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The Civil War in America.

The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1121, p. 593.

December 14, 1861

By the arrival of the screw-steamer Etna we have received New York journals of the 30th ult.


The journals of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, as a general rule, speak much more hesitatingly of the legality of Captain Wilks's act than they did a week previously. They condescend to contemplate the possibility of reclamations on the part of Great Britain, and of yielding thereto. The Tribune says:—"If the British Government can be induced for the sake of reclaiming them" (Messrs. Mason and Slidell) "to take the highest American ground in favour of neutral maritime rights, we shall have sold them for a great deal more than they are worth." The World acknowledges that the Northerners have hitherto been unjust to the British Government in complaining that it recognised the South as a belligerent Power. The President must soon take the same position.

It has transpired that no dispatches have been found in the trunks of the Ambassadors. The New York Times remarks upon this unwelcome discovery :—"In that case the letter of much of the reasoning employed in justification of the act of Captain Wilks may become nugatory."

The lawyers have begun to suspect that the Laurens and other cases have been misrepresented by Messrs. George Sumner and Everett, while the moneyed men still refuse to accept the assurances of the journals that it was "all right." It was feared, however, that the news of the burning of the Harvey Birch by the Nashville would again inflame the minds of the people against England.


The Bostonians, usually so much more friendly than the New Yorkers, have on this occasion not acted in a manner worthy of their well-earned reputation. A public banquet at the Revere House was got up for the hero of the hour, and nothing could exceed the bad taste of the Massachusetts speakers (among whom were Judges Bigelow and Russell, Governor Andrew, and Mayor Rice), whether their insolent bombast was levelled at their two unfortunate captives or at the Government and people of a friendly nation.


The Federals had taken possession of the island of Tybee, at the mouth of the Savannah River. The people of that city were flying panicstruck into the interior. The Confederates had blocked up the inlet leading to Savannah.

The Federals at Hilton Island found the place vary unhealthy, and were suffering much from fever and ague and congestive fever. All the teamsters and camp-followers were leaving for the North. The Federals have also occupied a post on St. Helena Sound, fifteen miles north of Port Royal.

On the 19th ult. Colonel Brown opened fire from Fort Pickens on Pensacola, Florida. On the 24th the fight was still going on, we know not certainly with what result. The Southerners admit that the Navy-yard was destroyed, with all its stores; that Pensacola had been evacuated; and that General Bragg had called for reinforcements. On the other hand, they claim to have driven off five vessels of war, to have riddled the Niagara with balls, and thoroughly disabled the Colorado. This is the Southern account; it will probably be another week before the Northern report reaches us.

The armies of the Potomac and the Upper Potomac were engaged in hutting themselves. It is still, however, strenuously denied that they are going into winter quarters.

The largest body of men ever reviewed on the American continent was passed in review by General M'Clellan, at Washington, on the 20th of November. The troops consisted of seventy-six regiments of infantry, seven of cavalry, and seventeen batteries, in all about 70,000 men.

Commerce in Missouri below St. Louis will be conducted by the Federal Government only.

The Fingal had run into Charleston with her valuable and timely cargo. On the other hand, the Federal ships have captured several vessels laden with contraband of war.


On this question Secretary Smith, a member of Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet, has expressed himself to the effect that the views of Mr. Cameron were not those of the Administration.


Congress had passed a resolution for removing the seat of Government from Richmond to Nashville, Tennessee. Perhaps one reason for this step is the destruction of the costly bridges on the Virginia and Tenneessee Railroad, which imperils the connection between Richmond and the South-western States.

The Union men of North Carolina formally established a provisional State Government at Hatteras inlet on the 18th ult.

A portion of the people of Kentucky and Missouri have passed Secessionn ordinances.


President Davis congratulates Congress on the progress of domestic manufactures among them. He speaks moderately of the great deeds of the Confederate army and of the high spirit of patriotism with which they are animated. He says:—

A succession of glorious victories at Bethel, Bull Run, Manassas, Springfield Lexington, Leesburg, and Belmont, has checked the wicked invasion which greed of gain and the unhallowed lust of power brought upon our soil, and has proved that numbers cease to avail when directed against a people fighting for the sacred right of self-government and the privileges of freemen. After seven months of war the enemy have not only failed to extend their occupancy of our soil, but new States and territories have been added to our confederacy; while, instead of their threatened march of unchecked conquest, they have been driven at more than one point to assume the defensive, and, upon a fair comparison between the two belligerents as to men, military means, and fiancial condition the Confederate States are relatively much stronger now than when the struggle commenced.

After referring to the occurrences in Kentucky and Missouri, and, acknowleging that the postal service was entirely disarranged, he puts as good a face as possible on the condition of the Confederate treasury, which, however, is evidently driven to the extremity of issuing baseless promises to pay. By constructing forty miles of railroad between Danville in Virginia, and Queensborough, in North Carolina, a third through line of communication could be opened from North to South. He urgently advises Congress to give aid to the company organised for its construction and administration. He scoffs at the very idea of reconstructing the Union. "Our people now look with contemptuous astonishment on those with whom they have been so recently associated. They shrink with aversion from the bare idea of renewing such a connection:"—

When they see a President making war without the assent of Congress—when they behold Judges threatened because they maintain the writ of habeas corpus, so sacred to freemen—when they see justice and law trampled under the armed heel of military authority, and upright men insist and innocent women dragged to distant dungeons-when they find all this tolerated and applauded by a people who have been in the full enjoyment of freedom but a few mouths ago, they believe that there must be some radical incompatibility between such a people and themselves. With such a people we may be content to live at peace, but the separation is final, and for the independence we have asserted we will accept no alternative.

