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THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR.
My honourable friend (Sir John Ramsden] alluded the other night to one subject in a tone which I was very sorry to hear used by any one.
My honourable friend said that the great Republican bubble in America had burst.' Now, sir, I am proud to confess that ... if a despotic Government fall, and the people who have been subjected to it are likely to obtain better and freer government, I cannot conceal that it gives me satisfaction. ... But I own I have very different feelings when a great Republic, which has enjoyed for seventy or eighty years institutions under which the people have been free and happy, enters into a conflict in which that freedom and happiness is placed in jeopardy. The joy which I felt at the overthrow of some of the despotisms of Italy is counterbalanced by the pain which I experience at the events which have lately taken place in America. I admit that I have thought, and I still think, that in this country we enjoy more real freedom than the United States have ever done. . . . Yet we cannot be blind to the fact that the Republic has been for many years a great and free State, exhibiting to the world the example of a people in the enjoyment of wealth, happiness, and freedom, and affording bright prospects of the progress and improvement of mankind. When I reflect that the reproaches which are cast by the States of the North upon the States of the South ... have arisen from that accursed institution of slavery, I cannot but recollect also that, with our great and glorious institutions, we gave them that curse, and that ours were the hands from which they received that fatal gift of the poisoned garment which was flung around them from the first hour of their establishment. Therefore I do not think it just or seemly that there should be among us anything like exultation at their discord, and still less that we should reproach them with an evil for the origin of which we are ourselves to blame.
Such was Lord John's generous language on the eve of the great American civil war.
Those people who have carefully reflected on the remoter 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 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 relève.'
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 Presidental 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 December 3; 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 December 204 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 January 16, Lord Lyons said
Three more States, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama, have formally 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
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 April 8. 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 ind has
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. ionists
These proceedings necessitated anxious consideration. With 1 Lord
the warm approval of his colleagues, Lord John decided, while
refusing to acknowledge the independence of the South, to se the
recognise its belligerent rights; and, on his advice, the Queen ctions
issued a proclamation enjoining neutrality in the coming 2ware struggle. This decision was not entirely acceptable to either erican belligerent. The South thought, on the one hand, that the Otto
independence of a large and important country might fairly John have been recognised. The North argued, on the contrary,
that even belligerent rights should not have been conceded esty's
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 that
combatant. 1, or
The neutrality of the British Government was the more stice
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 popu
lation were dependent on it; and the supplies of cotton were ut
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 May 1 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 theʼnaval 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
her had rith ela