Newman Hall.

From Liverpool to St. Louis online

. (page 15 of 16)
Online LibraryNewman HallFrom Liverpool to St. Louis → online text (page 15 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


but cannot ' blockade ' its own ports. ' Blockade '
involves the right of search at sea ; but no Govern-
ment has this right of search unless there is a state of
war. To make the blockade effectual by the right of
search, a state of war must needs be supposed to exist.
Thus your ' blockade ' was regarded as an actual re-
cognition of a state of war. Great Britain, therefore,
if hasty, did not anticipate the action of your own
Government. Subsequently, and throughout the war,
by your treatment of prisoners, by your exchanging
them, and by many other acts, you treated the South
not as rebels but as belligerents. Great Britain, there-
fore, is not to be blamed for recognizing what your-
selves practically admitted. Moreover, if she erred,
she did so with the assent and conjunction of the
other European Powers. Such is the plea put forth
by the defenders of the Proclamation ; and though



260 International Relations.

you may reject much of it, still it is only fair to listen
and to consider.

" The chief and most reasonable ground of complaint

is the fitting out of the Alabama and other cruisers.

There were sufficient grounds to suspect the true

design of this gun-boat '290.' The evidence was

laid before the proper authorities by your Minister,

but was declared inadequate for her detention. More

evidence was obtained. There was no reasonable

doubt. But the case had to be submitted to the

law-officers. There was culpable and suspicious delay.

At length the order was given to stop the ship ; but

she had slipped away on pretence of a trial-trip.

Built in a British yard, manned by British sailors,

armed with British guns, alluring her prey by the

British flag, entering no Confederate port, but allowed

to enter and refit in British colonial harbours, this

hornet of the sea attacked and burnt to the water's

edge upwards of sixty unarmed peaceful vessels

of commerce belonging to the Northern States.

Another of the same class of vessels destroyed the

George Griswold on her return voyage from carrying a

cargo of food generously sent by American citizens

to our starving cotton operatives, Was it the act of



International Relations. 261

a friendly Power to allow these pirates the protection
of her ports and the privilege of belligerency ? Would
Great Britain calmly submit to such treatment on the
part of any of her own allies ? And seeing that thus
American shipping was exposed to such danger that
a great portion of the carrying trade went over to
British ship-owners, is it surprising that some Ameri-
cans should attribute an interested motive to remiss-
ness which was, in fact, so profitable ?

" Again we must let the accused speak for themselves,
if only to show how little they have to say. The
apology may thus be stated : We are an old country,
and stand much on forms and precedents. America
is a new country, less trammelled and more prompt in
action. When ' God save the Queen ' and ' Yankee
Doodle ' are played, every one must notice that the
latter is much the faster. When the parent can only
walk the child can run, and should not too harshly
chide the slowness of age. In the case of the
Alabama there were certain formalities which had
necessarily to be gone through; and while officials
paused the ship escaped. The final and fatal delay
of forty-eight hours, by which the Alabama ultimately
escaped, is, however, to be attributed to Divine Provi.



262 International Relations.

dence rather than to wilful negligence, as the Queen's
law-officer was seized with illness which rendered it
absolutely impossible for him to attend to any busi-
ness. Besides, it was never openly professed that the
Alabama was intended for the Confederates. It is
said that the Fenians in the United States have
magazines of arms and mustering places, and that
openly and undisguised they are allowed to carry on
their preparations. If with one-half this openness, the
Alabama had been proclaimed to be for the Southern
conspirators, she would have been arrested within
twenty-four hours.

"Besides, say our apologists, the Alabama went out
merely as an empty vessel, built in the process of
ordinary commerce ; that whereas a vessel armed for
war and sailing from a neutral port would be a viola-
tion of neutrality, it is otherwise with a mere empty
ship, paid for by others and taken away, and then
armed elsewhere ; and that the Alabama, though
built in Liverpool, was armed off the Azores by other
parties.

