|The Mid-Victorian Royal Navy William Loney R.N. Fun||Search this site|
The Times newspaper on the 1861 Trent Affair
|► The Royal Navy||(1/5) (2/5) (3/5) (4/5) (5/5)|
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Th 5 December 1861|
[A portion of the following appeared in our Second Edition of yesterday:-]
The United States' Consul has communicated to the French papers a letter of General Scott [Winfield Scott, 1786-1866, former general-in-chief of the Union army], in which he declares there is no truth in the report that the Cabinet of Washington had ordered the seizure of the Southern Commissioners, even if under the protection of a neutral flag. He is quite ignorant of the decision of his Government, but he says it is necessary to preserve good relations between America and England. "I hope," continues General Scott, "that Earl Russell and Mr. Seward will agree on a solution to the question, whether the persons who were arrested on board the Trent were contraband of war or not. If they were agents of the rebels, it will be difficult to convince even impartial minds that they were less contraband of war than rebel soldiers or cannons."
"It is not the mission of France to avenge insults offered to England. If an outrage has been committed on the high seas against the British flag, it does not rest with our Government to demand reparation, nor is it the duty of public opinion in France to resent it. Let us suppose that by an outrage on the French flag we were placed in a similar position to that of England. Under present circumstances we are disinterested. We are not the judges of what becomes the honour of England. For two years the Cabinet of Lord Palmerston has been calling together volunteers, plating frigates with iron, manufacturing rifled cannon, surrounding the English ports with formidable defences, and sustaining itself in Parliament and the country by the aid of a warlike popularity. Having seen such a display and such preparations against phantoms of fear, the counsels which we should give to England must necessarily appear very moderate and timid. If the Cabinet of Washington does not disavow the proceeding of the captain of the San Jacinto, and if England insists on obtaining reparation, a new state of things may be brought about affecting the interests of all the European Powers. If England recognizes the Southern States the Powers must necessarily take such a change into consideration for the sake of their commercial interests, and must desire the termination of the war. If the Southern Confederacy, by its recognition by one of the Great Powers, should enjoy public rights as a nation, the other States would have to consider what attitude such an important modification would impose upon them, and the Cabinet of Washington would bear the responsibility of a resolution which the necessities of commerce and political influence would impose upon Europe."
|Th 5 December 1861|
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir,- Your attention has, no doubt, been directed to a letter which is signed "George Sumner," and Is extracted from the Boston Evening Transcript,
with the following heading:-
I don't propose to deal with the law laid down in this "authoritative letter," but I have a word to say as to the facts of the "gentleman whose theoretic and practical knowledge of the law of nations has no superior in the country."
Mr. Sumner has quoted a precedent in defence of the captain of the San Jacinto which has attracted an attention to which, if accurately stated, it was well entitled. In order not to do injustice to Mr. Sumner, I give him precedent in his own words:-
Now any one will perceive at once that the whole force of this precedent consists in the statement that the Mercury, on board of which Laurens was seized, was "a Dutch packet," Holland being at that time a "neutral Power." If this were so, the case has indeed a very serious bearing on the present complaint of England against the United States; if the Mercury was not a neutral packet, the case has simply nothing to do with the question.
Now, what is the fact? Where, I ask, did Mr. Sumner find the authority for his statement that the Mercury was a Dutch packet? I have looked at the book which he cites, and I will quote here at length the letter to which he refers:-
You will see, Sir, that this letter contains no statement whatever that the Mercury was a Dutch packet; and them is a note appended to the early part of the letter:- "This letter (i.e., of the 23d ult.), is missing, nor does it appear from the correspondence at what time or from what place Mr. Laurens sailed." Indeed, the names of the ship and its captain - viz., "Mercury" and "Pickles," sufficiently indicate the true state of the facts.
The truth is, the Mercury was not a Dutch neutral packet, but an American belligerent (or, as we should have said, rebellious) packet. But, if this be so, what becomes of Mr. Sumner's notable precedent? I proceed to give you my authorities. The first I shall cite is an American work, published at Cambridge, United States, with which Mr. Sumner might be supposed to be acquainted. It is entitled Annals of America, by Abiel Holmes, D.D., Minister of the First Church of Cambridge, and Corresponding Secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 2, p. 310:-
The following quotations are from English works the authority of which will not be disputed:-
The last authority I shall cite is Lord Mahon's History of England, vol. vii., p. 118:-
Now, this being the true state of the facts, is it not a great deal too bad that a man in Mr. Sumner's position should solemnly state that "this case shows the practice of England in regard to belligerent Ambassadors and the neutral packets which carry them? If the San Jacinto had taken Messrs. Slidell and Mason out of the Charleston packet when she was running the blockade, under the Confederate flag, the cases would have been parallel. So far the precedent of Mr. Laurens carries the argument, but not a step further.
Poor indeed is the prospect of a prudent and reasonable conduct on the part of the people or the Government of the North American States, if these are the counsels which they receive from those whom they deem their wisest men. Blind leaders of the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch. It is not we in England, but it is the merchants of Boston and the people of America who have the most reason to complain of such fatal inaccuracy and such culpable ignorance on the part of those to whom they look for advice and guidance.I am, Sir, &c,
Temple, Dec 4
|Th 5 December 1861|
LONDON, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, 1861.
General Scott denies that it was in direct obedience to instructions from the Government at Washington that Commodore Wilkes perpetrated the outrage upon our flag. So far, so well, General Scott, however, has only denied what no one ever believed. Our Special Correspondent at Washington had, by anticipation, fortified us against giving credence to any such fabrication. He had already told us that the act of the captain of the San Jacinto was his own, and that he had undertaken this enterprise as a means of distinguishing himself. It is not, however, reassuring to find that General Scott, like his countrymen, is rather inclined to disavow the conception of this act than to repudiate it now that it has been done. He wishes to look upon it as a very small affair, and he does not seem to be able to see that the question of what is "contraband of war" cannot be as lawfully determined by a naval officer at sea as by an International Prize Court. He thinks that, after a public insult has been offered by the officer of one country to the flag of another, the first thing to follow is, not a complete restitution, but an argument between the Ministers of the two countries whether what has been done in violence might or might not have been legally effected in a peaceful manner. General Scott grievously mistakes the feeling of this country if he believes that good relations between America and England are to be preserved by any such suggestions as these. We have sent to Washington, not to open a controversy, but to demand a restitution. When that has been done we shall be happy to discuss the other questions at issue at any length the Americans may please.
At present, however, the only question open for discussion is the right of an officer of a belligerent Power to take by force and carry away the passengers and cargo of a neutral ship. We must do the Americans the justice to say that they have seen this difficulty and have made some clumsy attempts to meet it. Of course, it cannot be argued upon principle. The consequences of such a rule would be universal piracy. It is attempted, therefore, by some writers, and even by some who ought to know better and who do know better, to justify what has been done by Commodore Wilkes -for we cautiously abstain from treating this as an act of the Federal States until they have formally adopted it - by showing that similar things have been done before. One gentleman at Boston, who is, we presume, a near relative of Senator Sumner, and who is said to write under his inspiration, quotes what he calls a case in point, where, as he says, an envoy from the insurgents in America to Holland was captured on board a Dutch, ship, and was committed to the Tower as a traitor. Mr. George Sumner is entirely mistaken as to the one important fact in his case, for the ship on board which Mr. Laurens was captured was not Dutch, but American; but he is equally mistaken if he thinks that, even were his case parallel to that of the Trent in all its circumstances, it would be allowed by us, or by France, or by Russia, or by Spain, or by any civilized maritime nation, to have any bearing upon the question as to what is the Law of Nations at the present day. A hundred wrongs will not make a right. The pages of history, as far back as history can be read, are speckled with deeds of violence and crime, but these acts are not cited by moralists as proofs that such deeds now constitute virtues.
If the Cabinet of Washington propose to contend that we must in the year 1861 submit to endure at the hands of their cruisers every indignity which our ancestors have ever at any time inflicted upon a neutral flag, then we understand what will be the issue between us. If they do not propose to go this length, these resuscitations of long-buried circumstances are irrelevant, and are in themselves a confession of weakness. There is nothing which could not be proved by such precedents as these. In the year 1804 the then Government of France sent a detachment with artillery across the frontier of a neutral State, and there seized a refugee, brought him to France, tried him by a Court-martial, and shot him. This is a precedent which the world is never likely to forget, for the name of the victim was the Duc D'Enghien. The French, however, would be a little surprised if the Americans were to think themselves justified by this precedent in landing near Havre and carrying off some captain of a Confederate craft. So, at a date so late as June, 1853, an American captain, in the harbour of Smyrna, undertook to demand possession of a Hungarian refugee whom the commander of the Austrian ship of war Ussaro had kidnapped from the shore. The American cleared for action, and proposed to fight the Austrian in the harbour for the possession of a person who had no more claim on America than on England. The Americans, however, would scarcely hold this precedent to justify the captain of an English frigate in seizing in the streets of New York an English subject accused of treason against the Government of England, nor would they be satisfied to see substantial justice done against the English frigate by a French ship of war which should open its ports and fire a broadside into her in New York harbour. Again, the Federal Americans only the other day seized upon some travellers from California, on the ground of their being suspected of "Southern proclivities," and carried them as prisoners through the neutral territory of New Granada, laughing to scorn the protests of the neutral State and the opposition of the small force which that State was able to produce. Will the Cabinet of Washington be willing that we should on the first occasion appeal to this precedent as a rule of International Law? Will Napoleon III, or the Emperor of Austria be justified in seizing a French or Austrian refugee in, let us say, Canada, and bringing him through the Federal States down to New York for embarkation? We can give the Americans plenty more of these precedents if they are desirous of them, and we doubt not that they can produce a considerable number against us. We are not more immaculate than other people. When we were at once strong and passionate we sometimes did unjustifiable things. Having done them, we generally fought our way out of the difficulty, but we never claimed to make precedents of them, nor were other nations ever willing to accept them as such.Nothing but wilful ignorance or presumption could pretend to draw a justification from a precedent of wrong. International Law rests, indeed, upon precedents, but it deduces its rules from precedents of acts done with the general concurrence of all nations. "Just consequences drawn from natural principles," says Grotius, "discover to us the law of nature; universal consent discovers to us the law of nations." The modern deeds of violence have almost invariably been committed upon weak nations, and have met only with the general disapprobation of mankind. The Americans safely violated the territorial rights of Turkey, or of the petty State of New Granada, and there were no means of testing by war what the opinion of other nations was. We, however, pressed our extreme rights against the powerful as well as the weak, and the very acts which the Boston jurists would adopt as precedents were those which armed all the North against us, and set us fighting with great maritime leagues. International Law, like Municipal Law, changes with the necessities of society, and both General Scott and his friends at home must be prepared to accept as International Law not what we or others have done in old times, but what we should be permitted ourselves to do in the present day
|Fr 6 December 1861|
LONDON, FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6,1861.
In any great crisis we are always anxious to hear Mr. Bright [John Bright, 1811-1889, radical politician, and one of the greatest orators of the age]. His speech is waited for as a necessary preliminary to action. If insult has been done to us as a nation, if our commercial interests require a definite course of policy, and if the country is unanimous and we have all thoroughly made up our minds, we then Instinctively pause, and wait for the speech of John Bright. They do the same thing at Rome when they have resolved to canonize a saint. There is a Devil's Advocate, whose duty it is to pour cold water upon the general enthusiasm, and to show that the proposed saint, instead of being better, was rather worse than other people. It is a very useful institution, and therefore we have been always foremost in supporting that great analogous British institution, John Bright. The Irishman of tender conscience before he went to confession used to beat his wife, in order that, in her wrath, she might remind him of all his sins. We have no necessity for any such cruelty towards our political shrew, for without any especial provocation he is always ready to recapitulate, at the shortest possible notice, all that can be said against England and in favour of her enemies. Something has been wanting hitherto in the discussions as to America. The rights of the question seemed to be all one way. The statements on the other side all turned out to be forged history and the arguments false reasoning. Yet we were not quite satisfied. Every one waited for John Bright's speech. From somewhere or other it was sure to come, and until it had been delivered it was not safe to predicate that all that could possibly be alleged against this country had been said.
