Foreign and Colonial NewsThe Illustrated London News, vol.41, no.1179, p.646.
December 20, 1862
By the arrival of the City of Washington we are in receipt of New York journals to the 6th inst. They contain the President's Message and the reports of the different Departments which were made to Congress on Dec. 1, being the day of its reassembling. The President's Message treats first of
With reference to these, he says:--
If the condition of our relations with other nations is less gratifying than it has usually been at former periods, it is certainly more satisfactory than a nation so unhappily distracted as we are might reasonably have apprehended. In the month of June last there were some grounds to expect the maritime Powers which at the beginning of our domestic difficulties so unwisely and unnecessarily, as we think, recognised the insurgents as a belligerent, would soon recede from that position, which has proved only less injurious to themselves than to our own country. But the temporary reverses which afterwards befel the national arms, and which were exaggerated by her own disloyal citizens abroad, have hitherto delayed that act of simple justice. The civil war, which has so radically changed for the moment the occupations and habits of the American people, has necessarily disturbed the social conditions and affected very deeply the prosperity of the nations with which we have carried on a commerce that has been steadily increasing throughout a period of half a century. It has at the same time excited political ambitions and apprehensions which have produced a profound agitation throughout the civilised world. In this unusual agitation we have forborne from taking part in any controversy between foreign States, and between parties or factions in such States. We have attempted no propagandism and acknowledged no revolution; but we have left to every nation the exclusive conduct and management of its own affairs. Our struggle has been, of course, contemplated by foreign nations with reference less to its own merits than to its supposed and often exaggerated effects, and the consequence resulting to those relations themselves. Nevertheless, complaint on the part of this Government, even if it were just, would certainly be unwise.
The Treaty With Great Britain.
The Treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the African slave trade has been put into operation with a good prospect of complete success. It is an occasion of special pleasure to acknowledge that the execution of it on the part of her Majesty's Government has been marked with a jealous respect for the authority of the United States, and the rights of their moral and loyal citizens.
The Blockade And Foreign Nations.
A blockade of three thousand miles of sea-coast could not be established and vigorously enforced in a season of great commercial activity like the present without committing occasional mistakes and inflicting unintentional injuries upon foreign nations and their subjects. A civil war occurring in a country where foreigners reside and carry on a trade under treaty stipulations is necessarily fruitful of complaints of the violation of neutral rights. All such collisions tend to excite misapprehensions and possibly to produce mutual reclamations between nations which have a common interest in preserving peace and friendship. In clear cases of these kinds I have, so far as possible, heard and redressed complaints which have been presented by friendly Powers. There is, however, a large and augmenting number of doubtful cases upon which the Government is unable to agree with the Governments whose protection is demanded by the claimants. There are, moreover, many cases in which the United States or their citizens suffer wrongs from the naval or military authorities of foreign nations which the Governments of these States are not at once prepared to redress. I have proposed to some of the foreign States thus interested mutual conventions to examine and adjust such complaints. This proposition has been made especially to Great Britain, to France, to Spain, and to Prussia. In each case it has been kindly received, but has not yet been formally adopted.
The President then refers to his favourite project for the voluntary emigration of the free negroes, and alludes to the negotiation of commercial treaties with Liberia, Hayti, and Turkey.
Relations With Europe And Asia.
Our relations with Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Rome, and the other European States remain undisturbed. Very favourable relations also continue to to maintained with Turkey, Morocco, China, and Japan.
Relations With Minor American States.
During the last year there has not only been no change of our previous relations with the independent States of our own continent, but more friendly sentiments than have heretofore existed are believed to be entertained by those neighbours whose safety and progress are so intimately connected with our own. This statement especially applies to Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru, and Chili.
The President favours the project of the Atlantic telegraph cable, and the cable for connecting San Francisco with the wire which is being extended over the Russian empire.
The President recommends Secretary Chase's plan of driving out of circulation the existing banknote currency (estimated by the Secretary at 167,000,000 dols.) by a tax which should force the banks to reorganise under a general Act of Congress, and receive in exchange for their present corporation notes United States' notes based on a deposit by these institutions of United States' bonds.