" Although such pleas maybe urged, there is a large
party in Great Britain who do not attempt to vindicate
the conduct of the Government. If the law is not



International Relations. 263

adequate, it should be made so. The interests at
stake would have justified, nay, demanded, prompt
action, even beyond the limit of precedent. There
was no delay in recognizing the belligerency — there
should have been none in arresting the pirate.
Though not actually armed, she was evidently pre-
pared for arming, and intended for war. It was mon-
strous that having once escaped, nefariously and by
an evasion of British law, the Alaba?na should have
been allowed to enter our colonial ports. She was
either a pirate or a belligerent. If the former, she
should have been seized as such. If the latter, her
claim was false, being vitiated ab initio in the mode
of acquiring that character. Above all, the British
Government is to be censured for peremptorily refus-
ing to refer to arbitration the question of wrong and of
damages thus arising. This was as impolitic as it was
ungracious ; for if any nation is interested in prevent-
ing such a career as that of the Alabama becoming a
precedent, it is Great Britain.

" Nevertheless it may be said that, however some of
the subordinate officers at Liverpool may have favoured
the escape of the Alabama, most Englishmen would
deny that there was any dishonesty on the part of



264 International Relations.

Earl Russell and the Cabinet. The Foreign Minister
did not act promptly, but he did not act treacherously ;
and his refusal of arbitration was not from injustice,
but a mistaken notion of Imperial honour. But now
all parties are anxious to redress the wrong. The
various sections of politicians unite in giving honour
to Lord Stanley, the Conservative Foreign Secretary,
one of whose first acts on coming into office was to
reopen the Alabama question on the terms refused by
his predecessor. It is the universal wish of Great
Britain to refer the question to an impartial tribunal,
and at once to pay any damages which such tribunal
shall adjudge to be due.

" Let it not be said that this is altogether a sudden
and merely interested conviction. The great mass of
the people deprecated at the time, in the strongest
manner, the fitting out of those gun-boats. It was not
the act of the nation ; nor should the nation be held
responsible for the culpable dilatoriness of those who
held office. The great mass of the people who have
to pay the damages were not to blame that those
damages were incurred ; but they are earnest in their
desire to pay them. There are some Americans who
openly avow a wish to keep the question unsettled for



International Relations. 265

political purposes, and in order to retaliate on Great
Britain at some future time. There may be some
Englishmen who only wish it settled from self-inter-
ested motives ; but there can be no doubt that the
majority of our statesmen, and the great mass of the
people, desire this on the grounds of justice, and for
that international good-will which it is their honest
desire to cultivate.

" As the course of a river is determined in the hills
before it becomes a river, and where for a time it
seems uncertain on which side it will descend ; but
when once it has broken forth upon the plain, that
river's course cannot be changed : so it is in the
sublime heights of diplomacy that wars are generally
determined, and when the people below first become
aware of them it is too late to arrest them. War be-
tween Great Britain and America — a greater calamity
and wickedness than the world has ever known —
is still in the regions of diplomacy. But may not the
people of both nations climb without presumption
into those regions, and before it is too late break in
upon the disputes of jurists and historians and diplo-
matists, and declare that there shall be no strife be-
tween us, for we are brethren ? We do not counsel



266 International Relations.

humiliating concessions ; we do ask honourable recon-
ciliation. If we have erred, we are willing to confess
it. If we have done injury, to redress it. We would
make it easy for any Government to bring about a
speedy and righteous solution of the difficulty. All
party prejudices are forgotten among Englishmen in
reference to this matter. Lord Stanley has been
assured that he or any other Foreign Secretary who
will remove this cause of difference, and cement more
firmly the two nations, will, in so doing, have the sup-
port of all classes of the people, and will earn a title
to the thanks of the civilized world.

" The Alabama case would not have excited so
much feeling in America if it had not been regarded
as a practical proof of that hostility which was thought
to animate the British Nation throughout the war.
This it is which rankles in the breasts of Americans :
that not the Government alone, but the People, as re-
presented by their newspapers, reviews, leading poli-
ticians, and the general tone of cultivated society,
wished success to their foes.

