London, Saturday, December 28, 1861.The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1124, p. 660.
December 28, 1861
In a few days from the time of our publication England will, in all probability, be made aware of the intentions of the American Government. If Mr. Lincoln has the courage to act up to his own convictions, and to defy the menaces of an infuriated mob, Messrs. Mason and Slidell are by this time on their way to our shores. But we have no great hope that such will be the freight of the vessel now hastening to Liverpool. It is true that ultimately the Government that shall provoke a contest with England will go down in disgrace when the ignorant and angry myriads who now denounce us are excited to frenzy by the chastisement which, in the event of war, England will inflict. It is true that, in the presence of disasters, no American Government, save that of military despotism, will be able to endure; and therefore that it is a choice of evils which the Lincoln Cabinet has before it. But with a certain class of minds the immediate danger is always more terrible than the remote one, and these are the chances for Messrs. Lincoln and Seward to reckon upon—the possible capital to be made out of a great success by General M'Clellan, and the possible interposition of European Powers between England and the Northern States. Of two evils choose the most distant, is a favourite variation upon a well-known rule; and we are disposed to believe that Mr. Lincoln will prefer to hear the distant cannon of Britain rather than the yell of a mob under the windows of the White House. Therefore we do not look for a message of peace, though we hope for it, so far as hope is consistent with a calm examination of the case.
At the same time we are glad to believe that the French notification will have its weight with the American Government. Nothing can be more distinct than this document, and it points out so lucidly to Mr. Lincoln that Captain Wilks has committed an outrage, that the reasoning must be convincing, whatever the resolutions of the President may be. There can be no doubt of the valuable character of this State paper, inasmuch as it testifies to the European world that the first of the Continental Powers takes the side of England. It may also have the advantage of inducing Mr. Lincoln to reconsider his position and to devise some means of extricating himself from it without the fatal appeal. We speak, of course, of the document, not as if it had been composed at the period at which it was issued, but as the embodiment of a decision which was doubtless perfectly well known to our Foreign Minister when he sent the despatch to America. We cannot suppose that diplomatists acting in concert, as those of France and England are understood to do tarried for the issue of a formal despatch. They must have been in perfect accord at the time the demand of England left these shores; and the President was at once made aware that, though England desires no physical aid in any contest into which she may be called to enter, she has, and is glad to have, the moral support of the Imperial Government. We can only say again that we wish to believe Mr. Lincoln strong enough to listen to reason and justice.