After deducting the sums paid in redemption of the public debt, he reports that the actual expenditure for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1862, was, in round numbers, 475,000,000 dols., and the receipts 488,000,000 dols., leaving a surplus in the treasury of 13,000,000 dols. Of the receipts, 434,000,000 dols. were obtained by loans, 49,000,000 dols. for customs, and less than 2,000,000 dols. from the property and income tax. The small balance of receipts is made up of a balance from 1861 and the incomings of minor taxes.
The President reports that the secession of the Southern States has greatly benefited this department by lessening its expenditures without decreasing its receipts. By virtue of these facts the annual deficit of this department has fallen from 4,500,000 dols. to 2,100,000 dol.
The sale of public lands has ceased to be a source of revenue since the passage of the Free Homestead Act, which will come into operation on the 1st of January next.
The President alludes to the Indian troubles in the north-west, favours the completion of the Great Pacific Railroad, and the enlargement, for military and commercial reasons, of the New York and Illinois Canals. He asserts that the newly-created Department of Agriculture is very active. The President devotes the concluding portion of his Message to the subject of disunion and emancipation. He reiterates his arguments against disunion. He says of the people of the north-west, "True to themselves, they will not ask where a line of separation shall be, but will vow rather that there shall be no such line."
The President then proposes to Congress to adopt the following amendments to the United States' Constitution:--
Every State wherein slavery now exists which shall abolish the same therein at any time or times before the 1st day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred, shall receive compensation from the United States as follows, to wit:--
"The President of the United States shall deliver to every such State bonds of the United States, bearing interest at the rate of --- for each slave shown to have been therein by the eighth census of the United States, said bonds to be delivered to such State by instalments, or in one parcel, at the completion of the abolishment, accordingly as the same shall have been gradual, or at one time, within such State; and interest shall begin to run upon any such bond only from the proper time of its delivery as aforesaid, and afterwards any State having received bonds as aforesaid, and subsequently introducing or tolerating slavery therein, shall refund to the United States the bonds so received, or the value thereof, and all interest paid thereon.
All slaves who shall have enjoyed actual freedom by the chances of the war at any time before the end of the rebellion shall be for ever free; but all owners of such who shall not have been disloyal shall be compensated for them at the same rates as are provided for States adopting abolishment of slavery, but in such a way that no slave shall be twice accounted for.
Congress may appropriate money and otherwise provide for colonising free coloured persons, with their own consent, at any place or places without the United States.
The plan, consisting of these articles, is recommended, not but that a restoration of the national authority would be accepted without its adoption, nor will the war or proceedings under the proclamation of Sept. 22, 1862, be stayed because of the recommendation of this plan. Its timely adoption, I doubt not, would bring restoration, and thereby stay both. This plan is recommended as a means, not in conclusion of, but additional to, all others for restoring and preserving the national authority throughout the Union. The subject is presented exclusively in its economical aspect. The plan would, I am confident, secure peace more speedily than can be done by force alone, while it would cost less, considering amounts and manner of payment and times of payment, and the amounts would be easier paid, than will be the additional cost of the war if we rely solely upon force.
The peroration of the Message is the following somewhat inartistic piece of rhetoric:--
Fellow citizens,--We cannot escape history. We, of this Congress, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honour or dishonour to the latest generation. We say that we are for the Union. The world will not forget that while we say this we do know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free, honourable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of the earth. Other means may succeed. This could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just--a way which, if followed, the world will for ever applaud and God most for ever bless.
