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hitherto considered it, while I did not conceive myself authorised to discuss it, (my instructions permitting me only to agree to an additional article for a simple ratification on or before the 1st of July, I told him I should refer the whole matter, without loss of time, to the President. For this purpose, I requested that M. de Mérode would immediately favor me with an official answer to my note of the 13th January, announcing, in an explicit manner, the determination of this government not to ratify without certain modifications, which would enable me officially to decline, in an equally explicit manner, such a ratification, and to declare the negotiation, so far as I am concerned in it, at an end; unless, in consequence of any propositions which I would gladly be the means of communicating to him, the President should see fit to invest me with a larger discretion than he has hitherto allowed me. This was agreed to, and, after a good deal of miscellaneous conversation, in which I repeated that the importance I now attach to this discussion had been altogether superinduced upon it by the interference of England and the view which this government seemed to take of the question, (so much more extravagant than any avowed doctrines of England,) M. Nothomb took his leave. I took care, in this interview, to impress upon him that what I said, being the language of one not authorised (strictly speaking) to discuss the subject, was al-together unofficial and nowise binding upon my government, and that, of course, you would be perfectly at liberty to take any step or maintain any position you might see fit,—that, although it was undeniable that there was an important difference between the phraseology of the fourth head of his instructions, (protection of the Belgian flag, etc.,) as presented by M. Behr to Mr. Livingston, and that of the same head as exhibited in the document before me, especially when taken in connection with the context and the example of the treaty with the Hanseatic Towns, by which he was directed to govern himself, yet that the expres. sion, "protection of the flag", was, standing by itself, a very comprehensive one, and, in negotiations of the sort, the party with whom an ambassador treats is bound to look only at the power he presents, not to any secret understanding between him and his constituents,—that I most unfeignedly regretted the circumstanice had occurred, because of the interest I feel in the honor and success of the Belgian government, and because, from the part England had taken in a matter that did not concern her, I feared it was calculated to excite strong feelings in America, and could scarcely fail to create much scandal every where, but that, at any rate, I had no doubt it would be less disagreeable to our government to find that M. Behr was mistaken as to the extent of his powers, than that H. M's. ministers
had been induced, by any more questionable motive, to disown an act done by him in admitted conformity to them.
March 27. M. Nothomb called upon me again to-day, and read and delivered to me a note from Count Felix de Mérode, which, together with the documents A. B. and C., is herewith transmitted to you. You will perceive that this note conveys an express refusal to ratify the treaty (or to make any agreement about ratifying it) except with such modifications, that is to say, omissions, as will bring it within what this government considers as the fair interpretation of the four preliminary points. What these omissions are to be is not specified, and I am about to send in a note in reply to the Minister's, of which the object will be to decline, on the ground of want of instructions, acceding to the overture made by him as to a modified ratification, and, at the same time, to request, for the information of the President, that the objectionable articles be precisely specified.
On looking more carefully than I had time to do at first into these documents, I am by no means sure that the fourth point, even in the abridged form in which it is set forth in these instructions, does not cover with the strictest technical accuracy all the stipulations in the treaty; and the true principle, no doubt, is, that parties treating with each other are bound to look no farther than to the regularity and sufficiency of their respective powers,—all questions about compliance with instructions, etc., being matters, as in other causes of agency, to be settled between the representative and the constituent, with which third persons have nothing to do. Wicquefort, who is a great authority, says so positively,* although Vattel seems to be rather more indulgent,--but then the difficulty here is that King Leopold qualifies the power which he vests in M. Behr by the instructions which it was given to fulfil, and, in that case, according to the first mentioned writer, it is no full power,-and he cites an instance in which the clause servatâ instructionis formâ, inserted in such an instrument by Urbain VIII., when he authorised one of his cardinals to treat with a minister of the Duke of Parma, was effaced at the instance of that minister, who objected to its effect in restricting the authority.
This is a formidable technical difficulty, as it appears to me, and then, looking at the whole letter of instructions, and knowing the perfect inexperience of the statesmen thrown up, without discipline or preparation, into the management of great affairs, by a most unexpected and, in some respects, anomalous revolution, it seems to me not at all unlikely that they really meant no * L. ii., c. 10.
+ 1. i., c. 16.
more than they say in their note to me. Yet, I am persuaded they will be embarrassed to answer the argument, or rather outline of the case which I am about to present to them, with a view, if possible, of making them state their objections with greater precision. This note shall be annexed. As it is, I never saw people in greater perplexity,--they are particularly puzzled how they are to act with respect to M. Behr. In conversation with M. Nothomb to-day, I told him our government was never vindictive, and I should not volunteer to demand what the President might not choose to insist on, but that he could not but know that a minister, to be disavowed with any color of plausibility, must be disgraced and recalled.* He admitted the position, but seemed to dread the consequences,-and, I have no doubt, with good reason, for the agency of England in this affair has got wind among the opposition, and the sacrifice of M. Behr, for making, with or without authority, a very good, and, at all events, perfectly innocent treaty, will be considered, in spite of all the plausible pretexts with which it will be attempted to gloss it over, as a scandalous offering of timidity to arrogant and haughty power. But, on this point, I repeat here what I stated over and over again to M. Nothornb, that as it is no affair of mine, so I most willingly refer the decision of it to those whom it properly concerns, and to whose better judgment it may be safely confided.