This event has at length come off. Mr. Bright has done his accustomed office at Rochdale. We are sorry to find that he was constrained to be so careful in his choice. Speaking upon so vast a question as that of peace or war with one of the Powers of North America, it might be expected that he would have chosen some conspicuous arena. Manchester, which made him a great public character; Birmingham, which sends him to Parliament; or London, which might afford an audience where wealth and intelligence would have mingled, might either of them have been some test of the general mind. Rochdale, however, is a mere nest of furnaces, and has no communion of sentiment with the country around, nor the least possible influence over the public opinion of the country generally. Perhaps it is not here a matter of much importance where Mr. Bright speaks, but, as he speaks less for England than for the foreign newspapers, it is as well our neighbours should know that the sentiments which Mr. Bright wishes to disseminate just now are not those which he thinks it convenient to speak either in his own borough or in any of the great cities of the kingdom. It might sometimes appear that he fancied while speaking he was delivering his speech, as he said, "in the city of Boston or the city of New York." But he has delivered himself of that which we wished to hear; and now, having heard the Devil's Advocate, we can rest in comfortable security that there is nothing untold which can be said against us and our country. By far the larger portion of Mr. Bright's speech is made up of an elaborate defence of the enterprise of the Northern States to conquer and subdue the Southern States. With this we submit that we, as mere neutrals, have nothing to do, and Mr. Bright, as a peace man, has still less to do. An apology for the wholesale manslaughter which now infests the frontier States and desolates vast provinces is creditable to the zeal of Mr. Bright rather than to his humanity. It is nothing, however, to us. If Mr. Bright chooses to ride in blood up to his saddle-girths to put down the rebellious South, and to cry aloud and spare not, we have nothing to say against it, except to remark that the old Pennsylvanian leaven of intolerance appears to be extant in high preservation, and that it seems a pity Mr. Bright's energy and unscrupulous determination do not rule in the White-house, instead of amusing a sixth-rate provincial town in England. We, however, are neutrals. It is for Mr. Bright to break neutrality,. and to advocate the taking a part with one of these belligerents. It is for Mr. Bright to taunt every one who will not do a dishonest thing with a want of kindliness and sympathy. We have with an almost judicial impartiality cautiously refrained from aiding with either faction, and when Mr. Bright affirms that "The Times in this country has done all that it could to poison the minds of the people of England and to irritate the minds of the people of America," we appeal at once to a public which is not very oblivious as to what appears in these columns, whether Mr. Bright has not publicly said that which is the opposite to the truth. If we have sinned on either side, it was in placing the worse side of our own case forwards while the public indignation was yet rising, and when the law authorities had not yet determined the questions of International Law. While the rights of the case were doubtful, we felt that it was our duty to moderate, and not to excite, the popular feeling. General Scott himself has found the best support for his own weak defence of what has happened in a quotation from our first observations upon the intelligence of the outrage to our flag. We have every wish to give a patient hearing to the Devil's Advocate, but we object to his concentrating those things whereof his client is the father entirely upon us. We may not, perhaps, be prepared to accept Mr. Bright's creed as to the Yankee Millennium, and to hound on the North to exterminate the South - as if the Anglo-Saxons of the South were not as much our kinsmen as the mixed races of the North; but we do not therefore accept the accusation that "the leading journal has not published one fair, honourable, or friendly article towards the States since Lincoln's accession to office." We have from the first advocated moderation, humanity, and peace. We have from the first deprecated a fratricidal war. We have shrunk from the sanguinary energy of the peace apostle of Rochdale, who has now learnt to translate the advocacy of murder and massacre by the words "fairness," "honour," and "friendship." We have been content to stand aloof, and simply to recommend both parties to try negotiation, arbitration, - anything rather than a sanguinary civil war.It is much to be feared that the portion of Mr. Bright's speech which relates to the question in dispute between the Federal States and this country will be by many considered to partake too much of the character of buffoonery to be upon a level with the importance of the subject. The sneer at "what is called International Law" is surely rather worthy of a jester than a statesman, and the similitude of the United States to a man nearly dead drunk, and ready to fight anybody, is much more facetious than argumentative. But we have one grain of comfort. Mr. Bright has nothing to say in favour or in defence of the outage committed upon our flag. He promises that upon some future occasion he will produce instances of many similar outrages committed by us 50 or 60 years ago. We disposed of this style of argument yesterday, and shall not condescend to reiterate the obvious answer to-day. Mr. Bright, however, has not added a line to the little the Americans and their advocates have said in excuse of what they have done. This is very reassuring. If Mr. Bright, who was supported at Rochdale by the United States' Consul, and, no doubt, by all the aid which the United States can afford, was unable to do more than sneer at all International Law, and, at the same time, to give up the outrage upon the British flag as "impolitic and bad," we are tolerably sure that we have heard all that can be said against England, and that she is indisputably right in taking the straight course to vindicate her honour. Let America judge by the speech of her greatest admirer in England how little can be said for her outrage upon a friendly, although a neutral country. Let her know, also, that in this country, even this comparatively moderate speech of Mr. Bright is but a voice without an echo.
|Fr 6 December 1861|
THE AMERICAN DIFFICULTY.
The following is a copy of a letter addressed by General Scott, in reply to the inquiries of a friend:-
"My dear Sir, - You were right in doubting the declaration imputed to me, to wit - that the Cabinet at Washington had given orders to seize Messrs. Mason and Slidell, even under a neutral flag, for I was not even aware that the Government had had that point under consideration. At the time of my leaving Now York it was not known that the San Jacinto had returned to the American seas; and it was generally supposed those persons had escaped to Cuba for the purpose of re-embarking in the Nashville, in pursuit of which vessel the James Adger and other cruisers had been despatched.
"I think I can satisfy you in a few words that you have no serious occasion to feel concerned about our relations with England, if, as her rulers profess, she has no disposition to encourage the dissensions in America.
"In the first place, it is almost superfluous to say to you that every instinct of prudence as well as of good neighbourhood prompts our Government to regard no honourable sacrifice too great for the preservation of the friendship of Great Britain. This must be obvious to all the world. At no period of our history has her friendship been of more importance to our people, at no period has our Government been in a condition to make greater concessions to preserve it. The two nations are united by interests and sympathies - commercial, social, political, and religious - almost as the two arms to one body, and no one is so ignorant as not to know that what harms one must harm the other in a corresponding degree.
"I am persuaded that the British Government can entertain no doubt upon this point, but if it does I feel that I may take it upon myself to say that the President of the United States, when made aware of its existence, will lose no opportunity of dispelling it.
"Nor is there anything, I venture to affirm, in the seizure of these rebel emissaries which ought to receive an unfriendly construction from England. Her statesmen will not question the legal right of an American vessel of war to search any commercial vessel justly suspected of transporting contraband of war; that right has never been surrendered by England; it was even guaranteed to her by the Treaty of Paris; and British guns frowning down upon nearly every strait and inland sea upon the globe is conclusive evidence that she regards this right as one, the efficacy of which may be not yet entirely exhausted. Of course there is much that is irritating and vexatious in the exercise of this right under the most favourable circumstances, and it is to be hoped the day is not far distant when the maritime States of the world will agree in placing neutral commerce beyond the reach of such vexations. The United States' Government has been striving to this end for more than 50 years; to this end early in the present century, and in its infancy as a nation, it embarked in a war with the greatest naval Power in the world, and it is even now a persistent suitor at every maritime Court in Europe for a more liberal recognition of the rights of neutrals than any of the other great maritime nations have yet been disposed to make. But, till those rights are secured by proper international guarantees upon a comprehensive and enduring basis, of course England cannot complain of an act for which in all its material bearings her own naval history affords such numerous precedents.
"Whether the captives from the Trent were contraband of war or not is a question which the two Governments can have no serious difficulty in agreeing upon. If Mr. Seward cannot satisfy Earl Russell that they were, I have no doubt Earl Russell will be able to satisfy Mr. Seward that they were not. If they were, as all authorities concur in admitting, agents of the rebellion, it will be difficult to satisfy impartial minds that they were any less contraband than a file of rebel soldiers, or a battery of hostile cannon.
"But even should there be a difference of opinion upon this point, it is very clear that our Government had sufficient grounds for presuming itself in the right to escape the suspicion of having wantonly violated the relations of amity which the two countries profess a desire to preserve and cultivate.
"The pretence that we ought to have taken the Trent into port, and had her condemned by a Prize Court, in order to justify our seizure of four of her passengers, furnishes a very narrow basis on which to fix a serious controversy between two great nations. Stated in other words, our offence would have been less if it had been greater. The wrong done to the British flag would have been mitigated if, instead of seizing the four rebels, we had seized the ship, detained all her passengers for weeks, and confiscated her cargo. I am not surprised that Captain Wilkes took a different view of his duty, and of what was due to the friendly relations which subsisted between the two Governments. The renowned common sense of the English people, I believe, will approve of his effort to make the discharge of a very unpleasant duty as little vexatious as possible to all innocent parties.
"If under these circumstances England should deem it her duty in the interest of civilization to insist upon the restoration of the men taken from under the protection of her flag, it will be from a conviction, without doubt, that the law of nations in regard to the rights of neutrals, which she has taken the leading part in establishing, requires revision, and with a suitable disposition on her part to establish those rights upon a just, humane, and philosophic basis. Indeed, I am happy to see an intimation in one of the leading metropolitan journals which goes far to justify this inference. Referring to the decisions of the English Admiralty Courts now quoted in defence of the seizure of the American rebels on board the Trent, the London Times of the 28th of November says,-
"If England, as we are here encouraged to hope, is disposed to do her part in stripping war of half its horrors by accepting the policy long and persistently urged upon her by our Government, and commended by every principle of justice and humanity, she will find no ground, in the visit to the Trent, for controversy with our Government. I am sure the President and people of the United States would be but too happy to let these men go free, unnatural and unpardonable as their offences have been, if by it they could emancipate the commerce of the world. Greatly as it would be to our disadvantage at this present crisis to surrender any of those maritime privileges of belligerents which are sanctioned by the laws of nations, I feel that I take no responsibility in saying that the United States will be faithful to her traditional policy upon this subject, and to the spirit of her political institutions.
"On the other hand, should England be unprepared to make a corresponding sacrifice; should she feel that she could not yet afford to surrender the advantages which the present maritime code gives to a dominant naval Power, of course she will not put herself in a false position by asking us to do it. In either case, therefore, I do not see how the friendly relations of the two Governments are in any immediate danger of being disturbed.
"That the over-prompt recognition as belligerents of a body of men, however large, so long as they constituted a manifest minority of the nation, wounded the feelings of my countrymen deeply, I will not affect to deny, nor that that act, with some of its logical consequences, which have already occurred, has planted in the breasts of many the suspicion that their kindred in England wish them evil rather than good; but the statesmen to whom the political interest of these two great people are confided act upon higher responsibilities and with better lights, and you may rest assured that an event so mutually disastrous as a war between England and America cannot occur without some other and graver provocation than has yet been given by either nation."WINFIELD SCOTT.
"Hotel Westminster, Paris, Dec. 2."
|Fr 6 December 1861||The Tyne Naval Reserve. - Shields, Wednesday. - This forenoon the letter from the Lords of the Admiralty to Captain Palmer, of Her Majesty's ship Castor, in acknowledgment of the address sent from the Tyne by the Royal Naval Reserve Force, tendering their services to the Queen in case of war with the Northern States of America, was read from the quarterdeck of that vessel to the Naval Reserve men, and was received with immense enthusiasm. The letter read was the same as that published in The Times on Tuesday. After the reply was read to the men they determined to have a demonstration in the seaport of Shields that afternoon, and at half-past 1 o'clock they mustered in strong force upon the New Quay, North Shields, as fine a body of young fellows as it was possible to clap eyes upon. The officers of the 1st Northumberland Artillery kindly put their fine band at the service of the men, who had mustered an immense number of union jacks, ensigns of St. George, &c, and when the procession was formed it had quite a warlike appearance. About 2 o'clock the band struck up "Hearts of Oak," and the men proceeded to march through the principal streets of North and South Shields. They were met everywhere with the greatest enthusiasm by the seafaring population, especially in the neighbourhood of the quays and shipping. Above 1,000 seamen are now enrolled; in the books of the North Shields Shipping-office as Naval Reserve men.|
|Fr 6 December 1861||The Export of Military Stores. - Birmingham, Dec. 5. - The Queen's Proclamation prohibiting the export of arms, ammunition, percussion caps, &c., has produced a sort of convulsion here. As to the gun trade, there are large orders on hand, in which all the principal makers are participating. There are a great many guns ready for shipment, and many more approaching completion. The manufacture will at once be stopped, and a heavy loss will accrue to the trade, particularly to a large number of workmen who have become little masters during the late excitement created by the American demand. Persons so situated will be left with a considerable quantity of unfinished work on hand, upon which extravagant wages have been paid. The legitimate military arm trade will share in the loss, but those engaged in it will now be in a good position to proceed with their contracts for our own Government, these having been hitherto interrupted, in spite of all the efforts made to prevent it. This has not been, however, to any serious extent, inasmuch as the contractors have been guarded in the engagements they have entered into with the purchasers of arms for America, and no very recent contracts have been made for that charter. There have been several agents here from America, all eager purchasers of guns, but none very recently.|
|Sa 7 December 1861|
THE AMERICAN DIFFICULTY.
