28 DECEMBER 1861, Page 2

,frana. — The Government has published a despatch addressed on the 3rd

inst. to the Minister of Washington on the San jacinto affair. In it M. Thouvenel argues that the American Government, if it approves Captain Wilkes's conduct, must hold Messrs. Mason and Slidell, either as enemies or as rebels. In the former case they violate principle, for the United States have acknowledged in treaties that the freedom of the flag extends to persons found on board, except in the case of military men. Moreover' the Trent was carrying passengers from neutral port to neutral port, and "if it were ad- missible that under such circumstances the neutral !lag did not corn- pletely cover the persons and goods transported under it, the immunity of that flag would be a vain word. On the other hand, if the Com- missioners were rebels, "there would he a contempt of the prin- ciple, in virtue of which a ship is held to be a portion of the territory Whose flag it bears," and of the right of asylum which is a conse- quence of it. The Emperor therefore considers that the American Government "would be inspired by a just and elevated sentiment in yielding to British demands," which "consist in the immediate re- lease of the persons taken from the Trent, and explanations which shall relieve the act of the captain of the San Jacinto of its offensive character to the British flag." The despatch is so important that we give it in full:


"Paris, Dm. 3,1861.

"Monsieur,—The arrest of MM. Mason and Slidell on board the English packet Trent by an American cruiser has produced in France, if not the same emotion as in England, at least great astonishment and an extreme sensation.

"Public opinion at once inquired, with anxiety for the conse- quences, whether such an act could possibly be legitimate, and there cannot be the slightest doubt of the general impression. The act seems to the public so entirely at variance with the ordinary rules of international law, that it throws the responsibility exclusively upon the commander of the San Jacinto.

"We cannot know yet whether this supposition is well founded, and the Emperor's Government therefore felt itself called upon to consider the question raised by the capture of the two passengers on board the Trent. The desire to contribute to prevent a conflict, which is, perhaps, imminent, between two Powers towards whom it is animated by equally friendly sentiments, and the duty of maintain- ing—with a view to put the rights of its own flag beyond the danger of attack—certain principles essential to the security of neutrals, have, after mature reflection, convinced the French Government that it cannot remain completely silent under existing circumstances. "if, to our great regret, the Washington Cabinet should be dis- posed to approve the conduct of the commander of the San Jacinto, they must consider MM. Siddell and Mason either as enemies or as rebels. In either case there would be an extremely lamentable for- getfulness of principle, on which we have always found the United States agreed with us. "On what ground, in the first supposed case, can the American cruiser have arrested MM. Mason and Slidell P The United States have admitted with us, in treaties concluded between the two coun- tries, that the freedom of the flag extends to persons found on board, even though they be enemies, except in the case of military men actually in the service of the enemy. MM. Mason and Slidell were, therefore, by virtue of this principle, which we have never found any difficulty in getting inserted in our treaties of friendship and com- merce, perfectly free under the neutral flag of England.

