THE FALL OF MEXICO.
[Faolt OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.] July 14, 1863.
THE way in which the news has been received in France that Mexico was in the hands of the French army, is strikingly illustra- tive both of the persisting unpopularity of the expedition to Mexico, and of the unexpected change which the Empire unwillingly and unconsciously has wrought in the feeling of the French people, as re- gards war for the sake of war, and conquest for the sake of conquest. There is little doubt that the news of the occupation of such a city as Mexico by the French would have been, but a few years ago, enthusiastically welcomed by a considerable party on the other side of the Channel. There would not have been wanting those who took delight in picturing to themselves the indomitable Zouaves quietly smoking their pipes on the walls of Montezuma. Nothing of the sort now. To the Emperor, of course, the intelli- gence was welcome. At Vichy the town-criers were ordered to perambulate the streets with due exultation, the water drinkers were invited to join in the imperial glee, the householders were summoned to illuminate. But out of the official pale there was no sign of public rejoicing. No firing of guns took place in Paris, just as the news arrived, it being probably found ridiculous to cele- brate the taking of a city which was not taken. No private houses were illuminated in the capital, with the exception of a few coffee-
houses on the boulevard, which, being more or less dependent on the "administration," thought it advisable to display something like official merriment. As to the Bourse—a rather alarming symptom—it was and remained dull.
So the occupation of Mexico must have lost much of its value in Napoleon's eyes. If his aim was partly to give the French a triumph abroad in exchange for their liberty at home, and to supply their energy with a convenient outlet, he proves to have been sadly mistaken. That thoughtless and mischievous disposi- tion of the French to sacrifice anything, under any circumstances, to the renown of their flag, is no longer to be relied upon by the Empire. Thank God, the "chauvinism" is decidedly at a dis- count in France ! Let the Emperor of Austria, the King of Prussia, the King of Holland, congratulate the Emperor on his ill-gotten success, whilst constitutional England hangs back honestly ; let the Queen of Spain, with inconceivable baseness, compliment the French ruler upon his having carried to a trium- phant issue a war from which Spain shrank in disgust ; a paltry compensation, indeed, this must be considered, at the Tuileries, for the mingled feeling of shame and sorrow which the French themselves have exhibited throughout in reference to this most iniquitous expedition.
What, after all, does our so-called victory amount to ? Mexico, for aught we know, was not besieged ; Mexico was not stormed; the defenders of Mexico did not surrender. Napoleon, on this occasion, may boast of having been an enfonceur de porter ouvertes, nothing more. it had been given out that the Mexicans were determined to offer a desperate resistance to the invaders in Mexico itself, and that the environs of the town were to be, for that purpose, laid under water. The reason why no such thing was done or attempted will probably come to light before long. Perhaps, as a contemporary says, the extent of the fortifications to be held required a more numerous garrison than Juarez could dis- pose of, and it may be that the lakes about the city were this year too dry to enable the Mexicans to have recourse to those heroic means of self-defence which the Dutch formerly used against the invading armies of Louis XIV. However, the war would be far from being at an end, if we are to credit the facts stated in the New York Express, namely, that Juarez moved to San Luis de Potosi, taking along with him all the moveable firearms and ammu- nition, as well as the contents of the treasury, in order to organize outside the walls a more effectual resistance, and that the garrison of Mexico, to the number of 20,000 men, withdrew to the Cuer- nevem Plaza for no other purpose than that of carrying on guerilla warfare.
What the Emperor will do then remains now to be seen. As might be expected, his supposed intentions have given rise to all kinds of rumours ; and in the semi-official press schemes are rampant. Some assert that the expedition must end not only in the formation of a French colony, but in the creation of a new state which, through the recognition and the adjunction of the Southern secessionists, would constitute a powerful confederation
under the protectorate of France. Others fondly cherish a hope that the silver mines in Mexico will make France" rich enough to pay for her glory." M. Hubert Deliale had at first been spoken of as the " commissaire extraordinaire" to whom Mexico was fated to owe its regeneration ; but this statement was subsequently con- tradicted, and the honour of working out the "mission civilisatrice" of the Empire is not unlikely to be conferred on M. Dubois de Saligny, whom the readers of the Spectator will at once proclaim worthy of that distinction, if they have not forgotten a character- istic story which I told them, some months ago, on the most reliable authority, for I had it from General Prim himself.
As regards the selection of the indigenous fellow-helpers of the French regenerator there can be no difficulty. No wonder that even before the French division under General Baz,aine had occupied the main entrance to the city, the leaders of the "Church party" sent a commission to General Forey to offer their allegiance to the Emperor. These are the men who were vile enough to invite the invasion of their own country, and it is part of their business to assist the conquerors in putting it to the yoke. These are the members of the party whose crimes brought so much odium and obloquy on Mexico. Be it remembered that the shame- ful robbery of 600,000 dols. from the British Legation house was perpetrated by the leaders of that party ; that Marquez, the faithful ally of General Forey, is the hero whom Sir C. Wyke, in a despatch to Lord J. Russell, dated July 28, 1861, described as ravaging the country, burning villages, levying contributions on the unfortunate inhabitants, bursting open the doors of the houses doomed to be pillaged, and breaking the prison gates in order to let loose the worst criminals in the Republic ;* that it was he and Miramon who, on the 11th of April, 1859, slaughtered at Tabacuya so many innocent victims ; that among the murdered men was Dr. Duval, an English surgeon, who was dragged from the bedside of the wounded, whilst amputating their shattered limbs and stanching their gushing arteries; f that, in fact, there is no kind of wickedness but is chargeable on the party which:the civilizing invasion of Mexico will have to uphold.