Mr. Danby Seymour, MP. [Henry Danby Seymour, 1820-1877, Liberal MP for Poole, Dorset], in retuning thanks for his health at the annual dinner of the Sherborne Agricultural Society, of which he was chairman, referred at some length to the question of our cotton supply and the present difficulty with America. After alluding to the prosperous season which the agriculturists had had this year in comparison with the last, he observed that they could not say the same of the manufacturing districts, which were now suffering from the greatest evil that could befall them - namely, a famine or cotton. It had always been held over our heads that this loss of the cotton supply was the means by which unscrupulous politicians on the other side of the Atlantic would humble England by preventing her acting according to her free, unbiased judgment. But, as they found that many evils were greater in anticipation than in reality, so it was in this case. It was true that there was suffering in the manufacturing districts, but, at the same time, there was much good springing out of it. In the first place, it was very gratifying to see such excellent relations subsisting between the employers and the workmen - to see the merchants and possessors of mills at once and in proper time working half-time, and declaring their intention that even in case they could not work at a profit, they would still support their workmen and keep them out of the poor-house. It was pleasant to see this enlightened view taken of things, and this agreement between two classes of the population, the employers and the employed. (Hear, hear.) Then, again, good is always springing out of evil, and so this famine of cotton from the United States has made us look to other regions. We were before dependent entirely upon America, and it was anticipated that the loss of this supply would throw some thousands of people out of employment, and leave them to starve. Now, what do we see? Cotton pouring in from other parts of the world; and the result of this interruption of the supply from America would be that we should no longer be dependent upon that country as the sole source of supply. The cotton famine had produced what no representations could from those who managed the affairs of the soil of India, which was now as free to the settler as the soil of England; but nothing would have extorted this but the failure of the cotton supply. They would scarcely believe that in some parts of India the cultivator had to pay 50 per cent, of the produce of the soil to the Government, and it was easy to presume that very little capital would be employed under such circumstances. That ancient tax was extorted with great severity, so that the cultivation of the soil was kept in a state of depression, and cotton could not be produced, nor scarcely anything else. But now within the last month or so this great impediment had been removed, and India was freely open to Englishmen. (Hear, hear.) That was one result of the failure of cotton from America. Then it was known that cotton grew as a weed in Africa. He had taken a great deal of interest in the suppression of that horrible traffic in slaves. He had been one of the council of a society recently formed for the suppression of that traffic - called the African Aid Society - to send the free negro back to Africa, in order to civilise his country. What would be the effect of this cotton famine? The inhabitants of Africa had been carried away to America, to Cuba, to cultivate sugar and cotton; whereas cotton was growing as a weed in their own country, and the great effect would be to promote the growth of that plant in its native soil. (Hear.) There was also a topic to which he must advert on the present occasion, and which was now stirring the hearts of all England to the lowest depth; he alluded to the affair of the Trent. Now, what was the position in which we were placed? A vessel sailing under the English flag had been stopped on the open sea. The opinion of the law officers of the Crown had been taken on the subject, and they had declared it to be contrary to international law. The consequence was that we felt ourselves touched on a vital point - -vital to us as a high-spirited, military nation - vital to us as a great commercial nation. Our very existence depended upon due respect being paid to the ships which carried our commerce across the ocean. We did not wish to quarrel with the United States. Our Government had done everything in its power to remain neutral; and the wish of every Englishman had been that we should remain neutral in that horrid civil war which was being waged on the other side of the Atlantic. (Hear.) If we were to engage in that war, it would be almost a civil war to us, and as brother was now raising his hand against brother, so it would then be with us. There was not a portion of England that had not sent emigrants to America within the last 20 or 30 years, and the whole nation had sprung from our loins within three generations. It could not be our interest, for we were their creditors to the extent of millions - it could not be our wish to quarrel with a people who had sprung from ourselves. But, at the same time, what, in a case of this sort, were we to do? One thing was necessary, and that had been done. Her Majesty's Government had sent out a representation of the facts of the case, as it was understood, in a temperate despatch, to inform the authorities at Washington what our opinion of the law was, and to ask from them the only reparation that could be made, which was to place us in the same position as if this had never happened, and to express their regret at what had occurred. That was a proper and sensible mode of proceeding. (Hear, hear.) Nothing could be more creditable to this country than the manner in which this terrible news had been received. Although we had been deeply indignant, still, in conversation man with man, a desire had been freely expressed to abide by what was right. They said let the authorities be consulted, and if we had suffered wrong, we will look for reparation; but we will abide strictly by the law of the case. It was this respect for law which distinguished civilized from uncivilized nations. It was this respect for law which had characterized England from the first period of her existence as a nation, and which had been in a great degree the secret of her prosperity. Well, if this respect for the law is felt on the other side of the Atlantic, he did not anticipate any other than a pacific solution of this unfortunate occurrence. (Hear, hear.) Our despatch had gone forth, stating that we considered ourselves wronged according to international law, and that we demanded reparation; but when an answer came to that despatch then a difficult question might be brought before the nation. If the law officers of America state that they are of the same opinion as ours - that what has been done is contrary to the law of nations, then, of course, they must give reparation, and the affair would be settled. But supposing they gave a contrary opinion, there would then be a most important question for consideration. Two courses would then be open to us. One was instantly to send an army to demand satisfaction. The other was to take the opinion of some dispassionate party, to state between us what the law of the case is. He would not prescribe the course, but he hoped no means would be spared to keep peace. We were principals in this affair, and they were principals. We did not wish to shed blood - we did not wish to commit carnage, as it would be upon blood relations, or to cause those rankling feelings which must survive the hot hour of battle for many generations. We wished to avoid that, if possible, and if the position arose to which he had alluded, knowing that we possessed a vast power, we should, at the same time, show forbearance equal to that power; we should take the opinion of some dispassionate jurist, or some neutral State, before proceeding to the ultimate and last resource. Living in this 19th century, and in these civilized times, he said, it was our duty, as far as we possibly could, to avoid entering into a quarrel, although we knew how well we should behave when once in. While it was most improbable the opinion of any dispassionate person would be against us - while it was almost certain we had suffered wrong at the hands of America, and if full and instant reparation be not given for the injuries we have received, still we should be adding to our strength, and adding to our reputation for forbearance, if we took the opinion of some independent third party. Then our position would be stronger; and if America refused to give reparation after that, we should instantly resort to force, and never lay down our arms as long as we had power to wield them in a just cause. And he was certain they would be considered as out of the pale of civilization, and as a lawless mob instead of a nation, in declining to listen to a dispassionate arbiter. (Applause.)
MR. PAGET.At a banquet in connexion with the liberal party, held in the Exchange Rooms, Nottingham, on Thursday, Mr. Paget [Charles Paget, 1799-1873,), Liberal MP for Nottingham], after a few preliminary remarks, said he would allude to a subject which was uppermost in the mind of every Englishman - the state of our relations with North America. (Hear.) Let them look at the position of the two contending Powers in that country, and what were the great reasons of their difference. They arose from two circumstances - slavery and protected industry. Both of these they derived from us, and, therefore, we ought to look upon their mistakes and their deviations from a right course rather in sorrow than in anger. They should not be surprised that the Federal Republic should not willingly give up their idea of becoming the most magnificent empire the world ever saw without soma feelings of regret, and perhaps without some struggles; and when they recollected that it was their first express determination that the area of slavery, which had brought about the secession of the South, should not be further extended, it must be acknowledged that there was something decidedly good in their view of the question. "You must understand," said Mr. Paget, "that I mention all these things in order that we should approach the consideration of the question at issue with calm and dispassionate minds, without entertaining any irritation towards them. An act has been perpetrated by an officer of an armed ship of the Federal Republic which is an outrage against the law of nations and an insult to the British flag. (Cheers.) That insult must either be repaired or it must be resented. (Loud cheers.) I hope that the representations that are being made by Her Majesty's Government, under the sense of a full and deep responsibility, will have a proper effect, for upon the result of their negotiations depends the lives of thousands of our fellow-creatures. I do hope that the result of their remonstrances and representations will be met on the part of the Government of North America with such apologies as will enable us to continue with them on those friendly relations which we have hitherto done. But if those representations should fail - if reparation is refused - then we must incur and inflict all the horrors of war, which, terrible as they may be, are a thousand times better for us and the whole civilized race than to submit to the flag of England being insulted unrepaired (loud cheers), or to be trampled down by violence unredressed." (Cheers.)
|Ma 9 December 1861|
LONDON, MONDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1861.
The newspapers just received from the Federal States manifest a wholesome change in the public opinion of New York. The mercantile classes had had time to reconsider the probable consequences of an insult offered to Old England, and were beginning to "discount" the intelligence of the return mail. There has been a sudden hush, a rapid subsidence in the bluster of some previous weeks. It is no longer thought a brave thing to boast that "What Great Britain may say to this we do not know, and do not greatly care." All the organs which represent any interest that has the least solidity have evidently been let into the secret that there is nothing to be said for Captain Wilkes and his piratical frigate. They are now talking delicately of the affair of the Trent, and even preparing the way for the restitution of the captive Commissioners. We have only noted one exception among the files we have received. The New York Herald still holds that England is only amenable to menace, and sneers at its contemporaries as being "down upon their marrowbones before the British Lion". The Herald represents the scum of a great city, which city is but a member of a great democracy. The New York Times, the Tribune, the World, and other papers represent the doubts and terrors of reasonable men. It is very difficult to distil the real essence of the popular mind in America from such an unequally mingled mass, or to estimate the force which the respective classes will exercise upon the action of the Government; but the bankers of New York and Boston must have some influence upon the Cabinet of Washington, and if that influence should preponderate there will be no immediate war. On the other hand, the foreign policy of America is in the hands of a reckless adventurer, and this man can evoke at will all the wild passions of a sovereign mob.
The terror of the commercial men of the Federal States at the prospect of a war with England is now manifest enough. The Tribune has discovered that the delivering up of Messrs. Slidell and Mason would be "an immense triumph to Mr. Lincoln", and we most unfeignedly hope that Mr. Lincoln may see the fact in that light. Another paper has discovered a much more indubitable fact, -that, if Captain Wilkes has committed a wrong, there can be no loss of honour to the Federal States in a suitable restitution and apology. We find ourselves again reminded, after a long interval, of our kinship, of the evils of a war between the two countries, and of the ties which ought to bind us - facts and sentiments which we, at least, have never forgotten, but which are seldom remembered on the other side of the Atlantic at moments when they would naturally produce kindly deeds to us. England is adjured by some not "to take advantage of a quibble," and others are intent upon persuading us that really Slidell and Mason are not worth a war. There is such blank terror in some of these broadsheets which have been breathing flames for some years past, that if we could rely on the power of those who inspire them we should banish all apprehensions as to the immediate future, and should hold it as certain that we should be spared the necessity of taking part in this Transatlantic contest. "If Great Britain can show good reason for claiming them, they will be given up'', says one of the most reasonable, although not we fear, the most influential of the New York papers. Nothing can be more moderate. We are sorry to see that it is thought necessary to accompany these pacific declarations with a reservation that the imminent quarrel with England is only put off " till after we have settled our little account with Jefferson Davis and Co." The mingled terror and confusion of the moneyed mind of New York may be judged of by the statement in the New York Times, that "Many persons talk and write as if the instant she hears of it England would send a fleet of war steamers to bombard our cities and sweep our commerce from the face of the ocean." But we hope that the Government of the Federal States will not trust to the assurance of the New York Times that the whole matter must ensue in a "protracted negotiation".We are most anxious to warn the people of the Atlantic cities against a perilous error which, if persisted in, will certainly drift them and us into a war. They already appear to be recovering from two grievous misapprehensions. The first was the conviction that because we have, half grumbling and half in contempt, allowed them for some years to tread rudely upon our corns and to elbow us discourteously, we should therefore submit to have our nose tweaked in solemn form by Mr. Seward or his underlings. The second is that Mr. Everett and Mr. George Sumner could by forged facts and falsified history persuade us that an audacious insult upon our flag is an act in accordance with precedent and with International Law. The New York press have got over these hallucinations. They are convinced now that Mr. Seward's threat to conquer Canada and his ostentatious preparations for a war with England have not tended to make us at all more anxious to take the part of the North against the South. They are now also evidently convinced that Messrs. Everett and Sumner were, when talking about the law of the matter, displaying either consummate ignorance or silly and transparent knavery. The American press has, we infer, been informed that there is no question capable of argument about the rights of this matter; that "contraband" can only be declared to be contraband by a Prize Court; and that neither in form nor in substance, in law nor in equity, in word nor in spirit, is there any view of International Law by which this outrage upon us can be defended or extenuated. They have opened their eyes upon these two points. We desire to warn them against a third. They seem to think that, although we cannot be directly refused reparation and apology for this wrong, we may be easily outwitted by fair words and a procrastinating policy, which they are pleased to call "protracted negotiation". They are quite welcome to say what they please about putting off their war with England to a more convenient opportunity. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. They will act wisely, however, if they put off their "protracted negotiation" to the same convenient opportunity. If we are not content to stand in the companionship of nations with a spot upon our honour, neither are we content to be befooled and duped by such clumsy contrivances as can be invented by Mr. Seward. We hope it will be remembered by the Government at Washington that the four captives at Boston have been forcibly taken away from what we consider to have been a sacred asylum; that every moment of their captivity is an outrage to that sanctuary in defence of which we have always been ready to meet the world in arms; and that until these men stand once more under the flag which is pledged to protect them there can be no negotiation, either protracted or accelerated.
|Ma 9 December 1861|
QUEENSTOWN, Dec. 8.
The Royal Mail steamship Niagara, from. Boston, on the 27th and Halifax on the 29th ult., arrived here at 7 30 a.m. to-day. She brings 135 passengers, $1,100 for England, and $3,600 for Havre. She landed 112 sacks of mails and 3 passengers, and proceeded at 8 a.m.; all well.
NEW YORK, Nov. 26, Evening.
Commander Wilkes, at a public reception in Boston, said,-
"When the real facts of the case are known, and the authorities and precedents investigated, the capture of the Confederate Commissioners will have the best effect in England, as it will show that we are not to be intimidated from prosecuting our just rights."
|Tu 10 December 1861|
THE CIVIL WAR IN AMERICA.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 25.