" In mitigation of this judgment, and with the earn-
est desire to promote a better understanding by re-
moving in some measure this sense of wrong, I wish



International Relations. 267

to show — (1) That the greater number of Englishmen
who sympathized with the South did so from erroneous
views of the policy of the North, and not from any
feelings of hostility; and (2) That, notwithstanding
appearances, the great mass of the British Nation did
actually agree and sympathize with the North in their
great struggle.

" As to the first point : It cannot be denied that an
influential party in Great Britain did sincerely wish
the triumph of the Rebellion. Some did so from a
mean spirit of jealousy. They saw how great America
had become ; they saw how much greater she must
speedily be ; and because they feared she might some
day overshadow us, they welcomed a schism which
threatened to break her up into several smaller nation-
alities, and thus leave Great Britain greatest.

"Others sympathized with the South from hatred of
Republican institutions. The Tories, who have dis-
puted every step of progress the people have made
these three hundred years, have always said : Beware
of giving power to the multitude ; stand by the ancient
barriers ; trust to your hereditary legislators, who, by
birth, rank, and wealth, are your natural rulers ; but
beware of any approach to Republican government,



268 International Relations.

which has in it no principle of stability. If in reply-
to such counsel the example of America was referred
to, they said : America is a new country; Republican
institutions are only on their trial ; wait a little, and
the end will come. "When your war broke out, many
thought the prophecy was about to be fulfilled. And
so, because they honestly hated Republicanism and
all approach to it, many desired the defeat of your
Government and the failure of your institutions.

" But those who felt thus were only the remains of
the old oligarchy of England, against whom the nation
has long been struggling ; than whom no country can
produce an aristocracy more honourable and more re-
spected as individuals ; yet as a political party, repre-
senting the past and not the present, and by no means
to be regarded as the British Nation. The great
people who have so long been battling for their rights
against this party, and who looked to you for sym-
pathy, were aggrieved that you should attribute to
them the sentiments of a few, and those few their
political adversaries. Yet even these persons, in the
hostility of their views to your policy and Government,
were not hostile to yourselves ; and if any occasion
rendered it needful, from none would any of your



International Relations. 269

citizens receive more generous hospitality and personal
succour.

" But the great majority of those who sympathized
with the South did so in the absence of any such un-
friendliness to your Government, and from mistaken
views of your policy.

" The Constitution of the United States is not very
generally understood in Europe. Many persons con-
sider your Government responsible, as European Go-
vernments are, for everything done by authority in
the various States composing your Republic, not distin-
guishing between those sovereign rights which have
been surrendered to the central authority of the Union
and those other rights which are reserved for ' State
sovereignty.' Thus slavery, a 'domestic institution,'
was regarded by many as a question for the United
States' Government, which was often blamed for what
it had no power directly to control. As some exag-
gerated the power of the central Government, others
unduly exalted that of the several States ; as though,
because each State retained its independence for
internal purposes, there were no sovereign powers
which it had surrendered and merged in the General
Government of the Union.



270 International Relations.

" Many persons, otherwise well-informed, failed to
see that the question of slavery had really been
agitating your nation from the beginning, and that
this war was not a sudden accident, but the culmina-
tion of a series of events, the inevitable climax of
a long controversy. They did not see that although
your Constitution conferred no direct power to put
down slavery, yet that the natural development of it
was hostile to slavery at every stage, and must at
length be its destruction. The Declaration of Inde-
pendence contained fundamental principles totally
condemnatory of an institution so contrary to the idea
of the equal right of all men to liberty. Washington
freed his slaves. Jefferson said that, on account of
slavery, ' he trembled for his country when he reflected
that God was just.' The question of slavery was
always agitating the Republic from 1787, when the
boundary line was fixed north-west of the Ohio, to the
times of the Missouri Compromise and the Fugitive
Slave Law. Then Sumner was struck down, and
' Uncle Tom's Cabin ' appeared, and the Dred Scott
decision was given, and the struggles in Kansas took
place, and the slave-owners made a martyr of an
enthusiast, little dreaming that the sentence which



International Relations. 271

doomed him to the gallows was the death-knell of the
system, and that in so few years twenty thousand
coloured troops would be marching through Washing-
ton, singing, as they tramped along the streets, amidst
the plaudits of the citizens —

' John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
But his soul goes marching on.'

