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Legation of the United States,
} To the Ilon. Louis MCLANE,
Secretary of State of the United StatesSir,-With respect to the treaty you will have received my dispatch No. 17, in which I mention what the king said to me upon that subject incidentally at Court. As many weeks have elapsed, however, I thought it well to lose no time in calling upon the minister of foreign affairs for a definitive answer, the more especially as their not having received their copy of the treaty seemed to me to imply a degree of carelessness, on the part of their envoy, which was hardly excusable. I accordingly addressed to Count F. de Mérode, who, in Gen. Goblet's absence, is charged ad interim with the portfolio of foreign affairs, the subjoined note:
Mr. Legaré to Count Felix de Mérode, Minister of Foreign Affairs of H. M. the
King of the Belgians, ad interim.
Legation of the U. S. nf America,
Brussels, 26th Aug., 1833. ) The undersigned, Chargé d'Affaires of the United States, has the honor, in compliance with express instructions from his government to that effect, of calling the attention of Count F. de Mérode to the subject of a treaty of amity and navigation, concluded at Washington, on the 23 January last, between Mr. Livingston, Secretary of State of the United States, and Baron Behr, Minister resident of H. M. the King of the Belgians.
The undersigned, by reference to the treaty in question, transmitted to him by the Secretary of State, perceives that the ratification of it by the respective parties are to be exchanged within the present year, and he is, therefore, not surprised that some solicitude is felt by his government to know what steps have been taken here towards the fulfilment of that stipulation. The undersigned is entirely persuaded that the silence of H. M's. minister hitherto upon the subject of this treaty, is owing to any thing but indifference to its objects or a disapprobation of its provisions; and it will give him sincere pleasure to be able to convey that assurance to his government, on the authority of an official communication of H. M's. Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The undersigned avails himself of this opportunity to repeat to Count F. de Mérode the assurances of his distinguished consideration. [Signed]
H. S. LEGARE. This note having been submitted to the king in council, I received, some days after, the following answer:
Answer of Count F. de Mérode.
Ministére des Affaires Etrangères,
BRUXELLES, 5TH SEPT., 1833. Monsieur le Chargé d'Affaires,- J'ai en l'honneur de recevoir la communication officielle que vous avez bien voulu m' addresser sous la date du 26 du mois dernier, relativement au traité d'amitié et de navigation conclu à Washington le 26 Jan. dernier, entre M. Livingston, Sécrétaire d'Etat des Etats Unis, et M. le Baron Behr. Ministre résident de S. M.
Vous n'ignorez pas, M. le Chargé d'Affaires, les circonstances indépendantes de notre volonté, qui ont suivi l'envoi de le document.
L'instrument du traité est parvenu depuis peu de jours seulement au gouvernement du Roi.
Il a été transmis à Brı celles par M. le Général Goblet qui l'avait recu tout récemment à Londres.
Maintenant son contenu est sousmis à l'examen du Roi. S. M., dont j'ai pris les ordres, désire M. le Chargé d'Affaires, que la résolution finale soit remise antant que possible, à l'epoque on M. le Général Goblet sera de retour à Bruxelles. En me chargeant de vous communiquer ses intentions, elle m'a invité à vous exprimer en même temps le regret qu'elle éprouve de ce nouveau retard.
Agréez, M. le Chargé d'Affaires, l'assurance de la considération la plus distinguée. [Signé] Le Ministre d'Etat chargé par intérm du Portseuille des Affaires Etrangères,
Comte Felix de MERODE.