"It is so clear we are right in seizing Mason and Slidell that we will go on proving the point daily, insisting on there being no doubt about it, demonstrating that the justice and legality of the act require no demonstration. We will never cease in maintaining in the face of the world that two and two make four - or five, if we like." If need were for any new proof of the influence of passion in blinding the eye of reason it would be found in the extraordinary manner in which the American press, jurists, and speakers have treated the arrest of the "ambassadors" of the Confederate States on board the Royal Mail steamer Trent. But there are many people who in private hold very different language. The quiet little tongues of the Stock Exchange are hinting their doubts very unmistakeably, and I venture to assert that if the opinions of the judges of the land were sought privately they would pronounce, against "the bold and patriotic act of Commodore Wilkes". The best legal authorities in this city are against it. But with the moral cowardice which is the result of submission - habitual prostration to the force of a majority - men will neither publish nor write, nor speak openly what they are free to confess in the study or the conversation corner. There is a chorus all over the land of "Quite right - Don't be afraid," and an immense amount of mutual patting on the back. People ask, "What does England care about Slidell and Mason?" and are astonished to be told in reply that she cares something about the law of nations and her national honour. If it were believed really that Great Britain would take any serious notice of the act there would be an immediate panic in the commercial and monetary world which would extend its effects to every class in the Union, from the President who invests his salary in the national loan down to the daily labourer. But there is a sustaining hope that the Cabinet will not do anything, that at the very outside there will be a remonstrance and a lengthy correspondence, which will end as many other matters of protocol and despatch have ended before. As I write there is a rumour that Messrs. Slidell and Mason are to be surrendered. If it be true this Government is broken up. There is so much violence of spirit among the lower orders of the people, and they are so ignorant of everything except their own politics and passions, so saturated with pride and vanity that any honourable concession, even in this hour of extremity, would prove fatal to its authors. It would certainly render them so unpopular that it would damage them in the conduct of this Civil War. Admitting the general diffusion of the arts of reading and writing among the people, there is a special ignorance of anything but American notions which is very astonishing. I may mention in proof of this that I have received several letters requesting me to appear in public for the aid of benevolent or literary societies, the writers of which were good enough either to elevate me to the peerage, or were labouring under the delusion that the noble earl at the head of the Foreign office was seeking relaxation from the cares of his department by acting as your special correspondent in the United States. These letters were written by secretaries of associations or by people who were literary enough to keep collections of autographs. Adulation, incessant flattery for party or personal objects have puffed up the mob with foul vapours till they are nigh bursting with intolerance, and have thinned away the skin of their balloon till it is pouring out gas all over the land. How is any honest, hardhanded Wisconsin lumberer, then, who is sitting with his loaded rifle at full cock on the stump of a tree, and reading his newspaper and smoking his tobacco in the discharge of the highest duties of a citizen and a sentinel, to know the truth when he is assured by his best possible instructor that the English aristocracy, having sent Mr. George Thompson over to the States to destroy the Union by tampering with the slaves, are now despatching enormous armies to Canada to seize upon Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, the prosperity of which are an insult to their system and an eyesore to the Queen, the Prince Consort, and the rest of the Royal Family? How is he to resist the appeals to his prejudices daily instilled into him when he is told that he is the finest fellow in the world; that he is the only freeman on the face of the earth; that the English hate and fear him; that Vattel, and Wheaton, and Ortolan show Wilkes was wrong because he did not seize and take the Trent into port for condemnation, and that he and a million and a-half of soldiers, the handsomest, tallest, stoutest, straightest, heaviest, bravest, best shooting, best marching, best-disciplined, and best-principled that are, have been, or ever will be - the cream of creation in arms - will be called in shortly to avenge innumerable insults and wipe out the systems which, emperors, kings, tyrants, and aristocrats have invented for the oppression of suffering humanity all over the rest of the globe? I would give a good deal for a view of that man's head. Why, it must be filled with heroes, "such faultless monsters as the world ne'er saw," choke-full of victories that never existed - teeming with "star-spangled banners" and great Union processions, barbecues and bunkum perorations, crowded with visions of demons like Jeff. Davis and Lord Lyons, and the Duchess of Sutherland, all wheeling round and dancing about to a great crash of music, and the strains of "Yankee-doodle," while muffled assassins move through the throng, wrapped in cloaks above which peep out the prongs of Britannia's trident, the kepi of him of the Tuileries, or the fan of the Lady of Spain, stiletto in hand, seeking for an opening to get a dig at the Goddess of Liberty, who is at that moment engaged in conversation with President Lincoln, Mr. Seward, and the editor of his particular journal. He has no chance of a cure - all access to medicine is shut out, and the Wisconsin man will fight to the death in support of his insanity - he will die before he will give up Mason and Slidell. It is very probable - if Mr. Jefferson Davis ever condescends to such a thing - that he sang and danced with delight when he heard of the capture of these gentlemen; it is not too much to suppose he sent them on their mission because they were in his way. Mr. Mason is a man of considerable belief in himself; he is a proud, well-bred, not unambitious gentleman, whose position gave him a right to expect high office, for which in some respects he was unfitted at home, while his manners, his accomplishments, and his knowledge of society, as well as his moderation of opinion in reference to the merits of other systems of government, were well suited for a foreign mission. Mr. Slidell, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in New Orleans, is a man of more tact, and is not inferior to his colleague in other respects. He far excels him in subtlety and depth, and is one of the most consummate masters of political manoeuvre in the States. He is what is called here a " wire-puller" - a man who unseen moves the puppets on the public stage as he lists - a man of iron will and strong passions - who loves the excitement of combinations, and who in his dungeon, or whatever else it may be, would conspire with the mice against the cat sooner than not conspire at all. It struck me that he was living sullenly apart from Montgomery, waiting to be called in when I saw him, and I have no doubt Mr. Davis selected him with alacrity for the post which he was so well adapted to fill. Originally a Northern man, he has thrown himself into the Southern cause, and staked his great fortune on the issue without hesitation, and with all the force of his intellect and character. But even he believed that England must break the blockade for cotton. Little did he think then how prominent his name would become in reference to the relations between his own country and Great Britain. It is not too much to say the North gloats over the capture of these two men, and would consider it an equivalent for Leesburg or Columbus. Their hauteur, skill, and resolution have made them many enemies, and personal antipathies of the strongest kind exist between them and some of those who now have them in their hands. The creation of a precedent founded on what appears to me to be an outrage on the comity of nations and on the privileges of neutrals is not more dangerous than submission to a wrong without redress or apology, in order to avoid a quarrel with a Power friendly as far as treaty goes, if not in sentiment.
The secret Secession organ of New York is playing the game of the Confederates by exciting, as far as it has any influence, the ignorant masses against England in reference to the Mason and Slidell arrest, and in shouting out for a war with her sooner than submit to the indignity of doing justice. The poor Jack Pudding, in his fear of detection, is holding on by the skirts of the Secretary of State, and his cry is, "Seward and I are quite agreed on this! Seward is my man, and I am Seward's man. Here we are together. His programme is this, - We ask no favours from England; we simply demand justice, and if she will not yield that, we will fight her as we did before. If she will not listen to words then let us try what virtue there is in cannon balls." It is a melancholy exhibition - degrading to the people who tolerate it and only offensive because the Americans do not publicly repudiate, as they do privately, such puling braggadocio. When Mr. Seward permits his name to be used in such a manner, and when the White House is the head-quarters of people who are supposed to exercise influence over the "organ" and the inmates of the House, there is colour for the supposition that these miserable insults are not distasteful to persons who ought to shrink at all events from the discreditable association of those who offer them.
It is most extraordinary that, in matters deeply affecting the object for which they are contending, the North will ignore studiously and completely the merits of the case in which so much is involved. One would think that Mr. Everett might pause before he cited the case of the Caroline or the arrest of Mr. Laurens as cases in point, and that writers in a respectable paper like the New York Times, by the very magnitude of the issue, would be restrained from engaging in the puerilities which form the staple of their articles on the arrest of Messrs. Slidell and Mason, notably in their publication of Friday (November 22). Their arguments go on the assumption that they are "at war'' with the Confederate States, and that England has been notified of the fact. It is notorious, on the contrary, that the Government of the United States has resisted and resented the idea that it is "at war", and has insisted that it is blockading its own ports, having abandoned an absurd pretence of levying duties outside which it was authorized by Congress to do. When did the Government of Washington declare war? Was not Great Britain menaced and affronted because she granted to the seceded States belligerent rights limited in degree?
"A neutral," says Wheaton, "is the common friend of both parties, and consequently is not at liberty to favour one party to the detriment of the other." If that be so, henceforth, according to the new practice of the United States' Government, we are bound to carry no more despatches to Mr. Adams [Charles Francis Adams, 1807-1886, son of President John Quincy Adams, United States ambasador in London], and to permit no messenger, envoy, ambassador, or despatch in the service of the United States to go in any of our ships to Europe, and, supposing the doctrine of the United States to be true, we ought to take that course. We have assumed a neutral character between the Northern States and the seceded States; to the latter we have conceded a position vested with belligerent rights. - "A neutral has nothing to do with the justice or injustice of the war." Granted that by the concession Great Britain gave an excuse for the exercise of the right of search which the Americans claim as a belligerent right, as long as they declare they are not at war, but are merely suppressing an internal commotion, they exercise it de leur tort in any case, but in no case can they be permitted to exercise it where the character of the ship is notorious, and where, in the nature of things, she cannot be the object of legitimate search or the subject of suspicion. Are the captains of our mail steamers to determine the political status of their passengers and act as judges of international law before they permit them to embark in their ships? To the captain of the Trent, Mr. Slidell and Mr. Mason were merely passengers entered on the list in the ordinary way, and even if he had read anything about them in the papers, at most he could know they were believed to be sent by an unrecognized Government for a political purpose to Europe, and he would have had no more right to stop them, and examine their papers and despatches, than he would have to subject Mr. Cassius Clay [Cassius Marcellus Clay, 1810-1903, nicknamed "The Lion of White Hall", an emancipationist from Madison County, Kentucky] or Mr. Thurlow Weed [1797-1882, New York newspaper publisher and Republican party politician] to a similar process. If he was bound by the Queen's proclamation of neutrality to object to the passage of the one, he was equally obliged to do so in case of the others, Imagine the masters of the Dover and Calais steamers interrogating Italian and Hungarian refugees during the Austrian war as to their politics and objects!
Sir W. Scott lays down expressly as a rule respecting contraband that it must be taken in delicto [in the act], in the actual prosecution of the voyage to an enemy's port. (Adm. Repts.," The Ionia," vol. 3, p, 168.) Under the circumstances, the search of the Trent for contraband could not be justified. Captain Wilkes knew the character of the ship, and was well aware he could not find contraband on board of her. Had she been sailing from Havannah full of arms and munitions of war for Southampton to be thence transferred to a vessel for America intended to run the blockade, she could not, nevertheless, be touched under any pretence whatever in accordance with the law of nations. No writer has ever laid it down of late days that an ambassador of an enemy can be seized on board a neutral ship which has sailed from one neutral port and is bound to another. If the Trent were employed specially to convey Messrs. Mason and Slidell and their despatches, there might be some show of justification for the seizure, but as it stands there is none whatever. De Hautefeuille indicates clearly that postal vessels are exempt from such action; they are so necessitate rei [from necessity]. The New York Times very poorly and weakly puts a case of an Ambassador of France going on board a neutral ship of a small State to form a hostile alliance against England in time of war, and asks if an English ship of war would not seize? If against law, and the seizure was made, doubtless the State so aggrieved would have grounds for making war and doing its best to obtain redress. But there is no parallel at all. The question the New York Times should put is this:- If England and France were at war, and the latter sent an Ambassador to embark at Stettin and go to Cronstadt in the Russian mail steamer, would England justify the conduct of a captain of one of her armed ships who fired at the Imperial mail steamer, brought her to, then by armed force dragged the Ambassador on board his ship as a prisoner? Would Russia tolerate such an act for one moment ? But the word "Ambassador" implies that he is the agent of a recognized Power. When and where have the Confederate States been recognized as a Power competent to open diplomatic relations by an Ambassador? Mr. Laurens was on board an American vessel -a vessel belonging to a rebellious enemy, resisting the sovereignty of Great Britain, which had not succeeded in establishing its independence. His case has nothing whatever to do with the arrest of Slidell and Mason. Another wiseacre, who writes to prove how the agents of the Persia respected the Queen's proclamation of neutrality by refusing to permit guns, &c, to be taken on board at Liverpool for the United States, forgets that the Persia was sailing from a neutral to the port of a belligerent. Guns were unmistakeable contraband of war; Mr. Slidell and Mr. Mason can only be made so by the introduction of some principle of law as yet unknown to civilized nations. They were not soldiers; if they were, it is not possible to maintain that they could have been seized, if they were sailing from a Spanish to an English port, even with an animus revertendi [intent to return], unless they had hired the vessel for their special conveyance. As bearers of despatches, men cannot be seized and imprisoned permanently on board neutral ships in which they are sailing as ordinary passengers. A neutral ship carrying contraband is liable to confiscation, but her crew are only confined till they have given evidence in the case.