" Then came the election, which turned on the
question of the extension or non-extension of slavery.
Lincoln was the representative of freedom ; and when
he was chosen, those who by voting had pledged them-
selves to accept the decision of the nation took up
arms to overcome law and the will of the people.
Then South Carolina unfurled the standard of Seces-
sion on this only plea, that the North had completed
a long series of acts hostile to slavery by appointing
an anti-slavery President, whereas they were deter-
mined to perpetuate and extend slavery as the corner-
stone of their empire. Thus the war was the issue
of a long controversy. Instead of being an isolated
fact and for a trifling object, it was the final struggle
of Anarchy against Law, Oligarchy against Republi-
canism, Slavery against Freedom.

" But the majority of those who sympathized with



272 International Relations.



the South did not perceive this, and were influenced
by erroneous notions in regard to the rights of the
South, the intentions of the North, and the probable
issue of the strife. I refer to these erroneous notions
for the purpose of showing that the apparently hostile
attitude of a great portion of the British public may
be attributed to honest mistake rather than to delibe-
rate ill-will.

" Many quoted the secession of the United States
from Great Britain as a proof that the United States'
Government was unfair in resisting, on the part of the
South, conduct which they justified in themselves.
They did not take into consideration the essential dif-
ference of the two cases. In the one, taxation im-
posed without representation, and respectful remon-
strances unheeded ; in the other, a more than propor-
tionate share in the representation and in the Govern-
ment, treachery and hostility without remonstrance,
and no grievances to complain of but a Constitutional
discouragement of their own oppression of another
race.

" It was considered by many that your Constitution
left to every State the option of withdrawal ; and that
therefore the Government was oppressive when it re-



International Relations. 273

sisted the exercise of such right. This was an opinion
not confined to certain parties in England. It was
frequently maintained in America as justifying the
secession. Of course it was a fallacy. No national
Constitution would incorporate a principle of self-de-
struction. What would be the credit of a Government
which might incur a debt and then be disintegrated ?
One State might withdraw from increasing burdens,
and then others might follow, each hurrying lest it be
left the last to bear the whole. Or in case of war,
the State in danger of the first attack might secede and
make separate terms, and so all power of common re-
sistance be nullified. Yet it was honestly believed by
many that your nation differed from others in this re-
spect — that its component parts were held together
only by the volition of each. England has always
been consistent in its sympathy for national indepen-
dence ; so that those persons were not inconsistent
who, erroneously thinking the national independence
of the South was tyrannically assailed, advocated their
cause.

" Others considered that though the South might
not have a legal right to secede, they did possess the
actual right which oppression gives. It is strange that

T



274 International Relations.

there should have been so much ignorance ; yet it is
a fact that many persons believed the South had long
been groaning under an oppressive tariff imposed for
the advantage of Northern manufacturers, and that
from this and other causes the Government of the
Union was no longer endurable. The spirit which
induced sympathy for Hungary and Poland induced
sympathy for the South ; though the ignorance which
classed the cases together is a matter of astonishment.
" Some refused sympathy with the North because
she was fighting for ' Empire.' Of course she was.
If war is justifiable at all, nations may surely urge self-
existence as a plea. The objection came with the
worst possible grace from a quarter where war for
empire had been so common. If a rock belonging to
Great Britain, no larger than a table, were threatened
by a foreign Power, all the Imperial fleets would sail
across the ocean 'to preserve the integrity of the
Empire.' If, when emancipation was decreed in the
West Indies, the planters had refused obedience and
proclaimed a separate Government, Great Britain would
have sent her forces, not to liberate the slaves, but to
put] down the rebellion ; this being done, the eman-
cipation, to resist which the rebellion had been raised,



International Relations. 275

would have ensued as a matter of course. So your
war had for its certain issue the destruction of that
system of slavery for which the South seceded, al-
though the avowed and immediate object of the war
was necessarily the assertion of the law and the main-
tenance of the Empire. Yet it should be admitted
that many persons who felt deeply on the question of
slavery withheld their sympathy because the North did
not proclaim that the war was avowedly to put an end
to that system.

