To General Cass.
Private. Washington City
24 October 1857
My Dear General/
I return Lord Napier’s draft of your conversation on Monday last & last evening, which you left with me this morning.
In that portion of it which relates to the exclusion of slavery from the Bay Islands by the British Treaty with Honduras, His Lordship has certainly misunderstood me, or I may not have explained myself properly. You know well after what transpired in the Senate that it would be quite impossible for the Government of the United States to sanction & endorse a Treaty between Great Britain & any other power for the exclusion of Domestic Slavery from its limits. Indeed the utter improbability, nay, I might say impossibility, that our Southern planters would leave their own profitable plantations & carry their negroes with them to the little Island of Ruatan, where Slavery has been already prohibited, induced some Senators to believe, as I have been informed, that the provision was intended as a gratuitous censure on an Institution recognized & maintained by our Constitution & productive of advantages both to the Master and the Slave as well as necessary to the existence of the Cotton Manufactures of Great Britain & other Countries. Such was not my own belief.
With this exception, for which I am myself partly to blame, His Lordship’s Statement, though not sufficiently full, is in the main correct, frank, & fair.
Two omissions I would remark. At the conclusion of our first interview, after his Lordship had risen to go away, according to my memorandum as well as my distinct recollection. I resumed the subject & said, “I shall be satisfied on condition that the British Government send a minister to Central America instructed to settle all the questions which have been controverted between the two Governments according to the American construction of the Treaty, & upon receiving an official assurance to this effect I shall change the character of my message.”
The draft does not contain the very satisfactory communication made to me by his Lordship concerning the Panchita & the right of search while I communicated to you: but this is not important.
In our second interview, in reply to His Lordship’s remarks on the influence which that clause of the Dallas Clarendon Treaty ought to have, making the Sarstoon instead of the Sibun the limit of Belize, –I said that no person knew better than Lord Clarendon that I would not have entered into such a Treaty. It yielded to Great Britain the territory in Central America between the Sibun and the Sarastoon, & it recognized in fact a British protectorate over the Bay Islands whilst nominally restoring the Sovereignty over them to Honduras. Had I been President, I would not have negotiated such a Treaty; but it had been negotiations under the administration of my predecessor & transmitted by him to the Senate. It was so distasteful to that Body that it had not been touched till after the 4th of March; –that I had urged Senators to take it up & decide it one way or the other, this being due to the British Government, & after they had amended & passed it I did not feel myself at liberty under all the circumstances to refuse to ratify & send it to Great Britain; –that in fact I was so anxious to cultivate the most friendly relations with Great Britain that, though I did not like the Treaty as amended, I was greatly disappointed & sorry at their rejection of it. As it stood originally, however, I think I would not have sent it to the Senate, had it arrived after my inauguration; & then I proceeded to observe according to the statement of his Lordship.
You may read this hasty letter to Lord Napier & give it to him if he desires it.
Yr. friend, very respectfully,