It is the uniform law that when a capture has been effected within the limits of a neutral territory, i.e., within its seas, "the property must be restored." Sir William Scott's judgment on that point in the "Vrow Anna Catherina" has never been questioned. For all intents and purposes the property of Messrs. Mason and Slidell and they themselves were, when under the British flag, on neutral ground. "It is the right as well as the duty of the neutral State to restore it to its owners." Vattel declares that "in whatever does not relate to the war the neutral must not refuse to one of the parties, merely because he is at war with the other, what he grants to that other." But over and above all these points is the fact, before insisted on in my letters, of the special character of the ship itself. The principle involved in that fact is not only asserted by writers of authority, but was announced in the postal convention between England and the United States in 1848, in which it was expressly stipulated that, in case of war between the two countries, the mail packets between the two countries should be allowed to continue their service without molestation until six weeks' notice had been given by either Government of the intention to stop it, when they would be permitted to return specially protected to their ports. It never could have been foreseen that the United States would have claimed the right to board and arrest passengers in the Royal West India mail steamers on the high seas, or we should have had, no doubt, very explicit declarations on the point. The character of the vessel should have rendered all her passengers safe from molestation. If the flag has any sovereign right and protecting power at all, it is in the case of political refugees or offenders who have sought its shelter. Admitting all that can be said of them - even that they were "Ambassadors" - i. e., that the Confederate States of America are recognized by the United States of America as a separate State - there would have been a ground of grave remonstrance had they been seized on board a common merchant ship bound from Havannah for Southampton."For two centuries past," says Wheaton, "there has been a constant tendency to establish the principle that the neutrality of the ship should exempt the cargo, even if enemy's property, from capture and confiscation as prize of war." But this seizure would put the world back many a long year. There are certain things which a man cannot submit to with the most peace-loving disposition in the world, or if he does submit must bear the scorn of his fellows. No word of war has been breathed by England, while the air is full of the menace over here, in a capital shut up by hostile attitude probably till the return of fine weather next year! The journals, with some very few exceptions, are jubilant in their exultation over a new difficulty - some new source of strength to the Union. The sensitive capitalists of New York are assured that if the United States resolve to persist in the capture there is no danger of war; at all events, it will be long delayed by negotiation and the usual diplomatic formalities. There was no intention on the part of Captain Wilkes to insult the British flag, forsooth; he took his prisoners with only such a display of force as the case required - of what can the British Government complain? In time of war neutrals may be visited and searched by the vessels of either belligerent, for in their confusion the United States' papers have got into the habit of considering the Confederates as belligerents - of looking on them as we were unfortunate enough to say we thought they were some time ago. Such are the ideas hammered on a thousand clanging anvils - a pin beaten into foil. Captain Wilkes when he stopped the Trent by shotted guns knew perfectly well the vessel could not contain contraband of war. Had she been crammed with munitions of war, which would have found their way into the Confederate States after they had been landed in England, he, nevertheless, knew well he could not touch a musket or a cartridge; but he knew Mason and Slidell were on board, and he was determined, coute qui coute [at all costs], to have them.
|Tu 10 December 1861|
LONDON, TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1861.
It is too late now to argue the seizure of the Trent as an International Law question. We on this side of the Atlantic have exhausted the whole matter. At first we were so astonished by the audacity of the act that we all went to our books with an expectation that there must be something to be said for it. We all held our breath and hushed down indignation meetings until the black abyss of Admiralty learning had been duly sounded. When this had been done, we believe the English people were universally surprised to find that the outrage had not a shred of law to justify it. We have here examined it so carefully and so impartially that it is useless to talk any more about it. Not equally unnecessary is it on the other side of the Atlantic. Our Special Correspondent describes to-day with lively irony the persistent labours of the Americans to make out a case. They are still at work, turning over the leaves of Wheaton and garbling the judgments of Lord Stowell, Perhaps Mr. Everett and Mr. George Sumner will, after acquiring a habit of searching their authorities, grow to be conscientious as to historical quotations; or, after experience of detection, will at least grow more cautious in falsifying facts. It is well, however, that this discussion should go on in the Federal States. Many a controversialist has been known to convert himself to the party against which he was arguing. If his interest happen to jump in the same way as his conversion, the chances of this happening are still greater. So long as the exploit of Captain Wilkes produced nothing but joy and exultation, and defiance to England, there was no immediate hope; but, now that the Everetts and Sumners are trying to find precedents and authorities to justify the act, we may expect with some confidence that they will soon put away their books, and own that it cannot be done.
We may hope, then, that the Queen's Messenger who carries out that requisition which every Federalist in his heart expects, but, at the same time, declares to be impossible, will find the educated mind of the States fully informed upon the legal bearings of the Wilkes outrage. The American Judges, we may be sure, have long since come to an adverse view of it, or we should have heard their opinions trumpeted forth in the New York papers. The truth will by this time have permeated the literary and legal circles even of Boston, and the sensitive terrors of the men of money will be found in unison with the unwilling convictions of the men of mind. In any other country we should have no doubt that such an alliance would direct the policy of the nation. We have great hopes that this must be so even in America. Our Correspondent reports a rumour in Washington that the captives were to be given up; and the existence of such a rumour, even before it was known that the outrage would not be passed over, shows how widely the conviction was spreading that the capture had been a mistake. But, writing upon the spot, our Correspondent scarcely seems to share the sanguine view which we took of the probabilities when writing yesterday. He thinks that the surrender of the men who now, by almost common consent, are admitted to have been kidnapped from our protection could only be effected at the cost of a break-up of the Government. "There is so much violence of spirit among the lower orders of the people, and they are so ignorant of everything except their own politics and passions, so saturated with pride and vanity, that any honourable concession, even in this hour of extremity, would prove fatal to its authors.'' If this be so, something more is required to terminate this difficulty than a conviction on the part of the Government of America that they are in the wrong. It will require, also, an exercise of that public virtue which Montesquieu holds to be the mainspring of a Republic. It will be requisite, not only that they who have done wrong should recognize the wrongfulness of their act, not only that they should themselves be willing to repair it, but also that they should be prepared, even, at their own peril, to stand between their country and the consequences of their ill deed. Can we expect so much as this from Mr. Lincoln? And, if we dare expect so much as this from Mr. Lincoln, can we expect so much from Mr. Seward!
If we are to be dragged into a war, it is now clear that it will be the democracy who will force us into it. It will not be the rich or the educated, but the ignorant and the penniless, who will make a war in which they have nothing to lose, and of the events of which they have no power of perception. It would be vain enough to reason with such a multitude as to the justice of the case at issue. The more obviously unjust the advantage gained, the greater would be their admiration of the dexterity which had acquired it, and the greater their triumph over the country which permitted it. Mr. Lincoln cannot hope to show them that it is honourable to act justly; but it may be hoped that he will use an argument capable of being appreciated by such minds if he addresses himself directly to their interests. Even that "honest, hard-handed Wisconsin lumberer, who is sitting with his loaded rifle at full cock on the stump of a tree, and reading his newspaper and smoking his tobacco, in the discharge of the highest duties of a citizen and a sentinel," may be made to understand to what unpleasant straits an insolent denial of redress to this country might reduce himself. Surely Mr. Lincoln might contrive to make him understand that if any maritime Power with naval forces greater than those of the United States were to hold the Chesapeake, to blockade Annapolis, and lend some assistance to the willing hands at Baltimore to break up the communications with Washington, it would go hard with that Wisconsin lumberer during the winter. Those seventy thousand men whom General M'Clellan [Major Genera lGeorge Brinton McClellan, organizer of the Army of the Potomac] reviewed, and who are most of them shrewdly sending home their pay, cannot be so ignorant as not to appreciate the fact that it is better Messrs. Mason and Slidell should go to England than that all the supplies of the army of the Potomac should be cut off. It can be very little good to them to know that two gentlemen whom they never saw are shut up in a prison at Boston; but it must he of the first importance to them to be secure that, while they are themselves hutted in the snows, they will have fuel and provisions to keep up their patriotism till next spring or next autumn, as the case may be. It may, no doubt, be very pleasant to the members of that expedition now in permanence at Port Royal to read the vapourings of Captain Wilkes at Boston, and to learn how attentively he qualified himself "by examining Kent, Wheaton, and the rest," to assume the duties of Prize Judge upon the high seas; but the perusal of this lively eloquence would be dearly bought by their being starved into surrender by a hostile blockading squadron.If Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward are really inclined to do justice and to save their country, there is no lack of facts and arguments at hand fit to work upon the minds of those of the multitude who have the naval and military work to do. And why should they care for any others? American public opinion now resides in camps, and lives only by force of arms. There is no habeas corpus to prevent the repression of disagreeable opposition sentiments, and a mob, so long as it be unarmed, is as harmless in America as it is in Moscow or Warsaw. What Mr. Lincoln has to do is to convince, not the citizens of America, but the Army of the Potomac. Surely, with such persuasive facts at his hand, he can contrive to do this. But if he should fail; he cannot be so much below the level of the occasion, and so unequal to the crisis he himself has brought about, as not to be content to sacrifice personal popularity in order to save his country from the ruin of a foreign war. We cannot yet believe that the new year will bring with it a war from the West. The influence of the highest and the lowest sentiments that can move mankind must be against such an evil consummation. Honest men and honourable men will abhor a war in an unjust cause; avaricious men will hate a war which must be ruinous; and timid men will dread the blow which such a war must draw down. We yet have hopes, but, if those hopes are disappointed, the event will but show how hapless is a nation which, even in its relations with foreign Powers, is governed by its own populace.
|Tu 10 December 1861||The Naval Reserve. - A sudden display of enthusiasm in connexion with matters of a public character not unfrequently tends to defeat the very object sought to be carried by the outburst. This has been verified in reference to the Naval Reserve, for no sooner was it known that our excellent and gallant friends in the north had come forward with a tender of their services to the Admiralty, than it was widely rumoured that they would he immediately taken at their word, and the entry of fresh hands from the mercantile marine received a decided check. Now, we are most anxious to assure seamen that there is not the smallest intention on the part of the authorities to accept the offer made to them, as not only have we 4,000 men in the Coastguard ships, but we have positively in the different dockyards, employed as riggers, &c., trained men sufficient to man three heavy frigates. Our friends, therefore, in the merchant service may come freely forward and go through their 28 days' drill without any fear of their being required for a longer period, unless, indeed, some other enemy besides America were forced upon us, or a heavy loss were sustained in any engagement which may take place. In either case we imagine that there would then be no holding back on the part of our seafaring population; they would not require to be asked, but they would step forward of their own free will to serve their country. - Army and Navy Gazette.|
|Tu 10 December 1861||The St. Lawrence. - It appears to be the intention of Government to despatch the Australasian and the Persia, between the 15th. and the 20th inst., with troops, &c., to the St. Lawrence, with the view to effecting a landing either at Bic or, if possible, at the Rivière du Loup. It is understood they have received information both from Sir Alexander M'Nab [possibly Sir Allan Napier MacNab, 1798-1862, Prime Minister of the Province of Canada between1854 and 1856], who sailed from Liverpool to-day in the America, and from one of the Quebec pilots who came home in the Jura, that such a landing is practicable; and these opinions are also corroborated by other parties conversant with the river St. Lawrence, The shores are, as a rule, icebound at the end of December, the time at which the steamers may be expected to arrive; but this ice, it is said, does not extend more than two or three miles into the stream, and, if this be the case, there can surely be no great difficulty in overcoming the impediment. Rivière du Loup is some miles higher up the St. Lawrence than Father Point, and Bic is between the two. The advantage, however, in landing at Rivière du Loup is that the railway from Quebec terminates there, and thus a long, tedious, and fatiguing land journey will be saved. All, however, acquainted with the St. Lawrence do not agree in the belief as to the facility for navigating this part of it at the end of December, and these views are in some degree strengthened by an article in the Quebec Morning Chronicle of the 23d of November, received by the steamer Nova Scotian to-day. The editor is combating a suggestion, thrown out by the Montreal Courier, that two steamers should be sent down below and kept running throughout the winter between Rivière du Loup and the lower province ports, so as to maintain their communications with Europe via Halifax, and be independent of the Portland route. To this the Chronicle states in reply that the idea is wild - there is no harbour at Rivière du Loup, and the oft-mentioned harbour of Bio is valueless for anything but boats. Gaspé is frozen up, the Restigouche is sealed as soon as the St. Lawrence, and Shedia is closed also. The last-named are three of the lower ports outside the river, and communicating direct with the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And, observes the Chronicle even the strait between Anticosti and the South shore is so blockaded by icebergs in the winter as to be impassable. After all the editor of the Chronicle is dealing with the winter as a whole; and it may be well worth the trial of entering the river St. Lawrence in December, for, with such experienced commanders as those of the Persia and Australasian, they will know before they get into difficulties whether it be desirable to attempt the entrance or bear away for Halifax; and, as the best chance of success, it is essential that their departure should be expedited as much, as possible, for December and January are two very different months in the St, Lawrence. - Liverpool Albion.|
|We 11 December 1861|
LONDON, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 1861.
While we are waiting for the answer from the United States which, is to decide whether the new year shall usher in peace or war, nothing can be more interesting than to learn the views entertained of the American question by those on whom the burden of the war seems likely in the first instance to fall. Does Canada, so long given up to peaceful arts and pursuits, and now caught by the suddenness of the crisis just at a period when it will be most difficult to provide her with the means of defence, and when she will be shut in by a wall of ice from all communication with the outward world, - does Canada tremble at the prospect, and seem inclined to propitiate by humility and submission the angry and threatening genius of American Democracy? We never saw anything less like it. The notion of any serious peril does not seem for a moment to have occurred to the Canadians. They discussed the existing question of American politics very much at their ease; quite as much so, indeed, as if they were living in a different hemisphere, instead of with nothing but a river and a chain of lakes between them. As in our own case, so in the case of Canada, the American mind yearns for sympathy, and the American Press reproaches Canada, as it has so often reproached England, with feeling too favourably towards the South, and looking coldly on the heroic efforts and anti-slavery aspirations of the North. Canada is at no loss for an answer. " We confess," says the Montreal Advertiser, " that this condition of feeling does "exist," and it proceeds to show the circumstances from which it took its rise. Canada, like ourselves, has been exposed to the systematic hostility of the American Press, endeavouring to stir up ill blood between the two countries, openly advocating unprovoked aggression, and threatening with an authoritative air on every trivial occasion the absorption of Canada into the United States. True, such threats do not represent the opinions of the educated and right-thinking citizens of the United States, but then, as the Montreal journalist observes, the educated and right-thinking citizens have nothing to do with the Government of the United States. Canada disclaims any jealousy of the political or commercial system of the United States, Their polity, she says, could have no other end but intestine war, anarchy, and military despotism. The mercantile system of the Union is asserted to be far behind that of Canada in liberality, and Canada far before the States in prosperity. The Montreal Journal asserts that there are but two papers in Canada favourable to the United States, - the one the paid organ of the Government of Washington, the other representing the small faction of avowed annexationists which has always existed. Canada considers that she owes the Reciprocity Treaty to the South, and regards the South as her best customer. Such is a brief account of the Canadian view of American affairs, as expounded by a Canadian newspaper, which evidently believes that it speaks the sentiments of the whole community. It will thus be seen that there is little difference in the feeling of Great Britain and her Colony, except that, as Canada has had even more to endure than we have, the feelings which thus find expression are much stronger than those which the people of this country are disposed to entertain, or, at any rate, to announce.