"It will not, doubtless, be pretended that they could be considered as contraband of war. What constitutes contraband of war is not, it is true precisely settled ; the limits are not absolutely the same for all Powers; but, as far as regards persons, the stipulations found in treaties relative to military persons clearly define the character of the individuals who alone are liable to be captured by belligerents. " Now, it cannot be necessary to -demonstrate that MM. Mason and Slidell can in no way be assimilated to persons in this category, There would, therefore, remain uo ground to explain their capture but the pretext that they were bearers of °Melia despatches from the enemy. But this is the place to call to mind a circumstance which overrides the whole case, and shows the conduct of the American cruiser to have been unjustifiable. "The Trent was not bound to a point belonging to either of the belligerents. It was carrying its cargo and passengers to a neutral country, and, moreover, it was at a -neutral port that it had taken them up. If it were admissible that under such circumstances the neutral flag did not completely cover the persons and goods tran- sported under it, the immunity of that flag would be a vain word; the commerce and navigation of third Powers would be liable to suffer at any moment for their innocent, or even indirect, relations with either of the belligerents. The latter would not only have a right to -require from the neutral the most complete impartiality' and to prohibit him from being mixed up in any way with acts of hostility, but they would inflict restrictions upon the liberty of commerce and navigation which modern international law refuses to acknowledge as legitimate. There would be a return, in a word, to those vexatious practices-against which in former times no Power protested more en- ergetically than the United States. "If the Washington Cabinet should regard the two persons arrested as rebels, whom it has always a right to seize, the question, though shifting its ground, could not be any more resolved in a sense favourable to the commander of the San Jacinto. In such a ease there would be a contempt of the principle in virtue of which a ship is held to be a portion of the territory whose flag it bears, and there would be a violation of the immunity which forbids a foreign Sovereign to exercise jurisdiction on that territory. It cannot doubt- less be necessary to call to mind the energy with which the United States have, on every occasion, defended this immunity, and the right of asylum, which is a consequence of it. "Without wishing to enter upon a more thorough discussion of the question raised by the capture of MM. Mason and Slidell, I have said enough, I think, to show that the Cabinet of Washington cannot, without infringing those principles which all neutral powers are alike interested in maintaining, nor without putting itself in contradiction with its own conduct up to the present time, give its approbation of the conduct of the commander of the San Jacmto. In this state of things the Cabinet of Washington cannot, in our opinion, hesitate as to the course to be taken.

"Lord Lyons is already instructed to present the demand for satis- faction which the English Cabinet is under the necessity of making, and which consists in the immediate release of the persons taken from the Trent, and explanations which shall relieve the act of the captain of the San Jacinto of its offensive character to the British flag. The Federal Government would be inspired by a just and elevated senti- ment in yielding to these demands. It is impossible to conceive any interest that it could have to run the risk of provoking a rupture with Great Britain by assuming a different attitude. "For ourselves, who would see in such a rupture a complication in every way deplorable of the difficulties with which the Cabinet of Washington has already to struggle, and a proceeding calculated to occasion serious uneasiness to all the Powers not parties to the pre- sent conflict, we think we are giving a testimony of loyal friend- ship .to the Cabinet of Washington in not concealing from it our opmion.

"I request you, Sir, to take the first opportunity of speaking frankly with Mr. Seward, and, if he should desire it, to leave him a copy of this despatch. " Receive, &c., " THOUVENEL."

The debate in the French Senate terminated on the 21st instant in the adoption of the new Senatus-consultum by a vote of 132 to one. The project was not debated in the Liberal sense at all, but several members criticized details. M. Bonjean, for example, thought, or at least said, that the deficit had been exag- gerated, and that the memeire in the Meniteur had produced unneces- sary inquietude. Baron Brennier also argued that war would demand secret supplementary credits. M. Fould replied to these objections by reiterating that there were forty millions of uncovered debt, and that war without a vote was quite impossible. In the Italian war the Go- vernment obtained everything without funds at command, 'for it pur- chased horses, stores, forage and transport on credit, and paid when it had obtained the vote of the Corps Legislatif for a new loan. Ens- land, too, was sending 12,000 men and a fleet to Canada, without a parliamentary vote, though Ministers could not open supplementary credits. Moreover, he said, any Minister who might transfer indis- pensable funds to work less necessary, would be blamed by the Chamber, and "do you suppose, gentlemen, that the Emperor, atten- tive to public opinion, will not satisfy in all liberty the exigencies of the situation ?" M. Fould, it is said, hopes still to do without a loan, and a plan is attributed to him of raising an income-tax by making the State sole life assurer, and compelling everybody with 1000fr. of income to insure. That proposal has of late been brought forward in Italy, France, and even in England ; but the statement which assigns it to M. Fould is a mere rumour. Taxes on coffee and sgmrs are also spoken of, but the only thing certain is, that the

French budget will be increased.