Page images
PDF
EPUB

so far as possible, peace shall prevail throughout the world, and especially in the United States and upon the American continent.

In explanation of these views, I set forth the opinion that the industrial systems of western Europe and the United States, including their agriculture, manufactures, and commerce, are, in some respects, to be regarded less as distinct national systems than as one general combination of agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial agencies, in which a jar in one country necessarily produces disturbance in all the others; so that a serious disorganization of the machinery employed in production here cannot fail to result in derangement, probably in disaster, everywhere abroad.

There are now some painful evidences that these speculations were not unsound. There is distress among the peasantry of Ireland, in the manufacturing_towns of Belgium, and the wine presses and silk looms in some parts of France seem to be coming to a dead stand. All the sufferers, I will not stop to inquire bow justly, trace their misfortunes to the civil war of the United States. It is manifest that what the European nations want is an end of that war as speedy, and leaving the industrial system of this country as little disorganized, as possible. It would seem impossible for any considerate person to doubt that this is the very consummation which the government of the United States must want, even more than it can be desired by the European states. This government has expressed that want earnestly, decidedly, sometimes, perhaps, even impatiently. Nevertheless, the war has continued a whole year, against the wishes of Europe as well as of America. A new campaign is even beginning. In order to determine whether it is likely to reach the desired end, it will not be unprofitable to consider the causes of its prolongation to the present period. This government, at the beginning, assumed, and it has constantly insisted, that the Union could, must, and should be preserved. On the other hand, the European nations, when they saw the storm burst upon the country, either doubted, or actually disbelieved, the possibility of that great salvation. Europe had but a subordinate and indirect interest in the great problem, and it supposed that if the United States could only be convinced that the Union could not, in the end, be preserved, they would at once forego the contest and consent to a national dissolution, which it was erroneously thought would be followed by peace, while we knew that it would only be the beginning of endless war. Thus European opinion has practically favored the insurgents and encouraged them with ephemeral sympathies and unreal expectations of foreign intervention, and has thus protracted the war to the present time.

Certainly this government and the American people are even more confident of the preservation of the Union now than they were a year ago, and are, therefore, even less likely now than they were then to accept peace with the inconceivable pains and perils of dissolution. Can it be presumptuous, then, for us to ask European statesmen to review, in the light of the events of the war, the opinion which they formed at so early a stage of it, that the opinion itself might, perhaps, properly be deemed a prejudice ?

Of course, in such a review, the observer would not overlook the contrast between the position which the federal government held a year ago and its present situation. Then it had been practically expelled, with all its authorities, civil, military, and naval, from every State south of the Potomac, Ohio, and Missouri rivers, while it was beld in close siege in this capital, cut off from communication with even the States which had remained loyal. Now, it Las virtually retaken all the positions it so early lost on the seaboard; it possesses the Mississippi and all the other great natural highways, and has forced the insurgents to battle in the most inaccessible parts of the insurrectionary district. The forces and the resources of the government are unexhausted and increasing. Those of the insurgents are diminished and becoming nearly exhausted.

No one, either here or in Europe, now contests these simple facts. The only argument opposed to them is, that the insurgents have determined not to acknowledge the authority of the Union. The evidence of this is a certain resolute and defiant tone maintained by their organs.

Certainly so long as the insurgents have any hope of ultimate success, they could not be expected to discourse otherwise than in just such a tone, nor will they fail to cherish such a hope so long as they find a willingness to meet it with sympathy in Europe. The very last advices which came from that quarter, previous to the arrival there of the news of the fall of New Orleans and Norfolk, were full of speculations about some newly-conceived form of intervention.