This, despite the gagging of the press, is not absolutely unknown in France, and may serve to account for the feeling of unqualified reprobation which the invasion of Mexico has engendered. But how much stronger still would that feeling be if the French were acquainted with all the facts of the case—if they had been told of the ignoble conduct of Marquez's followers, by whom Puebla would have been pillaged and deluged in blood had not this calamity been prevented by the energetic interference of the Zouaves—if, on the other hand, they had been made aware of the humane, generous behaviour of the chiefs of the constitutional army ? I have before me two letters, one signed "Blotd, capitaine au ler Regiment de Zouaves, prisonnier de guerre;" the other written to his family by a sub-lieutenant in the same regiment, named Duchesne. Nothing could be more touching than the description given in both docu- ments of the kindness with which the French prisoners are treated by the Mexicans, and of the magnanimous solicitude with which the wounded are attended. "Our gratitude," says Captain Blotd, "is as great as can be experienced by man's heart." In Duchesne's letter these lines are to be read, which are somewhat at variance with the inflated bulletins of General Forey.—" We were made prisoners on the 25th of April. Out of 500 men who took part in the fight, 70 or 80 only returned safe and sound."
Two circumstances are well worth noticing. When, on the 5th of June, General Bazaine entered Mexico, the" Church party" had to be protected by the invaders against the indignation of the people ; and when at Puebla, on the 18th of May, the Mexican officers who had been made prisoners were summoned to sign a declaration binding them never to take up arms against the con- querors, their answer was, "God save Mexico! .Down with the traitors!" If, therefore, Napoleon has really made up his mind to "regenerate" the Mexican nation, he will have, in all probability, to grind it to dust before he proceeds any further, at what cost of money and blood the future will tell us. As matters now stand, the only course sure to meet with public approbation in France would be to withdraw as soon as possible from so inglorious an enterprise.
First of all, the Emperor of the French cannot forget without dishonour that, in the convention of the 31st of October, 1861, he pledged himself, in common with England and Spain, not to seek for himself, in the employment of the coercive measures then con- templated, any acquisition of territory, or any peculiar advantage, and not to exercise in the subsequent affairs of Mexico any in- fluence of a character to impair the right of the Mexican nation to choose and fully to constitute the form of its own Government. Secondly, he will do well to remember, in order to avoid such complications as might turn out fatal, that "Mexico being a neighbour of the United States on the American continent, and *Correspondence respecting the Affairs of Marko. No. 19., p. 9L + No. 13., p. 24,25.
possessing a system of government similar to our own in many of its important features, the United States habitually cherish a decided good-will towards that republic." These are the very words used by Mr. Seward in the despatch which was forwarded on the 4th of December, 1861, to MM. Tassara and Mercier, and Lord Lyons. Nor is this declaration less ominous for being couched in that milk-and-water style which constitutes diplomatic eloquence.
Next comes the expediency of removing anything of a nature to hamper an armed intervention in favour of Poland, if necessary. For Poland is still, and perhaps more than ever, the engrossing topic of conversation in France. As much as the expedition to Mexico was deprecated, so much would a forcible intervention in favour of Poland be popular ; and the anxiety of the French on the subject is at its highest pitch. The revolution which broke out of late in Mada- gascar, the murder of Radama H., the eclipse of French influence as connected with that awful tragedy, the assumption that the hand of the English missionaries is traceable in those bloody disturbances, the aggressive letter which they called forth on the part of Rev. Mr. Ellis, were acutely resented by the French and bitterly commented upon by the French press. But even so exciting a topic failed to throw the Polish question into the shade.
Unfortunately, there seems to be, in this respect, more room for fear than hope. The contradiction given by the Moniteur to the fact of a letter having been written by the Emperor on the execution of Count Plater has been generally considered as a proof that the Imperial Government does by no means wish to be held responsible in the eyes of Russia for any step too highly favourable to the Poles. The publication of the notes addressed by the three Powers has given but a scant satisfaction. The Sikle taunts diplomacy with the mildness of its language in the face of the atrocities which are being perpetrated all over Poland. The Gazette de France is at a loss to comprehend how the Imperial Government came to invoke, like England and Austria, those treaties of 1815 which M. Billault, four months ago, did not hesitate to term, in the Senate, des traite's impuissants." The Opinion Nationale inveighs against the tenor of the said diplomatic documents most contemptuously, thereby showing that Prince Napoleon and his friends, whilst pooh-poohing a peaceful intervention, have ceased to believe in an intervention of a more effective character. The general impression is, I think, that it is for the interest of Russia to accept the Six Points ; that, in reality, they were intended to smooth her way to an undisputed possession of Poland ; that, if any opposition is made to the arrangement, it will come from the Poles, whose assent would obviously amount to a suicide, and that the whole affair has been so managed as to enable their would-be protectors gently to en- chain them if they say yes, or to lay all the blame at their door if they say no. The language of the semi-official Constitutionnel bears out but too well this most cheerless appreciation.
Quidquid delirant reps, plectuntur 4chivi. A FREEMAN.