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the place of meeting for adjustment of mutual difficulties, and the day named was the 1st — afterwards the 15th of April. But in the mean time a controversy sprung up. Almonte, a Mexican refugee, picked up in Europe by the Emperor Napoleon and used as a tool for his ambitious designs, landed at Vera Cruz, and, claiming the protection of the French flag, entered into correspondence with the enemies of the administration. President Juarez demanded that he should leave the country. This seemed right to the English and Spanish Commissioners, but those of France refused to give him up. So gross and wanton a violation of the treaty of London and the Soledad preliminaries could not be countenanced. The triple alliance was dissolved. Great Britain and Spain withdrew their forces; and France was left, as General Prim declared on parting from the country, to erect an imperial throne for the Archduke Maximilian.*
The mask was now thrown off. The French Commissioners, pretending that fresh insults had been offered them, joined hands with the Almonte revolutionists, and proclaimed war against the constituted authorities of Mexico. They appealed to the people to shake off the yoke of an oppressive minority,
as they termed the Juarez administration, - and to elect a government for themselves. “ The banner of France has been planted on the Mexican soil," was the language of the invaders ; " and that banner will not retreat. Let all honest men receive it as a friendly banner: let only madmen dare to attack it."
Great Britain doubtless joined the expedition simply to secure her material interests. She took care to hamper her dangerous colleagues with restrictions, and extricated herself from the embroilment as soon as possible. A fair adjustment of the British claims might have prevented the joint invasion ; for liberal terms were proposed at an early day, which the Mexican Congress rejected.' Spain in all probability contemplated conquest; but afterwards, perceiving her own plan impracticable, swung round to the side of Great Britain, through jealousy of the Maximilian movement. But France from the outset had sinister designs, and resolved to force a quarrel. A random sliot fired during a drunken brawl in the streets of Mexico was magnified into the attempted assassination of the French Minister, M. Saligny. While the treaty of London was under consideration, the Mexican Ambassador sought an interview with the French government, and made overtures for reconciliation in accordance with his instructions. He was interrupted hastily by M. Thouvenel: “ We will not allow any explanation. We have given our orders in concert with England; and you will know through our Minister and our Admiral what are the demands of France." When the allies made up their accounts, the French claims were stated at the exorbitant estimate of twelve millions, including matters not specified by treaties, while their portion of the Mexican loan was only two hundred thousand dollars; and when the allies remonstrated, the reply was, “Each nation is the sole umpire of its demands." War was therefore the object and the necessary result of the French policy.
* Mexican Affairs, 1863, p. 42 et seq.
The bold words of the invaders were not borne out by their first acts. General Lorencez advanced with his forces upon Puebla, but was repulsed and forced to retire. The summer was passed in idleness at Orizaba. The initiative could not be resumed without fresh troops ; Mexican guerillas cut off communication with the sea-coast, and the situation of the French army became perilous. In Europe the news of this disaster strengthened the general impression that the foolhardy enterprise would be abandoned, and the Mexican people left to pull down and build up their own institutions. Not such was Napoleon's purpose. He determined to send reinforcements, and asked of the legislative body an additional credit of fifteen million francs, which was unanimously voted. General Forey was appointed to the chief command, and invested with diplomatic powers superior to those of the French Commission
Almonte, who had assumed the title of supreme chief of the Mexican Republic, was ordered to dissolve his ministry, to abstain from issuing decrees, and to fuuuw strictly further orders, placing himself under the new commander. General Forey, upon his arrival at Vera Cruz, proclaimed that the object of the French government was to liberate the Mexican people, and then allow them to select freely their form of government. The grievances of France were no longer the pretext for war. It was to be a mission of civilization, in the Napoleonic sense, the propagation of monarchy and the Catholic faith by fire and sword. Before the month of November ended, about forty-two thousand French troops had landed on the Gulf coast, and General Forey took up his line of march for Puebla.
The mystic autograph letter of Napoleon to Forey, written before the latter departed from France, throws considerable light on the imperial designs in America. The plan of establishing a strong government of the Latin race in Mexico to counterpoise the great Republic — this government to be, if possible, a monarchy — is set forth in unmistakable terms. It is not for the interest of France, the Emperor argues, that the United States shall seize all the Mexican Gulf, and thence command the Antilles as well as South America, and dispense the products of the New World. “If, on the other hand, Mexico maintains her independence and the integrity of her territory, if a stable government be there constituted with the assistance of France, we shall have restored to the Latin race on the other side of the Atlantic all its strength and its prestige; we shall have guaranteed security to our West India colonies and to those of Spain; we shall have established our friendly influence in the centre of America; and that influence, by creating immense markets for our commerce, will procure us the raw materials indispensable for our manufactures." | Such was the brilliant picture conjured up by the imperial fancy. Europe was to regenerate the New World ; the course of empire was in a literal sense to take its way westward; and Napoleon was to be the Columbus of the enterprise.
