Foreign and Colonial NewsThe Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1126, p. 34-35.
January 11, 1862
By the arrival of the Jura we have news from New York to the 28th ult. The City of Washington's advices had previously relieved us of our painful suspense as to the issue of peace or war.
Lord Lyons received his despatches early on the 19th ult., and had several unofficial interviews with Mr. Seward, at which the demands of the British Government were made known to the American Secretary, but not formally delivered. Mr. Seward met Lord Lyons in a friendly manner, but entered into no conversation with him on the points involved. It was not till the 23rd that Lord Lyons formally presented the demands of the British Government to Mr. Seward, who received a copy of Earl Russell's despatch.
Lord Lyons informed Mr. Seward that he would wait till the 30th for a reply.
On the 25th M. Mercier, the French Minister at Washington, presented M. Thouvenel's letter to Mr. Seward, and on the 27th, three days before the expiration of the term granted by Lord Lyons, Mr. Seward conceded the demands made by Earl Russell.
After coming to this resolution the American Administration immediately published the correspondence, in order, probably, to justify its course in the eyes of Congress and public opinion. The Jura brings the following summary thereof:—
The correspondence commences with a despatch from Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams in London, declaring that Captain Wilks acted without instructions, and hoping that the British Government would consider the subject in a friendly temper. Mr. Seward says also that the British Government may expect the best disposition on the part of the Federal Government.
The next despatch is from Earl Russell to Lord Lyons, stating the outrage on the British flag, and hoping that the act was committed without instructions from the Federal Government, as that Government must be aware that Great Britain cannot allow such an affront to pass without reparation. Earl Russell expresses a hope that the Federal Government will offer suitable redress by giving up the four prisoners to Lord Lyons.
Mr. Seward replied that the English Government rightly conjectured that the act was without the authority or knowledge of the Federal Government. He trusts that England will see that the Federal Government neither practised nor approved any deliberate wrong in the transaction, and declares that Great Britain has a right to demand the same reparation as the United States would expect from any friendly nation in a similar case. Mr. Seward says he is aware that he argues on the British side of the case; but in doing so he is only defending American principles. He quotes the instructions from Mr. Madison, Secretary of State in 1804, to Mr. Monroe, Minister to England, and says, "If I decide this case in favour of my own Government I must disallow its most cherished principles and for ever abandon its most cherished policy; but the country cannot afford such a sacrifice. The Government cannot deny the justice of England's claim." Mr. Seward, in conclusion, states that the four prisoners are at the disposal of Lord Lyons, and asks his Lordship to indicate a time and place for receiving them.
Lord Lyons, in his reply, says he will forward Mr. Seward's communication to the British Government, and will confer personally with him in regard to the reception of the four gentlemen.
The note from M. Thouvenel to the French Minister on the Trent affair is included in the correspondence.
On the 24th it was said on good authority that thus far only the President and Secretary Seward had handled the question on the American side, the last regular Cabinet meeting having been adjourned by a note from Mr. Lincoln, to avoid the risk of a general and premature discussion.
On the 26th Mr. Hale, a Republican Senator from New Hampshire, demanded the correspondence with England on the Trent question. Mr. Sumner, of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, objected to this demand.
Mr. Hale stated that he had heard the Cabinet were considering the proposition to surrender Messrs. Mason and Slidell. He said also he would favour foreign arbitration; but, if England had demanded the surrender of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, the Federal Government should declare War against England. "If they were surrendered, the Senate," said Mr. Hale, "would be subject to the scorn and indignation of the country, and the Administration would be hurled from power." Mr. Hale believed that Napoleon would desire to wipe out the stain of Waterloo, and that thousands of Irishmen in Canada would join the Federal cause. Mr. Hale concluded a violent speech against England by urging war sooner then the surrender of Messrs. Mason and Slidell.
Mr. Sumner urged that the consideration of the question should be delayed until it was presented in a practical form. He denied that there was proof of arrogant demands on the part of England, or that the Administration had not considered the question of arbitration, and stated his belief that the matter would be honourably and amicably adjusted.
Mr. Hale's motion was tabled for future discussion.
On the 23rd the House of Representatives adjourn until the 2nd instant.
