Building Confederate Vessels in France. 457
to show that the ships are for us. The confidential clerk, who has had charge of the correspondence of M. Voruz, one of the parties to the . contracts, has disappeared, and has unfortunately carrisd off some letters and papers relating to the business. M. Voruz has not yet discovered the full extent to which he has been robbed, but is using every effort to trace the theft to its source, and to discover how far he can prove complicity on the part of the United States officials. We know that the stolen papers contain evidence that the ships are for us, for the fact has been so stated by the Minister of Marine to one of the builders, but the French government has only thus become aware of a transaction it was perfectly well informed of before. Indeed, I may say, that the attempt to build ships in France was undertaken at the instigation of the Imperial government itself When the construction of the corvettes was in progress of negotiation, a draft of the proposed contract was shown to the highest person in the Empire, and it received his sanction — at least I was so informed at the time. At any rate, I have a copy of the letter ad- dressed to the builders by the Minister of Marine, giving authority to arm the corvettes in France, and specifying the number of guns, and I have the original document signed by M. Chasseloup Laubat himself, granting like authority for the rams. It can never, there- fore, be charged that the Confederate States government, through its agent, has violated the neutrality of France by attempting the con- struction of ships in her ports, and if Mr. Dayton has received the assurances we see printed in the American papers, the time is rapidly approaching when the policy of the Imperial government, in refer- ence to American affairs, must be positively and definitely expressed.
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" The builders are still sanguine that they will be allowed to send ships to sea, but I confess that I do not see any such assurance in what they say, and the manner in which the protest of the American Minister had been received is well calculated to confirm my doubts. When Mr. Dayton went to the Minister of Foreign Affairs with a complaint, and with copies of certain letters to substantiate it, the Minister might have said, " These are alleged copies of the private correspondence of two prominent and highly respected French citi- zens; they could only have come into your possession by means of bribery or treachery. I cannot, therefore, receive them as evidence, and must insist that you produce the originals, and explain how you came to be possessed of them." It strikes me that such a course would have effectually silenced Mr. Dayton, and we could have felt