Thus is dissipated another great illusion which I America has endeavoured to spread - the idea that the perfection of her institutions is such as to captivate neighbouring nations, and draw them by an irresistible attraction within the sphere of her influence. The propaganda of the United States must, like that of the religion of Mahomet or the universal fraternity of the French Republic of 1793, be spread by the sword, and by that alone. It seems to create among its neighbours the most active repulsion, the most inveterate aversion. We have no reason to fear that Canada will prefer the Government of President Lincoln to that of Queen Victoria. We ask from Canada no tribute to our treasury, no monopoly for our commerce. We have not even been able to prevent her from burdening our manufactures with a duty of 25 per cent., and we shall be fortunate if we escape without a contribution to a second Grand Trunk Railway, in the shape of a connecting line between Quebec and Halifax, laid out for the benefit of Canada and Nova Scotia, and paid for from the British Treasury. All the value Canada has for us springs entirely from the spectacle she affords to the world of a great nation intrusted with the control of its own destinies willingly remaining the dependency of a remote Power. This fact speaks more eloquently than words, and is a standing answer to all who bring against us reproaches drawn from bygone theories of our history, while it establishes for us a claim unique since the world began, of having ruled with so much moderation that a dependence upon us is preferred to absolute freedom.The Canadian Press is just as explicit with regard to the violation of our flag as it has been as to the merits of the struggle between the Northern and the Southern States. Its view of International Law is similar to that of the Press of France: - "The deck of an English ship is a part of the soil of England, and ought to give exactly the same protection to strangers as the soil of England itself. The seizure of such a ship is a high-handed insult to our flag, and a challenge to maintain its rights. In answer to such a challenge the people of England will give no uncertain sound." When we remember that this language is held, not by persons reasoning on the question at their ease and at a distance, but by those on whom the first results of any quarrel between England and the United States would be likely to fall far more heavily than on ourselves, it must be confessed that Canada neither lacks the ability to understand the real nature of the outrage and the true principles on which it must be judged, nor courage to meet whatever dangers the determination of England not to endure such an insult may fling across her path. These provinces of Canada, which the American Press, and, we must add, the American Government, have been so long absorbing, seem likely to give to the acute speculators who have already placed their spoils to the credit side of their account as much trouble as the lion's skin did to the man who was killed ahunting of the beast. The confidence of Canada in her own resources is not shown, as in the case of America, by threatening and boasting, but is rather to be deduced from the freedom with which she discusses the most irritating topics and expresses the most unpalatable opinions. We can only urge the Canadians to persevere in the course which they have hitherto adopted - a course of looking to the reality rather than to the pretensions of men. They can detect, standing as they do in a great degree neutral and impartial between the two Governments, how much of tyranny and anarchy may lie concealed under the democratic pretensions of the one, how much of liberality and moderation may lie concealed under the monarchical and aristocratic appearance of the other. We rejoice to see Canada determined to guard her own independence, and resolved to develop the type of civilization and progress that is her own, rather than to fall prostrate before the larger population, the more extended territory, and the louder self-laudation of the United States. Liberty has hitherto been so rare in the world that the types which she may assume are by no means exhausted, and Canada does well to seek the development of her own institutions, and to believe that they promise to her a destiny at least as brilliant as that of her neighbour. In the coming struggle, if come it must, she has, we believe, little to fear. Let her trust to her own energies, and believe that nothing which it is in the power of England to effect shall be wanting to support and to second them.
|We 11 December 1861||It is satisfactory to find from the American journals that there is already a considerable party in the Northern States distinctly anxious to avoid war with England. It is plain, at any rate, that our demand for reparation in the affair of the Trent will not have the effect of uniting all Americans against us in a spirit of irrational arrogance or Mind desperation. Already, before that demand has arrived, there are organs of public opinion advising concession, and it is clear that the refusal of the Federal Government to do us justice in the matter would create a very angry feeling in the States themselves. Into the party politics traceable through these manifestations we shall not at present enter. It is sufficient to observe that the differences exist, and that if President Lincoln should have the wisdom to meet our requisitions in a proper and reasonable spirit he will certainly find himself supported by a large body of his countrymen. Judging, indeed, from the tone of the journals before us, we should think it by no means impossible that the New York Press may have decided on the abstract propriety of liberating the Confederate Envoys before the arrival of the British messenger with the momentous despatch.
Blind indeed must be the fury of the Americans if they can voluntarily superadd a war with this country to their present overwhelming embarrassments. It is clear, notwithstanding the sanguine spirit in which small successes are regarded, that the Federal Government is making no material progress in the war. On the Potomac the grand review of some 60,000 men was not the prelude to any active operations against the enemy, and precautions, indeed, were taken lest the spectacle itself should be disturbed by a sortie from the Confederate camp and converted into a battle instead of a parade, In the remoter provinces the dead-lock was equally decided. Neither in Virginia, nor in Kentucky, nor in Missouri could the Federal forces obtain any important advantage, while the great naval expedition had as yet proved barren of results. Up to the latest advices Beaufort was still unoccupied, and the capture of Port Royal seemed to promise little more than the capture of Hatteras. The Federal troops, it was said, were retiring from Western Virginia, and the approach of winter would probably keep things in their present position for some months to come.
That position, it cannot now be denied, offers no prospect of any speedy termination of the war. The last six months have shown that, though the resources of the North are indeed great, they are not sufficient for the subjugation of the South, or the establishment of the Federal authority even in the Border States. It appears that the Southern States are really unanimous in their resolution to achieve their independence. The Unionists have effected lodgments on the territories of the Seceders, and displayed the Federal flag on Southern soil, but with no material results. They have not discovered any "loyal" class of citizens anxious to escape from the tyranny of the Confederate Government, nor have they been joined by any sympathizers or partisans. Even the slaves, it is said, cannot be roused against their masters. The Federal Cabinet is divided on the critical question of emancipation, and what is decreed by one Minister is cancelled by another; but, as far as can yet be seen, it appears by no means certain that the slave population would respond to the call of the Abolitionists, even if the policy of that party were to prevail. Reports allege that emancipated slaves are found more ready to act as spies for their former masters than to cooperate with their liberators, and the expectations of the Unionists on this, as on other points, have signally broken down. In the Border States the prospect seems equally hopeless, and, indeed, the divisions of the Union itself are reproduced in these distracted provinces. It appears as if the North was resolved upon Union and the South upon Secession, while the Border States were divided against themselves. In Missouri and Kentucky the great Civil War is represented in miniature. Each province has its Federal army and its Confederate army, its M'Clellan and its Beauregard [Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, 1818-1893, the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army]. An officer of the Federal Government declared that it would take 200,000 men to save Kentucky from being carried out of the Union, and perhaps it would require nearly as many to secure it for the Seceders. The rebellion, in fact, appears as hopeless, as extensive, and as complicated as a rebellion in China.
But, even if the very depth of these embarrassment should be thought suggestive of reckless, counsels, it would still be impossible to discover any prospect either of diversion or relief in a war with England. At first, before the States had become actually disunited, it might have been imagined that domestic quarrels would be hushed in the presence of a foreign foe, but that hope is now over. No European war could now be expected to reconcile North and South. The conflict has gone too far for that, and, indeed, it will have been seen from our opening remarks that even the political parties in the North itself are less likely to unite against England on the international question than to make that question an instrument of party strife. There was a time, no doubt, when the prospect of a war with this country might have been expected to operate like a charm on the American mind, but that time has passed. A rupture with England would now simply encourage one of the belligerents, embarrass the other, create a strong opposition to the Federal Government within the Federal States, and furnish a powerful party with irresistible arguments against the President and his policy.
In any other point of view the case would suggest exactly similar conclusions. It was intimated at the outbreak of the American quarrel that the North might find compensation in Canada for the loss of the South; but, if such an idea as the conquest of the British colony could ever have been really entertained, even by Mr. Seward himself, it can hardly be thought that this is an opportune moment for the execution of the project. It would not have been a light matter at any moment to engage in a struggle with the British Empire, but at present it would be madness. The Federals have already on their hands an enemy who finds work for every man they can raise, and who actually keeps at bay an army which they themselves declare is 600,000 strong. Are the States still in the Union prepared to double this force, to take a second war on their hands, and to engage an enemy on each frontier, like a ship fighting both her batteries at the same time? Are they quite confident about the results of such an undertaking? Are they disposed to see the embarrassments of a blockade transferred from their adversaries to themselves, and to find all their expeditionary forces hopelessly cut off? For those consequences, at least, they must be prepared, if they force us into war with them. Even if we should stand aloof from their private quarrel, we should certainly command the sea, or, in other words, blockade their ports, and compel them to raise the blockade which they are maintaining against the ports of the South.We trust they will think better of such a policy. Hitherto it cannot be so much as pretended that they have had any reason to complain of us, beyond the sentimental one that we have looked with "coldness" on their efforts to maintain domestic union at the point of the sword. In that respect, however, the very events of the war have justified our views. The attempt which we thought was hopeless has actually proved so; nor has there been a prediction of this kind hazarded which has not been fulfilled. In all material respects we have done as much for them as they could desire. We have not only abstained from interference with a blockade which was paralyzing our manufacturing industry, but we have even carried our recognition of this blockade to the utmost limits of indulgence. Strictly speaking, the blockade has never been legally valid, and a rigorous interpretation of International Law would have justified us in treating it as ineffectual. We allowed it, however, to operate as if it had been actually enforced, and we abstained from any attempt to get at the cotton we needed. We cannot be suspected of any sympathies with slavery, or accused of any clandestine dealings with the South. We have been really and truly neutral, with a very sincere wish that the rupture had never occurred, and a desire that it might be healed at the earliest possible moment. Is this a policy which it would be worth while to convert into one of active hostility? We cannot think so, and we rely on the good sense of the President and people for doing us justice now that we are compelled to ask it.
|We 11 December 1861||The Troops for Canada. - The preparations for despatching troops and warlike stores to Canada continue to be pushed forward with unabated vigour. Both the Australasian and the Persia are now about ready for sea. The first battalion of the Rifle Brigade, consisting of 38 officers,868 men and non-commissioned officers, and six horses, will embark to-morrow (Wednesday) afternoon at Dublin, on board the City of Dublin Steampacket Company's steamers Windsor and Trafalgar. They will arrive in Liverpool on Thursday morning, and the two steamers named will in course of the forenoon proceed alongside of the steamer Australasian, into which, they will be transhipped, and sail in course of the afternoon for the St. Lawrence. In the course of the same day 90 men belonging to the Rifle Brigade, brought overland from Winchester, will embark from the great landing stage on board the Australasian, which, will also take on board a field battery of guns, together with seven officers and 256 men. In addition to the men and guns, there are also to be put on board a large amount of commissariat rations; and a vast accumulation of sledges, for conveying troops and stores over ice and snow, has already arrived in Liverpool to be carried out by the steamers. The Persia will sail, it is arranged, on Friday or Saturday. The African mail steamer Cleopatra was yesterday ordered to be surveyed on account of Government.|
|We 11 December 1861||The hired screw steam transport Melbourne, Captain Auld, from Woolwich, for North America, entered Plymouth Sound yesterday afternoon, at half-past 2 o'clock, and at 5 was escorted out by the Orpheus, 21, Captain Burnett, C.B. She was inspected in the Sound by Port Admiral Sir Houston Stewart and Major-General Hutchinson, and was despatched by Captain Benson, agent for the charterers, Messrs. Thompson and Tweeddale. The two ships will fill up with coal at Queenstown. The Melbourne, having on board 1,200 tons of munitions of war, is very deep aft, but will be trimmed on the passage.|
The 1st Battalion Military Train, stationed at Woolwich, was yesterday medically inspected and passed, ready for embarcation for America.
A proof of large-size Armstrong guns, as well as 32-pounder old pattern guns, is now being actively prosecuted at the Arsenal-butt, Woolwich; and the Royal Repository and Gun parks are being abundantly stocked with reserves of batteries, in immediate readiness for embarcation. An excitement rarely witnessed pervades every department at Woolwich, and the most intense interest is manifested in what is going on.
|We 11 December 1861|
THE TRENT AFFAIR.