After denouncing the barbarous manner in which the United States have conducted the war, he accuses them of desiring to excite a servile war by the invasion of South Carolina, and warns them that in such a war they would forfeit all claims to be considered as prisoners of war. Of the seizure of Messrs. Mason and Slidell he says.—

The United States have thus claimed a general jurisdiction over the high seas, and, entering a British ship, sailing under its country's flag, violated the rights of embassy, for the most part held sacred, even among barbarians, by seizing our Ministers whilst under the protection and within the dominions of a neutral nation.

These gentlemen were as much under the jurisdiction of the British Government upon that ship and beneath that flag as if they had been on its soil, and a claim on the part of the United States to seize them in the streets of London would have been as well founded as that to apprehend them where they were taken. Had they been malefactors, and citizens even of the United States, they could not have been arrested on a British ship or on British soil unless under the express provisions of a treaty and according to the forms therein provided for the extradition of criminals. But rights the most sacred seem to have lost all respect in their eyes.

The close of Mr. Davis's Message is evidently levelled rather at Great Britain and France than at the body he professes to be addressing. On the subjects of the blockade and the growth of cotton he says:—

Perhaps we had the right, if see had chosen to exercise it, to ask to know whether the principle, that blockades to be binding must be effectual, solemnly announced by the great Powers of Europe at Paris, is to be generally enforced or applied only to particular cases.

When the Confederate States, at your last session, became a party to the declaration reaffirming this principle of international law, which has been recognised so long by publicists and Governments, we certainly supposed it was to be universally enforced. The customary law of nations is made up of their practice rather than their declarations, and if such declarations are only to be enforced in particular instances at the pleasure of those who make them, then the commerce of this world, so far from being placed under a general law, will become subject to the caprise of those who execute it or suspend it at will. If such is to be the course of nations in regard to this law, it is plain that it will thus become a rule for the weak and not for the strong.

Feeling that such views must be taken by the neutral nations of the earth, I have caused the evidence to be collected which proves completely the utter inefficiency of the proclaimed blockade of our coast, and shall direct it to be laid before such Governments as shall afford us the means of being heard.

But, although we should be benefitted by the enforcement of this law, so solemnly declared by the great Powers of Europe, we are not dependent on that enforcement for the successful prosecution of the war. As long as hostilities continue the Confederate States will exhibit a steadily increasing capacity to furnish their troops with food, clothing, and arms. If they should be forced to forego many of the luxuries and some of the comforts of life, they will at least have the consolation of knowing that they are thus daily becoming more and more independent of the rest of the world. If, in this process, labour in the Confederate States should be gradually diverted from those great Southern staples which have given life to so much of the commerce of mankind into other channels, so as to make them rival producers instead of profitable customers, they will not be the only or even the chief losers by this change in the direction of their industry.

Although it is true that the cotton supply from the Southern states could only be totally cut off by the subversion of our social system, yet it is plain that a long continuance of this blockade might, by a diversion of labour and investment of capital in other employments, so diminish the supply as to bring ruin upon all those interests of foreign countries which are dependent on that staple.

For every labourer who is diverted from the culture of cotton in the South, perhaps four times the number elsewhere, who found subsistence in the various employments growing out of its use, will be forced also to change their occupations.

While the war which is waged to take from us the right of self-government can never attain that end, it remains to be seen how far it may work a revolution in the industrial system of the world, which may carry suffering to other lands as well as to our own.


On the San Jacinto outrage the Quebec Chronicle, the Montreal Advertiser, Journal, Herald, and Gazette, the Toronto Globe and Herald, and the Hamilton Spectator declare themselves in a sense hostile to the United States. It is said that there are only two Canadian newspapers which dissent from the general view.

Both the Imperial authorities and the people are preparing for the worst. The former have commenced the erection of new forts at Toronto, the latter are filling up the ranks of their volunteer regiments, and eagerly learning the rudiments of a soldier's profession.

Since the Canadian line of European Steamers have begun to start from the United States' port of Portland the passport system, inaugurated by Mr. Seward, is very troublesome to Canadian travellers. As no one but the Secretary of State is authorised to issue passports, much delay ensues, and many travellers have been forced to remain over for a week with or without their baggage. This conduct on the part of Mr. Seward causes much heartburning among the people who dwell on the north bank of the St. Lawrence.

Lord Monck was sworn in as Governor-General of Canada on the 28th ult.

The war in America has hitherto brought many advantages to the industrial interests of Canada. For the first time in history the St. Lawrence route has enjoyed a considerable share of the export trade of the Western States. As a consequence, Montreal has risen to be the second American seaport in the grain and provision business. The canal-boats, warehouses, and elevators on the St. Lawrence line are unable to transact the business which has so suddenly poured in upon them. Canadian imports from Europe have increased, while those of the United States have fallen off more than fifty per cent. The number of immigrants from Europe have increased from 9654 last year to 19,461 this year. The increase of immigrants from both Northern and Sontherns States is in still larger proportion. These American immigrants have established in Canada many small manufactories. Probably, at least 50,000 souls have been added to the population of the province by immigration in 1861.

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