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Mr. Merrier to Mr. Seward.
Legation Of France In The United States,
Washington, November 6, 1S62. .
Sir: I have the honor to send yon herewith the copy of a complaint which Mr. Francois Bougere, an old French resident of New Orleans ana honorably known in that city, has just laid before the manager of the consulate of the Emperor, in relation to an act of spoliation of which he has been the victim on the part of the federal authorities.
The steps which Mr. BougeYe has tried with 'the military governor of Louisiana .have up to this time led to no result; and I therefore proceed to call the kind attention of the government of the United States to an affair whose gravity could not have escaped it, and the consequence of which has been to reduce in a single day to the most absolute destitution a Frenchman whose antecedents have been represented to me as excellent in all respects, and who appears to have never departed from the strict neutrality which the Emperor's government has not ceased to recommend to its citizens under existing circumstances.
I embrace this opportunity to renew to you, sir, the assurances of my high consideration.
Hon. William H. Seward, Sp., 4.c, Ifc.
Mr. Bovge"re to Mr. Fauconnet.
Nbw Orleans, October 6, 1862.
Mb. Consul: The undersigned, Francois Bougere, a native of Angers, (Maine et Loire,) France, an inhabitant of Louisiana since 1819, has the honor to inform you that, being on his plantation, in the parish of St. Cbarles, on the 28th of August, 1862, a column of troops of the United States, commanded by Colonel Thomas and Captain Grout, of the 8th Vermont, took by force on his plantation seventy.two slaves of various ages and distinct sexes, proceeding from families bought by him a long while prior to 1848, besides horses, mules, carriages, linen, jewelry, and stores, the whole, according to a statement annexed, amounting to the sum of seventy thousand eight hundred dollars. Moreover, that, being deprived of bis workshop, of seventy-two negroes, mules, &c., &c., it was impossible for him to gather his present crop of corn and about three hundred hogsheads of sugar and molasses which would have been produced, and he will lose by this fact eighteen thousand dollars.
The undersigned thinks it his duty also to inform you that he hag taken numerous steps with the local authorities, in order to obtain in a friendly manner the restoration of his slaves, horses, mules, &c, but that all his efforts have been fruitless. Having, therefore, no longer any hope of success with the authorities who govern this State, he proceeds, full of confidence, to solicit your intervention, to the end that the facts above enumerated may be brought to the knowledge of the minister plenipotentiary of France at Washington, and even to that of the government of his Imperial Majesty, in order that, protected by them, his claim and his protest may be taken into consideration, and that justice may be done to a French subject who has never lost his nationality nor borne arms against the United States.
The losses suffered by the undersigned amount to more than eighty-eight thousand dollars, as is proved by the annexed list, and all the fruit of his labor and savings for nearly forty ye irs.
Relying, Mr. Consul, on the warm sympathy that you have always evinced for your countrymen, I beg you to accept in advance my sincere thanks for all which you may deem it your duty to do in my behalf, and the assurance of my profound respect.
The Consul or France at New OrUam.
A true copy:
FAUCONNET, Manager of Ote OmtulaU of France.
1. Joceph, 9 years old • $600
2. Aristide, 7 year* old - 600
3. Eugene, 9 years old .- 500
4. Michel, 10 years old 600
5. Albert, 5 years old . — ... 500
6. Victorine, 6 years old .. — . . 600
7. Modeste, 6 years old .... .. . 600
8. Justine, 6 years old ........ . . ....—.. . .. 600
9. Felicie, 5 years old 500
10. Joseph, 6 years old..... ......... . ..... 600
11. Desiree, 8 years old .' 700
12. Elisabeth, 3 years old 300
13 Frank, 7 yeare old 700
14. Gedeon, 4 years old 400
15. Terence, 16 months old , 200
16. Justin, 1 year old 100
17. Estelle, 11 months old t 100
18. Jot6phine, 5 months old .. ..... —... 100
19. Jullen, lOyearsold 600
20. Virgile, 1 month old 100
One horse for cabriolet, a trotter . . . .. 500
Two common horses, at $200.............. . .. 400
Nine mules, at $225 2,025
One barouche . .. . . . 300
Three carriages, at $125 . 375
Harness of mules.. . .......... ...... ...... 100
Provisions, wines, liquors, &c ...... ..... ... . 500
Two boxes of shoes .... ... . ' 250
Body and other linen .... ... ..... , .. 250
Gold watch, jewelry, gold spectacles, &c ......................... 500
Lobs of crop, estimated at ................................................ 18,000
Grand total 88,800
Eighty-eight thousand eight hundred dollars.
A true copy:
PFAUCONNET, Manager of the ComulaU.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Merrier.
Department Of State,
Washington, November 8, 1862. Sir: I Lave the honor to acknowledge the reception of your excellency's note of the 6th instant, in which you present the claim of Mr. Francois Bougere against the government of the United States, in the form in which it has been stated by him to Mr. Fauconnet, manager of the consulate of France at New Orleans. The statement of Mr. Bougere is of the following effect: That he is a native of France; that he has been an inhabitant of the State of Louisiana since 1819, and for some time, not definitely stated, has been domiciliated there, as a sugar planter, in the parish of St. Charles; that he has not lost his nationality of a Frenchman, and that he has never borne arm9 against the United States; that he was recently the owner of seventy-two negro slaves of various ages and distinct sexes, who were the increase of families which he had bought a long while prior to the year 1848; all of which slaves were upou his said plantation, together with horses, mules, carriages, linen, and family stores; that
the aggregate value of these slaves and the articles of property thus described was seventy thousand eight hundred dollars. That on the 28th day of August last, a column of United States troops, under the command of Colonel Thomas and Captain Grout, took from him by force those seventy-two slaves, a list of which is given, and also the said articles of property, (an inventory of which is presented,) whereby the same were lost to him, and that this spoliation deprived bim of the means of securing his present crop of corn, as well as his crop of cane, which would have yielded three hundred hogsheads of sugar and molasses. That the damages which resulted from this failure are equal to eighteen thousand dollars, which, added to the value of the slaves and property taken, makes an aggregate of eighty-eight thousand eight hundred dollars.
