Foreign and Colonial NewsThe Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1120, p. 568.
December 7, 1861
MESSRS. SLIDELL AND MASON.
The whole of the Paris press, and more especia1ly the semi-official journals, warmly espouse the side of England in her quarrel with the American Federal Government.
An article in the Patrie, written in a semi-official style, after pointing out how deeply France is interested in the American question, proposes that, in case of a rapture between England and America, France should coincide with England in any recognition of the Southern Confederacy, and, in order to render any resistance on the part of the Northern States out of the question, unite her naval forces with those of England. "At this moment (says the Patrie) the fate of two peoples and perhaps the repose of the world, is in the hands of the Cabinet of Washington. Its resolutions may lead to events of incalculable importance; but in any case we cannot but admit that England is right to act as she is doing. We will go further—she is merely accomplishing a rigorous duty, commanded by the circumstances, and all Europe will approve her conduct." In another article headed "How is France to act?" the Patrie expresses more decided views:—"In our opinion (says the Patrie) it is difficult for her to remain indifferent in presence of a violation of international law which concerns all maritime nations. We believe that very likely the Northern States will refuse to accede to the demands made by England; in that case we may presume that war will be immediately declared, and the first act of hostility will be the recognition of the Southern States. ... We are convinced that the war between the two countries will be an interminable one, but, on the other hand, we cannot remain idle spectators of a struggle between North America and England. It is quite clear that it is not our duty to avenge the wrongs of England, but the recognition of the South by that Power, which would imply a final separation from the United States, could not be regarded as an isolated act, and would impose upon France the necessity of assuming a decisive attitude in this question. The result would be that two great maritime Powers of Europe might be drawn into a common action with the same identical political object; and, that being the case, as we have observed before, President Lincoln, by provoking an act of brutality, may perhaps have acted with foresight by preparing a separation which he can neither propose nor accept." In another article the Patrie seems to foreshadow a disposition on the part of the French Government to recognise the Southern Confederacy if England should set the example of recognition.
With regard to the affair of the Trent the Pays says:—"The irritation excited in England, and the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, will perhaps make the Washington Cabinet reflect seriously, and induce it to offer the fullest reparation to the British Government. If Mr. Lincoln refuses reparation for the insult to the Trent, the entire responsibility of the consequences will rest with him."
The Constitutionnel says:—"In fact, it is impossible that the Americans should not understand how irregular is the arrest of MM. Slidell and Mason on board the Trent; how contrary it is to the law of nations; and how prejudicial the consequences of this act would be to themselves. It would be the consecration of the 'right of search,' against which they have always protested, and which was one of the chief causes of the war they themselves waged with England in 1812-a right of search exercised not only on commercial vessels but on ships of war, for the mail-steamers are Royal vessels, having on board a Lieutenant of the Royal Navy, and their officers wear the uniform of the British Navy. By declaring contraband of war simple passengers with or without a diplomatic mission the Americans strike a mortal blow against the privileges of neutral States, which it is to their interest more than to any one else to see respected."
The Débats thinks that the neglect of Captain Wilks to seize the despatches on board the Trent was a fatal oversight.
The Temps thinks that the Emperor Napoleon has tendered, or will tender, his good offices or mediation for the settlement of the dispute.
The United States' Consul has communicated to the French papers a letter of General Scott (who is now in Paris), 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 of 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." In conclusion, General Scott expresses a conviction that a war between America and England cannot take place without more serious provocations than those at present given.
The Toronto Lender, the most influential organ of the Canadian Ministry, characterises the seizure of Messrs. Mason and Slidell as "the most offensive outrage which Brother Jonathan has ever dared to perpetrate on the British flag. It strikes at the root of British authority, and affirms a right on the part of the Northern States to which the meanest nation in Christendom could not honourably submit. We assume that Lord Lyons will at once demand from the Washington Government a disavowal of the act of their Commodore and the release of Messr. Mason and Slidell. Not to assume this, would be to suppose that Britain is indifferent to the rights and honour of her flag."