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Because, forsooth, Mr. Dallas did not like to be troubled on business, and Mr. Adams had not yet arrived. In the name of common sense, why was the English Government to wait in order to consult Mr. Adams as to notifying to the subjects of the Queen the consequences to them of a fact which Mr. Lincoln had proclaimed to the world in his declaration of blockade twenty-four days previously? If Mr. Adams must necessarily have assented to the propriety of the proclamation, why was it necessary to discuss the matter with him? But if he had protested against it, would it have been proper or possible in the English Government to have paid any heed to his remonstrance ? Mr. Bright complains of the unfriendly conduct of the English Government, and the shock Mr. Adams must have received when“ he arrived in London on May 13, and when he opened his newspaper the next morning he found it contained the proclamation of neutrality, and the acknowledgment of the belligerent rights of the South.” But why should Mr. Adams be shocked or surprised by the contents of his newspaper of May 13, 1861 ? He had arrived from America by the very mail which brought Lord Lyon’s despatch and the several proclamations of President Lincoln and President Davis. The proclamation of the Queen conveyed no news to Mr. Adams. He had sought, no doubt, in his despatch for Mr. Lincoln's proclamation of April 19, which, in claiming the belligerent right of blockade for the North, in fact, declared the belligerent rights of the South. He could have had no cause to complain that on May 13 the Queen should explain to her subjects the consequence to them of a state of things which its own chief had created and declared by his proclamation three weeks before. To make such a transaction a ground of complaint is really to reproduce the old fable of the wolf and the lamb drinking at the same stream. Sir, I do Mr. Adams (whose wise and prudent courtesy and equanimity has been of such signal service to his own country and to ours) the justice to believe that turbulent politicians on both sides of the Atlantic make an unauthorized use of his name when they represent him as having been treated with want of consideration in this transaction.
We acknowledge the belligerent rights of the South because the Government of the United States by making war upon the land at
once created and declared their rights as inherent in them. We acknowledged their rights because those rights existed, and existed entirely independently of any action of ours. We could have done no otherwise, even if we would. When a riot takes place in the street the neutral tradesman puts up his shutters. He acknowledges thereby the riot, it is true; but one party to the tumult has no right to complain that the tradesman either aggravates the riot or gives assistance thereby to his antagonist. It is a little too bad that he should at the same time be made to lose his custom, and also be abused for attempting to protect his property.
The North created belligerent rights in both parties by making war upon the South. The North have enjoyed their rights and we have indorsed them. They have seized our merchantmen and crippled our trade, and they have had a right to do it. If the South had not had belligerent rights it could only be because there was
But if there was no war, then the North could have enforced no blockade, they could have seized no combatant, they could have made no prizes. English merchants might have traded as before to Charleston and Wilmington and Savannah and Mobile and New Orleans with impunity. To have seized our ships would have been to make war on England. If there had been no war, Mr. Laird might have equipped for the South five hundred Alabamas without interference. This is what the North have gained. But war is a quarrel which necessarily requires two sides. In order to exercise belligerent rights yourself, you must have an antagonist, and that antagonist must have belligerent rights also. And yet it is this just and inevitable consequence of their own policy which the North seem disposed to lay at our doors, and to make a ground of complaint against us.
I must again apologize for expounding at this length a matter which to most of your readers will appear obvious and self-evident. But I am too well aware of the unhappy irritation which exists on the subject in the public mind of America not to desire to offer the smallest contribution toward its removal. Ignorance unfortunately is as fertile a source of mischief as malevolence itself. Nothing can be regarded as trivial which either fosters or may tend to tranquillize the feelings of exasperation which agitate a proud and susceptible people. There are, unhappily, too many persons on both sides of the Atlantic who indulge themselves in the wicked and dangerous amusement of inflaming passions which they ought to soothe, and exasperating prejudices and misapprehensions which they ought to labor to remove. Sir, I do not envy these men the occupation they propose to themselves, nor the success which, alas! they too often achieve. My ambition is of quite another sort. I desire by a recourse to those fixed and ascertained principles of law and maxims of justice which are enshrined in the records of nations and the conscience of mankind, as the perpetual arbiters of truth and of peace, to remonstrate against an unreasonable anger and an unjust animosity. Surely, sir, these evil tongues, which are like a sharp sword, may rest sated with the blood they have helped [make?] to flow. Sat prata biberunt. Let us appeal from these grievance-mongers, who trade in fancied wrongs and unfounded injuries, to the reason, the good sense, the good humor, and the justice of a kindred nation, which “is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.” Temple, March 18.