I confess I was not satisfied with this answer; and the suspicions which I formerly entertained, but which had been in a good degree removed by the casual conversation I had upon the subject with King Leopold, in May or June, (who had already seen the copy of the treaty sent to me,) were awakened anew. The incident, which I had the honor of mentioning in No. 15, shews that the bare report of such a treaty had given serious umbrage in a certain quarter, and as there is no little want of decision in the councils of this still unsettled government,which, indeed, cannot be considered as sui juris while its destinies are so absolutely controlled by others,-nothing seemed more probable than that the doings of the inexperienced envoy had been disavowed in the manner there mentioned. Why else should there be any hesitation at all in ratifying what, as you justly observe, comes within the very letter of his instructions ? I thought it, therefore, expedient to write a short rejoinder to Count F. de Mérode's note, in which, without seeming to entertain the smallest suspicion of any such embarrassment on the part of the government, I should pretty broadly hint that its refusing to ratify would be considered by the President as an event so entirely unlooked for as to require a very full explanation. I accordingly sent, yesterday, the sukjoined note:
Legation of the U. S. of America,
BRUSSELS, 7TH SEPT., 1833. The undersigned, Chargé d'Affaires of the United States of America, has had the honor to receive Count Felix de Mérode's note in answer to his own of the 26th ult.
The undersigned was aware, from a personal communication of Gen. Goblet, that there had been an extraordinary delay in the transmission of the treaty from H. M's. envoy in the United States, and had accordingly informed his government of the circumstance as soon as it came to his own knowledge. But an interval of many weeks baving elapsed since the conversation referred to: he felt it to be his duty to lose no time in complying with the President's instruction that he should address to the Minister of Foreign Affairs the inquiry which he has bad the honor to make, and should respectfully but earnestly request the final decision of H. M. upon the subject. The President was the more surprised at this delay because of the pressing manner in which the negotiation was invited and the basis of the treaty (in its present shape) proposed by Baron Behr,—to say nothing of the obviously salutary and equitable principles of public law embodied in it,--did not permit him to doubt that what ihat minister had done was strictly within his powers and instructions, and would be unhesitatingly ratified by his government.
Under the pleasing persuasion that no serious impediment stands in the way of a result, at least as desirable to Belgium as to the United States, whose rapidly growing power might tempt them to enlarge rather than restrain the rights of belligerents, if they did not think it the true interest of nations to sacrifice advantages of that sort to principles more conducive to their lasting peace and well-being,—the undersigned cheerfully acquiesces in H. M's. desire that the conclusion of the business be postponed until Gen. Goblet's return. He, at the same time, takes the liberty to state that it is extremely desirable he should be able to communicate the result to his government before the middle of October. The undersigned avails himself of this opportunity, etc. [Signed]
H. S. LEGARE. And there the matter rests for the present; but, as I dine at Court to-day, and shall not send this dispatch until Tuesday, I may possibly gather some information on the subject in the meantime, and will, of course, communicate it to you.
With respect to Gen. Goblet's absence, it is as undefinable, I suppose, as the business which occasions it. He is joined with Mr. Van de Weyer in the commission for negotiating with the conference at London. When those negotiations are to end, or even how, is as far from being ascertained now as ever; and I thought it necessary, on that account, to limit the delay to a month. As to the treaty being but just the other day submitted to H. M's. consideration, 1 happen to know that it is only a diplomatic pretext-Gen. Goblet having, as I mentioned to your predecessor, borrowed my copy of it as long ago as the 20th of May, with a view to the concocting of the speech from the throne at the opening of the present session. And, by the way, it deserves mentioning that even this advantage did not prevent their committing themselves most grossly before the world, by representing, in that speech, the reduction of our tariff on linen goods as obtained by the address of their envoy, and made a stipulation in this very treaty !
I personally like the ministry here, especially Gen. Goblet, and I do not think that, upon the whole, the king could better himself by a change, but their total want of experience and knowledge in public affairs, and of the self-reliance which springs from a consciousness of these qualities, exposes them daily to many difficulties, which they fall into in endeavoring to avoid others not half so serious. They have yet to learn how essential courage is to true political prudence.