The trade circular of Messrs. Neill Brothers forcibly describes the transition of sentiment among this class:—
The first emotion when the news of that event became public in this country was a mingled one of surprise and delight with the boldness and neatness of the exploit and at finding such important enemies in Northern custody, and of fear that the act was illegal and impossible to maintain. Even the President himself admitted that the prisoners would probably have to be given up. But forthwith the press of this country, whose main policy is to charm their readers and increase their own popularity by telling the public whatever they will like to hear, devoted themselves heart and soul to the work of convincing themselves and their readers that the act was perfectly legal, in accordance with precedent, and especially with English decisions. It is easy to convince those who wish to believe; and as all the argument was on one side, with none to expose its fallacies, sophistries, and misrepresentations, it is not surprising that the mass of the people should have been speedily satisfied; and, being convinced as to the legality of the act, neither was it surprising that among a people so self-confident as to their power of judging correctly and so vain of their military strength, a unanimous determination should be arrived at and expressed not, under any circumstances, to part with the prisoners. The mob desired to hold them, right or wrong; the more respectable citizens determined to hold them because they had already been so easily convinced it was right. . . . .Thus for a few days war between Great Britain and the Northern States seemed almost inevitable. But we are happy to be able to inform you that during the past three days there has been a most salutary and extraordinary change in public sentiment here and
Page 35throughout the country. It was to a great extent a game of brag, after all, and none the less so that the people had deceived themselves quite as much, if not more, than they deceived others..... Whereas, a week ago, nine out of every ten men would tell you that England might threaten as she pleased, but the prisoners would never be given up, now the balance of opinion is quite the other way.....Upon a deliberate review of the delicate, and apparently extremely hazardous, relations of this country with Great Britain, we are inclined to believe war between the two nations now more distant than we thought it before the present complication arose. The American Government had for some time past acted upon a presumption that England's interests in the preservation of peace with them were so great that she would bear any number of petty indignities rather than make them a cause of war. This idea will now probably be modified, and there may be a little more of that respect shown to British subjects which they are accustomed to receive in other foreign countries, and fewer arrests of them without process of law or opportunities fir [sic] for their justification or defence.
The popular feeling in intensely hostile to England. Even those journalists and others who urge the necessity of yielding in the present instance do so, avowedly, from motives of expediency, recording a vow meanwhile that henceforth England's difficulty shall be America's opportunity. No passion less strong than that for restoring the Union would, they say, allow them to consent to the surrender of the captives. It is freely charged that the British nation, in its desire for cotton and to dismember the Union, is only seeking a pretext for a quarrel, and that they have taken advantage of the momentary weakness of the United States to humiliate the latter to the dust. It must be observed, however, that these lively expressions of resentment were uttered before the despatches from the Continental European Governments had been published.
The telegraph reports a new outrage on the British flag, apparently similar to that of Commander Wilks. The Federal steamer Santiago de Cuba overhauled, on the coast of Texas, the schooner Eugenia Smith, sailing under the British flag. She found nothing contraband on board, but took from her deck two passengers, who, from the papers found upon them, were supposed to be agents of the Confederate States. These passengers, Messrs. Zacchiri and Rogers, had arrived at New York, and been confined in Fort Lafayette. The telegram says that the schooner was sailing between Matanzas and Havannah, two Cuban ports; but for Matanzas, Metamoras, a Mexican port, should probably be read.
A treaty between the United States and Mexico is reported to have been submitted to Congress, by which the Federal Government agrees to pay Mexico 11,000,000 dols. to refund the British and French claims. Mexico is to grant the United States commercial privileges and permission to transport across the Mexican territory.
The harbour of Charleston has been destroyed, sixteen whaling hulks filled with granite, having been sunk in three parallel lines equidistant across the channel. The flow permitted to the water will prevent the cutting of a new outlet, and the obstruction will soon accumulate a triple line of sandbanks across the entrance.
A force of 1300 Confederates have surrendered themselves to the Federal forces on Missouri, with their baggage and equipments.
There has also been a slight engagement at Drainsville, near Leesburg, in Virginia, in which the Confederates, being overnumbered, were forced to retire.
From Beaufort, South Carolina, the Federal forces have dispatched to New York a cargo of 120,000lb. of sea-island cotton, gathered by the refugee negroes, and there were 400,000lb. more ready for shipment by the next vessel.
Congress has raised the duty on tea to 20 cents per pound, on coffee to 5 cents per pound; on sugar, 2 1-3, 3, 5, and 8 cents per pound, according to quality, and on molasses to 6 cents per gallon. These measures were in accordance with Mr. Chase's recommendation. These duties came into force immediately, and apply to all goods in warehouse.
Congress has appropriated 1,500,000 dollars for gun-boats on the western lakes, and 1,200,000 dollars for the establishment of a naval dépôt on Lake Michigan.
The New York banks have lost five million dollars in specie in a fortnight, and the Sub-Treasury four millions; yet only about half a million has left the country, although the rate of exchange gives a profit on the export of specie to England. It is evident, therefore, that hoarding has begun. Under those circumstances a suspension of cash payments is considered to be imminent.
Mr. Wendell Phillips, the Abolitionist leader of Boston, had delivered an address in favour of emancipation and against the "reconstruction" of the Union, in the Cooper Institute, New York, to a crowded audience, consisting of the élite of the city.
At the annual dinner of the New England Society to commemorate the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, a letter from Mr. Seward was read, dated Dec. 11, of which the following is the material portion:—
Dear Sir,—Pray present my apology to the sons of New England for declining their invitation to the New England dinner. My duties here allow me little enjoyment of the holidays. If it were an Old England dinner instead of a New England feast I would certainly strain a point to attend. I would like so good an opportunity to attempt to show to our cousins across the seas that there is no material benefit or moral influence that can accrue to us that will not also increase the prosperity and greatness of Great Britain, and that every disaster that befalls the United States is also pregnant with suffering and sorrow sooner or later to be borne by Great Britain.