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causes which led to the American civil war, will be disposed to trace them to a distant past. The wealth of the Southern States depended on slave labour; and, so long as power remained in their hands, slavery was an institution which no one seriously threatened. But, while the Southern States were thus reposing on the stability of their institutions and on the security of their ‘property,’ the other States of the Union, where labour was free, were rapidly increasing in wealth and importance. A movement, which is so universal that it seems almost a law of nature, was slowly transferring power from the South and the East to the North and the West; and, at the very moment when this change was occurring, the nation's conscience was awakening to the shame which was inseparable from slavery and its many attendant evils. The efforts of Mr. Garrison, the poetry of Mr. Whittier and of Mr. Longfellow, the writings of Mrs. Beecher Stowe, were, in one sense, only the expression of sentiments which were penetrating into the heart of the nation. But it is the unvarying lot of true prophecy to stimulate the movement by which it is itself inspired ; and, if “Uncle Tom's Cabin' was only the outcome of the higher ideas of the age in which it appeared, its extraordinary success carried the new gospel to every cabin in the land. While Mrs. Beecher Stowe's romance was being read, the decision in the Dred Scott case, that an escaped slave could be claimed in a free State, increased the agitation. Mr. Lincoln was nominated as candidate for the President's chair. His election, in the autumn of 1860, a little more than a year after the formation of Lord Palmerston's Government, virtually transferred political power to the Northern States. The South saw at once that its institution, its ‘property,’ was menaced by the election. In the Southern States there was a prodigious ferment; in the Northern States the more remarkable spectacle of what a French writer, M. Gasparin, analysing its causes and its consequences, called ‘un grand peuple qui se releve.” Writing on November 12, 1860, Lord Lyons, the British Minister at Washington, said—
The result of the primary elections has been to ensure to Mr. Lincoln a larger number of votes in the Electoral College than is necessary to place him in the Presidential chair. He is therefore virtually elected President for the term beginning on the 4th of March next. . . . This transfer of the executive power from the South to the North, from the pro-slavery to the anti-slavery party, has caused an explosion of dissatisfaction in some of the Southern States even more violent than was anticipated. In South Carolina especially the excitement has carried men of all classes beyond the bounds of reason and common sense. . . . The Legislature of the State has passed unanimously a resolution calling a convention of the people to decide the question of secession from the Union. . . If, by the withdrawal of the members for South Carolina and three or four more of the violent little States, the anti-slavery party should be placed in possession of a permanent working majority in the Congress, then the whole South may be brought to consider it necessary in self-defence to secede from the Confederation.
Lord Lyons's anticipations were unfortunately fulfilled. Congress met on the 3rd of December ; and the outgoing President, Mr. Buchanan, declared in his message that no State had a right to secede from the Union without the consent of the other States, but that the others had no right to use force against a seceding State. Language of this kind naturally encouraged secession. On the 20th of December—
The convention at Charleston passed unanimously an ordinance declaring that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States under the name of the United States of America is dissolved. The example of South Carolina was rapidly followed. Writing on the 16th of January, Lord Lyons said— Three more States, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama, have for mally seceded. Forts, arsenals, and other Federal property have been seized by the State authorities in States which are still nominally members of the Confederation. A steam vessel (the ‘Star of the West’), despatched by the Federal Government with reinforcements to Major Anderson at Fort Sumter, has been fired into by batteries in the hands of the South Carolinians, and has retreated to New York. In the next few days Louisiana and Georgia seceded from the Union ; in the next few weeks Virginia joined the secessionists,
On the news of these secessions arriving in England Lord John directed the British Consul at Charleston to continue his functions; but, if he should be required to recognise the independence of South Carolina, to refer home for instructions. And when, after Mr. Lincoln's accession to power, Mr. Seward, as Secretary of State, addressed a despatch to the American Minister in London, urging the British Government not to recognise the agents of the Southern Confederacy, Lord John replied—
I said that it was not the wish or intention of her Majesty's Government to pronounce any judgment on the causes which had induced some of the United States to secede from the rest. Whether as to the past those States had reason to complain that the terms of the compact of union had not been observed, or whether they had reason to apprehend that, for the future, justice would not be done to them, were questions upon which her Majesty's Government did not pretend to decide. They had seen in the United States a free and prosperous community, with which they had been happy to maintain the most amicable relations. Now that a secession had taken place, they were in no hurry to recognise the separation as complete and final. But, on the other hand, I could not bind her Majesty's Government, nor tell how and when circumstances might arise which would make a decision necessary; that I must therefore decline to enter into any further discussion at the present moment, and could only assure him of our regret at the events which had recently occurred.