The Secretary begins by acknowledging that his estimates of the expenses during the past fiscal year fell short of the reality. He estimates that the public debt of the United States will amount on the 1st of July next to 1,222 000,000 dols. The average rate of interest on the whole loan is 4.35 per cent: that part of it which consists of the United States' small notes being practically a loan from the people to their Government without interest. The expenses for the current fiscal year are set down at 788,500,000 dols. Of this sum 180,500,000 dols. will be raised by taxation, and the rest by loans or emission of paper-money. Of the former amount Mr. Chase expects 68,000,000 dols. from the tariff, and 85,500,000 dols. from the direct tax. The postage-stamp currency issued amounts to 3,885,000 dols. It cannot be supplied fast enough for the public needs. The Secretary "does not yield to the phantasy that taxation is a blessing, and debt a benefit:" but argues that the placing of the banks of the country under the control of a central authority, with a uniform currency and stock basis, will consolidate the United States and weaken the motives for secession.
The proposed plan is recommended, finally, by the firm anchorage it will supply to the union of the States. Every banking association whose bonds are deposited in the treasury of the Union, every individual who holds a dollar of the circulation secured by such deposit, every merchant, every manufacturer, every farmer, every mechanic interested in transactions dependent for success on the credit of that circulation, will feel as an injury every attempt to rend the national unity, with the permanence and stability of which all their interests are so closely and vitally connected. Had the system been possible, and had it actually existed two years ago, can it be doubted that the national interests and sentiments enlisted by it for the Union would have so strengthened the motives for adhesion derived from other sources that the wild treason of secession would have been impossible.
The Secretary finds room to say a word in favour of a uniform international decimal currency:--
In the last report the Secretary took occasion to invite the attention of Congress to the importance of uniform weights, measures, and coins; and to the worth of the decimal system in the commerce of the world. He now ventures to suggest that the present demonetisation of gold may well he availed of for the purpose of taking one considerable step towards these great ends. If the half-eagle of the Union be made of equal weight and fineness with the gold sovereign of Great Britain, no sensible injury could possibly arise from the change, while, on the resumption of specie payments, its great advantages would be felt in the equalisation of exchanges and the convenience of commerce. This Act of the United States, moreover, might be followed by the adoption by Great Britain of the Federal decimal divisions of the coin, and thus a most important advance might be secured towards an international coinage, with values decimally expressed.
Secretary Welles begins by referring to the success of the blockade in the following spirited terms:--
Since the commencement of our national difficulties four powerful squadrons have been collected, organised, and stationed for duty on our maritime frontiers with a rapidity and suddenness which find no approach to a parallel in previous naval history, and which it is believed no other country but our own could have achieved. These squadrons have been incessantly maintaining a strict blockade of such gigantic proportions that eminent foreign statesmen in the highest scenes of legislation did not hesitate to denounce it as a "material impossibility;" and yet, after this most imposing naval undertaking had been for a period of eighteen months in operation, and after its reach had been effectively extended along the entire sweep of our Atlantic and Gulf coasts, from the outlet of the Chesapeake to the mouth of the Rio Grande, the same eminent authorities, with a list in their hands of all the vessels which had evaded or escaped the vigilance of our blockading forces, could not refuse in their official statements to admit with reluctant candour that the proof of the efficiency of the blockade was conspicuous and wholly conclusive, and that in no previous war had the ports of an enemy's country been so effectually closed by a naval force. But even such testimony was not needed. The proof of the fact abounds in the current price of our Southern staples in the great commercial marts of the world, and more especially in the whole industrial and commercial condition of the insurgent region. It should not be forgotten that no circumstance is wanting to attest the magnitude of the greatest of all naval triumphs. The industrial necessities and the commercial cupidity of all the principal maritime nations, armed and empowered as they are by the resources of modern invention, are kept at bay. A multitude of island harbours under foreign jurisdiction, looking nearly upon our shores, and affording the most convenient lurking-places from which illicit commerce may leap forth to its prohibited destination and purpose, are so closely watched as to render the peril of all such ventures far greater than even their enormous gains when successful. And, finally, a vast line of sea-coast, nearly three thousand miles in extent, much of it with a double shore, and almost honeycombed with inlets and harbours, has been so beleaguered and locked up, that the whole immense foreign commerce, which was the very life of the industry and opulence of the vast region which it borders, has practically ceased to exist.