" Others, who might grant that you were really fight-
ing to destroy slavery, withheld sympathy because
they object to all war. No doubt you were surprised
that our Anti-Slavery Society expressed no approval
of your course. It should be known that the chief
supporters and officers of that Society are ' Friends,'
or ' Quakers,' who disapprove of all war whatsoever.
How could they, consistently with their principles, ex-
press sympathy with you? They had all sympathy
with your object, but they could not approve the
means.

" Some persons of great intelligence, and who
heartily abhorred the object of the South, expressed
themselves in favour of recognizing the Confederacy



276 International Relations.

simply in the interests of humanity. They said :
History has no case of a territory so vast, and a
people so numerous and united, being finally sub-
dued by another nation ; the issue of this war seems,
therefore, certain : the sacrifice of treasure and blood
is prodigious : the longer it continues the worse for
both parties : the inevitable result had, therefore, in
the interests of humanity, be better recognized at
once.

" There were others, including some of the most
earnest friends of freedom, who wished success to the
Secession in the interests of the negro race. They
said : So long as the Union continues with the Fugi-
tive Slave Law, a fugitive cannot be safe till he reaches
Canada ; but let the North and South be separated,
and then merely a river or an imaginary line need be
crossed. For if the South secede, the North will
never surrender runaways ; and the facilities of escape
will be so great that slavery itself will be given up as
unprofitable. When it is remembered that in the
early stages of the Secession the Southerners were pro-
mised that, if they would return, all their former laws
and guarantees would be preserved inviolate; and that
the preservation of the Union was by many Northern-



International Relations. 277

ers considered not only as having priority over, but
as exclusive altogether of, the question of slavery, and
that there were many who would have sacrificed the
negro on the altar of the Union, much allowance must
be made for those who, seeing nothing but the negro,
withheld their sympathy from those who seemed to see
nothing but the Union.

" Some took the side of the South from blind, un-
thinking sympathy with weakness ; as they would take
the part of a little boy, bravely but hopelessly resisting
a strong man. They said : Here is the South, much
the weaker of the two, little, but full of pluck j let us,
as always, take part with the weak against the strong.
This was as foolish as to take the side of a criminal
because he is weaker than the law. But it was not
necessarily hostility to the North • for had the cases
been reversed, and the North been the weaker, this
chivalric folly would have been enlisted on your side
as earnestly.

"There were many others who were influenced
merely by fashion. Englishmen are sometimes told
that America is a free country in such a tone as to
imply that Great Britain is not so. Too true. With
us, for example, a lady wishing a new dress, instead of



27 8 International Relations.

consulting merely her own good taste and her husband's
purse, asks her dress-maker what the Empress of the
French is wearing ! And persons have been known
to make their choice of a church depend not on the
truth of the doctrine or the excellence of the minister,
but on the style of the congregation. This sort of
thing may be unknown in a free country like yours ;
but there are some persons in England who are sub-
ject to this tyranny of fashion, and it is not strange
that they should bend to its influence in reference to
opinions on public questions. For a time it was un-
decided what direction the current would take; but
when once the leaders of fashion gave the sign, many
who had been waiting for it said : ' I always sympa-
thized with the brave, chivalric Southerners ! '

"Americans are respectfully asked to distinguish
between those who were really hostile to themselves,
and those who expressed sympathy with the South
from ignorance or weakness. There are reasons for
leniently judging them. Their mistakes were in some
degree pardonable. During many months Southern
agents were influencing the conductors of the press,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15

Online LibraryNewman HallFrom Liverpool to St. Louis → online text (page 15 of 16)