Sir,- Any one conversant with British history and the principles maintained by the British Government previous to the declaration of the Congress of Plenipotentiaries at Paris on the 26th of April, 1856, must be surprised to see the overheated excitement and warlike preparation which have pervaded England since the receipt of the news of the arrest, on board of the Trent, by the commander of the San Jacinto, of Messrs. Slidell and Mason, the Commissioners named by the revolutionary party in the United States to represent it in Great Britain and France; and the surprise is not lessened by the knowledge that the act complained of as an offence to the British flag was the exercise of an acknowledged belligerent right, and one heretofore carried to the utmost extreme by Great Britain.
Towards the close of the last and the beginning of the present century the British Government acted with the most unscrupulous severity towards neutrals, and, indeed, may be said not to have paid any regard to their rights or to the declarations and protests of neutral Powers. Accumulated proofs may be found in works on international law, and many cases may be cited to show the inconsistency between the policy of the British Cabinet at that time and the course it is now pursuing towards the United States.
The present question may be reduced to two points:-
In time of war every vessel met on the high seas by a ship of war of a belligerent is held to be an enemy, whatever may be the flag she wears, until her real character is ascertained; and even after showing that she is a neutral she must exhibit proof that she is not engaged in any commerce made illicit by the state of war. This is the foundation of the right of search, and according to the best authorities it is not the exercise of any act of jurisdiction over neutral vessels, but one of necessary precaution, based upon the right of self-preservation. With respect to this right no nation has carried its pretension so far as Great Britain, for during the wars growing out of the first French Revolution the British Government went to the extreme of insisting that even neutral vessels under convoy of a man of war were not exempt from search, and that resistance on the part of the convoying ship to the visit and examination of the vessels under its escort would be regarded as a hostile act. The enforcement of this pretension in 1799 gave rise to serious questions between Great Britain and Sweden and Denmark.
This police of the seas was not confined to a search for articles evidently contraband of war, but extended to impressing British subjects from on board of neutral vessels, on the ground that His Majesty's subjects were bound to serve him in time of war. The American Government, after protesting against the repeated encroachments made by Great Britain upon its rights as a neutral, instructed its Minister at London to open a negotiation upon the subject, and to propose that no person should be taken out of a vessel belonging to either party unless he should be in the military service of the enemy. The British Government rejected this proposition, upon the ground that it would afford facilities for the escape of traitors. Several modifications were posed by the United States, all of which were objected to by Great Britain, and the persistence of the latter in her vexatious exactions finally led to war between the two countries.
The right of search or visitation of neutrals by a belligerent, under proper restrictions, is not disputed by the United States, as may be seen in their treaties with France, Spain, Prussia, &c, where the right is expressly admitted, the manner of making the search regulated, the articles which shall be deemed contraband defined, and the manner of disposing of them stipulated.
The right in a belligerent to visit neutral vessels to ascertain their character and the nature of their cargo being recognized, it is clear that the commander of the San Jacinto was fully justifiable in bringing to the Trent for the purpose of visitation.
I shall now examine whether the persons taken out of the Trent can be considered as contraband of war.
The term, "contraband of war," is generally understood to mean arms, munitions of war, naval stores, and other articles prepared and formed to make war, by land or by sea. It also comprehends officers or other persons in the service of the enemy, and despatches, bills of exchange, &c. sent from or to an enemy.
Respecting Messrs. Slidell and Mason, there was no doubt of the purpose for which they embarked on board of the Trent. The object of their mission to Europe was well known; they were not coming out in a private capacity, but were invested with as much official character as could be given by a revolutionary party, and as such clearly contraband in every proper acceptation of the term. They were so according to the principles of international law, and, as far as Great Britain is concerned, doubly so under the Queen's Proclamation.
The carrying of military or civil officers of the enemy is much more dangerous than the transport of merchandise contraband of war, as the latter may, in some sort, be considered as a commercial transaction, and the vessel engaged in carrying such officers loses her neutral character, and the other belligerent has the perfect right to treat her as an enemy. So also with regard to enemies' despatches carried by a neutral, according to Sir William Scott, who said that by the transmission of a single despatch the entire plan of a campaign might be revealed and all the plans of the other belligerents counteracted. If, in practice, the contraband articles transported must be in large quantities in order to constitute an offence, the same rule will not apply to despatches. "It is impossible to limit a letter to so small a size as not to be capable of producing the most important consequences." The transmission of despatches is a service which, in whatever degree it exists, can only be considered in one character, as an act of the most injurious and hostile nature. The ship which carries them should be confiscated. [Case of the "Atlantic," Robinson's Reports.]
The fact of carrying the despatches of an enemy by a neutral vessel being an offence of such gravity as to involve her confiscation, it follows that the transport of the bearers of them is one of greater magnitude, and the injurious nature of the act is enhanced where the object of them is to invest their bearers with a representative character, to enable them to labour for the destruction of the Government and even the political existence of the other belligerent.
Messrs. Slidell and Mason were therefore contraband, and their character of emissaries of the revolted States could not be invoked to entitle them to the protection of the law of nations; for, according to Sir William Scott (Lord Stowell), in the case of the "Caroline", and other authorities of note, a belligerent may "stop the ambassador of his enemy on his passage."
The right to arrest them is not denied by the legal advisers of the Crown (if their opinion in the matter has been correctly reported by the press), since their objections are based principally on the fact, that the Commander of the San Jacinto took Messrs. Slidell and Mason immediately out of the Trent, instead of sending her to the nearest convenient port for adjudication. This objection might have been valid had the contraband consisted of arms, &c., in such large quantity or bulk as not to have admitted of being conveniently transferred to the visiting vessel. Such, at least, is the principle laid down in the treaties between the United States and other nations; wherein it is stipulated that "no neutral vessel shall be detained on the high seas on account of her having on board articles of contraband, whenever the master, captain, or supercargo will deliver the articles of contraband to the captor, unless, indeed, the quantity of such articles be so great or of so large bulk that they cannot be received on board the capturing vessel without great inconvenience; but in this case and all others of just detention the vessel detained shall be sent to the nearest and safe port for trial and judgment, according to law."
The inference to be drawn from the words in the above and other clauses relating to the visitation of neutral vessels and contraband, in time of war, in the treaties concluded by the United States is, that the object of the contracting parties was to prevent inconvenience or the detention of the visited ship, and the stipulation just cited is intended to apply to articles of bulk, such arms, &c., rather than to officers or persons in the actual service of the enemy. Where, then, the latter are found on board of a neutral vessel, by a ship of war of a belligerent, there can be no question of bulk; and the captain of the Trent should have delivered up such persons without demur. As he did not do so Captain Wilkes would have been justified in sending the Trent to the United States for trial; but he, no doubt, preferred removing them and permitting the vessel to continue her voyage in the interest of the public, as the detention of the mails would have caused great inconvenience to the commercial community in Great Britain and elsewhere.
The justice of regarding this act of forbearance and good will on the part of the American commander as an encroachment on the neutral rights of Great Britain, or of making it the ground of a formal reclamation against the United States, may very well be doubted. It would seem, indeed, that the real wrong was in the captain of the merchant steamer receiving on board persons notoriously in the employment of the revolted States, thereby committing a flagrant breach of neutrality, and acting in direct contravention of the injunctions of his Sovereign. Surely if the captain of a British steamer chose to receive such passengers on board, neither his owners nor his Government can reasonably complain of their extradition by a national vessel of the United States.It is novel to see the British Government appear as the stanch advocate of neutral rights after so many years of contrary policy; and it will be equally inconsistent, after so many years of cruising and so great an amount of treasure being spent in the suppression of the slave trade, to see the standard of St. George wave side by side with the Palmetto flag for the protection and encouragement of the "demoralizing institution." I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
J. RANDOLPH CLAY [John Randolph Clay, 1808-1885, diplomat],
Formerly Charge d' Affaires of the United States at St. Petersburg and Vienna, and Envoy, &c., to Peru.
Cheltenham, Dec. 9.
|We 11 December 1861||As Mr. Randolph Clay has been from time to time intrusted by the United States with various important diplomatic missions, we must consider him to be one of those whom the Americans would hold out to us as their representative men in Europe. When he writes to us we expect from him a favourable specimen of American reasoning, we hope to find in him a rational and coherent disputant, and we open our columns at once to his letter, confident of finding in it evidence of what the more responsible minds in America are likely to think upon the difficulty which now monopolizes all public attention. We are anxious to fix upon some advocate of Federal America who has stable notions of International Law, and a sense of responsibility as to the accuracy of statements of fact. There is in this country a yearning after something feasible on the American side of the question. When we read the ribaldry of the Press which represents the rabble of New York, and see the shallow knavery of the lawyers at Boston, we are not satisfied that we know all that can be said. There is something so unreal in all that we have yet got from America as to be eminently unsatisfactory. They themselves evidently put no faith in what they say. "We honour you," said the Town Council of Boston to Commodore Wilkes, "for the sagacity, judgment, decision, and fairness which characterized your recent brilliant achievement". "This spontaneous burst of applause," answered Commodore Wilkes, "has been as unexpected as it is gratifying." The Commodore has been accused of being a wild and reckless man, but even he is astonished at the rashness of the Bostonians in approving what he has done. In the consciousness of power and the horror of bloodshed, we are most anxious to discover an excuse to avoid the necessity of punishing an outrage. We are obliged to any one who undertakes to supply this excuse, and when we looked to the signature of the letter we publish to-day, and to the official designations which follow that signature, we thought we must surely have lighted upon the long-expected defence of an act which has hitherto appeared incapable even of extenuation.
Mr. Randolf Clay's letter is now before the world. We are much afraid that it will be read with some impatience. An expression of surprise at the "overheated excitement" occasioned in England by the news of an outrage upon the British flag is, we submit, in a foreigner an impertinence, and in a diplomatist a blunder. Surely he, as an alien, may allow us to place our own value upon our own honour, and to indulge or repress our feelings at the sense of insult as may be in unison with our own feeling of self-respect. Passing from this intrusive introduction, we come at once to the two propositions which this American diplomatist undertakes to establish. The first is that the Commander of the San Jacinto was justified in visiting the Trent on the high seas; and the second is, that the persons taken out of the Trent were legitimately to he considered as "contraband of war." Upon the first point we are not interested in maintaining any discussion. It has little to do with the present question. The right of search of neutral vessels is a part of the Law of Nations. But the exercise of that right has, like the exercise of all other rights, its limits in reason and propriety. If the Federals or the Confederates were to stop every steamer that passes between Dover and Calais, the Law of Nations would justify them, so far as the object of the stoppage was only to satisfy the captain of the cruiser of the character of the ship and the place of her destination. We are quite sure, however, that neither we nor the French would long endure such a vexatious exercise of this belligerent right, and that we should be at war in a month with any belligerent Power which pretended so to use it. But if, going beyond this, a Confederate or a Federal cruiser were to station herself in the Channel, and after stopping every mail steamer were to open the mail bags and take out the letters addressed to Americans, or were to take captive all Americans of hostile character found on board those packets, the affront would be at once pronounced intolerable.
There is no difference whatever for this purpose between the Channel separating Dover and Calais and the sea separating Havannah and Southampton. The same principle which would enable an American ship of war to take Mr. Mason out of the Trent would justify the Nashville in taking Mr. Adams out of the Lord Warden, if Mr. Adams should happen to be going to Paris. The right of visit which Mr. Clay claims, when properly understood, amounts to no more than this, - his officer had a right to be satisfied, if he had any doubt, that the Trent was a neutral vessel bonâ fide bound to a neutral port. Captain Wilkes, however, knew the Trent, and he knew her trade and her destination, and he therefore had no right to stop her at all. To stop her was a discourtesy, and a straining of the right of belligerents; but when he had done so his utmost right was to satisfy himself of her nationality and her destination. To this extent we admit Mr. Clay's claim that the Commander of the San Jacinto had a legal right to stop and question the Trent.
Mr. Clays second position is that the persons taken out of the Trent were legitimately contraband of war. We answer that if this were so it would be nothing to the present purpose, for that "contraband of war" cannot to legitimately taken out of a vessel, and that nothing can be contraband of war until it has been so characterized by a Prize Court. Of course, this is the point upon which we take our stand. let is the whole question between violence and justice, between Lynch law and regular procedure. If the Trent had been laden to the bridge with combustibles, and bound to New Orleans, Captain Wilkes could not have taken a barrel of powder out of her without taking her into port and getting her condemned. Mr. Clay forfeits his right to be considered as a serious reasoner upon such matters as this when he passes or assumes a point upon which the whole matter hangs. But we are so affluent in reasons that we can afford, for the purpose of this particular article, to pass over even this capital point. To the assertion that Messrs. Mason and Slidell were "contraband of war" we answer at once that it was not possible that the Trent, going from a neutral port to a neutral port, could carry contraband of war. The law upon this subject is so simple that it is impossible to mystify it. For the benefit of Messrs. Everett, and George Summer, and Randolf Clay, we will reproduce it once more. Perhaps it is most concisely and satisfactorily stated by Mr. Pratt, in his treatise on "Contraband." Here it is:- "The object of the laws against contraband being to prevent the communication of assistance to the enemy, it is absolutely necessary, to constitute that offence, that the destination of the goods should be to a hostile port. Goods going to a neutral port cannot fall under that denomination, the conveyance of any goods to such a destination being lawful. When, however, two ports of different character are situated in the same bay, not separated by a headland, they are considered as identified, and a destination to the neutral one will not protect from condemnation. If the original destination be to a hostile port, but that destination have been changed before capture, the vessel and cargo become exempt from the charge of contraband. Thus, in the case of the Imina, the vessel had sailed with an original destination to Amsterdam, with a cargo of ship-timber, but, having on the voyage learnt that that place was under blockade, the master formed the design of changing his course to Emden, and altered it accordingly. The Court observed, - "I must ask, then, was this property taken in delicto, in the prosecution of an intention of landing it at a hostile port? Clearly not'; and held, that 'although from the moment of quitting port on a hostile destination the offence is complete, that it is not necessary to wait till the goods are actually endeavouring to enter the enemy's port, yet, the variation of the destination having happened, the parties after that time, entitled to the benefit of it,' and decreed restitution. This exemption is also extended to cases where the orders respecting the destination are discretionary, and where there is evidence before the Court that, acting upon that discretion, it was not the intention of the master to go to such a port as would entail the penalty of contraband." Now, this is the Law, and also the reasonable intent of the Law of Contraband, It is not to prevent our receiving, or any other neutral nation receiving, muskets from Liège or naval stores from Russia, but to prevent the Federals or Confederates receiving muskets or naval stores from Belgium, France, Russia, or England.It is melancholy to find that people who have the reputation in Europe of being favourable specimens of the American race are so incapable of understanding a plain argument. What Mr. Randolph Clay may think, or what Mr. Everett or Mr. George Sumner may think, or what Mr. Seward may think, would be of no importance if they were arguing here in a University Common Room or over an English dinner table; but what would be a harmless fallacy in private conversation becomes important and mischievous if it is to be considered as the probable faith of the American people. At this moment it becomes of momentous interest to us to know how high this flood of ignorance and passion has risen, and whether there are no intellects so high as to be left undrowned.
|Th 12 December 1861|
LONDON, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12, 1861.