10 o'clock, P. M. It was even as I suspected. At Court, this evening, I took occasion to mention the subject to M. Lebeau, prime minister, who told me the only difficulty was as to a particular article, (he did not know which,) which would, it was feared, prove offensive to England. I replied I supposed it was the provision that the flag should protect the cargo,—a principle proclaimed by all the great powers of Europe during the American war, and which no nation but one possessed of a decided naval superiority had any interest in questioning or opposing. He reminded me how completely they were in the hands of England, until a definitive Treaty were signed. I then expressed myself with the earnestness and candor which our previous communications warranted, declaring that a refusal to ratify a treaty of such a character, concluded in such a manner, would, under any circumstances, be highly offensive, but most especially would it be so if justified by no better reason than the displeasure which a third power might choose to conceive at an agreement between two others with which it could have nothing to do. That Great Britain should affect, as she had done in the war of '56 and after the rupture of the peace of Amiens, to interpolate new rules into the law of nations, was a piece of arrogance not to be borne; but that she should interfere with arrangements by which two inde. pendent nations were endeavoring to prevent all future causes of misunderstanding, by mutually renouncing the exercise of an inconvenient right, (if right it is,) was going a great deal farther, and assuming a tyrannical dictatorship; to which no people that had the least idea of what the words national independence mean could think of submitting for a moment. He told me he would turn the matter in his mind, and speak with me farther about it in the course of a few days.
You may depend upon my doing all I can to awaken the ministry here to a sense of the degradation, in the eyes of the world, which will be the consequence to Belgium of the acquiescing in that extravagant and insolent pretension of Great Britain,----convinced that in doing so I shall be giving a counsel in which she is, in every possible point of view, more interested than the United States. It is now very clear what is meant by waiting until Gen. Goblet's return. He will not return until a definitive treaty with Holland be signed, and then the ministry of King Leopold will probably ratify yours,--having nothing more cither to fear or hope from Great Britain. In the meantime, to provide against all contingencies, you will do me the favor to instruct me what course is to be pursued, should it be proposed to omit the article referred to or to modify the treaty in any other way. I have the honor to be, etc., [Signed]
H. S. LEGARÉ.
Legation of the United States,
BRUSSELS, 9th Oct, 1833. To the Hon. Louis McLANE, etc.,
Sir,-With this dispatch I also send copies* of some notes that have passed between this legation and the department of foreign affairs.
The first two are on a mere matter of etiquette, to which I attach importance only because, and so far forth as, it is considered as important by European States. In that point of view, the relative dignity of the United States may be involved in a compliment paid or refused, and, where that is the case, I would cavil about the ninth part of a hair.
Gen. Goblet, in consequence of the suspension of the conference at London, being returned to Brussels, I called on him immediately in order to come to some understanding with him on the subject of the treaty. He was not at the hotel of his department on Saturday, when I made him my first visit, but I saw there and had a long and rather remarkable conversation with
Count F. de Mérode to Mr. Legaré.
BruxelLES, LE 24 JUILLET, 1833. Monsicur le Chargé d'Affaires, -Je m'empresse de vous informer de l'heureuse délivrance de sa Majesté la Reine qui a donné le jour à un Prince.
Je suis persuadé, M. le Chargé d'Affaires, que le gouvernement des Etats Unis ne saurait être indifférent à l'événement dont j'ai l'honneur de vous faire part, parce qu'il est de nature a consolider le nouvel état Belge. Agréez, M. le Chargé d'Affaires, l'assurance, etc.
Le Ministre d'Etat chargé par interim, etc.,
COMTE FELIX DE MERODE. A M. Legaré, etc., etc.
Mr. Legaré's answer.
Legation des Etats Unis d'Amérique, Monsieur le Comte,–J'ai eu l'honneur de recevoir la note par laquelle vous m' avons fait part de l'heureuse délivrance de S. M. la Reine.
J'ose vous assurer, M. le Comte, que le plaisir sensible que m'a fait un évènement aussi touchant et dont la tendance à consolider les institutions, que le peuple Belge vient d'établir avec autant de sagesse que de bonheur, est si importante, ne manquera pas de trouver de l'echo parmi le peuple Américain, qui, sans se mêler jamais des affaires intérieures des pays étrangers, ne laisse pas de s'intéresser vivement au sort de tous les gouvernments constitutionnels quelque soit d'ailleurs leur catégorie politique. Je vous prie, M. le Comte, d'agréer l'assurance etc.
Le Chargé d'Affaires des Etats Unis d'Amérique,
H. S. LEGARE.