Such was Lord John's language to the American Minister on the 8th of April. During the next few weeks news of the greatest importance reached this country. The Southern States, encouraged by the tardiness of the North, openly organised for the struggle. They sent a deputation to Lord John urging that England should recognise their independence. They invited the equipment of privateers to prey on Northern commerce; while the North, under its new President, avowed its intention to maintain the Union, and not merely took steps for collecting an army for the purpose, but proclaimed the blockade of the whole coast line of the Confederacy.
These proceedings necessitated anxious consideration. With the warm approval of his colleagues, Lord John decided, while refusing to acknowledge the independence of the South, to recognise its belligerent rights; and, on his advice, the Queen issued a proclamation enjoining neutrality in the coming struggle. This decision was not entirely acceptable to either belligerent. The South thought, on the one hand, that the independence of a large and important country, might fairly have been recognised. The North argued, on the contrary, that even belligerent rights should not have been conceded to seceding States. Thus, even in these early stages of the war, the British Government was ascertaining by experience that strict neutrality in a struggle is never acceptable to either combatant. The neutrality of the British Government was the more creditable because it was daily becoming more apparent that, whatever other consequences might ensue from the war, serious injury must be inflicted on British interests. England was the centre of the cotton industry; millions of her population were dependent on it; and the supplies of cotton were almost entirely drawn from the States whose whole coast line had been declared subject to blockade. The language, too, of the United States Government did not tend to conciliate a great foreign power. On the 1st of May Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, told Lord Lyons that he had received intelligence that ‘the “Peerless,” an iron steamer, had been sold to the de facto Southern Government, and was on her way out of Lake Ontario to be used as a privateer.' Though it was believed she carried the British flag, and had regular British papers, Mr. Seward sent an order to the naval officers of the United States to seize her ‘under any flag, and with any papers;’ and he was only induced by Lord Lyons's solemn protest to promise that, if the information on which the seizure was made should prove incorrect, full satisfaction should be promptly given to the Government of her Majesty and the parties aggrieved. But, though Mr. Seward so far gave way, the language which he constantly used, and the articles inserted in newspapers avowedly supporting his policy, were characterised by an unfriendly violence : and Lord Lyons reported that, incredible as it might appear, he believed the American Secretary of State really hoped to “overawe England and France by threatening language;’ he added, on the 8th of June, that he had thought it his duty to despatch a message to England that the temper of Congress was such that a sudden declaration of war against Great Britain appeared by no means impossible.
The Government of the United States was not content with strong language. In July Congress passed an Act authorising the President to close any ports “whenever it shall, in the judgment of the President, by reason of unlawful combinations of persons in opposition to the United States, become impracticable to execute the revenue laws and collect the duties on imports by the ordinary means in the ordinary way.' Lord Russell—for he must henceforward appear under his later title—at once expressed his hope that the President would not avail himself of the powers which were thus entrusted to him. With severe logic he pointed out that, when the President was calling for 400,000 men and for 4OOOOOOOO of dollars,
it seems quite inappropriate to speak of unlawful combinations. . The state of things which exists is a state of civil war ; and there is, as regards neutral nations, no difference between civil war and foreign war. Acting on these principles, her Majesty's Government has accordingly recognised the state of civil war as existing, and all the rights which belong to a belligerent her Majesty fully acknowledges to reside in the Government of the United States. But her Majesty cannot acknowledge that ports in the complete possession of the (so-called) Confederate States, and which are not blockaded, shall be interdicted to the commerce of her Majesty's subjects by decree of the President of the United States, or by a law passed by their Congress. This would be in effect to allow the lawfulness of a paper blockade extending over 3,000 miles of coast.
Before this despatch reached its destination, or indeed before it was written, events in America had convinced the Northern States that the war on which they had entered was not the easy parade which had been previously supposed. The raw levies of the North were defeated towards the end of July at Bull's Run, and for the next two months no steps of importance were taken to coerce the South. From an historical standpoint, the difficulties which the Federal States were thus encountering helped to illustrate some of the better