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London; Saturday, January 24, 1863

The Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1185, p. 90.

January 24, 1863


Whatever may be the strategic value of the recent operations in America, there can be no doubt that they will have moral weight, and we could almost wish that the success of the Federals had been more marked, inasmuch as there might then be more hope of their being brought to relinquish a useless and hopeless war. It might be too much to expect that a high spirited people, accustomed to vaunt its superiority over Creation generally, would be inclined to listen to any terms for pacification while four unmistakable defeats were unbalanced by any proof that the North could fight well. Though we believe that nearly all, except professional politicians and others, whose profits lie in the continuance of the struggle, have ceased to speak of the reconstruction of the Union as one of the objects of the war, we have no right to blame the dogged obstinacy with which the Federals insist on going on with it until they can find opportunity for a decorous "rest in the accounts." Nobody likes to be completely defeated, and many a man who has privately made up his mind that he is so will cling to his adversary, and struggle, and wrangle, rather than accept the situation. A small success will often serve him as an excuse for retiring, flushed and angry, and declaring that he should have gained the day but for a chain of accidents which took the strife out of the lists of fair play. We have no right to expect the Americans to rise superior to human nature; nobody but themselves ever supposed them at such a moral altitude, and Englishmen have been ready to make every allowance for exacerbated and discomfited men. But this Murfreesboro' business, although we lack accurate details of it, has shown that the Federals, if decently led, can fight as well as their antagonists, and can almost gain a victory. The battle was protracted and sanguinary; but, let the Confederates make the very best of it, they had to abandon the field. The affair must count on the Federal side; and we repeat that we are inclined to hope that this will be placed beyond dispute by the despatches, because mediation might then address itself to the victors with a good chance of being listened to with something

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more than tolerance. We should like to be able to say to the North that it had at length vindicated its military character, and might now be expected to show that it was governed by reason, and was prepared to abandon an attempt at impossible coercion.

We do not for a moment contend that the time has come for England to say this. Our Government may or may not be more inclined than heretofore to reconsider the situation, but it is impossible to say, just now, what our Government thinks. Mr. Gladstone has said his say upon the American question, and believes that the South is a nation; while his colleague, Mr. Milner Gibson, assures his constituents that the North is winning, because it occupies more territory than it did in the earlier stage of secession. We may hear a third voice, of more potency, in the course of the next three weeks; but, on the whole, it would seem that the Premier does not believe that the time has come for any general European demonstration against the continuance of the war.

But we must call attention to another phase of the question. It is one which the journalist has watched for some time, and it is creditable to the reticence and discretion of the British press that no irritating use has been made of the facts. There can, however, be no object now in disguising the truth, which is, that France has become an object of both dislike and apprehension on the part of the Federals. It is not many months since such a state of things would have seemed impossible. It had ever been the habit with the Americans to speak of the French as the most advanced nation of the Old World, to heap adulation upon the wisdom of the Emperor Napoleon, and to profess a sort of belief that one day France and the Republic might, in union, direct the destinies of the world. It is not now worth inquiring how far these sentiments were dictated by what Sir Philip Francis calls the only excuse for flattery--namely, the odium tertii. Whether England was the third party who was so hateful that it was pleasant to flatter her supposed enemy, is now beside the question. The case was so, and the Emperor had a right to believe that his influence was very powerful in the North. It is gone, and the Emperor knows that it is gone, and does not trouble himself to disguise that knowledge. The journals of the North have for some time been full of taunts and sneers at the Tuileries, and these expressions of feeling have lately deepened into downright abuse, and even menace. The Emperor is told that he is "found out," and is warned that it is not for a despot (the discovery of whose despotism is curiously coincident with the establishment of another) to interfere with the will of a great and free nation. He is told that his attempt at drawing England into a joint mediation was an "insolence," and England herself is actually praised for having been too "deep" for the Sphinx of Paris. He is further assured that, should he presume to interfere further, and especially should he give the slightest sign of using other than moral force, he will be suddenly confronted by a tremendous coalition. As the constituents of this coalition might not be easily guessed, we had better say that it is to consist of Russia, England, Spain, and the Federals, and that it is to replace upon the throne of France the house whose Princes fought so nobly for Republican institutions. We are simply reproducing the language of various Northern papers, and those who are unfortunately obliged to peruse such publications will testify to the accuracy of our statements.

The Emperor of the French does not appear to be very much terrified by this fearful programme, or, if he is, he continues to practise the art of veiling his alarms. He continues to treat mediation as a thing to be attempted again as soon as opportunity shall serve; but, without insisting too much upon this, he orders the publication of a document in which he distinctly enunciates his intention of opposing the force of France to what is not very properly called the Monroe doctrine. The despatch to General Forey is about as significant a document as need be, and it lays down as part of the Imperial policy a resolve to repress American ascendency in America. And, as Sir Walter Scott says of another Louis of France, "he is just the man to give a lively colour to his avowal by following it up by an execution." The Mexican expedition, largely reinforced, is going to work in thorough earnest; the capital is to be seized at all cost; and perhaps the occupation of Rome may be paralleled by an occupation of Mexico that will "protect" the throne of the Incas against all comers, especially such as come from any part of the American Continent. The gauntlet is fairly flung to all who cry "America for the Americans;" and it may be an additional reason against an attempt to reconstitute the Union that the first step of the new State must in honour be an armed protest against French action, or the swagger of twenty years is even more vain than it was believed to be.

In noting the history of the war, therefore, we may observe that it has called into existence a new element of opposition to the extension of American "Empire;" and, although at the present moment this may not seem so important a fact as it is, the fact will be a very grave one when the time comes, as come it must, for settling by treaty the principle of the Partition of America. Into how many portions the vast continent will be divided it is now impossible to say, but it is quite clear that France proposes to erect barriers against the unity of the continent.

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