But it must be remembered that the insurgents are men, and that they may reasonably be expected to speak and to act like other belligerent factions under similar conditions. So also being men, and subject to the laws which determine the economy of society, they must in all cases conform themselves, however unwillingly, to the circumstances by which they are surrounded. They cannot, more than other masses of men, determine for themselves, under one state of circumstances, what they will do under a different one. A writer upon war advises brave men never to nail their colors to the staff, remarking that if they shall be able, and find it desirable, they can maintain it there without nailing, while it will be more convenient to lower it if they shall find themselves unable or no longer desirous to keep it flying. But, speaking practically, what has been the result, thus far, in the present case? Has disloyalty been found an indomitable sentiment in this war? It pervaded even this capital and this District at the beginning of the strise. It no longer exists here. It divided Maryland, and provoked conflict there. The Union is now as strong in that State as in any one of the always loyal States. It committed Missouri to the pretended new confederacy. Missouri is now active and earnest among the loyal States. It placed Kentucky in an attitude of neutrality. But Kentucky is to-day firm, resolute, and even self-devoted to the Union. In other regions where disloyalty was.more general, such as Eastern Virginia, Tennessee, and Louisiana, and North Carolina, acquiescence under the federal authorities has promptly followed their appearance there, and the preliminary steps are taken for the restoration of the laws of the Union. It is a simple fact that loyalty reappears everywhere just so fast as the successes of the government are deemed sufficient to afford a guarantee for reliance upon its protection. The disunionists, even in their strongest holds, are not a people, but only a faction, surpassing the loyal in numbers, and silencing them by terrors and severities in many places, but nevertheless too few and feeble to prevent the return of any district or any State to the Union in the presence and under the protection of the federal authorities.

The President asks foreign nations to consider that we are only at the end of one year now, and yet the whole effective mass of the insurrectionary region has been brought into the field by conscription. The credit of the revolution is dead before the first dollar has been raised by taxation to support it, and the territory which must bear taxation is at once reduced to the narrowest limits, and is exhausted of its wealth and supplies.

The power of a losing faction, under any circumstances, must continually grow less; but that of the disunionists is abating under the operation of a cause peculiar to themselves, which it is now my duty to bring forward-1 mean the practice of African slavery.

I am aware that in regard to this point I am opening a subject which was early interdicted in this correspondence. The reason for the interdiction, and the reason for a departure from it, are, however, equally obvious. It was properly left out of view, so long as it might be reasonably hoped that by the practice of magnanimity this government might cover that weakness of the insurgents without encouraging them to persevere in their treasonable conspiracy against the Union. They have protracted the war a year, notwithstanding this forbearance of the government; and yet they persist in invoking foreign arms to end a domestic strife, while they have forced slavery into such prominence that it cannot be overlooked.

The region where the insurrection still remains flagrant embraces all or parts of several States, with a white population of four and a half million, and a negro population of three and a half million, chiefly slaves. It is thus seen to be a war between two parties of the white race, not only in the presence but in the very midst of the enslaved negro race. It is notorious, we could not conceal the fact if we would, that the dispute between them arose out of the questions in which the negro race have a deep and lasting interest, and that their sympathies, wishes, and interests, naturally, necessarily, inevitably, fall on the side of the Union. Such a civil war between two parties of the white race in such a place, and under such circumstances, could not be expected to continue long before the negro race would begin to manifest some sensibility and some excitement. We have arrived at that stage already. Everywhere the American general receives his most useful and reliable information from the negro, who hails his coming as a harbinger of freedom. Wherever the national army advances into the insurrectionary region, African bondsmen, escaping from their insurrectionary masters, come out to meet it and to offer their service and labor in whatever capacity they may be desired. So many of these bondsmen have, even without the invitation, and often against the opposition of the federal military and naval authorities, made their way from bondage among the insurgents to freedom among the loyalists, that the government finds itself occupied with the consideration of measures to provide them with domicils at home or abroad. Not less than a hundred such escape every day, and as the army advances the number increases. If the war should continue indefinitely, every slave will become, not only a freeman, but an absentee. If the insurgents should resist their escape, how could they hope to prevent the civil war they have inaugurated from degenerating into a servile war? True, a servile population, especially one so long enslaved as the Africans in the insurrectionary States, require time and trial before they can organize a servile war ; but if the war continues indefinitely, a servile war is only a question of time. The problem, then, is whether the strife shall be left to go on to that point. The government, animated by a just regard for the general welfare, including that of the insurrectionary States, adopts a policy designed at once to save the Union and rescue society from that fearful catastrophe, while it consults the ultimate peaceful relief of the nation from slavery. It cannot be necessary to prove to any enlightened statesman that the labor of the African in the insurrectionary region is at present indispensable, as a resource of the insurgents, for continuing the war, nor is it now necessary to show that this same labor is the basis of the whole industrial system existing in that region. The war is thus seen to be producing already a,disorganization of the industrial system of the insurrectionary States, and tending to a subversion of even their social system. Let it next be considered that the European systems of industry are largely based upon the African slave labor of the insurrectionary States employed in the production of cotton, tobacco, and rice, and on the free labor of the other States employed in producing cereals, out of which combined productions arizes the demand for European productions, materials, and fabrics. The disorganization of industry, which is already revealing itself in the insurrectionary States, cannot but impair their ability to prosecute the war, and at the same time result indirectly in greater distress in Europe.

