Much of this state of opinion has its source in persons imbued with a settled malignity to America, but it ought in justice to be added that it is also entertained in qualified form by many of its best friends. Of the cause of this misinterpretation it would be of little moment now to inquire. Of the effect I have been fully sensible ever since the first day of my arrival. It has most unfortunately undermined that confidence in the goodintentions of an Administration which I firmly believe to have been the most in harmony with the policy of Great Britain of any that has been in power for many years until instead of being friendly it is regarded as among the most hostile. So far as it has beenwithin my power I have combatted this impression in every form where I could meet it but the result has been rather to give me credit for good intentions than to inspire conviction of the Government's sincerity.
The end of it is that it seems really a matter of indifference whether I remain or not at this post. MY present expectation is that by the middle of January at furthes diplomatic relations will have been sundered between the two countries without any act of mine. I am therefore endeavoring to complete all ordinary business of the legation in advance of the moment when the proper instructions will arrive in regard to the final disposition of its affairs as well as to the course I am myself to pursue.
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I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS.
[LEGATION OF TH UNITED STATES,]
Paris, December 6, 1861.
His Excellency WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State, &c.
SIR: I felt it a duty to call on M. Touvenel to-day in reference to the views and position of France as respects our unfortunate difficulty with England. I had understood that the French Government had expressed its views to Lord Cowley and thought therefore that it would have no objections to doing the same to me.
M. Thouvenel said at once that the taking of Messrs. Slidell and Mason off a British ship was the affair of England, not theirs, but he had no hesitation in saying that it was the opinion of the French Government that the act was a clear breach of international law; that the French Government could not permit the application of such a principle to their ships. He added that all the foreign maritimer powers with which he had conferred agreed that the act was a violation of public law. He said furthermore that he had at once communicated these views to M. Mercier.
In view of what had been the past conduct of the British and French Governments in our affairs and their joint action in the affairs of other nations, I thought it best to ask bluntly whether in the event of a war with England we were to expect France to go beyond the expression of her opinion; whether she would or would not be a neutral power, he said of course it was not their affair; they would be spectators only, though not indifferent spectators; the moral force of their opinions would.
I told him that had I known he had communicated his views through M. Mercier I should not have troubled him with this interview.
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With much respect, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
WM. L. DAYTON.