I ought to add that the part of your letter of the 11th July, which I copied and sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is from the beginning down to the paragraph "The President is unwilling to anticipate," etc., inclusive. So, to avoid unnecessarily augmenting the bulk of a very voluminous despatch, I content myself with barely refering you to our treaty of 1827 with the Hanse Towns, of which a copy, sent me by the Minister of Foreign Affairs here, is the document (C.) alluded to in my reply to his note.
Thus ends the first direct negotiation of the Belgian government, and you see most literally verified every word that Sir Robert Adair uttered a year ago, in a moment, though not as I was then inclined to flatter myself, or rather the ministers here, under the usual delusions of excitement. They have vied with each other in disavowing their Envoy, and they have done so with a trepidation and anxiety which they have not been able to suppress, and he (Sir R.) certainly did not exaggerate.
I trust that I have, from first to last, acquitted myself of a delicate duty with real vigilance and activity. I know that I have been deeply impressed with its importance with a view to matters far more important than our intercourse with Belgium, and that as I think it any thing but unfortunate that it should have been in my power to detect and reveal to you the sinister influence which has thwarted the negotiation, so I am happy in being able to commit the ulterior disposal of it to your better judgment. I have the honor to be, etc., etc., [Signed]
* Wicquefort, 1. ii., c. 15.
H. S. LEGARÉ.
Legation of the United States,
Brussels, 16TH JAN., 1835. To the Hon. John FORSYTH,
Secretary of State of the United States,Sir,—As it is quite natural the government should wish to know what impression that part of the President's message that relates to the French treaty has made in Europe, I send, by the way of Havre, all the Belgian newspapers which make any allusion to it. One of these, however, I have thought worthy of more especial notice, and it is, therefore, enclosed under the envelope of this despatch. I have marked the paragraph which determined me to call your attention to it, and have now only to add that I have no doubt at all but that it is the work of M. Nothomb, Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs, who played throughout our recent discussion with this government so conspicuous a part, that I have had frequent occasion to mention him particularly in my correspondence with the department on the subject of M. Behr's abortive negotiation. I send you, at the same time, a copy of the note which I thought called for by that paragraph, and should their answer come to hand in time, you shall be furnished with a copy of that also. I was induced to take official notice of this quasi official paragraph, not only because of the misrepresentation it contains, but also on account of the general tone of the journal itself in relation to American affairs, and especially of the indecorous, not to say impertinent language it had held in two previous numbers, in reference to the message, which it denounced as "arrogant," etc. Happening to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his Secretary General at dinner at the British ambassador's, the day the second of these pieces appeared, and the conversation naturally turning upon a State paper that has attracted universal attention and even created a sensation in Europe, I took occasion to say to M. de Muelnaere, that I thought the language of that journal most strange and improper and felt highly offended at it.
What makes it the more so is the great moderation with which the President has acted in not immediately demanding the recall of M. Behr, according to established diplomatic usage,--an event
which they deprecated extremely, as likely to lead to explanations of a disagreeable and discreditable kind. If you have not yet entered into another negotiation with M. Behr, as I am led to suppose from the message, will you permit me to suggest a doubt as to its expediency under existing circumstances. In case of hostilities with France, it is true, our commerce with Antwerp is likely to increase very much for the moment; otherwise, it is very far from being important, for the Consul there writes me word that the Swedes are supplanting us as carriers in that trade. If this is the case, is it expedient to accept their overtures to a treaty of commerce, merely securing to us, by formal stipulation, what the law of nations and the law of the land in Belgium already guaranty to all neutrals, when, by so doing, we give a sort of indirect sanction to their conduct in the previous negotiation, and to their renewed assertion that we are seeking to establish, by practising upon unwary or ignorant negotiators, a code of maritime law unknown to European nations ? At this juncture, too, when we are calling upon France to make atonement to us for her violation of those very principles, which the ministry of this country will persist in pronouncing innovations of ours, although the Berlin and Milan decrees were founded upon the assumption of their indisputable truth, and professedly designed to vindicate and restore them, would such an implicit inferential concession be altogether opportune ? It is, of course, for you to decide.
16th January. I received yesterday evening a note from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, (in answer to mine,) of which a copy is annexed. You perceive the minister disavows entirely the offensive passage in the Indépendant, as well as all connection with or responsibility for the conduct of that paper. This, however, did not prevent his receiving a similar letter of complaints from the Chargé d'Affaires of Brazil, a few days before, and as M. Nothomb, through whose hands all the diplomatic correspondence of this government passes, is notoriously one of the principal conductors of that journal, I have gained my object in letting him see that its misrepresentation of facts, of which he knows we assert the contrary, has not passed unnoticed.
In the papers of this morning I see that Mr. Livingston has received his passports, and probably left Paris already. People are very much excited about this event, though the proposal of the bill to make the appropriation, which is to take place immediately on the departure of Mr. Livingston, would seem to shew that the French government only means to express its displeasure, without committing any act of hostility. I have the honor to be, etc., [Signed]
H. S. LEGARÉ.