Additional Official Correspondence on the Trent AffairThe Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1127, p. 59.
January 18, 1862
In Tuesday's Gazette are published some documents making an important addition to the large mass of official correspondence which has already been published with reference to the Mason-Slidell case. These documents more immediately concern the course of our own Foreign Office in the matter.
On the 19th of December Earl Russell wrote to Lord Lyons, giving the details of an interview which took place on that day between his Lordship and Mr. Adams, the American Minister. On that occasion Mr. Adams communicated to our Foreign Secretary the substance of Mr. Seward's despatch, declaring that Captain Wilks, in seizing the two Southern Commissioners and their secretaries, had acted without the authority of the Washington Government, which stood "quite uncommitted" on the question at issue. The noble Earl's comment upon this explanation was, that he "thought it would stand in place of an apology." On the point which still remained to he settled, Lord Lyons was instructed as follows:— "If he (Mr. Seward) asks what will be the consequence of his refusing compliance, I think you should say that you wish to leave him and the President quite free to take their own course, and that you desire to abstain from anything like menace." Mr. Adams asked Lord Russell point-blank, "whether, if Lord Lyons came away a declaration of war would be the immediate consequence?"—a question to which the noble Earl replied that "nothing was decided on that point; we should wait for a reply from America, and then decide upon our course."
In a despatch dated January 11, Lord Russell has the satisfaction of announcing to our Minister at Washington—who is thanked for the "discretion and good temper" he has manifested in this important matter—that the liberation of the prisoners and the explanations offered by Mr. Seward "constituted the reparation which her Majesty and the British nation had a right to expect." His Excellency was, however, informed that her Majesty's Government could not assent to the conclusions arrived at by the Federal Secretary of State on some points of international law, and that the discussion of these questions would form the subject of a special despatch. "In the meantime," adds Lord Russell, "it will be desirable that the commanders of the United States' cruisers should be instructed not to repeat acts for which the British Government will have to ask for redress and which the United States' Government cannot undertake to justify."