The conquest of Mexico was thus the primary object of the Emperor's policy. The dismemberment of the Federal Union was secondary, but none the less necessary. So far as we were concerned, France (to use the language of one of her Ministers) waited upon events. In spite of that fanaticism which is a distinguishing trait of his character, Napoleon was not the man to commit himself. He did not often reduce his plans to writing, nor, having done so, suffer them to be divulged. No one could be more prudent in his means or selfish in his ends. He was a master of words, an adept in ambiguities. Cold, crafty, and unscrupulous, gracious in his manners, but of impenetrable reserve, he excelled in that dissimulation which misleads without falsifying, and that duplicity which passes with the simple for diplomacy. He was the master spirit of European politics. Intrigue was his weapon; his movements were covered by throwing forward his allies; and if necessary to beat a retreat, he contrived to cast the odium upon others. The imperial policy must be studied, therefore, rather in the light of deeds than of words.
* Mexican Affairs, 1. ?, pp. 194, 341. Great credit is due M. Romero, the Mexican Minister at Washington, for furnishing such documents to our gove ernment from time to time as enables a succinct account of this extraordinary invasion to be drawn up.
+ Mexican Affairs, 1865, p. 190.
Suspicion was soon directed to the French designs in Mexico, and the progress of events carefully watched. Prudence suggested that we should not rush into foreign war while suppressing a domestic insurrection of vast proportions; and the Juarez government had not exhibited such proof of skill or stability as to encourage the hope that open interference in its behalf would result favorably. Mr. Dayton was instructed to ascertain the Emperor's intentions as early as September, 1861, and to acquaint him with our express desire that Mexico should remain independent. M. Thouvenel replied, with emphasis, that France and England meant merely to realize their money debt.* The same assurances were given repeatedly, as Mr.
* And yet at this time, as appears from a despatch of M. Thouvenel, dated October 11, 1861, he was urging upon Earl Russell that the proposed treaty should be so worded as not to prevent the exercise eventually of a "legitimate participation” in the events which their operations might originate in Mexico. These are his words: “It is evidently the interest both of France and England to see there established such a state of things as will secure the interest existing already, and favor the devolopment of our exchanges with a country so richly endowed. The events just taking place in the United States add new importance and urgency to these considerations. In fact, we aro led to suppose that, if the issue of the American crisis were to accomplish the definitive separation of the South from the North, both confederations would soon look after compensations, which the territory of Mexico, going to a social dissolution, would offer to their competition. ... If the Mexicans themselves, being tired of their trials and decided to react against the disasters of VOL. CII. — NO. 211.
Dayton's despatches show, while the triple alliance lasted. The Emperor had no desire, it was said, to interfere in any way with the internal government of Mexico. Even when reinforcements under General Forey were sent forward, so earnest was the French government in disclaiming sinister designs, that no issue could fairly be made without raising a question of veracity. “If we must err at all," writes Secretary Seward, “ it is safest to err on the side of sincere faith.” The conduct of the President was frank, honorable, and at the same time discreet. France was notified that our sympathies were with Mexico; that we believed that no monarchical government founded by European intervention would have any prospect of security or permanency; that we were opposed to all schemes which threatened to overthrow the Mexican Republic and the Juarez administration ; but that, at the same time, relying on the assurances of the Emperor Napoleon, we should pursue a policy of strict neutrality until it seemed proper to make a change, in which case he would be duly informed. This attitude of our government was displeasing to a large body in Congress, who considered that the Monroe doctrine, so called, should be strongly enforced ; and an altercation arose in the spring of 1864 between the House of Representatives and the Secretary of State ; but the latter maintained that, while the sentiment of Congress was the unanimous sentiment of the country, the question as to the policy to be pursued was a purely executive one; and his course remained as before.* the past, should draw a new vitality from the dangers which threaten them; if, coming back and consulting the instincts of their race, for instance, they should find in the establishment of a monarchy the repose and prosperity which in vain they have looked for in republican institutions, I did not think we ought absolutely to refuse to aid them, if there was a chance; bearing, nevertheless, in mind, that they were perfectly free to choose whatever means they might think best to attain their object. .... I added, that, in case my prevision were to be realized, the govern. ment of the Emperor, free from all preoccupation, rejected in advance the candidature for any prince of the imperial house ; and that, desirous to treat gently all susceptibilities, it would see with pleasure that the election of the Mericans and the assent of the powers should fall upon some prince of the house of Austria." See Mexican Affairs, 1865, p. 170. It need hardly be added, that this "prevision” was fulfilled to the letter.
* Mexican Affairs, 1862, p. 216 et seq. ; Ibid., 1863, p. 530 et seq.; McPherson's History of the Rebellion, p. 349 et seq. It is proper to add, that some of the facts connected with the Mexican policy above mentioned did not come to light