The Secretary suggests that, when every part of the coast is in Federal hands, the costly apparatus of an international blockade may be dispensed with, and maritime intercourse be regulated by municipal law. A detailed review of the doings of the navy during the preceding year is followed by a passage reflecting on the British character of the Alabama and the conduct of the British Government in letting her get to sea, which has already been quoted by the daily journals. The result of the extraordinary activity in this department is that the United States have now afloat or progressing to rapid completion a naval force consisting of 427 vessels, carrying 3268 guns, and of the capacity of 340,000 tons. "The annals of the world do not show os great an increase in so brief a period to the naval power of any country." The iron-clad navy for the seaboard consists of 8 armed wooden vessels and 20 armed iron vessels, carrying 98 guns; for the western rivers, of 14 armoured wooden vessels and 12 armoured iron vessels. The United States navy consists of 104 sailing-vessels, carrying 1415 guns; and 323 steam-vessels, carrying 1853 guns. Mr. Welles thinks the British Warrior could get within only a few harbours of the United States, and for those few "the Government can always be prepared whenever a foreign war is imminent." That more ironclads are not now ready is attributed to the scanty manufacturing capacities of the United States. "It is believed that nearly every rolling-mill has been engaged that is able to do the work, and yet those vessels are several months behind the time within which they were to be completed. . . . It is with the greatest difficulty that these comparatively small vessels and the moderate-sized iron required can be procured for them as soon as wanted, so much does the demand exceed the capabilities of the mills to supply." Since the blockade was instituted 543 vessels have been seized by the blockading squadron, including a number of valuable steamers.
Secretary Stanton reports that the armies of the United States constitute a force of over 800,000 men fully armed and equipped. When the quotas are filled up it will number 1,000,000 men, and the estimates for next year are based upon that number. The issues of the ordnance department are stated to have been 1926 field and siege and 1206 fortification cannon, 7294 gun-carriages, caissons, mortar-beds, travelling forges and battery-waggons. 1,276,686 smallarms, 987,291 sets of equipments and accoutrements, and 2l3,991,127 rounds of ammunition for artillery and smallarms, still leaving large supplies of ordnance stores at the arsenals and dépôts. He acknowledges the benefit the army has derived from negro labour in Louisiana and South Carolina, and on the James and Potomac Rivers. The demand for their labour has exceeded the supply available.
The greater part of the whole country, which formerly produced the sea-island cotton, is now thoroughly restored to the Union. The labourers are there--the soil and climate. It needs only assurance of protection to revive the cultivation of the staple as well as to produce vast quantities of corn and forage for our troops. Since this war must be conducted by marches and battles and sieges, why neglect the best means to make them successful, and their results permanent? It is worthy of notice that thus far the portions of territory which, once recovered, we have most firmly held, are precisely those in which the greatest proportion of coloured men are found. By their assistance our armies will be able permanently to operate in and occupy the country; and in labour for the army, in raising its and their own supplies, full occupation can be given them, and with this there will be neither occasion nor temptation to emigrate to a northern and less congenial climate.
General Halleck's report reveals the circumstances which led to the dismissal of General M'Clellan. General M'Clellan, when at Harrison's Landing, demanded a reinforcement of 50,000 men before marching on Richmond. General Halleck could only promise 20,000. Under these circumstances General Halleck gave orders that the Army of the Potomac should evacuate the Peninsula on the 3rd of August and coalesce with General Pope at Acquia Creek. General M'Clellan protested against this order, and did not obey it until after the lapse of eleven days. This delay caused the reverses of General Pope. "Had the army of the Potomac arrived a few days earlier the rebel army could have been easily defeated and perhaps destroyed." The long inactivity of General M'Clellan after the battle of Antietam is strongly condemned. General Halleck represents that victories have been won by the troops, while the fruits thereof have been lost by the immobility of the commanding General. The superior celerity of the Confederate armies is admitted and commended. The army is warned that it carries by far too much baggage, and insists upon too many luxuries, to allow it to be speedily moved. The practice of absenteeism, fearfully prevalent among officers and men, is reprobated, and more stringent military laws for the suppression of this offence are recommended.