found great difficulties in procuring mules at very high prices in New York and the island of Cuba, and that by taking possession of Matamoras they could avoid great expense by sending agents into the States of Caouhila and Nuevo Leon to purchase at low prices any quantity of mules they wanted, and, by crossing them on the left bank of the river, they could be driven in safety down to the mouth with the protection of our authorities, which plan would create great economy and complete safety in securing those animals; and, also that for the supply of beeves they could have the same advantages, when I knew they had to pay 6 francs per pound for beef delivered in Havana; that as for the difficulties presented at the mouth of the river for the crossing of the bar, we could manage things in such a way that,without compromising either France or the Confederacy officially, we could officiously and in secrecy furnish them with three lighters flying Mexican colors, but, in fact, belonging to us.
Those lighters being taken prisoners pro forma, would afford all facilities for landing the troops, and even we could friendly furnish artillery and ammunition by crossing over in the night the amount necessary, which could be returned after the taking of Matamoras.
Mr. De Saligny answered me that I was talking to a man already convinced of the importance of that undertaking, but that probably we wanted something in return, and he understood the basis of my proposal to be the acknowledgment of our independence by France, which was not it his power to grant. I answered him that I refused to place the question on that ground; that I was not empowered to treat one of such importance; that I was offering to France a golden bridge without expecting any compensation, excepting the non-interference of the river trade as far as we were concerned; that my mission had for its principal object to show their Government our good feeling and sympathy, and to deserve their own; that I for one did attach for the moment very little importance to that recognition; that I did not dissemble to myself that it would be a good example to other nations and of a good moral effect, but that our independence had to be gained at the point of the bayonet; that if we did lose our battles and were subjugated, our previous recognition would not change our position, and France herself would have to withdraw it, an that we would reap what the fate of war had provided for us; that if we were offered recognition to-day, we would have probably to buy it at the price of sacrifices and privileges all to our prejudice that we would be, perhaps, weak enough to grant; that I was personally of the small number of those who thought as Napoleon did at the treaty of Camp Formio; that for three years our Confederacy shone like the sun, and none but the blind could not see it; that, if victorious, the recognition of France and other powers would follow, and we could then discuss our interests on an equal footing; that, I repeated,this was nothing but personal opinion, which did not engage either authority or the Government.
We entered into details too tedious to enumerate,and our conference closed in the best harmony. Mr. De Saligny announced that he would communicate the whole to General Forey. In fact, I ascertained that he had done so on the following day,and,after inquiry of him if there was anything new,he answered that nothing had been decided; that the question had been referred to some persons, to be thoroughly examined and reported upon.
I have forgotten to state that during all my stay there,and since the arrival of General Woll, he had introduced me to General Almonte, who received me in a very flattering manner, mentioning that I was
10 R R-VOL XXVI, PT II