Mr. Bougere represents that he has made unsuccessful applications to the local authorities of the United States in Louisiana for redress of the grievances thus alleged. He therefore invokes the interposition of the imperial government.
The President is not unaffected by the misfortunes which Mr. Bougere has suffered, and he has, therefore, directed me to make a careful examination of the case, with a view to ascertain whether he has been in fact inoffensive in his relations to this government, and whether the losses he has sustained were occasioned by violence, injustice, severity, or even carelessness on the part of the military forces of the United States, so that redress, if justly due, shall be awarded.
In entering upon this examination, I could not but remark that Mr. Bougere's own representations of his attitude towards the government do not seem to me to fully justify the view of it which, upon different information, you have assumed. You state that his antecedents have been represented to you as excellent in all respects, and that he appears to have never departed from the strict neutrality which the Emperor's government has not ceased to recommend to its citizens under existing circumstances. In trusting to Mr. Bougere's statement, I observe that upon the point now in question he states only that he never lost his nationality as a French subject, nor bore arms' against the United'States. I need hardly point out to so just an observer as your excellency the fact that, besides bearing arms against the United States, there are other ways in which a man of wealth and influence can abet and support a treasonable insurrection. Even the chief of the revolutionary conspiracy, and every member of the cabals which are called his cabinet and congress, can
frobably safely assert that he has never borne arms against the United States. t may, nevertheless, be true that Mr. Bougere has preserved his neutrality in the present conflict, notwithstanding his own seeming reserve upon that subject; I will therefore cheerfully receive, upon that point, any more full and satisfactory information which you may be authorized now or hereafter to furnish. In the mean time, candor requires that I should inform you that even the very cautious and guarded statement which Mr. Bougere makes concerning his neutrality is distinctly contradicted by the military authorities at New Orleans. They represent that before the transaction, of which he complains, had occurred, he had been in the habit of meeting with a military band of insurgents, of which a nephew of his is a captain; that he assisted largely by voluntary contributions to equip that treasonable band, and that he voluntarily supplied them with rations sent from his own house; that he provided himself with a revolutionary uniform, saddle, and horse equipments, and had them in his possession and ready for use on his plantation when that transaction occurred.
Passing from the political character of the claimant to the details of the transaction^ complained of, I must call your attention to the very vague and unsatisfactory manner in which the facts are presented by Mr. Bougere. He contents himself with saying that a column of troops of the United States, commanded by Colonel Thomas and Cagtain Grout, of the 8th Vermont, took by force the slaves and property described, and forbears from giving any account of the manner or circumstances of the alleged capture. This very general statement is unsupported by any testimony or evidence, nor is it even authenticated by the customary confirmation of his own oath.
I think you will at once perceive that there is a necessity for your referring the matter back to your consul for testimony of some kind, when I inform you that the fact of a forcible taking of the slaves and property is contradicted by the military authorities of the United States, who were engaged in the transaction. They repoi t that the negroes (claimed as slaves) were not taken by force nor in any other way by the military column; but that, on the contrary, they left the plantation voluntarily; that a portion, understood to be over half of them, had even so left and abandoned the plantation before the expedition in that direction was made; and that of the remaining half, a portion left in the same voluntary manner, taking advantage of the expedition, some of them going tiff before the column as it advanced, and others following behind it as it proceeded; that the expedition returned during a night and a day, and that other negroes, supposed to be slaves then, followed it on its return; and that all this was, done not only without any command or direction given by the officer, but even without any interference made by himself or by any of the forces constituting the expedition. It is also stated by the military authorities that they received only one of the fugitive slaves in question, and that this particular slave was one who had escaped from the plantation before the expedition was made, was wounded by a musket-ball in the act of escape, and, therefore, sought refuge in the camp, and was there indulged with medical treatment.
The same authorities report that when the expedition had passed Mr. Bougere's house on its outward march, that person, who had been absent from the mansion, returned to it and then drove all his cattle and other stock back into the woods, and also drove the slaves who were then remaining on the plantation into his sugar-house; and that these slaves, taking advantage of the night, left the sugar-house and followed the expedition on its return to the camp.
The military authorities further report that they took two very poor horses from the plantation and used them to draw the guns, but that only one of them belonged to Mr. Bougere; and they allege that no other horses or other animals, nor any carriages or slaves, or other property, were taken from the plantation by the expeditionary force, either with or without the authority of the commander. They add, however, that some snch property as is mentioned by Mr. Bougere was taken and used by the slaves in making their flight.
Having thus, with the utmost frankness, given to you the representations of the transaction communicated by the Secretary of War to this department, it remains only to say that I am instructed to receive and to give due weight to any corrections of those representations which Mr. Bougere shall be able to make, and that when the case shall thus have been fully developed, I shall apply to the President for instructions, with a view to a definite and, as I trust, a satisfactory reply.
I have the honor to be, with high consideration, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
Mr. Henry Mercier, ^r., Ifc., 4,c.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Mercier.
Department Of State,
Washington, November 10, 1862.
Sir: I have attentively read your excellency's note of the 6th instant.
Thus far, only two persons who have claimed exemption from the military draft on the ground of their being French subjects have been presented to this department, and both of them were discharged promptly and without delay.