; and if it shall be insisted upon, you will then inform him that you are instructed for the present to desist from further negotiations on the subject involved.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

William H. Seward.
Wm. L. Dayton, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

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