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The Civil War in America.

The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1120, p. 569.

December 7, 1861

By the Cunard steamer Persia we have received New York journals of the 20th ult.

The principal subject of interest is the reception of the news of the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell on board the British steamer Trent. The American account of the affair agrees with that of Captain Moir, except in that it is represented that all the documents of Messrs. Mason and Shidell were seized. It is also admitted that Captain Wilks, of the San Jacinto, acted without orders from Washington, that ship having only just returned to the West Indies from Africa. The news of the capture was received with great joy by the people of the large cities, although the means by which it was made caused a fall of stocks in Wall-street. The captives were transferred from New York to Fort Warren, near Boston. Commodore Wilks is the same officer who commanded the United States' exploring expedition in 1838-42, the account of which was given to the world in five large volumes.


The journals are full of quotations from Vattel, Wheaton, Phillimore, and Kent, and of decisions of Lord Stowell, to prove that the dipatches, and the Commissioners who carried them, were "contraband of war," subjecting the vessel to the penalty of capture and condemnation in a Prize Court. The practice of taking British seamen out of American merchant ships at the commencement of this century is cited as estopping Great Britain from any right to object. The cutting out of the Caroline from New York waters, by Sir Allan McNab in 1837, is brought forward, the circumstances that preceded and justified that act being omitted by the journal that cites it. Mr. George Sumner, of Boston, mentions the capture of Mr. Laurens, the American Ambassador, in 1780, as having been made from a Dutch vessel, which, however, is erroneous, the vessel being an American one. The journals do not seem generally to anticipate that the irregularity of allowing the Trent to proceed on her way would give cause of offence to the British Government and nation. They regard it as an act of kindness on the part of Commodore Wilks. Of the New York journals, only the Commercial Advertiser doubted whether the Commissioners were contraband, and called them "political prisoners under the protection of a neutral flag," whose seizure was unjustifiable, and ought to be repudiated by the United States' Government. The two organs of the French population in New York regarded the seizure as a breach of international law. The Boston Advertiser preserves its usual moderation and judgment, and "inclines to the belief" that the despatches and Ambassadors were contraband of war. The rest of the journals of the three principal cities, which are written in the English language, treat the matter as one too plain for doubt. The Herald is as brutal in its utterances as usual; the Tribune, the Times the Globe, the Journal of Commerce, and the Evening Post simply reflect the feeling of the people, and affect to believe that England, far from remonstrating, will "applaud the gallant act of Lieutenant Wilks, so full of spirit and good sense, and such an exact imitation of the policy she has always stoutly defended and invariably pursued."


General Sumner, in command of a regiment of the regular army of the United States, seized three returning Californians on board the Panama steamer on a charge of "Southern proclivities." On their arrival at the Isthmus the Governor protested against the passage of these political prisoners across the soil of New Granada. General Sumner, backed by the force of his regiment, refused to forego his design, and the Governor contented himself with a protest.


The reports of Captain Dupont and Brigadier-General Sherman have appeared. The capture of the forts was made with the loss of fifteen killed and wounded on the Federal side. The loss of the means of debarkation forced the Commanders to abandon their projected attack by land. The negroes had sacked Beaufort and were very favourably disposed towards "the Yankees." Many of the negroes who would not flee with their masters to the woods were shot by their owners, and this cruel proceeding had greatly exasperated the survivors.

Another naval expedition, under General Butler, was in an active state of preparation at Boston.

General Dix has landed 4000 troops on the eastern shore of Virginia, and has issued a proclamation guaranteeing constitutional rights to loyal inhabitants. It is reported that the Federals were well received by the people of Accomac and Northampton counties.

The Federals have now 480,000 men in arms, lacking only 20,000 of the numter authorised by Congress.


Colonel Cochrane, a lifelong pro-slavery Democrat, in an address to his regiment, proclaimed "the military necessity of the emancipation of the slaves." The Secretary of War (Mr. Cameron), who was present, followed with a short but significant speech to this effect:—

Soldiers!—It is too late for me to make you it speech to-night, but I will say that I heartily approve every sentiment uttered by your noble commander. The doctrines which he has laid down I approve as if they were my own words. They are my sentiments—sentiments which will not only lead you to victory, but which will in the end reconstruct this our glorious Federal Constitution. It is idle to talk about treating with these rebels upon their own terms. We must meet them as our enemies, treat them as enemies, and punish them as enemies, until they shall learn to behave themselves. Every means which God has placed in our hands it is our duty to use for the purpose of protecting ourselves. I am glad of the opportunity to say here, what I have already said elsewhere, in these few words, that I approve the doctrines this evening enunciated by Colonel Cochrane.

General Burnside, of Rhode Island, and Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, the colleague of Charles Sumner, have made declarations of similar import. The latter said:—

It was poor policy to manage the war otherwise. It was useless to send our men from their firesides, their workshops, and their farms to die upon the Southern soil if the cause of the war were not removed, and the power that brought on the conflict without a cause, and aimed at the destruction of the Republic, remained untouched in the chief source of its strength.


Five bridges on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad have been burned by the Unionists of East Tennessee. This line is the most important line of communication between Virginia and the South-Western States.

Colonel Corcoran, of the 69th (Irish) Regiment, has bean thrown into gaol as a hostage for the privateersman condemned in New York, and twelve other officers are designated as hostages for the safety of the rest of the privateer's crew.

The Georgia planters have held a convention in which it was resolved that if the present cotton crop remain unsold they will not plant any cotton next year.


The New York banks have asked for and obtained a postponement of the time when they will be called upon to take the third 50,000,000 dollars of the national loan until the 1st of January next.

Another condemnation of a culprit for engaging in the slave trade has taken place. The trial was held in New Bedford.

Edwin James has been engaged by the New York Leader, a weekly newspaper of no high standing, to write autobiographical experiences. The editor offers him 2000 dollars for a series of articles of this kind.

A numerously-attended meeting of American residents in Paris assembled a few days ago, at the Hotel Westminster, to present their respects to General Scott, on the occasion of his arrival in that city. His Excellency Mr. Dayton, the United States' Minister, in addressing the General on behalf of his countrymen in Paris, assured him of their respect for himself personally, and their high appreciation of the value of his long services to his country, referring particularly to the activity and energy displayed in his recent loyal defence of the capital when threatened by the Confederates of the South, and declaring that his countrymen would ever cherish in their hearts a grateful recollection of his name. He expressed their regret at the feeble state of his health, and their wishes for his speedy restoration; and trusted that, on his return home, he would find his country once more happy and united, and more prosperous than ever. General Scott, who seemed much affected at the compliment paid him, replied in suitable terms.

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