As the great navigator examined with anxious eyes the drifting seaweed, and listened with strained eats to the cries of the birds that came from the country on which his hopes and fears were fixed, so we also, in our suspense and uncertainty, catch at light evidences, and seek to read in trivial facts the issue of that great decision which even now is forming behind that veil of distance. It is useless, perhaps, to make vain guesses at what a few days will disclose, and, while we are urging on our preparations for war, it is to no great purpose that we calculate the possibilities, of peace. From hour to hour, it may be even before these words are published, the President's Message may reach us in abbreviated form, and thus may give some further means of calculating the chances whether our kinsmen across the ocean will choose justice and peace or outrage and war. We may, perhaps, find in that Message safe generalities from which a prudent Government may retire, or prudent counsels which may even have anticipated the coming demand; or, on the other hand, we may read in it some indiscreet declarations in unison with the loose talk of the multitude, and we may find the Chief Magistrate of the Northern Republic committed to sustain an outrage which leaves us no alternative but war.
Still it is not without a purpose that we examine the small facts that tend to throw light upon the present condition of the public mind in the United States. In a little time we English may not improbably be ourselves too excited to pause dispassionately upon the facts that come from America. Let us, while we may, form such judgment as we can upon the opinions of the nation with whom we may be about to fight, and see under what feelings they force upon us the contest, if contest there is to be. We confess we think it an ill sign that so large and influential a city as Boston should have identified itself so completely with this wanton insult to England. Captain Wilkes has, it is said, received the freedom of eleven American cities, and he finds himself such a hero that he is zealous to claim the whole credit of his deed, and to monopolize the honour of his safe exploit. This causes us no great concern. These eleven cities may be very small matters, and the Wilkites may have been more noisy than numerous. The Boston banquet, however, seems to have been a more important affair. It was presided over by a gentleman of considerable position in that city; and it was a meeting, not of the rabble, but of the chief citizens of the State. Among the speakers were the Governor of the State of Massachusetts, the Mayor of the city, and two Judges. Perhaps the speeches of the Judges were of more evil importance than any others. They put aside with contempt the legal consideration of the case, and openly declared that what had been done must be justified by the sword. "Commodore Wilkes", said Judge Bigelow, "acted more from the noble instincts of his patriotic heart than from any sentence he read in any law-book." Again, "A man does not want to look into law-books, to ask counsel, or to consult Judges upon his duty; his heart, his instinct, tells him what he ought to do." These are wild words from lawyers. Judge Bigelow has just enough professional pride left in him not to compromise his character as a lawyer, but bids his countrymen back up, in lieu of law, the instinctive audacity of a sailor. Judge Russell followed in the same vein - vapouring defiance, but scorning a justification. The Governor of Massachusetts said that | it "crowned the exultation of his American heart that Commodore Wilkes fired his first shot across the bows of the ship that bore the British lion at its head." Altogether this was a gathering at which it seemed to be taken for granted that an act had been done which was not to be reasoned upon, but must be supported by arms. This was not the public expression of the opinion of some half-savage territory. It was not the clamour of a crowd, nor the writing of an unscrupulous journalist whom all might be anxious to disavow. Massachusetts is one of the most respectable States in the Union, and the Governor of Massachusetts came exulting over the fact that an insult had been offered to the emblem of this country. Boston is the chief city of that respectable State, and the Mayor of that city saw in that insult the resurrection of the fallen glories of the Republic. The Judges, subject to periodical re-election, might have trembled for their positions and truckled to the popular voice; but their preference of force to expositions of law showed at least the temper of the audience they addressed.Boston claims to be an intellectual city. It is the seat of a literary clique, it is the focus of Transatlantic small talk. There are salons where men and women talk carefully, and there are societies, such as Molière ridiculed. Boston is in America what Edinburgh is here. It is the last place to which we should have looked for such coarse extravagance and such vulgar insult as that we have transcribed from the mouths of Judges and Governors and heads of Corporations. It is a bad symptom to find such noxious folly so rife in such a place. On the other hand, we may, perhaps, comfort ourselves with the reflection that in a great crisis these circles and coteries have never been found to exercise much influence over the general public. In the days of the Orleanists Paris was ruled by its salons. But where were Thiers and Guizot, and all their train of talkers and writers, when the Revolution came? That event swept them all away like mown grass, and discovered, to the astonishment of all, that they had no root in the soil. It maybe so in this case. This Boston banquet may be merely the clatter of a little sect magnified by the echoes of a large hall. Offensive and in bad taste as the demonstration was under any circumstances - for the demonstration was made partly against captives held in prison, but chiefly against a neutral and unoffending people - it may still have no root in the great popular mind of the country. The people may have more sense of the importance of legality in the conduct of international affairs than the Judges; the middle classes may have more good taste, and refrain from violent language more carefully, than the Governors of States and the heads of Corporations; the untaught multitude may have more regard for truth than the literary and diplomatic heads of Universities. This may be so, but we await coming events with anxiety. The straws and seaweed that float towards us seem to come from a swelling sea, as though, storms were raging further off, and the last glimpse we have of the state of feeling in New York shows us that city in full excitement at the news of the burning of the Harvey Birch [a Union merchantman, captured and burnt in the English Channel by the CSS Nashville, a Confederate commerce raider, which subsequently put into Southampton for repairs]. We may await the issue with hope, but we must not forget that it is a hateful thing for the boastful to swallow their own words of offence, and a hard thing for the unjust to be compelled to do justice.
|Th 12 December 1861||Mr. Horsman's speech, at Stroud may be taken as a fair and comprehensive expression of British opinion on the subject of America. The views which he gave of the origin, character, and objects of this great Civil War are the views now all but universally accepted in this country, and his description of the phases through which public opinion passed on this important question is perfectly accurate. We began with a decided prepossession in favour of the Northern States. The Southerners, after a long monopoly of power and influence, had apparently rebelled against the results of a fair and legitimate election, and threatened to subvert the whole fabric of the Union, because, for once, their political antagonists had carried the day. Upon this view of the case, and apart even from the question of slavery, we all said, as Mr. Horsman [Edward Horsman, 1807-1876, Liberal M.P. for Stroud] says now, that the Secession was not justifiable. That Secession, however, was actually accomplished, and when ten millions of people had declared their resolution to achieve their independence by force of arms, it was too late to enter into questions of State rights or Federal prerogatives. Gradually, it is true, many things occurred to modify our original conclusions on the causes of quarrel. We saw distinctly that if Slavery was uppermost in the views of the South, Emancipation had no place among the objects of the North. We learnt from the admissions of all parties that the causes of dispute were manifold; that the interests of North and South conflicted at. innumerable points; that the idea of separation had been cherished for years; and that the Presidential election of 1860 was simply the spark which had lit the train and produced the long-menaced explosion. All this we saw, but the one consideration which outweighed all others in the public mind was the simple fact of the war. After the two sections of the Union had actually taken the field against each other, and had vented the political animosities of a whole generation in an appeal to the sword, it was plain to all reasonable men that the American Union was a thing of the past. The "inexorable logic of facts" precluded all further dissertation. What was gone could never be recovered, and we wished, therefore, that the belligerents, whatever, might be their relative claims to European sympathies, should come to such terms as would put a stop to bloodshed. So far Mr. Horsman has faithfully expressed the views of the public, and he was debarred by the very nature of the case from any novelties of opinion. But he presently overstepped these bounds, and proceeded to speculate with unusual confidence upon the events of the future. On two points of great moment he ventured to utter distinct predictions. He avowed his "ardent and sincere" belief that there would be no war between England and America on the subject of the Trent, and he delineated, for the information of his constituents, the future condition of the Northern Republic after the final severance of the South. His arguments on these points, and especially on the former, will be received with much interest by the public.
Mr. Horsman founds his anticipations of peace on two distinct grounds. He holds that it is not the interest of the Northern Americans to go to war with us, and that it is "consistent with their character and honour" to avoid that extremity. The first assertion is, indeed, incontrovertible. The Americans were always weaker than ourselves, and they are now weaker than ever. We happen to be prepared for war to an extent never before known, while the Federalists are unable to gain any material advantage over an enemy already confronting them in the field. If it is said that a foreign war will at any rate enable them to escape with less humiliation from a hopeless civil war, and indemnify them by conquests in the North for losses in the South, Mr. Horsman replies that on this frontier also they are quite as likely to lose as to gain, and that Canada may gain territory in the States, instead of the States gaining territory in Canada. Then, at sea, their navy will be unable for a moment to cope with ours, while the days of privateering - the old resource of the Americans -must be considered as gone. Not to mention that steam would drive all old-fashioned cruisers from the ocean, it is plain that American privateers could neither leave their own ports, which would be closely blockaded, nor bring their prizes, if they made any, into any ports of Europe, which would be all closed against them. Every word of this is true; and, though Mr. Horsman is less diffuse in arguing out his second proposition, we perfectly agree with his assertion that the Northerners can give us the redress we demand, not only without disparagement to their honour, but with credit to their justice and wisdom. Nevertheless, there is a point of infinite importance overlooked in these arguments. The Federalists would do nothing but what is right in making reparation for the attack upon the Trent, and they would do themselves an enormous injury by dragging us into war. But will these considerations suffice to rule either the passions of the populace or the policy of the Government? That is the real question to he answered, and we sincerely trust that Mr. Horsman's confidence may be justified by the event.It is instructive to compare the prospects of America, as sketched in the speech before us, with the visions depicted in another speech to which public attention has recently been directed. Mr. Horsman augurs well of the future, but his aspirations are modest, practical, and reasonable. He does not look for any prodigious federation, or any Democratic Republic coextensive with one of the continents of the world. He conceives, indeed, that "by the law of nature all overgrown bodies must break down," and that there is nothing in democratic institutions which can exempt a State from the common destiny. If he judges favourably of the prospect before the Northern Republic, it .is because he hopes that its institutions may be rather corrected than sublimed by the present trial, and that, instead of "freedom everywhere and equality everywhere," according to the American acceptance of such terms, rational habits of subordination and submission may be introduced among the newly-organized people. "The disasters", says he, "of the present day having opened their eyes to the unsafe parts of their Constitution, they will form a stronger Government, when the law will not be the American law, but the old English law - when the few will govern and the many obey, instead of every man governing and no man obeying." There is considerable sagacity in this view of the case. The Americans, in fact, are but passing through that kind of trial which is said to benefit all men except those who are deaf to teaching. Hitherto, as Mr. Horsman truly says, the people of the Union have been privileged to do what was permitted to no other people. They enjoyed a political licence to conduct themselves as they chose, and many an act which would have caused a war if committed by others was passed over forbearingly when committed by them. The consequence was such a blind and irrational arrogance of temper, and such an impatience of government or control, as have now set them at deadly feud among themselves. If they read this lesson aright, they will certainly learn to modify their views of Republican rights as well as of Republican destinies; nor do we think that Democracy will be any the worse for finding that it is liable to the same penalties which visit excesses under any other institutions. After all, the lesson read to the citizens of the Union will not be by comparison a hard one. They will only learn that their lot is not, as they had fancied, exempt from checks and burdens. The worst that can come is that the people of the New World will have been taught to give and take, like the people of the old. They must be content to see others living near them with institutions of their own, to incur the trouble of settling and protecting frontiers, to practise such moderation of policy as may prevent quarrels, and to understand that people cannot always have their own way. The advantage of these simple lessons will more than compensate them, Mr. Horsman thinks, for the division of territory and the loss of Imperial power, and he prophesies that out of all this collapse and chaos we shall see a new State "with a new future before it, with a higher intelligence, with a sounder morality, with a purer patriotism." These bold predictions must be judged by the event, but they certainly contain nothing which ought to make them unacceptable to the Americans themselves.
|Top||(1/5) (2/5) (3/5) (4/5) (5/5)|