On the other hand, this disorganization operates far less injuriously at present to the federal government and to the loyal States. Every African laborer who escapes from his service is not only lost to the support of the insurrection, but he brings an accession to the productive labor of the loyal States, and to that extent increases their ability to continue the contest in which they are reluctantly engaged. The failure of foreign importations, as heretofore, in return for the exportation of southern staples, stimulates the manufacturing industry of the loyal States. Immigration is accelerated by an activity in these States, resulting from extended manufacture and prosecution of the war. Thus has the phenomenon appeared, disappointing so many prophecies in Europe, that the war impoverishes and exhausts only the insurrection, and not the Union. I shall not contend that these effects would be perpetual. I know there is a reckoning for every nation that has the misfortune to be involved in war, and I do not expect for the United States any exemption from that inexorable law. But it is enough for my present purpose that the penalties are neither more severe nor more imminent than the loyal States can endure while bringing this unhappy contest to its desired conclusion. Let us now suppose that any one or more European states should think it right or expedient to intervene by force to oblige the United States to accept a compromise of their sovereignty. What other effect could it produce than to render inevitable, and even hurry on, that servile war, so completely destructive of all European interests in this country, which this government so studiously strives to avoid ? I know that the danger of any foreign nation attempting such a policy, if it has ever existed, has passed, as I am happy in knowing that no foreign government has ever threatened such intervention, while several magnanimous governments have repudiated all unfriendly designs. I have put forward that hypothesis only by way of preface to a question not less significant, namely, what must be the effect of such a policy abroad as will encourage the insurgents with hopes of an intervention which is never to occur? Is not that effect visible in the obstinacy of the insurgents in their destruction of the cotton and tobacco already cultivated and liable to be brought into commerce by the return of peace, and in their studied neglect of the planting the seed of their staples, and turning so much of the African labor as they are able to save into the production of supplies of provisions and forage, to enable them to continue the war? The effect will be further developed as time goes on in opening a way for that servile war which, if it shall be permitted to come, will produce infinite suffering throughout the world, and can only at last result in an entirely new system of trade and commerce between the United States and all foreign nations.

I need not say that these views are not grounded on any proceedings or expressions of the British government, and are to be submitted to them, only as they will be to other States, from a strong desire on the part of the President that the true condition of the present strife may be everywhere fully understood. I am, sir, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM. H. SEWARD. CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, Esq., &c., fr., fc.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams. No. 261.)

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, May 29, 1862, Sir: Your despatch of May 9, No. 158, has been received. It communicates the decision of her Britannic Majesty's government, declining to restore to us the Emily St. Pierre, which, after having been captured in the act of violating the blockade, and put into the care of a prize crew, was reconquered from them by the officers and crew of the vessel and conducted into a British port, and, as we now learn, was repossessed by her owners. · The despatch is accompanied by a note from Earl Russell explaining the grounds upon which the denial is placed.

I defer an examination of these reasons until I shall have received a copy of the reply to Earl Russell, which you expected to make by way of closing the correspondence upon the subject.

I think it proper, however, to observe, at present, that the reasons seem to be limited to a want of power vested in the government to restore, and do not bear at all upon the justice or the legality of the demand. Under such circumstances this government has in more than one instance admitted the claim, and appealed to legislative authority for the power to satisfy it, and it has been promptly conferred aud exercised. I am, sir, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD. CH LRLES Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams. No 263.]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, May 31, 1862. Sır: Since the instruction to you (No. 248) of the 9th instant was written, it has occurred to me that an attempt might have been made to obtain the restitution of the Emily St. Pierre by libelling her in the British admiralty court. Application has accordingly been made to the Secretary of the Navy for the name of the capturing vessel and of her commander. A copy of his reply is enclosed. When this reaches you it may be too late for the judicial proceedings referred to, as the cargo of the vessel will probably have been discharged, and the vessel herself may not be within reach of process from the court. If, however, circumstances should, in your judgment, warrant it, you may at least take the advice of counsel upon the subject and charge the expense in your accounts. I am, sir, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD. CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, Esq., &c., $c., 8c.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams.

[Extracts.) No. 264.]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, June 2, 1862. Sir: The European mail is laid before me only this morning. My de spatches for Europe must go to-morrow morning. I will defer replies to complaints abroad until the departure of another steamer.

« PreviousContinue »