In a letter to General Forey, who would go on to take command of the French expedition in Mexico, Napoleon III outlined his motives in seeking to create an “independent” Mexico.
“Fontainebleau, July 5, 1862.
My dear General,
There will be people to ask you why we waste so many men, and spend so much money, in establishing a regular government in Mexico.
In the present state of the civilised world, the prosperity of America is not indifferent to Europe, for America supports our manufactories and keeps alive our commerce. We are interested in keeping the United States a powerful and prosperous republic ; but it will not be interesting to us if it takes possession of the whole of the Gulf of Mexico, and governs the West Indies and South America, thus controlling the entire produce of the New World. We now see by sad experience how precarious an industry is that which is compelled to seek its raw material in a single market, the changes of which so seriously affect it.
Now if Mexico preserves its independence and maintains the integrity of its territory ; if a firm government is established there by the aid of France, we shall give to the Latin race beyond the ocean its ancient strength and power ; we shall have guaranteed the security of our own and the Spanish colonies in the West Indies ; we shall have extended our benevolent influence to the centre of America, and that influence, while it makes a market for our fabrics, secures us the material indispensable to our manufactures.
Mexico, thus regenerated, will ever be favourable to us, not only from gratitude, but also because its interests will coincide with ours, and because it will find a support in its relations with European powers.
Originally quoted in Percy F. Martin, Maximilian in Mexico. The story of the French intervention (1861-1867), 1914, pp. 107-108.